Archive for October, 2012

I don’t think I can handle much more

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and I have been at odds for some time. While I was pleased and grateful for their help during the Hyatt Smokergate debacle, the way they have handled the issues surrounding Governor Walker’s assault on the State’s public workforce has been irresponsible. If the editorial board wanted to support Walker’s radical positions, that’s obviously their right. But more often than not, the board acted as though nothing all that significant had happened. Thousands of us lost long-standing rights for which others had fought so hard for. We were devastated and the Journal-Sentinel’s repeated assertions that Walker’s kneecapping was no big deal was insulting. And then when the paper reendorsed him in the recall, arguing a recall wasn’t appropriate because the protests just amounted to a “policy dispute,” I just about lost my mind. Goddamnit, a recall is appropriate any time at least 25% of the voters in the last gubernatorial election say it is. See Wis. Const. Art. XIII § 12.

Anyway, given all of that, I didn’t think I could get much more annoyed with the paper. Once again, though, I was wrong. This week, the paper declared it would no longer make political endorsements because to do so would be to put their independence at risk. I don’t even know where to begin my tirade against this braindead statement. Well, let me start here: I do not give a whatwhat whether this ridiculous paper endorses anyone. It makes no difference to me at all. But, to say that a paper puts its independence at risk by evaluating two candidates, assessing their record and choosing to recommend one over the other is offensive. As AO consistently complains, there is no need or desire or – I may argue – place for independence in journalism. Yes, journalists probably should not work for campaigns because there would be an appearance that their reporting was not accurate and was instead merely campaign rhetoric. But I don’t expect any journalist not to have an opinion on what stories are important, what merits coverage and which candidate is better. I don’t understand this emphasis on independence. I think, in the words of the great Vice President Joe Biden, it’s a bunch of malarky.

It reminds me of the great debate over the judiciary. Should judges be able to be a part of a political party? No, say some, citing the need for an independent judiciary. Yes, say others, it’s their first amendment right. Yes, say I, because it would be more honest and transparent. Judges are people who are, like the rest of us non-felonious over-18-ers, allowed to vote. So they pick and choose candidates during every election season, like the rest of us. Why pretend they don’t have opinions? I’d rather know of them up front than mandate they hide them. I honestly don’t really care how they vote, I just want my judges honest, brilliant and compassionate.

Similarly, I don’t really care how the journalists I follow vote. I just want them honest and sharp and persistent. I want them to find me the truth. As I remind you, Dear Reader, that Errol Morris often reminds us, there is a truth. It is not leftist or right-wing, it is not progressive or conservative. It just is. And it’s the job of the journalist to find it and tell us about it.

And it’s the job of an editorial board to take that truth and make a choice. I think the Journal-Sentinel’s choice not to do so in the name of independence is both disingenuous and cowardly.

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Do you have any garlic?

Gwennie and I had lunch today at a newish Italian restaurant, Naples 15, which is located in the building that houses Capital Fitness and Elevation Spa. It is in the same place that has housed numerous restaurants and coffee shops over the years: Espresso Royale, Caffe Porta Alba, Old Market Bistro, and Las Cazuelas, to name a few. I was intrigued by the place because it promised truly Neapolitan pizza and who can resist that? Plus, Gwennie and I had been scheduling and rescheduling a lunch date for weeks now and we settled upon today. The hitch, though, was that I had a haircut appointment at Elevation at 12. So, I suggested we check out Naples 15 at 11 so we could lunch and then I could pop upstairs for a haircut. Gwennie, who is usually up for exciting adventures like these (yes, I count trying a new restaurant as an adventure), willingly agreed.

The decor was mostly fine, but I found the large cards with jesters on them affixed with tape to the otherwise pretty wood floor a little odd and Gwennie objected to the stemless daisies floating in water in martini glasses on our table. We were early, it being only shortly after 11 am, and were seated by the nice Italian man whom I presume is the owner. He told us our waitress would in shortly and she was. And this was when the adventure really got going. I ordered one of the two margherita pizzas (the difference being in the type of mozzarella, I think) and said, innocently, “Could I get garlic on that, please?” The waitress said, “Garlic?” “Yes, please.” The waitress said, very seriously, “I’ll see if we have any.”

I’ll see if we have any. Garlic. At a restaurant. At an Italian restaurant. At a Neapolitan Italian restaurant.

Well, it turns out I was in luck. They had garlic! And they also served one of the best Italian pizzas I’ve had since returning from Italy. Total, complete yumsville. Gwennie said her pizza was delish, too. She had some number with sausage, mozzarella and friarielli. Gwen is such a bold adventurer she ordered the pizza before the Google search told us friarielli is the Neapolitan term for  broccoli rabe. I would never have been able to pull of that feat.

While we were enjoying the tasty fare, Gwen decided she wanted a club soda. She asked the waitress for one. The waitress looked a little puzzled, left and returned saying, “We don’t have club soda.” I looked up at the full bar and scratched my head. Oh well, at least they had garlic.

Zoinks! I lost the header pic of Grace & Bear!

I was thinking I needed to change the heading, but I didn’t mean to lose it altogether. Stay with me, Dear Reader, as I try to navigate the complex world of WordPress to try to get you a new, fresh look with the same old, boring content.

Thank you, Marlo Thomas

Middle school

I had a bit of a breakdown this morning just as we were pulling into our parking spot. I had to take a minute to compose myself before heading into the office. You see, we had been listening to This American Life’s ‘Middle School’ episode. Sigh.

After dropping Bear off at school (yes, I insist on calling it school. ‘Day care’ sounds so sad to me), AO – who was driving – abruptly turned off public radio and switched to the Oldies station. Something weird was going on with WPR – the station seemed to be playing yesterday’s news. Anyway, I didn’t want to listen to the Oldies station because, for one, it’s not even Oldies anymore. I mean, they play Billy Joel and Modern English for crying out loud. For two, I really like hearing calm, chatty voices in the morning. I just do. So I plugged my iPhone into whatever it is I plugged it into and clicked on my This American Life app.

(Before TAL started to play, though, this came through the speakers. I had watched it before we left the house. It’s really amazing and I think you should check it out. Gosh, I love that movie. And sometimes I still wonder if we should have just gone for it and named Bear ‘Gertie.’)

The app started to play an episode I was about halfway through listening to: ‘Middle School.’ The episode is about how awful middle school can be, with the first chapter centered on how odd middle school dances are and the second about two sisters who renamed themselves ‘Mimi’ during their tween years and pretended to be rich, blonde, white girls instead of the poorer Latina gals they actually were. The next chapter was just starting as we drove toward work. It was about middle school ‘news’ reporters and the daily shows they put on for their schools. It was entertaining. I admit to spacing out for a bit and when I returned to listening, the program had changed to a story about a kid named Leo who, I gathered, had been uprooted from his home in Rochester and was transplanted elsewhere, along with his sister and parents. I didn’t pick up on where Leo’s family had moved, but I quickly felt his despair. He told the reporter that he was miserable and everything about his new school was terrible. And he said he had no friends. Leo observed, correctly I worry, that his nine-year-old sister had an easier time making new friends than he because, as he put it, people become more judgmental as they age and it becomes harder to find people who like you. So, Leo goes off to school every day, sad and alone. He emails his parents from school, “I feel awful.” The reporter notes Leo, unlike how I just wrote the sentence, did not even put a period after awful, demonstrating how infinite his awful feelings were. I ached for Leo.

A teeny tiny ray of sunshine then appeared. One day, Leo emailed his parents from school (I know, this is shocking to those of us who can’t remember how we would have ever contacted the outside world in the middle of a school day) that the school’s mashed potatoes were simply delicious. At this point, I start to cry a bit. Little Leo has found a little smile in some mashed tubers. My heart ached just a little more. There’s more, though. Leo also told his parents that he had invited a boy, named Devon, to come over some time. I smiled. Later, though, Leo can’t get himself to call Devon on the telephone to finalize their plans. It’s just too much. My heart resumed its light ache. Enter: Leo’s dad. Leo’s dad then called Devon’s parents to arrange the meet. We hear Leo’s dad leave a message for Devon’s parents that went something like this, “Hi, I’m Leo’s dad and Leo is really looking forward to playing* with Evan someday soon, so I was wondering…Oh! Devon. Devon. I’m so sorry. I’m getting evil glares from my son…” and the call quickly wraps up. I giggled. Leo’s dad giggled. Leo’s dad pleaded with Leo, “I’m sorry! I panicked!” Leo then giggled, too.

At this point, Aaron had parked the car and it was time to head into the office. I sat in the car for a moment,  pretty much weeping. I composed myself and we headed in for our day.

I haven’t heard the rest of Leo’s story yet and while I want to, I am not on the edge of my seat. I heard so much in that little bit to make my heart ache and then swell with genuine affection. I just find it heartbreakingly sweet that Leo’s dad would call another kid’s parents – parents he didn’t know, a kid Leo barely knew – to set up a play time for them. I know this might seem like a small gesture, but it’s a tremendously important one. It must have meant so much to Leo. I’m sure there are parents all over the world who would say, “You’re old enough to use the phone, Leo. If you really want to make friends, you’re going to have to call them yourself” or variations on that theme. But to Leo, it was daunting and it was scary and it was awful. He had already asked Devon to hang out – a courageous move in itself – and he just needed a little help with the next step. And why not help? Life’s hard, but if we feel like we’re all in it together, it’s a little easier. Which leads me to the next part of the story that I love. I love that Leo’s dad said, “I panicked!” With that confession (whether it was true or not), he bonded with Leo in a way that let Leo know his dad gets scared, too. He let him know he doesn’t think his son is a coward or a social leper; meeting new people, making new friends can be frightening, even for dads. I laughed through tears at this simple and invaluable paternal gesture.

And then, of course, what’s maybe the best part: hearing Leo laugh with his family. If I had to guess what happens next, I’d guess that in a couple of days, Leo gets to hang out with Devon and they find out they both love video games, vanilla ice cream and tire swings. I’d put money on my guess, though, that Leo turns out a-ok.

*I realize ‘play’ might not be the word you use for 12 or 13-year-olds, but just go with me.


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