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Showing posts from September, 2012

austerity triplex (conforming loans only, please)

And here's the "real news" from Germany where a political leader, representing the more marginalized citizens, states, and pardon my possible paraphrase, that "austerity is the ideology of the ruling class." As you might imagine, it's the poor who go with less or without under such policies, and the video considers how German businesses are also hurt when citizens in Greece and Spain have little to no spending power beyond that which will go to the most basic necessities.

Back home, a recent year's worth of Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs-growth reporting was revised upward by almost 400,000, and although that is but a small dent in the supposed 23 million without work, or without as much work as they'd like, it is somewhat ironic that the "year" reported on seems almost entirely contained within the period where there was intense gridlock and a blocked jobs bill in Congress. Here's an excerpt from the Forbes article:

The Bureau of Labo…

Austerity redux

Data shows second helpings, ice-cream sundaes, and extra cheese are all polling higher than economic austerity programs, particularly if said measures are linked to other countries' banks or governments. Krugman and the Palestinians are against austerity, too.

This guy, a law or economics professor somewhere in the middle of America, has some good ironic analysis on how ostensibly lefty Labor in England attempted to woo American finance with less regulation while some in the Republican party stateside are writing books attacking deregulatory policies.

Just when you think you have it all sorted out. . .

hard times

I read and watched, about Madrid and then Athens and then London. People all over the world are eating out of dumpsters; they need food. Donate if you can.

But I eat too much, and I know I could stand to lose a few or fifteen, and the Jewish New Year offered just such an opportunity.

For Yom Kippur, it was easy on Iran and Israel for me, but I cheated with liquids, milk in the coffee, orange juice, etc. before finally succumbing to a sandwich around 5 p.m. That's not fasting a full day, I know.

What's on your mind?

The Rise of Capitalism

This past week in contemporary literature, we delved into Donald Barthelme's comedy of death and sex in elementary ed. Which is to say, we read, "The School" and "Me and Miss Mandible." George Saunders (see "The Perfect Gerbil") might argue that Donald Barthelme's tension doesn't rise quite so much in "The Rise of Capitalism" as it does in "The School," but he certainly has some good thoughts and sentences throughout. Let's call it a fine blend of comedy and tragedy, or at least melodrama, belly whoops, and rage. I found the text online and also as a video reading from an anonymous fan.

Of course, a guy published continually in The New Yorker can afford to add a little whimsy to his capitalist gloom. Homeboy (he was born in Philly, but he was almost dead before I even knew he was a writer) went through a pile of wives and held the central position in letters that half of literary fiction writers would die for. If he wa…

Chestnut Hill Book Festival 9/30

Although the lovely and talented Cyrus Duffleman will be missed, this fall's Chestnut Hill Book Festival offers a competitive array of literature and politics. Perhaps no longer so "Easy" Ed Rendell is leading the charge to the evening's lasagna room, but Philadelphia Stories, Painted Bride Quarterly, Temple's Miles Orvell and so much more are proudly representing for the City of Brotherly Love.

bobos sneakers

I found myself trying to explain Bobos in class the other day. I can't remember the context, but I was able to sing a couple lines: "Bobos, they make your feet feel fine./Bobos, they cost a $1.99." Inspired by "news" at about an essay from a guy my age who grew up poor, I found myself googling for Bobos sneakers and wound up at this fun post by Philly writer Solomon Jones. Here's an excerpt:

When I was growing up, if your mom bought you bobos instead of Jack Purcells or Pro-Keds, you prayed they weren’t the kind with the conspicuous red or blue stripe running around the side. If they were (and God was especially merciful), your mom scraped up another $1.99 before the rubber began to crack.

When you got your new bobos, you threw the old ones up on the wire at the end of the block. Then you tried your best to wear out the new ones quickly, hoping your mom would get the message and buy you something better next time.

Long and short of it, bobos are bad ne…

Occupy Wall Street

They're back, and rumor has it the standard IQ test, if there is such a thing, will soon include a choose the video that represents the safest place to live, and then they show the one with peaceful protestors with cameras and phones costing at least hundreds of dollars per year or the one with the angry people, angry men, I should say. And then the five-year-old soon to be given an intelligence label, packaged, and sent to school will choose.

Please pardon the cynicism, but that contrast was noted as well as the fact that women seem fully integrated, even in the majority of the OWS protests whereas they are completely absent from the scenes of seas of angry men oceans away.

Maybe the question is how did we arrive at this place where people can afford amazingly sophisticated electronic equipment without necessarily having a place to live?

(One woman in the OWS video reports living at Bank of America for seven months after getting evicted from an OWS encampment.)

As usual, then, a…

gender gap

The "gender gap" (not to be confused with the "debt ceiling" or "fiscal cliff" but no doubt viewed for free as long as we fund our national parks) in writing is something I've noticed, informally, for many years. I've never studied it or surveyed a class or even averaged my grades by gender to see what is in fact the what, but it has always seemed like there were more engaged girls than boys in my college writing classes.

And here is some support from a study of 8th and 12th-graders. And here are a couple paragraphs from the article that describes the study:

Education analyst Susan Pimentel, one of the team presenting the test scores on Friday’s NAEP conference call, said that while this test cannot determine cause and effect, there are some clues as to why the gap exists. Students were surveyed to find out some additional information about them as they took the test. Among those surveyed, said Pimentel, 53% of girls agreed or strongly ag…

Kentucky on my mind

Yeah, first they came for the Jews, and I was not a Jew, etc., but then, later, when the bars were closing down, they came for the KFC, and, well, frankly, I've lived most of my life like a fried, breaded drumstick stuck in the grease at the bottom of the bucket, wedged between an oppressive thigh and an angular wing with a pointy part in the small of my back, and what I'm trying to tell you is that even Chick-Fil-A cannot save us, no matter how well they crucify their Palin, from our complicity in the food riots that global future markets expect within a year.

Driving up here, I heard Michael Savage on the radio practically drooling as he described the murdered American embassy leader getting sodomized by the enemy, a story I have not seen acknowledged by mainstream media and hopefully this is not in the way that Savage would have you believe the mainstream media fails to acknowledge, and I guess all we can do is frequent KFCs the world over, with American pride and indigest…


Read about Manacci's double mitzvah in the middle of his rather heroic life if you want to be reminded of how little we've done with our own lives. I'm not sure if this is enough to get him invited to the State of the Union, but he's scoring high in the Less United States of Kudera, which happens to be blogging live from a Starbucks close to the fiefdom of Manacci, Ohio on this calm new year.

And around the world, alas, some folks are not so keen to celebrate. What else is ever new?

Shana Tova, Manacci! Shana Tova, the miserable and wretched around the world, and Shana Tova, the rest of us.


james baldwin

In contemporary literature, we dove into James Baldwin's "Sonny's Blues"; I couldn't find the perfect snippet of video to share with students, so this one had to suffice. His expressed thoughts on his father are interesting: "He was. . .  rigid. . . this is, in effect, what killed him. There was something in him that could not bend. He could only be broken."

Perhaps the malleable have the best chance of outlasting the rest of us?

rest in peace

Only the good die young? Of course, it's only an expression, part of a song, and possibly, at this point, a cliche, but it seems to apply here in the sense that a good man, a "stand-up guy," was killed at age 33.

This father worked second and third jobs to make ends meet, bought gifts for the children of coworkers, and saved a local business from robbery.

And now, nothing.

worker participation

"The result is that the percentage of working-age Americans with a job or looking for one has dropped to 63.5 percent, a 31-year low."

Maybe it's too easy to blame it all on the Koch Brothers, the "Food Stamp President," Republican blocking and tackling in Congress, technological advancement, global warming, American obesity or generalized sluggishness, alleged worker abuses by apple in China,'s monopoly on everything, the unusually hot summer, a global earthquake pandemic, or the Wal-Mart in Central, SC raising the price of gallon of milk to $3.87 soon after all "permanent" state employees received a 3 percent raise?

Yes, yahoo, why did unemployment fall?

Robin Hoods Around the Web

In honor of the "grim" jobs report, I found myself back in shelter for the poor.

A facebook friend shared with me a Robin Hood in Spain, and then within the comments of that video I chanced upon a URL link to an older blog about Cheri Honkala, a protest leader from Philly with a long history of activitism. In 2011, Honkala ran and lost for Sheriff of Philadelphia so that she could have worked as an official power against the banks and use selective enforcement of the law to help poor people facing foreclosure remain in their homes. Regardless of one's political orientation, it is difficult not to be moved by the first video or the concerns expressed in the blog.

An excerpt from the blog, This Can't Be Happening, dated April 27, 2011:

Acting Sheriff Barbara Deeley, who is not running, has said, “We have to follow court orders, and that’s what sheriff’s sales are.” But what Deeley doesn't understand is Honkala is not running for the same Sheriff's job Deeley …

Steve Almond for POTUS

While one Wesleyan writer carts her son off to college, another brings the heavy metal back to the Oval Office. As usual, Steve Almond is passionate and funny, if in a somber way, but as for the former, I found her NYTimes Op-Ed to be interesting writing but also couldn't help contrast how her life experiences with her partner have differed so greatly from the women filmed in this CNN video on food insecurity and hunger. It seems as if Americans are still voting for lifestyle issues and between competing "moralities" and yet the issues of economic injustice remain, at least to me, so much more significant. Of course, the two sets of issues should not be forced to compete with each other.

And in other news, hundreds of thousands of jobs were reportedly added to the economy and the Dow Jones Industrial Average soared higher today, so to an extent, I'm drawn to doubt all this downer talk of downturns and economic despair. My students though, at least the ones who expres…


The Chicago Center for Literature and Photography has a new 12-part serialized audiobook coming this fall. By chance, it features two former Ultimate Frisbee players, Ben Tanzer and Kevin Haworth along with ten other writers, music by Ken Kase, and "cliffhangers at the end of each chapter and a dark, weird tone throughout."

Who said weird tones weren't alive and well in this unusually austere age?

My favorite CCLaP read so far has been Ben Tanzer's 99 Problems, a memoir written just after a series of runs in various parts of the U.S. (The other other runs, dude.)