Thursday, October 30, 2008

Confessions



  • I count stairs when I climb them.
  • I listen to Swedish language tapes when I drive around in my car for no other reason than because my grandparents were Swedish immigrants. I use it to translate children's books that I buy in second-hand bookstores.
  • Underneath the bed still kind of gives me the creeps.

  • My closet is arranged completely by color.
  • I am inordinately fond of accessories.
  • I can't stand talking on the phone.

  • There is a box (yes, a box) of red wine in my fridge and I think it's delicious.
  • I have lived in 33 different houses. I've never lived in one longer than 5 years. During one 3-year period, I lived without a house at all.
  • I'm convinced my goldfish really loves me and gets excited when I come home. I won him at the County Fair two summers ago by throwing a ping-pong ball into his little bowl.

  • Water is my favorite drink.
  • I like anchovies on my pizza and in my Caesar salad
  • I really don't mind doing dishes, but I hate to vacuum.
  • I find stoned people unbelievably boring and stupid.
  • I think the shower has great acoustics.
  • When I was a kid, I wanted to be a cat burglar or a fashion designer.

  • I drink my coffee sweet and blond.
  • I have an extremely acute sense of smell.
  • I am a night owl.
  • My favorite color is any shade of red.
  • I could read when I was 2, write when I was 3.
  • When I was a kid I wrote Star Trek episodes, featuring myself.
  • I find algebra relaxing.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Light of Day

In less than a week, California voters will decide whether to repeal the law that made same-sex marriage legal in the state. This has been a topic of much discussion on the blogs I read, and it seems to incite a very strong reaction in its opponents and its proponents alike. People fight and get nasty, so I decline to comment wherever this is going on.

In the midst of this argument (which is really about hatred) anonymi, the scourge of the blogosphere, have been throwing gay people and Christians under the bus (depending on which side they happen to be arguing). It's all very disturbing.

I posted the following as a reply on my virtual friend, Beachcomber's blog, in response to what she had written. I also posted a version of it as a bulletin on MySpace for my friends around the world to read.

Beachcomber wrote:
If you are voting Yes on Proposition 8, this blog is not for you. The version of Christianity to which you subscribe is different from mine. Your church that "hates the sin, not the sinner" and promotes marriage for some but not for others, is not one I can understand. At this point, you can move along.

I wrote:
I'm glad you wrote this and also that you wrote the paragraph about types of Christianity. I've been a little troubled to see people making this into a Christian-bashing exercise. It's not about religion; it's about prejudice and homophobia.

People who don't even practice any Christian values in any other aspects of their lives are suddenly righteously, religiously offended by same-sex marriage. Their reaction is bizarre and offensive.

If Christian values really prevailed in this country, as these haters want us to believe, then a LOT of things would be different, starting with people being kinder and more compassionate to one another, not cheating one another in the marketplace and not worshiping money, and behaving more faithfully and honorably in their 'sanctified' heterosexual marriages!

The Time-Standard discussion about the issue has gotten a whopping 1,684 comments (minus all the ones they've probably moderated out as abusive). That is huge.

When I was copy-editing the Vital Statistics at the McKinleyville Press recently, I noticed that 8 out of the 35 marriage licenses in the month of September were same-sex couples. I started paying closer attention. Those couples were all in their 50s and 60s and some had come from as far away as Arizona.

I'm a writer, so along with details like that, whole stories come flooding into my mind on the tide of my imagination. People who have been living together for years come to our state to marry, to finally have their unions santioned by the state. For them it is worth the trip. These are no spring chickens and there is no impulse here. In my imagination, their relationships have been going on a long, long time, yet in an unofficial, unspoken, undeclared way.

I myself resisted marriage all my life up until 6 years ago, so it has taken me awhile to stew about this issue, to figure out what the big deal was. But I see what it is now: it is acknowledgment, it is the light of day, it is freedom from prejudice.

To this day, the most stable and ordinary couple I know -- the two people whose relationship is the most free from drama and deception -- are a couple of guys who have been together 25 years. They make dinner, mow the lawn, take naps in front of the TV, drive one another to doctor's appointments. Who are you, who am I, to say they can't tie the knot? Clearly they have already tied it in reality. It's time the law caught up.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Vampires Read %@#% Books on Buses to Mutual Friends

What should I be for Halloween? I have all the makings for a sultry vampiress, but that seems so trite. Vampires are everywhere you turn these days. Still, I've never gotten to wear fangs... Halloween is going to be so fun this year! I'm going to a party and all the haunted houses and probably do the Plaza bar crawl with a bunch of friends. Yeah!
I rode the bus today and learned that even avoiding eye contact is not enough to stop the chatty people from assailing you. Reading would be a good excuse, but I get carsick when I read on the bus. Today at the transit center, a lady got on the bus wearing a gas mask. Why? This reminds me of when I was a teen and rode the bus with my friend Kelly. We were taking French 1 at the time, and when weird dudes tried to talk to us, we would only speak French. Je ne parle pas englais, monsieur. J'en suis desolee.
I'm reading Dickens' Our Mutual Friend for my British Lit class now and I love it! We have to blaze through it at the usual grad-school pace, so there is no time to savor every word like I want to. I recommend it. The characters are beautifully drawn, the plot as intriguing and byzantine as any Shakespeare, and the language! Dickens is a genius.

My friend Erin just posted this video on her MySpace that may offend some of you (this is a warning), but as a mom of teen boys and someone who spends a LOT of time with the younger crowd, I find this totally funny and rather cool. Read a book, read a book, read a mutha-fu***n book!!!


One Way to Look at It



My friend Tonya posted this today.

Educational Backgrounds

Barack Obama:
-Columbia University - B.A.
Political Science with a Specialization in
International Relations.
-Harvard - Juris Doctor (J.D.) Magna Cum Laude

Joseph Biden:
-University of Delaware - B.A. in History and B.A.
in Political Science.
-Syracuse University College of Law - Juris Doctor (J.D.)

vs.

John McCain:
-United States Naval Academy - Class rank: 894 of 899.

Sarah Palin:
-Hawaii Pacific University - 1 semester
-North Idaho College - 2 semesters - general study
-University of Idaho - 2 semesters - journalism Matanuska
-Susitna College - 1 semester
-University of Idaho - 3 semesters - B.A. in Journalism.

Education isn't everything, but this is about the two highest offices in the land as well as our standing in the world.

Do I really need to add that I believe in education and how much, therefore, this says to me about our candidates?

I'm really concerned about McCain's class ranking in the military academy-- 894th out of 899? And while it's comforting to know Obama and Biden have degrees in political science, they're lawyers. Ugh. And Palin's educational background looks hauntingly like my own.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Eye in the Sky

Did anyone else notice that amazing cloud formation at sunset today, like a huge eye in the sky, with beams radiating upwards like great celestial eyelashes, banks of cloud in pink-gold against a brilliant Wedgewood sky? I half expected choruses of angels to begin and little winged babies to flutter by.

And me without a camera or even a cellphone today. You'll just have to take my word for it.

Like this, but with pink and gold:
Like this, but no special effects required:

UPDATE (Oct. 30): My dear friend Angela, who is never caught without HER camera, captured the aforementioned sunset. She saw it over beautiful trees, whereas I saw it over the icky Eureka cityscape and Target parking lot. Also, I think I was closer. Is that possible?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

More Than What's In the Book

This may be another of those posts I make periodically that hardly anyone comments on. Maybe I bore my readers sometimes. Maybe I leave you all wondering what to think, what to say. Maybe you will get the sense that I am just prewriting for an academic essay. Maybe you could look at it as a book recommendation, especially for the young people in your lives.
When you study literature, it's easy to forget that there is more to study that what it written on the page, more than the language and the story. Recently when I went into the local bookstore, I ran into someone who has forgotten that. She was commenting negatively on the choice of Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower as Book of the Year for HSU and CR. "I can think of so many better choices, books that are better written," she stated sourly.
It's true that Parable is sci-fi, a genre without high traditional literary value. It's true that it's easy to read, straightforward and doesn't use many big words. It is organized chronologically and doesn't rely on tricks of foreshadowing or flashback. It's true that it doesn't at first seem to invite deeper formal analysis.

Meaning runs in more than a single direction, not only deeper into the work but also outward, not only hermeneutic but also heuristic, not only centripetal but also centrifugal.

What is significant about the book is what happens when young people read it: they begin thinking and making connections with current events and with their own lives. Of course we discuss genre and narrative structure. But what makes Parable Book-of-the-Year material is not what's in the book, but what students do with the reading of it. Its significance, in other words, is less about form and more about function.
Let me tell you a few of the things HSU students (including myself) have chosen to draw from the book and explore further:

  • The importance of WATER (this seems so obvious, but we do take it for granted. Looking around at Humboldt County politics, water is one of the most important political issues. Yet it goes largely ignored -- except by the politicos and their watchdogs -- because water isn't sexy. It's governed by boards and districts and the Brown Act and blah blah blah. What a shame, because a few days without clean water and, believe me, there would be nothing more fascinating than water).
  • Fire and Myth- associated across most cultures with destruction, resurrection, and human emotion, specifically: change. How interesting is that? Think of the phoenix rising from the ashes.
  • Company towns- built around an extraction industry. All homes and businesses owned by the company, all residents are employees or their families, and all the money people are paid goes back into the company. Towns fold when the resource being extracted evetually runs out, leaving people without an income source, marketable skills or any culture other than what the extraction industry provided. Sound hauntingly familiar? It was so convenient when there were finally environmentalists to blame for the cessation of the industry.
  • Survival and what it takes to be prepared
  • Race issues
  • How we assign value to things
  • Guns for protection
  • The Tao Te Ching
  • The Egyptian and Tibetan Books of the Dead
  • The Underground Railroad
  • Slavery
  • Sojourner Truth
  • Significance of Northern Migration in African American history
  • Refugee marches
  • Vigilantism
  • Evolution
  • Adaptation
  • Accountability
  • The decision to colonize space
  • Empathy and sociopathy
  • Desalination plants
  • The cultural meaning of rituals
  • Babylon, Revelations, the Biblical Parables
  • The fourth Law of Thermodynamics
Not to mention a list of more than 100 great new vocabulary words.
Not to mention that the story takes place in California between LA and Humboldt on familiar highways and among familiar landmarks.
Not to mention that the author is among the few African-American science fiction writers.
Not to mention that the narrator and hero of the story is a teenager, female and African American.

So if the lady in the bookstore knew any of this -- if she ever watched a classroom of college freshmen come alive with literary discussion -- would she still question Parable's Book-of-the-Year status?

Like in the Biblical Parable of the Sower, what matters where the seed falls and what happens to it once it has fallen.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Fork in the Road

I have one professor who weekly bewails the sad state of my chosen profession. Rhetoric and Composition (Rhet-Comp, in the vernacular of academia) is undervalued and over-administrated in the university. Its teachers are lowly part-timers who must piece together a living by working at more than one school at a time. In short, we would all be better off pursuing careers as refrigerator repairmen, he says.

Now, I am familiar with this litany. In fact, this semester I am repeating this class because last Fall, not amused to hear these pronouncements about my newly chosen field, I dropped the class. Now I am back in it, with more experience under my belt and more respect for this professor's opinions. Now I hear these dire warnings and wonder if teaching college comp is really what I want to be doing after all.

I have no interest in being a professor; my goal is/was only the master's degree and to teach English at a community college.

HSU pumps out writing teachers faster than either HSU or CR could ever possibly employ them, so it's not surprising that this situation exist here: dozens of part-timers set to replace any retiring full-timers; in comp, even the PhDs are only lecturers (the lowest rung of academic instructor, except of course graduate associates).

You don't need to point out that this is absurd, considering how vital writing is in society and especially in academia. Logic of that sort doesn't affect the decisions of educational administrators. Let's just leave logic out of this.

As my cynicism rises, so my tunnel vision dissipates. I see roads opening up before me, alternate routes I can consider, each with a future attached, an alternate way for my story to turn out, an alternate definition of myself! Here are the two alternates (and whatever I decide to do, I will also have this master's degree. By May, it will be earned):
High school teacher: This entire post is apropos of an orientation I attended yesterday, in an experimental mood, for the Secondary Education Credential Program. In a year I could be teaching high school; by next semester I would be in the classroom. I have to jump through lots of hoops, pay lots of money to take lots of tests, no big deal, bring 'em on. But then would come real life, and me in the constant company of sullen teenagers and state bureaucracy, but also summers off and health insurance.
Academic counselor: Interestingly this was my original goal when re-entering college a few years ago, a Pupil Personnel Services Credential. English and writing were irresistible diversions along the way, and even though they are my focus and my love, I find myself doing informal academic advising nearly every day. I have no trouble navigating the academic labyrinth or seeing it in relation to a person's needs and interests. I am 100 percent certain that I can do a better job of it than any adviser or counselor I ever met with. I had been thinking this path was closed to me since I my undergraduate work was not in psychology or education, but I learned yesterday that doesn't matter. I could still do this. Sullen teenagers, yes, but no need to control them en masse. State bureaucracy, yes, but not the kind that interferes with or dictates the teaching dynamic. Summers off and health insurance, yes, yes, yes.

Anyway, all this is what's on my mind lately. Stay tuned for life-altering decisions. Or not.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Almost, Not, Sort of a Teacher

I just read an article in Glamour magazine (yes, I am a subscriber) about stress. The article rates stress on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being "late to work" and 10 being "losing a loved one." It was the usual stress-can-kill-you article, with dire warnings about heart attacks and such. And I realize I have spent all of 2008 somehow miraculously managing to function at about 8.5 with periodic peaks at 9.5. Up until September, that is, and the life-saving move to Mayberry, I mean McKinleyville.

If I were to give you a list of all the troubles that befell my family this year, you would think I was making it up. Suffice it to say, the old adage, "when it rains, it pours" no longer sounds like nonsense to me.

In the midst of it all, last semester I jumped through the many hoops to get a teaching job at the university. And I was hired! It should have been cause for celebration, but it just added one more worry to my load. After yet several more troubles came my way, I knew something had to give. The one dispensable thing was my new job. And so I resigned in July before it ever started, determined not to regret the decision.

Things gradually improved, as things do, or maybe my coping skills improved. By the time the new semester started and a lighter teaching opportunity came my way, I was ready. I became not a teacher but a "group leader" for the Book of the Year class, focusing on Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler.

It's a tiny class, just four students and me. Yet it is a perfect microcosm of a typical classroom experience, with all the usual pleasures and pitfalls. And tonight, our last session, I realized the truth of a lesson I learned last spring.

Last semester, I suffered through an unconventional graduate class, whose name "Developing Writing Abilities," seemed to have no relation at all to its content. Our professor made us listen to jazz (I hate jazz) and write about it (how do you write about music?). I ditched the class as often as possible, so I had used up all my absences when our professor had a Dell'Arte acting teacher visit our class for "improv and games." Games? *sigh*

Long story short, I was wrong, about the games, about the professor, about the class, even about the jazz. What I learned, that night especially and from the class overall, is that teaching is improv and that mistakes are often more interesting than when things go smoothly. Here I am with the acting teacher, laughing my head off.
My little Book of the Year class has played out that drama perfectly. I had all this leftover unused teaching energy when starting the class, so I overprepared like crazy for the first session. That was the polar opposite of tonight when I didn't prepare at all. And guess which class was better?

Tonight my students gave their presentations, and I only had the briefest sketch of their general topics beforehand. The discussion grew organically from each of their presentations, animated, interesting, people making connections right and left. The only plan I walked in the room with was to let them leave early after presentations were done. But the time flew in that two-hour class period, and we left at the usual time because no one was ready to stop talking about the book!

I am not advocating scrapping the idea of preparation altogether. But the mistakes really are more interesting! It takes some confidence to play it by ear. But it's much more fun.
View from the classroom. Yes, that is Humboldt Bay off in the distance. Are we not incredibly lucky and is it not a wonder we don't stare out the window all day instead of study?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Halloween Cat

Do you have your very own Halloween cat? I do.
This is Paris. He's about five and is the descendant of a kitten my young friend, Amy, found behind the kitchen at Shasta Elementary back in 2002. That little foundling, Mama,was the source of many wonderful, lovable black cats and favorite pets in Shasta County before Amy's family finally got Mama fixed.
At the same time we adopted Paris, my son adopted Paris' brother Smokey. Little Smokey was the friendlier of the two kittens, completely charming. Unfortunately, he disappeared one day when he was about a year old. It was really sad. We never knew what happened, but that is just part of country living, I guess. We like to think some nice family took him home with them.
When the two little kittens used to get into mischief we never knew which one was the troublemaker, because the only way to tell them apart was a white spot on Paris' belly. We always blamed Paris for the mischief because Smokey was sooooo lovable and sweet he couldn't possibly be guilty of any wrongdoing.

But after Smokey disappeared, all the mischief stopped. So either the troublemaker was Smokey all along, or Paris needs a partner in crime. Paris is the perfect cat, the perfect gentleman. Once my old neighbors even tried to kidnap him, but I kidnapped him back.
Last year, I was Paris for Halloween. I dressed all in black, with cat ears and whiskers. I'm too lazy to go find a picture of that to show you. So I'll just wish you a Happy Halloween! I wonder if we will get any trick-or-treaters at our new house?
And while we're on the topic of the season, my parents inexplicably have gotten two pet turkeys. I've quizzed all the relatives, but I think they do NOT intend to eat them. This guy's almost as pretty as a peacock, don't you think?
Oh and another thing: One of my virtual acquaintances posted this great recipe for Hairy Knuckles (with pictures!) on her blog. They're disgusting little finger-shaped breadsticks. I'm going to make them to take to the Halloween party I'm going to.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A day in the Life

I work on weekends, trooping upstairs to the teeny McKinleyville Press office to sit at my very own desk and edit stories. Saturdays I tighten up stories for writers, and Sundays I proofread the pages after they're laid out. Sundays can be long and arduous because you just have to keep working until it's done. I've been there until midnight before. Nevertheless, it's like a vacation from my weekday life, which has an entirely different flavor.

It's my view that small-town papers like the McKinleyville Press serve a vital function in places like this. The McKinleyville chamber of commerce proclaims this "the fastest growing community on the North Coast." With all that growth, something has to hold the center steady, to keep community pride alive, to keep us thinking we live in Mayberry as long as it's possible to hold onto such delicious fantasies.

So here I am, heading out to do this important work:
Here is my office building:
Here is my charming boss, Jack:
OK, now it's time for me to get to work. Picture us both in fedoras with press passes tucked into the brims, laboring over our typewriters into the wee hours, the very picture of dedication.

Trollope on Newspapers

The following is an excerpt from The Warden, an 1855 novel by Anthony Trollope that I have to read for my British Lit class. In the novel, an all-powerful newspaper takes on the all-powerful Anglican church, and lots of ordinary mortals become collateral damage.

This passage describes, in Victorian hyperbole, the god-like power of a fictional British newspaper called the Jupiter and its agent, reporter Tom Towers.

Reading this, I realize people have been bemoaning the disproportionate power of the media far longer than television has been among us.

If you're interested in such things, and can wade forgivingly through the grandiosity of overstatement, read on:
"Who has not heard of Mount Olympus, -- that high abode of the powers of type, that favored seat of the great goddess Pica, that wondrous habitation of gods and devils, from whence, with ceaseless hum of stream and never-ending flow of Castalian ink, issue forth eighty-thousand nightly edicts for the governance of a subject nation?

It is amazing fact to ordinary mortals that The Jupiter is never wrong. With what endless care, with what unsparing labour, do we not strive to get together for our great national council the men most fitting to compose it. And how we fail! Parliament is always wrong; look at the Jupiter and see how futile are their meetings, how vain their council, how needless all their trouble!

With what pride do we regard our chief ministers, the great servants of state, the oligarchs of the nation on whose wisdom we lean, to whom we look for guidance in our difficulties! But what are they to the writers of The Jupiter? They hold council together and with anxious thought painfully elaborate their country's good; but when all is done, The Jupiter declares that all is nought.

Why should we look to Lord John Russell; --why should we regard Palmerston and Gladstone, when Tom Towers without a struggle can put us right?

Look at our generals, what faults they make; at our admirals, how inactive they are. What money, honesty and science can do, is done; and yet how badly are our troops brought together, fed, conveyed, clothed, armed and managed.

The most excellent of our good men do their best to man our ships, with the assistance of all possible external appliances; but in vain. All, all is wrong -- alas! alas!

Tom Towers, and he alone, knows all about it. Why, oh why, ye earthly ministers, why have ye not followed more closely this heaven-sent messenger that is among us?"


There's more, but you get the picture.

Now when I go to work, should it be under the cloak of the Great Goddess Pica? Well, this guys is still my hero, anyway:

Also known as:

Friday, October 17, 2008

Weblog and Dialogue

I just installed a handy little device to count visitors to my blog. I wondered if many people were reading what I have to say. I have a few readers that I know of, the ones who sometimes comment. So when I write something, I sort of picture this little crowd in my mind.

Today I went to check on the counter, expecting to see a number like five or maybe even 10. Instead, 79! What? Seventy-nine folks dropped by to read what I had to say?!? Okay, if you're a blogging veteran, this may seem like a teeny number to you, but to me, it's huge.

If that is the kind of traffic flowing through here, I wonder why only a few comments appear after some posts?

So let me put this out there: I am more than a little fond of the dialogic process (as theorist Mikhail Bakhtin calls it). You might even say I am totally into it.

What do I mean by that? Well, here is a high-falutin', convoluted explanation from Wikipedia:

"[V]arious approaches coexist and are comparatively existential and relativistic in their interaction. Here, each ideology can hold more salience in particular circumstances. Changes can be made within these ideologies if a strategy does not have the desired effect. Thus, these entities do not necessarily merge (or become subjugated) into bigger entities as in the dialectic process, but nonetheless modify themselves (sometimes fundamentally) over the course of mutual interaction."

And now, after reading that, you're probably still wondering what I mean.

I mean that I value --very highly -- dialogue and its role in learning and in developing opinions about things. When I write something here, it is by no means finished. It is just one side of an argument waiting for its other parts, waiting for counter arguments, supplements, and clarifications.

So if you're already here, why not add a comment too? I'm really interested in what you think. Whether you agree or disagree, or if you want to straighten me out on some point, please comment. I welcome all relevant, non-commercial comments.

And thank you for reading!


P.S. Interesting little side fact: Bakhtin (pictured above), author of The Dialogic Imagination, used his old writings to roll cigarettes when he ran out of rolling papers. The writings that remain are nothing short of amazing, so we can only regret the loss of those thoughts that went up in smoke.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Trouble with Politics

I'm concerned my blog may be giving a false impression of me. Looking through my posts, one might think I am interested in politics. I'm not.

The trouble with politics is you are forced to wade through the words and deeds of politicians, people who by definition are as vacuous as actors. An ordinary person trying to sort through issues -- important issues that will affect life, liberty and property --must wade through volumes of anti-communication, words contrived to confuse. I am interested in a healthy and peaceful life and world. Politics, on the other hand, disgust me. What I'm interested in is culture. Once in awhile, that overlaps with politics. And once in awhile, politics provide me with some amusement.

Where's that beer? I need some anesthesia.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Mrs. Plumber's Just Sayin'

What is up with the "Joe Sixpack/Joe Plumber" thing?

Somewhere on high it has been determined that popular appeal equals working-class appeal, which manifests as a plumber named Joe holding a six-pack of beer. These spin doctors are like bad anthropologists or aliens from another planet attempting to describe incomprehensible life forms. Ummm, maybe working class people don't want to be seen as a solid mass of plumbers with beer. Just sayin'.

Or maybe I'm the bad anthropologist here. Who is it after all who listens so raptly to the pearls of wisdom that drip from the A.M. radio?

The candidates, both of them, all of them, have no freakin' idea what it is to work for a living. When I say work I mean snaking a toilet or pouring concrete in the dead of summer. Work that requires a beer for anesthesia afterwards. How the Republican party managed to appeal to the working class in the first place is a real mystery. Maybe because TV is the other requisite anesthesia, and media is dominated by those very, very few protecting their wealth. From whom? From the rest of us (translation: that pesky working class).

It's encouraging, I guess, that some energy is going into popular appeal. Maybe it's an indicator that our votes actually count for something after all. We can only hope. I can hardly WAIT for election day to be over already.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What If...?

Let me just say right off the bat that my original source for this post is an old episode of The X-Files. And before you point out the irony of that following directly on the heels of my political admonition to "consider the source" in my last post, let me say I am already well aware of it. But when I saw the episode, I couldn't help but think about the implications for Humboldt County and its subterranean economic enterprise.

A group of Mulder's wacky conspiracy-theorist/genius friends tore a $20 bill down the side to reveal a little strip embedded in it. The TV show implied it was a government tracking advice, so that Uncle Sam would always know how much cash we have on us. Creepy, icky, nosy old government.
The implication on the show was that the strip is more than a counterfeit prevention device; rather, the implication was it's a radio-frequency implant similar to the one my old buddy John is sure has been implanted in his head.

Picture your friendly neighborhood pot grower like this lady, speeding down the highway with a cool $70K in cash in the trunk. Officer CHP on the roadside has more than a radar speed detector in his cruiser; he has another kind of gun aimed at passing motorists, showing on its screen how much each car is carrying. I, for example, was carrying a cool $17 on my way home from school today. I'm thinking this could put a hitch in our economy around here.
But is it true? Rumor debunking website Snopes.com says no. "As for the suspect strip, it is made of polyester and is inscribed with the denomination of the bill." A micro-optic strip is scheduled to go into $100s later this year, but I still don't read anything about radio frequencies.
It didn't take any fancy sci-fi devices to catch the Redway woman I mentioned above. She was speeding and the CHP pulled her over for it. I have to say if I was carrying stacks of bills and pounds of weed in my car -- basically carrying around the possibility of imprisonment and ruination -- I think I would drive like a blue-haired grandma until I reached my destination.

Then again, maybe she was a grandma.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Sins of Decency and Moderation


Wow, so all a Republican candidate has to do to win the scorn of his rabid followers is to fight like a gentleman. McCain was booed at his own rally when he referred to Obama as "decent." Showing himself to be a decent guy turns out to be a terrible political move for McCain. Decency in their own candidate seems to be unforgivable to Republicans, and admitting that the other guys' candidate might be decent is unthinkable.

Is there something nonsensical in this, Alice? Might it be excellent parlance over tea at the Mad Hatter's?

The shocking part for Republicans is the horrible discovery that they may have a moderate on their hands. Moderation is a dirty word in today's polarized political climate. Once upon a time there was a difference between popular polarization and partisan polarization, but not anymore.

Now ordinary people open their mouths and out come sound bytes prepared at political party headquarters, distributed unquestioned through the media, directly into the uncritical brains of average Americans.

High schools have been scurrying to provide media literacy classes to their students, and colleges include critical thinking classes as part of their breadth and depth courses. But these educational endeavors can't combat the barrage of bad rhetoric we receive every day. Unethical rhetoric, tribal rhetoric, us-and-them rhetoric, what is the term? Demonstrative rhetoric.

If I were in a position to offer advice, this is what I would say: Wake up and put your rational mind back in charge. When you hear/read something, never accept it at face value. Fall back on the old journalist tricks from back when journalists investigated and exposed corruption: consider the source and follow the money.