Monday, October 31, 2011

Convalescence Dispatch

A big howdy from the second floor.

Twitter communications have still been emitting from my portable tech device, though I wouldn't describe it as wrestling manatees by any stretch of the imagination. I have mostly gotten over the feeling that something with a screen and a keyboard will explode if I touch it.

I still can't extend my arm all the way out, though I haven't worn a sling since the first week of my injury, but, after the news in the second week that the cracked ankle bone wasn't healing in a perfectly aligned manner - a millimeter off, the doc said - I did get better news on the ankle today. No more shifting of dem pesky bones. Gonna peel open a Halloween Fun-Size peppermint patty sometime today in celebration - perhaps when I sit out on my porch later tonight and give candy to the spooky things that pass by. Apparently, every NOPD district station will be giving away candy as well...just a couple of days after they had a prescription toss-out event. Check your treats, kids.

It's amazing how insane staying mostly indoors in one place can make a person. Having to stay off this ankle for  these past few weeks, nervous at even the slightest bit of weight put on it for fear of a further separation of the cracked bones, necessitating a cast and/or surgery, wishing that, perhaps, one of these could migrate from the New Museum to my house so I wouldn't have to deal with my stairs - it all reached a fever pitch this past Saturday when it seemed like the walls were closing in and I was a useless lump reduced to reading and cross-stitching to pass the time. Dan took pity on me and got me out and about that night, and then I went to check out the latest Saints game at Edie's the next day. Ah, the freedom. Even if it was only a few hours' worth.

One thing I am also free of is the Vicodin - no that it did much for me anyway. I appear to be in that subset of the human race that does not get loopy on the stuff. Both my parents cautioned me strongly against getting hooked on it, and hey, my dad should definitely know, but it didn't even get its hooks in me to begin with. Only real painkiller for me was rest and less stress, I guess. No, I will not be passing out those little blue pills along with our Almond Joys.

There'll be more later on some of my other musings in past days, most notably this, probably over on Humid City. This was just to let you know what's doing.

Dan saw loads of Christmasy stuff following close on the heels of the Halloween stuff that began appearing in the stores around late August (it seems) and asked if the Nola blogger Hostilidays You-Tube Wars would be beginning after tonight. Guess the only answer I'd have to that right now would be this. In other words, it could get hairy.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Both Sides Now?

Perhaps it's just me, but the tone of this trailer for Learning Matters upcoming documentary on New Orleans public schools seems a tad too hopeful, and a bit dismissive of the activists and parents who have experienced serious flaws in the current "system of schools" here.

I do have more to say on the BESE board elections, but I have to resign myself to one more week of making sure my cracked ankle bone doesn't realign itself while it heals. What I will direct you to is why the sleeper campaigns that flew under the radar in the middle of this past Saturday's elections were much more important than you would think.
"BESE races are where it's at," said Timmy Teepell, the governor's campaign manager, but also the prime mover behind the GOP Victory Fund, which is spending heavily in BESE campaigns. The Republicans are joined by a deep-pocketed coalition of business groups that are active for the first time in education elections.

They are opposed by the Coalition for Public Education, comprised of the statewide organizations for teachers, superintendents and school boards, which are using their extensive grass-roots networks to counter the financial advantage of the conservative coalition.

As one consultant put it, the Republicans and business PACs, with all their money, can only marginally improve the conservative majority in the Legislature, but they can have a profound effect on BESE by turning just a couple of seats while defending the ones held by their allies.
 Why that now matters so much to business leaders is their commonly held view that the greatest barrier to economic development in Louisiana is not the tax structure, government regulation or the legal system but the shortage of skilled workers to fill available jobs and the more that could be created. The fastest way to change that is through better public schools, whether their kids attend them or not.

The business coalition is targeting two districts for turnover: in northeast Louisiana, where incumbent Keith Guice, a Monroe Democrat and former superintendent, is being challenged by Republican businessman Jay Guillot of Ruston; and in the southwest, where incumbent Dale Bayard of Lake Charles, who recently switched to Republican, faces GOP newcomer Holly Boffy, the 2010 state teacher of the year, from Lafayette Parish.  
 Those groups also are supporting Teach for America leader Kira Orange-Jones in an uphill race in the New Orleans-based district against incumbent Louella Givens, who, despite a $1.3 million IRS lien on her business and a DWI arrest this year, is backed by some local officials and the Louisiana Association of Educators and will be hard to beat.  
 The ultimate goal of the business coalition is to give Gov. Bobby Jindal a clear board majority that will enable him to hire the superintendent he wants and to press his agenda for charter schools and performance-based teacher evaluations. Changes in K-12 education figure to be the centerpiece of his legislative agenda in 2012, leading to a showdown with teacher unions and school boards over modifying tenure.  
 Why K-12 education matters so much to Jindal, for his future, is that, by the end of his second term, he hardly will be able to claim to be an effective governor if public education still drags in the rear of national rankings.

Add in NYC mayor (and head of NYC's public schools) Michael Bloomberg's nifty financial contribution to an anti-teachers' union PAC just a few days before this past Saturday's elections and anyone paying attention to what's going on with public education these days gets the idea that something's up. Since the abandonment of this state by viable Democratic party candidates, though, the best the state can muster is Runoff City in the BESE elections to let Jindal & Co. know we won't be taking his special interests lying down. If you are in one of those runoff districts, don't miss your chance to have your voice heard. Go vote.

Update, 10-25: The Daily Kingfish has more.
So, major financiers from elsewhere (all rabid pro-charter donors) are boosting a Louisiana BESE candidate. So what? For once, I guess we have to agree; this is way the game of politics is played. But at some point, doesn't it become hard for us in-state to stomach the fact that our education system's future is compeltely in the hands of a bunch of trust-funders and corporate fat cats? Buying our elections must be rather cheap for these 1%'ers. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

While housebound...

I've been discovering what a great bunch of friends we have to have been assisting me all this time. They've spoiled me with granitas from my favorite coffee place, they've baked me cookies and made me gumbo, and they've even helped me down and up my stairs for a lovely evening outing. I am a lucky, lucky person and a grateful one.

I've also been doing a lot of Twitter scanning, reading, and cross-stitching to pass the time up on my second floor. What follows is a small sampling of stuff that has occurred to me while my bones have been healing (I hope - I'll know for sure come the orthopedist's appointment Monday).

My dad called me last week from Oklahoma City's brand new Whole Foods Market to see how I was doing. I asked him how he liked it and he said it reminded him of the Wegman's store he and my mom used to frequent when they lived in central Pennsylvania. What he didn't like was that the pizza my mom ordered from the Whole Foods' pizza bakery hadn't even gotten started when he came around to pick it up. I heard a "You suck" from my dad to said pizza bakers. "It's not good pizza anyhow, Dad," I told him. Not a good way to get started in OKC, Whole Foods.

I was told once by my aunt's ex-husband that, as a kid, I tossed a frisbee on a Fire Island beach and, when it got out of control, a nice man picked it up and tossed it back to me, a man my ex-uncle swears up and down was E.B. White. I am currently in the middle of Michael Sims' account of how Charlotte's Web came to be and don't want the book to end. It is written so lovingly and carefully about White's inner life that I find myself wanting to curl up with it, take it slowly, then hunt down most of White's writings and look them over again with new eyes and new knowledge. The best nonfiction should have this effect.

My thoughts on Sean Payton's injury, through the prism of my own injuries, are up at Humid City. I am also jazzed to learn that HC blogmaestro Loki will be moving back down here later on this year. Sit down and get crunk - that's how I'm rolling right now.

It's nice to have reminders of how great this city is, especially when it takes Los Angeles to task. It's also nice to have reminders of why being the first generation under the 24/7/365 media microscope is a burden we're frankly tired of. What we still have on a local level, however, are reminders of our failures in the realm of public safety that go beyond the pain of storm-and-levee breach recovery. Paul Gailiunas' brief return to New Orleans for the premiere of his and his late spouse Helen Hill's film The Florestine Collection was one such reminder. I had similar feelings as Kelly had when I read the front page account of Gailiunas' return in the daily paper, along with some real anger at how little things have changed. It is irreparably damaging, the crime that we have here, and are we really any closer to addressing the causes of it? I don't know that we are. I don't know that the same police force that accused Gailiunas of being a suspect in his wife's murder isn't still at work in key positions on the force now, which means Helen Hill's murderer has even less a chance of being found beyond the ordinary passage of time making the case ever colder with each passing year. There is a lot that makes New Orleans great, but we are still a damaged community. Some damages have cut deeper than others and are still hurting us. Are we really easing this pain, or performing a rushed triage, thinking we can get to some things later? We are long past the band-aids.

Tomorrow's a voting day. My husband asked me about the state school board representative elections, and I personally feel I have to go with the one person who has been speaking out against the rush to charterization, despite her other failings. G-Bitch has more on this, but also emphasizes the need for informed voting. Don't go to the polls and leave your brains at home.

That's all I got for now, folks. See you all on the Tweeter Tube, as it's easier for me to tote the trusty Droid around while using my stylin' walker to schlep to the terlet. yes, I wash my hands, even though the broken elbow makes that kinda tough. Don't fall on your roller skates, kids.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Arrrgh, I have the perfect picture of the current torture device I must wear 'round my ankle right now, but I cannot upload it from my otherwise trusty Droid. Suffice it to say it has unceremoniously been dubbed Das Boot because, honestly, it isn't really helping me out pain-wise right now. What I CAN say is that I am 38 years young and I have possibly learned some lessons.

1. Even though my brain pretty much thinks I'm 25, or 21 on my best days, it reverted back to my preteen self the second I walked into the skating rink with my son for his school's skate party last night. I was never a roller queen as a kid, but I did enjoy it. I strapped those rental skates on with some relish, helped the little guy get his on, and we gamely stumbled into the carpeted area surrounding the huge, flat oval. He headed for the kiddie rink while I took a few turns around the big one, turns that weren't half bad considering I hadn't been near a rink in a couple of decades. The trouble began when I got back on that loud carpet to get the kiddo.

2. My powers of denial are something to behold. Truly. Put mine up against any current GOP presidential wannabes and I'd leave 'em all in the dust. Ankles already weakened from some trips 'round the concrete floor, plus even greater crowds of stumbling kids to avoid, plus having to make sure a stumbling little guy was staying intact led to my falling on my butt and trying to cushion the fall with my right elbow. My right foot was also not feeling so good. I carefully removed my skates right there, made it to the picnic table where I'd stashed our shoes, struck up a conversation with the parents of a new kid in my son's class, and asked them if they could get me some ice for my ankle. The elbow wasn't doing as bad at the time, but boy did that change. Dan was at a band practice near the lakefront, so it was just me and the little guy in Metairie. Don't even ask how I made it to Touro's ER. I'd probably have admitted even then, with the pain finally getting to me, that sheer denial that the swollen ankle could be more than a sprain, but hey, let's get it checked out for kicks was stronger than anything else getting me to a doctor last night.

3. ERs ain't nothing but elaborate reassurance machines, a reality I've only really had to face in relation to the little guy's care up to this point. The most the X-rays got me were crutches, Das Boot, and a Vicodin prescription Dan didn't think he could refill unless I was at our local pharmacy in person doing it, so I haven't had much more than a couple of ineffective Percocets until this afternoon. Putting me on crutches with this bum elbow is kinda ridiculous right now, but ERs are not known for expert interpretations of X-rays. Plus, I live on the second floor of a grand ol' New Orleans home with high ceilings, a house that is already four feet off the ground to begin with. Don't ask me how I got up 24 steps with a broken bone in my ankle and possibly a broken one in my elbow. "Possibly?" you're asking. I couldn't get in to see the orthopedist referred to me until tomorrow. Until then, I've gotta struggle. A good first step on the road to using my left hand more is, apparently, using chopsticks. Thanks for these lessons, Touro ER.

Ultimate moral? If you're old and decide to roller skate, wear pads. I talked about my dreams and fears about becoming a Big Easy Rollergirl to Dan in the ER waiting room, among them that I'd become injured and it'd throw the household out of whack because my primary responsibility is the care of the little guy, and he said, "Well, here's your biggest fear realized. Is it really so bad? Besides, roller derby's great exercise. You should go for it." He was dead serious. No idea if he'd fallen on his head on the way to helping me into the ER.

Then again...they say a broken bone becomes stronger after it's healed...and I wasn't wearing pads...oh, somebody stop me before I try out for the BERG!

Friday, October 07, 2011

Humid City Supplemental

I attended the Occupy New Orleans march yesterday and had all this to say about it. I also have the pictures to show for it.

One of the things I've been thinking about this whole time, though, is Gary Shteyngart's reaction to the prescience of his most recent novel, Super Sad True Love Story, in which people are judged by their credit ratings, the United States is in many wars over oil - the latest being with Venezuela - and the financial state of the country is beholden to China. One particular series of scenes revolves around people who have camped out in Central Park and Tompkins Square Park in Manhattan, in part out of protest at being made homeless by the government, and, ultimately, because the majority of the campers are "Low Net Worth" and have no other place to go. Sounds a tad familiar...
...his prophetic tendencies started to crop up as early as 2006. "When I started writing 'Super Sad,' the research took me to the idea that the real estate market, because of all the sub-prime mortgages, was going to burst, and that it would take along with it all the hedge funds and investment banks, provoking an economic meltdown," he said. "Well that happened in 2008."  
 He was forced to make his satire more and more extreme. He shifted focus from the real estate bubble to China.  
 "Flying from the stunningly modern Beijing airport to the Newark airport now is like flying from Paris to Burkina Faso," he said. "There's a different spirit in China. They have a market of a billion people who are so extraordinarily energized, in the way we haven't been since the fifties."  
 The currency of choice in "Super Sad" is the yuan-pegged dollar, and luxury Manhattan apartments are priced in yuan and "Northern Euros." China's rise culminates in a Washington summit between the ruling "bipartisan party" and a group of Chinese dignitaries, which leads to the announcement of the U.S. default. It's a chain of events specific to the satiric world of the novel -- which Shteyngart noted makes the current standstill in Washington seem even more absurd. We don't yet have other central banks breathing down our necks. So why trigger such a potentially catastrophic event?  
 "The debt talk is just complete nonsense," he said. "It's all calculated to appeal narrowly to a political base. No one really thinks that it'll help anyone if our debt rating gets downgraded."  
 Shteyngart said that he's depressed by how many of the parodic, extreme predictions he's made have come true. So with his next book, which he's in the midst of writing, he's getting out of the futurist game. Instead, he's looking back, in a memoir, to his experience growing up in the Soviet Union.  
 "I'm going to write about my childhood," he said. "It's about time."

Monday, October 03, 2011

I can't even bring myself to type it. It'll always be the Louisiana Superdome. There ought to be a rule about stadium sponsorship: If the owner(s) can't get a stadium sponsor's product to every fan, then sponsorship is out. Alas, none of us will be getting a luxury car anytime soon. It's totally fair that Alabama gets a factory from the Superdome sponsor that creates jobs, while one man gets loads of dough from that same sponsor. Oh, yeah.

Perhaps, on Dome Renaming Day, we can reenact this famous scene with a bright red vehicle straight from Benson Motors:
One of the first "Killer Bee" movies to come out in the late 1970's "The Savage Bees" starts out with this Brazilian banana boat, the Cornila Rios, limping into New Orleans Harbor with everyone on deck being either missing or dead.  
later in the movie a local Sheriff Donald McKew, Ben Johnson,finds his dog Zeth dead and despite it being Fat Tuesday and the Mardi Gras parade he takes Zeth's body to the City Coroner's Office to find out what killed him. Assistant Coroner Dr. Jeff DuRand, Michael Parks, sees something in Seth's stomach that truly disturbs him and calls his girlfriend and entomologist Jenny Devereaut, Gretchen Corbett, to check it out. It turns out that his as well as the city of New Orleans, worst fears are borne out. Zeth was killed by a swarm of deadly killer African Bees. With a number the crew of the Corlina Rios bodies recovered from New Orleans Harbor it becomes more and more evident that the banana boat has a colony of African Bees hidden in it's hull.... 
Jenny ends up being stuck in her red Volkswagon,the color red attracts the killer bees. Jeff in a last act of desperation has her drive the car with him in a police car pushing her Volkswagon, the last mile, through the now empty streets of New Orleans into the Superdome. 
The temperature inside the enclosed sport facility is lowered to 45 degrees immobilizing the killer bees and having them collected and brought into the custody of Dr. Rufus Carter's lab for further study.
Crank up the meat-locker temperatures, Saints fans. It may be the only way to immobilize Tom Benson.

This might just be me on a lack of sleep, but we are a country full of suspicious minds lately. This goes beyond my son wanting to be an amateur sleuth, when he's not telling me how he'll kit-bash HO-scale model trains.

I returned from an out-of-town jaunt this past weekend to read this about the Wall Street arrests I'd heard about:
The fact is that while at one time in our nation's history individualism was seen as a serious threat to the status quo, now not only is it not dangerous, it's an almost comical anachronism. There is no individualism these days. Nothing truly audacious can stand in our culture, not when our culture has become so monstrously adept at assimilating all forms of rebellion until they become completely meaningless and utterly impotent. Prepackaged, homogenized non-conformity is as close as your local Hot Topic. Agitation is fashion. Defiance is a slogan. Insurrection is product placement. The revolution is not only televised, it can be DVRed and enjoyed at your convenience.

So, no, hundreds of people wearing different colorful outfits, each carrying a sign emblazoned with his or her personal agenda not only constitutes an ineffective mess, it provides endless fodder for the idiots at Fox News, who get to smirk patronizingly and present it as good news from the front, as Matt Taibbi once called it, for their audience of bitter old people.

The protest itself was important -- too important to be incompetently executed to the point that it could be easily dismissed by the masses.

But admittedly, something has happened over the past week or so: A single, fundamental message of Occupy Wall Street has begun to coalesce, and a series of disorganized grievances has slowly started to dovetail into one, coherent movement. What's more, the outrage voiced by a few has lit a match to the anger felt by millions -- and the resulting fire is now spreading rapidly, with similar protests flaring up across the country. Occupy Wall Street may have started as a muddled gathering of occasionally conflicting ideas, but it was the spark that was needed to potentially create a conflagration. And it's damn well about time.

I've always believed that in order for a protest of this kind to be effective, it would have to draw the support of -- and present as a public face -- more than simply the youth, since young people can always be shrugged off as misguided or simply in need of a job to better occupy their time (the latter criticism being wonderfully ironic given the very reason for the protest in the first place)....

...It's more than just a bunch of "deluded kids" now. It's the impossible-to-deny men and women who've found themselves crushed under the heel of an unaccountable and out-of-control corporate culture -- of those consistently on the winning end of the rigged, zero-sum game that success in America has gruesomely morphed into at the beginning of the 21st century. They're part of the vanishing middle-class -- and they're fucking sick of it. We're fucking sick of it.

I'm not a fan of the Rage Against the Machine brand of social upheaval, which is the reason I was wary about Occupy Wall Street at the beginning. But the band was right about one thing, and it may provide the perfect summary of what's erupted on the streets of New York City: It has to start somewhere. It has to start sometime. What better place than here? What better time than now?
...and then I took a look at Jennifer Williams' interview with Julie Lause, principal of the newly reorganized Harriet Tubman Charter School on the west bank and found that I was still pretty suspicious of the people who do want to do better by the kids here but who still must straddle the standards set by the feds and the state. I do wish Lause well in this:
We really believe that if the teacher teaches well all year, we shouldn’t have to do “test prep” to prepare them for the LEAP and iLEAP. All year, teachers are teaching to the standards and these interims are a way for teachers to do course corrections and make sure all the students really are mastering the material.
This is a great thing to aspire to. I hope it holds up when parents begin panicking about Tubman's school rankings, as they will. Unfortunately, the life of the school depends a tad too much on it, which is what's partly responsible for the revocation of the Algiers Charter School Association's Tubman charter in the first place. And, apparently, the former Tubman teachers who decided to stay with the ACSA...
(according to Lause:
LAUSE: All of our teachers are new to this building.
LENS: Was that a strategic decision on your part or was the old faculty reluctant to get involved with the turnaround?
LAUSE: The former ACSA teachers chose to stay with ACSA, I believe.)
.... seem to be getting screwed for their loyalty. If anyone can corroborate the following, please let me know:
ACSA#rsdcharter annouced to teachers that they will no longer have a retirement plan!
As for somewhat happier, less suspicious news, I started my weekend with bad chicken-treatment information only to spend a good part of my time in Buckhead with my aunt's gorgeous free-range chickens. None of these babies will be swinging 'round anyone's head anytime soon.

Update, 7:27 PM: I am still suspicious of Occupy Wall Street and its satellite movements, largely because they are more re-actions rather than actions. There is definitely something - a whole lot of somethings - wrong, and more concrete goals are needed, because, like it or not, we are a goal-oriented society. Look at the commonalities in all your stories. Please. Then start from there.