Monday, May 15, 2006

"We hold the Iraqi government and the occupiers responsible for this brutal atrocity"

"Cindy Sheehan Leads Mother's Day Anti-War Vigil" (Democracy Now!):
In Washington, peace campaigner Cindy Sheehan spent Mothers Day in an anti-war vigil outside the White House along with actress Susan Sarandon, other military mothers and Iraq war veterans.

There were many worthy headlines today, too many. So Mike and I decided we'd grab Iraq via C.I.'s snapshot and try to focus on some other headlines. But we both agreed that the demonstration this weekend was too important (and too little noted by the mainstream media) for us to not grab it and make it our top headline.

In fact, I'd left space (that I'll take out now) to write a paragraph or two before the item but I really want anyone coming to this site to see the headline above first. I don't know how Mike does it, but once we decide on our headlines for the day, I copy and paste mine in and then write around them which is a trick I stole from C.I. when I saw it used over Thanksgiving.

To make up for jumping straight into the news with no attempt to ease in, I'll note that's also the way C.I. did papers in college. Grab the research, assemble the points you want to make, plug them in and then write around it. I never could get behind that approach. It just seemed too much for a paper. It wasn't really an outline, it was more of a spine, and from that C.I. would pick spots and write around them. This prevented the "I don't know what to write" or "I don't know how I'm going to write this" panic. There was never any of the staring at the blank paper that I did. It was always grab a section and write on it. After the paragraphs were done around the research points, it was time to write the introduction and conclusion and then to work on transitions between paragraphs.

It worked and I could probably do it today because I rarely do anything in long hand anymore. There was a paper C.I. did that had 13 pages of works cited, the paper itself was probably seventy pages long and you had to step around it in the living room because the index cards were on blank pages and then you had the pages with writing on them. But the paper was finished within two days. Finished right before spring break, I should add. It wasn't due until the end of the term. Remembering all the headaches I had over papers, remembering right now, I should have tried using that method. I remember way too many nights, early mornings, where I would be so frustrated because I was stuck on a point and my paper was due shortly.

Rebecca would wait until the very last minute to start. I never did that, but I may as well have the way I'd get stuck on a point and end up going out for coffee at three in the morning in the hopes that getting out and doing something different would remove the block I'd stopped at.
That's probably why Rebecca and Jim enjoy the editions at The Third Estate Sunday Review so much. They both love that "Am I going to finish! Am I going to pull it off!" burst off enthusiasm.
I think those editions are helpful for one reason alone, it exposes everyone to different styles of writing because it is a group effort.

The way I did papers and essays was the way we were instructed which was start with the first paragraph and move on to the next. There are other ways and I think my stress levels in college would have been much lower if I'd known of other methods and tried them. ("But you knew of C.I.'s?" Not until it got to be the advanced course work and the papers were longer. C.I. would always write during the time that most people sleep. It wasn't until the papers got really long and the living room floor would be needed to assemble them that I even realized there was another way of writing a paper.) I really think courses like that would be helpful. Many universities offer a freshman course which is basically "This is your university." They sometimes give it a "PSYCH" preface but it's just getting familiar with the university. Some that don't offer it as a course, schedule an orientation.

But I really do think that teaching/sharing that there is not just one way to do a paper (or anything) would benefit a student body. In terms of my practice, I'll occasionally get a patient who really just needs some validation or confirmation that something they're doing is okay because they've been led to believe (all of their lives) that you do ___ this way and only this way.

I know I studied better because I got to see Rebecca, C.I. and other friends ways of studying. Before a test, Rebecca would gather all of her notes and make up a list of questions from them based upon the main themes from lectures. Her method really turned her into a teacher teaching herself. I would review the notes and then review the notes I'd made on the readings and I would start that a week before the test so that I'd be able to review them several times. C.I. does this whole immersion thing -- I say "does" because that's still C.I.'s way when it comes to an issue or cause or work or whatever. (It's why Betty always wants to read her latest chapter to C.I. before she posts it -- Betty goes deep into her characters and for a sounding board, C.I.'s always her first choice -- their process is very similar.)

It's termed, by some, "overstudying." There was a professor I had, that C.I. didn't, who used to say that those who overstudied were wasting their time and I wonder how many people believed that? (I hope no one in the class that also had to immerse themselves.) For someone to reach the level where they're comfortable with the material isn't "wrong." I'll add that there was another trick C.I. had for course that weren't interesting (the subject matter wasn't interesting to C.I.) which was to just memorize. Whole chapters. To this day, C.I. can recite one of the natural science text books we had back then. The subject was of no interest (and C.I. got stuck with the worst professor in the department who couldn't make the material come alive), so the answer was just to memorize the whole text. The lab was a breeze but the lecture aspect was a nightmare. I'm trying to remember how C.I. ended up in that professor's class because everyone knew his classes were a snore-fest. Students would sit at the back of the lecture hall, way up at the top of the seats, and go to sleep. The professor never called anyone, never made eye contact and spoke in a flat monotone.

I'm not one of those people who sit around thinking, "If only I could do that over." I feel life is life. But if someone came to me and asked me to design some introductory courses for freshmen, I'd really rework much of what we were taught. I'd also probably tell students that the professor isn't God because I remember so many being afraid of them. (C.I. was not one to be afraid of a professor.) They didn't feel like they could disagree with a professor or that, if they were screwed over, they were able to do anything about that.

A friend's daughter is in her first year of college and she came home this weekend to visit her mother (Mother's Day) so that's probably why this is on my mind. Listening to her talk Sunday, it really didn't seem like much had changed since I was in college. She has a professor, for instance, who for the second time this semester has lost their tests -- tests they'd already taken. She was bothered because the professor's "answer" was to tell them that the score they made on the first test would just be factored in three times (the final is their fourth test). She did lousy on the first test. I told her to go to the dean and complain. Everybody's upset, in her class, but no one's doing anything about it.

That actually happened to me with a visiting professor. He lost one test and then claimed that he had the second test locked in the trunk of his car but his car had stopped running so it would be a few weeks before he could get to them. Rebecca and C.I. were both telling me to do something but I was a sophomore and nervous about making waves. Then, that week, C.I. comes in before class starts to pass on some message to me and the professor shows up and makes some statement to C.I. (they hadn't met, but C.I. was "known"). C.I. said something like, "Don't you get fresh with me, ____ [professor's first name]. It's no surprise you don't know when you class starts because you can't keep track of your tests. When someone goes and complain about that, you'll have a real problem on your hands." The professor tried to say something and C.I. just said, "I'm done with you."

The professor was furious and everyone in the classroom was silent. C.I. finished telling me whatever it was that was being passed on and then left. At which point, the professor directed a question to me: was it okay to begin the lecture now? He was such an ass and the elephant in the room had been put in the spotlight. So I said, "No, it's not okay. It's not okay for you to provide information that we're going to be tested on until you tell us exactly what you're doing to get our second tests out of your mystery trunk and exactly what you intend to do about the first test that you lost." If he hadn't been such an ass, I probably wouldn't have said that. But once I did, the whole class came alive. People were saying they wanted answers (now) or they were going to the dean.

He had to address the problem. That was his job but we were all too nervous to call him on it. So I shared that story with my friend's daughter and she's supposed to be going to the dean over the professor this week. If you see college as a hospital, you can see how frightened some people can be. The professor is the one handing out the grades and students can be afraid to speak out. The same way, if you're in the hospital for an operation and a doctor makes you uncomfortable but you stay silent because you think, "My fate is in his/her hands."

I may talk about this more throughout the week. (I want to check with Rebecca and C.I. to make sure it's okay to share their experiences.) The reason is that I was really struck by friend's daughter's attitude which I expected to be much more advanced than my own when I was in college. I generally assume that due to everything going on, students today are more experienced and aware by the time they get to college. I think that's probably true. I still think that. But I also think that, for some, there's this fear because so much is riding on college. A lot rode on it back then, but these days a college degree has become such a basic, that there's probably much more riding on it. That was a thought she expressed. How she was one year in, had three more to go, and how much was riding on her grades. With so many grants and other funds being slashed (thanks to the Bully Boy's War on Education) and the fact that many now see a college degreee as the sort of requirement a high school one used to be, I think some people are under even more pressure not to make waves -- even when waves need to be made.

Mike will be addressing the headlines as well -- I'm sure without a long break in the middle where he rambles on as I just did -- so please visit Mikey Likes It!

"Clear Channel DJ Threatens On Air to Sexually Abuse 4-Year-Old" (Democracy Now!)
In New York, a popular disc jockey working for Clear Channel has been arrested on charges of endangering the welfare of a child. The DJ, known as Star, threatened on-air to sexually abuse the four-year-old daughter of a rival radio personality. He also offered listeners $500 for information on where the four-year-old went to school. In addition he made anti-Asian slurs about the girl’s mother. Up until last week Star co-hosted the popular syndicated morning show "Star & Buc Wild." Clear Channel fired him on Wednesday but only after a member of the New York City council took issue with the broadcast.

That story isn't surprising and that's largely because Clear Channel has done more to pollute the airwaves than anyone else. It seems like one of their dee jays is always getting in to trouble and, this company that wouldn't support the Dixie Chicks' right to have a different view point, usually trots out the First Amednment when that happens. If a city council member hadn't been disgusted, "Star" would probably still be on the air. My own personal method, by the way, is just to not listen to that nonsense. But when they're banning people (or firing as they did to one dee jay for her political beliefs -- the woman was against the war and has a lawsuit against them)
for political views, I think they're Glass House shatters when they allow that sort of hate speech on their airwaves.

"BC Prof Resigns Over Decision to Honor Condi Rice" (Democracy Now!):
In education news, an adjunct professor at Boston College has resigned to protest the school’s decision to award Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice an honorary degree. In a letter to the school's president, professor Steve Almond said Rice has quote "lied to the American people knowingly, repeatedly... in an effort to justify a pathologically misguided foreign policy."

Good for Steve Almond for standing up. You do need to stand up for what you believe in but just because you need to do it, that doesn't make standing up any easier. Dropping back to the earlier topic/ramble, I am sure that his actions have had an impact already. Students have seen him take a brave stand because of what he believes in and that does have an impact. It also teaches that you don't just go along so an important message is being sent by Dr. Almond's actions.

"Army Withdraws Support For Baghdad ER Documentary" (Democracy Now!):
And senior Army officials are withdrawing their support for a new HBO documentary filmed inside an Army combat hospital in Baghdad. The Secretary of the Army Francis Harvey and other senior Army officials were originally planning to attend a screening tonight of the film Baghdad ER. But they have decided that the film's graphic footage might demoralize soldiers and negatively affect public opinion about the war. Last week the Army's chief surgeon issued a memo warning medical staff at Army posts across the country to prepare for a possible influx of soldiers and families seeking comfort and counseling after watching the documentary. This is an excerpt of Baghdad ER. A warning for our television audience: this footage may disturb some viewers. Baghdad ER was produced by Jon Alpert and Matthew O'Neill of Downtown Community Television in New York. The documentary will air on HBO on Sunday.

We're including that one as a programming note. If you have HBO (or have a friend who does) you might want to try to catch that with some friends this coming Sunday.

I've rambled tonight so I'll note three things I think you should read and then wrap this up.
Kat's "Pearl Jam does Pearl Jam," Betty's "The joke is always Thomas Friedman. Always" and Trina's "Popcorn in the Kitchen."

"Iraq snapshot" ("Democracy Now: Greg Palast addresses Iraq, corporations and more," The Common Ills):
Chaos and violence continue.
noted on today's Democracy Now!, "at least 47 people" died yesterday as a result of roadside bombings. NYT's Sabrina Tavernise noted that five corpses were found in Baghdad Sundey ("gunshot wounds to the head")."At least 7 US soldiers died over Mother's Day Weekend," Sandra Lupien noted today on KPFA's The Morning Show while attempts to cobble together a cabinet continue to falter as participants "continue to disagree over who will fill the posts of interior, defense and oil minister." Wednesday, May 10th was the deadline Iraqi prime minister designate Nuri al-Maliki himself set as the deadline for finalizing his cabinet. And CNN notes the death of two British soldiers on Saturday which brings the total UK fatalities to 111 since the illegal invasion. The names of the two killed are Adam Morris (19 y.o.) and Joseva Lewaicei (25 y.o.).
Reuters notes that the Muslim Clerics Association is accusing "US forces . . . of killing 25 civilians in raids near Baghdad in the past two days." The Muslim Clerics Association released a statement staing, "We hold the Iraqi government and the occupiers responsible for this brutal atrocity."
Near Balad Ruz,
CNN reports four teachers are dead after armed assailants stopped their minibus (which had seven teachers on it) and shot the four.
In Nahaweel, a roadside bomb claimed the life of one person and wounded another. The bomb exploded near a police station. This as the Associated Press reports an attack on a police station, "just outside Basra," which has resulted in the deaths of at least eight police officers and at least an additional ten more wounded. The BBC notes that the attack by "tribesmen" followed the killing of "their leader . . . by men wearing police uniforms."
In Amarah, the
Associated Press reports four British soldiers were wounded today in an attack on British military camp Camp Abu Naji. CNN notes that "three soldiers received minor wounds" but that one had to be transported to a military hospital.
In Wajihiya,
Reuters notes the death of a seven-year-old girl and well as the wounding of at least "seven members of her family" after their home was hit with by "a mortar round."
Australia's ABC notes the "UN-backed government survey" on malnutrition in Iraq which has found that "almost one child in every 10 aged between six months and five years, suffered acute malnourishment."

I lied. I'm not wrapping up. I need to note a documentary I heard on KPFA today, Against the Grain played Class Dismissed: How Television Frames the Working Class which is was just an amazing documentary. I recognized some voices, from TV clips, but I didn't realize how out of TV land I was until I repeatedly wondered, "Who's that?" The documentary addresses the way television portrays the working class in programming. It noted that the dream of upward mobility is a false dream for many based on the figures. But it's something that programs continue to sell just as they sell the working class in a stereotype and, stood out most to me, sell the notion that the working class is better off not mixing (by repeated portrayals of such attempts leading to embarrassment and shame). Ed Asner was the narrator and there were many wonderful people participating. Barbara Ehrenreich comes to mind (author of Nickle & Dimed and columnist for The Progressive). She spoke of, among other things, the attacks on Roseanne when she was doing her sitcom (Roseanne).