Friday, May 3, 2019

Posted By on Fri, May 3, 2019 at 11:47 AM

In some states, school districts are saying they can't afford the raises they promised teachers and may have to lay off staff and increase class sizes to compensate for the salary increases.

That makes sense, right? Teachers may be underpaid, but we have to be realistic. We just can't afford to pay them what they deserve. Right?

Increasing access to early childhood education in Pima County is receiving overwhelming support from individuals, business groups, educators and nonprofit organizations. But Pima County says it doesn't have the money to start the ball rolling.

That makes sense, right? The county would benefit in the short and the long term from having more children receive a quality early childhood education. We just can't afford it. Right?

The legislature is hammering out its 2019-20 budget. It's almost certain K-12 education will get more money than last year, which was an increase over the year before. But even with the expected increase, the education budget will be lower than pre-recession, 2008 level, and back then, our schools were near the bottom of the country in per-student spending. Most Arizonans agree we should have smaller class sizes, new textbooks and computers, and enough supplies that teachers don't have to buy things for their classrooms out of their unconscionably small paychecks. But let's be realistic, folks, the state just doesn't have enough money.

That makes sense, right? Our students would benefit from a more generous education budget, and the state would have a better educated population which would help attract businesses and build the economy. The only problem is, we just can't afford it. Right?

Wrong. Wrong. And so goddamned Wrong it makes me furious every time I hear it.

The amount of money in governments' coffers isn't a force of nature like the amount of rain that falls every year. It's created by human decisions. We may not be able to coax more rain from the sky, but we sure as hell can increase the amount of money government has to spend. All we need to do is bring in more tax dollars, and all that takes is the right number of legislators voting "Aye."

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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Posted By on Wed, Jan 30, 2019 at 3:37 PM

Are you trying to write but just can't find your footing? Do you have great ideas but can't seem to put them down into a cohesive storyline?

Award-winning and local author Alice Hatcher is here to help.

Pima County Public Library is continuing its Writer-In-Residence program, a favorite among the local community.

Hatcher's residency at the library starts in February and runs through April and she will be available to consult with writers of any age, experience or genre.

She will hold office hours at Himmel Park Library every Tuesday from 3 to 5 p.m. and every Wednesday from 3 to 6 p.m.

Call to guarantee a spot at 520 594 5305. Walk-ins will only be available if space allows.

Hatcher is also hosting three workshops that are free and open to the public:
  • Finding Your Narrator in the Crowd - UA Festival of Books, 4 to 5 p.m. March 2
  • Your Novel’s Opening Pages: Establishing Tension, the Story Question, and the Reader-Writer Contract - Dusenberry-River Library, 1 to 2:30 p.m. March 21
  • The Basics of Writing Grant Proposals for Individual Creative and Research Projects - Joel D. Valdez Main Library in the Idea+Space, 10:30 a.m. to noon, April 13
Read an excerpt from Hatcher's debut novel The Wonder That Was Ours here.

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Monday, November 5, 2018

Posted By on Mon, Nov 5, 2018 at 4:14 PM

This is my final pitch, as the emails I got asking for more money the day before the election say. (More money? Really?)

Vote! I don't have to pitch that. If you've voted, great, if you haven't, do it Tuesday. However, voting for education can use some pitching, so let me give you a pitch based on personal experience.

I taught for over 30 years, high school English and a few other things (Photography, Yearbook). That means well over 3,000 students passed through my classroom doors. So I've been there, done that. I've been out of the game for quite some time, so I no longer have a dog in the hunt. I reap no personal rewards from your education-related vote.

Here are a few things I learned over the years beyond techniques and strategies that helped me become a better teacher. Money matters. Morale matters. Both will be improved by electing people who support public education.

Money Matters

Salaries matter. Salaries need to be in line with teachers' educational attainment and their importance to the community, and at least high enough teachers aren't frantic a week before the next payday. Nuff said.

Class size matters. My experience is, I can take in an entire class of 25 students, treat each student as an individual, pay attention to them and help them along when I think they need it. I can even remember the essence of what they wrote on their last few essays well enough to talk with them about their work without looking at their papers or my grade book. Add one more student above 25, and someone gets lost. Add 5 to 10 more, and students' individual outlines grow blurry. I start thinking, "I'm really glad those 3 [5, 10] kids are so quiet and don't need my attention so I can focus on everyone else," instead of, "I've got to make sure to get around to those quiet kids, make regular contact so they know I'm thinking about them and ready when they need something." As class size climbed beyond a reasonable number, my effectiveness diminished.

Lowering class sizes takes money. In a high school like the one where I taught with over 100 teachers, you need to add three teachers to lower everyone's class size by one student.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Posted By on Tue, Jul 24, 2018 at 12:08 PM

An agenda item on TUSD's Tuesday night board meeting asks the question, Should TUSD provide education for the children living at a federal detention facility located in the district?

The agenda item "direct(s) staff to research what authority and responsibility our district has to provide educational support to school aged children held in federal detention at the Southwest Key Program Facility."

The building is located at 1601 N. Oracle Road between Grant and Speedway. The children are school aged. School districts are required to educate children within their boundaries without regard to their immigration status. Though staff say they are educating the students, the facility isn't affiliated with an educational institution, and staff members have been vague about what the "education" entails.

Does TUSD have the responsibility to seek out children in its district? Probably not. But these children have no parents or guardians to enroll them in school, and the Feds aren't interested in making a connection with a local educational institution. That makes this situation unique.

By raising the question, TUSD is spotlighting yet another issue which arises when children are detained by the federal government for an extended period. Some of them were separated from their parents by the Trump administration against the parents' wills. Others arrived in the U.S. unaccompanied. As children, all of them deserve the most comprehensive care and attention we can give them.

If you want more information, Hank Stephenson wrote a detailed article about the TUSD agenda item in the Friday Star. The Weekly's Danyelle Khmara wrote about a visit to the Southwest Key facility by 16 state legislators to the facility in the last issue. 

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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Posted By on Thu, Jul 13, 2017 at 4:31 PM

The mighty Kore Press is a Tucson-based nonprofit independent publishing house and literary justice organization. For 24 years, the press has worked to ensure that marginalized voices: women, people of color, queer and trans folks, have a forum. Founder Lisa Bowden is trying to raise $20,000 for book printing, publishing staff, anthology editorial/artist fees. The Indiegogo campaign has currently raised 13 percent of its goal. Funding for literary endeavors is never easy, and the odds are stacked. Fewer people are reading books for one thing. That, and Bowden and Kore are publishing voices that’d go unheard into the mainstream.

Creating a people-powered publishing house has become the most sustainable route for extending Kore Press. A significant portion of the budget comes from support by the NEA, NEH and associated funding sources. With NEA and NEH funding on the chopping block in Trump’s 2018 budget, here Bowden opens up about what mainstream publishing is missing today and what we can expect for Kore Press' fall season.

Kore Press has been running since 1993. What made you want to create this press?

After graduating from the UA and working in the Tucson literary community, I wondered why we weren't exposed to more women writers in school, especially when Tucson is so rich with talent. After working for five years with another press learning printing and binding, and acquiring my own equipment, Karen Falkenstrom, Kore Press co-founder, and I discovered we both wanted to make a feminist/social justice impact with the literary arts, and so, Kore Press was born.

The way people consume media has largely shifted to an online format. What is it like running Kore Press in 2017? How has it adapted?
We publish online as well as in print, and have been growing our digital presence as reading, activist and communications culture has shifted. Digital printing allows us to keep producing books in much smaller runs of our titles, which is more economically feasible for small presses.

What does Kore Press look for in a prospective author?
We are focusing in recent years on writers who are interested in experimental forms, or content, that have potential for social impact. We have done, and plan to continue doing, community programming around certain artists or works to create larger public conversations which engage folks in innovative ways.

What is mainstream publishing missing? Why aren’t marginalized groups able to tell their stories in that forum?
Mainstream publishing is commercially driven, market-driven, so, it's missing a lot in terms of diversity. That is and has always been the strength of small presses—to take risks, work with all kinds of writers and voices.

With the proliferation of social media and personal technology, we have experienced a democratization of "publishing"—anyone with access can tell their story, can have an audience. Mainstream publishing, like mainstream media of all kinds, is largely governed by corporate forces, so you tend to see the same issues of systemic racism, sexism, capitalism—intersecting oppressions—that we see in large institutions and governments.

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Friday, December 23, 2016

Posted By on Fri, Dec 23, 2016 at 1:07 PM

Cole and his commotions pierce your scalp. As you turn on your side, ancient Indian arrowheads. Hot water filling ears, tub, and the one one-room tenement flat steam, a rusting locomotive engine breeze. Battling ice for window space, melting into cracked wood finish, Finished, you imagine, by blonde-on-blonde Scandinavian immigrants. Clear as winter ice. Performing now on your left, just behind the rotting sofa, is the radiator. Spitting, bleating, and dripping as you hover over it like a saint. "What child is this who laid to rest on Mary's lap is sleeping..."

Christmas, 1963: Man, she had tinsel on her brain. Waiting outside in a peacoat for her grandparents to arrive. In a one-horse open sleigh, or was it a Pontiac? Yeah, must'a been a Pontiac 'cause it didn't snow that Christmas. Matter of fact, it hardly ever snowed in Tucson.

Just another morning. The details of your insanity. The soundtrack of a waking city bangs upon your windowpane. A fine mist now covers the room as sweatshirt and panties drop to the chewed-puke green rug. "Whom angels greet with anthems sweet while shepherds watch are keeping ..."

Christmas, 1967: The family room was a switchboard yard. Southern Pacific train set careening down the tracks. The dog his under the bed while the cat made frequent attacks on the orange boxcars. Grandfather sunk in Nostalgia. Reminder of his years spent slaving for the railroads. He almost smiled and would call her by her Christian name. Those were gifts that could never be bought.

A finger, a foot, and finally your entire body disintegrates into rising waters form. Slow, deep breath. Your skin, white as bone, immersed in the flood. Nipples, buttocks, freckles, and pubic mound. Laid to rest in moors and in the briars. Caressing yourself. Still alive at 25. So fluid and warm. Molds, animal fat, and fragrance No. 5. Oceanic sleeping in a ceramic pot. "So bring him incense, gold and myrrh; come rich and poor to own him..."

Christmas, 1969: Rich aromas of baking and falter's pipe tobacco filled the kitchen. Her mother spun Crosby and Como. Grandparents watched kids unravel gifts like spools of thread. BB guns and baseball mitts for her brothers. A huge box marked "North Pole" sat off in the corner. The one with three separate booklets of directions in hieroglyphics. Took five sets of batteries, not included, and seemed to possess a mind of its own. Took a class-four operator's license to start, and could only be used under adult supervision. Which was OK because Dad was the only one who would ever play with it from that day forward. It whirred, sputtered, and then ignited before exploding into a thousand pieces, encasing the entire area in a haze of blue smoke and sea of lights.

You force yourself out of the tub and dry off next to the oven. Cracking paint and peeling last shreds of wallpaper. Ships and lighthouse give way to unforgiving white walls. You shrug, light a cigarette, and dress quickly. Dress warmly and wonder in mom would approve. The salt thrown on the streets has eaten away at your cowboy boots. But you put them on just the same and swear they've shrunk another inch. "The king of kings salvation brings; let loving hearts enthrone him ..."

Christmas, 1971: The odor of candle wax like an unsettled stomach. A statue on the pew. She sat still and alone as stone. Watching imagined snowflakes drift about the beautiful wooden church. Her grandmother blanketed in a huge white quilt. She thought about magic and how at midnight the animals would talk.

You glance in the mirror and slowly a face takes place. Put on water for morning's coffee and another smoke. You lose yourself for a moment in reflections. The midnights spent at the uptown bar and the Seventh Street entry, and finally to last Tuesday, and of the player you took home. So pretty, throw a lock on the door, and descend the dirty staircase leading down and out into another wasted day. "This, this is Christ the king, whom shepherds guard and angels sing.."

Christmas, 1973: Every Christmas day once upon a time. All her relatives gathered at the old house. Women damp with perfume and men with bourbon's breath. Children. Sweet guarantors of one more year's prosperity. Dinner was served complete with each family's endless crusades and picket signs. She called it carving through Cambodia. Secretly, she fed scraps of turkey and pumpkin pie to her dog under the table. After the meal she surprised everyone by sneaking off behind the Christmas tree, quietly sobbing as the light slowly drained from the sky.

"Haste, haste to bring laud, the babe the son of Mary..."

The day slips like a snake onto your shadowed soul. Wind freezing down and the snow tastes of tin. Plodding through top layers of last night's drop. You are surrounded by grey-green buildings where no one seems to live. Veering to the right off Ninth Street, you skid and slide down Hennepin like a bobsled, leaving rails of blacktop exposed. You need someone with a memory. Manholes exhale brown sweat steam, creating layers of colored bulbs blinking and flashing through the mist. A drag queen in red leotards brushes up against you, wishing you a Merry Christmas. The area is run down and you think to yourself that Santa Claus better have a machine gun.

A police car is stopped in the middle of the street outside the pool hall. You shake your hips and pretend not to notice their leering smiles and beady blue eyes. It's starting to snow again as you continue south towards the bridge. Face red and chapped, you peer through eyes that take in each leafless branch bent with snow. An empty car lot is covered with pure, clean, glistening white powder. You pass shops and topless bars where sound pours into the streets from God's ghetto blaster... "Have a Kung-Fu Christmas." The horizon fills with steeples and smokestacks, while the ornaments of nature charge each moment and provide crisp silence. Crowds sway and fall away into snowbanks which hold the face of this earth with frozen discipline. The river is breathing smoke, and you hardly notice an Indian glaciated on a stoop, lips pursed to a bottle of wine. You fight to light up a last wet cig-arette. A different kind of poverty. The wind knifes along the bridge as you step onto it. Beneath you runs the great Mississippi, brown and flowing with chunks of ice and sludge, deep and tranquil... You should have called your parents to let them know their daughter won't be home for Christmas, but you feel so disconnected. All around you the twilight ignites and the entire world is rimmed with frost...


Friday, December 2, 2016

Posted By on Fri, Dec 2, 2016 at 2:10 PM

Have you always known you're a witch or wizard at heart? Well, shed your muggle-ness for an evening of holiday celebration and magic at your local Barnes and Noble for the Harry Potter Magical Holiday Ball.

Barnes and Noble locations across the country will hold a Yule-ball inspired dance party at all stores in the U.S. on Friday, Dec. 9 from 7-9 p.m. Muggles of all ages are welcome to join in on the holiday fun. 

Whether you want to come in your best-dressed, as your favorite Potter character or in your Hogwarts uniform, there will be festive activities to celebrate all things Potter.

Because of the obvious popularity of this free event, Barnes and Noble said customers should call their local store ahead of time for capacity limits or special instructions.  

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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Posted By on Thu, Jul 7, 2016 at 6:21 PM

I picked up Henry Fielding's novel, Tom Jones, once again after putting it down in the middle and moving on to other things. Back in April, I noted my surprise at finding that the phrases "ass kicking" and "ass kissing" were alive and well in the 18th century. In the part I'm reading now, our hero and others are on the move and stopping at inns along their way, and they frequently drink "punch" in the evenings. I wondered, is "punch" just a random alcoholic concoction in a punch bowl, or does it refer to something more specific? The answer is, it was a specific type of drink in the same way as, for example, a martini. It's of semi-exotic origins, as is its name.

Here are the basic ingredients, according to an online source, which are similar to ones described elsewhere.
In the beginning, punch was a simple mixture of five canonical ingredients: lemon or lime juice, sugar, water, "spice" (which could have been anything from nutmeg or tea to ambergris, a musky whale secretion now used only in perfume making), and, of course, liquor. Batavia arrack, a fiery but highly aromatic molasses-and-rice distillate imported from the Dutch East Indies, was the preferred spirit, but Caribbean rum and French brandy were right behind it. The earliest known reference to the drink dates from 1632, appearing in a letter to an India-bound merchant from an English colleague, who strongly warned against drinking it (if punch has a fault, it's the ease with which one can absorb too much of it).

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Friday, April 15, 2016

Posted By on Fri, Apr 15, 2016 at 10:00 AM

It's always wise to remember, if a quote is too perfect to be true, it probably isn't. Examples abound on Facebook and in viral emails. And occasionally you can find an example in the Star's Letters to the Editor.

The Star's editorial staff should have caught this one, and if they decided to publish it anyway, at least they should have included a note under it. The last letter in Friday's Star has a quote the writer states is from "Cicero, 55 BC." It's a beaut. And it's a phony.
“The Budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed, lest Rome will become bankrupt. People must again learn to work instead of living on public assistance.” 
That perfect-for-conservatives quote should have set off the editors' crap detectors—light flashing, sirens screaming. All it takes is a quick internet search to find the words didn't come from Cicero. The top three Google hits name the source. It's from a 1965 novel, A Pillar of Iron, by Taylor Caldwell. And even there, it's different from what's in the letter. The lines in the novel aren't spoken by Cicero. They're the fictional words of another character, Antonius, paraphrasing Cicero, meaning the wording in the Star "quote" had to be tweaked a bit. And the last sentence is a reworking of Caldwell's words, mainly for the purpose of replacing the Caldwell/Cicero/Antonius phrase, "the mob" with a more acceptable "people."

But I guess I shouldn't be too hard on the Star. Louisiana Representative Otto Passman read the phony quote into the Congressional Record in 1968. It appeared in a letter in the Chicago Tribune in 1971. And if you go onto the Forbes website, the bogus quote is at the top of the "Thoughts on the Business of Life" page.

According to a number of sites, there is an actual Cicero quote that Caldwell probably built on to create the passage in her novel: “The arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed, lest Rome fall.” The problem is, it's not nearly as sexy. Nothing about refilling the treasury, reducing public debt or getting people off the public dole. (BTW, I wasn't able to locate this quote on anything that looked like a scholarly site, so I can't be certain it's accurate.)

Bonus Bogus Lincoln Quote: In 2011, our once-state-senator Al Melvin put up a series of tweets quoting Lincoln making all kinds of conservative-friendly statements. The problem is, the quotes were made up in 1916 and 1917 and had been debunked long before they got into Melvin's hands. They were being quoted so often by Republicans over the years that the RNC warned its speakers, "Do not use them as Lincoln’s words!" Reagan, apparently, didn't get the memo. He included them in a speech at the Republican National Convention.

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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Posted By on Tue, Apr 5, 2016 at 8:19 AM

This post has nothing to do with the topics I usually write about. It's just that I started rereading Tom Jones by Henry Fielding, published in 1749, which I read when I was a college sophomore. It's one of those things old English majors, especially after they become English teachers, sometimes do. A few weeks ago, in a moment of boredom, I was thumbing through my free Kindle books, found Tom Jones and started looking it over, thinking I'd spend about 15 minutes there, then move on. Now I'm more than halfway through and enjoying it immensely. Very funny, very witty (Funny and witty aren't necessarily the same thing, by the way. As Alexander Pope once wrote: "True Wit is Nature to advantage dress'd/What oft was thought, but ne'er so well express'd." [Old English teachers never die, they just lose their class, or something like that]).

For those who haven't read the book or seen the marvelous 1963 film starring a then-beautiful Albert Finney and an even more beautiful Susannah York, it's the story of a high-spirited-yet-moral young man who falls into no end of difficulties. And at one point, Tom offends the old Squire Western whose daughter he is in love with, at which time the country squire, a rough-hewn man who loves nothing more than drinking and hunting, says to Tom,
“I wull have satisfaction o’ thee,” answered the squire: “so doff thy clothes. At unt half a man, and I’ll lick thee as well as wast ever licked in thy life.”
The fight doesn't take place, but the squire keeps yelling at Tom. Until I read this passage, I was sure the phrases, "I'm gonna kick your ass!" and "Kiss my ass!" were reasonably modern, along with the term, "Ass kisser." Apparently not. Listen to Fielding describing, rather delicately (this is 17th century England, after all, not Chaucer's 14th century England), the phrases he says one often hears "among the lower orders of the English gentry."
"[Squire Western] then bespattered the youth with abundance of that language which passes between country gentlemen who embrace opposite sides of the question; with frequent applications to him to salute that part which is generally introduced into all controversies that arise among the lower orders of the English gentry at horse-races, cock-matches, and other public places. Allusions to this part are likewise often made for the sake of the jest. And here, I believe, the wit is generally misunderstood. In reality, it lies in desiring another to kiss your a — for having just before threatened to kick his; for I have observed very accurately, that no one ever desires you to kick that which belongs to himself, nor offers to kiss this part in another."

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