Showing posts from January, 2010

Reading Journal: Citizens of London

Lynne Olson, Citizens of London (Random House 2010). Available February 2, 2010. I received my copy (the Canadian edition) through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.

In January 1945, my father-in-law, Pfc. John Shaw of the 84th Infantry Division, was in an Army hospital in Cirencester, England, recuperating from wounds received in the Battle of the Bulge. In a letter to his family back in Ohio, he wrote:
The village is about like all the rest of the English towns—a magnificent cathedral right in the center. It is very charming, I thin, although there’s no excitement—not that I’m seeking excitement. All the rest of the infantry guys stand around the corners, yelling, whistling, and making lewd remarks at the gals, and there’s plenty of them. The English must have a wonderful impression of the average American GI. Somehow, though, I can’t seem to have a good time, no matter what I do. I want to be in a quiet place; I love to listen and watch the civilians going about their …


Last night, between the haggis and the headache, I enjoyed the traditional Burns Night festivities and a whiskey tasting with about forty other people at the home of some Carleton friends. The guests were a mix of professors and IT people, all of whom came prepared to step up to the mic and read a Burns poem. (Clara and I actually read a letter Burns wrote to his friend Mrs. Riddell, apologizing for getting roaring drunk at her house.) Most of the professors read from pieces of paper or from old books of poetry, but one after the other the IT people stood up and read from their iPhones. It was an interesting mix of tradition and technology: reading the words of an eighteenth-century poet from a 21st-century handheld device.
It's always great to see poetry reaching new audiences and new technologies.

On Tuesday, I spent the afternoon at ARTech charter school, helping to judge the Poetry Out Loud competition. Seventeen students, most of the them ninth graders, took turns at the…


"The best song ever written explaining supply and demand graphs." (Song by Will Hardy)

Biopsy: "Six Feet Under"

My brother-in-law, Jason Mittell, is a media scholar at Middlebury College, specializing in television.  Last month, on his JustTV blog, Jason put together three separate lists of the best television shows of the decade 2000-2009.  His top two shows of the decade, Lost and The Wire, are shows I haven't watched.  In fact, I watch so little television that of his 35 or so best shows, I've watched the complete series of only three: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly.  This makes it seem as if I am less a fan of television as a medium than I am of Joss Whedon as an auteur.  But on New Year's Day, I started watching (at a rate of an episode a night) the first season of Six Feet Under, which originally aired on HBO from 2001 to 2005, and it looks as if Joss has company.  
In his retrospective of the "aughts," Jason writes of Six Feet Under: "I vacillate between thinking that this show is over- and under-rated; it certainly wasn’t as subversive, deep and pr…

A Forum on Education Funding

About 75 people gathered in the big room at ARTech charter school on Tuesday, January 5, for an evening of conversation with State Senator Kevin Dahle and State Representative David Bly. The main topic of the evening was education funding, and the impact on Minnesota public schools, and charter schools in particular, of the state budget crisis and the 27.5% holdback of state general education funds.

What is the 27% Holdback?

By statute, 10% of state per pupil education funding is held back from public schools in the state of Minnesota until after final enrollment figures are available for the school year. The money is generally paid to the schools in the first half of the following school year. This year, in an effort to address the state budget shortfall without raising taxes, Gov. Pawlenty increased the holdback to 27%. This means that 27% of the amount that schools have budgeted, and to which they are entitled according to the per pupil funding formula, is held back—payment to th…