Friday, October 31, 2008
To listen to me whine
About nothing and everything
All at once
I am one of those
Neurotic to the bone
No doubt about it
Sometimes I give myself the creeps
Sometimes my mind plays tricks on me
It all keeps adding up
I think I'm cracking up
Am I just paranoid?
Or I'm just stoned"
-- from Green Day "Basket Case"
Well, I'm not stoned. And it turns out I am not paranoid either. And that first stanza... I must say, that's a bit like reading my blog, eh? Self-indulgent, melodramatic, blah blah blah. Okay, I'm over it.
Soooo... last Saturday after giving my car her one year anniversary "works" car wash at Valley Dairy, I added my happy-clappy Obama car magnet to my bumper. Me. With a car magnet. ME! The girl who HATES car magnets and bumper stickers, especially the dumb Calvin and Hobbes rude ones. Well, this girl broke down and decided to sport a magnet, because it was a respectable design and I was inspired by the daily offensive offensive of Mike N's facebook status remarks to actually proudly display my political viewpoint in hopes of inspiring others, particularly when it comes to voting on Tuesday. My viewpoint drove all over Fargo on Saturday, politicked in my parking lot all day Sunday (since I didn't even emerge from my pjs the entire day), and then I did my daily work, grocery store, home commute on Monday.
Then after school on Tuesday when I left work, I noticed my Obama car magnet was gone. Without a trace. Could it have fallen off when I was driving? Did my magnet fail? I knew it was on my car on Monday night, but was it there when I left for work on Tuesday morning? Was this the work of the parking lot vandals who potentially buy and sell drugs in our lot? Was this a politically motivated theft? Was it pure vandalism, let's take it to be mean, just because we can? Did I lose my lovely magnet in my lot at school, where I was parked in broad daylight for 8 hours? Did a student take it to be funny? I searched the bushes, there was not a magnet in sight.
I tried not to let that get me down. I visited the local Democratic party headquarters in order to buy a new one (my first one was ordered online). They didn't have any but they said they'd have bumper stickers in a couple days. That would have to do.
So, today between school dismissal and our evening parent-teacher conferences I decided to run a few errands. Since the Dem. headquarters was nearby, I stopped there first. The original plan was to merely tape the bumper sticker in the back window since I wasn't quite ready to put a sticker on my bumper. The magnet I could handle. A permanent sticker felt more like a tattoo that I wasn't ready for. Only, it turns out these new bumper stickers are more like clings in that they are removeable. They adhere nicely, (I cleaned off the bumper before I stuck it on) and yet, they seem to be able to be peeled off just as easily.
From the bumper sticker christening I moved on to purchasing a controlled substance at the local pharmacy. Yes. I needed some Claritin D. Next I drove to the grocery store where I picked up a few supplies for tomorrow's potluck at work. Both errands took about 15 minutes. So, when I returned to my car to stash my groceries, I noticed my bumper sticker was gone. For half a second I thought perhaps I was driving a bumper sticker magnet resistant Honda. That maybe I was just being paranoid in thinking that someone was deliberately sabotaging my efforts at supporting Obama. Then I noticed distinct finger marks in the dust beside the clean area where a bumper sticker once was. It was obvious someone had peeled it off. Seriously. What the hell?
So, on Tuesday I lose my car magnet. On Thursday, 20 minutes after applying my first ever bumper sticker, someone actually has the balls to peel it off my car. Glad to know it was that easy to remove. Thankfully I got TWO bumper stickers and so I carefully wiped the area clean and applied bumper sticker number 2.
I am just so absolutely stunned that there are people out there who would actually dare to remove my bumper sticker in a crowded parking lot in the middle of the day when I, the owner of the car, could have approached at any second. Was this person following me and watching for me to get out of my car so they could vandalize it? Or was this just a momentary fit of McCain/Palin lovin' rage that pushed some normally passive person over the edge? And what on earth would I have done if I HAD caught some in the act. I am a bit nervous about that. Wow. I hate things like theft and sneakery and breaking and entering and just vile acts of cowardice in general. And I would hate to be put in a position like that. I don't think it would end well.
It's 11:47 pm. I just did a visual check. Bumper sticker # 2 still on car. I will keep you posted.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
This is just a sample of the entertaining series of images created by Aaron Costain. You can view the entire Calamity Coach here. The dark humor reminds me of Edward Gorey's alphabet book, Gashlycrumb Tinies, which is rather appropriate for the Halloween season. (see below!)
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
There is an entire site dedicated to political pumpkins. I love a good Halloween pumpkin and these are super fun. You can even download stencils here.
Now, if they wanted them to be SCARY they should have included McCain and Palin Pumpkins...
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
For some reason, this project also appeals to me. I know I can do ribbing like that since one of my first scarves was made much like that. I'm not even a fan of turtlenecks so I am not sure why I like this, but I do. If I decide to tackle this one, I can find the pattern in a book called Scarf Style. Another way it can be worn is as a scarf with the sleeves wrapped around the already cozy neck.
Monday, October 27, 2008
On Saturday I wandered around Boucle Yarn Studio in Fargo and it was so calming and lovely. Their store is full of yummy expensive yarns and inspiration at every turn. I left eager to try my hand at making a sweater. I haven't even THOUGHT about such things for this winter--I have so many unfinished projects and other ideas waiting in the wings. Yet, suddenly I believed I could do it. They were all out of patterns but I may check around in town to make sure no other store carries them before ordering one online so I can actually do it. Of course the next step would be to find a yarn. I really did like the yarn choice they used in the model they had on display at Boucle.
It's a top down knit v-neck cardigan with a seed stitch edging. The pattern is a Knitting Pure and Simple (pattern #241) brand. Each of the images I've seen of sweaters made with this pattern are different and I'm excited to see what I can create. Above is a picture of what it could look like. The one at Boucle had a really cool wooden button, which I'd like to replicate.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
My Personal 'Faith Priorities' for this Election
By Jim Wallis
In 2004, several conservative Catholic Bishops and a few megachurch pastors like Rick Warren issued their list of "non-negotiables," which were intended to be a voter guide for their followers. All of them were relatively the same list of issues: abortion, gay marriage, stem cell research, etc. None of them even included the word "poverty," only one example of the missing issues which are found quite clearly in the Bible. All of them were also relatively the same as official Republican Party Web sites of "non-negotiables." The political connections and commitments of the religious non-negotiable writers were quite clear.
I want to suggest a different approach this year and share my personal list of "faith priorities" that will guide me in making the imperfect choices that always confront us in any election year -- and suggest that each of you come up with your own list of "faith" or "moral" priorities for this election year and take them into the polling place with you.
After the last election, I wrote a book titled God's Politics. I was criticized by some for presuming to speak for God, but that wasn't the point. I was trying to explore what issues might be closest to the heart of God and how they may be quite different from what many strident religious voices were then saying. I was also saying that "God's Politics" will often turn our partisan politics upside down, transcend our ideological categories of Left and Right, and challenge the core values and priorities of our political culture. I was also trying to say that there is certainly no easy jump from God's politics to either the Republicans or Democrats. God is neither. In any election, we face imperfect choices, but our choices should reflect the things we believe God cares about if we are people of faith, and our own moral sensibilities if we are not people of faith. Therefore, people of faith, and all of us, should be "values voters" but vote all our values, not just a few that can be easily manipulated for the benefit of one party or another.
In 2008, the kingdom of God is not on the ballot in any of the 50 states as far as I can see. So we can't vote for that this year. But there are important choices in this year's election -- very important choices -- which will dramatically impact what many in the religious community and outside of it call "the common good," and the outcome could be very important, perhaps even more so than in many recent electoral contests.
I am in no position to tell anyone what is "non-negotiable," and neither is any Bishop or megachurch pastor, but let me tell you the "faith priorities" and values I will be voting on this year:
With more than 2,000 verses in the Bible about how we treat the poor and oppressed, I will examine the record, plans, policies, and promises made by the candidates on what they will do to overcome the scandal of extreme global poverty and the shame of such unnecessary domestic poverty in the richest nation in the world. Such a central theme of the Bible simply cannot be ignored at election time, as too many Christians have done for years. And any solution to the economic crisis that simply bails out the rich, and even the middle class, but ignores those at the bottom should simply be unacceptable to people of faith.
From the biblical prophets to Jesus, there is, at least, a biblical presumption against war and the hope of beating our swords into instruments of peace. So I will choose the candidates who will be least likely to lead us into more disastrous wars and find better ways to resolve the inevitable conflicts in the world and make us all safer. I will choose the candidates who seem to best understand that our security depends upon other people's security (everyone having "their own vine and fig tree, so no one can make them afraid," as the prophets say) more than upon how high we can build walls or a stockpile of weapons. Christians should never expect a pacifist president, but we can insist on one who views military force only as a very last resort, when all other diplomatic and economic measures have failed, and never as a preferred or habitual response to conflict.
"Choosing life" is a constant biblical theme, so I will choose candidates who have the most consistent ethic of life, addressing all the threats to human life and dignity that we face -- not just one. 30,000 children dying globally each day of preventable hunger and disease is a life issue. The genocide in Darfur is a life issue. Health care is a life issue. War is a life issue. The death penalty is a life issue. And on abortion, I will choose candidates who have the best chance to pursue the practical and proven policies which could dramatically reduce the number of abortions in America and therefore save precious unborn lives, rather than those who simply repeat the polarized legal debates and "pro-choice" and "pro-life" mantras from either side.
God's fragile creation is clearly under assault, and I will choose the candidates who will likely be most faithful in our care of the environment. In particular, I will choose the candidates who will most clearly take on the growing threat of climate change, and who have the strongest commitment to the conversion of our economy and way of life to a cleaner, safer, and more renewable energy future. And that choice could accomplish other key moral priorities like the redemption of a dangerous foreign policy built on Middle East oil dependence, and the great prospects of job creation and economic renewal from a new "green" economy built on more spiritual values of conservation, stewardship, sustainability, respect, responsibility, co-dependence, modesty, and even humility.
Every human being is made in the image of God, so I will choose the candidates who are most likely to protect human rights and human dignity. Sexual and economic slavery is on the rise around the world, and an end to human trafficking must become a top priority. As many religious leaders have now said, torture is completely morally unacceptable, under any circumstances, and I will choose the candidates who are most committed to reversing American policy on the treatment of prisoners. And I will choose the candidates who understand that the immigration system is totally broken and needs comprehensive reform, but must be changed in ways that are compassionate, fair, just, and consistent with the biblical command to "welcome the stranger."
Healthy families are the foundation of our community life, and nothing is more important than how we are raising up the next generation. As the father of two young boys, I am deeply concerned about the values our leaders model in the midst of the cultural degeneracy assaulting our children. Which candidates will best exemplify and articulate strong family values, using the White House and other offices as bully pulpits to speak of sexual restraint and integrity, marital fidelity, strong parenting, and putting family values over economic values? And I will choose the candidates who promise to really deal with the enormous economic and cultural pressures that have made parenting such a "countercultural activity" in America today, rather than those who merely scapegoat gay people for the serious problems of heterosexual family breakdown.
That is my list of personal "faith priorities" for the election year of 2008, but they are not "non-negotiables" for anyone else. It's time for each of us to make up our own list in these next 12 days. Make your list and send this on to your friends and family members, inviting them to do the same thing.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Laird has the energy, drive, and enthusiasm to advance new ideas--innovation that will bring North Dakota forward into the 21st century. In the mere 14 years I’ve been teaching, I’ve witnessed profound changes in education. Max Laird, understands those changes because he works with students and teachers daily. He is able to recognize the unique problems schools in our state face and the increasingly varied needs of students. It is one thing to implement federal mandates such as No Child Left Behind; it is quite another to be on the receiving end, seeing the problems it presents. Max understands both perspectives.
I teach with Max Laird and I've had the opportunity to witness how he can challenge an idea the rest of us fail to question and then lead us through a discussion that brings forth new ideas, out-of-the-box ideas, that make us better for it. Laird is not only a leader, but also a team player, willing to get his own hands dirty. As Superintendent of Public Instruction, you won’t find him reclining in his chair, his feet up, until it's time for his nap. No, Max Laird will be working for YOU--for your kids, for our teachers, and for our schools all across this state.
Wayne Sanstead has failed in his goal to make North Dakota education “the envy of the nation.” We’re losing many of our best teachers to other states’ more competitive wages. We see quality teachers opting for early retirement because the current educational mandates, which do little to serve students, sap their passion for teaching. And we have “failing schools,” schools that need both financial support and new approaches so they have a chance for success in the future. Sanstead says he's committed to making the changes we need, but in six terms he has failed, time and again. What will change now? With Max Laird in office we have a chance at fulfilling that goal. Max Laird is the clear choice on November 4th.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
As part of the Great Conversations series in honor of the University of North Dakota's 125th anniversary, Bloom appeared on stage in an interview style (much like Inside the Actor's Studio, as it was compared earlier today!). Bloom discussed his work (5 years of weekends researching and interviewing folks in Postville, Iowa) and some of his revelations. He also addressed some of the recent controversy with the raid that resulted in the largest arrest of undocumented workers in American history.
The book of Postville focuses on fundamental changes confronting a small, predominately Lutheran, Iowa town after 150 Lubavitcher Jews from Brooklyn settle there, buy the local slaughterhouse, and become the community's new power brokers.
Read a proper review of the book here.
Bloom stated he has no interest in writing a sequel or continuing his work in Postville. That's someone else's job now. For him that chapter is done. He talked about what it was like as a Jewish man to move with his family from San Francisco to a relatively small city in Iowa. He explained, "We're never going to become Iowans, but Iowa has become our home." He explored the notion of truth and accuracy in writing. Bloom did emphasize how he sees himself as a writer who gives a voice to those without a voice and he believes in shining a flashlight in the dark places.
Bloom's latest book (due out in Fall 2009), Tears of a Mermaid, explores the journey a pearl makes from oyster to necklace in the global assembly line and its impact in history. He currently teaches at the University of Iowa.
Since I'd not planned to attend, I'd not read the book. This Great Conversations event was merely a pleasant surprise and now I'm intrigued even more. As an added bonus Marci and I met up with a trio of gals she knew who were meeting at a coffee shop after as a book club focusing on the book. It was such a treat to crash their party and to hear their insights into the book, and now I may even have a new pal to go to Neil Diamond with next month! Woo Hoo!
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Published Monday, October 20, 2008
Here's a little something I found interesting. His final point drives it home for me.
A group called the Alliance Defense Fund recently sponsored “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” to encourage pastors to endorse political candidates in defiance of the IRS rule that contributions to churches may be tax deductible only as long as the churches do not engage in partisan politics. The same rule applies to all nonprofit organizations.
The kind of confrontational defiance of government promoted by the Alliance Defense Fund, even though done in the name of religion, is secular, having no basis in Scripture. In fact, the New Testament teaches exactly the opposite kind of demeanor.
In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul asserted that “authorities that exist have been established by God” and “he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted.” In his letter to Timothy, he suggested respect for authorities that “we might live quiet and peaceful lives with all godliness and holiness.” To Titus, he reiterated the need to respect authority and to be “peaceable and considerate.”
Paul knew that if Christian churches became embroiled in secular issues — even slavery — two things would happen. First, the resources of the church would be diverted from the Gospel to secular politics; and second, the church witness of loving God and loving neighbors would be repudiated by the hostility inherent in secular controversy.
This defiance of government has roots in our secular culture, and many Christians have bought into the idea. Consequently, churches are now embroiled in many public issues, some based on Biblical values and some on political values. Instead of measuring their behavior against New Testament tenets, political Christians find it acceptable to practice the deceit and misrepresentation that are standard fare in contemporary politics.
If politicalization of Christianity continues, it will certainly drive wedges among Christians who have different paradigms for thinking out their political decisions. Churches will experience the same polarization that has gripped the secular society.
Eventually, those who hold minority views will leave, and churches will be left serving congregations that become more and more homogenous in their political orientation. Politics will overshadow the Gospel — as it has with the Alliance Defense Fund — and political loyalty will become the litmus test for parishioners.
It is ironic that the Christians who believe that God controls the rise and fall of governments are also the ones most intent on influencing the outcome of elections. This suggests that they either don’t really believe that God is in control, or they think God can’t do the job if left to himself.
Monday, October 20, 2008
The reason Laura Plansker's art makes me think of this is because a few year's back a student did a creative project response to Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream and it was lovely. As a student, Mandy was a fine artist who paid attention to detail and could see and create wonderful things. Still, she was the exception rather than the norm. And really, her project could have been completed with even very little understanding of the play.
On the other hand, Ms. Plansker's art is just that--art. And I love it with all its delicious creativity. I love these fantastical little worlds she's created. Her website is filled with more and a few of them are Tim Burton creepy. The one with the alligator actually reminds me of Mandy's Midsummer scene and the bird/girl scene has Mary Poppins associations for me.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Saturday, October 18, 2008
In the last debate McCain made some comments about folks who are "pro-abortion" and I felt his word choice was very deliberate and underhanded. He was trying to slip it in and I was so thankful that Obama called him on that. It's about having a choice. No one is pro-abortion.
McCain also used some rather offensive "air quotes" regarding the "health of the mother" as if to say that was a big joke or some kind of lie. In reference to late term abortions and whether they should remain legal when the health of the mother is at stake, McCain's words:
Alexa at Flotsam had a few words to say, as a woman who's dealt with infertility, pregnancy, loss of an infant, and the potential for health risk for both her other baby and herself. She says it better than I can. Here's a sample from her more lengthy post.
"Health for the mother." You know, that's been stretched by the pro-abortion movement in America to mean almost anything. That's the extreme pro-abortion position, quote, "health."
I was, angry at his cavalier treatment of the subject, at the inane and misleadingly benign phrase “culture of life” (whereas the rest of us, if not actually invested in a culture of DEATH, are merely “meh” on the concept of life. Life? Oh I can take it or leave it!). I was angry at his use of the term “pro-abortion,” a term that could only be coined by someone who has never had to contemplate such a procedure, or watched a loved one do the same.
It is my understanding that McCain believes late-term abortion should be outlawed except when it is necessary to save the life of the mother. But when do you make that determination? When does “health of the mother” turn into “life of the mother,” anyway? What organs would the infection have to spread to and shut down before I would be permitted to terminate my pregnancy? Would they wait until I was on a ventilator, or merely until my lungs were beginning to fill with fluid?
Nothing is simple. Each case unique. Each struggle a personal and difficult one. Doctors can advise, sometimes people can get lucky, but in the end it should come down to a decision made by a woman not a law that can't begin to deal with the grey areas. And McCain so clearly doesn't understand this. He scorns the struggle. Fails to recognize that this health risk is a real concern. As he is so fond of saying.... he just doesn't understand.
And on a related issue (that of not really understanding) was it just me or does he also not understand the rather profound difference between autism and Downs Syndrome? And is Governor Palin an expert on special needs, particularly autism, because she has a child with special needs or was there a need to bone up on that in her previous job experiences and how old is that child exactly, if the former is true? No explanation for her credentials was given. It all just seemed rather suspect. I sincerely hope others are adding this stuff up and seeing the McCain/Palin duo for what they really are. Frightening.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Thursday, October 16, 2008
I love the light in these images of the rooms. It's heavenly. It makes me feel happy just looking at the image and I wish I could simply grab a delicious book and slip into that room and relax.
Carl Larsson is an artist I am familiar with thanks to greeting cards and bookmarks. My mom introduced me to him years ago and I keep running across his work in my random internet browsing and so I decided a blog post celebrating his work might be in order.
The images in this post are just a representation of his signature style--in fact, Sweden's signature style-- and the look I tend to favor among his many paintings. I love his use of color, the reds in particular. Yet, many of his paintings are filled with a variety of colors and shades, sometimes muted, like the birch tree breakfast scene below. Where color exists in his paintings, it really pops. What I think I love best of all is the way the images in each painting seem so crisp and distrinct and it must be a technique that is beyond my understanding. Whatever he's doing, I like. The image of the bathers reminds me of work by another artist, David Small, whose style seems similar perhaps in a kind of outlining of the image?
Carl Larsson (1853-1919) was a Swedish painter, whose most famous works are in watercolor (yet another trait he shares with David Small.... I guess I just like watercolor, eh?) Interestingly, Larsson did write and illustrate children's picture books in the late 1800s and also was one of the earliest Swedish comic creators. His wife and eight children were frequently his models and there is a homey charm that appears in his work, quite possibly because of that. He was also an interior designer and their home in the paintings reflects that side of him as well.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
John Hockenberry interviewed Reverend Dr. James Herbert Cooper of Trinity Church located on Wall Street. "Regarding a redistribution of wealth," explained Cooper, "some fear it's the redistribution of poverty." Still, he believes, "caring people would look for the dignity of all people and to look toward an equitable system of economics."
The Reverend Cooper also explained, "The idea that 'all things will work out' is not the basic theological doctrine but that God will always be with us, even when it doesn't work out... whether it's a hurricane or 9/11... and out of that promise, we take steps to rebuild."
While there was much more to the hour long program on The Takeaway, this ten minute segment was entitled "The fracturing religious right, the growing religious left."
I'm not sure that I've really seen this evidenced by many of the evangelicals I know, who seem fairly entrenched in the religious right-- many maintaining a fervent hold on their adoration for George Bush despite undeniable evidence of his failure in the role of president to the point of criminal misconduct.
Though I consider myself a Christian and have attended evangelical churches over the last 18 years, I have never felt very comfortable with the political stance and what I perceived to be self-righteous attitudes of many of those around me. I rebelled against the implication that there was something less Christian about me because my views about abortion, same sex marriage, capital punishment, evolution, environmentalism, government assistance and the economic policies that go with them, differed from the mainstream evangelical folks. And I've come to the conclusion that it simply has to be more than a different "interpretation" of scripture. It is more of a "heart" issue--the way I believe. I think God gets me, even if others don't.
Hockenberry commented that evangelicals have long been associated with the Republican base, though we may see that changing this year... and the Reverend disagreed. He says, "Evangelicals have historically been associated with those on the margins of society particularly in the 19th century. The aberration is the rise of the "religious right" beginning in the late 1970s." For much of the 20th century evangelicalism was lying low. But in the 70s it reemerged and, according to Hockenberry, became to the Republican party what the labor unions once were for the democratic party.
Still, that was then, this is now. Cooper explains, "the pressure from peers and older generations is to be single issue voters... with issues like abortion and same sex unions." Yet, he's finding more and more that there's a generation gap between the old line leaders like Chuck Colson and James Dobson and the younger generation.
And it's the single issue voting that just irks me. It seems sort of simple minded and unbending, a willful refusal to acknowledge every other pressing issue that truly ought to be considered. I really have no objection with someone's choice to vote in a way that differs from me, but I really want that to be an educated vote. It's just too important.
Reverend Cooper goes on to say, "the younger generation seems to have no interest is issues with sexual identity and if pressed they'll offer up the stance, Yes, I'm pro-life... I am against abortion, but even that issue is beginning to fade in importance. This is in part because there's no real passion behind it in terms of political will." He defends this statement by using the following as support:
"From Feb 1 2006 (Samuel Alito) to Jan 3, 2007 when democratic majorities took control of Congress.... the Republican religious right controlled all three branches of federal government. The chief executive, majority leader of the senate, and the speaker of the house of representatives all claimed to be evangelical Christians, unalterably opposed to abortion, and yet they made no effort whatsoever to outlaw abortion."
Cooper believes it's important that evangelicals reclaim their heritage. He says, "Not only in the teachings of Jesus, and Jesus expressed a great deal of concern for those on the margins of society, but also what I consider to be the noble legacy of 19th century evangelical activism that unfailingly took the part of those who were marginalized, those who are less advantaged."
I guess THAT is how I see my role as a Christian in today's society. I consider myself a compassionate realist. I know my God is with me and that my prayers alone are not the thing that moves mountains, but that through prayer I can find my grounding and God can empower ME to do the things that need to be done. Gandhi said, "we must be the change we want to see in the world." And I believe that. I hope Hockenberry is right and that there are others like me out there... those who fall into the evangelical "left." But really, it's more that I hope Cooper is right and soon folks who love Jesus and want to do right by others will be free from ties to any political party and will simply be able to live and serve others, especially those on the margins of society. I thank my grandmother who taught me to pray so I can know God's will for my life and I thank the generations of women before me who fought so I could have the freedom to vote, and, in one more way, I can impact the world in which I live.
You can listen to the actual takeaway segment here.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Max is a colleague of mine who is running for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. If you are a North Dakota resident and education is a priority for you, I encourage you to vote for Max in November. Check out his website to learn more.
If he already has your vote, spread the word--please tell your neighbors, friends, family. Max Laird will be good for students, teachers, and schools here in our state. Quite literally, I expect he will improve the "state" of education in North Dakota.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Professional Book Club Read
A Teacher's Guide to the Multigenre Research Project by Melinda Putz
I really enjoyed this book. Putz presents a "twist" on the research paper in her multigenre research project. This isn't the first time I've heard of this kind of project. Melinda Putz doesn't claim to have "invented" the assignment. She has, however, explained it in a way that is very explicit and user friendly. She includes at the end of each chapter her actual handouts she gives students. I found myself flipping to these in order to make sense of her explanations. She includes student work to illustrate the explanations and goes a step further by including a companion CD with pdf or ms word files of each of her handouts for teacher use as well as one complete student multigenre project and many snippets from other students' work as well. Because much of the multigenre project is visual, the CD option really added my my understanding of the projects students produced.
It's impressive to consider all the ways a unit like this can impact students reading, researching, and writing. They must do a decent amount of higher level thinking, inferring, and synthesizing and I am always looking for ways to encourage that in students.
Finally, it's a project that --I-- want to do. Instantly I was running through possible topics in my mind and was trying to think of different genres I could use to depict the essential elements of those topics. It's easy to get excited about something so creative and I have a feeling that would be the same for students too. I am definitely going to try this with my students I just need to figure out how to adapt it to our school setting (block schedule) and at what grade level I want to begin.
For those curious about ways to engage students in research in creative ways this is a book I would highly recommend.
Young Adult/Juvenile Fiction
Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan
I've settled into this series and now am looking forward to each new episode. I enjoyed this one quite a bit and I'm not sure why it was more fun for me because it had all the same elements of the other books. Of course, this one featured the famed Greek labyrinth and Daedalus and Icarus and Helios Cattle and Kronos still is striving to return... I understand Book 5 is due out sometime this spring. I learned this from a 6th grader. Why not? All I can think is really? I have to wait THAT long?
RRVWP Book Club Pick--Fiction
Evidence of Things Unseen by Marianne Wiggins
I enjoyed the way the author portrayed the characters in this novel-- the watery-eyed, blinking, science nerd Foss, his young wispy white-haired wife Opal, the sometimes drunken, womanizing, says-it-like-it-is, Flash.
I also were impressed with the time span of the book and the historical references made to things like the Scopes Monkey Trial, WWI trench warfare, prohibition, Ku Klux Klan, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Manhattan project.
The story is a tender, intriguing, often heartbreaking look at a young couple's journey through these years reflecting both his desire to contribute to science and passion for things that are luminescent and their mutual desire to have a child.
Wiggins uses imagery relating to fish, to things that are illuminated, and of course there is the the frequent reference to things unseen. I really enjoyed this book and book clubbers, who finished it, seemed to as well. There was some comment that the ending seemed a bit "pat," or a bit too neat, but that didn't really detract from the overall experience for me. I would recommend this book.
Book about Books--Essays
Housekeeping Versus the Dirt by Nick Hornby
Housekeeping vs. The Dirt is a collection of Nick Hornby's columns in The Believer. Since I can't afford a subscription to the magazine I periodically read bits online and I buy Hornby's collections when I find them at a used book shop. I read The Polysyllabic Spree awhile back and didn't even realize another book was out there. Oh my goodness, I just realized the pun in the title. They are both book titles Hornby read and reviewed. Sheesh.
His subtitle is "Fourteen Months of Massively Witty Adventures in Reading Chronicled by The National Book Critics Circle Finalist for Criticism"
Each column begins with the month and year, next the list of books bought by Hornby that month and then the list of books read. What follows is an essay that discusses the books he read and his views on them blended with his witticisms on life and literature and "censorship" by editors (the 'polysyllabic spree' at The Believer... all very tongue in cheek). He gushes over Gilead, makes comments about his pal Sarah Vowell and her most recent book. He explores the ideas behind what makes a classic a "classic" and the difference between being a "person of letters" and simply a person who loves books. It's a conversation that keeps coming up in my life. Interesting stuff. Hornby's even sold me on reading a few of the titles he writes about. If you like books about books and a wry sense of humor you might like this. I did.
Big Cherry Holler by Adriana Trigiani
Milk Glass Moon by Adriana Trigiani
Big Cherry Holler picks up Ave Maria's story eight years after Big Stone Gap. In this one we explore the mind of Ave Maria, wife and mother, and discover that things are more complicated than the "and they lived happily ever after" we've come to expect with love stories that culminate in the basic plot of guy meets girl, overcomes obstacles, and marries her... the end. This is the book that follows. I found myself frustrated with Ave Maria in this one and angry with some of her choices but I could empathize too. The story deals with overcoming the loss of a child, her husband's livelihood being stripped from him as the mines close, and the struggle of fidelity in marriage. The same cast of characters are back and their own stories continue to develop as the story unfolds. Despite some of my discomfort with Ave Maria in this book, I still enjoyed it and the way it explored her humanity.
In Milk Glass Moon the focus is on the relationship between mother and daughter. Etta grows from a 12 year old to eighteen throughout the book. Ave Maria must face the changes that brings and also find a balance between her expectations for her daughter and the reality of who her daughter is. Set in both the Appalachians and Italy, this book is much like the two that precede it .... it touched my heart, made me cry, and laugh and wonder what my own relationship will be to my children... if I ever have any.
Home to Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani
Bet Me by Jennifer Cruisie
I think this was my least favorite book of the Trigiani bunch. There was nothing wrong with it, but it just didn't resonate the same way the others did. In this one Ave Maria goes through a period of estrangement with her best pal Iva Lou and I had a hard time really understanding it. I enjoyed their trip to Scotland and it actually made me want to travel there based solely on their descriptions. This book also had a smattering of recipes included in the text when various foods were mentioned. I can't remember if that happened in the other books; if it did, I didn't notice. I thought it was sort of cutesy and though it wasn't a terrible thing in any way, I liked it better in Like Water for Chocolate (a great book, by the way... espec. if you like magical realism). Even though this final book in the Big Stone Gap series didn't rock my world I am quite glad to have read them again. They are a bit melancholy but satisfying and comforting too.
I've read about five Jennifer Crusie novels that I can recall. The best way to describe these is as "romance" novels. Light and frothy. A romantic comedy in print rather than on screen. Crusie is from Ohio and often sets her novels in the German Village neighborhood in Columbus, home of one of my favorite bookstores--The Book Loft. Also my sister used to live there. The books are quick reads and focused on relationships. I used to own a bunch of them but I think I sold them all a few years ago. This one I just found under my bed, unread, this summer when I was doing a bit of housecleaning. It's about a slightly overweight girl who gets her guy. I wasn't expecting the explicit sex toward the end of the novel, but that wasn't totally unwelcome. Why not? :)
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller
I liked this book well enough. I was expecting it to be more like the most recent Batman movie and though there were traces of this book in the film, it was quite a different story. This graphic novel is intricate and the art is pretty awesome, however I felt as I was reading it that for every three frames I was missing one. I'm sure that's not the case, but at times, I felt it was difficult to follow. Perhaps I needed to know more of the backstory for it all to make sense. I would certainly recommend it for superhero fans.
What I was Watching in September
Project Runway Season 5
Friends Season 10 on DVD
Weeds Season 4
The New Adventures of Old Christine
Brothers and Sisters
Two and a Half Men
Anderson Cooper 360
I'm enjoying Project Runway as always and wish that they would run this show year round. Even though I can't sew worth a darn, I really do love and admire the creativity of others. I do love most of Kenley's stuff even if the girl is a bit annoying.
Weeds. Wow. Season out. And it was a doozy. Things just don't seem to be getting better or easier for Nancy Botwin and it was almost getting hard for me to watch the train wreck in front of me when I'd sit down to the computer to see the next episode. I wonder what Season Five will bring.
As the fresh seasons of the network TV programs start I will say that I love Heroes. It's quite the frightening adrenaline rush for me. Truly as scary as it gets for me! This season does this back and forth from the future to now thing a lot and it could prove a little confusing. But it's one thing that I enjoy about Lost. And if I can't be seeing new episodes of that right away I am more than happy to have the mental workout Heroes provides.
While The Office remains as wonderful as ever, I have to say I just love, love, love The New Adventures of Old Christine. It doesn't get old for me. She's just too funny. A wonderful character, wonderfully acted. And the entire cast is superb!
The rest of the programs are a bit of the same old, same old... not sure why I'm watching them... etc. I will say I find the 5 years into the future shift for Desperate Housewives to be peculiar but maybe they needed something to give them more room for plot growth. It's okay, I guess.
I don't have much to say about the debates but I will mention that I think both Anderson Cooper and John King are pretty yummy.
The Parent Trap
Failure to Launch
All three are films I watched on TV on a lazy Sunday. All three are films I've seen before.
What I was Listening to in September
This was a light music month. Not that I wasn't listening to music. On the contrary. I was immersed in music trying to find good trivia songs and I even made it to a couple concerts. Still I didn't find myself immersed in one CD that I listened to again and again. I did enjoy a few LPs.
The Very Best of Connie Francis on vinyl
a random sampling from my MP3 player here is my posted shuffle:
September 14, 2008
Californication by Red Hot Chili Peppers
If looks Could Kill by Heart
Is She Really Going Out With Him by Joe Jackson
I Hate Everything About You by Three Days Grace
Levon by Elton John
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
If I'd known how fantastic this concert was going to be I'd have tried to recruit far more people to see Willy Porter. Not only was Porter a guitar genius, he had a terrific voice and songs I really liked. After the first song, I knew I had to buy a CD so I could take this man home with me! Of course, I didn't have any cash with me so now I plan to buy his High Wire Live CD online simply because it features so many of the songs I enjoyed at his concert. He also has a new album coming out in January and he played a couple songs off that one too.
The promotional material for Porter mentioned his accomplishments and a number of names (Tori Amos, Jethro Tull, Sting, Jeff Beck and more) of musicians with whom he's played. And after chatting with my friend Nancy I learned that Porter's also pals with Martin Sexton, another favorite of mine. She encouraged Porter to record with Sexton or possibly do a concert together. I think her words were, "If you and Sexton were to perform together, I might spontaneously combust!" I wholeheartedly agree.
What made Porter's concert so memorable for me was the way he introduced each song. Instead of just launching into a new tune he was actually quite chatty and told us humorous anecdotes from his past or stories about his son. Each of those stories was entertaining on its own, but it became clear as the following song unfolded just how the song emerged from the story. As a writer who is always seeking to understand inspiration and how stories, poems, and novels have come to be written, I really appreciate this glimpse into his creative mind.
Furthermore he wasn't just a fine storyteller and an amazing musician, he was witty and wise. Even his comments about Palin were profound and thought provoking. I guess what I am saying is that while his music was wonderful, anyone who uses the word "aplomb" in the midst of a concert has my heart. This was the best $15.00 I've spent in a long time.
October 3 Playlist
1. Angry Words (High Wire Live, Dog Eared Dream)
2. Unconditional (High Wire Live, Willy Porter)
3. Tilt a Whirl (on the new cd in Jan)
4. Hard Place (on the new cd in Jan)
5. Instrumental (not sure--Moonbeam, maybe?)
6.Tribe (High Wire Live, Falling Forward)
7. Paper Airplane (High Wire Live, Falling Forward)
8. Happy Accident ??? Song we wrote together using the words black cat, pregnancy, working, sugar beets, tuna fish sandwiches... and of course he had to work Sarah Palin's debate appearance into the song, actually tying it to the song.
9. Nascar marketing demo-- spoken word focusing on the ads on the cars
10. Jesus on the Grille (High Wire Live,Dog Eared Dream)
11. Breathe (High Wire Live, Willy Porter)
12. Mr. Roger's Neighborhood Encore/Sunday visit/Bootsy collins
You can hear some of these songs from another live performance if you follow this link.
He also has a myspace page where you can hear a handful of his songs.
Monday, October 06, 2008
What follows are a sampling of poems collected here. They are compiled verbatim from only three brief interviews. So just imagine the work Sarah Palin could produce over the next four (or eight) years.
It's funny that
A comment like that
Was kinda made to,
I don't know,
You know ...
I am a Washington outsider.
Look at where you are.
I'm a Washington outsider.
I do not have those allegiances
To the power brokers,
To the lobbyists.
We need someone like that.
(To C. Gibson, ABC News, Sept. 11, 2008)
"On the Bailout"
What the bailout does
Is help those who are concerned
About the health care reform
That is needed
To help shore up our economy,
It's got to be all about job creation, too.
Shoring up our economy
And putting it back on the right track.
So health care reform
And reducing taxes
And reining in spending
Has got to accompany tax reductions
And tax relief for Americans.
We've got to see trade
Not as a competitive, scary thing.
But one in five jobs
Being created in the trade sector today,
We've got to look at that
As more opportunity.
All those things.