Sunday, November 27, 2005

May I recommend...

Teaching is a profession that has many requirements, among them the obvious ones such as planning lessons, working with students to improve learning, attending meetings and the like. But more than the obvious requirements are the less-obvious and not-quite-required-but-expected type of requirements. These include attending school activities such as plays, concerts and games, so the teacher can get to know the students and support their accomplishments; being available at odd hours for consultation on various projects and assignments; and being an upstanding member of the community to maintain a good reputation. And then there are the letters of recommendation.

I work with a lot of seniors, and because of the nature of my job, I work with many of these students for several years. In some cases, I may have had a student for all four years of high school. I would not be doing this job if I did not enjoy it, and the longevity of my work with some students is one of the really rewarding aspects.

However, because of the nature of the students I work with, I have a pile of letters to write each year. These students frequently apply to selective universities and colleges, consistent with their demonstrated excellence at school. And each of those colleges requires a letter of recommendation, a completed form or some other type of evaluation.

I pride myself on doing a good job in everything I attempt, so I take my letter-writing seriously. I spend a few weeks mulling the anecdotes and adjectives I will use to characterize each student. Sure, I use some boilerplate language and swap out the indivdual's name, but the bulk of the letter is original. It takes 30 to 45 minutes to prepare each. If there is a separate form, those are five to 10 minutes each, too, depending if I choose to use the typewriter.

But let me make one thing clear: I receive no additional compensation for this letter-writing, and it is not a requirement. Furthermore, I don't write one for every student; in fact, I have declined on several occasions. Still, I counted today, and I have written 107 letters in my nine years as a teacher, including eight already this year. That does not include the shorter forms used by some scholarship applications that just require a few boxes be checked and a couple short statements on this quality or that academic ability.

I have contemplated the idea of asking for a donation to a scholarship fund for those who seek my recommendation or even limiting my letters to a certain group or number of students. But I have enacted no limites other than asking for three to four weeks of lead time to guarantee a letter. For the most part, I write a good letter, and I like to think I have been part of my students' acceptance at some of the nation's and Northwest's top universities.

Perhaps something can be done through the school or bargaining agreement with the union. Perhaps I should just suck it up and accept it -- or else just draw a boundary line. Regardless, one thing that is always nice is when the students ask politely and write a nice nmote of thanks afterward.

It's the least I can expect.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Wear your seatbelt

"Wear your seatbelt" are words to live by.

So are "Drive safely," "Steer into the turn" and "Brake steadily."

And, finally, "Slow down."

Those are the words I learned to pay closer attention to after my trip over Interstate 90 and Snoqualmie Pass Friday morning. I spun out in the middle of the freeway, a full 180-degree turn.

In the far left lane, strangely all alone on this stretch of roadway, I caught a bit of slushy snow and began to fishtail. As I slid into the center lane, I began to turn around. I hit the brakes -- thankful for the antilock system. I spun further around, actually travelling backward, and I absolutely expected to hit the Jersey barrier rapidly approaching on the passenger side. I braced for impact.

But I didn't hit it.

I came to a complete stop just inches -- inches -- from the concrete barricade, completely astonished that I had avoided a collision. No other cars approached, and two breaths later, I decided I better turn my car around and get back on my way.

Less than a mile later, I exited to the summit and took just a few minutes to collect myself and stop shaking. I am pretty danged lucky.

The rest of the trip was, and my return trip to Wenatchee will be, filled with safe driving techniques and more caution.

So, heed some words and be careful, slow down and don't pump those brakes.

-- Seattle

Friday, November 25, 2005

"No day but today"

Watching the movie version of "Rent," the stage musical from the 1990s about the late 1980s, I have to admit I was impressed. It's a good score and a great theme, but I wonder if it matters in 2005.

As I sat in a nearly empty theater on Thanksgiving afternoon, I was thankful that few others had come to see the film. I like a quiet theater. But I was also disappointed because the film deserves wider viewing than will likely result outside America's cities and urban sophisticates.

Despite the fact that I enjoyed the movie, the critics were pretty harsh -- and there are some good reasons for a thumbs down. Putting those reasons aside, I could still recommend the film for entertainment.

The film takes place at the end of the 1980s, a transition year in so many ways -- from the end of the cold war to the end of the millennium. The fin de siecle attitude is well expressed among the ensemble -- they are beat up after the '80s and ambivalent about the future. This is one reason the film does not resonate very strongly in 2005: The '90s turned out pretty good for a lot of people, and the first part of the century is what has come to be the dark decade.

Other problems:
The Associated Press review I read said "Rent" was "of its time" -- meaning that it took place in 1989 and played in the mid-'90s. It captured a segment of the culture and society that was of the moment: a pre-9/11, pre-Giuliani New York instead of the neo-romantic version we have today. It was a gritty New York, a filthy New York, a smutty New York-y Bohemia that we all thought of as New York. It would kick your ass. That doesn't jive with today's impression of New York as the greatest city in the world. It seems as if the show would have been better in a decade, when enough time has passed that we have romanticized the bygone days instead of remembering them too clearly.
The cast is mostly the original Broadway cast. While this is helpful in the fact that they own their parts, they hardly can play angst-filled 20-somethings with much credibility.

The score resonates, and the larger theme of live for the now because there might not be a tomorrow can easily be applied to the post-9/11 world. Those characters have some heart, and the music conveys a mood. This show brought back Broadway at a time when people in the Heartland weren't paying much attention.

See "Rent" for the entertainment, and view it as a snapshot of its time. I suspect it will only improve with age.

-- Seattle

Thankful for Thanksgiving

I love Thanksgiving, yes I do. It is a holiday steeped in tradition without being too restrictive. It is a truly American day, and one with American values -- such as eating to excess, sloth and family all followed by a day of shocking consumerism. What is more American?

My Thanksgiving started at about 9 a.m. when I awoke without benefit of an alarm. I lazed for a while then began to cook my dinner. Yes, I prepare a holiday feast from Safeway. And I eat it all (not in one sitting, though). Some of my friends and coworkers and students have questioned my Thanksgiving plans. They wonder aloud whether I would not prefer to be with friends or family. I reply simply that I like to do my own thing.

For me, Thanksgiving is a day even more special than my birthday (when I don't do much of anything extra special). It is a day off from work when I need it, a day of eating which I love, and a day full of no expectations. On Thanksgiving, people don't expect you to work or return e-mail messages or pay your bills or meet them for coffee or anything. They just expect you to eat.

The meal and wine were followed by a movie waiting for several weeks from Netflix ("The Hudsucker Proxy") and later a trip to the cinema to see "Rent." All in all, a festive day.

So those of you who got stuck with your families and into arguments or endured whiny kids or a boring football game when you wanted to watch something else, I encourage you to consider the Loganite Thanksgiving next year. I certainly had plenty of offers (some genuine and others prompted out of pity, I am sure), but I was happy to decline them all. Undoubtedly, some will think I am weird. I prefer the term "quirky."

Not eating turkey on Thanksgiving, now that's weird!

-- Seattle

Monday, November 21, 2005

Public recognition for journalism

This article appeared in The Wenatchee World on Monday, Nov. 21, as a column by the managing editor of the community newspaper. His son is one of my newspaper students. It was a special treat. (I'd send just a link, but the Web site requires a paid subscription.)

This article is about my school and my students and me, but it just as easily could describe dozens -- hundreds -- of situations across the nation. It's pretty rare to have such prominent acknowledgement of an academic activity.

I don't send this to toot a horn or pat a back. I share it as a Thanksgiving wish, a wish that everyone could attain the professional situation we desire and that others would recognize in public your talents and the success of your work. I'm thankful to have an opportunity every day to do good things, to work with good students and to know good people here and around the country.


A high school legacy, in print

By Gary Jasinek, World managing editor

The staff of Wenatchee High School’s student newspaper, The Apple Leaf, was gathering Thursday morning in Room 262 for its daily class in advanced journalism.

Their teacher and adviser, Logan Aimone, got their attention at the front of the room. He held up a proof of the coming edition’s opinion section, where several staffers had contributed columns.

“This just drips with voice,” he told the staff. “Anybody who reads this will know that these are teenagers with something to say.”

That they are.

These teenagers with something to say at Wenatchee High School received the highest honor in high school journalism the week before last, when they won their second-consecutive Pacemaker award at a national high school journalism convention in Chicago. Only a couple of dozen student papers in the country received that honor this year.

More impressive: The Apple Leaf is one of only five papers to have won the award — considered the high school journalism equivalent of a Pulitzer — each of the past two years.

Two national titles in a row? If this were a sports team, people would be talking dynasty.

Actually, the team concept is more than an analogy here. With Aimone’s guidance for the past eight years, the Apple Leaf staff has developed a culture that would be the envy of any ambitious squad seeking glory on a court or field instead of on pages of newsprint.

It begins with the expectation of excellence, it’s extended by recruiting talent, and it’s nourished by a school administration wise enough to not meddle with success.

Junior Nick Feldman, The Apple Leaf’s editor in chief, said high expectations are set from Day 1. “Aimone always begins the year reminding us that we have a legacy,” he said, sitting at a classroom table with Managing Editor Kelly MacDonald, a senior.

(Full-disclosure interruption: I know several of these kids through my son, Adam, who’s the Apple Leaf’s photo editor.)

MacDonald agreed about the tone Aimone sets. “The Apple Leaf is very important to him,” she said. “He expects us to do the best we can.”

More powerful than a coach’s expectations are teammates’ sense of obligation to each other. Aimone says that’s a powerful force on The Leaf’s staff.

“Nobody wants to be the kid who lets the team down,” he said, recalling the edition last year in which the centerpiece feature was, in his words and in the opinion of the staff, “a real dog. The kids just beat themselves up over it.”

To engage in that sort of discerning self-critique, the kids themselves need to be accomplished and wise enough to recognize quality, and its opposite.

That starts with recruiting and developing talent. Aimone identifies promising next-year players primarily through his beginning journalism class — where “I have the chance to teach journalism without the pressure of publication” — and through an honors English class he teaches, as well as referrals from other teachers.

With a circulation of 1,900, The Apple Leaf has the ability to inform and engage and, at times, stir things up. That’s when the independence of a student paper becomes crucial.

Aimone recalled the edition in 2002 that dealt frankly with sexual issues and included a graphic that was instructional in the use of condoms. A controversy ensued.

The principal at that time asked to see six subsequent editions before publication under a policy that says the administration “can review,” not that it “must review.” Currently, the administration chooses not to.

“Without someone looking over our shoulder, we have thrived,” Aimone said. When the administration becomes the editor, “students lose interest and the publication loses respect. Plus, it’s an insult to the classroom teacher. No other teachers are asked to submit students’ work or lesson plans for approval.”

Then again, few other teachers have the opportunity to impart the lessons that can come from the challenges of creating a real newspaper.

Aimone seems driven to make the most of that opportunity.

His students sense that drive. They appreciate it.

“He’s passionate,” said MacDonald, “and his passion inspires us.”

Gary Jasinek’s column appears on Mondays. Reach him at or at 665-1176.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

North is the wrong direction

"Real Christians don't lie."

"No one is above the law."

"Support schools, not criminals."

"Ask Nicaragua about family values."

"North is the wrong direction."

About 35 people gathered on Wenatchee Avenue in front of the Performing Arts Center to demonstrate against a speech to be given by Olver North. North is the former Marine Corps colonel who organized several military operations in Central America during the Reagan Administration and who played a central role in the arms-for hostages sale known as the Iran-Contra Scandal.

Today, North is a conservative commentator on radio and television, and he writes books to promote his so-called family values. On Saturday night, though, he was the featured speaker in a fund-raiser for St. Paul's Lutheran School.

Apparently a small group of benefactors put up the $30,000 it took to bring North to Wenatchee. Tickets for the event were $100 to $1,000. I suspect the more expensive tickets allowed a person to meet North and have a photo taken or something similar. A friend walked in to see how the room was set and counted 258 seats.

So it was an enthusiastic group of people of conscience that gathered at the PAC and then down below at the parking lot-level entrance to the convention center. My cohorts down there held their signs aloft for people to read and walk past as they entered, dressed in their finery. The best slogan that emerged was "Good cause, wrong choice of speaker."

On the street level, as I held my placard to be seen by passing motorists, a few of them honked in support or gave a thumbs up sign. Others, more frequent, gave a middle finger, swore out their window or shook their head in mock disgust.

One interesting moment came when the man chosen to introduce North walked by. The person selected was my former school principal, a man known for his Christian fundamentalist values and mixing public roles with private religious interests. I held my placard in front of me, looked him in the eye, and he said hello and we shook hands. No one was there for a confrontation.

Well, one man was there for a confrontation. He walked along down at the parking lot level and shouted at the demonstrators, his crudely made cardboard sign saying something about it being hard to love thy neighbor. It was confusing. He engaged a few other people and quickly disappeared.

St. Paul's School certainly has the right to bring anyone to speak, and people have a right to go listen if they want, even if it is expensive. Heck, I paid $75 to hear Michael Moore in Seattle a couple years ago. But the larger issue here is that a man convicted of accepting a bribe, destroying evidence and obstructing a Congressional investigation was being asked to speak about family values. That his convictions were overturned on a legal technicality does not make them less serious or offensive.

Perhaps the real offense was that people would pay to hear anything he had to say. Oliver North is certainly no role model. Some good did come from the event -- progressives, liberals and other people of conscience are increasingly active and willing to step up and say, "Not in our town, not in our name." And that is a good cause.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

No more 'See you at the polls'

Chelan County commissioners acted this week on an advisory vote from last week's election that suggested more people favored voting by mail. Just 40 percent said the county should maintain poll site voting.

Despite my best effort (my vote) and my strong feeling that the county should not favor all-mail balloting despite the popularity and its lower cost, I can't go to the poll anymore. It's gone.

So for future elections, I'll look forward with glee to the random day when I will receive a ballot in the mail. Perhaps I'll set it aside from my catalogs, magazines and credit-card preapprovals. Perhaps I'll remember to find a special time to mark my ballot, but more likely I will just do it between a fast-food dinner and watching some TV.

Maybe I will get together with some friends and we can all mark our ballots at the same time, so it actually feels like voting. Maybe I'll go to the senior center so I can get the experience of saying hello to the elderly women who usually work the polls and whose cheerful greetings always made me feel good to vote.

But I will keep voting. Whether in person or by mail, there is no more important role for a citizen. I plan to continue doing it.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Thanks, Chicago!

I read great e-mail messages on my journalism teachers' e-mail list about upcoming conventions in San Francisco and Nashville, but I wanted to chime in about the fantastic convention experience in Chicago before too much time passes.

In every way possible, this was my best convention experience ever. We had such good convention karma! The flights left on time, the elevators at the Swissotel were never delayed, we arrived at the awards ceremony just in time for a student to hear his name as a superior winner, and we had glorious weather as we walked around Millennium Park and to a fantastic delicatessen called Ada's.

Sunday morning brought three individual awards: a superior in newspaper sports photography and honorable mentions in review writing and news writing.

More than the awards (which were very nice), my students have never left a convention as excited and energized about their publications. I don't expect that every session will be a life-changer; I do expect students to find a few nuggets of inspiration here and there. Some highlights: sports columns, reader surveys and enterprise reporting.

To be in a student hotel room at midnight Saturday and witness all my students hanging out and talking about enterprise and diversity was especially rewarding. So much about the convention experience is goes beyond the sessions. It is about a shared experience and learning. It's also about making new friends and seeing old ones. I am glad I had a chance to connect with so many of my j-pals in Chicago (you probably know who you are!).

Finally, it is about making lasting memories, such as walking through sideways rain, cheering about a Pacemaker award and eating something called a "francheesie" (a beef frank wrapped in cheese and bacon is quite possibly the world's best food idea).

I bought a great piece of original editorial cartoon artwork for a large chunk of change, but it all goes to support the Student Press Law Center, so I feel fine about raising my credit card balance. And, I even got a bonus when checking out of the hotel when the clerk waived my Internet fees -- $10 per day. What a deal!

So, thanks Chicago and all the local committee folks. We came curious and left with questions answered and newer, more important ones raised.

We'll do it all again in San Francisco in April.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

A memorable day for our student press

Today was a memorable one at the JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention in Chicago. With two great awards ceremonies and some crazy weather, I think it has been a convention to remember.

The Apple Leaf newspaper has earned a second consecutive National Pacemaker award, one of just a couple dozen in the nation to receive the honor. The Pacemaker is sometimes referred to as the Pulitzer Prize of scholastic journalism.

The Apple Leaf also earned 10th place in the Best of Show contest -- but in the newsmagazine category. Interestingly, I forgot to check the category box when I submitted the form on Thursday, and when I went back to do so on Friday, apparently it never was done properly (the paper had already been moved from the desk area). So someone must have classified it as a newsmagazine. It's an honest mistake -- the paper has a large feature photo on Page 1, but there is also a news story. The students feel strongly this is a newspaper. While 10th place is nothing to be disappointed with, I wonder how the paper would have farfed against the other newspapers, especially since this was a 24-page edition. I have spun this as "We can win in two categories" and "We defy classification." I sense a t-shirt in the future.

The Wa Wa yearbook earned fifth place in the yearbook Best of Show contest for 2005 books with 225-324 pages. This is the first placement in Best of Show for the yearbook in the eight editions I have advised, and I am confident in saying it is the highest placing ever for our book. It was also a featured book at our publishing company's booth, and I saw several people looking it over.

Earlier, at the advisers' luncheon, I was recognized as one of four advisers receiving the Distinguished Adviser Award from the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund as part of its teacher recognition program. As part of another award, where excerpts from my nomination letter were read, the reader mispronouned my last name (again). The coup de grace was when I received my DJNF plaque -- a nice molded one, not engraved -- that I noticed my name was misspelled. Still, neither incident could tarnish the great honor of the award.

After the awards ceremonies, the students and I celebrated with a trip to a very Chicago destination: Navy Pier. Only problem was the few drops of rain during the walk that turned into a downpour and severe winds within about a half mile. It was not pleasant. Undoubtedly, the students will remember the wet and blustery walk for many years. We arrived at the pier and had some authentic hot dogs, shopped for a bit at the souvenier shops and took cabs back to the hotel.

Earlier, a colleague of mine from another school and I waled around the downtown area, and did some sightseeing at Marshall Fields, which is one big department store. Today was the unveiling of the Christmas decorations, the display windows in a Cinderella theme and a huge tree that was three stories tall. It was all very nice. I bought a neck tie.

All in all, a memorable day.

-- Chicago

Friday, November 11, 2005

Fan flames for free speech in Everett, Wash.

The last couple of weeks have seen a tighteneing of the noose of oppression at Everett (Wash.) High School as school administrators seek to enforce a dormant policy of prior review of the school's newspaper.

The media coverage basically tells what I just reported. It does not show just how two articulate and talented young women editors have championed free speech and said "Hands off!" to school administration -- administration that has never enforced this policy at one of the oldest scholastic newspapers in Washington state.

Additionally, a colleague at nearby Mountlake Terrace High School wrote a guest column for The Herald, Everett's community daily newspaper. It was picked up by the First Amendment Center in Nashville, Tenn., and is available here. It's a compelling piece of persuasion.

That the student editors have acted with conviction, passion and intelligence is testament to the strong education they have received in the Everett School District, north of Seattle. It is ironic that the administration that is demanding more from student learning seeks to risk precisely what is working in its schools. Prior review is not educationally sound, and administrators should abandon their effort to stifle student expression.

It's another thing that is wrong with education.

-- Chicago

Traveling sometimes goes smoothly

Sometimes, things go as planned. After a slight delay Thursday morning because I of all people overslept, all the travel plans for my eight students and I to get from Wenatchee to Seattle-Tacome International Airport to Chicago-O'Hare International Airport to the elevated train to the downtown and by taxi to our hotel went according to plan. Weird.

It;s a glorious morning in Chicago, the Windy City. The Swissotel is a fantastic property. My students are pleasant, enthusiastic and good representatives of their school. Today should kick off a great convention experience. As I write this, I overlook the Chicago River, with a view of some amazing architecture downtown as the rising sun glints its pink streaks off the shiny windows and light bricks.

Today I will attend some convention sessions and luncheon, and later a benefit auction with what promises to have amazing offers, all to benefit the Student Press Law Center. And, I plan to get out and see just a bit of the city.

-- Chicago

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

My civic duty

There is no greater perk of United States citizenship than voting.

And, I love to vote.

Really, I do. I proudly claim that I have voted in every election for which I have been eligible since turning 18 -- presidential, gubernatorial, Congress, county, city, hospital district, public utility district and school board. I've always voted on public initiatives and referenda questions, too. Like I said, I love it.

More than marking my ballot with the black marker or pencil, I like going to the polls. I enjoy stopping by the poll on my way to work, saying hello to whichever elderly lady is staffing the table for my precinct, going to the stall and then inserting my ballot into the box. I like knowing it got delivered on time and as promised. I like the experience and the red-white-and-blue bunting festooning the place.

So it was with a special sense of pride that I cast a vote today at the performing arts center in downtown Wenatchee, the centralized polling location for this area of the county. Most voters here, and increasingly around the state, are permanent absentee voters. They like to get a ballot and mail it in by Election Day. Clearly, they value convenience over civic engagement with neighbors all sharing the experience of casting a ballot at a polling place.

In fact, on the ballot in Chelan County today was an advisory vote to county commissioners about whether the county should remain one of 13 in the state to allow in-person voting or join the majority as a mail-voting only county. I voted no, of course. I recognize the budgetary savings and convenience, even the increased security. None trump the tradition and social benefit of a polling place, in my book. Nonetheless, the vote will probably show that most voters prefer voting by mail -- the numbers already indicate that -- but I can hope people say no like I did.

In fact, today was a day of voting no all the way down the ballot. I did mark to approve a small constitutional amendment to allow municipal judges on a judicial oversight committee. That made sense to me.

I voted no for changing the law regarding medical malpractice to benefit doctors. I voted no for changing the law regarding medical malpractice to benefit lawyers. I voted no to ban smoking in all public places. I voted no to repeal the gas tax enacted this year. I voted no to add a duplicitous government auditing system.

Talking about the election today with some of the Joint Chiefs, I explained my rationale for each vote. And I surprised myself in being so Libertarian about the smoking ban initiative, shocking my associates with the departure from my usual liberal stance. I believe I actually used the phrase "let the marketplace decide" when it comes to people wanting a smoke-free environment. I almost could not believe what I was saying. But initiatives are notoriously poorly written; their overreaching (as in the smoking ban) ultimately prove their undoing.

So today might have been my last day of going to the polling place, greeting the nice ladies, going to the booth and putting my own ballot in the counting machine. And possibly no more "I voted" stickers. Yes, I love voting. I hope I still will even if I have to do it from my dining room table.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Monday, November 07, 2005

EFF lies and truth-bending

I received this e-mail from the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, a "think tank" based on Olympia, Wash., whose primary mission is to dismantle the public school teachers' union in the name of workers' rights. If that is not the biggest load of Doublespeak, I don't know what is.

So I provide the message here with my commentary in italics:

Dear Teacher:

It's that time of year again! Don't forget to request a refund from the Washington Education Association (WEA) for the percentage of your dues it spends on politics and other activities not representing you on your job.
(Actually, the WEA does represent me and my interests.)

While the WEA provides workplace representation services many teachers value, it admits to spending approximately 25 percent of your dues dollars influencing the outcome of elections and political controversies. Some of these activities are consistent with your views. Others are not.
(Most are, though. And because I believe in the democratic system of representation on which our nation was founded and not the my-way-or-leave mentality of the "entitlement generation," I accept that not every decision will be one with which I agree. If I disagree, I can also voice my disagreement or work to change the status quo through involvement.)

WEA and NEA officials admit they overcharge for "workplace representation" by about $200 per teacher each year.
(Perhaps "overcharge" is not the best term to use. That amount is what is not spent on direct representation. The remiander is advocacy on behalf of members' interests.)

If you disagree with the way the WEA spends this part of your dues, there are two options available.

1. Become an "Agency Fee Payer."
2. Become a "Religious Objector."

Agency fee payers are entitled to a refund of union dues. Apply for the refund by filing out the union resignation letter at the bottom of this e-mail. Send it to the WEA and a copy to your local union. For more information, please visit

Alternatively, if you object to supporting union activities based on a personal religious belief, you may become a religious objector. Unions must accommodate your religious beliefs and allow you to redirect 100 percent of your dues to a charity. To learn more about this option and the controversial activities the union supports with your money, go to:

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Have a great holiday season!
(The only question I have is: Why don't you all spend your time on something more valuable? Each WEA member has a chance to become involved in all areas of the union. Those who are dissatisfied should work to change the association, not just take their dues and go home, leaving the rest of us to fight for them but without their funds. What kind of values does the EFF really advocate?)


Michael Reitz
Evergreen Freedom Foundation
P.O. Box 552 | Olympia, WA 98507
-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Et tu, Anderson?

It seems even the middle-aged star at CNN has become a victim in the constant zest for ratings in the cable news business. Aaron Brown, for four years the leading man of CNN, has left the network, effective last week. He was done in by someone younger and leaner, Anderson Cooper, an anchor whose star rose so quickly it eclipsed that of Brown, whose own luster has been burnished by years of "paying his dues" in local news and learning the trade on the overnight show at ABC News. Yes, Brown has been replaced, and it was his younger competition, a former host of the news on Channel 1, a closed-cable news system for schools, who did him in.

Longtime Loganite fans will note that I am a devotee of Mr. Brown, the always courteous and appropriately humble and restrained anchor who asked the questions I wanted asked and whose firm control of a news interview evoked the likes of David Brinkley and Mike Wallace and even Walter Cronkite. I looked forward to each installment of "NewsNight" and to the substance of an hourlong national news show that could provide context and analysis -- and the occasional offbeat "brite." That damned rooster for the "Morning Papers" segment long ago uttered its last cock-a-doodle-doo.

Oh sure, I watched a few episodes of "Anderson Cooper: 360" in the afternoon -- the Eastern prime time being our pre-supper. Cooper was my sarcastic afternoon snack. But Brown was my meat and potatoes. I dropped in on Cooper, but I made an appointment with Brown.

There will be another project for Brown -- perhaps he will return to ABC and the house that his mentor, Peter Jennings, built, or maybe even replacing Bob Schieffer at CBS. Perhaps Aaron Brown will go to PBS. He is a newsman's newsman, and I just don't see him fitting in at FOX or MSNBC. Whatever is next for him, I wish Aaron Brown luck. I hope to be seeing him broadcasting soon.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

'Capote' shines

I am increasingly impressed by the ability of Hollywood to create biopic masterpieces about luminaties throughout history. The most recent offering, "Capote," stars Phillip Seymour Hoffman in what is the finest performance he has ever given and one of the best films I have see in 2005. This year is shaping up to be a great one for cinema.

It will be some time before "Capote" makes thr rounds to wide release, but when it does, be sure to catch a screening as soon as possible. Hoffman's portrayal is exact, and the cinematography and direction help sell this film's tone. The piece is about the life of Truman Capote, mainly the years after he wrote "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and decided to write his signature work, "In Cold Blood."

That piece changed American literature forever by introducing the genre or literary journalism, the nonfiction novel. In it, Capote writes about the brutal murder of a family of four in their West Kansas farmhouse by two men on the prowl for money. It is clear through the book -- and especially in the film -- that Capote holds a special place for one of the killers, Perry Smith, and simultaneously shows affection and attachment as he gathers information as well as using the men to further his own literary ambitions. The film demonstrates this relationship well, walking the fine line so as not to play up one angle or another.

The angle of Truman Capote's childhood friend Nelle Harper Lee, and her support of Truman, is also well done. Just as her star begins to rise with the publication of the masterpiece "To Kill a Mockingbird" and the follow-up film version, Capote seems to have a subtle and unstated need to be the brightest light in the room. It's beautiful.

The fact that this film is based on a true story, on real people, makes the performances all the more astonishing. It would have been a fine film if it had been fiction, just as "In Cold Blood" would have been a fine book if it were fiction. But, as Capote showed America and the world, the real world can be just as compelling.

-- Issaquah, Wash.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Back burner

I had planned to update today why I have been so negligent of this Weblog. So, a comment to a post not withstanding, I needed to share that this activity has been on the back burner fo rme for about two weeks.

Simply put, I have been busy -- not the kind of busy that means stayinglate at school or spending every minute in front of a computer screen researching. Instead it has been the kind of busy that leaves a person drained mentally. Over the past two weeks, I have had a lot going on in my mind, so when I get home after a pretty long day, I don't have the mental energy to focus on crafting writing for this Weblog. That has been disappointing as I had gained a certain pride from the fact that in August, September and most of October, I had posts for the number of days in the months. That's a lot for me since my posts are original usually and not just a "check this out" kind of link.

I have ideas aplenty -- I mean, the Bush Administration alone shluld be able to give a half dozen or more morsels for my skewer. But I won't try to go back and recap prior events. Instead, I'll just refocus and move on. This blog is pretty good cryptotherapy for me, so I need to carve out time for it often.

Movies, plays, politics, school and travel -- look for it all in coming days.

-- Issaquah, Wash.