Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Do Your Planet a Favor and Die

Here's a happy little website from Australia, created to help kids figure out their contribution to planetary filth. Answer a few simple questions and find out how enormous a planetary pig you are...and when you should die (in order to keep pollution, usage, and filth levels at the average). The final step, when you get your death calculation, is marked with a skull-and-crossbones, and animated with a bloody, exploding pig.

Fun for the whole family!!

I'm sorry--I can't get behind an environmental movement that advances human death as a solution to pollution or global warming--even as a joke. Especially when the message is intended for children. I guess I'm just not willing or able to anthropomorphize Mother Earth to the extent that I care more about Her than my fellow humans. How about a website that helps kids use their life to make the earth a better place

Guess that makes me a Bad Person. But I'll live with it...until, you know, my bloody pig guts explode.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Dog Story

Thing One is going to be eight years old in about three weeks, which alone is hard to believe, but there it is. And all he has wanted for this eighth birthday is A Dog. It's what he's been asking for since his seventh birthday.

The Wife is allergic to dogs, or so she says. Personally, I think it's just a ruse to avoid having to be forced to own a dog. She is very definitely a cat person. And we have owned cats at various points in our time together. But the dog years are upon us now, and there's really not much she can do about it--other than, you know, break a child's heart.

To make the whole Dog Thing more palatable for her, I did my due diligence and searched the Internet for various kinds of hypoallergenic dogs (of which there are a shocking number of breeds, actually). We looked over the list together.

Round 1: The Wife said Poodle. I said Hell no. I've known poodles. I despise poodles. She thinks it's just the haircuts that bother me. It's not. It's them.

Round 2: I said Wheaten Terrier, and I found a local breeder of Wheaten Terriers, and I bought a book for Thing 1 about Wheaten Terriers (okay--a tiny bit manipulative on my part, I admit it). The Wife responded by saying, "How about if we rescue a dog from the humane society? I don't have the time or patience for a puppy, with everything else I have to do, and you know I'm the one who's going to end up taking care of it when you travel."

I cleverly sidestepped the guilt-trip (come on now--my mother was a world-class expert at guilt. You've got to throw down harder than that to catch me up), by saying, "Humane society? What happened to needing a hypoallergenic dog?"

She didn't have a particularly good response to that--and still doesn't--but I checked all the pet rescue sites for the Tucson area and found nothing but Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, and Dobermans...which probably tells you more than you need to know about the Tucson area.

But a few days ago, The Wife stopped by the humane society and happened upon a sweet black Lab (mixed with a bit of Chow, we think) who had been abandoned by its owners and taken to the shelter by a kind neighbor. The next morning, we brought the boys to meet this dog. The boys liked her. I remained unmoved. My heart was still set on a puppy. But we went back again later in the day and took the dog for a walk. And eventually I caved, and home she came. She looked to be about a year old, but the vet later said she wasn't more than six months. The vet loved her. Everyone loved her. She is a calm and sweet soul.

Thing 1 fell in love with her--and so did Thing 2, for that matter. Thing 1 renamed her Rosie, arguing thusly: Mommy's name is a flower, and the dog is a girl, and she and Mommy are the only girls in the family, so she should have a flower name, too."

And all was well and good in the home.

Until the very next morning, when Rosie tunnelled under the fence and disappeared.

I walked the neighborhood and drove the neighborhood--over and over again. To no avail. Our house is surrounded by dry washes--dried-up riverbeds that snake around and feed into each other all over town (and which fill up in a heartbeat during monsoon season). If the dog had wandered down into the wash, she could have ended up...anywhere. "God only knows," said The Wife. "She's not the sharpest knife in the drawer."

But she had a microchip ID, and a name tag with our phone number, so we hoped for the best. And we waited.

And we waited.

The next morning, we got a call from a lovely woman who had found our dog. She was, in fact, the old neighbor lady who had originally brought the dog to the humane society. When I MapQuested her address, I discovered that she lived down by the airport...over seventeen miles from our house. And that's a straight shot down the highway. Who knows what circuitous route Rosie took down there? But she did it.

Well, she's home now, and the fence is more secure, and we're hoping that, as the days go on, she'll settle in and decide that this is home. She certainly seems fond of the boys, and is as kind and sweet and friendly a dog as you'd ever hope to meet.
And, as I said to The Wife when we got the call from the old neighbor, "Say what you like about this dog, but one thing she most definitely is not, is stupid."

One thing she most definitely is, is loved.

No Child (of mine) Left Behind (the rest of you can go to hell)

Read this.

Then take a side trip to Joanne Jacobs' blog, whence I found this tidbit, and read what some of her commenters had to say about the story...especially the guy who talks about the "IEP" tax.

Are too many classrooms overcrowded? Hell yes.
Are there too few resources for special needs kids, and too few teachers who know what they're doing? Hell yes.
And so, our response should be to kick those kids out of school because they're annoying our Darling Perfect Creatures? Really?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Who's The Real Idiot?

The idiot who posts nude photos of his ex-girlfriend on his MySpace page, or the idiot who sends her boyfriend nude pictures via cellphone?

It's a toss-up, as far as I'm concerned.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

You'll Teach Me What I TELL You To Teach Me

This just in:

In the "first nationally representative survey of teachers concerning the teaching of evolution," the authors show that one in eight high school biology teachers present creationism as a scientifically valid alternative to Darwinian evolution. While this number does not reflect public demand--38% of Americans would prefer that creationism to be taught instead of evolution--it does represent a disconnect between legal rulings, scientific consensus, and classroom education.

Quiz Question
Which quote best represents the mindset that leads to such data?
A) "I don't care what you tell me to teach; I teach what I personally believe to be true."
B) "I don't care what you tell me to teach; I teach what my kids' parents want their kids to hear."
C) "As a teacher, I believe it's my responsibility to present all sides. That's why I'm encouraging my friends in the history department to teach Holocaust Denial."
D) "I'm sorry, I'm not allowed to speak to the press without permission from my union rep."

You know what? I don't care if 38% of Americans would prefer to have creationism taught in school. All that means is that 38% of Americans are nitwits--or, at best, that they don't understand the difference between public education and religious school (here's a hint: religious school is the thing your kids go to on Sunday. And it's usually held at a church). It's not an educator's job to cater to the whims, prejudices, or nitwittitude of some parents. It's an educator's job to teach That Which Is Fact. I'm all for presenting multiple points of view where Fact is in dispute. But evolution is not in dispute. Sorry. It's not. Certain details of it may be, certainly. We can save that discussion for college, or probably grad school. But as a general theory, held up against Sorry. Just no.

I wonder if people have trouble with the concept of change over time because they don't really get how enormously vast those oceans of time really were.

Or is it just Biblical Literalism? I mean, I think the stories in Genesis are incredibly important and valuable, and I'm even willing to accept, if you want to argue it, that they are divinely inspired. As poetry, there is much wisdom and truth to be gleaned there--much wisdom and truth about who we are, and how we behave, and what we strive for, and what gets in our way. But literal, word-for-word, journalistic truth?

Anyway, if you send your kids to religious school, they are getting multiple points of view--and better than any biology teacher can present it. Let the science teachers teach the science, and the religious teachers teach the religion. Why does the public school building have to contain everything of value and importance in a community? What is it, the mall? If a particular shop isn't there under the same roof, an easy walk from the food court, it doesn't exist?

And even if it is the mall, you know what? If you hate the mall, you don't go there. If you hate what's being taught in the public schools, don't send your kids there. You've got options aplenty, these days. Where is it written that the angry, stupid minority gets to dictate policy to the majority? Take your damn ball and go play somewhere else, if you don't like the way we're playing. Raise your kids to have no understanding of the way the world actually works. Cripple them, if that's what you think is best. Go ahead--I won't even call Child Protective Services on you. Just keep your kids away from mine. there anything going on in our nation today that wouldn't make Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson puke?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Oasis in the Vast Wasteland

Here's a remarkable 12 minutes of television, as late night host Craig Ferguson decides to just, simply, honestly, talk to his audience.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Don't Know Much About History

I can't seem to formulate any witty commentary to attach to this picture. It just makes me sigh in pain and put my head in my hands. But, you know...I'm all about sharing. So here you go:

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

What is This Art Stuff People Keep Talking About?

There's an interesting discussion going on here about what makes something art. A lot of fascinating backing-and-forthing about art vs craft (if indeed it is a versus), art vs propoganda, and so on. Go take a read. And add your own two cents, if you like--either there or here.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Chickens Coming Home to Roost

"The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved."
-- Jeremiah

I can't imagine the prophets of old took any satisfaction in seeing Israel laid low. Sneering "I told you so" is hardly a sign of holiness. It's cold comfort to be proven right when you're a prophet of doom. The whole point of prophesying was supposed to be to lead the people to repentance--to change--to escape The Verdict.

So many people have gotten their blood pressure up over Jeremiah Wright's "chickens coming home to roost" comment, as though he were speaking as a politician, not a prophet. Well, he's not a politician. He's a lousy and misguided prophet, to be sure, but that is the vantage point from which he speaks.

Look, I lived in New York City when 9/11 happened. My wife was working two blocks south of the towers, and had to help get hundreds of school children out of the building, down to Battery Park, and to safety. I didn't see her until about 8:00 that night, and most of the time I had no idea where she was or whether she was safe. So if anyone has a right to be uppity about such comments, it's me.

And I'm not.

I know, I know--the people who worked at the World Trade Center didn't "deserve it." They personally did not inflict death and destruction on anyone in the Muslim world. But they are--and we are--citizens of a country that has sharp elbows and a big footprint, and likes to throw its weight around--sometimes with moral justification; sometimes without. The fact that most of us have escaped any kind of accountability or reckoning or payback for the actions our government has taken abroad over the years is a sign of good fortune, not divine grace.

Direct your attention to the slaughtered innocents above. This is from a private collection of photos from Hiroshima that the general public has never seen until now. We've seen flattened buildings, but not wrecked bodies. Well, here are the bodies. Some of them.

Did the people of Hiroshima deserve the atomic bomb any more than the people at the World Trade Center deserved the planes? No--no more, but also no less. Were they ordinary people, going about their business in a non-military area--raising children, going to work, tending their gardens? Yes, absolutely. Was their government perpetrating death and destruction abroad in their names, trying to build a great empire? Yes, absolutely.

(By the way, I'm not saying that we are, or are trying to be an empire, I'm not comparing any of our actions to anyone else's. I'm not saying USA= imperial Japan, Bush = Hitler, or any of that other nonsense. All I'm saying is, what is done in our name connects back to us, here at home.)

But Japan was an empire, you'll tell me. They did not have a democracy. The people did not get to choose their leaders. They did not have a say in the running of their government. They can't be held responsible for what Hirohito and Tojo were doing.

And it's certainly convenient to think that way. But I don't think it's true. I'm sorry. I just don't buy that argument anymore. Everybody votes.

If you take to the streets or the barricades and say NO! you are voting. If you stay at home and choose to ignore what you know damned well is happening, you are voting. There has never been a government on earth that was not outnumbered by its people. Build as large a secret police force as you want to--the people will still outnumber you. And as long as that is true, then the status quo--whatever it is--has been elected. Elected by choice, elected by silence, elected by fear...but elected.

And I'm not saying that Al Qaeda had legitimate grievances, or that any grievance would have justified the hideous thing they did. That's an argument for another day, and beside the point. You cannot be protected from consequences just because you think you are a good person and your actions are right. Because guess what--not everybody agrees with you. When you do unto them, they just might do unto you. That's the risk you take by acting in the world at large. And you take that risk when you think the action is important. But you don't get to decide how people will respond to what you do to them.

This whole "chickens coming home to roost" thing started with Malcolm X speaking in response to the assassination of President Kennedy. It was an obnoxious and inappropriate comment in the circumstances--just as Wright's echo was. But it doesn't mean the larger message was wrong. When you send violence out into the world, violence might just come back and be visited upon you. Call it karma, call it physics, call it whatever you like. It's the kind of uncomfortable truth that a prophet is supposed to tell us. We're not supposed to like it.

And if we don't like it, and we don't like the implications of it, then we are free people and should take action to change the equation.

Or, you know, we can just kill the messenger and pretend that the message dies with him.

And it's something we've known since Day 1--since the day our representatives at the Second Continental Congress declared themselves free from Britain but continued to hold Africans in slavery. There were political reasons why they did it--why they felt they had to do it. And possibly there would not have been a country without that ugly compromise. So it was necessary, perhaps. But that doesn't mean it was right. They took the action. The consequences came later. But boy, did they come. And sadly, as we've seen with Obama and Wright, they haven't stopped yet.

Our old friend Thomas Jefferson, who was there at the scene on Day 1 and saw it all happen--he knew. He knew what he was doing, and he sensed what it would mean. "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just," he said, "and that justice cannot sleep forever."

Here's all I'm saying: if I was unlucky enough to face True Judgment at some point, with the pit of hell waiting for me on one side and the promise of heaven on the other, and The Voice said unto me: "Now this Iraq thing...the war, the torture, the whole knew it was wrong for a long time, right? So why didn't you do anything to stop it?" What, exactly, would I be able to say in my defense?

Good thing it's all a myth, eh?