Friday, March 30, 2007

It Really Is Spring

Crocus Early Spring 2007

This has been a wild week, how everything comes in clumps for me. A presentation and a training session with the Coalition on our new Speaker’s Bureau, NYU, a day with fourth graders at Butler and yesterday was another wild one, Park Ridge High School, then home long enough to pack up my laptop to go to New York for repair as our local CompUSAs are closing. Off to NYC, tired and back hurting by the time I got the thing into the remaining CompUSA on Fifth Avenue and 37th Street. Then off looking for a bottle of wine, no liquor stores on Sixth Avenue or 23rd Street, finally down Seventh avenue to that one I’ve been to before, just west of 7th on 21st, I believe. Another Australian brand with a different kangaroo. Then to Suzanne’s for writing group where Carol E. read the latest version of a nicely revised story about the old lady whose feet tingle predicting (she believes) a disaster and walks west with her cat. I read the galleys of my piece for Maggie A’s anthology of prose writings about schools and schooling, and I’m pretty happy with it.

Last night started reading around on the web about another Blog tempest, this time about bullying and general nastiness (See Kathy Sierra's blog).

Anyhow, I’m home today, to write for maybe ten minutes, then shop for the small Seder we’re doing on Monday and do Coalition work and probably even some housework, which is almost always a-way down on my list of priorities.

And here come the daffodils!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Crocus time

We have snow melting fast, crocuses and snow drops both out in force (the snow drops have been around for weeks, under snow, out from under snow). I saw a few daffodils when I was out doing my Nordic walking, and a two week cold seems on the run. The other sign of spring is that Andy took a bike ride, all dolled up in red and blue high tech socks and shirt. Well, fairly high tech. I've ordered a computer for my mother, which I intend to set up here and have ready to run, complete with a dial-up connection and a word processor. I'm going to go down and visit her for a day sometime in the next two months and try to ease her into using the thing. She says she doesn't want it, but knows she needs it...

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Commemoration of This War

It's four years of this war now. More than 3000 American soldiers dead, and we don't seem to keep count of the tens of thousands of others. I'm sure you can find people in Iraq, perhaps especially some of those in Kurdistan or the relatively peaceful southern Shiite regions where some are glad the Americans blasted their way in.

But if you ask the rest-- the ones who have lost family members and friends, who have had to desert their homes, who have no jobs, no functioning infrastructure, not even a modicum of a sense of safety in their daily lives-- let alone if you could ask the ones dead from American bombs and bullets, from insurgent and terrorist bombs and bullets-- if it was worth it, do you really think they would say yes? Does anyone really think those people are glad about this war our leaders chose to force us into?

There are many events around the country today and tomorrow and all week commemorating the U.S.'s foolish, brutal war. Where I live, there is a walk at 6:00 p.m. tomorrow from South Orange Town Hall to Maplewood town hall.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Power of Blogs??

Wow! I got some angry comments on my March 11 post that talked about The Spencers, the illustionists who performed at SOPAC on Saturday night. I also got a comment on the Spencer blog itself (Spencer March 14), and Mr. Spencer was a lot nicer than his fans.

I'm having a lot of reactions to this micro-mini tempest-in-a-teapot. First there is my ambivalence about blogs: I have been journalling for years, often writing pretty intense things, and my blogs are far more gregarious affairs. They are unlike my journals, and also unlike the blogs that Brother-in-law Internet Guru David Weinberger interacts with-- his blogs are mostly deep into things like internet neutrality and the meaning of blogging or straightup political stuff, with an occasional bit about the family, which is what I mostly read for.

So I began blogging experimentally, something along the lines of the journals I wrote when Joel was a baby that were aimed at public consumption, namely my mother. The only people I'm aware of who regularly read my blogs now are family and friends, and I'm certainly aware that I have readers, and to some small degree write accordingly. My friend Phyllis Moore actually turned a paragraph of one of my blogs into a poem! And Mary Sciaino sometimes sends me emails in reponse to things I blog (most recently our feelings about our kids flying in planes!). Recently, when I mentioned I went to an anti-war vigil, the excellent blogger Sherry Chandler wrote a supportive note.

What I haven't experienced is this business of offending people I never even thought would notice. I admit I wasn't thinking about the feelings of The Spencers when I wrote that blog! I was mostly just musing over my reactions to a performance in an area that is a favorite of my husband Andy's, not mine. When I comment on illusions, it's like a reader who only reads thrillers reading one of my books and asking why I don't have more action in them.

That's more or less the kind of audience I am for an illusionist.

I focused on what I enjoyed: friends in the audience, little kids' responses, trying to figure out an illusion, the performance style of Mr. Spencer. Which I praised, although I did use the phrase "full of himself." That was imprecise, a falling back into personal shorthand, the sort of thing I write in my personal journals but try to keep out of the blog. I was thinking about how you can't be a performer without a fullness of self. I know when I give talks, or even teach creative writing classes to fourth graders as I did yesterday, I am full of a kind of spirit, an energy that is like I am taking in the appreciation of the audience and somehow magnifying it.

Performing-- the relationship between a performer and audience-- interests me a lot. We went to see a performance of Shakespeare's King John the afternoon after the Spencers, and I felt it there too, me as audience member being part of the event, that wonderful magic (real magic to me) of a performance where audience and performers do it together, make it happen. And I really do think Mr. Spencer has a lot of that kind of magic.

He also seems to have some really protective fans!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Coughing and Teaching

I've got a really bad cough now--I'm into my second week of this, and now it's the coughing getting me down--I don't feel particularly bad except my forehead is just short of aching from the cough and my throat likewise. Still, I got through the morning with the fourth graders at the Aaron Decker School, in Butler, New Jersey. I had to apologize to each class and tell them that they were going to hear some ugly coughing, but I was really okay. And, indeed, I'm pretty sure I AM okay. They had fifty kids absent yesterday in a relatively small school. I always enjoy so much being up there. The teachers seem glad to have me some and do workshops and, in fact, the lead fourth grade teacher has made the arrangements herself for several years running. Most of my best relationships with schools are in the ones where the teachers truly buy in-- I've been in a fair number of schools where it's the PTA's who bring in another perk for the kids (along with performers and trips and riding lessons) and the teachers can feel it's just a waste of their time to have in one more special. The school in Mendham where I was earlier this year could have fallen into that category-- it was certainly a wealthy enough district-- but in that case, the language arts supervisor knew me and brought me in for a specific project with her teachers. She had begun a new writing program, and the teachers, very professional, viewed me as a good supplement to their work. So lots of things are good, as long as the teachers want the program.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Busy Sunday

I’m not feeling well today–the cough that started directly into my bronchial tubes a week and a half ago seems finally to be doing more than making me cough: I’m a little light headed and grumpy over coming into Daylight Savings so early. WHY do they make us do this? Why can't we be encouraged to get our bodies into rhythm with the world instead of trying to remake the universe to fit our commercial imperatives?

We have Anja Moen speaking at Ethical this morning, and then we’re going to Jersey City to see Michael Basile in KING JOHN and then I have to hurry to whatever is left of the Executive Committee meeting.

Last night Andy had a last minute urge to go see the illusionists at SOPAC– The Spencers. I don’t care so much for illusionists, but I did want to see SOPAC, and it is a very pleasant size, and last night's crowd was of of kids and adults, and we saw some people we knew, Ariel Green's parents, the Anzalone-Newman adults. The show was the usual sawed in half ladies and escaping from a can of water, and a great deal of talk in between–the main guy’s engaging personality carrying it, just chatting away. This morning I discovered he has a blog, and he blogged South Orange last night--

That’s a real sign of the times– the performer performing then telling the public about his performance, or rather, it was mostly about how much the audience loved them. I'd say I liked/was interested in them, especially his style, smallish guy with a very neat body, bleached and spiked hair, self-deprecating, but of course very full of himself-- a performer. Anyhow, I liked being there, but I guess I don’t really get the point of illusions– the disappearances etc. I figured out one trick all by myself (Andy did separately – the one where he reads minds and writes down the singer/place/card the person is thinking of). I know in general how the Houdini-in-a-bottle ones work and the sawed off ladies, so I’m actually more amazed by up close and personal stuff, the card tricks and sleight of hand. Well, it was fun to be out, and I'm always interested in Performers. Vaudeville acts, if not vaudeville, still live, I guess. I wonder what kind of a living these people make– four people who show up on stage and at least one driver for the semi they travel in.

March 9, 2007


In the New York Times today is an obituary for Ruffina Amaya, who survived the massacre at El Mozote in El Salvador in 1981. She heard her children’s death screams. Husband beheaded. The US was supporting the side the killers were on,so we denied there had been a massacre. It took this woman and others speaking out, over and over, to tell the story. This was at the beginning of the Reagan years. So many times the U.S. has supported thugs if they claim to be for a handy sound bite called Freedom.



Tuesday, March 06, 2007

March Roller Coaster

We’re on a roller coaster with Joel’s Ph.D. acceptances. He found out at Princeton that they don’t do deferments (you have to go back in the pool and start over), but now he's sent out an email saying that Carnegie Mellon does do deferments . Well, it’s all up and down, where he’ll be, the loss I feel at his not being in the house anymore (which is nothing compared to my friend's infinitely greater loss of her son). Or my other friend's final survey of the gray flat universe and her choice of darkness for herself.

But I’m feeling light this morning, even though I just spend the last hour on Coalition business rather than writing.

It’s very cold again and extremely bright, with the white tops of bare branches and the bark a sort of light orange where the colors are saturated. Light blue sky. The season of absolutely no leaves that is closest to the burgeoning time.

Sunday, March 04, 2007


Lisa Novemsky sent out a link to a song by Tom Chapin about testing kids, called "It's Not on the Test," at LISTEN . There's something about lilting message ballads that makes me all nostalgic-- as if listening to an anti-highstakes testing song and sending it on to a few people actually made change. Does it? Even a little? What does work, nowadays, in the way of direct action? I've been using most of my political energey for the last ten years on the Community Coalition, which has meant lots of low level detail work and not much in the way of big rallies and inspiring marches.

Andy and I watched a DVD two nights ago,V for Vendetta, in which there is the usual outlaw in the vanguard of political change (in this case a rather insane but brilliant and anguished murderer). There is a scene at the end when The People rise up all wearing identical masks and capes and fill the streets. So mass action remains a sort of vague ideal, at least as a good visual, in Hollywood.

A lot of people find more action on the Internet, signing on with MoveOn, etc. But protest ballads still get to me.