Friday, September 09, 2005

Ramblings for the Evening (9/9/05)

(The following is my opinion, if facts are wrong then I apologize, but no suing.)
The Miseducation of Students:
This is utterly depressing to me. With the recent events of Hurricane Katrina, parents and "concerned citizens" are once again trying to change what can and can't be taught in our schools. Forget the whole Intelligent Design debate, this is much worse. After 9/11, these same people tried to change what could be taught in Social Studies and English classes. They believed that high school students were being inundated with too much imagery of death and war, so they wanted all aspects of war (such as Vietnam) removed from the curriculum. A teacher I know in California told me that the school board was actually thinking about removing World War II from the curriculum. WORLD WAR II! Hey, let's forget the last major conflict between multiple nations and the whole Holocaust thing, because, well, students are seeing TOO much right now.
Well, with the aftermath of Katrina, schools in Kansas are seriously trying to change the curriculum. No more Vietnam and don't talk about the Chicago Fire, the Great San Francisco Earthquakes, or the 1927 Hurricane in Louisiana. No, no, no, that would frighten these kids.
Look, this falls into the whole "abstinence sex education" thing. Regardless of how you feel about sex, the students need to learn about how sex works and how to protect themselves. If you want to tell them, "DON'T DO IT!" that's fine, but they need to understand what it is they could be doing. History is the same way. If we forget the past, we are doomed to repeat it. One teacher I know was told off by a parent, because he talked about 9/11. Wow! Should students just bury their heads in the sand whenever this happens? Another teacher told me that he was told by his administration not to talk about what happened to Nixon, because it's, "too political." Come on!
I don't know if I've talked about books being banned in a previous post, but I will be talking about it again. The fact that MacBeth was banned recently in certain parts of this country, because it has witches in it is preposterous. If I read Harry Potter, I am not a Satanist. Same thing with Shakespeare. Kids see alot of death in their video games and TV, so let them see it in books too. No wonder more kids are becoming illiterate.
Minnesota Drivers:
I've talked about this before. No offense, Minnesota, but no one here knows how to drive. Period. Today, as I drove home, a woman moved all the way from the right lane to the far left (going across two other lanes to do so) then slowed down to 45. I'm not kidding. The guy in the pickup truck with the Arctic Cat sticker (which, honestly, kinda screams white trash) and the whiskey plates (paired with the Arctic Cat sticker, that defintely is white trash) got upset. After almost rear-ending me, he zooms by on my right screaming AT ME, then (and this is my favorite part) he rolls down his window and throws a plastic bottle at my windshield. Granted it was empty, but that's hardcore....AND it's not my fault we were going so slow. Sheesh. Add to the fact that I witnessed an accident while a car was trying to merge on to the highway (big surprise), and I wonder what the heck people are learning in Driver's Ed? Hell's Bells. This is the only state I have ever been in (and I am a freaking NEW YORKER) where the drivers couldn't care less about the pedestrians. I was once tapped and knocked down by a cab driver in NY. He stopped, got out, apologized, and offered me a free ride home. Two months after moving here, I was bumped in downtown Minneapolis, and the driver got out and asked for my insurance card (if I had one) and my license in case there was damage. Not to me, mind you, but to his car. It was one of those moments where I looked for a big stick in order to hit him with...hard. I never found it. I say unto you, Minnesota Drivers, LEARN TO FREAKIN' DRIVE! Learn to merge, look around, and for God's sake: Leave you anger outside when you drive.
A Little Hypocrisy
Just a few hits of hypocrisy. Ok?
Jim Rome: You cannot talk smack about a guy making a homophobic and/or mysoginistic comments when you are still proud of the fact that you refered to Jim Everrett as, "Chrissy," called him, "a woman," and talk about how great it was. As I recall, that's what got you fired from ESPN the first time. Whenever you talk about that moment, you're being a hypocrite.
Americans: Countries around the world have donated a great deal of money toward the Katrina Relief fund. You may no longer sit there and bitch about how evil France is, when they have given money and you haven't. A colleague of mine talked about how the French are bastards. When I explained that they gave money, he said, "So?" I asked if he had given any money, and he hadn't. That's hypocrisy.
Oh, and I gave money, so if you try to tell me that I need to give more or give again, you can just shut up.
Christians: When you sit there and talk about how the "Islamic Extremists" are crazy and then you pray to a water mark on a wall that, "looks like Mary and the Baby Jesus," you're just as crazy. That water mark? I made it when I peed on the wall. The fact that it looks like Mary is coincidence. Granted, Christians don't blow people up (unless you count starting a war), but the fact that you give money to a guy on television saying that God talks to him shows how crazy and hypocritical you are. Oh, and at least the Muslims don't believe that they are literally eating the body and drinking the blood of the man they pray to.
The 20 Million Dollar Man: No. You cannot use that money to go to a space station. You must turn around and give that money to fixing our country. Sorry.
Waiter, My Soup is...Floating: In Orlando, Florida, a landlord is suing two restaurateurs for not moving into their new building. Why aren't they moving? Well, they claim the building is haunted. That's right, HAUNTED! People have seen apparitions around the building. The lawsuit wants the judge to decide if the building is haunted, aand if it is, then he or she has to decide if it would interfere with business. Come on! Make it the theme of the restaurant. "If you're soup floats on it's on, it's free!" "Ketchup seeps from the walls!" The fact that 2.6 million dollars is at stake here is even sadder. If you were the judge, what the heck would you think? "Ok, prove to me it's haunted...without using The Ghosthunters." Would he or she have to spend the night? Could this be like a Scooby-Doo episode, and it's really Old Man Caruthers? This is ridiculous.
I hope everyone has a nice weekend.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

You're Spoiled

In today's Star Tribune, people wrote in to complain about writers, TV, and people in general ruining the ending of books and movies and such. For something like Harry Potter, you really can't avoid hearing about things. This is usually why most people go out right away and read the books...otherwise you learn aspects that you don't want to know.
I personally don't see this as a problem. Maybe it's because as a reader, I'm not goal-oriented, but process-oriented. Let me explain:
1. Goal. Ok, when you read, you have the goal of getting to the ending. For example: you read a murder-mystery, and all you want is the name of the killer. You also want to see what happens to the killer.
2. Process. You want to see how the detective/hero/heroine solves the crime. You want to see if you can piece the clues together before they do. For example, in one current extremely popular novel (ok, DaVinci Code), all the clues for who the bad guy is are in the text. If you read the book looking for them, they pop out. If you just read to get to the end (and the identity), then you miss the subtle clues.
Film does the same thing. One of the most famous films that people either go for the process or go for the goal is The Usual Suspects. Is you just want to know who Kaiser Soyze is, or you try to figure it out before Agent Kujan.
At the same time, many people hate the process people. Why? We're the ones who, during a poorly written mystery, figure out everything quickly and say, with hour left, it's this person.
The angriest I ever saw a goal-oriented person was at my wife's company Christmas party last year. They went to the
The Mystery Cafe and watched a dinner theatre show (and quality) about a boss being murdered. Sadly, I knew what was going on by the appetizer. When someone asked me, I told them my opinion and thoughts. It turned out I was right...and she was pissed.
There are other ways, however, people get to the answers they want. When my father, for example, gets a book that he just wants to get to the point of, he reads the first 40 pages and the last 40 pages. "Everything," he tells me all the time, "is answered in those 80 pages. It doesn't matter how long the book is. The first and last 40 pages."
Some books and some movies, however, no shun this idea. Occasionally an author or film maker gives the audience the ending and then the rest of the novel or film is piecing together how that happened (I like those stories). Examples? Memento is a great one.
I understand that it's really frustrating when someone gives away the ending, but look at this way. If you know what's going to happen (or in certain think you know what's going to happen), then start looking at how the author or director (or writer) is guiding everything toward that ending. Are their clues or signs? Does someone or something foreshadow? Make it interesting. I'm sorry if so many people are upset by learning the ending of the new Harry Potter book, but start looking now to see if there are clues.
Have a great day.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Reading's Labor Lost

If you need proof that people don't read anymore, then I have a story from my Labor Day that will enlighten you.
As I mentioned before, I spent most of my weekend painting my house. I couldn't finish due to the weather as well as my ankle (my foot, today, is mostly purple....I could be a Vikings fan I guess). Anyway, I needed more primer and a taller ladder in order to due the higher portions of the house. So, I went to Home Depot to procure those items. When you walked into the Fridley Home Depot, there was a giant sign. When I say giant, I mean 11 feet tall and 7 feet wide with huge lettering. You could not miss this sign when you walked in. You couldn't. The sign dealt with the Home Depot State Fair Coupon Sale. Essentially, you go to the fair and bring a coupon from the Home Depot Center at the fair, and you get a bunch of money off of certain items. It was just that simple. Explained just like that on the board.
So, with hurt ankle and a wee bit of exhaustion, I grabbed a heavy ladder and went to get in one of the two lines that were open. Now, it's Labor Day. Most people are off from work, yet HD had only two lines open. So as I stood there halfway down the plumbing aisle, I listened to stupid conversations around me. Fast forward to fifteen minutes later. Finally, there is one person in front of me, and she is checking out. She finishes, and I step up. Just as the cashier is about to scan my ladder, the woman returns with a popping vein in her forehead. The man behind me steps up and pins me in. Now, there's a frothing mad woman in front of me, a man who's pinned me in behind me, and no place to put this ladder without possibly hurting myself. I asked the woman to move and was told, "In a minute...Wait your turn!"
Here's where the reading part comes in to play. It seems that the woman was charged full price for some solar lights that she was sure were on sale. The conversation went as follows:
Cashier: Miss, they're on sale if you have the coupon. You didn't give me the coupon.
Lady: What coupon? What are you talking about?
Cashier: It was on the sign with the sale prices Miss.
Lady: No it wasn't.
Cashier: Yes it is, Miss. It's right there on the top. (He points.)
Me: Please, could you just move a little so I don't drop this ladder on you?
Lady: Could you please not be so rude!? God! (She moves to look at the sign, the cashier moves with her. After a few seconds, she returns and talks to the cashier again.)
Lady: That's not very clear. It expects you to read the whole sign. Most people would just look at the numbers.
Cashier: Regardless, Miss, it says that you must have a coupon to get the discount. You didn't give me the coupon.
Lady: I want to speak to your supervisor. You have done a terrible job here today, and I think this is your fault. Not mine, yours.
(The cashier shrugs and looks sheepishly at her. Then he pages the supervisor. The Lady continues to berate him as he starts to check me out.)
After I paid, I heard the lady explain that she was mad because of nine dollars. NINE DOLLARS! She treated this guy like crap, held me up as well as the rest of the line for nine dollars. Beyond that, however, the cashier told me that more than half his customers that day had not read the sign carefully. They all complained (not as much as her, however) that the sign was unclear. It wasn't. From the moment I walked in, I could tell the sign was talking about the coupon. It said, "Bring your coupon from the State Fair Home Depot Center and save on these items." It said that TWICE. No one reads anymore. We glance over it. The only way it would have worked is if it was on a TV screen.
That's not only place where I see this anymore. Forget that most students don't look at the board unless told to, people just don't look at things unless told. Life has to be turned into stereo instructions for alot of people now.
At least that's my opinion.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Too Hoite Toite?

Ok, so I wasn't going to post anymore this weekend, because I was supposed to be painting. However, the rain, hail, and my ankle are creating problems in that department. Yes, my ankle is still the size of a grapefruit, but I'm trying to "walk it off." There's no real pain anymore, just a swollen foot and ankle that hurts when it's touched, but not when it's moved.
On to the point of this post. I went out on a double date last night with another couple. Jill and Derek (you may recall Jill from a
previous post) met us at Chiang Mai Tai (obviously I mean my wife and I....You know, because my mistress and I don't go to Uptown...sheesh). The highlight of the evening, however, came after dinner over at The Brave New Workshop. They are currently running a show I recommend called Shut Your American Pie-Hole; or Discount Family Values. It was brilliant. Sure, it was only their fourth preview, and at times the show was rough, but overall it was extremely funny. The audience learned "What Would Terri (Schiavo) Want", that Dr. Laura did porn (sadly true), and many other funny aspects of our society. BNW usually uses word of mouth to help people go see the shows, so I am sending it out there to you, my dear readers, to go and see this show. It's brilliant.
Very few people truly understand
satire. I myself have a section of my Senior English class dedicated to teaching the students about the literary technique. What's interesting, however, is that a great deal of people (because of beliefs) don't find much satire funny now. I remember watching The Simpsons with my mother-in-law, and she didn't like that they were making fun of the current government. I believe satire is also the greatest form of comedy, because it assumes that the audience is knowledgeable about the subject. Fart jokes can be funny. Slapstick a la The Three Stooges? Sure. Satire, however, is lost on a great deal of people, because the humor is too "high." The greatest example of this is Huckleberry Finn. Twain wrote the book to be a satire of 1840's Southern America. After being published, Twain (nee Clemons) was already being accused of racism. At one point in the 1930s, Twain's "views on blacks" were used by racists to explain why minorities needed to be "put in their place." Even now people ban Huckleberry Finn in schools and libraries, because they see it as racist. Yes, the character is known as "Nigger Jim," but again, in 1840s America, he would have been known that way, aaaannnnnddd the book is satire (Remind me at some point to discuss my feelings on banning books).
I could go on, but I shouldn't. In conclusion, I recommend Shut your American Pie-Hole, I recommend reading Huck Finn again, but seeing it as satire, and I recommend everyone doing something super-fun today and tomorrow before the school year begins.