charter schools, and some unpleasant reminiscences

November 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

Yesterday, at a restaurant, I ran into a girl who bullied me in middle school. That mean, narrow-eyed face. Her voice like talons in my larynx. We did this so hard.

If I’ve ever hated anyone in my life, it just might be her. I hope she sucks boba down the wrong tube one day and dies, the talentless bitch.


The Myth of Charter Schools, by Diane Ravitch, for the New York Review of Books.

S. works in a low-income school district. Today she told me about “kids who are being threatened to be sent to foster care because their aunt or uncle doesn’t want to take care of them anymore, children who are physically and emotionally abused, children who don’t have money for basic school supplies, children whose parents can’t help them or chose not to help them with their school work, parents who don’t tell their children that it’s important to go to school and [discipline them] when they get in trouble for misbehavior, parents don’t do anything to support the school, parents who work all day and night and don’t have time to take care of their children and instead have 10 year olds babysitting 2 year olds and doing all the house work, children who don’t have food because their parents don’t provide them with meals, parents who are going through a divorce yet neither wants to take their child so the child gets sent off to live with another relative and bounces between homes, parents who don’t provide livable conditions for their children, i.e., allowing their dogs to poop and pee all over the house creating unsanitary conditions and only cleaning up when the social worker is due for a visit.” These are kids she works with everyday.

I was thinking about the charter school debate. As I was telling S., it’s funny — or rather, unsurprising — how the media can really dictate your opinion about certain issues. I’d heard about Waiting for Superman and Michelle Rhee before, and read Steve Brill’s hair-raising article about NYC’s public school system*, as well as a small portion of his newly released book, Class Warfare. So prior to reading the NYbooks review I was under the impression that public education deserved a big F- on its scorecard and charter schools were the best hope for underprivileged children. But really the issue is much more nuanced than that. « Read the rest of this entry »


mortality milestones

October 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

1. You guys! I made the first ever donations in my life as a working class adult!

2. Interview with Northwestern law lady is set for November 7th. Puking with nervousness already. As I was saying to a friend, how am I supposed to talk about my passion for PI and my outrage at the appalling income inequality in this country to a partner at the sixth largest corporate law firm in the country? Sheeeee-yit.

3. Now that all us fannish folk are moving on and up, it’s very odd to think that we still have this common background. “Hey, remember when we spent our youths writing fanfic about soccer players and effeminate Korean popstars? And now we’re doctors, lawyers, epidemiologists, professors, and nationally-famous journalists with four-digit twitter followings?” I mean really. It’s delightful and also jarring.

4. Recipes: Slow roasted Turkish lamb stew was unexpectedly delicious. Am excited to try this pasta carbonara recipe and this slow-cooked bolognese sauce.

5. Notes on various books I’ve been reading: Barbara Demmick’s Nothing to Envy robbed me of an entire night’s sleep. After reading the first parts of it I laid in bed for about six hours, feeling aghast that such a regime still exists in the world today. Grim, grim, grim. This book affirms my fervent belief in capitalism and the right of man to free enterprise — tempered by the understanding, of course, that government still has the responsibility of regulating industry and minimizing the costs of capitalism (cf. Karl Polanyi’s Great Transformation). Particularly horrific details: “Kim Jong-il and his father are men too,” a classmate tells one of Demmick’s protagonists, after she (the protagonist) has her looks and grades evaluated by visiting party officials, and was judged unfit to be taken away to live in compounds around the country, where the government was rumored to keep other young girls to whom Kim Jong-il presumably dispensed his favors. Teachers exhorting six, seven year old students to “be grateful for the patronage of their great leader” while the students were starving to death. People picking individual rice grains out of mud to cook and eat.

I also reread Dillard’s The Writing Life and was both encouraged and discouraged to find that all of her neuroses can quite correctly be diagnosed as identical to mine. Now I’m working through the Portable Dorothy Parker and feeling wowed. Parker writes this incredible, stinging dialogue — I imagine sparring with her in real time was like being whipped, incessantly, with a willow switch — and there’s all this other great stuff too, astute commentary, world-enlivening detail, horrible snivelling characters, devastating irony. She is, however, something that I constantly have to take a break from, because the density of the writing and the personality traits that typify her characters tire me out. Unfortunately, Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace is much less compelling.

6. Three-year anniversary! D’awwwwww.

The itinerary in Chicago, which I’m leaving for this Saturday: Second City showing on Saturday night, a belated birthday dinner somewhere or other, a Blackhawks game on Tuesday evening with E., and a showing of 50/50 during one of the in-between time slots.

A creature of distinguished cuteness made itself known to me yesterday night.

“I’m always pretty warm because I’m a sock” — Mr. Sock, 11:36PM, 10/17/11

To the best person I know.

7. Additional reading: How Friends Ruin Memory: the Social Conformity Effect (Wired). A Dirty Business: New York City’s top prosecutor takes on Wall Street crime (the New Yorker on the Galleon Case–thrilling reading). Massachusetts Tries to Reign in its Health Care Costs (New York Times).

note to my inner reformist/advocate/embittered liberal/shit-stirrer

September 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

My brain is too shot to do anything but parrot things that other, wiser people say.

“Everyone wants to be Good. Everyone wants to believe in themselves, and that means believing that they are Good, however they define that. And so, in order to face herself every morning, every person chooses not to see certain things about herself. That time you genuinely wanted to kill him, for saying that to your face: You couldn’t have thought that, couldn’t have really wanted that, you’re not a monster, you were just a little upset. That time you undermined her, chimed in to make her feel less confident about her work or her clothes or her body, right at the moment she was starting to be successful, so that she’d keep needing your approval: You’re not a controlling person, you’re not abusive, you were just trying to help. That time you wrecked a person’s career or reputation: Not your fault, nothing that could have been done, you were just being honest. And on, and on.

This much is simple. But the next part gets complicated. Because there are two rules: First, whatever you’ve decided not to see in yourself, you will see just constantly in other people. And you will hate it. Everything you hate most in the world exists somewhere inside you. You hate her because she’s judgmental; you’ve really judged her to be the most judgmental person you know. You hate him because he’s a self-absorbed whiner; he never focuses on your problems, and you have so many huge problems, you’re in such pain and he just doesn’t care. You hate her because she’s mean; she’s so goddamned mean, you have to send her an e-mail right nowtelling her that what she said is mean and horrible and dicky, and maybe add in that she’s a bad writer. So far, so normal. But the second rule is more dangerous, especially if you’re a self-defined activist or crusader. Because the second rule is: The brighter the light, the bigger the shadow. Which is to say, the more time you spend chasing the Good, defining the Good, being Good and righteous and pure, the more unaware you become of these “bad” parts of yourself, and the more vicious they tend to get.

…It’s not about hypocrisy. It’s not even about seeing these things where they don’t exist: Odds are, once you’ve decided to hate “self-pity” or “cruelty” or “anger,” you will be able to find these things in a person who is actually a sad-sack or a jerk or a rage junkie. But it’s your job to find them in you. Because they’re there. And you can’t make them go away by clinging ever more tightly to the Good, by moving further and further into your own self-righteousness or into someone else’s rules. You’ll never become less self-pitying, mean, or angry, by doing that. You’ll just be a self-pitying, caustic, angry person who doesn’t know this about herself, and who therefore doesn’t take any action to control it.”

From this post at Tiger Beatdown.

links and such

September 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

China and India Making Inroads in Biotech Drugs: Cheap generics poised to flood the market — and all the handwringing over international patent laws that ensue.

Dear Important Novelists: Be Less Like Moses and More Like Howard Cosell.

The Shame of College Sports.

Paul Krugman is tired of trying to reason with you people.

stray thoughts

September 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

1. Wouldn’t it be hilarious if I chose a school for its magnanimous LRAP program, and then watched it lose its entire endowment to the international recession, leaving them unable to pay for alumni who choose to go the PI route and practice in righteous poverty, and leaving me up shit creek without a paddle?

2. I found this article and this article, the first about scraping by in the modeling industry in America, the second about scouts staking out nymphets in Brazil, to be an interesting look into the business’s cogs and bolts. The more glamorous it looks, the more it stinks when you lift the cover.

3. Still working on a few books. A.S. Byatt’s Elementals is ravishing; I read “Cold” with my heart athrob in my mouth, it’s so rich with descriptions of icescapes and glassblowing. James Baldwin’s Another Country is worthwhile as well, although his style has begun to wear to thinness in some places. And Dorothy Dunnett’s Checkmate! Here it is: the long awaited end. Let’s just say that there is mad drama. And that Jerott still hasn’t cried a river, built a bridge, and gotten over his thing for Lymond.

a friendly reminder to myself

September 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

“A lot of students in my program actually come back and audit classes after graduation to feel the community of the MFA again, since it’s the first time they’ve had a critique group or felt like a real writer. The same students who need a MFA program to finish a book are also relying on their MFA program to be their only workshop opportunity, their legitimacy. And that’s an expensive way to learn how to write a manuscript. Last I checked, anyone can form a critique group, it’s just a matter of initiative and a little elbow grease to find the right people.”

— Mary Kole, from Should You Get an MFA?


September 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

Pretty sure I need to mix up the number and types of publications I read, and soon.

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