Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Milwaukee Madness: The Holiday Tree vs. The Christmas Tree

When people see a large tree covered in lights and ornaments in the middle of the city in winter, does the thought, “My, what a wonderful Holiday Tree!” go through their minds, or do they think Christmas? The Milwaukee Common Council seems to believe the latter. In Milwaukee, the tree was called a Christmas tree from 1913 until 1995, when the name was changed to “Holiday Tree”. This is the first time since then that it has been switched back to being called a “Christmas Tree”.

The city’s tree should be called what it is: a Christmas Tree. What other holidays have a special tree to celebrate aside from Christmas? There is no Hanukah tree. There is no Kwanzaa tree. There is only a Christmas tree. Therefore, it makes sense to call it one.

So now we’re calling it a Christmas tree. How exactly does this pressure people into accepting Christianity? It would be like arguing that every time someone sees a crucifix, they’re being pressured into accepting Christianity. You don’t see the city trying to place sanctions on what you call a cross. No one is forcing anyone to have a Christmas tree in their own home, bake Christmas cookies, wish everyone a Merry Christmas, or put little baby Jesus figurines on their lawn. The tree is simply a public object that sits there. It isn’t attacking anyone or personally harassing them to celebrate Christmas or welcome Christianity into their lives. It’s just a tree!

Christmas is simply a widely-accepted holiday in the U.S. Mail doesn’t go out, businesses are closed, and there are decorations and parades around the city. People even get out of work to celebrate the holiday! No one seems to mind getting a day of paid vacation for Christmas, so why should they mind a simple public Christmas tree?

One argument made by Milwaukee officials like Alderman Mike D’Amato is that public money is being spent on the tree, yet symbols for other religions and their holidays are not being represented. If this is a serious issue, then maybe there should be a private donation of the tree to the city. Also, if public funding would still be in use, there could be public funding for symbols of other religious holidays as requested by the public, too. This way, it will not be “inclusive” to strictly those celebrating Christmas and can expand to other celebrations as well. If the demand is there, it can be met by the city. Then there can be equal representation of holidays. This would be a reasonable way to deal with the argument and hopefully satisfy more Milwaukee residents who are upset about the decision to make the tree a Christmas Tree again.

There is a distinct difference between being politically correct and defeating the purpose of something even existing by taking away any defining characteristic it originally had. What is there to be excited about if you can’t even define what you’re celebrating? No matter what is celebrated, be it Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, or nothing at all, people should be allowed to celebrate and call a Christmas tree what it is: a Christmas tree.

By: Isabella Carini (editorial 1)

Harajuku What?

Gwen Stefani is just one of those people you never stop hearing about. There’s a wide selection of media sensations to choose from: she married man-babe Gavin Rossdale of Bush, got pregnant, dyed her hair a plethora of colors, and got sick of No Doubt and started a solo career.

So here she is again, coming out with her second solo album The Sweet Escape in December. She even has a new single out from the album complete with write-ups and pictures on various internet sites. Stefani always seems to be popping up in the middle of a group of flashily-dressed Japanese women in these press shots, known as the “Harajuku girls”. The thing I’ve never gotten over is Stefani’s complete disrespect for the Japanese culture by using these women to promote her music and products. Is Stefani’s use of the “Harajuku girls” just reinforcing the stereotype of submissive Asian women and making a mockery of Japanese culture? Oh yes.

So, what is this Harajuku phenomenon? Since her first solo album Love.Angel.Music.Baby. was released in November 2004, Stefani has acquired a posse of four Japanese women who she has ever-so-cutely deemed the “Harajuku girls”. She has even renamed them: Love, Angel, Music, and Baby… like a matching play-set to her album. She has credited influence of this to Japanese-teen culture. Can this be real? It’s sad to say that it is.

Stefani’s albums have taken on a stranger feel than previous material with her band No Doubt, but the real separation between the two musical projects is her adjusted way of dressing and entourage of Harajuku girls. The style that Stefani exemplifies seems unsettlingly close to that of Tokyo, Japan’s street fashion in past years. She has been criticized for it and for devaluing a very authentic and original design style, but not many hold her accountable because they see it as a fresh look for U.S. pop culture.

Even worse than this fashion-stealing is Stefani’s use of the Harajuku girls to push her music and product lines. The Harajuku girls have accompanied Stefani in her music videos, to awards shows, onstage during performances, and on MTV. She seems to drag them around like little pets, even dressing them in matching clothes and contractually obligating them to speak only Japanese in public. This is a degrading practice to reduce these women to giggling schoolgirls in short skirts to sell albums. As a seemingly-strong female, I was very surprised to see this come from Stefani.

On to the product placements! Stefani released a special “HP Photosmart Harajuku Lovers digital camera”, complete with all the cutesy Japanese detailing for a steal: $249.99. This is only a small part of her all-encompassing “Harajuku Lovers” line (part of Stefani’s high-end brand L.A.M.B.) which includes products like underwear, shirts, shoes, baby clothes, hats, stationary, cell phone charms, and purses. All of these products draw from the same Japanese street culture designs, as well. She also has America on the look-out for her special line of dolls coming out. I can only imagine what that will be like…

Stefani has turned an original, funky street culture into a misunderstood, commercialized excuse to impose ethnic stereotypes of Asian females. So what’s the reward for cashing in on this for the Harajuku girls? Apparently, a song dedication. But maybe you should ask Love, Angel, Music, or Baby about that…if you can.

By: Isabella Carini (column 2)

Monday, November 13, 2006

College students like to drink…a lot. Absolut, Jack Daniels, Finlandia…okay maybe more like Milwaukee’s Best and Roundy’s vodka, but you get the point. It’s no secret students like to go out and have a good time, and it’s not likely to change anytime soon.

And University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee students are no exception to this rule.

Many UWM students spend long, tireless hours studying, writing papers, and of course taking those dreaded exams. And when the long awaited weekend arrives they can think of nothing better to do than to let lose and party a little!

In fact, sometimes it’s just too difficult to wait for the weekend, and they need a little mid-week pick me up.

The students (those of legal age) deserve some time to relax and take it easy. Many work a job, or multiple jobs on top of a heavy course workload. Sometimes they, like everyone else who works hard, just need a night off. A little vacation from the ‘real world.’

And, UWM students are extremely lucky because when it comes to bars in Milwaukee, this city offers an excellent, diverse selection.

Whether you like classier and more sophisticated lounges or you’re into the nitty gritty pubs and bars, Milwaukee has it all and then some.

And what’s even better is that the vast majority of Milwaukee bars do not have cover charges or ridiculous drink prices, but rather many drink specials and offers (any night of the week)! Milwaukee bars offer big city style, with small country costs.

Milwaukee Street (and the surrounding area) is full of trendy, more upscale bars and restaurants. It’s the perfect location for those interested in getting all glammed up for a night on the town.

It’s home to Tangerine, which features ladies night specials every Thursday from seven until close. Kenadee’s, and Taylor’s, as well as Eve, a lounge and discotheque great for dancing, are just a few blocks over. And Elsa’s on the Park, a reputable Milwaukee favorite known for its mouth-watering burgers (try the Burger Alfredo) and fruity cocktails is right around the corner.

While some of the bars in this area are little pricier, it’s well worth it for the trendy atmospheres, unique cocktails, and dancing they offer.

A sharp contrast to Milwaukee Street is Water Street, which offers a great selection of bars- one right after another. It’s home to more of the ‘college-type’ bars, with more greasy bar foods and drink specials.

It’s home to Brothers, a popular chain bar that is also located in Madison and Lacrosse. Every Wednesday, Brothers features one-dollar bottles of Miller High Life and ten-cent wings- an offer no college student can refuse.

Right next-door is Rosie’s, another popular bar on Water Street. And on the corner is the appropriately named Corner Bar, which is another favorite for its cheap drink specials and its younger, twenty-something crowd.

The Harp (nearby to Water street) is another great bar perfect for lazy afternoon as it overlooks the water. Milwaukee Ale house is also a great bar that is located on the water and has great meals. Between four and seven on weeknights they offer specials to enjoy while sitting by the river.

And if your interested in a good ol’ Irish pub, be sure to hit up McGillycuddy’s which has some great Irish beer on tap and authentic Irish dishes, like their Irish stew and their mini ruebens.

If you’re not quite in the mood for the Milwaukee Street Area or Water Street, you can easily hop on over to nearby North Avenue. This area is home to BBC’s, with great bar food and drink specials and across the street is Houligan’s, which also has drink specials and yummy bar food.

And if you’re just not feeling North Ave, make your way down just a bit to Brady Street with its artsy, smaller bars and pubs. There’s Nomad, a pub-type bar and the trendier Balzac, just to name a couple.

When it comes down to it, Milwaukee has a great selection of bars. And the ones mentioned just name a few in the city- there are certainly more scattered all over that should be visited for a drink, or a few. So pick your destination, go out, and drink up because like they say, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Will negative ads by Doyle and Green promote apathy amongst voters

The race for governor of Wisconsin between Gov. Jim Doyle and U.S. Rep. Mark Green will finally come to an end on Nov. 7. However, those who have witnessed the mudslinging campaign ads put forth by each candidate may not want to show up to the voting booths.

The campaign ads used by Doyle and Green have certainly embodied the sleaziness of political advertising. It seems as if each political candidate has spent more time digging up dirt on his opponent than figuring out what he will do when he is elected.

Each candidate has used accusatory ads that suggest their opponent is a crook. Will such a depiction of each candidate in these ads have a negative impact on voter turnout?

The use of sensational, dishonest, and personal attacks is certainly bound to have more of a negative impact on voter turnout than a positive one.

Campaign ads for Democratic candidate Jim Doyle have done everything from accusing Green of borrowing illegal campaign funds to using celebrity Michael J. Fox to claim that Green is against stem cell research.

Republican candidate Mark Green’s campaign ads have been equally negative. His ads have charged Doyle with such things as taking part in a scandal with a former administration staffer and have even compared Doyle to Richard Nixon.

A 2002 study from Harvard University suggests that sensational attacks and personal attacks can negatively affect voter turnout.

The fact that Doyle and Green have used sensational and personal attacks against one another implies that their campaign ads will discourage citizens from voting.

One can see how such sensational attacks can affect how voters perceive their candidates through the comparison of Doyle and Nixon. The comparison made Doyle look like a devious politician, while Green’s reliability had to be questioned because of such a harsh and unethical comparison.

The accused as well as the accuser look bad in sensational ads because of the way each is represented. The accuser is represented as someone who is willing to say anything to win, while the accused is represented as someone who deserves skepticism and suspicion.

Doyle had an almost equally sensational ad stating that the $1.3 million Green transferred from his federal campaign to state campaign in 2005 was illegal. While the act by Green has aroused suspicion, the truth is that when he borrowed the money it was not illegal to do so.

As with the ad just mentioned, many ads in this race bring attention to claims about an opponent that are simply not true.

One of Green’s ads claimed that Doyle stood in the way of an 800-job expansion of home improvement retailer Menard Inc. The ad failed to mention that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is what really stood in the way of the expansion and that Menard’s president and CEO praised Doyle.

Lies such as this will deter voters who research their candidates. If they see that each candidate uses lies or half truths in their campaign ads, they are less likely to care about or commit to either one of the candidates and consequently not vote.

The personal attacks in these ads are also likely to heighten voter apathy.
A woman in one Green ad stated “I think Doyle is definitely corrupted by money.” On the other side, an ad by Doyle stated that Green was “lying to distract voters from the truth."

The themes of corruption, lies, and dirty money have become common threads in these ads. It is hard for voters to become motivated to vote when each candidate is thoroughly represented as a crook

While some journalists suggest that negative campaign ads stimulate voter turnout, this claim has not been proven. Studies have shown mixed results as to whether or not negative ads stimulate or are detrimental to voter turnout.

However, recent studies can correlate sensational and personal campaign attacks with negative voter turnout. Also common sense dictates that dishonest ads are more likely to create distrust for candidates and therefore create voter apathy.

At some point voters have to ask whether choosing between a crook and another crook is actually a choice. Where does the credibility lie when a political candidate accuses his opponent of being a liar and that same opponent has an identical accusation?

It remains to be seen whether these negative and dishonest ads will have an effect on who shows up to vote on Nov. 7. However, it’s hard to choose between candidates when more is known about what’s wrong with them than what is right.