Friday, December 30, 2005

What are you doing New Year's Eve?

Do we "Invent the future that we want to face?"

I think New Year's Eve is a great time to look back and look forward, while we sit on the imaginary tipping point of time. This year, we even have an extra second of time to do that! This blog has been a very personal journey for me, and some of you have contributed some nice comments from time-to-time. What I'd like to do is to encourage you to speculate here about the future, or ruminate about the past. Maybe a year from now it would be interesting to look back at this.

The world that revolves directly around me
This last year has been one of the hardest in my life. Going back to school, where only one professor has been older than me, has been definitely a challenge. I can't pull all-nighter's like I could when I was younger, and the ideal of modern education seems to be some sort of all-in-one superhuman, who writes pulitzer-prize-winning lesson plans every day, connects meaningfully with about a dozen different types of students, and still has time left over to grade papers, get professional development, and still have some sort of life. Not very possible. I have basically had to settle for some sort of 'enforced mediocrity' that gets me by. I want to do better, and have to hope it will get easier with time. Which brings me to the present.

The SFSU semester has ended, but my key science-teaching class is incomplete, and I have a few papers hanging over my head. I return to teach my high school science classes on Tuesday, wrapping up their semester in a few weeks.

How does 2006 look from my selfish point-of-view? Provided I can survive student teaching this next semester, finish my SFSU classes, get my CPR certificate, pay the filing fees, etc., I would hope to be a full-time science teacher somewhere in the Fall.

Zooming out to the macro
We all exist in so many orbits, so I'm just going to zoom out to the big picture politically, and what I see in 2006. We have witnessed an ongoing coup these last few years, that most people still won't admit to themselves the extent to which we have been conquered, as if by aliens in some corny science fiction movie, or more like the Bizarro World out of Superman Comics. When I was growing up, the Jetsons promised us a world where humans would live in leisure, since robots would be doing so much work for us. This dream of a utopia has been turned upside down, and anyone who thinks this way is a discredited commie-pinko. Unless you're some kind of trust funder, anyone who expects to exist without working is some kind of welfare slacker, or worse, a Trekkie. Our public schools are under attack, Social Security is under threat of being pillaged, and our way of life depends on slave labor and undocumented alien labor. The people who are running our government, under ordinary scrutiny, would be in prison for treason, but instead are being handed medals. This all brings me to what I think the big, big story of 2006 will (or should) be.

The Congressional elections of 2006 could be an historic turning point in history. I hold out hope that people will see the Emporer hath no clothes, and give Congress back to the Democrats, who will stanch the bleeding, and, dare I hope this much, initiate impeachment proceedings against George W. Bush. But the forces of control will not give up without a fight, and will do their best to keep the web spun that distracts us all. Either way, I expect a major struggle. America is supposed to be about the positive aspects of pluralism, the defense of minority rights, and these are exactly the things the new American Taliban are attacking.

Fasten your seatbelts, 2006 is going to be a bumpy ride!

Please, consider sharing your predictions below.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Carlton William Gould (1923 - 1995)

It's been 10 years to the day my father passed on. I miss him a lot, but he remains somewhat of a mystery, as I imagine most parents do to their kids, and vice versa. I know he loved us deeply, but I don't know too much about his personal hopes and dreams, about the kinds of concerns and regrets a parent doesn't burden his children with. For example, Jesse and Grace are in Europe right now, and while I'd love to hear every juicy tidbit about their adventures, I'm sure I didn't share everything with my parents either! My dad was a quintessential 'nice guy,' which is probably where I get my high level of gullibility from, but I don't really mind. He was not overly cynical, and perhaps some of his co-workers didn't look on him as a major leader, but I remember when he died, I talked to Jack, who was his boss for a long time, and I remember Jack was really shook up, and was not just emoting for the sake of the survivors. My dad was, to use an over-used word, "authentic," and made real connections with people. I could do worse than want to grow up to be like my dad.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Impeachable Chutzpah

Georgie Holds CourtJust a short note about Bush's admission that he ordered domestic spying without a court order, and the reaction of John Dean and Barbara Boxer. How out of touch can Georgie be, that John Dean should remark that in his opinion, George W. Bush is the first president in history to publicly admit to an impeachable offense!

Then omigawd, Barbara Boxer has the temerity to ask four Constitutional scholars about impeachment. In a rational world, this would be a totally rational response. A person publicly admits to a crime, that would merit some inquiry. But, in one-party Washington, it will probably take at least until after the 2006 elections until Congress will do their duty and investigate.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The American Taliban

"I don't think that witchcraft is a religion. I wish the military would rethink this decision."*

"God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If you help me I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them."

"Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."

"This crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while."

*Comment about Wiccans in the military

I think that when most people would read the title of an article called "The American Taliban," they would be thinking of John Walker Lindh. But what occurs to me now is just how far we've gone the way of Pogo: "I have met the enemy, and he is us!" The beauty of the Bill of Rights, and the checks and balances of the United States Constitution is in the way it protects the rights of the minorities. The word to use here is 'pluralism.'

I have come across a chilling collection of quotes by Americans, called Quotes from the American Taliban. These people know quite well the meaning of pluralism, and unashamedly want to kill it. Sure, there are quotes from a lot of well-known right-wing nutjobs, but plenty of the quotes are from people who have access to the highest levels of power in this country.

These people are just like the Taliban, and feel they know what God wants people to do. But most of the time in history, these people are just control freaks who use people's hunger for spiritual truth as a tool against their own freedom. Jesus would definitely not condone what these Americans say and do any more than Muhammed would approve of what the Taliban did in Afghanistan.

The idea of the American Taliban is so obvious, once you see it, a quick web search will turn up more articles along the same line. Here's another one.

I hope that the country will not be harmed too much before the 2006 Congressional elections, which I hope will return some balance of power to the people. But...I also fear that these wacko phony Christians know 2006 is coming too, and will try to do something traumatic to the country to turn people's attention away from the real issues. I am hopeful, but concerned.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Does Pat Robertson Speak for Bush?

I was aghast, and swearing at the TV recently when I saw Pat Robertson on TV, praying that God would smite down another Supreme Court Justice, so that his holiness, George II, could appoint yet another Supreme. Here is one of America's leading televangelists, who should have been run out of town on a rail, but we only hear about it on The Daily Show. I guess it wasn't 'news' enough for the MSM. In case you don't hang around right-wing blogs, MSM is the term the righties use for the MainStream Media. The funny thing is that they always assume the MSM is a tool of the left. I'm not sure what planet they live on, or what rules of logic they use, but I don't see much left-leaning from my point-of-view. I think in general, if you don't parrot Karl Rove's talking points, you're some kind of commie!

I'm getting a little off-course here, which brings me to Pat's latest flip-out, a call for assassinating the president of Venezuela:
"We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability...We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator," he continued. "It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."
And then, in an incredible display of what must be an extreme blend of tactlessness, cluelessness, and blind greed, said this:
"You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it,...It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war ... and I don't think any oil shipments will stop."
It will be interesting to see just how hard, if at all, the Bush regime comes down on Pat. This will probably be a good litmus test of just how far above the law the right wing thinks it can go. Pay attention to this one. I will find it hard to believe Georgie won't try and distance himself from this nutjob, but I've been wrong before about this kind of thing.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Yes, they'll even do it to a grieving mother

Perhaps you've already seen the news reports of the mother camped out near George W. Bush's Crawford ranch, trying to meet with our fearless leader. The picture on the left is actually when she was at a Pentagon protest in January 2005. I somehow doubt she'll get an audience with his highness, and rumors tonight are already flying about how she'll be arrested on Thursday, perhaps as a threat to National Security. Cindy Sheehan's son Casey died during an April mission in Sadr City, Iraq.

Enter, again, the right-wing blogosphere. It seems that today, the slimeball offensive is in full gear. That lovable vulture Matt Drudge published an error-filled article on the morning of August 8, and within hours was being parroted on the major right-wing blogs. The next day Bill O'Reilly piled on, saying that "she is in bed with the radical left."

This shouldn't be all that earth-shattering, but the reason I'm bringing it up is that the excellent organization, Media Matters for America, has laid out this shoddy mudslinging in a detailed article. I don't think many will find this interesting, but if you've heard someone spout off about about how this mother is a flip-flopper who just wants publicity, read the article, and you'll be able to shoot them down with impunity!

Here's a great Wikipedia link on Cindy Sheehan

Thursday, August 04, 2005

The dark side of blogging

As you know by now, anyone can blog, look at me! But blogging can be used for ill purposes, not just these silly ego-tripping essays. I am a fan of Air America Radio, and subscribe to a Google news clipping service that sends me links when there are news items that feature Air America. Most of it is pretty harmless, but lately I noticed a lot of links to right-wing blogs talking about how AAR was stealing money from homeless kids, etc., and when I looked into it, it seemed like they were just twisting some facts to fit the headlines. Finally this evening, I saw a link that dealt with all this concerted blogging slime. It seems that Fox News (suprise) had joined the slime patrol, and I found this article to be very educational:

Fox News Joins Slimy Campaign to Smear Air America

If you'r curious, I recommend checking it out. It includes another link to an article about how one person tried to investigate what this was all about, only to find a lot of lies:

How to Fake News: A Primer

I recommend this only for news junkies who like to 'see how the sausage is made.'

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Meanwhile, Back to the Ranch...

Oh, and one more thing...

Just a short rant ahead. I've already written about creationism vs. evolution, what else would you expect from a science geek with a blog, so this isn't new. But just last night, I was checking the headlines at (my favorite place to stay connected) and started yelling at my laptop!

It seems George W. Bush was headed back to his Crawford Ranch for about the 50th time since he's been president (there's a whole story there!) and was having a White House roundtable discussion with some Texas journalists, when he said he thought the theory of Intelligent Design should be taught alongside evolution. Here's a brief excerpt from a New York Times article that sums up what he said:
In an interview at the White House on Monday with a group of Texas newspaper reporters, Bush appeared to endorse the push by many of his conservative Christian supporters to give intelligent design equal treatment with the theory of evolution in public schools.

Recalling his days as Texas governor, Bush said in the interview, according to a transcript, "I felt like both sides ought to be properly taught. " Asked again by a reporter whether he believed that both sides in the debate between evolution and intelligent design should be taught in the schools, Bush replied that he did, "so people can understand what the debate is about."

Bush was pressed as to whether he accepted the view that intelligent design was an alternative to evolution, but he did not directly answer. "I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought," he said, adding that "you're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes."
I am definitely having trouble with a world where people can claim to be having a debate, but can't even agree on the rules of reality! There is no debate in the scientific world. ID (Intelligent Design) has no standing as a real scientific theory, but Bush and his right-wing Christian wacko accomplices think that just by sleight of hand, and a few well-placed phrases, they can elevate ID as a worthy parallel to be 'debated' alongside evolution.

My head has been reeling from all the other stuff he's been stirring up, and along with everything else, tries to score more points for the forces of Orwellian logic.


PS, I found a really well-written article about just how lame Bush is for doing this

Monday, August 01, 2005

Bush's Three Ring Circus

Yosemite SamDistracted from distraction by distraction

In what could be seen as a desperate attempt to muddle the public mind concerning important issues, George W. Bush continues to practice the policies of distraction, perhaps thinking he's some sort of Jedi Knight, and can just wave his hands, as if to say "There's nothing to see here, this isn't the smoking gun you're looking for!"

So, after a shameful attempt at forcing John Bolton down the Senate's throat as W's boy at the UN, Bolton has been simply appointed, utilizing the legal "recess appointment" powers allowed a president. Other presidents have made these kinds of appointments, Clinton for example, but from what I've read, never has a UN ambassador been appointed this way before. Bush thinks Bolton will clean up the UN, perhaps like we've cleaned up Iraq.

The Stealth Supreme Court Justice
In a move that appears to simultaneously divert attention from the traitors in the White House, and avoid serious opposition to his tipping the Supreme Court even farther to the right, Bush picks a conservative who can't even admit to being a Federalist, and thinks the endangered species act should not apply when the extinction only occurs in a single state. He also has a very short history of even being a judge. In short, since just about everyone agrees he's brilliant, has little judicial history to judge him on, and not a pederast, he's a shoe-in. And he's only in his fifties, so this choice will probably not get rolled back (assuming the Democrats can ever get the Senate back) for another twenty years or so.

Turd BlossomWhatever happened to the news about Traitor Turd Blossom?
It looks like we've forgotten about him too. I sure hope the grand jury hasn't. From almost any perspective, Karl Rove has sacrificed national security, for political payback. Whether he actually broke some narrowly defined law is not the point. Unless special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is on the take, or Karl has incriminating photos of him with farm animals, I suspect Karl will eventually feel the heat. The White House press corps, a group of overpaid lap dogs if there ever was one, was just starting to grow a spine, which led to Bush nominating Roberts ahead of schedule, gettting Rove off the front page.

It's an amazing world, ain't it? This all looks so transparent, yet Bush is still President, and Karl Rove, not to mention Robert Novak, is still out of jail!

I guess the hopeful way of looking at all this juggling, is that eventually, even the best jugglers get tired, make a mistake, and the whole shebang crashes to the stage floor. The mid-term elections are coming, and already there is talk about bringing some troops home before then. This, after Rumsfeld says it may take a dozen years to get out of Iraq!

Keep on spinning them plates Georgie!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Review: Boz Scaggs

Mountain Winery, Saratoga, CA

I have never been here, despite growing up in this area. My high school bus route dropped some kids off near Carneil and Wardell just down Highway 9. Fabulous venue. Four Year Bender did a short opening set, and they were very pleasant and competent. They are a local band, so maybe some of you have heard them.

About a half hour later, the band (minus Boz) came out, and some woman behind us said "Which one is Boz?" They started with "Lowdown" which was very tasty. The sound level and balance was superb. Boz was so relaxed, everything had a kind of timeless calm to it. The band was real good, not my favorite band, but I've seen Boz so many times over the years, starting as a member of the Steve Miller Blues Band at Fillmore West, it's hard to compare. He's almost as big a chameleon as David Bowie, but more sincere about it. Other songs were "Jo Jo," "Harbor Lights" (real spacy), a couple of songs from 'Dig' which I didn't know, but they went over well. He even gave one of his backup singers, Monet, a solo turn on "Street Life." The crowd loved her. Martha remarked it felt like being at our high school reunion, as far as the age of people at the show. I was so pleased when he started in to "Slow Dancer" but some of the clueless women behind us kept chattering. I guess if it's pre-"Lowdown" they don't get it. He did at least three encores, starting with the oldest song of the night, "Runnin' Blues," which was basically a showcase vehicle for the band to stretch out on. We left during the third encore, "Danger, Breakdown Straight Ahead," since we were warned we might get trapped in the parking lot. If he did "Loan Me a Dime" after that, I won't forgive myself!

I say you owe it to yourself sometime to catch a show there. Perhaps the most intimate and beautiful place I've seen.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

RIP: Jeff Himelfarb

I got a call from Alice Spears, who told me that Jeff had died last Saturday of a heart attack. This hit me in a strange, hard sort of way. I had only seen Jeff once in the last decade, and talked to him on the phone a few years ago, but at one point during college, we were very close friends. We did the normal college stuff of staying up all night, discussing politics, the meaning of life, and poetry, especially T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets.

[photo of Doug Turner, Nancy and Jeff from wedding pix]

Adam Gordon, a mutual friend, responded to the news: "The news was a watershed – the last time a contemporary friend died I could respond “he, she, we are so young for ‘X’ to happen”, but this time we are all of the age where nothing should be surprising. Ah well."

I had no information about a funeral or memorial, nor could I have gone to LA to attend one, but nonetheless, it left me with an empty feeling. I feel Jeff deserved something from me, some mention. He was fabulously flawed, like all of us, but was also extremely sincere. When he sat down, and asked "How are you? How have you been?" and laughed nervously, knowing how clich├ęd it might sound, he really meant it. He really did care.

Gone are the days of staying up late at Jeff and Leon's, listening to "Electric Ladyland," talking politics, or joking about "Less donkeys, more corn."

At his first wedding, where I was involved in the wedding party, I recited some poetry from T. S. Eliot, which had to be slightly edited due to a death in the bride's family, but it seems fitting to close with it here. Goodbye Jeff.

In that open field
If you do not come too close, if you do not come too close,
On a summer midnight, you can hear the music
Of the weak pipe and the little drum
And see them dancing around the bonfire
The association of man and woman
In daunsinge, signifying matrimonie—
A dignified and commodiois sacrament.
Two and two, necessarye coniunction,
Holding eche other by the hand or the arm
Whiche betokeneth concorde. Round and round the fire
Leaping through the flames, or joined in circles,
Rustically solemn or in rustic laughter
Lifting heavy feet in clumsy shoes,
Earth feet, loam feet, lifted in country mirth
Mirth of those long since under earth
Nourishing the corn. Keeping time,
Keeping the rhythm in their dancing
As in their living in the living seasons
The time of the seasons and the constellations
The time of milking and the time of harvest
The time of the coupling of man and woman
And that of beasts. Feet rising and falling.
Eating and drinking. Dung and death.

Dawn points, and another day
Prepares for heat and silence. Out at sea the dawn wind
Wrinkles and slides. I am here
Or there, or elsewhere. In my beginning.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Karl Rove and the Briarpatch

Short, Sharp Shock
In what should come as no surprise, Karl Rove has been implicated in leaking the identity of a CIA agent. I'm not going to spend any time explaining the details, you either want to know about this or you don't. But what I want to do is deliver my knee-jerk response about how the Democrats should handle this, which is the opposite of what they are doing, and will continue to do.

It's hard to blame the Democrats for getting on the bandwagon, and asking Bush to fire Rove. Bush said he would fire anyone who took part in this, and it's certainly what needs to be done, but it's not likely. Karl may resign, in one of those moves designed to protect Bush, but what I think we should do is focus more on Bush's reaction to Rove, not caring if he actually leaves. The whole attitude should be to say:
"See? See what kind of people Bush has in his closest circles?"
The longer Rove hangs around, the dirtier it looks.

Yeah, it would be nice to see him taken out in handcuffs, but right now, he's more valuable as a symbol of corruption, than if he resigns.

Friday, July 08, 2005

What Would Jefferson Do?

Beware the Originalists!
As everyone knows by now, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has given George W. Bush her letter of resignation. Most people were expecting that cancer patient and Gilbert and Sullivan wannabe William Rehnquist would be the next one, and that it would not be that big a deal. Renquist has been very right wing, and replacing him with another very right wing judge would not substantially alter the balance of power on the court. But O'Connor, far from a flaming liberal, has often been seen as a swing vote, a relative moderate compared to the (expletives deleted) like Thomas, Scalia, and Rehnquist.

Finally, it is starting to seem real, the possibility that the forces of control and exploitation will run amok in America. It's like some sort of cartoonish nightmare you just don't believe will really come true. Most of the names bandied about in the media are men in their fifties, so Bush looks to impact the future for a long time. At least one, if not two more justices are likely to retire before the reign of W is supposed to end.

So there I was, watching Fox News, which I sometimes like to do just to see what the Evil Empire is up to. Usually I end up screaming at the TV, and can only take so much. The extremely biased Hannity and Colmes show was on, but I started hearing a term I have not heard before: originalist.

You've probably heard the phrase "judicial activist" before, and it's another of those ridiculous terms people bandy about, and expect you to believe them. Usually it's used to describe so-called 'liberal' judges, even though the majority of judges tend to be Republican. Someone from the National Organization of Women was actually referring to some of the more conservative members of the courts as 'judicial activists' and some other talking head started talking about the 'originalist' member's of the court. describes originalism as
The belief that the U.S. Constitution should be interpreted according to the intent of those who composed and adopted it.
My BS detector circuits immediately activated, and I started googling 'originalist' in the news area, and found the judicial equivalent of religious 'fundamentalist.' Here we find people who seem to draw the line as a struggle between literal readings of the texts of the Constitution, and the wishy-washy liberals who look at the Constitution as a 'living document' that can be twisted into any form they wish. If you look at it their way, hey, I'd be an originalist too! But like most Orwellian doublespeak, once you buy this premise, you're lost.

In Christianity, the term 'fundamentalist' implies one is firmly rooted in basic truth, but in reality, it's more of a practice of selective literalism, reducing what should be a deeply spiritual book to a two dimensional amalgamation of ink and paper. Even the conceit that one is capable of a fundamentalist understanding of the Bible is flawed, and any communication of ideas in print involves levels of personal interpretation to make any sense out of what we read. In the Four Quartets, T. S. Eliot wrote:
Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still.
TSEEliot considered himself a fundamentalist, yet he clearly understood the problem of communicating from one person to another. In the very first page of the Four Quartets, he says:
My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know.

If it's that hard to communicate with someone in the same time frame, how can we presume to know what was in the mind of 'the framers' over two hundred years ago, not to mention thinking about who wrote the Bible a couple of millenia ago? The real missing term here is 'transcendent.' A document as important as the Constitution (or the Bible for that matter) needs to anticipate future needs, and not just leave us out in the tough-luck cold. It needs to transcend current events. I think this is logical, especially since the Constitution was setup with a very high bar to reach, if you want to make an amendment.

The Framers, as they are often referred to, were revolutionaries at the time, and yet the originalists take their names in vain, almost always to support reactionary views. There will never be an ironclad way to know what they would have thought about gay rights or abortion, but they were definitely pushing the envelope at the time. It's hard to imagine that given another 80 years to evolve, that these same revolutionaries would not have seen their inconsistencies in the original document that were so careful about preserving individual freedoms, yet slaves were only counted as 3/5 of a person. The fact that the Fifteenth Amendment had to be created reflects the originalist point of view, that since slavery existed at the time, it would exist forever unless the Constitution was amended. I'm no historian, but I understand that Jefferson owned slaves, yet opposed the slave trade. I find it hard to believe that the same Jefferson, if born a couple of centuries later, would cleave so tightly to keeping things in the status quo. Sometimes it just takes time for the fog of "the way it's always been done" to clear, and we see the obvious.

Although it's probably too late to wrap up what has been a typical rambling Geoff-rant, here's the point of all this talk about 'originalists:' Because the framers did not specifically mention privacy, or many other specific fruits of the tree of freedom, a Supreme Court packed with these throwbacks will roll back a generation of freedoms with no more than a "if you don't like it, amend the Constitution" in our faces.

The only way to block this from happening is for people in the states that have Republican senators, but a pro-choice majority of voters, to lean heavy on their senators. It's too late to talk about the 2006 elections; the time in now. For those of us here in the 'blue states,' it's frustrating. I guess we can support the movements in the'red states.'

I'll end with the words of John McCain, from a New York Times article:
Of course, Mr. McCain said, President Bush's nominee will be a conservative. "He campaigned for re-election and made no bones about the fact that it would be a conservative nominee," Mr. McCain said. "Elections have consequences."

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Stupidity is Universal

"I read the news today, oh boy!"

Today, coordinated terrorist attacks occured in London, and at least 40 innocent people have been murdered. The terrorists are stupid if they think it will have any effect on the UK position in Iraq. In fact, even though the war has been highly unpopular in the UK, I wouldn't be surprised if support for the war increased there in reaction to the senseless violence.

It's also clear how stupid George Bush and his British lap dog Tony Blair were if they thought this war would make us safer. We took our eye off the ball when we gave up looking for Bin Laden, and started fixating on Saddam. We have stoked the fires of jihad for sure.

What we have now are two stupid, vicious opponents, warring with each other while innocents are caught in the crossfire.

Stupidity is endless...

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Short and Sweet

[note: this is making the email rounds, and because the Oregonian doesn't seem to archive anything older than 14 days, I can't prove this really happened, but it's still cool!]


"Other than telling us how to live, think, marry, pray, vote, invest,
educate our children and, now, die, I think the Republicans have done a
fine job of getting government out of our personal lives."
--Craig Carter

here's a link to another page that does a nice artistic job with these words

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Review: Joan Baez, "Come from the Shadows"

Too pure for this cynical age?
I also think this is a great record, and one of the most emotional experiences I get from listening to a song, I get when listening to "The Partisan." I don't normally have heroic fantasies about becoming a Freedom Fighter, but for some reason, the combination of Leonard Cohen's words, the driving beat and the descending note riff, and Joan's voice just moves me to goosebumps, and incipient tears by the time she get to the last verse. Pick this one up if you like Joan. For the cynics among you, it's probably too late.

This album is no longer in print, but can be had in some boxed sets, and songs are available from iTunes.
Complete album info from Baez' web site

Monday, May 02, 2005

Making Content Accessible, by any means necessary

[note to readers who aren't enrolled in the teaching credential program I've been in since September: I thought I'd preserve some of my writings here, if I felt it had any meaning beyond the mind-numbing study of pedagogy. So, about all you should need translated is that a TPE is a "Teacher Performance Expectation," of which there are 13! AAVE is short for African American Vernacular English, or by its less popular name, ebonics. If you think this is worth reading, let me know, and I'll see if I have anything else worthwhile.]

By Any Means Necessary

TPE 4 is too wordy to repeat in full here, but the essence is the title: Making Content Accessible. There has been a recent spate of commercials on TV lately for a high-end car that uses a button to start, instead of using a key. The gist of each commercial is that this starter button is hidden and is slowly revealed, in a surrealistic setting. It might be underwater, it might be on a mountaintop, but the goal is to find the button, no matter how far one must go to reach the goal. Once the button is pushed, it just devolves into a routine, forgettable car commercial. The quest for the button is all that remains, at least in my mind.

The button we’re talking about here is the connection between teacher and student. It’s not going to be necessarily something that a teacher parrots out of a manual, and it may lie hidden, but we have to keep searching for it. Because every teacher has a different personality, a different culture, and sometimes different language backgrounds, the connection to the students, who are just as different and unique, will often be an individual one.

When I took my CSET tests, the main test was for Chemistry, but I also passed the general science CSET, which allows me to teach 9th grade integrated science, a course that is being phased out. I figured that most of what I’d be experiencing would be in the chemistry classroom, not in the 9th grade science class, which is somewhat of an afterthought in my teaching goals. But, as the songwriter Robert Hunter once said:
“Once in a while, you get shown the light,
In the strangest of places if you look at it right.”
As it turns out, my experiences this semester that reflect on TPE 4 have come more often in that 9th grade science class than in the chemistry classes I’ve been observing. The chemistry classes are all pretty much the same, the teacher lectures, works problems out on the board, and I’ve not been very involved, unless it’s a lab where I walk around and try to help the students.

But over in the 9th grade science class, during the last period of the day, I have found myself much more involved, and much more challenged. The class is the only one this teacher has, in addition to his other biology classes. Most of the time it feels like some sort of stepchild. Students are often working on a “dry lab” which is nothing more than a worksheet. There is very little student prep, and sometimes the worksheet is copied from a book the students don’t even use. There is very little ‘observation’ going on, so I just help the kids try and figure it out.

The corner I usually sit in is easily classified as a ‘loser corner.’ Most of the kids just tune out, and do nothing, often wearing headphones to listen to music, as the teacher rarely seems to notice these things. I have tried to make connections with the kids, on different levels, and it would be silly to think I’m always successful. A student named Jay, who is rarely even in class, has been far beyond my attempts so far in establishing a rapport. One of the kids has an iPod like mine, so we talk about that once in a while. I was trying to explain the term ‘epicenter’ to them, and used the analogy that ‘San Francisco is the epicenter of cool,’ which they didn’t seem to get, until one of them half-jokingly said, “you mean, like San Francisco is the epicenter of gay people?” While he finally got the point of what an epicenter was, the conversation couldn’t stop there, as I felt it important to try and disabuse him of this idea that gays only lived in San Francisco.

One of the kids said he’d heard that if you go to prison, you turn gay. Another kid, who usually spends most of his time doodling, said no, that his dad was in prison, and that wasn’t true. I was impressed that he felt he could share this with me. We continued on with the worksheet, and I was able to help them see what they needed to do.

This is only a taste of what I will face as a teacher, and there will always be some sort of bridge I will need to cross to make the content accessible, and maybe with a little trust, the students will walk a little in my direction across that bridge as well.

I think anyone that knows me knows I don’t like to say too many nice things to people, lest they think I’m trying to impress them, but there is something Dr. Cooks said early in the semester that has stuck with me. The class was discussing ebonics, and the whole controversy, and while I don’t think I saw eye to eye with Dr. Cooks on every point, this is a pretty close approximation of what he said:
“Am I saying that you need to learn ebonics to teach? No, but if you find yourself in a classroom in Oakland, and most of the students come from homes where the primary discourse is AAVE, then maybe you ought to become more familiar with AAVE yourself. You’ve got to do whatever you can to help your students.”
This was something I could relate to. The idea wasn’t to just parrot some politically correct designer of curriculum, but to be aware of whatever environment I was in, and use whatever tools I could to reach the students, to make the content more accessible.

On a recent community visit to the Mission District, we visited a community organization called Mission Dignity. They help youth in the community, regardless of whether or not they have documented status. For example, they help a gang member with his schoolwork, and this gang member leaves his schoolbooks at the center, so he doesn’t get in trouble with the gang. The center coordinator, Emilio, gave us a little tour of the facility after he had spent some time talking to us, and proudly took us to the famous poster of Malcolm X, with the words “By any means necessary” boldly printed. I remember when Malcolm X was around, and how in the minds of most white people, those words seemed like threats of violence. But here, the context was love, and a desire to help youth reach their goals, in any possible way.

We all need to make the content accessible to our students “By any means necessary,” and do whatever we can to help our students.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Review: We Five, "You Were on My Mind/Make Someone Happy"

Great Music, Lousy CD transfer

I was so excited to receive this CD, mainly for the first album, which I used to own on vinyl, but also to hear their versions of Get Together and High Flyin' Bird, songs I'm somewhat a 'collector' of. I'm not criticising the original studio recording, but I've heard plenty of archival music that's been cleaned up, and brought back to life in a quality manner. This thing just sounds like the publisher was out to make a buck, and spend as little money as possible making it sound better. The hiss is instantly noticeable, and something unnecessary in today's world of digital filters and so on. Having said that, I'm not sure what to tell people who really want to have this. There's still lots of great music, you just need to get used to hiss and crappy sound. Be forewarned I guess about anything this label puts out.

Amazon Link

Saturday, February 05, 2005

It's All Too Complicated Now

"Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
the world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living." - T. S. Eliot, from "East Coker"

The Iraqi election is kind of a watershed moment, no matter what goes down in the future. A friend of mine wrote to me suggesting I blog about the election, since he felt little was being said about the people killed that day. George W. Bush is no doubt proud that as many people voted as it seems they did. This would make many people hope for the results of the election to somehow turn sour, and repudiate Bush's pushes. It's kind of the old 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend' mindset. Never mind that the enemy of your enemy might just still be your enemy, and simply wants something out of the deal for him, the hell with you.

Lost of course is the fact that our President lied to us in order to do a first strike on a crippled country. Sure, I have no doubt that Saddam Hussein wouldn't hesitate to stick it to us if he had a chance, but we were up his butt so far, he never had a chance. The other "Axes of Evil," Iran and North Korea, are much more of a threat, but they are also not pushovers in a military sense. So, when we run out of Grenada's and Panama's and Iraq's to liberate, who's next?

I honestly wish the Iraqi people the best, and hope they find what they're looking for, and that we can bring our troops home as soon as possible. It's starting to look like the Shiites are winning the tally, and fears of another Iran, duly elected 'democratically,' are starting to keep people in Washington DC awake at night. Hoping that Iraq crashes and burns, just to stick it to George W. Bush is not something I'm going to do, as much as I want to see that little monkey squirm. George will trip over his own shoelaces eventually.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Zabriskie Point Meditation

I was asked to write a "Wilderness Meditation" for my church's Lenten booklet. Even though I was not keen to do it, I was goaded on by saying "You do your blog all the time, 150 words should be no problem!" So, what the heck, I did it. So, as a change of pace from writing about George W. You-Know-Who, here's a short meditation:

Standing on the observation area of Zabriskie Point in Death Valley, one can see God’s rhythms played out across the desert. Every hill and valley makes sense, there’s not a lot of vegetation to get in the way of seeing the pattern. The hills flow from gold to brown to red, almost as if they are moving. I feel like a grain of sand on the beach.
Like a grain of sand, but not necessarily in the insignificant sense.
Like a grain of sand in the ‘cog in the universe’ sense.
Like a grain of sand in the ‘oneness with God’ sense.
Like the lines from an old Byrds song:
“And I opened my heart to the whole universe
And I found it was loving”
Listen for the still small voice
“There once was a note, pure and easy
Playing so free like a breath rippling by”
Go with God

Friday, January 14, 2005

Will the Real 'Fake News' Please Stand Up?

You can see by the volume of my output here, that it's been harder to write lately. I've noticed a lot of progressives have been dealing with a certain level of depression since the election. Is this because progressives are just crybabies? I don't think so. I think the problem has to do with the odd sensation of getting disconnected from reality. Who would imagine that the guy who didn't finish out his Air National Guard duty, lied about WMD's in taking us to war, and clearly lost all three presidential debates would be the one winning the election? I mean, I could have strung out the comma-separated examples of incompetence in the last sentence until the cows came home, but I hope you get the point. It's hard to accept the outcome, when facts seemed so clear.

When I was in 9th Grade, around 1965, I read George Orwell's 1984. Even that young, I felt like I understood the story in symbolic terms, and didn't think it was meant to take place literally. Now here we are in 2005, and much of it has come to pass, literally. The whole state of news information/disinformation is positively bizarre right now.

Out of one side of the media's mouth, we hear the story about CBS and how they handled the story of George Bush' missing service in the Air National Guard. It's pretty well known Georgie boy abused the system. Even with a reward, nobody can seem to locate anyone who remembers serving with the future president during the 'missing period.' CBS indeed rushed to judgment, and in a proper world, it certainly merits the gnashing of teeth, etc. But this occurred during the same campaign where the infamous Swift Boat Veterans for Truth smear came out. Not only was the swift boat ad campaign a politically motivated smear from the get-go (whereas even the conservative inquiry into the CBS 'Rathergate' fiasco found no evidence of the so-called liberal bias) but it was quickly blown out of the water as far as the 'truth' was concerned. Nonetheless, the story stayed in the media. For weeks and weeks and weeks...

The recent icing on the cake came when it was revealed that conservative radio personality Armstrong Williams took $240,000 to spread the Education Department's official propaganda about the No Child Left Behind program. This is plainly illegal, but we aren't hearing any apologies from the Administration. This wasn't even the first time the government had paid for phony news stories.

Which brings us to the topic of 'fake news.'

One of my favorite TV shows is "The Daily Show" hosted by Jon Stewart. Ostensibly a comedy show, it has become a major force in political news. While the 'reporters' make no pretenses about faking their location (Baghdad, Washington, etc.) much of the news that's delivered is quite real, and the comedy comes in the form of comic irony. George Bush is presented in all his stumbling glory, and the comedy stems from the the feeling that this is all just a bad dream. Things can't really be that bad! Our leaders can't really be that stupid! They are self-labeled a 'fake news' show, and the true irony (I'm using that word too many times, but you should start to see why this is all making me pretty dizzy!) is that this show is often closer to the truth than what you see on the number one cable news outlet, Fox News. Fox News, which spews slanted coverage and ideological propaganda non-stop, is 'Fair and Balanced,' while the Daily Show, which has had many world class special guests and covered what the 'real' news show are afraid to cover, is called 'fake news.'

But wait folks, it gets weirder.

Last year, the folks at CNN's 'Crossfire' thought it would be a good idea to have Jon Stewart as a guest, the only guest. Usually there's more than one guest, but it was a Friday, and it all looked so easy, the funny guy (Stewart) would provide the entertainment, and we could all just slide into the weekend. But no, that's not what Stewart had in mind. In the video, which has become one of the most popular archived video clips on the net ever, Stewart ripped into his hosts. Jon told the talking heads "Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America." This was totally unscripted, and the regular guys on Crossfire were totally caught off guard. At one point, Tucker Carlson (who wears a bow tie as an affectation) says to Stewart "Wait. I thought you were going to be funny. Come on. Be funny."

Stewart replies: "No. No. I'm not going to be your monkey."

Before it was over, Jon called Tucker a dick, and the rest is history. For those of you who haven't already seen the video, or read the transcript, you must check it out (click here).

But, once again, the story doesn't stop there. Only just recently, CNN fired Tucker Carlson (don't worry about him, he'll probably turn up at MSNBC) and decided to shelve the whole Crossfire show for at least the time being. More than one TV critic proceeded to write about the whole affair, tongue firmly in cheek again.

So, check this out. 'Fake' news, 'Fair and Balanced' news, moral outrage over flawed journalism of a true story, and endless reportage on a story everyone knows to be false! War is Peace, Hate is Love. Is your head spinning too?