Friday, July 31, 2009


Imagine you are reading a novel. The novel is pretty good, you're into it, and before you know it you're at page 152.

Only to discover that there are 35 pages missing.

But the novel is good enough that you decide to press on and see if you are confused or lost by skipping ahead to page 187.

By page 190 you are caught up on everything you might have missed.

Does the fact that 35 pages are missing in the middle of a good book mean that even good books are stuffed with too much filler? And is this why I can't even finish writing a short story? I hate filler. I hate reading filler. Putting sentences into a piece just to fill it out pisses me off.

And I like reading, so it's not a problem of intellectual laziness. It does seem that a lot of writers (most even) spend excessive amounts of time crafting perfect, intricate, and eye-glossingly long descriptions of things just to fill in a page, when one well crafted sentence would work just as well to give the reader the image they are seeking.

Middle class values don't solve poverty

There's this failed liberal idea in this country that the reason poor people are poor is because they don't possess the same values as everyone else (especially poor people of color). If I had a dollar for every time someone told me that they got where they are by studying while their black schoolmates were off playing basketball, I could buy a round of drinks. If I had a buck for every time I've heard "work smarter- not harder" as a justification for keeping the minimum wage low, I could put a down payment on a house.

The Kid just finished a pretty decent summer program at a very swanky local private school. This program is for poor, mostly minority inner city kids. The Kid loved it. He learned crew and went camping and it seems to have done his self esteem some good. But this private school has a history of not letting in many poor minority kids into their regular school program, and there's been issues with them treating their regular minority students in a not great way. (The summer program is somehow immune to this, I think because it is the school's way of making themselves feel less liberal guilt). As I watched the graduation ceremony tonight, I was impressed with the kids and the counselors and the teachers. But I was also thinking that every one of these kids deserves the same kind of education during the regular school year, but will never get because of who they were born to.

But back to values, which is one of the things that sticks in my craw. Part of the problem with Seattle Public schools is that they subscribe to the teach the poor how to act middle class and they won't be poor anymore dogma. The figure that if they throw the "gifted" kids into the worst inner city schools then the smarts will wear off. The swanky private school does kinda the same thing (throw them into a swanky environment) at least during summers. The private school actually succeeds in spite of this because they have very small class sizes (18 students, 1 teacher and two assistants) so the students get a lot of attention and their teachers really get to know them. But both the public and private school still ghetto-ize these kids. In the public school the "gifted" kids are kept separate (but equal-snark) from the riff raff of the poor with different classes and schedules. The private school does it by running it's program when none of the regular students are there.

Then there's the whole Section 8 voucher program (which I used to be a part of until I got too tired of fighting with Seattle Housing Authority and lost my voucher during the whole epic home loss of last summer). The idea behind vouchers is that it gives poor people the ability to compete for market rate housing they otherwise could not afford. The reality is that the voucher amounts don't really match up to the market and the utility costs are killer (you all remember the electricity being cut off in January, and March, and June). But the voucher program is yet another where the idea is to get poor people near wealthier people so that some of those middle class values of work, and community, and blah blah blah rub off.

And then there's the whole Work First bullshit. Get poor welfare moms to spend 40 hours a week sitting in the welfare office learning how to write a resume in order to qualify for TANF money (for those keeping count- in WA state that equals about $2.55 per hour for a family of 2). Teaching REAL middle class values would include allowing higher education (not just job training) to count for those 40 hours a week. Instead we get the rejects from social worker school forcing us to take stupid "what job suits you best" tests and long lectures about appropriate work attire. What we don't get is appropriate work attire or the education to actually work in one of the jobs that suit us best.

Are you getting the theme yet?

All of these programs have the same thing in common.

They spend a lot of time using the idea of teaching values in order to minimize the actual resources they have to spend. Public schools can point to the high test scores of their AP students while corralling poor kids into problem classes. The swanky school spends the resources, but only for 6 weeks out of the summer and not during the school year. Section 8 touts lower crime rates while creating more hunger and sacrifice. And Welfare gets people to work, eventually, but only in minimum wage jobs that aren't enough to raise a family on.

Here's the thing. Us poor people, we know the value of work and education and safe housing. We know how important school is, but we can't be there with our kids to make sure they are actually being taught (and try being a poor black single mother and fighting a public school- do you know how fast they will call child protective services to have your kid taken from you? The only reason I get away with it is cause I speak with educated (read white-middle class) diction and I'm white). Section 8 is supposed to work by making sure poor people pay no more than 30% of their income for total housing costs, but they routinely get around that rule (through utilities) so that people pay 70 percent.

What solves poverty is simple. Money. Money makes you not poor. Even Richard Nixon got that, and any economist worth their salt will tell you the best solution to poverty is to give people money. We don't need to be lectured to. We don't need to be taught the basics like work good, lazy bad. We got that. We need resources. We need housing and food and jobs that pay a living wage and healthcare and real educations for our kids and for ourselves. We are not afraid of hard work. Shit, most of us have worked horribly hard physical labor whether it's in agriculture or food service or manufacturing. We know our kids need to read and write and do math, but for most low income parents not having a real education means they can't help their kids get one either.

Value training for the poor is basically abstinence education. It's a whole lot of time spent dodging reality rather than spending the cash to solve the actual problem.

Not to mention it's also condescending, often racist, and with the whole feminization of poverty problem- decidedly sexist.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Heat wave works to expand a thought I've been having

Gidget Commando sent me this awesome link the other day.

Here's the thing I don't get.

Biology (supposedly) says that males are indiscriminate. They need to spread their dna as wide as possible to make sure that some hapless female somewhere will raise their babies.

Females, on the other hand, are supposed to be choosy. We wouldn't want to waste a huge amount of time and energy raising loser babies.

This is how you end up with peacocks and lions with pretty manes.

But if that set up is true for humans, then why is it women that are the ones wearing frilly clothes and makeup and undergoing plastic surgery and a lifetime of dieting malnutrition to attract a mate?

And here's where the heat wave comes in.

It's 100 degrees here. I've given up on wearing bras or shirts that aren't tank tops. One more layer of fabric would probably kill me. And I have big, socially unacceptable unless they are properly harnessed, boobs. I could shower, but 10 minutes after I'm covered in sweat, so hygiene is mostly accomplished by rinsing my head with a garden hose. Deodorant is a waste of time and money since I can't roll around naked in it to cool off. Make-up would just slide down my face like melty black ice cream and the heat has caused me to break out like so I have a zit on my nose that makes me resemble Rudolf. And I haven't shaved anything in quite awhile cause razor burn- heat rash sounds like some new fresh torture that I don't wanna try.

So I'm looking (and smelling) my best and I run into one of the old stable boys in the grocery store parking lot. I haven't seen him in at least a year. He tells me that he's been reading some of the stuff that I guest posted at and loves it. And then asks when we can see each other again. And then texts me later to see if I can hang out now (it's too darn hot, thank you Cole Porter).

All this does is confuse me. If people function in the males just wanna spread their seed mode, then I could be a fat, smelly, braless, hairy beast and still get the guy. But................

Then why do i own lipstick and high heels and hair product and perfume and a razor?

And why don't guys own those things?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Have you ever

woken up after having a dream and just felt really really good and happy?

The actual content of the dream has not a lot to do with my mood, which is weird except that I often have dreams that don't match up with the physical world. I was once woken up by a boyfriend from a dead sleep where i was dreaming about Italian grocery workers organizing a union in the 1920's because the boyfriend thought I wanted to get frisky. I guess I was very wiggly in my sleep.

Anyways, the last thought I had right before waking up was "I want ice cream with all the stuff on it". I still want ice cream, but I feel all weird and happy and okay today. Go figure.

Moving on.

I jiggled some wires and got my compy to start up. It's working for now. I don't know how long it will last. But for right now I can type. Wheeeee.

I still don't have a summer job. I still don't know how I am going to pay rent next week or buy groceries tomorrow. But for today I am just going to bask in the unexplained happy feeling. It's all I got.