Sunday, February 24, 2008

The importance of the good fight

Yay!!!! Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová won the Oscar award for best original song tonight for "Falling Slowly." The "chill moment" is an oft-used criterion for assessing the emotional impact of a piece of art. I have probably never experienced a more sublime "chill moment" than the first time I saw Once and they performed this song.

What I love about this version is the stripped down arrangement devoid of any strings. Not that I don't love strings, but there's an intimacy in this performance that's unparalleled anywhere.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Want to make a Stanford-bound baby?

If I were to write an online personal today, the title would be "Want to make a Stanford-bound baby?"

Officials at Stanford University, academic home to two of my favorite people,
announced today that beginning next year tuition would be free for all students' whose families makes less than $100,000 per year. And if a household's income is less than $60,000 per year, then the university would throw in room and board, too.

The Los Angeles Times notes ...
Such schools in the top level of American universities have been under congressional pressure to spend more of their multibillion-dollar endowments on scholarships and to take other steps to reduce expenses for students.

Stanford President John L. Hennessy said the move was intended to ensure that no high school senior rules out applying to the university because of cost.

Next year's tuition at Stanford is set to be $36,030 and room and board $11,182.

So I'm thinking that it might be time to start a family, eh? The eerie thing is that Stanford officials announced this the same day that a dear friend told me of her detailed dream of my wedding. [cue Danny Elfman score, though not for the wretched Ultraviolet.]

----------- line break for unrelated happiness -----------

I found on the Los Angeles Times Emerald City blog that it's illegal to throw away alkaline batteries in the garbage, which is good because everyone knows those aren't good for the environment, and that there are places people can take them for proper disposal, including Amoeba Music in Hollywood!!!

... And ...

The Buffalo Sabres had a wicked comeback. Down two goals in the third period, Thomas Vanek metaphorically took his pants off and scored two goals in the last 2:21 of the third to send it to overtime and then won it OT with his third straight. This is his second hat trick in a week. I had predicted Vanek would score 18 goals after the all-star break. He already has 11!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

This is from two of the funniest people I know.

One reason for less blogging

The previous entry may have been my favorite. It certainly felt like one of the most salient entries in the two-plus years that I've had this blog. I didn't want to bury it under my rather pedestrian observations of politics, sports and media.

In the meantime, go Sabres!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The hard is what makes it

One of my favorite things about life is developing creative resolutions to apparent paradoxes. Working with teen writers at L.A. Youth, I find they're often intimidated when told that our minimum story length is approximately 1,000 words—most have not been asked to write more than 500-600 word essays, which require thinking, in their English classes. The longer research papers are usually mere regurgitations of encyclopedia/Internet entries.
Yet all the editors quietly smile to ourselves as the new teen writers shudder at the prospect of coming up with enough stuff to fill about two typed pages in Word; not because we're sadists, but because we know that in a few drafts they're going to be feeling sick at the idea of getting to save at-most only 2,000 words from their eight- or nine-page (about 4,000 words) draft. OK, maybe slight sadists?

Bleeding heart liberal that I am, I usually resort to a gun metaphor to help them understand the process. I tell the writers that writing a 2,000-word-max article is like going into battle with a six-shooter, while writing a novel is like going into battle with a machine gun. The person with fewer words has to make every word count, because that writer won't get a second (or seventh) shot. Every bullet/paragraph has to be a killshot and hit its target. Usually they "get it" and realize that the apparent paradox that it actually takes less effort and time to write a longer piece, is in fact not a paradox at all. When one doesn't have to choose between favorite phrases/babies and re-write sentences so that every word drips with power, it's faster.

For years writers have wrestled with this challenge.

Samuel Clemens is quoted to have said this about brevity in writing: "I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead."

I also love the example of the over-worded sign at an oceanside fishmarket that reads "Fresh Fish Sold Here." Fish sold next to the ocean it was caught in will be FRESH. If they're not for sale then what the hell is this place? So obviously they're being SOLD. And if the market is next to the water and the sign says fish, it's more than obvious that's HERE. So how about a sign that reads simply: "Fish."

But this one, though possibly apocryphal, is my favorite. The re-telling is borrowed from NPR's lead to one of the most amazing challenges I've heard about in a while.

Once asked to write a full story in six words, legend has it that novelist Ernest Hemingway responded: "For Sale: baby shoes, never worn."

Smith magazine, an online publication, has challenged people to write their memoirs in SIX words. This vexing, creative, revealing, maddening and fun endeavour has attracted the attention of NPR, Entertainment Weekly and the editors wrote an Op-Ed in the Los Angeles Times.

And like with yesterday's post about the harms of soy- or corn-based ethanol, one of my (former) students found this before I could pass it to her. Of course she asked what mine would be ... and I was stumped. I stalled by asking hers. A second-quarter senior at Stanford, Steph wrote: "Dreaming of great things for later."


I came up with: "Sought future in California, found self."

When I moved out here I was planning to establish residency so I could attend law school at the far cheaper California resident cost. I planned eventually to work for the United Nations or Amnesty International doing human rights work. Instead, I'm teaching students how to write and helping them get published in the country's largest independent teen newspaper—amazingly enough not that far off from my chosen high school career of working with gifted students.

The editors at Smith have published a book titled Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure.

According to the website, the book "collects almost 1,000 six-word memoirs, including additions from many celebrities including Stephen Colbert, Jane Goodall, Dave Eggers, and more.

"Surprisingly addictive, Not Quite is both a moving peek at the minutia of humanity and the most literary toilet reading you’ll ever find."

Here are a few ...

Mom died, Dad screwed us over.
- Lesley Kysely

Painful nerd kid, happy nerd adult.
- Linda Williamson

Write about sex, learn about love.
- Martha Garvey

Cursed with cancer, blessed with friends.

I still make coffee for two.

I like big butts, can’t lie.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Tis better to be informed than myopically "liberal"

Essentially, because corn and soy-based biofuels take away land (esp. in the States) used for food production, it forces other countries to cut forests and grassy plains and turn those into farmlands. In the end the CO2 that was consumed by those plants is replaced in the atmosphere in far greater numbers than any savings from biofuels, like corn and soy. This is another reason to dislike corn-based ethanol (which is not very energy efficient).

We need to invest in other alt fuels—like switchgrass—to get off of gasoline. These other fuels will take typically unusable land and convert that into fuel. Yay!

The coolest thing about this story is that two of my kids heard it before I told them about it. I am very lucky.


Unrelated horrible thing in the news today ...

The Bush administration says that waterboarding must be allowed to continue. Whose more insane the Bushies for thinking that torture will somehow become effective or the rest of us for expecting them to learn a fucking thing?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

A celebration of democracy, right?

News stories were saying that California had a record turnout. That's a good thing, but when the people in the state you live in pass a series of propositions that allow Indian casinos to expand their slot machine counts to exceed Las Vegas while allegedly "guaranteeing" the state some money even though casinos have been shown to have little measureable effect on improving conditions on reservations and these measures in particular enrich just four of more than 100 tribes, well, I can see why some argue for benevolent dictators.

But Barack did well overall, netting at least 40 percent in every state that I saw as of this writing, while Hillary failed to garner that figure in three states. How this shakes out in the delegate count will be for tomorrow. So that's a good thing. But like with Super Bowls, my candidates and ballot measures usually suck it in the end. :( At least I voted for Bill Clinton in 1996.

Along with Barbara Boxer and Bill Lockyer, virtually the only candidates I've ever supported who actually won. I guess I voted for Schwarzenegger last election. Oh well. Democracy rules!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

It's only the fate of the world at stake ...

If you live in a state having a primary on Tuesday, VOTE.

In California we'll be deciding whether to increase institutional working memory in the state legislature and at least slightly curtail the perpetual cycle of running for a new office, which term limits have dictated. We'll also be deciding whether to further restrict discretionary spending in the state budget by making another guarantee on funding levels, this time for community colleges. This is laudable as an end, but the means cannot be justified. Much of our $14-plus-billion deficit projection for next year is because of ballot-prop-mandated spending.

Finally in California we'll be deciding whether something that can lead to economic ruin and mental illness (addiction) should be how we try to balance the budget. The governor and certain Indian tribes call this approval of additional slot machines. NO WAY. All we're doing is taking money from California residents (most of the people gambling in the California casions aren't tourists and most aren't particularly wealthy) who need it most and giving to the state via the tribes.

Los Angeles County voters can find their their polling places by clicking here.

Information on the California ballot propositions from the non-partisan League of Women Voters.

Los Angeles Times politics and who/what the Times is endorsing.

San Jose Mercury News endorsements.

New York Times politics site.

Someone once said that every day you make a difference in your life, so make sure to make it a good one. On Tuesday most of us will have an opportunity to make a difference in all our lives. Get out and vote. Two-hundred-thirty-two years ago men and women died for their revolution of freedom and liberty. Let their sacrifices, wisdom, idealism and courage not be in vain.

Just to get it on the record ...

Patriots 41
Giants 13

How many times they refer to the New York Giants as the New York Football Giants on the ESPN highlights: infinity. I hate that because there haven't been any New York Giants baseball players since 1957. For fuck's sake Chris Berman and the rest of ESPN's 2098-person football crew ... if you say New York Giants EVERYONE will FUCKING KNOW WHO THE FUCK YOU FUCKING MEAN.

Caveat ... I have been horrible in my life at predicting Super Bowls. But this time I feel confident. New England really is that good. See this Bill Simmons column.