Monday, May 26, 2008

I Never Meta-Viral Video I Didn't Like

See how many references you can spot in this Weezer music video (many of which I didn't know).

h/t to IAmJoshBrown

btw, I'm amazed there was no direct reference to the OKGo video.

weekly Links We Like to Link to - Memorial Day Edition

Actually, there's absolutely nothing memorial or memorable about this one. Just trying to buy some time until I can put up some substantial, earth-shattering posts...

Is Bill Clinton out of his c.p. mind? I'm sure he could name several other presidential candidates who have been just as or more disrespected than his wife. Hint:
And, as some of my students have pointed out, in order to get respect, you gotta give respect.

Looks like the market might help to right things after all. Too little, too late without some more intervention, though. Let's get together and make SUV's a thing of the past. It's a luxury item we can no longer afford.
h/t to Scot McKnight

Also courtesy of Scot McKnight, "Minor Leaguer Traded for Ten Bats." I didn't think that this sort of thing actually happened. Good thing I never went pro.

And Eugene Cho has a good post on the current exploitation and human trafficking epidemic, starting with this Radiohead video.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Weekend Links We Like to Link to

For various reasons, I just want to give a much-needed shout-out to my homie, the Bishop of Durham, N. T. (Tom) Wright. Here's his peace on the Lord's Prayer (as a paradigm of Christian prayer). Wooorrdd!

Like most people, I can't get my head around the sheer number of people who have died recently in China and Burma (Myanmar). Tens of thousands of people, each with a name, each with a face, each equally beloved by God and each one could have been you or me or our families (and may be. My condolences and prayers to all affected.) And then you realize just how sad it is to lose just one. Steven Curtis Chapman is a singer-songwriter in the Contemporary Christian Music scene. And though I no longer listen to his output, it impacted me quite a bit as a teen (anybody remember "Saddle up your horses..."?). The loss of his five-year old daughter is both dramatic (she was run over by her brother on their driveway. My deepest condolences to him. And just hours before her sister was to be engaged) and sad. Eugene Cho had a lot of feedback on his post of the tragedy and has some tough, pastorly feedback of his own.

You thought that StuffWhitePeopleLike had our white butts in check? Think again, this cat knows his/her stuff. Traditions in White Culture. If that's not enough for you, try Selected Minutes from LOLCat City Council Meetings. Maxim Articles, Rewritten as Sociology Papers. And, What My Dad Is Talking About When He Yells, "That's What I'm Talking 'Bout."

Finally, here's a bevy of mixed spiritual metaphors all coming to a head:
MarkO occasionally has a caption contest that I like to read all the comments for. Unfortunately, the last couple ones weren't as rich, but the top responses were pretty darned good. Here's a few of my faves for this photo:

“cannon ba-a-a-a-a-a-lllllll!”

Xtreme “4 Spiritual Laws” illustration.

Lambert finally found a place where he can truly claim the title “King of the Mountain”.

Youth Pastor-”See kids, without God in our lives, we feel like a sheep that is standing on a rock between two cliffs that are located high above a body of water of some sorts.”

Jesus: “Feed my sheep.”
Peter: “Maybe when he gets off that rock.”

The Lord is my Shepherd….
The Lord is my Shepherd….
The Lord is my Shepherd….
The Lord is my Shepherd….

If you act now, you may be able to enter this contest. I got nothin', man.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Weekly Links We Like to Link to - misc.

No theme today, except for themelessness.

From the trusted LarkNews, a megachurch with satellites transforms into a coffee chain. Attendance skyrockets.

Interim principal tells juniors at an all-girls Catholic school that they cannot go to the prom without a male date (with only weeks to go).
h/t to YPulse

MarkO raves about a documentary focusing on a high school in Indiana. American Teen tells the stories of "the school queen bee, the top jock, the dreamboat guy, a unnoticed geek, and an artsy girl who doesn’t fit in." Yes, it sounds like the Breakfast Club in a very White America. And it sounds wonderful. Can't wait to see it.

Oh, and there's these Muppet movie posters (there were a lot of good ones, but I thought these were five of the most iconic. What do you think?):

Though the movie poster (while definitely not the movie itself) is an instant classic, the riff on it here seems timeless.

And definitely not least...

h/t to Peter Chattaway.

Weekend Links We Like to Link to - Yet Another Political Edition

It seems that I just can't help myself...

Meet the artist of the Obama posters.

I can't be the only person that thinks that the Department of Homeland Security is a piece of irrelevant, bullying sh*t.

Speaking of irrelevant...

“It was pretty tough and hard fought,” [Senator Obama] said about the primary season, describing the former first lady as a “formidable opponent.”

She was relentless and very effective.”

He may be speaking too early, but not soon enough, for my money.

The real debates have finally begun - and they center on international dealings.

Yet, rural Americans (vastly responsible for the swing states) have different concerns on their minds, and need reassurance that they will be listened to.

Finally, the West Virginia Democratic primary was disappointing, not because of how badly Obama lost by, but for the fairly latent reasons why. But don't take my word for it... here's their words.

(Click here if video doesn't play.)*

And, here's some more of their words.

(Click here if video doesn't play.)

"I guess I'm just kinda scared of the other race because we just had so much conflict with the other race."

"He's Muslim, and you know, that has a lot to do with it."

"I think now I understand West Virginia's state slogan. 'West Virginia, No Interviews Please'."

Now, let's clarify some things (and I wish that the pundits, pontificators and politicians would do the same). My knowledge of Islam is limited, but I do understand that a central tenet of the religion is to declare one's allegiance to and testify to (to use American and Christian terms) the central figures of the religion. Christians like myself should know from our own scripture reading that to deny our God is to forsake our religion, our salvation, so to say. There is no such thing as a "secret Muslim" just like there is no such thing as a "secret Christian" (although in some countries - for safety reasons - Christianity is kept underground, yet it is still practiced and never denied).

One presidential candidate (who shall remain nameless) answered the question of whether or not she believed Obama to be a Muslim by the politically-shrewd yet poisonous non-answer of "Not as far as I know." Let's hope that another presidential candidate (one that was shamed by his own party for having a black daughter), will be more honorable in pulling any similar tactics from out of his campaign's bud (and, in likewise, Obama will shun any playing on that candidate's age).

That's not too much to ask for, is it?

* hat trip to Staycspits

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Human Rights Abus... Neglect

My wife informed me that today is Bloggers Unite for Human Rights day. And that sound like a subject that I want to be a part of - not human rights abuse, but the unity and awareness of the abuse of our basic rights in a hopeful and hope-filled effort to flush out such evil.

Generally speaking, though, when I think of human rights (certainly now in my progressivism), I think of human rights abuse. One goes along with the other like macaroni and cheese. However, the problem with acknowledging rights abuse is that rights abuse is done by the powerful and the abusive. (I contend that the powerful aren't always abusive, just mostly - and often efforts to stem or reverse the tide of their own abuse may work towards salving consciences, but rarely really end their power-abuse.) In other words, the few.

Which is fine in that it abdicates me of direct responsibility. I can blame, for instance, that US government, which has long tolerated, enabled and empowered terrorist and dictator tets-de-state that support what we supposedly support, or that basically condemns poor black men on sight to lives of poverty, inaction, crime and imprisonment. Or local governments for putting the desires of the wealthy (condominiums, attractive streets) over the needs of the poor (affordable housing, displacement of homeless).

The right to a fair and speedy trial, the right to legal representation, a right to vote, a right to withhold property, the freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of press, freedom from torture... these are all important and should be fought for and over.

But personally, you, are and Sally and Jon are not directly responsible for these. These are political acts and can only be addressed through political means. There is a need to address something a bit more holistic, a bit more directed at - and hopefully worked from - the self. Particularly myself.

This should be my mantra: If every human being is made in the image of God, then every human being is equally precious, equally lovely, equally valuable. Every human should drink. Every child should eat. Every village should be resourced.

Put in these terms, this is personal. It's easy for me to get upset at George Bush and his cronies (ant the lax Senate that allows them to do so) for detaining anyone - let alone US citizens - without a fair trial or actual charges and terrorizing "information" or "confessions" out of them. What's harder is for me to consume less, discipline myself more, get out of debt sooner, get off my arse earlier and DO something - namely partner with and provide access to those resources for those who are in need of food and water.

Help me, Lord.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Weekly Links We Like to Link to - Late, post-West Virginia Edition

Know your roots!
I like our coffee table. But this has got to be the coolest one ever:
Not only does it look nostalgic and cool and everything, but it actually operates.

If you thought (as I always did) playing Mortal Kombat was hard enough on a regular NES controller...
h/t to

While we're on the Relevant Media trip, here's a little story:
A couple of weeks ago, one of our light bulbs broke overnight. Flat out flew out of the ceiling fan and crashed to the floor. Didn't think much about it, even though some time prior to that, my wife had warned me about mercury supposedly in all of the compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFL's). After all, why would Al Gore steer me wrong?
So, after taking half a day off work to do HazMat clean-up (turns out there are trace amounts of mercury powder in each bulb, and they're working on making it with less. But you need to be careful how you dispose of them. And if you have a little baby in the house, as we do, you may want to consider sticking with regular bulbs if there's a chance that they'll bust on ya), I turn on my Relevant Magazine Podcast (subscribe through the RELEVANT Podcast at your iTunes store. Now.) and find about this helpful and fun site on little practical things you can do for our environment and information about such things. Featured on the site? CFL's and the current (but pricey) alternative, LCD lightbulbs.

A few of my favorite cards from Indexed, a long-running, daily-updated blog I only just now heard of (via MarkO):

Have you seen this site? What are some of your favorite cards? (As if anybody would actually respond...)

Also from MarkO, this study on classical music's effects on raspberries.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Education Week at LeftCheek - pt. 1

As a card-carrying member of the local teacher's union, as a progressive educator in the vein of Dewey, and as an urban and public education proponent, I should be able to take some definite stands on issues related to my field. And I do.

But as a parent and as a reflective and - hopefully thoughtful - teacher, I still need to question the accepted wisdom given me from all directions. This bonus Weekly Links edition is dedicated to the ongoing questions and struggles that we as educators (and particularly, of course, me) face on a regular basis. This is just a little window into our souls, into our highly politicized world, into our hearts and minds and emotionally charged experiences. It's a lot of questions with quite possibly a few answers if we're lucky and willing to dig.

This is part one.

Teacher Opposed to Standardized Tests Reconsiders. In this NPR piece, a teacher considers what good is coming out of NCLB for the left-behind children of the urban landscape. She also considers how the high-stakes testing playing field is furthering the educational gap between the haves and the have-nots.

From the Harvard Education Letter is the non-news that students' literacy and learning (and, subsequently, their testing) is affected by the interaction in literacy and learning that they get at home, particularly with their parents.
School matters, but literacy starts at home. Teachers armed with reading contracts and carefully worded missives have long urged parents to read aloud to their children. But now there is a second and perhaps more powerful message: Talk to your kids, too...
“It is really what parents have been doing at home that children have to draw on when they become readers and writers,” says Gail Jordan, associate professor of education at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minn., who says children from three to five are “ripe” for engaging in rich language learning.
A decade ago, Jordan created Project EASE (Early Access to Success in Education) to help parents and kindergarten teachers work shoulder to shoulder to help children develop literacy skills. The program, now used in 120 Ohio schools and in Minnesota, invites parents and children to participate in structured evening events that provide education and modeling for parents and offer weekly activities to do at home. Parent-child activities include storybook reading, retelling family narratives, and talking about the world. Retelling family stories, for example, reinforces the sequencing of ideas, emphasizes the value of detail, and sharpens children’s narrative skills.
Blogging helps encourage teen writing. Also, not news. But glad that someone is giving this form of writing a shot.

And I know that you've been burning with this question forever: Where do homeschoolers go to when they're suspended?
We got yer answer right here!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

"You're the best gym teacher ever!"

Today I was roaming the halls during my one lunch break/prep period (probably refilling liquid in my system while unloading the old liquid from it) and a kid says that to me.

"You're the best gym teacher ever."

I said what you can assume one should say in such a situation. "Thanks." Which sounds weird in a bathroom. He's not the towel guy.

On many other occasions, I'd been on the receiving end of other free-floating and unsolicited opinions regarding myself, my work, and - quite dubiously, since the students can satisfy this curiosity by looking at my left hand or quite possibly asking me - my sexual identity.

Aw, but now the expectations are high, the bar is raised - supposedly to my favor. Yet, not only can I not live up to the hype, I can't even justify the title. Not "Best", nor even "Gym Teacher".

--- Note: I have taken down this blog to re-fix it as part of an upcoming book about my teacher experiences.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Gas Guzzling

This whole idea of a gas-tax holiday is incredibly stupid.

Remember the rations of World War II? Remember reading about and viewing the call-to-sacrifice that the US asked of its patriotic citizens? Now, we're being told that gas is at an all-time high (well, the prices, obviously. The gas quantity itself... notsomuch), we should get some temporary relief. As if this period of gas gagging is just a little hump, like last year's was. Or the year before that. Or the one before that - dating to when gas was jumping up to 1.25 a gallon and we all thought we would die and that maybe our cars should start operating off of garbage like the DeLoreans of the future.

The problem is that there is only so much oil in the world. And instead of aggressively looking for solutions and cutting back our dependence on Big Gas, we buy up big SUV's, guzzle gas like we're pledging, buy at Wal-Mart like we need to, and demand for someone to relieve us a flipping 5% at the pump. It's not built to last.

What doesn't bother me is the Republican's pandering. You kind of expect that. What bothers me is Clinton's so-called response. She talked about her long-term plans as if they were gonna make a difference in about twenty years or so, but let's wait til later. Let's wait til we're after the point of necessity. It seems that she doesn't understand the severity of it. And worse, like one of Jack Nicholson's signature characters, she's sure that we can't handle the truth.

She does argue that her plan is different than, say, McCain's in that the gas companies will be taxed on their surplus of profits. Again, not ecologically sound. But, if that don't float your boat, so to say, take former Clinton staffer George's account...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Economists say that's not going to happen. They say this is going to go straight into the profits of the oil companies. They're not going to actually lower their prices. And the two top leaders in the House are against it. Nearly every editorial board and economist in the country has come out against it. Even a supporter of yours, Paul Krugman of The New York Times, calls it pointless and disappointing.

Can you name one economist, a credible economist who supports the suspension?

CLINTON: Well, you know, George, I think we've been for the last seven years seeing a tremendous amount of government power and elite opinion basically behind policies that haven't worked well for the middle class and hard-working Americans.

So, what I hear you saying, Senator, is that the current administration got us into this hell-hole because they listened to experts, and not because they're bull-headed ideologues who would not take suggestions from experts - and oftentimes would deliberately remove them from influence. Gosh, thanks for clearing that one up.

CLINTON: From the moment I started this campaign, I've said that I am absolutely determined that we're going to reverse the trends that have been going on in our government and in our political system, because what I have seen is that the rich have gotten richer. A vast majority -- I think something like 90 percent -- of the wealth gains over the last seven years have gone to the top 10 percent of wage earners in America.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But can you name an economist who thinks this makes sense?

CLINTON: Well, I'll tell you what, I'm not going to put my lot in with economists, because I know if we get it right, if we actually did it right, if we had a president who used all the tools of the presidency, we would design it in such a way that it would be implemented effectively.

Now, look, I have long-term plans too. I mean, it's a misnomer to say this is all that I'm doing. It's not. I have a comprehensive long-term energy plan that would go right at dependence on foreign oil. We've got to undermine this incredible addiction that we have. We use more foreign oil today than we did on 9/11. That is a disaster for America.

So, the solution is to use more, nationally-found gas? To once again destroy our land to find enough gas to last a few months? To hold off on attempting anything substantial now in an effort to attempt everything at once at a later yet-to-be-determined-time and then hope that nothing goes to pot at the 11 1/2 hour? To plan for the future by ignoring the nearly-present right now?


It reminds me of a scene from The Simpsons Movie, where President Arnold Schwarzenegger has to choose between five harrowing, life-altering scenarios, all laid out for him in manuscript form. The man who presents the options asks him, as President Arnold places his finger on the middle one, if he would at least peruse the options. The President says, "The American people voted for a leader, not a reader."

I had no idea that would be a description for a progressive presidential candidate this year. I thought that was the area for the neocons.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Ready for the Audacity of Hope?

It seems that we're not quite there yet. Not only does Obama need to (and so far, has failed to, and will probably continue to fail to) secure the all-so-important Bigot Vote, but he also needs to win the War of the Low Signals.

Quotes from the Time article:
In his 1991 book, The Reasoning Voter, political scientist Samuel Popkin argued that most people make their choice on the basis of "low-information signaling" — that is, stupid things like whether you know how to roll a bowling ball or wear an American-flag pin. In the era of Republican dominance, the low-information signals were really low — how Michael Dukakis looked in a tanker's helmet, whether John Kerry's favorite sports were too precious (like wind-surfing), whether Al Gore's debate sighs over his opponent's simple obfuscations were patronizing. Bill Clinton was the lone Democratic master of low-information signaling — a love of McDonald's and other assorted big-gulp appetites gave him credibility that even trumped his evasion of military service.

The audacity of the Obama campaign was the belief that in a time of trouble... the low-information politics of the past could be tossed aside in favor of a high-minded, if deliberately vague, appeal to the nation's need to finally address some huge problems. But that assumption hit a wall in Pennsylvania. Specifically, it hit a wall at the debate staged by ABC News in Philadelphia — viewed by an audience of 10 million, including a disproportionate number of Pennsylvanians — that will go down in history for the relentless vulgarity of its questions, with the first 40 minutes focused exclusively on so-called character issues rather than policy. Obama was on the defensive from the start, but gradually the defensiveness morphed into bitter frustration. He kept his cool — a very presidential character trait — and allowed his disdain to show only when he was asked a question about his opponent's Bosnia gaffe. "Senator Clinton deserves the right to make some errors once in a while," he said. "What's important is to make sure that we don't get so obsessed with gaffes that we lose sight of the fact that this is a defining moment in our history."...

[Obama's] point, and Bill Clinton's, is indisputable: there is a need for a big election this year...
But Obama is going about it the wrong way. "After 14 long months," he said in his concession speech, "it's easy to get caught up in the distractions and the silliness and the tit for tat that consumes our politics..." What's wrong with that, you might ask? It's too abstract, too detached. Too often, Obama has seemed unwilling to get down in the muck and fight off the "distractions" that are crippling his campaign. Obviously, this is strategy — his appeal has been the promise of a politics of civility (and as a black man, he wants to send low-information signals that he is neither angry nor threatening). But what if, after ABC had enabled the smarmy American-flag-pin question from an "average citizen," Obama had taken on George Stephanopoulos and Charlie Gibson directly, "Why aren't you guys wearing pins? Why isn't Hillary?" Indeed, this was Clinton's strategy in an earlier debate, upbraiding her questioners from MSNBC — and it may have turned the tide in her favor in Ohio and Texas.
Another article (this time on the division within the Democratic Party between those with a post-secondary education and those without and, in general, about demographics) by David Brooks here.

Regarding the Wright controversy (which I still don't understand how people so far removed from the situation as to never having attended an African American church or trying to understand the ideas and justifications for the Black Power movement can even begin to condemn - not to mention the fact that many conservative White pastors say largely the same thing [Pat Robertson, for example] for different reasons), Bill O'Reilly and Newt Gingrich are still continuing to drag that cat out and toe and extol the Fox News Party Line. I was bothered by the fact that, on "The Daily Show", Jon Stewart pretty much let Newt have his ridiculous and racially-ignorant say. Yet Hillary Clinton, on O'Reilly's own Fear-Mongering Factor, pretty much put him in check and played him like an accordion.

Don't get me twisted. Obama all the way. He'd still be the best option for this country, especially in terms of our international appeal. And that is absolutely crucial during this time of the so-called War on Terror. Strengthening our ties and the livelihood of developing nations throughout the world will make our job easier, as it will be harder to recruit new blood to the terrorists cause, because there will be nothing to justify that way of life/death/killing. His reluctance to support a federal gas-tax is also promising (even if it's political suicide) that his plans for the future are sustainable; that we should stop worrying about the rising cost of energy and instead start thinking about changing how we do things (cf., this Stephen Colbert interview with James Howard Kunstler).

But it just may be the more politically savvy (if not exactly trust-worthy) Clintons who may win the fight against the McCain power play.


h/t for the Time and Times articles to Scot McKnight

oh. And there's this: