Monday, April 13, 2015

A Politics Bloggity, with Mention of my Brother

I spent the first weekend of my spring break down in Franklin, TN with my brother and his family.  As is probably normal-to-the-point-of-banal for big brothers and little sisters, this little sister has spent much of the past 40+ years in some state of fraternal hero worship.  My brother has always been a guy who could do no wrong in my eyes; and this in spite of how much smarter and better-looking than he I am (this is empirically true, you guys.  Just trust me).

So while I was in Franklin, my brother mentioned that he thought that when the dust settled on his presidency, Barry Obummer would likely go down as one of the better presidents in our history.  Now I'm a good Democrat and as such, I exist in a state of perpetual disappointment with my elected officials; which is real different than good Republicans who elevate terrible, ruinous presidencies into the stuff of saintly, manly perfection (I am talking here about Ronald Reagan, who was a terrible fucking president and if you don't agree, let's go have a beer and discuss because I have manymanymany things to say on this topic). But the more I thought about what my brother said (despite, as previously mentioned, me being so much smarter than he is), I decided he was right.

And it's not just that Obama's had a successful presidency despite a level of commitment to Republican intransigence so high that had Obama cured cancer someone would have won a senate seat in Oklahoma on account of how Obama had killed all the oncology jobs and was somehow going to give your guns away to someone who doesn't deserve them because .... I don't know.  Reasons. I am endlessly surprised at how effortlessly some guy with 400 guns can make himself out to be a victim.

But as I thought about this, the reason I'm impressed with President Obama is that he's managed to stay dovish in a country it's pretty hard to be dovish in.

See Obama's predecessor did a neat trick. George W made a whole buncha money for the military industrial complex.  I am an English major and am, as such, fully learnt on how war profiteering has always been a thing in America (see Miller, Arthur and All My Sons which is literally the biggest bummer in English literature and I say that having read Jude the Obscure because I am, after all, an English major).  But it's not just that George W Etc. enabled the good folks at Cheney, Inc to make a buncha money.  They also somehow managed to turn war profiteering into patriotism, which is quite a neat trick.  Doesn't seem like American soldiers ever made any money fighting wars.  But someone else did.  And questioning this fact made you a pinko who hated America.

Goddamn, the 00's were a messed up time.

But Obama came into office and did not capitalize on this newfound American notion that it's only cuz we love America and liberty that we send our soldiers we send to die in foreign lands (and if the good folks at Cheney, Inc. make a few millions off it, that's just as God intends). Folks clamor for him to bomb Iran (and kill thousands of folks who have nothing to do with nothing).  Folks were demanding war in Libya and Syria. Jesus, folks were desperate for war with Russia.  Russia!  That would have gone swimmingly, right?  Obama has again and again not got us into wars.

What a pussy, right?

Oh, that's enough irony.  Obama's dovishness is my favorite thing about his presidency.  And the thing I'll likely miss the most if all the signs are right and Hillary Clinton breaks that oval office glass ceiling.  She is too hawkish by far for my taste.  I'm a war only as a last resort lady.  Because, as previously stated, I'm super smart.

Presidential politics aside, I sure do hope that when the typically feckless Democrats start running for seats other than presidential in 2016, they will run TOWARDS the successful presidency of Barack Obama rather than away from.  Because if there's another idjit out there like Allison Grimes, whose senate campaign reached such heights of dumbassery that Robert Penn Warren rose up from his grave and said "Oh my god, someone get me a pen!", I will do something crazy like vote for ...

Pfft.  Christ.  I'll still vote for the Democrat.  Because no matter how shitty the democrat is, they're less shitty. And if we have to eat shit, less shit is better.

Not Obama, though.  I think he's been pretty good.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Are You Doing It Wrong? Probably. But So Did Your Mom

This post has popped up on my Facebook timeline no fewer than five times over the past couple of days.  If you want to read it, go ahead.  If not, she's saying in a nutshell that the world is filled with neurotic, over-protective parents who are ruining their children and we should be more like our own parents.

Hmmmmmm.



This is not to say I disagree entirely with the basic premise.  I personally practice a fairly laissez-faire parenting style and like to have some fun.


But the beef I have is that this woman writes "nothing steals joy away from parenting more than believing you are doing a terrible job at it" in the middle of a blogpost about how you're parenting wrong.


Jesus Christ on a cracker, can't the mommy bloggers of the world just take a meeting and agree that it's just as OK to be a mommy who makes a shit ton of crafts for Valentine's Day (because some people like doing that) as it is to be a mommy who doesn't?  This blogpost (and a million like them) are so judge-y about parents (who the fuck am I kidding?  mothers) who get into scrapbooks and schedules and birthday cupcakes.  Look, I am telling you on this very unsuccessful blog of mine: It's fine to get into scrapbooks and cupcakes. If you want to scrapbook your kids life - go right ahead and tell all the cooler-than-thou moms out there that they are free to not.


Then there's this:


Hold on - this one drives me to drink:


Not having access to iPads did not make superior parents!  It's just something we want to believe because our superior childhoods would then make us superior people.  And if our tab-drinking, get the hell out of the house parents were really mostly keyed up on having time to themselves, Minecraft would have been a gift from the gods!  

You know what I remember a lot from childhood: being bored as shit!  Feeling left out and ignored from games and fun.  I would have loved to have spent time in my bedroom building imaginary Minecraft worlds (I think - I don't understand that game).  

Which brings me to the point I really want to make.  This lady isn't talking about us as parents. She's  talking about us as people. Gen X.  My people.

Did you catch that?  It sounds like she's praising her mom, but the subtext here is that we are the extra awesome beneficiaries of benignly neglectful parenting while people younger than us are, y'know, crap:

I'm here to spoil the damn party: there is no generation born to man who has not been accused of being entitled, spoiled, and generally helpless by the generation that came before.  I cannot believe this woman has completely forgotten every boomer dickhead who bemoaned our general uselessness in 1990.

I'm fixing to drop the mic here -  there's a simple calculation for successful parenting: their needs come first, but not to the exclusion, of yours.  That's it.  If you feel better booking your kids in a series of summer camps or if you're OK letting him hang out in his room with Minecraft, or if you lock them outside while you drink Tab, all of this is fine, so long as you're keeping them fed and loved.  You make the call on how you want to do that, not the Internet (except this post).  

In the end, when your child is grown up, there will be a bunch of Millennials talking about what shit his whole generation is.  Because they will have forgotten the shit they took.  This is how the world works.  Quit letting other people telling you you're raising your kids wrong.  What the hell do they know?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

I've Kept to My New Year's Resolution - and I'm Resolving More!

So many years I've resolved to lose weight or write a book or be nicer. Instead I just get fatter and don't even read enough and, lordy, do I get grumpier every year.  So this year, I decided to make a resolution I could stick to: I resolved to not click on a single Sarah Palin story all year.


And, you guys, I have been WILDLY successful.  Of course, it helps that Sarah Palin has Sarah Palin-ed herself into obsolescence.  Hers was a star that burned bold, like a tremendous fart during a quiet moment at the opera, but it was bound to be brief.  There's only so long one can sustain a public persona of obvious horribleness covered lightly by a patina of milf-y righteous indignation.

Her name has popped up, though, in my various social media feeds.  But I have not clicked on a single story.  Mostly I remember Sarah Palin as that lady who made SNL politically relevant again for a spell (I'm hopeful for Kate McKinnon's Hilary Clinton, though.  That's pretty good).

Just a few moments ago, I was on Facebook (as is my wont, because I am old) and I clicked on a story about Rudy Giuliani saying something about how Barack Obama is actually an Indonesian lesbian who only speaks Klingon at home or how the Wu-Tang Clan has been around longer than racism and, you guys, the story wouldn't load!  And so I was all OH MY GOD LOAD LOAD LOAD!  I want a shot of that sweet, sweet outrage!  Gimme!

Obviously, I have developed a Rudy Giuliani problem and I'm going to have to resolve to stop clicking on any stories about him too.  The man is a buffoon.  His sole mission now is to piss off liberals.  I shall spend no more of my valuable time on this dude anymore.


But, I know I'll find some other jackhole dedicated to pissing off liberals to spend my clicks on.  To be honest: I like it.  I like reading about the Palin's and Guiliani's and letting my own (maybe a little milf-y?) righteous indignation fuel me through another day; mama needs a little reassurance, from time to time, that she's a good person and I can get that when I recognize what colossal assholes those other guys are in that story with a headline that begins "YOU WON'T BELIEVE WHAT....!

Sigh.  I'm gonna stop.  I'm gonna stop being outraged by these pitiful displays.  I'll carry on being aware that there's a chunk of America that thinks Barack Obama is insufficiently American because he doesn't think the A in US of A stands for AWESOME!   And I'll stay aware that there's a really sad and shocking amount of Americans who remain steadfastly convinced that black people are responsible for racism (oh, my nillas, PLEASE stop that).  But no more wasting my time on clicks designed to gin up my own outrage.

It's bad for the soul.  And probably the complexion.  And, goddammit, I wanna be a little milf-y for a while longer!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Opting Out of PARCC




We're opting out of PARCC.  

I went to an LSC meeting at Laney's school this week and her teachers recommended that kids in Laney's grade (sixth) take the test since it seems inevitable that the test will be used for selective enrollment when she's in seventh.  Their opinion is that it's good practice.

This isn't bad advice.  And they almost persuaded me.  But then I asked a question: "who grades this test?" No one there knew.  According to this source, Pearson (the company who created and operates PARCC) are hiring folks off Craigslist at $11/hour.   Let's take a look at a math question (click to embiggen):



I want to be very clear here - I'm not bothered by the question.  I don't think I could ANSWER the question; but, I'm going to take it on good faith that the methods for answering these questions are addressed via common core curriculum.  What bothers me is that they've rolled this thing out so poorly that no one knows who's going to be assessing Laney's response, which will be delivered in paragraph form.  When a teacher assesses a test response, I can read what she had to say, Laney can discuss it with her.  This is not true for some jamoke off Craigslist.

PARCC, by the way, is estimated to come with a 70% failure rate.  

But even this isn't why we're opting out.  The test doesn't count, after all.  It won't be used to determine funding for the schools, it won't be used to fire any teachers.  Why not just give Laney a real-life trial run before the goddamn thing matters?

Well, I'll tell you: We're opting out because the whole damn thing smells like a dirty political trick designed to liberate lots of good government dollars from public schools and into the hands of charter school hucksters*.  

I believe in public education.  I believe all children have a right to a quality education.  And I am sick sick sick of public school teachers and administrators being vilified as lazy or entitled by those who are baldly gaming the system by underfunding public schools while robbing our children of valuable classroom time with hours and hours of standardized testing.

The PARCC rollout in Chicago is a crappy political game with a clear goal of driving a stake through the heart of public education.  

And for this year, at least, we're not playing. 

* yes, yes, I know.  #notallcharterschools    

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Just Take a Walk Already

You know how sometimes you just don't feel right?  I've been feeling that way for a while.  Can't take any pleasure from playing the piano or reading a book. Can't get to feeling accomplished by writing or having success at work. Can't stand to follow politics because even if the Congressional GOP hasn't worn out Obama, they have sure as shit worn me out. I feel jangly and out-of-sorts. Do you think it's the ennui? Aren't I insufficiently French for that condition.

An hour or so ago, I was sitting on the couch.  I was sick of sitting on the couch, sick of being in my own skin.  I knew what I had to do: I had to take a damn walk.

I haven't taken a walk in forever.  I've let the cold scare me away from walks.  I know those of you who live in places where you have nice weather all the time feel like you've discovered The Secret, but I promise I'm not whistling through graveyards when I say that feels like some next level Sartrean hell to me.  Cold, real cold, hot, real hot, rain, snow, dry, wind... all of these are friends of mine that I enjoy until they linger (I'm looking at you, winter). The only weather I am not friends with is the tornado. The tornado is too scary.  Tornadoes are scary, crazy bitches.  They can stay the hell away.

The cold is not an excuse for me to avoid taking a walk.

So I took a walk.


Oh, winter, she is a nasty bitch, but she is very beautiful.  That's all lake up there, not land. Just ice and snow shaped by the wind and the water into lovely shapes.  I snapped some pix and kept walking and let my mind turn a little.  And my mind turned, as it does, right to my little girl - my heart, my soul, and likely the source of all this malaise.

I do not have the ennui.

Laney is hitting very real milestones that make it crystal clear that this time is coming to an end.  Her little girl time is coming so swiftly to an end. I admit that I am a person who feels hard the passing of time (you guys know that - I have whined about this very thing in this very space many times before).   But as I set one foot in front of the other and kept walking in the cold, it occurred to me that ever since I walked out of the orphanage with Laney in my arms, being her mother has been the Main Thing I Am.  Soon soon soon she'll be out of my house, on her own and while I'll always be her mother, I'm going to have to find another Main Thing to Be.

Probably won't be rockstar.   That's OK, though. That seems like an exhausting life.

But what will I be?  Who will I be when my main job is not being Laney's mother?

I love change. I hate change.

CONTENT NOTE or FAIR WARNING: FOLLOWING IS A HACKNEYED METAPHOR BUT HAND TO GOD IT REALLY HAPPENED THIS WAY.

I was staring at my feet, navigating puddles, crying a little, when a flash of color appeared in the corner of my eye and I saw a woman in a red coat taking a picture.



There was an ice bridge over the lake in Evanston.  That one right up there.  I'm not much of a photographer, so maybe you can't tell, but it was weird and beautiful and I would have missed it if I hadn't just looked up.

I told myself: calm down, calm down.  You must take it more lightly, you obsessive weirdo.  You are not mainly Laney's mother.  You are mainly You.

I told myself: keep your eyes open, keep looking for things that are beautiful, enjoy moments, stop talking yourself out of taking walks.

I didn't so much solve the problem as decide it wasn't really a problem.  I still feel kind of sad, but that's OK. I feel better.  It was awfully pretty out there.


(That last one is a good picture, right?)

Monday, February 23, 2015

Chicago is Not as Nice in Winter as Hogwarts

I should not complain about the cold. It's Chicago.  It's winter.  It's cold.


But I have words!  I have reasons and words!  I have things to say.  And this is MY blog.  Dammit.

I just went out to bring my recycling bin back to our back porch and it's gone.  I dragged the damn thing out this morning when it was A DEGREE outside (with windchill of eleventy-million and twelve below) and almost got frostbite on my thumb because I am a good goddamn citizen.  But now I don't have a recycling bin because SOMEONE TOOK IT AWAY.  WHO DOES THAT?!?!   I threw my recycling into the regular trash.



Why,  you may be wondering, did I almost get frostbite?  Well, I'll tell you.  My left glove has a hole in the thumb.  You know what you can't buy in Chicago in February?  Gloves.  You can buy a bikini at Target, but you can't buy gloves.   A bikini.  


Like I could put a bikini on anyway.  All I want to do is lie under a blanket and eat things.  


And I know - it's all a matter of attitude.  I should embrace the wild beauty of Chicago's winter.  


But my gloves have holes in them and some asshole stole my recycle bin and and and and...



I'm going to get into a bath with a bourbon.  I'll get out in April.  Otherwise:


Stupid winter.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

#HereForCookie

Last night I watched best picture front runner Birdman.  I'd had an exhausting week and was really tired.  This morning, after having slept for 9 hours, I got up and did a workout while watching last week's Empire.  I enjoyed Empire a lot more.

Now, let's first of all not understate the importance of attitude when partaking of artistic endeavor. When you're tired and raggedy, nothing is going to be as good as the thing you're watching while your endorphins are all revved up and you've gotten plenty of sleep.

But still.

Birdman had these amazing performances.  Ed Norton, Emma Stone and Michael Keaton were all so good.  And Amy Ryan should be way more famous than she is.  I thought those long tracking shots were interesting and made everything feel really exciting.  But fundamentally, I just don't think neurotic, desperate asshole actors are nearly as interesting as Hollywood does.  Birdman is a movie about actors for actors, I think.  Which is fine.  It's why I really like The IT Crowd.  

Empire is a primetime soap.  It's Dynasty meets The Lion in Winter where Henry II is a Russell Simmons-style hip hop mogul (it is not King Lear and everyone needs to stop saying that).  And it embodies the main way TV is beating movies nowadays, in that its breakout character is a hot, fascinating, talented, complicated 40-plus woman played by an actress you can hardly stand to take your eyes off of.  I am so #hereforCookie.

You never see stories about people like Cookie.  That show, in its glitzy, soapy way is showing us something I really don't think we've seen before in mainstream pop culture. And I cannot get enough!

Empire is telling us a new story in an old, but tried and true way. Birdman told us an old story in an exciting, daring new way.

Or maybe I was just tired last night and feeling good this morning.  Either way, Michael Keaton and Taraji P Henson are both world class actors.  I'm just way more interested in Cookie than I am in Riggan.

Who died.  Come on.

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