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16 April, 2012

Something in the Air (KAOS)

It's that time again. After months of soggy-slumber lumbering through the dark, the days are long, Procession of the Species is nearly here, and plants are pumping out blooms and pollen, putting Spring in the air.

Meanwhile, on the air, KAOS. Recently voted Olympia's favorite station. The place we go for a morning wake-up un-marred by commercials, or jack-assedness, or Beltway speak. The place where you can tune into news and music from all over the world and right here in Olympia, without wondering how much it has been winnowed down to nothingness by corporations and professional pundits. 

You listen. You know no other station will carry this much commercial-free broadcasting, this much world music, this much native programming. 

But do you contribute?

I won't get into the whole list of reasons why you should join. Sure, you can get one of the new T-shirts or one of the indestructible mugs. Sure, you can pay off the donation by flashing your KAOS card around town and getting discounts. But maybe the best reason you should join is that the more people who are members, the better KAOS is able to protect this little patch of the people's airwaves from becoming part of the radio blandscape. 

There is strength in numbers. The more KAOS members there are (and it is incredibly cheap to become one; you can get your name on the list without a major sacrifice), the better the station is able to get other funding, and to hold off the various forces that would be happy to turn 89.3 into another outlet for voices that do not speak for our community.

The KAOSticians on and off air volunteer their time and produce outstanding programming that requires work far beyond the hours they put in on a show. Most of them also pay the dues to be members. They do their part, and we can do ours by calling them and saying good job, maybe putting in a request, and joining KAOS.

Do it now. Here.

08 April, 2012

Procrastination of the Species

Spring in Olympia. The cherries and daffodils are a-riot with blooms, buskers have migrated back to our sidewalks, and soon the Species will emerge from hibernation that they may Process. This last event is one of my favorite things about my adopted home, as various writings attest.

Last year, Oly Samba did the octopus thing. Somebody told me what they're doing this year, but I forgot, and besides, nothing quite captivates me like a cephalopod. And so in procrastinatory fashion, I have now completed a superfluous octopus. Not for the Procession, and for that matter not for anything. I don't need a reason to make an octopus, although I am just now realizing that maybe there should have been some thought put into what to do with it now that it is done.

Because, what do you do with a 6-foot octopus? Made of butcher block, so it weighs as much as a gross of actual octopi, and will be a shore to install, and a hanging hazard once it is up. Purple, with yellow and orange and electric blue stippling, not to mention day-glo orange suckers, so of course it goes with everything. For a few years now, I've had this dream (maybe scheme or half-baked plot would be more accurate) of staging a guerilla entry into the Arts Walk or Procession, but this thing is way too heavy to carry, and I'm not yet willing to drill holes in it and put in the giant bolts that would be required to put it up. I think it would be a nice addition to the Fishbowl brewpub decor, but do they?

Any ideas?
Neurons ablaze, Moctopus ponders his future.

02 April, 2012

Laid Low by High Fives

This past Friday, I took a day off work to be at my daughter's elementary school. This was under the aegis of a nationwide program to get dads involved in their kids schools, and to increase the presence of male role models, and although I am not much for taking part in pre-fab programs or role modeling, the idea of spending a day at her school sounded worthwhile. 

I've been around schools and teachers most of my life, but this may have been the first full day I've spent in school since graduating high school. (College doesn't count. Not because it's not compulsory, but because I don't think I spent six consecutive hours immersed in academe during the half dozen years it took me to finish. And I'm supposed to be a role model?) My conceptual appreciation for the difficulty of teaching and wrangling a couple-dozen kids all day was enriched by this does of reality. 

Even as I signed on to do this, pangs of fraudulency bounced around inside my rib cage. Moms go into schools all the time--the day I went in, I recognized one in the classroom as a regular and unheralded volunteer--but a dad goes in one day and kids are encouraged to give him congratulatory high-fives? This particular program has made national news, why? Even before showing up, school officials expressed gratitude that a dad would take a day off work (in my case, a day of paid leave) to participate in the raising of his own kid? Deadwood hangs around for a few hours, more likely interfering than helping, and is exalted?

I vowed to at least try and remedy that last part. Having a head-start, I figured, by having spent some time in elementary classrooms, I could jump in and engage, instead of being in the way. So I engaged the disengaged kid during math, graded spelling tests, nudged writers, managed 8 kids at a time making clay pots, played tag, helped in the library, and read a book to the class (exercising my cartoon-voice acumen). By the final bell, I felt like I'd actually done a few worthwhile things. Like maybe I deserved some of those high fives.

Oh, the high fives. That's where this post started, right? The kids had clearly been told that giving the dads high fives is a great way to show appreciation. At one point, I had a line of kids streaming by doing it. 

And therein lies the biggest fault of the program. People who know have described schools, especially elementary schools, as petri dishes because of all the germs being cultured, but they are far worse. Petri dishes occur in labs, controlled settings in which the growth of unintended species is deemed "contamination." Better metaphors for the germscape of a typical school might be: cuspidor, public toilet, community handkerchief, get the point. 

Most of the kids look clean, and of course they are cute and innocent at that age, but there's no escaping the fact that the practice of encouraging them all to slap palms with one individual is a choice to maximize infectious vectors, exceeded only by the shared hanky or having everyone drink from the same cup. Dozens of hands touched mine, each depositing its biota, each picking up a film of the bacteriologic soup teeming there. 

This is not just theoretical. The volume of stomach contents rushing out both ends of me yesterday constitute solid (uh, liquid, actually) evidence. I haven't been sick like that in many years. Having not been in a school for a while, my antibodies were on vacation, and I was slammed. I guess I have some immunity now that I didn't a week ago, along with the realization that when in an elementary school, washing hands every hour is a good policy (and maybe high fives are not).