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.