Sunday, September 28, 2008

Words: Gangbusters, scheme

I recently sent an apologetic email to someone whose lecture I could not, in the end, make the time to see. I copied a second friend, just to let her know that I wasn’t going. In it I said that the semester had come on like gangbusters and I didn’t have any choice but to just try to keep up the pace.

Gangbusters. A very good word.

But in reply, both recipients asked me about the word. Gangbusters, Anne, really?

I guess I’m alone in keeping it alive.

Then, on the radio the other morning, a British journalist described the Bush administration’s scheme to bailout the failed banks. I was taken aback by the word before remembering that scheme does not have such a firmly negative connotation in England as it does here.

Nonetheless, I suspect I’m right to have detected the slightest little sneer in the American journalist’s voice when she picked the story back up, saying that yes, many Americans , too, had voiced concerns about the scheme.

Scheme. Another good one.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Time Out

I am suspending this blog until we can solve the problems with our economy.


Friday, September 19, 2008

6 Days to go

Not till the election, but till something else very important.

Readers, take note. The Bush administration is trying to pass a rule that would allow health care workers to refuse any treatment they don't agree with--including not just abortion (which is already such a procedure), but also contraception and sterilization.

If you haven't read HRC's op-ed yet, please do:
LAST month, the Bush administration launched the latest salvo in its eight-year campaign to undermine women’s rights and women’s health by placing ideology ahead of science: a proposed rule from the Department of Health and Human Services that would govern family planning. It would require that any health care entity that receives federal financing — whether it’s a physician in private practice, a hospital or a state government — certify in writing that none of its employees are required to assist in any way with medical services they find objectionable.
And then go to the Planned Parenthood website and follow the links to register your protest against the rule.

Friday, September 12, 2008


This year, again, I’m trying to reset my priorities, to think about how I can achieve my goals by setting aside the time to do what matters: writing without neglecting the children. That’s a big and continuing challenge.

In graduate school, two of my very best friends and I went to New Orleans and got obsessed with Mardi Gras beads. We all noticed the pleasure we took in the pretty little things and, in them, we saw some parallels to the intense detailed work we were doing on our dissertations. My friends have gone on to storied careers and academe.

As for me, I’m doing fine, but I still think that little beads are a good metaphor for my magpie mind.

So, as I think about resetting my priorities, I can see all these little beads and seeds, scattered through my life, randomly, with more hope and enthusiasm than actual forethought. I have sewn so many seeds, scattered so many beads, promised so many small pieces of writing, set in motion so many arguments, so many relationships, so many promises, that when they come back to me, I am sometimes surprised to see them.

Sometimes, I step on a bead and it hurts like that last tiny Lego, invisible on the patterned carpet.

Sometimes, for days (no great housekeeper I), I notice the bead’s presence without ever actually thinking about it, without ever really letting it enter my mind in a way that would let me nourish it into growth. Then, it’s like the little toy or barrette, forgotten in some forlorn corner of the apartment, a tiny gamepiece that I notice for days without ever being able to muster the focus to pick up and take to the toy chest because to put it away properly just feels too hard and to throw it into the dark chaos of the toy chest feels like a worse kind of giving up.

Sometimes, after weeks or months of real forgetfulness, I turn to find that the little seed has grown up like one of the more primitive and terrifying weeds in our backyard, sprung up overnight, leafy, rangy, wild and demanding: the deadline was a week ago, the email says, can you deliver? A shudder goes through me and gradually, with a hollow and panicked feeling, I remember that yes, I did promise to write that review, send in that recommendation, apply for that grant, organize that meeting.

So, what to do?

Well, here is the current plan: I’m good at exercising 3 days a week. What if I got up at the same time on the other two and spent that time writing? It worked yesterday. That’s one.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

7th Anniversary

I didn't live here in 2001. I was in Indiana.

In early September, I was setting off to pick up a guest speaker from the airport. He was flying in from Newark. At loose ends, I sat at home for a moment and turned on the Today show. It seemed strange that a plane would have crashed into the World Trade Center.

I called my mom in Seattle.

We were on the phone together when the second plane hit.

We rescheduled the lecture for a couple weeks later.

One of the things I loved about DeLillo's novel was how accurately he captured the numb pragmatism of those days. Oh: the world as we know it has changed. Perhaps you can give your lecture next week instead?

Yesterday, I took MetroNorth from the Bronx to Grand Central; the PATH from 33rd to Jersey City. There were cops. There were dogs. We must, I thought, be at dark orange or maybe red. But why?

I had forgotten that the anniversary was upon us.

Is that a loss or a victory? And for whom?

As you think about what has changed, do read Erica's lovely essay on what we've lost.

53 days...

....books for Barack.

Speaking of autographs....Ayelet Waldman is having a silent book auction as part of an Obama fundraiser. I don't even have any copies of my out-of-print scholarly book to hand. Does anyone really want a copy of the instructor's guide to *The Norton Reader*? No.

But maybe you, dear reader, have written a book? And maybe you would like to donate a copy to a tony Bay Area fundraiser where donors will bid and raise money for Obama. If you do, pop your book into an envelope and send it her way.

(Don't have Ayelet's mailing address in your iPhone? Public as she is, I'm not sure she wants it all over the web. I got it fourth hand from my friend Kenny. So email me: I'll hook you up.)

Updated: Did you think I was kidding?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

54 days

I'm not quitting. No time for substance on a very busy day. But I did send Barack another tiny chunk of change.

Warm-Up Act

Fine. Go to Brooklyn on Sunday for their book festival. It will be very fancy.

But if you want a warm-up act, pop over to my neighborhood. Jersey City is hosting its first ever book festival, sponsored by the public library (yay!) and our local independent bookstore, the Imagineatrium and hosted in Van Vorst Park—just a few blocks from the Grove Street PATH station and just one block from MY apartment. Hurrah!

Helene Stapinski, author of the JC memoir Five-Finger Discount, will appear. Bill Gordon author of JC novel, Mary After All, is out of the area now and can’t make it. Others will be there, too.

Maybe Walter Dean Myers will make a showing?

Of course, I’m holding my breath for an appearance by my favorite JC writer: Tayari Jones!!!!

And as long as we’re linking to Carolyn’s gig at the LATimes, did you see her piece on favorite autographs? I am partial, since I was quoted. Fun!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

55 days to go...

So, today's little project for the presidency is this:

Calculate the tax cut you'd get under the Obama administration here. And pass it on...

Monday, September 08, 2008

We interrupt this blog...

Being lied to makes me crabby.

So I'm embarking on a 60-day "What did you do for Obama today?" campaign. No more hand-wringing, just hard work for the good old USA and our best hope of some change.

Here's my first contribution:

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Lies, Lies, and more Lies

Like the rest of us, I am utterly distracted by the Palin story and too overwhelmed by all of it to really collect my thoughts.

But when I heard her position herself as an advocate for special needs children last night, my antennae went up. As a small-town mayor, she would have had oversight of a school budget which would have included funding for special needs children. Before the birth of her baby, how was her record?

Well, as you would expect, not good. This from "Hilzoy" on the CBS news blog:
Palin: "To the families of special-needs children all across this country, I have a message: For years, you sought to make America a more welcoming place for your sons and daughters. I pledge to you that if we are elected, you will have a friend and advocate in the White House."

Sarah Palin might have changed her mind on this one recently. However, a comment here notes that Palin actually slashed funding for schools for special needs kids by 62%. Budgets: FY 2007 (pre-Palin), 2008, 2009 (all pdfs).
There is a lot to be outraged about in this VEEP pick and Gloria Steinem nails it this morning when she calls Palin the new Schlafly.

Remember Phyllis Schlafly? She was a prominent crusader against the Equal Rights Amendment, a smart, charismatic woman, a mother, who used her identity as a professional mother as a cudgel against other women. Here's what the conservative Eagle Forum says about her (emphasis added):
Phyllis Schlafly has been a national leader of the conservative movement since the publication of her best-selling 1964 book, A Choice Not An Echo. She has been a leader of the pro-family movement since 1972, when she started her national volunteer organization now called Eagle Forum. In a ten-year battle, Mrs. Schlafly led the pro-family movement to victory over the principal legislative goal of the radical feminists, called the Equal Rights Amendment. An articulate and successful opponent of the radical feminist movement, she appears in debate on college campuses more frequently than any other conservative. She was named one of the 100 most important women of the 20th century by the Ladies' Home Journal.
I take some small comfort in the recognition that Schlafly is no longer a household name. I hope that one day, too, Palin will be the darling of some neglected fringe movement, maybe back in Wassila.

UPDATED: As SFP notes in the comments and I heard intimations of elsewhere, it does look like Palin raised the budget on Special Ed. last April (her baby's birth month) [Education Week]--the confusion and apparent drop came because the name of the budget line changed. I'm correcting this in the interest of accuracy, but I still feel frustrated and indignang about her lying ways.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Too Many First Days of School

How I used to love the first day of school! I have fond memories even of those tense, excited breakfasts in elementary school when my father would tease me that my new teacher for the next grade was going to be “Mrs. Awful.”

“Really, Daddy?”

“Yes, and I hear she’s awful.”

Quivering lips and plaintive glances at my mom who’d remind me that it was only, after all, Ms. Pogue.

I remember great new outfits in red, yellow, and blue, with new knee socks, and heading off to school with a new lunchbox.

And I remember, years later, poring over Seventeen magazine in search of just the right plaid jumper for a cute new back-to-school look and having my mom help me put pennies in my new loafers.

Part of becoming a teacher, I’m sure, has to do with my fondness for this rhythm of the year, this sense of September beginnings, of autumn promise.

But this year, there are just too many first days. Instead of feeling like a fond old hand, I’m just a nervous little kid, each new day turning my stomach upside down again.

Yesterday was the first day of school at NYU, where my husband teaches. It was also my first day of the practicum for new graduate student teachers, a course that I’ll be taking over for at least part of the semester while a colleague is on personal leave.

Today is the first day of school at Fordham, where I teach. My classes don’t meet today, but I have to head out soon to hold the orientation meeting for the new adjuncts who’re just starting out.

Tomorrow is my daughter’s first day of kindergarten!

And Friday is my actual first day of teaching my own classes.

You can wipe me up from the floor on Friday afternoon.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

I'm so glad

Win or lose, rain or shine, we'd sway in the stands after every football game:
I'm so glad I go to Garfield High... (x3)
Singing glory hallelujah, I go to Garfield High.
The last line's a little histrionic, for sure, but we did feel it. Garfield was a great, great high school and we were super proud to be part of it. Imagine, then what it would feel like to go to this Garfield!

My old Seattle high school has reopened after a multi-million dollar renovation. Wow!

When I was there, the window frames were painted bright yellow, cracked, chipped and fading, with purple accents. The renovation is grand and positively Microsoftian. Wow.