the twit


    are you kidding?

    from the proposal language of the USDA Farm Bill 2007:

    a section entitled "problem":

    "Schools use their cash assistance to purchase the large majority (approximately 80 percent) of the food for school meals, but no current data are available to know what foods are being purchased. "

    a section entitled "recommended solution" (emphasis mine):

    "Conduct a survey of foods purchased by school food authorities with Federal cash assistance once every 5 years. The most recent data on school food purchases are a decade old. These data would help USDA efforts to 1) provide guidance and technical assistance to school food professionals in the implementation of new rules intended to conform school meal patterns to the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans; 2) better manage the types and varieties of commodities procured by the Department on behalf of schools; and 3) assess the economic impact of school food purchases on various commodity sectors."


    i've just started researching this topic in order to give the CRCL kids some leads. this is crazy...


    a short catching up

    things have been many and stressful lately. transitioning to a new type of being productive, with no imposed ritual, and little guidance. be careful what you wish for when you've got big ideas; at some point someone may say, "ok - here's a salary. get it done." life as a series of short adventures.


    1. at the grove.

    from "at ole miss, the tailgaters never lose," nytimes:
    The glory of the Grove is legend at all of Ole Miss’s rival schools in the Southeastern Conference and beyond. It is the mother and mistress of outdoor ritual mayhem.

    As Charles R. Frederick Jr., a folklorist at the University of Indiana, characterized it in his dissertation on the Ole Miss tailgating event, the call to “come on out Saturday and look us up” in the Grove is as basic, and born to a spot, as a human bond can get. And it is as deep as the root of a tree.

    It is also as fresh and green as a leaf.

    “I love it,” Molly Aiken, 19, a sophomore at Ole Miss, said on Saturday under a tent, under the trees, a party roar rising and dissipating into the whisper of a warm, humid wind above. “There’s no place like it.”

    Ms. Aiken, who is from Chattanooga, Tenn., said of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, “I went to U.T. this past weekend, for the U.T.-Florida game, and I was, like, this just doesn’t compare.”

    Ole Miss’s stadium accommodates 60,580 people, and devotees of the Grove argue that the Grove accommodates more. It is every kind of party you can describe, at once: cocktail party, dinner party, tailgate picnic party, fraternity and sorority rush, family reunion, political handgrab, gala and networking party-hearty — what might have inspired Willie Morris, one of Mississippi’s favorite sons, to declare Mississippi not a state, but a club."

    so after two years with the teacher corps, and now a couple of months employed by the university of mississippi through the william winter institute, i figure it's due time that i check out this grove thing. ole miss was playing florida, and as the couz is a floridian, he came over to oxford from marks and at a bar on the square we watched the surprisingly close game. since it was an early afternoon kickoff - 11:30 - the grove was active both pre- and post-, and we wandered to campus afterwards; a family from marks had a tent somewhere in the mess - we were determined to find it and say hello.

    the grove is, of course, an impressive sort of bedlam.

    this sets the scene: a tailgating melee unlike any other in population density, southern flair, and who-are-you-kin-to socializing. the couz and i are following around an older woman from marks as she - dressed up elegantly and with pounds of makeup - makes the rounds. i am wearing t-shirt that says "the jackson branch naacp supports the school bond referendum," with a big naacp seal in the middle (and my membership card in my wallet, to boot). i am - in case you're wondering - white (or more appropriately, half-colombian but not latino-looking at all and claim my upbringing from the caucasian paradise of the suburban midwest). this all becomes very apparent when two ole miss grads (who look the part - khaki shorts, swoosh-over-the-eyebrow bangs, and cheesy sunglasses with that odd "sporty" necklace attachment) are cleary discussing my shirt as the couz and i wait patiently for our escort to catch up with whomever she's run into. of course, i'm not totally surprised that a white guy in the grove wearing an naacp shirt would furrow some brows, but so does dixie (give me all the "heritage, not hate" you want; some heritage is absurd). in any case, a discussion starts, here adapted as best i can remember:
    guy 1: hey.
    me: hey.
    guy 1: are you wearing that t-shirt as a joke?
    me: nope; it's not a joke.
    guy 2: well, i think you're sorry sack of shit.
    me: i'm sorry you feel that way.
    guy 1: man, you've got to get your priorities straight.
    me: my priorities are straight; i taught public high school in jackson for two years - i care about my kids and i care about their education.
    (it continues in this vein for a second)
    guy 2: well, i'm going to have to ask you to leave this tent.
    me: are you kidding?
    guy 2: no; just get the hell out of here.
    me: this is public land, and a public forum. i am an employee of the university, and i certainly have the right to stand here and to wear this shirt.
    guy 2: just fucking leave.
    guy 1: hey man, just walk away.
    (it continues in this vein for a bit. the guys never get out of their seats or raise their voices enough to cause a scene - southern gentlemen that they are.)

    from "at ole miss, the tailgaters never lose," nytimes:

    A boy in white shorts and a polo shirt stepped out onto the Walk of Champions, the brick path where the Rebels would make their ceremonial march through the Grove on their way to the stadium the next day.

    “Are you READY?!” he called to the trees, prompting the Ole Miss cheer.

    “HELLLLL YES! DAAAAMN RIGHT!” the trees yelled back. “Hotty Toddy gosh almighty who in the hell are we? Flim flam bim bam, OLE MISS by damn! WUUUUUUUUUUUUU!”

    who in the hell are we, indeed.

    2. in sumner, ms - the evening before the emmitt till commission's press conference:

    do not forget these strange things
    you take for granted. sleeping in
    the mayor's guest room; a town
    of 400 - he took the job because
    no one wanted to. nearby: a man
    with multiple (not tanks, but) APVs
    goes riding at night in fatigues -
    a pet racoon on his shoulder;
    all the 200 guns in his house
    are loaded - that is very clear
    to his children; an old black woman,
    convinced the white sheriff is out
    to get her because she marched
    in the 60s, had breakfast with
    the kennedys; a brain tumor helps
    know he's near - looking through
    the trailer wall with x-ray vision.
    lights over there are tutweiler
    jail; over there parchman.
    when a family dies - the house
    is empty, the business gone.
    someday these weekend cottages
    will have wonderful histories.

    3. in sumner, ms - the day of the emmitt till commission press conference.

    the injustice of neglect - an explicit violence: in 1955, emmitt till was brutally abused and murdered for allegedly whistling at a white woman. he was 14 years old, from chicago and visiting with family in tallahatchie county. two white men were acquitted of murder by an all-white jury after an hour of discussion. after the till commission (composed of black and white community leaders) read it's formal statement of regret on the steps of the sumner courthouse (where the trial had occurred) - acknowledging that a miscarriage of justice had occurred and calling for truth and reconciliation in the case - one of till's family members remarked, "imagine having to hold your breath for 52 years."

    the injustice of neglect - an implicit violence: in 2007, buses of middle and high school students are unloaded at sumner courthouse. it is a hot day, and the emmitt till commission press conference drags on. there aren't enough chairs for everyone, and the students huddle against empty storefronts. uninterested in what's going on, they begin to talk amongst themselves. teachers are no where in sight. most of the most audible students are black males, huddling around each other in brambles of machismo. many are emmitt's age; i doubt they've been provided adequate context for the historical resonance of the what's going on at the podium, and references to "young people" over the loudspeakers become more and more ironic above the swelling din. i walk over to a group and explain that i can't hear the conference, and get a bundle of sneers, who-the-fuck-does-he-think-he-is looks, and few taunting drugs & violence references. i stand there for a while, and - as i hold my breath - the group disperses: off to find some bottled water, an ice cream cone, some girls.


    personal archives

    Under high ceilings (room enough
    for light, space enough for time) a change is
    easily mistaken for ephemera.

    In cornered whispers – principal lies of a bully
    archivist, secrets cloaked as retellings
    of life – no one had expected blood.

    There were always teeth in the kiss, always
    a gripping – as if every room were nearly
    empty. Had I not returned home,

    it would have gone unnoticed – the death
    of the apocryphal. Rather, unclaimed
    footnotes thrust to narrative, in quick weight

    under high ceilings – a history neither
    dead nor vacant; one page naked
    to what fills the next, and nearly empty.


    comment on a nytimes article

    in the midst of my daily dose of and, i got stuck with a mad craving to comment on a opinion article entitled "engaged," by will okun. the article is by a guy who "teaches English and photography in a Chicago school with many students from low-income and minority homes," and goes like this (i'm paraphasing it because it's only available through times select, which is a service that costs money - though i recommend it): (1) okun recounts a boring moment teaching grammar in his english class, (2) okun sings the praises of mr. price next door, who (thank god) integrates "conscious" hip hop into his lessons to spark interest, (3) okun talks about the kanye west foundation, which "seeks to integrate music and music production into the school curriculum in an effort to combat the alarming drop-out rate of black males in American schools," and does a little back and forth about how it's a bit disconcerting at times as a teacher to be expected to constantly find novel ways to engage students. he ends the post with three questions, which sparked my interest in posting - as much in response to the typical responses to questions like this as in response to the questions themselves:

    - What are the most fundamental differences between the American educational system and high-achieving foreign educational systems and what are the positive or negative outcomes of these differences?

    - How has the approach to education and learning changed during your tenure as a teacher and do you believe these changes are beneficial or harmful to the American student?

    - What has changed in our society and in our educational system to bring us to the point where high schools must now create incentives to “inspire” and “motivate” low-income students to attend classes on a regular basis?

    my response:

    (1) when casting a desirous glance to the test-score performances of china, germany, etc. - one should always be take into account the aggressive tracking systems in place in their national school systems. as i’m not familiar with the particulars, i’m reluctant to mention this (and since this is the nytimes, i would love it if someone stood up a yelled “but germany doesn’t track its students!”), but it seems that where the US cringes at the idea of a strict/stratified funneling system - student A goes to college prep, student B goes to vocational, student C goes to standard diploma, etc. - other nations seem to have no problem with it, and this inflates their “test scores” because only certain tracking sectors actually get to take these tests (again, someone please correct me if i’m mistaken - or at least provide real perspective). this is of course in the face of the US’s more subtle tracking consequences - the suburban sprawl/minimum lot requirement/property tax collusion that allows predominantly white suburban schools to do so well; the odd relative racial imbalance of AP enrollment, school-within-a-school magnet programs, and such within “integrated” public systems; etc. but the bottom line is that we hold fast to the egalitarian pretensions of a horatio alger tinged education for all (while putting forth minimal effort to ensure that this is the case), while other countries seem to take a more no nonsense (though yes, philisophically compromising) approach to providing educational services explicitly tailored to social and individual needs (which is - oddly enough - exactly mr. price’s well-grounded attitude towards engaging his children).

    (2) in regards to “what has changed in our society” - i’m incredibly wary as to the amount of “kids these days” tirades that will haunt the anecdotal cesspool. the myth of nostalgia is a horrible barrier to clear thinking about educational reform. this is not to say that schools have not changed, or culture has not changed between generations - but there is a difference between pretending there was a more simple time when “teachers taught and students learned,” and taking a clear look at post-war demographics shifts, the slowly enforced consequences of brown v. board, title V and title IX, the vogue of skinnerian reward/punish discipline (this - i might add - is why students crave reward/inspiration/motivation - because they spend the school day in a state of oppression), etc. more often than not, veteran teachers going on about the golden age (or even the modest successes) of their own education fall into a few traps: (1) as they are relatively successful products of their own educational system, they can rarely leverage enough distance to imagine the relative failures of that system to serve people who are not like them - and who are structurally marginalized by definition (the “it worked for me [and i’m ok, so if it doesn’t work for them it’s their fault and they’re not ok]” position is particularly thin when it’s a white male talking), (2) many of the schools they currently teach in/experience are actually impossible comparisons to their golden age (even if it was the golden age of hard knocks, as i’ve heard quite a few black nationalists reference while lamenting about the crisis in black communities). even urban districts (please correct me if i’m wrong) are facing issues with transient populations, non-english speaking populations, and shifting job markets that create a school environment that are drastically different than that same area even in the 70s. furthermore (and on a topic i can actually talk about), in a place like mississippi - where i taught math in jackson for the past two years - schools were not even desegregated until 1968 (of course, they were re-segregated almost overnight with the state-assisted creation of a system of private “segregation academies”), and the population shifts that had occurred in other places of the country - like my hometown of cleveland, oh - since the 1950s were played out with much more velocity. all this aside, a high school in jackson, ms today is so incomparable to that same school in the 1970s that it is uncomfortable - and any jacksonian talking (as they are want to do) about how things worked fine when he/she was a kid (so what’s wrong with kids these days) seems laughably out of context. i’m sure the contrast is similar - though less pronounced - with other veteran teachers unloading their war stories.

    every once i get the sense that it would be a good thing to sit down and catalog what i've collected as typical barriers to dialogue about education, and establish general positions to counter them. this article seemed to rekindle that - specters of people launching into "it starts at the home," "kids these days," "remember when teachers taught and students learned," "it worked for me, so why can't it work for them," etc.


    street cred?

    on her first day at murrah high school, a teacher-corps teacher - taking over dave jones's position as latin teacher and quiz bowl advisor - was advised by her principal to not get involved in the jim hill crcl - as jones was murrah's faculty laison.

    also at murrah, the wearing of white t-shirts - tucked or untucked, short or long - is banned. the usual claim of gang signification (i.e. general blackness) is undoubtedly offered. apparently, if the white t-shirt has a coller (i.e. carries the cross of the middle class), it's ok.

    photopost 3: steps coalition meeting (july 17 - 19)

    it took me a while to figure out exactly why we were going to the coast. i mean, the obvious answer was that it had something to do with post-katrina community rebuilding, but it would have been strange if we were heading down to gulfport for a coalition meeting just because - you know - coalitions are good things, and the coast is a place where stuff is happening. of course, these are reasonable motivations for investigating whether or not an institution has a role to play in a situation as complex as the post-katrina gulf coast, but as we were heading down to the area for what turned out to be three days of nonstop work, it seemed clear that we were in fact playing a role - i was merely as yet unclear as to what it was.


    the steps coalition grew out of - as far as i understand it - a post-katrina environment that left pre-existing discrepancies in community empowerment exposed and vulnerable. in a sense, identity groups that were marginalized economically and politically before the storm found themselves acutely aware of their marginalization, wary of the top-heavy consequences of rebuilding efforts, and conscious of a unique opportunity to pool resources in efforts to lobby the flood of organizations that came to the coast to provide resources and support.

    the winter institute foothold in the coast - as it turned out - was by way of the turkey creek community initiatives (tcci), a environmental and community activism organization centered on a watershed area settled by freedmen after the civil war, and which has been "facing urban sprawl, environmental racism, and political-economic isolation since the arrival of casinos, airport expansion, and municipal annexation in the 1990s." these issues are of course all magnified in a post-katrina rebuilding frenzy that emphasizes eminent domain influenced development - a casino paradise, condos, townhouses, high-end shopping - in an environment wherein homeowners (yes - as we've seen in takeover conflicts in the ninth ward - contrary to middle class prejudices, blacks can be property rights-conscious homeowners) are left with severely battered structures floating on a crippled infrastructure.

    tcci - organized in 2003 - realized in the rebuilding crisis after the storm that it was not alone in its concerns for (1) affordable housing, (2) economic justice, (3) environmental justice, (4) human rights, and (5) the preservation of historical communities. in light of this, the tcci director - derrick evans - worked with susan glisson and other organization leaders to build the steps coalition in 2006 - founded as a coalition of organizations dedicated to the five pillars mentioned previously, and representing various constituent groups in the gulf coast region.


    while i was down with the institute this summer, steps was in the midst of various identity crises. issues with coalition staff, grant competition, organizational charter and services, and so forth seemed to be stewing about the network - surfacing at one point as what i gathered to be an e-mail based personal attack campaign. with this in mind, steps hired a moderator to fly down from princeton to lead the group in dialogue about various sensitive points - with varying degrees of people participating.

    the active role of the wwirr staff during all this was to provide miscellaneous support for tcci and the coalition. this involved researching things like: how much it would cost to buy a FEMA trailer and drive it around the country; whether or not tcci could still submit applications for buildings qualified for national historic registry status restoration grants even though it was at the end of the grant cycle; any information about jimmy buffet's margaritaville resort - which look to rezone a significant chunk of a vietnamese neighborhood.

    most of my time was spent - as is typical with wwirr excursions at this point - as photographer and tech guy. the crippled condition of the region's infrastructure was made abundantly clear to me upon the news that a recent lightning storm had fried all of tcci's printers, modems, and routers in both of its offices - partly due to the fact that electricity was spread so thin in each of the places that turning on an air conditioner would certainly make things flicker and most likely freak out the circuit breaker; at the tcci home office, all off the electricity was distributed by way of extension chord from one single surge protector that hangs in the middle of a gutted and water damaged structure. i spent a fan-less/air condition-less mississippi summer night plugging, unplugging, taking apart, putting together, and configuring the remains of a networking fiasco - eventually advising derrick to go to walmart and buy a laundry list of replacement modems, routers, and cables (which most likely came out of his pocket, instead of the overextended tcci coffers). during the steps meeting the next morning, i spent most of my time scrambling around trying to find a jump drive to put a file on, a power chord to recharge the computer that had the file on it, and a printer i could borrow to print copies off for the entire meeting - this as well ended in sweaty half-failure.

    what follows are photo sets from week's various phases.


    steps coalition general assembly of allies - july 18

    coalition conversation

    [?] and irene jones

    don't mess with this priest

    all eyes on dr. glisson

    waveland - ground zero - july 18

    the last tree standing

    jordan self-portrait (she took the ground zero photos - i was off having a drink with brent cox of the aclu)

    the coast itself - it should be noted that all sand (white sand, that is) in the ms gulf coast is non-native. the area was mostly a mangrove (?) swamp until post-wwi, when a recovery hospital was set up for veterans recouping from biological warfare. somehow in this mix the idea arose that an artificial tourist industry would be a nice accompaniment for the economy developing to support mangled g.i.'s - and later the post-wwii keesler air force base. (of course, i may be getting the story a bit wrong - can't find any articles to verify this stuff - which came from various conversations)

    i imagine this view used to have trees and houses, perhaps commerce. it is bizarrely shocking to see a battered mcdonald's arches - frame standing but red and yellow fiberglass mostly absent - next to an empty foundation - presumably where a mcdonald's used to be. there is something monolithic and unquestionably present after branded commodity merges deeply with consumptive identity.

    jordy-cakes again with a self-portrait. i guess the photo ops get redundant.

    once a good time.

    susan and derrick at the gulfside assembly historic marker, which has significance to the movement. in wikipedia, hollis watkins is quoted as saying: ""there were only three places where Blacks could meet in Mississippi during the movement— Tougaloo, Rust College, and Gulfside." also, during the jim crow era it appears that gulfside was the only place in mississippi where people of color could use the beaches or swim. (for the racial-sexual politics of swimming pools, check out the ny times article "unearthing a town pool, and not for whites only," published september 18, 2006. something similar happened to a ymca pool in montgomery, i believe, but i can't find an article).

    profoundly uprooted.

    tcci headquarters

    the home office, in the backyard of the house derrick's mom owns.

    turkey creek sign.

    back door.

    derrick evans - tcci director - doing business.

    derrick evans dreaming.

    historic house #1

    these are pictures of the home derrick's mom owns - eligible for the registry of national historic status. the house is in the rippy road area of turkey creek. after researching the criteria for a restoration grant, i was charged with taking pictures of the structure.

    back of the house. derrick's mom currently stays in the fema trailer.

    fair enough.



    side exterior.

    trailer again.

    product #1

    product #2

    product #3

    front of the house.

    interior 1: surveying

    interior 2: fuses

    interior 3: beautiful colors in the bathroom

    interior 4: beautiful colors on the wall

    interior 5: bathroom light

    quixote's ghost

    long room

    all of the electricity for both houses and the trailer came through this surge protector.

    long room 2, and self-portrait


    weird talisman

    historic house #2

    this house is on creosote road - named after a byproduct from a local processing plant of some sort - derived from either the wood treating process or coal production. from wikipedia: "long-term exposure to low levels of creosote, especially direct contact with the skin during wood treatment or manufacture of coal tar creosote-treated products has resulted in skin cancer and cancer of the scrotum." (politically and financially) disenfranchised blacks provided cheap, expliotable labor for whatever plant the creosote came from (as it turns out, the gulf coast creosote company), and lived in proximity to it - thus the creosote road and the historic house on it.

    front exterior.


    looking up from the front door.

    used to be music.

    back exterior.

    interior 1: no floor

    interior 2: empty room

    weird symbol.

    a hole.

    historic house #3


    blue window.

    wind damage.

    mirrors in the backyard.


    many doors.

    weird talisman.

    [man that was a long post. weeks of a bit here and a bit there to finish.]