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An Empty $105 Million High School, Suicide Kits, Mahler, John Wayne and Scott-Heron: The Live Wire

| May 31, 2011

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A $105 Million High School. Empty.

The madness of budget cuts. From the LATimes: “When it’s completed this fall, Riverside’s Hillcrest High School will be a high-tech academic hub with wireless Internet, a robotics lab, digital smart boards in every classroom and a first-rate performance hall worthy of any “Glee” hopeful. But no students. Sapped by state budget cuts, the Alvord Unified School District doesn’t have the money to turn on the lights or hire staff for the $105-million campus. There’s no guarantee it will open in 2012-13, despite being built specifically to relieve the packed classrooms in the district’s other high schools. […] [L]last fall, the district broke the news that Hillcrest High would be mothballed for at least a year and the kids sent to La Sierra High School, a campus with 3,400 students, more than twice the number it was designed for. […] Voters in the district, which includes the Riverside communities of La Sierra and Home Gardens and a small slice of Corona, in 2007 overwhelmingly approved a $196-million bond measure to construct and equip the high school and to make other school improvements. […] Once the recession struck, damaging the construction-dependent economy in the Inland Empire and saddling the state with billion-dollar deficits, state education funding was slashed. Tucker estimates that, in his district alone, the state cut $25 million in funding over the last three years, a hefty sum for a district with a $130-million annual budget and 20,000 students. More than 40 full-time teachers received pink slips, class sizes were expanded, school bus routes were trimmed and extracurricular activities were cut back. Still it wasn’t enough, so the school board voted to delay opening Hillcrest High. […] Shuttering the school for a year is expected to save the district $3 million next year, not counting the $1 million it will spend to secure and maintain the empty campus.” The full story.

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The Suicide Kit Lady

From the LATimes: “Sharlotte Hydorn peddles a product touted for its deadly simplicity. Inside her butterfly-decorated boxes are clear plastic bags and medical-grade tubing. A customer places the bag over his head, connects the tubing from the bag to a helium tank, turns the valve and breathes. The so-called suicide kit asphyxiates a customer within minutes. Orders come from all over the world, from people young and old, depressed and terminally ill. “People commit suicide by jumping out of windows and buildings, and hanging themselves,” said the 91-year-old former elementary school science teacher. Her product, she says, ends lives peacefully, leaving people “eternally sleepy.” In December, one of Hydorn’s $60 devices was found over the head of a dead 29-year-old man from Eugene, Ore. His death triggered a wave of media attention that doubled her orders to 100 per month, but placed Hydorn under scrutiny from politicians and law enforcement agencies that culminated last week with a raid of her ranch-style home outside San Diego. FBI agents seized dozens of boxes ready for shipment as part of an investigation into possible mail or wire fraud violations and whether Hydorn has violated a law prohibiting the sale of adulterated and mishandled medical devices. In Oregon, where assisted-suicide is legal under certain conditions, lawmakers have introduced a bill that would outlaw any device sold with the intent that another person use it to commit suicide. ” The full story.

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Niall Ferguson, Brain-Dead Conservative

Niall Ferguson, the British historian, owes his celebrity here to the absence of authentic American conservative intellectuals. Michael Lind in Salon: “What accounts for the attention lavished by the American media on a huckster as vulgar and shallow as Niall Ferguson? His accent surely is part of the explanation. Only a combined lack of personal and national self-confidence can explain the way that America’s publishers and producers — many of them insecure, upwardly mobile social climbers — will fawn over a mediocre British pundit or pop historian whom they would completely ignore if he were Tony Zacarelli from Long Island or Fred Huffernagel from Oregon. Little has changed since the Midwesterner Jay Gatz, to be taken seriously on the Anglophile East Coast, had to change his name to Gatsby before he could qualify as “dashing.” Ferguson is the most prominent of a number of British conservative intellectuals and journalists who have found more sympathetic audiences in the U.S. than in their own country, where their enthusiasm for Victorian imperialism and Victorian economics stigmatizes them as cranks. His Old World accent and reactionary politics might not have been sufficient to earn Niall Ferguson his cisatlantic celebrity, were it not for the demise of American intellectual conservatism, chronicled by Sam Tanenhaus and others. The mass extinction of America’s intellectual right at the hands of anti-intellectual Jacksonian populists like the Tea Partyers has created a lack of native conservative thinkers with impressive academic credentials who are willing to dash to a TV studio at a moment’s notice. And in an era when the conservative movement is symbolized by lightweights like Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter and Jonah Goldberg, rather than William F. Buckley Jr., George Will and Irving Kristol, even Niall Ferguson can be mistaken for an intellectual.” The full essay.

When Mahler Took Manhattan

Peter Davis, the classical music critic, writing in The Times on May 17: “HERE’S an often overlooked bit of music history: Gustav Mahler, who died in Vienna a century ago today, was a New Yorker for the last three years of his life and, for that brief time, arguably the most famous musician in town. It’s not a trivial point — as a conductor at the Metropolitan Opera and then at the New York Philharmonic, he set musical standards that resonate even today. New York has always held its conductors in chief close. Mahler was followed by Arturo Toscanini, who ruled the musical scene for nearly half a century. New York’s love affair with Leonard Bernstein was long and adoring, while James Levine is no less appreciated today, as we celebrate his 40 years at the Met and worry over his health. Despite his short time among us, Mahler left as large a footprint as his successors. Already a world-famous composer and conductor, he was hired by the Met in 1907, and he arrived with a reputation as an autocrat who demanded nothing less than perfection. […] Mahler reigned supreme at Carnegie Hall. His intensely focused, highly charged interpretations, with their unusual coloristic touches and rhythmic freedom, demanded close attention, but audiences approved of what they heard. Apart from a few hostile critics and the usual rough-and-tumble of a busy conductor’s life, Mahler found the music scene in New York relatively benign after the poisonous musical intrigues he had endured in Vienna. Mahler enjoyed a full social life and established many close friendships; indeed, the once accepted portrait of Mahler as a tormented and solitary ascetic, literally hounded to death by New York’s society-oriented music community, now seems to have been largely a fiction created by the self-serving memoirs of his wife, the beautiful and flirtatious Alma.” The full column.

Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony, University of California Davis Symphony Orchestra:

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John Wayne Rewind

john wayne retrospectiveIt’ll soon be Father’s Day again. “In practice,” writes Dave Kehr in The Times, “this means turning to the three W’s — war movies, westerns and Wayne. That’s Wayne as in John Wayne, an actor whose towering (6-foot-4-inch) presence came to dominate those two genres, and who in a sense constituted a genre all by himself. More than a performer, Wayne was (and remains, 32 years after his death) an entire assembly line of stories and themes, of intuitions and associations that continue to resonate in American culture. […] Exempt from the draft because of his age and having a large family, Wayne moved into A pictures during World War II, when many established stars were away for the duration. But he didn’t become a major box-office attraction until the war was well over and his youth had faded. Beginning with Hawks’s “Red River” in 1948, continuing through the three chapters of Ford’s “cavalry trilogy” (“Fort Apache” 1948, “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon” 1949, “Rio Grande” 1950) and his first Oscar nomination, as the implacable Sergeant Stryker in Allan Dwan’s “Sands of Iwo Jima” (1949), Wayne assumed a new stature and significance. Frequently graying up to play older characters, Wayne in middle age came to represent a complex strain of paternal authority, sometimes warmly protective (as in the cavalry trilogy), sometimes frankly unhinged (as in “Red River” and Ford’s 1956 masterpiece, “The Searchers”). Here was a man who could get you through the worst the world had to offer. Here was a man who could kill you without a second thought.” The full appraisal.

The trailer from “The Cowboys” (1972):

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Times Square Flash Mob

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So Long Gil Scott-Heron

From The Times: “Gil Scott-Heron, the poet and recording artist whose syncopated spoken style and mordant critiques of politics, racism and mass media in pieces like “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” made him a notable voice of black protest culture in the 1970s and an important early influence on hip-hop, died on Friday [May 27] at a hospital in Manhattan. He was 62 and had been a longtime resident of Harlem. […] He preferred to call himself a “bluesologist,” drawing on the traditions of blues, jazz and Harlem renaissance poetics. Yet, along with the work of the Last Poets, a group of black nationalist performance poets who emerged alongside him in the late 1960s and early ’70s, Mr. Scott-Heron established much of the attitude and the stylistic vocabulary that would characterize the socially conscious work of early rap groups like Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions. And he has remained part of the DNA of hip-hop by being sampled by stars like Kanye West. […] His first album, “Small Talk at 125th and Lenox,” was released in 1970 on Flying Dutchman, a small label, and included a live recitation of “Revolution” accompanied by conga and bongo drums. Another version of that piece, recorded with a full band including the jazz bassist Ron Carter, was released on Mr. Scott-Heron’s second album, “Pieces of a Man,” in 1971. “Revolution” established Mr. Scott-Heron as a rising star of the black cultural left, and its cool, biting ridicule of a nation anesthetized by mass media has resonated with the socially disaffected of various stripes — campus activists, media theorists, coffeehouse poets — for four decades. With sharp, sardonic wit and a barrage of pop-culture references, he derided society’s dominating forces as well as the gullibly dominated:

The revolution will not be brought to you by the Schaefer Award Theater and will not star Natalie Wood and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia.

The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal.

The revolution will not get rid of the nubs.

The revolution will not make you look five pounds thinner, because the revolution will not be televised, brother.

“[…] But by the mid-1980s, Mr. Scott-Heron had begun to fade, and his recording output slowed to a trickle. In later years, he struggled publicly with addiction. Since 2001, Mr. Scott-Heron had been convicted twice for cocaine possession, and he served a sentence at Rikers Island in New York for parole violation.” The full obituary.

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Rachard McIntyre’s 9/11 Memorials

Click on the image for larger view.

From Rachard McIntyre’s website: “Rachard McIntyre 31, has Asperger’s syndrome, a type of autism. But don’t define him by his disability. McIntyre is an artist. Living in Wilmington, NC, you can find him selling his work at the Wilmington Riverfront Market every other Saturday. “In Memory of the Twin Towers” is a series of five poster-sized works of the New York towers destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001, drawn with the handwritten names of the victims of the towers and the planes. “A Memorial Pentagon 9/11” is drawn with the handwritten names of the people who lost their lives at the Pentagon. […] “The more he draws, the better he gets,” said Carrie McIntyre, his proud mom. She gave copies of the “Twin Towers” set to Rep. Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., and Rep. John Lewis, D- Ga., a civil rights pioneer who visited Wilmington on Jan. 30. Rachard lives at home and works at Food Lion. He loves lying on the floor doing his artwork. “I feel more intelligent,” he said. “I feel that I can do anything, no matter what it takes. It makes me feel strong.” […] Early on, teachers noticed Rachard was different. Carrie said a team of five people observed him, including a neurologist, a psychologist and a social worker. They’d sit in his classes or watch him on the playground interacting with students. After some intensive one-on-one tutoring, he was “mainstreamed,” put back in a classroom where he did well. He discovered he was good at art at an early age, maybe 4 or 5 years old. Rachard said his teachers “were amazed the first time they saw me doing it.” Carrie said his second-grade teacher called wanting to show her Rachard’s work. At the Farmer’s Market, Carrie said, people marvel at the meticulously drawn architectural works and the portraits. Rachard urges other people with challenges not to become discouraged.” See his portfolio.

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A History Lesson on Sarah Palin’s Favorite Hike

From Alaska Dispatch: “You most definitely cannot see Russia from “The Butte,” the prominent chunk of rock that rises out of the heart of Alaska’s Matanuska Valley. You might be able to see Anchorage, as the former governor of the state claimed in her television series “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” but we’ll leave it to you to discover the veracity of that claim. What you will most certainly see is some spectacular scenery and a bit of interesting 49th state history and prehistory, if you know how to look. The scenery is obvious. The 881-foot-high Butte is ringed by mountains. To the south, the Chugach Range rises as a wall of greywacke more than a mile high. […] The human prehistory is unknown, although there was an Dena’ina Athabascan community in the area at the time of white contact, and it’s logical to assume the Butte would have been a perfect place for even earlier hunters to scout for the mammoths, mastodons and giant bison that once roamed this area. The recorded history begins with John Bodenburg, who homesteaded in 1917. The Matanuska Colony, a Roosevelt-era experiment in “New Deal” socialism, started 18 years later, and the rest is history. Alaska’s now-socialist-bashing former governor claims the Butte is her favorite hike. If you go, watch for her. Getting there is easy. Take the Glenn Highway north from Anchorage, turn off on the old Glenn just before the Knik River crossing, follow it along the river and across the bridge into the community of Butte. There, start looking for a left onto Bodenburg Loop Road; you want the second one. Follow it to Mothershead Road, take another left, and you’ll end up in a Matanuska-Susitna Borough parking lot. The fee to park is $3. There is a good trail that climbs about 600 feet over the distance of a mile or so to the top. Alaskans would consider this an easy hike. Flatlanders might find it more challenging.” The full story.

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Creepy Corporate Mascots

From Slate: “It’s been a rough week for the world’s most recognizable clown. A health-food-advocacy group is demanding that Ronald McDonald take responsibility for encouraging children to eat fattening foods and resign his post as McDonald’s mascot. But for every child Ronald has lured into a restaurant, might there be two more whom he frightened off? With his bright yellow jumpsuit and ghastly grin, Ronald cuts an unnerving figure. In this, he’s hardly alone: For some reason, many corporations have favored mascots less likely to appeal to children than to leave them terrorized and sobbing. Take a look through our gallery of corporate mascots who may look sweet from afar but up close are surprisingly and undeniably creepy. […] Big Boy: With only around 500 restaurants in the United States, Big Boy is no McDonald’s. Nonetheless, we suspect that Big Boy himself may be even more menacing than the allegedly obesity-promoting Ronald. Just look at the way he’s holding that burger. […] Chuck E. Cheese: seems like a nice fellow as he serenades children with his band. But looking into his shiny plastic eyeballs has inspired many a child to let out a blood-curdling scream. Perhaps they see through to his dark side.” See the full gallery.

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A Few Good Links

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3 Responses for “An Empty $105 Million High School, Suicide Kits, Mahler, John Wayne and Scott-Heron: The Live Wire”

  1. lawabidingcitizen says:

    The full story on the 100+ million dollar high school is that it should never have been built. If ridiculous out-of-control spending had been stopped years/decades ago, our economy wouldn’t be in the tank.

    As for all your other snarky picks for posts, shouldn’t you have some equal time with posts from those with a less Kool-Aid laden point of view? Your banner claims “No Bull. No Fluff. No Smudges,” but yet day after day, that’s all it is.

    Here’s a quote from a pretty smart guy: “We think liberals are wrong. They think we’re evil.” Anybody know who said that?

  2. Liana G says:

    I see where the priorities are

    High-level salaries approved for new top administrators at cash-strapped L.A. Unified School District. (May 5, 2011)

    High-level salaries for a handful of top administrators in the Los Angeles Unified School District were approved Wednesday….The salaries drew attention because the school board approved them in April amid a historic budget crisis that resulted in salary reductions, thousands of layoffs and the threat of additional job cuts. . .

  3. JIM.R says:

    The genius poet and great human being Gil Scott Heron, one of a kind, and a loss Assholes on Wall street willl never feel, nor know.

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