Heckuva Job, Sully

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Education is a hot topic in St Louis right now. If case you live in a cave, here's the recap: the St Louis Public School District was stripped of accreditation, the current board has basically been stripped of any power, and Gov. Blunt appointed a new CEO of the district. That CEO, the person who will supposedly lead the district out of its mire, is McBride Homes exec Rick Sullivan, whose prior educational leadership experience includes the boards at Lindenwood University and Villa Duchesne and "sitting in on some classes" at the SLPS.

I am not the only person who finds this completely appalling? It is audacious to suggest that a person appointed to lead a deeply-troubled school district have an extensive educational background? I'm not saying it should be a teacher--in fact, it probably shouldn't be, but it should be someone who has experience with educational leadership and administration. I don't think serving on a university board qualifies in this case--it's a very, very different experience to completely turnaround an urban district . Sullivan isn't even a St Louis resident: he lives in Frontenac. Proponents claim Sullivan is a tough businessman who will run the district like a company.

I'm reading Pedagogy of the Oppressed right now, so that's influencing my reflections, but this is classic oppressing behavior on the part of Blunt: his appointment of a marginally-qualified candidate who is not a member of the community he is seeking to change demonstrates that doesn't believe that a member of the community has the ability to lead the revolution. You're telling me that there's no highly-qualified candidate to lead the district that 1) lives in the district 2) is black, like over 80% of the students in the district? I find that highly, highly, highly hard to believe. Put it this way: Blunt's choice makes it look like the only person who can "save" the poor black kids is the rich white man. That's bullshit.

Look, Sullivan might be a well-intentioned guy. He's probably smart and well-intentioned. But this kind of cronyism will probably lead to disaster. Remember Brownie, who "did a heckuva job down there" during Katrina?

If you are a city-dweller who lives in the 4th District, I urge you to e-mail Jeff Smith and let him know that Sullivan sucks as the choice to lead the district. His e-mail is jeff.smith@senate.mo.gov. If you are not in the 4th District, you can check out the Senate website to find your senator to e-mail her/him and urge her/him to block Blunt's appointment of Sullivan.


Websites! Galore!

The writers at GreenOptions are all spending some (paid!) time this week checking out StumbleUpon. Basically, you install StumbleUpon, which is just an add-on to your web browser. It creates a browser toolbar which you can personalize. You register (it's all free) and go through several categories of interests, checking areas that you like, such as different genres of music, hobbies, politics, etc. Then, on your new toolbar, there is a button labeled Stumble! You click this button and a random website that should correlate to your interests appears. You then rate the website with a thumbs-up or thumbs-down, which allows StumbleUpon to more finely tune what websites it generates for you. I know this sounds nerdy, but it is amazing how many awesome websites I have found today using StumbleUpon, from the quirky-whimsical-random (this, this) to the absolutely practical (this, this, this) to the I-can't-believe-something-like-this-is-FREE (see below). If you are an internet junkie, I would HIGHLY recommend you register for StumbleUpon. If you are a friend of mine, you probably won't see me soon; I'm hooked on this shit. Don't send me to Promises!

I realize the preceding paragraph sounds like I'm being paid to plug this site: I'm not, I promise. I'm getting paid to surf it to generate hits for our site. But it's an awesome site, for realsies. You will hate me for getting you hooked on it.

My most favorite site found today would have to be FineTune. It's basically Pandora but with more things you can do, including make playlists that you can add to your MySpace or blog. Very cool for music junkies who are into finding new music based on your current tastes.

Also, Chris and I went and saw Pan's Labyrinth. Really, one of the most amazing films I've ever seen. That's really all I can say about it. Also, I did get the Ben and Jerry's Creme Brulee ice cream, thanks to a tip from Meghan that it was at the Target on Hampton. It is fucking awesome. Every single bite has crunchy goodness of almost-burned sugar getting stuck in your teeth.


The Last Dispatch

Warning: Passionate, Sappy Post Follows

If you read this blog, you know about my undying devotion to the band State Radio. Chad Urmston, the lead singer, was in Dispatch, arguably the most successful indie bands in music history. However, my experience with Dispatch is limited: a few downloaded songs during college and some car rides with my brother Jake. That didn't stop me from adding filmmaker Helmut Schleppi's documentary Last Dispatch to my Netflix queue. Last Dispatch covers the days leading up to Dispatch's last concert in 2004. After playing together for years, just when they were really making it big (due mostly to fiercely loyal fans, Napster, and hard work) the band broke up in 2002, despite the fact they were on the verge of commercial stardom, and walked away. Basically, they saw themselves become the cliche of ruined bands, and obviously didn't want to become a Behind the Music, so they stopped before it got to that point. They wanted to end on a high note, so they decided to play one last show, outdoors and free to all their fans. They expected between 10-30,000 people; they got 110,000.
I love documentaries, and the vast majority of them leave me in tears because they depress the hell out of me. Last Dispatch still left me in tears, but for good reasons. In this world of selling your soul for money and fame, it was so refreshing, so satisfying to see a group of musicians stay true to themselves and their music and not become pawns of some corporation, refusing to compromise themselves to sell more music, more merch, and more high-priced tickets. When the band finishes their set, thanks the endless sea of fans, and take their final bow, you could see how genuinely thankful and humbled they are by the devotion of their listeners and the fortune of their own situation. Even if you aren't into Dispatch's music, any music lover will enjoy this documentary.


One More Day

Here's a bit of awesomeness: getting sick on the last school day before spring break. My head is all congested, I'm starting to get a lump in my throat, and I still have soccer practice and a presentation at the board of education meeting tonight. Blah.

Real news on three fronts. Starting tomorrow, the writers at Green Options are in competition for bonuses (i.e. mo' money) for which posts can get the most unique hits. Each blog post is eligible for bonuses every pay period. Green Options is a really awesome website that's just getting started in terms of features readers can use to green their lives. We have content for super eco-freaks and for those just getting started. My column is every Tuesday and Thursday, with a few other in between sometimes. This coming week, I'm also doing a DIY on Wednesday on building raised garden boxes out of salvaged doors. So, if you haven't already started reading my green-living blog, please start now, from every computer you come in contact with. I would be so grateful. I would be even more grateful, so much so that I could be persuaded to throw another trivia night, if you would pass this info along to your friends/fam/MySpace/Facebook/blog readers.

Secondly, Earth Day is coming up (April 22nd). Those who live in the Lou should undoubtedly check out the Forest Park celebration that will take place on Sunday. Before that, however, is April 14th. What's that? That's Step It Up 2007. This dude, Bill McKibben, started a grassroots movement to have nationwide actions to raise awareness of global warming. To date, the largest global warming protest only drew 1,000 activists. Already McKibben has planned activities in every state, planned and organized at the local level by people using Step It Up's website. The NY Times had a huge article about McKibben today that you can read online. To find a protest in your area, check out Step It Up online and then get out on April 14th. In St Louis, there's one at Wash U, one on Delmar, and one at the County Courthouse in Clayton. Chris and I will be out there--I encourage those of you who feel strongly about fighting global warming to join us.

Finally, there's a sit-in happening at Slay's office by SLPS students who object to the state takeover, and apparently, the city used protest-busting tactics like turning off the air conditioning on children. Stay classy, Slay. PubDef is updating constantly.


The revolution will be televised...

1) Ben and Jerry's has an assload of new flavors, and I've had my eye on Cinnamon Buns for a long time, and they had it at my local Watson/Southwest 7-11. The diggability of B&J's makes it worth the extra $$--they do not fuck around with the additional features of the ice cream. In Cinnamon Buns, the extras are a gooey cinnamon swirl and chunks of cinnamon bun dough (in a caramel ice cream). That shit is delectable. Up next: Creme Brulee. Tell me if you see it at your local grocery store.

2) Did one of my most favorite things tonight for the first time this year: sat on our front porch and chilled. Chris played guitar and we talked about the weather. Four days until spring break, where I will do this constantly if the weather allows. That, and ride bikes.

3) You've got to read about Josh Wolf, a video blogger and freelance journalist who has served more prison time for refusing a court order than any journalist in American history. In 2005, Josh filmed a G8 anarchist protest in San Francisco and aired clips from his footage on a local activist news website. The clips made the rounds on local news. Because Josh knew many of the protesters, Josh was targed by the FBI, who subpoenaed the videos after Josh refused to hand them over. Josh argues that were he to have to give up the tapes that he made in the name of journalism, this will force journalists to cease filming events such as these because they will be afraid that their work will be used to implicate criminals, this will cause distrust between journalist and subject, and that will have a chilling effect on journalists and the freedom of the press. The state contends that Josh is not a journalist so his work is not subject to the same laws as other journalistic works, despite the fact that Josh won the 2006 Journalist of the Year award from the Society of Professional Journalists. (This is bullshit, because if this holds up, it basically says that unless you are a student or working for the man, you are not entitled to freedom of the press, which is bullshit. In the age of legitimate bloggers (myself excluded), bloggers are absolutely journalists, and recording events is what journalists are supposed to do. What happened to reporting what happened?) Josh has been in jail for over six months (he served one month, was released, and then returned to jail when he again refused to hand over the tapes). Read his website/wiki/or blog to learn more about this wrongfully incarcerated man and learn more about how you can help by sending books or letters to Josh, or contributing to his legal defense fund.

Unrelated: awesome t-shirt/sticker/etc site.


Shows #3 & 4

I've been busy this week. Soccer started and my writing sample for the doctoral program I'm applying to was due, plus Green Options stuff, so I haven't had a change to talk about the badass concerts I went to last week.
Thursday, Chris and I, along with our friend Josh, had a few drinks at the Fox and the Hound, and then went to the Creepy Crawl to see the New Amsterdams and State Radio. The Fox and the Hound and the Creepy are basically polar opposites other than they both sell beer, but it's a good place to have a pint and sit on comfortable couches and talk about how Josh once wrote Bill O'Reilly a hate mail letter and O'Reilly read it on the air. The show was bizarre. During the New Amsterdam's some hippie-ass dude yelled out a request to the lead singer, who then replied, "That's not our song" or something like that. Then the hippie guy wigs out and starts yelling at the guy, "Naw, bro, that's not cool. You just disrespected me. Fuck you." The crowd goes silent and the lead singer, a fairly affable dude, is totally blindside by this guy's rude behavior. They go back and forth, with the singer apologizing, although he doesn't really know what he's apologizing for, and finally buys the hippie dude and his (oddly) Jersey-mall chick girlfriend a beer, which the bartender slammed on the bar and said something to the effect of, "You're an asshole" to the hippie guy. Five minutes later, the hippie guy leans over to me and says, "You have beautiful hair." Five minutes after that, Jersey-mall chick drops her State Radio merch on the ground, and Chris picks it up and hands it back to her. Then Hippie-Dude says, "Thanks, bro, that's so awesome. Let me buy you a beer." Um, like the one you just snaked off the band? Thanks, Bra!

State Radio, however, was unbelievable and wonderful and it was such a dance-worthy, fro-shaking good time. Hippie-Dude even tried to crowd surf. Is this 1996 Lollapalooza? My bad, I didn't get the memo. Anyway, the show was so powerful. I love a band with a progressive message. Lead singer/guitarist Chad Urmston (from Dispatch) is my long-lost hair twin, and he was nice neough to a picture with me.

The next night, we went to Guster at the Pageant. We had great balcony seats, but I kinda wish I had the energy to be on the floor, because the energy at Guster shows is awesome, as is Guster themselves. They have crazy-devoted fans, many armed with ping-pong balls. The bullshit of the Guster show was that a guy I work with invited Chris and I to a fish fry before the show. I said yes, but then Chris didn't want to go and I took a nap and we ate burritos instead. The guy I work with, I should probably mention, is brother-in-law to the drummer of Guster. Who ended up being at the fish fry. That we didn't go to. BUNK CITY! The drummer from Guster, Brian Rosenworcel, is totally awesome. He drums WITH HIS HANDS. Cymbals and all. It's one of the coolest musical things I've experienced at a show.

More this weekend--We have Babel and Jesus Camp from Netflix, which I'm excited about.