I learned about One Little Word from the lovely ladies over at Two Writing Teachers. Distilled, the idea is to choose just one little word instead of creating a hefty and most likely too-ambitious tome of resolutions for the new year. Well, I've been thinking hard about what my little word will be. Many changes have come in this last year. More than change, though, I've transitioned from a college student chomping at the bit to get into the field to an exhausted first-year teacher who can't find much else that matches the feeling of creating good lessons that help my students grow as readers, writers and critical citizens. I've learned that in addition to maturing professionally, I'm maturing personally in ways I hadn't expected nor foresaw. I'm seeing with greater clarity the blessings that exist in my life. My one little word, a long time coming, is:
It's not the prettiest word. Nor the most profound. But it's a place that I want--and need--to visit more often. I'm discovering how good it feels to be grateful--how it can lift me out of a gray mood or reroute my thoughts when I start feeling sorry for myself. Yes, as I change and grow and learn my way through 2009, I will try to remember to be at all times grateful for a whole host of people, factors and circumstances that contribute to my well-being and the well-being of those I love.
What will your One Little Word be? Think on it.
I know you are all impressed by my stunningly creative post title. Thank you, thank you. I just started the book--a 1977 copy from my mother's bookshelf and the first book in a while that she cautioned me against losing or wrecking. And I see why!
For starters, I want to say that if I were a writer, I would want to write just like Tom Robbins. Many a professor has either marveled or cringed (or both) at my ability to craft meandering sentences that, while remaining grammatically correct and while avoiding the status of run-on, could be much aided by a period, semicolon, dash (my personal favorite) or colon here or there. And while I was thoroughly not Faulknerian by any stretch of the imagination, Tom Robbins is slightly so, with a deliciously mild hippie--hear that, NOT hipster, hippie--edge.
Most impressive to me, thus far, though, is Robbins' acute and eerily applicable portrayal of economic, political and social realities of America. (No way, TPBN, you say, you? Enjoying the political and social implications of a book? Get right out of town. . .).
Here are some passages which I expect will become most cherished and dear to me:
So Sissy lived in Richmond, Virginia, in the Eisenhower Years, so called as if the passing seasons, with their eggs hatching and rivers rising, their cakes baking and stars turning, their legs dancing and hearts melting, their lamas levitating and poets doing likewise, their cheerleaders getting laid at drive-in picture shows and old men dying in rooms over furniture stores, as if they, the passing seasons, could be branded by a mere President; as if time itself could toddle out of Kansas and West Point, popularize a military jacket and seek election to Eternity on the Republican ticket.
Faulknerian, indeed. And beautifully so. This idea of not defining time and nature and the minute details that encompass human life simply by, in his words, mere external circumstances such as Presidency is of great interest to me. We get so wrapped up in the states of our political reality that selves get lost and people are forgotten--even by the candidates chosen to represent them, at times.
But plans are one thing and fate another. When they coincide, success results. Yet success mustn't be considered the absolute. It is questionable, for that matter, whether success is an adequate response to life. Success can eliminate as many options as failure.
I like this because we tend to think of those who take traditional paths to "successful lives" as those who have done the right thing, but really what they've done is behave conventionally. And I'm not proposing that there is anything wrong with a little conventionality, but by the same token there isn't so much wrong with unconventionality. I love the last sentence. It's undeniable. If you consider yourself "successful," imagine all of the ways in which you life could be different if you hadn't chosen the path you did. Maybe in some ways it could be way worse, but maybe there are sources of happiness that could have been pursued had you not made it to where you are today. Or maybe not. But the mere act of thinking about it makes true that last sentence. I know I'll remember those words the next time (yes, I admit it has happened before and will happen again) I begin to judge someone's choices or lifestyle.
And then, there's this really long passage from which I will take only a small, wonderful example of Robbins' mastery of his art:
With me, something different and deep, in bright focus and pointing the way, arrived in the practice of hitchhiking. I am the spirit and the heart of hitchhiking, I am its cortex and its medulla, I am its foundation and its culmination, I am the jewel in its lotus. And when I am really moving, stopping car after car after car, moving so freely, so clearly, so delicately that even the sex maniacs and the cops can only blink and let me pass, then I embody the rhythms of the universe, I feel what it is like to be the universe, I am in a state of grace.
Amazing, right? Maybe I'm missing the point. Maybe Robbins is being funny here, and satirical and whatnot, describing hitchhiking in such an overzealous way. Well, even if he is, my highest hope is to one day feel about my own life's calling and passion something like the way Sissy feels about hitchhiking. I know I'll get there. And if we've learned anything here at O.T.L., we've learned that authorial intention means nothing, right friends?
Like a bird on the wire,
Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.
Like a worm on a hook,
Like a knight from some old fashioned book
I have saved all my ribbons for thee.
If I, if I have been unkind,
I hope that you can just let it go by.
If I, if I have been untrue
I hope you know it was never to you.
Like a baby, stillborn,
Like a beast with his horn
I have torn everyone who reached out for me.
But I swear by this song
And by all that I have done wrong
I will make it all up to thee.
I saw a young man leaning on his wooden crutch,
He called out to me, don't ask for so much.
And a young woman leaning in her darkened door,
She cried to me, hey, why not ask for more?
Oh like a bird on the wire,
Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.
Here's the incomparable Johnny Cash performing it. . .
Workers at the Republic Windows & Doors Plant in Chicago were victorious in their occupation of the plant after being laid off without proper notice and without access to severance/vacation pay and health insurance owed to them by law. Bank of America and other institutions agreed to pay the $2 million they initially refused to give up. BoA was not required to do so but gave in due to the occupation, political pressure and media coverage.
This victory is a clear reminder of what can be done when people come together and demand equality. It's not unachievable. Causes are not lost. This article quotes the union v.p. saying, "See that sign up there? Without us, it would just say 'Republic,' because we make the windows and doors. This shows that you can fight--and that you have to fight." Powerful stuff. I would like to hear more from the workers too, not just the vp. It's important to note and not take for granted the presence of widespread media coverage of the workers' struggle and of the factors surrounding the violations of the company:
"Press coverage was affected as well. For once, the media not only highlighted the issues in a labor struggle, but also used its resources to investigate the employer. The Chicago Tribune
reported that Republic's main owner, Rich Gillman, was involved in the purchase of a nonunion window factory in Iowa to move to. Journalists also uncovered evidence that Bank of America refused repeated requests to extend more credit to Republic, despite its infusion of bailout money."
BoA gets $25 bil. Workers? Not a damn thing. Until they fought for it. And don't think for a second that BoA is just doing the right thing or being caring by any measure. They simply couldn't afford--image wise--to not give the measly (to them) $2 mil after everyone, all the way up to the O man, took the side of the workers.
Perhaps the workers of the Republic Windows & Doors plant will serve as a galvanizing example of what can be done to improve things in this country through working-class solidarity.
Let's all take a moment in our hectic lives to pause and think about the importance of this outcome and to be refreshed and encouraged in a time of desperation and darkness.
Urban Outfitters pulled the t-shirt above from stores last week. Check out this article, and this one too if you're interested. How is it that supporting an oppressed group's human rights could be even slightly offensive? And it's not a little bit ironic that they would be so bigoted and discriminatory and yet have the chutzpah to carry the following:
and this, which is offensive in its own right, perhaps:
and the kicker, a call to end oppression of another sort (the struggles of all people for rights are not equal, silly):
It's interesting to contemplate the impact of the political leanings corporate giants. Years ago, Michael Jordan quipped "Republicans buy sneakers, too" in defense of his lack of endorsement of an African American mayor's bid for a seat in the Senate. This dude Hayne, U.O. owner, is a major Republic/right-wing supporter. You know, I don't have as much of a problem with his political affiliation (though I do have a problem with it, to be fair) than I do with the fact that he was too cowardly to come out and say why he pulled the shirts. One buyer, as the first article points out, claimed that the shirt was pulled because of "bad press--"an excuse for which there is absolutely zero evidence. What a crappy excuse. My 8th graders are more persuasive. Way more.
I'm not saying everyone has to be Dov Charney--far from it, indeed, for dude and company come with their own set of issues--but at least give real reasons for your actions. He admits to using sex and sexual images as selling points and doesn't make any apologies. If your company is going to pull shirts that support same-sex marriage, why not just say it's because you don't support same-sex marriage? I'd rather buy from a company belonging to an honest if bigoted owner than one who hides behind his decisions and refuses to be accountable for them. Come to think of it, I don't want to buy from either. So I don't think I will. Not that my lack of patronage will send U.O. into a tailspin only to be saved by the socialism-is-only-for-the-rich government. Since we can't regulate ignorance and hatred, I suppose I will just have to regulate where my paycheck goes. . .
Too bad, too. Perhaps those shirts could have helped U.O. seem like less of a horrendously trendy mess.
This quote from the New York Magazine article is priceless:
"When a right-wing Republican is the one concocting your anti-Establishment image, you start to wonder if the entire hipster movement has been duped into becoming puppets of Hayne's billionaire income."
I realized I haven't posted about what's happening in the classroom for quite a long time. I've been so frantically busy that processing teacher stuff here has become less appealing of late, while posting about non-teacher-related issues has been hard to resist. I'm theorizing that this has something to do with that whole process of incorporating my teacher identity into who I am. There are times when I need to talk about every little thing that happened throughout the course of a day, and other times when it's the last thing I want to discuss. And these don't match up with good and bad days as one might assume. Instead, it's more like there are days when I leave school (days! ha! funny. the sun's never still up) and I just want to leave that identity behind for a few hours and be my old self. Or my new self. Either way, what happens in the classroom sticks with me all the time. So at times talking (or posting) about it is sheer redundancy. And sometimes it's absolutely all I can manage to converse about, to the chagrin of plenty. . .
Watching my classroom communities strengthen has been miraculous. The feeling of togetherness and trust is amazing and absolutely lives up to everything I could have asked for. I was modeling the use of Nancie Atwell's Character Questionnaire the other day--we're working on creating interesting, multi-dimensional protagonists facing authentic problems for short stories--and I looked out into a sea of faces who were so genuinely engaged and invested in what I was saying to them and what I was teaching them that it just about took my breath away. I know it seems like a simplistic example of what is going right, but it was truly a moment for the books--an example of everything I've been working to develop with these kids for four months.
And with all that trust and togetherness comes a certain measure of comfort--sometimes a little too much comfort. There was a clear and evident descent into madness during last period on Thursday. This is an 88-minute block at the end of the day, with the same kids, every day. Needless to say, we have our moments. We were reviewing their word study for the week and I decided to include the Hebrew word, chutzpah, as I had used it in passing a couple times and none of them were familiar with it. Somehow, out of nowhere, it became let-me-tell-you-how-many-Hebrew-words-I-know-hour. Well, I try folks. I try so hard to keep a straight face. But kids are funny. They are hilarious, actually. And that's partly why I chose this profession. So try as I might to the contrary, I lose it from time to time. And I lost it. And when I've lost it, we've all lost it. They find one another pretty amusing, but there aren't many things they find more amusing than when you think something is hilarious enough to lose it in their presence--especially if that something is something they said or did. Perhaps their amusement is due to the fact that this is a rare occurrence. I think some people view emotional honesty with students as a weakness of some sort, perhaps a threat to their power. But I'm not in it for that. And when I need to laugh, I need to laugh. And when I need to be frustrated, I need to be frustrated. And the same goes for them. I believe it's not only honest but important to let kids in on how adults manage their emotions--this is, after all, part of what we're supposed to be teaching them. Remaining emotionally distant teaches them to do the same. If I feel genuine disappointment or unadulterated glee, why aren't they deserving enough to know it?
So that's a little snap shot into what's new with the kids and me. I know that I'm teaching Language Arts and I barely touch on instructional practices, etc.; I will try to be better at posting about this. It's just that all that stuff, the "skills and competencies," seem so secondary to the other dimensions of teaching that I like to discuss.
Oh, and out of the mouths of babes: "You were at the top of your class, Ms. [Me]? But I thought people at the top of their class became lawyers and doctors." Yeaahhhh. How's that for the social perception of teachers?
O, how I loved this coat. But those beautiful brass buttons kept falling off and drooping like sad little soldiers. And I kept catching them and sewing them back on with my awkward unsteady stitches. Anthropologie has a pretty liberal returns policy, so I called a couple weeks ago, after perhaps button #4 had met its demise, and they assured me I could return it. I didn't. Instead, I waited it out a few weeks. I continued to rescue buttons with shaky sewing. I had a fiery debate with myself as to whether or not I should bring it back. I loved the shape and the epaulletes. I admired the ease with which the piece melded into my wardrobe, and even appreciated the slight Sgt. Peppers undertones when I paired it with my favorite sunglasses. Alas, I lost one button and was without any more substitutes. I know I could have replaced all of them, but I paid enough money for herringbone cotton as it was--not even all that warm. And where I'm from, warm truly does factor into coat purchases.
It's an interesting phenomenon by which I tortured myself with the debate regarding whether or not I should have brought the coat back. It was as though I was personally affronted that the coat did not live up to my expectations. Why do we (and I use the term we loosely, mostly in hopes that I'm not the only weirdo who does this) invest so many emotions in a piece of fabric? I suppose this is the pinnacle of successful marketing: to make the consumer feel as though what they are buying is not just an item devoid of personal meaning, but rather a piece of a certain lifestyle or approach to seeing the world. Maybe this is the source of the Wal-Mart tramplings and hysteria--corporations have led people to believe that the items they desire play such an essential role in their lives that the threat of not having them brings with it anger and desperation. Maybe that's how AIG felt when they had to cancel their next big bash. . .
Back to the coat. . .
Determination to rid myself of this source of frustration, I marched into Anthro yesterday, receipt in hand, returned it, and swiftly experienced a feeling of relief--in part due to having my money back, but mostly because I felt like, as a consumer, I had made the right decision. How silly to assume that Goliath gives a shit about David's emotional musings. And then I promptly spent the same amount on the Just-Right Ruffled Coat. . . this time, fully-lined wool. And I concur that with a teeny bit of ruffle, it is just right:
Edited to include: After reading this, courtesy of the fabulous enc, I have decided to cut the Anthro cord. I'm not drinking the kool-aid anymore. The above coat, #2, has gone back from whence it came. I just can't get down with a store who's too good to be perceived as a place where one can secure a bargain. No sir. No ma'am. See our comments for more of my thoughts.
Now, I was never convicted of any crime, but the statement heightened my curiosity regarding the inefficacy of drug policy and the injustices of the prison system. Years later, I found Angela Davis' work and thoughts on the prison industrial complex, from which the title line is borrowed. Basically, Davis points out the disturbing practices of the United States governments--both federal and state-- whereby more individuals are locked behind bars here than any other country in the Western world. The management, so to speak, of the vast number of "criminals--"disproportionately people of color and those who are undereducated and/or living in poverty--is then outsourced to corporations, privatized. Prisoners and the prison system become commodities, then--a means to profit for shareholders. There is no regard for the need to develop solutions to social issues of injustice that extend beyond mere incarceration. Well how, TPNB, you say, could the money that goes into maintaining the prison industrial complex be better used? What types of interventions could ease some of our society's issues before individuals are caged for profit?
I will let the expert answer:
[The prison industrial complex] devours the social wealth that could be used to subsidize housing for the homeless, to ameliorate public education for poor and racially marginalized communities, to open free drug rehabilitation programs for people who wish to kick their habits, to create a national health care system, to expand programs to combat HIV, to eradicate domestic abuse -- and, in the process, to create well-paying jobs for the unemployed. . .
Mass incarceration is not a solution to unemployment, nor is it a solution to the vast array of social problems that are hidden away in a rapidly growing network of prisons and jails. However, the great majority of people have been tricked into believing in the efficacy of imprisonment, even though the historical record clearly demonstrates that prisons do not work. Racism has undermined our ability to create a popular critical discourse to contest the ideological trickery that posits imprisonment as key to public safety. The focus of state policy is rapidly shifting from social welfare to social control.
As I continued to investigate, I began to understand that the "War on Drugs" is simply another way in which officers in police departments around the country keep their pockets lined. In the wake of some sad news about an old friend, I was compelled to research exactly where my state stood in terms of incarceration of nonviolent offenders. Yeah, we came in 1st (ah location revealed). My state ranks "#1 among the fifty states in terms of the proportion of drug offenders as part of the overall prison population and in new prison admissions who are drug offenders" (DPA). How very sad. And how very fiscally irresponsible--with our state cutting budgets like nobody's business (including, but of course, higher ed-my alma mater lost MILLIONS in funding), and with each prisoner costing tax payers $46,880/year, doesn't it seem like now might be the perfect opportunity to reform drug sentencing laws?
Government, on all levels, is willing to continue to prize corporate contracts and lobbyist agendas over basic human dignity and amelioration of a host of social issues. The defeat of Prop 5 in California during the November elections is a perfect demonstration of this. But the fact that Prop 5 was proposed and voted on is a step in the right direction. Radical change is certainly needed in order to restructure our criminal justice system. You can visit DPA to see what you can do and to investigate where your own state stands--I'm quite sure it can't be any worse than mine.
I'm thankful for. . .
-Family that loves me and takes me for who I am
-Friends, new and old, near and far, that sustain me through laughter, happiness, and memories
-My dog, who tries so hard to not get mad at me when we skip a walk
-A position in a profession that inspires me and pushes me to grow personally and professionally
-A warm house with a kitchen full of home-grown vegetables and a fridge full of home-cooked meals
-Health and well-being; intellectual capacity and empathy
-Experiences of all sorts that have brought with them life lessons that I do and will carry with me always
To those who read my thoughts and share your thoughts, thank you for your support and a sense of genuine community. Let's all offer our own thanks today, and remember those who suffer, go without, hunger, shiver--those who are lonely, sad, living in poverty. Let's be thankful for our blessings and know that there but by the grace of God go. . . us. Warm wishes for a peaceful and happy Thanksgiving, all!
Here's "Diva," for your listening pleasure. . .
I've been super busy lately, so sorry for my lack of commenting on everyone's blog. Parent/teacher conferences this week are finally over, but more to come next week. . . commence dreaming of snow days. . .
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris--can't wait for this! I read When You Are Engulfed in Flames over the summer and was so addicted I was sad to finish it.
Rimbaud Complete, the complete poetry & prose of Arthur Rimbaud--French anarchist and poet who quit poetry at 21 and died at 37. I couldn't resist!
The Poetry of Pablo Neruda, edited by Ilan Stavans and including the Elemental Odes. Nine hundred+ pages of Neruda = love.
Orientalism, by Edward Said--I studied excerpts in great depth in college for postcolonial studies but never owned the book myself. I employed the lens of this theory to analyze the seemingly innocuous Magic Tree House book series by Mary Pope Osbourne for a seminar. Loin clothed Masai warriors and magic carpet rides and anthropomorphism, o my.
Sundays are so bittersweet, aren't they?
I stumbled upon this quote of his, and just thought it was brilliant:
Silence, they say, is the voice of complicity.
But silence is impossible.
Silence is a message,
just as doing nothing is an act.
Let who you are ring out & resonate
in every word & every deed.
Yes, become who you are.
There's no sidestepping your own being
or your own responsibility.
What you do is who you are.
You are your own comeuppance.
You become your own message.
You are the message.
I especially like the line, "You are your own comeuppance." I hold a belief that the idea of karma as something that comes around some day in the far-off future is a false notion. You live your karma every single day whether you lie to yourself or not--you still have to wake up to and fall asleep to your own thoughts and conscience. And we as a nation have to wake up and fall asleep with what we do to people--domestically and worldwide--and the crimes and injustices our government knowingly and forcefully commits. There is just no way that we won't have to deal with our national comeuppance if we continue to let things go on the way they are now.
His quote is important to me because I think I'm seeing my place in the world differently than I had before. I think that I understand more thoroughly what it mean to take action, even if I don't always fulfill the requirements. I used to imagine action as writing my representatives, which I did often and with gusto, but now I'm beginning to see that this is just a farce that we trick ourselves into believing will work. The action we need requires much more effort and entails much less comfort. I think Peltier's message says it perfectly.
Just another reason I love him! Add it to the pile.
Here's a taste:
"Detroit has had a long time to adapt to the new world and now the failure of Detroit's actions is costing us all. We pay the bailout. Let's make a good deal for the future of America and the Planet. Companies like UQM (Colorado) and others build great electric motors right here in the USA. Use these domestic electric motors. Put these people to work now. This plan reverses the flow from negative to positive because people need and will buy clean and green cars to be part of World Change."
Now, all, don't think I'm that naive. I know the limitations of electric cars just as much as I know the limitations of ethanol. The electric cars still have to be powered, and thus they still are using energy from somewhere. But what's wonderful about what Young is saying is the idea that we could use this time of trouble as a way forward, as a way to step in the direction of higher fuel efficiency and lower dependence on foreign oil. And better yet, he's talking about a way to secure the lives of millions of Americans who are employed by the Big 3, not a way to keep the fat cats on the dole longer--in fact, he says, get'em outta there. And that sounds great to me.
Here's a piece the NYT did on Young's Lincoln turn electric car. I <3 the title. And he buys his grassoline from a spot in Pacifica! That just happens to be the very location that I briefly inhabited after high school.
After such knowledge, what forgiveness? Think now
History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors
And issues, deceives with whispering ambitions,
Guides us by vanities. Think now
She gives when our attention is distracted
And what she gives, gives with such supply confusions
That the giving famishes the craving. Gives too late
Into weak hands, what's thought can be dispensed with
Till the refusal propagates a fear. Think
Neither fear nor courage saves us. Unnatural vices
Are fathered by our heroism. Virtues
Are forced upon us by our impudent crimes.
There tears are shaken from the wrath-bearing tree.
The tiger springs in the new year. Us he devours. Think
We have not reached conclusion, when I
Stiffen in a rented house. Think at last
I have not made this show purposelessly
And it is not by any concitation
Of the backwards devils
I would meet you upon this honestly.
Well, folks, have a look for yourselves:
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THE PENTAGON. FOR REAL? For real. Do they really have nothing better to do? Someone needs to give me a job doing blog searches all damn day long. "Redeployed and Iraq and mental?" Really?
But let's think about this. Why might the Pentagon be concerned with employing some grunt to conduct such a search? Are they becoming concerned, perhaps, that the public is on to the shameful treatment of Iraq soldiers and veterans? Of Iraqi families and children? Are they worried that the whole "P.F.C. Jane Doe, you had a preexisting condition, silly, you already had borderline personality disorder. So f you and the PTSD horse you rode in on" shtick is getting old? Well, it is. It's getting old and soldiers are committing suicide in record numbers. So maybe the Pentagon should be worried.
Ok, on to the highlights of this evening's Democracy Now broadcast, thus far (yes I am this much of a nerd):
-Tim Robbins detailing his story of not being on the voter roll at a location at which he has voted in the LAST 4 presidential elections, if I understood him correctly, as well as numerous local ones, and then waiting 5 HOURS after refusing to leave the polling place and having his right to stay supported by 2 NYC POLICE OFFICERS and his right to vote guaranteed by a judge; 30 OTHER PEOPLE had the same trouble this morning at Robbins' polling location.
-Bob Fitrakis' discussion of possible shadiness a'brewin in Warren County, Ohio--you can get the low-down here, though the O-man has already won that state so it's sort of a non-issue I suppose.
-Jeremy Scahill questioning Tim Robbins on his full support for Obama despite Obama's hawkish rhetoric and Robbins' outspoken support for ending the war; the issue of critical support--meaning support coupled with a critical eye--is key in this and any election
-Discussion of voter disenfranchisement and race, including oppressive tactics such as voter roll purging and misinformation regarding identification requirements at polls
So Big Brother is watching me--he must be watching you, too. I guess if he only clocked "0 seconds," I'm deemed not a threat to national security. I don't know whether to feel affronted or relieved. Or amused. But I'm labeling this post recognition, so I suppose I've answered my own question. Then again, I'm also labeling it g.w. is a d.b.
1. I am a Seinfeld devotee. It's kind of scary. My dad and I wouldn't be caught dead watching anything else between 7 and 8 pm any day of the week. It may be all about CSPAN Book TV on the weekends, but we need our Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer every day of the week.
2. Wine and I get along nicely. My hands-down favorite is a nice Pinot Noir. Nothing too fancy, but I'll spring for a beautiful crimson bottle of KJ any day. If I'm in the market for a white, I'll usually do a Sav Blanc. The last time I was in Napa, we discovered this amazing little winery, Clos du Val, cloister of the valley--small estate of a small valley as they put it. What I loved so much about this winery was that a) they were in many ways off the beaten Napa path and thus free of the obnoxiousness of 20-somethings trying to get wasted (yes, I'm a 20-something but I, au contraire, do not embark on wine-tasting adventures with this end in mind) and b) there was no trace of pretentiousness or snobbery in the tasting staff. I felt comfortable asking questions and they didn't scoff at my questions as if I should have already known the answers. Oh, and they waive the tasting fee if you buy a bottle, which not all of them do. Ooooh, and if you're in Sonoma instead, don't miss another favorite: Ravenswood Winery --no wimpy wines!
3. (Stealing this category from you, V!) I absolutely plan to do a PhD program sometime in the near future. As per the advice of my elders and professors, I will not do one without a fellowship or assistantship that covers tuition. Right now I'm waiting on deciding exactly the direction in which it's right to go. After a few years in the classroom I may feel that a Curriculum & Instruction PhD (NOT EED--zero interest in administration) might be right. But, I also am strongly pulled in the direction of my undergrad discipline--English. The drawback here is most English PhD programs require the candidate to have reading knowledge of two languages besides English by the end of the program--eeeeeeek! I took four years of Italian in high school and all, but 2 languages is a major commitment of a whole different breed. Other ideas include some sort of media/American studies/cultural studies/W&G studies/anthropology degree. I just need a good few years in the general ed classroom to see if that's where I want to stay or if I want to eventually pursue teaching at the post-secondary level.
4. I nannied two kids for 3 years! Right before I finished community (aka the 13th grade as we like to call it 'round here) and moved to regular college, I secured a part-time position nannying a little girl who was 1+ years old. When I left, she was 4 and had a little brother of 2.5. I was with them every morning for so many years, and I miss them terribly! They were great fun. Being with them every day really added to my knack of relating to kids of all ages, and schooled me in the intuitive ways of children--persons who can sense artifice and authenticity with great skill. I also learned a ton about babies in a supportive way; their mom was not just a great employer but is also a friend who taught me plenty of things I didn't know in a caring and nonthreatening way--including but not limited to how to split a banana into 3 easy pieces by shoving my finger in the top and to never try to calm an irate baby who won't go to sleep by continuing to talk to him about how upset and tired he is, no matter how soothing the tone. Watching--and enriching!--the process of two children's acquisition of language and observing the widening of their understanding of the world was unbelievably amazing. I miss mornings of singing Joni Mitchell and The Beatles together, and of dancing to Raffi--the very best musician for children in the whole wide world. And his philosophy on how children should be treated isn't too shabby, either. You don't know about Raffi you better ask somebody. Anyhow, I'm glad to have been such an important part in their lives, and I know that some of the times we spent together will be held fondly in their minds for always. Because of that position, I am able to say that I have actually had the privilege of working with kids quite literally from birth up to the 11th grade. I see where they've come from, I see where they're going, and my perspective has been greatly fortified by my experiences.
5. I love records. I'm lucky because my mom and dad have amassed a huge collection over the years. I think I like them because there's something so much more tangible about a record as compared to a cd. You can hold them and smell their musty smell and they have these sprawling photos of dreamers or glorious, hallucination-induced drawings. And then you open them up and they have all these surprises inside--poems and sincere dedications and whatever else the artist felt should go in there. My parents taught me early in life how to put the needle on the record carefully, and that is a skill I am thankful for.
6. Speaking of hallucination-induced anything, I'm interested in Carlos Castaneda's conversations with Don Juan as recorded in his mystical accounts, starting with The Teaches of Don Juan. It wasn't so much the Mesoamerican shamanism itself that drew me in, but the particular ideas regarding how humans can control their spiritual selves that took hold of me. The understanding of the world as something far more mystical and unknowable as we try to make it is comforting to me in some odd, eerie way. One of my favorite quotes is found in Journey to Ixtlan: "There are worlds upon worlds, right here in front of us. And they are nothing to laugh at. . . "
If you've ever read any Castaneda, yes, I have tried the do the whole dream thing and I think I did manage to glance at my hands once. I think I stopped reading the book before bed at that point. Maybe I should start again!
7. I love stationary and writing my own thank-you notes and messages of all sorts. Don't get it twisted--you won't catch me doing any stamping or anything else krafty-korner like. But I do love to write my own messages and give plain old pretty note cards for occasions as opposed to buying a card that says something disingenuous or artificial.
Ok, there you have it. Whew. I tag whoever wants to be tagged. I'm no good at that part. . .
You may have already seen it. But it's too messed up not to post. I saw it on field negro first. Please, people. I am not in the habit of making political requests. But please, go ahead and forward this to everyone you know.
Yesterday evening, we attended the Resisting Empire tour sponsored by Haymarket Books--a non-profit, progressive publisher. It was incredible. The major moment of the evening, for me, was meeting Jeremy Scahill. Thanks to the friend who introduced me, if you're reading. Silly me--I forgot to bring along my copy of Blackwater. Jeremy was an extraordinary speaker, not surprisingly. His Blackwater won the Polk award for excellence in journalism, btw.
I also had the pleasure of speaking briefly with Camilo Mejia, the courageous first soldier to refuse to redeploy to Iraq. He spent 9 months in prison. He signed my new copy of Road from ar Ramadi: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia: An Iraq War Memoir. I can't wait to read it and will do a thorough post.
Michael Schwartz, author of War Without End: The Iraq War in Context also spoke. I still have to pick up a copy of this title. Schwartz was a powerful yet soft-spoken presence. It was an interesting contrast to Jeremy Scahill's admirable and inspiring intensity. Schwartz discussed the absolute destruction of the infrastructure of the country of Iraq by U.S. contractors--everything from the sewage system to ecosystems, from the electrical grid to the pre-invasion booming date fruit industry (via the careless disposal of routine pesticide-spraying that secured the livelihood of date farmers). The part about the date trees was reminiscent of the razing of orange groves in Palestine by Israeli forces. Not only is this type of annihilation a statement of the occupier's intention to destroy a country's ability to economically sustain themselves. It is a shot straight to the heart of a symbol of great cultural significance. It is a way to say, we are here and we don't care about what you held sacred before we came. The date trees take 15 years to mature to the point where they are an economically viable commodity. It will be at least that long after forces vacate Iraq for farmers to have any hope of returning to the successful date exportation of the pre-occupation.
Among other highlights from the speakers, Laila Al-Arian spoke passionately and with conviction about the devastation this war has brought to Iraqi families and U.S. soldiers alike. She discussed the mental anguish inflicted upon both oppressor and oppressed in the U.S. occupation. Her words reminded me of Paulo Freire's insistence that to resist oppression is to show love for the oppressor, to make the oppressor in fact more human. With 30% (at the conservative end of the estimate) of our soldiers coming back from Iraq with PTSD, the tasks they are ordered to perform while on tours of duty certainly does not a human make. And then the VA pays them the ultimate honor for their service and turns them away, classifying their PTSD as borderline personality disorder, claiming it is a preexisting condition. And let's not forget about the over 30% of Iraqi children manifesting symptoms of PTSD as well. Shouldn't it just be called TSD in that case?
I also purchased Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan, Eyewitness Accounts of the Occupations. It is a compilation of oral testimony gathered from 50 veterans and it is edited jointly by Aaron Glantz and the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW). Again, after reading I will be sure to post.
The Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) were present, too. At the Hofstra debates, 15 IVAW vets were arrested for peaceful civil disobedience. They had hoped to submit a question about Veteran's healthcare to be read at the debates--one that was, btw, asked at the Third Part Debate. One of their members was trampled by a police horse and his eye cavity was shattered. He is in the hospital as we speak where doctors are attempting to save his eye from sinking further into his skull. Three inches north and this brave vet would be no more. His bills will not be covered under our nation's sorry excuse for a VA. This is not a partisan issue, folks. When Americans are denied their rights to free speech and freedom of assembly, there is no red-state blue-state issue at hand. This gentleman was refused treatment by the police after the horse trampled him, and was thrown in the police van with other arrested protesters. Another woman, an NYC kindergarten teacher, was also injured by a police horse.
Here are a couple links to the reports:
Huffington Post report
Be The Media report (including videos)
Digital Journal report
On a final note, the Abolitionists were present. They have just succeeded in commuting a death sentence of a man in Georgia to life in prison. They also just secured a second stay of execution for Troy Anthony Davis, also on death row in Georgia, whose story is a perfect example of why the death penalty should be abolished. A few quick facts on Davis' case: he--a black man--was convicted of killing a white police officer but no physical evidence ever linked him to the crime. Seven of nine witnesses have come forward and signed affidavits saying they lied on the stand, some said they were pressured to do so by police. Troy was without any public defender/attorney from 1991-1996.
Needless to say, it was an invigorating weekend that left me with much more to think about than I had two days ago. I hope, after reading, you can say the same!
To begin with, I've had to admit to myself that bringing my beliefs about writing/reading workshop into this school culture that doesn't embrace it is way more of an uphill battle than I imagined. And, believe it or not, the battle is mostly with trying to get my students to care about their own writing, to own it and to produce authentic work--a battle ultimately rooted in the inadequacies of the design of the curriculum. Simple, really: when no one makes you give a shit about your writing for 7 years, you don't. And when someone comes along who tries to help you towards the goal of caring, it's hard. It's hard to take ownership when all that's been expected of you is the deliverance of writing on some terribly dull schemed up topic described as "relevant" by the lazy slobs who drummed it up, or some canned response to reading which does not require your actual reaction--but rather the reaction your teacher told you you should have had all along, silly--or some "persuasive" piece planned, written and typed in one day. I'm assuming that my students would want to pick their own topics and that they're capable of it. I'm assuming that my aims for their writing are transparent. I'm wrong. They have gone through 7 years of having others tell them when to write, about what to write, exactly how much to write down to the number of sentences and paragraphs, and when to write it. And they were ok with that, because it's simply all they knew. I'm turning their world upside down and they're frustrated and a little daunted by the challenge. I'm doing my best to assure them that I will support them. And I'm hoping that what I envision for them can become a reality.
In other news, I've had to face the truth that my students aren't who I thought they were--my assumptions were naive at best. To begin with, they are still 7th graders in many ways and I think I forgot that. They're dealing with a major transition--a huge shift in expectations, in workload, in social arrangement, in social pressures (keep reading). We spent a few minutes today talking about what they're overwhelmed or frustrated by, what they're finding challenging. One of my kids--one I'm rooting for and have been working hard with--bravely announced that he was pissed off about everyone assuming he was the same kid he was in 6th and 7th grade. I think our talk in lunch detention today had an impact. I hope.
Now the tough stuff: tonight many of my kids are attending a party at which they will be doing things I can't imagine having done at their age. Among other things, it sounds as though this party will include a mom who doesn't care about what they do and "open access to bedrooms," as one of my little informants put it. I'm cringing for their poor little brains and bodies, much too young to accommodate any of these activities. The school knows, but can't do much about it. I don't get it. But I guess I do. I'm sad. I didn't know it was like that. I reminded them all to make good choices and use their best judgment this weekend. I sure hope they listened, though my intuition tells me they don't give a shit--as I didn't, when people told me that in high school. But that's the point--in high school. Not eighth grade.
I'm lost right now. I guess it's ok to be lost, to be frustrated, to be pissed off and sad and disappointed. I just keep hoping it's all going to teach me something I need to know, to bring me to some new place I need to be--for my kids and for me. Boy, friends, I sure am on the learn this week.
Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about?
That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?
Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?
Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.
If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.
Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say.
Consider it my Poetry Friday. And Saturday. And Sunday. It was worth waiting for, no?
Ok, and "Little Wing," for good measure. This is a beautiful recording.
Did you know that when Jimi said he wanted the cover of Axis: Bold as Love to have an "Indian" theme, he meant Native American Indian, not East Asian? Yep. So he ended up with the iconic cover by mistake:
One of my very favorite Y.A. titles--Coraline by Neil Gaiman--is being made into a stop-motion animated film! Dakota Fanning will be doing the voice for Coraline. Somehow that strikes me as just the right fit. She's just got that edge of creepy--sort of because she seems so adult but is yet so young all at the same time. And that's kind of how Coraline struck me, too. Here's my review of the book, which I read over the summer. And here's a piece from W that I was just reading on Dakota Fanning.
Of course haters come in all shapes and sizes. But it's a particular clique (yes, the dreaded teacher clique) to which I'm referring. Most teachers simply have no time to hate. These people obviously have too much time on their hands. I think I've referenced the thick as thieves group of women who spend all of 30 minutes on their plans each week--30 minutes that are, generally, comprised of deciding which handouts from the textbook to copy for the next week. Now, I have developed my ability to smile and nod with unprecedented success. But I'm tired of having to worry about who is an informant to these. . . I won't even say ladies. . . and who is not. I can't stand passive aggressiveness. I can't stand having to worry about where people's allegiances lie. So I'm giving up on worrying about it.
To epitomize how I'm feeling, here's a youtube of Kat Williams on haters. Warning, IT'S GRAPHIC. Which is partly why it's hilarious. Absolutely graphic plenty of curse words so don't watch if you don't wanna hear 'em.
It's just silly to hate on someone for wanting to do the work they do, and wanting to do it in a way that brings goodness to the lives of others, not darkness. It's just too bad.
unless an ear that hears for an open mind
Let them think you dumb.
Let them dominate the discourse.
Never reveal what shivers and boils
beneath brown tree green eyes,
unless what pleads to be said
trembles and echoes.
Ok, so here's a poem I wrote a couple years ago in college. I wrote bad poetry for a while. This is not a pity plea for you to tell me otherwise. It's just a plain old fact. Anyhow, maybe my professors, if any are reading, are laughing and thinking that they never knew me to be one to sit quietly. But it's funny to look back at the poem now, as a teacher. With all of the emphasis on getting to every student to contribute something every day, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that not every student always feels what they have to say is important. And yes, we should be validating their perspectives. And yes, we should be assuring them that their contributions are worthwhile and important to the classroom community. However, I knew as a student that at times what I had to say about something was either not topical enough to be addressed at the time or not pertinent enough to add depth to the discussion. It's a fallacy to assume that students always always always have something to say about a given idea. We need to remember what it felt like to sit in a class and silently evaluate whether or not we should speak. We need to teach our students that yes, what they have to say matters buuuuut we must teach them likewise to be thoughtful speakers who can contribute genuinely because they feel compelled to by the quality of their contribution, not just to have secured the much-sought-after participation point :::shudder::: --a point just undefined enough to dangle ominously over their heads. I don't do the participation point. I prefer to create a relationship with my students by which they feel comfortable enough to contribute without being forced or cajoled into it. This doesn't mean I don't push them towards and support them in the process of becoming more community-minded, social people. It means that nobody needs to be nagged into contributing. I'd rather not have them speak if this is how I must go about having them do so.
Guess who needs some fun new boots? Me.
Guess who picks out her bday presents for everyone else to buy? Yup. Me again. I leave nothing to the imagination when it comes to gift buying.
The question of color is an important one today. Black will absolutely be the most versatile. But who can resist the browns? The question of height is also paramount. I really want to try out a knee-high boot, but I'm 5'2, so a heel is most probable at this point. However, I'm really drawn to the flats. I'm just not sure they'll do me any favors, especially the knee-length ones.
I also am NOT buying school-wearables. I'm SICK of buying things for work. These will be only for out-of-school me. Besides Fridays, perhaps.
Here are the options as of today . . .
Michael Kors. The black is very appealing also.
Urban Outfitters. Again, hesitant to try the flats. But a good option if I choose to.
All from Aldo. The top only comes in black. The middle in various. I think I'm gravitating towards the last pair. The color is "ice." I'm assuming that means something greyish, but the pic is ambiguous. It could go that way or more towards the taupe side of things. Both would work well.
Oh, and these are sort of awesome if completely impractical . . .
Go here to look at the back. I'm no mathematician, but I'm pretty sure that the back multiplies the awesomeness by at least 10. Wish I could just paste the image. Silly Adobe. The bane of my image-copying existence.
Send any suggestions my way.
This is way old, but I don't think I've ever posted it here. Funny thing, there used to be a cut version of this on youtube but now you need to scroll ahead to about 3:15 and watch for like the next 45 seconds. Watch carefully . . .
Did you see his eyes? Go back and watch again. Despite the outdatedness of this clip, it's such a major thing when the facade is broken, if only for a millisecond. It demonstrates that, indeed, just as Orwell had it, the overwhelmingly scary presence of doublethink exists at even the highest levels of power. I guess in some cases it is absolutely imperative for one to carry out one's orders.
Let's just pray that Sarah "I'll-Be-Alive-For-Jesus-Christ's-Second-Coming" Palin's "goshdarnit we're mavericks" blackwhite newspeak doesn't fool anyone.