Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sent to me by a friend through the email today:

Illustrated by John Krause for this Washington Post article
Really, it's exactly right.  

And if you think I or anyone else among us bloggers may have forgotten about what BP has done, and continues to do, it's just what we'll have to continue dealing with for the rest of our lives - all of us as a country, thank you.  The haggling in the courts will be a massive effort to keep everyone from falling hook, line, and sinker for this kind of sweep.

Hell, I saw a coaster with the P & J Oyster symbol on it and got sad all over again.  This isn't going to go away - not when there are books such as these available from Scholastic book sales for kids like my son to peruse.  One can only hope that eventually, in our lifetimes, we will learn.  Maybe.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

It's amazing, the places you can go when you are following someone through Twitter.  Case in point: I started following Diane Ravitch, former assistant secretary of education and author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System* (which G-Bitch has been slowly reading; I got my copy yesterday and have yet to get going on it) and then I got hold of this tweet of hers.  Keep in mind that I don't have cable and don't watch much TV these days, so everyone probably knew about this well before I did:
NBC: does education need a KATRINA? They are serious, and also callous, mean-spirited and captive to their corporate sponsors. Privatize!
Say what????

Turns out this week is the NBC networks' Education Nation extravaganza, which kicked off with a Teacher Town Hall this past Sunday led by Brian Williams and is holding panels and talks with famous and just a few not-so-famous folks 'til September 30th - and among all the panels is this one (from the "Descriptions of Panels" list at Ed. Nation sponsor University of Phoenix's site):
Panel 12: The Lessons of New Orleans: Does education need a Katrina?
At the fifth anniversary of Katrina, the rebuilt New Orleans school district is an incredible study in the power of resilience and the possibility of starting anew. This panel will examine the advantages to the New Orleans school district of starting over post-Katrina, and whether the lessons learned there can be applied across the country.
There are a load of responses to this (and yes, it seems the title is largely based on current secretary of education Arne Duncan's "brutally honest" comments on the New Orleans public school system) that are dotting the internets, but one of the best is from Nancy Flanagan's Teacher in a Strange Land blog on EdWeek.
It strikes me that a lot of the Famous People who are "speaking out" on education, capturing the public imagination and crafting these deliciously heart-rending stories--zeitgeisty types--are precisely the people who drive past public schools and other unpleasant realities on the way to their real lives. Pretty much the same way emergency rescue teams and Heckuvajob Brownie went right past the 20,000 miserable human beings huddled in the Superdome, six years ago.

The "advantages" of destroying an entire educational community in a devastating, lethal--and preventable--flood? Really? Shameful.

The only way you could see the ruin of NOLA as an "advantage" is if you were a feckless tourist, driving past the annoying poverty to get to the adult Disneyland part of the city. It's hard to get past the PR blitz (and disproportionate funding figures) to what's really going on with charters in the NOLA Recovery School District--but here's one revealing take, from a Teach for America corps member, no less: All pretense of learning stops when the tests are over.
"The capacity of my actual school wasn't going to change, and the achievement gap that I had hypothetically helped close in my two years would go right back to where it was. At best, I was a band aid to a gaping, infected wound."
We need to hear ideas and solutions from people who are working inside our most challenged schools and committed--long term-- to educating kids in poverty. The people who are insisting on human dignity and genuine opportunity, not matching polo shirts and publicly displayed test scores.

Enough with trendy media-driven zeitgeist and drive-by analysis.
Go read the whole thing.

*And as to why the link for Ravitch's book goes to Barnes and Noble online, I'll let her tweets tell the tale:
Amazon stopped sales of my book a week ago, no explanation. Would it distract from Big Message of W4S & NBC?...Amazon told publisher a page missing. Pub checked, not true. Sales suspended....Jeff Bezos of Amazon, member of Billionaire Boys Club. See Chapter 10. Get book at
Thanks to the power of Twitter, the book is back on sale at Amazon, and not in only a large print or Kindle format - but one is better off acquiring the thing through local libraries and local independent booksellers.

X-posted at Humid City

Friday, September 24, 2010

Of all the troubles Jefferson Parish has been having (throughout its history and) lately, this one is pretty damn bad. It's so nice to learn that not only has the parish next door tried to keep people from crossing the river to get a better public education in its environs, they've also been allegedly engaging in tactics that use The Bell Curve as their guide. I leave you to peruse the article at the left and its continuation below.  Click on the pictures to read them, as I haven't linked to for a year and still have no intention of doing so, as, it seems, the only one who's doing any monitoring of the comments at the cesspool Advance Internet so loosely maintains is Jarvis DeBerry whenever he can.  Sorry the second picture is blurry. The money quote from those who do run the gauntlet with the magnet schools and then try to protest: 

"Parents don't want to rock the boat because they feel that their kids become targets," (Jeremiah Group leader Jackie) Jones said, saying that one parent ended up removing her child from a school because of a backlash after a parent complained about magnet school testing.  "The more she pushed, the more problems the child had.  Parents say you're damned if you do, damned if you don't."

That in a nutshell is why it can be so difficult for parents to enact reform in the schools, and is kinda what paralyzed me from protesting initially when my son's teacher kept asking me when I was going to have my son tested for ADD/ADHD last year and I kept trying to put her off as politely as I could - because I was conscious of the fact that she was going to be his teacher for another two years (thank the Montessori system for that - when it works, it works...but when it doesn't...) and I didn't want any bad feelings between his teacher and I to come down on him.  I cleared the air with her recently and things are better now (thanks to a supportive husband and to a friend of ours forwarding us this article through Facebook, I'm not significantly crazier than I normally am, so there's that, too), but I think I would have to be committed if I had a pretty good idea that my child was being excluded because of his race, I said so after corroborating/commiserating with other parents who'd been through the same thing, and then life was made harder for the little guy as a result.  Trying to negotiate that kind of inhospitable landscape is especially bad when you factor in all the "hidden" fees you still have to pay these days to attend any public charter school - you might as well bankrupt yourself and go for private school for your child.

On a different note, however - let's go to the videos in honor of Jim Henson's birthday!

Why is one allowed and one banned?

While you're all arguing over that, I'm gonna be sitting in my tiki bar...errr...sukkah for a bit. Email me if you wanna join me...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Time to Make the Sukkah...

  Parts is parts 'til they make a temporary hut

Though I'm no fortune teller, I do know that observing certain cyclical rituals can be good for the soul, and, considering the close call many of our northern friends and neighbors had last week, the commemoration of a time when my people's futures rested in the continued wanderings in a desert for forty years seems particularly apt.  Through all of Sukkot, we'll be hanging in the booth we build and stargazing a little through its roof.

Come on'a my house this weekend.  It's customary to receive ushpizin (guests) in the thing.  Email me for details at  And, speaking of ushpizin, I highly recommend this flick.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The jacks are all-purpose, and so very important in the realm of hot glassworking.

Their bronzed blades can shape glass bubbles into bottles, tumblers, vases, anything for which gravity must be defied in the instants of creation involved in crafting a glass vessel.

Their cupped, slender handles double as nifty bottle openers.

A fellow glassworking friend would occasionally heat the butt-end of the tool up against a hot gather of glass just to get the springiness back, that play of resistance that some gaffers need as a guide to keep them from treating the molten heat at the end of their pipes with anything less than respect for the medium.

A certain Venetian master's prime, prized jacks can cost into the hundreds of dollars - and they probably cost even more now that said master has passed away.

Drop the jacks on the floor of a certain studio in the Pacific Northwest and you owe everyone in the shop a six-pack of beer.

So yeah, these tools need to be treated as though they are an extension of your gaffing soul.  And though I haven't touched my own pair of Jim Moores in nearly ten years, this is the first time I've seriously thought about them in five.  I had a small, hot lifetime of working with hot glass smashed into a few short years in which I was overworked and very, very underpaid, and I felt that state slowly getting to me over the course of my ten-year long infatuation with the medium.  But those ten years of dizzying heights and cutting, crushing lows have never really left me.  It's a hard business, glass....but its beauty still beguiles.

In those years, I also learned to love beer and the atmospheres that have been built around it, the ritual temples of bars and pubs, the feel of a can of Bud in my hand, the terrible pool I'd play at a local watering hole when waiting for a layer of glass to melt in the furnace so I could charge it with some more cullet.  Liquor made me sick, and more than a shot or two of it still does.  The years have made me a tad more responsible and I know my limits, but it is now the bar talk that holds me in thrall as I contemplate the glow of a Blue Moon in its glass and note how one side of the base is slightly thicker than the other as I turn the vessel around and around on the bar, tooling the sweat of it with my fingertips.  Old gaffing habits die hard.

I can relate to a guy who sees the bar with a critical eye, noting with his carpenter's mind how it is put together.  I can't relate to his idea that a date isn't a date unless there's screwing involved, but then I'm trying to convince him there's a possibility he might not die young after all, citing Mickey Mantle as an example.  Though he thought me a spring chicken at first, he's learned how much of an old, nearly-blind fogey I actually am.  I fall too easily in the comfort of dark security on a barstool and share some details of my life that are usually forcibly pried out of me.  This town's too small for that, I must be careful, but without seeming like I'm being careful.  I watch another fellow negotiating his way out of insulting another's girlfriend with a bluster that is straight from a position hinting at violence that will never come, because he apologizes profusely enough that a potential disaster is averted.  The night is a young entity in this place, where college football and darts reign as diversions, but talk is the true tool, shaping perceptions, chilling some while warming others, beckoning wordsmiths and amateur raconteurs to fall into words, insults, curses, compliments, flattery, storytelling with great ease.  The wax of the bar's jacks is, at long last, the beer.

And I nearly give in to it all.  My hair is loose and free at one point.  In this realm, I'm not mom, and I could probably insult someone else's mom in the same way some fellows are trading bad, sexist jokes about Chalmatian girls.  I could get into a fight.  I could tool into and out of an affair as easily as I used to tool a line into a mostly solid bubble that would become a paperweight - but I remember the scars I used to sport from absent-mindedly knocking the screaming hot, waxed blades of the jacks against my forearm when contemplating my next step in the process at the end of the blowpipe.  It would be unhealthy to go any further. No one wants to see how badly I throw darts.

I've got what I needed, and "London Calling" on the bar stereo is my cue to exit.  No destinies will be mapped out for me from that location.  Obligations still await and I am no longer a glass dancer.  This would-be gaffer of the pub scene leaves it revolving on the end of its own precarious punty rod.  Someone else can open its lip, let it cool just enough, and then anneal it for all eternity.  It won't be me.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The camera images look sort of wavy, but it seems yesterday a tornado ripped through the park where I used to walk my dog, as well as through other parts of Brooklyn and Queens.

Everybody we know seems to be accounted for, judging from the responses on our Queens synagogue's listserve, despite downed trees and downed power lines on fire in their 'hoods. Queens Boulevard looks like it was jammed last night. Crazy, crazy stuff.

Monday, September 13, 2010

I've been lugging around a couple of library books over the past few months, one of which I've already finished, the other of which I am loath to finish, but still feel some sort of obligation to have around in case the loathing subsides. I brought the books all the way to Alaska and back with me this past summer and only made any headway on one of them. Strange, strange feelings, these I've had concerning these books...

Concerning the one I've finished, I was grateful for its brevity and its simple message concerning America's public schools - but the title of it, Hope and Despair in the American City, speaks to much more than just why a public school system in Raleigh is working. I think of the solutions they came up with there - merging the county and the city school districts, then mixing kids in the schools based on their families' economic status rather than their race and holding all the schools in the system to high standards - and I shake my head in agreement with G, who said over a drink recently that it's easier to talk of death than it is to talk about what is happening with New Orleans' public schools. Looking at the educational lay of the land here as a sociologist would, I can't help but feel as Gerald Grant has said he feels of his profession when looking at inner city education: ...I think it's probably the most dismal science after economics, maybe more miserable because the story of urban education is misery on top of more misery. What he didn't detail in that interview - but he does go into some detail about in the book - was that it wasn't just a description of urban education, it's also a description of how we are still flailing about and misstepping in living with our diversity as a nation....and it cannot just be the individual who changes, support also has to come from the top on down.

The misery is continuing, just in a different form.

And it'll be interesting to see how Paul Vallas' decision on Tuesday will affect it. I can't head out to Baton Rouge tomorrow, but, thanks to this information passed on to us all by G-Bitch, if you want to schlep out of town to check out whether or not he'll be giving the Recovery School District schools - such as they are - back to the OPSD, sign up at this link.

Speaking of Vallas, there's some nice, fawning kudos from here with some good caveats from Save Our Schools' Angela Daliet concerning Vallas' improvements at the cost of the schools' budgets and the fact that LEAP test scores have still not improved.

I am grateful, however, that Dawn Ruth did give Daliet some more face time in the August edition of New Orleans magazine - it helps to show that parents are skeptical and critical of these changes that have occurred, but that the skepticism and criticism doesn't necessarily mean we want to go back to the way things were in the OPSD. A case in point of how difficult it is to criticize the way things are with the schools is when I tried to discuss this study with my husband and our pal Edie, who was a teacher in the old OPSD and still does some teaching in the schools as they are now. Some major stompage on me and what I was trying to discuss occurred, with great emphasis placed on their (misguided) thought that I wanted things to go back to the way they one point, someone even hinted that the de facto segregation of the schools had been the fault of the predominant black population here, which is when I threw up my hands and clammed up, because it can be damn hard to stop a racist train when your friends and family are the engineers and brakemen.

I was afraid of biting off their heads well past their necks, knowing that it was way more than I could chew.

And I hate that, in this supposedly enlightened time, people can still be contentedly secure in the prejudicial garbage in which they sit.

Update, 9/14: Go read Cliff on local vs state control of the schools.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Friday, September 10, 2010

Just skip to 2:50 in the video below.

For the record, the "some of New Orleans' finest" Bob Costas was referring to who joined the stage with the Dave Matthews Band for "Burning Down the House" (LOVE the Talking Heads, thanks Dave) were Kermit Ruffins, Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, and I recognized at least one member of the Furious Five marching club on the stage when the befeathered and bejeweled Indians and other marching club members came on. So glad the behemoth stage the NFL put up is finally coming down. (x-posted at Back of Town)

Apparently, though, someone unfortunately took "Burning Down the House" to heart in San Bruno, where a gas main exploded. They need blood and supplies over there. Check this Google Twitter feed for updates and for info on where to send supplies. Incidentally, San Bruno is where YouTube is headquartered, so if that gas main blowup had been in a different part of town...

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Okay, via @giobigez's Tumblr comes a little fun Yiddishe style at the fact that the kickoff to the NFL's regular season starts on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. I give you his roster changes in honor of the holiday:

QB: Jew Brees (alt. Drew Bris)

RB: Reggie Borscht

RB: Pierre Shammes

TE: Jeremy Tchotchkes

WR: Naches Colston

WR: Lance Mohel

CB: Zayde Porter

CB: Randall Geh Gezindt (alt. Randall Feygeleh)

S: Daven Sharper

DE: Will Shvitz

LB: Jonathan Vilde Meshugge

P: Tsimmis Morstead

C: Sean Pesach

Expect the defense to throw a variety of blintz packages at Vikings QB Brett Farbissener.

For an explanation of farbissener, I give you this instructional video. For all other words the rest of you goyim can't get, check here.

L'shanah tovah umetukah - a good, sweet year to all.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

It's stuff like this cropping up in print media that makes me think it will die hard...

Page A-6 of today's paper caught my son's attention. It accompanies David Hammer's Times-Picayune article on the six decisions BP made that contributed to the blowout in the Gulf:

But the flip side of the diagram, page A-5, was what got my attention:

If this is even the slightest bit intentional, there's a layout editor over there with a hell of a sense of irony.

Friday, September 03, 2010

The books are piling up. There's dead blooms on my floors that were tracked in from us walking through our neighbors' crape myrtle detritus. Must. Sweep up. Pet hair.

And, in the middle of all this, we have an empty fishbowl.

Rising Tide V was great. I always love helping plan it and attending it not just for the folks I know, but for the folks I anticipate getting to know. It was an incredible high I have slowly been coming down from, and the start of it was possibly the death of my son's first pet, which was obtained through mass quasi-blackmail. Even the rabbi of my synagogue was overheard to be saying how unfair the circumstances were. The odds were clearly stacked against us at the family-friendly gathering the little guy and I attended the week before last.

So I worked an activity booth at said family-friendly gathering. Kids occasionally stopped by to try their hand at creating one of the crafty trinkets I had. Down the way past the space walks was a fishing game table with a big kiddie pool set up in which kids could "fish" for floating stuff and get prizes. Near the end of the gathering, I noticed a couple of kids walking around with goldfish in bags and didn't think much of it until the announcement was made: Would those of you who would like a goldfish please head to the fishing booth at the back of the gym?

Turned out there had been actual fish in that kiddie pool. For effect. With no thought of what would happen to the fish afterwards. Just brilliant.

Stampede of children to their parents, including the little guy to me. A chorus of "Pleasepleaseplease can I have a fish??" coming from loads of children's mouths. And a few of us parents, suckers that we are, said yes. Not that I have no willpower at all - I did say no to the people manning that booth when they tried to foist the kiddie pool off on me.

Conscientious mama that I am, I went to the pet store and got requisite goldfish care supplies - a fishbowl, some gravel, a couple of water plants, fish food, a net that turned out to be too big for the mouth of the bowl, and a care of aquarium fish book for the little guy to peruse. The latter purchase was nearly my undoing. Just after the kiddo got into his pajamas, he came running to me with the book wide open to a specific page and commanded, "Read this, Mom." The chapter he directed me to said something like "Never Put Your Goldfish In A Bowl," strongly recommending that we instead get a tank with at least a 20 gallon water capacity. Sigh.

Negotiations between us ensued, with the compromise being the addition of a filter in the bowl that I purchased the next day. I contemplated postponing it when the kid woke up the morning after we set up the fish in his new home and told me, after I reminded him to feed his new pet, "No, you do it." Hell, no, mister, this is your fish and you will come down from that bed and feed it, I wanted to say, but I said it without the Hell, no in there.

I joked with friends that the fish would last about a week.

I shouldn't have said that.

Despite the filter's pumping away, the water in the bowl was still getting grimy, so on Monday I carefully took the fish out, emptied and washed out the bowl (using no soap, just rinsing), then refilled it and put the fish back in, the whole operation taking no longer than a couple of minutes. Later that day, I brought the little guy home from school, reminded him to feed the fish, and when I checked up on them, I noticed the fish wasn't moving.

The fish funeral was held over the little guy's toilet. I held the fish's lifeless body in my hands and told the kiddo it was customary at a funeral to say a few nice words about the departed. "He was a nice fish...and he was a good swimmer...and *sob* he had a beautiful name," my son said. Nemo was dropped into the toilet water and headed on down the drain. But then the kid pathos began...

I forwarded on to my parents the following things that were said to me after the impromptu service for the deceased:

  • Mom, I know it was an accident. I know you didn't mean to kill him. (I told my son's former teacher about the whole thing. "I rubbed off on you, didn't I?" she said.)
  • We need to get a 20 gallon tank for the next fish. Can we get the next fish tomorrow and name it Nemo?
  • We flushed Nemo down that toilet. I'm never using that toilet ever again.
  • Mom, I don't wanna die! (had to refrain from saying, "Then I'll never change out your water...")
  • Mom, if all drains lead to the ocean, I hope the sewage plant is cleaning the water by hand so Nemo makes it there.

He also panicked suddenly when he realized that we hadn't taken a picture of Nemo in the short while he'd been swimming around on this planet. Ohhhh, dear. "Can we instantly take a picture of the next fish we get, Mom?" "Yes, honey, we can."

I think we still need to give ourselves some time.

In the meantime...anybody got a good-sized fish tank they're not using?