Sunday, September 30, 2007

Plan District Six From Outer Space II: Joan or Joanie?

First, I want to put to rest concerns by many around town that the political "reality" show known as City Council Election, 2007 is ending this Tuesday. We can all agree that ending the show's run so soon would be a shame, and it's true that some of our favorite "characters", such as Paulette de'Pascal, will not be reappearing/elected.

But while we weep for those who do not "Survive" the "Kid Nation" known as the modern-day run for local political office, we can also broadly smile with the knowledge that it is quite possible that District 6 will have a run-off.

Thank (Insert Deity Here)! A Sopranos-like quick go-to-silent-black on Tuesday would deprive so many of us the chance to laugh, cry, scream, convulse and chuckle at the travails and machinations of candidates like the plucky Rey Garduno and the scrappy Joanie Griffin.

Not Joanie Griffin & Rey Garduno, but
Elvira & Tor Johnson From "Plan Nine From Outer Space"

A couple of days ago, I put out a little post about the experience of watching the Channel 27 District 6 Candidate Forum. In that recap, I unfairly commented more about the production values of the telecast than the content of the Forum itself. For that, I apologize, but I still can't get the Ed Wood aspects of City Council Election, 2007 out of my head.

In addition to the world-infamous "Plan Nine From Outer Space" there's another Ed Wood movie called "Glen or Glenda". Now for those not overly-enamored with really bad movies of the 50s/60s, "Glen or Glenda" was the most provocative and autobiographical work in the entire Wood oeuvre. And yes, I wrote that sentence just to use the word "oeuvre". The plot of the movie isn't important in the context of the District 6 race, I guess. The subject of the film is male cross-dressing, one of the few perceived social transgressions not yet brought up between Joanie Griffin and Rey Garduno.

What has me connecting District 6 and Ed Wood this time is the title of the movie, and the look on Joan/Joanie Griffin's face during that Forum on Thursday night. It's probably just me, and my years spent watching bad movies combined with horrific, public access lighting, but Ms. Griffin palpably appeared to alternate between the countenance of a real human being and the blank, cult-like stare of Elvira pictured above. Amid the B-Movie sound and effects, questions formed in my mind: "Is Joanie Griffin the member of a cult? Is Joan Griffin a different person than Joanie Griffin? Is either Joan or Joanie the member of a cult?"

Now unlike the many, many blogsters out there who use "facts" and "evidence" to get their points across (and I admire them all, from Heath Haussamen's investigatory work connecting Mayor Chavez and pals to this year's race, to Coco's synthesis of Haussamen and others insights, to Mario Burgos badgering the bejesus out of Coco) I have no supporting documentation to even bring questions of Joan/Joanie Griffin's cult participation up. It is irresponsible for me to even think such thoughts in a public forum, even if that public forum is Burque Babble and the concept of "public" means three or four readers who mistakenly drop by looking for Ed Wood movie .jpgs.

But, as (Insert Deity Here) is my witness, I couldn't shake the gut feeling I had watching that Forum. Then, a day or so later, someone told me that Joanie Griffin was not only a participant at Thursday's Forum, but that she was involved with "The Forum". You know..."The Forum". That "Forum"! Landmark Education. So I went Googling and saw her listed along with oft-discussed attorney Ron Bell on a list of Landmark/Forum links here in New Mexico.

Oh wait, maybe you don't know about "The Forum" and Landmark Education. Continuing my resolve to present as little factual information here as possible, I direct my few readers to Google. Type in "Forum" and "Landmark". Get a large pitcher of coffee, juice, Jack Daniels or whatever beverage will get you through hours of hours reading contentious, sometimes viciously so, webpages and get back to me.

Okay, welcome back, and trust me...that Jack Daniels hangover will be gone before Tuesday's election. Now all I'm gonna say is:
  1. I once had a girlfriend who got into this "forum" thing, so I'm biased (note in particular the use of the past tense verb "had");
  2. I'm not saying Landmark "Forum" is a cult, per se;
  3. Many folks have, by some accounts, received meaningful, profound life instruction from participation in Landmark "Forum".

At the same time, I'm also gonna say that I've spent some serious time with "Forum" devotees, and and they very often have had the SAME EXACT LOOK ON THEIR FACE as Joanie Griffin had on Thursday night. A look, while speaking, that someone is operating a small radio-controlled device somewhere in the subject's cerebellum. A look strikingly similar to Elvira's above, but with less revealing clothing and without the extended zombie-arms thing.

What does this mean? Why should you, the reader, care? Answers: nothing really, and you shouldn't. Not that I have to tell you that. Hidden somewhere in the reality show that has been, and will hopefully continue to be, City Council Election, 2007 has been the longer-term question of: what happens to "news" in a post-Tribune Albuquerque world? Now I'm a member of the small, twisted community of "bloggers", and am therefore again biased, but it seems that blogs, especially Haussamen and Coco (who has another excellent post here), are taking up the slack soon to be present in this one newspaper town.

Burque Babble isn't taking up any of this slack. Unlike a few, much more qualified, bloggers out there, I don't have the time or investigatory/writing skills to leave readers in a better informed position regarding, uh..., anything. I'm not claiming to "break" any news here. And I'm biased. If I lived in District 6, which I don't (heck, I don't even live in ABQ city limits), I probably wouldn't vote for Joanie Griffin. No, make that, I definitely wouldn't vote for Joanie Griffin (push polls, faux Heinrich endorsement, etc.).

And, being perfectly honest, one of the reasons I wouldn't vote for her is this Landmark "Forum" thing. Don't get me started on that. But, again, that's just me. And it's also just me that from this day forward every time I see Elvira I will think Joanie Griffin and vice-versa. I can own that. That's my own reality.

Speaking of reality, let the exciting denouement of City Council Election, 2007 begin. And not end. Please (Insert Deity Here), don't let it end now. It's been too good to end now.

P.S.: District 6 families can help bring on an encore to City Council Election, 2007 by doing the following: Have one adult in the household declare their intention to vote for either Joanie "Elvira" Griffin or Rey Garduno (sorry Kevin Wilson and Blair Kaufman, you seem like really nice guys but I'm not sensing much traction in your campaigns...I could be wrong). Hearing this, the other adult in the household must declare their intention to vote for the other of the two candidates. And to really help, any third members of households must declare their intention to vote for Blair Kaufman. We need at least 25 percent out of Kaufman and Wilson combined to stand a chance here and keep City Council Election, 2007 on the air. Those living alone can write in Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart or that Sanjaya guy from "American Idol".

C'mon guys, I know this is "Democracy In Action" and all, but the show just has to last until run-off day November 20th. It's just gotta.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Plan District Six From Outer Space

Maybe the biggest reason I like to follow local political races, especially in 'Burque, isn't the impact such races have on the citizenry and future of the city/county involved and all that "Democracy in Action" stuff. It's the defiantly unsophisticated nature of these political battles.

Unlike the continuous presidential campaign, for example, local elections offer the chance to see Average Jills and Joes go political office-hunting through unscripted, unorchestrated, unslick productions full of bloopers, outtakes and unintended political pratfalls. Watching a local race is often like watching pick-up basketball games at the gym. One is tempted to say to one's self while viewing: "man, I'd look like LeBron James out there compared to these losers".

These races are the public access television to national politics network news. So last night's public access Channel 27 forum for District 6 City Council candidates was, in some ways, a perfect match. In other ways, especially the "Democracy in Action" angle, last night's televised candidate forum was worse than sitting through a Ed Wood movie, if Ed Wood had tried to make "All The President's Men" instead of "Plan Nine From Outer Space".

To say the "production values" of last night's forum were low would be an understatement. I happened across the show a minute or so in, and the first thing I saw was a giant, full-screen head shot of Kevin Wilson. And by "full screen" I mean Wilson's head took up the entire video frame. If it wasn't for the god-awful lighting I could have performed a dermatological exam on Mr. Wilson from that extreme close-up.

Viewers were then whipped rollercoaster-style between the candidates, all of whom looked defiantly unsophisticated as they sat around a $19 Aaron Rents coffee table. Directorial decisions and camera angles seemed to be based on theories of either 1920s German Expressionist cinema or drunk guys videotaping bead-wearing girls at Mardi Gras.

I really, really wanted to pay attention to the candidates, in particular Joanie Griffin, but have to admit I remember far, far more about the nausea-inducing camera movements than Ms. Griffin's position on a "living wage".

So I was torn. Part of me wanted to just love the audio/visual badness, especially as I worked for a public access station way back in the mid 80's (where I was perhaps the worst cameraperson in the history of the medium). It was local politics at its half-assed, pick-up basketball best/worst.

The other part of me was frustrated. I really did want to get a feel for the candidates, and just about all I got was the feeling of wanting to throw up from motion sickness.

I did get one or two impressions, and I'll pass those along over the weekend. My stomach should have settled down by then.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Cycling Toward The Sweet Hereafter

"People drive like crap in this town."
--Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White, 9.25.07

A somber group of around 60 passionate cyclists went to hear Sheriff White explain and answer questions regarding the death of James Quinn last night. It was a very timely meeting, what with many BikeABQ members and other area cyclists outraged at news reports of the treatment and views of Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office (BCSO) officers about the incident and cyclists in general.

The meeting at UNM Law School was notable for several things, perhaps most strikingly how intelligent and thoughtful both the questions and answers were. Unlike many public forums, especially on emotionally charged incidents/issues, questioners were polite, controlled and asked questions or made statements in a reasonable amount of time. Sheriff White was very impressive as he related his own horror stories of being a cyclist on the dangerous roads of New Mexico, and in offering apologies for the actions of some of his officers at the crime scene and in media reports.

Still, I came away from the event just as depressed about the state of cycling in New Mexico as ever. In relation to our more powerful motoring brethren, cyclists here necessarily have a bunker mentality. We are non-violent transportation guerillas, trying to sneak unarmed through a war scene in which the odds and actions are always against us.

I don't want to be melodramatic here, but there are similarities between the plight of New Mexico cyclists and other discriminated groups over the years. No, we're not as oppressed as African-Americans (for example) in this country, and we choose to be what we are instead of being born into an unfair system, but the transportation mix we insinuate ourselves into is simply set up for us to be periodically killed and seriously injured at a rate far, far higher than other members of that transportation system.

And that was never more clear than at the meeting last night.

Sheriff White did an excellent job of explaining that the investigation into the accident that killed James Quinn is just getting started, and that a final determination of criminal negligence on the part of the driver will not have been made for some time. In the Q&A session, excellent points were made about the very poor quality of the road shoulder of "Old 66" where the Quinns were struck, and Sheriff White noted that fact and had ideas on how the shoulder might be repaved as part of a new on-ramp system between I-40 and NM 333 going up the canyon.

Yet despite all the good points and ideas, the lecture hall at UNM Law last night was dominated by the invisible presence of myriad 4,000 lb. rampaging elephants: Drivers in New Mexico. People do drive like crap here, and everybody from Sheriff White on up to the last row of seats had story after story of cars trying to drive cyclists off the road, passengers shooting bottle rockets and beer cans at cyclists, berating and threatening the lives of folks whose only crime is having the audacity to share the road surface with something larger, faster and much, much more deadly.

And these were the folks, cycling Sheriff Darren White included, who haven't been killed, yet. It was somewhat inspiring to see all these abused frequent riders climbing out of their bunkers and clipless pedals, getting together and mapping strategies to change the situation. Much discussion was had about "educating" the driving public, via things like questions on the NM Driving Test and public service videos informing motorists of rules of the roads, etc.

Even as these points were being made, however, you can see the audience becoming uncomfortable with the realization that a bunch of instructional videos weren't going to have much impact soon, if ever. Neither was increased enforcement of traffic laws, even if stepped-up patrols and follow-through was possible given shortfalls in the number of law enforcement officers both at APD and BCSO.

What made the depressing fog of holding a meeting about a killed cyclists even deeper is the blunt fact that drivers in this area, even more so than in other parts of the country, have either little regard for or active detestation of cyclists on their sacred roads and highways.

Part of this is simple size and survival. A driver given the choice between hitting another 4,000 lb. car and hitting a dog/cat/cyclists, etc. is gonna hit the smaller object. Part of this is the speed discrepancy between autos and bicycles. Try as we might, cyclists are gonna slow people down with our presence in front of or even beside an attentive driver.

And part of the equation, a large part, is the cruelty of a certain cross-section of the human population. For reasons I'll leave to more qualified psychologists and students of human behavior, the interaction between slow, small cyclists and motorists offers some the chance to overcome their innate feelings of powerlessness, and exercise these feelings through domination of something at which they can dominate, control and express their rage without fear of retribution.

And our somber little party of a cycling Sheriff and 60 avid bicycle lovers just had to laugh about that fact . Sheriff White, rightly, responded to one question from a new resident about cars parked along bike route with "welcome to Albuquerque". That got a laugh, as did almost every mention of drivers 'round these parts. When you have a love for something, feel strongly about its importance in bettering the world, but are forced into a bunker mentality by a stronger enemy, what can you do but laugh?

Laugh until you cry, I guess. And there will be tears at the memorial ride held for James Quinn on October 13th. And at the next memorial service held for a cyclist killed on the roadway, and the next one, and the next one.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Short, Unhappy Political Life of Councilor Don Harris

It's hard not to feel sorry for ABQ City Councilor Don Harris.

I've never been particularly in love with the guy, and, in fact, I believe I've gone so far as to question Mr. Harris' overall intelligence sometime in the hazy past, but a recall? Running against another candidate can be tough, but running against yourself is far tougher.

Whatever a representative of the people does in office, it's sure to upset somebody. And recall allows very few somebodies to invoke minority will to a passive majority. Or something like that. I think James Madison probably said it better. Anyway, it also allows non-candidate candidates, like recall leader B. James Lowe, to say things without being on the ballot themselves. That's a blank check for political slams, and Mr. Lowe is slamming away with zingers like:

"I think the mayor will appoint someone with discretion. He's got to be better than Mr. Harris," Lowe said. "If you've got a weed, you've got to get rid of the weeds before they become so large you can't pull out the roots. This guy is a weed."


"The thing that makes the military run effectively is integrity and respect for each other and performance," Lowe said. "The people in District 9 no longer have respect for him."

As the discerning reader can guess Mr. Lowe is: 1. a retired military person; 2. probably in charge of lawn care in his household.

I'm all for democracy, and prefer it over totalitarian government in just about every case I can think of, but recall elections are right up there with initiative & referendum as co-winners of the democratic "things that sound good in theory, but stink in practice" award, non-Communism Division. I'm one of those weird types who feels kind of the same way about impeaching folks.

The way to change those whose represent us is through elections, not willy-nilly recalls in which some loudmouth person with maximum time on their hands can get a few petitions together, string together some provocative soundbites, hide behind their non-candidacy and round up a few friends to get rid of some guy who pissed them off at some neighborhood association meeting 18 months ago.

For instance, as much as I don't care for the policies, style or existence of Martin Chavez, I would oppose any recall petition of him, barring multiple murders or equally heinous felonies. Elections are weakened enough as it is by low turnout, and recall efforts like that against Councilor Harris (and Councilor Mayer before that) just weaken them even more.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Monday Morning Grab-Bag: Political Depths and Accordion Heights

Let's play a little catch up this morning with a grab-bag of unrelated things:

  • Over at Duke City Fix, ABQ's best blogger, Coco, kindly links to a couple of Babble posts from last week as part of her wild recap of ABQ's City Council races so far. I'm guessing you know that already as DCF traffic is roughly 1.5 billion times that of this blog. Welcome visitors, don't forget to visit our gift shop.
  • The Paulette de'Pascal/Almeda University thing gets funnier if you check out Almeda's Wiki entry. The fun goes toward the macabre with a look at Wiki's "Signpost" column about Almeda trying to buy positive Wiki edits to its very negative Wiki entry. Ronald Reagan was right: facts are stupid things.
  • And yes, I know Rey Garduno has a shoplifting citation from 1988. I kinda wish October 2nd never comes. This ABQ election season just gets funnier and funnier. Here's hoping District 6 goes to a runoff in order to keep the laughs coming longer. By the way, if anyone knows how to put tildes in Blogger, send me an email/comment.
  • Let's change the subject from the ridiculous to the sublime. The new Outpost Performance Space season schedule came out and I'm plenty excited about it. Everything from what should be a very strange Jimmie Carl Black & Eugene Chadbourne show to the hyperspeed Balkan music of Yuri Yunakov. Most exciting: accordionist Guy Klucevsek on Saturday, November 10th. Give Guy a shot, folks, you won't be disappointed.
  • Lastly, speaking of live music, your humble blogger demonstrated once again that he is old, crotchety and boring with his decision to miss the New Pornographers show at the Sunshine. Nora and others at DCF went and evidently had a great time, but this aged Ulysses stayed amongst the barren crags (i.e., I went to Chow's and had "Volcano Fish"). Reasons: 1. The Sunshine Theater sucks; 2. the latest New Pornographers record is kinda boring, imho; 3. I am worthlessly old, doughy and intractably sedentary. Heck, I didn't even go to the They Might Be Giants show. The only thing worse than a geek like me is a worthlessly old geek like me.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Joanie Griffin Plays The Mistreatment of Women Card

I'm committed to a policy of taking weekends off from blogging (which, when you consider I don't get paid or anything is kinda pathetic in that I would actually take the time/effort to consider creating such a policy), but a great quote from ABQ City Council District 6 candidate Joanie (I'm not a local singer, I'm a confusingly ill-defined politico disingenuously running away from the Mayor while giving the mistaken impression I am supported by actual liberals like Martin Heinrich) Griffin has me unable to resist.

Journal reporter Jeff Jones sums up his piece headlined "Denish Aids Mayor Critic in City Race" with Griffin outraged that many (make that all) people think of her as inextricably tied/controlled to/by Feudal Prince Marty Chavez.
"I wonder: If the mayor's press secretary in 2005 had been a man, would people be calling him 'the mayor's boy?' I doubt it," Griffin added. "I am so unbelievably offended by it, I can't even tell you."

No, Ms. Griffin, people wouldn't call such a man "the mayor's boy"...they would have stuck a word/modifier in between "mayor's" and "boy". And I think you can guess what that word would be, and no I don't like pejorative sexual references anymore than you or any other thinking person.

But you're running for political office here. This isn't a "ditch-safety campaign", but a race for City Council. And you weren't just a Marty supporter, you were his Campaign Spokesperson. Or are all the, uh, jobs just the same for a "top marketing professional"?

If you're "unbelievably offended" now, just wait until you're on a Council that treats you like a political leper for a couple of years. You're gonna be able to play an entire deck of "mistreatment of women" cards then. Solitaire, of course.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Bill Richardson: Whither or Withering?

In only a few short months Burque Babble will begin to care about the 2008 Presidential campaign. Last night I ran across a Democratic "debate" on PBS and could not continue my channel surf past Channel 5 fast enough. I'm not saying these way-too-early months aren't important, or that others should join me in an informal protest of the absurd length of such campaigns, or that the states of Iowa and New Hampshire should have their voting age populations forcibly removed and high school seniors sent to Venezuelan re-education camps led by Hugo Chavez on the chance these 12th graders will become voting age eligible in the upcoming months.

I am also not saying that Iowa and New Hampshire should have salt liberally poured onto all farmlands, all buildings destroyed and roads ripped up with backhoes and landmines.

I'm not saying we need to go quite this far. Not at all.

And I am, somewhat, interested in where our beloved Governor ends up post-Election way far off in the too-distant future. Last night I read a FBIHOP piece over at Daily Kos bringing up the wishful idea that Richardson might drop out of the Prez race and beat up on 'ol St. Pete in the '08 Senate race. HOPster hat tips Joe Monahan for the story, and since I am still in a Monahan-free mindset this was news to me.

Fact is, it might be news to everyone but FBIHOP and Monahan, but Richardson v. Domenici has a definite marketing zing to it. Mario Burgos, for instance, would immediately go into blogposting apoplexy.

At the same time, others at the same site (DailyKos) are convinced Richardson is doing his own "Surge" with his calls for complete withdrawal from Iraq (agree), comments that U.S. soldiers are just making things worse there (definitely agree), and that being fat, unlike being gay or lesbian, isn't a choice (what the Hell?). These folks think he still has a good chance for the Presidency. Interestingly, no one from New Mexico seems to think this.

I dunno, I don't really care yet. For some reason, I'm having a hard time caring whether Richardson withers or whithers his way one way or the other. Maybe it's because I don't live in either Iowa or New Hampshire. Maybe it's because my feelings for Bill Richardson are so ambivalent. Maybe it's because having a pretty stocky guy say being fat is not a choice while being a gay/lesbian is a choice sounds self-centered, ill-informed and just like something Bill Richardson would say.

Meanwhile, I continuing on to Channel 6, then 7, then 8, then 9...oh wait, there's a Diamondbacks game on Channel 10...there's a race I can care about in September 2007.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Trains, Discliams, and Subaru Automobiles

My conversation starter for this morning is that I was on the same train that ended up hitting a Subaru at 79 m.p.h. down in Valencia County last night. I don't feel any more special or worthy of a TV news soundbite, but I took the 5:27 southbound, got off at the "Sunport" stop, and saw on "Breaking News" about 90 minutes later that "my" train later plowed into this guy.

No celebrity vibe here. The only vibe I get is the implied indictment of RailRunner, trains and mass transit just because a train hit a Subaru. "Breaking News", splashy Journal reports this morning...heck Subarus are getting hit by other Subarus in this city all the time, not to mention Chevy Vans, Fords, Hondas and Studebakers.

I agree safety needs to be a continued focus of the train service, but have to disagree with those who feel the train horns aren't loud enough. They seem pretty damn loud to me standing at the "Sunport" platform waiting for the northbound train to arrive in the morning. I feel sorry for the guy, but to instantly go into "train bad" mode over it is excessive and betrays some biases that further imply getting killed by another car is just one of those things, but these newfangled Iron Horses are a menace to society.

And speaking of menace, my long-term plan to tick off everybody in Albuquerque got a real boost yesterday with the publication of a little thing I wrote about substitute teachers for the Tribune. Fortunately or unfortunately, almost nobody reads the Tribune these days. Of course not nearly as few as read this blog, but still a source of concern in that it seriously cuts into the number of folks that can get mad at me.

I cross-post this little dinky essay here for two reasons: 1. the off chance that I can upset somebody who didn't see the piece in the Trib yesterday; 2. more seriously, to preface the essay with a remark or two.

I don't think teachers are to blame for pedophile substitute teachers. At the same time, the system is broken both from the standpoint of quality instruction when subs are present and the rare feloniously abhorrent sub. One small thing the Union and teachers can do to help change this is stop going to "professional development" sessions. It's far from the only thing that can be done, and would make a small impact, but it's better than waiting for APS to do something and brings further attention to just how half-ass the sub system is now.

And now, after the boring pre-disclaimer above, the original version of the Trib essay (which might look different from the Trib version, but then again I never really read the version that hits the newspaper for reasons of personal loathing and embarrassment):

Tribune, 9.19.07

For as long as there have been substitute teachers, there have been jokes about “subs”. Thinking back, I’m sure most of us have a funny memory of a sub packed away. I know I do. But clich├ęd humor loses its funny with stories of pedophilia, and right now the joke that is substitute teaching isn’t funny at all.

Recent stories of suspicious and out-and-out reprehensible behavior on the part of some APS subs disturb, as does the APS response. I’ll leave the horror show that is public relations APS-style to others, instead focusing on my angle as an APS teacher.

Needless to say, my colleagues and I are distraught when such news comes out, but we’re not surprised because the substitute “system” is a creaky relic from a time in which public educators were considered as much babysitters as instructors.

Recruitment, screening, and pay for substitute teachers are based on finding someone/anyone who can stand co-existing with students in a classroom. Little or no thought is given to having subs “teach”, and the outcome expectations of teachers using subs is near zero. Often, it’s considered a wasted instructional day.

This teacher view of reality should not be considered a slam on substitute teachers, but instead a slam on a system which offers nothing but awful pay and working conditions for subs.

We all remember how we treated subs back in school. That mistreatment hasn’t changed because everybody from the district to the child knows subs are expected to know nothing about the subject or teaching. This perception is perpetuated because substitute teaching isn’t tied to teacher training.

There is no connection between the career of a sub and the career of a teacher at all. In fact, life as a sub has no long-term professional purpose other than serving as a sort of professional homeless shelter, providing meager financial support until one can start a real career or completely retire.

Teachers and administrators watch subs of fluctuating quality come and go, nameless forms appearing then disappearing from classrooms like educational ciphers. Schools try with haphazard success to tie one or two good folks down as “permanent subs”, with a very slight raise in pay and the chance to form some bonds. Unfortunately, these solutions end as the quality sub finds better working conditions.

What can be done? Again, I’ll focus on teachers with a simple proposal: fewer days away from the classroom. Instead of waiting for APS to muddle along in response, teachers can immediately attack the problem by being in the classroom more. One way to do this is by reducing participation at “Professional Development” trainings.

“Professional Development” days aren’t “In-Services” with students out of school, but instead voluntary sessions during school days. These trainings are increasingly popular as the school year drags on, providing a respite from students while ostensibly adding needed skills.

I urge the teacher’s union, to which I belong, to call for members to halt participation in such sessions until the outdated, broken substitute system is fixed. It is irresponsible to miss unnecessary days as things stand now. Any “professional development” benefits pale next to the potential costs of being gone from our classrooms.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Dr. Science, Paulette de'Pascal, Declaims "I Have A Master's Degree!"

I admit it's been a tough week, what with the preoccupation with pedophile substitute teachers and cyclist-killer automobiles. But nothing lifts the veil of psycho darkness like stories about Albuquerque City Council candidates.

In particular, thanks Paulette de'Pascal!

Your claim of having obtained a "Master's Degree" from Almeda University, "an online university that gives clients credit for 'life experience'" not only warms the cockles of my cynical heart, it gives me red-hot cockles of full-on, gut-busting laughter. Reporter Sean Olson at the Journal must have thought he'd died and gone to Onion heaven as he wrote 'graphs like:

It costs about $500 for a "prior learning" assessment based on "life experience" toward a bachelor's or master's degree, according to the school's Web site.
Tuition fluctuates, depending on the degree sought, the school's Web site says. The cost listed for a doctorate of theology is $1,500.

Not City Council candidate Paulette de'Pascal, but another
hard-studying Almeda University "student" from the "school's" website

Not to mention....
"All degrees come on low-acidic paper suitable for framing with no transcript mention of online or distance learning, the Web site says." No high-acidic paper for them, no way. "Graduates" have a fake diploma they can use for years and years, campaign after campaign.

Spectacular stuff, and I immediately went to the Almeda University website myself. I particular admire that their "Life Experience Degree Qualification Form" is "Hacker Safe" and "Confidential and Discreet". Perhaps even more impressive, however, is their long list of possible Theology Ph.D.s, including "Doctor of Philosophy in Restorative Justice". I'm considering such a degree for myself and hope to be working in the explosive field of "Restorative Justice" by this afternoon.

Again, thanks Ms., uh "Doctor?" de'Pascal (by the way, did you buy the name Pascal in order to look more mathematically smart?). You've not only made Brad Winter's job of running against you much, much easier, you've brightened my day, my week and quite possibly every day right up to the October 2nd election.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

It's Enough To Drive A Man To Hike: Unfortunate Redux Edition

I'm typing this just after placing my road bicycle up on its ceiling hook for what might be a very long time.

Yesterday, riding down Isleta in a sudden downpour, somebody in a Chevy Van pulled out onto the meager bike lane right in front of me. I was lucky, nobody was right behind me, and I had room to swerve, make a loud suggestion to the van's driver regarding sexual matters, and ride on through the deluge.

Other cyclists haven't been so lucky. (Journal ad haters can see the Trib story here) The BikeABQ YahooGroup has been the scene of much discussion regarding the death of James Quinn, and I've read the many postings with a combination of admiration for the argumentative powers of the commenters and resignation. I think I'm pretty much resigned at this point that cyclists will continue to be powerless and/or invisible when it comes to the almighty automobile, and that we're just fooling ourselves with talk of "critical mass", etc.

Or maybe it's just that death or serious injury to change that reality doesn't appeal to me anymore. At least not right now.

So the bike is up on the ceiling hook, unsettlingly dangling like a body. I'm going back to Commuting Plan #43: walk, shuttle, Rail Runner, walk. It'll take longer, and I'll dearly miss the bunnies and roadrunners along the Bosque bike trail in the early morning, but even the cuddliest animal isn't worth dealing with homo sapiens erratically operating multi-ton missiles. At least not right now.

P.S.: I admit that I'm being a wimp here, and should continue the fight through my defiant presence along the road. I also admit that I waver on the issue far too much, as can be noted in an earlier post on the subject this last February.

P.P.S.: Anybody wanna buy a pretty darn nice Colnago Italian steel road bike? I think I'm on the market for a serious mountain in never touching pavement, ever. I think I'd rather hit a rock than a Chevy Van.

The Newspaper is Dead, Long Live Good Paying Post-Newspaper Jobs

I watched a very small portion of the "Sabado Gigante" that is an ABQ City Council meeting last night, and from reading Dan McKay's piece this morning in the Journal I must have lucked out and watched the most interesting segment.

Sally Mayer was in fine form, seething with sarcasm and rage as she hurled prickly questions and barbed comments at City Chief Operating Officer Ed Adams. That was great TV, but I found myself more intrigued by Councilor Michael Cadigan, who pseudo-rhetorically asked whether it was ethical for the city to hire a Journal reporter, Jim Ludwick, into the sparkling new city position of "Animal Care Analyst" at $72,000 a year, especially as Ludwick was until recently the Journal reporter assigned to stories about ABQ Animal Services.

I'll let others debate the ethics involved (ethics/morality...such slippery places) and instead point out that the Ludwick hire is just the last windy flake in a blizzard of poorly paid newspaper people getting hired by politicians into swanky jobs. I'm not saying there is something wrong with people like the Trib's Kate Nelson, Kate Nash and everybody else named Kate going into government jobs (the Trib is dying after all), but instead bring it up as a sign that not only the Tribune is dying here.

Newspaper reporters are pitifully paid. With the Trib's impending death, that leaves the journalistic penny-pinchers at the Journal with an even bigger pool of potential reporters to inadequately pay. The death spiral of print journalism will be full of Jim Ludwick's from here on out.

In related news, the New York Times has given up on its attempt to actually make money off the Internet. "Times Select" is no more as of tomorrow. I'll be first in line to read Maureen Dowd now, after having avoided her, Frank Rich and the other Times columnists at $14.95 a month. I'd like to say I missed their columns, but life kinda went on without them, I guess. I also expect both Rich and Dowd to find themselves some post-newspaper jobs in the near future. Maybe Mayor Marty Chavez will need to hire some "Civil Liberties Analysts" some time soon.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Superintendent Everitt Gives APS Board A Scooby Snack

We're roughly six weeks into implementation of the grand experiment known as "APS Principal Shuffle 2007", so it's still too early to assess the damage/improvement done to individual schools by all the switching. We'll give that a semester at least.

But it's not too early to respond to APS Superintendent Beth Everitt's new, really keeno, idea regarding communication in such matters. As you may recall, the biggest problem with last Spring's announcement that several principals would change jobs was that individual school communities (parents, students, teachers) were completely left out of the decision-making process.

So, naturally, Dr. Everitt focuses her attention on (as the Journal headline reads this morning):

Everitt to Notify Board of Hires

Yes, you read that right. As Dr. Everitt sees it the problem wasn't involving the community, it was not letting APS School Board members know about the principal changes ahead of time. And now she's correcting that, even if the APS Board members interviewed for the story don't really seem to want such information. As Board President Paula Maes equivocatingly put it,
"I didn't take it as she was trying to get our approval," Maes said. "We have no business doing that."

Exactly. Meanwhile, no mention of the real stakeholders at the school level and whether the Superintendent will ever involve them in the process. Stupid meddling, pesky school-level stakeholders. Seriously, Everitt and APS bigwigs often sound like those bad guys on the old "Scooby Doo" show, getting away with putting sheets on their heads and scaring everybody as they act like ghosts at the old run-down mill until the pesky, meddling kids come around asking questions and solve the case.

Well, Everitt doesn't have to worry about pesky, meddling kids asking questions. She is instead worried about a bunch of old people with no direct involvement in the "old mill" (that's the individual school for anyone unable to follow the arcane logic of this pitiful analogy) at all.

As a professional resident at an "old mill" affected by "Principal Shuffle 2007", I'll give some time before evaluating the impact of the change on my school. I don't have to wait to grade the relevance, importance and public relations acumen of "Everitt to Notify Board of Hires". That gets an F, F for phony attention to the wrong problem.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Few Ideas on Substitute Teachers and Career Opportunities

Attention recently unemployed professional people! Please become APS teachers and substitute teachers!

A few days back I mentioned the growing list of firms/organizations laying off workers, such as Advent Solar and Sandia National Labs. Since then, an even faster growing list of news stories have been published about pedophile and suspected pedophile substitute teachers.

There is no joke to make here. If only 1/100th of these accusations are true we still have a very, very disturbing situation on our hands.

APS is also always desperate to find good Math and Science teachers (as is the rest of the country).

Putting these facts together, now would be an EXCELLENT time to revisit alternative licensure for teachers, particularly those looking to teach Math/Science. Things like:

  1. Numerous notices around town about the exciting world of K-12 teaching.
  2. Even more mentions about the fact that teacher pay isn't nearly as bad as it used to be.
  3. Streamlining "alternative licensure" so that career transition can be faster and easier.
  4. Setting up some sort of pay assistance for those seeking alternative licenses to help during the financially fallow period between job layoff and first official check as a teacher.
  5. Using teachers seeking alternative licensure as substitute teachers, after proper training and screening of alternative license applicants.
  6. Increase pay to substitute teachers and make it a livable wage.
  7. Working with the teacher's union and directly with teachers to reduce the exorbitant number of teacher sick days.
Sure, the above plan won't solve all problems, but at least it IS a plan. Right now, the entire APS substitute teacher process is anything but a process. Awful news stories like those of recent days will further illustrate this fact to the public. Now is the time for rigorous prosecution and new ideas when it comes to substitute teachers and those in APS classrooms in general.

I apologize if there are already plans in place to address getting better, less felonious, substitute teachers. Most APS teachers will tell you that it certainly appears no plan is in place, and that subs are overwhelmingly still the retired folks and 20-something Poly Sci types who are having trouble getting a "real job", and who knows who else (and I say that as someone with a Poly Sci degree....two of 'em even).

P.S.: I was hoping to make my 400th Burque Babble post a sort of celebration, but instead wrote about pedophile substitute teachers. Sigh. I guess I'll wait for number 500 for any real festivities.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Oklahoma, Where the Worst Darn Senators Rule The Plains

I have a good friend from Oklahoma, and I'm always giving him a hard time about the two Senators from Boomer Sooner Land, Coburn and Inhofe. Can any state in the Union claim to have anywhere near as bad a tag-team sack o' Senatorial suck as that duo?

I finally bring these bozos up here after reading a quote from Sen. Coburn in the New York Times tonight regarding a Native American cultural center that was half-established in South Dakota (read the story for the convoluted details). Anyway, Coburn had this to say in response to the idea of "cultural centers":

“We don’t need any more cultural centers,” Mr. Coburn said. “We’re fighting a war; why should we be spending any more on a cultural center?”

Uh, because if you spend money to....oh, never mind Sen. Coburn, never mind.

Being an Oklahoman and having these guys "represent" you must be like having Lionel Hutz as your defense attorney, only more expensive and less plausible.

P.S.: Man, do I miss Phil Hartman.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Marty Spins and New Mexico Chants: Whirling Dervishes, Burque-Style

Why is Feudal Prince Marty Chavez not polling so well both inside and outside his purported fiefdom? He says it's because "I have one of those jobs where you actually have to do things" and "make sometimes unpopular decisions". I'd love to feast greedily on the veritable cornucopia of sweet-spun garbage present in that response, but Coco, Mario Burgos and half the bloggers in the Northern Hemisphere already beat me to it.

I will say this, however. Right there in another part of today's Journal (c'mon go to the Journal...they still have that sports section ad to wade through if you're not paying, and that thing NEVER GETS BORING) is an example of the hard working, possibly unpopular stuff Marty is tackling these days. Namely, right here in big-time headline font it reads

Mayor Fights War On Weeds

Yes, Feudal Prince Marty is tackling the big, complex issue of weeds. He wants you to know he's against them. He's not afraid to lay it on the political line, popularity be damned. He's anti-weeds. Boo-yah Diane Denish! When's the last time the Lt. Gov. had to take a stand on something as politically volatile as weeds? Marty's down here in the dirt, rocks and goatheads getting stuff DONE, Denish! And don't you forget it! I know the Democratic voters of New Mexico never will.

As to the poll itself, I'm sure only people like Joe Monahan actually care about it (I'm guessing here...I stopped reading Monahan about a year ago, and you know what? The air tastes better. The sky looks bluer to me. Colors seem more vivid in general. Go figure.) The only marginally interesting stat was that Chavez trailed Denish 54-29 in metro Albuquerque.

Maybe that's because ABQ Councilor Sally Mayer, until very recently mild-mannered lackey of Feudal Prince Marty,was a participant in the recent poll. The Councilor (who probably isn't a registered Democrat, now that I think about it) isn't too happy about the Mayor lying to Mayer about the job status of the associate director for animal care at the city shelter. Lying as in he told her he wasn't firing her...then he did. As quoted in the Tribune:

"I will forever remember that the mayor looked me right in the eye and lied to me."

It's a bit long, but with a little work we might be able to put that on Martin Chavez' tombstone someday. Being that it's the sentiment of so many people around town we might just be able to make it a widespread mantra even before the Mayor's eventual physical demise. Kinda like "Hare Krishna, Krishna Hare", or "Om Mani Padme Hum". I'm gonna go practice this new mantra with all the free time I have now from not reading Joe Monahan. I propose we do this Buddhist chant style with a little Tuvan throat singing tossed in. Ready? A one, a two, a Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii Wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiillllllllllllllllllllllllll Foooooooooooooooooo... then we'll ring a bell and rub some beads or something.

On second thought, let's eliminate the complex chanting and shorten Councilor Mayer's fine comment to what so many have been thinking for so long: Martin Chavez...what a jerk.

It's Getting Harder To Be a Geek In The City

First it was Intel laying off a bunch of folks. Since then, the announcements have been tough for the geekier among us:

Of course, not all these jobs are in the critical "geek sector", but it does seem nerds are being slammed here disproportionately. What impact will this have on the city? Are these geeks the ABQ canary in the economic Utah coal mine? How will this affect sales of sensible, highly efficient automobiles and USB jump drives in the city?

And lest anyone get the impression I'm laughing at these people, and/or ridiculing geeks in general, let it be known that I'm one of the geekiest people I know. Hell, I have a "blog". How much nerdier can you get? I'm just concerned for my geeky brethren and my questions are serious (if poorly crafted) ones.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Sonny Rollings Unwittingly Breaks The Rules

I've avoided trying to "embed" videos here. The Internet circa-1998 is the golden age, in my opinion. And I'm not really big on birthdays because, heck, we all have one. It's like a law or something.

But this is Sonny Rollins birthday, his 77th. So gruffly cynical views go out the window. Here is the great, unbelievably great Mr. Rollins playing "Weaver of Dreams" back in 1959 at age 29.

Happy Birthday, Sonny! Have a good weekend, everybody.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Reluctant School Board President

Boy, do I hate it when I somehow wind up on the APS School Board and have to decide stuff. Such seems to be the sentiment of "Reluctant Board President" Paula Maes, who hemmed, hawked, dodged, rope-a-doped, duck and dodged her way through the issue of APS police carrying guns during school hours for as long as possible. Finally pinned down to her responsibilities, Maes said "I am not an advocate of guns", then voted for guns.

Personally, I too support the idea of school cops with guns a bit reluctantly. I'd want to explore some creative thinking on how issuing guns could be tied to both gun awareness and control. Make it a learning experience in a school and all that. But more than anything I want political leaders like Ms. Maes to do what they're supposed to do, decide stuff and stick by their convictions. Maes gives the impression of a small, bullied 6th grader cautiously tip-toeing through School Board Middle School. Not inspiring leadership, and not good modeling for what to do with bullies for that matter.

When Don Knotts does it in a movie, it's funny. When it's your School Board President, it's just kinda pathetic.

P.S.: It strikes me that making a Don Knotts reference possibly loses much of my gigantic Burque Babble audience, as they are too young to know about the Buster Keaton of the 60s/70s. That's sad.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

"We'll Meet Again, Don't Know Where, Don't Know When"

I can't exactly put my finger on the reason, but there's something strangely comforting about finding out that "a B-52 bomber was mistakenly armed with six nuclear warheads and flown for more than three hours across several states last week". Maybe it's the reassurance that for all our human planning, ingenuity and brilliance, we really do live in a "Dr. Strangelove" world that will end up being deathly altered in the most unplanned way possible. Maybe it's the thought of all those people in TSA lines at the airport being searched for excessively large toothpaste tubes while armed nuclear weapons are flying overhead. Maybe it's the fact the story immediately brings to mind the old George Carlin bit about oxymorons like "military intelligence".

Whatever the reason, be sure to look to the skies tonight, tomorrow and every chance you get. You never know what you're going to find up there.

P.S.: And now looking around the Net, I see an Alibi blogpost/comments about the incident using the very same "Dr. Strangelove" references. Do (insert quality of mind here) minds think alike or what? And I certainly agree with the one commenter that "I'm just always looking for an excuse, no matter how slim the pretense, for quoting from "Dr. Strangelove"."

P.P.S.: And now I see Wonkette has had both the story and obligatory "Dr. Strangelove" reference all day long! Maybe I should surf the Net, THEN do the blogposting. This saturation bombing of cultural references does illustrate, however, how wonderful the post-Tribune world will be, one full of diverse and original thinking. I hope you can tell I'm joking.

Watching Movies, City Council Election Style

It's time like these that I really wish I lived in ABQ city instead of out in Bernco, because I'm missing direct contact with 'Burque's version of "Alien v. Predator", i.e. Marty v. O'Malley. Actually it's more like "Alien", and Feudal Prince Marty Chavez is trying to clone offspring Aliens that will spring from John Hurt's (as played by Brad Winter) abdominal cavity, then wreak havoc until Sigourney Weaver (O'Malley) takes the offensive and kicks Alien ass through a series of increasingly poor sequels.

Or something like that.

Perhaps the movie that best fits the whole Marty and his minions story is "Invasion of the Body Snatchers". Nothing else besides the consumption of or lying next to strange huge pods (I never really understood that part of the movie) can really explain the blank, gape-eyed staring subservience of Marty's Minions to the ideas of Marty. Well, there is the money. Okay, in our twisted analogy the pods are money, money and large housing subdivisions. Yeah, that's it, the pods multiply like 3-2-2 homes built 10 feet away from one another as far as the eye can see. We'll call it "Invasion of the New Mexico Homebuilder's Association".

I think I've been watching too much of Jeremy Piven on "Entourage".

Living out in Bernco, away from the Katherine Martinez ("KMart") mailers, I can only watch/read stories like Coco's on Duke City Fix about Marty's Slate o' Minions, Trib stories about how "KMart" supposedly wants to distance herself from the tentacular grip o' Marty and hard-hitting Journal stories about Marty Minion opponent Rey Garduno's (sorry, no tilde on Blogger that I can see) shoplifting charge from 19 years ago.

I'm like a recovering substance abuser watching one of those drug-filled parties on "Entourage". I'm about one political mailer from falling off the politico-wagon and moving the goats and horses to a little District 6 bungalow near Girard and Lomas. I know it's only City Council, but what's so fun about these races is the public access TV level lack of slickness and sophistication. My favorite so far is the response to an earlier Coco post on DCF from the campaign manager for District 6 candidate Joanie Griffin. Funny, funny stuff. Better than anything on TV, public access or otherwise. Except "Naked Man" on Channel 27. Man, I wish Don Schrader would run for City Council. He'd be perfect in the role.

P.S.: Speaking of City Council...I won't be able to go (something about horses and goats), but the Council will be considering "bike boulevards", as advocated by the wonderful "BikeABQ" cycling-as-transportation fanatics group. Like everything else it seems...I'll be watching on Channel 16 tonight.

Monday, September 03, 2007

On Blogging, The Tribune and Wearing Really Tight Clothing

I've resisted double-posting Tribune stuff for a number of reasons (1. feels like cheating; 2. different audience; 3. no linking and all that fun, blog stuff), but I'm making an exception since: A. this one is about blogs; and, B. I have tons of grading to do. Keep in mind the Trib may: A. change this significantly (i.e. make it better); B. not even run the thing, I suppose.

A regular disclaimer-fest above, but here's the "column"....oh...another disclaimer, writing 750 words I like...writing 500 words not so much. It's like wearing pants that are far too tight. Finally, here's the damn thing....


To quote Jagger/Richards, please allow me to introduce myself. I may not be a man of wealth and taste, but I am a blogger. In the opinion of some, that might just make me the Devil when it comes to how news is reported and read these days.

Of course, that’s not how I see it. Few envision themselves as Beelzebub, and I’m no exception. Nor do I necessarily think bloggers signal end times for truth, justice and the American Way. Naturally, I bring this up because ideas of news gathering, reporting and distorting are on the minds of many as we deal with the fact that the newspaper, most specifically the one you’re holding right now, seems to be dying.

Now nobody, including me, claims bloggers are powerful enough to kill off newspapers. By and large, the terms “blog” and “powerful” are mutually exclusive. Blogs are simply one small part of the trend away from traditional “objective” news organs (newspapers, broadcast networks) and toward politically/ideologically slanted news analyzers and interpreters, many of which are ‘Net-based.

The above sentence is far too complicated for me, a simple blogger, to explain well, but look around. A significant portion of Americans now rely not on network news but “The Daily Show” as their primary TV news source. Instead of “on the one hand/on the other hand” journalism viewers want “on the one hand, let’s laugh at the other hand” deconstructions of news. Fox News does the same thing, it just bitterly derides instead of laughs at the other side.

The Internet takes this trend toward “post-news” to the nth degree. Anybody who spends significant time on the ‘Net develops a list of websites corresponding to interests, even the most hyper-specialized. Little micro-communities form as people talk over shared loves, hobbies and obsessions. There are millions of these micro-communities now.

Some deal with news/politics, and in every case I’ve encountered the reason for the blog/message-board to exist is not the distribution of news, but the interpretation of what a news item means for people with a shared ideological view.

At the same time, political blogs, from giants like DailyKos and Free Republic, to dinky, little Albuquerque blogs, perform several democratically healthy functions, including expanding on stories missed or underreported by traditional news outlets.

Unfortunately, what’s missing from even the most laudable of blog reporting is: A. a sense of what used to be known as “credibility”; B. a readership that goes beyond the micro-community. All blog news reading is filtered by an assumption of bias, and the fact that nobody is reading anyone from the other political side. It reminds one of the old days where all newspapers were openly one-sided, only with fewer rich wingnuts running fewer newspapers and more geek wingnuts running more blogs.

For me to feel less devilish about the demise of the newspaper, news blogs need to reach out more, politically insulate less and evolve into a credible place where information can be widely shared and believed. In saying this, I also realize the Devil is in the details, for it might be the case that Americans really no longer seek credibility, merely entertainment. If that’s true, I guess we’re all going to Hell.