Thursday, March 31, 2011

Due to the kiddo's Bloom County readings, I've had to specifically address some of the things that were happening when I was coming of age in the 1980's. There's nothing like having to explain Communism to an eight-year-old (especially after his having read, "Stop yelling 'Ronald McDonald is a capitalist stooge!' out the window!" in a comic), but there's also nothing like having to refresh your own memory about what was going on then.

With this link, consider yourself refreshed on what else happened in the Reagan years.  It is instructive to remember that not everybody was in a "morning in America" coma at that time.  I especially keep a lot of this stuff in mind when I read about the current assaults on who controls women's right to choose and about how much women are losing these battles.

If women in Great Britain could get together and protest nuclear proliferation for nearly 20 years, we can certainly make our voices heard before this sick generation of right-wing politicians and their equally sick constituents pass these laws literally over our dead bodies.

Part 2 is here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Recent Little Guy Reading Choices:

When the kid isn't engrossed in science tomes, Geronimo Stilton, or books about some of his favorite cartoons, he unwinds with this stuff he's found around our house:

circa 1975

Not before my time but not of my time, either.  Enough universal humor in it to keep the kiddo interested, especially the antics of Zonker Harris.  Explanations have had to be proffered for the Vietnam War, Nixon and Watergate, and what mortar shells are.  The kid especially gets a kick out of the friendship between all-American hero B.D. and the Vietcong terrorist Phred.

circa 1987

There's already some favorite strips that the kid keeps reading aloud again and again, and each time, his readings make me giggle, especially the one where Deathtongue starts rehearsing and Bill blows up because his tongue was plugged into the amp. I've had to explain the subliminal message freakouts over the Judas Priest albums, Sean Penn and photographers, and the tail-end of the Cold War and the arms race (think Rosebud the basselope).  I'm starting to think a pattern is emerging...

circa 1996

Only thing that is more universal than Calvin and Hobbes is Peanuts.  The kid goes back to this one again and again for the fun of it, exclaiming over what a bad boy Calvin can be, yet still delighting in it.

Of course, he's had me rediscovering all of this stuff all over again.  Boomers Bloopers Blessers Bosoms!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

This seems to be departed Jewish goddesses week...

Scholarly studies concerning Judaism and the Tanakh, or the Jewish Bible, crop up a lot, and since the late '70's-early '80's, there have been eyebrows raised when evidence of actual female deities mixed up in Judaism's origins crops up.  This latest concerning Asherah is no exception.  A lively discussion on my Queens synagogue listserve has put forth that Asherah is still there, she's simply been sublimated into the role of Shekhinah, God's feminine presence.At any rate, it's not likely that a largely patriarchal religion is going to be welcoming the goddess into its practices.

Sadly, when I first heard about screen goddess Elizabeth Taylor's death yesterday, I could only see her as the butt of too many jokes, the Lindsay Lohan of her day.  I've never seen one of her movies all the way through, and I had no idea she was a Jew by choice.  I'm starting to enjoy the phrase "Jewish audacity", however.  When all is said and done, Elisheba was quite a broad.

Tomorrow, however, is the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, which killed many Italian and Jewish immigrant women, kicking off lobbying for safer working conditions and stronger workers' unions to get worker safety done right.  At a time in our history when unions are under siege, it cannot go without saying that without the power to bargain collectively, it could indeed be a worker's very life at stake.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The first time it happened, I wanted to scream at him to stop, that it wasn't that bad, that it wasn't worth getting that upset over.  I struggled with myself as I observed his agony, not wanting to add to it, but fearing that my fleeing the scene wouldn't be helpful, either.  Thank goodness Dan was there; it helped, as he was the one who did the talking and the reassuring as I fought off my fight-or-flight response.

Guitar lessons and practice weren't meant to be this anxiety-inducing exercise for the little guy.  He wanted to sign up for them, but it was terrible at first to see him become a puddle of frustration.  The second time he tearfully struggled with the chromatic tuner was almost equally heartbreaking, as I tried to talk him out of his bawls and he wailed, "I just can't help it, Mom." Okay, deep breaths and break time, then back to it.  You can do this, honey.  "When The Saints Go Marching In" isn't this hard. Really.

As if having him dissolve into tears over tuning his guitar and practicing his music weren't bad enough, he then got obsessed with tying his shoes, and not in a healthy way.  It goes beyond wanting to demonstrate new-found skill.  Yesterday, it turned into a session of waiting waiting waiting on him to get over the fact that the laces weren't perfectly lined up before he even began tying them, then having him repeatedly refuse our help, then have him tie and retie his shoes because they weren't tight enough, they weren't a perfect bow, they weren't this, that or the other was a good 15-20 minutes of this before we could leave the Purim carnival that was closing around us.  Sure he's had perfectionist streaks in him before, but not like these.

So I mention this to the doc who's overseeing the monitoring and dispensation of his medication, a generic form of Concerta, and am informed that, on some of these stimulants, tendencies towards obsessive-compulsive behaviors are sometimes augmented.  Lovely.

When I first got frustrated at the kiddo's fits of upset over this stuff, I wondered at my own capacity for being a perfectionist, which is something I had to unlearn - in some ways, I am still unlearning it.  There's a lot that one cannot directly control in this world, and it stands to reason that getting het up about all the things you cannot manipulate to your absolute satisfaction could reduce you to wearing a jacket with no holes for your hands in a mattress-lined room if you don't learn to let some things go.  I prefer being able to walk and talk and appreciate the good things in life a tad more than I want to pick at everything and everyone around me for not being up to some near-impossible standards.  This is a fairly recent development, however, and it's part of what made me ache for the little guy as he found his guitar wasn't tuned perfectly and something died inside of him on just thinking about it.  I'd been there to a slightly lesser degree in my younger days, and alternated between wanting to hug him and wanting to tell him to quit it, that this wasn't worth his pain - and wanting to yell at him that he was much too uptight about something that ought to be fun; why couldn't he just let it go????

I could just as well be asking, "Why couldn't some other behavioral genes be manifesting themselves?"  It'd be nice, wouldn't it?  Engineer it so that I wouldn't even be dealing with this doctor right now.

And while I was at it, maybe I could turn back the clock and demand my own mother do the same for me.  Yeah.  That's right.  Few to no crying jags during art school critiques would've been in order maybe.  Perfection attained!

But no, it is not to be, for either of us.  We are left with constantly monitoring what the therapy and the meds are doing for him and what they aren't doing for him.  Thus far, the benefits seem to be outweighing the side effects.  We must simply stay attuned.

Friday, March 18, 2011

In light of yesterday's release of the Department of Justice's highly damning report on the performance of the NOPD, I point you today to Humid City, where Loki interviews the fellow who filmed some of the nastiness at the Krewe of Eris' parade.

Me, I'm still coughing up gross stuff, and I'd like not to, even though yesterday was the first day I felt human in a long while.  Stay healthy, everybody.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Yep, I'm under the weather. I wouldn't wish the crud I have right now on my worst enemies, but I do still get on the computer a bit and come across some cool the fact that the Falstaff Brewery sign and the globe atop it are working again.

Not bad for having been dormant since the '70's.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Every day that I go to work in the Quarter, and I don't have to rush too much after work is done, I park on Marigny Street near the foot of Elysian Fields Avenue, where the parking doesn't require feeding a meter or taking a ticket to be saved carefully before exiting a lot that will charge you a great deal more than you think the spot is worth.  I developed a soft spot for the building I parked the car in front of - it's a tad uncharacteristic for the upper Marigny, as though someone decided to plunk a smaller version of a New England factory mill at the edge of Picturesque Shotgun House Land.  Maybe it hadn't always been as much of a standout as it is now, but it's a pretty nice standout.

Another reason for my turning to slight mush when thinking of this place?  Fact of the matter is, these places are magnets for artists.  At least seven times out of ten in recent decades, great art has thrived where abandoned warehouses and factories have lain dormant.  Doesn't mean that everybody who goes through these doors is going to end up being the next Laurie Anderson, Lynda Benglis, or any other artist you could name, but the truth is, large spaces like those in these buildings give artists a chance to work large and cheap....even if they might occasionally have to remove a door, and, finally, a doorjamb to get some of their work out of those spaces.  That's just a peril of thinking big.

After I would return to my car from a day's work, the book collective in the place would have its door wide open and ready to receive visitors.  I especially loved the message I spied on the door once shortly after the Macondo oil disaster had entered into our consciousness:

Of course, the door to the place looks a little different now, as does the door to the place around the corner that used to accept bikes on their last gears and refurbish them for many more years of use:

Iron Rail now
Plan B Community Bike Project now
The signs say that the two enterprises are currently closed "at this location", implying they might reopen elsewhere at a later date...but that is in question.  I don't know what life at the ARK building was like after dark, but during the day, I encountered a pretty nice bunch of artists and anarchists coming in and out of those doors, sometimes with artwork in tow.  It reminded me of some of the great spaces that people I knew in my art school years had found.  In one memorable case, an entire second floor became a crash space with a lookout onto a dead courtyard, flanked at one end by a brick wall with a large story-and-a-half-sized window-shaped hole in it that had me wondering what kind of sweet installations could be made in that area.  I had no problems looking at this building and seeing what sort of inspiration might have come to its occupants.

Check the gargoyles up there when you get a chance.
So the ARK had a reprieve from closure for a few years.  If there's anything I know about a determined bunch of artists and freethinking folks, though, they will find a way to land on their feet.  And, in some way or another, this building will bear witness to another sort of use.  Big brick places like this were built to last, after all.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

I'll be the first to admit it: Mardi Gras kicked my butt this year, and has continued to do so, since I didn't sign my son up for a mini-camp for the remainder of the week after Mardi Gras day.  Aside from keeping up with the Eris news and the Iron Rail/Ark Collective/Plan B closing for lack of permits, the continuing protests in Wisconsin, and the occasional look at the prep work for the shuttle Endeavour to begin its final space flight, things have revolved mostly 'round taking the little guy to the Aquarium, the Children's Museum, and the local playgrounds when the weather's good...that is, when we're not watching some kid flicks at home and playing Aggravation or Battleship while I continually prevail upon the little guy to LEAVE THOSE DAMNED VUVUZELAS FROM THE MUSES AND HERMES PARADES ALONE.  I am not ready for today's St. Patrick's Day parade.  Maybe I'll be ready for Purim next week....

So, while I have to get going on going back to the gym, I am grateful for a number of things:
  • My rear end doesn't hurt too bad from biking into the Quarter and back on Mardi Gras day on a whim.  Edie's daughter prevailed upon me to join her, and, for the first time ever, I went all the way to the Marigny to see the hula-hooping, mad-drumming, gaily-costumed masses on Frenchmen Street.  I also ran into so many people I knew, almost as many as the numbers that come through our house for the Krewe of Pancakes and Syrup.  Not a bad way to spend a Mardi Gras afternoon.
  • I am getting more sleep, even if my dreams have gotten stranger.
  • The weather's getting warmer.
  • We're gonna get going on planning for Rising Tide VI! Come and join us.  We would LOVE your input and your assistance.
So, until Tom Brady changes his name and puts Drew Brees' name first on the lawsuit pending against the NFL, that's all I got for now.  Hope to see some of you on Tuesday, March 15th, at the Rendon Inn.

Update, 6:17 PM: Doctors Without Borders is doing its damnedest to help in Japan after the recent earthquakes and tsunami, and they're gonna need more help considering the most recent news from the Fukushima plant.  Consider a donation to them or to any other relief effort listed here.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

These folks pass us by about midday...and we know Rex has passed us by when they come back down the gray brick road:

Happy Mardi Gras, everybody.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

The little guy insisted on getting these two together. According to him, they've already mated and are currently discussing what to name their offspring.

Yes, Carnival Animal Planet is in full swing in these parts.  Here's a taste thus far of the parades we've seen.  More on one of the floats later.  'Til then, check Clay for a brief synopsis of Carnival's latest throwdown.

All aboard the Crazy Train. Happy Mardi Gras.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Take a close look at the map below:

Is "Abita Pub Crawl" anywhere on there?

If it is, I'm not seeing it. Perhaps I'm not drunk enough. Or perhaps it's 'cause I'm not David Blossman:
An attorney representing the Abita Brewing Company has sent a cease-and-desist letter to a charity organizer, ordering him not to use the term "pub crawl" to refer to his events. Todd Owers III, an attorney with the New Orleans firm of Carver Darden, says Abita owns the Louisiana state trademark for "pub crawl" and that for Manu Kamat to use the term in referring to his events in downtown Baton Rouge is a clear infringement on the brewery's rights. Kamat says he started organizing monthly bar tours across downtown Baton Rouge in December to benefit the New Orleans Council for Community and Justice. Participants pay a few dollars, which entitles them to drink specials at participating bars for the night. Kamat says he finds Abita's actions "a little bully-ish."
Confession: I got two Abita Party Packs for our Mardi Gras KOPAS party this coming Tuesday before I heard of this. Now I know I shoulda bought some NOLA Brewing mini-kegs instead.  Their Flambeau Red is especially good this year.  Is it the air or the insanely sloppy kiss of the hops that makes people here want to trademark phrases, I wonder?

Of course, I could always go the yaller blogger Miller Lite route, but I'm too much of a beer snob.  At least I'm not as bad as Dan, who still pines for his beloved Fred from Oregon.

Update, 11:27 AM: Seems Abita has changed its mind.
In the 1990s big corporate breweries began trying to mimic craft beers and take over the types of events smaller breweries like us had created. To protect the Pub Crawl for our fans we trademarked the name of the event in Louisiana only. Our intent was to prevent any confusion and to stop the big breweries from copying our success. Over the years, we’ve sent out letters asking others not to use the name Pub Crawl unless it is an Abita sponsored event.

We’ve heard from you today on this trademark issue and we agree. Your respect is far more important to us than two little words.

This morning we reached out to the New Orleans Council for Community and Justice and let them know we’ve changed our mind and our position on the trademark issue. We have offered and they have accepted our support of their next event, scheduled for March 25. Abita is proud of our history of charitable giving to our community through our fundraising brews and our commitment to non-profit organizations.
Now I can partake of my Party Packs without any twinges of remorse until the hangover comes.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

It's time for us to stop thinking about fossil fuels as our world-turner. There's skyrocketing gas prices here due to the decisions we made to support dictators of oil-producing companies.  We here on the Gulf Coast are going to be feeling the repercussions of our thirst for oil and the greed of the oil oligarchy for a long, long time, and the shenanigans of BP shill Ken Feinberg aren't being bought by the majority of the affected Macondo oil disaster claimants.  It's time for a change, indeed.

I mean, look at this. We've been harvesting the liquid form of these for the past hundred years or so, and its gonna run out:

I am here to say, however, that I think I've discovered the one sea creature that can take being slathered in a viscous substance without too many ill effects taste-wise.  In fact, it could be considered an improvement over now-common tainted Gulf seafood:

Come join us this Mardi Gras - Tuesday, March 8th - if you're in the Lower Garden District.  Starting at approximately 7:30 AM or so, the Krewe of Pancakes and Syrup will be serving up our edible doubloons on the gray brick road.  It at least gives y'all a place to pee on Mardi Gras day while waiting on Zulu and Rex.  Act right and bring something else edible and/or imbibable if you wanna, or just stop by.

Email me for further details at


All photos from this super cool pancake blog.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

A certain post goes viral, showing that the protests in Wisconsin could easily be happening all over:
So now I’m into my 35th year of teaching.  Last July my district had offered a $20,000 bonus to any teacher who could retire, in order to save money.  It struck me as odd that they’d want to get rid of experienced teachers.  I didn’t take it because I felt I’m not ready to retire.  It’s been such a big part of me forever, and I’m not ready to give it up yet.  Besides I’m only 55, and even though I’ve been teaching so long, I’m just barely old enough to retire.            
But then one Thursday, on the eighth day of my 35th year of teaching, I suddenly thought for the very first time ever, “I don’t want to be a teacher anymore.”  It’s so weird how it just came over me like that.  I don’t know if it’s like the challenges in Survivor where they keep adding water until the bucket finally tips over and the slow leak of problems finally made my bucket tip over.  Or maybe this is how it happens for all older teachers.      
It wasn’t a single thing that gave me this feeling.  I’m hoping it doesn’t last.  Maybe it was the severely autistic boy who showed up at my door the first day with no notice, but I don’t really think so.  Maybe it was the rigid schedule the principal passed out for everybody to be doing the same subject at the same time of day, or the new basal reader we have to use that we aren’t allowed to call a basal reader.  Maybe it’s the look in my student’s eyes when we’re reading the newly required dry textbook when I’m used to wild and crazy discussions about amazing novels.   
Maybe it’s that for the first time, our school didn’t meet AYP because two few English Language Developing students in the entire school didn’t pass their reading benchmarks.                
When I heard this, I instantly thought of the two English Language Learners in my class who hadn’t passed their reading tests last year and how unfair I thought it was that they even counted on our test scores when they came to our school in January and were absent at least twice a week from that point on.  I was wondering how I could possibly have gotten them to benchmark level in three days a week for three months. I was thinking how if only those two students hadn’t counted on our scores, we would’ve met AYP as a school.  When I mentioned it to my principal, she just said there are no excuses.  We aren’t allowed to have any excuses.  We have to get kids to the level they need to be no matter what the circumstances.  I thought of the little boy I had with an IQ of 87 who could barely read.  I thought of the little girl in a wheelchair who’d had 23 operations on tumors on her body in her eleven years, and the girl who moved from Mexico straight into my class and learned to speak English before my eyes, but couldn’t pass the state test.  Somehow it doesn’t feel like making excuses to acknowledge that they had good reason not to pass their benchmarks.            
Maybe it was the e-mail I got saying that the department of education in Oregon has raised the cut scores again this year by six or seven points per grade level, even though they just raised them a couple of years ago.  I found out that if they would have used these new cut scores last year, over half of the students in grades 3-8 who passed their benchmarks wouldn’t have passed.  That led to a realization that as a school we have very little chance of meeting our adequate yearly progress this year, but of course I’m not allowed to say that because there are no excuses. It’s hard not to feel discouraged.  
          Maybe it was one of the two parents who contacted me in the first few days of school to tell me that their child doesn’t particularly love my program this year.   I’m so not used to that.  I’ve always had kids achieving highly and loving my class.  I’m just not sure how I can use the mandated materials in the required time periods, focusing on the required skills and still get kids to really love it.            
Maybe it’s the fact that I lost a third of my retirement when they reformed our Public Employee Retirement System a few years back and now I keep reading about how they want to slash it even more because of the greedy teacher unions and how this is the main reason for the budget problems in our state.Maybe it’s that I haven’t gotten a real raise in a really really long time, or that we had to cut eight days again this year to solve our state’s budget problems.  So I’m taking a big hit again, and nobody seems to notice or care.
In the meantime, the ones maintaining the protests in Madison despite the now-limited access to the capitol building there, are the seemingly tireless TAs who need your support.  Go here now to contribute.  And while you're at it, put something in the First Draft tip jar for the seemingly tireless work Scout, Jude, Athenae and company are doing on all this.