Saturday, December 18, 2004

For Those Interested...See Renard on Live Webcast Tonight

It just occurred to me that Tipitina's usually broadcasts their shows on the web, and such is the case tonight. Renard is playing with a group that Tipitina's put together to celebrate Professor Longhair's birthday. So, there will be some great New Orleans style piano tonight. Renard and friends are playing first, with no piano as well as accompanying the keyboard players.

That's where I'll be....

See the webcast here. (You'll probably need broadband. Doesn't everyone have this now?)

Lisa's Personal Slacker Festival, Tickets on Sale Now

Yeah, I know I said I'd be returning to my regularly scheduled blogging. But I am somewhat burned out right now and, not being one of those "touch typists," sitting at this machine and typing is not terribly appealing to me right now. I am, however, popping in and put and reading your stuff. (Honest! Just check your stats.) But if I am not in the typing mood at the moment or if Blogger is acting buggy (like my computers are these days), I probably won't comment.

I do expect to post here, but I can't say for sure when the next one will appear. It could be tomorrow or a week from now. At this time I am feeling the need to do some mindless stuff, like clean the house, knit an afghan, read some fiction and recover from this stupid cold/throat & sinus infection I've had for the last 2 weeks. (Me and John Stewart, whose voice has had the exact same characteristics as mine during the same period.) In fact, last week I read Tom Robbins' Villa Incognito and have just started Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates. I haven't read any fiction in the last 6 years or so and had no idea he'd written two more books since then. He's my favorite author since Mark Twain.

I won't hold it against any of you if you choose to join me in this period of blogger sloth. (How could I??) Just pop in occasionally and let us know you're okay. (Lasciate and Eric!!)

Ciao for now...

Monday, December 13, 2004

The Instructor is Now Officially Off Duty- Well Almost

With the exception of two of my grad students, all my grading is done and my grades officially recorded...and amazingly (for me), in advance of the deadline...days in advance. What a marvel.

As an adjunct, I am pathetically paid, and despite this, I'm unable to overcome my predisposition to make a lot more work for myself than the money would seem to warrant. By this, I mean I refrain from doing things like giving only multiple choice tests using Scantron sheets. If I did, I could just drop them off at Testing Services, conveniently located in my building, and 10 minutes later, they're graded. But I don't believe you really learn anything other than how to use process of elimination as a test-taking strategy. Most people I've asked report that they really don't retain the info for much time once the test is over.

I can't separate myself from the awareness of why I am in the classroom, what I am doing, and for whom. And I truly love my students. I really care about them. I know that not all of them are in my classes because they care about the subject. (Sometimes they're taking a course because it's required for their major or because the class was the only elective that fit their schedule.) And I care about the ones that don't care, too, but I do what I do for the ones that do care. And I think they realize this. So, this means I give essay tests, written assignments, and projects, all of which require an application of the material. Though I will lecture some of the time during class, I always bring the points around for discussion and application. And we have some fun and lively discussions. And I make my own multi-media supplements as well. (Sometimes badly, as was the pathetic little film of my studio with original music recorded in it playing in the background. It called it The Swirly-Whirly-Vertigo-Studio Tour. The students kind of liked it for its lack of production value, which is a very kind way of saying that it was perhaps the worst film I've ever made.)

Grading is painstaking. Because I know I am not perfect and that I may not have explained everything perfectly, I read each and every answer on every test or assignment before I write anything on them. That way, I can get a feel for the whole class's comprehension of a concept. If no one really got it, I know I failed to do my job and I won't penalize anyone for that. And, as Richard speculated a while back in a comment, yes, I do write insightful comments on every test, even at the end of the semester when I don't know if any students will come to retrieve them later. I think everyone deserves to know why they lost points... or did a fantastic job.

And to keep myself as busy as possible, I give students who did poorly on a test or assignment the opportunity to make it up by demonstrating in some comparable way that they now understand the material. This means I have to grade those as well, but here's how I see it: the grade you get for the course should accurately reflect your knowledge of the subject at the end of the semester. Maybe you didn't quite get it by the mid-term exam, but maybe it clicked the next week. In this case, if the mid-term is 30-50% of the final grade, your final grade will not reflect what you know. But if you can show me that you really get it, I think your grade should reflect that at the end of the semester. It's an option for anyone willing to rise to the occasion. I never give mercy or sympathy grades. You get what you earn. And students say my tests and and assigments are tough but fair. That's good. But it's all quite a bit of work for me.

So now you know why it causes me to disappear every now and then.

These are some of my Music Marketing students from this past semester. They were a great group! The best yet, as a whole, though last year's section had some great students as well, Eric being one of them. I shot this with my camera phone while we were on a break and about half of the students were out of the class. (The class is from 6:00PM -8:45 PM once a week. Some students come straight from work or have been in class all day by then. But they were quite lively this semester, despite my sleepy guy in front. We were on a break, after all.) I was amazed by the incredibly positive feedback I got from students this semester. I mean incredible! The best EVER! Superlatives a-plenty. I'm humbled by it. But happy to know that I am definitely getting better at all this. Hooray!

Sometimes I wish I were teaching a subject that allowed me to address more weighty issues with life lessons attached. But now that I think about it, they need someone like me teaching marketing in a business school. Marketing is criticized for it's lack of ethics and if you define it this way, then I am the Marketing Antichrist. I constantly emphasize ethics. (And this is customarily the position of the academic side.) Unethical marketing is a short-term strategy and will cause more harm than good in the long-run, assuming you intend to be around for the long-run.

Okay. Enough already! Bottom line, I'm out of grading hell, unscathed, and will be posting more regularly.

Bad Blog-Related Dreams

You blog-pals of mine - you know who you are -and I know you through your comments here and from reading your own posts, have shown up in my dreams from time to time. Never mind that I haven't seen pictures of some of you. I just made your images up if had nothing else to go on. Most of these dreams have been nothing to speak of. Maybe running into you somewhere or having a conversation in some setting. Until last night.

I owe this one to Claypot, and her magnificent blog on life as a humanitarian aid worker in the Zambian bush. So, dear lass, I write this post for you:

In this dream, I was visiting you in Zambia, along with a handful of others who I assumed to be bloggers as well. When we arrived, we found you in some sort of medical facility that was rather grubby and was packed with AIDS patients. (See what all those AIDS posts did!!) I remember needing to use the facilities and...uh... it kind of freaked me out because, lets say, it was not the luxury to which I've become accustomed.

You decided we'd gad about some and you would show us the sights here and there. For some reason, you gave me a stack of checks inside of envelopes to hold along with a piece of native fabric to wear as a wrap. Spared the experience of the Coach from Hell, we walked to a rail station and were going to Lusaka, (though I gather from your posts that there is no such transportation.)

As we walked, I noticed -and this was a very bad thing- that I had no shoes on. There were vendors at the station (which was very third-worldish) selling shoes and wraps and things, so I tried to find some that fit, because it was obviously a grave problem to be without them. We had very little time and everyone was getting aggravated because this proved to be more difficult than I expected.

Then, a Zambian woman tried to pull my wrap off of me (I had clothes underneath it) and we had a minor verbal altercation.

Then I messed up my train ticket by sticking some kind of little tag that it required in the wrong place. That caused more aggravation to the group.

Then I was pickpocketed, and lost my camera. Shortly thereafter, my purse disappeared, despite having no recollection of ever having taken it off my arm. And what was in my purse? Just all my cash, credit cards, passport, all identification, and your stack of checks.

Please, somebody, WAKE ME UP!!!

Thankfully, that's all I remember. Unfortunately, I didn't get to meet Fat Patsy, Lovely Catherine or Chief, nor did I get to see any cute (in my opinion) squirrely-mousey things, neat-o moths and birds, nor the pterodactyl. And happily, I was spared the snakes, Mr. Ratty, flies, (living or as spider victims), snakes, bats, flying wormy things (but we have those things here, too, twice a year), the chicken bonanza, and any of a variety of other bush beasts... and did I say snakes? Those, too.

I don't think you'll ever have to worry about me coming to Zambia for a visit! And if you ever come to New Orleans, you already be way ahead of the tolerance curve on mosquitoes, flying roaches and other such vile insects, flying wormy things (which we just call termites), various and sundry rodents, and extreme heat and humidity.

If any of you readers have not checked out, 360° of Zambian Sky, a funny, entertaining, informative and smartly written chronicle of Claypot's bush life (plus an assortment of interesting articles and other web amusements she finds), I highly recommend it. Personally, it's my preferred method of experiencing life in the Zambian bush.

(I see a disclaimer appearing on Claypots blog: The author does not give any warranty or other assurance that bizarre aberrations of the content of this blog will not appear in your dreams and should this happen, disclaims all responsibility for any befuddlement produced as a result.)

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Greetings From the Abyss

As this semester rolls to a close, I have now descended fully into Grading Hell and will likely poke my head into your corners of the Blogosphere here and there in the next day or so but will probably not have time to post until Wednesday or Thursday.

Pray for me.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Mothers and Children, Run and Hide! America is Coming to Town!

To read the article, click on this link and not the blog title.
Mothers and Children, Run and Hide! America is Coming to Town!(Alternative Press Review)

I was cleaning things up and posting articles today on my blog with marketing links for my students, thanks to note from Richard, the progenitor of two great blogs chock full of great links and resources, (Electronic Ephemera and The Pedantic Pundit,) alerting me of a couple of broken links there, and in the process, I found this story. It was not quite written from the same point of inpiration as my last post, but it echos the same maternal sensibilities and I thought it the timing of my fiind was interesting.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Are You Serious?

Old New Orleans Police Poster
Originally uploaded by LisaPal.
Lots of people have been asking me this and, well, yes I am. Whether or not I am able to pull this off remains to be seen. And it will be extraordinarily difficult, for a number of reasons...

First, I am not the type who likes to move. I bought this house almost 17 years ago and have had no inclination to leave it. And besides, I am somewhat pathologically attached to New Orleans. There are many reasons for this, though it's not always been this way. But since the days when I was eager to call someplace else home, I've traveled to many places around the world. And what it's taught me is that there is just no place on Earth as beautifully whacked as this city. It's got its own peculiar culture, soul and spirit and lots and lots of reasons to hate it, but, ironically, those things are also what you love it for. Those and more.

There's a strange beauty to this city and even to New Orleans' particular brand of dysfunction. Our way of life and our approach to living it is undoubtedly different than anywhere else. We New orleanians all understand that every aspect of our culture, our society, our local government, our people, be they perceived as good or bad, are all necessary to make New Orleans the odd character that it is. And the people here really do love each other under whatever veneer we place on the outside of ourselves, (and it's not hard at all to tell that we do), because we know that by choosing to live here and to embrace all of New Orleans' pretty and ugly truths, we are united under the skin.

Then there is the absolute most difficult aspect of leaving that I am pained by more than anything else: leaving behind my very closest friend, my most beloved mother. Strange as it may sound for some, my mother and I have a beautiful and very close relationship. She is an amazing 74 year old woman, (who has no idea what it means to be old and I hope she never gets it), so full of love and life. We not only love each other, as we should, but we actually like each other a whole lot and are very much attached. (Though we did lose that somewhat during my rebellious teen years, but I suppose that's natural.)

I joke around that she and I are like a "couple." since my dad died almost two years ago. At family gatherings, my siblings have their spouses and mom and I have each other. (Renard and I only see each other about once a week, usually over Saturday night through Sunday, though we talk every day.) She is like the other parent to my children, (suffice it to say that both their dads just as well live on Mars,) and we spend a lot of time with her. She and Rachel are joined at the hip and Rachel thinks Granny's house is hers, too.

See how difficult this decision is? That should give you some indication of how I perceive things right now. And I can't just let is go. As an MBA, I was well trained in the task of evaluating the "operating environment" (in this case, my own), analyzing it for opportunities and threats and making sound decisions based on the findings. I will share some of the findings that should give anyone pause. A future post will be comprised of links to articles that have more to do with the latest manifestations of domestic policy and changes in American culture that hint of where it looks like we're heading.

In addition to things we already know about the (deliberate) "error" in judgment that is Iraq, Richard Clarke's book (good article at the preceding link), Against All Enemies gives a good expository on our continued vulnerabilities (that our leaders created) following 9/11, (SERIOUS vulnerabilities with long-term ramifications), as well as a comprehensive history of the last 30 years or so of mid-east policy and politics from an insider perspective. The last two chapters are pretty eye-opening and have been a catalytic factor in this decision for me.

This is really all about my children. Around the time I graduated from high school in 1980 and for several years afterwards, the big threat was the Cold War and the threat of a nuclear holocaust. (A threat I have since learned was exaggerated in order to get certain policy passed...hmmm...) I remember seeing the film, The Day After and saying to myself that I never wanted to have children because I could never bear to have to witness their suffering or death in such a situation, or any other that would bring about any pain and suffering for them. But the universe had other ideas and, well, here they are -Rachel and Alex.


The day the U.S. began bombing Iraq, I cried and cried as I watched the bombs fall. I cried with a kind of grief I could never describe in mere words for all the children that were injured or killed, for their mothers' pain (the only perspective I personally understand), and for the life of hardship and pain the survivors would face, particularly the children. I was extremely upset by the fact that the US warned of the impending attack and then chose to strike two days early to surprise as well as shock and awe them and the world. I was indeed shocked, but not awed. I was horrified.

I have some weirdly intimate familiarity with this kind of pain. I get flashes of it from time to time, sometimes images of historic scenes in my mind that are accompanied by the horrific feelings that I know every mother who has ever tried to protect her children from harm and failedmust have experienced . I cannot risk living this. I am far too in love with my children to risk this. And though I am strong in many ways, I don't think I am strong enough to handle anything like this.


So, I have a son who is less than two years from draft age. The kind of logic used by W etc., in the decision to go to war does not give me confidence that it will be the option of last resort in the future. Forcing citizens to fight in a war against their will, regardless of justification (or lack of), does not look like freedom to me. More like indentured servitude. Once Alex is 18, if he feels differently, he can choose to enlist. (But trust me, he won't.) Otherwise, well, you get the picture.

The bottom line with all this is that, beyond my rational faculties, I just feel so strongly in my GUT that this is what I need to do. And I feel the need to get on with it NOW because if I wait, everything involved in doing so will become infinitely more difficult, if not impossible. In fact, I began doing my research on election night, before midnight, before the final results were in but it was clear what the outcome would be. There is something pushing me. I can even see us there in my mind's eye. (Where, you ask??? I'll tell you later... but it's FAR, FAR, FAR AWAY. And since I told Eric, he's trying to get there, too. So, if you've been reading his blog, maybe you've figured it out by now.)

It would be SO MUCH EASIER to just stay put, to stay here with sweet Mom and Renard, (unless he's able to overcome the career and family-related obstacles he has and come along with his 15 year-old son), here where most of my friends, colleagues and the rest of my family reside. Here, where I'd have to make no big changes, though I might be severely affected by changes wrought by factors outside myself. Like most of us, I like things to be easy. And who knows, things may prove to be so difficult that I end up stuck here anyway. Time will tell. But serious is as serious does, and folks, I've been seriously engaged in hard research and in thinking like someone who will not be here in a year or two.
Stay tuned...
Here's a link to a video portfolio of photos of New Orleans, shot by my brother, the photographer extraordinaire. It's really beautiful. BTW, we got the gene from our dad, who was also a pro photographer and who had an incredible eye as an artist, but also had a kinda wacky side, too. This manifested mostly in the strange staged photos he took of his family, most of which feature me when I was a kid. In these, he indulged fantasy and tried to create some other place or situation that in no way resembled real life for us...and it was usually executed badly. ("Young Lisa as Mexican Peasant" featuring me at 9 or 10 years old, looking very serious, wearing a big silly sombrero that he and my mom got on a Mexican vacation and a burlap sack with a poncho my grandmother crocheted over it. Wearing penny loafers. (A detail he obviously overlooked.) And standing in front of a generic, nondescript portrait background. Deadly serious. Completely hilarious. I think dad must have had fantasies of being a photojournalist for Life Magazine or something, and this was the best he could do to pretend. The outcome probably didn't really matter.) Anyway, these have now become famous in the annals of family comedy . One day I'll post some of dad's work, including a few of these family gems.