Monday, October 27, 2008

A Little Perspective

The Republican party just spent $150,000.00 on new clothes for Sarah Palin. When it comes to politics and government, it's easy to let very large monetary figures wash over you. With a national debt in the tens of trillions of dollars, it can be difficult to remember just how large a sum $150,000.00 is.

On my way to work this morning I started calculating to try to put this kind of clothing budget into terms that intersect with my life and finances. After all, I make clothes for a living. The largest costume budgets I've come into contact with have been for operas. I don't handle the money or purchasing, so I don't usually know the exact budget of each opera on which I work, and I especially keep myself ignorant of the per yard cost of most fabrics before I cut them up. However, I do know that the costume budgets are generally in the tens of thousands of dollars. One of the first operas I worked on had a budget of $20,000.00 which the designer not only went over, but tripled. Even so, let's figure from $20,000.00 to $60,000.00 to costume an Opera. In all fairness, that budget does not include my or my crew's income, so add in between $9,000 and $13,000 for us. So an Opera could cost from $29,000.00 to 73,000.00.

Operas have a chorus. Sarah Palin does not. Operas are often opulent, chronicling the lives of the rich, or even of royalty. The Palins claim to be a down-to-earth household run by a hockey mom and a laborer. Operas are opulent. We are told that Alaska is not.

Somehow it costs two to five times as much to clothe Sarah Palin for the last few weeks of a campaign than it costs to create costumes for an entire Opera which will run for 2 months and be rented out in perpetuity.

Here's another point of view: how long does it take to earn $150,000.00? The median income in the US is a little over $40,000. At that income it would take almost 4 years to earn $150,000.00. More, if you'd like to still have that much after taxes. For me, I'd have to go back to the beginning of 2004 and continue to the end of this calendar year to have earned that much. To take home that much, probably back into 2001. I'm one of the few people who even save my tax information for that long.

Finally, what if I had donated to the Republican party? I don't donate to any politicians, and it would be a cold day in hell before I supported a Republican campaign, but lets just suppose for a moment that I had. My charitable donations usually range between $20 and $100. If I were to donate to a politician or political party, it would probably be in that range. I know that's a pittance compared to donations from corporations and wealthy individuals, but it would be a lot for me. If I donated, it would be to further the cause, to get the word out, to raise voter awareness of my candidate, to fund studies crucial to the campaign. It would not, in fact, be to buy clothes for someone who already has an income to buy their own clothes. In the face of $150,000.00 what would my donation even buy? Shoe laces? A pair of panties? Maybe socks? I mean, I can only guess that with at least 2 Operas worth of funding they're buying the most expensive clothes possible. They can't be spending it on more items than she'll wear before they become unfashionable next season.

If I were a republican donor, with McCain falling further behind in the poles, I'd be livid to see my money spent this way.

Of course, after being given the clothing, and wearing at least some of it, Ms. Palin has decided to say "no thanks" and go back to her old wardrobe. They claim she will not keep them but eventually donate the clothes to charity. I'm betting it gets overlooked and she keeps them. Just like she was able to keep and spend all the money she accepted for the "bridge to nowhere" to which she later said "no thanks." Maybe this is more of the same.

For that kind of money, every stitch of that clothing better be American union made.


I've always felt a little bad that I didn't choose an education and career path that could save the planet. I did well in Math and Science in high school, but decided instead to go into theatre. In fact, when I interviewed for admission into Boston University's theatre conservatory program, the 2 men interviewing me looked at my grades and test scores and asked why someone so intelligent wanted to go into theatre. To this day, I don't know whether or not they were serious. I chose to make costumes partially because of a small but growing talent for it, but also because it presented a challenge that I couldn't always solve on the first attempt, unlike most of my other academic subjects. It was probably the first time I didn't just choose the easy path. Eventually, I did go to a college where I could double major in theatre design and physics, but before anyone gets impressed, remember that it's a physics degree from art school!

The point being that, for the most part, making costumes will do very little for the environment. Even though I use all my pencils down to stubs, and tape my larger scraps of paper back together to make patterns out of, by and large what I do does create a small but significant bit of waste (if anyone has use for small fabric scraps, speak up! They're just filling landfills). We also use electric lights and equipment with a fair amount of energy draw and though I wish it were othersiese, all of that nice hydroelectric power from Niarara Falls gets sent all the way to New York City, while or power comes from coal, nuclear, and other nastiness that makes the city of Niagara Falls smell like acid rain.

I had all but given up on my work having any sort of positive environmental impact until just a few days ago. Now that I'm working at a college, it's important to me to cultivate some student stitchers, both to get the show done and because the whole point of college is learning, and this is what they can learn from me. In that interest I've gathered up the students who have expressed interest in learning about costumes and am teaching them how to sew. Some have a little sewing experience when they come to me, but I have 2 right now who had never picked up a needle before I showed them how to thread one, knot, and begin sewing. I set up one of these girls with a series of buttons to sew. After a few questions and approval of the first button sewn, I left her to them and returned to my work. After a little while she got a call on her cell phone. I heard her tell her friend that she was busy sewing buttons and then state, "I guess now when the button comes off one of my shirts I won't have to throw it out."

Score one for the planet!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

New Bunnies

Our family lost Rusty the wonderbun back in May. I haven't posted about that loss because I haven't been able to put into words what an amazing rabbit he was, or how much his loss hurts. Also, I've felt the need to keep that loss fairly private. I don't think Chris or I can bear the hurt and anger of reading some stranger posting a comment like, "Oh come on, he was just a rabbit."

Have you ever heard someone who has had lots of a certain kind of pet always talk about one in particular? They may have had 5 dogs over the course of their life, but there's just one they always tell stories about, and talk about how great he/she was and how much they miss him/her. Rusty was that pet. Maybe I can illustrate it better than describe it. This is a quick video I took of Rusty in the last year of his life.

Not only did he regularly come when called, but Chris could get Rusty to chase him from the kitchen to the living room every night before his dinner. I only wish I had gotten a video of the chase.

We still miss Rusty very much. I especially miss the way he used to sleep on our bed each night near my feet. That being said, we did finally take a trip out to the SPCA a few weeks ago to visit quite a few rabbits who were there, waiting for good homes. We spent time with several rabbits, and decided that one rabbit would never be able to fill Rusty's shoes, so we adopted a pair.

Introducing: Dutch and Pepper. These two are litter mates, male and female, who were already bonded. They were rescued from cruelty/neglect at the end of July. We're not sure how old they are. The SPCA thought 5 months, but our vet suspects younger. We started out by putting them into the cage together with Rusty's old litter pan, which sort of worked, in that they used it, but they also picked 2 or 3 other spots in the cage to use. after reviewing the litter training bits of the House Rabbit Society website and talking to our vet, we added a second litter pan. Now they use only the pans, and often sit in them as if they're sitting in matching armchairs. They also currently have a litter pan in the living room for when we let them out, but we're hoping that when they're a little older we can eliminate the room pan. I mention all this because one of the first questions we're asked about pet rabbits is whether they're litter trained.

Dutch is the male rabbit, and mostly black; Pepper is the female and has more traditional dutch breed markings with her white shoulders and feet. We've been greatly enjoying their antics, although we wish they were more comfortable being touched. Right now, they love to come up to us, bonk us with their noses and even put their front feet on us, but they're skittish about being touched. This will change over time, as they get used to humans. It's frustrating right now, because they're so cute and we want to pet them.

Dutch's specialty is speed: