Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Private Tests Find Formaldehyde Danger Widespread

If you live in the Gulf Coast, that is. This MSNBC article corroborates what lots of local activists and residents have suspected for a long time: that not only the travel trailers, but also the mobile homes (read: bigger, nicer) that have been provided by the government to Katrina victims are producing extremely high levels of formaldehyde--levels that are making the people living in them sick and sicker.

Just more proof that if the storm didn't kill you, FEMA just might.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Who Put the FUN Back in Fundraising?

WE did! My friends and I, that is. Last night, at a little spot called the Blind Pig here in Manhattan, my buddies and I hosted an event designed to raise a little money for the children of Renaissance Village, a FEMA constructed trailer park down outside of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I met a few of the kids who are living there (all victims of Hurricane Katrina) when I was down in the region this past summer, and never could get them out of my mind. Neither could Jess, and so, together with our friends Kerryann, Katie, Vanessa and Allison, we got together and made the decision to do something that might make these kids' lives a tiny bit better.

The plan was pretty simple, and it totally worked: convince our friends--all of whom get together all the time in bars and restaurants to have a little fun--to spend this past Tuesday evening partying w a purpose instead. And that's even what we called it: Party with Purpose. We got other friends to donate items to for silent auction, booked the bar (again through friends) and then sent out Evites and email invitations to our buddies in New York. And guess what? People turned up in droves and helped us raise about $5,500-- which we will now use to buy holiday gifts for the kids in the trailer park.

It's actually amazing to me how easy it was to put together, to get people to come out, and actually make a demonstrable (if small) difference in the lives of others. Working for a non-profit that is large-ish in size and therefore a complex system of yeses and nos, you can sometimes forget just how easy it can be to do something that has immediate impact. I'm so glad that I was reminded that it's something we all can do--maybe not alone, but with just a few friends by your side, change is possible. And, if you're lucky, really, really fun.

Friday, November 2, 2007

He's Baaaaack...

I suppose it couldn't have been any more predictable--you knew it, I knew it, even the family dog knew it: Don Imus has made it back onto the air. He's signed a deal with WABC Radio that will have him filling the morning drive-time slot (6 am to 10 am), and, we can assume, making a whole lotta money doing it.

It's amazing to think that a whole six months has passed since the brouhaha that got him booted from his last job took place, and I for one am struggling at the moment to figure out how much I care that the man has got his footing back. On the one hand, he certainly "paid a price" for his idiotic remarks; but on the other, his return makes it clear that the powers that be in the media really don't get why people were so upset in the first place. They slapped him on the wrist, sure, but now they've handed the mantle right back to him, giving him plenty of opportunity to continue his pattern of racial and sexual degradation, along with some general jack-assery.

So, again, the question isn't really (or only) about Imus; it's about the media culture. He's the symptom, they're the disease. It's impossible to imagine Don Imus coming back to the air being anything other than his same, old self, and I guess what his re-hiring tells us is that that old, mean self is cool with the guys at ABC, who are clearly psyched to keep the power in the hands of guys like themselves. It's all pretty gross, if you ask me... but why does the whole thing make me feel so utterly exhausted?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

NPR for 30 Somethings

Looks like NPR has wised up to the fact that there are plenty of us out here in our 30s who'd love to listen to them on much more regular--if only they provided us with programming a little bit different from what our grandparents are listening to.

The answer to this age old (old age?) problem has come in the form of the relatively new "
Bryant Park Project," a morning news show from NPR that will, according to their Facebook group, "change your life, speed up your commute and jack your test scores 50 points -- in whatever order you choose."

I've only listened to a couple of shows, but I think I may already be hooked--and not just because the super dope Alison Stewart (remember her from her MTV veejay days?) is one of the voices behind the show. Right now you can only hear them in Seattle, Indiana and Vermont over the airwaves, but they're available nationwide on Sirius Satellite, and always available via the web.

Check it out, superstaaaaahs...

Morning Glory

So I had this idea last night, as I was trying to drift myself off to sleep, that I should start trying to post in the morning, well before the day has jerked off into the annoyingly usual busy-ness that has come to be the norm more recently. So here I am, dressed, loafers polished, and sitting down for just a moment to jot a few things down before I jump on the train and head for work.

Last weekend was spent in New Orleans--my first trip to the city since the storms. It's true that I visited Baton Rouge in August, but being in the Big Easy itself, I found, is a different thing altogether... Not that you'd know so much disaster was around you if you didn't inquire: the business district and the French Quarter have been pulled back together in large part and live there, on the surface, seems much the same as it ever has been. But for some reason (perhaps because the work I do from 9-5 is so closely linked to what's happening down there) I couldn't stop asking questions of the people I met who live there--and once you ask, there's no going back to the fantasy that all might be well. Because once you ask, they begin to talk, and the stories they tell are not uplifting. They are sad and long and utterly depressing and they make you realize that whatever you may be being fed about the "recovery"of the region, people's lives are still being impacted by the trauma this storm wrought.

It was completely surprising to me, how affected I was by the underlying tension, sadness, and frankly, the smelliness of the town (how had I never noticed before reek of rotting garbage, sewage around every corner downtown?). I'm still struggling a little bit with my discontent, and I'm interested to see how and if my experience of the place will change when we return down there in December after we deliver our gifts to the children of Renaissance Village (more on that later).

In the meanwhile, though, I should also say that the reason I went down there--the wedding of my friends Trina and Chris--was a smash success, and a beautiful reason to be drawn to the city. So nice to see something new and fresh and good spring up in the midst of so much decay.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The XX Factor Is Legit

Can't say how I missed it (except that sometimes Slate boooores me), but apparently the lady-folk over there (including a former classmate of mine) have taken to blogging: political blogging from the female perspective, to be precise. Now, there's lots of chatter out there that this bad, because it ghettoizes women, and that it's totally banal, because all these ladies have to talk about are their domestic travails. But I for one will cheer for The XX Factor, because it's nice--and important--to have more female voices out there, talking about whatever the hell they please.

And if you happen to need more on that particular topic, check out my mom's blog post today on the HuffPo. Rock on, CJ!!!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Little Good News for New Orleans

And I do mean a little: the city is poised to receive $11.2 million from 10 philanthropic organizations to help rebuild affordable and mixed housing units that were lost in the storms. Bill & Melinda Gates led the way (natch), with a whopping $3 million gift, and a number of other names you might recognize (Kellogg, Rockefeller, etc) are following suit at differing levels. It's not quite half of what the fund spearheading the effort thinks it'll need to make a dent (that's about $25 million), but let's hope this will inspire other individual and institutional funders to jump on board and do the same.