At Chris's request, I took down a picture of him and Asher because "you are projecting an image of, fucking, I mean, it's not a real thing, man. The picture creates more than you create, man."

2007 Year in Review

I thought I'd have hella time to blog over this break, but it was actually a fairly stressful break, what with eight thousand different family things in two different states. I'm taking some time today while Chris is grading 40 more shitty 10th grade research papers. Here's three lists about 2007, because apparently lists are all anyone can muster at the end of the year.

7 Awesome Events of 2007 (in no particular order)

Friends moving to STL--Good pals Banter and his Ball & Chain moved back to St Louis after an alleged stint in law school, and K-Vav moved back to the 'Lou after lighting up the lives of Bay City rollers. River City didn't even see it coming.

Starting school again
--Starting the Leadership program at UST has been totally enlightening and I love being back working out my gray matter. The fat stack of books I have to read in the next month is daunting and exciting all at the same time, and the relationships I'm building within my cohort have been invaluable.

New writing opportunities
--Green Options has gotten me back in the swing of regular writing, meeting deadlines, and a little extra income. Plus some clippings. I am a big timer, I guess. Just kidding. This little blog right here is my outlet and venting space and I thank all three of you for faithfully reading.

Concerts, concerts, concerts--We saw Ryan Adams & The Cardinals, Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, John Butler Trio, State Radio, Lucero, The Decemberists, The Shins, The Flaming Lips, and Guster. We also went to Wakarusa and saw Ben Harper, John Butler Trio, Widespread Panic, Son Volt, and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, among others. Which reminds me, I need to write my concert manners manifesto, cause some of you fools are out of your damn mind at shows.

Backpacking trip to the Appalachian Trail
--Well, the first five days or so, before it got hot, insanely rainy, and buggy.

Good times with good friends--Trip to Chicago for the World Series of Pop Culture, Team Awesome (during the non-dysfunctional times), going to Minnesota with Molly Markham and Abby, various jaunts to South City holes to drink lots of beer and sing 80s hits.

Going to the Iowa State Fair--fried cheese curds, cold beer mullets, farmers, political candidates, and hog balls bigger than your head. Good times, good times.

7 Things I'm Thankful For Right This Minute

Grandma's Kringla--you know, those cakey, pretzel-shaped things my grandma (Hi, Grandma!) makes and I give you, if you are lucky, around Thanksgiving and Christmas because we can't eat them all. She makes like 120 dozen every year. No joke. Seriously, the lady can bake a mean Norwegian pastry.

This cookbook, which is allowing me to make orange pudding cupcakes that currently smell delicious as they cool and will go to Meghan and Paul's Second Annual New Year's Eve bash tonight.

Left Bank Books (the one in STL, although I've been to the unrelated one in Seattle, which is also fucking rules. I could spend hours and hours and thousands and thousands perusing their shelves and expanding our home library.

My new Holga camera. Pictures to follow after I get them developed at Ye Olde Creve Couer Camera. Remember the days before the instant gratification of digital?

This totally awesome Golden Smog album

Dexter and Friday Night Lights, both totally awesome shows whose Season Ones I'm about to finish. Damn! Y'all should watch both, because they are totally well-written and entertaining and feature decent acting. Also, I'm sure you'll get an outstanding recommendation from Chris's 8-year-old cousin, who informed us at Christmas that he loves Dexter. Me-"You mean Dexter's Laboratory?" Him-"No, Dexter the serial killer."

These guys:

So, that's my end of year list. You do not suck at all.


Mash Up

Here's an interesting website with several mashups of different artists. I particularly like the "Let's Get It On" mixed with "Northern Sky".


I have to read a chemistry test to a kid. D'oh.

Happy Thursday

I'm enjoying a finals-week Thursday with no finals! Nothing to do all day except Advisory. Right now, I'm reading the paper, drinking some coffee and Naked juice (not together) and listening to the 20 best covers of the year, according to Silly Pipe Dreams. Right now, I'm listening to Beth Ditto and Gossip belt out a local favorite, "Careless Whispers". Not as good as a certain money-grubbing karaoke star, but a good way to start the morning. Oooh, now it's Lily Allen covering "Don't Get Me Wrong" by the Pretenders. Check out the list, which I found via my shining pop culture star, Whitney at Pop Candy

I know you're as anxious for the weekend (and holidays) to get here as I am and you have no interest in doing any real work. So why not follow my blogging all day from your cube? That way, you'll have a reason to refresh.


Lush, Oh Lush

Dear God, I love Lush.

I am not a fragrance type of person. I wore Clinique Happy in high school for about six seconds. Get grossed out when my students spray any type of body spray, particularly Axe, anywhere at any time. The smell of CKone reminds me of ninth grade, and not in a good way. My favorite body fragrances are soap and fabric softener.

But when I lived in Germany, Caroline and I visited a Lush store, and I fell in love with Potion Lotion which smells like spicy carnations. I bought more in Venice, then persuaded my mom to buy me more online from Lush's only US store in Seattle.

I go to the mall maybe two, three times a year if I can help it. But last year, Chris and I happened to be at the Galleria and I saw the Holy Grail: COMING SOON: LUSH. Uncharacteristically, I literally let out a squeal of joy (much like when Chris bought me TiVo and I knew he was the one) and hurried back soon after it opened, only to find that Potion Lotion had been discontinued. I used a few of their other products sporadically, but because I hate going to the mall, I quit, disappointed with the too-soon demise of my favorite skin elixer.

Chris and I went to the Galleria this weekend to see the Golden Compass, and visited Lush for gifts. I fell in love all over again, because they reintroduced Potion as a solid fragrance, a tiny pot of wax to rub on my wrists and then sniff uncontrollably throughout the day. What's even better about Lush is that they are super eco. All of their paper products (catalogs, paper bags, and cardboard boxes) are made from recycled paper. The plastic bags they use to package many of their products are biodegradable, and many of their products are unwrapped, which saves fuel on shipping. All of their products are handmade and vegetarian, many are vegan, they use fair trade products whenever possible, never test on animals and all smell like heaven. Chris even bought me Charity Pot, a pot of lovely-smelling lotion. 100% of the cost of Charity Pot goes to a number of charities, many environmental.

Although they are pricey (be prepared), Lush provides a luxurious ethical choice and I will heart it forever. Go there and make your lady friend's heart swoon.



1) Why is this an article?

2) Why is it on the front page of Yahoo?

Anyone who disagrees that we're devolving seriously underestimates the stupidity of contemporary American society.



When Jeopardy returns from commercial break and Trebek interviews the contestants, do you think the producers ask the contestants to come up with the most mundane, boring, irrelevant story about themselves? That, or Jeopardy only allows contestants with painfully trivial lives. No pun intended. Trebek just interviewed someone about how they ate a spoonful of salt for a dollar. That was the best you could come up with?


Of Note

You may have a case of the Mondays when you're dreaming all night of hearing your landline ring in the wee hours of the morning, hoping to pick up and hear the slight pause of the automated message and then the voice telling you that school has indeed been canceled due to the ice storm, but no such luck, yet you still manage to completely bust your ass on the icy front steps, sending your belongings flying willy-nilly and giving you what can only be a fat fucking bruise on your right butt cheek.

I went to Minneapolis this weekend, which was good, except my flight home was delayed almost three hours and I didn't get home until after midnight, when my flight normally gets in around 9:30. There was some mechanical delay that hurt the three flights before us. So I'm in the dead-as-hell Minneapolis-St Paul airport with the seven other people taking the flight to St Louis, two of whom are priests. One priest, no joke, slept the entire time we were at the gate, sitting up, snoring harder than my Grandma Best (seriously, lady could saw some logs). I can hear it even while listening to This American Life on my iPod. So we finally have our flight, full of turbulence to the point where I think we might crash, but land safely in St Louis. I'm waiting just off the plane where the airline people bring your valet bags (carryons that won't fit in the overhead compartment). Some dude is waiting there. When the priests get off, he grabs their bags, says, "Hello, Friar. Hello, Archbishop. Welcome back to St Louis." Then they walk off the gangway right onto the tarmac, get into a chauffered SUV, and take off, right from the tarmac. Freakin' Burke was the snoring priest!

Reverend Emily says I should have asked him what he thought of the Golden Compass.



For those of you at Meghan's on Saturday night who thought I made up the Christmas movie I was talking about, you can suck it.


Very Awesome Conversation

Here is a verbatim conversation I had with a student today in Creative Writing.

Me, "Student, you got a job?"

Student, "Yeah, I work as a night janitor at a laundromat."

Me, "Sounds like there might be some interesting writing to come out of that."

Student, "Yeah, actually it's pretty boring. Nothing happens, except one time I found a douchebag behind a toilet."


T-Day WrapUp

We had a whirlwind tour of the Midwest over the past week, which meant that our vacation wasn't really a vacation: we were in the car most of the time and tired when we weren't in the car.

The holiday started with a long trip to KC to see one of my favorite bands, the John Butler Trio, play at Harrah's. Despite the facts that:

1) Kansas City sucks,
2) Kansas City suburbs have to suck harder,
3) Casinos are pathetic and depressing,

it was well worth the trip. We went with our friends the Keeters, who stayed with family, and Chris and I got a nondescript hotel room by Worlds of Fun. We ended up eating "Mexican" food at a restaurant that Mr. Keeter found via Yahoo. One would think that Mexican food would mean the ubiquitous white cheese dip/combo platter with rice and beans and that this was a risk-free choice of dining establishment. Um, no. One, Cheez Whiz. No joke. Bright orange slathered all over the Ponderosa-style plates (wood tray with metal insert). Beer served in cans. Hostess with arm hair that would rival Chewbacca's. Waitress that sounded (and laughed obnoxiously) like the Nanny. Interior decor reminiscent of a late 70s/early 80s roadside diner. Disgusting. We had a good laugh, figuring it was a fitting prequel to a casino concert. The show, however, was well worth the trip. We were in the front row. We actually were in the front row when we saw JBT at Wakarusa, but the front row there was separated from the stage by the VIP section and the press area. We were like five feet from John Butler. The venue was really nice. It'd be a good place to see a show that you were merely curious about, not fanatic about, because there were several lounge-like areas that looked . Setlist was awesome. One pleasant surprise was the concert t-shirts. While still the overpriced $25, the shirt were organic cotton Alternative Apparel with the perfect amount of stretchiness. So if you see me wearing a JBT t-shirt everywhere I go, shut up, because it's a damn fine shirt.
Watch John Butler playing "Ocean", the song that first turned me on to the band here

We then drove from KC to North English, Iowa to see my grandma and have Thanksgiving dinner, then drove back to Des Moines, where I hung out with my family until Saturday morning. I had a good time with my family. I ate Tasty Tacos, which is like the food of my youth. I've been eating there since I was in 7th grade. There was one a block away from my middle school on East Euclid, and we had this friend, Jenny Chung, whose parents owned a Chinese restaurant and always had pocket money and bought us food. I've been eating a corn taco, chili and chips, and a buenelo for fifteen fucking years. When I moved, we used to eat there when we had block lunch in high school, at the one on Douglas. When I was in college, they finally opened one in Urbandale, which is where I went on Friday with my parents and Chris. I think you've got to be born and raised in Des Moines to know what I am talking about, but this shit is from the gods. Nada es imposible, even for a gringa like me.

I had a good time hanging out with my brothers and their friends on Friday night, where vehement discussion of both religion and politics took place, as always, but the night ended in very chill fashion and I got to meet my brother's awesome new girlfriend. All in all, a very good trip to Des Moines, even if my boys weren't in town (Love ya! Mean it! Call me!)


Shout Out

Weeds fans know the Season 3 finale just aired, and it was really awesome--great writing, great acting, and great music. I was so pumped to hear our faves State Radio playing one of my favorite songs of theirs, "Keepsake", during a climactic scene near the end. If I do say so myself, it was pretty perfect for the scene.

Here's video of Chad and the boys playing "Keepsake" live:

And, just for fun, Dispatch performing "Elias" live at Madison Square Gardens at the concert for Zimbabwe this summer. It makes me thankful.

Off to John Butler Trio in KC and then home to Iowa to see my family. Eat Tofurky! Or Quorn Roast.


Student Quotes

Two doozies today.

One, from a recent graduate who is now a cadet at the Citadel:

"I joined the Republican Club, so I could, you know, improve appearances."

Two, overheard in my AM1 class:

"Master P better not come out with another CD. If he tries, I'm going to send him an e-mail and tell him he's expired."


Wolfman's Got Nads

Here's an awesome interview with Jason Schwartzman about movies he loves. Dude drops Monster Squad and The Peanut Butter Solution in one conversation.


Cheap or Free Ways to Go Green

To counter those who think that we're going to buy our way into oil independence or energy efficiency (think $5000 eco couches or $300 organic cotton sweaters), I give you 35 low-cost ways to green up your life.


On being PC.

I've avoided writing about a certain popular local blog for a long time, mainly because I'm conflicted about my feelings on the author herself. On one hand, the author's writing voice is very similar to mine, she knows a lot about pop culture, has good taste in music, and is quite articulate and engaging. On the other hand, we have completely opposite viewpoints when it comes to most politics and social issues, and the more radicalized I become, the more I see how this author embodies how white middle-class citizens are perpetuating many of the problems with our country by their scathing rejection of anything that isn't the status quo. Plus, a zillion people read her blog and five people read my blog, and one is my grandma in Ames, Iowa (Hi, Grandma!). The writer in question made a passing stereotypical remark implying that Jews are cheap, and when a person on her boards called her on it, she (and other readers of her board) were up in arms about the PC Nazis. This prompted her to articulate her disdain for political correctness. This, in turn, got me thinking about why being politically correct is important.

Let me preface what I'm about to say with an acknowledgment of the value of freedom of speech. We, as Americans, have the freedom to say and write whatever we want. I do have a problem when those words begin to be hate speech urging hate action, but I will vigorously defend your right to disagree with me. The minute that is gone, we've devolved. In fact, I wish more people would exercise said right.

That being said, there are groups of people who have been marginalized, who have been denied their freedoms and opportunities because of a group they belong to, whether that be based on class, gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual identification. Those groups have specific derogatory stereotypes attached to them. When those people who are members of the majority use stereotyping language in reference to marginalized groups, it categorizes people and facilitates a community where marginalized members are not seen as individuals.

By voicing objection to stereotyping language, I am trying make people think about how they describe others and how they think about people who are not like themselves. When you have to refer to people based on their own individual merit rather than their membership in a group, it's a lot harder to discriminate against said person. It's a lot easier to hate "them" as opposed to "you".

So, when I say that I want to base my opinions of people on their own actions, rather than their membership in a certain group, that includes not using stereotyping language. And if I don't voice my concern when I see people using derogatory stereotypes, to me, that indicates that I am fine with their perpetuation of marginalization, which I am not. I encounter this all the time with my kids, who can't seem to go a day without saying, "That's so gay," when they really mean "stupid", or "frustrating", or "unreasonable", not "men who are attracted to other men", and I call them on it. Every. Single. Time. To me, it's the equivalent of lazy writing. Describe what you mean. Don't rely on ignorant stereotypes to do it for you.

People have every right to not be PC. But it makes them sound awfully ignorant. What harm comes from being sensitive to the struggles of groups to be recognized as individuals? What harm comes from acknowledging people as individuals whose individual traits come from who they are as a person and not demographic groups to which they belong? I know black people who don't like chicken. I know women who could knock the shit out of any man. I know strong men who cry. I know hoosiers from the city and sophisticates from the country. I know gay conservatives and churchgoing members Allies. They're just people. And I know that the tiny bit of effort that it takes to be considerate of how I refer to people is one demonstration of my own attempt to perpetuate compassion and inclusion and show my refusal to perpetuate the status quo of exclusion and discrimination that plagues our world to this day. I don't want to live in a world like that. I don't want my kids (biological or students) to live in a world like that.

So yes, I nitpick when it comes to offensive language, because it's something I firmly believe in. I ain't on some liberal bandwagon. Bitch, I drive the liberal bandwagon. Don't get me started on NBC's "Green Week".

Nothing like some light banter on a Friday afternoon, eh?

Charter Schools in St Louis

Mayor Slay announced that he wants to revitalize schools in the city by adding new charters schools at the rate of 2-3 per year. He says that the city is really changing, and the last piece of the puzzle keeping people from staying in the city is having high-quality public schools. But he wants those schools to be charter schools.

I'm conflicted about this. We're committed to city living and we would love to be able to send our kids to a high-quality, diverse neighborhood public school. I also think there are examples of highly successful charter schools out there--Minnesota was the first state to have a charter school and they've had success with many different niche schools and models. They do provide an alternative to failing schools for people who want their kids in public school. They also allow for specialized focuses, such as languages, math & science, entrepreneurship, that might not be offered at traditional public schools.

But I worry that this is the right thing for St Louis. With the mayor himself advocating for a complete alternative to the SLPS, which Slay himself has had a hand in driving into the ground, I wonder if other city leaders have completely abandoned SLPS and any hope for the future. It seems that if the mayor is putting his efforts in education in a completely different directions, he won't really be focused on revitalizing SLPS. To me, it's a copout and it's completely irresponsible, and those students who have no choice but to go to SLPS will receive an even poorer education. Even Rick Sullivan, the Blunt-appointed CEO of the SLPS transitional school board, does not agree with Slay. Is Slay upset that the candidates he backed for school board completely screwed things up? I also see this as potentially marginalizing for those students who won't be accepted at charter schools. I would hate for the city of St Louis to condemn children to a poor education because of the mistakes of their parents, or because they haven't had success in the shitty school they've had to attend their whole lives.

On the other hand, charter schools aren't taking money away from SLPS, but they might be taking away other resources. And I don't really agree with public schools being operated by for-profit corporations. I think a socially-just way to create charter schools, and help improve the SLPS, would be to create charter schools targeted at the hardest-to-reach students, those who need the most help. That way, they'd be getting the high-quality, committed educators that Slay referenced in his interview with the Post Dispatch, they'd be getting the extra attention, and SLPS could focus on using the resources they have to teach their students who already have experienced success in the classroom. If you take the students with behavioral problems out of the classroom, teachers have more time to teach and don't have to focus on classroom management. If you take the kids with serious academic issues out of the traditional classroom and give them more individual attention, they will have a better chance of catching up and graduating.


That's What She Said

This is an actual quote about organizational (read: business) leadership and decision-making from the book I have to read for class.

"A more fully developed decision-making perspective would balance and integrate left and right brain capacities. Simon himself has taken important steps in this direction, recognizing how left and right brain capacities are intertwined, rather than being polar opposites, and how much of what passes as nonlogical, intuitive judgement can be understood as the result of complex information processing skills based on patter recognition rather than formal logic and analysis. The theory is that intuitive managers learn to recognize clusters or chunks of information and act accordingly. While their behavior often seems nonrational, in that the managers concerned are unable to give formal accounts or justification of why a particular decision has been made, implicit analytical processes are involved."

This is why people like Michael Scott do actually exist and succeed in the business world.

From Images of Organization by Gareth Morgan.

Thursday Sucks.

You needed this to get you through the day.


Working For The Weekend...

I've got a review coming out on Green Options tomorrow about the new doc King Corn. It's about industrial agriculture, specifically corn, in the US. I promise I didn't think it was cool because I'm from Iowa. If you liked Supersize Me, you would like King Corn. It comes out in December 7th in St Louis, at the Tivoli, and is already out in several major cities. I got a screener copy, because I'm big timer like that. Anyway, check out my review Saturday.

I'm about to go pick up the new Ryan Adams EP then hopefully have some beers after a long week.

Awesome Student Quote

"Actually, I've done some research on grind trains. They're a lot more dangerous than one would think."

One of my students said this in regards to the homecoming dance.



...from parent/teacher conferences. Ugh. Hopefully it will be peaceful with little confrontation. Several of my students earned Fs this quarter.

Where have I been. Mostly rocking out. Went to State Radio at the Bluebird last week (which is not the greatest venue--it's pretty much not as nice as the bar in my grandparents basement, and they opened the doors 20 minutes late while it was pouring rain, leaving many diehard State Radio fans soaked for the show). The show was phenomenal, though. Ask the 150 18-year olds who were there. Last night caught Amos Lee, Elvis Costello, and Bob Dylan at the Fox. I forgot how much of a treat it is to see a show at the Fox. It's so majestic and beautiful. Amos Lee was a new artist for me, and I'll definitely look into his discography, and Elvis Costello was awesome. He was totally high-energy and chatty with the crowd. Dylan was Dylan. He's old and his voice is gone, so he sing-talks, which is fine for his newer stuff that was written for the rasp, but not fine for older stuff. Dylan and Costello did a great duet during Dylan's encore, but honestly, both Chris and I could hardly stay awake during the final set.

Speaking of rocking out, spent a raucous Saturday playing kickball, then partying until last call in full-on kickball regalia, which, for the uninitiated, meant I was wearing a camo t-shirt with neon orange "Awesome Kickball" all through South City. Did you know they sell $1 jello shots at the Double D Lounge on Hampton (not to be confused with the Double D Lounge in Brentwood)? They are, but avoid the tequila ones at all cost. There was raving to Daft Punk, there was South Park pinball, there was drunk Sister Ginny and Cuz Cuz Julie (don't ask), there was bikes and Ali Baba karaoke. As a tribute to Ed Best, I sang Brandy by Looking Glass in a very weird drag queen voice. Who knew? That's what you get when you drink for ten hours. Just ask Banter who passed out on Krchma's porch. Followed that up with a hungover Sunday brunch at Koko, which was very cliched in the Sex and the City sense, but delicious all the same.

This weekend: kickball, bike-riding, costumes, brunch, ShaNaNaNa....


Not-So-Secret Message

Hi, Missy. I miss you. No pun intended.


Hoo Boy!

Tuesday's Green Options post (which I thought was actually pretty simple and not full of anything new or particularly clever) ended up on the front page of Digg today, which attracts all the trolls who think that attempting to do things that are less harmful to the environment means you are hippie scum that deserve to die. To think that I had the audacity to suggest handing out something other than candy or using a cloth bag to hold trick-or-treating goodies! When people are mean about shit like this, I really just want to tell them to suck it and not to waste so much time reading articles from Digg that they clearly have no interest in. Seriously, really? You have nothing better to do than read posts about trick-or-treating from a relatively obscure website about sustainable living when you hate sustainable living? That would be like me getting on a blog about Mac shit written by some dude in Ohio and talking shit about said dude's opinion of Apple's repercussions for those who unlocked their iPhone. Lame. But that's just me. Keep hatin'. It brings traffic to the site, sucka.

Like I said in my response, it's amazing to me that for all the things people feel a call to action for in this country, all the stuff that we have to be outraged about, my post on TRICK-OR-TREATING raised hell. Wait until I post pictures of my "slutty Jesus" Halloween costume.

Gotta go. I gotta read about Nelson Mandela being in prison for 25 years for nothing.


Hills Confessional

I have a confession to make: I secretly love MTV's The Hills.

I know, I know. Why would I watch something so obviously staged, so vapid, so clearly against almost everything I know to be true? I KNOW!

But I can't stop. I watch it on my laptop because MTV is so kind and generous to post entire episodes online for free. Like free samples of crack for the cheeldren.

What is it about this show? It is Spencer, the douchiest douche that ever douched, and Heidi, a person whose sole ambition in life is to be a manufactured piece of famous poo, and their fake, so-desperately-Newlyweds-bastard-wannabe showmance? The fact that she parades her new foobs around in "candid" "paparazzi" photos of her and Spencer candidly! chillin! on the beach. We're so famous, we just can't escape the cameras! That she's trying to parlay her ex-friend's reality television success into a pop career, complete with shitty, shitty lip-synching debut in a club while her boo raises the roof behind her. What about her PR job that she's so "passionate" about? What about her famewhore boss who promoted her strictly because she's on an MTV show, not because she's competent at anything, and she didn't expect her coworkers to mind. Hell no!

Yes, I read Perez. Yes, I read Pink is the New Blog. I also save kids every day, so suck it. I will read my gossip shamelessly right before I read Mandela and right after I finish my fat paper.

Or could it be Audrina? There's just something about her vacant eyes, her substance-free conversations where her chief contribution is to nod and agree or say, "I know, right?" What about her on-again, off-again romance with the mysterious Justin-Bobby? I bet those two have some deep conversations. Dude's name is Justin-Bobby. For real? Who would have thought there would be two dudes more fucking lame than K-Fed in one half-hour reality show? Certainly not I!

I don't really mind Lauren. I don't. Sweet life for her: born into wealth, randomly cast on some "reality" show that ends up making her hella famous. She's still working, even if it's at an internship, so good for her. But she hangs out with all these fools, so something must be wrong with her. Maybe she just likes hanging out with stupid people. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed D-lister is king.

But I do like Lo. I love me some Lo. And I love Whitney, who seems like an actual real person. And maybe what I like about The Hills is I will never feel bad for talking shit about it. Ever. Because vapid famewhore deserve all the schadenfreude they can get, and since I can't call the ten-year-olds on Kid Nation tools without feeling bad, and those famewhores are making mo' money and having mo' fun that I get to, just for being worthless, I will bring the snark.

Pop Culture Tuesday

My paper in in the mail, and I am happy to be rid of it. I was so far down the rabbit hole that I don't even know if it was good, but it was 34 pages long so I hope I at least pass or at least half of the class did worse than me.

Now, I'm focusing on reading several books and catching up with what's going on in the world. For school, I'm still reading The Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela's autobiography. This is a phenomenal book--he's a clear, concise, and engaging writer, and the insight into South African history, something I haven't really studies, is totally fascinating. It really makes me realize how ethnocentric all my social studies education was, except for this cool teacher I had in 9th grade who showed us slide of him going an staying with Masai. I'm also reading some technical books about research,which aren't as boring as one might think. Learning about how survey research is done allows me to analyze polls and articles about research that are in magazines or the paper to see if their results are credible. I swear, it's not as nerdy as one would think. The final book I'm reading is a review copy of The Future of Nature, a collection of essays about the natural world and humanity's relationship with it. I'm very excited about this book, because 1) I love getting advance copies in the mail--it makes me feel like a big time reviewer or something and 2)there are some big names who contributed to the book: Wendell Berry, Bill McKibben, to drop a few. I'm aiming to review it on Saturday for Green Options.

Chris and I have been listening to a ton of new discs since we went to Euclid Records for his birthday to pick up some stuff, and we stopped at Vintage Vinyl yesterday while we were in the Loop. The new State Radio, Year of the Crow came in the mail today--I haven't had a chance to listen to it fully yet (although I'm listening to it right now), but it seems like typical SR--political lyrics with ska and punk overtones, with a little reggae every now and again. They're playing at the Bluebird on Olive on October 17. You should go.

I also got the new Iron and Wine, The Shepard's Dog, which has the shhhh vocals of every other Iron and Wine but is more uptempo and has more energy; this is not a record of lullabies. I highly recommend it, particularly if you are a fan of his other work. I took a minor gamble on two new-to-me bands: Architecture in Helsinki and their latest Places Like This, and Northern State, with their latests Can I Keep This Pen? I found out about Architecture in Helsinki from one of my trusted new-music sources, Paste Magazine, and their single, the primal "Heart It Races" caught my ear. I'm not going to lie: this is different than anything else I usually listen to, but it's growing on me. It kind of reminds me of Polyphonic Spree. They're playing all kinds of random instruments like xylophones and glockenspiels, lots of handclaps,etc. Northern State can be summed up in just a few words: white girl rap. Love it. Ad Rock from the Beastie Boys produced two of the tracks, and the lyrics are hilarious. I heard about them from a Pop Candy podcast where Whitney Matheson interviewed Hesta Prynn from the group. Whitney is my guru for all things pop, and as of last night when I got the disc, Northern State has not disappointed.

Finally, if you are in the market for a bike, but aren't really sure how to go about getting a good one that fits your needs, I highly recommend checking out Paul at Recycled Cycles. Dude runs a bike shop out of his house in UCity, and Chris just bought a practically new bike from him last night. He knows what he is talking about, and can help you find what you need. I e-mailed him last week with what Chris was looking for and our price range, and by the weekend he had something for me that is going to work out. Check out his website to find out more. Used bikes can be a great deal, since a lot of people buy new bikes, hardly ride them, then sell them. Chris is getting a Kona that has been ridden about four times, and we're going to save about $200 by buying it from Paul.


Flaming Lips at the Pageant.

Hooray! I'm on the last stretch for my lit review. Tomorrow is the sprint to the finish line. Chris just got back from his tournament in Quincy, so we're just kicking it low-key on this Saturday night.

Spent last night at the Flaming Lips show at the Pageant. Have you been? Because I feel like it's one of those things everyone should do before they die. I went with Z-Taint, Rad Za, and K-Vav, and we hit up Blueberry Hill before the show. I've seen some insane shit in my life, but this was crazy. Wayne Coyne should either start a pyramid scheme, a cult, or run for President, because he's got some people on lock. What a crowd: you've got the thirty and forty-somethings who've been Lips fans since day one, you've got the dirty hippie crowd, dropping acid and dressing like Uncle Sam, you've got the hipsters who recognize the band's significance. The tour is sponsored by Camel, so shit was smoky as hell and neon Camel logos are everywhere, as are spin-art booths, photo booths where you can get your picture taken as a robot, the requisite free cigarette booths. We got some sweet spots to the left of the stage. I'm not a die-hard Flaming Lips fan, but I am going to get more of their CDs after seeing the show. Here are reasons why the show was awesome:

1) They gave every free laser pointers, which were put into use throughout the show. Obviously, we annoyed everyone else we saw that night with our barrage of red lasers on people. Sorry, dudes!
2) A veritable deluge of confetti throughout the show. Confetti everywhere! I felt like I was in a gay dance club.
3) Costumes. Aliens, robots, Santas, Uncle Sam.
4) Opened with a song I was surprised to know, "Race for the Prize" which was on a mixtape (yes, tape) made for me long ago by Mike Cannon, that I listened to pretty much non-stop one summer I lived in Kirksville because it was one of the bitchest mixtapes I've ever gotten. I have distinct memories of driving around in my old Jeep hearing this song. Said mixtape had The Smiths, Old 97's, Freedy Johnston, Teenage Fanclub, Ween...where is that tape?
5) Candid video appearances by Jon Stewart and Kelly Kapowski when she was on 90210.
6) They played "Do You Realize". Here's a good essay on the song from an old McSweeney's.
7) On our way back to the car, I stole a giant "I Love New York" season one DVD poster that was taped to a lightpole. Today I gave it to Laser. I hope she puts it up in her basement.

I loved how outrageous and interactive the show was, and it was well worth the $20 for the ticket. Fuck, I got a free laser pointer!

Hung out with friends afterwards. Went to kickball today, where we split but had fun, and have been writing my paper ever since. Joyous celebrations and a post-of-substance to follow, probably Tuesday, maybe Monday if I'm really on top of things.


Ramblings from Detention

Sorry for the lack of posting, but I've been working on school, for real, and that pretty much dominates my computer time, which I have realized I am addicted to, meaning I've got to get off the damn internet. But right now I'm supervising detention, so I've got some time to kill since I only have one kid and he's on his game.

Other than that, I've been doing some cool stuff. Chris and I and Banter and his old lady went down to Taste of St. Louis to see Lucero play and eat some french fries and risotto balls. While we were there, we saw a half-developmentally delayed, half-huffer guy pick up a lighter off the ground and huff it, then pick up a bunch of cigarette butts and smoke them. In broad daylight. Banter took pity on the dude and gave him a bunch of cigarettes. Then one of my kids parents saw me and took a picture of Chris and I, maybe for their fridge? Who knows? Then we went back to our friends' crib and listened to records and played arcade games and foosball. Then a bunch of Dudes and Awesomettes showed up and we drank and talked about kickball (Awesome destroyed earlier in the day). Pretty typical weekend.

I'm stoked because Chris and I are going to see the History Boys at the Rep on Thursday for his birthday and then I'm going to the Flaming Lips with my gal pals on Friday, thanks to Susan's kind offer of a ticket (how much do I owe you, by the way?), while Chris is out of town for soccer. Then I'm going to write up a storm and finish my paper so I can mail it Monday. Then sigh and pick up Mandela again. Too much knowledge, too little time. Maybe I should quit my day job.


Jena Six

For one of my graduate classes, we're doing a lit review, which is a major pain-in-the-ass, time-consuming paper that basically consists of picking a topic and reading all the research on said topic, and writing an extensive review of the research. When I write my dissertation, doing a lit reviews lets me examine where there are gaps in research so I can find where new research needs to be done. I've been working on mine since August and it's due October 1st. My topic is disproportionate minority contact in juvenile justice, specifically at the disposition (sentencing) phase. That is gibberish that means I'm examining why youth of color are confined to adult prison or secure juvenile facilities at higher rates than their white counterparts. This is a crazy problem, and I don't think I could find a better way to illustrate this phenomenon than the Jena 6.

For those of you who have been in your basements for the past two weeks (really, the past year or so), the Jena 6 are six high school students from tiny Jena, LA. Long story short: some white kids put nooses up in a tree after black students tried to sit under a tree that mostly white kids sat under. Principal tried to expel involved students, board of ed revoked expulsion. This escalates race relations in the school and community, culminating in six black kids jumping a white kid. White kid's injuries are not severe; he is released from hospital two hours later. Black students who beat him up are all charged, as adults (except for one 14-year-old), with attempted murder. All those tried as adults have bail set at $70,000 or more. The DA goes on record saying if convicted, he would seek the maximum penalty under law. You can read an extensive timeline here or here; it includes more incidents that happened during this time that provide insight into the climate of the community during this time.

I won't get into the legal details, but one kid has been in jail since December, and the others are about to go on trial for attempted second degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, and two are about to go on trial for aggravated second degree battery and conspiracy. One student, Mychal Bell, was tried and convicted, but appealed on the grounds that he should have been tried as a juvenile, yet he is still in prison. Bottom line: these kids are facing years, years, and years in prison.

This is significant. This is huge. But this is not isolated. Shit like this happens everywhere, all over the country, and it goes unnoticed by major media outlets. The only reason Jena broke out is because the black blogosphere would not let it die and the black community rallied behind these kids. Disproportionate minority confinement (DMC) exists in all fifty states. African American youth with no priors were six times more likely to be incarcerated in public facilities than white youth with similar backgrounds. DMC was even found to increase in years when minority arrests decreased. African American youth are more likely to be recommended for formal processing, while white youth are more likely to be referred to diversionary programming. I have read too much research in the last month that proves to me that the Jena Six are not alone, but represent the widespread phenomenon of locking up our youth of color more often that white youth who commit the same crimes.

Some people argue that these kids did beat someone up and should be punished. I agree fully. However, the punishment should fit the crime. The injured student has no lasting injuries, was released from the hospital the same day, and even attended the ring ceremony at Jena High School that same night. You want to put six young men in prison for twenty-two years for that? These charges indicate the court's belief that for whatever reason, these young men are unable to be rehabilitated, effectively saying their lives are worthless. I don't believe any youth should be condemned for that long for this crime. If you look at it in that context, you see that this is a human issue, not a race issue.

But it is a race issue. It's a race issue because there are thousands of black (and Hispanic, and Asian, and American Indian) youth who lives are seen as disposable, who are pigeonholed as criminals, who are irrationally feared, because of the color of their skin. And we help them live up to our stereotypes through bias, through a lack of alternatives to incarceration, from driving while black, from irrational drug policy (despite the fact that more whites use drugs than any other race), from a myriad of other daily injustices that many white people don't think exist because they don't have to deal with them.

The silver lining of this is that the black community has rallied, and rallied in spectacular fashion. Paulo Friere, the seminal voice of critical pedagogy, says that the oppressed will not be freed by the oppressors, they will be freed due to their own efforts to overcome oppression, and the response to Jena seems like those kind of efforts the black community needs when faced with this total bullshit. It frustrates me to no end when I hear people say, "I thought we were past this," or "This isn't about race."


What I've been reading and listening to.


Under the Blacklight, Rilo Kiley's newest release, is a departure from their past discs, but lovable, danceable, and well worth twelve bucks or whatever it costs. I love every track, but especially "Breakin' Up", "Under the Blacklight" and "15". Good friend Meghan saw them last week and said their show was on point. They were actually in Minneapolis at First Avenue on Friday, but I would have had to get a hotel room and gone to the show by myself, so I decided not to go, which turned out to be a good thing in light of the cold. But the disc is hot and you should get it.

I've also been listening to Bob Dylan's Modern Times, which reaffirmed my faith in Dylan. I've always been a big Dylan fan, but in college, my friend Pogge saw him at Notre Dame and said he was ate up. This was when he was also playing the State Fair circuit so I believed him. But Pogge also voted for Bush twice, so I gave Modern Times a chance and wasn't disappointed. AND, Chris and I got tickets to see him and Elvis Costello at the Fox, which, while a pretty penny, we couldn't pass up. Dude is a legend of the highest order, and we'd better witness him in person before it's too late.


I haven't had a lot of time to read outside of school; articles and books about disproportionate minority confinement in juvenile justice, The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, and Doing Survey Research have occupied my time immensely. The autobiography is awesome, though.

That being said, there's a great magazine y'all should read called Good. There are days when I read the newspaper and the blogs and get really depressed about what's going on in the world, and Good is the remedy. Like its title suggests, it's all about good things: good news, good design, good art and good ideas. I read the latest issue in the airport, and read about green schools, Mormon missionaries and how they are trained, a retrospective on Buckminster Fuller, and great design through the ages. If you subscribe, 100% of your subscription costs (yes, 100%) goes to a charity you choose off the list that they support. It's one of those magazines that doesn't have a "green" issues, because they talk about and support sustainability in every issue. If you are into changing the world, you should read this magazine. There's a great editorial in here about why companies shouldn't do philanthropy.

Back From Minnesota

I had my first weekend trip to Minneapolis, and I must say it went rather well. I was most apprehensive about the traveling, but walking, the train, and the plane all went smoothly. My first flight was on time, and my second flight (wait for it) was actually 45 minutes early getting back to St. Louis. In this day and age? A flight get in EARLY? I, too, was shocked. The only snag was that while walking from school to the train in Minneapolis, I was stopped by two sheriffs (why the sheriffs were policing downtown Minneapolis, I'll never know) because I had the audacity to cross an empty street when the signal said don't walk. They ran my license and everything. That's how you know that crime is lower in the Twin Cities than in St Louis. In St. Louis, the cops would just be glad that you crossed the street safely without selling crack on your way. There was seriously a Twins game three blocks away, and they had the time to stop me for jaywalking. I mean, I know I looked homeless with my travel bag and all, but come the fuck on. Luckily, no ticket. Probably because they were afraid of me once they learned I was from St Louis.

The only bummer of the weekend was that what I thought were my fall allergies kicking in were actually not only my allergies but also a cold. Couple that with high altitude head pressure, and I wasn't feeling so hot when I got back. I must have looked a hot mess when Chris picked me up: forlornly wearing my Hawkeye sweatshirt, one runny nostril, crazy airplane hair, and mouth breathing. So basically I have been laying on the couch all day snorting snot and drinking orange juice.

My one regret: forgetting a camera so I could take a picture of the infamous Larry Craig bathroom at the MSP airport. STUPID! Oh well, all the wide-stance jokes have been made. But here's a great link from Grinder about a rather ironic submission made by Craig's wife to the Congress Cooks! cookbook.

I haven't been writing as much because school is kicking my ass, but once I get this lit review done on October 1, I should be good to go. If I'm sick enough to stay home tomorrow, maybe I'll live blog all day about daytime television.


Fake Football Widow

Being preoccupied with other things, I was mentally unprepared when Chris woke up giddy at the thought of watching football ALL DAY! For those of you who do not live with a fantasy football addict, Sunday is the biggest day of the week. There are usually three games televised, at around 12, 3, and 6. Commercials are punctuated by frantic dashes upstairs to the computer to check the statistics of Chris's fantasy teams, also known as his fake football teams, a trademark of the Sports Gal.

I will say this: usually, Chris refuses to leave the house on Sundays in the fall. Today, however, he did go to brunch at Mokabe's with me and our friends the Keeter family, walk Asher with me, and he did, at halftime of the Bears/Chargers game, go to the video store with me. This is extremely rare. The trip to the video store was actually an exercise in futility because we cannot possibly WATCH the videos we rented. We must watch football. I cannot watch the videos upstairs without Chris, because he likes to watch videos together.

We cannot pause the football game using handy Tivo, and then watch parts of, say, and episode from the second season of Weeds, and then return to the game. Although this way, you can fast-forward through the commercials, then we are not watching it "as it happens", even though he has no other outside influences (unless he uses the aforementioned computer) to spoil what happened during the four or five minutes he might be behind, it is unacceptable to delay the viewing any longer than the FCC delays it.

During said commercials, which are, for the most part, idiotic, they usually return to the game with an extended close-up of a cheerleader with gigantic cleavage. It's as if the production team just wants to really stick it to the wives and girlfriends of America. "Hey, we know we are monopolizing your Sunday time with your partner, time that could be spent doing something meaningful or productive, but you know what? We're going to put some titties in their face while we're doing it!" Fuck you, Fox Sports. I already hated your News division, now I hate your sports.



My post on Tuesday for Green Options, about easy steps to go green in college, was named by Treehugger as a favorite green blog post of the week. Treehugger is the biggest environmental website out there, so I was extremely surprised and happy, especially considering I had my biggest case of writer's block ever this week. So check it out.


Car-Free and Poetry

Thursday's GreenOptions post is about why I went car-free. If you are interested in my toned-down, less sarcastic writing (why you would be, I'm not sure) check that out.

School is kicking my butt--grad school, not high school. High school has been great. We're still in the honeymoon phase where the kids do pretty much exactly what I say. Today in Creative Writing we watched Def Poetry. It's one of the most inspiring, intelligent shows out there, simply because it celebrates humanity in its multiplicity of forms. That, and it makes me feel intellectual as hell.

I love these three poems: I showed them in class today.

Take ten minutes to watch them and then recognize that they (via me) dropped some knowledge on your ass.



So the cops found Chris's car. There was less damage than last time; they didn't pop the steering column, just mess up the ignition, so we already have it back and fixed, with a brand new Club on the wheel. The whole situation left me bummed, as well as $300 poorer.


Murphy's Law

You know what's awesome? When you finally sell your car after over a year of talking about it and you feel happy that you no longer have a car payment and can pay off your credit card.

And then you wake up the next morning and your husband's car, the only car you have at your house, is gone. Thieved from right in front of your crib. For the second time in a year. And you have Cardinals tickets.

So pissed at the crackheads right now. So pissed.



School makes me tired. More when I'm not stressed.



I absolutely believe in freedom of religion, and I believe that people have the right to homeschool their kids, but this "course description" of a supplemental homeschooling class is downright scary.

I have no problem with people who want to be as crazy-Christian as they want (although I do feel back for their children who have no exposure to anything different) but, damn, let the rest of us practice our own non-invasive way of life. If you don't want to have abortions, don't have them, but you have no right to legislate others not having them. If you don't want to have gay anal sex, then don't lube up, but it's not your right to prevent others from doing what they want to do. If you don't want stem-cell research to save your life, don't prevent me or my family from getting treatment. Why must the crazies insist on trying to take over the world?


The Real World Thinks It's Green

The next season of the Real World is supposedly going to be green. Read my post at Green Options here.


Camilo Meija Speaks At Left Bank

One of my favorite bands, State Radio, has a song called "Camilo" (fan video shown above), which is a tribute to Staff Sgt. Camilo Mejia, an Iraq War veteran who went AWOL and refused to return to Iraq after a two-week furlough in the US. After being on the run for five months, Mejia turned himself in to military officials, filed for conscientious objector status, which was denied, and was tried and convicted of desertion. He was sentenced to one year in a military prison and discharged for bad conduct. He served his sentence and was released in 2005. Since then, he has spoken out against the war. His argument for his desertion was that the orders he was under in Iraq were in effect, war crimes, including abuse and torture of prisoners, and that made the war illegal, and he could not, in good conscious, continue to participate in an immoral and illegal war. He was the first Iraq War veteran to refuse further service

I have followed Meija's story since I heard the song "Camilo", and tonight I got the opportunity to hear him speak at Left Bank Books here in St. Louis, where he read from and discussed his book, Road From Ar Ramadi: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Camilo Meija. It was an honor and privilege to meet him.

Mejia has been made out in the media to be a coward, someone who only spoke out as a conscientious objector to save his own skin, but just listening him speak would convince those who question Mejia's motives. He talked about what being an occupier in an occupied country was like, and how, when you are literally in constant fear of losing your life in a completely alien culture, the line between "good" and "bad" disappears, and clarity about your own conscience cannot be fully realized within that context. Many criticize him because he had been in the Army National Guard for eight years, yet he only claimed CO status after his tour of Iraq. He says that was because although he knew what was happening in Iraq was wrong, it took his removal from Iraq during his furlough to realize that he could not, in good conscience, continue to serve in Iraq. While he was in prison, Amnesty International, the world's largest human rights organization, declared him a Prisoner of Conscience and campaigned on his behalf.

As I listened to him speak about the atrocities of the War, of the anguish he felt by "deserting" his fellow soldiers, and his process of declaring himself a conscientious objector, I was moved to tears. The courage it must have taken him, to risk his career, to risk the respect of his fellow soldiers, to risk his standing in the US (he was/is a green card holder; his conviction was not grounds for deportation), was both humbling and inspiring. He continues to speak out against the war, and is active in Veterans for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against The War, and Amnesty International. Chris and I both got a copy of his book, which I can't wait to read even though I have eight million other things to do right now. He signed my copy, "To Kelli: with thanks for your support and your work as a teacher," and signed Chris's copy (for his classroom) "To Mr. Oliver's classes: wishing you a future dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of life."

We are Partners of Conscience for Amnesty, and plan on becoming active in the local chapter. If you are in St Louis and interested in the local chapter, there is a monthly business/education meeting the 2nd Tuesday of the month, 7PM at the Schlafly Branch Library in the CWE, and a monthly action meeting, dedicated to actively working on campaigns, the 4th Tuesday of each month at 7PM at Hartford Coffee Company in Tower Grove South.


Fabulous Fair Part 1

So we spent much of Saturday at the Iowa State Fair. The Fair is the quintessential Iowa event: EVERYONE goes to the Fair. Those in Iowa who are able to and choose to abstain are not real Iowans. Many people go multiple times over the eleven days of the fair. Case in point: although it was almost 100 degrees on Saturday, there were over 100,000 humans at the Fair. That, no joke, is almost half of Des Moines. Apparently, 400 pound people riding Rascals and lugging around oxygen tanks are not deterred by 100 degree weather with 80% humidity. And damn it, don't stop your scooter right in front of me so you can watch some guy shill Magic Bullets, because I'm going to kick your oxygen tank.

Anyway, on to the Fair! Chris was a first-time attendee, and he humored my requests to relive my childhood. Above is a picture of me with all the corn being shown at the Fair. People raise different fruits and veggies and flowers and bring them to the Fair to see whose is the best. I stood by the blue-ribbon one so the East Indian people near me would think it was mine.

This is Chris and an ostrich. Strikingly similar.

This is the biggest bull at the fair. He weighed over 3,000 pounds. This is the sign on his pen. People line up for this shit, I swear.

The people watching was great, although we didn't take pictures of the Hoosiers, because, unlike the boar or the bull, they are not in cages and may retaliate by beating someone over the head with a turkey leg. We saw one woman, who was younger than me, with her baby's face tattooed on her upper thigh. Um, judging by this woman, she's either going to blow up from years of corn dogs and tator tots or get really skinny from years of meth use, so either way, that weird Gerberish baby face on your thigh is going to be distorted in no time at all. I also saw an early-20's woman with a cursive "Daddy's Little Girl" tramp stamp. The jorts were errwhere.

Here's what you've been waiting for: the biggest boar's balls. He weighed over 1,000 pounds, all disgusting. Again, people line up for this shit.

More highlights from the Fair to follow after I take a shower. I went with Banter to Atomic Cowboy to watch Devlin's Kids (wearing Imo's T-Shirts, Dos Dedos, and The Disappeared put on a little rock show, which was OUTSIDE, so I personally rocked a sweatstache the entire time. It was laid back, probably because it was Sunday and OUTSIDE, but I got to talk to my friend Eric, the guitarist for Dos Dedos, for a long time, which was awesome since we haven't hung out in a while. Anyway, I got sweaty and that ain't cool right now at 11AM on my last weekday of sleeping in, so I gots to shower.


Friday Fun: Simpsons

Check out this website. You can turn yourself into a Simpsons character.

Here's me and Wolverine.

We're off to the Fair. Woo-hoo!


Globo Warming?

That's what Rush Limbaugh calls global warming because he is an idiot and STILL believes that global warming isn't real.

The latest Newsweek cover story highlights the calculated campaign to "debunk" global warming. A real shock to anyone, the "deniers" are almost entirely orchestrated by lobbying groups representing the petroleum, auto, coal, and other utilities companies. The amount of money changing hands is frightening, and interestingly enough, their rhetorical strategy is the same one that the cigarette industry used for decades. You can read the story here, or my summary of it for Green Options here (though that probably won't be up until Thursday).

On a brighter note, I scored great seats for Ryan Adams at the Pageant in October. Also, picked up the new Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, "This Is Somewhere" and it's awesome. If you don't know her, and you're into bluesy, yet rocking (I saw her at Wakarusa, she does indeed rock), you should. She's like if Norah Jones had some angst and sass, and had a Gibson and a B-3. And she's like 21.

Going to the Iowa State Fair this weekend! Hoo-rah! Cold beer, fried food, the biggest hoosiers you've ever seen in your life, and hogs with balls bigger than your head. I've been mising home.


Back to School...

So two weeks ago I went back to school (college) and two weeks from now I'll go back to school (high school). It's funny that I have such conflicting opinions to two similar things. Actually, going back to grad school made me want to go back to school way less. I'm pretty sure that's because getting my doctorate seems like the first step in a new phase of my life that will eventually take me out of the classroom and into a more critical/activist vocation. That, coupled with the fact that our district tax levy didn't pass today, which pretty much means that my position is going to be cut, means that no matter what, I'll be doing something somewhat different in 08/09, whether that be a different position in my district or somewhere else, or something completely different.

So, cool school. Here's what up on that, because I don't think I explained it very well. The actually doctorate in in Leadership and it is housed in St. Thomas' school of ed. Basically, in the core courses (which I take with my cohort, basically my "class" of 23 others) we examine a critical perspective of leadership and organizational theory. In plain English, that means we look at power structures, and how race, class, gender, culture, etc. have influenced, and continue to influence, leadership and society. Each of us then chooses one or more "collaterals" which are kind of like a major inside the program. My two collaterals, at least at this point, are critical pedagogy and public policy. So basically, I am really interested in social justice, education, and how those structures are created, and I will take about half of my total coursework examining this stuff. What I'm going to do, it's too early to tell. Maybe higher ed, but possibly some type of consulting/teacher development. I do know that the program is exactly what I want to do, and I have no regrets about the relatively drastic steps I'm taking to go through it. The people in my cohort are fucking awesome. They are a diverse group of people who are passionate about changing the world.

I did, actually, finish The Dialectic of Freedom, which is a good thing because we'll be using it in my fall core class. This book is fucking mind blowing. If I could sum it up, it would be this: the idea that we (and by we, I mean the general American public) are really, truly free is false, because what we perceive as freedom is completely dependent on exploiting other people. For example, our consumer culture is dependent on establishing a chain of relationships with people we never meet, and who have shittier lives than us, largely because of us. If I buy a cotton skirt at Old Navy, chances are that the growth of the cotton was destructive to someone's environment and it was probably made in a sweatshop that exploits cheap labor. So I may celebrate my "freedom" to buy a $17 skirt with money I earned myself, but I fucked someone else to do that (even if I never see those people). Continuing, our freedom is also largely false because even though we are "free" in this country, most people feel as though their actions make no difference, therefore they are passive citizens. Unconsciously, we feel as though we have little decision in the actions of our government, or in any other processes capable of making significant social change.

Think about that in terms of the current political climate in the US. Completely and totally outrageous shit is taking place, all orchestrated by the current administration and its cronies who apparently believe that the Constitution means nothing anymore. But is anybody REALLY outraged? People are more outraged at Britney's fall from grace. And even those of us who are outraged (including myself) feel completely helpless to do anything (about the government, you jerks, not Britney). Like, what am I going to do? I can call my congresspeople and express my outrage, but does ANYTHING get done in Washington other than endless playing of the political game? Seriously? I could organize a protest, but that tactic is so played out that it seemed satirical in 1994 when PCU came out. There are efforts at grassroots efforts outside of the political system, but those are limited because (here comes the endless cycle) people feel helpless. Hence, we aren't free, according to Maxine Greene. Most people will dismiss this as theoretical bullshit because damnit, if we ain't free here in America, then what are we? If we really aren't free, then the empty rhetoric that we call patriotism is glaringly empty. But to me, it rings completely true.

The only light at the end of my OTHER school tunnel (that is, me returning to school in a few weeks) is that a group of my StuCo kids became involved in a citizen action project for high school kids over the summer, examining eminent domain, public policy, and local government. They did some awesome stuff and want to plan a whole "Active Citizen" workshop for teenagers across STL, and they did that pretty much all on their own. So that's badass.


A Far Cry From Feathers and Sweat Lodges

For those of you in St Louis, we're having a welcome home party for the lovely Sue Jake, who has been in Alaska for the past six weeks. She's got stories to tell, and since she was on a dry reservation, is desperately in need of drinks. Meet up at our house any time after seven on Saturday. We'll be drinking, playing washers, and there will be a bouncer checking IDs. BYOB. Kegs are a hassle.


Coming Home!

I'm coming home late tonight. I haven't written because I've been so, so, so busy. All can say is that this experience has been transformative, and I'll try to relate it when I have a little time to reflect fully.

Unfortunately, I also picked up, every so slightly, that long "o" sound so prevalent in Minnesota/Wisconsin. I'm not pretentious, I swear.

Anyone up for drinks tomorrow?


This Time, I Ain't Dancing On A Frat House Bar

After spending a phenomenal weekend with Molly and Abby at Molly's parents' still-under-construction lake house (Steve Adams knows how to do retirement, I'll tell you what;this joint is going to be unbelievable when it is done) Chris dropped me off at the dorms for my return to college life. My thoughts on the experience thus far:

* It might sound cliched, but I really feel like a freshman. You'd know I'm not lying if you could have seen me walking my ass to Whole Foods to grab some food, clutching my vinyl ID-card holder/keychain (with one lonely dorm-room key) and a inconspicuously-folded map of the campus, trying to not get lost.

* Despite the fact that it's July, there is still life on the campus, namely 300 or so cheerleaders here for cheer camp, and several incoming freshman here for orientation. I don't know what is more disturbing: the fact that I'm surrounded by kids who could conceivably be my former students, or the fact that they might ask me to buy them beer.

* I was the first of my roommates to arrive (most people aren't coming until tomorrow AM), and damn, dorms have blown up since I was in school. My "room" is a suite. There are four bedrooms, each with a desk, closet, bed, chest of drawers, pretty standard. However, we have two bathrooms (one with a shower-tub and one with a big walk-in shower) a living room, and a full kitchen with fridge, oven, and microwave. And wireless. No posters of Tupac, though.

* Why is my dorm right next to DPS? Does the reputation of my former self precede me?

Gotta jet. Not only do I have to check out whether or not Sodexho is up in this bitch, but I still don't have all my reading finished. You know that think blue book I've been carrying around since May? The Dialectic of Freedom? 135 pages? Yeah, I'm still on page 99. Shit is philosophical.

Some things never change.


On The Road Again

Chris and I are leaving Friday to head up to Minnesota. We're first going to Eastern MN to spend the weekend with Molly and Abby at Molly's parents lake house. Monday morning, Chris is dropping me off in int Twin Cities so I can start my week-long class at the University of St Thomas. It's the first of my core classes that I'll take with my cohort, the group of people that I'll take most of my classes with. I'm excited and nervous, but I know it's going to be transformative. Hopefully, I'll be able to post, but I'll be pretty busy, becoming an intellectual while simultaneously saving the world.

Keep me amused with stories from home. Or Alaska. Or Europe.


Pop Culture Update

Yet another perk of summer vacation is the freedom to read and watch pretty much anything I want. I have really been enjoying my time at home this week, reading, watching various shows/films, listening to NPR and music, and clicking around the net. My recommendations:

I highly recommend one of Jon Krakauer's older books, Into Thin Air. It tells the true story of a young college graduate who abandons his affluent lifestyle to wander the country with little but the clothes on his back. He eventually makes his way to Alaska, where he starves to death in the wilderness (that ain't no spoiler, it's on the front cover of the book). Krakauer juxtaposes this story with stories of others disillusioned by the structure of conventional society seeking refuge in the wilderness and poses the question of were these people mentally disturbed, or just sick of it all? Quick read, too.

I'm current still struggling through The Dialectic of Freedom by Maxine Greene, but that shit is blowing my mind. Here's the central idea: our concept of "freedom" is false; we are only truly free if we acknowledge, then take action to change, that which oppresses us within our community. It is more than political freedom--it's beyond that. In other words, we aren't free if we can't identify the bars on the cages (I think that's how Daniel Quinn put it in Ishmael). We don't care about freedom of speech if we don't really have anything to say. I will get into it more in depth but I'm still trying to wrap my head around it before I go to Minneapolis next week.

Other than that, I also read Ann Patchett's The Patron Saint of Liars, which was great, re-read Bill Bryson's A Walk In The Woods, and A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America by Ronald Takaki. All worth reading.

We recently bought a few CD's for the trip back from the AT. Of course, Ryan Adams' latest, Easy Tiger was one of the select. I am not ashamed of my love for Adams. His new CD, on first listen, sounds like a hodgepodge of Jacksonville City Nights, 29, and Cold Roses, but it has grown on me (which is what usually happens with his CDs). Also digging the newest Rufus Wainwright
and some Grace Potter and the Nocturnals.

Yes, we saw Sicko. Other awesomeness of note , on DVD, includes C.S.A: The Confederate States of America, which is a mockumentary of the history of the "former" U.S. had the Confederacy won the Civil War. We also saw Hannibal Rising , which was okay, and are currently working our way through the third and final season of HBO's Deadwood. If you are looking to find a new DVD addiction, I cannot express how much I loved watching the entire series of Six Feet Under. I've never been so affected by a television show, never grown so attached to a group of characters, and never seen a more satisfying series finale.

Another questions...

How is Elisabeth Hasselbeck still relevant? It's unfortunate that The View, which started out as a platform for smart women to have a voice, now employs someone completely antithetical to feminism and, for that matter, logic and reason.

Also, lay off the self-tanner.

Sorry, I've been watching daytime.


Quick Question

Why do pundits insist on questioning whether or not Barack Obama is "black enough"? As if Obama's "blackness" hasn't impacted him every single day of his life, including having people question his authenticity as a black man because he was "clean and articulate". This is such bullshit on so many levels.



Chris and I went and saw Sicko last night. Say what you want about Michael Moore, his style and his politics, but he knows how to bring the drama, and this is a great film. In fact, if you check it out, those who seek to "debunk" Moore's films are having trouble finding real inconsistencies, particularly when looking at the big picture

I think the topic of health care was a brilliant choice for Moore. Health care affects everyone and is something that we all care about, if not for others, at least for ourselves. Even more intelligently, Moore doesn't focus on the millions of Americans who are uninsured, but instead looks at how insurance companies fuck their clients every single day. Fact: HMO's are having record profits, while the #1 cause of bankruptcy in a America is medical bills. Here's a question: why are people making money off of sick people? Is that ethical? Is it ethical that health insurance companies are not interested in helping people when they are sick, but how they can find ways to avoid paying for care? For what most Americans pay for insurance, shouldn't the level of care be exceptional, and, equally important, headache-free?

Moore shows four examples of countries with universal health care: Canada, Cuba, France, and the UK. Granted, citizens of these countries pay more in taxes, but think about not having any health insurance or medical bills. Even our car insurance would be less, too, because you wouldn't have to factor in medical costs in case of an accident. It seems to me that the costs would even out. If we have $2 trillion to spend on the war in Iraq, I can't see why we haven't found the money to take care of our citizens' health.

What was even more interesting to me was the emphasis on preventative care and mental/emotional health care in the countries highlighted. For example, in the UK, women get six months PAID maternity leave. At my job, which one would think would be a family-friendly workplace, you don't get any paid maternity leave, and I think that's pretty standard. In France, the government even pays for mother's helpers to visit homes and do laundry, clean and take care of the children. Doctors still make house calls. Quality child care is free or almost-free.

One major point the film makes is that in these countries, the idea is that the system works for the people. As a nation prospers, that prosperity should bring about improvements to all people's lives. The attitude in the U.S. is that our "freedom" means that we take care of ourselves and our country owes us nothing. God forbid we take care of each other. Because, you know, that would be socialism, or even worse, communism! People have this idea that if we were to have universal health care, it would be abused by all these freeloaders, ruffians, and ne'er-do-wells and all us hardworking, worthy Americans would unfairly bear the burden of these lazy bums. Because hardworking Americans never face health emergencies that they can't afford. Not in the land of milk and honey! I feel as though, in a country of such wealth as ours, if a citizen is sick, they should be able to receive top quality care, no questions asked, and the last thing they should have to think about is can they afford said care. I think it comes down to the fact that people are so self-interested that they can't see past the threat of someone else getting more from a system such as this than themselves. It would be unfair to pay, through taxes, into a system that might give someone else more than they might get. Is it so audacious that a health care system might function solely to take care of people, any people, that might cross its path? Consider this: when I lived in Germany, one of my roommates was an insulin-dependent diabetic. The day a few of us left to go home, she passed out in our apartment and was rushed to a German hospital. She spent several days in the hospital and paid not a penny. If this were to happen in America, many Americans would resent the fact that they paid for a foreigners hospital bill. However, this sentiment, in many countries with universal health care, doesn't exist.

Why is it so hard for Americans to support the idea of universal health care?

I Ain't Dead

To quote Banter (who may very well be dead...he posts even less than me).

WHAT UP? I've been gone. Real gone. Chris and I done had some adventures, including: Wakarusa, Colorado with Chris's fam, then our Appalachian Trail odyssey out east. We got back from the AT at 6AM Wednesday (my 27th birthday) and something was up with Blogger that I didn't get around to fixing until this morning. Now, I've got so much to talk about I'm just going to have to blog up a storm.

Where to even begin? Let's start with this morning. There's something about a Saturday morning, any time of the year, really, but in the summer especially. I got up early for a Saturday and went to the Tower Grove Farmers Market. TG is my favorite market, and what a great time to go; I got some tomatoes, garlic, corn, blueberries, new potatoes, and eggs (plus an iced coffee.) Then I swung over to the fairly-new Local Harvest Grocery to pick up some staples, since we have no food in the house. I came home, ate a bowl of sliced tomatoes with salt, pepper, some fresh purple basil from my backyard, and a bit of grated parm over the top, and it was sublime. Eating local foods is one of the best things your can do to lessen your carbon footprint, and there's no time like the present to get fresh produce. The tomatoes alone, people, seriously. I highly recommend the TG market and the Maplewood market on Wednesday afternoons at Schlafly. I am a big fan of Biver Farms and their organic produce.

Here are things I'm going to blog about in the new few days: our trip to the AT, Sicko, which I saw last night, shit I've been thinking about with my doctoral program starting in a week or so, the POTUS elections, cooking, and current pop culture.

Big ups to my girl Thorper1, who is marrying her Mr. Big today in WashMo. Country Roads, anyone?


2nd Annual Backyard Trivia

Sweet Jesus.

Backyard trivia is fun, but someone needs to cut me off. Otherwise, I end up trying to throw umbrellas over power lines at 4 AM with some dudes and the alcoholic wannabe cougar across the street.

The trivia night itself was pretty fun. Only Paul showed up to defend the original Champagne of Trivia's title. I guess Dan is a pussy.

Congratulations to The Rabbits, also known as Standard Trivia, also known as many incantations of "This Guy is a Fine-Arts Pussy", who took home the title, narrowly defeating Mr. Wright's Nipples. Big ups to the teacher team of Miss Piggy's Taint Blister who arguably could have won, since Chris/Wolverine actually gave away answers as he read questions, and they would have had a real edge in the English teacher category had Chris not leveled the playing field. Sorry, guys, you have to play the lie. Categories included The Office, Inconsequential People, The Environment, Mr. Oliver's 10th Grade English, Finish the movie quote, Schlafly beer tasting, 80's Sitcom Theme Songs, 90's Rap, Nintendo Music, and Stoner Trivia.

Trivia was all fine and good, but we went ahead and got that there second keg, not a great idea, since half of it is still sitting in my backyard. The great part of the night was the fact that all the Epiphany hoosiers in my hood came out for the festivities. And when I say all, I don't mean the fairly normal neighbors on one side, who were hosting a 8th grade pool party but didn't have a problem with me saying "motherfucker" in a microphone approximately 24 times, and not the new neighbors, who, I'm sure, were cowering aghast watching the apocalypse happening in our backyard. No, I'm talking about the drunk lady across the street, who, while we were moving in, embraced us and said, "I'm sure going to miss you." She and her cousin? sister? some other cougar, were at one point engaged in a vehement discussion about how she shouldn't be in trouble if her son doesn't go to school (her son? just got home from juvy a month or so ago) and the cops were coming after her because her son was a delinquent. Well, yeah, keep countin' the days until Dirty Andy's 18th, lady. She then attracted a slew of people, including the guy two doors down who seemed okay, but three other people that I had no idea as to their identities. One got into with the neighbor because he once slashed her tires a while back. The other one, I swear to God, was Tim Blake Nelson's character in O Brother Where Art Thou, and I can't even remember specifics other than he seemed to have teleported here from deep in the Ozarks, maybe even Arkansas. The third, I don't even know. So that was just pure unintentional comedy throughout the night.

At four or so, when the last of the dudes + Stunner left, Chris had to kick the aspiring trashy cougar out even though she really wanted to clean our backyard, and then the guy next door warned Chris over the fence to stay away from her. Woke up the next morning to clean and almost puked. Seriously, I laid on the couch all day and watched Sex and the City reruns like I was back in college. All day. Like a crazy person in the same clothes and shit. At one point I couldn't find my laptop, so I started freaking out, sure that one of the unknown sketchy characters walked off with it. After about a half hour of that, my sister-in-law Beth came over to get her phone. I started to tell her about my computer, and she said, "You idiot. I told you I hid it last night so the hoosiers wouldn't steal it. I gave you a note and everything." I had no note and no recollection. Later, her husband, John, claims that I even read the note out loud and thanked Beth for her candor, but I don't remember and I'm just glad that Beth is sneaky-smart about this type of shit.

I encourage those of you who were there, particularly into the wee hours, to contribute your interpretation of the night's events. I think we all have some gaps in memory that could be filled in.