Thursday, April 28, 2016

Protest Music

Last night, I had to tell Beatrix that, due to a 100K+ budget cut to her school, they were cutting music. Her immediate response was that the kids should stage a protest to keep it. I love the idea of her standing in the music room with her violin, refusing to stop playing until they reinstated music.

But as much as I admire this feistiness, my hear is sick that music got cut. I'm not blaming her teachers or her principal. They were faced with a ridiculous situation; the principal received the budget information late last Sunday, a major piece has changed every day, and it is due back to the District tomorrow, with no exceptions. The district is facing a 15.1 million dollar shortfall, though I am compelled to point out that a large part of that is due to reduced enrollment (people leaving because they can't put up with SPPS any more), and some (in my mind, major) mis-management of facilities, retirement incentives, and free/reduced lunch eligibility. But all that aside, when it came down to it, her school itself had to make cuts.

Her principal, and the teachers there, handled it well. Her principal really went to bat to save other programs, including G&T. They surveyed parents about which "elective" (art, music, PE, or science) should go (though it turns out that PE can't be dropped, by state law - huh?). The teachers and principal worked together to determine what the might be able to teach in class, through residencies (with PTA funds), etc. And yes, I know that Randolph Heights has been lucky to have music, and art, and a regularly open library, and science, and gym, and extended day learning.

And Beatrix will be fine. Right after the meeting, I headed to her opening night at circus. As well as circus, she takes Norwegian dance, and violin, and piano, and voice, and music theory. I've carefully balanced her camps this summer for the most experiences in these "electives."

But in the end, I'm boiling mad, and as I said above, heartsick. When did we get to the point that ANY of these classes are considered dispensable? For the kids whose parent are not out there really working the opportunities, how are they going to get music in their lives? Study after study shows a phenomenal connection between the arts — specifically music — and learning. But we throw it all away.

I'm sure anyone reading this has already seen the MPR blog post about the importance of music in education.  I've heard 100 people this week alone say similar things. Of course I agree.

But when it comes down to it, what are we going to DO about it?

Saturday, April 23, 2016

A Trip to The Little Paris Bookshop

As I've mentioned before, we're going to Paris for our 10th anniversary this June. I'm thus on a tear on books about Paris, and I was excited to see this come up on Blogging for Books.

But, sadly enough, except for the first few chapters, it's not a book about Paris, or it's quaintness, or even so much about "...a literary apothecary [who] from his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine...prescribes novels for the hardships of life." (from the book jacket)

But that's not really the story. It's more of a journey story, about the trip down the Seine that that man takes when he finally reads a long-sealed letter from his long-lost love, and the people (and cats) who join him on the way.

I never got a really good sense of those people, so I did not come to care about them or the changes that ensued. I got a slightly better sense of place for the journey down the Seine, but even that was transient. And unfortunately, the book that plays the strongest role in the story is, alas, a fiction.

I wanted this to be a great story, that combined love, and loss, and travel, and books. It wasn't, but I don't hold that against it. It was a good read, a book I am glad I read, but not a seminal one.

More info here: http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/241309/

About the author:  http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/authors/223097/


I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.


Monday, April 18, 2016

Love My Clients

Tonight, the Knight Foundation had a lovely little happy hour event for grantees. I was talking to someone about how much I loved my clients,and she asked why. Here are just a few of the reasons and things they are up to. I love my clients because:

-  Nautilus did an amazing production of The Fantasticks that I saw last night and I am still immersed in (it's sold out for the rest of the run, but they *may* add performances next weekend — don't miss it if they do!)
-  SEIU and Minnesotans for a Fair Economy have been kicking it in terms of lobbying for better job conditions, paid sick and safe leave, and higher wages. (The fast food strike last week was just one example).
-  I got to attend an incredible TV Takeover at TPT by Circus Juventas on Saturday night (and the spring shows come up in just a few weeks, get tickets now!) So proud of the amazing circus world they create.
-  KidsPark and Cathedral Hill Montessori make the world better for kids every single day.
-  I spent this morning driving around the Macalester-Groveland neighborhood today on some historic preservation survey work, and that made me proud of the work that the Macalester-Groveland Community Council does (and they had a great Annual Meeting last week!)
-  Even in the midst of funding cuts and a move, Mental Health Minnesota is doubling down on advocating for those with mental illness (which, let's face it, is all of us at one time or another.) It's been kind of a disappointing legislative session, but they are hanging in there.
-  Every day, IFP Minnesota inspires me with the vision of a Minnesota where film and media play a crucial role in the arts economy. If you have not stopped by to see the new space yet, you should! (then take me out for a drink at Lake Monster!)
-  I get to support a lot of small business owners, from wineries to PR firms to a B&B, with their payroll.
-  I've begun some fascinating contract work recently with Rosy Simas Danse, Novi Most, Ten Thousand Things, Nimbus Theatre, and Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts, and I have so loved learning more about them and working with them to make what they do even better. (I've had some super-interesting initial meetings with some other groups too!)

Luckiest girl alive.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Chalk Paint and Closets

So, for a long time I have been wanting to experiment with chalk paint. I like the idea of not having to do a lot of surface prep, and when I walk into stores that feature furniture with it, they have so many cute things!

So finally I took the plunge and bought some paint at Belle Junque. It took me long enough to try it out on anything, but hey, the store is a one-weekend-a-month store, so it fits the theme!

I finally used it on an old wood table I had acquired years ago when the building where Punchinello Players had been at the U of M was torn down. The table had been sitting around unused for years, so I thought it was the perfect first project.

And here it is! It's not perfect; I had to get used to the paint texture, and maybe should not have picked two tones so close in color saturation. It looks a little like a Dumbo stool, but I think that's just inherent to the piece, no matter what. But all in all I am pretty happy with it; it was fun to do, and I look forward to a lot more chalk paint projects!



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In other news, I took a closet organization class from my friend Sherry today (along with a few other wonderful ladies!) While I am not as much of a minimalist as Sherry is, I do know my closet needs some attention. And she was great, giving a lot of ideas about building your style, and how to sort through things in a conscious manner. She even had some tips for a "long-haul" sort, which may be a good option because the idea of dumping everything out and cleaning through it in one fell swoop really scare me.

(so ask me in a few weeks if I have cleaned anything out...)

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I'm (as always) behind in work, so maybe I should not have spent the time to pay attention to these domestic items. Bu they gave me a great deal of pleasure and balance, which I find is sorely needed in my life. So I'm very glad I did.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Avoid the Bradstreet Gate

I just got back from a beachy spring break, in which I was able to read 5 books in my 6 days gone. So it was pretty much perfect!

I mostly read on my kindle now, but brought along a paperback copy of Bradstreet Gate (which I received from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review). I am a sucker for a good academic mystery, and the marketing for the book compared it to Donna Tartt's Secret History (one of the best books ever) and Meg Wolitzer's The Interestings. While those are pretty high bars to hit, I was hoping it would at least be as good as the similarly themed Black Chalk, which I moderately enjoyed.

No such luck.

The author (Robin Kirman) is a new writer, and this is her debut. A few parts of it were exceedingly well written, full paragraphs that described emotions or feeling so well that they seemed to be part of a separate book altogether. But in general, this was a book about people we did not care about (the leads — Charlie, Georgia, and Alice, plus the housemaster Rufus Storrow) are not only thoroughly unlikeable, but we can't even imagine how they got into Harvard or why they even wanted to be there.

I have great nostalgia for going to college in that area, and one gets the sense that Harvard itself should have been another character in the story. But even that was stifled, with a few place names dropped for interest, and some references to the university's houses that made them seem like charming anachronisms.

Almost half the book is dedicated to the characters' lives after graduation, and here it really descends into a land of "who cares." And without giving away too many spoilers, let's just say that it's not an ending that makes it worth reading through.

I think there's some promise here, and I would likely read another of Kirman's more mature books in a few years. But this one was a waste of a beach read.
Bradstreet Gate

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Five Days at Memorial

This is not a newly-released book, and I have read excerpts from it before, as well as heard about it on MPR. However, I was compelled to read it in full after a holiday story this year about Christmas lights being seen in Charity Hospital, another one of central hospitals closed after the flood. When you walk through New Orleans, even today, you realize that Katrina is not a 10-year-past incident, but is now, for better or for worse, a part of the story of a remarkable city.

And so I read the book for the story, and the first part of the book told it well. It comes as close as any account I have read to actually living the experience, the agonizing pain and decisions and not-knowing. It's totally gripping.

Part 2 ("The Reckoning") loses this urgency, but gives important consideration into the investigation of the patient deaths (and at least there was an investigation). The Epilogue then gives a summary of lessons learned.

And that's the power of a book like this. Why read it now, seven years after the ProPublica article and eleven years after the flood? Because I am aft arid we still have not learned those lessons....

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.




Saturday, March 26, 2016

New York, New York

So what else did we do in the Big Apple? Pardon the list post:

Day 1:
-  Met Patrick's friends at the food court at Grand Central.
-  Checked out the GC ceiling (Beatrix was super-excited to see it in a movie today).
-  Took the Staten Island Ferry so we could see the Statue of Liberty and other landmarks.
-  Ate at Becco.
-  And, of course, Hamilton.

Day 2:
-  Brunch in Brooklyn with friends.
-  Checked out Dylan's Candy Bar (and a toy shop that had breathable puppy toys, Beatrix's likely favorite part of the trip.
-  Met our awesome friends Megan and Trixie for frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity 3.
-  Walked to Central Park for a carriage ride (our horse was named Blackie).
-  Checked out The Plaza and the Eloise store there.
-  Walked down 5th Avenue and window shopped.
-  Beatrix picked out Don't Tell Mama for dinner, and then we had to go back to Becco to get her the dessert she was craving.
-  An early night.

Day 3:
-  Free family tour at MOMA.
-  The requisite terrible, cabdriver ripped you off cab ride.
-  Real New York pizza in SOHO.
-  Rice pudding at Rice to Riches.
-  Checked out Chinatown and Canal Street shops (no watches or purses, but Beatrix bought a scarf).
-  Walked around the Battery and rode in the sea glass carousel.
-  Went to Trinity Church and found Alexander and Eliza Hamilton's graves (Phillip's was too worn to read and we could not find Angelica's).
-  Checked out the World Trade Center memorial site.
-  Dinner at the Grand Central Shake Shack (Patrick's restaurant choice).