Monday, September 17, 2012


Saturday: Shopping on Michigan Avenue:

I heard someone on Michigan ave say, in all seriousness, "look at these buildings..." in a tone of awe. 

I also walked behind three people holding hands in a line so they spread out across the whole sidewalk and proceeding at a leisurely amble.


Sunday: Lockout: Day 1. 

I cleaned all the shelves in my kitchen, reorganized my dresser, fixed the broken eyelet on my cocktail dress, made daal, and sharpened my knives. oh god. it's going to be a long winter.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Labor Conflict

or, How Children Are Like NHL Fans (But Not The Other Way Around)

Today is the fourth day of the Chicago teacher's strike (and for those of you keeping score at home, the NHL lockout begins tomorrow at 11:59 EST). Bored of their picket lines, they have taken to roaming the neighborhood in droves* and accosting people outside Starbucks**.

As everyone in the entire world has already pointed out, it is the children who suffer most at a time like this, waiting on the steps of their schools, tiny faces alight with hope and the burning desire to learn. Ok, so these people have clearly never met an actual child. But passing over that, the kids are the ones getting screwed here. Much like the NHL fanbase. Yes, I'm going to compare the Chicago teacher's strike to the NHL lockout. I only have room for one reference labor conflict in my brain. Guess which it is.

Anyway, like NHL fans, kids (and I suppose their parents) are the main consumer of the product in question and have a huge emotional stake in it, but have no negociating power in the labor conflict whatsoever. Oddly, both groups DO contribute financially, as the NHL is a gate driven league and parents pay taxes, but such financial investment still does not engender power. You don't have a choice about paying taxes, or, you know, you'll go to jail, and NHL fans aren't going to stop going to games because, you know, hockey.

There's another parallel too - I imagine that most of the teachers who are striking are people who genuinely care about children and their education and as things go on they will feel more and more pressure from their own consciences to get back in the classroom. Hockey players also have the additional personal pressure of genuinely wanting to play, a desire that is perhaps stronger than financial motives. Although I suppose teachers don't have the option of going to teach in Russia until this is all over.

There are some differences. I suppose there are some political ramifications for someone in the CPS thing, plus PR is a more important pressure on both sides because THINK OF THE CHILDREN. Also, angry parents can't withhold their tax dollars but they can make themselves mighty unpleasant. As an evolutionary biologist, I can tell you there are few forces stronger than a mother's need to defend her children. Why, when grizzly bear cub class sizes grow too large, mama grizzlys have been known to rampage through elementary schools, causing havoc and eating the occasional cafeteria worker***. So there is more pressure in the teacher's strike to get things sorted out sooner rather than later. The NHL PR war on the other hand seems pretty pointless. NHL owners are basically insulated from all PR pressure, because people will keep buying tickets as mentioned above, and the owners clearly do not care at all how many cartoons of them as Scrooge McDuck get uploaded to the Internet. (As an interesting aside, there was an blog post on puck daddy a couple days ago (here) about how during the last lockout crisis Bain Capital (yes, that Bain Capital) tried to buy the NHL. Not a team, you understand, but the ENTIRE NHL. Apparently they thought it was worth about $4 billion dollars. Anyway, the blog post (referencing an article in Bloomberg Business Week) attributes the failure of the offer to the fact that the NHL owners were emotionally attached to their teams. That is, the value of the team to its owner was higher than its monetary worth because there was some sort of intangible added value. Which is weird, because in both that lockout and this, their general attitude has seemed to be to give ZERO FUCKS about hockey, the fans, the Romance of the Game, the Agony, the Ecstasy, or any of it except the Money.)

Anyway, what was my point? Oh yes, NHL fans and children are the totally screwed majority in each of these labor conflicts. On Wednesday we were at the park for grad student softball (i.e. mildly athletic beer drinking) and there was a Little League team practicing on the next field (they were far, FAR better than us, it should be noted. They pitched overhand and everything). Anyway, this led to a discussion of mobilizing an army of children dispossessed of their education. Discussion of what to do with said army ("Storm NHL headquarters!", absolutely no one but me suggested) fell through when we realized the alarming amount of money it would require to buy fruit snacks for the entire army.


*Is there an aggregate noun for teachers? There should be.
**Ok, smiling politely, handing them leaflets, and saying "thank you" when they are taken.
***Note: I made this up. Grizzly bears don't have cafeteria workers! At lunchtime the cubs are allowed down to the river where they catch their own salmon. It's character building.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Analyzing Song Lyrics

I think I've blogged before about pop lyrics I find objectionable. There was a rant, I believe about Katy Perry and Kanye's creepy alien rape song. And maybe something about the improper use of metaphor in Katy Perry's Firework? Katy Perry really does not get metaphor. Anyway, here are some other pop songs with problematic lyrics, in my opinion.

Artist: Train
Song: 50 Ways To Say Goodbye
Précis: Girl dumps guy; guy for obscure reasons (bad at saying goodbye??) invents excuses about what happened to her for when his friends ask where she is.
Problem: Allow me to illustrate.

Friend of Train: Where's your girlfriend?
Train: She broke up with me.
FoT: Dude, I'm sorry. Let me buy you a beer.

FoT: Where's your girlfriend?
T: She was eaten by a lion.
FoT: Holy shit! What? Where did you see a lion? Were you at the zoo? Did you go on safari? Was she teasing it? Was this on the news? Is there a youtube video? Holy shit, a lion! I have to call my other friends and tell them about this.

Artist: Adele
Song: Set Fire To The Rain
Précis: Girl meets boy, girl falls in love with boy, boy turns out to be a jerk, girl sets fire to the rain.
Problem: What the hell is this rain made of?? Is this some horribly polluted dystopian future? Did you rig up some "rain" made of gasoline? In all fairness to Adele, though, I'm pretty sure that unlike Katy Perry Adele probably understands metaphor and imagery pretty well, and I actually really like this song.

Artist: Black Eyed Peas
Song: any of them
Précis: Um. The Black Eyed Peas would like to start a party, I guess? They have got that boom boom pow, I am reliably informed, or they must get it? They would, I understand, like to rock right now.
Problem: I always get the feeling when I listen to a Black Eyed Peas song that they were writing it and didn't have the lyrics done and were like "Oh, just put in some random syllables, like 'boom boom boom' and before we release it, we'll go back and put in some actual lyrics." And then they get to that point but they really just want to finish up and have some beers so they're just like "fuck it, release it like that." 

Artist: Carly Rae Jepson
Song: Call Me, Maybe
Précis: Girl meets guy, finds him attractive, wants him to call her, maybe.
Problem: There is no problem. There is literally nothing wrong with this song.