Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Modern Mephistopheles

by Louisa May Alcott

I came across this book while looking in the adult stacks for a copy of Rose in Bloom. What I found, alongside multiple copies of Jo's Boys and Eight Cousins, were several books by and about the "other" Louisa May Alcott, who published many books pseudonymously, or anonymously, even after she had become a successful writer of children's literature. This particular book was published in 1877, anonymously, and was apparently considered pretty strong stuff. The blurb on the inside cover promises drugs, hypnotism, fraud, and deals with the devil -- in my opinion, the book doesn't really deliver. There is one scene where the innocent heroine is given hashhish by manipulative mephistopheles character, but it's not like anything particular unseemly ensues.

So if you read this book with an eye to illicit thrills, you're going to be disappointed. The scandals of the 1800s don't pack much of a wallop these days. And what really fascinated me is the way that whole passages could really have been lifted straight out of Little Women, if not that the literary allusions were to such dark works as Faust, rather than, say Pilgrim's Progress. The tone, however, was so clearly recognizable. I guess it's hard to describe, but if you've read a lot of her books, you'll know what I mean:

As she stood there, looking down the green vista, two figures crossed it. A smile curved the sad mouth and she said aloud, "Faust and Margaret, playing the old, old game."
"And Mephistopheles and Martha looking on," added a melodious voice, behind her, as Helwyze swept back the half-transparent curtain from the long window where he sat.

Sunset came, filling the room with its soft splendor, and he watched the red rays linger longest in Gladys's corner. Her little basket stood as she left it, her books lay orderly, her desk was shut, a dead flower drooped from the slender vase, and across the couch trailed a soft white shawl she had been wont to wear. Helwyze did not approach the spot, but stood afar off looking at these small familiar things with the melancholy fortitude of one inured to loss and pain.

For a book about the seduction of innocence, there really is a heaping dose of wholesomeness in this book. Which, now that I think of it, is probably its best quality. Because the story of innocence degraded, regrets that come too late, all that kind of thing, has really become cliched. The story of innocence that holds its own, barely, while engaging with the seducer on an ongoing basis, has a little more complexity.

Not having read Faust, I'm probably missing a lot, but even so I enjoyed reading Alcott's version. I'll be moving on to other books now, although a second reading would probably be rewarding (easy, too; this isn't a long book). You know what, though? If you like Little Women, I have a feeling you would like this book, too.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

In and out of Vogue

by Grace Mirabella

I had spent almost my entire life working for Vogue. I wanted to have something more behind me there than a history of raised and lowered hemlines. I wanted to be committed to something -- whether it was fighting smoking or striving for real-life clothes or fighting Alex and Si to improve the status of women both in pages and in the offices of our magazine.
(p. 212)

That, in a nutshell, captures the difference I see between Grace Mirabella and women like Diana Vreeland and Anna Wintour. Barbara Walters has an interesting interview with Anna Wintour where she asks about TDWP. "But, Barbara," Anna replies, "If it's good for fashion, I think it's great!"

I want to be clear that I don't necessarily think that either of these quotes tell us what the real woman behind them actually feels. But these are the images they have chosen for public consumption: one wanting to be taken seriously for taking on real issues, one feeling an absolute devotion to fashion that never questions whether it should be taken seriously or not.

This memoir by Grace Mirabella is more interesting than I would have expected. She spends a lot of time explaining herself, which can get a little tiresome. She still seems to have a chip on her shoulder about her humble New Jersey roots. Her father was a bootlegger, though, so her childhood had a dashing romantic quality to it -- she spent plenty of time at ritzy clubs in New York, where her father was always welcomed. She went to good schools and soon made friends in society, so she's really been one of the upper crust for most of her life, whether or not she actually felt like it.

The part of this book I like best, though, comes briefly at the end, where she discusses the difference between couture (now dead) and fashion, and the evolution of runway shows from the more intimate salon showing. She cites a sea change in the eighties, when all of a sudden money became important, and ostentatious displays of wealth that would have been considered in bad taste a decade before, suddenly became all the rage. Having lived through that, my perceptions square with hers. I remember wondering at the time why it was OK all of a sudden to be so blatantly selfish about things, and not to care about other people any more.

Oh well, that's all in the past now. Ironically, I wouldn't have read this book if I wasn't interested in Anna Wintour. God knows, I'm not really all that interested in Vogue. Having read it, I feel that Grace Mirabella would have been even more successful had she been able to make a career in the business side of operations -- she clearly has a very good head for it. Anna Wintour, on the other hand, seems to have been destined for the editorship of Vogue, by which I mean the job seems to suit her to a T. So apart from the suffering of untold underpaid minions who suffer under Wintour's dictatorial employ, things seem to have worked out for the best. What remains an open, and interesting, question to me is whether Wintour will outlast Si Newhouse, who can't live forever, or whether she too will ultimately fall victim to his unpleasant habit of abruptly firing his editors. Time will tell.

Labels: ,

Monday, August 18, 2008

First day of school!

You know how sometimes when you have a bad Monday, your whole week is just shot to hell? Why is that, anyway? Fortunately for us, today was great. We're trying to get on a schedule that includes some outdoor time in the morning -- that's supposed to motivate the kids to get moving and not dawdle over their morning chores or their breakfast. We're still not making the morning park time, but at least music practice/school work began on time.

So now we are formally alternating lessons with practice, which means one will study while the other practices, and I'll kind of keep an eye on both while also doing various and sundry chores. It seems like this might actually be workable, and if we can get this to be a routine, that's-just-what-you-do kind of thing, then we will be getting schoolwork done AND making it to morning music lessons (right now we have them three mornings out of our week) all without breaking a sweat. Knock on wood.

We celebrated by going out and buying school supplies. Highlighters! Ball point pens with lots of different colors! Post-its! And when we got home a friend had called wanting to come over and swim, so that's how we spent the afternoon.

It's been a lovely day.


Sunday, August 17, 2008


by Diana Vreeland
Edited by George Plimpton and Christopher Hemphill

The editor of Vogue who preceded Grace Mirabella, Diana Vreeland has to have been one of the first crazy-making, dictatorial editors; not unlike Ann Wintour herself. They definitely have a lot in common. Both upper class from the get-go, raised among Europe's elite. Both supremely self-confident in their vision for Vogue. Both devoted to fashion from an early age. If I was going to compare them, though, I think the first difference I see is that Vreeland was larger-than-life, flamboyant, and warm. Anna Wintour, by contrast, is often described as icy, aloof, even calculating.

When Mirabella was fired and Wintour named her replacement, many people noted the similarity to Mirabella's own ascent to the editorship of Vogue. Mirabella even admits that it was so awkward that she could never face Vreeland again afterwards. Yet, unlike Mirabella, who spends a fair amount of space in her own memoir rehashing the circumstances of her release from Vogue, Vreeland expresses little self-pity over her firing. It's significant, though, that Mirabella's name doesn't come up so much as once in this entire book, even though Mirabella makes much of their close working and personal relationship in hers. From reading D.V., you can gather that Vreeland was fired from Vogue in a graceless way, but that's about it.

So what I'm driving at is that, no matter what her private feelings were, Vreeland always puts a good face on things and maintains her air of fabulous pizzazz. This book is almost willfully scatter-brained, and definitely a little heavy on the name-dropping, but still presents an extremely interesting view of life in the twenties and thirties that is now long-gone. Her intense feeling for color is also a strong presence throughout -- is there anyone who hasn't heard her pronouncement "Pink is the navy blue of India?"

If you've seen the movie Funny Face, with Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn, then you probably know that the fashion editor in that movie was said to have been based on Vreeland. Reading her book, I couldn't get that character out of my mind, and it seemed to fit. Although this book is not really all that informative, it's definitely interesting, and I did enjoy reading it.


Friday, August 15, 2008

front row Anna Wintour: The Cool Life and Hot Times of Vogue's Editor in Chief

by Jerry Oppenheimer

I say this book was written to cash in on the popularity of The Devil Wears Prada, and Jerry Oppenheimer himself couldn't convince me otherwise. Here are some things I have learned about Anna Wintour:

1) High school dropout. Really. This actually makes me respect her even more.
2) She has sure made her share of enemies. She also has friends, and even fans.
3) Despite her tough image, plenty of people have seen her cry in public.
4) She has enormous self-discipline.
5) She is inordinately fond of high heels.

This book is clearly written with an eye to the image of Miranda Priestly in TDWP. A sample sentence:

Just when Mirabella thought she was finally safe from that skinny shark draped in Chanel, she started hearing the Jaws theme song ringing in her ears again.

Did I mention the writing is generally clunky and annoying? I doubt there's a page in the book that doesn't have some phrase like "that skinny shark draped in Chanel" or Miyake or whoever. There are also excessive mentions of her clacking (sound like clackers to anyone else?) around in stilettos. Plus why must Oppenheimer continually refer to her as an editrix? Aren't gender-distinguishing profession names passe? When's the last time anyone used the word actress? Is it possible that this continual use of "editrix" is meant to not-so-subtly evoke the similar-sounding dominatrix? Grow up, Jerry Oppenheimer, please.

When I started this book, I was already feeling a little Wintour-weary, yet somehow I am finding her story compelling. I can't help being impressed by her iron will, by the innumerable pictures of her looking wonderful (although I saw those on the internet, not in this book), by her ability overcome setbacks and keep moving on with her life. She certainly hasn't done a good job of controlling public perception of herself as a bitch on wheels, but she has done an amazing job of controlling the facade that the public sees. It's astonishing how good she looks, and how consistent, regardless of the variety of clothes she wears. She looks great in almost anything. Although being independently wealthy certainly must help in this regard.

This book seems to be the only biography written about her to date, which is too bad, because I think in more skillful hands this material would have been truly fascinating.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The amuse-bouches of an electronic wastrel

I think I've posted this before, but it deserves a second viewing. Make your own Jackson Pollock here. Just drag the cursor across the screen to make a line, and click to change the color.

Speaking of changing color, here is a game where you click on a ball to change its color. It gets easier if you hang in there a while. Good luck.

This game is supposedly training for astronauts, although I can't really imagine why.

This tic-tac-toe game is badly programmed, I think, because the computer doesn't always seem to play to win. So enjoy! Show that computer who's boss.

And here is my favorite, a vocabulary game. I can even make it to level 50, although I don't usually stay there long. The words tend to repeat, so you can definitely improve your performance if you play for a while.

Or you could actually get something done.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Triangle Histories: The Civil War -- Frederick Douglass

by Helaine Baker

Although I always think of slavery as an institution of the Deep South, it originated in 1619 in Maryland and Virginia, states surrounding the Chesapeake Bay, which was for many years the primary slave-trading port in this country. Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, two of the most famous blacks to escape slavery and become powerful voices for its abolition, both endured horrific conditions as slaves in the state of Maryland. Unlike Tubman, Douglass learned to read and write, and was also a skilled craftsman. He used forged papers to escape, taking a train to Pennsylvania. Once there, he made his was to New Bedford where he was able to earn a living caulking ships. His eloquence was such that many people refused to believe he had been born a slave.

This book provides a compelling and informative look at the life of a great man.

Ziad says:

Frederick Douglass was born as a slave, but he wasn't born with the name Douglass.

His master sent him to a married couple in Baltimore. The wife did not know to treat slaves and began teaching him to read and write, which was illegal at the time. Her husband found out about that. He told her the law and how they should be treated. After that lessons stopped. Frederick saved bits food and traded them to other people in return for teaching him to read.

After a few years, he could copy any script, printed or cursive. He became rebellious. His master sent him to work for someone who was really bad to slaves. For a while working for that person drained away his energy, but then he was returned to the son of the woman who had taught him to read. The son kept on promising that he would free Douglass when Douglass was twenty-five, but Douglass didn't trust him. He escaped on a train and changed his name to Douglass so that he wouldn't be recognized and brought back to his master. He began giving anti-slavery lectures in New York. He also went to Europe and gave more lectures. He came back to America and wrote an autobiography of his life as a slave. Some friends bought him his freedom.

Around this time, John Brown attempted to capture the Federal Armory at Harper's Ferry in Virginia, and use the guns to start a slave rebellion, but was captured and hanged. The Civil War started shortly afterwards.

Frederick Douglass lived to be eighty years old. In his lifetime he worked to end slavery, and toward equal right for black people, including the right to vote. People still remember the eloquent voice he used to fight for freedom and equality for blacks.

Maya says:

Frederick Douglass was born into slavery. He lived on a plantation in Maryland in a slave cabin which was hardly fit for humans to live in. After years of hard work he was sent to live with a slave master named Thomas. He was not sad to leave the farm where he had lived before. He had no happy memories from there.

Thomas was nice to Frederick. His wife hadn't been born into a slaveholding family, so she didn't know how people would usually treat a slave. She began teaching Frederick reading and writing. Once her husband discovered what she was doing and told her that slaves weren't supposed to read and write. Frederick gave bread to people on the streets and they would teach him to read.

Later, Frederick escaped to Pennsylvania by train. He wasn't that happy in Pennsylvania because he didn't know who he could trust. He didn't know whether people would try to capture him. He ended up going to New Bedford. He was safer there because it was farther North. He gave speeches about his life as a slave and he made people laugh and cry.

During the Civil War, Frederick Douglass urged Lincoln to end slavery and allow blacks into the army so they could fight for their own freedom, too.

After the Civil War, he kept on giving speeches. He worked so black people could vote.

When he died, black women took their children to take a last look at the person who had worked so hard for them have their civil rights.

I really admire Frederick Douglass, and I think he did as much to end slavery as President Lincoln did.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Good news for my homeschoolers

I got the STAR test results for my children today. Interestingly, they are both advanced in verbal skills, and proficient in math. Both read three levels beyond their grade.

It's not as if their numbers are off the charts or anything. Probably lots of kids we know scored higher. And I know that the main skill these tests measure is the skill of test-taking itself. I'm under no illusions that I'm nurturing a pair of geniuses-to-be. I'm happy all the same, though, because we accomplished these scores with a lot of good intentions, but maybe not all that much actual effort.

It's probably not true that if we tried harder they would score better. As I said, we certainly intended to do more than we did, and I think the law of diminishing returns would start to kick in sooner rather than later.

Ziad's writing test is probably a good example. The test was administered in a community room at the Santa Clara City library, and proctored by a teacher who he has known for a few years now. Despite the fact that he was sitting next to a boy who is practically his best friend, he was out of there in about fifteen minutes, a period during which many kids (including his friend) were still reading the instructions. The fact that he scored a 50% on that test is actually kind of impressive, under the circumstances. And the fact that he stilled scored in the advanced level for verbal skills, with that 50% pulling his average down is even more impressive. I don't think he would have scored over 75% under any circumstances, though, no matter how long he sat at that desk. He just isn't motivated to write well unless he really cares about what he has to say.

Some people homeschool with the idea that their children will be stretching themselves intellectually and working beyond the level they would in school. I certainly like this idea, but am also OK with its converse. My children stay at their grade level with an amount of work perhaps comparable to what a typical schoolchild brings home as homework, and have lots of freedom to follow their interests. Or just hang around.

I've seen a wide variety of feelings about standardized testing among homeschoolers. Some people hate it vehemently, and even there I see a variety of reasons. Some reject the entire concept of testing. Some feel their children won't do well and their self-esteem will suffer as a result. (I have to admit, this last seems silly to me -- isn't that giving the whole concept of testing way too much weight? Especially since there's no rule that you have to show your kid the results.) Some people just feel it's a waste of time. "Why should I lose two perfectly good days when I could actually be teaching them something?" is the question these parents raise.

Myself, I feel that standardized testing is one of the hoops society expects people to jump through, so you might as well get used to it. It may be that things are changing in this regard. I know that many colleges no longer require the SAT, but I think most grad schools still want to see GRE scores. Law schools have the LSAT. So it will probably be a while before test-taking of this sort is a thing of the past.

I'm glad that these test results reinforce my kids' impression that the testing is fun. The test days are happy times for them, when they get to see a lot of kids they don't see all that often. A reunion of sorts. The actual test, for them, is more of a formality that intervenes between playing during breaks and lunch.

In the end, I'm happy because our results tell us we can beat the State of California at its own game. We can measure ourselves with its yardstick and hold our heads up high.

Take that, NEA.


Saturday, August 09, 2008

Good news for California Homeschoolers

On Friday, August 8, the California courts affirmed the right of parents to homeschool their children.

Jack Connell, State Superintendant of Public Educuation, released this statement.

The ruling itself is here. It's actually more interesting to read than you might expect, especially the part that relates the history of the particular case that started all this uproar.

As usual, Debbie Schwarzer has valuable commentary:

The attorneys working on this and the leaders of all the state groups were so pessimistic after the June hearing. It seemed clear that the judges just really didn't like homeschooling, and that they might ignore all the compelling arguments we had in our briefs and stretch somehow to knock us down.

But they did the right thing. They did their job. They carefully read everything (they don't cite the HSC/CHN/CHEA brief, but believe me, much of what they write is based on our arguments), and reached the legally correct conclusions.

In addition to putting to rest the question of whether private home-based schools are legal, the court also made clear what the boundaries of state authority over homeschools are (i.e., the state can do very little). They don't hide the fact that they think that, if the state thinks that education of children is such a compelling interest, they do a bad job of making sure it happens in the case of homeschooled kids. But they didn't try to create powers that don't exist. They didn't try to interpret "capable of teaching". They didn't try to make some argument that the state could pull a family into juvenile court because the quality of the homeschooling isn't good -- to the contrary, they made it clear that only those families that are already in the juvenile court system on other factors could have the adequacy of their homeschooling put on trial.

I was asked by a reporter this afternoon whether I thought the court had bowed to pressure, and I replied, "Absolutely not. They did exactly what they were supposed to do, which is analyze the arguments and try to reach the legally correct decision."

The various group leaders and attorneys today had a conference call, and we all wondered whether the children's attorneys would appeal the ruling. I have since seen a quote from someone in LA County saying they welcomed the ruling. Of course the family won't like the conclusion that the trial court could still determine whether these kids needed to be sent to school for their safety, but we don't think the parents will appeal the part of the ruling relating to homeschooling (and I don't know where they'd find a lawyer to support them if they did).

This decision will be binding on all courts in the state. I assume the Student Attendance Review Board will also be reading it and counseling attendance officers accordingly (the decision makes it really, really clear that no one has the power to go beyond confirming whether the affidavit has been filed), and that we shouldn't see too many instances of local people demanding to see anything other than affidavits.

But this underlines something. DO NOT try to homeschool without either being in a public school program or a legal private school, whether your own or by enrolling in one. If you use curriculum from a private school but they don't file an affidavit, you must do so. DO NOT go "naked". This opinion makes it clearer than ever that it would be very, very difficult to make a winning constitutional argument that you can avoid compulsory education requirements entirely (and I don't think any of the lawyers who worked on this case would support you on that claim).

This really is good news for California homeschoolers.


Friday, August 08, 2008

curioser and curioser

Do you see the spelling mistake in the following sentence (taken verbatim from the Tuesday, August 5, Mercury News)?

Jones said she was concerned about the 10 dogs still running lose on Brunette's property, and worried that he would continue to harm them if allowed to return home.

It's kind of the opposite of the one in this sentence

My daughter is very absent minded and I'm afraid she's going to loose her lunch money.

This second mistake I've seen more and more frequently, but the first one? A first for me. This loose/lose confusion, frankly, confuses me. I can't think of any words ending in -oose that are pronounced with the /z/ sound of lose -- goose, moose, papoose, loose -- /s/ all the way. And I can't think of any -ose words that sound like them, either. Most have an /s/ sound instead of a /z/ one -- hose, suppose, impose, rose -- now that I think of it, lose is kind of an oddball word in terms of the vowel sound, but still. If you want to go for phonetic spelling, go all the way and write looze. Or even looz.

You know what, though? I've never seen anyone write looser when they really meant loser. As in, only a pathetic loser would spend this much time on a teeny tiny little spelling mistake.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

My bad

The slogan "a little dab'll do ya" is definitely Brylcreem. Here are the full lyrics:

Bryl-creem, a little dab'll do ya, Use more, only if you dare, But watch out, The gals will all pursue ya,-- They'll love to put their fingers through your hair.

I got them from Wikipedia, where I also learned that this slogan was the basis for the famous Flintstone "Yabba-dabba-doo"

You can even watch an earlier version on You Tube.

Good times.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Totally stealing my blog content from HSC e-mails

OK, you guys that are all hot on mid-century stuff -- this quiz should be a prerequisite for watching Mad Men. (Need I say I got 20 out of 20 on this?)

1. What builds strong bodies 12 ways?
A. Flintstones vitamins
B. The buttmaster
C. Spaghetti
D. Wonder Bread
E. Orange Juice
F. Milk
G. Cod Liver Oil

2. Before he was Muhammed Ali, he was...
A. Sugar Ray Robinson
B. Roy Orbison
C. Gene Autry
D. Rudolph Valentino
E. Fabian
F. Mickey Mantle
G. Cassius Clay

3. Pogo, the comic strip character said, 'We have met the enemy and...
A. It's you
B. He is us
C. It's the Grinch
D. He wasn't home
E. He's really mean
F. We quit
G. He surrendered

4. Good night, David.
A. Good night, Chet
B. Sleep well
C. Good Night, Irene
D. Good Night, Gracie
E. See you later, alligator
F. Until tomorrow
G. Good night, Steve

5. You'll wonder where the yellow went,
A. When you use Tide
B. When you lose your crayons
C. When you clean your tub
D. If you paint the room blue
E. If you buy a soft water tank
F. When you use Lady Clairol
G. When you brush your teeth with Pepsodent

6. Before he was the Skipper's Little Buddy, Bob Denver was Dobie's friend,
A. Stuart Whitman
B. Randolph Scott
C. Steve Reeves
D. Maynard G. Krebbs
E. Corky B. Dork
F. Dave the Whale
G. Zippy Zoo

7. Liar, liar...
A. You're a liar
B. Your nose is growing
C. Pants on fire
D. Join the choir
E. Jump up higher
F. On the wire
G. I'm telling Mom

8. Meanwhile, back in Metropolis, Superman fights a never ending battle for
truth, justice
A. Wheaties
B. Lois Lane
C. TV ratings
D. World peace
E. Red tights
F. The American way
G. News headlines

9 . Hey, kids, what time is it?
A. It's time for Yogi Bear
B. It's time to do your homework
C. It's Howdy Doody Time
D. It's Time for Romper Room
E. It's bedtime
F. The Mighty Mouse Hour
G. Scoopy Doo Time

10. Lions and tigers and bears...
A. Yikes
B. Oh no
C. Gee whiz
D. I'm scared
E. Oh My
F. Help Help
H. Let's run

11. Bob Dylan advised us never to trust anyone
A. Over 40
B. Wearing a uniform
C. Carrying a briefcase
D. Over 30
E. You don't know
F. Who says, 'Trust me'
G. Who eats tofu

12. NFL quarterback who appeared in a television commercial wearing women's
A. Troy Aikman
B. Kenny Stabler
C. Joe Namath
D. Roger Stauback
E. Joe Montana
F. Steve Young
G. John Elway

13. Brylcream...
A. Smear it on
B. You'll smell great
C. Tame that cowlick
D. Greaseball heaven
E. It's a dream
F. We're your team
G. A little dab'll do ya

14. I found my thrill...
A. In Blueberry muffins
B. With my man, Bill
C. Down at the mill
D. Over the windowsill
E. With thyme and dill
F. Too late to enjoy
G. On Blueberry Hill

15. Before Robin Williams, Peter Pan was played by
A. Clark Gable
B. Mary Martin
C. Doris Day
D. Errol Flynn
E. Sally Fields
F. Jim Carey
G. Jay Leno

16. Name the Beatles
A. John, Steve, George , Ringo
B. John, Paul, George , Roscoe
C. John, Paul, Stacey, Ringo
D. Jay, Paul, George , Ringo
E. Lewis, Peter, George , Ringo
F. Jason, Betty, Skipper, Hazel
G. John, Paul, George , Ringo

17. I wonder, wonder, who
A. Who ate the leftovers?
B. Who did the laundry?
C. Was it you?
D. Who wrote the book of love?
E. Who I am?
F. Passed the test?
G. Knocked on the door?

18. I'm strong to the finish
A. Cause I eats my broccoli
B. Cause I eats me spinach
C. Cause I lift weights
D. Cause I'm the hero
E. And don't you forget it
f. Cause Olive Oyl loves me
g. To outlast Bruto

19. When it's least expected, you're elected, you're the star today...
a. Smile, you're on Candid Camera
b. Smile, you're on Star Search
c. Smile, you won the lottery
d. Smile, we're watching you
e. Smile, the world sees you
f. Smile, you're a hit
g. Smile, you're on TV

20. What do M & M's do?
a. Make your tummy happy
b. Melt in your mouth, not in your pocket
c. Make you fat
d. Melt your heart
e. Make you popular
f. Melt in your mouth, not in your hand
g. Come in colors

Okay , now scroll down for the answers!

Here are the right answers:
1 d - Wonder Bread
2 g - Cassius Clay
3 b - He Is Us
4 a - Good night, Chet
5 g - When you brush your teeth with Pepsodent
6 d - Maynard G. Krebbs
7 c - Pants On Fire
8 f - The American Way
9 c - It's Howdy Doody Time
10 e - Oh My
11 d - Over 30
12 c - Joe Namath
13 g - A little dab'll do ya
14 g - On Blueberry Hill
15 b - Mary Martin
16 g - John, Paul, George , Ringo
17 d - Who wrote the book of Love
18 b - Cause I eats me spinach
19 a - Smile, you're on Candid Camera
20 f - Melt In Your Mouth Not In Your Hand

Thanks to Cindy Ferry on the HSC e-mail list.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Continuing information about Homeschooling in California

Right now, CA law on homeschooling is exactly the same as it was in January of this year before any of us had ever heard of the Long family and this case. When the appellate court issued its opinion in February, it did say that the only legal exemption from public school attendance for some (that's SOME) families was the tutoring exemption under Section 48224 of the Ed Code. But lots of us either form our own private schools or enroll in private schools formed by others in reliance on the exemption under Section 48222 of the Ed Code. The court really didn't like the school (Sunland Christian) that the children in this family were enrolled in, and they said a lot about brick and mortar schools and made a big deal of children being IN a school (since Sunland was virtual and didn't have a building, no children were IN its school). But the reason I said SOME above was that we think that even under that original opinion, families who formed their own private schools and taught their children IN them were probably OK. It was the families enrolled in other people's private schools who were most directly affected by the decision.

But then the court agreed at the end of March to rehear the case. What that means is that they were basically going to have a "do-over" of the whole thing. By court rules, their February opinion was vacated, meaning that it was as if it had never existed. Lots and lots of groups filed friend-of-the-court briefs (amicus briefs) in May, including a joint brief filed by the three large CA-based groups (HSC, CHN and CHEA), and the court had the new hearing on June 23. They have not yet issued a new opinion, but will probably do so before the end of September. So, in light of the vacation of the original opinion, the prior understanding of the law hasn't changed.

So what if the court issues an opinion tomorrow and it seems to somehow say that parents need to be credentialed to teach their own, as their February opinion did, or has some other restriction on homeschooling? Well, we have been told by people who have reason to know that for certain that decision will be appealed by the family in this case. And the CA groups would petition the appellate court and, if they don't act, the CA Supreme Court to "stay" enforcement of the decision pending the appeal. What that means is we would tell them not to start enforcing the new interpretation of the law until the entire appeal process had run its course. Given the huge burden on parents to try to get credentialed, we think there's a good chance one of those two courts would agree. If they grant a stay, then the law goes back to being interpreted the way it is being interpreted now until the whole appeals process is done, which could take months or even years.

What if both courts refuse to grant a stay? The effect would depend on whether the Supreme Court either agrees to hear the appeal OR agrees to "depublish" the opinion (we were all set to ask them to depublish the February opinion, which means that the opinion would still be binding on the family involved in the case but would not be binding on anyone else in the state who wasn't a party to that case. In addition, in any future litigation, no one would be entitled to quote (or "cite") that case as authority.

If the Supreme Court agrees to hear the appeal but won't stay the decision, then believe me, the three big CA groups and HSLDA (we work together closely on all matters involving these issues to make sure we give consistent advice) would be thinking about what to tell people. But that's probably some months from now, so see a little further below for the advice we'll probably be giving people for this school year.

If the Supreme Court neither stays enforcement nor takes review of the case (and historically, the state Supreme Court, just like the U.S. Supreme Court, only agrees to review a tiny percentage of cases), then the groups will work like mad to figure out if we can live with the situation OR if we need to seek a legislative solution. We have all been doing a lot of work with the legislature since February trying to convince them that we don't need legislation until all other avenues have failed AND the situation is intolerable, so hopefully they'll continue to hold off until we tell them that we have no other choice. For example, if the court were basically to reissue its February decision, we might think that families who were in private schools would be OK if they were in their own private school, just not someone else's, and also try to get the law clarified that homeschooling through a parent's own school or through a school formed by others where capable parents did the teaching was fine. But this wouldn't happen for a while, since the current legislative session adjourns at the end of August, and they're not supposed to act on any bills other than ones that were introduced by early summer. There were no bills involving homeschooling pending, so probably none would be introduced until early next year when the new session starts after the elections.

There has been one other interesting development in the case, but it really doesn't affect us as much as we wish it would. The children in this family were "under the jurisdiction" of the juvenile court. That meant that the court had found that the parents weren't doing a good job, and that the court had the power to make some types of decisions that usually only parents can make (such as where to educate a child). In these cases, the juvenile court is supposed to look at the facts every six months to make sure that the children still needed to be under its jurisdiction. Obviously, with help, some parents get better and no longer need the court looking over their shoulders. Here, it had been two years since the juvenile court had reviewed this jurisdiction issue. Finally, after the rehearing took place, it did, and it found that things had changed enough that the children didn't need to be under its jurisdiction. We thought that was great, and that maybe the appellate court would drop the whole issue since it couldn't make any orders that would affect these children, but it turns out the attorneys who were appointed to represent the children are appealing the termination of jurisdiction. So while we think the appellate court really shouldn't issue any opinion about homeschooling in this case, it still might. There are two other appeals pending in the same matter, so it's obviously been a very complicated set of proceedings.

As you can see, there are a number of different ways this can all play out, and it's premature to make too many plans until we know what happens. But I believe that all of the major CA groups and HSLDA will, for the start of this school year, be telling people to do what they have always done (in other words, if they have filed their own affidavit before, do that, if they used someone else's private school, do that, if they were in a public school ISP or charter, do that, but don't change what you're doing out of any fear of what the legal issues are). We DON'T think that families need to not homeschool, or enroll in a charter if they otherwise wouldn't have, because of this case.

The best advice you can give new homeschoolers is to join one of the major California-based groups. People from each of these groups are working hard on this matter and staying in close touch with people who know what's happening in the case, and these groups will be giving out new information as necessary. There is no better way to stay informed than to join a group and either check its home page frequently or join its e-list (all the groups have them) for announcements. Of course, we'd prefer if everyone would join the HomeSchool Association of California. We do not think it is necessary for people to join HSLDA unless that's consistent with their personal values and philosophy (HSLDA is a conservative Christian organization, and while they accept memberships from all homeschoolers, their goals and desires may not be the same as any given family's). We think it a little unlikely that truancy officers will start fanning out across the state to hassle homeschoolers until it's absolutely clear that the court and the legislature refuse to help us.

The Attorney General, the Governor and the Superintendent of Public Instruction all believe that homeschooling privately, not through a public ISP or charter, is legal. They did not agree with the appellate court's interpretation. Homeschoolers are not without friends in high places, and families who wish to teach their own children should do so with confidence. They should take steps to stay informed, but they shouldn't be fearful.

I hope that explains the situation for you. Please let me know if there's anything you don't understand.

Debbie Schwarzer
HSC Legal Team co-chair

Monday, August 04, 2008

Totally lame

This newsflash I saw on TV at the pizza parlor last night:

Brett Favre: Leaning toward remaining retired

Be still my heart.


Anna Wintour wears the same dress three times!! Not only that, but

What adds to the sense of shock(and, in some quarters, outrage), is that she wore the dress in exactly the same way each time ... this was Wintour simply putting the same dress on, with the same accessories, three times in the same week.

Call the fashion police! Wait, she is the fashion police. As they say in this article:

It is unthinkable that she would make a fashion faux pas. So when Vogue editor Anna Wintour made her third appearance wearing the same dress in the space of a fortnight, observers could only conclude she was making a style statement.

Yes, I can really see that this merits coverage in the international press.


Sunday, August 03, 2008

Triangle Histories: The Civil War -- Abraham Lincoln

by Deborah Kops

This book about Abraham Lincoln is very informative. I was particularly interested to read about the birth of the Republican party in this country -- "Free speech, free homes, free territory, protection to American Industry" as it says on an early campaign poster. Lincoln is known as the President who waged the Civil War, but it was news to me that it was actually his election to the presidency that prompted South Carolina's secession in 1861. His victory was due, in part, to division among the Northern and Southern Democrats, since both factions ran separate tickets. There was even a third party, the pro-slavery Constitutional Unionists. Although it doesn't say so in this book, I believe that Lincoln won the most votes without having won a majority. In any event, the Southern states had clearly declared their intention never to accept him as their leader.

I think this book strikes a very good balance between historical detail and personal history. It includes many fine illustrations, and seems to be a very good source of information about this period.

Maya says:

Lincoln met his wife, Mary, in 1840, and married her two years later. Their son, William Lincoln, died of typhoid fever when he was only eleven years old. He took his last breath at 5:00 with his parents at his bedside. Another son was called Tad, because when he was a baby his head was big like a tadpole's. Lincoln used to pull his sons around in a wagon. He would pull the wagon with one hand, and the other hand had book. Once he got so absorbed in his book that he didn't notice a child had fallen out of the wagon.

Long before he became President, Lincoln studied law. He had one partner who left and so they dissolved their partnership. Lincoln and his next partner got an apprentice named Billy. Later, when Lincoln dissolved his second partnership, he took Billy as a partner and he never dissolved that partnership.

Abraham Lincoln ended slavery in the United States. He was President during the Civil War. One time a battle was fought very close to Washington. He watched it from a balcony of the White House and didn't pay attention to the bullets whizzing past his head.

He was assassinated while watching a play. His assassin was less than two feet away from Lincoln when he shot him. The policeman who was supposed to be guarding Lincoln had gone somewhere else. Later, the assassin was found hiding in a barn and was shot to death by soldiers. Abraham Lincoln was buried on a hill.

Abraham Lincoln didn't deserve to be killed. He was a great man to end slavery in this country.

Ziad says:

Abraham Lincoln was a president who grew up in a state where slavery was outlawed. His father was against slavery. Lincoln lived on a farm. When he grew old enough, he left. He worked in a shipping business, helping sail some cargo down the Mississippi River. One time, the ship began to sink and Lincoln moved the cargo from the back to the front so the ship tilted and the water poured out.

Before he became President, he attended a ball where he met Mary Todd. He married her two years later. They had three children. Their first-born was the only one who lived to adulthood.

During the Civil War, John Wilkes Booth and a group of men were trying to kidnap Lincoln and hold him hostage. Lincoln didn't know that he was constantly eluding them by last-minute changes to his schedule.

At the beginning of the war, the Union seemed to be losing. The Union general McClellan overestimated the Confederate forces and didn't attack when he should have. The Union might have lost if it wasn't for Sherman's victory over Atlanta and his march to the sea, destroying anything in his way that could help the Confederates. In December, Sherman wrote to Lincoln, "As a Christmas present, I present to you the city of Savannah."

When the Confederate capitol, Richmond was captured, General Lee surrendered.

After the war, John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln at Ford Theater. Lincoln died the next day.

Many people say Abraham Lincoln was the best President of the United States. He fought for human rights and accepted blacks as equals at a time when many others didn't.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Revisiting the Tudors

and other English monarchs.

In the course of trying to figure out some English history, I came across this beautiful website. Although it has many more pages than I am personally interested in, the page of Tudors is just so beautifully laid out I think it's well worth looking at. OK, so it's just a geneology, such as one would find in almost any book, even trashy semi-fictional historical accounts. I still think it's especially cleanly and elegantly presented.

Fans of Robin Hood (and Shakespeare; also Peter O'Toole and Katherine Hepburn) should check out the Norman and Plantagenet page.

Also of interest to me is the way that James I of Scotland is both the last of the Tudors, and the first of the Stuarts. Elsewhere, Queen Victoria is both the last of the house of Hanover and the first of the house of Saxe-Coburg-Windsor.

Why am I so interested in the kings and queens of England? I don't know, really, but I love these pages, which go all the way back to Egbert (802-839) and Ethelwulf (830-857).

Friday, August 01, 2008

Interesting insights from the New York Times

I found this 2005 article from the New York Times about TDWP author Lauren Weisberger intriguing. In addition to some biographical detail (always good to know) there are some comments on her appeal, as well as her target audience:

For Ms. Weisberger, it's a fairy tale that depends in some part on her never quite getting the gold ring, or if she does, never being able to actually wear it. It's important to her to keep her outsider's vantage despite the fact that she is more and more of an insider. The heroines of her novels are outsiders who are beautiful and witty enough to gain entry into exclusive and seemingly glamorous cliques - and sane enough to leave them. If there is an art here (and she is the first to admit she is not trying to write "War and Peace"), it is the ability to write knowingly about a shallow yet glamorous world while appealing to a slightly provincial point of view.

Ms. Weisberger isn't writing primarily for the chic Manhattan young women who populate, as she once did, the editing ranks of fashion and celebrity magazines. The people who have made her books best sellers are outsiders who long for access, people for whom New York City is sexy but vaguely sinister.

I have seen similar comments made about David Sedaris, a writer even more spectacularly successful, but equally committed to the voice of the outsider. They both have new books out, too, and come September they will both have been honored by inclusion on our book club list. Hmmmm ...