Sunday, December 23, 2007

My Christmas Poem

Our pastor asked us to create some artwork to express our prayers this Christmas, and to bring it in to share at church tomorrow. I wrote this poem. Blogger is throwing off the formatting (It should be indented on the uncapitalized lines) but I think it still makes sense. We'll see how it goes over.

Christmas in America
-by Ben Gorman

I picture
Sun on sand
melting the horizon
Suffocating heat
Dry grit
scratching their throats.

They have no coyote
to lead them across the desert
But there are no border guards
Or walls
Or Christians
with rifles
Waiting on the other side.

The teenage mother
Her baby
Her new husband
(not the child's father)
Walk across a desert
To become illegal immigrants
because of a dream.

When they arrive
They will not speak the language
They will take jobs away from the locals
And their baby
will be a drain on the economy.

This Christmas
I can't help but think
The child
is lucky
The parents are taking him to Egypt
And not bringing him

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Song of the Strategic Sword Salute

I am no poet. I write perhaps a poem a year. But tonight I’ve written one I’m proud of, and want to share. First, some context: A colleague of mine took her Senior College Lit. Class to see the new film version of Beowulf, which was rated PG-13. She reported that it was good, very bloody, and filled with airbrushed nipples and conveniently placed objects to hide Beowulf’s… epic heroism? What follows is an edited version of our email conversation:

I thought you could use this in class. Beowulf: A review in verse.
It's by Dana Stevens, the film critic for Slate, and one of my favorite critics. In fact, after this review she's my favorite, hands down. Enjoy!

I love it! I will share this with them tomorrow. Their reviews are due tomorrow as well. They had to give an overall evaluation and recommendation but zero-in specifically on two strong points and two weak points --I told the boys their two strong points could not be Angelina's boobs.

Could Angelina's boobs be the strong points if they wrote about them in verse? Points lost for lechery, but made up for in creativity?

Hmmm . . . perhaps. I don't suppose I'd mind so much either if the girls did "an Ode to Beowulf's Buttocks" (or a "Song of the Strategic Sword Salute"). Ha ha!
Did you guys go see it yet?

We were planning on going Sunday, had a babysitter and everything, and decided to go to Olive Garden and just enjoy each other's company instead.
I do want to read "Song of the Strategic Sword Salute", though. A limerick or two, perhaps:

Silly MPAA,
Look how many extras we slay.
Unprincipled movie raters,
What made you penis and nipple haters?
And why do you find so much violence okay?

So a sword must be strategically placed.
And often, since he moves with such haste.
Characters can lose their heads.
Kids can take that image to their beds.
So long as they don't see that which has been replaced.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

State Radio Concert

Tonight I went up to Portland to see the band State Radio. I went by myself. I do not recommend attending concerts alone. Because of the long drive, the high cost of alcohol, and the fact that I've become something of a teetotaler, I didn't buy anything to drink. Because I didn't know anyone I found a quiet space in the corner to sit during the opening band. So, there I was, stone cold sober, sitting by myself in a room full of happy, marginally inebriated twenty-something hipsters. And suddenly, I felt like I was simultaneously the oldest man in the room and back in high school.

Luckily, the opening band was good. Why We Fear Fiction, a local Portland band, put on a high energy show, and the lead singer, besides having a powerful voice, is easy on the eyes, especially with her hair dyed a flaming red that almost matched her red cocktail dress, so that didn't hurt. Still, I felt deeply self-conscious sitting all alone, so I went up close to the stage when State Radio, the headliners, came out to play.

They were nothing short of amazing. Wrapped up in my self-consciousness, I didn't want to dance, but the music was so infectious that I couldn't help it. I didn't want to sing along, even though I love the stinging and ingenious political lyrics to their songs, because I try to be sensitive to the fact that the people around me at a concert did not come to hear the funny looking bald dude in the back of the mosh pit singing his heart out. But the band encouraged us to sing along, and frankly, it was so loud no one could hear me anyway (I hope). By the end of the show I was jumping up and down and head-banging with such ferocity that I thought at one point I might be experiencing a mild heart attack. When the lights finally came up I sat against the stage and caught my breath for a while. It was that good.

Out back, by the bus, I got to shake hands with the lead singer and the bassist, and get a couple signatures for a State Radio flag I'll hang in my classroom.

All-in-all, the moral of the story turned out to be this: Don't go to a concert by yourself, especially if you are thirty, not interested in finding a date, not interested in drinking, and consummately uncool. Unless, that is, the band is State Radio.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

How It All Ends Video

A friend of mine is posting a whole series of videos, beginning with this one. I hope everyone checks them out, especially those who are still skeptical about the very real and imminent danger of global climate catastrophe. The first is ten minutes long, but worth your time. The others in the series are for folks who have specific questions about the points of the argument and want more information. Please pass these on to anyone you know who is intelligent and rational but still skeptical about climate change.

Check this one out, along with the others, HERE.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Response to a horrid forward

I received the following forward (at the bottom) from my Aunt, who was rightfully skeptical, after receiving it from another member of our family. Here is my response, and please make sure this information is spread to anyone trying to promote this deceptive anti-Obama conspiracy theory:

This e-mail forward is filled with lies. I hardly know where to begin. First of all, a quick google search can't find any association between the name William H. Shay and Yale University, ever. Except in this forward, which has been posted on a couple of "Christian" websites. That connection between a falsely attributed e-mail and its repetition by Christians reminds me of a Bible verse from Revelation 21:8:
"But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death."

Moving on to the lies in the letter itself:
Fox News did a smear story where they asked the question about whether or not the school Obama attended when he was 6 was a madrassa, or Islamic religious school. CNN sent a reporter to the school to verify. Here was the finding:

"...He visited the Basuki school, which Obama attended from 1969 to 1971.

"This is a public school. We don't focus on religion," Hardi Priyono, deputy headmaster of the Basuki school, told Vause. "In our daily lives, we try to respect religion, but we don't give preferential treatment."

Vause reported he saw boys and girls dressed in neat school uniforms playing outside the school, while teachers were dressed in Western-style clothes.

"I came here to Barack Obama's elementary school in Jakarta looking for what some are calling an Islamic madrassa ... like the ones that teach hate and violence in Pakistan and Afghanistan," Vause said on the "Situation Room" Monday. "I've been to those madrassas in Pakistan ... this school is nothing like that."

Vause also interviewed one of Obama's Basuki classmates, Bandug Winadijanto, who claims that not a lot has changed at the school since the two men were pupils. Insight reported that Obama's political opponents believed the school promoted Wahhabism, a fundamentalist form of Islam, "and are seeking to prove it."

"It's not (an) Islamic school. It's general," Winadijanto said. "There is a lot of Christians, Buddhists, also Confucian. ... So that's a mixed school."

The Obama aide described Fox News' broadcasting of the Insight story "appallingly irresponsible."

Fox News executive Bill Shine told CNN "Reliable Sources" anchor Howard Kurtz that some of the network's hosts were simply expressing their opinions and repeatedly cited Insight as the source of the allegations.

Obama has noted in his two books, "Dreams From My Father" and "The Audacity of Hope," that he spent two years in a Muslim school and another two years in a Catholic school while living in Indonesia from age 6 to 10."

As to the claim that Obama is a Muslim, that's patently false, also. Obama has openly discussed his Christianity frequently, including giving a speech described as follows: "(Obama's speech on faith) may be the most important pronouncement by a Democrat on faith and politics since John F. Kennedy's Houston speech in 1960 declaring his independence from the Vatican...Obama offers the first faith testimony I have heard from any politician that speaks honestly about the uncertainties of belief."
-E.J. Dionne, Op-Ed., Washington Post, June 30, 2006. To watch the speech, go here:

Is it possible that Obama is secretly a Muslim? Sure. But there is absolutely no evidence of that. It's also possible that Mitt Romney is a Scientologist (he did claim that one of L. Ron Hubbard's books is his favorite), but I believe him when he says he's a Mormon. It's also possible that Rudy Guliani is secretly a Buddhist, that Hillary Clinton is a Hindu, and that former Southern Baptist pastor Mike Huckabee secretly worships the Hale-Bop Comet, but there is no evidence to back up those claims, either. With Christianity, as with any religion, we're known by our works. Only Obama worked with churches in the inner city in Chicago to help the poor. In fact, to my knowledge, he's the only candidate to convert to Christianity, rather than being born into a Christian (or Mormon, in Mitt Romney's case) family. And, unlike the conservatives who focus on who Christians should hate with their anti-gay, anti-abortion rhetoric, Obama is one of the only candidates who actually talks about Jesus' emphasis on serving the poor, the hungry, and the prisoner. In contrast, the Republican candidates (with the exception of John McCain, who knows what it feels like to be a prisoner), have all promised to hold more prisoners in Guantanimo Bay and continue torturing them, a stance that's hard to justify with Christianity.

Another lie: Barack Obama did not take his oath on the Koran. Perhaps William H. Shay (who can't even spell "Koran" correctly) confused him with Keith Ellison, a congressman from Minnesota. Oh wait. I forgot. William H. Shay, at least the one who works at Yale, doesn't exist! Or maybe mythological Mr. Shay is confusing Barack Obama with Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a congresswoman from Florida who took her oath on the Tanakh, the Hebrew scriptures. Or maybe he's confusing Obama with President John Quincy Adams, who took his oath to be president on a law volume instead of the Bible to illustrate that this was a country built on laws, not any single religion. (Regardless, Keith Ellison eventually decided not to take his real oath on the Koran, because the swearing in ceremony is just a photo op, and the real Congressional oath is taken on the floor of the Congress in one big group, with no books at all.)
What about this Wahabi conspiracy? Well, Wahabi Islam is an extreme sect, but Obama was never involved with it. Who was, in our government? After George H.W. Bush left the presidency, he took a job with the Carlisle group, a lobbying group that tried to procure weapons for Saudi Arabia, a nation whose government is clearly infiltrated by Wahabists. George the Senior even started calling one of the Saudi princes, named Bandar, "Bandar Bush". Bandar's adoptive brother, George W., just gave the largest weapons deal ever to Saudi Arabia. So, why would the Wahabiist need to get a mole into the White House when they can buy a Connecticut-born Cowboy through his father? I am far less concerned about Obama, who is criticized for being overly forceful when condemning the government of Pakistan for not helping get Osama Bin Laden (Obama threatened to go into Pakistan and get Bin Laden with or without Pakistan's permission), than I am about our current president giving Wahabiists huge supplies of weapons.

Normally I don't take deceptive e-mails like this too seriously. Anyone can spew a bunch of lies. But in this case, they are defaming the character of the person I think would be one of the best presidents in U.S. history, and using bigotry against Islam and ignorance as their means. Luckily, no one in our family is enough of a bigot or an ignoramus to fall for this, of course, but please forward this on to anyone who might have received this e-mail, so no one gets away with this deception.

-Ben Gorman
a real person
not an employee of Yale University

>Begin forwarded message:>
>Subject: FW: Important - Who is Barack Obama
>Subject: Important - Who is Barack Obama
>You'vegot to read this written by William H. Shay at Yale University
> > >
>Probable U. S. presidential candidate, Barack Hussein Obama was born in
> > Honolulu , Hawaii , to Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., a black MUSLIM from
>Nyangoma-Kogel , Kenya and Ann Dunham, a white ATHIEST from Wichita , >
>Kansas .
> > >
>Obama's parents met at the University of Hawaii . When Obama was two
>years old, his parents divorced. His father returned to Kenya . His
>mother then married Lolo Soetoro, a RADICAL Muslim from Indonesia .
> > >
>When Obama was 6 years old, the family relocated to Indonesia . Obama
>attended a MUSLIM school in Jakarta . He also spent Catholic school.
> >>
>Obama takes great care to conceal the fact that he is a Muslim. He is
>quick to point out that, "He was once a Muslim, but that he also
>attended Catholic school."
> > >
>Obama's political handlers are attempting to make it appear that
>Obama's introduction to Islam came via his father, and that this
>influence was temporary at best. In reality, the senior Obama returned
>to Kenya soon after the divorce, and never again had any direct
>influence over his son's education.
> > >
>Lolo Soetoro, the second husband of Obama's mother, AnnDunham,
>introduced his stepson to Islam. Obama was enrolled in a Wahabi school
>in Jakarta .
> > >
>Wahabism is the RADICAL teaching that is followed by the Muslim
>terrorists who are now waging Jihad against the Western world.
> > >
>Since it is politically expedient to be a CHRISTIAN, when seeking Major
>public office in the United States , Barack Hussein Obama joined the
>United Church of Christ in an attempt to downplay his Muslim
> > >
>Let us all remain alert concerning Obama'sexpected presidential
>The Muslims have said they plan on destroying the US from the inside
>out. What better way to start than at the highest level - through the
>President of the United States !
> > >
>ALSO, keep in mind that when he was sworn into office - he DID NOT use
>the Holy Bible, but instead the Kuran (Their equivalent to our Bible, but
> very different beliefs.)
>Please forward to everyone you know. Would you want this man leading
>ourcountry?......NOT ME!!!
>William H. Shay
>Yale University - Procurement
>(203) 432-4656

Friday, July 13, 2007

A Teacher's Dark Days

I just finished watching Half Nelson, a powerful film about a teacher who works in a tough school with tough kids. Unlike so many puff films about heroes making a difference, this guy is the classic missionary teacher with a dark twist; he has a serious drug habit. To be fair, the strength of the film is the pairing of his story with the story of one of his kids, who is fighting to stay out of the life that has landed her brother in jail, the life of a drug dealer. You can probably imagine how this might cause a painful intersection in the lives of this teacher and student.

But I naturally identified more with the teacher. And, though I don't have a horrible drug habit, I couldn't help but see a little too much of myself in the character. On my darkest days, I think there are two kinds of teachers. There are the a-holes who are arrogant enough to think they can make a difference in kids' lives. And there are the a-holes who just can't do anything else. On my dark days, I think I may be both.

I know we are cogs in the machine, filling our roles just as the students do, perpetuating the system as much as we challenge it. The best we can do, as cogs in the machine, is lean just a little. We shift our weight, in hopes that we might affect the machine's trajectory, if only by a degree or two. And on my darkest days, I realize how little I weigh.

I weight about 135 pounds. Tonight it doesn't feel like enough.

Summer is supposed to be the time for teachers to recharge. Instead, I sulk in the sweltering heat, like cheap meat in stew, thinking about my role and how well I fill it. I look forward to being back in my classroom. It's easier to believe I'm making a difference when I can see my students. In their presence I don't feel as insignificant, as weightless. During the school year I don't have the time to read three or four daily newspapers and contemplate my status as a casual observer of mountains of injustice. I have plenty of work to do, but in the summer I have just enough time to wonder if it's all worth while.

135 pounds. And still leaning.

Towards September.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Touch-Sensitive Screens on Notebook Computers

After watching the ads for the new iPhone while plinking away with a stylus on my Palm E2, I sit in front of my notebook computer and wonder: Why isn't the screen in front of me touch sensitive? It seems asinine that I have to move my hand, which is already close to the screen, away from it towards the embedded mouse or the external mouse in order to manipulate the information in front of me.

Does this technology already exist? I mean, I know touch sensitive screens, and now screens with software allowing for two simultaneous contacts, already exist for PDAs and phones. But have these technologies already been applied to notebook computers? I'm sure someone smarter than I am has already thought of putting the two together. If anyone out there knows of a brand that is available which employs this combination, let me know.

If the technology doesn't exist (in this configuration), I want credit for positing the idea. I'm no engineer, and no patent expert, but I'll give the idea away for some paltry sum... say, $100,000. Oh, and I want a working copy of a production model before it hits the shelves. That's all I ask. Now, someone make one, gimme, and pay up.

Oh, and since laptops can be fitted with cameras (many already have them internally) and a couple of manufacturers are already working with tabletop computers that identify the motions of hands using two cameras and parallax, why not do that on a laptop, so the person doesn't even have to touch the screen, just lift their hands off of the keyboard and manipulate the information by waving their hands like those cool ads with Jay Z? If no one is already working on this, I'm selling this idea for a cool $200,000. And a working model, of course.

Imagine coffee shops filled with people like me, people who like to type with more than their thumbs, reading their New York Times and flipping the virtual pages of the morning's paper by waving their hands in front of their laptop screens. "Star Trek" will have nothing on us!

It's a brave new world, and I'm looking forward to these inevitable, people-friendly technologies. Steve Jobs, get on it. Bill Gates, I know Microsoft doesn't do much in the way of hardware, but this will require new software. Imagine Vista without a mouse interface. Cool, eh? Get to work. And, in case I'm actually the first to voice these ideas, I want my cut. If I'm not first, will someone tell me where I can get this kind of stuff?

I sent copies of this post to email addresses I found for Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. I'll let folks know when I get a reply. Start holding your breath... now!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

A thought in church

Sometimes I write in church. I used to feel bad about this, but a friend, Bethany Lee, who is also a worship leader, once explained some things to me about the true nature of worship, and now I feel a lot more free to write if I feel called to do it, no matter where I am. Anyway, here's a little note I jotted down last Sunday, something of an unpolished thought:

"I think about this new wave of intellectualizing against faith of all kinds, and I cannot help but notice that these men: Dawkins, Hitchens, Onfray, seem to me to have an immature, underdeveloped knowledge of their own ignorance. They are reluctant to acknowledge that which they don't know but take on faith. This, in itself, is not an argument for faith. That would be a God-of-the-gaps argument, for one thing, and frankly, I'm coming to believe that apologists for Christianity are not "The second Judas", as Kierkegaard called them, but merely an embarrassment to themselves and other Christians; Not the second Judas, but the second Kirk Cameron. Still, these anti-apologists strike me as lazy philosophers. They are quite aware of the irrationalism of their religious neighbors, but they do not know themselves with any particular clarity or insightfulness. One of my old professors, a man who firmly believed in Intelligent Design (remember what I said about apologists and embarrassment?) who felt that if Christianity gave up its scientific claims it would be giving the ceding the entire playing field to atheism. I believe, increasingly, that the battle lines have been falsely drawn between scientific rationalism and ignorant, anti-intellectual irrationalism. To a large degree, men like my professor created this false dichotomy in their attempt to employ science to promote faith: instead of promoting faith, the made a mockery of it while promoting a reliance on science as authority. By promoting bad science, they reaffirmed the supremacy of the scientific ideal while undermining their own religious beliefs.

When the false debate of science vs. no science ends, and science wins resoundingly in the hearts and minds of people dependent on their microwaves and cell phones, I hope we will move on to a healthier recognition of the limits of science and the relationship between intellect and faith. I believe there must be Christians out there who are also eager to reject anti-intellectualism and earnestly explore the nature of an intellectual faith in God. Maybe I'm naive to think there are many folks out there who are still interested in this, and I admit I see dwindling empirical evidence of this kind of community of believers, but I'm a person of faith, so I go on hoping."


Sunday, May 06, 2007

A Parent’s View of Bush’s Laughter

My wife Paige and I had a couple of conversations today which might seem disparate, but are actually related. When Noah placed a couple of his super-hero action figure in a measuring cup, I told him that was silly. We giggled about it a bit, and I realized I tell him that all the time. I started thinking that this information is particularly useful to a two-and-a-half year old. After all, how would he know that super-heroes don’t normally hang out in measuring cups? How else might he learn that underwear doesn’t belong on one’s head, or that it’s not completely commonplace for a child to wear his mother’s fuzzy slippers? Furthermore, if he’s not informed through a smile, how would he know that he’s created innocuous nonsense, rather than committing some unacceptable breach of etiquette? Paige noted that it’s important that he hear this in an encouraging tone, so he doesn’t think he’s done something wrong. This got me thinking, what if a child isn’t told that things are silly? What might be the consequence? Might he grow up to believe that all nonsense is acceptable, or, conversely, that any nonsense is immoral?

This reminded me of a conversation we’d had in the car earlier today. While driving to Portland to see some friends we listened to an episode of This American Life about the abuses perpetrated against detainees at Guantanimo Bay, foremost among them being the immoral suspension of Habeas Corpus that leaves them in legal limbo, a tactic designed not only to shield the Bush Administration from any oversight for the other kinds of torture the detainees experience, but also to take away any hope of release as a mean to force confessions. Among the more appalling moments in the show (not quite rising to the level of horror we experienced when detainees and attorneys describes prisoners being doused in menstrual blood or being told that their torture was being done because it was the will of Christ, but horrible none the less) was a sound clip of President Bush arguing for their indefinite detention. He said they were men picked up on the battlefield who had been caught in the act of trying to kill American soldiers. For one thing, this was a lie. A Seton Hall University study found that less than five percent were actually soldiers picked up on the battlefield, and that most were handed over to our government by other governments in exchange for money, regardless of the prisoners’ guilt or innocence. Some might call that a distortion, but I was raised to believe that is called a lie. If I told my parents that I earned a dollar, when I actually earned nickel and stole ninety-five cents, they would have punished me for lying, not for a “distortion”. But hearing the president lie wasn’t the worst part. More disturbing was the fact that, as he talked about human beings being kept in prison forever, without the protection of any nation’s laws or any international agreements about human rights on the grounds that these human beings had been attempting to kill other human beings, specifically our own soldiers, he was laughing. Between each phrase he was giggling.

Paige had to stop the recording to note just how nauseating she found this laughter. Even if he had been telling the truth, it’s hardly funny. My first theory was that he uses laughter to dismiss opposing views, but even when he was espousing his own, he laughed. The circumstances amused him. Perhaps he is a sociopath, and finds explanations for vengeful cruelty funny. Perhaps he knew he was lying, and was laughing at the shrinking numbers of Americans who still believe the words that come out of his mouth. Perhaps it’s just an affectation he cannot escape. But what, I wondered, might cause such a habitual derisive laugh to accompany any off-the-cuff statement he makes?

This evening, as Paige and I discussed Noah’s silly behavior and our sing-song response, I began to wonder about W’s parenting. I am reluctant to blame Bush 41 and Barbara, because parents often have children who, despite the parents’ best efforts, turn out to be criminals or just jerks. Bush 41 strikes me as someone who would be a stern or distant parent, but that might be unfair. I don’t know how he raised W. And Barbara, by all accounts I’ve read, is something of a shrew. But I’ve never met the woman. Perhaps everyone who’s ever written her just happened to catch her on bad days. Regardless, neither strikes me as the kind of person who would say, “Oh, George, that’s just silly.” Based on my reading and observations of the parents and their son, I would guess that things in their house were either not talked about, or were very black and white, right and wrong. There was probably no room for nonsense in a household grooming its children to be governors and presidents. Might W’s disconnect from the normal rules that govern all social interaction, large and small, stem from this lack of understanding?

I wonder how W sees nonsense. I would guess he knows the word, but I’ll bet he only knows it in the context of dismissing ideas he doesn’t like, a tool for disempowering those he disagrees with, rather than an accurate description of things which, regardless of their moral weight, simply don’t fit. This might explain how he embraces Orwellian double-think (a “Clean Air Initiative” that dirties the air, a “Healthy Forrest Initiative” that opened up wild lands to more logging, a pre-emptive war on a country that never attacked the US sold as a moral struggle). At the same time, this might explain how he rejects criticism and oversight, to the point of suspending Habeas Corpus, one of the founding legal principles of every country the respects the rule of law, so that prisoners who might say embarrassing things about their own treatment can never be realeased to speak about the conditions of their detention, even when they are found to be innocent of any wrongdoing. Maybe Bush sees disingenuous policy-making as his privilege, his “political capital”, and therefore it is fitting. Maybe he sees all criticism of his choices as not-fitting and therefore irrelevant, or worse, requiring silencing. What he lacks is the truth in between; that some ideas, regardless of their sources, are nonsense, some merely silly and some immoral.

Maybe he just needed parents who could say, “No, George, calling dirty air clean is just silly, but making that a law is wrong. Calling a tree that is cut down a healthy tree is just silly, but making it a law is wrong. And people killing one another, or people being thrown into dungeons with no hope of freedom; that’s nonsense, but it’s never funny.

“It is not something decent people laugh about, George.

“It’s wrong.”

If anyone reading this knows Bush 41 or Barbara personally, will you please ask them if they taught their son the difference between amusing nonsense and immoral behavior? Is their son a sociopath who ignored their teaching, or were they negligent parents? Please let me know what they say.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Review of Spider-Man 3

When I was in high school I had a lingering suspicion that my teachers were not all capable of performing the tasks they assigned to us. This last week I assigned a critique of Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet, and tonight I went to see Spider-Man 3. I think this is a perfect opportunity to reach out to any kids who are as snotty and skeptical as I was and put their minds at ease. It will be difficult for me to stick to the strict 400 word limit I gave them for the body of the text, but here goes:

Spider-Man 3: A Fun Pop Song With a Few Off-Notes

Sam Raimi’s newest installment in the Spider-Man franchise is being beaten up (super-villain style) by most critics. By and large, they are missing the point. The general critique relates to the gimmick of the alien symbiote that changes Spider-Man’s costume black and makes him evil. Is this conceit cartoon-ish? Certainly. But that’s because it comes directly out of the comic book. That’s not to say the film is without flaws, but the most glaring mistakes related to choices that deviated from the comic book series, not the choices that were faithful.

The CGI action sequences were fun, and the scene where the Sandman gains his super-powers is nothing short of movie-making magic. Hayden Church and Topher Grace do all that can be expected with the parts they are given, and they aren’t alone. The leads play comic book roles with comic book overacting, which doesn’t seem out of place. They don’t have a lot of choice, since close-ups on their faces force them to telegraph every emotion. Like the acting, the dialogue is ham-handed and the story is clunky. Again, this felt faithful to the comic book genre, and any attempt to make the movie more literary would have been wasted on a movie about a man with super-powers delivered by a radio-active spider.

The biggest pitfalls came where screenwriters San and Ivan Raimi deviated from the comic book. William Shakespeare wisely avoided putting Rosaline on the stage with Juliet, because, beauty being subjective, half the audience might have felt Romeo picked the uglier girl. The Raimis falls into this trap in Spider Man 3. In the comic book, Gwen Stacy is Peter Parker’s first girlfriend, a looker, but no Mary Jane Watson in her heyday. She is caught up in the story of the Green Goblin and dead before Venom ever appears on the scene. Having missed the Gwen Stacy death storyline in his original movies, the Raimis opt to use her as an object of Peter Parker’s wandering eye and a motive for Eddie Brock, the future Venom, to envy Peter. The problem is that Bryce Dallas Howard, who plays Stacy, is simply more stunning than Kirtsen Dunst’s Mary Jane Watson. According to the comic Mary Jane becomes a supermodel eventually, and though Dunst is a looker, Raimi was smart to give that occupation to Howard. This might not have been a problem if Gwen Stacy were a shrew, but the character is also likable, while Mary Jane, in this installment, is insecure and needy. When Parker uses Stacy as a means to make MJ jealous, he not only comes off as a jerk, but as a fool.

The song and dance sequences (you read that right) are silly, but not in a comic book way, so they didn’t fit. I applaud Raimi’s creative bravery, but for the reported $270 million the movie cost, someone could have told him that comic book silliness and movie musical silliness are to different, incompatible animals.

Ultimately, the inflated climax and the preachy voice-over felt like they could have been lifted out of a comic book, too. No single issue of any comic book should be the reader’s favorite novel, and this movie won’t be anyone’s favorite, either. But I’d come back for the next issue.

Word Count: 551

* * *

So maybe I was right as a high school student. This teacher can’t pull off what he assigns. Students, feel free to lower my grade.

Socially Unacceptable Moviegoer Behavior

Some Central students behind me were doing their best to reach new heights of obnoxiousness. I don't mind the occassional carefully chosen obscenity (I've been known to drop the occasional F bomb myself) but the string of filth coming out of these kids mouths not only made them sound trashy, but it was generally incoherent and sometimes meant things I know they didn't intend. When a guy shouts "Show me your tits!" across a crowded theater and you're actually relieved that he's cleaned up his language, that says something not just about his vocabulary choice, but also about his quality as a person. I decided I would not hesitate to have them tossed out.

Ultimately, that didn't turn out to be necessary. About ten minutes into the film I turned around and forcefully told them to shut up. I waited about thirty seconds, and when they started again I turned around, looked right at the most obnoxious kid, and said, "You are not funny. Shut up."

And he did.

They tried to make a few more comments near the end of the movie, but they were about as quiet as the woman who thanked me and then later, oblivious to her hypocrisy, started making comments to her boyfriend.

I am of the opinion that if people are not mature enough to be quiet in movie theaters, or are interested in impressing their friends with their color commentary, they should wait for a movie to come out on video so they can humiliate themselves in the privacy of their own homes. But perhaps we have reached a tipping point where decent people who are actually interested in movies are the ones relegated to watching films at home. If that's the case, it's just another sad footnote in the general decline of Western Civilization, and I shouldn't be surprised. Thank goodness for Netflix! I am willing to forgo the movie theater experience, but I like movies too much to let them go. So, let the yahoos foot the bill for these blockbusters they attend but don't want to hear, just so long as a few good movies are still made for me to rent.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

New York Trip, upon our safe return

A week after we've come home, I've finally posted the info from our last day and a brief (believe it or not) retrospective on the trip as a whole. What a kick! I have heard the term Anglophile used to describe those who are infatuated with all things British. Would I be the first to coin the term New York-ophile? Probably not. I've asked Zach, Lauren, and Zach, my friends in the city, to send me only the most pleasant stories about their lives there, so that we can pressure Paige to agree to move there, but, as my friend and colleague Bill Gsell said, "Ain't gonna' happen." (Then I said that maybe she could be convinced if Noah went to college at Columbia or Fordham or NYU, and he marveled at what a terrible idea that was, noting that the absolute last thing Noah would want would be his geeky dad following him off to college. I'm pretty sure Bill thinks Noah is the unluckiest kid in the world, doomed to be warped into nerd-hood by his father. I assure you all, Noah is very happy, as you can see here:
Photo-0023 - Twango
For some reason, Paige hates that I posted that picture on the New York Blog. She'd prefer something like this, perhaps?
of=50,590,411 - Twango
Or this one?
of=50,590,443 - Twango

Anyway, it's good to be back.

Oh, and one of the student-teachers at school noticed and correctly identified my new shoes as Starburys. This is probably as close as I will ever come to cool!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

New York Trip

I'm trying to keep a daily blog so parents and friends of our school's choir tour to New York City can keep up. Here's the site. Wish me luck. Posting pictures ended up being harder than expected.

Hopefully I'll be seeing Zach and Lauren as well as a friend I haven't seen in 12 years, Zach Dye, this Friday. Maybe I'll blog about that here. Wish me luck (and rest).

Photo-0063 - Twango
(I call it "Nerd Leaning on Mailbox")

Monday, March 19, 2007

Bought and Paid For

Here's a story I wrote at a writer's conference over the weekend. I told the folks I would try to figure out a way to post an audio link. The link, at least on my computer looks like a player, but doesn't play. If you click on the "t" part it will take you to the page where the file does play. Sorry I'm not more technically adept. Regardless, the text itself it below.

Bought and Paid For

The modern big-box superstore was an odd contrivance, when she really thought about it. The notion that Dorothy could buy auto supplies, big-screen televisions, furniture for her patio, and fresh produce all under one roof disturbed her in some way she couldn’t quite articulate. It was remarkably convenient. That was indisputable. But when the bog-box store also managed to carry the best selection of everything she needed, Dorothy started to wonder about the quality of things with which she was infecting her life. Was the music on the CD really significantly different from her pre-packaged Kraft singles? Would the tee-shirt with the edgy slogan make her as unique as it advertised, despite the lean-cuisine frozen dinner in her cart that exactly matched the one in the cart of the woman wearing the Hawaiian print muumuu?

Dorothy, frightened by that idea, fled from the frozen food section, seeking solace in the produce aisle. It felt healthier, somehow. She pushed her cart, complete with its requisite wobbly wheel, which swung playfully from side to side, then kissed every fifth tile on the floor and pulled the cart slightly to the right. The cart made its lazy slide away from the tomatoes she wanted to buy, towards the cauliflower and broccoli.

A flash of shimmering green caught her eye. At the edge of bin next to her, a large head of broccoli, six or seven inches long from the tip of the trunk to the top of the tree and branching out almost as wide, called out to her. Literally. “Hey,” it said. “Buy me.”

Dorothy found this understandably disconcerting. She opened her mouth to speak, looked to her right and left, and thought better of it. It was one thing to hear a voice from a head of broccoli, but, no matter how lovely its color or impressive its dimensions, it was quite another thing to reply. Instead she gripped the handle of her cart with excessive force and tried to push away from the broccoli as quickly as possible.

“Wait!” the broccoli said. In spite of herself, Dorothy obeyed, but she refused to turn and face the broccoli. “Hey,” it hissed. “I know you can hear me. Come back. Buy me. If I’m in your cart no one will notice you talking to me. Just put me in the cart.”

Dorothy found this advice almost sensible. Without turning her head to face the broccoli, she took a blind step backwards, grabbed the stalk with a groping hand, and tossed it into the child-seat portion of the cart in front of her, propping it up against her wallet. Even then she wouldn’t look down at it. She stared straight ahead, storming out of the produce section, making a hard left at the butter, and stopping in front of the glass doors housing the milk. No one shopped for milk at that moment, so Dorothy opened the door and let the cold air hit her face. She pretended to examine the milk, as though weighing the merits of whole, 2 percent, and skim. She breathed the cold, waxy, slightly fetid air, hoping some deadly milk-born toxin would clear her head or put her out of her misery.

No such luck.

“Hey,” the broccoli hissed. “Thanks for choosing me. I’m Marvin. You can call me Marv.”

“I don’t want to call you anything,” Dorothy snapped. She looked immediately to her right and left. No one was staring at her or obviously averting their gaze from the crazy woman who seemed to be speaking to the milk. Still, the spot was very exposed. A woman nearby grabbed two bags of shredded cheese and continued toward her. Dorothy looked up at her and blanched when the woman met her gaze. She knows, Dorothy thought.

Dorothy pulled her cart back violently, then leaned against it, shoving it past the cream cheese, the packaged sliced meats, the end-cap of hostess wax-chocolate donuts. She left the grocery section entirely, turning into the furniture department. In a hallway made of bricks of folded, plastic-wrapped bed linens, Dorothy allowed herself to confront Marv.

“I cannot talk to you. You have to stop talking to me. Stop it. Stop-it-stop-it-stop-it.”

The broccoli was unmoved. “Look, lady, I have needs. You aren’t sensitive to those, that’s your problem. You want to buy me because I’m good. You can’t deny that. I’ve grown up well. I am well made. So you’ll purchase me. That’s that, right?”

Dorothy couldn’t deny the virtue of the broccoli. The milky green stalk, thick and smooth, wore a soft pink rubber band. Above the neckline of the rubber band the stalk split into fat branches that exploded into dark green buds, thicker than any afro an animated Jolly Green giant could possibly grow. Marv was a lovely specimen. Dorothy found him to be… good.

Marv didn’t give a rip what Dorothy thought of him. Marv was on a mission. “Okay, so you’ve chosen me. Consider me purchased. Now, I want to go buy some things.”

“You want to what? Wait… what?”

“I have some money. I even have credit cards. I need some stuff.”

“But,” Dorothy stammered, “you’re broccoli.”

“No, I’m broccoli with needs. And I’m broccoli with cash. And I’m broccoli in a store filled with stuff. Put it together, lady.”

“My name is Dorothy,” she said weakly.

“Nice to meet you, Dorothy. Now, take me to the home electronics section.”

“No,” she said, but she was already wheeling the cart in that direction. “Why should I?”

“I thought we went over this. I’ve got some stuff to buy.” In his coarse, flat voice he belted out the store’s jingle. “What’s on your list today?” he sang. “You’ll find it-” He stopped singing and almost shouted. “In home electronics, Dorothy. I got a list. It starts with a bigger TV than you probably have. So, hup to.”

Dorothy couldn’t believe she was pushing the cart out of the furniture section, past the office supplies and the discount DVDs, towards home electronics. “You can’t buy a TV. You don’t have any money. And you’re broccoli.”

The cart hit an uneven tile, and Marv slid down a bit, revealing the wallet he was resting on. “What are you talking about? I’ve got money. You gave it to me.”

“But that’s mine.”

“No, you chose me. I’m yours. You have an obligation to provide for my needs. You gave me you wallet, which was… I don’t want to say generous. You don’t have much cash here, Dorothy. But you got credit, so let’s call it satisfactory. So you provide for my needs. I need a TV. End of discussion.”

Dorothy pushed the cart through the alarm sensors at the entrance of the home electronics section. “We are not finished talking about this, Mister,” she whispered. Then she looked at the man sitting behind the register. He looked down at his feet quickly.

In the back of the department Marv said, “Oh yeah. That one, baby.”

“Which one?” Dorothy asked her broccoli.

“The 48 inch plasma. That’s nice.” He drawled this last word out in a way that sound more than a little dirty, even for a head of broccoli. “Nice,” he repeated.

“That’s over a thousand dollars,” Dorothy gasped.

“Yeah. Look, you’re going to need help getting that in the car, so you should call a salesman over.”

“But why do you need a flat screen TV?”

“Do I ask you what you need? No. Do I ask you why you need it? Of course not. That’s private, right? Let’s just say we vegetables like our picture to be crisp, and leave it at that.”

Dorothy stepped away from the cart, towards the register at the front of the home electronics section. She nodded. It made sense. Produce. The crisper. It seemed entirely reasonable. “Wait a second,” she said aloud.

“I’m sorry,” the salesman said. “May I help you?”

“No.” She frowned and nodded decisively.


Dorothy turned back towards her cart, ready to walk back and let that broccoli know who was boss, but she stopped when she saw him. Even from a distance, he was a lovely broccoli. Clearly worth the $1.25 a pound. And if a crisp picture was his thing, who was she to judge.

“Um, wait,” she turned to the salesman. “I… I mean, my… We are interested in one of the TVs.” She looked at the eager high school kid and managed a wrinkled, apologetic half-smile.


After the salesman finished the paperwork and scurried off to the stock room with her car keys to load her new purchase, Marv piped up again. “Good. That’s done. Now, take me over to the jewelry department.”

“What do you need there?” Dorothy wasn’t feeling combative anymore. She had resigned herself to the situation.

“I’m hoping they have diamond tennis bracelets. I want one that’s silver. I don’t need platinum, but the gold ones look tacky. But it has to have real diamonds, or it will look cheap. Cubic zirconium is not flattering. You can tell its fake in the right light.”

“Marv, why do you need a diamond tennis bracelet?”

“A broccoli likes to look nice. Is there anything wrong with that? I can’t buy rings. I can’t buy earrings. You know why, Dorothy?”


“Because I have no fingers or earlobes.”

Dorothy couldn’t argue with that either.

“Besides,” Marv continued, “my pink rubber band… it chaffes.”

When they came to the furniture section Dorothy was wearing the bracelet. She couldn’t figure out a way to let Marv try it on himself, especially in front of the very helpful and understanding saleswoman, but once she had it on, she found it difficult to remove. Opening the clasp and sliding the bracelet off her wrist reminded her of the credit card passing through the reader, and on some nearly-subconscious level she worried that removing it entirely would cause those glowing green numbers to flash again. She imagined another week’s pay disappearing into the digital ether, only to re-coalesce it the bottom of the box-store’s gigantic coffers. She pictured the store’s bank account. It looked like the vault Scrooge McDuck used to swim in, only it was filled with glowing green digital numbers, layered one upon the other until they formed a radioactive pile of super-heated goo. Any duck swimming in there would be cooked in seconds. That’s where all her hard work went. Best to just wear the bracelet for now. Marv didn’t seem to mind.

“I need a new coffee table,” he was saying. “Something formal enough for entertaining, but that I can put my feet on. So to speak.”

“So to speak,” Dorothy repeated.

“That’s what I said.”


When the heavy box containing the new coffee table was loaded into the space beneath the cart, sticking dangerously out of the front like Wiley Coyote’s Acme-Roadrunner-Ankle-Obliterator, Dorothy wheeled towards the checkout counter at the front of the store. The TV and bracelet were paid for, but she still had to buy the coffee table, the remaining groceries, and Marv, of course. She was starting to regret choosing Marv, now that she thought about it. He was turning out to be slightly overpriced.

As they neared the electronic checkout machines, chosen so that Dorothy wouldn’t have to explain any of her eccentric purchases to anyone else, Marv called out, “Ooo. Ooo. Grab some of that beef jerky.”

“But it’s 3.49 for a little bag.”

“Do you know how hard it is to make beef jerky?” Marv asked. “It’s labor intensive.”

“What do you need beef jerky for, Marv?”

“I don’t know. Impulse buy, I guess. Never mind. Just forget it.”

Dorothy walked up to the machine and almost pushed the “Start Checkout” button on the screen, but stopped short, suddenly standing up very straight when she heard Marv say, “Man, I never get anything.”

“What?” she shouted. The three other people using the nearby machines all stopped what they were doing and looked at her. Out of her peripheral vision she saw the attendant at the end of the bank of machines lean over to look at her as well. She ignored them and shouted at her broccoli, leaning over him and pointing angrily. “Now you look here, Mister! I bought you a TV today. I bought you this bracelet. I don’t even know why. Bracelets are silly, and you’re not really going to wear it. Sure, maybe on very rare occasions, but that hardly seems worth it. I bought you a new coffee table. Yes, you. It’s not for us, Marv. I like my coffee table. It’s simple, but it has lots of shelf space underneath. I’m going to have to find new places for all those magazines, and you don’t care. You know why you don’t care, Marv? Because you’re broccoli, and you can’t read!”

The woman at the nearest checkout machine took a tentative step towards her, with one hand outstretched, either as a comfort or to ward off an attack. “Ma’am.”

Dorothy silenced her with one upraised finger. “No. I’m sorry, but he needs to hear this.” She pointed at Marv again. “You are a broccoli. I chose you. You are mine. I don’t want to be mean or anything, but you… are not… the boss... of me. I decide when we get a new TV. I decide what kind of coffee table we will have. You are the most ungrateful broccoli I have ever known.” She stopped shouting and grabbed the block of cheese out of the cart. She slammed it down on the scanner, than ran it back over more gently until the machine beeped. As she reached into the cart for the package of Pad-Thai noodles she glared at Marv in the front basket, but she refused to say anything else until she’d calmed down. She didn’t like herself when she got this way, and she wasn’t going to give him the pleasure.

When the cart was empty she grabbed Marv by the neck and held him up in front of her. “I just… I just don’t know what else to say to you, right now. Just… We’ll talk later.”

“Dorothy,” Marv said. His tone was gentle, almost apologetic, but she didn’t trust him.


“That’s life, right? We’re all bought and paid for, in a way, right? I’m not trying to start our fight all over here, but just because you own me doesn’t mean I have to treat you with respect. That hardly seems fair.”

Dorothy experienced a flash of existential insight. Her own location in the universe had become just a bit clearer. She found it uncomfortable.

Dorothy paid for her purchases, dropped the bags back into the cart, and then held up the broccoli by the stalk.

“Let’s go home, Marv. It’s just been a weird day. I’m sorry I snapped at you.”

“That’s okay, Dorothy. Let’s go home, watch some TV, put our feet up.”

“So to speak.”

“So to speak.”

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

An argument for socialized medicine

It would be both unethical and illegal for me to republish Timothy Noah's piece "Would You Privatize Defense: The case for socialized medicine, part I" here in this blog. I know this. But I'm still tempted.

Please read it, so I don't have to break the law.

I think this piece is important. It's an argument that appeals to reason rather than hyperbole. It also appeals to those who are more likely to be critical of socialized medicine, conservatives of the libertarian strain, because those same people thoroughly believe that national defense is a government obligation (in the most extreme cases, government's only obligation).

Here's why I think this piece really stands out: I can't fault the logic. Just when Noah seems like he's gone off the deep end, taking it all too far, I realize he's remained entirely consistent in his metaphor. Our national health system really is that ridiculous. Then, when it seems that this would be an opportunity for an easy partisan twist noting that Democrats are closer to recognizing this reality than Repblicans, Noah refrains. He stays true to the logic that has made the article both frightening and persuasive: It doesn't matter whose solution is slightly closer to nationalized health care, because anything less than full national health care means the candidate or party still hasn't recongized the underlying truth that protecting lives is a job for governments, not markets. Or worse, it means they know this to be true, but don't have the courage to take on the powerful forces that benefit from the lie of superior free market health care.

Maybe I'm buying the metaphor to eagerly. Maybe I'm missing something. Please, can someone explain how this logic doesn't follow? Show me how these are apples and oranges, and private health care is better than public, as opposed to private defense. Or show me that he's wrong on both fronts: that a war fought by more and more private contractors (like our current wars) are more likely to succeed than wars past, with a government led military. Good luck with that one. But seriously, show me how he's wrong.

Or, if he's not, let's work to spread this idea so that candidates with less courage (or more pragmatism, which might be the same thing) will follow in Dennis Kucinich's footsteps because it will become politically expedient.

Can we move on this quickly, please, because in less than three years I have to sit down and negotiate another contract where medical benefits are going to be the biggest issue because of our stupid system. So, someone show me how our stupid system really is the way to go, and I should be glad to be debating with management about who should eats its exponential cost increases. Or, failing that, let's do something to fix this health care cluster-f--- now.

Friday, February 02, 2007

So that's the exit strategy!

Joel and I have been speculating that the up-coming exit strategy would soon be announced, and it would read: "Blame the Iraqis"

Check out Charles Krauthammer's "Who's to Blame for the Killing?" in today's (tomorrow's, here) Washington Post.

So, Blame the Iraqis it is.

Krauthammer writes, "Iraqis were given their freedom, and yet many have chosen civil war. Among all these religious prejudices, ancient wounds, social resentments and tribal antagonisms, who gets the blame for the rivers of blood? You can always count on some to find the blame in America."

He continues, "But when Arabs kill Arabs and Shiites kill Shiites and Sunnis kill all in a spasm of violence that is blind and furious and has roots in hatreds born long before America was even a republic, to place the blame on the one player, the one country, the one military that has done more than any other to try to separate the combatants and bring conciliation is simply perverse.

"It infantilizes Arabs. It demonizes Americans. It willfully overlooks the plainest of facts: Iraq is their country. We midwifed their freedom. They chose civil war."

Seriously? Their sticking with "midwifed their freedom"? That tested well? I guess it's supposed to use the connotation of midwifery being a messy process to explain away what I see on my TV, but I'm pretty sure birthing children isn't done with bombs and guns. That's not how they did it at the hospital where my son was born, thankfully, and if that's how the administration plans on manipulating medicine, I'm glad the Dems are not warming to Bush's ideas about reforming the health care system.

Of course, Krauthammer's analysis overlooks a few things. We also dismantled Iraq's military and justice system. I think that was a bit infantilizing, too, besides being bone-headed.

And we refuse to speak to their neighbors because we don't like them. That's not infantilizing. It's just infantile.

Oh, and we've killed some hundred thousand Iraqis. I guess they were supposed to appreciate that, too.

So, we'll blame them as we go. Maybe Americans will forget it was a war of choice, and accept that the Iraqis are more responsible for the war's failure than the people who made that choice. Because all Americans are stupid and have short memories, right?

What was that about infantilizing?

Sunday, January 14, 2007

On Re-reading 1984

Reading 1984 for a second time has been a very powerful experience. When I read it in high school it was a fun intellectual exercise. I was able to intellectualize the emotional power of the book, to separate myself from the story and examine the ideas from a safe distance. I have not enjoyed that luxury this time. It has been terrifying.

When I finished it for the second time, my first thought was that I had done something awful to my students. I pictured them coming back into my class, pale and wide-eyed, overcome by a new perspective on the world that soiled their innocence in some irreversible way. I had, by assigning this book, loosed the shackles and freed them from the cave, but they had not left to see the bright sun. Instead, they’d seen the evil of the chains for the first time, and no amount of human goodness or divine grace would ever erase that knowledge.

Then I shook this off. They might understand it as I had at their age, but the complete horror of it would elude them. I remember going to see Schindler’s List with a group from my high school when I was a kid. Throughout it the students had laughed. I knew they were trying to cope, but I’d despised them for it. Now I understand their youth. They were rejecting the knowledge of the horror of mankind. Bless them for that. My students will do the same. Let them have this instance of doublethink, of knowledge they forget while knowing they are consciously forgetting it until they forget even that. Let them laugh.

But I can’t bear to let them trivialize it. I imagine myself saying, “If this book didn’t affect you in a powerful way, if you didn’t recognize the awful truth of it, then there is something deeply wrong with you.” And they would nod and agree that it was both true and horrifying without the slightest inclination to change their own beliefs or actions. Their experience would be just like my first reading: an intellectual exercise divorced from the emotional experience which simultaneously included a coherent and seemingly complete comprehension of the facts of the book, and a disinclination to internalize the wrong-ness to the extent that it might motivate them to a complete understanding. And I would quickly forget my reverence for their innocence and sneer at their naïveté. Despite their agreement, I would think they were the exact kind of horrible little monsters I’d accused them of being: people who are morally culpable for their unconscious cruelty.

But I know that’s wrong. I know that is hypocritical to a degree I cannot bear. I live in a country that incarcerates people without trial, that tortures people to the point that they lose the sanity necessary to be tried for crimes they may never have committed, that attacks another country that never did it any harm for a host of stated reasons, none of which are true and none of which, even if they were true, would any sane person choose to die for. I live in a country where 76% of the populations call themselves Christians, and everyone has access to scripture, but we willingly doublethink ourselves into believing Jesus would make allowances for our militarism and wealth. I live in a country where the government can dirty the skies and call their actions the “Clean Air Act”, and cut down forests and call it the “Healthy Forrest Initiative”, where they can claim they don’t commit “affronts against human decency” and we know, to the same degree of certainty that we know that they exist at all, that they are lying, but we do nothing.

I buy my fast food. I pay my credit card bills. I pay my taxes. I go to my job and do my work, and that work compels me to read a book like 1984, which shows me, beyond any doubt, that a truly sane person would be running through the streets, screaming at the top of his lungs about the madness all around him. I don’t even see myself as cowardly or lazy or immoral. Through doublethink I forget these rational conclusions and accept the status quo with the kind of mindless, trudging will of a man lost in a desert, stumbling aimlessly towards the hope of water. And I help my students do the same, and my son after them. “Don’t laugh during Schindler’s List,” I say, “but don’t go running screaming through the streets, either. Get a job. Get a mortgage. Pay your taxes. Watch your TV and buy the crap they sell you. Be like me.”

My students’ reaction may indicate that they are deeply wrong, but not as much as their teacher. They still may end up crying foul, saying no, running screaming through the streets some day. But me? Well, I guess I love Big Brother just a little too much.

War is Peace.

Freedom is Slavery.

Ignorance is Strength.

2 + 2 = 5