Saturday, December 02, 2006

The End of Boondocks

The Hot Spot

I have really enjoyed Boondocks over whatever period of time it's been, and am sad to learn the author has decided not to continue with it. For about 6 months or so, the papers have been running old strips, and finally when it became clear it was not coming back, the Chronicle has stopped with the reruns. I have still been looking at the reruns online, and found this as the last one for two days running. Coincidence?

It seems like the strips I always like best over the years, Odd Bodkins, Doonesbury, Calvin and Hobbes, Boondocks, and more, seem to pull the plug on a voluntary basis. (Remember, Doonesbury went on hiatus for a while too) I'd like to hear from others about favorite strips that stopped. The symbolism of this old strip with the Seinfeld reference might be interesting to discuss also!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Modern Murrow

In one of those happenstance moments, I decided to follow a link posted in one of my favorite online communities, and found Keith Olbermann, railing against the Military Commissions Act just signed by George W. Bush. I strongly urge you to put aside 8 or 9 minutes of your busy life, and watch/listen to the video clip at this address:
I don't know how long MSNBC leaves their links up, but I also snagged a link to the text of his remarks:
I was floored after watching this. Yes, perhaps Keith has watched Edward R. Murrow clips a bit much, but it turned positively gripping as he kept nailing W for his sins, with a very real sense that Olberman himself could be punished for merely speaking this truth to the twisted, corrupted power that passes for our current government. Sometimes it's hard to believe we are living in such times. I keep thinkig about that old Gerald Ford quote "Our long national nightmare is over," hoping the Democrats will put aside their self-destructive ways, take Congress back, and impeach the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks out of Georgie Boy.

So please, I'll stop writing now, so you can bank up a minute or two towards viewing this clip.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Review: The Best of Youth

Mysterious Serendipity

At the end of June, two DVD's arrived in the mail from Netflix, that I have no memory of ordering. This may sound like a story of someone getting drunk and ordering something on the Home Shopping Network, and not remembering, but honest, it wasn't like that! Sometimes I do just quickly add something to my queue if the laptop is near, and someone (personal friend, tv, or radio talk show host) passionately recommends something. I have seen some nice films in just such a way, but I always at least remember ordering it, even if I don't remember why.

So, here I am, looking to see I have two 3-hour DVD's on the way to my house, and I have never heard of this before.

So, first thing I do is check out Roger Ebert's review. This is what really caught my attention:
Every review of "The Best of Youth" begins with the information that it is six hours long. No good movie is too long, just as no bad movie is short enough.
This seems so obvious now, but I had never heard it put this way before, and my interest was further piqued. One of the things I have found in the last year or two is how important patience is. Patience is more like being in synchronicity with the flow and rhythm of life. As a musician, it's important to not be in too much of a hurry in the middle of song. Don't rush into the next verse before you're done with the last one!

This movie was originally shown on Italian TV in four 90 minute segments. I don't know if I could have sat in a theater for 3 hours, twice, for one movie. Having the DVD's here allowed us to watch as much as we could, when we could. The movie is essentially a family saga, with a long story arc, from 1966 to 2003. The cinematography was beautiful, and the stories never dwelled too long in any one place. We came to care about the characters, and finally tonight, when it was over, I was sad there was nothing left to unfold.

You may have noticed I have said very little about the plot of this movie/saga. If you really want to know, there are many reviews, and many spoilers about this movie. It is not a secret, this movie has won awards, and the little man in the Chronicle is jumping out of his chair! So, take a chance, check it out. If you have a Netflix account, rent it now!

[note: as usual, it's nice to get some discussion in the comments area, and you may not have seen this movie yet. Down the line, if you do see it, try to remember to come back here and share your opinion. If it sucks, say so!]

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Other Side

Poof! It's finally over!
But it was really just the beginning

After all the brouhaha of the last year and a half, things are strangely silent. I have my teaching credential, I'm done with a year of teaching, and I'm unemployed. Thus the picture of the astronaut drifting in space!

After a few years at part-time substitute teaching, I entered the Secondary Education Credential program at San Francisco State University in the Spring of 2005. In the first semester, only one of my professors was older than I was.

For a while, I split my time between trying to stay on top of my school work, observing classes at a local high school, and putting in time at my office, trying to keep it going by fits and starts.

Not that I had a lot of choices of what to do, but it was definitely the pattern for the next year and a half: mediocrity in all things. I was burning my candle at at least three ends!

All the while, it's been hard on my family too, which should be kind of obvious. I'm making a career change, which in the long run should be a better move, but in the short run has added enormously to my stress levels.

After the first semester, someone at San Francisco Unified asked one of my professors to recommend science and math student teachers who might be interested in getting paid to teach, instead of the normal unpaid student teacher semester, and I, along with many of my classmates gave her our names.

I ended up taking a part-time job at a 'dream school,' against the better judgment of SFSU, and my normally one-year program was turned into a 3 semester program. I taught one class of chemistry, which I was technically qualified to teach, and one class of 9th grade Earth Science, which I was initially unqualified to teach. I eventually passed the required subject matter competency test, but basically tried to stay one step ahead of the students all year. Mediocre indeed!

In my Dream School, it was very racially segregated. 70-80% Latino, maybe 15% African-American, and almost no whites or Asians. Over forty years ago, I read Up the Down Staircase, and was hooked on the romantic idea of 'saving' kids, and turning them on to education. I'm not saying I don't still believe it's possible, but the forces that keep kids away from academics are far bigger than just what the teacher dishes out. Like I've been saying, I feel I've been mediocre this last year, and look forward to next year, when I know I will be a much better teacher, but I doubt I will be able to 'save them all.' But you never know where you might have some influence, so you have to keep planting seeds, and hope they will find fruitful soil.

I stumbled through my first semester, then on into my second semester, where I had to finish this gawdawful thing called a 'Candidate Assessment Portfolio' (CAP) where I showed how I reached all 13 of these 'Teaching Performance Expectations' (TPE's) which seemed to be written by committee. I had a formal supervisor from SFSU, and an in-house observer appointed at the school. I tried to please them all, but probably none, and probably less than pleased at that! The politics of school is something I am quite naive about, and put my foot in it several times. I took sick days just to finish this CAP thing (I've never drunk so much coffee in all my life!) and straggled to the finish line. I was very emotional at the end, and doing things like make my normally rude 9th graders pose for an end of year picture with me:

After our last SFSU class, we just hung out for awhile, chatting with each other. We were almost in a state of shock, knowing that there were no more classes to attend. We would all be off to our separate schools and such.

Here's a pic of me and Brandon, my best buddy through it all, that afternoon. He's less than half my age, but we were a good team when we worked on projects together.

It kind of reminds me of childbirth. Not that I have the same memories as Martha of course, but it was very intense for me too. Those memories tend to fade, and get replaced by all that life offers and takes from you. This has been one of the most intense, and painful periods of my life, but hopefully, this too shall be covered up by future sedimentary memories to come.
What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make and end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Suicide Secrets

Earlier today I was wrapping up what I figured would be my last blog post before the end of Spring Break, and I noticed there were a couple of fire engines and a bunch of police cars just a few doors down the street. It was a slow day, and I wasn't properly dressed, so I just poked my head out the front door to see what was going on. I didn't really know what was happening until later, when a neighbor rang my doorbell.

What I was told was the stepfather of a girl my daughters had grown up with had died by suicide. I was pretty floored, and remembered when this girl's father had died of a heart attack over a decade ago. The heartache was huge.

I don't have anything clever to say here, but would like to call on the small community of people that read these musings to share what they know about suicide. Is is something that takes over a person suddenly? Should anyone have seen this coming? The family is completely at a loss to explain why this happened. So, please consider sharing your experiences or knowledge about this tragic subject.


Join the Uranium Hexaflouride Revolution!

This must be a dream.
[I just couldn't resist working this photo of the dancers into a blog!]

Here we see Iranian dancers at a ceremony, supposedly holding capsules of UF6 in their unprotected hands. I have nothing against Iranians, my mother was born in Tehran, and I have found most Iranians I've met in my life wonderful people. But I can't believe this image of heroic dancers lifting a vial of poison in the air, with a backdrop of white doves, doesn't land just a little oddly with most Iranians. It's like a cross between some old Soviet-era propaganda poster and a Coke or Pepsi commercial. What was the Pepsi revolution all about anyway?

So, without further irony, or tounge-in-cheek:

at an April 11th ceremony:
"At this historic moment, with the blessings of God almighty and the efforts made by our scientists, I declare here that the laboratory-scale nuclear fuel cycle has been completed and young scientists produced enriched uranium needed to the degree for nuclear power plants Sunday," Ahmadinejad said.

"I formally declare that Iran has joined the club of nuclear countries," he told an audience that included top military commanders and clerics in the northwestern holy city of Mashhad. The crowd broke into cheers of "Allahu akbar!" or "God is great!" Some stood and thrust their fists in the air.
Can George W. Bush's scripted speeches in front of soldiers, extolling how he is bringing freedom to the Middle East, seem any less bizarre to Iranians than this scene may look to some of us?

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Immigration Illusion

Which title sounds better to you? "Undocumented Worker" or "Illegal Alien?"

When you watch the news, count how many times you hear each phrase. Which one do you think strikes more fear in the average TV viewer? There are a lot of conflicting truths, but I rarely hear a word about the "Illegal Employers."

The other night, Jesse Jackson was the guest on the faux-news "Colbert Report" and was being hammered by Colbert's right-wing persona about immigration. What Jesse kept saying was that "these people were sent for." If you think about it that way, it seems kind of odd to only blame the "illegals" and not the people who provide the jobs to bring them over here. I'm not saying it's OK with me to cross a border without permission. Until the day comes when every world citizen has the same rights as privileges, borders are a practical necessity. I just find some people's indignation about immigration a little odd, when they are probably not that removed from someone who hires a gardner, nanny, or cook. We all probably have a favorite restaurant we like to go to, and we probably don't think too much about who's working in the back, cleaning the dishes, and cooking our food.

American citizens work abroad, but we don't expect them to behave like they're not Americans. But somehow when we ask people to come work here, we also want them to wave American flags too. Today, at major demonstrations, the word was put out to demonstrators to put away the Mexican flags, and only wave US flags. A smart, if somewhat cynical move.

In the last dozen years or so, we have become used to a low annual inflation rate, but at what cost? We buy lots of cheap items made in China. Are we willing to pay American citizens to do the same work as those Chinese? If we make the Mexican workers apply for citizenship, pay taxes and fines, and learn English, how much more will we have to pay to have the leaves blown off our lawns?

This is much more complicated than any 40-second news bite can swallow. Do undocumented workers take American jobs? Definitely. Do they also use public services such as health care? For sure. But once again, this reminds me of the burden the employers are shirking, just like the de facto reality of Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart pays their workers so little, that that the employees can't afford healthcare, and end up using the public emergency services for their health care. The public picks up the tab for Wal-Mart that Wal-Mart should pay. In the case of the illegals, we all pick up the tab for their services that should be paid by any conscientious employer.

No wall can be built high enough to keep people out who are 'being sent for.' If we can stop illegal hiring, the number of illegal aliens would shrink dramatically. That is, of course, if you're willing to pay a little more for a head of lettuce.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Dear Senator Feinstein,

Dear Senator Feinstein,

There are many reasons to oppose the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. He is extremely right-wing in his views and rulings, but I encourage you to protect us from at least 20 years of his rulings on our precious Constitution, and filibuster if need be. He has shown contempt for Congress and the American people by sidestepping the issues, and not answering the questions when it suited him. What was particularly troubling to me was when he refused to call Roe v. Wade "settled law" and instead called it an "important precedent." He felt this showed he had an open mind. Does this mean that if the issue is murder, or torture, he will also have an "open mind?"

Please Senator Feinstein, I know the Republicans have the votes, but if you stick with others, we can extend debate, until at least a time when we can get some answers. Please, I beg of you for the sake of my children, do what you can to stop him from joining the Supreme Court.

Thank you kindly,
Geoff Gould
San Francisco