Saturday, October 24, 2009

Aww, shaddup!

Just online signed my name to a Democratic Governors Association petition that seeks to repudiate the ill-conceived verbiage utilized by the National Republican Party in response to President Barack Obama's attempts at attaining peace. Following is the commentary I contributed to the online petition:

When the National Republican Party "appointed" as its spokesman the prejudice-purger Rush Limbaugh it sealed its own fate.

As literally non-partisan (not a "Liberal"), I am not in any way affiliated with either the Democratic Party or the Democratic Governors Association.

However, in this instance, I agree with the DGA's stance, and wanted to add my written voice to its message to the public.

Did President Barack Obama "deserve" this year's Nobel Peace Prize? Tough call. But if you view it as an incentive to a man who purports to be a peacemaker, rather than, as is his predecessor, George W. Bush, a warmonger, then it all adds up.

As a journalist I am an adamant proponent of the First Amendment—ie, freedom of speech—so would not seek to silence the rude Republicans who speak ill of arguably the most powerful man in the world, our commander-in-chief.

If y'all dislike the current GOP message, simply tune it out.

That way y'all will share a benefit Limbaugh has: he is unable to hear his own bullshit.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

If it pleases the court, your honor...

Yesterday morning I represented myself in court. Contrary to the adage "A person who has himself as a lawyer has a fool for a client," I did quite well, thank you.

The plaintiff in the case, a vieja who's evicting me because after allowing me for a little over a year and my now-former roommate for three years to live in squalor despite numerous complaints and requests for repairs and replacements, now has a bug up her as to do something she ought to have years ago, renovate the apartment, but now so she can rent it for a higher cost, sought both possession of my apartment as well as back rent—despite her husband, probably an "illegal," who's been representing himself as my landlord while clearly the seƱora is the building's owner, having declined to accept October rent. Consequently, my security deposited was awarded to the slum bums. After I presented my case, reciting from notes I'd scribbled in the hour's time prior to the courtroom's doors being opened, suggestion that the judge order city housing inspectors investigate my apartment building, in particular my unit, where, I said I was confident, much to both their disgust and their dismay, they'd discover beaucoup code violations. (As the judge while I spoke my piece took no notes and in the courtroom there was no court recorder, my rhetoric fell on deaf ears. One day soon, however, once enough residential and commercial renters are fed up by slumlords, in the streets throughout the U.S. will rain anarchy. SO, get to work on this serious prob, Obama!)

After I'd informed the judge I am moving out of my apartment Oct. 30 and requested merely time enough to remain there 'til at least that date, guess what was the judge's judgment.

Give up?

None. The case is continued 'til Nov. 2! At which time, the judge so ordered, I re-appear before her and present to my landlady the keys to my apartment. Reminding the judge that come Nov. 2 I'd have already vacated my apartment and left the state, I inquired as to what could happen to me if I did not re-appear for the continuance court date. Finally, clued in, the affable but otherwise sometimes bewildered judge suggested that in that case once my truck is loaded and I'm set to skedaddle I simply at that time present to my landlady the aforementioned keys. That way neither the plaintiff (the vieja) nor the defendant (moi) need show up in court on the continuance date.

Ironically, since a one-way truck rental is beyond my financial means, and I had to opt instead for a two-way, Nov. 2 I will be in Chicago, where that day I'll return my truck to Elmhurst, then, as promised (in a blood oath), my best friend will transport me to Chicago's grungy Greyhound station, where that evening I hop a bus for a ride back to Nashville—where, finally, I'll be able to hang my hat.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

So long, CRP, and thanks a lot

Recently I was a participant in a University of Illinois at Chicago Department of Psychology Community Reintegration Program, or CRP.

As a sufferer since early childhood from major depression, severe anxiety and ADD, my life time has been one replete with major mental-health issues. Long ignored, despite visits to shrinks who more often than not were loopier than I, about two months ago, on the advice of my current psychiatrist, I entered into the CRP. It promised to offer improved coping skills, social interaction (which I, as a disabled journalist who works primarily from home desperately require), and an excuse to get out of the house four days a week for reasons other than grocery shopping, hitting Walgreens for my precious meds, or stopping in the verboten McDonald's, which is no longer a haven for the more healthful dieter into which I have evolved.

The program offered me sessions with fellow group members in everything from living advice—from daily hygiene to ensuring to awake each morning as though there is a bluebird perched on your window sill—to coping mechanisms, learning to deal with and in spite of mental illness, focus groups and planning ahead for one's week and weekend. I entered into the program a tad skeptical but, due to its savvy staff of social workers, was soon a satisfied customer.

Unfortunately, a month ago circumstances beyond my control forced me to drop out of the CRP. The programs' administrators, as well as my shrink and some of my friends thought I ought to continue on with the program despite a major dilemma in my life—pending eviction with no ways or means to move. Perhaps it may have helped me better cope with my tsuris, but, seeing that at the end of each program day I was both mentally and physically exhausted, and wouldn't have been able to act on what needed acting on, I made the dubious but right decision.

What I garnered from the CRP will last me a life time, and, God willing, in my new home, Nashville, Tenn., sharing a home with my dear brother and loving nephews—despite the fact that I'm commandeering the eldest one's bedroom—I will seek there a similar program, albeit probably one with a country-western theme. My plan, partially formulated thanks to skills I acquired in the CRP, is to help out my brother and his sons as much as they help out me. I sort of see myself as Uncle Charlie, from "My Three Sons."

So, to all those sharp, sensitive, savvy gals at CRP, please accept my eternal gratitude.

You've certainly earned it.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Why Joe College can't write. Or can he?

Incoming freshmen. The bane of college professors, especially English instructors, who discover to their dismay that most students are unable to write their way out of a paper bag.

The writing skills of these students, according to Purdue University English Prof. Mark Mabrito, who offers both a composition program and a writing major, has declined in the last 20 years or so. But why?

"The reasons, I think,? says Mabrito, "are up for debate and more complex than most would believe it's not as simple as saying that they don't read enough and watch too much TV."

Mabrito supports the idea that there is a combination of factors at work. He believes that while college students today are less literate in the eyes of faculty, they actually may be more literate than most faculty, only "in different ways."

Common terms used to describe today's college student are either "Net Generation" or "Digital Natives," which typically refers to students born after 1982. Those terms are significant, according to Mabrito, because they reflect how students have acquired literacy primarily in a digital world, where text is not created and thought of in the same ways as it is in the academy. Although Mabrito argues it ought to be.

Current studies show that students of this generation have spent, on average, 600 percent more of their time watching television, playing online games, and on the Web than they have spent reading traditional literature, such as books, articles, and the like.

"Most faculty would point to that statistic and say that's the problem: students need to put away the Xbox, close the laptop, and pick up a book," Mabrito explains. "I, on the other hand, would argue that faculty need to get an Xbox, spend more time on the Web, and understand better how this generation processes information."

For example, Mabrito says, this generation of student is digitally wired, seeks social interaction on line, can easily multitask, and expects interaction to be part of the learning process. "Most faculty, on the other hand," Mabrito suggests, "still view learning as a largely linear, individual activity based heavily around traditional printed text." Therefore, in most cases, Mabrito reports, faculty and students may be working at cross purposes.

So while it may be true that today's college student cannot, for example, write a longer, traditional essay as well as students of previous generation, they can and do write quite a bit. "That is if we expand our notion of writing to include blogging, IMing, MySpacing, and the like," Mabrito notes.

This generation also has access to more information "and are probably more adept at navigating that information" than previous generations.

"So, yes, there is a literary crisis on campus, but I would argue it's on both sides of the fence, among faculty as well as students," Mabrito states emphatically.

Change is happening, however, Mabrito is happy to report. In the last few years, there has been a growing movement in composition toward "multimodal" texts. In other words, expanding our definition of text beyond printed words, more research being conducted in the connections between "game theory" and literacy, using Wikis, blogs and more in the writing classroom.

The question remains will students today ever be as adept at writing the traditional essay as the generation before them, even with more writing classes and extra instruction?

Probably not, theorizes Mabrito. But, he would argue, that's OK "because our concept of text is changing, so faculty need to focus more on teaching to the future rather than focusing on a genre that is quickly becoming an artifact."

Clearly, writing instructors like Mabrito have their hands full.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Obama has no cajones

Should President Barack Obama have backed down in his beer bundt with Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Cambridge police Sgt. James Crowley?

Not on your life!

Following Gates's arrest by Crowley for breaking into his own home, the president commented during a recent press conference that Cambridge police had "acted stupidly." A keen observation on Obama's part.

Yet Obama "agreed to disagree," according to news reports. In other words, Obama backed down from his originally stern stance on the racially-charged occurrence.

What could possibly possess the otherwise big-balled commander-in-chief to cheese out on his deeply-held belief in racial profiling by police? The answer is simple: the bane of the 21st century, political correctness.

Being politically correct is all important in politics—unless, of course, you're an ultra-conservative Republican. For Obama, his PC is an embarrassing faux pas.

The result of Obama's backing down on his words weakens the chance of racial equality in America.

And that is wholly unacceptable.

Better luck next time, Mr. President.