Faint

•June 15, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Petraeus was listening to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) express concern about the direction of the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan when he appeared to faint.

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Arts Journal is Watching?

•June 15, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I’m a regular reader of the music news collected at ArtsJournal. I’m not sure when I discovered it, but after working at a handful of arts organizations in the Twin Cities I became fully convinced of it’s value. No more scrounging through the New York Times or Washington Post [homepage to leisure to entertainment to arts to performing arts to music to classical music]. The hottest arts news is delivered to you in one neat package–and updated constantly throughout the day. Despite anything else I’m about to say, I am a huge supporter of the service (everything short of actually giving money–a topic for another day).

I’ve recently started to wonder, though, just how these news pieces are selected. And just as with any news delivery service, the possibility for the news “deliverers” to actually shape the “news” is fascinating. Frankly, I don’t follow it closely enough to try to make any kind of analysis, but look at today’s deliveries so far:

On doctors’ advice, BSO’s Levine to miss Tanglewood season (aka “James Levine is still sick”)

Call him ‘YNS,’ the talk of the musical world (aka “Ok everyone, let’s give  Yannick Nézet-Séguin a nickname”)

DIY music (aka “Anne Midgette wrote this, so pay attention no. matter. what”)

I’d love to read some perspective from the people pushing the buttons and cranking the wheels inside the Arts Journal machine. How are articles selected?

Ok, for real this time

•June 15, 2010 • Leave a Comment

It has been many (many) months since my last post, and that post was an apology for my infrequent posting.

I’ve decided it’s time to try again.

When I wrote regularly on this blog, there was no particular focus and no point of view, which essentially meant that nobody was reading it. I have no intention of reaching the masses, but I am curious about using this space as a way to connect with people. Identifying myself and sharing my own experiences will hopefully make for a more compelling commentary. But a commentary on what? My own interests, which range from contemporary opera to the latest post on thisiswhyyourefat.com.

I’ve enjoyed reading some successful models of this sort by people who I’ve always felt were more interesting than me: people like Amanda Ameer, Nico Muhly, Joan Walsh, and the Minnesota Orchestra’s Inside the Classics duo. But wasn’t the whole point of this blogging revolution that un-famous people suddenly have the means to communicate and connect? I may be 2-3 years behind, but I’m just going to boldly jump on the bandwagon.

We’ll see how it goes.

Happy 2009 (18 Days Late)

•January 18, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Regularly updating this blog was not my new year’s resolution.  But maybe it should have been.

Israel, Gaza and Michelle Obama

•December 30, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Yesterday I spent a good amount of time catching up with the events happening in Gaza. I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that my weekend happenings kept me quite isolated from the world, but when I went to NPR.org Monday morning to read their coverage I was somewhat amused/confused/discouraged by their front page.

These two articles appeared side by side–the first claiming the most attention with a photo:

Like It Or Not, Michelle Obama Is Now A Style Icon

Israeli Planes Pound Gaza Targets

Now I actually don’t have anything bad to say about NPR’s actual international news coverage. In fact, it’s some of the best.  The juxtaposition of these two stories just got me thinking.

The presidential election engaged so many Americans, and like the rest of the world we actually seemed eager to learn more about this important news story. Everyone was listening to NPR, watching CNN and reading the New York Times (yes, I acknowledge my liberal media tendencies) but when Obama finally sealed the deal what are we interested in? The complicated international crisis that Obama will inherit or the dress that his wife will wear at his Inauguration?

Higher education: possible, valuable and worth the effort?

•December 21, 2008 • 2 Comments

Whenever I read an article online, I rarely bother to read past the article itself and into the comment section. Essentially I could care less that “SuZieRocKs8493” is personally and vehemently opposed to the content of the article. Even with something as casual as blogging, it seems ridiculous to set up a format where people can get away with sharing short and ill-informed quips in response to a thoughtful and well-written opinion.

But I read Cora Currier’s recent post for the “State of Change” blog at the Nation.com, and actually got sucked into the debate happening in the comment section.

Currier raises an important issue about higher education, and you can read it all here: Students Need Relief.

To summarize–Obama’s appointment of Arne Duncan as Education Secretary reminds us that some degree of education reform will be a part of the next for years. But with all of the focus on “No Child Left Behind” and early education in general, we can’t forget the challenges facing higher education–especially considering the economic challenges of these times.

She notes this letter to congress, which essentially asks for the following:

  • Raise the maximum Pell Grant to $7,000
  • Increase funding for the Federal Work-Study Program by 25 percent.
  • Improve access to Parent PLUS loans.
  • Provide a limited “emergency access” student loan pool for colleges that commit to providing adequate need-based aid.

And she concludes:

“This mini-bailout for higher-ed certainly won’t solve all of these problems, but it could make a major difference for many students.”

I’m fascinated by this because I (a liberal arts college graduate who worked through college, took out federal loans ) hardly saw this as controversial at first. My journey into comment-land, however, proved otherwise.

For example, this from “YourJomamma”:

I have a unique idea that appears to have never been given its due…

Do the words…

PART TIME JOB…

ring any bells?

My God…..things must be different at the poverty farm known as higher education…

Maybe the tenured guys woiuld be willing to give up a little of their guarenteed cash? Naw………

Any chance?..

I suggest some of these students learn the words…”you want fries with that”…

after all, as soon as you graduate you will be ready to run the world as good liberals everywhere…and a little job experience, even at McDonalds might look good to a policy think tank….so you can better understand the “working poor”…

And this from “lvliberty1”:

 

Here, Here! and a hearty amen!. Your post echoes my complaint. Used to be that only the rich were able to attend college without working. Now everybody wants free education.

Working through college helps to provide a learning experience that better prepares students to enter the workplace. It is a rare graduate that I have interviewed over the last 15-20 years that was capable of really providing a contribution to the company. With most, you had to assume that you were basically investing 1-2 years of salary and benefits for someone who would not bring any return on investment during that time frame.

I have a lot of thoughts.

First of all, I’m troubled by the assumptions we’re starting to make these days that having a college education or a graduate degree (or god forbid a graduate degree from a renowned and likely expensive institution) makes you an elitist who is out of touch with the world. Sure–the luxury of wealth will inevitably disconnect you from certain aspects of our world, but the hardship of poverty will also do the same.

The issue here isn’t wealth though. It’s education. And that’s why it’s so important to have programs in place so that a student’s financial situation is not a determining factor in his or her education.  For all of its flaws (and certainly there are many) the public education system does a better job at this than higher education.

From what I saw while I was in college, there are those students whose parents simply wrote a check each semester and leave without a single student loan. Likewise there are those students who had a numerous part time jobs in addition to a full course load and still leave with piles of debt. Most students end up somewhere in the middle. It’s tempting to try to define the quality of the education and the lessons learned from each variety of circumstance, but that’s not what’s important here.

What’s important is that students are still receiving different kinds of education based on their financial situation. As a result the simplified paradigm remains: higher education is something that rich people have the freedom to pursue at their own will while everyone else who wants to pursue it will have to work much harder for it. Making college accesible to everyone is one step, but breaking down that cultural divide is most important.

That’s where these federal programs come in. It’s not just about making going to college easier. They’re designed (or at least they should be designed) to encourage students to attend college who might not consider it a possibility. It’s a way for our country to say that higher education is possible,  valuable and worth the effort–even if your background and financial situation suggest otherwise.

I know I have more to say and think about, but I’m going to stop there for now.

Hang Loose

•December 17, 2008 • Leave a Comment

According to CNN:

Embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich said Wednesday that he “can’t wait to begin to tell his side of the story.”

And…

“There’s a time and place for everything. That day will soon be here, and you might know more about that today, maybe no later than tomorrow.”

Asked what it is he wants to say, Blagojevich told the reporters to “hang loose.”

So Blagowhatever is all pumped up and excited to tell us his side of the story, but we’re supposed to hang loose.

I realized that I wasn’t informed on the distinction between hanging loose versus hanging tight, so I consulted Urban Dictionary.

Hang Loose:

As used in the Hawaiian Islands, “Hang Loose or “Shocka” is used as a non verbal expression; or greeting. To tell the receipiant, that every thing will be OK, Relax, Stop looking at me w/ that stern look on your face.
( Mostly Visual) With the three mid figures folded down. Extend the Thumb & Pinky finger out, and shake vigurously, about the radial axis of the wrist.

Hang tight on the other hand is merely…

To await further instructions.
She was anxious for an update, but he told her to hang tight.

Frankly, I will neither be hanging loose or tight to hear his story. But I guess if it’s ridiculous enough, I’ll probably end up reading about it and laughing a little.

In other tight vs. loose news, Amos Lee suggests keeping it loose and tight: