Thursday, June 17, 2021

Bubble Humor

Bubble humor - humor that works only if you live in a bubble.

The truth is, cursive is a font... and the generation below me has been exposed to a massively larger variety of fonts than the generation above me.

One of the things I am guarding against (probably with only varying degrees of success) as I am growing older is falling into the boorish behavior of thinking my generation is so much superior to those that are coming up - with the accompanying complaints against music, fashion, movies, views...etc.  You can read the writings of any century and find old people bemoaning "X" in young people.

Just don't.

Monday, June 14, 2021

No Government Censoring Needed

Growing up in the 80s, my generation watched and rolled our eyes at the Soviets and China for their blatant cover-ups and the lies they told their citizens.  Our collective smugness came through in movies like Rocky IV.

It took me a while to realize that we, as American citizens, were arguably participating in something much worse.  Whereas Soviet and China citizens were not told the truth... we simply did not want to know.

I was 50 when I found out about the Tulsa Massacre. 


The US government did not have secret meetings to plot how to keep the true details of that story out of the papers.  No committee forbade it being covered in school textbooks.  

No, we as citizens have done the work of sanitizing our history.  We don't want to hear anything that makes the Red, White, and Blue sparkle less.

Our version of patriotism is taking care of all the work despotic governments toil over.

Saturday, June 05, 2021

Teaching is Spark

I have friends retiring from teaching this month.  I envy them.  I am still a few years away... but it is in sight.

Don't get me wrong.  I enjoy working with the kids and their families.  I enjoy the community environment of a school.

However, my heart sunk today as I learned of a bunch of new programs and tests the state is gearing up to have us implement starting next year.

A new string of meetings and paperwork.

It never ends.

The dog chasing its tail.

The education industry has many parallels to the diet industry.  There is ALWAYS some new program that we must drop everything to implement /go through endless trainings to prepare for /join in the collective illusion that THIS is going to be the cure.  Only to forget it 5 years later when we move on to the next bandwagon program.  

Like the diet industry, we move from program to program with no sense of history.  We ignore the trail of expensive solutions that didn't cure us of people who struggle with weight or students who struggle with academics.

Meanwhile, we gaslight teachers and the public into believing that the success or failure of the new program lies with the teacher.  One of the opening lines in the introduction to our new program was this:

"A well-educated teacher that implements research-based instruction is the greatest predictor of student success."

Gaslighting.  There are a number of predictors that kick in WAY before the teacher.  The greatest predictor is actually the zip code.

I can never decide if statements such as the line above are born of malevolence or ignorance.  Maybe a touch of both.

In all of these programs, one of the predictably missing pieces is any mention of student/family input. Somehow, in the education industry, we act like this is an ancillary point... but it is actually the pivotal one.

We know that a patient has to implement all of the doctor's instructions to get healthy.  A good coach is awesome to have, but the player has to commit to the training.  Could a musician become proficient going to an excellent instructor but refusing the nightly practice?

I had a reading specialist in our district years ago try to explain to me that it did not matter if a student practiced reading or not.  The student who read nightly and the student who never picked up a book should be able to reach the same high level of reading proficiency...  if I was doing my instruction properly.  She got angry and suggested I leave the profession when I told her I did not believe that.

This is the gaslighting going on in many school districts... and it is why so many are leaving the profession in frustration and fewer university students are pursuing teaching as a career.

Instruction is actually NOT the most important thing I do for reading at the 2nd-grade level - generating spark is.  IF I can help the child ignite their spark for reading, we can move them way beyond anything instruction alone can do.  

However, to generate spark, a teacher needs to have a spring in their step and a twinkle in their eye.  They need to feel a sense of color and art in what they do.

Sending teachers to more trainings, to learn to implement more tests and progams, drains the needed spark out of our profession.

Monday, May 31, 2021

April/May 2021 Movie Grades

I reactivated my AMC A-List 6 weeks ago.  Here is what I have seen-

Voyagers – Lord of the Flies set in space.  It had a few good moments but overall, it felt like another CW teen angst story.     C

Nobody - Bob Odenkirk is just fun to watch as John Wick.  The first 2/3 of the movie is riveting.  The last third took on a campy tone and I would not have been surprised to find that the writing and directing were done by someone else.  It felt that different.  Still, it was good enough for a second viewing that same week.  If guns and brutal fight scenes are your cup of tea, this is a good one.  B

The Unholy – My daughter is my horror film buddy… and we both agreed that this was a dud.  It had a good cast and Jefferey Dean Morgan in the center seat made it endurable.  However, since nothing in the story was particularly scary, they went to the jump-scare well 10 times too often.  D

Nomadland – The story of a wanderlust-driven widow living out of her van.  There is a thin plot, but mostly it is just a series of encounters with different people.  A slow burn that is designed to meander.  I was completely entranced and I left the theater desperate to travel.  B+

Wrath of Man – A moderately entertaining revenge/heist flick.  A father develops an elaborate plan to get revenge on the men who killed his son.  I guess Liam Neeson is too old for this role now.  B-

Those Who Wish Me Dead -  This movie started off on the wrong foot for me.  Angelina Jolie and her cadre of firefighters are just a bunch of loud bullies.  They are introduced interrupting a commencement that they are too cool to respect.  In the next scene, the guys in her posse are in a bar making fun of others for not being as “manly” as them.  I had nothing but disdain for the protagonists the first 10 minutes in.  It did pick up after that somewhat.  Ultimately, it is a story about a firefighter saving a kid in the mountain forests, but I never shook my first impressions.  C

Spiral -  I usually pass on Saw movies and their like.  I don’t want to see one torture death, let alone a series of them.  However, I am a fan of Chris Rock… and there was nothing else new to see that week, so I gave it a go.  Minus the torture-death aspect, I enjoyed the movie.  Chris Rock delivered.  It was a good cop story.  Just give me the edited version, please.  B

Raya and the Last Dragon – This was a very enjoyable Disney movie. It succeeds in walking that line of keeping the adults entertained while engaging the children.  Fun characters.  Fun story.  B+

Scott Pilgrim Vs The World – AMC has been doing “Fan-Faves” in their theaters.  Older flicks for 5 bucks.  I hope they continue this practice beyond the pandemic.  I have tried to get in to see Back to the Future and Raiders of the Lost Ark but they are always sold out (theaters still only allow 40% seating).  I did not see this movie when it first came out but I assume it must have been for 20 somethings then what Singles was back in the early 90s.  Still, even at 50+ I thought this movie was hilarious.  I love fast, underplayed witty lines and this movie had loads of that.  B+

Cruella – The trailers for this movie did not do it justice.  I went in with low expectations and ended up thoroughly enjoying it.  The character of Cruella was a perfect anti-hero.  This is the direction that the Harley Quinn movie SHOULD have taken. The movie has one major failing through no fault of its own.  It is NOT a kid’s movie, though it can’t help but be billed as such.  It is long and filled with dialog… and the kids in my theater were not enjoying it.  You might want to catch this at a later showing to avoid a theater of bored 7-year-olds.  B+

A Quiet Place II – I was not as enamored with the first one as much as everyone else seemed to be.  So, when this one chose to retread the same territory as the first one, I found myself looking at my watch a lot.  Not a good sign if the movie is only an hour and a half.  C+

(BTW, my grades speak primarily to my personal enjoyment of the movie.  You may notice I rarely give A’s.  To me, those are reserved for movies I can see a dozen times and never get bored.  Movies like Tombstone, A few Good Men, The Thing, 2010.  C’s are “average” and still worth a watch, but not a repeat.  B’s are enjoyable and probably worthy of another view or two.  D’s I don’t recommend and F’s I walk out of.)

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Black Superman?

Putting different spins on canon comic characters has been going on since... forever.  In fact, Marvel once had a monthly called "What IF" that looked at just such stories - What IF the spider had bitten MJ rather than Peter Parker?  Disney+ will be doing an animated Marvel series of these stories this summer.

Superman is a favorite for such tales.

In one story, called Red Son, Superman lands in Russia rather than Kansas and no longer fights for the "American Way".

In the popular game and comic series "INJUSTICE", Superman becomes an overlord of Earth after Lois and his unborn child are killed by the Joker.  He rules with an iron fist and kills heroes like Shazam.  Snyder was clearly hinting at taking the character in this direction in his movie "Justice League" which premiered on HBO a few weeks back.

And do you know HOW CLOSE we came to having Nicolas Cage as Superman??  The script was written and they were outfitting the man who stole The Constitution with a big S and a cape!

Yep, everyone loves a new spin on the Superman legend.


Apparently, for some folks, asking "What if Superman were black?" is pure Kryptonite. Warner Brothers is getting a lot of hate mail, written with smoldering Crayola's, by fans who do not want to see a black Kal-El on the silver screen.

Me?  I'm all in!  Just give me a second to run to the concession stand and grab a popcorn and soda.

Saturday, March 06, 2021

A Life Well Lived

On Tuesday, March 2nd, my father died.  I had come down to Florida the Friday before when he and my mom were diagnosed with Covid and my dad was admitted to the hospital.  Though he was pretty sick, he seemed to be on a slow improvement track.

So, I was caught off guard when the doctor called me Tuesday night to let me know that my dad had a heart attack and would probably not make it through the night.  She was not unkind, but she was so technical as she explained to me the medical decisions we had to make that I had trouble connecting those decisions to her first statement.  The floor had completely dropped from beneath me.

I asked if my wife could call her to walk through all that again.  In hindsight, I realize I just needed confirmation.  My wife is a talented medical professional and I knew she was going to make the same recommendation the doctor had just made.  Still, part of me was scrambling for another option.  I have always seemed to be able to figure out a way to make the most sideways scenario successful.  In the end, everything works out. But not this time. I felt like I was being smothered as it became clear what was about to happen.

Mary Lee joined with my brothers and I on a Zoom call.  While she walked them through our decisions, I informed my Mom.

After everyone got through their initial tears, we knew we wanted Dad to hear our voices one more time.  He was sedated and would probably not be aware of us but we wanted to be present.  So, me and my mom in Florida, my family in Utah, Matt’s family in N. Carolina, Steve’s family in Hong Kong, and my nephew in England all joined in a Zoom call and the nurse would take a device into my Dad’s room.

When the nurse came on the call, it was to tell us my father had passed a few minutes before.  Wife, sons, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren were all together to hear that sad announcement.  I am grateful we were with each other in that moment.

My last conversation with my dad was filled with laughs and joking.  I had gotten locked outside their retirement community and my mom must have been sleeping.  After a few attempts to persuade the security guard, I got my dad on the line to give him the all-clear.  We found it funny how iron-clad the security protocols of his neighborhood are.

And that is how I think of my Dad.  He could be serious, but I suspect he is most remembered for his happy-go-lucky temperament.  He liked and was liked by everyone.

My Dad would have been 80 this summer.  He went on his first cruise last year and loved it.  We had hoped to do one together to celebrate his 80th when covid was in the rearview mirror.

He ran a carpet company out of our home back in the day.  My brothers and a lot of our friends worked for him as laborers on big jobs.  We would spend days ripping out carpet in a theater or tiling an office building.  We would pile into the work van early in the morning and, as my friend Jon reminded me, sit on buckets of glue for the ride down.  Carpet jobs were nice cause then we could sit on a roll of padding.  

When my Dad was not on the job, he was usually traveling.  When my brothers and I were little, we traveled by car and camper across America many times and even headed across Canada once.  I suspect my Dad hit all the contiguous 48 at one point or another.

Beyond that, he was a world traveler.  His passports were littered with stamps.  Africa, Asia, Europe, Central America.  He and my mom were always up for another adventure.

He loved to cook.  He had numerous specialties we all looked forward to him making.  Some of my favorite memories are hanging out on his back patio in Michigan while he was grilling up burgers.

My dad was a wonderful father and loving husband.  His was a life well-lived.  I am immensely proud of him.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

No Place For Reagan

There is no place for a Reagan Republican in the GOP right now.  Oh, like Jesus, they will use his name... but they would have no interest in implementing his ways.

The Democrats have their extremes... and they often grab headlines.  But the election of Joe Biden shows that Democrats have formed a coalition.  Biden went out and sought the vote of all Americans and in the process, he even got many conservatives to join its big tent.

Meanwhile, the GOP under Trump focused on a much narrower field.  They pushed away their moderates and focused on their extremes.

It is time for a new conservative party in America... one based on policy and principles.  I know there is hesitancy with some on that idea because they believe it will hand America to liberals for the next 20 years.

I really don't think that is the case.  Right now, there are folks voting on the Democratic side who do so ONLY because the GOP is so crazy presently.  They pine to vote "Republican" again.  Also, there are folks voting with the GOP who are doing so only under duress.  They hate what Trump has done to the party... but fear speaking out will just get them "primaried".  Decades of loyalty can be wiped away in an instant right now in the GOP for failing to lick the boots of the leader.

Democrats have conservatives, moderates, leftists, and their extreme.

The GOP has sidelined everyone but their extreme.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

This World IS My Home

I get distressed when the number of renters in my neighborhood goes up. Though not true in all cases, renters simply do not care for their home and our neighborhood the way owners do.

When I sat on our HOA board, I found most of our "issues" in the neighborhood revolved around renters.  Though they were only about 10 percent of our neighborhood, over 50 percent of our problems with dues being paid, yard maintenance, parking compliance, abusing the clubhouse, etc came from those who did not own their home.

Similarly, I also find it distressing when religious people refer to our beautiful and fragile world in a "renter's" voice. For example, the statement in the picture was shared on Facebook by a friend of mine.  To her, this world is something to be discarded rather than cherished.  The Christian artist Larry Norman famously sang that "This world is not my home.  I'm just passing through."

How much different our world would be if everyone DID see this world as our home... something to invest in and nurture, rather than as a temporary stop-off on our way somewhere else.

Sunday, February 07, 2021

This Next Time It Is Really, REALLY Real!

Some of my friends who were raised secular stare in awe as Trump supporters cling to a new date for when he will be declared the election victor (first came December, two in January, next one is in March).  Then I explain growing up with televangelist end-time preachers and all the rapture dates that were set.

"Sure... but when it didn't come to pass, they all knew the preacher was a grifter... right?"

I shake my head.

"But... but... the evidence... it's right there!"

I continue to shake my head.

For those of us who grew up in fundamentalist religion, seeing people STILL cling to Trump and Q-Anon fantasies borders on nostalgia.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

You Are Not Broken

During what may have been our last time attending our Evangelical church eleven years ago, the pastor was talking about sin and brokenness.  He let the congregation know that God saw their sin and could not abide it.  Yet, Jesus comes and stands in front of you... and then God can accept you, through Jesus.

On the drive home my wife said that while Jake sat in her lap during the service, she wanted to cover his ears. "I don't want him being told he is dirty and broken.  The message there has changed."

"No, it hasn't," I replied. "We have."

We were still believers but had started to see the foundational perspective of Evangelicalism as toxic.  Our ears became attuned to how many of our faith's beliefs sounded like something you would hear in an abusive relationship.

To clarify, I did not become an Atheist because of that experience or my decades in Evangelicalism.  There are plenty of churches out there that do not promote unhealthy views of the self and spirituality.

I just don't believe in the supernatural.

However, if you are a believer and have been attending the same kind of church for decades, I would encourage you to visit a different church once every month or two.  Get a perspective of what else is out there.  Because, here is the thing: If you had pointed out to me the toxic phrases my belief system used when I was all in, I would have denied they were toxic.  I would have told you that those messages were "good" for me and that you needed to hear them too.  Fish do not know they are wet and folks in toxic churches don't think they are toxic.

There may be a church community out there that would bring you a peace and happiness you never imagined... but you have never gone outside your bubble.

Of course, I have never been happier since I started playing disc golf on Sunday mornings... but that's just me.  🙂

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