Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Snowed out of Church, Part II

We sang many of the right songs, but it wasn't right. We missed our pastor, our choir, our music director, etc. The people were very nice. They left Paige alone, but talked to me. We're already mourning the fact that we're going to have find a church closer to home, and this just drove the point home. Still, a holy night. Now for our pagan pajama fairy. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Snowed out of Church

Today we looked at the roads in our town and thought, Those are totally drive-able. So we piled into the car and headed north toward our church, which is about an hour away. Halfway there, and surprisingly suddenly, the roads turned into a terrifying tundra of ice, snow, flying chips of frozen road, and clearly incapable drivers. We eventually gave-in, bought Noah another Christmas gift (don't tell), and came home. We couldn't even eat at the Jack and the Box we hit the last two years on the way to our church's candle light service (our own special Gorman tradition, abolished so quickly) so we hit the Burgerville in our own town when we got back.

Once home, Paige called somebody and found the time for a worship service at a nearby church, the one that houses Noah's preschool, and tonight we'll head over there. At this point in my life I can miss a single Sunday without losing much sleep, but a Christmas Eve without a church service... just the thought of it bums me out. Now we'll try to mitigate that with another church's service. I know what my mom is thinking: Same God. And she's right. But these people might just sing the wrong songs, and I'll have to deal with that. Also, they don't know how challenging we are to welcome to a church; Paige doesn't like talking to strangers, so they can't come up and greet her without making her uncomfortable. I do like talking to, well, everybody, so if they don't talk to me I'll feel dissed. Plus, they have to be willing to tolerate some wiggles from Noah if he has a tough time, but we'd like them to acknowledge it if he's wonderfully behaved in church (which he often is. It's a toss-up). How can these poor people possibly win? Well, Mary had to go through labor in a cave behind a small-town Motel 6, so I guess we don't have much to complain about.

No matter what, we can come home to another family tradition my parents invented: The Pajama Fairy. We get new PJs every Christmas Eve, and we found some pretty awesome ones for Noah, so no matter what, we'll all settle down for a cozy, fleecy, toasty long-winter's nap.

I hope all of you get to celebrate as you see fit, and I hope you get to sing that one song you're really hoping for this Christmas.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Mr. Ninja and Mr. Gorman

Here's my super-geeky, ultra-Mr. Gorman-esque Christmas gift to all my students and friends. I hope you all enjoy it.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Palin, Kennedy, and NBC

On Slate's political Gabfest, Emily Bazelon, in a fit of pique about how inappropriate it is for New York to even consider Caroline Kennedy for its vacant senate seat, pointed out that Sarah Palin got a much harder time and was arguably more qualified (she is a governor, after all, albeit of a state with around 700,000 people). My first inclination was to admit this point, though I felt a bit of bile rising up in my throat. Palin has at least run for office. Maybe she was treated unfairly, just because she didn't have... oh, I don't know... ANY of the knowledge one would expect a vice president to have, up to and including the nature of the job. No one doubts Caroline Kennedy's intellect (though we haven't seen her trip and fall onto the plate and take a couple of Katie Couric's softball questions in the noggin yet). But she hasn't done the legwork required of a politician. So maybe Bazelon's right. We've been unfair. And maybe I continue to be unfair by feeling so reluctant to give Sarah Palin her due, just because she was staggeringly unqualified on top of holding diametrically opposed views to my own.

Kathleen Parker to the rescue! Her piece in today's Washington Post argues that comparing the two isn't even apples and oranges, but apples and zebras, because even where the two are similar (both are unqualified) it's for opposite reasons. And when I think about it, I admit that I would prefer a smart, inexperienced politician to a woefully ignorant experienced one. Maybe history doesn't support that bias, but I'm a teacher, and I side with knowledge.

In a seemingly unrelated but very interesting piece, Alan Sepinwall writes that NBC's choice to abandon all its ten o'clock programing for more Jay (only-slightly-more-entertaining-than-infomercials) Leno is an "Extinction-Level Television Event". His basic thesis: The networks can plug along as though everything is fine, but as soon as they start to act like they are just other channels on our cable dial we'll suddenly realize it, too. And poof: No more networks.

So how is this related to Palin and Kennedy? Maybe not at all. But I wonder if both Palin and Kennedy are now a bit like NBC, in that we're aware of them, but haven't had a chance to make a judgment about their individual political fates. With Palin, people were voting for Obama, and those that voted for McCain may have been voting for him in spite of her. We don't know yet. For Kennedy, she'll hold the seat until an election, and then the people of New York will decide, rather than just their governor. Maybe, now that these two are on the radar, they may both be judged just like the networks: On content alone.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Comic book geek, meet NBA geek

Wow, this piece at Slate may have been written just for me. Literally. Just me. Are there any other folks out there who are both comic book geeks and NBA fans? I would guess we're a small demographic.

My NBA fantasy team drafts tomorrow, but unfortunately Marvel Comics superheroes can't be drafted. Wolverine on the Knicks? He's the best there is at what he does, but what he does ain't basketball. Me, I'd like to see Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) on the Celtics. Or any team, for that matter. He could play offense and defense. At the same time. Rogue could make any team a contender (not the movie version, but the comic book version), plus she's smokin' hot and would help break down the gender barrier between the WNBA and the NBA. Iron Man would be cool, and the Robert Downey Jr. version of Tony Stark would be fun at press conferences.

Hulk? NFL.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sock and Awe

My uncle just sent me a link to a game where you can throw a shoe at Bush. I would never recommend that anyone actually try to hurt the president physically (though some emotional damage is warranted) but if you want to participate in the shoe throwing, this is a good avenue:

I wish that when you hit him he would cry out to Babs for help, or confess to his war-crimes and plead for mercy, or just make up new words in his own special way, but the game is satisfying enough.

Compassionate Conservatism?

Michael Gerson, former speechwriter for GWB and now an op-ed writer for the Washington Post, is still hard at work trying to build a legacy for his former boss out of lies, distortions, and thin air. Today he continues to try to sell "compassionate conservatism". Read the comments after the article. I can't help but wonder why, exactly, people are so angry at Gerson. Sure, he's a tool, but the level of ire is staggering. Is it just the fact that he's so off-base? Would they be this angry if the Washington Post had allowed someone to write an op-ed saying the moon is made of green cheese, or that Britney Spears invented the combustion engine? Or are they angry because they have to read about anything compassionate coming from the same administration that gave us water-boarding, two wars, a depression, and Dick Cheney's school of civil discourse? Are they just concerned that Gerson will succeed in his attempts to rewrite history?

Personally, I find it amusing and entertaining, in a schadenfreude-kind-of-way. Here's a guy who participated in a giant failure of a presidency, trying to say, "Despite all the evidence, what we accomplished was actually really cool." As commenter Katman13 wrote, "Michael: You forgot to make the point that waterboarding is good for your sinuses."

Record setting box office bomb?

I just read that the new fantasy animated adventure Delgo has set a record as the biggest opening weekend box office bomb for a movie released on so many screens. Now, when hollywood types want to talk about a bomb they reference Kevin Costner's Waterworld, which they've dubbed "Fishtar", a reference to a previous bomb, 1987's Ishtar. So, I'm asking for your submissions. Without having seen the movie (and, let's face it, no one has seen this movie) what should we rename it to capture it's truly epic box-office floppy-ness?

Ishtar cost $55 mil and made only $12.7. Waterworld cost $175 mil to make (the most ever until Titanic) and made $88 mil, though it eventually made a tidy profit with international sales and VHS and DVD. Delgo cost some $40 mil to make. Here's the salient number: Considering how wide a release it's had, here's the per-screen average: $237 for opening weekend. For a point of reference, Frost/Nixon made $16,061 per screen, and Doubt made $33,815, though it was only on 15 screens. So when I say Delgo bombed, it's difficult to come up with any kind of analogy that's in remotely good taste which describes just how big a bomb this is. (Bomb analogies are dangerous territory.)

Perhaps, like Fishtar before it, Delgo will do well enough overseas and on DVD to make a profit. But I hope not. Because in the previews the production values looked terrible. Many of my Xbox games' cut-scenes look better. If it's going to take Hollywood seven years and $40 million dollars to produce a movie, they should expect that by the time it comes out it will look like outdated technology compared to the world of video games.

Pixar's Wall-E is still fresh in my mind, as I recently bought it and watched it again because I'm going to show clips from it as part of the dystopia unit in my Sci-Fi Lit class. If Pixar can produce something as high quality as Wall-E, and fill theaters despite the fact that the story's protagonist not only lacks an overpaid actor doing the voicework, but barely has the ability to speak, then movies that look as bad as Delgo should go the way of the dodo. Aha! Maybe that's what we should call it. Dodo!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

And... Scene!

So, I've done my share of making fun of George W. Bush. Not any more than my share. Not your share. Don't worry. You could still do a bit more. Be clever. Do something original. And by that, I mean DO NOT THROW A SHOE AT HIM. Why? Because it's been done before. It's tired now. Here it is, first at full speed, then in slow-mo.

I heard a professor interviewed on NPR who made an excellent point: This incident is symbolic because the reporter failed to connect. Had he thrown more effectively, or had Bush failed to duck so quickly, we'd be looking at a very different kind of story. But, as is, it's just symbolic. And what a symbol it is!

According to Iraqi culture (and others, as I understand it), throwing one's shoe at a person is a way of saying, "You are like a dog." Let's examine that for a moment. The subtext is that Iraqis hit their dogs with their shoes. I find this distasteful. Announcing yourself as the kind of person who hits dogs with shoes seems to me to be more insulting to the shoe thrower than the shoe target.

And then there's the text itself: This is a country where people express their displeasure with one another by hurling objects. Bush made light of the incident by comparing it to shouting things at political rallies or waving the ole one-finger-salute, but, unless those symbolic gestures are performed wildly inappropriately, neither will draw blood from the victim, and both are unlikely to spread disease to the intended target. In fact, shouting at someone at a political rally will hurt them with your words, but may hurt the person in front of you with your germs. Not so with shoe throwing, which can transmit the poo from the dog you beat earlier today (probably beaten because he defecated and you stepped in it) all the way across a crowded press conference to the politician with whom you have some disagreement. Imagine if Saddam had thought of this. He could have wiped out many more Iraqis by introducing some lethal-to-humans toxin hidden in dog's food, turning ordinary, angry Iraqis into death tossing terrorists via a common cultural convention. And Saddam would have done it, too, because he was a rotten bastard. I haven't seen his HBO biography, but I'll bet he probably liked to hit dogs with shoes.

Which brings us back to our own would-be-dictator, soon to retire to his own dirty hole in the desert, albeit a very expensive one built in the Dallas suburbs. Personally, I still hold out hope that, like Saddam, he'll be plucked from his hole and brought to justice. I don't want to see him hung, but I want the guy to do some real time. I don't think it will happen, though, so I'll bet this is as close as Bush will come to his just deserts. Which, if you watch the video, is pretty darn close, physically, though in a legal sense a shoe-to-the-noggin would be getting off pretty easy for his crimes. At the very least, I hope this becomes a summation of the man's legacy: While distracting the country with a debate about whether he was stupid or evil, and running it into the ground on the domestic front, Bush took us into a war of choice in Iraq based on false claims including the lie that we would be greeted as liberators. And at the first chance one of these liberated people threw a shoe at him. And, just as he'd ducked responsibility for his misstatements, bad judgments, his choice of cronies, and his high crimes and misdemeanors, he ducked the shoe, too.

This has been a dramatization of a terrible presidency. And... scene.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

An Argument Against Homeschooling

A couple of our friends, some of Paige's cousins, and even a colleague who teaches with me at the high school are all seriously considering homeschooling their children. At the risk of offending, please allow me to offer some arguments against, which some parents might have overlooked.

Homeschooling has some advantages, and I'm willing to recognize those. It offers parents a dramatic level of control over their childrens' education. For those concerned about political or religious bias in education, it allows parents to control the spin (or maintain the illusion that they could possibly present the content with no spin at all). At its best, it can allow a child to learn at a far more accelerated pace, and could personalize that education to best meet the individual child's learning styles as determined by the person who knows him or her the best. It seems like the perfect solution in so many ways. But it isn't. Let me tell you.

I see homeschooled kids come through my classroom when their parents decide they need to begin attending public high school, and they are lacking in remarkable ways. And if you think those are just the bad parents who failed their children in some way, saw the error of their ways and put the child in public school, and therefore represent a flawed sample from which to judge homeschooling in general, let me assure you: These are some of the better homeschooling parents I've come across.

I attended a small, denominationally affiliated Christian school for my undergrad education, so we had a disproportionately high number of homeschooled students there, and these students exhibited many of the same characteristics as their ninth and tenth grade counterparts, often to more extreme degrees. And these parents weren't the worst of the homeschooling bunch, either.

The worst homeschooling parents, in my experience, are those who allow their children to attend public schools but provide very little at-home support for their kids. Then, when these kids struggle, these public-school parents join the ranks of the homeschooling parents because they've come to believe the schools failed in some way, only to provide their kids with little or no instruction at all once the kid is removed from public schools. Once I came across one of my former students sitting in her front yard as I walked home from school, and I asked her why I no longer saw her at school, because I knew she hadn't graduated.

"I'm being homeschooled now," she told me. As it was then the end of the school day I knew it was entirely possible she'd spent the day hard at work participating in the same kinds of activities as her public school peers, but seeing her sitting there, alone, lounging in the grass, I couldn't help but be skeptical, and I let that image burn into my memory. The next year she returned to school, and we could all tell she hadn't received any instruction and was now a full year behind her peers; more than a full year since she'd dropped out because she'd been struggling in the first place. The existence of homeschooling as an option created a circumstance where her mother could abuse the avenue in order to neglect her child's education. To me, every homeschooling parent has an obligation to uphold the institution of homeschooling to a higher degree than merely providing something comparable to the public schools, in order to balance out the parents who use homeschooling as a means to neglect their children. If homeschooling, as an institution, isn't going to be a burden on society, parents who make the choice can't settle for just-as-good-as-public-schools. They have to commit to being better.

I don't expect that anyone who is thoughtfully considering homeschooling their child before kindergarten would become one of these negligent parents, but there are a handful of concerns even the best parents should bear in mind.

First and foremost: Education. I’m not talking about your level of education. You may have a B.A. or a Masters or a Ph.D. But have you studied education itself? We teachers sit around and badmouth our educational programs, complaining about the amount of jargon that’s thrown at us, but jargon is shorthand for real concepts, and we may have heads filled with educational buzzwords, but those are connected to strategies we wouldn’t know otherwise. You can read (obviously. You’re reading this) but that doesn’t mean you know more than one way to teach someone to read. You know the strategy that worked for you. Often students struggle in a particular subject or a particular class because they have a teacher like me who just can’t figure out why they can’t understand the information in the way that made the most sense for me. I do my best to try to figure out some other strategies, but one of the strengths of public education (or private, large school education) is that if I can’t figure out a way to reach a student, the next teacher might. Think back to a particular teacher who taught you in a subject in a way that just didn’t work for you. Now concede the possibility that you just might be that teacher for your child, at least in one academic subject. If you are your child’s only teacher, they’ll have the experience you had, only for their entire education.

Another consideration: Experience. Every time I teach a lesson I think to myself, how could I do that better next time? And almost every day I think of some little tweak that will make my classes better. They estimate that it takes a teacher seven years to reach the level of expertise desired for the profession. At the end of our careers we tend to trail off in energy, due to burn-out or the simple, inescapable biology of old age. In between, we’re at our best because we’ve had a chance to refine our practice and get really good at what we do. I’ve been teaching for a while now (three years as an Ed. Asst., one as a student teacher and sub, five years in my own room) and I don’t feel like I’m where I want to be as a professional, but I’m a lot better than I was my first year. In fact, part way through my second semester of teaching Creative Writing, when I’d run across someone who took it the previous semester, I’d apologize. I’d done my best to create the course for them, but I learned so much during that semester which I simply couldn’t foresee on my own, and the folks who take it from me now are getting a much better teacher. Over the course of your child’s education in the public schools, they will have some first-years teachers who bring a lot of energy and new ideas to the classroom, but also lack experience. They’ll also have some teachers who have plenty of experience, but may be burned-out. And, let’s be honest, they will have some teachers who just aren’t very good at it. But over the course of your child’s thirteen years before college, they won’t have any one of these every year. If you homeschool, at the very least they’ll have an inexperienced teacher every year. Just when you have a year of first grade teaching under your belt, you’ll be an inexperienced second grade teacher. And your child may have a teacher who finds that he or she also stinks at it. By then end, you might even be all three, the perfect storm; an inexperienced, unqualified burn-out.

Public education gets attacked often in the media because we have these bad teachers in our midst, but these criticisms generally don’t stand up to real scrutiny. Look at the literacy rate in the U.S. against other industrialized countries, and you’ll be appalled. But look at the growth in literacy by percentage of population over the last hundred years, and you’ll realize our public schools are pretty amazing. We’re frequently compared to businesses, but it’s a false comparison. Businesses get to choose what raw materials come in, in order to control the quality of the products that they produce. We don’t have that luxury. And yet, when you adjust our outputs for things like socio-economics, we’re doing remarkably well. The schools in some countries may be better, but their kids are richer, have socialized medicine, have a shared culture and language, have enough to eat every day, etc., etc. A fairer criticism is that we pay our teachers poorly, commensurate to their education and our expectations of them as professionals. That’s true, and I’m not just saying that because I want a holiday bonus. If we know that teachers are at their best seven years in, we should do what it takes to retain them. The problem is that we want to hold on to the good ones and get rid of the bad ones, but it’s very hard to judge which teachers are best. Test scores can’t do this, because different teachers teach radically different groups of kids, and individual teachers get different groups each year. More subjective methods can’t weed out bad teachers because, well, they’re too subjective. One administrator may think I’m great and the next may think I stink, and both for reasons unrelated to my classroom performance. We, as citizens, don’t want to invest in education if some of the money will go into the hands of the bad teachers, but we, as teachers, don’t want to give up any protections if we’re not going to see some serious investments in education. It’s a stalemate, but we overheat the rhetoric on both sides by trying to make our cases at the expense of public education as an institution. The folks who want more accountability say the schools stink because they want to get rid of teachers. The folks who want higher teacher pay say the schools stink because they want to show the need to recruit the best. But the fact is, the schools don’t stink. As a parent, you really are the one who benefits from the stalemate the most (though as a citizen you suffer), because schools keep chugging along on what conservative columnist David Brooks calls the “Missionary Model”. Your child’s teachers will be there, working as hard as they can in that classroom, not because they are being well paid, but because they care about students. This model might not be sustainable, as Brooks warns, but in the short run it means your child gets a professional teaching them who doesn’t expect to be paid professional wages. When considering whether or not to homeschool, don’t forget the gift-horse you’re looking in the mouth.

Now, for some parents, the greatest motivation to consider homeschooling is religious. They want to make sure that religious instruction is tied into every portion of their child’s education. Undergirding this concern is a fundamental belief that religious neutrality does not exist; that teaching a child without formal religious instruction is tantamount to evangelical atheism. In some cases, this is simply untrue, and that’s a reason not to homseschool. But in some cases it might be true, and that’s still a reason not to homeschool.

At the lower grade levels, the basics of any subject will not be fundamentally altered by incorporating religious instruction. The times tables are the same for Hindus, Christians, Atheists, and Mormons. Unless you want to teach your children hard-core young-Earth creationism, the sciences won’t be affected, either, and if you want to go that route don’t waste their time with any science at all. And don’t buy the “Intelligent Design” cop-out. That hyper-qualified bastard child of Creationism isn’t about science, really. It doesn’t actually make any scientific claims, but explains what we don’t know by defending the possibility that an intelligent space alien or magical unicorn had a hand in creation (think I’m exaggerating? Look it up. That’s what its foremost proponents argued for in court in its defense). Die-hard Creationism throws all science out the window. If you want to keep your child home to teach them that, fine, but be consistent and tell them your cell phone is powered by the beating of angels’ wings and the microwave oven heats food because magical fairies get very angry when they are trapped inside. Barring this kind of instruction, there’s very little that your religious bent will change in the actual content of your child’s education in the early grades.

At the higher levels, it actually might start to make a difference, and that’s a reason not to homeschool, too. By the time your child is in high school, a particular teacher’s take on, say, Old Man and the Sea, will certainly be colored by their religious beliefs. That’s because the book itself was colored by the author’s religious beliefs. As was everything by Shakespeare. And the writer of your child’s History textbook. But your child needs to learn how to interact with beliefs that are different than you own, not only to formulate and independent opinion, which is important, but also to isolate subtle bias. Unless you want to add Oscar-caliber acting to your resume, you can’t teach this through formal instruction by yourself. Students need to get to know many different teachers so they can come to identify the way different people spin information.

Now, you may be thinking that your religious education will affect the moral instruction your child receives throughout school. This doesn’t fit with my experience at all. When did you first learn swear words when you were a kid? When did you first say them openly and comfortably in front of your parents? I’ll bet there’s a distance between those experiences. That’s because you learned that different rules apply in front of your parents. Everybody learns this, and it’s healthy. It helps us learn that different behaviors are appropriate with different company. This year, in my class, we did an activity where students were supposed to come up with examples of homonyms. Guess which kid shouted out “Pussy and pussy!” and “Cock and cock!” Yep. The formerly-homeschooled kid. Because he’s trying to figure out boundaries other kids already know. I’m sure he wouldn’t have said those things in front of his parents, but now he has to figure out what will impress his friends, and what the consequences will be from the teacher. He couldn’t learn that at home. And don’t get me started on the formerly-homeschooled friend I had in college, who tried to catch up with his peers by attempting to out-do everyone with his drunken antics. Sheltering people from moral dilemmas does not make them more moral; it makes them less capable of analyzing moral complexities that have been postponed, because now they lack the experience to make those judgments. Your kid will be exposed to things that frighten you in the public schools. It’s better for your child to be exposed to those things incrementally, rather than thrown into a world full of those moral dilemmas without the proper preparation when they are old enough to be expected to know how to handle them.

This brings us to the most important reason not to homeschool your child: Social Development. You’re probably thinking you can get your child involved in play groups, sports teams, Sunday school, and a host of other social activities. I know these groups have become highly evolved within the homeschooling movement, because there's been a recognition that the isolation of homeschooling damaged children. The assumption is that these new social developments within homeschooling will prepare children for the real world in the same way school does. Wrong. Being on a sports team prepares you to be on a sports team. Sunday school teaches you how to act in Sunday school. But, as an adult, the shared experience which provides all the other employees in the office with their social attitudes came not from Sunday school or tee-ball, but from school. Social psychologists say the most important predictor of success in the adult world is emotional intelligence, the ability to interact with others on an emotional level. This can’t be taught through direct instruction, by me, by you, by any adult. It’s learned through peer interaction, especially when adults aren’t around. When is it appropriate to propose a new, made-up rule in a game of kickball or four square? How many rules can one propose before being dismissed as annoying? And how does one tease to let someone know they are part of group, as opposed to the kind of teasing that lets someone know one wants to exclude them from a group? And how does one flirt? Who will teach your child to flirt? If you say you’ll do it, that’s just gross. They will learn that on the playground, or on the school bus. Consider the other places where they’ll have to learn it if they’re homeschooled. Movies? The Internet?

Just about everybody thinks their child is of above-average intelligence, and, statistically, around half of us are correct. We worry that the public schools will not be up to the task of educating our little geniuses. But intelligence is more than the ability to perform difficult mathematical calculations in our heads or count toothpicks when a box is spilled. In our house we have a term for people who lack emotional intelligence. We call them “Sotards”. It’s short for Socially Retarded. This isn’t a knock on the mentally retarded. It uses the term "retarded" in its literal sense; to be slowed or impeded in growth. Just as the socially adept weren’t born that way, sotards aren’t born; they’re made. Those who choose to homeschool their children need to make that decision conscious of the fact that they may be raising the next generation of sotards, and that they were the ones responsible for retarding their children’s development.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Thank you, Timothy Egan

Timothy Egan has written a wonderful column for the New York Times asking, cajoling, begging, and shaming publishers into refusing to publish books by the likes of Joe the Plumber and Sarah Palin. Amen, amen. And yet...

Here's the problem, Mr. Egan: As a writer, you know that we need to focus on our audience. So, who's the audience of this piece? I have a few guesses.

Publishers don't want to hear it, and though they might need to, they're unlikely to be convinced to abandon lucrative sales in the name of good taste or fealty to the English language. Sure, they say they publish garbage so they can afford to publish real literature, and sure, that's often a justification to cash in, but considering their circumstances, can you blame them?

And your audience certainly isn't Joe the Plumber or Sarah Palin. No one, including Sarah Palin, knows what newspaper she reads. But anyone who's read some of her responses to questions and wondered how someone managed to convert oral blather to written drivel knows she doesn't read enough. And as for Joe the Plumber, could anything possibly convince this guy to avoid the spotlight for one second? If anything, you've done these two the favor of offering them some free press.

Which brings us to our third possible audience: The book buying public. We are most to blame for what publishers publish, just as we're most to blame for the rise of media freak-show acts like JTP and Palin. We're also to blame for the quality of the news we watch right before we go out and applaud politicians who criticize the media. We're responsible for the sex and violence in the movies we pay to see before dismissing Hollywood as too depraved. If we're really honest, we know we're responsible for the kid who hasn't seen his dad in five or six years because we threw him in a cell in Guantanimo and forgot about him. We're responsible for that errant bomb that landed in a school in Kabul or Baghdad, and we're also responsible for the correctly-aimed one we built and sold to somebody who sold it to somebody who sold it to somebody who dropped it on somebody else. Why start teaching Americans about personal responsibility when it comes to the crappy books we buy, and why stop there?

You see, Mr. Egan, my fourth guess is that your audience is really folks like me. I'm sitting here, working on the tenth... no, twelfth, no, fourteenth re-write of Chapter 12 of a novel no one will probably ever read, and when I take a break to catch up on some news I find your article. And there's the problem: You've written a very nice sermon to the choir, and worse, a choir filled with people who, categorically, don't matter. You are defending a bunch of nobodies, Mr. Egan.

It's almost as though you want to live in a world that listens to nobodies instead of paying attention to people like Joe the Plumber and Sarah Palin.

With those kind of ideals, I can't believe you found a publisher.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Prop. 8 - The Musical

Okay, so maybe it's not as funny as Noah, but I wish everyone would see this, on political, theological, ethical, and economic grounds. Oh, and it is pretty stinkin' funny, too.

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

It's been pretty embarrassing to be a Christian through the last eight years. Well, it's been embarrassing since Constantine married the Church to the state in 313 A.D., and there have been even more cringe-inducing times than the Bush years (that whole Spanish Inquisition thing was more than a bit awkward) but the last eight years have certainly been rough. So, let it be noted, I still side with Jesus.

Especially when he's played by Jack Black.

So, let's choose Love instead of Hate, and maintain the separation of Church and State.

...and Jazz Hands! Fosse, Fosse, Fosse, Amen.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Funny Boy

Tonight I was putting Mr. N to bed and while putting on PJ's he goes up to a map of the U.S.A. hanging on the wall and points to a state, asking, "What is that?"
"New Mexico," I reply.
"Let's go there tomorrow."
"Why?" I ask.
"Because it's New!"

Later I asked him what book they had read at preschool, but he couldn't remember. So I asked if it was about Christmas. He said "Yes, and Santa was in it at the end. But not the beginning." (pause) "A dad woke up and [Pause... great effort to remember] saw Nickelodeon!"

"Do you mean St. Nick?" I asked.

"Yeah, that's another word for Santa Claus."

(and apparently so is Nickelodeon)