Friday, March 6, 2015

Iowa Stubborn

Once upon a time, a long time ago, about last Tuesday, I read the news that local writer Lisa Rossi had resigned as News Editor of The American Journalism Review. She has accepted a position at The Des Moines Register in Iowa, as storytelling coach. And that means that she and her family are moving back home, home to Iowa.

I'm going to miss Lisa. To be honest, I have only seen her in the flesh a handful of times, at blog parties and public functions. That cup of coffee at Lakeside I always wanted to have with her never happened. But her presence on the local scene has been significant. I've always known she was destined for great things, but I also hoped I'd get to know her better along the way.

The first time I saw the name "Lisa Rossi" was as the author of articles on Columbia Patch about her impending first-time voyage into motherhood. She arrived here in the summer of 2010, and did some free-lance writing for Patch before the birth of her first son. She began working for Patch full-time in February of 2011.

Ah, Patch. In the blink of an eye it was with us and then gone. When it burst on the scene we thought it was the answer to our hunger for truly local news. We wanted it to be what it turned out that it could not: an intensely local, interactive news hub. For awhile it was just that, thanks to a handful of amazing people. It was our little Camelot of sorts.

Lisa was one of those dedicated and gifted people. She gave Columbia and Howard County her attention and respect. She accepted those of us in The Bubble for who we are, without losing her perspective of the greater world out there--no mean feat.

Although she (and the others) handled many weightier topics, top on my list of the old Patch days is this series on the Best Chocolate Chip Cookie. I don't know why I have become so nostalgic about this. Perhaps it is the easy collegiality between the writers and the idea that investigating our community and what makes it tick can be fun.

Life at Patch turned out to be no milk and cookies affair. But long before the bitter end, Lisa had moved on to a new challenge as News Editor of the American Journalism Review in College Park. She came on staff at a time when AJR was relaunching as a 100 percent digital operation. She drove AJR's social media presence, and she taught journalism students at the University of Maryland. (Somewhere in there she gave birth to her second son.) Times may have changed, but she has consistently moved forward.

Lisa came to town at a time when I was still struggling to find my voice as a blogger. I cared very much about who the Cool Kids were, and was sure that I wasn't among them. Lisa, on the other hand, reached out to me and treated me like someone worth knowing. She shared some of that hyperlocal spotlight and gave me recognition that meant the world to me. In a blogging community that was largely dominated by men, she was willing to listen to everyone in the room. She wasn't just looking for the Cool Kids. She was looking for the best stories.

So, we are all losing something as Lisa goes back to Iowa. But, to be fair, Iowa is a part of what made Lisa who she is. The call of one's early roots is strong: family, memories, treasured haunts. Along with that is the opportunity to pass on her love of storytelling in journalism. It's the chance of a lifetime.

As time goes on, I find myself drawn to making sure that I use this blog to share with other women the recognition that Lisa gave to me. And that is why I wanted to write today and honor her, a truly amazing woman. We'll miss her.

 

 

 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Best Man for the Job?

Wading into politics here. Not an expert. This is your typical disclaimer: All opinions here are my own, no one has asked me to say them nor offered me so much as a cup of coffee to hold forth on this topic.

Ahem.

Senator Barbara Mikulski has announced her retirement. And the entire state of Maryland is falling all over itself analyzing the likelihood of who will run to succeed her. I gladly leave the prognostications to others. As for myself, I have one thought in my mind.

It should be a woman.

Don't tell me it should be whoever the most qualified candidate is. Maryland has plenty of well-qualified candidates, both male and female, and I am saying I want to see a woman win it. Not just any woman off the street, for heaven's sake. A well-qualified, constituent-serving, feisty, responsive, ready-for-prime-time woman. And, to be specific, as I am a Democrat, that matters to me, too.

Women are grossly under-represented in government. And their voices need to be heard for our government to truly serve the people. Every day I read a story in the news in which women's rights are under attack. Whether it is reproductive rights, workplace fairness, rape culture, childcare issues, even Gamergate, women are struggling at every turn just to maintain what rights we have now, much less try to move forward in any meaningful way.

Now, what makes Senator Mikulski great is not that she was in politics to serve women. Far from it. She is well known for fighting relentlessly to represent the needs of her constituents. All of them. I'm not saying a man is unable to do that. But a representative government cannot truly be representative when the voices of those who govern are so heavily weighted to one gender alone.

And so I say, the best man for this job is a woman. It should not be difficult to find one. Maryland has scads of talent in this area. Does this mean men should not apply? Hardly. It means that I, personally, could get really excited about the candidacy of a woman for this Senate seat. We just don't have enough people governing who can bring a woman's voice to the table. So many injustices will never be addressed until we do.

How many is enough? Ask the notorious RBG.

Following up, Ginsburg said that she is often asked how many women on the Supreme Court would be "enough."

Her answer? "When there are nine."

"For most of the country’s history, there were nine and they were all men. Nobody thought that was strange," she explained.

 

 

 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Separate is Never Equal

The following quote comes from a January 24th, 2015 article on The Hill about the appearance of Dr. Ben Carson at the Iowa Freedom Summit.

Carson also criticized political correctness as he answered a question about gay marriage — and followed up by flaunting decorum with the type of comment that endears him with the base but could hurt his cross-party appeal.

"What I have a problem with is when people try to force people to act against their beliefs because they say 'they're discriminating against me.' So they can go right down the street and buy a cake, but no, let's bring a suit against this person because I want them to make my cake even though they don't believe in it. Which is really not all that smart because they might put poison in that cake," he said to chuckles from some of his staff and dead silence from the journalists in the room.

I've been mulling this one over for awhile. (Obviously.) What are the implications of these words? I have a suggestion for you. (My changes in italics.)

Carson also criticized political correctness as he answered a question about lunch counter integration— and followed up by flaunting decorum with the type of comment that endears him with the base but could hurt his cross-party appeal.

"What I have a problem with is when people try to force people to act against their beliefs because they say 'they're discriminating against me.' So they can go right down the street and have lunch, but no, let's bring a suit against this person because I want them to make my lunch even though they don't believe in it. Which is really not all that smart because they might put poison in that lunch," he said to chuckles from some of his staff and dead silence from the journalists in the room.

Or--

Carson also criticized political correctness as he answered a question about Jews who want membership at the Country Club — and followed up by flaunting decorum with the type of comment that endears him with the base but could hurt his cross-party appeal.

"What I have a problem with is when people try to force people to act against their beliefs because they say 'they're discriminating against me.' So they can go right down the street and join a different club, but no, let's bring a suit against this person because I want them to accept me even though they don't believe in it. Which is really not all that smart because they might put poison in their cocktails," he said to chuckles from some of his staff and dead silence from the journalists in the room.

Or--

Carson also criticized political correctness as he answered a question about women 's push to integrate the all-male press club— and followed up by flaunting decorum with the type of comment that endears him with the base but could hurt his cross-party appeal.

"What I have a problem with is when people try to force people to act against their beliefs because they say 'they're discriminating against me.' So they can go right down the street and join a women's organization , but no, let's bring a suit against this person because I want them to include me even though they don't believe in it. Which is really not all that smart because they might put poison their water glass," he said to chuckles from some of his staff and dead silence from the journalists in the room.

Or--

Carson also criticized political correctness as he answered a question about enrollment of students with disabilities in the public school and followed up by flaunting decorum with the type of comment that endears him with the base but could hurt his cross-party appeal.

"What I have a problem with is when people try to force people to act against their beliefs because they say 'they're discriminating against me.' So they can go right down the street and go to the handicapped school, but no, let's bring a suit against this person because I want them to educate me even though they don't believe in it. Which is really not all that smart because they might put poison their special water fountain," he said to chuckles from some of his staff and dead silence from the journalists in the room.

*****

Funny, huh? Is this the stuff of light-hearted witticisms? Or is it rather the insidious sneer of someone who, asserting he is on the inside, wants to keep others out?

Talk about being on the wrong side of history--Dr. Carson is clearly on the wrong side of civil rights.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Loose Ends

Many, many threads. Lots of knots. Too many separate lines of inquiry. Not one single complete narrative. That's where things stand today at VG/TS.

I should note that the very first person who responded to my letter about school budget cuts was Council Member Jon Weinstein. (Also heard from the administrative assistant for the BoE, Allan Kittleman, and Calvin Ball.) I know everyone was swamped with letters on this particular issue, so all responses are much appreciated. I certainly hope that the County Executive and the County Council will do what the Board of Education did not, and restore funding for those much-needed positions. Again, a word of thanks to Board members Cindy Vaillancourt and Bess Altwerger for providing some refreshing sanity on this issue.

Updated Update: Due to inclement weather, the HCEA open community meeting on the local and state budgets is rescheduled for Tuesday, March 10th, 5-6PM in the Homewood cafeteria. If you haven’t already done so, they ask you to RSVP here to give an idea of how much pizza they need.

I have a number of questions submitted by readers to send to Joel Gallihue of the Howard County Schools, pertaining to over-enrollment, new school building, redistricting, etc. So that is a post looming in the future.

Have you signed up to run for your village board or CA representative? Now is the season for picking up your packet and deciding to be a part of making Columbia better. You know what I think would make Columbia better? Online voting. Who is in charge of that?

I have discovered that I am not the only person appalled by the implementation of the HCPSS Dress Code. You'll definitely be hearing more about that in the near future.

And finally, a HoCoHoller to Eric Freed at Away from the Things of Man for his spicy and unique adventures at the Chili Cookoff put on by Grace Community Church. Mark your calendars for March 8th to attend the final Chili Cookoff at the Church of the Resurrection at 3175 Paulskirk Drive in Ellicott City, MD. From Eric's blog:

While there is no admission charge, you can vote for your favorite chili (or congregation) by "tipping" money towards your favorites. All proceeds from the chili cook-off directly benefit Bridges to Housing Stability, so you're encouraged to be generous with your tips. The "winner" gets the Golden Ladle. Please come out and support this wonderful charity. Bridges works to empower local families to maintain stability in their homes and through community partnerships to prevent homelessness in Howard County.

Now, if we can just get through the rest of this school week without any closings...

 

 

 

 

Monday, March 2, 2015

More News about the Good News

This is not a review. We have plenty of good reviewers in the Baltimore/Washington area. For an extremely local one, you might want to look here. These are my musings upon seeing a favorite musical from my youth and reflecting on how it has changed.

*****

So the sweet and gentle Godspell of my youth was apparently transformed into something more akin to a rock opera in the Broadway revival of 2011. And this production is rooted in that one, so you'll find much more wailing and rocking out than in the original. This review touches on something that we noticed. In all of that rocking and wailing, some of the ensemble singing and tuning was lost. Diction as well. If you come to the show already knowing all of the songs, it won't be a problem for you. But for my daughter who was seeing it for the first time, it was a significant obstacle.

Overall, the energy, enthusiasm and boundless physicality of this production are breathtaking. And those remembering its irreverent topicality will not be disappointed. The story-telling quality of the parables, interpreted with a "let's act it out" style, allow the show to keep updating through the years. And that's good.

I wasn't sure, however, about the setting of Burning Man. My recollections are that the show doesn't really have any particular physical anchor--perhaps an empty playground?-- and that while the Burning Man reference is current, it doesn't add much to how the audience experiences the play. I was stunned by the violence of the crucifixion scene, which I remember as being much more symbolic in the original.

Helicopters, searchlights, megaphones, militarized police wearing helmets that obscure their identities. Jarring. And, I would guess, deliberately so. But for a show that is so deeply rooted in festival, fantasy, and allegory, it feels inappropriately specific to me.

The conversation on the way home focused on two aspects of the okay.

1. If you didn't know the biblical account, and only had this production to go on, why do you think Judas betrayed Jesus?

2. Did the "righteous anger" displayed by Jesus cross the line? Did it show a spark of mental illness? Did it lean less toward holy savior and more toward crazed cult leader?

So, not the typical, "what was your favorite musical number?" conversation. I still love the music, by the way. And this production includes a lovely song that was new to me, "Beautiful City" which was written for the movie. I think, as a teen, I was far more moved by the lyrical quality of "Day by Day" and "All Good Gifts". This time through I was struck by how perfectly crafted "All for the Best" is and how beautifully it illustrates the contrast between Judas and Jesus. Much credit should be given to these particular performers for pulling that off.

I encourage you to go see this production whether or not you have seen this show before. As I said yesterday, it has been extended until March 15th. It's not your mother's Godspell, but it doesn't have to be. It's musical, funny, dramatically challenging. And it will make you think.

 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Not Your Mother's Godspell

I am so tired this morning. Maybe it's the coffee I had at the theatre that kept me awake most of the night. Maybe it's the intensity of the production we saw at the Olney Theatre Center. At any rate, I'm exhausted and I can barely keep my eyes open.

The show was Godspell. My daughters and I were treated to an evening of theatre by a good friend. The show was brand new when I was a teen, and I wanted to see how it held up after all these years. I braced myself. In some ways Godspell inspired an onslaught of truly dreadful church music which continues to this day. What was fresh and thought-provoking in church services in the 1970's is still limping along as "contemporary" today.

So I was more than a little worried.

Once the show began, I realized two things:

1. The music, though largely simple, does not disappoint.

2. This is not your mother's Godspell.

And that, my friends, is where I will leave you until tomorrow, or until such time as I get enough sleep to make sense of my impressions of this production.

*****

If you want to make plans to see this production, the good news (see what I did there?) is that performances have been extended through March 15th. As an added incentive, you can get $25.00 off of tickets for the final four performances by entering the code "GDS25" at checkout.

 

 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

I Just Don't Care

Is it possible that there are some things that this blogger doesn't care about? Yes, yes there are. And here's a current list, in no particular order:

 

  • House of Cards
  • Reality TV shows
  • Awards Shows
  • How the next Presidential race is shaping up
  • What the new fashion colors are
  • Charity social events*
  • Getting more followers on Twitter
  • Most (but not all) sports
  • Having the best lawn in the neighborhood
  • Television news

*Wait--although I find myself rather lethargic due to this never-ending winter, with no desire to find, let alone put on a suitable cocktail dress, I still strongly support tonight's Evening in the Stacks at the Miller Branch Library. You can buy a ticket up until five pm today. It's always a fun time and it supports our fabulous library system. My pick for this year's Celebrity Bartender? Bita Dayhoff, of course.

 

*****

Now, for something I do care about. I read this obituary last week and it stood out to me as a particularly significant lesson for Black History Month. Please take a moment to read about the life of William M. Hall. I promise you will learn things you didn't know. What a wonderful man he must have been.