Friday, February 27, 2009

Cuts to Education Never Heal

Donned my red T-shirt this morning to protest ongoing cuts to Florida's education budget. It's interesting that whenever things get tight, legislators in this state sharpen their axes and hack away at schools. They're making noises about rolling back the class size amendment because "it's too expensive"--but not a peep about rolling back the pregnant pig confinement regulations, or last year's Amendment 1 (which got us into a chunk of this mess). Schools are already bleeding, but instead of giving them a transfusion or--God forbid!--helping the problem, they're planning additional amputations. If the patient bleeds to death while on the table, oh well. It's just kids we're talking about. It's not like they pay taxes or contribute to reelection campaigns.

What's even more infuriating is what it takes to get parents fired up. When they were talking about cutting elementary art, music, and PE teachers and elementary and middle school guidance counselors, nary a peep from the masses. Then someone looked at sports, and Lord, have mercy. You'd have thought they were rezoning everyone into Sodom High or Gomorrah Elementary.

Here's the thing: Should sports be cut entirely? Absolutely not. But they should face the same trimming the rest of the budget is expected to endure. Do we need ninth grade sports? The kids who are talented enough to win scholarships are talented enough to make JV rosters. Kids have a far greater chance to win college scholarships through academics than they do through sports. So why is no one screaming bloody murder when they talk about classroom and teacher cuts?

As a writer, the wife of a musician, and the mother of a pianist/tubist and a violinist/painter, what really chaps my ass is the laissez-faire attitude toward arts programs. ARTS ARE NOT FLUFF. If anything, the arts require practitioners to employ critical thinking skills. There's tons of research showing a direct connection between the arts and academic success. Visual artists translate those skills to spatial math and engineering problems. Skilled musicians are usually equally strong in mathematics. Drama students apply close reading strategies and integrate social studies information to create plausible characters. Much of what we know about ancient civilizations comes from the ARTifacts left behind--their sculpture, architecture, plays, and writings. Sports played an integral part in those societies, but the arts taught us all about them. We shouldn't treat basketball and lacrosse like sacred cows and drawing and drama like they're expendable. Each has value, but we have to find balance.

They're holding a huge rally at UCF tomorrow. Let's hope the good folks in Tallahassee are listening.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ten Favorite Ethnic Foods

  1. Chicken Enchiladas (Mexico)
  2. Chicken Marsala (Italy)
  3. Wonton soup (China)
  4. Coq au Vin (France)
  5. Fish and Chips (Great Britain)
  6. Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce (Vietnam)
  7. Crème Brûlée (France)
  8. Forfar Bridies with HP Sauce (Scotland)
  9. Black Beans and Rice (Cuba)
  10. Empanadas (Jamaica)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Why We <3 Hugh


He sings! He dances! He's gorgeous! He's Hugh Jackman, and he was a needed tonic for the Oscars. I have to say, this year's ceremony was one of the more visually interesting ones in years. From the set design--gorgeous Swarovski crystal curtain/big band club atmosphere/actual set design to explain set and costume design--to the changes in format--five previous winners saluting this year's nominees--it was fun to look at. There were other surprises, too. Who knew Anne Hathaway had that much voice? Even if you'd seen her singing in that hilarious SNL "Lawrence Welk" sketch, that's nothing like being the only set of female pipes in the room (and channeling Richard Nixon, of all people). Tina Fey and Steve Martin? Genius. This is why I stay up 'til midnight every year, even if I haven't seen all the Best Picture nominees. Guess who's loading up her Netflix queue?

Yep, I love me some Hugh Jackman. More, please!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day


For more great "cartoons drawn on the back of business cards" by Hugh MacLeod (he's using this one as a wine label for his company, Stormhoek), check

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Soundtrack of Your Life

Tagged myself at Macy's blog, Random Ravings...this is kind of fun! If your life were a movie, what would the soundtrack be? Here's how it works:
  1. Open your library (iTunes, Winamp, Media Player, iPod, etc)
  2. Put it on shuffle
  3. Press play
  4. For every question, type the song that's playing
  5. When you go to a new question, press the next button
  6. No cheating and doctoring your list to make yourself look cooler than the person you took this from
Opening Credits: "Groovin’" by The Rascals
First Day at School: "Back Where You Belong" by .38 Special
Breaking Up: "Night and Day" (Cole Porter) by U2
Prom: "C’mon Girl" by Red Hot Chili Peppers
Sex Scene: "Soul Survivor" by L.L. Cool J
Life’s OK: "Leave Me Alone (I’m Lonely)" by P!nk
Mental: "The Last Time" by The Rolling Stones
Flashback: "Why" by Annie Lennox
Getting Back Together: "Mean to Me" by Crowded House
Wedding Scene: "Pictures at an Exhibition: Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks" by Modest Mussorgsky (okay, that's completely random!!)
Birth of Child: "Ghost Train" by Counting Crows
Falling In Love: "Vida Tem Um So Vida" by Cesaria Evora
Final Battle: "Livingston Saturday Night" by Jimmy Buffett
Death Scene: "Suffer Some" by Jane’s Addiction
End Credits: "It’s Not Supposed to Be That Way" by Willie Nelson

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Having a Genius

Good friend and partner in crime (and art) Katherine Garbera sent me a link to this brief lecture by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love. In it, she discusses the creative process, and one observation really struck me. She was discussing how Greek and Roman cultures viewed the artist has having a genius rather than being a genius. The Renaissance idea of individuals being the geniuses (genii?) puts too much on a particular person, especially when you account for the "utter maddening capriciousness of the creative process." As she says,
"Allowing somebody like one mere person to believe that he or she is like the vessel at the font, the essence, the source of all divine creative unknowable eternal mystery is just like a smidge too much responsibility to put on one fragile human just warps and distorts egos and creates all these unmanageable expectations..."
There's lots more. See here:

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ten Favorite Children's Movies

  1. The Emperor's New Groove - The Disney folks get some Warner Bros. irreverence, to great effect. The Rube Goldberg involving a floor polisher, a pillow, and a beehive cracks me up every time--and I'm easily at 50+ viewings. Priceless!
  2. Beauty and the Beast - You did know I was a hopeless romantic, right?
  3. Big - For anyone who's ever wished they were older, and for everyone who remembers why it's great to be a kid.
  4. Lilo and Stitch - Gorgeous animation (love those watercolor backgrounds!), humor, great voice casting. The total package.
  5. The Princess Bride - Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles...what more could you want??
  6. Lady and the Tramp - Probably the reason I hate cats. Poor Lady, having to deal with Siamese fallout. Jim Dear and Darling come through for her (and her Tramp) in the end, though.
  7. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory - Could anyone other than Gene Wilder pull this off?
  8. Finding Nemo - Just keep swimming...just keep swimming...
  9. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - This is my favorite of the films, but they're all pretty darned good. Run 'em back to back on a rainy Saturday for total escapism.
  10. Pick a Pixar: Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, Cars, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, WALL•E, Monsters Inc. Terrific animation, great writing, thoughtful voice casting, consistent fabulousness.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

One Word...

One thing about Facebook, they can meme you to death! This one was fun, though. If you're reading, consider yourself tagged...

USING ONLY ONE WORD! Copy and change the answers to suit you and pass it on. It's really hard to only use one word answers. Be sure to tag the person you received it from!

1. Where is your cell phone? purse
2. Your significant other? Sparky
3. Your hair? curly
4. Your mother? gregarious
5. Your father? aristocratic
6. Your favorite? laughter
7. Your dream last night? weird
8. Your favorite drink? tea
9. Your dream/goal? published
10. What room you are in? den
11. Your hobby? writing
12. Your fear? failure
13. Where do you want to be in 6 years? around
14. Where were you last night? sofa
15. Something that you aren't? organized
16. Muffins? blueberry
17. Wish list item? passport
18. Where you grew up? Florida
19. Last thing you did? uploaded
20. What are you wearing? fleece
21. Your TV? old
22. Your pets? pups
23. Friends? loved
24. Your life? happy
25. Your mood? introspective
26. Missing someone? yes
27. Car? Beetle
28. Something you're not wearing? pantyhose
29. Your favorite store? stationery
30. Your favorite color? cool
33. When is the last time you laughed? morning
34. Last time you cried? before
35. Who will resend this? talkers
36. One place that I go to over and over? practice
37. One person who emails me regularly? Puffs
38. My favorite place to eat? home

Friday, February 06, 2009

Diva Wars

It's been a busy week out there for the ladies! First Etta James takes Beyoncé to task for the latter's version of "At Last" at the presidential inauguration, then teen queen Hilary Duff has a go at Faye Dunaway over their newly-shared role in Bonnie and Clyde. Whew!

One reason I've probably collected more male friends than female over the years is this tendency to
pull out the claws and fight dirty. Like the women I know have time to get stirred up over petty crap. Let's just examine the dustups, shall we?

Etta James is a vocal legend, and "At Last" is her signature piece. I know Ms. B played her in this year's film Cadillac Records to great reviews--even EJ herself was pleased at the performance--but EJ has the tiniest of points. She's miffed that she wasn't even asked to sing the song herself. To her, "At Last" is her song, and it would have been a courtesy to include her somehow rather than skipping over her for the new hot flavor.

The new hot flavor, however, was a big Obama supporter (along with her husband Jay-Z), so that probably explains the invite. Big money to the campaign, big spot on primetime at one of the inaugural balls. And she did a great job, mainly because "At Last" is one of the few songs that's naturally in her range. Normally she picks material that's too high for her, so it comes out screechy, and she has that tendency to sing eighty notes where, say, three would do (a reason I don't care for Mariah Carey, either). And she's responsible for the current Most Annoying Song in the World ("Single Ladies")--it gets stuck in your head worse than "It's a Small World," and the part that sticks is the "uh uh oh, oh oh oh" nonsense--so maybe someone ought to encourage her to pick better material. Apparently, she does have some chops, so she ought to explore them.

Hilary Duff, however, hasn't proved any chops beyond Lizzie Maguire, so I have no idea where she thinks she can get all over someone who's won an Oscar and be catty about facelifts. Right now, her looks are what's getting her any work. Besides, you're in a remake of an iconic American film. Win yourself critical acclaim in a couple of original films and get nominated for an Oscar, then let the fur fly. Until then, remarks about how your Disney-trained fan base won't even know who Faye Dunaway is just make you look petty. Didn't your mama ever tell you about not saying anything if you can't say anything nice?

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Stuck on Stupid

Is it a lack of home training, or just a dearth of common sense in the upper echelons these days? The more I read the paper, the more I realize how many people in our so-called "privileged class" is, to quote DH, "stuck on stupid."

Usually, the "stuck on stupid" label gets hurled toward dumb criminals in the news, or the clueless who drive for miles with turn signals on, or any manner of local idiocy. But lately, more and more folks on the national stage seem to be mired there. A few notable cases:
  • John Thain, ex-CEO of Merrill Lynch. He engineered the sale of Merrill to Bank of America, gave the Merrill folks millions in bonuses even though their company's worth had tanked so badly it needed to be sold in order to be saved, came on board at Bank of America, then spent over a million bucks redecorating his office (including antique furniture and an $87,000 custom-loomed rug) with bailout funds courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer.
  • The U.S. banking and car industries. The bank people can't tell us where our money's gone (they are banks, in the business of safeguarding money, right?), and the car people fly private jets costing $11,000 an hour of flight time to Washington to beg for money to keep their industry afloat. The bank people need to fork over the ledgers to a couple of really pissy small-town accountants, and the car people need to do a cross-country goodwill tour, driving the smallest, most fuel-efficient car in their respective fleets. The banks might learn something about keeping track of their pennies, and the car folks might learn how to design something that's worth driving that happens to save gas.
  • Tom Daschle, former nominee to head the Department of Health and Human Services. Withdrew his name for the Cabinet post because A) he'd received a buttload of money from health care lobbyists and B) the tiny matter of forgetting to pay about $400 grand in taxes. How the hell do you forget to pay $400,000 in taxes?
  • For that matter, the IRS. They'll swoop down like avenging angels (devils?) if some normal person like me comes up short paying my taxes, to the tune of years of years of agony, court dates, and penalties, but they somehow miss the fact that a former Senator owes them nearly half a million bucks? What's up with that?
  • Nancy Killefer, hoping to be named the first Chief Performance Officer in charge of making sure government money is spent wisely, withdraws her name from consideration because she hasn't paid employment taxes on domestic help. Two words for you: Zoe Baird. Or Bernard Kerik; take your pick. Baird lost out on being Clinton's Attorney General, and Kerik wasn't named W's Homeland Security Secretary because they didn't pay social security taxes on their domestic workers (Baird's was an illegal immigrant!). Does the air in Washington strip common sense out of your brain?? Wait. Don't answer that.
  • Rod Blagojovitch. Former Illinois governor tries to sell Obama's Senate seat, then goes on a talk-show tour proclaiming his innocence. They have you on tape doing it, moron!!
  • Ray Sansom. Newly-elected speaker of the Florida House engineers payments to some tiny community college in the Panhandle, including an airplane hangar suspiciously like the one requested by a big campaign contributor, then accepts--on the day he's named House Speaker, now--a job from the same community college paying him $110,000 per year to swing by and lecture a couple of times a semester. Or a year. Or something. (This would be one of the same community colleges that are switching to nearly all-adjunct faculty so they won't have to pay anyone health benefits.) And he sees no ethical problems with that. Normally, that kind of thing would slide by unnoticed (you do read Carl Hiaasen, don't you?), but the cries finally got so loud he stepped down "temporarily" until he could clear his name. His fellow representatives, who have better public-opinion windsocks, voted his ass out of the office permanently. There is a ray of sunshine in the Sunshine State.
I'm not going to start on the parade of prominent figures who screw up their professional lives because they conduct affairs and somehow believe they're not going to get caught, or that it'll cost them their careers when public opinion savages them like a Rottweiler with PMS (Eliot Spitzer, John Edwards, Kwame Fitzpatrick, yeah, I'm talkin' 'bout you). We'd be here until next week. You idjits just can't keep it in your pants, knowing that photographers and reporters are following you EVERYWHERE??

I'm beginning to think that anyone who runs for public office needs to undergo a battery of competence, common sense, and ethical tests before being allowed to file paperwork to run for anything. I'm tired of cleaning up after these jerkwads. I'm even more tired of paying for their shenanigans. As DH so eloquently put it, "They're cutting money from education and teachers are losing jobs, and this guy is redecorating his office with my f**king money??"

Okay, I have to quit. I'm a young woman, and I don't need any more blood pressure problems. President Obama, I have a suggestion for you. Go coast to coast and get some normal people who haven't been poisoned by politics of any sort--some rank and file teachers, small businesspeople, retail clerks, restaurant servers, cops, nurses, firemen, family farmers, accountants, contractors, etc.--and ask them what needs to be cleaned up in their particular industry. Just the folks who go to work, pay the bills, try to hold onto their houses, and raise decent kids. Ask them. Listen to them, untainted by lobbyist groups or PACs or people who need votes to keep their Washington jobs. Then, maybe, we can move off stupid and head toward actual progress.

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