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.