MeAndG's blog

And how will they feel about the black James Bond?

Crossposted on Daily Kos

A preview story describing Portland Center Stage artistic director Chris Coleman's approach -- including casting African American actors -- to Rodgers & Hammerstein's "Oklahoma!" ran in The Oregonian and on last month.

Several online commenters charged the production with racist discrimination against white performers.

Several online commenters charged the production with racist discrimination against white performers. "If a casting call went out for white actors only, all negroes including Al Sharpton would be marching up and down NE MLK," wrote a commenter using the name "kedsokedso." "That's For Sure" wrote: "the black community should be up in arms." Others took it as politically correct, politically motivated or gimmick.

Coleman responded:

Was this simply an overt expression of the covert racism that plays out daily in the corners of progressive Portland's psyche? After all, though Oregon opted not to become a slave state when we joined the Union, we also made it illegal for African Americans to live here (a law that stayed on the books until 1926). And while communities back East were forced to have difficult, sometimes violent, conversations about how to develop a more equitable society in the 1960s and '70s, Oregon was able to delay that conversation a lot longer, largely because of our more homogeneous makeup (our African American population today is still only 6.4 percent of the whole).

The director continues:

Was it the idea of this very traditionally "American" (re: white) musical being handed over to a different population that felt so offensive?" he continues. "You couldn't really argue that it was somehow "unfair" to cast African Americans in roles traditionally offered to whites. After all, there are about 100 productions of "Oklahoma!" mounted in a given year, with ensembles ranging from 18 to 30, which means that about 150,000 white actors have had a shot at the roles since 1950 (subtracting the first seven years of the play's life just as a handicap). But something clearly bugged this commenter.

Others noted how there have been all-white productions of The Wiz and Dream Girls for years. So what's the big deal? Why not just enjoy the theater?

And that pesky little thing called historical fact also pops up. Coleman cites that, of the 1.4 million residents of the Oklahoma Territory the year before it became a state (1906, the year the story is set), 137,000 were African American. William Loren Katz's book Black People Who Made the Old West speaks of how there were 50 all-black towns. A third of cowboys were black. There was a move to make Oklahoma an all-black state and Tulsa boasted the highest concentration of African American wealth in the country.

And if you dont think that black couple in the White House is bad enough:

CNN reports that though Daniel Craig is about to embark on his third adventure as 007, speculation already abounds as to who will replace him. One name that has been the subject of intrigue is Idris Elba, the English actor best known for his role as intellectually fierce drug king Stringer Bell in HBO's landmark series "The Wire." That would make him the non-white James Bond -- an idea which Craig himself first suggested after Barack Obama was elected president back in 2008 -- and something Elba endorsed, if mildly, in an interview.

"I got what it takes to do it. I can run around, flirt with ladies and drink. Plus I'm English," he said.

Searching for a Savior

Chris Christie’s political advisers are working to determine whether they could move fast enough to set up effective political operations in Iowa and New Hampshire in the wake of a relentless courtship aimed at persuading Mr. Christie, the governor of New Jersey, to plunge into the race for the Republican presidential nomination, according to operatives briefed on the preparations, the New York Times reports.

In the wake of the spectacular implosion of Rick Perry's campaign, GOP elites have been searching far and wide for a new "savior of the moment."

Those pushing Christie to run include the media mogul Rupert Murdoch, former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, Nancy Reagan and the conservative columnist William Kristol.

Silly Rabbit on Daily Kos reminds us that:

Herman Cain, having convinced 996 Floridians to pay $175 to vote for him in a straw poll, thought that he might be "The One"—especially after receiving the coveted Donald Trump dinner invitation.

But Cain's ascent has done nothing to stop people from literally begging Chris Christie to suit up and run.

Should he choose to enter the race, there's no guarantee that Christie won't flounder like Perry has.

How will the party's far-right base handle the fasct that Christie is pro civil unions and pro gun control?

With such problems in mind, Mike Huckabee, Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin have been drawing up contingency plans.

But one blogger states that this is all:

...actually a sanity test ...

I am more and more convinced that the whole Republican presidential contest is actually just a sanity test -- anyone who thinks that any of the people running are qualified to be president of the United States is certifiably nuts!

African-American unemployment reaches record highs

The latest jobs report from the labor department was dismal for a lot of reasons, but perhaps most striking was the picture it painted of racial inequality in the job market.

While high unemployment is affecting all sectors of the population in this tough economy, African-Americans are by far the hardest-hit demographic, the Star Ledger reports. Nationally, black unemployment reached 16.7 percent last month — the highest level since 1984 — even as the jobless rate for whites fell to 8 percent, according to the U.S. Labor Department.

The unemployment rate for blacks surged to 16.7% in August, its highest rate since 1984, the Labor Department reported Friday.  read more »

A lose-lose scenario at the Nampa Police Department

Crossposted on Daily Kos

Or is there a chance for a win in here somewhere?

Let me begin by stating that I have been treated well by the Nampa Police Department over the last four years, very well.

In addition, the dreaded words "racial profiling" have yet to come from my mouth in Canyon County, nor is there any buzz of that particular evil. As an ethnic minority, that stuff matters to me.

But we have other problems:

The Idaho Statesman is reporting that three longtime Nampa police officers and one officer's wife filed a federal lawsuit against the police department and the city Thursday afternoon.

The lawsuit was filed by NPD investigator Leonard Claunts, Lt. Joe Huff and Sgt. Curtis Shankel, who all worked in the department's Internal Affairs division and say they reported various wrongdoing and policy violations by officers and supervisors to top police administrators to no avail. Frustrated by the lack of response, they ultimately conveyed their concerns to the mayor, City Council and human resources director, according to the lawsuit.

The fourth plaintiff is Leonard Claunts' wife, Ginger, who reportedly emailed Human Resources Director Ed Simmerman last November, alleging various issues of public safety and misuse of public funds. About the same time, Shankel sent an anonymous letter to Mayor Dale and the City Council about the same general issues, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit (Read the complaint here) claims Augsburger threatened to sue two of the officers for slander, reassigned Lt. Huff and took various retaliatory actions against all three, ranging from a negative performance review to downgrading their police vehicles and office space. One month ago, according to the lawsuit, all three officers were served with "personnel notices" from Augsburger and told that the Canyon County Sheriff's Office would conduct an internal affairs investigation against them.

Win-win scenarios are sought after, by successful people, when there is conflict. But here's what puts this case dangerously close to the lose-lose zone.

If the plaintiffs, who are internal affairs officers, win, what does that say about the administration? If the administration debunks their claims, what does that say about -- of all units -- internal affiars, the police integrity arm?

The lawsuit was filed by investigator Leonard Claunts, Lt. Joe Huff and Sgt. Curtis Shankel, who say they reported various wrongdoings and policy violations to top police administrators, which resulted in little or no discipline.

According to the lawsuit, the misconduct they reported included:

• One officer’s use of excessive force against a suspect.

• Another officer disconnecting the GPS system on his patrol car and spending shift time at home.

• An officer running his personal business during department shifts and using department equipment.

• An officer repeatedly showing up for work under the influence of alcohol.

• Salaried lieutenants taking more time off than they had earned.

• Top administrators golfing during work hours.

The plaintiffs were shunned by command staff and other officers who became afraid to be seen with them, according to the lawsuit.

“Members of the department, including the command staff, have also begun to refer to the plaintiffs and a few other officers who have stepped forward in support as ‘the Satan Six,’ ” the complaint states.

Can a win still occur in this rock-and-a-hard-place scenario?

Perhaps, as has happened in the past with other police problems, the complexities of this case will be analyzed and studied; and solutions will be intergrated into both law enforcement training and in municipal government human resources practices.

I hope they arrive at an agreement that cleans up this mess, for the sake of the citizens of Nampa.

Young People's Pavilion: Barack Obama "We Are One People"

Barack Obama's meteoric rise from little-known state senator from Illinois to the first African-American president of the United States is one of the most amazing success stories in history. From his childhood in Hawaii all the way to the White House, this title includes revised and updated information through the historic inauguration of the 44th president.

Barack Obama Enslow

In Barack Obama: "We Are One People" (African-American Biographies (Enslow)) [Library Binding], Michael A. Schuman delivers a straightforward biography of our president that is a cut above most nonfiction series books.

An excellent resource, this will be welcome by those who are too young to read Obama's two memoirs, for school reports as well as casual reading. The book is filled with biographical information about Obama's life. It is moving and readable title for middle school collections. For high schoolers, the uncomplicated prose may have special appeal to report writers who are also reluctant readers.

Below are some suggested prompts for teachers to give students, for writing assignments about this book:

Tell about the influences in Obama's early life that developed his personality and character. What were his talents? What were some experiences that might have foreshadowed that the young Obama would become president of the United States?

Describe Obama's major accomplishments. What failures or obstacles did he encounter?

Write about Obama's personality and character. What are his well-known traits and ideals? What are some little-known qualities that you learned about? Did the author characterize him as perfect, or give you insights into his mistakes and faults?

If you could meet Obama today, what two important questions would you ask him? How do you think he would answer?

Write a persuasive paragraph answering the following question: Would you recommend Barack Obama: "We Are One People" to a friend? Give specific reasons to support your position.

This book should be read by anyone who wonders who is this president, where does he stand, and what is in his past and present." –Children's Literature

With writing that is clear and well researched, and information is very accessible, Barack Obama: "We Are One People" is a very good resource for upper elementary and older readers in need of high interest material.

Larsen: "Darwinism makes Kierkegaardian leaps of faith"

Crossposted on Daily Kos

Also republished by Street Prophets.


In my ongoing dialogue with conservative Idaho State Journal columnist Richard Larsen, some interesting assertions arise in his views on evolution, stated in a recent column.

Larsen writes:

To apply the valid tenets of evolution and then make Kierkegaardian "leaps of faith" to make assertions that are not supported by the science is what Darwinism does. Such assumptions include, but are not limited to, trans-genus, trans-class, or trans-species evolution. There is no paleontological evidence of gradual and progressive evolution of bugs to mice, or frogs to birds, etc. And to make the presumption that this all started from a big bang which itself is causally inexplicable to scientists is another such leap of faith.

Larsen cites Stephen Gould, Professor of Geology and Peleontology at Harvard, who although an evolutionist, has admitted that the absence of fossil evidence for intermediary stages between major transitions in organic design ... "indeed our inability, even in our imagination, to construct functional intermediates in many cases, has been a persistent and nagging problem for gradualistic accounts of evolution." Gould continues, “All paleontologists know that the fossil record contains precious little [actually, nothing] in the way of intermediate forms; transitions between the major groups are characteristically abrupt.”  read more »

Boise's Rep. Cronin Selected Among “Rising Stars” In Governance for Elite Fellowship In Public Leadership

"Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

It is always nice when the political light in Idaho shines on someone other than a Republican. I became impressed with Idaho's House Minority Caucus Chairman Brian Cronin, D-Boise, in 2008, after experiencing a series of negative racial incidents. This elected leader stood up and offered support and solutions.

The Aspen Institute has announced the selection of 24 of America’s leading public officials to participate in the Institute’s bipartisan Aspen-Rodel Fellowship program. Cronin is among them.

The fellowship program, now in its seventh year, is focused on transcending political partisanship and focusing attention on over-arching questions of leadership and governance.

“Fellows are selected based on their reputations for intelligence, thoughtfulness, and a willingness to work across party lines to seek solutions to public problems. We are pleased to welcome this year’s class of Fellows as they continue to make a difference in our public lives across the country,” said Former Congressman Mickey Edwards, the director of the program.

I’m deeply humbled by the honor and recognition that this fellowship represents,” said Cronin. “I look forward to getting to know and learning from some very accomplished public servants. And in today’s highly polarized political environment, this program is an amazing and unique opportunity to look past our differences and explore strategies and frameworks for solving the many challenges currently facing our country and our states in more collaborative and productive ways. The skills, ideas, and insights that I will take away will no doubt serve me well in my work in the Idaho Legislature.

Cronin was elected to the House of Representatives in 2008 and became Minority Caucus Chairman in 2010. He represents Idaho’s District 19, which includes Boise’s North End, East End, downtown, Foothills, Highlands, Warm Springs Mesa, and Harris Ranch. Cronin is the owner of Cronin & Associates, a marketing and communications firm he founded in 2003. He and his wife Veronica also own and operate Garabatos Spanish Preschool, which they founded in 2006.

Members of the new Aspen-Rodel Fellowship class are: "  read more »

No Child Left Behind: Speaking Spanish Puts Children At Risk

by Michael Strickland

Crossposted on Daily Kos

Thanks to No Child Left Behind, my daughters were removed from class on Friday (with no previous warning and explanation to parents or them) and subjected to a test that only a handful of their peers had to take. I'm so glad and relieved to learn that they're fluent in English. Apparently they're at risk because a second language is spoken in the home. And all along I thought they were at risk of being smarter.

The author of this paragraph, Idaho Rep. Brian Cronin, who has a master's degree from Harvard, runs a Spanish language preschool and summer camp with his wife.

Some interesting points were brought up in the Facebook discussion, including:

This is disturbing and upsetting, I can't imagine how you and your wife must feel. As a naturalized citizen of our country (naturalized at age 4 and have been here for 37 years), I am outraged at how this is even an issue. Criminy!

Or is this more of an Idaho problem?

Yes, Idaho has a way to go. I once had a day-care provider refuse to provide services to a bright, healthy refugee child comparing their lack of English skills to being autistic. Needless to say, as they were receiving state funds, DHW got a call...

Cronin, who's wife is from Ecuador, added:

Here's the most troubling/poignant part of all. Alana took this all in stride but Kyra was quite rattled and agitated by the whole ordeal. Getting called to principal's office under mysterious circumstances is somewhat stigmatizing. She came home and both broke my heart and made me proud, talking about her rights having been violated: "Why should I be punished because of where my parents are from? I didn't choose my parents!"

Has anything like this happened in your school district?

And finally, if the students are trilingual, would they have to take even more tests?

Young People's Pavilion: Ellen Ochoa, Astronaut and Inventor

On April 6, 1993, Ellen Ochoa, a mission specialist, sat in the space shuttle Discovery, waiting for liftoff.

As the launchpad rumbled and the engines ignited, the Discovery soared upward into the sky. With this space shuttle launch, Ellen Ochoa became the first Latina to enter space. brilliant inventor and an experienced astronaut, Ochoa quickly moved up the ranks at NASA and toured schools throughout the country, encouraging students to follow their dreams.

In Ellen Ochoa: Astronaut and Inventor (Latino Biography Library) [Library Binding] - author Anne E. Schraff explores the life of this inspirational woman from her childhood California to her missions in space.

Ellen Ochoa: Astronaut and Inventor by Anne E. Schraff: Book Cover

When asked which books have influenced or inspired them, many national and international leaders reply with the title of a biography or autobiography. It used to be common for young students to read Plutarch’s Lives or Shakespeare’s historical dramas. Nowadays, however, students are more apt to read about the lives of music or movie stars in popular magazines. Historical figures, encountered only briefly in textbooks, remain remote and drab, rather than vital human beings to whom students can personally relate. - Mary Lou Meerson, from Harcourt “Lives of” study guide.

That is why books like this are so important. Children canlearn how Ochoa received NASA awards including the Distinguished Service Medal, Exceptional Service Medal, Outstanding Leadership Medal, and four Space Flight Medals. They can grow to understand this recipient of numerous other awards, including the Harvard Foundation Science Award, Women in Aerospace Outstanding Achievement Award, The Hispanic Engineer Albert Baez Award for Outstanding Technical Contribution to Humanity, and the Hispanic Heritage Leadership Award.

Readers will see why Ochoa was once named San Diego State University Alumna of the Year and why she has two schools named after her: Ellen Ochoa Middle School in Pasco, Washington, and the Ellen Ochoa Learning Center in Cudahy, California.

In Using Nonfiction Trade Books in the Elementary Classroom: From Ants to Zeppelins, editors Evelyn B. Freeman, Diane G. Person, and Diane Goetz Person state:  read more »

American Teacher

"In America 46% of teachers quit before their 5th year. ... 'My son just graduted college this year and he is making way more selling cell phones for Verizon than he ever could as a teacher.'"

From Infinite Hope: The National Equity Project Blog:

We are a proud partner of the new documentary American Teacher by the Teacher Salary Project, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that grew out of the New York Times bestselling book Teachers Have It Easy by journalist and teacher Daniel Moulthrop, co-founder of the 826 National writing programs Nínive Calegari, and writer Dave Eggers (novels A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and What is the What - both of which I read and loved – among other works). The organization advocates for more recognition of and compensation for this extremely difficult and often misunderstood profession.

American Teacher is produced by Eggers and Calegari, produced and directed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Vanessa Roth, and narrated by Matt Damon. The preview has just come out – enjoy below. The San Francisco premiere will be on October 7, and info about the earlier NY and LA screenings is available on the film site.


hate is extremely flammable
its vapors may cause flash fire
hate is harmful if inhaled
keep hate away from heat, sparks and flame
do not breath the vapors of hate
wash thoroughly after using hate
if you accidentally swallow hate
get medical attention

- from the poem 911 by Michael Salinger

I performed Salinger's poem 911 during an NAACP annual meeting keynote that I gave a few years ago, here in Southern Idaho.  read more »

Dave Bieter for Boise

Crossposted on Daily Kos

Outside magazine says that Boise is the best town in America, and featured the city the cover of one of their issues.

In the midst of such a great situation in which to raise our three little girls, I'm reminded of how my parents always used to repeat the idea that you don't get something for nothing. Thus. I was inspired by these words from a city council member:

It's time for an election. A city election. Few turn-out. Few understand the impact local races have on our lives. It has been my honor to serve you on Council. But without a strong team we can achieve nothing. Dave Bieter for Boise has served us well. Boise City Council Member Lauren McLean is a strong addition. And we have fresh talent in Vote Ben Quintana for Boise City Council. Ben represents what our city needs during difficult economic times. Please keep this on the radar. Let's go, Boise! - TJ Thomson

The thoughts below from the State of the City 2011 show why Mayor Dave Bieter is the right person to continue leading:
"  read more »

Young People's Pavilion: Passing Down Artistic and Musical Heritage

Originally posted to Daily Kos Readers and Book Lovers

Also republished by Daily Kos: Education Alternatives; Progressive Friends of the Library Newsletter; and DKOMA.


While children's books are an art in and of themselves, when art and music are the topic, creative sharing experiences abound. Such texts give children a point of reference for understanding the role of the fine and performing arts in their own lives. Books in this category help develop children's imagination, pique their curiosity, and enhance student confidence in their ability to connect with various genres, making them say: "I can be an artist or musician too."

Here are a few of my favorite books for young readers that accomplish the above goals:

Magic Trash, Jane Shapiro (Author), Vanessa Newton (Illustrator):

Magic Trash

Internationally acclaimed artist Tyree Guyton grew up on Heidelberg Street in Detroit, Michigan. When he was a boy he collected bits and pieces—trash—to create his own fun. Eventually Tyree left Heidelberg Street to find his way in the world, but his mind often traveled back home. When he did return, hard times had fallen on his neighborhood: homes were abandoned, trash was everywhere, and troublemakers haunted the street. Tyree re-imagined his decaying neighborhood, and with the help of his grandpa Sam, who had encouraged him to paint the world, Tyree set to fixing up the mess. He created sculpture out of the trash that littered the neighborhood, painted the dilapidated houses with color and design, and changed the world on Heidelberg Street.

2011 marks the 25th anniversary of the Heidelberg Project, an ongoing art installation where Tyree Guyton still works. Magic Trash is the story of Tyree’s transformation of a dying neighborhood, the opposition he faced, and how a residential neighborhood in Detroit became famous. An inspiring story of urban renewal and the healing power of art.

Vanessa Brantley-Newton’s mixed media collage art is a fitting tribute to the beauty of Tyree Guyton’s vision that anything can become a beautiful thing when used for a purpose.

The Art Collector, Jan Wahl (Author), Rosalinde Bonnet (Illustrator):

Art Collector

Oscar’s Great-Granny showed him how to draw. Oscar was not good at drawing. But he loved art, so he kept the drawing of a red chicken that Great-Granny gave to him and he loved to look at it. He bought another drawing at a flea market, and he loved looking at that one, too. As he grew up, Oscar collected more drawings and paintings, filling his bedroom with color and shapes and scenes. Oscar collected and collected until a museum had to be built to hold all of his drawings and paintings.

Not everyone can become an artist, but as Oscar learned, everyone can love looking at art.

Oscar’s passion for the stories in paintings and the thoughts they provoke will inspire young readers to see art in a new way—even if they don’t enjoy making it themselves.

When You Wish upon a Star [Hardcover] Judy Collins (Performer) (Author), Leigh Harline (Author), Ned Washington (Author), Eric Puybaret (Illustrator):

When You Wish Upon a Star

Grammy Award–winning singer Judy Collins and illustrator Eric Puybaret (best-selling illustrator of Puff, the Magic Dragon; The Night Before Christmas, performed by Peter, Paul and Mary; and Over the Rainbow, performed by Judy Collins), who together created the New York Times best-seller Over the Rainbow, collaborate once again to bring a classic song to life, with equally enchanting results.

Written by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington in 1940, the Academy Award®–winning When You Wish Upon a Star is beloved by listeners from 2 to 92 for its sweet hopefulness, poignant melody, and simple yet profound lyrics. Promising that “anything your heart desires will come to you,” it appeals to the believer and child in all of us. The words weave a vision of a world rich in love and happiness—a world open to everyone, “no matter who you are.” And no singer can capture the haunting beauty of this classic like Collins, with her emotionally resonant voice.

Eric Puybaret’s captivating art, with its graceful lines, stunning use of color, and strong sense of fantasy, is the perfect complement to Collins’s lovely interpretation. His art has been called “elegantly rendered,” by the New York Times; “graceful [and] whimsical,” by Publishers Weekly; and “lovely . . . and indeed magical,” by Kirkus Reviews.

This type of literature helps children develop insight into universal human concepts, such as compassion, morality, relationships and empathy. It is one way to hand down our artistic and musical heritage to the next generation, both validating the child's own culture, and introducing others.

THE TEA PARTY & THE CIRCUS - Final Healthcare Reform Protest

My favorite part of this video is when he asks the young Tea Party woman:

"What is the provision in the bill that makes you concerned that they might want to kill senior citizens?"

Crapo: "Bring common sense back to our federal budgeting process"

Crossposted on Daily Kos

Below is another dialogue* between one of my students and Idaho's senior senator.

NOTE: I have around 100 students this semester. It's time to have some of them hear from, analyze, challenge, and think along with the other side of the aisle; perhaps responding to the points presented by this Republican official.

Exploring this notion of "common sense" sounds like fertile ground for some rich class discussion.

Which Democratic leaders would you suggest for such interaction?


Senator Crapo,

I am a student in MeandG’s Communications class. As an assignment, I have been asked to formulate questions for you to answer about something I am concerned about or interested in.

How do you think the budget crisis will affect my children in the future and their children?

What do you think can be done now to help ensure my children are not taking on the debt crisis when they become adults?

When, if a plan is passed, do you feel that the budget crisis would be on the path to being resolved?

Why, in your opinion, has the budget crisis become so bad?

Where do you feel the best concerted efforts should be made to improve this crisis?

Thank you again for your time. I look forward to your response.

Crapo responded:

Thank you for contacting me to express your dissatisfaction with the current political situation in Washington, D.C. I agree with you and welcome the opportunity to respond on this very important issue.

Americans are fed up with out-of-control and unsustainable spending coming from the federal government, a frustration I share. This country is facing an unprecedented budget crisis—one that threatens the stability of our economy and the fiscal viability of future generations. If left unchecked and unresolved, our children, grandchildren and future generations will have to shoulder the responsibility to repay debts incurred today through irresponsible spending. The problem is simply that the government spends too much money, and it has so far refused to enact meaningful policies that will bring common sense back to our federal budgeting process. In recent months, we have faced a debt ceiling crisis and a potential government shutdown, yet Senate leadership continues to refuse to pass a budget. When added to sluggish economic growth, government regulatory policies that are choking small business and continued high unemployment rates throughout the country, it is no wonder that Americans are up in arms over federal spending and debt. Washington simply cannot continue to operate this way without enacting significant changes. Throughout my tenure in Congress, I have seen many 10-year budget plans, but without adequate enforcement provisions. Congress inevitably finds loopholes to avoid spending controls. It is time to stop borrowing money from future generations, as these actions do not lead to long-term growth and economic stabilization. The solution to our problems will require dramatic action and shared sacrifice. The sheer scope of our fiscal situation means every part of our government ledger sheet must be scrutinized.  read more »

Young People's Pavillion: Four Seasons by Jane Breskin Zalben

Reposted from Daily Kos Readers and Book Lovers

Just thinking of giving up the piano makes me break out in hives. Big fat red ones. But I think about it all the time. Allegra Katz—Alley Cat to her mother, just plain Ally to her friends—is struggling to decide whether music is really worth giving up her Saturdays with BFF Opal and just being a regular kid. As Ally moves through Juilliard’s precollege program and a Vermont summer music camp, Zalben explores the life of young, gifted musicians who are yearning to experience more than music and who must negotiate with parents who push in typically high-achieving fashion. Zalben’s peripheral characters are just as compelling as Ally. Yes, her parents are controlling, but they are loving and dimensional, as are acerbic and demanding Miss Pringle, the archetypal music teacher, and Ally’s few friends, who provide sparks of joy, occasional jealousy, and support. Pair this memorable title with Virginia Euwer Wolff’s classic celebration and acknowledgment of the challenges and opportunities of growing up gifted, The Mozart Season (1991).

-- Booklist, on Four Seasons, by Breskin Zalben

Young adult fiction readers will find this book powerful, filled with intrigue, high drama and strong characterization. Four Seasons tells of four seasons in the life of an aspiring young pianist. Ally is a master at playing the piano. She has been taking lessons since she was four. She is now thirteen. She takes lessons from one of the most talented teachers in New York City at the pre-college program at Juilliard. You have to audition to get into the program, and to stay in the program you have to live and breathe music. She needs to practice at least six hours a day, and she goes to lessons during the week and all day on Saturdays. Her teacher wants her to quit her public school and be home-schooled so she will have even more time to practice.

Ally isn't buying this anymore. She realizes that she is missing out on being a kid. She wants to spend a Saturday hanging out with her best friend and her almost-boyfriend. But her parents are into music, too. Her dad makes his living playing the violin and her mother sings. They don't want her to give up her dream.

Ally is confused and doesn't know what she wants to do. She has a love of music but also a passion fro mathematics. The story in Four Seasons is not lighthearted. This tale tells about how stressed kids can be who are over-programmed in life, and how that stress can cause many problems for them.

I really enjoyed this book and hope that many others will, too.

Strict practices, music classes, and regular school leave her little time for a personal life. Her professional musician parents don't know she's thinking of quitting piano, and Allegra needs to find out if she really loves the piano and why she plays so avidly.

Ally's intense story springs to life in this engrossing novel.

"A fascinating life lesson--one that resonated with me personally. Sometimes you have to destroy who you are to create the next you. Readers will be captivated by Ally's musical journey, and in her personal journey, they will see themselves. What a great story! I loved the book.”—Gordon Korman, coauthor of the 39 Clues series

"Heartfelt, lyrical, and humorous, with unforgettable, true-to-life characters living lives we don't get to read about every day.” — Judy Blume  read more »

"Gift-wrapped with a bow" Is Obama Responsible for Our Sea of Debt?

Richard Larsen thinks so:

Usually good humor works because it’s based on a modicum of truth. Sometimes attempts at humor are funny because they’re so far removed from the truth. Such was the case with the Journal’s editorial cartoon in Friday’s paper. It depicted Barack Obama attempting to resuscitate a persona labeled “Economy” extricated from waters where it was apparently on the verge of drowning, while the GOP sat comfortably on a lounge sipping a beverage of undisclosed composition. The cartoon was obviously drawn either by an Obama ideologue (one of those believers in the elusive “hope and change” mantra) or someone just ignorant to fact and oblivious to history.

Put in accurate contemporary perspective, the cartoon may have needed several frames. The first, starting with Obama’s election, would have had him dunking the economy in the water (sea of debt) with his first round of spending increases (modified bailout). The second frame would have had him nearly drowning the economy with a failed trillion dollar (with interest payments) “stimulus,” that was more political payback than it was economic stimulus.

The next few frames would have been Obama’s repeated attempts at drowning the economy in the sea of debt with FinReg, ObamaCare, significantly expanded EPA job-destroying regulations, “Cash for Clunkers,” and another 608 regulations imposed in July alone by the administration. All the while, the Pelosi and Reid Congress was helping him dunk the economy, attempting to hold it under the sea of debt, and cheering Obama on from the bank. For accuracy, the cartoon should’ve shown congressional conservatives attempting to save the economy by preventing Obama from dunking it again, and striving to find the drain plug to the sea of debt, and looking for buckets to lower the debt level.

In contrast, let's first look back to the beginning of Obama's presidency.

From the Christian Science Monitor (February 18, 2009):

Few Americans have any idea how bad the financial problems are that President Obama inherited from the Bush administration. Never mind the housing bubble, the bank meltdown, or the bailout scandals – I am talking about the failure of federal government to honestly account either for its own actions or for America's most important programs: Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid.

George W. Bush took office after three years of budget surpluses under President Bill Clinton. Eight years later, Obama walked into the Oval Office to find – gift-wrapped with a bow, as he recently joked – almost $11 trillion in Treasury debt, and deficits of more than $1 trillion a year for the foreseeable future. That's a $30,000 burden on every man, woman, and child in America, on top of the taxes they are already paying. Under better management, that number could have been zero.  read more »

Always wondered

... why people like Pawlenty and Bachmann think they could ever become POTUS. Surely somebody must have said to them,"YOU??? ... President???" before they even get in the race.

"We have a wonderful system in this country son, that prevents people like you from ever becoming President!'"
--Grampa Simpson to a young Homer  read more »

Curious Timing at Boise State

Crossposted on Daily Kos

Boise State University's Department of Athletics continues to scale impressive and unprecedented heights with the leadership of Director of Athletics Gene Bleymaier. The accomplishments of its student-athletes, the success of its teams, the growth of its facilities and the support of the community has advanced the status of Bronco athletics among the nation's premier intercollegiate programs.

Now in his 31st year at Boise State, Bleymaier joined the Athletic Department in 1981 and became the Broncos' Director of Athletics in February of 1982. He is the second-longest tenured athletic director in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

On July 1, 2011, Boise State will become a member of the Mountain West Conference, the school's fourth different conference since Bleymaier has been directing the program.

reads Boise State's official athletic website this morning.

This news came last night:

As Boise State University joins a higher-profile conference under the cloud of alleged NCAA violations and the strain of a growing budget gap between the school and the upper echelon of Division I, the Broncos will move forward without the man who got them there — fired Athletic Director Gene Bleymaier.  read more »

Young People's Pavilion: Picture Books (Part Two)

Last week we began our discussion of picture books with suggestion for thematic classroom units and we noted the sites Teach with Picture Books and Picture This: Teaching With Picture Books, which offer several great tips.

Here are more books and ideas.

Please share some of your favorite picture books and experiences sharing them with children.

Author: Paul O. Zelinsky
Award: The Caldecott Medal

Drawing from the Brothers Grimm as well as other sources, Zelinsky creates a captivating and detailed story of Rapunzel, both in writing and illustration. A story for any age, “Rapunzel” encompasses both the magic of a traditional fairy tale and the complexity of human relationships from the mother-like figure of the sorceress to the trials of the long-haired beauty and her prince.

Art: Stunning oil painting, rich in detail.
Possible Topics: Fairy tales, friend/foe, love (sorceress or parents?), overcoming challenges

Heckedy Peg
Author: Audrey Wood
Illustrator: Don Wood
Award: Irma Simonton Black Award

With oil painting that tells as much of the story as the text itself, the Woods present a magical tale of seven children—Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday—their mother, and the wily witch named Heckedy Peg. Tempted by the witch’s gold, the children disobey their mother—do not let strangers in the house and do not play with fire—and nearly become the evil crone’s fantastical feast.

Art: Rich, detailed oil.
Possible Topics: Fairy tale, morals/obedience, correlation (children’s requests from market to the food they are transformed into).

Black and White
Author: David Macaulay
Award: The Caldecott Medal

A complex story of four tales (and four separate art designs) rolled into one, “Black and White” is a fun and challenging read. Without careful inspection of each picture for clues, the story may appear as four distinct stories. Or maybe they are…: A boy on a disrupted train ride, a group of people waiting for a train to arrive, a burglar, and a disgruntled child.

Art: Bold. Tells more than the text itself.
Possible Topics: Perspectives, attention to detail, imagination, narration, wordless “story-showing,” sequence, prediction  read more »

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