Friday, August 10, 2007

Friday Fave: Wicked in LA

Still flying high after seeing Wicked here in LA at the Pantages.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the musical has much more humor than I expected, all the more better since we saw a very polished LA production filled with great dancing and singing amongst amazingly fantastic sets. Wicked , as the backstory to the Wizard of Oz, is the clever but simplified psychological take to the characters, highlighting the relationship between Elphaba and Glinda. Even better, to me, was the well-disguised subversive political commentary about fear-mongering regimes needing enemies in order to control the masses.

Unfortunately, my very favorite tune, 'I'm Not That Girl', is turning into the maudlin anthem for heart-broken teens everywhere on YouTube so I won't post that one, and the Wicked trademark police appears to be out erasing YouTube clips from the show but below is one that hasn't been pulled yet. It's a horrible public locale but you can imagine how great Eden Espinoza as Elphaba is on stage. Here she is singing 'The Wizard and I'. Update: she is accompanied on the the piano by Stephen Schwartz, the composer and lyricist of Wicked.


Friday, July 27, 2007

Again, LA Times Fails the Public in Their Report about Dubya's Speech to ALEC

Once again, the LA Times fails the public by not providing the big picture context of Bush's rah rah talk in front of ALEC this month, by playing down the very very right-wing agenda of the organization Dubya spoke to this month, and by using language developed by the right-wing for propaganda.

ALEC is the Grover Norquist spawned group organized to put Norquist's anti-tax agenda in every state in the nation. ALEC turns out to be one of the back door ways corporate money gets their (bought and paid for) legislators to carry their legislation and agenda back to the states. How it all works is very clever. Here is Mother Jones on ALEC.

Instead, take a look at the type of language we see here in Los Angeles in the subject heading: "Speaking to state legislators, he uses blunt language in referring to Democratic opposition to extending his cuts" and "Before budget fight, Bush puts up his fists on taxes".

Getting suspicious, I kept reading. Paragraph 1 is notable for the use of language developed by the right-wing: see "Republicans seeking to protect Americans' wallet". I note pathetically more info in paragraph 2: the LA Times reveals it to be an "organization of conservative state legislators", a statement I suspect will be completely underwhelming. I go all the way to paragraph four to find out that Dubya was indeed giving a speech to ALEC.

There is no mention of the history of ALEC nor is there any mention of Norquist, his agenda, and how it's done. Pathetic and scary. No wonder we have a poorly educated voting public.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Friday Fave: "For Good" from Wicked

Wandering though postings on YouTube for songs from my current musical fave, Wicked, I was struck by this rendition of "For Good".
May Manny Garcia land a recording contract and have a wonderful and productive career. For the record, I am not related in any way to Mr. Garcia nor have I had any contact with him.

His YouTube Link


Friday, July 13, 2007

Friday Fave: Aragonaise from the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet

I'm posting one more of the awesome Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, this time playing Aragonaise from the Carmen Suite.
Here's the YouTube link so you can give them five stars.
Their website.


Friday, July 06, 2007

Dark Chocolate Blogging: (Minuscule Quantities of ) Dark Chocolate Good For Your Health

I don't need studies like this to give me another reason to consume chocolate. We get news of a recent study published in JAMA indicating positive results in individuals consuming a minuscule amount, 30 calories worth, of dark chocolate. Couple caveats: this was a very small sample size (44 individuals) which renders results, in my opinion, to be a bit dicey, and the positive result was a fairly small reduction in high blood pressure. Still, I'll take it as good news overall. My major issue: I just find it a bit difficult to consume such a tiny amount. How does one do that?


Monday, July 02, 2007

Action Alert: Keep Organic Food Organic

There's still time to get your response in. The Organic Consumers Association has written a petition to send to the USDA to keep organic food organic. The most recent change initiated by the USDA loosens standards so much that labelled organic food may not necessarily be organic.
YOUR HELP IS STILL NEEDED The USDA has responded to OCA's demands to repoen re-open the public comment period on this issue. Industry was given two years, and the public was initially only given 7 days. But the USDA has agreed to accept public comments for 60 additional days while giving interim approval to the proposal. It's important that consumers, farmers and organic producers use this period to share their opinions.
If you scroll down to the bottom of the page, you'll be able to send a letter to the USDA.

LATimes: A Bit of Hope

I can count on our once local paper, the LATimes, to be a source of disappointment. With the last change in ownership, it was clear I'd wake up every morning to an even skinnier paper when it was already looking close to being diagnosed anorexic. With that, it was obvious there would be more bleeding of staff positions.

One very public cut was my favorite curmudgeon who writes eloquently from Topanga Canyon, Al Martinez. I have always thought of him as an essential local voice, one of us, and if he got cut from the LATimes, I would consider the newspaper lost, completely gone soulless and corporate. Yup, completely soulless, as you can see here:
The editor of the section of which my column is a small and barely visible part telephoned on an otherwise uneventful afternoon to say that my column, in its present form, is ending and that I am being given a buyout.

No one asked if I wanted it. I would have said no. I would have said I'm not ready yet. My prose is strong and my mind is clear. I'm still climbing upward. There is still a summit I haven't reached, a sunrise I haven't seen.

But they didn't ask.
Today, however, I see Al Martinez is back writing for the LATimes, Inc. Glad to see him back.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Friday Fun: LAGQ and Pachelbel's 'Loose' Canon

Here's one of my favorite guitar groups, the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, with their irreverent and amazing take on Pachelbel's Canon in D. Enjoy!

Youtube link
Their website
From the DVD, LAGQ Live!


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Happy Feet under attack

Hah. It didn't take long, did it. The movie Happy Feet is being grinched by the conservative propaganda machine as being, in a classic case of psychological projection, propaganda. From Mediamatters.

These charismatic penguins are waaaay too threatening especially when the movie's message is waaaay too subversive. I think it's not going to work this time. Cute penguins will win, flippers down.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

It was a good Thanksgiving this year

Every year, I link to this hopeful piece on messed up family dynamics and Thanksgiving, with the quiet hope that my experience with the extended family will be better.

Since last year was my worst ever, we went the road less traveled this time.

We ditched the yearly family drama over at the in-laws. We have been in San Diego, in the middle of a quiet and peaceful vacation.

Not only did we ditch the in-laws, we also didn't do the standard turista madness of trying to catch the many amusement attractions in the area.

Instead, we spent lots of time at the pool, and we saw the movie Happy Feet, which contains a bunch of delightfully subversive messages. Way to go and what a great way of seeding America's youth with messages about ecology, acknowledgement of the food chain, the consequence of overfishing the oceans, and tolerance of differences.

Delighted to know that American youth everywhere will get exposed to these so-called liberal ideas as they take in the cutest singing and dancing penguins ever seen.

Monday, November 20, 2006

LA Weekly: taking a turn to the right?

LA Weekly was, at one point, our reliably lefty alternative weekly here in southern California. It hasn't been for awhile. In this last election, I looked for an endorsement page but I didn't even see it. Here is the pathetic thing they offered instead, something called 'A Voter's Guide'.

So what's the deal? Here's something Gregory Rodriguez wrote in last Sunday's LA Times (note, I am not a Rodriguez fan by far, and know that I have numerous quibbles with his piece). But this is new to me.
The next year, the New Times Media chain of weekly papers, based in Phoenix, merged with Village Voice Media, which owned the L.A. Weekly, and began to remake the paper in its image. Known for its anti-PC irreverence and old-fashioned muckraking, the editorial leadership of New Times is now pushing the Weekly toward hard news and away from liberal advocacy. Two weeks ago, Stewart was hired to supervise local news coverage.
Jill Stewart has been the one I turn to get reliably strident conservative thinktank talking points in LA. I know she wrote for the Daily News, the great conservative paper in the Valley. Here's an archive of her columns in the SF Chronicle where you can quickly get a flavor of her views, union bashing and all.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Any truth creates a scandal

"...any truth creates a scandal".
from a letter written by Hadrian, a Roman emperor.

This quote is from the fictional account, Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar. Oh, what a difficult book to read but only because I'm finding myself taking time to reread paragraphs, sentences, phrases.

I've come to a personal conclusion that the greater the resistance to birthing a truth, the more painful are the emotions attached to it. This also happens to be a comment about my life these days.

But don't you think this works at the national level as well, that the entrenched forces in power, Republican, Democratic, the media as well, will necessarily find that truth creates scandal, as it does in dysfunctional family and community systems.

Turning to the impeachment dialogue which I hope doesn't die an early death, I mirror what seems to make the most sense to me: we must honor the process of uncovering the truth. This process will create a scandal, an absolutely expected outcome, as reflected by Hadrian.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Norquist reminds his constituency to continue "district by district"

Earlier this week, I caught the very conservative Investor's Business Daily (November 13, 2006) offering a strategy comment from Grover Norquist in their front page story titled: Conservatives Spar Over Iraq, Values After Stinging Loss. Sorry, no link.
Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said social issues can be local concerns for Republicans, but don't have to go national.

"It's not reasonable to suggest that the pro-life issue in toto hurts Republicans. That's not true. It actually helps them," Norquist said. "you have to look at it district by district. You don't run an anti-stem cell candidate in downtown New York, but you want to have a right-to-life in a Catholic neighborhood or the South".
This is nothing new.

Funny how this mirrors, probably not coincidentally, the Dominionist strategy for takeover, one school board at a time.

I think Norquist's remarks affirms the foresight and wisdom of Dean's 50 state strategy as the way to go, namely, local.

CA: Bersin leaves his education post in Sacramento

I read this morning that Alan Bersin, appointed by Gov. Schwarzenegger to be his Secretary of Education, is leaving to go back to San Diego, accepting a position on an airport authority board.

I've written about Alan Bersin, namely his support of Prop. 76, the proposition which would have really hurt CA public schools if passed last year. Previous to that, he had been a contentious superintendent of San Diego schools, being the type of 'reformer' that both the DLC and the Republicans seem to be appreciate well.

I'd love to know why he's leaving Sacramento and education. UPDATE: The LATimes spins this as a resignation related to a postelection revamp.
Two of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's prominent aides are leaving the administration, the first in what is expected to be a string of departures as the governor, following his reelection victory last week, retools his staff.

Schwarzenegger aides confirmed Wednesday that Alan D. Bersin, the governor's education advisor, is stepping down, as is Richard Costigan, a senior aide in charge of pushing the governor's agenda through the Legislature.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Projection, again, naturally

Nothing new but I've got to point out this very clear and classic use of projection to avoid responsibility, in this video of Poppa Bush blaming bloggers for, gasp, the adversarial political climate.

I'm sure you know I'm not breaking new ground by saying that having a clear object to blame is a really old but effective tactic.

I think it works well, unfortunately, because this is a type of emotional manipulation that is very familiar and comforting, especially to those who grew up in families where this is normal. Stuff like this usually would go under the radar, which is probably why we (bloggers) are naturally to blame since we like to bring things out into awareness. Ah, sunlight.

God bless bloggers.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Deep gratitude

I'm very sorry I dropped out of sight but I have been busy and could not blog.

Today, post-election day, I couldn't help but cry. Whether they were tears of relief, tears of joy, tears of whatever, I'm not really going to try to figure out. I'm thrilled, happy, and most of all, relieved as must be all of you who support progressive politics. Just don't talk to me about California's governor. Don't know why but Californians still need some help.

I turn to UK's The Guardian for their great commentary from across the sea, ending with this. has been the American voters who have at last made this possible. For that alone the entire world owes them its deep gratitude today.
They must think we've been nuts these last years but at least they have enough presence to say "Thank you, America".

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

CA: What's wrong with Prop. 88

This is a link over to Education Justice on why we should vote No on Prop. 88 on the upcoming monster November ballot in CA.

Prop. 88 is a flat tax of $50 per parcel with an incredibly laser-focused approach to funding education. It only funds class-size reduction, textbooks, safety, facilities, and a teacher-focused achievement tracking system. Note this important catch. From CSBA:
However, the initiative would impose severe penalties for “misuse” of funds—a term not defined to distinguish between inadvertent errors and intentional illegal behavior; place new constraints on the use of the class-size reduction funds; and expand the role of the state Board of Education in “approving” textbooks.
Prop. 88 was placed on the ballot by EdVoice, a suspiciously mixed coalition including major Chamber of Commerce types (yo! there's Eli Broad again), charter school advocates, and politicos (egads, I spy Alan Bersin on their advisory board).

Sunday, July 16, 2006

My chickenhawk story

Out of the blue, my kid asked me this: "Mom, what is a chickenhawk?".

I was momentarily taken aback. My kid--already political at 8? OMG, was I ranting too much again when I should really have been blogging about it (yes, I know I've been silent but in the summer the days are full when school is out).

So when I asked why, the kid shrugged, saying "Oh, I just heard the word the other day". Oh dear, I thought, it was true. I was ranting again in the presence of kids, something I try to avoid. I was still a bit puzzled. I generally rant about other things, oh, like the DLC or Governor Schwarzenegger, but I can't remember the last time I even thought about chickenhawks. We don't watch TV. Where did it come from?

Since I was also distracted as well, I started rattling off the 'oh it's a person who wants war but doesn't want to fight in it' definition. At which point, the kid stops me right away.

"No, mom, I was reading about a chickenhawk which swooped up and took a mouse away". Oh, yes, I forgot about that type of chickenhawk. Hah. Mild relief.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

CA: Check out Schwarzenegger's 'Education Coalition'

Since we already have a bona fide Education Coalition in CA, key players in protecting education funding in California, it seems fitting Team Schwarzenegger came up with their own coalition to shore up their own ed credentials. Thanks to Randy Bayne who catches the sleazy Schwarzenegger attempt at mimicry and deception.

I think it's notable to point out that the Schwarzenegger 'Education Coalition' includes a who's who list of extreme right winger all-stars.

First off, Ron Nehring, the Grover Norquist dude with a long history of Norquista based activism, including heading a national campaign to destroy unions in the US. He is also a school board member in San Diego who has tried to convert all the schools in his school district to charter schools.

Lance Izumi hails from a state-based thinktank aligned with the national coalition, State Policy Network, which coordinates pushing right-winger policy in every state. More info on that coalition here (pdf), especially on how it's done locally in San Diego, and here (pdf). Izumi is the frequent op-ed writer who appears to be the go-to person penning the right winger education talking points in the local newspapers.

Peter Mehas, superintendent of Fresno Schools, was chairman of the CA Republican party for two years and served as Gov. Deukmejian's Secretary of Education.

Kirk Clark is the California Business Roundtable representative. The Business Roundtable has consistently been leaders in supporting NCLB.

Many representatives from charter schools in CA.

For more evidence this is a group of ed supporters live in Schwarzenegger's alternate fantasy world of education, here's the press release from this 'coalition'
"Under Governor Schwarzenegger's leadership, California is investing in education at the highest level in our state's history," said Sandra McBrayer, United States teacher of the year*. "Over the past two and a half years, funding for education has increased by $8.1 billion – to more than $11,000 per student.
$11,000 per student. Wow. I so wish this was true, it hurts.

I think the pathetic thing is that there are people who actually believe these numbers, including (ahem) family, friends, and many well-meaning parents I've encountered. They are flabbergasted and confused when I tell them current CA state funding for schools from the state falls short of providing a quality education. False information like the above fuels this problem.

Amplifying Randy Bayne's points, I'll end with Phil Angelides, the Democratic nominee running against Schwarzenegger for the governorship. Unlike Schwarzenegger, who abandoned education funding at a drop of hat despite his many campaign promises, Angelides has made education a priority. No wonder he's got the backing of the real ed groups in CA.

Friday, June 23, 2006

CA: More reaction to Villaraigosa's school deal

Insane teacher catches this illuminating little detail:
Here's the key provision: the school board loses its power to make decisions that cost LAUSD more than $25,000. I had to read that twice. I thought it might have said less than, but I teach first grade, so I know the difference. Why the heck would we want the power to spend so much money to go from a small group to a single person (the Superintendent, the choice of whom the mayor will now have veto-power)?
Oh, and this little detail as well, related to NCLB.
There's some provisions in it that are sneaky (The Mayor's council is in charge of the 36 failing schools. Are they in charge of just those 36 schools or any school that's failing? I don't know, but I'd bet the latter. But, if you know anything about NCLB, you know that number is just going to grow exponentially, so Villaraigosa secretly did get complete control like he wanted, he just has to wait...), but there is one way to know what this compromise is really about...Follow the money.
Insane teacher's blog looks new. Certainly this is another edublog to keep your eyes on.

Marc Cooper of the LA Weekly discusses his take on what drove Villaraigosa to push this deal: the CA governorship in 2010.
Better for Antonio that Phil loses in November and goes back into business with Angelo spreading around more suburban sprawl. Arnold also likes that plan.

Maybe that’s our real choice in November. Either we get another four years of Arnold, a reformed school district and Antonio as governor in 2010. Or we get eight years of Phil and the same brain-dead school system. Who says we don’t have clear-cut choices?
This whole thing makes me think twice about the very charismatic Villaraigosa. He'll sacrifice kids, although not his, for his career.

It seems LATimes has a new blog covering blog reactions, and, hey look, my last post is linked. More reaction, mostly from the other side of the blogosphere here and here.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

CA: Villaraigosa gets his deal

The Mayor of LA, Villaraigosa, in his quest to take over control of the LAUSD, didn't quite get what he wanted when he ran to his pals in the State Legislature but he surely got something. And right now, the only thing clear to me is that he's getting a truckload of good publicity out of this whole thing.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa stepped confidently into a crowded press conference in the Capitol Wednesday to announce a landmark agreement giving him broad authority over the management of the state's largest school district.
The LA Times has a chart (on this refreshing new edblog by LA Time's Bob Sipchen) which gives a few details on what he wanted and what he got instead.

I've been dismayed by his quest to be emperor of the schools. A teacher friend of mine in the LAUSD says there are many other ways of improving LAUSD than Antonio's way, which is by fiat and is all about castrating the elected school board and superintendent. I've had objections as well: a strong mayor system is a key right-wing goal. What the hell is going on with Villaraigosa? Who got to him? My teacher friend also points out this problem when a mayor is emperor: what happens to the school district when Antonio leaves? What if we get someone who is a true Norquist Republican and wants to give it away to the highest bidder?

Now that some of the dust has settled, I think we've got a ton of compromises, guarenteeed to generate tons of feel-good PR for all. You can read some of it in the LAT article if you dare.

My take: I don't like it, and I suspect it'll be worse for the kids in the long run. I think increased diffusion of responsibility, especially with new governing parties introduced into the pot, will make it more difficult to get anything done, this in a system when it already is just about impossible to get things done. The superintendent and the school board, traditionally the two in charge in most school districts, have quite a bit less power and responsibility. In the traditional system, this is where the parents exert pressure.

Having a strong mayor at the top, who has a number of other responsibilities, makes a school district vulnerable to whoever lobbies the mayor, hardly a democratic process. Corporate interests is likely to have more sway while parents will lose out even more.

The deal's done. It looks like to me that this is the first step, there is more dealing in the works, especially if results aren't good. What a winning deal for Villaraigosa.

More here.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

CA: I'm disagreeing with Dan Walters again on education

Not surprisingly, I find myself once again disagreeing with Cato friendly Dan Walter's latest op-ed although this time I think it's more like a nuanced disagreement.

While I do agree with his contention that there are largely two ideological groups in conflict over education policy, I don't quite 'get' the political triangle Walters talks about in his piece, mostly because this triangle, whatever it is, isn't really an issue.

What Walters really wants to do is talk about Villaraigosa, the LA mayor who is trying to get Sacramento to hand him control over the schools in LA.
It is, to some extent, an ideological conflict, liberals tending toward the not-enough-money attitude and conservatives toward the weak-leadership contention, but those lines are being blurred as Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's visit to the Capitol on Monday underscores.

Villaraigosa is a Democrat, a former Assembly speaker and a former union official, but he's made taking over management of the huge and hugely troubled Los Angeles Unified School District a cornerstone of his mayoralty -- and perhaps of his hopes of becoming governor.
What Walters leaves out is the little-discussed backdrop of influential Dems actually working very closely and quietly with the ideologically rightwing in education policy. Those are our corporate Dems, the DLC, the ones who like to call themselves 'centrist', whatever that means. I've written about this alliance time and time again, especially in regard to the bipartisan piece of trouble, NCLB.

What has been surprising and disheartening to me was seeing Villaraigosa, who has had a past as a union organizer, now pursuing the mayoral takeover route, a tactic straight from the right-wing playbook regarding education in the big cities.

I'd love to know more about Villaraigosa's political evolutionary process, chiefly how he came to this right-wing friendly stance, but certainly his actions should be taken seriously and signals a real break from a progressive agenda.

My interest in Villaraigosa has been piqued despite my disappointment. I suspect his alliance with Gov Schwarzenegger on mayoral control speaks volumes. Clearly more shall be revealed in this story.