Saturday, December 31, 2011

...The radical freedom my daughter embraced created a form of imprisonment for me. Even though Marissa assured me I had nothing to do with her choice, for that year and a half she was away, I was locked in the feeling that I had failed her. The sense of safety I had provided at home clearly hadn’t been enough. 

Or maybe my vision of her future was what she ran from. I had said, stay in school, get a job, buy a house, and you’ll retire securely, even though that hadn’t worked out for me. When she said she wanted to break free, at first I gripped tight, imposed new rules and higher expectations. I insisted that she turn away from wildness, even in this wild time. Eventually... I loosened the reins and trusted to fate. Neither approach brought her back. Marissa said she was going toward something I wouldn’t, couldn’t, understand. After a year of trying, I see that she is right. This life she and her friends led was not worse than I imagined, but it was more dangerous than I had wanted to believe. I can describe it, but understanding still eludes me. 
I read Danelle Morton's article on the eight killed in the December 28, 2010 warehouse fire and am still struggling with my reactions and the responses of others to the sympathy she exhibits for the dead and her attempts to understand why they made the choices that lead to their deaths in a fiery inferno that likely resulted from their attempts to keep warm on an icy cold night. The knee-jerk impulse for us all - myself included - is to roundly condemn these kids for being there in the first place. Raised in good homes by the families' accounts (though there may be some things they aren't sharing), who in their right minds would think that family conflicts during the teenage years could get so bad that hopping trains and engaging in Darwinian-like struggles for day-to-day survival could be a viable option?

It rid the world of some extra weight. What would kids like that ever contribute to society anyhow? Cruel, yet comforting (on some level) thoughts, designed to insulate oneself from the idea that it could ever happen to one's family. The scarier thing to contemplate, after all, is that it could and does happen indiscriminately. You could still do everything you're supposed to do as a family in rearing your kids and they could still choose that kind of life...and, short of having them committed to some sort of institution against their will, you'd be stuck in the same kind of limbo Morton describes, forced to trust fate will somehow keep smiling upon your kids as they embrace body and soul this idea of freedom that is so far outside what most of us think of when we contemplate the same thing - familiar, but far out.

I guess there are times when I could've gone the same way myself, most notably when I ran right out of grade school around 4th or 5th grade in frustration with the near-constant bullying I got from my peers and got as far as the railroad tracks down the block before realizing I'd make a terrible runaway. Any frustrations I had with my family as a teenager - and believe me, there were many - were mostly neutralized by a strong sense I had of simply tolerating it all because I'd be out of the house before I knew it. It was, in the end, the values I had and a sense of guilt over hurting my parents' feelings too much that held me out of the life of a traveler. I didn't want to do anything drastic that would kill my family emotionally. Not until I was out of their house, anyway.

I look at my son who is now halfway to eighteen and I wonder about the choices he will make, and the kind of world we currently have a hand in creating that might give him the impression that being a traveler is a good idea. Would it be in rebellion at how much we are spending our lives plugged into technology? In recoil at how much we pay and pay and pay in health care, education, and overall homage to consumerism? Or would it be as simple as we'd be cramping his style and, in the face of a serious lack of coming-of-age rituals and/or starter employment for young adults, he'd rather hop a train and squat in an abandoned home? Yes, my fears are colored by this past year's events worldwide, which constantly drive home that this world needs a lot of work. But is the best way to help it all along found in completely dropping out of it all in this way? I don't know, I can't bring myself to willingly find out, and I don't know what I'd do if my not-so-little guy decided to take that path. What I do know is that if things don't change in another nine years priority-wise for our entire country, more of our kids will head down that no-holds-barred road with only our love - if these kids even have it (horrible to contemplate, but some households are like that) - to prepare them for any uncertainties.

No one is completely blameless in any of the business that led to eight people dying in an abandoned warehouse over a year ago. At those tragic times, it is simply driven home how little control we have over the decisions of others, no matter how much we care for the decision-makers themselves. We can only lay some foundations, set some good examples, and stay alert for the possibility that these wild souls will return in one way or another - and, if they do, our doors and hearts will be open to what they bring.

X-posted at Humid City

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Indulge me, please. I gotta post this about Bushwick's own House of Soul, which has now hung around for ten years. Gotta love where the Amy Winehouse Back To Black platinum record is in the house, too:

What can I say? I still wanna be Sharon Jones when I grow up.

Friday, December 16, 2011

My brain is full these days, and I kinda need a bit of a dumping thing to happen, so here goes:

It's simply too, too easy for me to be on Twitter. I have a serious habit that is enabled by my trusty Droid, and I have to face up to being able to "stop anytime I want" as being the ultimate in personal delusions. I think I recently pledged to form a Carnival subkrewe through it, for crying out loud - in light of Will Ferrell being named as this year's Bacchus, a few of us speculated as to why Christopher Walken was never tapped for that bastion of celebrity Carnival royalty. He would be the most badass Bacchus ever...but he deserves his own twisted legions. Think of the debut of the Walken Krewe: a bunch of stylishly dressed marchers with these sorts of moves. Throwing cowbells of their own. Perhaps a watch or two. Or just engaging in some subtly and not-so subtly dirty old man antics. Perhaps all the Walkens can do the suave Bond villain thing, psychotically destroying carnival even as they participate in it. The possibilities are nearly endless at this point...

I look for distractions - the more powerful, the better - to mainly take my mind off the pains of my ankle getting used to the lace-up brace I'm supposed to be wearing (and I do wear it, for the most part, if I'm going to be walking around. The physical therapists I've had couldn't believe I hadn't tried some walking without Das Boot before the brace, but I want it so that I don't want to deal with this ever again if I can help it.) I've fallen into listening to lots of music again, with the help of many music streaming sites and apps - it's been like discovering college radio plus some of the best indie record stores all over again. It's mind-blowing, the amount of music that is currently readily available at your fingertips if you are web-savvy and have little fear of exploring what these sources have to offer. It's a world that places even greater emphasis on a plethora of individual opinions over the tastemaking of a select few, which consequently contributes to the number of ways certain institutions like the Grammy awards and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee choices can be bashed, not to mention which top music lists may matter more than others. Some things never really change.

What I wish would change for the better would be how we consider education. Yeah, yeah, same ol' same ol' from me...I should just give up any feelings of concern over schools destined to fail, schools in the process of having staff jump ship in anticipation of their closure, and the pratfalls of semi-autonomy and just let it go because current proponents of community involvement in and local leadership of the schools have already had their chance. When even some of my own basic assumptions about education and the supposed importance of the socializing elements of it are called into question, however, I wonder. Maybe we should do away with teachers if they don't value creativity. Maybe parents should avoid the very institution that is the public or private school if continued bullying cannot even be countered by those meant to guide the children in that environment (I know if my own parents had thought similarly about my grade school experience, seven years of my life might have gone very differently.). And let's all turn back time and forget about birthing any more babies while we're at it.

All of this makes my head spin almost as much as this holiday "wreath" I saw at a too-spiffy-looking new bagel place in town:

Good bagels. Questionable decor.

Monday, December 12, 2011

This year, I had one of these on my cake.

It would've been nice if we'd been told about that wire to cut off the bazillions of times the thing was playing "Happy Birthday." The following ensued instead.

This doesn't happen every time we go to our pal Edie's house to watch the Saints games, but it was fun. And now we know what to do when we can't shut "Happy Birthday" off.

And Das Boot is finally off my ankle. But this lace-up ankle brace I have on now is giving me strong deja-vu.  Like getting used to Das Bootie. Urrrrrgh.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Well, hello, mangling of any and all rock n' roll genres in the name of a Jewish holiday! How are you this morning? You're moving like Jagger? Really?


I don't wanna say what you sound like.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Childish Things

When you spend a good chunk of your morning on Twitter debating the validity of a few choice phrases with Nicholas Payton and some of our Twitter followers, things are gonna go, well, downhill. Specifically, all the way back to my college days when we art students took out our frustrations in the all-day foundation studios at the ice rink tormenting anyone from the opposite team who happened to find himself in the penalty box, cheering on the Zamboni man, and shooting off the occasional bottle rocket while the college's president happened to be in attendance (oops).

What's especially funny is that a version of these t-shirts used to be hard to come by, and now they're sold in the college store, along with those of the basketball team that was formed after I graduated.

These days, I'm definitely feeling my past. Part of it is certainly my son turning nine today - another part of it is seeing how much I get het up over things I swore I'd never go nuts over if/when I had a kid. It all paints my husband as the optimist and me as the pessimist - hey, at least I married well in that regard. 

"He can't seem to really focus," I said to Dan on hearing one of the little guy's inner-yet-spoken-aloud monologues in progress instead of the subdued sound of pencil against paper completing his homework. 

"Oh, he can sure focus on books he likes and LEGOs he wants to build," Dan replied. "It's all about what he wants to focus on. He's perfectly capable," he said with a smile.

"And you really want to have more kids?"

"We've already made all the mistakes we're going to make, right?"

"But with another, we'd probably be making different mistakes," I said grumpily.

"Fail, then fail again differently, huh?" Dan shook his head.

Okay, so my reproductive system isn't exactly screaming for one last chance - and if it is, I can't hear it over my constant mantra of "Kids are a crapshoot." For every person who walks up to me and asks if I'm going to have another as though I've found the Angelic Child Formula with the little guy (it's so easy to fool people when you resemble Macaulay Culkin in "Home Alone" and you have a sense of humor to match), I have to restrain myself a little more from detailing how much I dread a developmental phase in his and my roads that will suddenly make me and Dan "the enemy" somehow. Until that day, though....

I don't brag about this kiddo of mine too much because 1) I'm biased and 2) I tend to roll my eyes some when others do it concerning their kids (I've been working on 2). Like you wouldn't believe.). However, he's a bright little character who once asked a friend if her stuffed panda was snake intolerant. 

Although he has problems picking up after himself and seems to have inherited my husband's inability to really look for things he needs to find (I think it's a Y-chromosome thing, anyhow. Try looking under things, guys.), there's a good heart in there that is curious about the way the world works - it's a curiosity that I wish I could explore more with him, but things in our house already resemble one giant science experiment...perhaps we can get going on that crystal-growing kit soon. What the hell, another addition to the mess. 

He loves baseball, and I wish I could get the damned Das Boot off my ankle so that I could drive him to one of his fall ball practices or games just to see him getting into it. He loves to dance - in fact, this past Halloween, he danced so much to the live band at the neighborhood party he neglected the candy part of the night, much to Dan's yen-for-chocolate chagrin. He also gets very conscious of rules for certain things, and about abiding by those rules: "We can't use the internet on this homework, Mom!" he admonishes me when it comes to another of his research projects (we probably deserve some of that considering how we showed our displeasure with one of his assigned subjects). "That's my character," I say.

But wow, the general intolerance for bright guys like him is increasing out there in the big ol' world. The pressures to conform may not be as great in some ways and in some places - and we're already on the wrong side of a lot of it anyhow due to our Judaism - but I worry for the kiddo as he gets older and the schooling situations change, which they will. At the same time, I know these are battles that he has to largely muddle through himself, as we all had to in our childhoods, but I don't want to be completely indifferent. The impulse to throw up my hands and unleash a string of curses over it all is nearly overpowering - but I largely leave the cursing in front of the little guy to Dan.

We're not totally ready to put away childish things in our house, at any rate. It's still worth it to giggle with the kid over the Katrina refrigerator-esque scene in The Muppets where the Swedish Chef simply takes a torch to the moldy Muppet things inside. If that's some kind of liberal/lefty bias, well, fine. I personally find it more childish not to have a sense of humor.

Happy 9th birthday, little man.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Being Critical

I've been contemplating my most recent writing foray lately and have wondered how I get myself into these things...

Cameron Crowe's tepid facsimile of Lester Bangs (which Philip Seymour Hoffman vailantly tries to breathe life into) talks about the only real perk rock journalists get, which is free albums, and that's very much where I'm at, I'll admit it. What I find intriguing is that technology has turned that desire for possessing grand, thematic, long-form statements from artists into something declasse, unless you are making the effort to be consciously retroactively hip and going into collecting vinyl. It's amazing that CD players still exist, actually.

It's amazing that albums still exist, when you think about how easily mp3s are gobbled up like so much appetizers these days, everyone thinking their favorite song is worth shelling out a few cents to download it onto their preferred digital storage device - until the listener starts thinking hey, if this song is good, what else is out there by these guys/gals?, which is when the few cents-per-download add up fast. "Just go ahead and get the whole album, dammit," is what I say, and I have downloaded a few directly to my Droid - but then I miss the crucial thing that dates my sensibilities, which is the album art and the liner notes. If you don't think that's still important, check out how cool the Black Keys' Brothers album packaging is. It's been a part of the whole experience of owning an album since at least the late '50's. Hearing about how jazzed the too-soon-gone Coco Robicheaux was about his latest album's packaging says that the musicians still consider it, too. All of this is why I find the whole thing about free music by way of the internet so intriguing.

Major label record companies have never embraced anything that looks as though it's going to cut into their profits, but truth of the matter is, many of their usual m.o.s have imploded in the face of artists being able to put themselves right out there on the internet and manipulate their own image, sounds, and marketing in any way they so desire - if they choose to do so. We live in a world where it is easier than ever for an artist to still stick it to the Man some kinda way, even if it ultimately won't benefit the artist. The only recourse any of these labels have is to give music lovers limited-time releases they can listen to before they deign to buy, because the consumer demands it. Or to hype an artist so, so much that people will feel they have no choice but to buy to get a listen - and even though that's working less and less on savvier listeners, you can still fool the younger people a lot of the time by waving Katy Perry in front of them on Sesame Street. The kids will find a way to hack that planet to their liking, though, and the major players will be left scratching their heads. Again. And chasing the trends through numbers obtained through Soundcloud or Spotify, numbers that will make their heads spin because now more than ever, the types of music people are able to access are so incredibly diverse. This doesn't even bring YouTube or Vimeo into the equation.

Pardon me while I move on to the opinions. There are so many of those. I started following a bunch of the music news sites via Twitter and began to think about how much my opinion really matters...especially when I dwell on how many women are in the music criticism realm. New Orleans is lucky to have Alison Fensterstock in there, as well as ANTIGRAVITY's own Erin Hall, and one look at DJ Soul Sister's tweets and her sense of soul and funk's places in popular music history comes right through
- all of which can seem like an embarrassment of riches in this area compared to how many female opinions of today's music are out there: more than ever before, but still not a lot. I took a look at Rachael Maddux's review of two female rock critics' writings in the most recent Oxford American issue and am still contemplating what it means to be a woman telling everyone how good or bad an album is, or if it even matters. I'm inclined to say it really doesn't matter anymore, but boy, some people will still make an issue of it. It's more of a choice these days rather than a requirement, though. I think.

Anyway, I'm learning and absorbing as I'm listening.

But I will always prefer to have that CD in my hands over the contents of it in a digital player.

UPDATE, TOO LATE: Dammit, I shoulda included Red Cotton in all of this. The only woman to really chronicle the second lines in this town in recent years, she is not one to be ignored. I mean it.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Week 6 - I Think

Seriously? I can only take one kvetch post from myself per week, and I barely wanna burden all of you still reading with ankle and elbow complaints. Here's to say that yes, Das Boot is still on my right foot, but if all is going well, it is slated to be replaced by a lace-up ankle brace next week, and the day that that happens, I may take Das Boot into my backyard with a load of lighter fluid and some matches and burn the damned thing into submission. I'm convinced that most of my current ankle achiness results from its rubbing against the side of Das Boot, making simple things like browsing through the new Marshall's by my mom's house the day before Black Friday into events akin to a high-altitude stroll through Bhutan. My first full physical therapy session is today, and, judging from the experiences of a friend of mine who spiral-fractured his leg a few years back, I might wanna torch that facility after my own experiences getting flexibility back into my injured limbs. Yes, fire is a big theme here. I am born under a fire sign after all and have some pyro tendencies - plus, if you haven't noticed, it's gotten cold out.

All of this convalescing has had me thinking a great deal about some stuff that concerns those who can't heal or who take a longer time to do so. Our healing powers are all different, more than each of us will probably ever understand. This world ain't too kind to those of us who have chronic problems, though, and we do have a tendency to hold up those who behave like they have all their limbs and perfect health as being heroically normative - so let's check out the perspective from the other side for a change.
When a cripple climbs a mountain or runs in a marathon it isn’t a victimless crime. It makes life harder for the rest of us cripples. Because when they go around being so brazenly indomitable, everybody expects the rest of us cripples to be indomitable too. And that’s fucking exhausting. If you think being indomitable all day is so easy, you try it. You’ll be worn out by noon. These racing/climbing cripples are a threat to my precious, inalienable right to be domitable. There’s nothing I enjoy more than kicking back with a six pack and being domitable. 
And these indomitable cripples also threaten my right to be a fuck up. They go out there and bust their asses training because they think they have to prove their excellence because if they don’t excel beyond excelling they’ll ruin it for the rest of the cripples. But they’d serve us better in the long run if they fucked up and did it with pride. It’s just like Jackie Robinson. There was no way he could fuck up playing baseball because if he did there was no way anybody who wasn’t white would be allowed to play major league baseball ever again. But if they banned white people from playing just because the first one to come along wasn’t a superstar, there would never have been any major league baseball in the first place. White ballplayers are allowed to fuck up all the time. Just watch the Cubs and you’ll see. Had Jackie fucked up, history may well have eventually regarded him as even more of a pioneer, a proud symbol of the right of all people of all races and creeds to attempt to do something they might fuck up. Now that’s equal rights.
John Hockenberry has written many times about the inaccessibility of the New York City subways, including one particular time that resonated with me as a new mother trying to make my own way through the stations with an infant and all his paraphernalia - he looked around at a subway stop once and found that it wasn't just his wheelchair-bound self that was having trouble, it was mothers and nannies whose charges were more mobile in strollers except when it came to access to trains. If the stroller-pushing masses who rely on public transportation in this town ever unite with the handicapped, watch out, RTA...but then New Orleans hasn't had much in the way of a major transit system in decades. It also doesn't have much in the way of smooth sidewalks and roads, which can be tough to navigate for even the healthy. For someone encumbered by a certain apparatus on her foot, it can be downright infuriating to try to traverse someone's unwieldy brick walk made into a petrified earthen wave by New Orleans' pudding-like ground and whatever trees' roots may be pushing the bricks around. Much as I love this town, I probably would think twice about staying if I had a serious physical problem and couldn't get around too easily. It would take a lot of help to keep me going, at any rate.

I won't lie - thinking about all of this, being forced to confront it, is a scary business. Having to deal with this thing on my foot for so long - I've almost forgotten what it's like to be able to not even think about walking. This is a certain kind of failure that cannot be denied. My body gave up the ghost in two places that have turned out to be pretty vital to my movement. And I know now that even though the doc will give me an all-clear on the bones eventually, it will take more time for me to get out of my current mindset. In my worst moments, I feel like a useless appendage to the human race. Thank goodness for loving family and friends. Their contributions at this crazy time cannot be underestimated.

So I will pick myself up as best I can and maneuver my way through my encumbered physicality as best I can. Yeah, my brain hurts a little, too. More Aleve. More good humor atop it. More struggle. Shit ultimately happens. Life goes on with or without me. Guess the only thing really propping me up is that I don't want it to get too far without me hanging on to it.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I mean, REALLY???!??


 Oh, yes. Pizza is still not a vegetable. Kermit says so.

Friday, November 18, 2011

No, I don't work in an office with a bunch of people...but if I did, I would have them all do this one day:


Of course I'm absolutely certain I need to get out more, anyhow.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The events at Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan yesterday, and the subsequent court injunction tussles regarding tents in the park and other assorted issues related to the use of privately owned public spaces, took on different dimensions for me when it was revealed that not only was the People's Library at the park treated as though it meant nothing*, there was the possibility that a Torah may have been subjected to the same treatment - and there were definitely some Tanakhs that were trashed.

Tanakhs - aka, the entire Jewish Bible - are bad enough. If a Tanakh, usually in book form, is ruined in some way, it doesn't just go into the nearest garbage can, because it contains the name of God in it. It must go into a special depository for ruined documents of its kind known as a genizah. The most famous genizah is that of Cairo, in which not just pieces of parchment were discovered, but also pieces of wood with God's name on them, illuminated manuscripts, art, and other fragments of all kinds in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic. When I attended classes at the Jewish Theological Seminary in Manhattan, there were clearly labeled receptacles in the library copy rooms that told us where to deposit any copies of sacred documents mentioning God that we weren't going to use, which certainly forced me to reconsider the power of words and how disposable they have become in society today. To have the NY Sanitation Department roll Tanakhs into dumpsters, when considering the genizah, adds extra insult to the injury of a donated library headed for a landfill.

The even greater problem, however, comes from the alleged disposal of a Torah scroll, which is a HUGE no-no in Judaism, one that crosses denominations. I was told as a kid by my father that if one merely drops a Torah scroll, everyone present at that unfortunate event must fast for three days. In some circles, penance for dropping it can last even longer than that. Torah scrolls are heavy - it's like holding a small child - and it isn't unusual for some wobbling to occur as its spindles are lifted, but everyone must take great care with them.

If - IF - a Torah was treated badly by those clearing Zuccotti...the first thing that comes to my mind is a scroll in my grandparents' synagogue on Long Island enclosed in a glass case for all to see as a memorial to the six million Jews who perished in the Shoah in Europe. This memorial is especially heartbreaking because the scroll has been opened enough to show the boot marks on it from Nazis who thought they could somehow stamp out Judaism by stomping on its most sacred document. The Torah cannot be used in services because of that desecration, but if it were even more badly damaged than that - as, say, the Torahs from the flooded Beth Israel Synagogue in Lakeview were - it would be given a burial with proper funeral rites. To not do such a thing would be tantamount to a grievous crime.

Hearing about these terrible events puts the denial of press coverage by those clearing the park into a more sinister light for me. Whether or not people can be allowed to settle nights at Zuccotti pales in comparison to the suppression of mere words and ideas concerning why protesters were there in the first place. If those booted out of the park can take that and run with it, Bloomberg will have ultimately failed and we will all be the better for it.

And, if - IF - a desecrated Torah scroll is indeed lost in this mess, as a Jew, Bloomberg should have known better.

*Edited & updated at 10:32 PM. Some books have been recovered, but their condition is terrible.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


I have to give huge thanks to Clay for the following picture. I, too, wanna see this as an animated gif - and, once I do, I'd like to (virtually) bronze it and entitle it "Win One For The Gimper."


I got the feeling, from the gesturing with the crutches, that Sean Payton may well keep them after he's healed up. Nothing like waving a stick for emphasis on the sidelines.

It was through those crutches, actually, that we found out my orthopedist doesn't watch much football, attributing it to "an ADD when it comes to watching games." I don't know if that equates to a dislike of football necessarily, but I'm glad we gave the doc a heads-up with regards to what might be the latest local trend in orthopedic aids. Heck, I'd go back to the Touro ER and demand a pair of Mobilegs...except that I have, at long last, been okayed to move free of my stylin' walker due to the appearance of new bone mass in my ankle. Don't get me wrong - Das Boot is still ensuring I walk like Quasimodo, but I can get around a tad more now.

In the long run, it also means I can shed more of my housebound addictions I've required in recent days, like the analysis of movies with Kurt Russell in them. Not to mention watching a bunch of said movies. Save. Me.

Update, 6:02 PM: Via The Gambit comes this gem:

Daaaamn right.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Fourth Week Musings

Thanks to a borrowed heating pad and the fact that I tend to sleep with my right arm curling over my head anyhow, my elbow is fast on the way to allowing me to straighten it out without pain. For some reason, I keep thinking of pitcher Bob Gibson whenever I think of trying to straighten my arm out: one tale of his going to a tailor to have a suit altered comes to mind. When he was asked to straighten out his pitching arm to help the alterations, he was convinced that he had straightened it out. Seasons of stellar pitching hasn't gotten my elbow in this current situation, though, so I'll have to keep working on it.

Twitter has been a helluva online place despite my starting to get off the second floor a bit more than I have been. Disputes over the sexual abuse of boys and the sexual harassment of women will always get people talking, and the terrible news related to recent revelations over Jerry Sandusky's sexual misconduct while at Penn State (and the institution's attempts to keep it under wraps and in-house) as well as the women who are speaking up in seeming droves over presidential hopeful Herman Cain's sexually suggestive behavior have had virtual forums all abuzz for the past few days. The most memorable Twitter stream in probably all of the site's history then came courtesy of Queen of Spain, who posted a pointed question out of frustration and was so overwhelmed with followers' replies that her retweets of them had her in Twitter jail for a time (scroll down on both of those last two links to see them all). Answers ranged from simple "nos" to some descriptions of the offensive behavior complete with the further harassment victims found themselves subject to when they did report it. Just because we women are outside of the home in greater numbers doesn't mean we deserve this garbage from men in general. Putting us back in the home won't change things, either. Nor will dressing less provocatively, or speaking out less, or wearing more damned pink, or any of the other asinine ideas floated to women about how we can keep these guys off our backs. Simultaneously, though, women are expected to go through life being stoic about it all, which is still useful some of the time, but it all requires ordinary women to operate as superhumans. Perhaps it's been my physical state contributing to my current thoughts on this subject, but I have been thinking about this stuff a lot lately as I look at my mess of a house and simultaneously want to do something about it myself while wishing I could whip my husband and son into working on it. Women still have an uphill battle in life. Only thing different is the incline.

This past Monday counts as the third time in a few days my parents have been shaken by earthquakes in their current home in Oklahoma City. The second time it happened, it freaked my mother out quite a bit. Nowadays, though, I think she's graduated from being freaked out to simply being pissed off. Even her initial idea that her childhood home in east Tennessee might be free of the shakes has been abandoned. Just when Mom and Dad thought all they'd have to deal with out there were tornadoes...

Off to warm my arm. Hopefully, my physical therapy concerning it and my bum ankle will be beginning this week. 'Til then, I must limp off, though I was able to gingerly shuffle step in Das Boot yesterday to this:


Maybe I'll kick back with one of these concoctions while I take this album in. Who knows?

Update, 8:19 PM: Oh, and speaking of all the harassment talk, here's another way to look at the Penn State scandal: what if the victims were female? After you read, you might wanna do this. Dammit.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Schlep To Moses Meeting

In the course of my long periods of time spent at home lately, I've been introduced to a Facebook game known as Journey of Moses that has helped me pass some bursts of hours (when I haven't been trying to figure out what I make of this, that is). I've been digging up energy, whacking scorpions, spiders, and snakes in Egypt and, currently, the east African wilderness (hey, I just killed an overseer, which makes me persona non grata in Pharaoh's kingdom), and slowly making a camp a self-sufficient enterprise, complete with a well, fig-bearing trees, an energy-giving camel (don't ask) and a cave bearing gems. It's kinda fun figuring out what furniture, flowers, and shrubs you can use to make your personal oasis a nice, friendly spot to which you can retreat when tussling with traders in the desert or digging for mysterious clues gets to be too much (or you run out of energy, whichever comes first). I came across something in the relics up for purchase that was kinda disturbing and just erroneous, historically speaking.

"D'you know they're offering crosses you can put in your campsite in this game?" I said to Dan about my recent game obsession. "They're supposed to produce gems for use in the game. But that's just wrong, anyhow. Um, it's MOSES, here, not Jesus."

Dan said the game sounded stupid anyway, but said it could be just a piece of equipment, like something to hang a tunic on or something. "If it is intended as a cross cross, I can just see a campsite covered with the things," he said with a mischievous smile.

Uh-oh, I thought. Last thing I want is for a fantasy space of mine to resemble Baton Rouge.

Friday, November 04, 2011

RSD Holding Forth

Thanks to the Gambit's newest reporter Charles Maldonado, I was able to check out from home the Recovery School District's presentation to the city council on its efforts to get more community involvement and input into the workings of its schools.

If anything was to be learned from this bit of political theater, it was at least two things:

  • Nothing in recent memory illustrated how detached the workings of the city's schools have become from the day-to-day of city council business, from the cluelessness of Stacy Head on where early childhood education funding (specifically for pre-K3-and-4 programs) has gone (down the toilet) to the queries of councilman Jon Johnson demanding RSD superintendent John White give him clues as to what is happening with specific school sites in the Lower Ninth Ward - queries that couldn't possibly have been addressed that morning. White repeatedly directed councilmembers and public commenters to the many public meetings that were forthcoming to have their concerns addressed in more detail. Giving everybody only a minute to speak will do that.
  • Then again, it wasn't like only having a minute to speak discouraged those who wanted to be heard (for the determined, it never really does). Recurrent themes in the comment period were all from African-Americans wondering how much more the destruction of their heritage in relation to local education could take. People at the podium raised issues from the possible renaming of L.B. Landry High on the west bank ("What did we do to deserve this?") to the contentiousness of school admissions to the mass firing of a mostly black public school teaching pool shortly after 8/29/2005 vs. the current predominantly white makeup of the RSD's current teaching pool to a plea for control of the public schools to return to the city. Judging from the few comments that were heard, community involvement still has a ways to go.
The only public meeting I currently see listed on the RSD website is the one on November 29 White referred to a few times yesterday. There are supposed to be more meetings, as well as some parent centers to help facilitate greater community involvement, supposedly. Can't find them on the RSD site yet, but at least White mentioned those locations yesterday. Kristen Gisleson-Palmer lauded White on his work with two of the high schools in her district, which was the only reference to this measure that was apparently sprung on the teachers of those schools without much warning. Of course the RSD's defense will be that everyone should have gotten a clue from Johnny White's 100-day plan. When you're in the thick of actually doing your job, however, who has the time to see what may be coming down the pike?

One unfortunate sidebar to yesterday's events was BESE District 2 board member Louella Givens' appearance at the presentation. It was noted that, though Jackie Clarkson couldn't be in attendance for the RSD presentation, councilmember Cynthia Hedge-Morrell - who kept the presentation and the comment period moving along in Clarkson's stead - had invited Givens to be present. That fact alone, along with some asides from Givens during the presentation, made Givens look more like a stepchild of local public education rather than a leader. Though I admire her being the only one on the state board to speak out against blanket charterization, her appearance in council chambers and her press conference later on in the day didn't exactly cement a higher position for her in the upcoming BESE District 2 runoff elections.

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.

Friday, September 30, 2011

I missed tossing my sins into the Mississippi this year (why symbolically toss your sins into a moving body of water? Fish don't blink.). I've never done this*, and I had no clue that there was a large amount of protest surrounding it. I should've figured. This is pretty cruel:

To get their message of peace for poultry out, The Alliance To End Chickens as Kaporos is going to host not one, not two, but THREE two-hour protest/demonstrations in Brooklyn this year. The group argues their side like this: 
The use of chickens in Kaporos rituals is cruel and contrary to Jewish teachings. It is not a mitzvah but a custom that originated in the middle ages. Most observers give money to charity which they express symbolically by swinging coins while reciting prayers for mercy and peace. Swinging and slaughtering chickens as Kaporos violates tsa’ar ba’alei chaim, the Jewish mandate not only to avoid needlessly hurting animals, but to show them compassion.
There are indeed other ways to show that you've repented. At this point, the chickens ought to go on strike...

Here's to a good, sweet new year. Leave the chickens alone. 

*The Gothamist article makes a cheeky reference to the Occupy Wall Street protests in the article to boot. Perhaps some swinging of money about the heads of some investment firms' CEOs might get a little repentance going there. Who knows?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I still cannot resist bookstores to save my life, and I really should, but I took a look in a local one today to get a surprise tome for the little guy (okay, and a little something for myself). I found myself browsing through this one:


My little guy is going on nine and is already engaged in reading and talking (or should I say lecturing?) about environmental issues such as recycling, the oil spill, and alternative energy: if he could stand up in front of a group of people and give the impassioned speech he gave on the above-mentioned subjects to his carpool mate in the backseat on the way to school this morning, he could well get more people to start hounding Congress and private research entities for affordable clean alternatives. Yet I hesitated to get this book because of its frightening implications...

A few things instantly came to my protective mama brain:
  •  An interview in comic form Art Spiegelman conducted with Maurice Sendak around the time Sendak came out with a children's book about the homeless. I could only find it in Spanish through the interwebs, but I recall the discussion between Sendak and Spiegelman presenting a justification for a graduate school instructor I had to deny her young daughter the opportunity to read Spiegelman's comic opus Maus until she was older because of its frank discussions and depictions of the Shoah. There's something to be said for age-appropriate introduction of thorny subjects - but then there's the point where you have to ask yourself, as a parent, when the protective nature of your child-rearing becomes overprotective.
  • There are differences between reading about this stuff and seeing it. Big mistake on our part: taking the kiddo to see WALL-E. We'd been warned about the entire first half of the flick being kind of scary for young kids - a dusty, abandoned planet with a lone robot charged with compacting mounds of garbage, his only friend being a small cockroach he nearly squashes - and he didn't calm down until the lone robot hitched a ride to the humans' ship with his robot love EVE. It's pretty much why we rarely watch the news or take in documentaries like Gasland or anything about the Macondo blowout with the little guy at this age. Does he really need the weight of possible futures on his shoulders at this stage of the game?
  • That said, we've all got to struggle with the fact that our time on this planet is finite, as are our resources, yet here we are doing the things that will supposedly ensure that we'll stick around for generations to come: having children, raising them to carry on as we have done. We must also struggle with the fact that some things have gone awry in this assumption of "progress" and take solid steps to alter our paths, because no amount of sheltering our kids is going to keep them from seeing that this world is, in fact, not perfect and we could be doing a hell of a lot better. Any possible models we may have presented them with for living may well be turned inside-out and stood on their heads despite our best efforts. Ultimately, willful ignorance on our part - and on our son's - could be our undoing. But - once again - can an eight-year-old really handle this?
I flipped through World Without Fish quickly and liked a few things in it towards its end. There are actual suggestions of what individuals can do to stop the demise of the fish populations around the world and guidelines for local activism that include having a sense of humor. Not bad, really.

But...not until he gets a little older.

I'm sure he will then be ready for the following:
Heart-breaking pictures of seabirds covered in black crude oil, arresting as they are, can miss the hidden story of an oil spill's impact on wildlife.

Exposure to even tiny concentrations of the chemicals present in oil can also cause harmful biological effects that usually go unnoticed, according to a study published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"It's striking that even though the analytical chemistry doesn't indicate exposure, the biology does," says Andrew Whitehead, a biologist at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, who led the study. "We can measure all the chemistry we want in the environment, but if want to know whether organisms have been exposed, we have to ask them."

The researchers studied the impact of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill on Gulf killifish (Fundulus grandis) living in the Gulf of Mexico. They collected water and tissue samples three times from marshes where the killifish lived: once in early May, before oil from the blown well had arrived; once in late June, when oil had reached the marshes; and again in late August, after oil was no longer visible. They collected samples from six sites, but only one -- in Barataria Bay, Louisiana -- was heavily oiled following the spill...

...Whitehead has previously shown that exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) can cause harmful gene expression changes in killifish, which are an important food source for many species, including economically important ones such as red snapper. Because PCBs and the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) found in crude oil have similar biological effects, the researchers looked at their impact on the same set of genes.

They found analogous changes in gene expression in killifish from the marshes, and in killifish embryos exposed to contaminated water samples in the lab. These changes have previously been shown to cause developmental abnormalities, decreased embryo survival and lower reproductive success. "It doesn't take much PAH to mess with development," Whitehead says.

"The ability of fish larvae to survive has a huge effect on the population down the road," says biologist Lee Fuiman, director of the University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas, who was not involved with the study. "A small change in the percent survival equals a large change in the adult population."
If he decides to write about it for school, here's hoping it won't be suppressed.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Sorry, folks, can't resist this:


Geaux, Saints.

9/24/2011: Oh, and, my gut reaction on hearing about this was...well, it kinda started to turn my gut inside-out. I agree with Ian that it is indeed probably the worst trend in sports, this insane, seedy business of selling a stadium's naming rights, but the upside is that it spawned a heck of a Twitter hashtag harnessing the best of this town's sense of humor. Go add to it if you've got anything. It's better than antacids.

And, if Benson & Co. were really serious about trying to attract sponsors, they shoulda taken a cue from the New Orleans Levee's second issue ever and put a giant "You Can't Beat Wagner's Meat" bumper sticker atop the Dome's roof.