Wednesday, April 28, 2010

NJ Education Battle Continues with Student Walk-Outs

I'm insanely proud of the thousands of New Jersey students who participated in the mass walk-outs yesterday across the state! Students left their classrooms to chant against budget cuts and hold picket signs and engage in the political atmosphere of the state.

The biggest demonstration was apparently in Newark, where thousands of students marched to city hall through the streets.

I haven't heard of any protest like this involving high school students happening in years, and it's great to see that New Jersey's students give a shit about what's going on involving their education.

On that note, I'm pretty sure my generation has been called lazy and apathetic and a bunch of other nasty words. I think this is a great example of how we can be motivated and political, and I wish governor Chris Christie would feel the same. If he doesn't feel guilty about what he's doing from seeing the teacher's perspective, he should certainly feel guilty for what he's doing from the student's perspective.

But, apparently, that's not the case, according to the New York Times:

Michael Drewniak, the governor’s press secretary, released a statement on Tuesday saying that students belonged in the classroom. “It is also our firm hope that the students were motivated by youthful rebellion or spring fever,” Mr. Drewniak said, “and not by encouragement from any one-sided view of the current budget crisis in New Jersey.”

I think that it's really despicable that thousands of students take part in a protest and the governor says it's because of spring fever. New Jersey's high school and college students want a good education and it should be our state's responsibility to give it to them when they are asking for it, not tell them that they're just being youthful rebels.

When thousands of students march into the streets chanting about how they don't want their teachers to be let go, it's NOT because they just wanted to play outside.

*If anyone is looking for ways to help out with the grassroots movements happening around the education cuts, this Facebook group is really a great place to start.*

Arizona Immigration Bill

Last week, I talked about some issues in New Jersey. And even though I live pretty far away from Arizona, I'm one of hundreds of thousands of people who are concerned about the new immigration law that just passed there. The bill gives the Arizona police department the right to stop anyone that they think is undocumented.

So, Arizona's State Legislature, what exactly does an undocumented person look like? Last time I checked, being undocumented was a status, not a physical trait or a matter of mannerisms. Also, under this bill, legal immigrants are being asked to carry around their papers. What's the difference between a legal immigrant and everybody else in America? Do we all have to carry around papers?

I could write a lot more on this subject, but here are some links instead:
1. This bill obviously holds the power to allow for racial profiling, and that's where a lot of the concern about the bill (rightly so) is coming from. If you're interested in having your voice heard on the subject here is a great place to start.
2. A blog on my blogroll, Waging Nonviolence, posted an article about this recently.
4. Jon Stewart on the bill

Monday, April 26, 2010

"Human House" by Ryuichi Tamura

I've decided to post another poem I like. I read this one a few years ago, and I've quoted it again and again for various things. It's by a Japanese poet Ryuichi Tamura and this is a translation. There's another poem by Ryuichi Tamura that I really like, but that'll be for another day.

Human House

I guess I'll be back late
I said and left the house
my house is made of words
an iceberg floats in my old wardrobe
unseen horizons wait in my bathroom
from my telephone: time, a whole desert
on the table: bread, salt, water
a woman lives in the water
hyacinths bloom from her eyeballs
of course she is metaphor herself
she changes the way words do
she's as fre-form as a cat
I can't come near her name

I guess I'll be back late
no, no business meeting
not even a reunion
I ride ice trains
walk fluorescent underground arcades
cut across a shadowed square
ride in a mollusk elevator
violet tongues and gray lips in the trains
rainbow throats and green lungs underground
in the square, bubble language
foaming bubble information, informational information adjectives, all the hollow adjectives
adverbs, paltry begging adverbs
and nouns, crushing, suffocating nouns
all I want is a verb
but i can't find one anywhere
I'm through with a society
built only of the past and future
I want the present tense

Because you open a door
doesn't mean there has to be a room
because there are windows
doesn't mean there's an interior
doesn't mean there's a space
where humans can live and die-
so far I've opened and shut
countless doors, going out each one
so I could come in through another
telling myself each time
what a wonderful new world lies just beyond
what do I hear? from the paradise on the other side
dripping water
waves thudding on rocks
sounds of humans and beasts breathing
the smell of blood

it's been a while
I'd almost forgotten what it smells like
silence gathers around a scream
on the tip of a needle
as he walks slowly toward me
the surgeon puts on his rubber gloves
I close my eyes, open them again
things falling through my eyes
both arms spread like wings
hair streaming out full length
things descending momentary gaps of light
connecting darkness and darkness

I rise slowly from a table in a bar
not pulled by a political slogan or religious belief
it's hard enough trying to find my eyes
to see the demolition of the human house
the dismemberment of my language

My house, of course, isn't made of your words
my house is built of my words

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

NJ Governor Chris Christie's Battle with Education

If you're not from New Jersey, you might not be following what's been going on with Governor Chris Christie's cuts to education. He has proposed $800+ Million in cuts to education in his '11 budget and has asked teachers to take wage freezes. NJ voters recently voted on the school budgets for their districts, and the governor encouraged people to vote down budgets in areas where teachers refused to take wage freezes. 59% of school budgets in New Jersey were voted down.

To put it frankly, all of this is really pissing me off. I'm sick of politicians not caring about education. Yes, New Jersey is overtaxed. But seriously, do we have to destroy public education in order to get tax cuts? In case you were wondering, Christie's kids attend private, Catholic schools.

Not only has Christie waged a war on teachers financially, he's made it personal. Recently, students in Monroe school district were asked to complete a civics lesson on voter participation. The students were instructed to ask IF their parents planned to participate in voting concerning school budgets. The questionnaire wasn't asking HOW they were going to vote. I remember having to ask my parents if they were planning on voting in both budget matters and in presidential elections throughout k-12 grade. As far as I know, no one took offense to it.

Enter Chris Christie.

The following is an excerpt from this news article:

"'These are the typical kind of scare tactics that they involve themselves in,' Christie said about the 200,000-member New Jersey Education Association, which has been critical of his proposed $820 million cut in school aid. 'Scaring students in the classroom, scaring parents with the notes home in the bookbags, and the mandatory 'Project Democracy Homework' asking your parents about what they're going to do in the school board election, and reporting back to your teachers union representatives, using the students like drug mules to carry information back to the classroom, is reprehensible.'

Steve Wollmer, a spokesman for the NJEA, said a third-grade teacher in Monroe distributed the homework as part of a civics lesson on voter participation, and it had nothing to do with how parents would vote.

'It's just astounding that a governor who just spent a week telling people how to vote would be upset at a teacher for just wondering if people are going to vote,' Wollmer said."

Um, what? Drug mules?

Apparently in the anti-teacher wave that's been sweeping the state, New Jersey teachers are becoming afraid to tell people their profession. I talked to a teacher from New Jersey (trying to let the individual remain anonymous here) who is retiring who said that she's going to be afraid to tell people that she's a retired school teacher. And, sadly, I don't think that she was joking.

I always thought being a teacher was a respectable position. But I guess Chris Christie would disagree with me.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

"How to Like It" by Stephen Dobyns

It's a Sunday and I haven't really done much today except watch a movie for class and debate finishing a paper. I was just going to not post today, but then I decided that I'd post one of my favorite poems. I always thought that if I had a miscellaneous blog I would post Stephen Dobyn's "How to Like It."

A year and a half ago, I did a week long master class with poet Stephen Dunn and essayist Barbara Hurd. It was a pretty great experience and on the first day of class with Stephen Dunn, he read us "How to Like It." Maybe it stuck with me because it was Fall. Maybe Stephen Dunn has a really good voice for reading poetry. Maybe I loved it because it was quirky. But maybe it just struck me because it was good.

So, even though it's not Autumn, here's the poem:

How to Like It
by Stephen Dunn

These are the first days of fall. The wind
at evening smells of roads still to be traveled,
while the sound of leaves blowing across the lawns
is like an unsettled feeling in the blood,
the desire to get in a car and just keep driving.
A man and a dog descend their front steps.
The dog says, Let's go downtown and get crazy drunk.
Let's tip over all the trash cans we can find.
This is how dogs deal with the prospect of change.
But in his sense of the season, the man is struck
by the oppressiveness of his past, how his memories
which were shifting and fluid have grown more solid
until it seems he can see remembered faces
caught up among the dark places in the trees.
The dog says, Let's pick up some girls and just
rip off their clothes. Let's dig holes everywhere.
Above his house, the man notices wisps of cloud
crossing the face of the moon. Like in a movie,
he says to himself, a movie about a person
leaving on a journey. He looks down the street
to the hills outside of town and finds the cut
where the road heads north. He thinks of driving
on that road and the dusty smell of the car
heater, which hasn't been used since last winter.
The dog says, Let's go down to the diner and sniff
people's legs. Let's stuff ourselves on burgers.
In the man's mind, the road is empty and dark.
Pine trees press down to the edge of the shoulder,
where the eyes of animals, fixed in his headlights,
shine like small cautions against the night.
Sometimes a passing truck makes his whole car shake.
The dog says, Let's go to sleep. Let's lie down
by the fire and put our tails over our noses.
But the man wants to drive all night, crossing
one state line after another, and never stop
until the sun creeps into his rearview mirror.
Then he'll pull over and rest awhile before
starting again, and at dusk he'll crest a hill
and there, filling a valley, will be the lights
of a city entirely new to him.
But the dog says, Let's just go back inside.
Let's not do anything tonight. So they
walk back up the sidewalk to the front steps.
How is it possible to want so many things
and still want nothing? The man wants to sleep
and wants to hit his head again and again
against a wall. Why is it all so difficult?
But the dog says, Let's go make a sandwich.
Let's make the tallest sandwich anyone's ever seen.
And that's what they do and that's where the man's
wife finds him, staring into the refrigerator
as if into the place where the answers are kept—
the ones telling why you get up in the morning
and how it is possible to sleep at night,
answers to what comes next and how to like it.

"How to Like It" was published in Issue 26 of the Cortland Review.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The College Student Job Search

Why is it so hard to get a job? Rationalization and Suggestions from a College Kid

I'll be honest here: I haven't been in the working world very long. I mean, what do you expect? I'm 20. I worked for 2 1/2 years in a clothing store from the time I was 16 until I was 18. During that time I took on two separate jobs, one at an ice cream place and one at a dry cleaners. I returned to the dry cleaners last summer when I came home from college.

So, do I have a lot of experience in trying to get a job? No, not really. A pretty good amount for someone my age, but not a lot as far as the general American goes.

But I know one thing: it's freakin' hard to find work right now. I managed to have two jobs just a few years ago, and now I'd be lucky if I could find one. Which I can't. I've interviewed, sent out applications, looked on Craig's list, and so far... nada. To top it off, I'm looking for jobs in two different states because I could stay up at school or go back home. Still, nothing.

I applied to a coffee shop recently that said they were having "call backs" for interviews. They had so many people applying, they had to do call backs.

The economy is supposedly getting better, so what the heck is going on?

First of all, I think it's necessary to address the fact that we aren't really a production based economy anymore, we've made the transition into being a service economy. I know my mom worked in a factory during her summers in college, but there aren't really that many factories around in USA. We all know outsourcing exists and a lot of people here are suffering from it, and I think we all know that it isn't going to change. Unless the people who own the companies that do outsourcing decide they want to give up the cheaper labor for more expensive labor, we're stuck with the situation.

Second of all even though the economy is getting better, it doesn't take away the fact that a lot of people lost their jobs only a little over a year ago and now there's a whole lot of people competing for a small number of positions.

So what does it mean for us, the college students looking for summer work? Based off my not-so-scholarly experience of applying for places and not getting hired, I'd say we're kinda screwed.

What do we do? I can sit here and point fingers all day at outsourcing and the change to a service economy and the economic crisis, but that's not helping me. If you're looking for a summer job, here are my suggestions if the typical retail or waitressing job isn't panning out for you:

1. Summer Camps: Cannot stress this enough. I'm considering applying to one on Monday if my continued job search over this weekend proves fruitless. These jobs are good because they're seasonal yet steady for the season. Also, they want young people. They want college students. You can work in the dining services, with the kids, with the administration, etc. etc.

2. Babysitting: It's under the table, and even though the economy stinks parents still need to escape their children. If you get a nanny-type position you're set for the whole summer.

3. Tutoring: Good money for short amount of your time. Try posting an add on Craig's List. If you did well on your SATs this is a good place to start. Also, if you're in a major that's a subject in grade school (English, history, science, math) then you might be pretty set.

4. Census Bureau: Look to see if they're hiring in your area. The pay is great ($13-$15/hour!). I'm not totally sure what the work entails, but click here for more information.

5. Swimming Pools: If you're a lifeguard or have the capacity to be a lifeguard, these are also seasonal jobs that like to hire college kids. Unfortunately, I can't swim well at all.

6. Amusement Parks: If you can stand the crowds these have tons of different types of jobs. Everything from being a mascot character to operating rides to life-guarding the water parks.

7. Farms: The pay isn't always great, but low pay is better than no pay!

8. Odd Jobs: Offer to mow people's lawns. Seriously. And you get to be outside!

9. Ice Cream Places: Work goes fast in these places for the summer, but if you can snag one of these jobs you do really well in tips. Also, from what I know, the turnaround rate with ice cream can be kind of high sometimes, so it might be worth it to periodically check with your local ice cream place over the summer if you're still jobless.

PS: Have a suggestion for a summer job? Leave a comment and I'll update the list!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Reduced Shakespeare Company

I'm a fan of Shakespeare, which I know doesn't really set me apart from most people. Some people hate Shakespeare, which I don't really understand, but most people can usually get into something Shakespearean; whether it's reading Hamlet to watching Romeo and Juliet with Leo or simply getting into Then Things I Hate About You when it comes on TBS. If you've been through any type of schooling, you probably have read some Shakespeare in English class. Or at least Sparknoted some Shakespeare for English class. Maybe you were required to memorize a sonnet; I know I was.

But I wish that when I was studying Shakespeare in English class when I was younger we had gone to see the Reduced Shakespeare Company. Reduced Shakespeare is a comedy troop that performs all 37 plays in 97 minutes.

I know, I know, it sounds impossible. But they do it, and it's hysterical. Reduced Shakespeare hits upon some weird area of humor that had the entire theater I was in laughing. First of all, they were taking long, wordy plays (sorry, Will) and making them short and funny. They began with an introduction then Romeo and Juliet which took up 12 minutes. Then the show moved on to Titus Andronicus which became a morbid, Silence of the Lambs type cooking show. They condensed all the comedies into one play and did the histories as a crown-passing football game. And they turned Othello into a rap. I won't even say what they did with Hamlet. You're going to have to go check out one of their performances for yourself. But it involved audience participation, so everyone watching got to become part of the show too.

Secondly, the play was funny because they didn't just utilize one type of humor. There was Abbot and Costello type humor, Monty Python type humor, bathroom humor, sexual humor and smart humor. When you think about it, Shakespeare used many different humor tactics in his plays; from the intelligent puns and dramatic irony to the sexual innuendos that the groundlings would understand. So, really, Reduced Shakespeare was just mimicking the master's style in an updated way--Reduced Shakespeare talked about Eric Massa (the ex-Congressman who discussed tickle fights with staff members on an interview with Glenn Beck); they quoted Beyonce's "All the Single Ladies." They were all-around freaking hilarious performers.

Their website is here and click here to watch the Othello rap. Try to check them out if they're in your area! And a word of advice: if you're gonna go, spend the extra few dollars to get seats up close. I was in the third row and felt that I would miss some of their facial expressions/have trouble seeing if something was on the floor if I had been sitting further back.


Hey everyone!

As my little blurb at the top of the page says, I'm a 20 year old Writing and Politics student. I worked on a blog over the summer last year Summer of the Old and the New Jersey that ended up being more successful than I anticipated.

It was basically just me going around to places in New Jersey and writing about it. But I had an awesome time doing it, and I took a few friends along for the journey. Best of all, people actually read it, and like it, and told me so either in comments or on my Facebook! It got me hooked on blogging, even though I didn't really post as much as I should've. Once the school year started, I got distracted with other things.

Anyway, last summer is over and a new one is starting pretty soon since the end of my semester is in a few weeks. I've been itching for another blog. I'm not sure where I'm going to be in the summer or what I'm going to be doing, so I wasn't sure if I could continue the Summer of the Old and the New Jersey. But I definitely wanted to muse about my life and do cool things.

So I said that maybe I would start a "Project Per Day" blog where I tried something new everyday. But, let's face it, I don't have that much ambition.

So then I thought maybe I would try writing a political blog. But I felt that I'd get bored only doing that.

So this is my all-purpose blog. My "Projects When I Actually Get My Act Together and Do Them" blog. My "I'm Going to Write About This Political Problem" blog. My "I'm Going to Ramble on About an Adventure in My Life" blog. My "I Read this Book/Watched this Movie/Listened to this Album" blog.

And I'm excited to get it started!