Sunday, April 20, 2008

Poetry 011

Cently Saints

Too tired
To give proper advice
On how to properly cocoon myself
From the world’s ills,
Like star-gazing
A way
Through our own
Sewage treatment plants,
Potted in the soul
Of the soil of our parents’ turmoil,
As though the shell
Of a piece of popped corn
Was wedged betwixt teeth
Teeth that gnaw on self-evolution
Until they irritate the last piece of determination,
As if to say that by swallowing
Frequently enough,
The overbearing rivers of commitment
Could be restored to their proper levels of course,
Of course that would probably render obsolete
The skills of
Irrigation technicians, the habits put in place to ensure
Our emotions aren’t over-flooded too often,
Or at the very least, it would
Relinquish them to the once-upon-a-time realm
Of real, live, human, cubicle customer service agents,
Void in the void
Of our potential to outsource ourselves…
Can you imagine…
Hiring someone to evolve your own soul…
So that you can carry about with your day and not have to worry about such things.

Copyright Jordy Yager 2007

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Journalism 035

I saw the 35-member Tamagawa University Taiko Drumming Ensemble perform last week and it was amazing.

The word Taiko literally means “drum” in Japanese. Situated around these gigantuous drums, these miniature Bruce Lee’s pound their entire existence into these hides giving off a mountainous boom that echoed down the Kennedy Center.

While the ensemble was made up of girls and boys both, the girls did not drum, but rather danced what appeared to be a very traditional number, booked as invoking memories and feelings of Springtime (and yes, there was some rump-shaking, literally).

You can watch some of the video here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Personal 010

So, I couldn't decide whether to put this one under "Personal" or "Journalism", but eventually opted for the former...I'll let you be the judge.

Waiting for the Orange line train at the Smithsonian stop last night around 11:30pm, I sit down and begin to read an article on Virginia folks getting caught up in horrible pay-lender programs, when all of the sudden the pay phone next to me begins to ring. Yes, you remember pay phones, they used to populate the horizon like Reebok Pumps in Williamsburg...but sad to say the last phone booth in D.C. was taken down recently.

After two rings, I decided to pick it up.


On the other end was a man's voice, probably around early 20's in age. He said:

"Hello, we're conducting a survey and are wondering if you could tell us how many obese people you see now in your Metro station."

I won't front. I looked around. Thought about answering seriously. Then, being the forever witty/corny person that I am, said:

"Slim to none."

"Well, you may not know what we mean. Do you see anyone who looks like they're having trouble walking?"

Pause. Then, he continued:

"They may be holding a cake."

"What kind of cake?" I ask.

"Usually a chocolate or maybe a wedding cake."

"Hmmmmm, what about a pound cake or an angel food cake?"

"No, not usually, usually chocolate," he said.

"Hmmm, well there's a guy carrying an angel food cake."

"Are there any others around him perhaps?"

At this point my train had arrived, so I said:

"Oh shit, he just fell, I gotta go!"


Friday, April 11, 2008

Journalism 034

Cone Orgy On Capitol Hill

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Journalism 033

Where: On the red line train this afternoon. Crowded, not too much, just enough to leave some people standing by the doors.

What: We stop at the Smithsonian stop. A seat opens up. Black guy, probably late teens, sits down. A few people get on the train, one of whom is a middle-aged white woman. The black teen waves at her very earnestly to get her attention. Once he has it, he asks, "Do you wanna sit?", pointing to his seat. She smiles and says, "Oh, no thank you." He insists, getting up, "Here," he says. "It's all yours." "Thank you so much, that's very kind of you," she says as she sits down next to a middle-aged black man, who turns to her, looks at her for a minute, then says, "Why you say you ain't wanna sit? You know you did." "I guess it's just a woman thing," she replied somewhat bashfully.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Journalism 032

BP saddled up to rival gas goliath Conoco Phillips to share the drivers seat on their next great adventure.

On Monday the two giants announced their plan to build a natural gas pipeline stretching all the way from Alaska to the lower 48 states -- a project they claim to be the largest in North American history with a distance of more than 2,000 miles and a bill of close to $30 billion.

“The BP-ConocoPhillips pipeline will bring vast amounts of both natural gas and economic opportunity to the lower 48, and that’s why I wish we could open it today instead of having to wait nine years for the construction," said U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Currently U.S. natural gas production remains relatively close to nil, while consumption is expected to grow over the course of this year by at least one percent.

“The United States has subsisted on the same gas supply levels for the last decade, and you can see it in the steadily rising cost of heating our homes," Barton said. "That might be even more expensive without the unfortunate 19 percent reduction by industrial gas users, reflected in closed plants and lost jobs. This new pipeline will counter both those unhappy trends by adding four billion cubic feet of gas per day to our supply, which is enough to fill six to eight percent of America’s daily requirement.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Monday, April 7, 2008

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Journalism 031

I went to go hear Jonathan Kozol speak recently at Georgetown University. The excuse was his new book.

But the reason was that his job will never be done.

It was a young packed crowd and mostly women at that. Why is it that women dominate the teaching market?

But halt, lest I digress on the subject of gender, before I digress amongst the topic of race first.

The 71-year old Kozol opened the evening by paying homage to a man he said has "influenced me more than any other teacher." A man who taught him to wear bright blue shoes with the one suit he owns. Mr. Rogers.

Kozol has been known to be the ultimate composer and tapper-into-er of liberal guilt, and most commonly, white liberal guilt: the notion that because of whatever degree of privilege you are afforded in this life (educational, financial, racial, etc.), there is a degree of guilt that finds itself in your back pocket for the times when you sit too long on the indignities and injustices served to too many in our society.

It's an interesting concept, because on the one hand you could totally argue that change is born out of this sense of liberal guilt. But on the other hand you could argue that these are faulty nether-regions for change to spring from, because they're operating from the basis of entitlement and not from the vantage point of empowerment. But then, where do reasonably well-off white teachers fall into this spectrum when they find themselves teaching 20+ class sizes of brown to black harbingers of our future? Does it not smirk of liberal guilt (even if that is not the lived reality for the teacher themselves) but also of empowerment?

Kozol argues that America's public schools most recently began to flirt with peril when a corporate model was initiated as the platform for how to view students. An 8-year old black girl all of a sudden became a product that will, if taught accordingly by her public school teacher, ultimately become a producing and consuming member of society. In Kozol's words, a student's value began to "lie in economic turnout rather than who they were as a person."

He spoke of a school in Columbus, Ohio, a kindergarten, which, no joke, had as its mission statement:

"To turn out products to sharpen America's edge in the global marketplace."

A kindergarten!

And pretty soon, school principals were being referred to as school CEO's. No bullshit.

According to Kozol, almost 50% of new teachers, cease and dismiss with their new careers three years in. Their reason? Well, let's just say that it's almost never the kids or the parents of the kids.

"One of my appointed roles in life is to provide remedial services to elected officials," Kozol said.

One of the most poignant moments of the night came when Kozol described the process of discovering the most precious thing a teacher can discover in their student: a motivating factor.

Now, schools have curriculum cops, he said, who go from classroom to classroom unannounced, checking to see if the teacher is at the appropriate place in the day's curriculum for the corresponding hour. That's right, they have to adhere to such a strict time line that a teacher can only dream of letting a student digress for five minutes about his trip fishing down at a peer in Brooklyn with his Uncle over the weekend.

"Kids are professionals at subverting lesson plans," Kozol said.

It's at the very end of the telling of such a story that the teacher may be able to glimpse that little nugget of semblance that remains hidden so often underneath the masks children tend to establish during those years.

"Sometimes at the end of all those 'and's and 'but's' teacher's can find the hidden treasure, the secret motivation of a child's soul," Kozol said.

SO much of Kozol's painted world uses colors from the white and black neighborhoods of the colorwheel only.

But during the question and answer session, a young black woman who grew up on the Upper West side of Manhattan and had gone to a nice expensive school, stood up after much anticipation and asked the very exquisite question, that perhaps only she, a black well-to-do woman, could effectively ask:

"Don't you think that it's more of a socio-economic factor than it is a factor of race?"

For whatever reason, Kozol stumbled and rambled around his answer to this question like a drunk who drops his change and swerves and hovers above it trying to pick it up, which is to say, I think he did actually have an answer to her question, somewhere in him, but for whatever reason, he didn't let it come out.

But damn, what a fine question. And so, I leave you with that.

And a parting note from Mr. Kozol:

"I am optimistic though, because if I wasn't I would die of despair," Kozol said.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Personal 007


I have readers!

I'll take all two of em and smother them, and love them, and hug them with lots of crafty journalism and poetry and me-ness.

Onwards, forwards, continue the renaissance.

P.S. I now smoke a bullshit.