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U of I Library Sale today!

From Heather Murphy at the Library:

We'd love to let Smile Politely visitors know about our upcoming Book Sale.  Here is the information:

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library will hold its Book Sale on Thursday, October 29 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in the Marshall Gallery within the Main Library.  Materials will include books in many subject areas, audiovisual materials, prints, and much more.  All proceeds help support the Library’s collections.  For more information, visit www.library.illinois.edu/booksale.

Word

Vintage Politeness: Mason Jennings interview

Mason Jennings is rolling into the Highdive tonight for a 7:30 p.m. show with Anni Rossi opening. In fact, Gillian reports that she just ran into him at Barnes & Noble. It's been just over a year since Jennings played C-U, so here's a reprint of my preview from last October:

Mason Jennings Breezes into C-U

masonjennings.jpgMason Jennings is what he is, and he seems completely at peace with that. And he should, considering how well being himself has treated him lately. After singing two well-received songs (“The Times They Are A Changin’” and “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll”) on the soundtrack to last year’s Dylan “biopic” I’m Not There, Jennings has a new, unadorned album, In the Ever, out on his buddy Jack Johnson’s Brushfire label. The new record is relentlessly, effortlessly catchy, often hilarious and not infrequently poignant, which is an extremely difficult combination to pull off.

Tomorrow night, the Minneapolis-based Jennings will play at the Canopy Club, and I think you’d have a hard time finding something better to do on a Wednesday. The show starts at 9 p.m., tickets are $15 in advance and Zach Gill opens.

Jennings took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to talk to us last Friday, so if that kind of thing interests you, click the handy “Continue Reading” button below.

Jennings doesn’t worry about who he’s compared to. “Everybody has their own comparison, just their way to try to make sense of the music, and I don’t take it in a heavy way,” he says.

As for the I’m Not There soundtrack, Jennings didn’t have a lot of say about which songs he sang. “They asked me to sing Christian Bale’s part, so it was already scripted,” he explained. “A lot of other people got to pick their songs, but mine were already in the movie. I pretended like it was something that I’d written. I just did it as fast as I could.”

After being born in Hawaii, Jennings grew up in Pittsburgh, but that wasn’t his final destination. He said, “I dropped out of high school in Pittsburgh and traveled around. I ended up in Minneapolis and I just felt at home there, you know like some places just feel like home.”

His first big break came when the Jayhawks became a touring act and gave up their regular gig at a local club. “It was the 400 Bar. I didn’t have much interaction with them [the Jayhawks]” Jennings noted. “I know Gary Louris, he’s sat in with my band before and he’s a great guy, and Mark Perlman. But I didn’t really cross over with them at all.”

On his new album, Jennings has a song called “I Love You and Buddha Too,” addressed to Jesus. When asked if that brought a strong reaction from fundamentalists, he said, “I’ve had people coming at me at shows, saying that they know I’m searching but that there’s only one true way, but not in unexpected ways.”

While it’s kind of tough to see their influence in his current work, when Jennings grew up “I listened to Led Zeppelin, and I got into a lot of hard rock stuff by playing guitar. At some point, I got more into acoustic stuff and banjo stuff, and people like Leadbelly.”

His touring ensemble is pretty spare, not unsurprising since most of his new album is just him and a guitar. “Right now I have a quartet,” Jennings said. “We’re trying to keep it stripped-down, so right now we have a bass, piano, and drums, and I play guitar.”

Jennings was gracious on the phone, but it was clear he didn’t have much interest in making outrageous statements.

Here’s a video of him playing “Your New Man,” a super-clever song from In The Ever. On his website, there’s a video of him playing it on Conan O’Brien, but I couldn’t embed that, so click here if you’re interested.

Word

Tour Diaries: You & Yourn make their way back home

Better late than never, right? Read on to learn about the final four days of our West Coast tour.

Wednesday, Oct. 14; Santa Fe, N.M. After camping in the van somewhere in Arizona, we completed the drive to Brian's house. Brian is a guy we met about two and a half years ago in Tucson when our former band Casados played with his band D Numbers. This time around, he was kind enough to hook us up with a house show in Santa Fe. The fall fiesta included a variety of amazing foods, with Brian's soup being our favorite (ingredients: carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, apples, etc.). Yum!

I think this Santa Fe show may have been the first time we've had people laugh out loud during our set. As we played in the living room, the crowd was listening closely, processing the lyrical content, and then chuckling at the poignancy. It was pretty awesome. And based on the people we met, Santa Fe seems like a cool city.

Thursday, Oct. 15; Norman, Okla. Universe City, where we played in Norman, is a huge house that used to be a fraternity dwelling but is now being fixed up and used as a community art space. There are also 14 bedrooms upstairs, with 12 people currently living there. Much to our surprise, the paparazzi showed up in Norman. Who would have guessed? A guy named Adam asked if it was ok for him to take some pictures of us. We said yes, assuming he would take a few shots during the show. No big deal.

As we turned around to pull some equipment out of the van, the flashes began. Two cameras were flashing frantically during our set, and we tried not to be distracted by Adam climbing on a speaker behind us, then lying on the floor in front of us. (We love you, Adam.)

We met some interesting folks at the show as well. One guy in the front row was doing yoga stretches throughout our performance. Another guy was leaving the show with a huge wooden cross that he carries everywhere. We tried (unsuccessfully) to get the lowdown on why he carries this cross. He didn't give us much info; I guess he's just taking that "carry your cross" thing quite literally.

Friday, Oct. 16; Kansas City, Mo. Before we knew it, we were back in the Midwest. The West Bottoms of Kansas City provided perhaps the craziest experience of this tour. We were surrounded by seemingly vacant warehouses (like the one above) as we drove into a shady-lookin' part of K.C.

The night started off as a downer. Two of the three locals had dropped off the bill at the last minute, and it was questionable if the show was even going to happen. The original plan was a show at The Pistol — an open space with a stage located on the second floor of an old warehouse. But the promoter, Joe, was suspecting no one would show up (since two of the locals bailed), so he proposed we play at some art show instead. He recommended that we head over to the art show, get some food, and check the place out.

We scrunched into Joe's Chevy Cavalier, with Nic and Heather both in the passenger seat. (The backseat was occupied by salvaged windows Joe had found in a dumpster earlier that day.) As we passed by a police officer who was directing traffic in the middle of the street, Joe repeated, "Please don't look at the tags. Please don't look at the tags. Please don't ask if I have a license." We made it by with no hassle, and Joe informed us this was just a "rent-a-cop" anyway (an off-duty officer hired to make visitors feel safe).

Our destination: An abandoned warehouse. We took the freight elevator up a couple flights to learn that this building was actually very full of life. Several floors are occupied by artists, and on this particular evening, the artists had opened their studios to display their work. We explored the building, eating hummus and Doritos, drinking beer or wine, and viewing paintings, photographs, pottery, and so on.

We ended up playing two shows that night. We first played a few songs in an elevator lobby situated between some art studios. Then we played our original show over at The Pistol, which turned out to be pretty great despite the bogus start. The underground art communities of the West Bottoms, where lots of people live and work, were unlike anything we've ever experienced before. We do love you, K.C.

Saturday, Oct. 17; Columbia, MO. The final show of our tour was part of the Bluebird Music and Arts Festival. Darling Disarm, a band from Champaign-Urbana, was playing on the same festival. It was fun to run around Columbia with Mike, Kayla, and James, and we enjoyed seeing Chicago Farmer and Death Ships that evening.

We completed our 8,747.1 mile circle on Sunday (Oct. 18), landing at home in Urbana, Ill. We returned feeling at peace with the world. It was a good tour. For the next couple weeks, we'll be sleeping in our own bed and cooking in our own kitchen. Then, come November, we'll be off again.

Check out more pictures on You & Yourn's blog.

Word

Ebert names first film for 2010 festival

The horror... the horror... $125?

The 70mm feature will be Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now, to be shown in a rare print with Dolby Stereo surround sound. Mr. Ebert reminds us that passes to the festival will go on sale November 1st at the Virginia Theatre box office and at www.ebertfest.com at $125 a pop for 12 screenings. Individual tickets will go on sale April 5, 2010 at $12 ($10 for students).

Word

Carle in NY Times (not in a good way)

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/23/business/23carle.html

Oops.

This reminds me of the time I paid a Carle quack a thousand dollars to inspect some pain in my ... reproduction area.

He obsessed on my bartending, and kept pestering me about how many women, how many women?!?!? before pumping my full of antibiotics.

I went to a U of I trainer -- who was more interested in my regular running habits. He bent me over a table, rubbed out the knot out of my lower back, and advised me to do some extra stretching, especially in warm-downs.

Problem solved.

Word

Market at the Square wins $15,000 grant

From a press release:

URBANA - Market at the Square, the City of Urbana's weekly farmers' market that has taken place at or near Lincoln Square Village since 1979, has been chosen as one of 28 Illinois farmers' markets or food projects to receive grant funding from the United States Department of Agriculture's Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

Market at the Square will receive $15,000 in 2010 to promote a new initiative called "Eat Here", onsite and online programming devoted to encouraging consumers to consider their local farmers' market as a primary source of purchasing fresh, locally grown produce. All 28 programs awarded funds will be involved with projects supporting Illinois' specialty crop industry.

"A major objective of Eat Here is to encourage eaters to use the Market as a primary place to shop for fresh, locally-grown produce, which we hope will result in increased sales for our growers and heightened awareness in the community of the importance of local produce at the farmers' market," says Market Director Lisa Bralts. "Our growers specialize in a huge variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in season, and farmers' markets are the only place where consumers can purchase that produce directly from the person who grew it."

The advertising campaign will include radio, television, and newspaper advertising targeted at specific markets, as well as banners and printed materials to be available onsite at the Market. "Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, a blog, and other online tools will also be used to promote Eat Here, " says Bralts. "We want to reach as many people as possible as many different ways as possible."

Market at the Square will also offer Eat Here events once a month at the Market during the 2010 season. The first event is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, May 15, 2010. The 2010 season begins Saturday, May 1.

Congratulations!

Word

A letter from the GEO

To the editors of the Daily Illini — from the Graduate Employee's Organization:

In an October 15th editorial entitled "GEO request: Good idea, rough timing," the Daily Illini Editorial Board argued that while a living wage is wholly deserved, the current budget situation makes asking for it illogical. Respectfully, the GEO begs to differ.

While the editorial correctly evaluates the importance of Teaching Assistants (TAs) by noting that "our University would have a tough time functioning without them," it leaves out the hard facts that back up this claim. In AY 08-09, 23.1% of all course hours on our campus were taught by TAs. Of the crucial 100 level courses that initiate freshmen students into the world of university academics, 40.5% were taught by TAs, many of whom are the sole instructor of record for their courses. In the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS), the largest on our campus, one-third of all course hours were taught by TAs. As for the quality of our work, 83.3% of TAs received average scores of 4 or 5 on their ICES surveys, compared to 85.1% of faculty. Not too bad, considering that faculty members have the benefit of years of experience, as well as more control over syllabi, grading scales, etc. TAs are clearly an integral and positive part of the undergraduate experience, and a principal reason for the University's stellar academic reputation, as evidenced by it's current 9th place ranking in US News and World Report's listing of US public universities. It should be noted, however, that the GEO also represents Graduate Assistants (GAs), who play a significant role in maintaining such campus facilities as libraries, performance arts centers, museums, recreational centers, health services, and specialized academic units. We are indeed students, but we are also workers who contribute crucial labor to our campus community.

The Board's editorial goes wrong when it attempts to characterize both the nature of our current contract negotiations and the state of the University's budget. The GEO brought a comprehensive contract proposal to the bargaining table on April 21st of this year, the first day of negotiations with the administration. That proposal included not only a living wage, but also improvements to health and child care, as well as non-monetary issues such as tuition-waiver security. Despite multiple negotiation sessions, the administration's bargaining team did not respond with a counter proposal until August 11th, nearly four months later and just four days before our previous contract expired. The administration's proposal would have frozen our wages for three years, meaning that in an inflationary environment graduate employees would actually receive less compensation in terms of real wages. Moreover, the administration proposal would have removed basic labor rights, such as filing a grievance based on racial, gender, religious, ethnic, or other forms of discrimination. The administration also sought to reserve the right to fire or furlough graduate employees at will, with neither reason nor notice, and to compensate employees not with money, but with "in-kind" goods and services. Such a proposal is clearly unacceptable. As a result, graduate employees have been working under the terms of an expired contract for the entirety of this semester. We nonetheless continue to negotiate. Our bargaining team has presented serious counterproposals, including concessions on monetary issues. Each and every one of these proposals has been rejected or ignored by the administration.

Whether due to a calculated omission or just a lack of knowledge, the Daily Illini Board's editorial focuses exclusively on the issue of a living wage. In so doing, they misreport the current living wage for an academic year in Urbana-Champaign. The number they cite, $15,474, corresponds to AY 08-09. The living wage for the current academic year - as calculated by University administrators themselves and posted on the Graduate College's website - is actually $16,086. This alone provides valuable testimony for the need to raise wages in response to inflation. What the editorial does not mention is that the administration's calculation fails to factor in over $1,000 in fees that a graduate student will pay this year. (Worse yet, the editorial makes the completely false claim that graduate employees receive "book fees." Such a fee category does not exist, and graduate employees spend significant amounts on books each semester.) A graduate employee working the standard 50% appointment and earning the current minimum salary of $13,430 will fall short of a minimum wage by $2,656 dollars before paying another $1,000 in fees. Overall, more than half of all TAs and GAs earn less than a living wage. Like undergraduates, we often make up the difference by taking out loans or working second jobs. Most graduate employees, however, are at a significantly different stage of life. We bear our financial burdens while maintaining grueling research and writing schedules, while trying to pay off our own undergraduate loans, and, in roughly ten percent of the cases, while raising families - with all of the extra financial and time constraints that go along with it. Meanwhile, international students, who comprise over one-third of the graduate student body (37.4% last year), are legally barred from taking additional work and must survive on their assistantships. Asking for enough money to live on while we juggle multiple sets of demanding responsibilities is in no way whatsoever a symptom of greed or a lack of logic. Rather, it is a thoroughly rational demand for the respect due to hard workers.

Regardless, the Board maintains that demanding such respect in the face of current budget difficulties is illogical. The truth is that accepting the administration's claims of budgetary crisis without further investigation is not only illogical, it is evidence of a failure to carry out the basic journalistic duties of research and fact checking. Less than one fifth of the University's budget is derived from State revenues (in FY 09 it was 17.2%). The rest comes largely from tuition, grants, donations, investments, and self-sustaining sources of income. Last year on our campus tuition was increased by $401 per student, per semester, resulting in revenue growth of 14.5%. Investment income from the University's endowment rose 5% last year and, as former President Joe White stated to the incoming Board of Trustees earlier this year, it has performed better than expected in our poor economy. What's more, as the Daily Illini itself reported on August 19th, in FY 09 "the University brought in enough donations to experience one of the top five fundraising years in its 142-year history - all in spite of the economic downturn and the University admissions scandal." The total represents "a 2.6% increase from fiscal year 2008." And while it's true that Illinois is in a difficult fiscal position, and that State politics have held up the approval of this year's budget, it's also true that the budget includes a 1.1% increase in funding for public higher education. Federal stimulus money, meanwhile, will provide an additional $53.3 million dollars this year. The University's current fiscal issues are clearly not due to a lack of resources. In fact, raising the minimum salary for TAs and GAs to a living wage would cost less than two-tenths of one percent of the campus budget.

Clearly, the financial burdens faced by graduate employees are due less to budget shortfalls than to major shortcomings in the administration's priorities. UIUC's FY 09 budget saw an increase of over $103 million, or 7%, from FY 08. Where was this increased funding allocated? Not especially to academic colleges, which saw much smaller increases: in LAS it was 2.8%, in Agriculture 2%, in Education 1.8%, and in Engineering 1.3%. Overall, the percentage of the budget directed to "instruction" rose only 0.8%. However, the Chief Information Officer's budget rose by 10.9% and the Vice Chancellor for Institutional Advancement saw an increase of 12.1%. "Other Administrative Units" recorded an increase of 10.2%. While such figures indicate a bloated administration, it is even more helpful to point to concrete examples of egregious waste, such as the highly touted but dismally performing Global Campus, which lost a whopping $5.95 million last year before being severely downsized by the Board of Trustees. Worse yet, while graduate employees were working for substandard wages, Chancellor Herman was diverting over $300,000 of "discretionary funds" to insure that a couple dozen politically well-connected but undeserving students were accepted to law school. Once this ethical lapse was discovered, the administration spent at least another $440,000 dollars in legal fees as it responded to the Governor's investigation. Later it was discovered that Chancellor Herman dipped further into his discretionary funds to provide a $115,000 salary to the Board of Trustees Chairman's future-son-in-law.

As a reward for their exemplary stewardship, our University's top administrators receive vastly inordinate salaries and benefits. For example, in 2007-08 former President White earned $555,000 and had a house and a car provided by the state. In that same year, Chancellor Herman earned $427,500 and had a car provided by the state. As if this wasn't enough, Herman received an 8.6% raise the following year. By way of comparison, a graduate employee earning the minimum salary of $13,002 received only a 3.3% increase. Even former President White's ignoble downfall (which sadly required him to forfeit a $450,000 retention bonus) has provided a soft landing: he will be earning some $300,000 as a professor in the school of business.

Despite the GEO's clear signals that administrative costs, including salaries, should be among the first targets of any necessary cutbacks, the Daily Illini Board's editorial falsely implies that we have suggested cutting faculty salaries. This is absolutely false. In fact, the GEO advocates for higher salaries for the increasing percentage of our faculty, such as adjuncts and visiting professors, that are not in tenure-track positions. Moreover, the GEO does not believe that higher education budgets are a zero-sum game, with one group of students or workers pitted against another. We understand our own efforts to be part of a much larger movement to restore public higher education to the level of fiscal priority that it once enjoyed, and still deserves, in our country. We have and will continue to lobby the Illinois State Legislature for increased funding for our public university system. As the photo which recently ran on the front page of the Daily Illini makes clear, GEO members were in attendance at the governor's recent rally for the restoration of MAP funding. We are also currently working to support non-unionized, undergraduate TAs in the Chemistry department who have recently had their Spring tuition waivers repealed after the deadline to apply for federal financial aid - in some cases the only other available source of funding - had passed.

Regarding tuition waivers, the Board's editorial did not even mention that a major plank of the GEO's bargaining platform is simply a guarantee that administrators will not withdraw the tuition waivers that have traditionally been a condition of graduate employment. Providing such a guarantee in the GEO contract would not increase University expenses in the least, but it would protect graduate employees from the very real possibility of losing the chance to finish their degrees. Just last year the GEO spearheaded a major drive to prevent the approval of a set of proposals, put forth by the Provost's office, that would have stripped tuition waivers from many graduate employee positions. Without those waivers, graduate education would be a certain impossibility for many less privileged members of our society. Considering that just 6.6% of all graduate assistants are from "underrepresented" racial and ethnic categories, we can clearly not afford to take that step. The GEO works hard to help ensure access to higher education for all. By reducing the GEO's position to a selfish and illogical grab for cash, the Editorial Board is insulting not only those of us who have worked strenuously and voluntarily for a cause in which we firmly believe, but also the integrity of the very newspaper that they purportedly serve.

That integrity is severely undermined when the Board cites only the opinions of "several TAs" in order to justify the claim that the GEO "represents a small percentage of the entirety of graduate students and TAs." The truth is that the GEO officially and legally represents over 2,700 graduate students who labor as TAs and GAs on our campus. One must also consider that, though we do not officially represent graduate students who work as Research Assistants (RAs) and Pre-Professional Graduate Assistants (PGAs), these students have received the same improvements in salary and benefits as the workers that we do represent. Those benefits are significant. Prior to 2003, when the GEO won a decade-long moral and legal battle for official recognition as a union, graduate employee wages had been frozen, dental and vision care was not included in the health insurance package, and the University made no contribution to graduate employees' health care premiums. Since the GEO began representing graduate employees in 2003, wages have increased yearly, grads enjoy dental and vision coverage, and the university contributes 50% of health care premium costs. These gains are just part of the basis for our widespread backing throughout campus. Especially in those departments where graduate degrees require multiple years of study and where salaries fall below a living wage, the GEO enjoys the active support of a majority of graduate students.

We urge all members of the campus community to ignore the uninformed and hastily drawn conclusions of the Daily Illini Editorial Board. Pay heed, instead, to the voice of your democratically elected Student Senate, which just last Spring passed an official resolution in support of the GEO's contract platform.

Sincerely,

The Graduate Employees' Organization (GEO)

IFT/AFT Local 6300

(Ed. note: This letter was originally published in the Daily Illini — and it was asked to be re-printed here at Smile Politely.)

Word

WPGU announcing Laughing Prairie Dog Festival today at 3 p.m.

Tune into WPGU today at 3 p.m., or check out the217.com around then too, for a first hand look at who is performing at the Inaugural Laughing Prairie Dog Festival this December 4, 2009 at Canopy Club in Urbana.

But, why Smile Politely, would you be promoting something that your "competition" was fully sponsoring and promoting?

Why, on God's good earth, would you actually want to see these other local people succeed in what they are doing by actually helping to promote their events, and perhaps even, sharing in some ideas and maybe even, partnering in certain areas as well?

Well, let's just leave it at that for the moment...

Cheers to the staff of WPGU and Illini Media Company for making awesome things happen in this town...

Go IMC!

 

Word

Good news for Northwestern Wildcats fans

Illinois Opens First Five Rows for Northwestern
Fighting Illini Football Tickets Moving Quickly

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The University of Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics has opened the first five rows of seats for the Saturday, Nov. 14 football game against Northwestern at Memorial Stadium. This marks the fourth time during the 2009 season Illinois has opened the first five rows.

The Illinois State game on Sept. 12 attracted the largest home opener crowd since 1995 with 62,347 in attendance. That crowd was less than 500 away from a sellout. The successive home games against Penn State on Oct. 3 and Michigan State on Oct. 10 reached sellout status. The number of tickets sold for the 2009 Northwestern game already eclipses the figure sold for any Illinois-Northwestern clash since 1995.

Very few unobstructed seats remain for the Oct. 31 Fighting Illini home game against Michigan. Once those tickets are sold, Illinois plans to open the first five rows of seats for the fifth time in 2009. Tickets for all remaining Illinois football home games may be purchased at fightingIllini.com today.