Tuesday, September 29, 2009

NOW is the time for all good architects, preservationists and active citizens to come to the aid of the Wheatley and Lafon Schools threatened with imminent demolition by the so-called Recovery School District. Submit public comments in support of preservation here.
Deadline Wednesday 9.30.2009.

Yes, that deadline is tomorrow.

And for everyone's information, most of both Wheatley and Lafon did not suffer major damage from flooding or winds over four years ago. Wheatley in particular had most of its classrooms raised above the street level; the only building that would need any major remediation there would be a small administrative structure that was at street level and some bathrooms that were at street level just beneath the raised main structure -

The main school building, however, is intact and fully gutted, ready for renovation and reuse.

There is no real reason, in the end, for the Recovery School District to demolish this structure other than money - money they can get from FEMA to tear down this school and, most likely, to put into another school that will require families in the Treme to drive well out of their way to get their kids an elementary education.

It was nice to see Warren Easton High School featured in this week's Gambit as a school utilizing solar technology. I know one of the arguments put forth for not doing anything with Wheatley is the consideration of what sort of glass to use, as most of the outer structure of the main building is glass. "It could disturb the neighbors....or allow too much heat or cool air to escape from the building and make the classrooms uncomfortable."

If solar panels can be put atop a high school building, there is most certainly glass that can be installed at Wheatley that will not blind passersby or provide inadequate insulation for the rooms within without compromising the architectural integrity of the place. I'm sure the cost would be at a fraction of what it would take to build a new school.

What better lesson could be taught to our children than that?


In better news today, mazel tov to Humid Beings on its launch. Very nice to see all systems are go. Head on over there and get yourselves stuck to New Orleans online.

What I find velcro'd to me, however, in recent days is flattering and unsettling at the same time. Will Poll NOLA start getting some election debates and events together? Will it go beyond news/opinion aggregation and truly interact with the community in the upcoming elections? It would be nice.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Who, on this upcoming Day of Atonement, will be sealed in the Book of Life this way?

Just guess when it comes to the following personage:
"By the way, I just thought I would put this out there, and what you do with it is your own business. But, this weekend, I put out a tweet on Twitter that September 28th is the Day of Atonement for the Jewish faith, and I thought it would be a good day for all of us to fast and pray, you know. And I got this idea from Thomas Jefferson. After they put together the Continental Congress, the first thing they did was put together a day -- a national day of fast and prayer, and I thought the Day of Atonement would be a good day to do it."
Not a bad endorsement of Jewish tradition from a guy who was able to get tens of thousands of anti-government protesters to the Mall in Washington a couple weeks ago. (Besides, fasting would be a good way for the pudgy (Glenn) Beck to lose a few pounds.)

But it turns out not everyone is so happy with Beck's embrace.

"Yom Kippur is a day of atonement, prayer and fasting," said Ari Rabin-Havt of Media Matters, the liberal watchdog and fact-checker. "Glenn Beck's attempt to politicize this holiest of days with his far right agenda is not only disgusting, but shows a profound disrespect for the Jewish people." Aaron Keyak, press secretary for the National Jewish Democratic Council, weighed in at the Huffington Post with a spirited analysis titled "The Grinch Who Stole Yom Kippur."
Somebody...please...tell me this isn't happening.

Aaah, it's too late. NOLA Slate actually let me know about this link.

Already tweeted three points addressed to Mr Beck about his attempted co-opting of this holiest of days on the Jewish calendar:
  1. Shut up.
  2. Convert to Judaism.
  3. Apologize to EVERYONE ON EARTH before you can even think about atoning for sins committed against God. Because we all have to live with you, you sorry excuse for a human being.
Got the idea from Thomas Jefferson, my tuchus.

You got it to somehow try to put yourself and your latest hurtful ideas about how this country should be run into a better light. Don't go choosing the chosen people that way.
There are many, many people in this town who will not like the analogy I am going to put forth on the nature of the mayor's race and on how reluctant possible candidates are to even dip their toes into the brackish waters of a possible campaign here. But hey, since I am a fan, and have been since '86, it's my blog and I'm gonna do what I want...

...even if it means putting the notion out there that this town's nonstarting mayoral race is akin to the '62 Mets 120-game losing season.

Where's Casey Stengel when you need him most?

I mean, think about this. God knows we all need some good, solid laughs, because things have been hanging lately...but we are getting short on that kind of thing. The absurdity has reached a fever pitch, to the point where any attempt at prediction and handicapping gets blown right off the shores and into the gulf.

Hell, I sincerely thought yesterday that Jim Letten was calling a press conference simply to tell New Orleanians he was not running for mayor instead of imparting the news that he was not going to investigate recent allegations of wrongdoing in the OIG. The mainstream media seems to be studiously ignoring the one candidate that would be damned good, even when a shootout happens right in front of his campaign headquarters. Makes me want to bring back Casey and have him point out the candidates for the media outlets just as he imparted some essential information to his amazing Mets at a practice once: "Them are the bases." Attention, TV news and the Times-Picayune: "Perry is a candidate."

Of course, people have floated the idea that the entire citizenry declare its candidacy for mayor, but I'm now thinking that a couple of the best candidates would actually be some people who have already passed on, with one of them leaving a mannequin of himself in his wake. Who better than the Emperor of the World and the Empress of the Universe for this here office? It'll at least bring back the VOTE K-DOE VOTE! slogan. We need some of those.

ANYway, getting back to sports, many people would say that baseball isn't even the right kind of game to liken to anything that goes on in this football town, forget conjuring up some team from up north that got its last World Series win 23 years ago with a lineup whose behavior would have shamed the depraved on Bourbon Street. Let's bring this back to the Saints! Now there's an analogy for ya!

All right. Here we go.

If we can line everybody up who's even thinking about the halls of City Hall and get them to do this:

...then I think we're gonna have one hell of a political season on our hands.

Just...Drew, man...lose that David Carradine hair.

(thanks to dat wacky Cajun Boy for the Breesus stuff)

Update, 4:35 PM: Speaking of mayors, get your best digs in at the expense of our lame duck, Hizzoner the Walking Id, in Humid City's first-ever contest. The winner will receive a free LiveNation Club Passport. Dazzle me and the HC crew with your mayoral humor.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

No matter how much Advance Internet tries, they still haven't made nola.com as user-friendly, idiot-proof, and bigot-proof as it still needs to be. And it certainly won't be replacing the dead-tree edition around here anytime soon if they can't give you easy access to the day's front pages...

...like, for instance, today's gem (click on the photo to enlarge):

New Orleans' mental health is worse than it's ever been, which is saying quite a lot. But hey, we've got a rare giant squid recovered intact from the Gulf!

Hallucinatory calamari for everybody!

Update, 9-23: Cliff highlights a basic reason why anonymous commenters are an insidious lot. Comment moderation is key, folks. And I'm glad Bill Capo is out there getting these stories from the community - spotlighting organizations such as Adopt A Family can only help them meet their goals. That's something to condone, not condemn.

Monday, September 21, 2009

As my grandpa says on hearing such things:

Tomorrow I will atone for barely being a Jew all year

Oy vey iz mir!

G-Bitch asks what the equivalent of a pay-as-you-go Catholic is in other religions...and I had to say...'tis not only a new year for me (5770, Erster, you treif thing, you) and a time to atone for my sins against God and to apologize to those here on Earth I've wronged, it is also the most significant holiday time of the Jewish calendar - so significant that, unfortunately, most of the secular Jewish population all over the world thinks it is the only time for them to go to the synagogue:
What I dread about Septembers is the High Holy Days. My father used to refer to them as the “running of the Jewish grunion.” The grunion get swept onto the beach, completely bewildered, but all catching the same waves; and then after a couple of days, they get swept out to sea again. And here we have the Jews getting swept into the sanctuary, also somewhat bewildered, and three days of praying later, they get swept out into the real world (some never to be seen again until the next “running”).

The difficult part for me, and what makes me dread Septembers, is trying to figure out how to meet the needs of these Jews who have made their way into our shul. I know the prayer book will completely baffle them; the choreography of the bowing, shuckling, bending, and prostrating will frustrate them; and the time will stretch into a seemingly endless highway of tedium.

The only part of the service many Jews can feel a part of is the sermon. English we all know! But what can I say to these revolving-door Jews (in on Rosh Hashanah, out on Yom Kippur) that will give a boost to their Jewish DNA? That will make them consider returning during the year?
What, indeed?

This is a serious problem within the secular Jewish community. The High Holy Days are a heavy time, full of prayer and contemplation, and - aside from the charming of the children through the blasts of a ram's horn punctuating services - imagery that includes God writing in a large Book of Life what will be in store for each of us in the coming year on Rosh Hashanah and sealing it on Yom Kippur smacks a little too much of predestination in these supposedly enlightened times.

It seems to go against any sort of individualism we might cultivate in our daily lives....and it overshadows every part of the Jewish calendar that celebrates life and the covenant we made with God atop Mount Sinai more than it emphasizes how small we are or how beholden we are to God's awesome powers of judgment.

There was a big push in our synagogue this year to emphasize social action within the surrounding community - helping out a local charter school, pitching in to build houses with the St. Bernard Project, feeding the homeless on a weekly basis, donations of all kinds to all sorts of causes - which is fantastic and is long overdue...but I think they missed some other essential stuff that makes us Jewish...

...the biggest essential chunk of information being that Jewish learning never ends.

If it were only the social action that kept Jewish people Jewish, there'd be many more of us around than there are, probably. The process in a nearly-Unitarian leaning Classical Reform movement turning back to more Hebrew in its services, more ritual observance, and more participation from members of the congregation is ongoing - and it cannot end with one's bar or bat mitzvah marking a supposed end to one's understanding of Judaism.

The doors have to remain open, no matter how much we kvetch about these people who come in and out during the Ten Days of Repentance that mark the interval between the High Holy Days.

No strings attached. No guilt in play (which I know is a difficult thing for a Jewish mother such as myself).

Forget "pay-as-you-go".

It's cheesy, but I'm starting to prefer "the more you know".:
The story has often been told of how Rosenzweig felt that if he was to be converted to Christianity he ought to do so as a Jew, moving, as he saw it at the time, from a lower to a higher form of religion.

While contemplating his conversion, he attended an Orthodox synagogue in Berlin on Yom Kippur. There he was so profoundly overcome by the devotion of the worshippers as they sought forgiveness from the God of their fathers that he realized there was no need for him to find his salvation outside his ancestral faith. As he was later to put it, the Christian claim that no man can come to the Father except through Jesus was true for all others but not for the Jew, since Jews, being already with the Father, had no need to “come” to him....

...Rosenzweig’s approach was subjective also in connection with the mitzvot, Jewish observances. He did think that he would one day become a fully observant Jew, but believed in the gradual approach in which the observances slowly made their impact by “ringing a bell” for him. Typical of this approach is Rosenzweig’s answer to someone who asked him whether he wore tefillin [phylacteries]: “Not yet,” he replied.
L'shanah tovah to all. Here's to a good, sweet new year.

Update, 9-22: One effect of the revolving door can be found here, exacerbated by the terrible decisions concerning land usage that are endemic to this town.

And my husband recently obtained a gorgeous Sephardic cookbook by a dead ringer for Jane Fonda who has quite the unfortunate name. I look forward to trying out the recipes and eventually saying the author's name with a straight face. I have a lot to atone for.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Time Machine

The Cafe Du Monde in the 40's looks so tranquil...

It was definitely another world.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Another potential school renovation site will be biting the dust:

More pictures of the moldering Hoffman site at 2622 Prieur can be seen here.

It is tragic that the RSD outright refuses to renovate this structure. The building assessment in the School Facilities Master Plan indicated that it would cost $2.2 million LESS to renovate Hoffman, but they would prefer to start over.

Key note concerning the Hoffman demolition: The rebuild costs over 20% more. It's possible that if the RSD chose renovation over rebuild for five schools, we could get a sixth school renovated for free.

Update, 3:30 PM: It's the end of a good blog. But the same ol' same ol' continues:

There are serious systemic and cultural issues that need to be addressed in order to truly reform our schools. The system is still corrupt and it is still broken, it is merely hiding behind a curtain painted with pretty pictures of reform. At least in my case, I think I can safely say that we are simply rebuilding the same old crap with a new face.
May you live in an interesting age.

I don't care who said it.

It's simply hitting me, for the first time, how much of a curse it really is. See, my week kicked off with my finishing The Year Before The Flood and feeling drained.

Ned Sublette is a hell of a musicologist, and that alone makes this book a must-read: not only does his analysis of New Orleans brass bands and local music kick ass, he also has an even better look at New Orleans Dirty South rap, hip-hop, and bounce this side of Nik Cohn and Alison Fensterstock.

Where this book departs from his previous books, aka, Cuba And Its Music and The World That Made New Orleans, is in the inclusion of Sublette's experiences living in this city for ten months before the Federal Flood..which kick off with his discovery that the house he rented was where a young man had been murdered less than two years before Sublette and his wife moved in.
"Which house do you live in?" she asked. I told her the number. And she more or less said (we were speaking Spanish):

"Oh, that's the house where that boy got killed."

Where that who got what?

Friends, before you rent a home, Google the address first. It took 0.38 seconds to link to a picture of my front porch, transformed into an altar with flowers and handwritten prayers....

...Mr. Landlord kinda hadn't mentioned anything about this having happened when I rented the house. Well, why would he? And yeah, it would have affected my decision to rent or not. It turns out that this is a classic real estate problem, called "notorious addresses".

Mr. Landlord, who was younger than me, was a hard worker who was doing what I hadn't done - devoting himself to the accumulation of wealth. Besides his job in D.C., he owned this and another property, both of which he superintended himself. The next time I spoke to him, the next weekend he was in town, I brought up the uncomfortable subject of the killing and said, as politely as possible, it would have been better if we had learned about this from you than finding out about it on our own. His first response, which I thought odd, was: who told you about that?*
Ummmm, who told you about that? The landlord ought to have known about how small this town really is...and actually, Sublette should have, too, but he got to know that with time and 20/20 hindsight, as most newcomers do. Because, truth of the matter is, this entire city is one huge notorious address - and Sublette takes on the violence and the crime running rampant here, along with an exploration of how the racism woven through the city's - and, indeed, Louisiana's - history culminated in the mass negligence of the population and its needs well before and up into 8-29-05 and its ongoing aftermath.

It'll make you wonder, if you live here, why you are even bothering in the face of all this madness....at least for a while. It's why, ultimately, there is no magic pill for turning life's lemons into lemonade - at least, not one without side effects.

There are no easy answers here, and the reality of that is enough to make me weak in the knees.

That's what this book did.


About the only thing about The Year Before The Flood that can give anybody any sort of comfort is embodied in the following:

"Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle."
- Author unknown (actually, I've just been told it's Plato who said it. Thanks, Karen)

Where Sublette's book shines is in the recognition of the community of music as a fount of renewal, rebirth and a reaffirmation of how much we are not on our own.
Postflood New Orleans compared only with two other moments I had experienced in my life: New York during its bankruptcy crisis of the '70's, and Havana in the Special Period of the early '90's - great music cities where there was creativity amid chaos, gloom, depression, and poverty. When you and everyone else in the band have lost your houses and music is what you have to survive with, you're going to play with some feeling. When a trumpet player drives six hours each way from Houston to make his weekly bar gig in New Orleans, the way musicians in Soul Rebels did, you can feel his commitment in every note. And the music was being listened to by people who didn't take it for granted. It had a big job to do to combat the depression everyone was suffering, and it rose to the challenge.*
Let's hope we can keep being inspired by its example in these parts....and that that feeling can spread all over this country somehow.

*Ned Sublette, The Year Before The Flood

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The fish had been passed on to my friends Justin and Justine before their owners left town. The fish owners had been reassured that Justin was going to stay, so they felt better leaving the fish with him while they headed out of the way of what looked like a killer storm. Eventually, though, Justine convinced Justin they both had to leave...and the fish were not included in their evacuation plans.

So the fish stayed in their humble tank for what everyone thought would only be a few days.

Three months later, Justin and Justine came back to a small miracle: though the tank was grungy, all the fish were still swimming. Life was good...

...except, in the coming year, my friends decided to pass the fish on to the little guy's preschool teacher, who wanted a tank of fish for her classroom. The transfer to the school happened a couple of months after the kid began his first year in his current school, and he and his class learned about the care, feeding, and enjoyment of fish in captivity beyond Finding Nemo.

The next year, the tank was in the classroom again - minus the fish. I heard about the mishap in which my son's teacher, in trying to clean the tank, accidentally caused the deaths of the fish.

In horror, I blurted out,"But...those fish survived Katrina!"

It may have contributed to my son's teacher refraining from getting any more fish for the classroom for the next couple of years (well, my outburst and the crack that developed in the tank), but she decided to give it another go this year. Although the little guy has moved on to a different grade, a different classroom, and a different teacher, he still comes back for visits - and he helped his now-former teacher with preparing a new fish tank for a new set of fish.

All of which promptly died shortly after their introduction to their new home.

No matter there...even if I had to repress some sick giggles at this latest twist of fish fate, as well as the impulse to call my son's former teacher Darla the Fish Killer...she purchased another three fish. Two goldfish and one pretty black fish with telescope eyes.

I came in today to find a distraught teacher. The poor black fish was slowly dying of ich. This would make the fourth fish in a month's time meeting its demise in her classroom. I had to scoop out the dying creature and hold a short fish funeral in the bathroom.

I don't know if any of us can take much more of this ichthyian carnage, so please help me pray to whatever gods might help watch over the remaining goldfish in the tank....more for our collective sanity, actually, than for the physical health of the fish.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dear Parents,

If you are not 30 years old or younger it is mandatory that you read this book:

Growing Up Digital by Don Tapscott

Our kids learn differently from us. You will be glad you read it!

1) AAAAAAHHHH!!!! I'm over 30!!! How the hell did that happen????

2) How lovely. I have an assignment on how interactive learning works.

Let's see if I can pull at what I learned through interactive media today:

I checked out one of my favorite blogs to see what was new and found this paean to removing one's prejudices and making the world a better place in the process, no matter what your sexual orientation is.

There's even a plea at the end for emotional considerations of all that you love when embarking on new relationships. Don't make Jen Kwok cut you.

Needless to say, I have a new addition to the blogroll, and it was in the archives of this latest that I found one of the funnier Britcoms ever and spent a good chunk of time watching it in a vain effort to put off getting rid of the soggy pile of detritus in our backyard we haven't been able to bag due to the weekend downpours:

So bad, it's good, even this godawful episode and its commentary near the end...

...and it was through the YouTube links on one of the episodes that I found some instruction on how not to behave at a funeral and what happens when one enters Google into Google:

So, after all this accumulation of pop cultural knowledge, I can probably somehow assist with helping my child through the minefields of 21st century learning, right?

Yeah, I'm better off operating a streetcar.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

click on the image to enlarge
Ohm Sweet Ohm, by Simon Patterson

powered by:

Just contemplating the fundamental interconnectedness of all things and how we try to make some sort of sense or order out of it...which may get me telling my nonsensical fish story - or not.

Suffice it to say, I finished The World That Made New Orleans and am a quarter of the way through Ned Sublette's The Year Before The Flood, and both books are making me want to go back to his monumental Cuba And Its Music again. There's a man who lives by fundamental interconnectedness.

I hope I can make this event at the Mother-In-Law Lounge on the 24th, but it's on a Thursday, in the midst of high holy day choir rehearsals for li'l ol' me. It's not like I'd be missing Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur or anything like that, but it's pretty close. But hey, at least there's a Garden District Book Shop event on the 23rd and this one at Octavia Books on October 10th.

Stay dry. It's a wet day out there.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Eight years ago today, I was working glass using the two thousand degree-plus heat of a glory hole, listening in disbelief as I worked at how the news on the radio was completely transforming our world. I ran inside, turned on the nearest television, and saw the south tower crumble.

The fires that contributed to the buckling and collapse of both towers burned hotter than the ones I used to craft small vases that day. The fires ignited within us all sent troops to Afghanistan...

...troops that are still there, after all these years.

MY CHILD is in Afghanistan right now. Thanks to the previous administration's amoral and illegal actions, not only do I have to worry about him being killed in battle, I have to worry about how he'd be treated were he to fall into enemy hands.

Which, to be honest, I've always had to worry about, but in the past, my govt. operated from a higher moral ground and hadn't given the fucking green light to torture as acceptable. No reason for the Taliban to be restrained in how they would treat him - all they have to do is point to one of the MANY locations and instances where the US said, oh this is ok. It's not like we gave them the winning hand in the propaganda battle by dropping to their level or anything.

And it just ... I'm as disheartened as anyone that Obama seems set on escalating, rather than ending, the war in Afghanistan. I'm as disheartened as anyone that for many of us the world doesn't seem significantly different than it did a year ago. But you know and I know that we can sit here and be disheartened or we can do something about it.

Put something in the tip jar and label it for the First Draft care package. Make your suggestions or contribute to the package in other ways here.

Let's also work a little harder to bring 'em all home.

Update, 11:43 AM: Adrastos on 9-11:

The misuse of 9/11 by the Bush-Cheney administration compounded the tragedy and has, sadly, dimished the impact of that awful morning 8 years ago. We've become numbed to the video and made cynical by the way 9/11 was used by the GOP. Joe Biden summed it up neatly in 2008 by describing every sentence coming out of Rudy Giuliani's mouth as consisting of: "A noun, a verb and 9/11."

The people who were murdered that day deserved better.

Anudder update, 11:52 AM: Athenae outlines how unified we really were immediately following the attacks in NYC and DC and the crash in PA. We all should have behaved better.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

What region am I talking about when I talk about the following?:
  • For there to be real, lasting change in the way things are done here, basic human needs must be addressed - economic needs, employment, infrastructure, living conditions, health care, education, justice...then even larger issues can be effectively dealt with.
  • Failure to address these things leads to an atmosphere where hope is in short supply and people have no choice but to shrink inward or lash out violently in ways that are justified only to the perpetrators and their ilk. Because the violence is much more out front than the private feelings held inside, the killings get the coverage in the media.

It could be New Orleans, certainly, or most other major cities in this country...

...but this is where it's coming from:

  • ...reformers think the conservatives who run the education system should be forced to respond to its academic shortcomings. Professor Bakr thought a far wiser approach would be to try to embarrass the Saudi government about how poorly graduates cope with the world, to ask aloud what it is about the curriculum that means that Saudi Arabia in particular and the Arab world in general produce so few scientists and contribute nothing significant to the world's technological advances. That approach echoed the concerns of most Saudi parents, and would be a far more effective form of pressure than criticism seen as an assault on the culture and the religion.*
  • In working for reform, Hamad drew a parallel with soccer. Saudi Arabia played soccer according to the same rules as everybody else. So Saudis need to learn that their society, too, can afford the same kind of open debate and discussion allowed in other countries. "If you teach people that you are totally different, you are totally special, you don't belong to the world, the world has a kind a conspiracy against you, everybody is waiting for the opportunity to attack you. What does this bring you?" Hamad said. "You are making an explosive mind, a very hostile mind. So how can you have a democracy in such a situation? You have hostile minds and at the same time you want democracy. You cannot combine these. The first thing is that you have to use the educational system to spread different values, human values."*

If parents here are so het up about Barack Obama telling children to stay in school and be true to themselves, don't quit and don't give up hope - well, go move to Saudi Arabia and subscribe to Wahhabi Islam. Sure, there won't be socialism there, but there certainly won't be any tolerance for pulling one's children from school if, say, the king there decides to address all the school children.

At the same time, there is still a lot of work to be done here on the education front. And if courageous reformers in Middle Eastern countries recognize the darn near revolutionary role an education has in the development of citizens, an education which can be used effectively to help change their worlds, then why not fully recognize the teaching profession for what it is: a lot of hard work invested in molding our futures, as the way we treat these children today will determine how we are all treated tomorrow.

Update, 1:45 PM: Maitri compares what Obama said with what Reagan said. Get schooled, parental objectors.

Anudder update, 9-9: Nordette looks at what happened when Dems protested an incumbent Republican president speechifying at a public school.

One mo' time, 9-10: Mominem's comment: There is actually a great deal of socialism in Saudi Arabia. The government takes care of many things for its citizens from their enormous wealth, including health care.

My response: Whoops, that's true. Then these folks protesting the reiteration of a basic work ethic in this country are REALLY screwed.

Not that they'd call it socialism in Saudi. It is the royal family taking care of its subjects...but, as a subject, if you protest their way of doing it, doom on you. You are seen as ungrateful and against the state.

As if I'm not seeing that here. But at least under this president, nobody is going to be hauled into prison for saying it.

*Neil MacFarquhar, The Media Relations Department Of Hizbollah Wishes You A Happy Birthday


And speaking of education, subscribe to the dead-tree edition of the Times-Picayune and keep Sarah Carr on the local schools beat. I'd link to her latest online about how well school vouchers are really doing in Louisiana, but I'm still loath to send traffic nola.com's way.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Please...somebody...tell me how objectionable the President's remarks are going to be come tomorrow. I mean, is this hold-your-hands-over-the-little-one's-ears-and-eyes sort of talk, or no?
That’s why today, I’m calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education – and to do everything you can to meet them. Your goal can be something as simple as doing all your homework, paying attention in class, or spending time each day reading a book. Maybe you’ll decide to get involved in an extracurricular activity, or volunteer in your community. Maybe you’ll decide to stand up for kids who are being teased or bullied because of who they are or how they look, because you believe, like I do, that all kids deserve a safe environment to study and learn. Maybe you’ll decide to take better care of yourself so you can be more ready to learn. And along those lines, I hope you’ll all wash your hands a lot, and stay home from school when you don’t feel well, so we can keep people from getting the flu this fall and winter.
Whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it.
I know that sometimes, you get the sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work -- that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star, when chances are, you’re not going to be any of those things.
But the truth is, being successful is hard. You won’t love every subject you study. You won’t click with every teacher. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right this minute. And you won’t necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.
That’s OK. Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who’ve had the most failures. JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected twelve times before it was finally published. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, and he lost hundreds of games and missed thousands of shots during his career. But he once said, "I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."
These people succeeded because they understand that you can’t let your failures define you – you have to let them teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently next time. If you get in trouble, that doesn’t mean you’re a troublemaker, it means you need to try harder to behave. If you get a bad grade, that doesn’t mean you’re stupid, it just means you need to spend more time studying.
No one’s born being good at things, you become good at things through hard work. You’re not a varsity athlete the first time you play a new sport. You don’t hit every note the first time you sing a song. You’ve got to practice. It’s the same with your schoolwork. You might have to do a math problem a few times before you get it right, or read something a few times before you understand it, or do a few drafts of a paper before it’s good enough to hand in.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something, and to learn something new. So find an adult you trust – a parent, grandparent or teacher; a coach or counselor – and ask them to help you stay on track to meet your goals.
And even when you’re struggling, even when you’re discouraged, and you feel like other people have given up on you – don’t ever give up on yourself. Because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country.
The story of America isn’t about people who quit when things got tough. It’s about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best.

It’s the story of students who sat where you sit 250 years ago, and went on to wage a revolution and found this nation. Students who sat where you sit 75 years ago who overcame a Depression and won a world war; who fought for civil rights and put a man on the moon. Students who sat where you sit 20 years ago who founded Google, Twitter and Facebook and changed the way we communicate with each other.
So today, I want to ask you, what’s your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country?
Such a subversive message. No wonder it sounds like "punishment" to some parents' ears.

I only wish more of us could be punished with this message regularly.
Everybody have a happy, safe Labor Day. Put away those white shoes and get out the winter whites.

Trust me on this. You'll thank me for it. You will.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

You know, too many are bandying Hurricane Katrina about as a metaphor these days....comparing this, that, and the other situation to it to supposedly associate the massive destruction the storm wrought four years ago with the clusterfook-in-a-teapot Cash for Clunkers has been, or the psychological effects of being out of work in a time when this sort of thing just shouldn't be happening.

Thankfully, C for C is over and Mara Liasson apologized for using Katrina as a metaphor...but the latest one still remains, which might mean, if we aren't careful, people will start being treated for a different kind of RSD - not the Recovery School District, but Recession Stress Disorder.

Whatever do we do to counter these sorts of comparisons? Where do we draw the line? And if we are drawing the line, why is it constantly being stomped on and passed over? Is it a name versus a number? A country's failings in the face of nature versus human beings taking matters into their own hands and killing a bunch of people to make a point? What happens if we compare say, a massive natural disaster with, oh, 9-11-01?

Thankfully, the World Wildlife Fund had the sense to reject it... perhaps because the visual punch of this proposal was so shocking, all those planes headed for the towers driving home what the human toll is from a disaster such as the 2004 tsunami that devastated Indonesia.

A "brutally powerful" planet, indeed.

A terrible, terrible metaphor in bad taste as well.

Do we really need to be doing this kind of thing to get people to stop using Katrina as a metaphor? If so, I certainly don't have the heart that can do that...but I can keep telling these people to give this sort of nonsense a rest and exert their metaphorical creativity in a different way.


*from Poplicks' latest, which also informs us of the Nelson Mandela air freshener and of how Florida prison guards roll with Take Your Kids to Work Day.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

September has sprung, and the little guy is into his second full week of first grade. The expectations are different, and not just for him. I was given, through that mode of conveyance known as my son's book bag, the assignment of, for ten minutes each day, having him go through a bunch of fact family flash cards with addition and subtraction problems for numbers up to 12. I have to sign off on his sessions on a paper that goes back through the book bag conveyance to the teacher every Friday, at which time the little guy will take a timed math test on the sums he's supposed to have learned.

In all honesty, I hated flash cards when I was his age. I haven't done the ten minutes every single day with him - especially since we went to the hospital for tests last Friday when he couldn't walk on his right leg without pain (he's fine, but 4+ hours of going here, there, and everywhere in the building for one test after another left us both frazzled) - and when I do show him the cards, I don't sit there and keep moving them out each second. Perhaps I'm being too soft on him. I'm going to taint his discipline database for the rest of his school career. Perhaps I'm not using the right stuff to help him learn math.

Perhaps I don't want him to hate math....'cause Lord knows I did, for a looong time.

At least he has a love of reading, though his most recent reading choice has me conflicted and has my husband positively livid with indignation.

"Tell them (aka, his resource teachers at school) he needs to return that book," Dan said last night. "It's not appropriate for him."

You'd have thought, from Dan's reaction, that the little guy had picked out The Anarchist Cookbook, The Joy of Sex, or The Story of O, not Happy Easter, Biscuit!

I mean, it's not like Biscuit the puppy attends the Last Supper and, as the story progresses along the lines of the New Testament, finds Jesus all resurrected and happy to be off the cross in the book. It's just the little puppy and the girl who owns him looking for colored eggs all over the place as forest animals frolic alongside them. It has flaps under which the eggs can be found. It has simple sentences. For some reason, it counts as an "accelerated reading" book.

"Are we going to have an Easter egg hunt, Mom?" I was asked as I read the book to my son last night.

"No, honey, because we're Jewish," I said. "And in actuality, your (under semi-public auspices charter) school probably shouldn't have had those egg hunts your preschool and kindergarten teacher organized in previous years."

The school's argument concerning activities such as the egg hunt was that it was a "cultural exploration"...which is fine...but if they really want to kick cultural exploration into high gear, I wanna see It's Holi in Delhi, Biscuit!, or Fast During Ramadan, Biscuit!, or Biscuit Explores Santeria and Voudon. They cannot go only halfway on this.

With the increased proficiency in the little guy's reading skills, however, comes the realization that I might have to watch what reading material the kid digs into in our own home. And I'm not just talking about profanity-laced material scattered here and there. I'm talking about comics.

Make no mistake. I have an affinity for well-done newspaper comic strips and for the work of pre-Comics Code artists, for more recently-done graphic novels and for what graphic artist Art Spiegelman has termed "comix", a mingling of the comic arts with a compelling story that goes beyond that of your standard graphic novel. So did my husband, until the horrible thieving movers we hired in 2002 when we moved up to NYC from here stole all of his collected comic books, along with his 1920's era saxophone, half my CDs, and our TV, stereo, and VCR. I still feel a twinge of regret when I think of his vanished collection and bygone sax.

So there are Spiegelman's Maus volumes on our shelves, as well as In The Shadow of No Towers, Watchmen, a few other comics volumes and books on comics history, and now, most recently, Josh Neufeld's A.D.

Where I am stuck as far as A.D. goes is whether or not it is appropriate for my going-on-seven-year-old to dig into at this time.

I set myself up for this last week when I picked up my signed copy from the bookstore just before I picked my son up from school and left the book on the front seat of the car. The little guy climbed into the backseat, peered over the front, saw the book, and instantly grabbed it and started flipping through it.

"This is about the hurricane, Mom?"

"Yes, honey," I said uneasily.

flips through pages, studying them intently

"Mom, Katrina was not a very friendly storm, was it?"

"No, it wasn't, kiddo," I said sadly.

We came home, and I snagged the book from him and placed it on a high shelf in my bedroom bookcase. "Can I keep reading the hurricane book, Mom?"

"We'll see. I haven't started it yet," was my attempt at dodging his request. As the week progressed, he asked me a couple more times if he could crack A.D. open. The book has stayed on that high shelf...until today.

I look through it now, and it has a good amount of material and scenes in it that weren't in the online version that was serialized on the Smith website. The book itself is well done; as graphic novels go, it's one of the best ones out there.

But it makes me so very sad and brings me close to tears, the slices of lives it captures. What people lived through and are still living through - it's there, between those covers. Ready when you are.

Ready when my son is, too...but not right now.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Big thanks to Big Red for the vid, and big thanks to Save Charity Hospital for keeping this issue alive.

And lately, I've been contemplating many health care issues in this town that go beyond the physical buildings that stand empty here. Treatment of terminal diseases, chronic pains, and conditions such as substance abuse could sure use some serious tuning up in this town....and not like the one described in the passage below:
What if I had not been born in Minnesota, the land of abundant lakes, ample treatment centers, and endless forgiveness? What if I lived in a state or a country or a time - like now, for instance - where after the second or third treatment, they said, "Gosh, Mr. Carr, you seem to be having trouble getting the hang of this. Is this really a good use of the hard-earned tax money of the citizens of our state?" The state of Minnesota, along with the Feds, paid for at least three treatments, gave me general assistance while I was in the booby hatch, and, when I got custody of my children, issued me food stamps to feed them. A few years later, I got cancer, and it paid for all of that too. God bless the welfare state, God bless Minnesota, God bless the milk of human kindness.

Not a bad investment, in retrospect. Not only did the state not have to bear the burden of permanently placing the twins in foster care, but I had been a very good candidate to graduate from jail to prison, which is a very expensive proposition. As a citizen with the wheels glued back on, I have probably kicked back more than $300,000 in federal and state taxes. I'm hoping they drop a little of it on a loser like me. Insurance companies now treat rehab like a tune-up, funding a couple of weeks at most. But some are sicker than others. Redemption comes on a schedule known only to God, and as a civilized people, it's probably best to put good money after bad, hoping that the lightning eventually strikes. Am I right, or is that just me?*
The abovementioned former addict and cancer survivor was in and out of rehab five times before a six-month treatment program finally helped him get seriously started on changing his mind set and his life...among many, many other contributing factors.

Hey, if our state looked at the money they'd be getting in taxes from working people who are not in jail and compared that to what it'd be paying for keeping those same people behind bars, maybe, just maybe, something would give...like, you know, the state could give us back more beds for psychiatric care, more funding for drug treatment, more resources for care of chronic pain and illness, more and better quality care.

Only because it seems that trying to quantify all of this in hard and fast numbers is keeping us sicker and killing us all much, much faster.

*David Carr, The Night of the Gun