Wednesday, December 31, 2008

my favorite Proshanto/Rachel wedding photo

Rachel gave me permission to post this picture, taken by her now sister-in-law Nayantara--it's my favorite of the wedding pictures from her recent federal courthouse wedding to Proshanto. There are some other great ones, making good use of that mirror you can see behind them in this photo, but this is the best. In the photo from left to right are Rachel's father, Proshanto's father, Proshanto, Rachel, Proshanto's mother, and Rachel's mother. I especially love Proshanto's father's expression, but really each of them have amazing expressions on their faces, and a whole photo of this many complex looks! You know it has to be a wedding.

This would be a great photo to have students write about, come to think of it.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I want that OED

I finally submitted my entry to the Powell's contest. It's dorky and lengthy and extremely sincere. And I just noticed a typo, oh well:

Having thought long and hard about this, I am settling on "grimy" as my favorite word, when really, though it is a great word, it's my entry more because represents something about words that I love: the ways they are so often metaphorical in spite of themselves (Who can pick a favorite word? There are too many great ones! This is as close as I could come). I am a teacher and know a lot of slang that I can't use without having students' eyes rolled at me, but I don't think they know how much I love hearing it used. So, we know grimy means dirty, as in "covered with grime," but according to the OED, Dickens used it first in a figurative sense, to mean unpleasant or mean. My students use it to suggest something is unpleasant, and sometimes unpleasant or mean, as in "Miss, that's grimy! You're giving us homework over Christmas?" but they also use it to suggest that something is disgusting: "They're making us eat this for lunch? That's grimy. That's not food. I want to see them eat it." Like much teen slang, it has nearly endless possibilities: a bad outfit is grimy (not to mention off-brand shoes), a poem they don't like or understand is grimy, your best friend's girlfriend getting with another guy is grimy, the Other Mother in Neil Gaiman's Coraline is grimy, etc. The Urban Dictionary also lists "keep it grimey" defined as a "slang phrase meaning that someone tells the truth even it if means revealing some gruesome, vulgar, obscene or otherwise damaging information." I love living language.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes

Left the neighborhood today; sitting at Coffee House NW on W. Burnside. The cute boys working are listening enthusiastically to Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, and one is trying hard not to sing along--though several patrons keep breaking into song, perhaps unconsciously.

I didn't know this band before today--they make me think of the Langley School kids, since they're singing a couple of the same songs ("Sweet Caroline," "Desperado") and covering many of the same or similar artists (the Beach Boys, Elton John). Langley School never took on Simon & Garfunkel, and they were before Billy Joel's time, but I have a feeling they would've had just as much enthusiasm for "The Boxer" or "Uptown Girl" them as they had for Barry Manilow and the Carpenters. There were also no show tunes in the Langley kids' repertoire, at least not to my knowledge--but their versions of "Rainbow Connection" or "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" would've been just as moving as Me First and the Gimme Gimmes'. Or maybe not--there's no irony in a school choir singing "Rainbow Connection," or any show tunes and the shared appeal here is largely the unironic enthusiasm and utter joy for music made ironic by being covered, in either context: whether it's school kids singing "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft (The Recognized Anthem of World Contact Day)" or punk kids singing about "A Few of My Favorite Things."

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Arne Duncan: Obama's Pick for Secretary of Education

I am finally getting around to learning some things about this guy. I googled him and started with this article on the alternet site, which not surprisingly critically examines some of the "reforms" he enacted, but also emphasizes that Duncan's own ideas about education reform were "hamstrung" by Mayor Daley and his initiatives.

Catalyst Chicago, a Chicago education site, talks more specifically about the ways in which Duncan and his team improved or tried to improve the Chicago public schools. This article, "Duncan's Track Record," reviews his initiatives and includes links to other relevant articles on the Catalyst Chicago site, which often go more in depth about the specific reforms. This was the most helpful site to me.

& Alfie Kohn went off about three potential Secretaries of Education in The Nation, before Obama made his choice. Not surprisingly, Duncan was not Kohn's pick. Understandably, he goes off about how maybe an educator should be Secretary of Education. The alternet article summarizes Duncan's experience as "Duncan, 44, was just 36 when he was appointed to replace Paul Vallas, who left Chicago to head Philadelphia's public schools. He served as Valla's deputy but had no prior credentials as an educational administrator." It does not appear that he was ever a teacher, though his official Chicago Public Schools bio does say that while he was a professional basketball player in Australia, "he also worked with children who were wards of the state." That gives me a lot of confidence, and removes any concerns I might have had about putting this guy in charge of education and No Child Left Behind. He's almost as qualified as I am!

This Wall Street Journal article helped clear up some of the political reasons for the choice, though. It's also an interesting article because of the political power it attributes to Teach for America and those pesky self-righteous know-it-all-right-out-of-undergrad TFA teachers: "Mr. Duncan is certainly no bomb thrower. His role instead will be to harness the entrepreneurial spirit of young idealists in the [Democratic] party, like DFER and the tens of thousands of young people who join Teach For America each year. This group, which continues to attract highly skilled young people, is fast creating the new Democratic elite in the education arena while challenging the education establishment."

I guess we'll see what Arne does and doesn't do.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Researching Greek choruses for the musical Rachel and I are writing, I accidentally typed Electra in as author rather than title, and this

appeared. Oops.

I'd appreciate suggestions of plays to read that include some kind of chorus. If you suggest something in translation, I'd love suggestions for translations of the title as well. Recently read all of Anne Carson's translations--the four Euripides and Sophocles' Electra--I wish she'd translate everything the Greeks ever wrote.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Form is to function as books are to reading...

From James' Gleick's op-ed in the Times a couple weeks ago: "It is significant that one says book lover and music lover and art lover but not record lover or CD lover or, conversely, text lover."

The whole piece is interesting--read it here.

(Not sure my subject title analogy works... was just talking with some fellow teachers about analogies and how useless they can be, plus how confusing on standardized tests...)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Divorced kid

The little girl, maybe fourth or fifth grade, at Stumptown at the table next to me with her dad (weekend dad), is trying to convince him to buy her a laptop. She's been eyeing mine. "That way I could take it back and forth..."


Behind an SUV (though SUV implies wealth, size for the sake of size, and this one was old, beat-up, and used hard and well) with two bumper stickers: NRA member, and OUTSOURCE BUSH.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


I joined the OED word a day list, and I don't have time for any more email or internet shit, but they pick such nice words. Today, mallet, yesterday, sprightly, recently plausibility, assimilate, deboard... Go here to sign yourself up, or just to look at the daily word on their site.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Overheard by L.J.

Text message from Lauren:

Overheard little kid conversation: Cars doesn't have wings. If it does it would fly. And cars doesn't fly.


Ugh. College interview! At Stumptown?! Poor girl. She's sitting so straight in her chair, across from a woman in fleece with a clipboard.

"I like Government better than AP US History, it's more current, you can relate it to what's happening. And I just feel smarter around people, I know what they're talking about in their conversations."

I can't stop listening.

"Um, I work at Java Juice?"

"I never really liked sports, I used to horseback ride, I like more... like, alternative sports."

"I'm interested in... like, I'm not very religious myself but..." and her voice gets very soft and I miss most of what she says until "...just my family, like, my culture, that's why I want to travel..." and she stares off anxiously while the woman interviewing her takes notes.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Favorite Word?

I really want to win the 20 volume OED from Powell's, but I am not sure I can answer the question:

"What's your favorite word? And why? What, in your opinion, is the strangest, or most useful, or ridiculously specific word in all of the English language?" (sic, right? awk, at least)

There's too many good words.

Oh, Elissa, that was a dumb statement. But true.

I know I just have to pick one, and defend it. But how do you pick?

I was thinking of having my students do this, but 1) I think it's too meta for them, and 2) I don't know if ANY of them would actually want an OED. They'd be excited about how much it was worth, but... yeah. Though if I could get some of them to write about a word with the dangling carrot being any kind of prize worth $895, so be it. We'll see.