Thursday, December 31, 2009

They say that you get a little hit of dopamine every time you check your e-mail or FB status. It's probably similar to what might have happened when you went to the mailbox years ago and found a personal letter. It's the feeling of human contact, connection, that the internet has both wondrously given and yet paradoxically surreptitiously stolen away. It's New Year's Eve and I'm sitting on the couch, roaring fire-- well not as roaring now, comfy-- but alone. My children were chomping at the bit to go to the neighbor's home whose dog we are caring for while she parties in NYC at the "largest singles party in the city." So I'm now actually alone right now. Me and my geriatric dog and even more geriatric cat. Dying fire, dying animals, dying year. Whoah-- that's a bit pessimistic. I'm not feeling down. I'm just feeling--- blah. New Year's Eve always feels that way to me. It's so anti-climactic. There is the build up to Christmas-- which always seems to deliver-- but New Year's has the hype and none of the magic. Maybe I'm sad-- because I'm spending yet another holiday without my love. The kids could soak up all the love on Christmas-- Christmas doesn't even count if there aren't children around. But New Year's-- you need someone to kiss at midnight. Sure-- I can kiss the kiddos. I can even get a furry kiss from the geriatric animals. But this night has that hype of love and passion and being with the person of your dreams---. I'm lucky-- he's in my life-- he's just not here right now-- and for that I feel fortunate-- for New Year's Eve is rough for all the legit single people--- if it's lonely enough for me and I'm only temporarily single. So--- to all of you-- who wish New Year's Eve didn't have all the hype of romance-- I'm with you--that's why I spent two hours on Facebook tonight, people-- getting all those hits of dopamine.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Just saw James Cameron's AVATAR and can say I'm much more in agreement with the critics that taut it as a groundbreaking phenomenal movie rather than on the side of folk who are saying "old story, wooden dialogue." Yes, it is an old story, as old as Medea and Jason, it's essentially parts of the Illiad. But what Cameron has done is create a new world into which to place this old story. And other critics, too, argue that the film is too political. Sure, it is political, but if we as a domineering nation read into Cameron's script as being critical of the U.S. that's because that's who we are. ANY domineering, imperialistic nation that believes that those who will not bend to their will are inferior and "savage" will see the same thing. This post-colonial world has many villains, yet, as Cameron's film portrays there are as many conflicted "former" conquerors, who realize the rights of the natives-- albeit sometimes too late. However, in Hollywood, it's never too late. Too bad we can't have the tree of life sort things out in the Middle East.

Friday, December 25, 2009

video

I've lost track of how many Christmasses of the 19 that Steve and I have known one another that we've been apart. It's probably close to half. This is the first year, however, where I actually had to be the only adult in the morning. Usually I'm at my parents' house, or I have my brother or a visiting friend or something. But this time I did the whole Christmas morning thing on my own. And it wasn't so bad. Because my kids are awesome and Christmas is awesome. But it still would have been a whole lot better if Steve were here.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Tough Way to become a Millionaire


James Bain was wrongly accused of the kidnapping and rape of a nine-year old boy because the boy picked him out of a line-up in 1974. Despite an alibi corroborated by a witness, Mr. Bain was convicted and spent the last 35 years in jail, until the Florida Innocence Project finally got DNA evidence to be tested and retried and exonerated Bain. He was only 19 years old when he was put in jail. And yet the man harbors no anger, says he's got his faith. That may be true and for that he is a better man than most who leave jail. To have spent one's whole adult life in jail, it seems unfathomable. Yet, Florida has a law that gives $50,000 a year for every year in jail if you've been wrongfully convicted. Mr. Bain is entitled to $1.75 million!! Well, he's got God for sure, but at least he's also got a savings now, something he surely will need as he adjusts to this new planet.

Friday, December 11, 2009

REAL MEN LOVE THEIR PREGNANT WIVES

Ok. I'll admit it. I'm following the Tiger Woods story. I am fascinated with all the issues his infidelity brings up. First of all, yes, it's true, he was not sprung from divine loins, he is, much to the nation's chagrin, HUMAN. That's a relief in some ways. It's too hard on humanity to see someone so talented, so wealthy, seemingly so on top of the game of life without pretty much thinking we are doomed in our mere mortal existence. Tiger, however, with these indescretions has now finally reached that pinacle of hero-dom, his hubris has been exposed and like many a semi-divine figure, his fall from grace is viewed with an odd mix of pleasure and fear. The pleasure is of the Schadenfreude kind, but the fear-- the fear is dependent on one's gender. Men, I would surmise, look on Tiger's predicament as a cautionary tale, the kind that makes them erase their own "special friends" from e-mail lists and cell phone directories. The great fear for women comes when we look at Elin Nordegren Woods. She's beautiful. Drop dead gorgeous. If a man can cheat on her, what hope do most of us schleps have?? Then the fear almost melts into a resignation, that it's true-- All men are scum. Tiger Woods, THE Tiger Woods still fell into the most trite cliche of a man who would cheat on his wife when she was pregnant and bearing children. Appalling. I do say all of this knowing full well there are wonderful faithful men out there, ones who enjoy loving their pregnant child-bearing wives, fully and wholly and EXCLUSIVELY. I know, I married one.

Monday, November 23, 2009

On Science vs. Faith

Lately there has been a great deal of energy in the media focused on health issues, particularly the recent recommendation that women need not get mammograms every year after 40, but should wait until 50 and then only do it twice a year. Recently there has been a lot of information regarding genetic testing and privacy, as well. I've been ruminating on this issue and having small arguments with various folk, but truly what my contentions revolve around is my belief that while science is fantastic at explaining things we know--- it cannot, ever, by any stretch of the imagination, explain the things we do not know. Science can detect lumps and cancers, it can tell us if we have a gene for Huntingdon's Disease-- but the fact of the matter is Science CANNOT tell us what we WILL die from. That we will die, is a given. That we would likely die from this cancer or disease is us working against statistics. We cannot fight death. It will come-- but I really believe that there is a certain kind of fatalism in play when we feel the need to discover the things wrong with our bodies. Is there a test to see if your resilience gene is stronger than your disease gene? Is there a test to prove that you will die of this disease and not a freak car accident when a deer runs across the road? Is it really better to know? The mammogram study highlighted the harms to younger women who had false positives. They had unnecessary biopsies and the amount of stress they had quite likely took a few years off their lives. I know it's easy for me to sit here and ponder these thoughts. I don't have cancer. But I'm quite sure if a doctor told me I did, I would choose to get a second, a third perhaps up to a fifth or sixth opinion. And if I found a reputable doctor who was able to cast doubt on the diagnosis. I'd choose to believe that doctor. I know that sounds ridiculously uninformed of me. But it is what I believe. I've never had total and unwavering faith in the health system. Doctors are fallible as all of us are. We put our lives in their hands, in the hopes they will be able to make us better-- but I'm sure doctors would be the first to say-- but that's no guarantee. Science can only make predictions. But there is always some percentage of a doubt. Even if it is .1%, that still exists. And if I die a happier, more hopeful person because I chose to reserve a good deal of more of my energy in believing than knowing, well then, I feel like that might be alright.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Irony

I'm not condoning Nidal Malik Hassan's actions in any way shape or form. He is a crazy murdering fiend, no question. But this whole situation has had me fuming every time I hear about it in the news. No one considered the religious backgrounds of the VA Tech shooter, or the Pittsburgh Fitness Center shooter, or the wacked minds of the Columbine teens who mowed down their classmates. No, what we heard was that these were messed up, lonely, angry psychotics. And the fact is, that is the same with Hassan. Today the headline is "Ft. Hood shooter charged with 13 counts of murder"-- and the headline seemed to sting my eyes in a strange way-- clearly so strange that I felt I had to write about it, because I hardly ever do this--but I could not help but see the irony of the fact that Hassan could have gotten on a plane and headed to Afghanistan, be handed a gun and, given the proper circumstances, even if innocent civilians happened to get killed in the crossfire, he would have gotten away with it. On a more grim and disturbing note, those thirteen soldiers could have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, been blown up by IED's or shot by snipers, and no one would ever be brought to justice, because that's what happens in war. People get killed. I'm just saying there is a whole lot more wrong with the picture of Nidal Malik Hassan than that he was a devout Muslim of Palestinian descent. He also was able to legally purchase a gun. And he was in an organization that condones the use of guns to kill, even if innocent people might get injured along the way, in a world that still, despite all the evolutionary evidence to support otherwise, a world that still recognizes violence as any kind of solution at all.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Quest For Happiness

Last night a man shot three women and wounded several others at an LA Fitness center in a Pittsburgh suburb. These acts of desperate selfishness fascinate me. Well, I'm sure they fascinate the world, really. How does someone get so sad, so angry, so decidedly alien to the sanctity of human life that one is compelled not only to take one's own life, but to bring others down, as well. A reign of terror on innocents in order to appease one's own feelings of depression or abandonment. From the shootings at Columbine to Virginia Tech to any number of post offices and restaurants, it is clear beyond clear, that a ban on fire arms to all civilians would at the very least save a few lives. When a despondent, beyond reasoning, person has hold of a gun before there is any chance of second thoughts or remorse or fear or rationality-- they've potentially taken multiple lives with one flick of the automatic rifle. This is nothing to say what happens to soldiers who are are in possession not only of weapons such as these in even more intense emotional situations with only seconds to make a decision and supposed nations of support behind them. And the utter tragedy for soldiers, unlike the deranged psychopaths who plan out their public shootings-- most soldiers never wanted to kill anyone in the first place-- so the power of the weapon to wipe out enemy combatants along with children and women creates a psychological dissonance that for many, many a soldier becomes a forever festering hidden wound upon their return to our supposed "non-combatant" world-- where you can innocently be taking an aerobics class one evening and end up in a body bag. So there are several problems which concern me in all this. One is putting lethal weapons in the hands of unhappy people. Two is putting lethal weapons in the hands of once well-adjusted or at least non-murdering people, thereby turning them into unhappy people. Three, that while we can look at horror at the tribal violence we see in the Middle East or Africa, that ultimately our nation is not better off, is not more civilized, is not less tragic and horrid. In fact our glazed and misguided belief that we are a superior nation is more dispicable than if we at least recognized our faults as endemic rather than anomalous. Despite having great wealth, abundant resources, despite the standard of living such that some people will never know, we still crank out unhappy, desperate, maladjusted people who rather than cope with life, would rather end their miserable lives in a shower of bullets and no care as to whose life is snuffed with their own. Of course I do not blame Mr. Sodini's illness and deplorable actions solely on our nation-- life is always a lot more complicated than that-- clearly the one thing our nation has struggled to come to grips with since its inception is that life is paradoxical and full of shades of gray---but would this man, without a gun, without the media hype that being good looking means you get whatever you want, or the hype that life in intimate relationship is better than community and neighborly relationship, that eros trumps agape, and if you don't have it then life is not worth living, would he have ended his and all those innocent lives? I am quite extra intrigued by this story, I suppose, because I just recently read Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. I know, I'm an English teacher, so why at the age of 43 am I just now reading that book? I don't know. Call it a deprived literary life. But--- I am now among the fold that is amazed at the prophetic nature of that book. Written in 1950-- how could Bradbury with only the most minor indications that Television and Film, Celebrity and Triviality was going to take over our nation so thoroughly, almost irrevocably? And then today I was reading about the 72 Year (and running) longitudinal study of 268 Harvard freshmen and how what seemingly "normal" lives-- can become so maladjusted as middle age and lack of adaptation and relationship and might I say, patience, can bring about. Being unhappy is a choice, no doubt, that is sometimes inextricably linked to chemical occurences in our bodies, but no less, it is a choice that can be altered and bandied and lost if we can not look at the manure filled stocking we're given and be sure beyond any shadow of doubt that there is a pony somewhere just waiting for us.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Back Taxes and Our Politicians

Ok, so I don't blog on a regular basis. That doesn't mean that things don't fly into my head ALL the time that I'd like to ponder in a public forum. But this time--- I just HAD to log in to the ol' blog and ask the question--- WHAT THE FLIP!!?!? Clinton had this same problem with the whole "nanny-gate" issue and his nominees. And now Obama is needing to admit his "screw up" about Dashchle who, by all accounts is a "good man." Geitner got confirmed by the skin of his teeth and the fact that he wrote a check for $34,000. Here's the thing--- WOULD YA think that perhaps our dang tax system is WHACKED the heck out if the people who created it can't even get it right? If they are loopholing and dodging and trying to cut corners--- sheesh. "Joe Six-Pack" only makes 34, 000 a year, so he can't exactly evade that much tax!! Why does "Steve Twelve-Pak" get mean letters from the IRS for back taxes equalling $2000 and why did "Leslie Love Handle" get an actual call from the IRS the summer after graduating college for them to remind her that the student exemption no longer existed if you made more than $200 a year. GIVE ME A FREAKIN' BREAK--- Daschle owed hundreds of thousands of dollars and he's a "good man" HOW MANY people out there are not giving the government its due if people in high places AREN'T? But NOOOO the IRS knocks on our doors. Grrrr. Washington--- anyone interested in the flat tax again??

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Snowflakes and Full Moons


Perhaps my life may only permit me to be a weekend blogger. And though it is quite late on a Sunday night, I do feel compelled to comment on two bits of nature that really took my breath away. The first was in the wee hours of the morning on Friday, actually. The moon was so enormous it felt as if I was walking toward some fabulous artist's science fiction matte painting. It still remains huge this evening. Apparently last night it was fuller and closer to the earth than usual, but we had snow last evening, so very cloudy skies. So I did only see the moon on the day before it was full and the day after it was full, but given the absolutely breath-taking sight it remains, I consider myself an optimist to have gotten to see even that. Perhaps I was just in a positive swing all weekend, because as I was taking the recycling out yesterday morning there was the lighest of snow falls. The kind where the snowflakes alight upon your cheeks like small feathers from a crystal bird. "Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes . . ." always seemed a dumb lyric to me until yesterday. And now, I must confess that those are among my favorite things, as well.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Last evening I saw Jen Childs' musical comedy /historical look at the "Worst Act in Vaudeville", the Cherry Sisters of Iowa. The 1812 Productions original musical (book/lyrics by Childs, music by James Sugg) Cherry Bomb was structured in a classic Vaudevillian evening with acts broken up into various genres from burlesque to crooning to juggling act. The pacing of the whole show was swift, making the intermission seem the longest part of the full 2.5 hour evening. Performed at the gorgeous old Plays and Players Theatre on Delancey St. in Philadelphia, Cherry Bomb, while outrageous and slapstick at times, had the subtle undertones of a critique on American entertainment and its fast buck mentality. Impresario Oscar Hammerstein exploited the Cherry Sisters' talentless bravado to improve his box office takes, and Childs, quite insightfully, sees the parallel's to today's American Idol executives, who consistently want to air the awful auditions since these spike the ratings much more than the "legitimate" talent. The question is posed in the lyric at the end of Cherry Bomb's Act I, Good, What is Good, illuminating the theme which intrigued director/writer Childs from the start, why are we entertained by others' humiliation? Brava to Childs and the energetic and talented cast of Cherry Bomb for giving life to the story of the Cherry Sisters and looking not at the spectacle of these women's lack of talent, but bringing heart to their moxie and their humaness.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A New Year, A New Resolution

So, it was nearly a year and a half ago that I "started" this blog with a whopping one line post. I have definitely not proven myself a blogger yet. There is something about blogging that still feels a bit odd to me. I write in my own little black leather bound journal to organize my thoughts or reflect on events to process their meaning. There is the humble possibility that perhaps a grandchild might find it in an old box some day and gain insight to ol' grams. But the blogosphere presents the frightening reality that exponentially more people may have access to my inner thoughts and quite immediately at that. But there is also the factor that in order to publish my thoughts on the web, I keep thinking that I have to have something profound to say. After several years of seeing the pointless drivel that clogs cyberspace, I feel myself in the self-affirming paradox of feeling like I have something at least more profound than 70% of what is out there, and the wish not to clutter the Internet with my pointless drivel.
Having been on Facebook now for six months or so, though, I'm feeling more comfortable in this transparent digital world. As a digital immigrant teaching a slew of digital natives, I'm in agreement when such techno-educators like Will Richardson who adamantly says that we must use all these tools and be a part of this environment in order to help our students navigate this new world. Like Robert Bly's description of the Sibling Society, so many young people are fearlessly utilizing the Internet, yet they lack the parenting to do so wisely. Richardson likened it to parents giving their kids keys to a car that the parents have no idea how to drive.
So--in order to be a better teacher, and adult, for that matter. I am publicly resolving today to practice what I preach. I'm going to write more regularly. And I'm doing it on a blog. So that when I teach my students how to be safe yet transparent, to be immediate yet well crafted, I'm going to know what I'm talking about.