Category Archives: Opinion

Thoughts, ideas, possibly musings. Might be a rant. Still, these posts are my opinion. It’s possible these are very informative, and yet, it is also possible that these are utter nonsense. And may fall somewhere in between.

Pedagogy Over Dinner

A funny thing happened at dinner last night. I talked to my FWITWW the entire time and didn’t mention ASB. Near the end of the meal, I realized that we had talked about classroom management, lessons, and grading. All I had been thinking about was Junior English.

I’ve decided that I want to give grades based as much as possible on their progress toward the standards. I don’t want grades that reflect output of work. If a kid demonstrates mastery of the standard, they pass, regardless of how much work they did. Second, I want to incorporate game theory and motivation to give kids incentives to achieve. Third, I want to offer options so that kids have the autonomy to tailor their education to their strengths and interests, as much as they can and still follow the prescribed curriculum.

I’m pretty excited about that. Those are things I didnt do much of previously. But, I think all three could be huge in helping kids get more out of their education. I will likely blog about my plans as I go, too. Oooh, lucky you!

Everything and Nothing: We love symbols

The news is chock o’block with coverage of the Bin Laden death/killing. I have a bunch of random things floating in my head and I’m just going to download them here. Maybe you will enjoy it, maybe not. Here goes:

I think there’s a lot of symbolism going on. Some of it obvious and some of it deeply coded. Our military loves symbols, don’t you know. Eagles, purple hearts, Marines carrying around sabers even though nobody fights with them any more. I’ll get into the symbols in a minute.

I’ve read two really good pieces about the search and killing. This one from Mother Jones and this one from The New Yorker. If you’re interested in a little more depth then they might fit your fancy.

This is a really conflicting story for me. On one hand, I have no doubt that Bin Laden was a bad guy and deserved to die. But, as Gandalf said, “Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be to eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.” (Lord of the Rings: Book One: Chapter II)

Yes, I fully recognize that I am quoting The Lord of the Rings in the context of talking about Bin Laden’s death and I realize it is completely geeky. And I’m okay with that. I think it’s completely valid though and everyone else has their Martin Luther King Jr. quotes and Mark Twain quotes, so, I’m busting out the Tolkien, yo. Anyway, that’s my conflict. I think that Bin Laden deserved death if anyone did. I’m only against the death penalty in the sense that it costs the state way too much money for appeals and there are times that we conflict innocent people. So, I don’t favor the death penalty in legal cases in the United States.

But, Bin Laden was not innocent. He was a bad motherscratcher.

But WHAT DOES IT MEAN??? Well, I don’t think it means a lot, really. Not in the sense that we are safer or that Al Qaida is now weaker or something. I read a piece by Nick Kristof of CNN and NY Times that talked about the on-one-hand-and-on-the-other-handedness of this situation. I agree that it kinda does send a message to terrorists that, sooner or later, if you mess with the United States you will eventually find a Navy SEAL in your room in the middle of the night. You will have to live the rest of your life fearing every shadow and living without using the Internet or cell phones. That’s the price you have to pay if you really want to be a terrorist and kill Americans.

But, do you really think that makes terrorists nervous? They strap bombs on themselves and crash planes into buildings, for goodness sake.

Does this increase the threat? Do they want revenge? Um, well, see, that’s the thing. Do you think that terrorists were, like, “You know, those Americans haven’t really been that bad. Maybe we should leave them alone. Unless they kill Bin Laden. Then it’s on like Donkey Kong.” I don’t think anything like those words were ever uttered by a terrorist. So, saying this might prompt a terrorist attack is a little like saying that Jon Stewart might make fun of some politicians if they go on TV saying things. Pretty sure that train left the station a while ago.

For me, I’m glad we got him. Nobody needed killing more than Bin Laden did. I don’t feel bad about it one bit. But, let’s move on. I don’t want to spend the next week fist pumping and singing “God Bless America” because we killed one guy who probably wasn’t really in the fight anymore anyway. This means everything and nothing. Everything because we needed to put him in the ground (or water – more on that later), like, five years ago. Bin Laden eluding our military was embarrassing and this feels like justice. But, it changes nothing. And everything.

See what I mean? It’s symbolic. Like a wedding ceremony. Marriage doesn’t take place in a church. It takes place in the hearts and minds of two people. It is a commitment and a promise. The ceremony is symbolic. And so is this killing/death.

A couple other things jumped out at me, speaking of symbols. Remember when we first invaded Afghanistan and we called it Operation Infinite Justice? And then, they changed it to Operation Enduring Freedom? Do you think they accidentally named the military operation after an Islamic description of God? Look, I know it’s funny to say that people in the military are idiots. You know, the old oxymoron, “Military Intelligence?” Yeah, so I don’t think that everyone in the military is stupid. In fact, I bet there are some smart people in the military along with some that aren’t just like in any other big company. And, I bet someone who is one of those smart people thought it would be totally cool to name the war to kill Islamic terrorists after a quality they use to describe God. It would be like naming the plot to fly planes into the World Trade Center “Operation Alpha and Omega.” So, that wasn’t an accident. It’s just that they didn’t really think through how bad it would look to the rest of the world. But, they knew what they were doing when they did it.

There’s another piece you might find interesting that talks about how this looks to the rest of the world. That was something I was thinking about today, as well. I will grant you that it is horrible that over 3,000 Americans were killed on 9/11. But, does this one death cancel those out? It doesn’t really get talked about a lot in our news, but there have been estimates that well over 100,000 Iraqi’s have died since we invaded in 2003. Is that justice? How many Americans deserve to die to equal that? Or, is there some weird math that I’m not aware of that means that 3,000 dead Americans is equal to 100,000 dead Iraqis. Plus dead Afghani’s, too, don’t forget. There’s been a lot of vengeance going on.

Something really weird jumped out at me. On ABC News tonight, (I was watching as I was using the elliptical machine so forgive me if this is not factually accurate.) they related that the code name the military was using for Bin Laden was “Geronimo” and that when they killed him the call was “Geronimo KIA.” (KIA stands for killed in action, if you didn’t know.) I thought that was odd. Why “Geronimo?” So, having read a few books on secret societies, I recalled that (go here to see the Wikipedia page about it) allegedly, members of the secret society/fraternity at Yale called Skull and Bones broke into Geronimo’s grave and stole his skull. One of the members, allegedly, was Prescott Bush, who was George W. Bush’s grandfather. Both President Bush’s were members of Skull and Bones, too. This skull was supposedly used in rites at The Tomb (as the Skull and Bones members called their secret meeting place) and was a kind of mascot for the group.

And then the same name is used to signal that Osama Bin Laden, Bush’s nemesis that eluded him, was dead. Coincidence? Sure it could be. But, I think, maybe, it’s not super far-fetched that Obama, a clever guy, helped choose the name as a veiled jab at the former president. He gets to appear presidential and yet George W. sits at home, sees the “Geronimo KIA” and just KNOWS that Obama is giving him the business over it.

Also, there are some indications that a burial at sea, as happened with Bin Laden, is not allowed under Islamic law. I can just hear Urkel saying, “Did I do that?” Yeah, that was an accident, too. If it turns out to be true, I guarantee that someone who was in on the planning knew that it was not cool to Muslims. How about the story that, supposedly, Bin Laden hid behind a woman during the firefight. Is it true? We’ll never know. But, it’s a total insult to an Arab. This is an ultra-paternalistic culture. Women are not respected at all. There’s only one reason to say Bin Laden used a woman as a shield (a human shield – Say, wasn’t the Invasion of Iraq the first time we heard of the use of human shields? It’s the first time I remember it, anyway.), and that’s to make him look like a total wimp. It could be true, but it just as easily might not be. But, it’s getting repeated on nearly every news report as a fact. So, since the winners get to write the history, I guess it’s true.

There’s a lot of symbolism going on, I think.

I Hope It Is Just a Dream

I was talking with one of our Counselors the other day, as we were setting up for our 8th Grade Orientation assembly and she mentioned how it might be the last time she does it. It really bummed me out. For one thing, I got laid off about 9 years ago and it sucked. You do everything thinking it is the last time you will do it. It’s a sad thing if you really like your job. I knew where she was coming from. I knew that feeling. And, it bummed me out because I believe that a great disservice is being done to the students of our district.

The things that our state and federal government is doing to education is like a bad dream. I keep thinking, “Seriously?” Some of it is so bad that I don’t know how it’s going to get back to the way it should be. So, a friend of mine and I had a discussion about other models for education and counseling. In the end, if I summed up the conversation, it would go something like, “Education is really complicated and there’s not only one way to do it.” Maybe there are other models for counseling that we can follow. Maybe our district leaders have some really good ideas in store that they can’t talk about. But, I believe that our district leaders are every bit as beleaguered in this as we are.

There’s something different these days. In my job as Activities Director, I am tasked with coordinating and organizing graduation activities. I don’t know what it means or why it’s happening but, and this is the fourth year I’ve done this, for some reason, this year unlike all the others, people started calling me in November and December about graduation. You know, the event that happens in May? The end of May? I’m not kidding. I had people asking me how many tickets they were going to get, where graduation would be, and so on. And, they really felt like they needed this information six months ahead of time. (I know all about planning ahead, but come on. Even if you need to book flights or hotels, you don’t need to do it six months ahead of time.) Every year for the past four, I have made a leaflet that we give out each April that covers pretty much everything a Senior or their family would need or want to know about graduation. But, this year, because there were so many questions, I had to update and give out this leaflet in January. Four months early. And, there’s an anxious quality to a lot of these inquiries. I can’t really put my finger on it, but underlying the questions is this vague feeling that people think graduation will happen without them and they will be unprepared.

Look, I know that graduation is a big deal. It’s a big deal for me, too. Ten thousand people are counting on me to organize a celebratory yet respectable ceremony that includes somehow getting over 500 giddy 12th graders to cooperate with me. It’s a huge deal. I realize fully that, for all of them, this is a once in a lifetime experience. And, for me, this is a lot of pressure. I was taught in film school that when you provide a show for someone, you owe them the best you can do. They are giving you hard-earned cash to provide them with entertainment. Applying that to this, I am being paid a decent salary to provide an experience for these students and their family and friends that they can never repeat. So, it’s a big deal to me too.

But, I know it’s going to happen. I know that it will happen as it always has, that people will do pretty much what they have always done and it will go pretty much as it always has done.

There is an anxiety underneath practically everything that people are doing today, in my opinion. It’s as if many people are worried that this is the last time they will be doing some of these things. As someone whose job it is to create school pride and spirit, this is a tough time. I feel as if I need to just keep going, plowing ahead as if things are as they have always been. Whistling in the night as I walk past the graveyard, in a sense. But, morale in the schools is awful. People are sad and angry and feeling helpless.

I’ve mentioned I’m reading “The Shock Doctrine” by Naomi Klein and as I’m reading it there’s bells ringing in my head; alarm bells and bells of recognition. In case you missed it, the short synopsis (I’m still in the first part of the book, so if this is wrong or oversimplifying, I apologize) is that there are people in government waiting for disasters to happen so that they can institute reforms (and this “reform” should not be construed to have a positive connotation) that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. For example, remaking the school system in New Orleans completely, or nearly so, to be of for-profit charter schools on the heels of hurricane Katrina. The classic example is 9/11. Capitalizing on the aftermath, the Bush Administration created two wars that are hugely beneficial to private corporations and made advances in increasing surveillance and “security” here in America, rolling back all kinds of civil liberties.

Conspiracy theory, right? Well, not exactly. I am not suggesting for a second that these disasters were in any way created by the administrations that took advantage of them. Rather, Klein posits that these people that use the Shock Doctrine have their plans ready and wait for disasters so they can move in and take advantage of the confusion, anxiety and disorientation that the disasters have created. It’s the same exact method used by the CIA in “coercive interrogations.” People will do many things outside of their normal behavior when you shock them and disorient them enough. What’s more disorienting or shocking than a huge natural disaster or a tragic terrorist attack?

I am going to be watching Alabama and those areas affected by those devastating tornadoes last week. It might not even register on a national level, but I would not be surprised to see something along the lines of big changes made in the educational system in that area, or large areas of land and buildings built up by private corporations having close ties to politicians in the state and federal government. The things that will happen will be far more advantageous to the corporations and politicians than they will be to the general population.

This is what I hope is really just a dream. I hope that the things I’m watching happen, and even taking part in, to schools won’t last, that we will snap out of the shock and disorientation that this financial collapse has brought upon us and remember what made America great. Because, this is exactly what’s happening. We are shocked by what’s happened. So many of us have lost jobs, houses, and security because of the financial meltdown of 2008. How can you not be affected by that? What do the corporations start doing? Raising prices (gas, food, commodities (by the way, this is exactly as it was described in Matt Taibbi’s book “Griftopia”)), privatizing education, busting unions, vilifying public workers and working to extend tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations. How is any of that going to help the average person making less than $250K a year? I’ll answer for you. It won’t. Trickle down economics has been shown to be a complete myth. Rich people don’t trickle down jack to anyone willingly. That’s how they got to be rich. Right? And, tax cuts do not create jobs. Otherwise, we would have corporations hiring all over the place. But, GE laid off thousands just a couple months ago while paying zero in taxes and instead getting a $14 billion tax credit. They had a hugely profitable year. And, laid off a bunch of people.

The only people dreaming are those buying into the myths being sold to them on Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and via politicians like John Boehner, Scott Walker and Michelle Bachman. Republicans had eight years to prove they were going to make our lives better. Were you better off in 2008 than you were in 2000? I’ll answer that for you. No, not unless you were working for one of the banks getting bailed out by the Federal government. Not unless you were one of the mega rich. This is not to say that I think the Democrats are doing a lot better. Are you better off today than you were in 2008? I know I’m not.

The bottom line, to me, is that the vast majority of the politicians are beholden to their corporate sponsors. Have you seen the movie Idiocracy? You should. Get past the toilet humor and look at that film as an absurd satire of our country and I think you will be chilled by how accurate it is. Wouldn’t it be nice if our politicians would actually say, “This speech brought to you by Taco Bell.”? At least we would all know where their loyalties lie. But, to know who the politicians are working for, all you have to do is see if the things they are doing are benefiting you or not. Most of them are not. That “healthcare reform” we saw last year? It was a sham that will only benefit healthcare companies. Thanks, Mr. President. That’s not the change I was looking for. That’s not change at all. That’s business as usual.

It’s not just a dream. This is happening. Years from now, we will look back at the 2008 to 2011 time period as a turning point. The gap between the haves and the have-nots will get larger. Our civil liberties will continue to erode. (Friends, they take naked pictures of you at the airport! Or, you can get groped by a stranger in a uniform, your choice. Oh, and if you resist in any way, you are considered a dangerous terrorist and arrested. Nice.) It’s not that this stuff just started happening in the last couple years. No, the foundation for all of this was laid in the 1980’s. But, this is when the snowball is really picking up speed. That’s where the anxiety and sadness is coming from. Somewhere in the back of all of our minds, we all know that snowball is on it’s way. We all know that we’re not dreaming and this is really happening.

Pink nail polish

I’m so grateful we live in such a wonderful country that pink nail polish on a little boy merits national discussion. We’re wringing our hands and gnashing our teeth in despair.

Meanwhile, Japan is glowing in the dark with a disaster of Chernobyl proportions.

So awesome. And, you know why this is an outrage, right? Because that pink nail polish might make him gay, or at least a transvestite. Icky!!!

Let me just say, I don’t remember choosing to be straight. I can’t recall when I did it. I don’t even remember choosing not to be gay, for that matter. Even more to the point, I don’t remember ever choosing to fall in love with one person or the other. I never thought, “She would be a good person to be in love with because of her many good qualities and level-headedness in financial matters.”

Know why? I think it’s because I didn’t choose. And neither did anyone else. Nobody chooses who to be attracted to or who to fall in love with. Nobody chooses to be straight and nobody chooses to be gay. But, because we live in this closed-minded society, some gays have to choose to seem straight. They have to adopt a lifestyle opposite to their own feelings.

So, I don’t really think that nail polish is gonna make some kid queer. Just saying.

This article from Smithsonian Magazine says that one of America’s greatest president’s wore a dress until he was 6. His parents must have messed him up, big time! No wonder he was a Democrat!!!

What’s that? You say that all boys wore dresses until their first haircut in the 1800’s? Hmm. Okay, so they were all weird. Must have been a lot more confused boys back then. I’m shocked our species didn’t die out with so many boys almost becoming gay. In fact, according to WiseGeek, pink was considered a pretty masculine color prior to the 1950’s.

I almost hesitate to write this knowing that someone who reads this might actually think someone is gay if they wear pink. I might be embarrassing them right now. But, then, I thought, good. I hope so. Personally, I don’t understand being gay. I’ve never felt gay (except that one time when I was choosing wall colors for my daughter’s room and, um, I liked it.). I never caught myself wanting to hold hands with another guy. So, I don’t get when two guys dig each other. But, just because I don’t understand it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with it.

You know, I’ve seen guys sit there and talk about their girl as being so beautiful and she’s not. She’s plain. I’ve seen guys get all wound up over some girls that just weren’t good looking at all. That doesn’t make those guys perverts because they like girls with big noses and unibrows. Should we look into their childhood to see if their mothers wore Groucho Marx glasses or something to give them this fetish?

As a teacher, I have seen too many gay students have to hide it, or worse, face condemnation by family or friends or peers because of who they were. And, then, we have the gay marriage thing. My favorite reason for being against gay marriage? “When gays marry it devalues straight marriages.”

Um, no, Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh getting divorces and then marrying three times devalues straight marriages. Look, if you’re serious about protecting marriage then you need to pass a law that outlaws divorce. But, you won’t hear that on the Excellence in Broadcasting network.

People are dying in the Middle East for freedom from oppression, civil protestors being shot for wanting to have a say in their government. The situation in Japan keeps getting worse. We are cutting education throughout the Federal budget. Teachers are getting lay off notices and school budgets are being eviscerated. Corporations are reaping record profits in the middle of a recession thanks to favorable tax loopholes. The banks that caused the recession are handing out bonuses.

And people are outraged over pink nail polish.

Stuff I Like Today

You know why The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is awesome? Because, even though he’s obviously a liberal/progressive thinker, he will take on both Republicans and Democrats equally. Now, honestly, he’s way more brutal to Republicans. But, then again, that’s because Republicans are totally ridiculous most of the time.

My iPad is awesome. I love it. I have written every blog post with it, except for one and that’s only because I happened to be sitting at the desktop when the idea came to me. I use my bluetooth keyboard with it to type a lot of words, but otherwise it’s freaking awesome.

I can’t wait to play Portal 2. Did you play Portal? That game was really awesome.

I like this iPad game called Sword and Sworcery. It has super cool 8bit looking graphics but they’re all beautiful and the music/sound is suh-weet. I like the soundtrack too. I bought it. I don’t know that I’ve ever bought a soundtrack for a game before. Certainly not an iPad game. It’s good, though. Suh-weet electronic music.

Politics make me totally nauseous. Donald Trump is perfect for this country. He should totally be president. We would deserve that. This is not stuff I like. Trump and Palin in 2012 is such a great idea. Let’s drive this country straight into the ground so we can start over. But, I like Matt Taibbi because he makes me think there’s still smart people telling the truth in the media. Like Jon Stewart.

I like Stephen Colbert, too. He tells the truth in a different way. He shows how ridiculous the Republicans mostly are by acting like them.

I like my kids. They are cool even when they get on my nerves. I like my students, too. They are cool even when they get on my nerves. Know what I really like? My girl. She is amazing in ways I haven’t even figured out yet. She’s often the smartest person I talk to all day, even if I talked to myself. She’s funny, loving, and hot. I don’t really like her, I love her.

I like the weather lately. Cool but with some sunshine and clouds. It’s way better than the fascism of summer around here. Summer is awful and hot and awful. I hate it. But, the weather lately, I like.

I like a good night’s sleep.

I like funny rumors the students at school start. Like the one they just started that next year Prom will be in the gym. I haven’t even had time to let the ink dry on the facility request for the gym before that word got out. Amazing. It’s hard to keep a secret in ASB, I guess.

I like that about five people, or less, thought that last paragraph was funny. But, I bet I really like those five people.

I like Mumford and Sons’ album “Sigh No More.” I ought not to like it since it’s like folk/bluegrass music, but it’s modern too and the lyrics resonate somewhere in the corners of my heart. I bought it and the Arcade Fire album “The Suburbs” since they were both nominated for album of the year. I just didn’t really get into “The Suburbs.” It’s not that the album was bad, it just didn’t grab me. But, “Sigh No More” did. Good album.

I like the comment I got on one of my more recent posts. One of my former students paid me a bunch of awesome compliments mentioning that my class was one of their favorites, then went on to quote back to me one of the journal topic quotes I put up in class for them to write about and they did it to inspire me! They inspired me with my own inspiration! That’s ridiculously cool! On top of that, they commented on my story and how it made them think. That’s awesome to me. I like that a lot. I may just print out that comment and frame.

I like that show “Swamp People.” One reason I like it is because my family on my Dad’s side is from Lousiana and are Cajuns. Not gator hunters, as far as I know, but they do raise crawdads and make awesome food with them, as I recall. I like it because there is, to me, an honesty in the way the hunters make their living in the swamp. Yes, they hunt alligators, and it’s violent and brutal. But, I think it also is honest and beautiful in it’s own way. I realize all to well that the show is edited and put together as a narrative and that not all we see is as it was or is, but I’m still buying what they’re selling. Those gator hunters like Troy have my respect as they are doing things I never could.

I like a cup of coffee in the morning with some Coffeemate creamer. I know that stuff is probably all kinds of awful for me but when I take that first drink of coffee I can feel it spread throughout my body like the will to live. I don’t need it as much as I used to because the apnea treatment is working. But, I still like a cup of coffee in the morning.

I like HDTV and BluRay movies. I can’t wait to get Apocalypse Now on BluRay. I hope it looks and sounds as good as I think it should. Have you seen Blade Runner in HD? OMG. So good. Avatar looks good, too, but not in the same way. Another movie that is awesome in HD is Nightmare Before Christmas.

Speaking of movies, I find that I like Quentin Tarrantino’s movies more upon repeated viewings. Inglorious Basterds is so amazing. And, I find Kill Bill to be one my favorite films these days. Both of those look great in HDTV, too.

I like my DishTV. I need to remind myself to call and compliment the installer. He did a great job and was very nice. I like HDTV so much I almost refuse to watch SD anymore. Good lord, I’m a picture snob! The Daily Show in HDTV is so much better. No really.

Okay, that’s enough stuff I like for today. Find one thing on here and go check it out and see if you like it to. Even better, leave me a comment on something you like. I gotta go watch a little more Swamp People before I got to sleep.

Defending Mencia

I will probably take massive amounts of flack for this from all five of my regular readers (God bless you, or you know, whatever), but I think Carlos Mencia is funny, smart, and misunderstood.

I will wait for you to clean whatever beverage you were previously enjoying off of your iPad or cellphone (My stats tell me at least one of you is reading my blog on an iPad, a cellphone, and an iPod. Or one of you is loading the blog up on multiple computers. And the other three of you are using Windows. There was one guy on Linux but he only read like one post and hasn’t been back and frankly, we won’t miss that neckbeard.)

All clean now? Let me start with misunderstood because it’s his own damn fault. My only experience with Carlos Mencias was from his race-baiting Mind of Mencia show on Comedy Central. It was like they said (and I’m about 98% sure it went exactly like this), “You know, that f@cking Dave Chappelle show is awesome! We get great ratings from him! I think it’s because of all that racial s#it he does. We need a Hispanic version of Chappelle.”
“What about George Lopez, sir?”
“No, f@ck that guy. He sold out. His show is on Nickelodeon now.”
“Okay, then how about Carlos Mencia?”
“Orale! Get him on the phone!

You might not realize it, but practically every show business executive curses like a longshoreman. I guess. I don’t know any longshoremen and neither do the show business executives which is probably why they get away with telling everybody that’s who they are swearing like. Regardless, they swear a lot.

So, this is why it’s his own fault. Mencia goes on his show and proceeds to give us all the impression that his comedy consists of racial nonsense, half of which is not very funny, Then, on top of that, there’s a controversy that Mencia has stolen material from other comics. And, there’s YouTube videos that make a compelling case for it. So, I had decided that Mencia was an unfunny, talentless, hack.

Then, MFWITWWW* goes and tells me that, in fact, Mencia is hilarious. Now, she is my favorite woman in the whole wide world for a good reason. She is SMART. She is so smart that I actually have to write it in all caps as I properly did right there. She is so SMART that she actually knows how and when to keep her mouth shut, which probably makes her smarter than me. Hmmm. Oh well, no time to think about stupid stuff like that. So, she tells me that she went to see him in concert and that it’s nothing like his show. Okay, yeah, so you say, I thought. I didn’t argue with her because she’s Latina and I’m still afraid she might cut me.

I let it pass. I mentioned that I didn’t like the show and didn’t find it funny and she said he was smart and I started to think she might only be smart instead of SMART. Cause, to me, he seemed like a buffoon. So, months later, she mentions that Mencia is going to be at the San Manuel casino and will I go with her despite my objections to his comedic stylings, she asked.

I acquiesced to her request. Just like that. Acquiesced. If nothing else, I would get to see this casino out in Highland, CA that I’d always been curious about. Was it a dirt shack out there with some slot machines? I dunno. I thought it was like this old, run-down building about the size of Costco and with as much charm. The parking lot would be gravel and the marque would be one of those signs with the movable letters, “TONITE! C RLOS MENCI “. Someone stole the “A’s” I guess.

San Manuel is about 3,000 times better than that. There’s parking structures, fountains, a covered skyway, and it’s really nice inside. It looks like a nice, but smaller, Vegas casino. Not Bellagio, but at least Rio nice. But it doesn’t smell like a Vegas casino. Can’t smoke in California, you know. Anywhere. Ordinarily, that’s a good thing. But, in a casino, you should smell cigarrettes, like, everywhere.

So, we get there and Mencia is funny. I laughed a lot! And, to me, the most impressive thing was that he did, no kidding, at least a two hour set. Being funny for two hours onstage is not easy. Even more impressive? At least a half hour of that was him improvising on stuff from the audience. That’s not easy. I’ve seen comics try to do that and you can tell they just want to get back to their material. But, he was funny then, too.

Does he steal material? I don’t know. But, he was smart enough to write his own material on stage in front of us. As well, he had a good message about thinking critically and realizing that the world could be a better place if we realized that politics was goofy. Or something. I forget exactly, but it was good; not mind searing truth like George Carlin, but in that vein.

So, if you haven’t seen Carlos Mencia live and you like comedy, you might consider taking in a show of his before you declare him a talentless hack.

Oh, and I also think that some of Dane Cook’s routines are funny, too. Louis CK and Oswalt Patton are funnier, but still.

Is it just me? – Baby talking the news to us

I was watching CNN Sunday while using the elliptical. I’ve been doing that a lot lately. Watching CNN, not using the elliptical. Unfortunately. Anyway, I’m watching CNN and the woman on there, Fredericka Whitfield, was anchoring the weekend news. They had a bit on there about the Libyan woman who burst into the International hotel where the press have been staying and claimed that she had been beaten and raped by 14 Libyan soldiers. That’s a whole story in and of itself and you should click on that last sentence and read it if you haven’t already heard about it. Absolutely brutal.

Slight digression, but it plays into my point: if you click on “World” from their home page and look down, the first mention of this story is that a CNN reporter faced a gun and had his camera smashed!

OMG! Right? That poor reporter! I mean, honestly, that should be part of the story, but it’s more like a sentence or two in the story, not the bleeding headline! And, really, this is a big deal for that woman and a good story to really remind all of us what godawful things happen in war and are happening in Libya…

… but it’s still just a story about a woman. One woman. It’s awful, horrible, but, in reality, it’s human interest. It’s not the story. It’s perfect for illustrating how the Libyan government is abusing it’s citizens, how far they will go to hide the truth. Did you know that the press is NOT ALLOWED to leave the hotel without permission and not without a government “minder” either. No freedom of press at all in Libya. So, the story is important but it’s not THE story.

So, Ms. Whitfield is anchoring and I’m listening to her seque between stories and go to the weather and whatnot and it struck me. It’s like she’s talking to children. I didn’t feel like she was talking to me. It was like she was addressing a class of middle-schoolers. And, it wasn’t just her. The weather woman did the same thing (I didn’t get her name and don’t feel like researching to find it out). Then, another woman came on to do a segment with Ms. Whitfield and, I forget what they were talking about, but they cut to some video where the woman in the video said something about men doing obnoxious things, including farting. When they come back, Whitfield is giggling and can’t stop. She can’t even do the next story and they cut to commercial.

Okay, to be fair, we’ve all been there where something strikes you and you gotta giggle and can’t stop and it gets worse when you try to stop. Fine. But, on the other hand, you’re on CNN. Yemen, Syria, Libya, Egypt, Bahrain, et. al. are in various stages of revolution and people are dying. Japan is still in the throes of dealing with one of the biggest earthquakes and tsunami’s in history, and is probably dealing with a nuclear plant meltdown. But, you’re giggling about farts?

But, it got me to thinking… A lot of the news anchors talk to us like we’re children. Does that work? I know this is going to be a big shock to you, but I enjoy listening to NPR. Honestly, between reading blogs and Twitter for news, that’s my main source for fiding out what’s going on. Most broadcast news, like CNN and the local newscasts, is really just newsy entertainment. When there’s a huge, breaking story, I think CNN is probably the best place to go. But, if I want real information, I need to go on the ‘net or to Twitter or NPR.

And, that’s weird to me. I mean, with the stuff that passes for news on Fox News Channel, it’s weird that people don’t realize they’re being pandered to.

Okay, so I’m getting preachy. But, it was just a weird moment to me. I kept waiting for Whitfield to say, “Wow, like the stuff in Libya is just awful. Poor widdle woman just having awful, yucky things happen to her. Yucky! Let’s think happy thoughts now.” Is it just me? Do the news anchors have to talk like that? Do we really require our news to be entertaining? Isn’t it enough to be informed?

Bill Hicks: comedian, prophet, pale demon

Just watched “Bill Hicks: Sane Man” on my Netflix stream. This is not my first exposure to Hicks. I have five or six recordings of his. But, good lord he was funny. He was sacrilegious, profane, vulgar, offensive, dark, full of hate, bile, and spewing gouts of flaming truth wherever he went.

I think my favorite part of a Bill Hicks set is how much his audience hates him. I have one recording where they get downright hostile toward him. And let’s face it, he wasn’t there to win friends. That might be what I love most about him. He was telling the truth as he saw it and if you didn’t like it, too bad. He was probably going to make fun of you next.

In case you’re not familiar with Bill Hicks, he was very liberal. He absolutely hated Reagan, the first Bush and was intensely critical of the first Iraq war. Can you imagine what it would be like if he lived today? Here’s what I think he’d being saying:

What is wrong with you people? You elected the son?! Did you miss all the crap his daddy did? And you let him go back to Iraq to finish the job? You believed that bit about the WMDs? You people are dumber than I originally thought!

Seriously, Bill had it nailed. He spotted the anti-intellectualism movement, the take-over of corporations, the awfulness of pop culture and on and on. He reminds me a lot of George Carlin, another truly great comic. The great thing about both of these guys is that they are funny but they are telling great truths and making serious points. They are using the laughs because, I think, that is a great way to get you to listen to some things that are otherwise unpalatable to most of us. I think they can’t help making the jokes either. I think they are those guys that are in a car accident, have their arm amputated and look at the doctor to say,”I’ve been meaning to lose weight, doc, thanks.” They’re the ones getting dirty looks at funerals because they couldn’t help making the people around them giggle.

The thing is, we need guys like this now more than ever. I think this is where Jon Stewart and The Daily Show come in. And, Stephen Colbert, yes. We have to hear some humor. Maybe I should try writing more humorously when I have something serious to talk about. Hmmm…

Mr. Hicks was, if you can believe it, darker and harsher than George Carlin. Hicks would point out how the great people of history tend to be murdered, they don’t die of old age. Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., John Lennon, JFK, etc. But, Ronald Reagan? He got shot, lived through it, and was old as Hell when he died. Note: this is well before the beatification of Reagan and the whitewashing of his legacy (go read the record, that brother raised taxes lots of times! And he dug spending tons of money on defense.) so Reagan was still the devil as far as Hicks was concerned. At the end of his set, Hicks sometimes would tell the audience his plan for world peace: if you took the trillions being spent on wars and gave it to the citizens we could build a home for every person in the world, then spend our time and money exploring space together in peace and harmony. What a wonderful world to live in. Then, Hicks stands with his arms up as the audience applauds, his set over… And gunshots ring out loudly in the room. Hicks crumples to the ground, clutching his chest, apparently shot to death, assassinated. The lights go out. Hardee har har.

In the tradition of dark comedy, Hicks makes sure that the laugh you were having a second ago gets caught in your throat. Sure, it’s a little self-aggrandizing, but, well, the man had some awesome, funny, truthful, and brutal bits. And, guess what? He was right. We could easily house the entire country if we wanted. But, no we can’t do that. House freeloaders??? No way!

It’s kind of weird. How would you rather spend trillions of dollars. Ending homelessness and giving the American Dream to everyone in the country? Or bombing people in another country that may or may not represent a threat to us? As George Carlin put it, they call it the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it. I am so grateful for people like Hicks, Carlin, Stewart, and Colbert for helping to wake me up.

Retro Movie Review "Grosse Point Blank" 1997. Starring John Cusack, Minnie Driver. Co-Starring Joan Cusack, Dan Ackroyd, Hank Azzaria, Jeremy Piven. Ooh, and a cameo by Jenna Elfman, I think prior to her sitcom success! This is a dark comedy.

A little 1980’s nostalgia. Minnie Driver with an American accent. I think this is an underrated film. It wasn’t very popular at the time, though I liked it. I even saw it in the theater! The stars are charming as those two always are. Maybe it’s just me but I think John Cusack is charming in practically everything. He just has that quality that I like because he seems kind of pitiful and cool at the same time. Have you seen “Say Anything?” Same thing.
Oh, another awesome John Cusack movie? “Better Off Dead.” Two dollars!!!

Besides this post being a blatant attempt by me to get you to click through to Amazon via my links here and buy something so my blog can get me some money (I’m a teacher, can you blame me for trying to make extra money?) I’m also trying to maybe give you a movie or two to watch.

Minnie Drive is awfully cute. She’s probably done a lot of other movies, but the only ones I can think of are “Good Will Hunting” (You’re one them Hahvahd smaht kids, right?) and when she did the voice of Jane in “Tarzan.” Anyway, this one is interesting in that she does a pretty darn good American accent for the whole movie. I listened for a slip or two but didn’t hear any.

So, my verdict on “Grosse Point Blank” is that you should watch it. It’s a fun movie. I enjoy it. Sure, I have a predilection for professional assassin movies, but this one is a fun twist on the genre. Cusack plays, Martin, a conflicted hitman who sees a therapist (this was pre-Sopranos, too) and is trying to work his way through his issues. He just isn’t feeling the same je ne sais quois about his work. Plus, another hit man (played by Dan Ackroyd!) is trying to get him to join a hitman union and he likes to work alone.

So, he goes to his high school reunion to do a job and also reconnect with a lost flame, Debi.

The movie’s plot is kind of confusing. I remember the first time I watched the movie and not really understanding exactly how he gets his work, who he works for, who that guy is trying to kill him and so on. Honestly, I think that the filmmakers didn’t really care about the plot except as a cute vehicle to tell the love story of the two main characters. And, if you like John Cusack at all, you should see this movie. He carries it, for sure.

***Warning! Spoilers ahead!***

One reason I like the movie is because I think it’s interesting to see how the filmmakers take a repugnant main character (a professional killer) and make him likeable to the audience. It takes a little slight of hand and a bit of cheating, too. Everyone he runs into is like, “Hey, Martin, it’s been ten years! Where have you been? What are you doing for a living?” He stammers a little and answers, “I’m a professional hitman.” They respond with, “Isn’t that nice?” Or, “That’s a growth industry.” I think we are to take it that they think he’s kidding.

So, if they think he’s kidding, why is it that none of the characters every asks again, “No, really, what are you up to?” They all just let it slide. And, if they believe him, why do none of them recoil as we all would? The only “normal” character is his therapist who tells him that he will notify the police if he will commit a crime, then later says, “Try not killing anyone for a few days, see how it feels.” So, that also seems inconsistent. I think that’s cheating. Either you create a world where no one cares that he’s a killer (which they didn’t) or you set it in a realistic world (which they did) where people react normally to meeting a professional killer.

At the end, when Debi realizes that Martin is, in fact, a killer, she screams hysterically and runs away. Now, she’s in love with him (still? again?) so you would think that she might have at least waited for some kind of explanation. But, no, she acts as if he has personally betrayed her. I can’t remember if he ever “jokingly” told her he was a killer. However, she hasn’t seen him for 10 years. He disappeared and made no contact with her. So, if you were her, would you really feel betrayed if in the two or three days since he came back that he failed to tell you he was a killer? I dunno. It just seems like the reaction is contrived rather than organic. Horrified? Yeah, I could buy horrified. Repusled? Okay. But, she is angry at him for what? For lying?

Whatever. You know what? Women are never consistent anyway. So, I guess the movie works.

Haha just kidding. I can’t speak for all women but My Favorite Woman in the Whole World (MFWITWW) has herself some double standards. So, there you go.

Anyway, as some who know me will remember, I wrote a screenplay with a similar main character and it was, in some way, inspired by this film. Professional killers as main characters are interesting. Unsympathetic characters as main characters are interesting, for that matter. One of the things that I struggled with was getting the main character to be likeable enough that the audience would care about him. And, it was tough to figure out how “normal” people would react to someone who was a killer. I still think it was a good screenplay but people get all sensitive about other people that kill people. Weird.

Fact-Checking my newbestfriend Matt Taibbi

A wise woman asked me, “Have you checked any of Matt Taibbi’s facts?” That sounded like a good idea.

Here’s a brief article supporting Matt Taibbi’s views on healthcare.

Click here for Motley Fool article.

Here’s another one that critiques Taibbi’s article from Rolling Stone about Obama’s selling out to Wall St. And this is Matt’s response. His defense is better than anything I could write so I will let you read it yourself.

I am unable to find a critique of Griftopia other than someone saying they don’t like his style (He uses cuss words a lot. I, personally, enjoy it, but others do not.) or they say he’s wrong without giving specifics.

I’m going to be getting some other books that may either corroborate or refute Taibbi. But, for now, my take is that he’s right.

I am also pasting the article by Taibbi in it’s entirety on my References and Extras page. I had trouble finding it and it’s not even on the Rolling Stone site anymore. I realize that Taibbi and Rolling Stone retain copyright and don’t mean to imply that it is my writing in any way. But, since it’s hard to find, I put it there in case you’re interested. Also, I will be happy to remove it if requested by Taibbi or Rolling Stone. So, click there if you want to read the original post.