Saturday, September 19, 2009

Polish Festival 2009

Despite having had some big plans laid out for last weekend, the only thing that we managed to do was to get to the Polish Festival. I was looking forward to going this year because we hadn't been for a couple of years. The highlight of the festival is always the food, which was as good this time as I had remembered it being -- Polish sausage, Cabbage rolls, Pierogi, pastries. Yum. As for the rest, well, let's just say that time has stood still, somewhere between the 1950's and 1970's, for a lot of the Polish Festival patrons. I think that the picture illustrates my general point. And, yes, you've read it correctly -- the name of this one-man-band, whose possible prejudices I am unaware of, is the Honky Express.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Book Review: I'm Down by Mishna Wolff

Here's the gist of I'm Down by Mishna Wolff -- Mishna, who is white, grows up in a poor, all black neighborhood where she lives with her Dad (who is also white but has assumed the culture of the neighborhood), Step-Mom (who is black), and siblings (white and black). Although I'm purposely leaving out a lot of the story here, I'm Down is a coming of age memoir that recounts the author's story of survival, seeking her Dad's approval, and, ultimately, discovering her place in the world.

I'm Down
definitely has it's laugh-out-loud moments, especially early on. In fact, had Wolff's book had been written in the 1970's, it might have been made into a sitcom -- probably in the genre of Welcome Back Kotter, Good Times, What's Happening!, etc. but with a dash of Roseanne (or any other working class white family sitcom/drama) Yeah, it is that funny at times but then there's that, you know, stereotyping stuff. Hmm. But, luckily, there's more than that too -- real pain and sadness juxtaposed with self-discovery and hope. My grade = B/B-

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Book Review: Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell

I've not ever not liked a Sarah Vowell book. In fact, I think it's physically impossible to not like her writings. I mean, come on, how could anyone not find her to be a wickedly entertaining, keenly observant, dry humored, gifted writer of history, art, and pop culture? Okay, okay. So I have a little bit of a Sarah Vowell obsession. But, it's only because I just know if we were to meet in real life we would be B.F.F. Yes, B.F.F. & E. Seriously!

Anyway, S.V. obsession aside, Assassination Vacation is another great Vowell book. In Vacation, Vowell writes, with the aforementioned qualities, about the assassinations of presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley. While I've never been a big fan of presidential history (one can only read so many white-European male centered presidential stories before they all start sounding alike) - there are many writers out there, Vowell included, that have made an otherwise boring, narrow P.O.V. history exponentially more interesting and accessible. Bottom Line? Read the book, learn something new, and be entertained while you do it.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Abigail Washburn

In July of 2008, we went to Madeline Island (Apostle Islands, WI) on vacation. Nice vacay but there were definitely too many moments when I expected midwestern Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey to pop out from around some random corner singing "I Had the Time of My Life" (See this here and here if you are lost). Incidentally, we had a similar experience about four years ago while vacationing in Door County (also WI - do I detect a theme?). Anyway, one of the things that we did while on Madeline Island was take the ferry over to Ashland, WI and catch Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet at Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua. It was a great show and I've since become a big fan of both Abigail and Ben Sollee.

So, not too long ago, in May, I was really excited about a story that I heard on NPR about how Abigail had teamed up with the Shanghai Restoration Project to record an album, Afterquake, that would benefit victims of the May 12, 2008 earthquake that devastated Sichuan province in China. I found the music to be immediately interesting and, despite the somber cause, pretty catchy -- or maybe should I say memorable. It definitely stuck in my head in the weeks that followed so I decided to put it on my wish list -- where it stayed there until this weekend when I finally bought it. It's not in my hot little hands yet, but thanks to my Dad, His Most Royal Highness of Amazon Shopping, I get free 2-day shipping so it should be by tomorrow. Hopefully, the music is as great as I remember but, at the very least, the money went to a worthy cause.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Beaucoup to Do in the Lou 2009

Willa at Eckert's, October 2007

Personally, I think one of the worst things about living in St Louis is the summer weather. It's far too hot and humid for my taste. Weather aside though, St Louis is a pretty great place to live. We have some of the best neighborhoods, restaurants, and cultural attractions around. But, one of my very favorite things about living in St Louis is all of the festivals and seasonal events that take place. Although many of these are in the summer, the ones that I most like to go occur now -- from late August/Labor Day-- and run through the winter. I mark the start of this festival/seasonal events season by attending the Festival of Nations in Tower Grove Park, usually the weekend before Labor Day, and I end it, usually, by eagle watching along the bluffs.

Most of the things that I'm likely to do occur in September and October but things usually run through January. Here is a off-the-top-of-my-head list of the things that I'm hoping to do this year. Since I can't go to all of them, you'll know which ones I made it to this year by the blogging/photographing that I post/do. Oh, if you have a favorite event that's not listed, drop me a line and I'll put it up too.

Festival of Nations/International Festival (over)
The Greek Festival (today is the last day)
The 6th Annual Maplewood Dog Swim, September 11th, 4pm @ Maplewood Aquatic Center
Art Outside, September 11th - 13th @ Bottleworks
The 35th Annual Polish Festival, September 11th - 12th @ The Polish Falcons
The 16th Annual Saint Louis Art Fair, September 11th - 13th in Clayton, MO
St Louis Hispanic Festival, September 11th - 13th @ Soldiers Memorial
Samba in the City, September 12th @ Benton Park
Strange Folk Festival, September 26th - 27th @ O'Fallon Park, IL
Ottertoberfest, September 26th - 27th/October 3rd - 4th/October 10th -11th @ St Louis Zoo
Taste of St Louis, October 2nd - 4th @ Soldiers Memorial
Shaw Art Fair, October 3rd - 4th @ Shaw Neighborhood
Best of Missouri Festival, October 3rd - 4th @ Missouri Botanical Garden
Soulard Oktoberfest, October 9th - 11th @ Soulard Market at 8th & Lafayette Street
Columbus Day Parade & Festival, October 11th @ The Hill Neighborhood
Boo at the Zoo, October 16th - 30th @ St Louis Zoo
Apple Butter Festival, October 24th - 25th in Kimmswick, MO
Wild Lights, November 27th - December 30th @ St Louis Zoo
Harvest Festival @ Shaw Nature Reserve
Eckert's Farms in Belleville, Millstadt, and Grafton, IL
Eagle Watching along the Bluffs @ Alton/Grafton, IL

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Sunday Rant

This blog, while sometimes I regret that it's not, was never intended to be any of the following:
A political blog
An educational blog (as in pedagogy)
A soapbox
A springboard to fame

This blog was supposed to be:
A creative outlet
A relaxation tool

However, I have a few things (rants) to get off my chest.
1. UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE: Political opinions and drama and feasibility aside, this is what really bothers me about the opposition to universal health care: Opposition to Health Care for All = Opposition to Life. Opposition to Health Care for All = (Certain Undesirable) People are Disposable.

2. THE PRESIDENT'S SPEECH ON EDUCATION: Again, politics and drama aside, when is the last time public schools (or TV networks - that's another blog) refused to show a president's speech? And, no less, a president's speech on the importance of staying in school and committing to your own education? Hello? Do we have no respect for the office of the presidency? Or, do we have no respect for the presidency of a black man? Certainly, a lot of what Bush had to say wasn't popular (or intelligible) but Democrats and liberals weren't calling for schools to boycott him (or disrupting town hall meetings on health care by bullying a women in a wheelchair). Maybe the biggest flaw with Dem's and Lib's is that they're just too damn mannerly and polite. I cannot understand why conservatives, let's call them Patriots, would insist on disrespecting the office of the presidency? How unpatriotic!

3. PARENT ENABLERS: As a teacher, I see lots of kids skirting the rules or dodging consequences because of their enabling parents. I'm not talking about advocating for children - totally different circumstances. But bailing your kid out when they got their cell phone taken for answering your call/text during class? Wrong! Bottom line, your (unhealthy, codependent) personal need to have control of every aspect of your child's life should not come at the cost of teaching them the importance of personal responsibility and accountability.

4. READERS COMMENTS ON MEDIA WEBSITES: My latest obsession is reading the comments' left by readers on various newspaper and new station websites. I'm not talking about reading one or two comments, or even a page or two of comments. No. I'm talking about reading EVERY page of comments -- all ### of them! I'm not sure why I do it but it is definitely a sickness. And what I've found is that certain media outlets are more sensible than others. I may not agree with everything that I read but I can understand it, objectively consider it, and come to conclusions calmly about most readers comments. Okay, maybe I get a little angry. But the lower down I go on the media chain, the more convinced that I become that I'm having a stroke. Now, I support democracy, the constitution, and individual expression but there are a lot of ignorant, cruel, illogical, uneducated, racist, and selfish people out there and, apparently, they have computers with internet access. And, even worse, they might vote! Call me crazy (or elitist) but I'm not sure that I like that.

Happy Sunday!