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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Dammit!

Maureen Dowd
You are Maureen Dowd! You like to give people silly nicknames and write in really short, non-sequitur paragraphs. You're the most playful of the columnists and a rock-ribbed liberal, but are often accused of being too flamboyant and frivolous. You tend to focus on style over substance, personality over politics. But your heart is in the right place. Plus, you are a total fox.

Which New York Times Op-Ed Columnist Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Via Professor Kim

NB: Again, the html code they give you is wrong; substitute http://live.quizilla.com/user_images/ instead of http://images.quizilla.com/ before the capital D in the img tag.

You know what?

I watch "The Crocodile Hunter" for the same reason a lot of people watch NASCAR: The hope for an accident. Please, Jeebus, I think. Let the rattler get Steve-O just this once.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Updates--Mayor and Barrel-scraping

After doing some spring cleaning projects--replacing window treatments the dog ate last winter, beginning the process of cleaning a winter's worth of petrified dog doo from the back yard, some banal laundry--I'm too tired to write the post I'm working on about vacationing in Mexico with David Brooks. So instead I'm offering just a quick update on two aspects of the Milwaukee mayor's race, plus some other updates.

First, Milwaukee County District Attorney E. Michael McCann today opted not to bring criminal charges against candidate Marvin Pratt. Instead, he filed civil charges for Pratt's campaign finance irregularites going back to 2002, including a fine of $2,500. A radio report I heard indicated that McCann found no evidence of intent, just mistakes. However, the Journal Sentinel report makes no mention of that, and includes more uses of the phrase "in addition" than should legally be allowed in that few column inches.

Second, in the comments thread following yesterday's post (and by thread, I mean, the one comment), Redeye asked, "How will Pratt's being black make him a better mayor?" It's not that I think Pratt will necessarily be a better mayor--I think he will be no better or worse that my guy, Tom Barrett. The difference, though, is that I worry very much what a major election decided mostly along racial lines will do to the city, one already severely segregated by race. What would be worse is if the African American community ends up feeling like Pratt was unfairly targeted by the D.A. and the press because he is black, and loses due to the (very legitimate) finance issues.

As to the "Bottom of the Barrel": It turns out the Ghost of a Flea, whose site I've never seen before, also favored the Chong Hwa blog I noted below with a link and commentary, even noting the same "hallucinatory poetry" quality I did--though a few hours later.

And Ms. Frizzle is also in on the act here, talking about Wild Blue Yonder and more. Ms. Frizzle and the Flea will be in the blogroll soon.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

It is as I feared

A couple weeks back when I made my official endorsement of Tom Barrett for mayor of Milwaukee, I wrote
I think it is very important for Milwaukee to have a black mayor, and despite Barrett's acknowledgement that we are no longer a majority-anything city, that doesn't take the place of an African American in office. And I must say that it's a little disturbing to drive through some neighborhoods with only Barrett signs in the lawns, and then drive through other neighborhoods with nothing but Pratt signs. I don't think that perpetuating a racial divide helps anyone.
Barrett is white; his opponent, Marvin Pratt, is black. And a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel poll released Saturday shows empirically what I've seen in lawn signs: "While Pratt had a huge dominance among black voters in the primary [election February 17]--85% according to an exit poll--the white vote was split much more broadly that day, though Barrett led among white voters. The new poll shows Pratt with support from 88% of blacks who were questioned and 20% of the whites. Barrett, meanwhile, drew 66% of the white vote and 7% of the black vote." (There's a graph here.) And then the "analysis" in the piece goes on to note that Barrett has the advantage here, since there are more undecided white voters at this point.

Milwaukee is a majority-minority city, and, according to some studies, second only to Detroit in how deeply segregated the metro area is. If this election fight comes down to votes cast solely on the basis of race, we could be in for some serious trouble for the next four years.

What makes it worse is that there are still serious questions around Pratt's campaign finances, which would make a legitimate reason not to vote for him. Pratt also makes a strong rhetorical point with his "It's time" theme. The good White Liberal Guilt thing to do is vote Pratt, but I can't.

But I also fear for the city if Tom Barrett wins.

Bottom of the Barrel

This is another in my semi-regular series where I take the lowliest of the Insignificant Microbes, linking to that blogger, and trying hard to say something nice about his or her blog. And hey, if anyone else wants to take up the idea, go ahead. Liz is already doing it! (Okay, I admit, this is just a stalling technique because I have a couple of posts that are taking too long to write.)

Today's contestant is nunber 8076, The Wild Blue Yonder. This is a test for me, like Redeye wondered about in the comments to the last of these threads, because he (I assume it's a he, it's not clear) is a Republican. From Texas, no less. The first three links on the page are to Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and Townhall.com.

But he doesn't really talk about politics, at least not in the last few months. (If I were a Republican, I wouldn't either!). Instead, he's got a cute puppy, named--you guessed it--George W. Beagle, or Dubya for short. So I was quite surprised to see posts with titles like "Dubya's growing up!" and "Dubya graduates!" While the puppy is cute, I must take issue with something: He got the puppy from a breeder.

Not only are Sarah and I not breeders (of any sort!) ourselves, all of our pets--except for the rats we had in college--have been rescues. We got George, Louise, and Peter from the House Rabbit Society; Alex was a pound cat; and Maggie came from the Great Pyrenees Resucue of Greater Chicago. The reason why there are always so many dogs, cats, and more animals at rescues and shelters is that there are too many breeders, too many puppy mills and kitty farms.

Now, it could be worse, and Mr. Yonder could have gotten Dubya through a pet shop, which often rely on lower-quality breeders to provide lots of animals fast. And, to be fair, I clicked through to the breeder's site linked to on Yonder's page, and there didn't seem to be anything too additionally evil about them beyond just the fact that they are breeders. But, I encourage all of you--my three or four loyal readers--to check with shelters, breed rescues, and the like rather than finding a breeder or a pet store for your next pet. (And then, of course, get 'em fixed!)

< /righteous indignation>

UPDATE: I should, in all honesty, point out that not all animal breeders are evil: Many breeders care for the breed, are careful with lineage and where they place the pets, and so on. Still, if you can, go through a rescue, not a breeder.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Mmmmmmmmmmm. Cheese.

I am american cheese!
Cheese Test: What type of cheese are you?

I am so lame. Via my wife, who's hiding her LiveJournal from me.

(NB: The code they give you on their site is faulty; you have to insert http://cupped-expressions.net/cheese/quiz/ into the img tag before the name of the image.)

My Sedentary Life

The sagacious wizards at Google just keep making it easier and easier to be lazy. No, I don't even have to get off the futon for the yellow pages. Check out Google Local.

Found via corax at Ow, My Blog.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Bottom of the Barrel

I've thought for a while that I want to start a new periodic feature here at FR&R: Go to the Ecosystem, pick the lowliest of the Insignificant Microbes--in other words, the blog in last place!--and link to it with something nice to say about it.

Today's contestant is number 8076, Chong Hwa Lifestyle, written in English by a student in, I think, Malaysia. And the language difficulties make for some near-poetic posts. (Think Donald Rumsfeld.) To whit:
Light-out during tuition

A darkened sky, air filled with moisture, birds flying halter-skelther, a hoisted Malaysia flag moving according to the movement of the wind, water clogged clouds signifying torrents of rain, gushing wind wiping across the forehead, the hustle and bustle of the city can be heard atop this building.
See what I mean?

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Links Additions

Building on the hard work of Maurinsky, I've added a section of links to my fellow Daily Kos denizens' websites. It's right at the end of the blogroll.

UPDATE, 3/24: I've updated that list based on dKossers' suggestions. I've also added a section of famous peoples' blogs!

Monday, March 22, 2004

Blah-gging

Sorry for the pause in posting. I don't know what I got, but it ain't it. I just don't have the drive to say anything. At all (if you can believe that).

Click around the links on the right; they're all good. I expect to go to the Democratic Meetup Wednesday; maybe I'll have some oomph then.

And bide your time with a silly quiz:




You're Les Miserables!

by Victor Hugo

One of the best known people in your community, you have become something of a phenomenon. People have sung about you, danced in your honor, created allmanner of art in your name. And yet your story is one of failure and despair, with a few brief exceptions. A hopeless romantic, you'll never stop hoping that more good will comefrom your failings than is ever possible. Beware detectives and prison guards bearingvendettas.


Take the Book Quiz at the Blue Pyramid.


(Via blogAmY, who left me out of her crossword, again.)

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

The Folkbum Endorsement:
John Kerry


So what if I'm a little late? Yeah, yeah, I'm behind Al Sharpton, I know. But here it is: Folkbum's Rambles and Rants officially endorses John Kerry for president.

(For those of you looking to save time: The short version of this is simply that Kerry is not Bush. Period. Otherwise, read on.)

I've spent the last year alternately dismissing and criticizing the Kerry candidacy. In my OSP "Boston Bound" series last November, I put John Kerry's chances of winning the Democratic nomination just barely above Joe Lieberman's. Lieberman lost his Joementum right about where I expected him to, but Kerry came out of nowhere to win Iowa and all but three contests since. That says less, I think (I hope!), about my prognosticatory skills than it does about Kerry's tenacity. Tenacity, in this race, is a Good Thing.

Not that long ago on this very blog I reamed Kerry for his disingenuous "not this war" justifications of his vote in favor of the October 2002 Iraq War Resolution. I wrote:
Kerry and Clark now seem to want to populate the middle, saying that a yes vote in October 2002 was the only way to go, since without it, there would have been no likelihood of a peaceful solution. I say that's bunk. Why? Simple:

You cannot give a lighter to an arsonist and expect him not to start a fire!

They had to have known that Bush would go to war. Unquestionably, they had to know. I mean, I knew, and, as I said, I don't have squat in the experience department.
But I think those who say Kerry will be able to sell that argument better than Dean could have sold his (and my) "I knew better" argument may be right. (Though I'm still very proud of the arsonist line!)

I have railed in outrage at his dirty tricks, notably against my guy Howard Dean, during the primary. I have also poked fun at Kerry for supposed Botox use; I even savaged his maddening robocalling.

In short, I have not been kind to John Kerry. And I still have serious personal reservations about the man. I do not think he is a nice man, and I am uncertain that he will even be a good president. But I will not, cannot, advocate a vote based on personality. The world (well, the part of the world that watched ABC's "World News Tonight" the night of the Wisconsin primary) heard me say that this election is the most important one of my short lifetime. Our only course of action is to oust Bush and the crony-ocracy running Washington right now and, like it or not, the two-party system we labor under means Kerry is the man to do it.

But merely saying that the enemy of my enemy is friend is not enough. Voting against Bush is noble, yes, but it's also important to vote for somebody. (I think many people who voted Nader in 2000--and many contemplating voting for him now--did so to vote against Bush and Gore; while the Greens have many laudable elements in their platform, Nader himself is nowhere near qualified to be president.) So, I will try to do the short version of what there is to like about Kerry.

For one, Kerry, like Howard Dean, opted out of the primary spending caps. That means his campaign can keep raising and spending money between now and the convention without regard to any limits--the same as Bush. And, in the three weeks since Kerry really wrapped up the nomination, Rove and company have been rolling out one ad blitz per week. If they keep this up--and with their near-unlimited budget, it's a very real possibility--we need a candidate like Kerry who has both the wherewithal and cajones to respond.

Okay, okay, that's not reason to vote for him in November, I know, I know. How about this one: John Kerry fights dirty. That is, of course, one reason not to like him, but to date he has really kept a tight grip on the reins of the debate, setting the tone and the agenda. His "slip" of calling the Bush crew crooked and liars was genius; his choice not to correct the reporter who mistakenly transcribed "foreign leaders" instead of "more leaders" was also great. He has taken Bush head on, demanding monthly debates and directly addressing the Bush credibility gap.

Still not convinced? Want something on policy? Fine: Education, near and dear to my heart. Kerry will institutionalize education funding in a mandatory Education Trust. He'll fully fund ESEA (aka NCLB) and IDEA (the special education law). Plus he wants to earmark $50 billion over two years to offset state education costs, prevent cuts, and ease property tax burdens. Plus a $10,000 tax deduction for teachers like me in low-performing schools and underserved districts (hey, if the billionaires can vote their pocketbooks, so can I), and a plan to add 350,000 new teachers to our nation's public schools and funds for mentor teachers.

All right, so my fiscal and career health may not swing it for you either, I get it. I'll try another one: the environment. You do care about the earth, don't you? Kerry's plan has a distinct focus on renewables and conservation as key components of reducing dependence on foreign oil. There's also this:
Kerry also pledged to create a national health tracking system for chronic diseases and environmental health hazards.  The proposal calls for tracking asthma and other debilitating illnesses linked to environmental causes that are not now monitored in any comprehensive manner.  It would place an environmental health officer in each state and coordinate pollution and disease data nationally. [. . .] He proposed creating a new Assistant Administrator position for Environmental Justice at the EPA and will revive the Office of Environmental Justice. Today, this office is under-staffed, under-funded, and undermined on a daily basis. Kerry will bring life back to this office so that it can serve as a resource and advocate for community activists all over America.

John Kerry will also build on President Clinton’s 1994 Executive Order to include environmental justice in laws, regulations and policies. President Clinton required all federal agencies to address environmental injustice, past, present and future and required federal agencies to develop strategies to bring justice to Americans who are suffering disproportionately from environmental impacts. President Bush pledged to uphold this Clinton initiative but he has fallen short of that goal.
As an urban educator (yeah, yeah, I'm back to that), I can assure you that there is nothing more insidious--urban crime included--than the ubiquitous environmental hazards, from lead paint to asthma-inducing pollution. When kids aren't healthy, they don't learn. When brownfields go undeveloped, the city suffers. We need environmental justice.

And speaking of unhealthy kids, Kerry's got a decent health care package, too. It's not as doable as Dean's plan or comprehensive as Kucinich's, or even as innovative as Gephardt's. But it's a plan, including allowing anyone and everyone to sign up for the same coverage as currently provided to members of Congress, a plan to control costs, and guaranteed care for all kids. It's a little piecemeal, but then so was Dean's, and Dean is a doctor.

And one last one for you: Not voting this year, or voting third party--either of which is your right and entirely your prerogative--could lead to four more years of Bush and, more frightening perhaps even than what he might do to hasten Armageddon, the appointment of more justices to the Scalia-Thomas wing of the Supreme Court. If you value a woman's right to choose, the fourth amendment, the right to sleep with whomever you choose (and who chooses you--an important caveat), then you must accept that Kerry is the clear choice in that regard.

I haven't dug out the credit card yet for Kerry, but I probably will eventually. At the very least come fall I will be walking and calling for him. I really, really hope you all will do the same.

More information at Kerry's website. That is all.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Here and There

"Go Howard Dean"

Nah, not the way you think.

So I'm watching last night's "The Practice" on the TiVo, and Eleanor just broke out with, "If you can get [the short-tempered defendant] to go Howard Dean" then the case would go their way.

So I'm not sure what to make of the verbing of Howard Dean in this way. I mean, I like the new John Kerry, and the new Democratic chutzpah in general. But the backbone we all appreciate in our Dem candidates is on the verge of becoming a real cliché. And, as an English teacher, I can tell you that clichés are bad, bad, bad.

Most of us don't even think about clichés anymore, seeing as how they're, um, cliché. But every cliché began as a very clever metaphor somewhere in literature. Every time I teach Shakespeare, some student invariably points out the clichés in the language without recognizing that Shakespeare invented the beast with two backs, or my salad days, when I was green.

The trouble with the cliché is that what can be both clever and powerful the first time, through repitition and pejoration, loses any power it may have had. It becomes empty rhetoric. When a student uses a cliché in an essay, it's a shortcut--an easy way out. A place holder instead of an original thought. In a way, what the Democratic party had been for the better part of a decade.

Howard Dean is the original thought. And what Dean started is too important to let it become empty rhetoric.

Stopping a metaphor from becoming a cliché, though, is, well, like trying to nail jell-o to a wall. Dean can go a long way to stopping it depending on whether he can turn his organization around into a Democratic powerhouse: Dean must make a name for himself outside of the narrow parameters of that cliché. The cliché is still young enough we might be able to stop it. But, man, I am not feeling too hopeful.

PS: The big closing arguments scene in the case on "The Practice" featured Jamie telling the jury, "I don't have the power. You do."

Sunday, March 14, 2004

The Folkbum Endorsement:
Tom Barrett for Mayor


My union endorsed Tom Barrett some time ago, but I've held off on an endorsement of my own. I mean, it's like virginity (bear with me): You only get to give it once, and once given, you don't get it back. Well, the proponderance of the evidence has led me to lend Barrett the official Folkbum's Rambles and Rants endorsement. (This should make Meagan happy.)

Honestly, I think current mayor and Barrett opponent Marvin Pratt will be a fine mayor, and whoever wins the election Milwaukee will be headed in a good direction. But I have some specific reasons for backing Barrett.

Pratt has a tendency not to show up for things--the Meetup a few weeks back (scroll down) is just one of many commitments he's not kept during this campaign. I mean, yeah, he's mayor and has like a city to run and everything, but you have to keep commitments. Plus he's got financial issues, he's been known to break the law. But those are little things; as I said, he'd do fine as mayor.

Let me tell you the positives about Barrett, though. For one, I think he's committed to the eductaion of Milwaukee's children (you know, that's my job). Pratt's wife is an MPS employee, sure, but Barrett's detailed plan--while containing a few things I'm wary of, like the high school redisign plan--give me confidence that he will make a targeted effort at actually getting something done.

Barrett also has a record of service in Congress that we Milwaukeeans can be proud of. The Washington connection was a major reason why I supporeted him in 2002's gubernatorial primary. Barrett's also got connections to Madison--which will be very helpful in dealing with the public schools issues.

Barrett also won me over with his talk about changing the tone in City Hall. Milwaukee's city govenment has been scandal-plagued for years; I have lost count how many alderman have been indicted by the feds in the last decade. And while I don't know that Pratt is part of that mess, Barrett's outsider status has a certain appeal. And I don't see how anyone could not like this, from his plan for the first 100 days:

Within the first 100 days of my administration, I will introduce my proposed Ethics Reform Ordinance that will include the following:


  • Merging the Ethics Board and Elections Commission into a new Milwaukee Ethics and Elections Commission (EEC).  The EEC will have an independent, seven member Board of Commissioners, an executive director and staff and will be charged with overseeing ethics and lobbying, campaign finance reporting, elections and enforcement.

  • Making all campaign finance reports accessible to the public.  The new EEC will be responsible for making electronic campaign finance reporting a reality.

  • Lobbyist registration and reporting requirements.  Lobbying organizations and lobbyists will be required to submit written accounts of all lobbying communications and will be prohibited from furnishing anything of pecuniary value to city officials.

  • A total ban on gifts or the presentation of anything of value to city officials.

I must be honest that this decision was not that easy. For a long time in this race, I felt that Barrett was phoning it in, that mayor was consolation prize for losing the governor's race. Plus, I think it is very important for Milwaukee to have a black mayor, and despite Barrett's acknowledgement that we are no longer a majority-anything city, that doesn't take the place of an African American in office. And I must say that it's a little disturbing to drive through some neighborhoods with only Barrett signs in the lawns, and then drive through other neighborhoods with nothing but Pratt signs. I don't think that perpetuating a racial divide helps anyone.

In the end, as I keep saying, Milwaukee will be the big winner in this election, whoever gets the most votes. But, for whatever it's worth, my vote will go to Barrett.

First Annual Pi(e) Day Officially Done

So the dishes are soaking, the waistbands are expanding, and the dog is recovering. Pi(e) Day is over. We had, in all, about a dozen people, which is not too bad for the first of anything. We had enough people to make the house look full, and that's the most important thing.

And the pies! Sarah baked an apple and a cherry pie, plus a cheesecake. I made a blueberry crisp plus some toppings. Plus, I was the brave explorer who went out and found a lemon meringue pie to add some balance. (Though, sadly, we have not been able to find any rhubarb or even a rhubarb pie to buy. I think Pi(e) Day must come too early in the season for rhubarb.)

Conversation was wide-ranging and fun, and I think a good time was had by all. So, you're all going to have your very own Pi(e) Day celebration next year, right?

I'd write more, but we've got tickets to see Greg Brown tonight.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Happy Pi(e) Day Eve!

I'm taking a break from the Pi(e) Day preparations (baking, cleaning, baking, cleaning) just to drop by and remind you . . .

Earth as seen from Mars

Friday, March 12, 2004

It is wrong. It is wrong. It is wrong.

Following the lead of Wisconsin's state assembly last week, Thursday the state senate approved an amendment that would ban same-sex marriages and civil unions. The senate at least did this during daylight: The assembly pulled an all-nighter to do it under cover of darkness.

And the justification for their stupid, stupid move is the same thing I have railed about before: "Wisconsin statutes already define marriage as a contract between a husband and a wife and do not recognize gay marriage. But backers said they feared a judge could rule the statute unconstitutional and require the state to recognize gay marriages as happened in Massachusetts." In other words, we can't let those wacky activist judges have a say--let's circumvent the constitutional system and separation of powers and all that!

So now we wait until January, when the amendment must be passed again by both houses of the legislature in the next session, and then it goes for a referendum, which could be as early as April 2005.

The title of this post comes from my guy for the 4th congressional district race, Tim Carpenter:
Sen. Tim Carpenter, the only openly gay member of the Senate, told members of the discrimination that he and his friends had faced over the years in urging them to reject the amendment.

He also reminded lawmakers Wisconsin was the first state to pass an anti-discrimination law for gays more than 20 years ago and complained the amendment catered to the dark side of politics that appeals to the prejudice in people. He accused some supporters of scapegoating homosexuals and questioned why the main priority of a Republican-controlled Legislature was to discriminate against gays when there were more pressuring issues like the rising costs of health care.

"It is wrong. It is wrong. It is wrong," said Carpenter, D-Milwaukee.
He doesn't have a campaign web site yet, but you'd better believe that when he does, I'll be asking you all to show him some love.

For now, though, start preparing to fight the referendum. Those are your marching orders.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Hey, Karl--use these, please!

horsemen.jpg

rights.jpg

Go make your own. UPDATE: You can't do this anymore--I guess they wised up. Feel free to steal these; I'm sure there are more around the blogosphere you can swipe, too . . .

UPDATE II: jmelli has some here.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

But will it play in Syracuse?

The Syracuse (NY) Post-Standard has a blog. Actually, it has several, and the "Rational Liberal" blog is one. It seems to pull primarily from other liberal bloggers around the 'sphere, and seems to rely particularly heavily on The American Street. As it turns out, I posted "We are all Spalding Gray" (see below) to TAS last night, and the "Rational Liberal" is promoting it in his her March 9 "Around the Blogs" run-down. My slow but steady dominance of the left-leaning blogoverse continues! Muhahahah!

UPDATE: The Rational Liberal is a regular poster at Daily Kos by the blogonym of Iddybud. She (I wasn't smart enough to click on the silly "About" link on the Syracuse blog and mis-gendered her initially) also has her own blog.

Monday, March 08, 2004

We are all Spalding Gray

I have to be honest: In the car on the way home, when NPR's Robert Siegel intoned that they had identified the body fished from the East River as Spalding Gray, the first image that popped into my mind was Briscoe and Green standing over the body: "Not another floater," Lenny says. "He sho' is gray," Eddie chimes in.

But that's a disservice to Spalding Gray, who, had he been my age, would have been a blogger for sure. After all, Gray's fame and fortune came from doing what we bloggers do every day. Gray pretty much defined what it meant to be a monologuist, sort of an East Coast Garrison Keillor, or perhaps a 20th Century Benjamin Franklin.

Gray was not well these last few years; a horrible accident in Ireland a couple of years back severely disfigured him and threw him into bouts of deep depression. Not that his life was all roses and light before that--Gray's mother committed suicide when he was young, casting a pallor over his life that left a pretty melancholy bent to everything he did.

After repeated attempts at suicide, it seems like he finally succeeded in jumping from the Staten Island Ferry last January.

I was never a huge Spalding Gray fan, though--I appreciated his work, and I'm pretty sure I saw Monster in a Box, even--despite my respect for his work in defining a genre that I, in some ways, call my own.

Since I've been blogging, almost a year now, I have rediscovered the long form. The reading I had to do to finish my creative writing degree (yeah, I know, the only degree less useful than philosophy or communications) was essentially a monologue: a thirty minute (or so) essay. In fact, that last year in college, I could barely do anything in less than 2000 words: It was tough even leaving voicemail for a professor.

Anyone who's been following my blog since the beginning knows that I have brevity issues. Now, I haven't started getting up--or, as Gray would do, sit at a table on stage--and drone on for an hour and a half. (Though, I keep getting spam email from a self-publishers' group in Chicago looking for readers.) But this blog--any blog at all, really, that features any amount of personal narrative--is the cyber equivalent of monologue. Talk, talk, talk is all we do.

And we too, at heart, are minimalists, we bloggers. Like Gray, we don't need much--nothing more than some blogging software and perhaps a blogonym. Many of us even have that calculated sip of water (anyone for "Heh!" or "Indeed!"?) Gray was famous for, that notebook open on the table. No, we generally don't have the kind of immediate audience Gray had, though occasionally we are blessed with comments. And no one would even think about calling most of us avante garde.

Some of the most powerful and touching and thought-provoking posts I have read of late have not been of the political diatribe type, nor of the news analysis type, but of the personal. Just the other day, for example, my new friend Bobby over at Bark Bark Woof Woof talked about standing on line at the DMV. Rook is constantly going on and on about his travails with The Girlfriend™ and the Fuskers™. Kos is that much more human when he writes about the kid or Baseball Day. The Spacewaitress has been waxing philosphical on her life these days for certain. Who among us was not on the edge of our keyboards hoping for Steve Gilliard's safe return to blogging, or excited beyond compare to learn even the slightest personal tidbit about Atrios? I won't even mention cat blogging.

There is no question when it comes to us bloggers: Our lives are the stuff of our writing. In other words, we are all Spalding Gray.

Pi(e) Day
I have about a half-dozen posts I want to write, but I'm pretty busy, especialy with Pi(e) Day coming up this Sunday. I mean, somebody has to taste-test all the pies! (If you don't get it, you're not invited to the big celebration.)

I may have a real post later today about Spalding Gray. Or I may not.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Milwaukee's Marvelous March Meetup

A small group of us--well, about a dozen--met in my and my wife's living room the Sunday after Howard Dean officially ended his run for the presidency. We spent some time lamenting, but mostly we were focused on what we knew we had to do: Rather than take our country back (note: that's still on the agenda, just for a little later), we're taking our city back. we're taking our school board back. We're taking our neighborhood back. We are, in other words, going local.

So we planned the March Meetup around that. Partly, we knew it would be a test; we had now idea how many of us still felt the need to Meetup. We approached the local independent weekly, the Shepherd Express, and were able to get a few column inches the week before the Meetup. We called--and were called by!--local politicians interested in earning our support. We made sure everyone on our Yahoo! mailing list knew about the Meetup. And then we held our breaths.

We were Meetupping at the Bean Head Cafe, a locally owned coffeeshop started by some educators with a real desire to help bring life back into their central-city neighborhood, and which has been very good to us for the last year. In fact, when Dean was in Milwaukee a few weeks back, he packed the place for a rally (150 people on three hours' notice) and himself contributed the Bean Head's "Buy the Building" fund.

My wife and co-host, Sarah, worked the sign-in; I worked the crowd. By 6:55, we had a good twenty people in the room, which was about what I was expecting. One member of the press was there (columnist Mike Moore of the Racine Journal-Times--his column ran today), as were people from former US Rep. Tom Barrett's mayoral campaign, and Wisconsin state senator (and Dean supporter) Tim Carpenter. But, by seven, people were still filing in. I started the festivities at ten after, and there were more than thirty people in the room.

I did a quick run-down of the agenda, and then started the "testimony" part of the Meetup. I talked about the past year--March 2003 was my frist Meetup--as well as a little bit about why I was there, and handed it off to some others--veterans and newbies alike. I counted no fewer than eight people at a Meetup for the first time--an amazing number for this particular situation, I thought. The reasons people came to the Meetup were as varied as the crowd itself: Mike wanted to be sure we elected Dean delegates to Boston; Vic and Bridget were all about making sure we were involved with the Democratic Party. Joe and John were both at their first Meetups, but were long-time Dean supporters who felt they needed to come tonight to be a part of The Next Step. Sen. Carpenter finished, with an admonition to continue despite heartbreak, and not to surrender the grassroots that we were growing.

That provided a perfect segue into some presentations by the candidates and their surrogates who were there. Barrett had just arrived (perfect timing!), and when he walked into the room to see three-dozen people, his eyes just about fell out of his head--he was clearly as surprised as I was to see so many. (In fairness, we were also expecting Barrett's opponent, Mayor Marvin Pratt.) After Barrett's appeal, Fred Kessler spoke about his wife Joan's race for court of appeals. We ended this portion of the program with Jodi Goldberg, manager of David Riemer's county executive campaign to unseat Republican evil-doer executive Scott Walker. Jodi gave us the best line of the night: "There's a big W to get rid of--and there's a little w to get rid of!" All three echoed the same themes: Howard Dean's commitment to health care, civil rights, and standing up for what is right, not to mention us--the grassroots supporters he inspired.

We took a break to patronize the establishment and Meetup with the campaigns. The rest of the night was spent in informal conversation about The Next Step. I think we all agreed that acting locally was key. We also felt that working to increase our numbers is a key, as well as helping progressives (and Howard Dean, we hope) form an alternative to the Democratic Leadership Council.

I'll let Mike Moore's description (from the column linked above) sum up what we were feeling:
[F]or a wake, this gathering seemed pretty dang chipper. The noises emanating from the cafe's back room were whistles and cheers, not uncontrolled sobs.

All right, so maybe you've got some good memories. A few people spoke up and expressed their disappointment that the campaign fell short. They got a little dark humor out of the fact Dean won his only state, his home state of Vermont, after he'd dropped out. Still, this didn't have the feel of a wrapup event, especially since some came for the first time.

Everybody wanted to fight on, either through local elections or by continuing to push their guy's positions. The real answer, then, is you take away the candidate and you've still got a boatload of motivated people.
Once again, we closed the place. Once again, we left with a feeling of hope. And, dare I say it, once again we felt like, yes, we had the power. And we will be using it, my friends.

Equal Time

A couple weeks back I praised the Howard Dean-like spine of Bryan Kennedy, a combatant in the Wisconsin fifth congressional district Democratic primary, one of two Dems looking for the privilege of beating Jim Sensenbrenner in November. This week's spineful action comes from the other candidate, Oconomowoc Mayor Gary Kohlenberg, combining puns, digs at Wisconsin's Republican state legislature, and a strong slam of Sensenbrenner:
Congressman Sensenbrenner votes to decapitate Head Start

Mayor Gary Kohlenberg criticized Congressman Sensenbrenner for advancing politics before people by voting to move funding and administration from the federal government to the states. "This encourages insolvent states to eliminate pre-school program funding, not supplement it," Kohlenberg said. "Voting for the modified Head Start program is like pushing a man down the stairs to help him get to the bottom quicker."

The federal Head Start program started in 1965 provides underprivileged children with basic medical, educational, nutritional and emotional assistance to strengthen their future academic achievement. Research shows Head Start children are more likely to enter kindergarten ready to learn, attain higher levels of achievement, and increase self-esteem.

"Congressman Sensenbrenner’s view of the Head Start program is, 'If it ain’t broke, let’s kill it.' His vote to bounce administration and funding for Head Start from the federal government to cash-strapped states is a sure way to dismantle a successful program. State legislatures can resist everything except temptation. Case in point: Wisconsin voted to send our cigarette settlement money up in smoke to shore up their budget. Predictably, the Head Start program will be robbed of the funding our children depend on," said Kohlenberg.
Kohlenberg reads your humble folkbum's blog, as it turns out. Neither candidate has his own blog yet, though, so I'm still undecided on an endorsement. (Milwaukee county executive candidate David Riemer has a blog of sorts, though--check it out, and then throw him some coin!)

iTunes

My answer to a question slowly working its way around the blogoverse (I got it from Vito at Blog of a Math Teacher): Set your iTunes to random, and then list the first ten songs, no matter how embarrassing. Well, we've got a student-free work day here at school, so I have my iTunes blaring--and it's always on random--so I thought I would give today's first ten:
  1. "I Still Believe in My Friends," The Nields

  2. "Crazy Dreams," Lucy Kaplansky

  3. "All My Heroes Were Junkies," Ellis Paul

  4. "Typical Situation," Dave Matthews Band

  5. "The Way I Am," The Common Faces

  6. "Iowa," Dar Williams

  7. "Ordinary Man," Kate McDonnell

  8. "I'm Not Down," Jon Svetkey

  9. "Margy Nairs Her Forearms," Ratsy

  10. "This is Cracker Soul," Cracker

UPDATE: One of my three faithful readers, Grubi, says it should be 20, not 10. See the comments for 11-20.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

Theodore Geisel is 100 now,
To celebrate I wrote a poem, hey wow!
A bit of a hist'ry you'll find here in store
Looking back fondly from 2004!

In 1804, Clark and Lewis went west,
When Jefferson asked for the route that was best.
Hamilton died after dueling with Burr,
And Beethoven wrote out his quite famous third.
Napoleon claimed he was emp'ror of France
And dead in pure reason: Immanuel Kant.
But enough about people already dead,
A sesquicentennial, that's where we'll head.

An eventful year, 1854,
When Nightingale worked in the Crimean War.
Th' Republican Party came into being,
The Know-Nothing Party also hit the scene.
Simplfy! Simply! That's what is good,
Wrote Thoreau in Walden, or Life in the Woods.
Old Stephen Douglas thought slavery's for jerks
And Boole wrote the logic that makes Google work!

A hundred years back, in 1904
Comic strips started to take on book form.
Sons-in-law everywhere sighed in relief,
Since someone invented the answ'ring machine.
Old Teddy R. started digging canals,
Japanese and the Russians became best of pals.
NYC's subway first saw light of day,
And the ice cream cone came to the US of A.

When Geisel was just 25 short years old,
Infections were cured by Fleming with mold.
In '29 also the stock market crashed,
And first 'round the world was a zeppelin named Graf.
The Sound and the Fury created a stir
And then there's the Valentine's Day massacre.
Hubble saw galaxies moving away
And van Gogh was shown at the M-O-M-A.

We're closer to now--1954,
On the Waterfront won a whole lot of awards.
"That's All Right Mama" was sung by the King,
The "domino theory" was Ike's new big thing.
Hank Aaron played his first game for the Braves.
And Sun Myung Moon thought that group marriage saves.
"Separate but Equal" was called not okay,
But Army-McCarthy got underway.

Hostages taken in '79,
P-A was nuked with a a cloud from Three Mile.
Gas lines were common and Volcker raised rates,
Egypt and Israel made peace in the states.
Falwell had his Majority--Moral,
While "Dallas" was good for some sex or a quarrel.
Afghanistan fell to the Soviet tanks,
But the Walkman was new, and my ears say thanks.

So here we are now, 100 years past,
Already '04 has been quite a blast.
The screaming of Dean and the conquest of Kerry,
While Bush plots to stop gays from getting married.
A human was cloned, and Jesus is hot,
And Aristide's out--it could be our fault.
If Seuss were still here alive today,
I'm sure he'd have quite a few things to say!

This wouldn't have been possible without HistoryChannel.com and the WikiPedia.