Peaks Island 
Thursday, September 14, 2006, 11:56 PM - Travels, George

Last weekend (after training new staff in Boston) I took my dad up to Maine to see his navy friend Mike (yes, from WWII). The Friedmans are some of Dad's oldest and closest friends - he was in their wedding in '48, and we would trek up to Maine periodically when I was growing up. My first seder was in their rambling old farmhouse in Bridgeton. It was an emotional weekend for everyone - Dad reacting to the undeniable change in his friend and himself and the realities of being in his mid-80s- Mickey dealing with the demands of an older partner, family drama, and a kitchen remodel - Dad and I appreciating being together on the anniversary of Mom's death, but that not meaning we were less affected by it. We had the best parts of Maine weather (summer Saturday, early fall Sunday). Both nights before dinner I circumnavigated the whole rocky perimeter on my sunset run... I can't tell if it's because I savor the isolation or the community of islands that I like them so much, but ferry rides and places you can't drive to always appeal to me.
BTW I turned off comments for a bit since I was tired of erasing spam - will put them back at some point - feel free to send me anything you'd like posted for now.

Activism, Inc. 
Friday, September 8, 2006, 11:50 PM - Politics
So, am I part of the canvass-driven octopus that is 'strangling' the lifeblood of progressive politics, or do I work for organizations that are the best hope for reinvigorating the Democratic party and creating a national network of engaged progressives? GCI (and more pointedly the Fund for Public Interest Research - whence all of the senior GCI staff other than myself have sprung) are called out in a new book - Activism, Inc. - it argues that paid canvass operations undermine true civic participation, chew relentlessly through young idealists, and result in a dearth of employment opportunities for young progressives. The book (which I read a couple of nights ago - read a review from the Chronicle of Higher Education here) ) has accurate descriptions of how canvass offices run, including the high turnover, 'sink or swim' attitude, and demanding hours of the positions, and raises some concerning points about labor practices and compensation structure. I've certainly seen some negative consequences (both organizationally and on the individual level) of the management principles that have built these organizations, but the policies and legislation enacted and the amount of money funnelled into progressive causes through the canvass programs is phenomenal (and not acknowledged in the book). GCI's work in 2004 for the DNC added hundreds of thousands of new small donors to the party base, allowing Howard Dean to implement his 50-state strategy- which would have been impossible in a DNC built around large donors' priorities. The lack of the '04 canvass' coordination with local and state party efforts (in my opinion, since I didn't work on that project at all) was as much a reflection of the internal disorganization of the party as it was the single-minded fundraising focus of the canvasses. The regimented, rote nature of PIRG-driven canvasses is not for everyone, and definitely does not gibe with many leftists' ideals of bottom-up shared decision-making - but the goal-oriented, outcome-driven, rigorous implementation of a model is something other parts of the progressive movement would do well to emulate (even if they'd prefer to implement something entirely different than a canvass).
Our work with MoveOn in '04 (which the author loves and apparently doesn't realize was also done by GCI) was the kind of citizen participation, volunteer-based electoral work she argues for - she doesn't get that a program on that scale and timeline would be challenging to run without a seasoned organizer staff to recruit, train, and manage volunteers. Our current "Call for Change" program is a more infrastructure-driven evolution of our 2004 project - involving a broader set of MoveOn members and developing a core of progressive leadership in communities across the country.
Many of the points made about the movement's failings are a stretch to pin on canvass operations - the alienation of the progressive base can be attributed as much to over-reliance on judicial strategies (in feminist and environmental movements), the move toward checkbook-based 'membership' organizations, and the fractures between single-issue organizations, labor, and other supposed allies. Canvasses that emphasized civic engagement over fundraising would be amazing tools for citizen outreach, but it seems highly unlikley that they'd be self-sustaining financially... and while reaching like-minded progressives through electronic communications is efficient, we're a ways off from technology that allows for the kind of intensity and engagement that in-person contact affords.
I canvassed for ConnPIRG one summer in college, and while I thought that the people running the office then (and some of the canvass directors I know now) were too blindly invested in canvassing as a model, I also know we did a significant amount of public education on critical environmental issues. I fully agree that Democratic field operations are pathetic and badly organized, and still am fuming about the lack of infrastructure that remained in the wake of all the money spend on paid GOTV workers by ACT. I think MoveOn and GCI together are learning and perfecting ways to motivate and develop leadership among a group of committed electoral volunteers - necessary conditions for an effective civic engagement strategy.
The researcher in me sees many holes in the logical structure of the book - she did a reasonable job at an ethnography of the canvass, and recontacted a decent percentage of her 115 interview subjects - but the conclusions she draws about the long-term impact of canvassing on individuals and on the progressive movement are just not well-substantiated. Without a larger survey or a longer follow-up timeframe, it seems impossible to conclude much about the impact on canvassers. Her strongest points are those drawn directly from participant-observation and from readily available facts. While she raises valid criticisms of the progressive movement, it's not the kind of deep evaluation we need to create positive and sustainable change and grow our institutions, nor are they correctly attributable to the canvass activities of the Fund or GCI.

It's Dead Mom Week! 
Monday, September 4, 2006, 05:03 PM
I can't say it's my favorite week of the year. It kicked off in style on Saturday night - dinner with two other charter members of the DMC (sadly more and more of you will join, although I fervently hope you're late bloomers in this one sense). We sat on cardboard chairs at R23 and ate things our mothers would have been, at best, perplexed by: octopus carpaccio with caviar...cold japanese trout stuffed with sweet unidentifiable innardy things...toro like fish butter. Louise commemorated on Saturday with some retail therapy (finding some fabulously sparkly shoes for her wedding) but that just wasn't the right thing for me. I'll be working Thursday here in Boston and this coming weekend I'll see my dad; while that makes missing mom all the more intense, I'd be hard pressed to think of a better thing to do for her than to spend the weekend with him.

Black Rock All Stars 
Monday, August 28, 2006, 11:33 PM - Travels, Friends, Food

I was at a party in Boston Saturday night with 3 (!) other illustrious alums of the Ellsworth Field finishing school (Black Rock Little League). Three of the 4 of us have been social workers, we're all single (Tommy is gay), not a kid among us (although Erin wants one soon) - we're all urban and doing interesting things (Jessica works at New American Paintings and is starting to become a gallerist - Tommy has a brand-new philosophy professor gig, has done lots of radical media organizing, and wrote a dissertation on Foucault and friendship - Erin is a social worker in SF). Left to right we were a Raider, a Buccaneer, and a Yellow Jacket (Tommy?). Jessica still remembers us starting to be friends on third base. It's nice to know I'm not the only one who got out of Bridgeport alive - and apparently not the only one who got out with a serious social justice focus, either (interesting how devout parental catholicism plays out in the iconoclasts of this generation, no?). Additional highlights of the weekend included truly luscious bluefish - portuguese style with mussels and chorizo and greens and so delicious. Can't get this in LA:

Space, Focus 
Wednesday, August 23, 2006, 11:55 AM - Sex, Friends, Food, Los Angeles
The combination of 14-hour days and some (necessary and wrenching and resolving) emotional turmoil has left little time for writing lately, and I fear that it will only get harder to have the space and focus to be coherent as election madness descends. An old high school friend found his way here - so I got to see his new baby's pictures and find out another friend is on his THIRD baby; a reminder that it's worth it to maintain this. I wish I had more time to chronicle all my new favorite Los Angelesness - thai massage minutes away (it DID leave me in a state of indulgent!), squash blossoms at Grace, cinnamony (greek style?) al pastor at Midnight Tacos, the fact that there's a fig tree (with green but growing fruit) in my backyard (I guess a reminder that I'm not paying attention - at least in an arborial sense - as much as I think), outdoor yoga, sea salt caramels from the local cheese store, and how happy it makes me to swim in the ocean...

Podcast debut 
Tuesday, August 15, 2006, 06:42 PM - Technology
Look- it's my first-ever podcasted babblings! I wish I had time to listen to it...I seem to remember going off on some rant about women being inherently more worthy candidates than men... Gender and the Social Web - panel presentation from NetSquared conference in San Jose in May.

I realize I need a Los Angeles category.... 
Sunday, August 13, 2006, 06:18 PM - Dancing, Los Angeles
Friday night I went to see a band called Very Be Careful - they were described to me as a postmodern rock/ Latin fusiony mix of things (I was hoping for a local Cafe Tacuba -who are always close to the top of my 'favorite bands ever' list). VBC is in fact totally straight-up cumbia (or vallenato, to be more precise) not in the least de/re-constructed - and also super super fun. The crowd was almost all english-speaking 2nd+ generation Mexican hipsters from East LA (as were the folks who invited us)- at least until the bicycle pirates showed up (don't ask). The floor was too crowded for real cumbia, but that's eminently forgivable when the whole crowd is dancing and happily watching the band get plastered as their set progresses. The show was in this old school Mexican bar downtown (all red and mirrors and Xmas lights and a wondrously-lit stage) and it was one of the first nights I've had since I've been here that couldn't have taken place anywhere but Los Angeles...good restaurants and hipster bars and parties are great, but with my multi-coastal life it's a treat to find something that is thoroughly rooted in my new place. We almost went to see Diplo/ CSS instead, and I'm so glad we ended up where we did.

My next personals ad 
Thursday, August 10, 2006, 02:27 PM - Sex, Technology
OK, this is from a proposal that was submitted to me today for an IVR (interactive voice response) project I'm scoping out, but I really think I should post it on Nerve with "Wanted:" in front of it and see what I get:
Flexible, future-proof architect[ure], facilitating standardized integration, real-time modification, easy access to additional capacity, and support for advanced speech plug-ins.
Maybe a certain blond Silver Lake designer's card should read "future-proof architect"? I am such a geek.
OMG, it gets better - there's also
"No excuses" support, "best in class satisfaction", and "disaster recovery capability".
Maybe I should put out RFPs instead of going to parties....

Bridgeport Ho! (what do you think - is that a better name for my blog than Fierce Piece?) 
Thursday, August 10, 2006, 01:20 PM - Sex, Politics
This Connecticut girl wanted to post about the Lamont victory last night, but I was too exhausted - now I'm glad I waited until this morning, since the outlook is much rosier since the establishment Dems are lining up behind his campaign. I'm profoundly relieved that they're forced to acknowledge the power of an antiwar candidate/ message. (Now we need Bill to get Joe to drop out - most importantly so that he doesn't screw up the Dem challengers' chances in the 3 CT house races that are up for grabs.) I hope candidates learn what they should from the Lamont victory - that a strong progressive stance on a key issue will be essential to winning this fall. (interesting article from the Greenberg camp on how issue motivation and candidate selection should play into messaging decisions). The Dems need to acknowledge that the anti-war left is the best source for energized volunteers and leadership now - they're our answer to the religiously-motivated right. 78% of CT dem primary voters were anti-war (Times exit poll) - what pushed primary turnout to unprecedented levels, and what we need to tap into this fall. Lamont's task will be to make sure that enough of the CT electorate sees Iraq as the primary issue to put himself over the top (and it's our job with Project Red-Handed to make sure that incumbent Republicans are seen as bought and paid for by corporate interests). MoveOn members made about 80K calls into CT for the primary, helping put Lamont ahead.
(and yes, the post title IS what the snobby boys from Greenwich used to call me in high school - but that didn't stop me from contributing to Lamont's campaign - it shouldn't stop you either.)
(Gossipy update: Leslie tells me Becca Lieberman got married today - very small ceremony (Sunday 8/13). Can you imagine the things that got said on THAT receiving line?)

Boonville preview 
Monday, August 7, 2006, 12:28 AM - Dancing, Friends
A little postcard arrived in the mail while I was in SF to point me towards L and L's wedding website. If I had any doubts about them being the most adorable couple ever, they were forever banished by the dance previews, the tandem banana seat, and orange flowers. I feel ridiculously honored that they've asked me to say a bit at the ceremony - everyone should have a weditorial from a quirky single girl, right? I've been reading up on court decisions but staying away from Neruda and Rumi. I must think through what to say before election madness descends and I lose all capacity for interesting phraseology...they certainly deserve something special.

Back Next