Saturday, May 31, 2008

A closed mouth gathers no flies

Yesterday was Miss Prescott Day in Los Altos and Los Altos Hills.

Parents and former students organized a surprise reception at LAYC to recognize the Egan Junior High language teacher's 40 years of teaching approximately 8,000 students, including all four of Los Wiener. Los Altos Mayor Val Carpenter and Los Altos Hills Vice Mayor Jean Mordo read proclamations honoring her (after which emcee Rick Lanman told them "Thank you mayors.") My favorite story from the reception was about a student whom Miss Prescott (who is blind) caught making spitballs in class -- she made him stay until he had made 1,000. (My eighth-grade history teacher, who earlier told me that I "turned into a stud" and "should have three or four wives," claimed credit for the idea.)

Miss Prescott (soon to be Mrs. Kavinoky) had a regimented style of instruction that gave students a better understanding of English grammar than we ever got from an English class. At her reception, a parade of former students spoke about how she taught them so much that they didn't learn anything new until Spanish IV. I remember when my classmates and I arrived at Los Altos High School as freshman, a large group of us protested that Spanish II Honors was not hard enough. We expected to be learning new tenses and made to conjugate more verbs. We failed to realize that they were none left to learn (until we got to past subjunctive-conditional constructions in the aforementioned Spanish IV).

Miss Prescott also introduced me to the phrase "En boca cerrada no entran moscas," forcing me to write it 50 times after I had mocked a student who was struggling with his oral exam. (In my defense, I was only retaliating against him on behalf of a student that he had mocked). I had no idea what it meant, even after using a Spanish-English to translate it literally. When I finally asked someone to explain it to me, the answer was, "It means you should shut up."

Congratulations to the only teacher to ever get that across to me effectively.

Friday, May 30, 2008

You can always give it back

Last year, the federal government gave John Vidovich $1 million of your money.

Vidovich, a Los Altos Hills developer whose Sunnyvale-based Sandridge Partners was the top recipient of the unconscionable corporate welfare in last year's farm bill, gave what appears to be his first interview on the subject with the Town Crier this week.

You can almost see a little piece of Vidovich's soul dying as you read him telling the TC that he doesn't really want the money, but will reluctantly accept it because the farm bill is a boon to small farmers and an important step in achieving food security. Vidovich received his $1 million for growing cotton, which by the way, you can't eat or even turn into a soft drink.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The (white) couple behind the day workers

If I didn't know better, I'd say Mexicans are boycotting the Voice. The last three articles about the Latino community have relied almost exclusively on people from outside the Latino community for information.

But this is one of the few times in my life that I do, in fact, know better. The best book I ever read about journalism contained a list of what readers like, with talking heads at the very bottom, ahead of only "numbers." (At the top of the list? Furry animals, followed by small children). As you might imagine, though, it turns out that it's much easier to get a quote from a talking head than from somebody you've never met before that isn't accustomed to talking to the press.

That's why the most recent feature story on the day worker center was about a white couple from Los Altos, a story on the deportation of day worker and youth leader Luciano Casiano-Miranda relied on Phil Cosby for perspective*, and a story about the graduation ceremony of sorts for English learners quoted only Maurice Ghysels and Judy Crates (and that one was about Latinos who speak English, no less). Ironically, only the story about the couple from Los Altos had an original quote from a Latino, and it was from Maria Marroquin, director of the center.

Don't get me wrong, I like white people as much as the next guy. But if 40 percent of students in the Mountain View school district really are Latino, it would be nice to hear from one of them once in a while. Unfortunately, given its reliance on real estate advertisements, the paper is more likely to boycott Mexicans and other non-home-buying populations, rather than al reves.

UPDATE: The story on Caciano-Miranda included a lifted quote from him, though the source unknown. And Maria also has a quote -- as does John Rinaldi -- in a story about the unexpected cost of the day worker center's new location. Looks like it's time to get in touch with those white folks from Los Altos again.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Something You Won't See in the LATC

Among other newsworthy stories, you probably won't read anything in the Los Altos Town Crier about "Network Power," a book by Los Altos native and scholar David Grewal. His work focuses on globalization; the Financial Times calls it "brilliant" and it is quoted extensively in a piece in today's International Herald Tribune.

Having read advance chapters of the book (an exclusive benefit for being the Foreign Correspondent for a well-respected blog), I can vouch that it is an important work for understanding our world. I'm still awaiting delivery of the book so I can finish it. In my experience, mail delivery in much of the world seems to be holding back globalization...

Monday, May 19, 2008

This is almost too perfect

Imagine you are assigned to write a fake editorial in the voice of the Town Crier. And it has to reference the earthquake in China AND the cyclone in Burma. I bet it would look something like this.


Every once in a while, the paper caricatures itself so well that the only possible explanation is that someone at the printer slipped in a mock article for their own amusement or that the writers took it upon themselves to satirize the publisher's world view. They could have done a better job with the headline -- something along the lines of "Don't let poverty, death of others get you down" -- but perhaps they were just trying to be subtle.

Recent news beyond Los Altos has been less than sunny, let’s face it: The national economy remains shaky, gas is officially more than $4 a gallon, the death toll from last week’s cyclone disaster in Myanmar could exceed 100,000 and another disaster close behind it – the 7.8 earthquake that hit China on Monday, killing nearly 9,000 people.

I'll give you some time to guess why the paper is bringing up the earthquake in China. (And ignore the disastrous punctuation and the tragicomically low alleged death toll -- I'm posting this at least a week after the editorial went to press).

Did you guess yet? Here's a hint.

All the more reason to count our blessings on the local scene.

This is some great character-writing here by the forger -- bringing up terrible calamities simply so that we can dismiss their importance by discussing our money. Can you think of the last time even tens of thousands of Los Altans died in a cyclone? I can't. We're rich. Leave us alone, world.

Certainly, the high quality of life in Los Altos is well documented, but here’s another thing to consider: Numerous plans and projects under way bid to make this community even better.

In the interests of time, let's use a mathematical equation to express the relative importance the forger places on these numerous plans and projects:

(Burmese cyclone + Chinese earthquake + foreclosures + high gas prices) < (New flowers and plum trees on San Antonio Road + two new downtown buildings + plans to sell lot at State and Main + Safeway expansion + post office replacement + new Loyola Corners landscaping + possible civic center renovation)

I just saved you six paragraphs.

It’s also encouraging that Los Altos residents don’t act like they live in a bubble, but are compassionate and continue to help others. Witness, for instance, the bake sale in front of Starbucks in downtown Los Altos last weekend in support of the Myanmar survivors.

Los Altos residents don't act like they live in a bubble? Sure, the city incorporated mainly to keep out low-income residents, and it has pass laws banning Mexicans and Gypsies from the town, and its local paper repeatedly writes about how great it is that bad things happen other places but not here (even when they actually do happen here). But we had a bake sale.

I like "It's a Wonderful Life" as much as any Jew I know, but this is a little too much.

While the structural improvements are nice and we look forward to them, ultimately we’re proud of the quality of people that make Los Altos the great community it is.

This conclusion is another reason I think this editorial might be a fraud. I suspect the real Town Crier cares more about the structural improvements.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Three things you might believe if you'd been reading the Town Crier instead of studying the last few weeks

1) Day workers sued the City of Los Altos as payback for the termination of a lease to which the city was not a party and not over an unconstitutional law forcing poor people to stand on the other side of El Camino.

2) Enabling more students to park closer to Mountain View High School will somehow reduce traffic there.

3) The South Peninsula Area Republican Coalition gets free advertising for its electioneering efforts because they are somehow newsworthy and not because the publisher founded the organization.

Meanwhile, the Daily News recently discovered that at least three Los Altos City Council members are rich.