Monthly Archives: April 2013

Child Abuse Prevention

Hey friends!

I don’t often bring up my day gig here (mostly because it prevents me from spending an hour+ of daily blogging about the brain tussles I have with myself), but this is pretty dope:

Teva Sienicki, President and CEO of Growing Home, got published in our hometown rag.

Today’s the last day of Child Abuse Prevention Month. At Growing Home we’re doing a wide variety of things to prevent child maltreatment among low- and no-income people in Denver’s north suburbs.

You get your short-term, emergency interventions, like 3 days of healthy food and 60 days of emergency shelter. But you also get your long-term supports. Like parent education and after-school programs that focus on social and emotional development alongside academics. Life skills classes for shelter residents. Nutrition demonstrations in the food pantry.

After years of (academic) focusing on big, abstract social forces with zombie noun names like “post-industrialization” and “financialization,” I’ve been enjoying working in an environment that, against all my dissertation-trained cynicism, actually helps people. Actually breaks the cycle of poverty. Actually closes some of the achievement gap.

Please share Teva’s op ed! We wanna get some serious page hits.

Relatedly, the NY Times published an op ed about new research showing that for the first time in decades/ever, upper income levels are outperforming middle income levels at college. Researchers believe that this change is due to new intensive (time and $$$) investments in early childhood education.

Yup. Early childhood education matters. It does, in fact, influence children’s life chances. Their ability to stay afloat in a hostile globalized economy 20-30-40 years later.

That means, among other things, you can stop blaming and punishing teachers for the effects of poverty.

Hah! Just kidding. I know you love to blame teachers. With their “tenure” and “summers off” and used Hyundais.

Da noive.

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Even though they’re just ads for Netflix.


Also, this podcast is awesome. The episode with Mitch Hurwitz made me laugh a bunch. Which one made me laugh the most? The Larry David one.

If you enjoy laughing.

I especially like Jeff Garlin’s inside baseball talk on comedy as a profession. Conan O’Brien is thoughtful. Jeff Tweedy compares his vicodin addiction to Garlin’s sugar addiction.

Carry on.

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Peacenik Ranting

So I was innocently enjoying a professional development event in my town’s civic center this noontime when I heard from a tablemate, who’d recently checked her twitter, that there was a bomb threat at the courthouse across the street.


But to which I couldn’t muster much more than a weary “I hope I can get out of the parking lot.” (I could.)

Rant 1: Don’t call watered-down legislation that won the support of a clear majority of the legislature (and a massive majority of the electorate) a failure. Call the system a failure.

Rant 2: We live in a culture of violence. Sometimes that violence is aesthetically glorified—like in movies and video games—and sometimes it causes nationwide terror—like in Boston, Newtown, Aurora, etc etc etc etc etc.

But if it’s a cultural, system-wide problem, then how can we possibly arrive at a solution? Certainly reasonable gun control may help stall, if not reverse, the gravity.

If weaponry in general were not depicted as such an endemic part of masculinity, of patriotism, of power.

If weaponry were regarded as culturally neutral as, say, pharmaceuticals, wine, or children’s toys. That is to say, if they were regulated with dispassionate reason based on data rather than feverish corporate lobbying disguised as grassroots human “rights” activism.

Here‘s Adam Gopnik elegantly (and boldly) connecting our aesthetics of violence with our actual lived experience of violent, shattering events. Contra liberal doctrine against “censorship.”

The reason we don’t want our kids—or our teen-agers, or ourselves for that matter—lost in violent imagery, whatever the beauty of the pixelated townscape, is not because of something that they will cause but because of what they are right now. It’s not what they might do it’s who they are in the act of becoming. Fictive or not, violent images increase the sum total of violence in the world. If we believe that we, as Edmund Burke said, should hate violence and love liberty, then we can’t hate violence and still make it part of our idea of pleasure.

If I spent 10 years of my professional and personal life devoted to the principle that our culture affects—changes–our lived, historical experience (which is one way to describe the work of a literary scholar), why can’t I say out loud, as a liberal, that this shit matters. That all our movies and films that center, drooling, on killing MATTER. These images and stories change us.

And perhaps they have changed us back into the kind of culture we were before we developed a civil society, when the rule of law began replacing feudal systems of social regulation.

Maybe “civil society” was always a fiction, given our long history with extra-legal systemic violence (ahem lynching, ahem rape, ahem domestic violence, ahem “stand your ground” laws, ahem stop-n-frisk).

So I’m willing to condemn Tarantino’s (or the Law and Order franchise, or like any drama on TV that isn’t Mad Men) bloodlust as bad for our society, sure, though they’d still sell enough tickets and ads to drown out any plaintive peacenik self-righteousness on WordPress.

But I’m still going to laugh at the Road Runner and Wile E Coyote.

Sorry. I just am.

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Top Adolescent Albums

Meaning, the top albums that capture adolescence. For me.

Meaning, the top albums about sexual frustration first, everything else second.

Inspired by this excellent write-up about one of the 80’s’ most underrated recordings:

1. The Violent Femmes’ debut, especially “Add It Up.”

Special bonus points to TfH’s brother (Hi!) for taking me to see them at the Santa Clara University gym when I was 15 (which is the perfect age for the Violent Femmes), and for buying me a t-shirt that I still wear.

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The Hen Can’t Cluckin’ Win (MAD MEN!)

You know what other schlumpy Jew was cuckolded?

Bloom. In Ulysses.

I’m almost close to maybe not even at all positive that this is why Weiner put a foxy bored Italian Lindsay Weir in Dickhead Whitman’s path, and gave her a short, balding, altruistic but still sexist husband named Dr. Rosen.

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How Might Apocalypse Happen? (Book Review)


Here’s a premise that might make you blink:

Let’s say three of the foremost Manhattan Project scientists—or versions of them—materialize in contemporary New Mexico at a crucial moment of their world history. The moment the bomb drops on Hiroshima?


The moment of the first major test of the atom bomb. The Trinity Test. (A name of foreboding: those scientists were a bit poetic, no?)

Let’s say a dangerously introspective librarian dreams of Oppenheimer at the Trinity moment. And then spots him at a bar on her way home from work. And at a funeral for a paranoid schizophrenic stranger who shoots himself in front of her, in the library’s children’s section. Shortly after she and her foxy gardener spouse decide to start having kids.

Then, let’s say, you make it all a little bit funny.

Is this how apocalypse might happen?


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