Wednesday, March 31, 2010

This week's book review:

The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education by Diane Ravitch

"Seasoned Argument--Needs to be Required Reading on Capitol Hill"

This week, the Chicago Tribune has been running a series of editorials calling for more vouchers, more teacher accountability, getting competitive, weeding out the bad teachers, giving kids a better chance at a good education, "dumping" failing schools, etc. Militaristic language. Take no prisoners. Seek and destroy. Etc. I should have seen all this coming years ago. I mean, it's no compliment to my intelligence that I had to have colleagues complain about Education Secretary Arnie Duncan for the past year now before I could truly share in their ire. "I mean, the guy ran the CTA!" a friend vented one day over lunch. "What were they thinking?"

"Well, he improved scheduling and budget issues," I intoned wisely, clutching that day's paper ("Duncan Named Ed Secretary: He Improved CTA Budgets and Schedules!" emblazoned on the front).

"Yeah, but if kids could be handled like a Metra line, we wouldn't have Head Start and Title I."

It is Duncan's sort of thinking about education, as per the Tribune's editorials, or John Stossel, or any number of well-meaning fools, that has aggravated me the most about public discussions concerning the profession that makes all other professions possible. "Dump" the crappy teachers (am I one of them? I don't think so, but then, I haven't yet seen my students' Prairie State averages compared with others'.) "Lose" the substandard schools (and do what? bring in outside experts? why not bring them in now? because we already did and the kids are still faililng?). In education, you gotta deliver, and if we were delivering, why, our kids would all be rocket scientists. You get a salary, don't you? For what, letting them fail? Get to work, pal. Some of us have "full time jobs" and we actually have to earn our living.

I know. I'm incredibly repressed. It makes me quite the hit at parties.

With this attitude, I picked up Diane Ravitch's The Death and Life of the Great American School System, figuring it would soothe my troubled soul somewhat about how my profession has been maligned over the past few decades (it did) but also hoping it would give appropriate weight to the counter arguments mucking the problem up. Put it another way: What are the reformists doing right, what can we keep, and what do we need to ditch before it does further harm?

Ravitch's book doesn't read like a big "eff you!" to NCLB or anything, but that's because she was initially behind it. The lauded education historian trots out her thinking (briefly) early on about teacher and school accountability, the viability of school choice and the necessity for continued testing, but she's quick to point out what she saw wrong with it all. She's reliable. She's got no particular political agenda; she only wants what's best for schools, and by her way of thinking, the current rage about "school reform" will do but nothing to fix our beleaguered school system and educate our next generation.

Ravitch has plenty of hard evidence, and not all of it is conclusive, which she is the first to point out. She argues that, though the jury is still out concerning the effectiveness of vouchers and, to a lesser extent, charter schools, there's no conclusive evidence that they provide a better education, not when you look at test scores, attrition rates, selective enrollment practices and overall competence. "[Charter schools have:] demonstrated that youngsters from some of the toughest neighborhoods in the nation can succeed in a safe and structured environment, if they have supportive parents and are willing to work hard, spend long days in school, and comply with the school's expectations," she writes. "They can't throw out the kids who do not work hard or the kids who have many absences or the kids who are disrespectful or the kids whose parents are absent or inattentive. They have to find ways to educate even those students who do not want to be there. That's the dilemma of public education."

She labels No Child Left Behind, and Obama's current Race to the Top, as all stick, no carrot, quite rightly arguing that, if all we're out to do is "punish" bad teachers, shouldn't we be examining what these "punishments" will to do improve education for the students? (Not much, as it turns out, if anything). Teacher evaluations are notoriously spotty, based on a ridiculously small amount of time and an attempt to objectify something beyond the pale of subjectivity. In her discussion of teacher fallibility, I'm reminded of what Bill Maher said in a recent column: There are always going to be bad teachers. Even Yale has crappy teachers. They must--they gave us George Bush.

She even dissects philanthropists like Bill Gates and the Walton Family Foundation, calling them the "billionaire boys' clubs" and asserting that, even though these entrepreneurs are engaged in laudable and noble efforts, they are remarkably reluctant to keep educators in a position to police education. They prefer instead to rely on trends (smaller schools, for example) that, while not without merit, do not produce the immediate panacea they initially thought they would. For example, Gates at one point argued that a school full of teachers in the "top quartile" would "erase" the achievement gap between blacks and whites; an argument like that is like saying, well, why not fill the Chicago Police Department with Olympic triathletes with 180 IQs so we can erase crime?

Overall, Ravitch's point is to take down the "invisible hand" theory a peg or two in its applicability to education. She argues (and I tend to agree with her) that the principles of good business do not work as well with education. Tests are not nearly reliable enough an indicator of a child's education, to say nothing of a teacher's effectiveness (though we still need them as barometers, of course); reform, if it is to be successful, is a complex effort that will span years, without always showing tangible results. When doctors became judged on the well being of their patients, they stopped taking the terminally ill, the risky procedures, the patients who really needed care but weren't likely to pull through, because it would then reflect on the doctors' performance. The low-performers, likewise, or the delinquents, or the low-ability aren't likely to get top-notch teachers lining up to help them if those teachers are judged on their pupils' ability to get a 36 on their ACTs.

Ravitch has no tone of outrage or weariness, and she does not entirely scrap Milton Friedman. But in the end, her point is clear: You can't run a school like a Fortune 500 company. She calls for a content- and skills-based curriculum encompassing not just math and reading (those subjects most heavily tested), but one including science, the arts, literature, history, geography, civics, music. We've got to discard this inanity that it doesn't matter what you teach the kids as long as you teach them how to learn. That's crap, and the countries currently kicking our asses in education have never done it that way. Look at Finland: something like a 100 percent literacy rate, with across-the-board learning goals and a strong teacher's union. We can certainly do better as educators, but it doesn't all happen inside our classrooms.

Bravo, Professor Ravitch. Get the word out.

Ravitch interviewed by Further history of the accountability movement and how she came to look at it the way she does now.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Lunch with my old man

Lunch with my old man

Here, Dad changes my ring tone to something suitably masculine and hard core. So. Who is this "Boy George" person?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Rage is Not About Health Care." From today's Times, by Frank Rich. Who knew?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Vice-Presidential Potty Mouthes

Vice President Joe Biden's f-bomb after President Obama's passage of the health care bill, coupled with former Vice President Cheney's snarled "go (bleep) yourself" from a few years ago, was shocking. Utterly shocking. Truly and utterly shocking. It's language we haven't heard from the esteemed second banana of the Oval Office...except for a few notable examples. The Flannel Diaries presents an exhausting study of White House f-bombs, culled from the Flannel Diaries' Official Presidential Archives:
"As far as Indochina was concerned, I stated over and over again that it was essential during that period that the United States make it clear that we would not tolerate Indochina falling under Communist domination. As far as the rest of the world was concerned, I stated over and over again that they could all go (bleep) themselves."
--Vice President Richard Nixon, debate with John F. Kennedy

“In the United States today, we have more than our share of the nattering nabobs of negativism.” Off camera: "What the (bleep) does that mean, anyway?"
--Vice President Spiro Agnew, on Watergate

“Never forget that the most powerful force on earth is love. And (bleeping). (Bleeping) is pretty powerful too."
--Vice President Nelson Rockefeller

“Running for President is physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually the most demanding single undertaking I can envisage unless it's (bleeping) Nancy Reagan. Score!"
--Vice President Walter Mondale, on his campaign for President

"Why Iraq? Why Iraq? Why the (bleep) not?"
--Vice President Dan Quayle, on the Persian Gulf war

"(Bleep) me."
--Vice President Al Gore, on the 2000 election

Monday, March 22, 2010

"Bullets in Madison Schwings at Schuba's: Episode II

Missed Episode I? Go read it first. Done? Good. Continue, mes enfants.

I'm on a plane with Bullets in Madison, and I'm going to die.

Yeah, I know. I said that already. But here's the part where it actually happens. Beforehand, we were all going to die. Beforehand we were only on a plane ride to Chicago for the band's concert at Schuba's, and everything was hunky-dory. If boring. With Morton learning elementary Spanish, Sandberg retiring to the men's room every ten minutes for "him-time" and the saxophonist getting high on ventilated air, I had nothing else to do but write up analyses and reflections on Bullets in Madison's music and performances. And seriously, who wants to read that?

But now, things are different. The captain has made it clear he's nowhere within driving distance of being able to land the plane without slam-dunking it into Lake Michigan. The plane is spinning through the air like fabric softener in a dryer. And all of us are cursing ourselves for hooting at the airline stewardess to give lap dances instead of paying attention to her instructions about turning our seat cushions into flotation devices. Still, as the band has reminded me, the new album, We Became Your Family When You Died is available for free download, so at least their lives have meaning. I, meanwhile, have yet to visit my ailing father in a nursing home, pay the last ten years' worth of taxes, and watch the rest of my Eight is Enough DVD series, so clearly, I've got a lot weighing on my conscience.

But before I can come to some sort of emotional grip over my unfulfilled ambitions, the band goes totally China Syndrome. This is too good to pass up. As the plane continues to plummet towards the earth, I settle back, light a cigarette, and begin to take notes.

“Oh shit! We’re all going to die!” yells Losch.

“Agh! My hair!” shrieks Sandberg, grabbing his baby oil and diving for the lavatory.

“What did he just say?” asks the saxophonist, sticking a Q-tip up his nose.

“Guys…I have a confession.” Morton, ignoring the laws of physics and gravitational pull, struggles to unbuckle his seat belt. “I need you all to know this before we’re all dead. I’m—“

“Gay. We know.” Losch pats his shoulder. “It’s okay.”

Sandberg, back from the bathroom, and the saxophonist are nodding. Morton looks pained. “No. No, that’s not it.”

“Sure, buddy. Whatever you say. You’re not gay.” Losch winks, taps his finger on his nose. Sandberg snickers.

“Look, I’m really not gay. Why would I lie about that now? No, it’s just that I've been taking rent money from our petty cash. It’s been eating away at me ever since. I just wanted to clear my conscience.”

“Riiiight.” Sandberg puffs his cheeks out. “Thief. You betcha.” He goes to pat Morton on the shoulder, but when Morton recoils, he yanks out a Hand-I-Wipe and hurriedly scrubs up.

“You’re such a tough, masculine spare change robbing type,” says Losch, flapping his wrists and simpering when Morton’s back is turned. Sandberg, cheered by how attention has been diverted from his bathroom shenanigans, takes special pains to laugh obnoxiously at Morton’s expense.

“It’s okay to be who you are,” says the saxophonist, desperately rummaging through his bag for more glue.

"It's not okay to steal from your friends!" Morton yells, getting exasperated.

"But it is okay to be homosexual," Losch reassures him. "We've known for years."

“Who keeps grabbing my butt?" Morton snaps, whirling around.

"Whoops. Sorry." I withdraw my offending limb. "I thought you'd be okay with it now."

"I'm not. Because I'm not gay."

“I am,” announces the saxophonist. “I think. Is it gay if you make out with guys?”

“Nah,” I reassure him. “Only if you like it.”

“Oh. I guess I’m straight, then.”

“I thought I was gay in grade school,” Sandberg announces. “Turns out I was just really into gymnastics.”

“I’m a robber!” shrieks Morton, stamping his foot. “I’m not—oh Jesus Christ, you idiots, I’m--”

“My dark secret is kleptomania,” says Sandberg. “I stole my dad’s insulin and sold it to school kids.”

“I ducked out of cab fare once,” says Losch. “After I knifed the driver.”

Here, they launch into a round of Last Confessions that would have done Stillwater proud.

“I knocked over an old lady once,” says Sandberg. “She had the seat on the bus behind the DVD player.”

“I used to club baby seals,” says the saxophonist. “After I robbed a bank.”

“I never learned to read!” shrieks Losch.

“I took some pictures of Brendan in the shower,” says Sandberg.

“I burned my ex-girlfriend’s summer home down,” says Losch.

“I voted Republican in 2000,” says the saxophonist, at which point we all stuff our shoes into our carry-on bags and proceed to beat him over the head with them. Which only seems fair. You know, because of that war thing.

This entire time, the plane has been spinning out of control faster and faster. Morton has given up trying to wipe his conscience clean and is leafing through a Spanish Bible. The other band members are composing themselves for the Big Adios. “This is it!” yells Sandberg, clutching his copy of Richard Dawkins (and Losch’s Swank) to his chest. “I’m ready to meet God! If there is a God! Which there isn’t!”

“Death can’t be as bad as this,” mutters Losch, tuning his guitar.

“Can I borrow fifty dollars?” the saxophonist mutters to me, nursing two black eyes.

“En caso de una emergencia su cojín de asiento puede ser usado como un dispositivo de emisión,” sings Morton, carefully putting on a crucifix necklace.

“Fuck you all,” says Sandberg.

Then, sudden stability. The plane stops spinning. Our stomachs settle.

The captain gets on the mike: “Woo. Sorry about that, folks. No more Scotch for breakfast for this guy. Anyway, we’ll be landing in about twenty minutes.”

A heavy, ponderous silence envelopes the cabin. There is an abundance of feet-shuffling. No one makes eye contact. Some clearing of throats. The saxophonist engages in some hurried snorting of Bausch & Lomb contact solution.

Then, several dark, brooding glances are thrown surreptitiously my way. I can see it passing through their minds right in front of me: This guy is a liability. He knows too much.

I visibly gulp. I square my shoulders. I make sure my notebook is safely stashed in my undershorts. “Look, we can agree to be adults about this,” I say, rubbing my hands together nervously. “I can keep it all confidential. Trust me.”

They all look at each other. Nods are exchanged silently. Knowing glances fly through the air.

“We’ll just have to trust each other,” says Sandberg, scheming to push me out the airplane window and throw Losch’s copy of Swank after me.

“Trust is important,” says Losch, scheming to dope me up, stick me in a car and run me over the Canal Street bridge at ninety-five miles an hour.

“Without trust, where are we in this crazy world,” agrees Morton, scheming to lock me in a room with the rest of his asshole band members and set the walls on fire. After borrowing some petty cash.

“How about that fifty dollars?” says the saxophonist, scheming to get high on fifty dollars’ worth of drugs.

Matters of life and death always bring out the best and worst of people. Unless you’re Bullets in Madison, in which case they only bring out the worst. No matter. Having seen what I’ve seen and heard what I’ve heard, I give myself about two days more to live before their bumbling efforts to bump me off finally hit paydirt. Still, don't let my fate rule your opinion. Their new album is totally worth checking out, provided you don’t have to spend any time alone with them.

So then, dear readers, until my moldering, violated corpse is discovered at the bottom of Lake Michigan by the proper authorities, I remain, as always, immeasurably jealous of anyone who doesn't have this shit job.

NEXT WEEK'S COLUMN: The band takes me fishing.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Bullets in Madison Schwings at Schuba's: Episode I

I’m on a plane ride to Chicago with Bullets in Madison, and we're all going to die.

Of course, this particular plane ride didn’t start out that way. At first, I thought only I was going to die. Having sat through another two-hour ordeal they call a concert at Schaumburg’s Dave and Buster's, I was more than ready to take my toaster into the bathtub, assuming their piledriver melodies and screeching vocals didn't do the job. The new album, We Became your Family When You Died, is saturating the airwaves, though, and if you drop the ball halfway through the game, you get...bad...scores (insert sports metaphor here).

We’ve been in the air for half an hour, maybe ten, and we’ve been cruising comfortably long enough for Sandberg to disappear into the closet-sized bathroom ten times to “check his hair,” although guitarist Brendan Losch pointed out at least twice that one didn’t need baby oil and dirty magazines to “check hair,” particularly when the person doing the hair-checking didn’t have any hair, to which Sandberg responded that Brendan was maybe too mouthy for his own good and should clam up a little if he didn’t want a mouth full of seat cushion. Lead singer and keyboardist John Morton has spent the majority of the flight leafing through Spanish language emergency cards stuffed in the fronts of seats, trying to bone up on his Spanish based on rudimentary drawings of and emergency procedures. The saxophonist, whose name I haven’t yet bothered to learn, has been throwing together hallucinogenics out of seat upholstery and shaving cream. (He and I get along just fine.)

“Well, I think I got my follicles in place this time,” Sandberg says, emerging from the bathroom and wiping his palms on his denim pants.

“You took long enough,” snarls Losch, swiping his copy of Swank from Sandberg’s sticky grip.

“Por favor no lanze toallas de papel en los servicios,” says Morton, stuffing his pockets with free airline peanuts.

“I can smell colors,” says the saxophonist, lighting up a banana.

“Enough screwing around,” I say, waving away the scent of United’s mute grey and scorched fruit. “Let’s do an interview. How would you describe the tour so far?”

“Engaging,” says Sandberg, sneaking another peek at Losch’s magazine.

“I’ve had better,” says Losch, burying his magazine into his bag.

“Saliendo se caen los pies pegarás un tiro primero.,” says Morton, admiring his own reflection in a nearby mirror.

“What tour?” asks the saxophonist, burying his face into a Ziploc of airplane glue.

“Okay then. Follow up question.” I squint at my notes, trying to decipher the journalistic endeavors from the one-liners I’d copied down while watching Almost Famous. “If your band were a mountain, which one would it be?”

“The K2,” says Losch. “Because we’re at the top of the world.”

“That’s not the K2,” says Sandberg. “You’re an idiot.”

“We’re the Mount Everest of indie rock,” boasts Morton. “Because you can’t beat us.”

“Unlike Sandberg,” says Losch, at which point we all break up laughing, while Sandberg flounces off into the lavatory to sulk by himself.

“We’re the Himalayas,” says the saxophonist.

“We’re the Himalayas on top of the Andes,” says Morton.

“We’re the Himalayas and Andes on top of a really big building,” declares Sandberg, who has finished pouting relatively quickly.

“This is a stupid question,” says Losch. “Who invited this guy?”

At this point, before I can defend myself, the captain’s voice comes piping over the cabin speakers. Throughout the entire flight, we’ve heard nary a peep out of the cockpit, except for the usual this-is-your-captain-we’ll-be-crusing-at-ten-million-feet bit and the old oh-I-didn’t-know-the-mike-was-on-and-I-so-wasn’t-checking-ESPN-scores-in-here bit. Now, however, I’m hearing words that would make John McClain grip the sides of his armrests in panic: “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain. I’m afraid we’re experiencing some altitude alignment problems. We fully expect—“

Suddenly, the plan begins plummeting towards the earth at a deadly speed. Luggage and music equipment is flying all over the cabin. A screech enveloped the cabin. My stomach drops into my feet and I scream like a 1960s-era teenaged Beatles fan told Paul McCartney just married her evil stepsister.

My time on this earth is suddenly limited. And I'm stuck with an indie rock band.

I immediately begin weeping.

"Hey, don't do that." "Everything will work out okay." "Just relax, pal. We're going to make it."

Soothing words. I begin to calm down.

"Morton!" yells Losch. "You ate all the goddam airline peanuts."

Now we're all weeping, except Morton, who grabs a last package of peanuts from his jacket and devours it. He is unrepentant. We are unconsoled. I am disconsolate. I am out of ink.

This ends Episode I. Click here for the end of this extremely stupid story.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Going Mobile

On a quest for the perfect blog software...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tso: The (un)Heroic Couplets

The wheel finds its rut within the road,
And like as not, so Tso finds his true voice
By parroting those lesser minds before:
"No taxes! And to hell with all the poor!"

The infantile penis jokes abound,
And male dancers about Tso's head surround.

A fool finds strength from fools who've spoke before;
Tso'd have a shot, but oh! he's such a bore:
"No deficit! Except if I don't get
My home exemption from the government."

Whose beer I drank, I'm not aware,
He's hiding in the restroom there;
I do not think he'll be out soon
Since, of my point, he seems quite scared.
They say the even-tempered minds
Find ample room to disagree,
But even-tempered's not a trait
It's possible, round Tso, to be.

Oh day that's long and without reprieve--
You force submission and neglect my needs.
Still, compared to Tso, I'm more than legit,
Considering his impotence and bestial habit.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

LAYOUT--My editor asked for a movie review for this month's A&E pages. So, here 'tis.

P.S. For all those out partying on St. Paddy's day tonight whilst I tarry here...fuck you all.

An Education
deserves attention
It’s not hard to admit—I was prejudiced in favor of An Education before walking into the theater. For one thing, Lone Scherfig’s narrative of a young English schoolgirl seduced by a con man (played to snake oil salesman-perfection by Peter Sarsgaard) wasn’t getting much Oscar press. Avatar was getting a going-over by film critics about whether James Cameron was throwing around too many special effects and not enough original story, while Jeff Bridges’ tour de force in Crazy Heart was only starting to leak into the headlines.

But An Education, from a memoir by Lynn Barber and a script by Nick Hornby (About a Boy), wasn’t getting much commentary. And that’s a shame—the film is engaging and contemplative, playing an old, familiar song yet still managing to say something new.

Carey Mulligan is Jenny, a precocious sixteen-year-old who gets a ride from David (Sarsgaard), a mid-thirties motorist, in the pouring rain. The two get to talking, and with one thing and another, become pretty friendly. He marvels up front at how literate and cultured she is, while Jenny bemoans her dreary life in her working class neighborhood. It’s only a matter of time before David is wooing her, first taking her to a concert and dinner with friends, then later spiriting her to Oxford to meet his buddy C.S. Lewis.

It’s a bit of a stretch to imagine David getting away with this, but Scherfig pulls it off with several scenes in which David seduces Jenny’s family just as flawlessly as he does her: her father Jack (Alfred Molina) and mother Marjorie (Cara Seymour) are all too willing to pull the wool over their own eyes after David shows up with a bottle of wine and some good conversation. “Knowing a famous author is better than becoming one,” Jack tells his daughter at one point. “It shows you’re connected.” And yes, you can spend the weekend with a man twice your age. Blech.

Jenny becomes tight with David and his friends Danny and Helen (Dominic Cooper and Rosamund Pike), although the parties, concerts and weekend trips don’t quite explain their habit of stealing paintings from open houses, or David’s real estate scams. Clearly, this guy is more than a little shady, but Jenny doesn’t care, or at least she doesn’t care enough. It’s only a matter of time before seduction rears its head, but it’s pulled off tastefully enough.

There is a romance, physical intimacy (more cringe-inducing than anything else), a marriage proposal, the works. Her English teacher warns her of the pitfall before her, while her headmistress (Emma Thompson) tells her off in a beautifully scathing scene. But Jenny, anyone at that age, can’t be told anything by anyone over thirty, and that’s when the tragedy kicks in. (Am I hinting at anything here? Nah.)

Thankfully, An Education doesn’t fall into any clichés or narrative fallbacks of the seduction narrative. Mulligan was up for Best Actress for her performance, and it’s hard to justify her getting passed over. Her performance makes you want to both ride to Jenny’s rescue and scream yourself hoarse at her idiocy. Sarsgaard didn’t even get an Oscar nod, which is a shame. His character oozes duplicity, and at times, he comes off as even younger than Mulligan, even while he’s using his age like a cloak to cover up his ugly little secrets. Their futures don’t look especially promising—Mulligan is in a Wall Street sequel next year, while Sarsgaard is playing second fiddle to Ryan Reynolds in the upcoming Green Lantern. However, An Education is a thoughtful piece of work that will hopefully stand the test of time and become the yardstick these two fine actors are measured by in years to come.
LAYOUT--Co-workers wanted To Kill a Mockingbird lesson plans. So I'm submitting these. That'll show them--don't ask me for nothing.

Still waiting to get out of here and go drink green beer.

Friday, March 12, 2010

From The Tragedy of a High School Newspaper, Part II

By William Shakespeare

ACT III Scene ii

Enter hautboys, pages, servants, who survey the empty computer lab, shrug their shoulders and leave. Then, enter Mr. L., Adviser, pale and stoop-shouldered, with trouble concealing his displeasure at the empty lab. Also, he has a bad back.

That which hath given them software
For layout, hath been given to a sponge. E’en though
The hour grows late, and the deadline approacheth,
I fear next week not. Since the path to publication
Is traditionally thorny and steep, every ounce
Of patience I possess shall empower me to not
Yell and scream at anyone upon late night,
When, like the cat I’ the adage, they whine
About their homework, social obligations and
Empty pages. None shall give me pause,
And I shall champion myself to the utterance.

Enter Editor

What would thou have, thou saucy boy?

My lord, as I did survey the parking lot,
I did observe several cars taking flight,
The with to begin the weekend; the without
To neglect all newspaper duties.

Go throw dust into the wind and let it
Blow back in thine face, thou lily-livered coward.
I am but one who, buffeted by the winds of fate,
Can do no more than curse, and hear my own voice
Thrown back at me. Begone, vile cretin!

Okay, whatever.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

And now, a memo from Channel 9

Things the WGN anchors aren’t allowed to say any more.
Apparently, Tribune Co. CEO Randy Michaels sent a memo with over 100 phrases, words and the like that must not be uttered on the airwaves under any circumstance.
 At first, I thought this was stupid, if not alarming: are we dumbing down news language yet again? Oh dear God. Is “torpor” shooting too high for our Chicago audience?
Turns out I was mistaken. While some of the items on the list have a dubious quality (“laud” and “icon” are now forbidden? was there some cock-up of which I’m unaware?), others are more than fine with me. Such as “Giving 110%”;  “Completely destroyed, completely abolished, completely finished or any other completely redundant use”; “fatal death”; “the fact of the matter.” I make fun of these nuggets in class often enough. Feels good to see the pros axing them as well.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Kids are getting an earful from counseling about college entrance. So I'm hiding in the back, grading papers and reading

Glenn Beck and Eric Massa waste America's time.

Sarah Palin is of no importance.

Does Limbaugh remember 1994? Probably not.

Good stuff.