Monday, January 30, 2006

X = Promoting Failure

It takes a visual to really understand it. But I was working on the Yearbook when I first figured it out. Some 1200 pictures of 9th graders. Dozens of kids with the same first name. Barely 500 pictures of Seniors. Of those 80%-90% would graduate and get the colorful, gaudy Senior Pictures that announced to the world that you both graduated and borrowed someone's tuxedo. Where had the other half gone? All those black and white faces. The kids would play a game. They would go through their box of 9th grade pictures, which were still around in the back closet of my classroom along with someone's whole career of accumulated teacher treasure, and see who they could remember.

I told that fact to every teacher I knew and met. Most seemed shocked unless they had taught for more than a year. Then they shook their head at me like I was asking for change.

In almost every high school in Los Angeles of the 1,000 plus acne-plagued, gawky yet occasionally smiling teenagers who enter ninth grade, less than 50% will become shiny, slightly plump graduates four years later. With Senior Year’s fun tanned on their face, they will walk across some football field, auditorium or even the Hollywood Bowl as half of the students they once crowded hallways with are already in the workforce, clocked in to the life of under-earning and overworking.

As a high school teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District for six years, I could never predict which students would not graduate. If I get could get them to love to read, they had a chance. So each year as I deciphered the pages of Lord of the Flies with every new class of tenth graders, I knew that some 20% of their peers had already dropped out. Seeking suggestions for what a talking pig’s head on the stick might represent from a mostly passive-aggressively exhausted class of thirty or more, I could see heads disappearing. They were gone. No time for heady, esoteric shit. They had a kid to take care of, or a mom, or a sister, or a job. Or they found a kickback they could go to everyday. Maybe their parents didn’t give them as much shit anymore because mysteriously they stopped getting complaints from the teachers at school. When the report cards stop coming, who really cares? Who wants to see six Fails?

The sad fact of life illustrated in the second of the Los Angeles Times’ four-part series ‘Vanishing Class’ about the horrific graduation rate at local high schools (even at Birmingham High in the Valley!) is most kids can’t even pass Alegebra with a high enough grade to qualify for a four-year university. “In the fall of 2004, 48,000 ninth-graders took beginning algebra; 44% flunked, nearly twice the failure rate as in English. Seventeen percent finished with Ds.” That’s 61% who will have to retake the basics of higher math if they have any hope of attending any University of California campus as a Freshman. They can graduate and perhaps be admitted to a CSU campus with a D, with the help of the Educational Opportunities Program, but what does a D in Algebra say? It says you fail to or very poorly understand the fundamental building blocks of logic. For many kids who will never be in an Honors or Advanced Placement class, Algebra is the highest form of critical thinking that they will be challenged with in high school.

Also, Algebra may be the first time in a young student’s life that a Fail actually matters. I don’t mean this in a metaphoric sense. I mean literally. There may be students who have failed dozens of classes in middle school and arrive in the ninth grade in Algebra, since remedial classes have all been removed from school. “Finally,” their teacher may say to them, “your grades actually matter. If you do not pass my class, you don’t pass high school.”

“Fuck that dick,” that kid might say to impress their friends and not acknowledge the sinking feeling of that teacher’s truth.

How could such a willful, vibrant child be so misled to believe that they can get away with not passing classes? It’s called Social Promotion. According to the Wikipedia, “Social promotion is the practice of promoting schoolchildren to the next grade, to keep them with their peers, regardless of whether they are capable of doing grade-level work. Some advocates of social promotion argue that keeping children together by age (together with their age cohort) is an intrinsically important factor, and that being ‘kept back’ would be inexcusably painful for a child emotionally.” In Los Angeles, it ironically lasts until the ninth grade when kids are supposed to suddenly get that they’re responsible for their output. That once we cared about their feelings, but now they’re ready to mess up their own life when it really matters. It’s the old Giant Swollen Pink Elephant defecating in the room. And for some reason the LA Times doesn’t mention it. The closest they get is, “High school teachers blame middle schools for churning out ill-prepared students. The middle schools blame the elementary schools, where teachers are expected to have a command of all subjects but sometimes are shaky in math themselves.”

The system is always to blame, because the system always represents the latent and manifest desires of those in power. Social Promotion works where kids’ have to answer to a social existence where their parents will kick their ass if they don’t graduate. Those conditions generally exist around wealthy parents, two-parent households and the rare single-parent household with a superhuman parent whose model of hard work is so pervasive that a kid will do anything to escape their social cast. Social Promotion is rich people’s way of explaining to poor people that they don’t need to feel bad for their kid not having their shit together. It’s also expresses the lack of expectations we have for poor kids.

Worst of all it enforces the principle that failure doesn’t matter. When for those poor ninth graders, it’s all that does.

If it’s economically infeasible to end Social Promotion, let’s end this stilted tolerance of failure that misleads and deprives the people it is supposed to help. If a kid fails, put him a class with younger kids. Make him do outside work on his own, on Saturdays, on weekends. Never let a student think they are capable of anything other then competent work at the very minimum.

Unless we let kids know what we mean by failure, how can we hold them responsible for failing. It’s just not logical, and it’s not right.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World

"The Global 100 is a list of publicly-traded [that]...have the best developed abilities, relative to their industry peers, to manage the environmental, social and governance risks and opportunities they face." Nike is on there. I always understood that their labor practices were awful. Was I wrong?

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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Want to Understand Hamas' Victory in Palestinian Elections?
See Munich.

Vengeance is mine; I will repay- Romans 12:19

The amazing thing about true patriotism is that it turns a people into one. A family where every injury is repaid with disregard for the humanity of whomever committed that injury. At once it shows the most noble and ignoble instincts of humanity.

The amazing thing about religion is it does the same thing, and it infects it with the will of God. A God that is more than a deity, but a past, present and future of a meaning to suffering.

I cannot imagine looking at the situation in the Middle East with any exact sense of what is right and what is wrong. And that's exactly how Steven Spielberg's film portrays the terrorist acts committed in Munich and their aftermath. People struggle internally and externally with their interpretation of right and wrong in a setting where the fixed sense of God's will wants is pathologically present in conflict with all the crosses, the moons and stars. All the beautiful human expressions of faith that emerged from the area.

As a Jew, I cannot help but pray for the continuation of the Jewish state. As a Jew, I cannot help but pray for a just existence for all men, women and children. For a long time, I delayed from learning the stories of the Arabs in the region. I guess I believed what I was told. The Palestinians didn't exist or have their volition until the Jews took power.

The movie Munich told me that that was my greatest mistake. Beyond patriotism, beyond religion, Munich documents what I should have known from the beginning. We are all one. And when we deny that truth we become patriots, or we become religious, but we stop being human.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Beam Your Living Room to the Last Generation of Fan Obsession

If you are rich and you love Star Trek, I guess you deserve this ultimate expression of your desire to be the blond captain amidst your colonized colleagues.

The Home Bridge Theater blends a late 1960s view of what the 23rd century would be like a creepy Silver Spoons vibe.

The creator says, “The Bridge was built on a very modest budget. I was able to reuse some audio equipment I already had available to keep costs manageable (sic). I chose economical components from well (sic) known manufacturers to ensure decent performance yet stay within budget. Over time, I hope to upgrade most of the components as funds and desire permits.”

Go for it, Dad.

Porto’s! The Good Stuff is Coming to the Valley

Franklin Avenue reminds us that Glendale's Porto’s, the best Cuban bakery ever, has just opened its second branch in Burbank.

According Franklin Avenue's Mike, Once you've had Porto's Tres Leches cake (Yellow sponge cake soaked with three-milk sauce - condensed milk, evaporated milk, and whipping cream - and finished with meringue icing), no other cake will ever make do again.

I recommend everything they make. Especially anything with cheese.

Porto’s in Burbank is also now officially the first entry in the Valley Jew restaurant guide. Only 11 billion restaurants to go!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Women Prefer Funny Fictional Men

Women love a guy with a sense of humor. Or they love to say they do.

A new study proves just that:

Bressler and his colleagues asked nearly 130 students to imagine two people of the opposite sex. One fictional character was funny; the other appreciated another person's humour. The team then asked each student which they would choose for a relationship.

Women generally preferred men who were funny, while men favoured a woman who thought he was funny...

I don't know what this proves. Other things women might choose over someone who thought they were funny? Rich guys over people who like rich gals? Handsome guys over guys who like pretty gals?

The Best Way to Lower Your Stress

New Scientist is reporting the penetrative sex is the best way to lower your blood pressure. Masturbation and oral sex help, but not as much. Researches believe this is because penetrative sex releases a pair-bonding hormone.

Those who abstained from sex had the highest blood pressure and were more likely to vote Republican.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Orange Line Near-Misses Down to 63 a Week

Orange Line Buses have almost been hit 1,200 times since it started operating in October 2005. Coincidentally, 1,200 tickets have been written in the area by the Sherrif's department since December. The Daily News reports, "...the busway is experiencing fewer crashes than the rest of the agency's 2,000-bus fleet, averaging about 1.36 crashes for every 100,000 miles of service compared with 3.46 crashes systemwide."

Monday, January 23, 2006

Love Police Chases?

It's the fried-breaded-melted cheese of television, police chases. Sign up to receive a text everytime a chase in Los Angeles is being televised. It's free right now, and you can expect to see 4 chases a month.

It’s F-ing Windy

The winds have downed power lines, cancelled flights and started a fire.

Check the Daily News for Wind Watch 2006.

The Best Time to Buy Anything

Every Valley Jew knows that Costco isn't the only place to get great deals. You just have to be in the know. This article from CNN Money seems to whisper some sweet ways to save a few dollars in your ear.

And I'll reveal the best hint of the whole pice. The best time to buy airline tickets? Wednesday.

Contaminating Future Luxury Home Development

Perchlorate lingering from missile tests has leaked in to Dayton Canyon Creek at 166 times the legally allowable level. According to KCBS/KCAL, “Long-term exposure to the chemical can cause thyroid problems.”


Saturday, January 21, 2006

Valley Memory #2
Chatsworth Holiday Parade

There is something about having red hair and freckles that makes you really photogenic as a kid and apoplectic on film as an adult. I was that red head kid with a big loose baseball cap, oversized glove and loopy grin of the youngest kid on the team. And I was the most excited to climb on the fire truck that we would be riding in the parade.

The Chatsworth Holiday Parade is a boon to the local economy. My mom was at Ralph’s Supermarket and my dad and brother had walked down to the H. Salt, which turned out not to be open. I stayed on the truck and watched the clowns, horses and the various large vehicles dressed up as floats for the day.

A photographer came over and asked if a fireman who was showing me around if he could take a picture. I told him he was early. He asked how much longer. I told him until the whole team got there. He came back later just before the whole thing started. We were pulling out on to Mason with the sirens slowly building up when he called and told us all to wave.

The next day there was our picture in the Daily News right next to a huge pictorial on the stars of the day, the Clydesdales.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Typical Valley Jew Relationship Manifesto

Being an overly sensitive Valley Jew, I appreciate the relationship advice of Susie and Otto Collins. Two average-looking suburbanites on their second marriage and looking to help people do things right by the love the next time around.

They just published what they called their Relationship Manifesto and encouraged other couples to do the same.

Here are some highlights from their Manifesto:

1. We are monogamous and it's very obvious to others that we are.

2. We do not run away emotionally or physically when things
get tough but find new ways to open to each other.

3. We make our relationship and passion a priority in our lives.

I’ve composed what I call the Typical Valley Jew Relationship Manifesto.

1. We will eat at Claim Jumpers consistently. “I’ll hold the pager!”
2. We will talk about movies with people we don’t know. “Did the people in the audience gasp when he kissed Jake Gyllenhaal in front of his wife?”
3. We will complain about things our older relatives do and then do them ourselves. “ And you should hear her complain about Costco's lasagna!”
4. We will brag about our most troubled children the most to garner empathy along with admiration. “He’s dating a married woman. But she’s so rich!”
5.We will never leave the Valley. “Unless we can afford something in Calabasas.”

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Another Great Reason Not to Live in Santa Clarita!

The median price of a Santa Clarita Valley home hit the $600,000 mark in December, capping a year that marked an 18 percent surge in prices in an area that remains one of the county's "affordable" communities, a monthly real estate survey said Tuesday.


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Is the NSA Watching You?

Here's a peak out how you may end up on the National Security Agency's radar. It's all about Echelon, which is French for "Big Brother."

Also check out Al Gore's Speech condemning Bush's policy of warrantless searches.

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Monday, January 16, 2006

F- Walmart. Stay Out of the Valley, Bro.

Make a note! The way to stop Wal-Mart from building a store in your town: lengthy environmental impact report.

It worked for the community in Northridge. Too bad there was no community up in Porter Ranch when the first Wal-Mart snuck in.

The threat isn't over, though.

"We are always looking on how to best serve the community," said Kevin McCall, spokesman for Wal-Mart in Southern California. "We believe the Valley is a wonderful opportunity for retail, and we're always looking.

"We're always looking...

"We're always..." Followed by three-full minutes of laughter.


Saturday, January 14, 2006

Memories of the Valley #1
The Munch Box

Devonshire Blvd. is "The Strip" of Chatsworth. Instead of flashy hotels and casinos, there are floral shops, mini-malls and the type of restaurant that closes every few years. Then the restaurant would reopen a few months later with a new name serving the native food of whatever immigrants were buying houses in the area.

I grew up north of Devonshire off Canoga Ave., the street where Charles Manson and his family walked down daily for a while to fish in Hughes Market’s huge trash dumpsters. Devonshire Blvd. was the city. And, like any city, it had its own mystical sights. There was the Candy Cat, a topless bar. There was the Library, which had every Mad Magazine ever and books on things like hypnosis. And there was The Munch Box.

The great thing about The Munch Box is that it is shaped exactly like a munch box. Perfect branding. What made it better was that there's nothing in the world really called a munch box. But if a much box did exist, it would definitely be shaped just like The Munch Box. And it would definitely be located right where the north-south train tracks cross Devonshire. Just across the tracks from the Post Office. Super mustard yellow and brighter than the sun on the hottest day of the year.

When I was twelve, I was on a diet all summer.

Every day, I skipped breakfast. My neighbor and I would bike down to The Munch Box around eleven. After we ate, we spent the rest of the day either inside the baseball card shop or doing something baseball card related until some parent came home. Then we could swim.

Part of my diet was that I only ate one hot dog with chili and cheese. No fries. No chili-cheese fries. I also swore off McDonalds, Taco Bell, Wendy’s and every other perfect fast food restaurant on Devonshire. I wasn’t being anti-corporate at all. There was something in me that just knew if I wanted to lose weight I’d have to make a plan and stick to it.

Why The Munch Box?

It was a treat. My parents never took me there since it didn’t have a drive-thru or a video games section. I’d only discovered it and patronized it as I began to have my own freedom and my own money.

And what it made it so great?

Besides everything, it was the chili. Perfectly ketchupy, greasy and not beany. Similar to the taste of the delicious bean dip that Los Toros, another Chatsworthian demi-mystical site, serves free with their chips.

As we sat on the benches, we’d lick the chili off our fingers and forks. We'd watch the cars and an occasional horse pass. Or if the benches were full, we’d sit on the stools at the counter and study The Munch Box employees— a man, a teen boy and teen girl. They’d work, laugh and talk to the grown up men who ate there everyday. I remember thinking that they were like a big, loose family except they didn’t yell at each other.

By the end of the summer, I got so thin that my one hot dog made me full. So full that my neighbor and I had to walk our bikes down Devonshire Blvd. talking baseball cards. The whole time wondering who might see me as they drove by. And who would have to wait until school started to see that I wasn’t as fat anymore.

The painting in this post is one of the fine images of the Valley landscape you can check out at

Orange Line Still Doing Well

The Daily News reports that Orange Line ridership is up to about 15,500 a people a day after a slight December dip. That along with Valley drivers becoming increasingly aware of the bus line are very promising signs for the future of mass transit in the area.


Friday, January 13, 2006

Study: Ashkenazi Jews All Descended from Four Women

A new study finds that some 40% of the worlds 3.5 million Ashkenazi Jews are descended from four Jewish women who may or may not have lived in Central Europe where most of the Ashkenazi ended up. As you probably know, Jewish identity is matrilineal or passed on only by a mother, but this study focused on women because it involved mitochondrial DNA which is only passed on the female side. Also, chicks are more interesting to study.


Register for Your Free .be Urls

Get a free year of up to 50 .be domain names. Thanks, Belgium!

Sorry, already took

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Movies Opening this Weekend

Brokeback Mountain
FRESH: 87% (Gay cowboys finally in wide release)

Glory Road
ROTTEN: 50% (Hooisers meets the "The First Black Harlem Globetrotter")

Last Holiday
ROTTEN: 50% (How Latifah got her groove black)

ROTTEN: 48% (Gross-Shrek style cartoon for farty kids)

Tristan & Isolde
ROTTEN: 24% (A date movie about princes and stuff that apparently sucks)

The 29 Healthiest Foods on the Planet

Finally you people will understand why I eat an apricot- avocado- raspberry- mango -cantaloupe salad everyday!

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Finally a Car Pool Lane for the 405

You'll have to wait till 2009, but you'll finally have a reason to carpool in the Valley. Former-Dobie-Gillis-star-turned-public-lesbian-turned-state-politician Shelia Kuehl's bill was signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger yesterday.

Schwarzenegger is still playing the good Terminator and actually doing things people other than Republican lobbyists care about.

Will there ever be a subway in the San Fernando Valley? Only if Schwarzenegger gets on a failing anti-condom-in-schools tear in mid 2007.


Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Future of Movie Openings?

Director Stephen Soderbergh's new film "Bubble" will open in theaters this Janaury and arrive in stores as a DVD four days later. Some, like Mark Cuban, have advocated these duel releases as the future of getting more bang out of a studio's marketing buck. The argument is there is a different market for the theaters and sales and both will be helped and not hindered by the flexibility. If this works, it probably won't be long before films are released in theaters, on dvd, on demand and in the itunes/google video stores all on the same.

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How Big a Business is Porn?

Bigger than mainstream theatrical releases.
Adult entertainment, including porn videos and films shot mainly in Southern California's San Fernando Valley, racked up estimated sales of $12.6 billion in 2005, according to statistics compiled by AVN. That compared with U.S. theatrical revenue of $8.9 billion for mainstream Hollywood films, according to figures from box office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations.


How Do You Get to Sleep Faster?

Life Hacker has a great, little comment thread going on about the different ways to get to sleep faster. New research shows that a lack of sleep can hurt almost every area type of brain functioning. While learning new things, keeps your brain young and makes you more likely to post comments in a blog.

Start Spending Your Tax Return Now?

If you aren't a long form type of person, this handy Java app can help you figure how much cash to bring to the Hustler Casino tonight.

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British Jewess Marries Dolphin Named "Cindy"

I'm not sure why the fact that this woman is Jewish is a big part of the story, but ynet news reports that Sharon Tendler, a rich-ass London concert promoter, married her dolphin consort of many years. The bride said that she "made a dream come true" and is not "not a pervert." Witnesses did not say way whether or not the dolphin broke a glass with its cute, little fish tail.


Battling Crime in the Valley with Microsoft Excel

Like the rest of LA, crime is down in the San Fernando Valley. The arguments for the drop include an aging population, more mellow drugs for poor people to be addicted to and some city programs like Midnight Basketball. The Freakonomics guys may argue this is the product of some well-targeted abortions, the LAPD believes that it's smarter, techo approaches to fighting crime are paying off.
While Bratton is credited with instituting these techno-cop methods, the trend began seven years ago in Van Nuys with the case of the Motorcycle Bandit. Detectives investigating a series of purse-snatchings at shopping center parking lots used laws of mathematical probability, a Microsoft Excel worksheet, and a pocket calculator to predict within 95 percent certainty when and where the Motorcycle Bandit would strike next. As luck, or the math, would have it, officers caught the bandit less than an hour after scoping out where it was predicted he would strike.


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Job Ideas for the Under-Employed

A family in Warwick, Rhode Island -- the Van Nuys of Rhode Island -- is looking for a long-term employment commitment on ebay.

For sale: one extended family, eight members, to work for five years at a resort or private facility. Tropical climate a must. Family has expertise in cooking, cleaning, computers, construction, auto maintenance and landscaping; all are friendly, educated, willing to work -- housebroken, of course -- and can start almost immediately. Price: $1.5 million, payable 25 percent up-front, plus room and board, medical benefits, and moving expenses.

Valley-Pirate Radio Station Shut Down

Franklin Avenue Blog reveals that the FCC has shut down a pirate radio sation originating and targeting the San Fernando Valley. The twist? The were broadcasting in Hebrew leaving many to wonder how the FCC didn't think that the signal was just very guttural static. The only frequency on the radio spectrum in the LA area available for pirates: 104.7. Check it out.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Real Estate: You Still Can't Afford a House

"San Fernando Valley residents bought slightly fewer homes last year than in 2004 but the market remained strong as the median resale price hit a record for the sixth consecutive year, indicate preliminary results for December. Last month's 892 single-family home sales pushed the 2005 total to 12,569 transactions, the eighth-straight 12,000-plus year, according to the Van Nuys-based Southland Regional Association of Realtors. December's median price, the point at which half the homes cost more and half less, was $590,000. That's $10,000 under November's $600,000 record and guarantees another annual mark." From The Daily News.

Tags: Real Estate, Resale Value, Bubble

See also: Search for houses in the San Fernando Valley

Produce Video Segments for ABC's Soapnetic

The Digital Video Producer will oversee day-to-day production of the Soapnetic broadband video product – a joint venture between ABC and SOAPnet. This will include the production of streaming video for the gated Soapnetic site, as well as other potential future opportunities in digital distribution including mobile, wireless devices and / or video downloads. The Producer will oversee a small team of online editors who will cut the content. The Producer will also program the content and schedule the delivery of finished content – while shaping the editorial voice of the product. From VarietyCareers.

Tags: Soaps, Jobs, Web Video Producer

See also: Stormland Creative, Soap Net, Beginner's Guide to Digital Video Production