Paging Doug Ross

Because we, except for about four times a year, pretty much only watch movies from Netflix, therefore putting us behind the curve of what's current in contemporary cinema, we just got around to watching Syriana last night. Y'all should get on it. I knew that it was about the oil industry, but I didn't really know what to expect. It's basically a critique of the oil industry, energy trade, and America's unquenchable thirst for oil, how that plays out politically, and how it affects people's lives. You should rent it, and watch the special features, too. There was (when this movie was current) debate that it's pretty ethnocentric to believe that America's energy demands have this much impact on the world, but I would have to disagree. Americans, as a whole, are very ethnocentric, so it's not a stretch to believe that our actions do have this must impact. In any event, watch the movie, if you get confused, check out the Wikipedia entry on the film so you can get a clear view of the plot and the connections between stories.

We're taking off for DMI tomorrow--family fun with Ed, Kim, et al, and cocktails with my BFF Pogge tomorrow night. ROAD TRIP. More to come tomorrow on the holiday season.


SLPS vers. 2.0

If you live in St Louis, you are probably aware of the turmoil that is happening with the St Louis Public Schools. I blogged about it earlier this year, but things have been happening at a breakneck speed. Crazy-lady Veronica O'Brien, who just months ago pushed for Diana Bourisaw's hiring as superintendent, is now saying that Bourisaw should be fired and the state should take over. Mayor Slay is also pushing for a partial state takeover. What happens when the state takes over? The school board will be replaced by a three-person panel, and the current board will remain intact but have no power and make no decisions.

I am torn about what to believe is going on. Here's what I know to be true: There is obviously a huge, huge problem. At this point, I wouldn't send my non-existent children to SLPS. There ARE good teachers in SLPS. Not all of them, but certainly a large number of committed, skilled educators. The problem, though, is not teachers. The problems are coming from inconsistent adminstration and leadership, from the superintendent and board on down. Not Bourisaw herself, she hasn't been here long enough to be inconsistent. That's part of the problem: not allowing any one superintendent enough time to make a change.

However, I don't know that state takeover is the best answer. The problem with state takeover is that the board that will take over is appointed (one each) by Slay, James Shrewsbury (Board of Aldermen President) and the School Board, and there is a large amount of speculation that said appointments will be just as bad as the school board that the public elected. Those opposed to state takeover believe that those who have the power to appoint the new board will not choose people based on qualifications, but on how they can serve those people who appoint (Slay, Shrewsbury, and the SB). I read one letter than believed that Slay would appoint O'Brien. DANG. Please don't. I think it is crucial that the three appointed board members are committed to working together, with a shared vision, towards making our schools outstanding for all students

A lot of people are pointing the finger at Mayor Slay. Chris has ties to Slay and his administration, and I know that he is not this evil powermonger some make him out to be. He is the mayor of the city. Obviously, he has a vested interest in the quality of the schools. I think he lost his credibility with the schools when he backed Clinkscale, Schoemehl, Archibald, and Jackson in 2003, because that ended in disaster and marked the slide from close-to-accreditation to nowhere-near-accreditation, but ultimately, he has to want what is best for the schools.

The Post-Dispatch has given ink to this highly pertinent subject, but many think the coverage is biased. There is numerous coverage from multiple perspectives available in the blogosphere. Pub Def has good coverage, although it is connected to board member Peter Downs. Downs wrote a letter to the Special Board that recommended partial state takeover, which is pretty insightful and worth reading.

All city/county people should have a vested interest in a radical change in the St Louis Schools. For so long, people who have the means (and some who don't) have sent their kids to parochial or private schools instead of city schools. It's practically a given for people I know. For people my age who are committed to living in the city, it feels like their only option. Most people wouldn't even send their kids to the outstanding public magnet schools. It doesn't have to be like that. Imagine sending your kids to a diverse neighborhood school that was clean, safe, stable, and had amazing curriculum and instruction. For free. It would draw people back to city living and would completely revitalize the area.

I think it's bullshit that people turn their backs to the problem because their children don't attend the public schools. We as a community benefit from having a population that is educated. Comprehensive education prepares people for higher education and the workplace. If a person has the ability to get a good job, with good benefits, because they have a certain level of education, they are more likely to positively contribute to their community. As it stands, public education, as a whole, is structured so that white, middle-to-upper class student can succeed. Everyone else can assimilate or fail. I am interested in how we change education so that all students, regardless of ethnicity, race, gender, or socioeconomic status, truly has the ability to succeed. If we can do that (and we can, as a community) we will take one huge step towards attaining social justice for all people.


Kirksville Goss, Y'all

I love a good crime scandal. From a press release to Fox 2 News, forwarded to me by my inside gal:

December 11, 2006
For Immediate Release
St. Louis, Missouri: Deborah Masten was indicted on federal charges in connection with the fire of Too Talls Two Eatery and Spirits, in January 2005, United States Attorney Catherine L. Hanaway, Adair County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Williams and Kirksville Police Chief Jim Hughes, and Michael Boxler, ATF Special Agent in Charge announced today. The charges were announced at a press conference earlier today in Kirksville, Missouri.
“The indictment alleges that Ms. Masten intentionally damaged her restaurant located at 220 North Elson Street, Kirksville, by setting fire to it,” said Hanaway. “This is another example of what cooperation between state, local and federal authorities can accomplish. The suspicious nature of the fire was originally investigated by the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Missouri Fire Marshal. [Prosecuting Attorney Mark Willimas realized that resources and investigation of the BATF would be necessary] to develop the investigation to its fullest.”
“Despite the sadness of having to announce an indictment against a former public official, ATF is pleased to have been able to lend its investigative expertise with arson to this case,” added Boxler.
Masten, 52, formerly of the 1300 block of Country Club Drive, Kirksville, was indicted by a federal grand jury on one felony count of maliciously damaging real and personal property by fire. If convicted, she faces a penalty range of five to 20 years in prison and/or fines up to $250,000.
The charges set forth in an indictment are merely accusations, and each defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.



It Wasn't Me

I just finished watching Who Killed The Electric Car? Excellent documentary. If you are already fairly well-versed in climate change, and understand the importance of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, this film shows just how difficult that reduction will be if our government continues to allow big business to dominate legislature. Long story short: the state of California made a law saying that all car manufacturers who sold cars in California must produce a certain percentage of zero-emissions cars (i.e. electric cars). Through pressure from the automakers and oil companies, combined with blatant conflict of interest from lawmakers, that law was repealed and GM phased out their EV-1, which was immensely popular, eventually repossessing all vehicles made, despite grassroots efforts from car leasers and environmentalists. Put it on your Netflix queue.


Snow Day, Bitches!

First time as a teacher. Woo-hoo!


My Phone Is Fixed

Rather, I got a replacement one. Booyakasha.

Choose Life

The weekend was great. I spent quality time with good friends, including Meghan and Paul's fabulous wedding on Saturday where I witnessed not only the greatest father-of-the-bride speech ("I'd like to thank everyone for coming. Peace."), but also heard the greatest back-to-back-songs-at-a-wedding ("Wake Me Up Before You Go Go" by Wham followed up by "Just Like Heaven" by The Cure). I danced like Molly Ringwald.

Chris also, while listening to "Needle in the Hay" by Elliott Smith, buzzed his head. Along the way he looked like my 7th grade boyfriend, Anthony Kiedis circa 1991, and Travis Barker. Transformation photos to follow.

Speaking of Chris, he got HEATED by an e-mail forward from one of his friends. Have y'all seen the e-mail, sent by Republicans, about the ant and the grasshopper? It's basically uses the story of the ant and the grasshopper to make the case that people are poor because they don't work hard enough and people who work shouldn't have to help out those that don't. The forward ended with "Vote Republican." This pissed Chris off and he fired back an eloquent rebuttal that silenced the haters, I think. I mention all this because I had a similar conversation, via e-mail/blog, with my good friend Geoff, who has recently started owning his Republicanism. Anyone who knows Geoff knows that he's kind of bandwagon, so he'll probably come back to the brighter side of things sooner than later. Anyway, his argument, which I can understand, when it comes to poverty and public assistance, was that when he opened his business, he was working a ton and was broke but he didn't go on welfare or EBT. He goes on to say that if people want better jobs, they have to educate themselves and work hard. In theory, this is true. In practice, however, this shit is false as hell. Not to diminish what Geoff has done, because I am incredibly proud of how he started his own business and I know he's worked his tail off. However, Geoff comes from a comfortable family. He is independent in the sense that he pays his own bills, but not in the sense that if something were to happen, it's not like he would starve, lose his house, or not be able to pay the bills. Clark and Annie would help out. As they should, as good parents. However, not everyone has that luxury. That is a middle-to-upper class luxury. So who helps out the working poor when they have an emergency?

We live in a world of middle class values and norms. If you were not raised in the middle or upper class, how would you know how to properly navigate a middle-class world? For example, in my middle-class upbringing, it was never an option for my brothers and I to not go to college. The question was just which one. My parents knew how to help me fill out a FAFSA. They knew what questions to ask on a college visit. They knew about college visits, for chrissakes. They took me to a college counselor. For some of my kids, who have no one in their family who has ever gone to college, that idea is not automatic. It takes calculated efforts from teachers and other influential adults to get them to assume that college is their future and to help them jump through the hoops that they have to in order to be successful. I think a lot of middle-to-upper class people have no idea of what poverty means. I have seen where some of my students live and it would shock you. Honestly, even I had no idea until I saw it myself.
There are several books published in the last five years that document the struggle of those in poverty. Two fascinating reads are Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickle and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America and David Shipler's The Working Poor: Invisible in America. All three are excellent reads and I own them if you want to borrow them.
The idea of the American Dream is dead. Nothing teaches you more about the cyclical nature of poverty and ignorance more than working in a school. I can't tell you how many kids I have that are messed up and rightfully so if you meet their parents. If outside agencies such as education and social services don't step in to help people break that cycle, impoverished people will continue to be impoverished and society will bear the burden of that poverty. We are becoming less of a nation of opportunity and more of a nation of classist castes that doom children to repeat their parents mistakes.

My kids are sponsoring their second annual Tent City on January 13th at my school. Kids will camp out for 12 hours in support of poverty-relief efforts in their community. We are taking donations of new or gently-used clothing to benefit the Salvation Army in Maplewood, canned food to benefit America's Second Harvest, and money to support Joe's Place, a new home for homeless teenaged boys in our school district. There will be displays with information on poverty and every donation is tax-deductible. Please come support my kids and their efforts to help make a difference in their community.


Day of Thanks

Here are things I am thankful for at this moment, 11:51 AM on Thanksgiving Day, when I am carmelizing onions in my kitchen:
a clean kitchen
no hangover
strong coffee (fair-trade! organic! at your local Schnucks!)
Elliott Smith
a baby daddy that is literate, doesn't beat me, has a steady job and isn't with me because we have a baby, among eight thousand other things
vintage maroon Vans
my cat and dog
a Survivor Thanksgiving
Karen V and Sha-Na-Na-Na being in town
my totally amazing kids, including the Star-Wars obsessed autistic one who wrote a story with a character named "Padme Best-Oliver"
my parents, who didn't freak when I told them I wasn't coming home
my brothers, who are on the verge of becoming real-live adults
Meghan and Paul's upcoming nuptuals, and the celebration with friends that will follow
The Decemberists amazing new album
knitting and pretty yarn and making functional stuff with your own two hands
good friends
the Champagne Of Trivia's hopefully upcoming run at the World Series of Pop Culture
the bigger-than-a-breadbox bag of TasteeOs that I got at the grocery store
my two-day workweek
cooking with wine

That's all for now. Go eat turkey. Or tofurky.


Lack of Tech

My phone is broken and has been broken since before I went to Nashville. So if you are one of the eleven new messages I have on my phone, I'm not hatin'. I didn't even have my phone in Nashville. But now I am home, and I will slowly get to replying to those of you who called me. Right now, I gotta figure out what I'm doing today and tomorrow and figure out what happened while I was gone.


Southern Hospitality

Awwww yeah! Comin' to you live from the National Council of Teachers of English annual conference in Nashville. Talk about a merging of cultures: 5,000 English teachers from around the country meets...Opryland. This hotel, the Gaylord Opryland (how's that for a name?) is not so much a hotel, but what would happen if the Mall of America and Tan-Tar-A spawned a super-commerce complex surrounded by the world's biggest parking lot and overcharged for everything. Seriously. Place is huge. It's like six hotels, but there's these big atrium areas with a "river" which is really just a large, windy fountain, and a zillion overpriced restaurants, bars, and shops selling completely useless shit such a platters that say "Everything tastes better with cat hair" and t-shirts that read "Merry Christmas, y'all" as if Britney designed her own line of novelty clothing. And country music. Errwhere. At any given time in my hotel room, there are at least four different channels playing country music and an episode of "Home Improvement" on. Not only are the English dorks meeting here, but so are the commercial lubricant sales convention, featuring 1,500 men with names like Rod and BIll, wearing light blue button downs with the sleeves rolled up. And, like any touristy place, the old folks. Lots of them.
The English teachers are a different story. There are, of course, the dancing apples. There are the disgruntled folks. But there are also all of the very cool, very awesome at their job people. And there's free booze at things, amazing author talks, and, best of all, FREE BOOKS. Tonight we had the welcome gatherings for all the grade levels, and the secondary session had Ann Patchett, the very distinguished author of Bel Canto and The Patron Saint of Liars (among other books), and she gave away, to all however many hundreds of high school teachers, copies of two of her books and one of Eudora Welty's books. To everyone. Plus free food and beer and wine. And that's just the beginning. Starting tomorrow, there's an expo floor where every book publisher ever gives away free or dirt cheap copies of books and other teachery things like pens, pencils, bags, lesson plans, etc. I know this last paragraph was nerdy. Deal. My colleagues and I are actually presenting a session on our conference English program. Yeah national presenter. Last two years. No big.
Don't worry, I'll update LIVE! FROM NASHVILLE! again soon.
Shout out to my dear friend Meghan. I'm missing her bachelorette party on Saturday, which I'm sad about, but I'm sure it will be like any other bachelorette party: dive bar, party bus, golden showers. Same old, same old.


A Tiny Glimmer of Hope

What's that smell? Is that the smell of...VICTORY? A victory unlike anything Dems have experienced in the past, oh, ten years? The first major victory in my career as a voter?

I went to bed disappointed. The early numbers, at least for Missouri, were grim. I was tired, and Chris was glued to the TV, so I went to sleep, knowing he would wake me up. And he did. When his alarm went off at 2:30 so he could pull out the laptop and check the numbers, after which he freaked out and woke me up to tell me that Talent had conceded, Amendment 2 had passed, and nationwide, things were looking good. I was as excited as I could be when someone wakes you up at 2:30, but I got up early to check the stories.

I'm still in shock. I'm in shock that Dems took the House so convincingly. I'm shocked that we still have a chance (and a good one, at that) to take the Senate. I'm shocked that Amendment 2 passed. I'm shocked that Prop B passed so handily. My entire adult life, Republicans have ruled everything. I wonder how (or even if) things will change. I think the biggest sign of hope is not that leadership will change, it's that America is ready for a change. This looks to be an exciting time in our country's history, and I hope this election inspires people to become active in their communities to continue to make changes. I also look forward to Bush's reaction to everything. Dude is going stutter and sweat like a 7th grade persuasive speech.

Not to neglect the OTHER important news of the day.

Finally Britney is in on the inside joke the rest of the nation has been laughing at. I think so much more highly of her now. Hopefully she'll give him a bus ticket back to Fresno. That, or he'll find another woman to pop out two shorties with.



Just a quick post to remind you to go out and vote if you are registered. Please, please, please take ten minutes to read up on the major candidates and amendments. There is so much propaganda out there, particularly regarding the US Senate seat in Missouri and Amendment 2, the stem cell research bill. All this talk of cloning and poor language and exploitation of women is riling me up. THINK FOR YOURSELF. Exploitation of women? As if we can't make our own decisions to undergo invasive surgery? Some schiester doctor is going to con us into it? And we need to be protected? Get the fuck out of here. I don't see people trying to save frat rats from the sperm bank. All that talk, all the focus on the extra nonsense, is to take your mind off the real issue: when do you believe life begins? If you believe that the cells in blastocyst constitute life, and that life is just as valuable as a grown human being, they you are probably against this bill. If you believe that life begins much later, or you believe that the cells are more valuable as a means of saving a grown human being, then you are probably for the bill. Let's not bring archaic views of women, or the concept of meeting your twin on the street someday into this. Call a spade a spade. It's pro-life or pro-choice ver. 2.0. Whatever way you vote, make sure it's really about that, not what some dude on a corner had on a placard.

More later at school.


Trick or Treat

Happy Halloween. We celebrated last weekend, after we celebrated the Cardinals improbable World Series victory. Per capita, St Louis had to have consumed more beer than any other city in the world this weekend. Baseball champs, beer champs, crime champs. REPRESENT!

Chris and I dressed up as Richie and Margot Tenenbaum This is a costume idea I've been sitting on for a while now. Although I make an unconvincing Gwenyth, I think I could pass for an Olsen Twin or Fiona Apple in the right lighting. Chris's look is spot on.

Something I'm so over is the slutty costume phenomenon. I have never subscribed to the notion that Halloween gives people the right to sluttify a costume and dress like a South County whore using the cheap guise of holiday cheer, particularly after college. I went to two parties this weekend, both of which had slutty costumes: slutty bunny, slutty doctor, slutty pirate, slutty Strawberry Shortcake. Next year, in an irony-fueled protest, I think I am going to organize my friends to dress in completely ridiculous slutty costumes, such as slutty baby, slutty quadriplegic, slutty Hitler, slutty Holocaust survivor, slutty cancer patient, etc. Maybe this will stop the madness.


Bringing Blogging Back

Long time no post. I have been busy with the following things:

* Working. A lot. Homecoming was a few weeks ago, which completely consumed my school life, but went very, very well and provided me with some gratification as to working with kids. I have one more week of soccer, then I will be free at 3:05 every day instead of 6:00+, which will allow me to produce a dearth of blog postings unlike anything you've ever seen.
* Desperately trying to maintain a less than 1,000 SF house that is currently occupied by three adults, three cats, a 95 lb dog, and a lot of nasty. Warning: if you eat at my house, there will be pet hair in your food. Guaranteed. Get over it.
* Dealing with the aftermath of Chris's car getting stolen. From our house. In broad daylight. Crackhead stole it, hit another car in a hit and run, and abandoned it. Could you just, you know, drive it into the river or something? Because now we owe the $1000 deductible if we want to get it fixed. I'm telling you, the streets of Epiphany Parish just ain't what they used to be.
* Going to two wedding and Kirksville in the last two weeks. Curtis Fucking Prusha got married, which is monumental if you know that dude. He took time out of his rehearsal dinner/party to give me shit for not updating my blog. Thanks, man. I also went to another wedding for one of Chris's friends where the brother of the bride is a white rapper named Temperature (I don't know the rap spelling of his moniker) and the best man (coincidentally the best man at our wedding) gave a drunken, drunken, drunken speech punctuated by some female relative holding up the bride and groom's baby over her head to draw attention to her magnificence, not unlike Simba's birth on The Lion King. Kirksville just made me feel old. I was actually appalled by some drunk soccer boy's heckling strategy. Yelling loudly that the linesman has a small penis is not going to help you with your offsides cause, man. You have to be smart in your shit-talking.
* Cardinals games. My lovely friend Susan graciously invited me to a Divisional Championship game and a League Championship game. Good times. Unfortunately, it is really putting a damper on my TV watching, since St Louis mandate only allows televisions to broadcast games during the playoffs. If you want to watch something else, too bad.
* Kickball and soccer. I played in my first indoor game last night with a bunch of Bulldog Old Ladies and some random dudes along for the coed ride. I am ridiculously out of shape, although I already knew about that since I got winded running the bases at kickball.


Clean Elections and St Louis

While reading Steve Patterson today, I read about the new campaign finance laws (or lack of) for St Louis. Right now, if you are running for alderman, you can only accept individual donations of up to $325 per person or business, or if you are running for a city-wide position, $1275. Those donation limits will be curbed as of January 1, 2007, making unlimited contributions a possibility.
I am against this for several reasons. One, it disenfranchises the everyman from becoming the alderman. You are essentially putting more money into the election process, allowing a person to write his/her own check for their campaign. One great thing about the aldermanic races is that, in many wards, it's a low-turnout election, so grassroots campaigns have a great chance at succeeding. Allowing candidates unlimited donations essentially neutralizes the power of the people and puts the power in the pockets.
Two, having campaign donation limits assures that one person just can't write a check to put a candidate in his/her pocket. As the new rules will stand, theoretically, any one person could write a check that completely funds a candidates campaign and could use that person to his/her advantage or to benefit his/her own personal agenda. Washington is corrupted by political donations. It's the reason our government is so screwed up and so enabling of large corporations: reciprocity is expected or reelection is threatened. One could argue that you can raise the same amount of money using either method, but having donation limits forces a candidate to get funding from several sources, which is more representative of a democracy than getting money from just one source.
Obviously, those in power are not going to give up their power without a struggle. Elected officials will continue to accept campaign funding wherever they can get it, and, as a consequence, will continue to vote in big donors' best interests, not the common people's. People will continue to get fucked, both by big businesses and by the government. I believe there are three solutions:
One, everyone needs to realize that we, as people, do have power. Small groups of committed people are the only thing that have ever changed the world, and to resign ourselves to helplessness is going to ensure than no change occurs. If you feel helpless, do something. Join one of the thousands of local groups that are fighting to change things right now.
Two, mobilize non-voters. So many people who get fucked by government don't vote. If we could mobilize those missing voters to all elections at all levels, by getting them to realize that their vote can make a difference in their lives, major changes can happen. It's easy to feel like you are helpless and that your vote won't really matter, but, especially at the local level, your vote can and does make a difference. You should have to register to vote when you sign up for any type of social services, get your driver's license, or register for the draft. Two elections that impact people in a tangible way on the local level are school board elections and, here in St Louis, alderman elections. Although in smaller municipalities, they may be largely ceremonial positions, they do make real decisions about the workings of cities and schools.
Three, work to change the election system as it exists now. Until money is out of elections and representative government, and elected officials aren't just rich people, with rich friends, primarily representing the interests of the rich, things will continue to be corrupt and we won't have a government that really represents the interests of the people. In the state of Maine, candidates can choose to run as a "clean" candidate after voters passed the "Clean Election Act," which states (from their website) The law was passed by Maine voters in a referendum in 1996 and came into effect in 2000. Candidates who demonstrate citizen support by collecting a set number of $5 qualifying contributions from voters within their districts (50 contributions for a State House race, 150 for the state Senate, and 2,500 for a gubernatorial race) are eligible for fixed and equal campaign funding from the Clean Election Fund. To receive their money, candidates must agree to forgo all private contributions (including self-financing), and limit their spending to the amount from the fund. Participating Clean Money candidates are also given an additional one-for-one match if they are outspent by non-complying opponents or are the target of independent expenditures (such as ads produced by a group not associated with the opposing candidate). Candidates who reject the option of Clean Money or who fail to qualify are still free to collect private money under the existing system.
In the 2004 elections, 71% of candidates chose to run "clean," and over half of "clean" candidates won their elections. Because of clean candidates, Maine passed the Dirigo Health Reform Act, which aims to improve health care quality, expand access to health care, and contain health care costs. Citizens are integral in the process of health care reform, and have been included in planning using a "21st Century Town Meeting" model. This was possible due to candidates being elected by Clean Money. Elected officials are accountable to people, not lobbyists or big donors. They are free to make decisions that have their constituents' best interests in mind, not their biggest donors.
This, I think, is the biggest, most effective change we can enact. Think of how the demographics of candidates would change! People who would never even consider running for office could now run and actually have a chance to win. This is what democracy is supposed to look like.


Witnessing History

Only moments ago, one of the greatest moments in reality television history occured, and I didn't even see it coming.

Some background: one of the tribes on Survivor, threw the immunity challenge to get rid of the overweight, lazy, metalhead. After the challenge, dude is looking for some sympathy and says randomly to another tribe "I'm the next to go." One of the girls in the other tribes says, "Aw, we love you." Dude hesistates and says, "I love you, too."

Flash forward to Tribal Council. Dude is clearly getting voted off, but randomly in the pre-vote questioning, he busts out with, "It doesn't matter if I get voted off. I found true love on the island. With Candace" Candace being the girl who said "Aw, we love you," which were probably the first words she ever spoke to the guy.

In the sweetest TC moment ever, Jeff Probst visibly shits his pants. Because Dude? Is serious. Dead serious. This guy thinks that an offhand remark during an obviously awkward situation is a clear indicator of reciprocated love. So awesome, because you can actually pinpoint the moment his tribe goes from "Voting Dude Out Because He Doesn't Do Shit" and "Dude Is Batshit Crazy. Restraining Order Necessary."

It's unfortunate, because I think a lot of people wrote this Survivor off because of the ratings ploy of the racially divided tribes, and they missed this totally unpromoted, but awesome scene. It's like a little gift from the editors for showing up.

I promise, it is way more awesome if you watch it. I'm sure it will be on the Soup, but you could probably catch it via YouTube.


Lazy Activism

If you are like me, and are civic-minded and interested in making your voice heard, but don't always have time to make protest placards and attend every protest for every cause you believe in, and also enjoy spending inordinate amounts of time on the internet, you might be interested in online action campaigns. There are several for progressive causes. Basically, they create letters/e-mails/faxes to your elected officials to let your voice be heard. They work, too. Code Pink for Peace caused chaos in Washington when they phone/fax bombed senators and congressmen/women on a specified day in 2004. Anyway, here are some I frequent:

MoveOn's campaigns are progressive and political and call for change in our current government.

National Resources Defense Council covers all things environmental.

The Human Rights Campaign works for equal rights for the GLBT community.

Amnesty International works to prevent human rights' violations around the world.


Media Mentions

Several media sources/comments of note:

Mother Jones' current newstand issue is their 30th anniversary issue, and it rocks. There are awesome articles about voting fraud and disenfranchisement, immigration, Iraq, and Guantanamo. There's also a funny-but-scary retrospect on predictions made over the years about where our country is/was heading.

Yes! Magazine is a progressive, ad-free magazine that focuses on positive changes in our society, published quarterly. Teachers can get free one-year subscriptions. The latest issue is on health care, namely a call for universal, single-payer health care. There are a lot of critics of single-payer health care, but American's health care costs more than any other country in the world, yet we are nowhere near the top as far as health of citizens or quality of care. More Americans are currently uninsured or underinsured that ever before, yet pharmceutical companies are experiencing record profits. Fucked up. Online, if you want it.

The Amazing Race started last night. Awesome, as usual, except for the fact that the team of two Muslim men and the Hindu couple were eliminated first and second. I was looking forward to some diversity, but I can't help but think that conservatives who believe in "Islamofascism" cheered when the Muslims were first to sequesterville, and that made me sad. TAR is such a strong contrast to the backstabbing, conniving, disgusting display of humanity that is Big Brother, specifically Big Brother All-Stars. If any of you watched the finale of that show, I'm pretty sure that it was last week's sign that the apocalypse is upon us. TAR actually makes their people, you know, hustle and work hard using their own skills and talents to stay on the show, not sleep with people, "showmance", or showcase other, um, talents (Mike Boogie, I'm looking at you, you chauvanistic, superficial, shallow, washed-up, has-been, played-out, coattail-riding, no-talent ass clown. I'm pretty sure if I ever ran into you on the street, I would, honest to God, punch you in the taint and then spit on you. Uppercut, bitch.)

I also, via YouTube, caught up with Weeds' second season. Hands down, the best comedy on TV. Period. Awesome writing, awesome storylines, awesome satire, awesome acting. Justin Kirk AND Kevin Nealon? As stoners? So freaking sweet I can't believe it. If you don't believe me, get on YouTube, search "weeds" and "masturbation" and check out that video. I dare you. Unfortch, while I taught myself to knit (inspired by Sha-Na-Na-Na) and watched Weeds, I decided to follow by checking out Season Three of Laguna Beach. I'm not even going to say anything about that show other than I am glad my students aren't rich and I got dumber by watching it. I unlearned how to knit and had to reteach myself, all in one day, because my brain almost exploded from hearing the words "like," "dude," and "random" eight million times.


A Haiku for 9/11

One of my students turned this set of haikus in to my student teacher today.

Going to the club
dressed in drag shakin' my thang
daddy isn't proud

Standing in the street
pulling up my pantyhose
god this chafing sucks

Went into his room
selling my hidden secret
Guess what's in my pants

Have to make money
to get my operation
I need a new vag.

Well, I guess they are about nature, in a roundabout way.


Bastard People

One of my greatest kids, a girl who undoubtedly will go far (and a baller soccer player), sat down and talked to me today about racism. Apparently, she joined a new club soccer team this year, and the girls, the vast majority of whom are upper-middle to upper class, all of whom are white, have repeatedly proved themselves to be racist and homophobic. This girl is part Filipino and totally an Ally. Some girls on her team refer to her as Mexican and tell her "I'm going to take away your green card". They use words like "nigger" "spick" and "faggot" in everyday conversations.
This took me aback for several reasons: one, it's 2006, assholes; two, I'm so used to the diversity of our school, where if you dropped a racial slur such as those listed above, somebody is bound to kick your ign'ant ass and everyone has friends of different colors; three, even if you are from lily-white St Charles or a cracker private school, isn't your racism supposed to be more...covert? and four, you are claiming to be an elite female athlete and you are homophobic? I'm not trying to perpetuate stereotypes, but you better be down with some lesbians if you are going to play a sport in college, because you are bound to play with a few.
I don't think it's from being sheltered. My parents never knew brown people their whole lives until I was in grade school, pretty much, and if I would have said "nigger," et al, my mom would have beat my ass. You don't have to live in diversity to value it, along with tolerance and understanding. I just don't understand how teens today, living in a culture where so much art and entertainment, including sports and the media, is a forum for diversity. I'm not naive--I know racism exists. Like Avenue Q says, everyone's a little bit racist. But I thought it was in smaller pockets, less overt, and certainly not as blatently ignorant as what my student is facing. What's frustrating is that she feels as though she is fighting a losing battle. She desperately wants to take a stand and put some learning on their asses, but she's new to the team and is already fighting alienation. She has the typical need to belong that most teenagers have, but she's smart enough to know that silence is compromising who she is. I want to call her mom--only because I know her mom will kick some ass, but my student really wants to handle it herself. She needs the team to reach her soccer goals, but she knows that this intolerance makes her character fundamentally different from these girls, and doubts as if her one voice will change these girls. My other kids, of course, want to just kick their asses and be done with it, but that obviously won't solve any problems. I kind of want her to be able to have an awesomely snarky retort for everything ignorant they could say, but even if she outwitted them at every turn, there would be no one around to appreciate her snark. Because it would be awesome if, after they referred to her as "Mexican", she referred to them as "Spoiled, oblivious, morally bankrupt, repressed future lesbians" (which I'm fairly certain at least a few of them are) but they wouldn't get it. We're brainstorming solutions, many of which involve my kids rolling up melting-pot style and being super-nice to all of the girls to to fuck with them, or t-shirts with awesome tolerance-supporting phrases. If you have any solutions, let me know.


Other comments

1) Our autistic student at school, whose locker is right next to my room, said to me today, "I am a ninth grader, sent here on a mission by the Republic of the Freshman Class. Social studies is peace." Awesome kid, awesome comment.


Bush refuses, calling the proposal a "diversion" from serious concerns about Iran's nuclear capabilities. Well, Bush knows about diversions, I suppose.

Daily Dose of Irony

From the New York Times vs. PD

"Secreatry of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said Tuesday that critics of the war in Iraq and the campaign against terrorist groups 'seem not to have learned history's lessons' and compared them to those in the 1930's who advocated appeasing Nazi Germany...Comparing terrorist groups toa "new type of facism," Rumsfeld said, 'With the growing lethality and the increasing availability of weapons, can we truly afford to believe that somehow, some way, vicious extremists can be appeased?'...Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, a former Army officer and Democratic member of the Armed Services Committee, responded that 'no one has misread history more than' Rumsfeld. 'It's a political rant to cover up his incompetence...(there are) scores of patriotic Americans of both parties who are highly cirtical of his handling of the D.O.D.'"

Harry Reid goes on to comment "Secretary Rumsfeld's reckless comments show why America is not as safe as it can or should be five years after 9/11."

I myself have no comment, because I don't think I need to say anything. The quotes alone speak volumes. If you want peace, work for justice.


You are dumb. You just don't know it. We all are.

One essential question I have been asking my students while we are reading Ishmael is "Who might benefit by keeping you ignorant?" which I stole from my colleague Nancy, who is awesome. This is perfect for my sustainability course, because so much of what is wrong with the environment, particularly global warming, has to do with ignorance on the part of the public on the magnitude of those salient problems. One telling statistic about global warming, from An Inconvenient Truth, states that in a random sampling of 928 global warming related articles from peer-reviewed scientific journals, zero dispute that global warming is real, that it is happening, and that we can do something about it. Zero. Yet 57% of news articles about the same topic mention the "controversy" or "uncertainty" of global warming. Huh? When you think about statistics like these, about information that is truly of the utmost importance to EVERYONE ON EARTH, and consider the fact that the media plays into PR campaigns by Big Oil and Detroit, it's really rather insulting. Do you really think EVERYONE is that stupid. Sure, some people are that stupid. I teach their kids on the daily. They block the aisle with their cart at the grocery store. They take eighteen years to order at restaurants because they have to ask questions about everything. They bother my friends Christine and Joe at Borders (no, despite logical thinking, people who shop at bookstores are not more intelligent than your average shopper. There are actual some huge fucking dumbasses who practically live there.) But not everyone is stupid enough to think global warming is something to take sides on, like abortion, are they? Yes, they are.

So that got me thinking about how fucked up education is in America. And how "No Child Left Behind" is the biggest crock of ironic-smelling shit that ever passed over Bush's desk (and that's saying something). Ask any teacher, they'll tell you the same. And how some adults were left behind many, many times over and they are too busy working a shitload of hours at minimum wage just so they can be broke, and they don't have time to read real news and hear about real shit, not like JonBenet or Brangelina or crazy, crazy TomKat, but real, actual, I-can-completely-explain-what's-up-in-Lebanon real shit. Then I realized that people like Bush, people who have power, and whose friends have power and money, and who like their power and money, and do dumb shit that fuck the rest of us over on the daily, those people don't want the masses to be educated. Because then, the masses would realize how much they get fucked, and how there is no great and powerful Oz behind the curtain, and how if they realized, and weren't so numbed by entertainment, drugs both legal and illegal, sports, sex, and food, they might just raise up and start a revolution and dethrone their motherfucking asses like Britney's sad, sorry fall from grace. These are not my crazy rantings. Chomsky talks about it in Democracy and Education, where he rips PR a new asshole. These are the things I'd like to articulate to my students, but it's difficult to stress to my students without cursing, because it really riles me up. As a teacher, you feel like you are fighting a losing battle when you look at it that way. The truth hurts. You can see for yourself in how news is presented. Major news sources devote much more time to shit that doesn't matter. I could go on but you can just read Chomsky yourself. He's very conversational in tone, despite his brilliance.

Listen to Of Montreal. They are great. Also, the new Pete Yorn rocks and is streaming online at AOL.com. But turn the sound off before you go to AOL.com. The first album streaming is the new Jessica Simpson. And you don't want an earful of her latest single as you are waiting for PY to load. Trust me.


Long Time, No Post

Last week, a federal judge ruled that the NSA’s eavesdropping program was unconstitutional. Basically, after 9/11, the NSA started wiretapping people’s phones without court orders in the name of national security. White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said of the eavesdropping, "The program is carefully administered and targets only international phone calls coming into or out of the United States where one of the parties on the call is a suspected al Qaeda or affiliated terrorist. So, why can’t you get a court order. Anyhoo, US District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor ruled that the program violates the separation of powers doctrine, the Administrative Procedures Act, the First and Fourth Amendments, the FISA, and Title III. Bush is pissed and the government is appealing. What’s more fucked up: that so many people clearly want people’s (i.e. Muslims who aren’t white) civil rights violated in the name of “fighting terrorism” (sidebar: I HATE that phrase. Hate it. It’s like a free pass for whomever is saying it to be terrorists themselves. Deconstruct the word. Does it even mean what it really means anymore? All it does is freak people out. Yes, there are real “terrorists”, but it’s bullshit to claim we are fighting “terrorism” when we are subjective about who and what fits in that category.) OR that JonBenet Ramsey got WAY, WAY, WAY more media attention than this important ruling? As my friend Graham said (and I don’t quote, but paraphrase), “If JonBenet Ramsey’s name was Shaquitta Johnson, nobody would have ever given a fuck, especially ten years later.”

The St Louis School District, for about $20,000 has hired security for School Board President Veronica O’Brien. Ma’am? I’ve seen your house. Your pool is bigger than my entire property. Hire your own damn security if your words and deeds are getting your ass in trouble. If you want to read disturbing stuff, read the message boards at SLPS Watch (http://slswatch.pubdef.net/) (ironically run by Peter Downs) and see what parents and teachers have to say about SLPS. Those of us who are fortunate to teach in other places have no idea.

Finally, school has started and our newly-renovated building is awesome. I love the beginning of school because everyone is in such an enthusiastic mood.


First Day

I had to go back to work today. We had our annual Opening Day event, where every employee of the district gets together in one place and does one of two things: 1) go all out, make a costume, cheer like hell, and really have a lot of spirit or 2) sit in the back, furiously drink coffee because it's the only vice you have available to you, and make sarcastic comments about people who fit in category one. Suprisingly enough, I fit in the second category, although I did participate in a keeping-several-balloons-aloft contest that took second place. My boo A.I. kept me company, so it was cool.

Despite the dancing apples that were way, way, way too perky for day one for me, the day was awesome, namely because our school has been under construction for the last 14 months or so, and my floor is practically done, the gym is done, the library is almost done, and the second floor should be done by Monday when the kids come back. To go from a dark, disintegrating, dirty school to a bright, clean, high-functioning building is so amazing. I firmly believe it is going to make a huge difference in how our kids view themselves and their education. It's hard to work hard in school when raw sewage is dripping on your head or jackhammers are going full speed the next room over. My room was already pretty nice. I had AC when very few others had it, and most of my furniture was new. But I got new paint, new carpet, new furniture, and will be getting new computers. We're high rollers now. Take that, Parkway and Rockwood. Only we have way smaller classes. BOO YAH!

Moving along, I watched several awesome documentaries this weekend. Southern Comfort documents the last year in a FTM transsexual's life. Robert Eads, ironically, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer after his gender reassignment surgery. He lived in rural Georgia, where doctor after doctor refused to treat his cancer after they found out his former gender. His last year was spent with his girlfriend, who became his caretaker, who was a MTF transsexual. Eads battles his cancer so he can live for one last Southern Comfort conference, a convention for transsexuals in the South. The film gives great insight into the trans community, particularly in the South. I can't imagine being trans, let alone in the South, but these people live their lives with courage and pride.
I also watched Boys of Baraka. The Baltimore City Public Schools, in conjunction with the Abell Foundation, started a school in rural Kenya to combat the 76% dropout rate of African-American male students. Approximately 20 middle school-aged African-American boys were selected every year to attend the school for two years. The philosophy was that by pulling them out of horrible schools and horrible neighborhoods at this pivotal age, the students would enter high school with a better chance at graduation. When the American Embassy in Nairobi closes, the school has no choice but to close, ending the hopes of the boys in the program. The film follows four boys during their year at the school and after the school closes. By showing the boys' home lives and Baltimore City schools, I think the film highlights how little opportunity some children have and how much of a struggle it truly is just to survive.
I would recommend either doc.

Also, I would just like to point out that I love this season of Project Runway. I really do. But I realized that nothing this season, so far, has measured up to three highlights from Season Two:
1) the "Lighten Up, It's Just Fashion" medley
2) Santino impersonating Tim Gunn
3) Daniel Voscovic's quote-of-the-series, "It's a motherfucking walk-off!" I want a t-shirt that says that.


In Other Depressing News...

I just saw a commerical for shoes at Kohl's starring Cheyenne from that MTV reality show...and Pat Benetar.

Rock is dead.


Culture of Fear

One of the articles on the front page of the PD today highlights how the recent foiled bomb plot in Britain, the Lieberman/Lamont primary, and the upcoming 5-year anniversary of 9/11 are bringing the issue of national defense to the forefront. Two weeks ago, when asked (on Fox News, of course) if Americans have forgotten 9/11, Bush, I'm sure wearing his trademark shit-eating grin, replied that "it seems like a faded memory to some. I think a lot of Americans, though, understand the stakes of the world in which we live."

Sigh. Patronizing fuck.

I understand. I understand that you are neck-high in shit and don't know how to get out. I understand that you cannot admit that you were wrong and are wrong and thousands of Americans, and god knows how many other innocent civilians, died because of it. I understand that you now have to keep up this fucking war because if we were to wage peace, then we'd have to take a hard look at what's going on here at home, and that shit is depressing to the majority of Americans who aren't rich as fuck and getting huge tax breaks.

If the recent foiled bomb plot showed us anything, it's that the a war in Iraq is not what's stopping terrorism. Vigilant domestic security and investigations are. We have no clear exit strategy for Iraq. There doesn't seem to be any clear progress. Many would argue that our presence is actually antagonizing attacks. Lamont's defeat of longtime Democratic Party stalwart Lieberman, a defeat that was due almost wholly to Lamont's strong anti-war platform, shows the American public as a whole no longer supports the war. However, those who are spearheading this ridiculous campaign for "freedom" and "democracy" will point to what happened in Britain as a sign that we have to blow more shit up. Because if the American public is afraid, they will happily surrender their civil liberties, along with massive funding that could support the war here at home, and ignore other world citizens' safety, to keep the big, bad, terrorists out. And Bush just needs to produce more rousingly patriotic sound bites where he throws around empty terms such as "freedom" and "democracy", which mean nothing but sound great, to get the support of those who think that their backwater stomping grounds or suburban subdivision are next in line for a huge act of violence.


Thursday, Bush used the phrase "Islamic fascists" to describe our enemy in the war on terror. It's statements like these that make four out of ten Americans think that Muslims in America should have to carry a special ID. Why do I have the feeling that these are the same people who think that all blacks, Asians, and Latinos all look the same?

Many cult watchdog groups put out information that includes tips to identifying a cult. Questions to ask yourself about a group to identify whether or not they are a cult include:

*Do they put the demands of the group before family, school, and interests?
*Are they vague about what their beliefs are until you're in the group?
*Does the leader demand unquestioning agreement or obedience?
*Does the group feel that only they have spiritual truth and that all other groups and churches are wrong?

Scarier still are the early warning signs of fascism, written by Laurence Britt after studying facist regimes such as Nazi Germany, Mussolini's Italy, Francisco Franco's Spain, Antonio de Oliveira Salazar's Portugal, George Papadopoulous's (not the dad on Webster) Greece, Augusto Pinochet's Chile, and Mohamed Suharto's Indonesia. They include:

* powerful and continuing nationalism
* disdain for human rights
* identification of enemies as a unifying cause
* supremacy of the military
* rampant sexism
* controlled mass media
* obsession with national security
* religion and government entwined
* corporate power protected
* labor power supressed
* disdain for intellectuals and the arts
* obsession with crime and punishment
* rampant cronyism and corruption
* fraudulent elections

We should be afraid, but not because of foreign terrorists. I understand a lot more than you think, President Bush.


Hell Yeah!

Jeff Smith wins! I mean, he really wins!

The news coverage was not very extensive from about 7-9 when Chris and I were at home, nor did it improve for about an hour after we went to the results party for Jeff, since they were reporting only about 1% of the votes, with Jeff leading by only four votes. But when the results came, they came with a vengeance. When 97% of polls had reported Jeff with a commanding lead, cheers went up at the party on Lindell. When his win was assured, Jeff came down and spoke, and I was moved to tears. He ended his victory speech with "I'm gonna take it to Matt Blunt." You might not understand: after 2004's elections, which were such a bummer, and after the World Cup this summer, I needed to be in a group setting that had something to cheer about other than a lone goal by Dempsey against Ghana. To me, this is so much more significant, and I was so glad to be a part of the positive vibe of the Smith campaign. I think so many young, educated people are so completely disillusioned by the false nature of American politics, and for a candidate like Jeff to win, someone who isn't going to play the political game, someone who is going to build a grassroots campaign through face-to-face contact and strong, passionate rhetoric, this is a small step, but huge locally, for a return to true democracy. Mark my words, for the internet to document for eternity, Jeff Smith will be a force to reckon with in politics, both locally and nationally, in years to come.

I was excited to see two people I know, both a current and a former colleague, at the results party. It was nice to know that there are people I know who are as passionate about local progressive politics, particularly those that feel that you can be a progressive AND a Dem (and be successful, as Jeff showed tonight). Plus, it's always nice to have a colleague you won't worry about offending with offhand semi-political remarks. Chris and I, plus these two people, celebrated the win with a few cocktails and a great discussion about STL politics.


Let's Get It On

Rise and shine. Chris and I were at the South City Y on Sublette at 5:45AM this morning to work for Jeff Smith. At the Y from 6-10, there were three Jeff workers (me, Chris, and another kid), one Gambaro worker, Todd Patterson (Russ Carnahan's chief of staff), who was there for Carnahan, and Jim Frisella made an appearance. We were WAY more outgoing than the Gambaro worker, and I was surprised how receptive and friendly people were. Funny stories:
1) Gambaro himself walked up, and I was so used to approaching people that I said, "Excuse me, sir....oh, never mind" after I recognized his Phil Leotardo-looking ass. That exchanged cracked people up, but he just mean-mugged me. I don't give a fuck. I'd be crabby, too, if my poll worker was sitting on her ass.
2) A car pulled up, driven by an old lady, and another old lady got out. Chris offered her his chair while she waited for her friend to park the car. She declined, but said she was "tired from too much dancin' last night". When Chris asked her about Jeff, she said, "Hell yeah, I'm voting for Jeff!" and when he asked her if there was anything else he could help her out with, she said, "Maybe your phone number. Hey! That's my baby daddy, lady!
3)The manager of the Y yanked our sign (at the time, the only one present) out of the ground and was going to take it. Hell to the no. "The YMCA is not a political organization!" Uh, yeah, but it is a polling place, beeyotch. I just stood and held the sign. Found out later he also took down all the signs out on Sublette in front of the Y. Later, though, when Frisella, Gambaro, and Carnahan posted signs outside the Y, he passed without a word. Sign went back in the ground, although I think more people saw it when I was holding it.
4) My friend Michelle was working for Jeff over on Loughborough, and the Boykins worker (another 4th District State Senate Candidate) had a hired poll worker who was making $60. He actually said to Michelle "So what's the difference between the US Senate and the Missouri Senate?" For. Real.

By this time, I hope most of you have already voted, and voted for Jeff. We'll be watching the results, and heading to the results party for Jeff.



I'm currently watching an old episode of Cops, circa mullets being the norm. Which is awesome. Officer, how is it typing those reports on your typewriter? Does your mustache get in the way?

Saturday night was the first ever, hopefully semi-annual HomeMade Trivia at our house. We had seven teams, ten categories, and one champion, the Champagne of Trivia, who rode home victory after an amazing 20/20 score in "Monster Ballads". Our friend Paul was like fucking Rainman of 80's metal. It was one of the most unbelievable things I've ever seen. Dan, member of C.O.T., has an amazing illustrated recap on his blog. I highly recommend you check it out. Thanks to all who came and were drunk, fun, and most of all, respectful. Nobody broke shit and the cops didn't come, even though we were using a microphone outside at 11PM. I guess when you are a grown-up that's how your shit rolls. Categories for the night included: Cardinals Trivia, IMDB, Assassinations, Crappy Beer Taste Test, Quotes from Movies I Own, Monster Ballads, Very Special Episodes, Celebrity Arrests, South City Bars, and Scientologist or Just Nuts? Highlights included Paul's aforementioned performance, Standard Trivia's 10/10 in South City Bars, the elevation of the drunk factor after the Crappy Beer Taste Test, and my sister-in-law walking to my mother-in-laws at 2AM. Good times. Second edition will hopefully happen this fall, where will expand to at least 12 teams.

Now, the cops are searching through all this stolen merchandise at a crack house. The shoulder-pad encrusted designer dresses that are showcased makes me glad I was about eight at the time.

VOTE TOMORROW. I will be working the polls at the South City Y from 6AM-10AM. Stop by and vote for Jeff Smith, if that's your polling place. 4th District--your vote really matters. If you want a truly progressive candidate who is not playing the BS-laden political game, vote for Jeff. I'll give you a ride if you want one.


Rockin' Out

Last night we saw my beloved Ryan Adams at the Pageant. Several things went down that made it a great night. One, I knew the night would be better than usual when we got a parking space RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE PAGEANT. There was a line of like seventy people who just watched us pull up VIP style. Props to Rev Em, who spotted what we would have passed because there's no way normal people get this kind of parking.

So before the show, Rev Em, Chris, Susan and I went to PinUpBowl to have some drinks before the show, and who should walk by but Brian Dunn, former local celebrity in K-Ville as a sportscaster for KTVO News. We used to give this guy shit like no one's business. Once, Emily showed up at a party at her own house, wasted from going to a frat formal with an awkward date, to find this guy in the kitchen, the sight of which prompted her to ask, "How many local sportscasters can you fit in a kitchen anyway?" Which was awesome. So of course, we stalked him down the street and into the Pageant, where, after greeting Beth (the puker from Bob Schneider, who wasn't puking) yelled "BRIAN DUNN!!!" then ran upstairs. I love acting like a twelve-year-old.

On to the show. Setlist is as follows:

Peaceful Valley
Please Do Not Let Me Go
Dear Chicago
What Sin
A Kiss Before I Go
To Be Young
The End
Shakedown on 9th Street
Franklin's Tower
I See Monsters
Stella Blue
Beautiful Sorta
Lost Satellite
Dear John
Magnolia Mountain
Cold Roses
Bartering LInes
Madonna, Sean and Me

It was a rock show, for sure, depite the fact that he played with the Cardinals. It reminded me of Wilco, a band whose roots are alt-country but have gone rock with distortion in recent years. My favorites were Shakedown, Please Do Not Let Me Go, Beautiful Sorta, and To Be Young. Those were the songs (except for PDNLMG) that made me wish I was on the floor rockin' out. Every song just had a rock edge to it. I didn't expect like it as much as I did, because I really love Ryan's acoustic, naked, raw sounds, but this was just what I was in the mood for. Who can pull off covering Sonic Youth, the Dead, and Gram Parsons in one set? Ryan Adams, THAT'S WHO!

The best part of the show was Adams onstage persona. The last time I saw him, he really was a dick. Like he was so put out that he had to perform and fans just gave him angst. He has a reputation for acting as such. This time, he was, dare I say, affable? He chatted with the Cardinals, gave props to STL and the audience, and honored the STL scene by commenting "I love this place. So many fucking good bands come from here." Hell yeah. He also had on red sparkly heeled boots and said that he can't stop smelling like an onion factory. Oh. He played until 11:45, which apparently the Pageant didn't like, because they turned the lights on during his last song. Ouch. The last time I was at a show where that happened was 1994, and my principal pulled the plug on Local H at the middle school gym. LAME.

Anyway, I hope the show silenced the haters who think Adams is pure egotistical asshattedness, because I think he really showed his talent, versatility, and an actual likable personality. It's rumored that he's releasing three new discs in the next year. I will buy every one.

After the rockout, I had to get up hella early and spend the day with my StuCo, so I'm a little tired. I must watch Carrie and Austin do it on Days and then take a nap. Will Sami and Lucas walk in on them? I FUCKING HOPE SO!


I think it would be awesome if Oprah interviewed Jason Mewes.

Score one for clerks everywhere.

The City Council of Chicago last week overwhelmingly passed a measure that requires "big box" retailers to pay their employees a minimum of $10/hour plus $3/hour in benefits by mid 2010. This is fucking awesome. Mayor Daley, who didn't support the measure, couldn't veto the ordinance because it received enough votes that made it veto-proof.

Basically, this affects all retail stores having more than 90,000 square feet or over one billion dollars in annual sales, and it was targeted at Target and Wal-Mart. Daley and those who are against the ordinance claim that the ordinance will prevent those businesses from developing in Chicago, losing jobs, and effectively worsening the economy. To this, I call bullshit on several levels:

1) As long as there is money to be made, I doubt Wal-Mart/Target/Best Buy/BBB will stay out of the entire city of Chicago. The city council is calling their bluff.

2) Even if those businesses don't come and don't produce jobs, that doesn't mean that no development will happen. Other businesses can and will still choose to open in Chicago.

3) To say that a city would rather have shitty jobs with low pay if the alternative is no jobs is like saying you can only choose "bad" or "worse". There's no room for a positive viable alternative? A living wage with benefits will pull people and families out of poverty, which IS A GOOD THING. Duh.

4) As far as hurting the economy, having more money in your citizens's pockets can only help your economy.

This is such a step in the right direction for Chicago and other groups around the US, including St Louis, who are trying to increase minimum wage. I ain't even trying to hear what big boxes are saying in response unless it's positive, because you know the fat cats who would make the statement make in one day what people who work full-time in their stores make in a fucking year. Those who oppose increasing minimum wage are just trying to keep the people down, man, I swear. Greed, greed, greed. I'm tired of that shit.

Speaking of Chicago, Oprah today is a rerun about the crisis in public education in America, and how Bill and Melinda Gates are pouring all this money into school. Props to them. Props to Oprah for at least broaching the subject, because she's right, but I have one question: why are you not talking about the government's role in all this? Come on, now. I know you aren't going to blame teachers, because we are overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated. You won't blame parents, because some parents do their job, and the ones that don't are assholes who never will. Oprah, you've got a bajillion votes who watch you religiously. Give them a call to action. Bring in some educational policy experts to talk about what school districts must do to succeed and how parents and voters can help achieve that. Don't dumb shit down with empty rhetoric.

Okay, enough about that shit. I'm going to Ryan Adams tomorrow night! Good thing we're in the balcony, because any day now I expect that motherfucker to piss or puke on the front row during one of his shows. Any day.


Come on in. It's hot as hell.

It all started because we got rid of cable. Well, I should say we got rid of cable so we could be more active and productive members of our community. And because I was a slave to the box, a downright addict, and cold turkey was my detox of choice, mostly because I don’t think they have a methadone-type solution for those of us jonesin’ for “My Super Sweet 16” reruns. As much as I bitch about what’s going on in the world, I sure as hell wasn’t doing much to change it, and TV wasn’t helping. Without my weekly television watching, I knew I’d have more time for reading, volunteering, and activism.

So we started working on the Jeff Smith campaign, as many of you know. And, although it technically involves The Box, we started watching a shitload of political documentaries thanks to Netflix. If there are two things that will stir a person to become a more active participant in democracy, it’s hearing Jeff Smith and Howard Zinn speak. Jeff Smith, because he is trying to make it in politics without compromising his values or playing the political game, and Howard Zinn, because he has been an activist and grassroots organizer for true democracy his entire life and has facilitated people changing the world.

(Just wait, I swear I’m making a cohesive statement)

Among other things, I realized that so many of my intelligent, articulate friends have no idea what the fuck is going on in the world. Noam Chomsky says that the government and those in power want it that way, and they’re doing a damn fine job. Around the time I’m having this epiphany, my MySpace blog reached 1,000 hits. Granted, that’s the same 50 people who have ever read my blog, but 50 people is 50 people . And y’all will read about my boring-ass social life. If I have something real, something of substance to say, I would hope you would read that, too. You’re here aren’t you?

So here’s the deal—new blog. Same sarcasm. Same funny stories from South City. Same pop culture recommendations and commentary. If Paris Hilton shows her cooch, I’m finna’ say somethin’. But more politics and social commentary, in plain, hopefully interesting, hopefully funny, language. No student stories, unless relevant to a point I’m making, because I refuse to be censored and I’m not going to give anyone a reason to try. If you like it, keep reading. Forward my URL to your friends. Hopefully we’ll start some conversations, open some eyes, and call people to action. I ain’t Carrie Bradshaw and I’m not Arianna Huffington. I’m just the same shit-talking, opinionated-as-hell, voracious-information-seeker representing Iowa that I’ve always been, but now I’ve got a more-focused purpose. This is just one small piece of what I’m going to do to try to change what’s goin’ on. And if I’m wrong, call me on it. I don’t claim to have all the answers, unless it’s the World Series of Pop Culture, in which case, step off.

Holla back.