Friday, May 29, 2009

North Korea

I will refrain from making a political statement here, but I must take this opportunity attack the press. 

Within the last several days, the following has either been grieviously under-reported or floated under the sight of major headlines.
-Repeated missle firings following the underground nuclear test by N. Korea
-the suicide of S. Korea's popular president
-Statements by N. Korea that the 1953 treaty that ended the Korean conflict is null and void.
-Statements by N. Korea that they consider themselves in a state of war and that certain foreign vessels, such as those navigated by the U.S. Navy are not safe in Korean waters.

Wow. You would have thought this information would have been the lead around most of the media outlets: left, right, mainstream, etc. And yet, for the last several days we've heard insignificant and ridiculous debate about Obama's Supreme Court nominee, gossip about Bristol Palin and her X, and continuous partisan coverage about why the other party is either imploding or bringing down the nation.

Silly me. I would think that the Korean issue would be enormous. I'm not saying it hasn't gotten coverage, but one would think that it would have at least been above the fold. It would also be interesting to talk about changes in Iran, such as the upcoming election and how some of the offices used to wage the campaign of the current president have been bombed.

It's time to demand more from our news sources. It's time news agencies went back to doing what they were supposed to do: serve as watch dogs and provide impartial reporting. 24 hour news channels should stop steeping news in commentary and pretending to be fair and balanced or otherwise. 

At one time, a news department wasn't expected to make money. It was a public service. It was separate from corporate influence. It's time to retain that purity.

The goings' on in Korea is big news. If a U.S. naval vessel is fired upon, there will be serious ramifications. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Great One

I have been thinking a good deal about religion recently. Maybe it's my advancing age. Maybe it's the pairs of animals that seem to follow me wherever I go, freaking out the neighbors and upsetting the local officials. 

At the center of my thoughts is something I call faith-envy. I have it. Bad. Whenever I talk to someone who I believe is a true believer, and I don't mean that in the Eric Hoffer way referencing fanatics and mass movements, but rather in a tone of admiration for people who have conviction, who can make the leap.

I sat through Bill Maher's "Religulous", a documentary of sorts, slamming religion. Unfortunately Maher found the usual assortment of cranks and idiots that can be found on the fringe of any religious movement and used them to ridicule religion in general.  Probably the most fascinating part of the film was his exploration of the parallels between Christian and Egyptian mythology, specifically showing how the recounting of the life of Jesus was an echo of a mythology that came quite a good deal earlier in a recounting of the life of Horus. 
It's too bad that this information couldn't have been handled in a more reasonable and erudite manner, but it sparked my curiousity to the point that I went in search of the Horus myth. Fascinating.

Watching "Religulous" I felt sad, not for the people in the film, the maniacal believers sought out and found by Maher, but for Maher himself. I think, after all, that Maher was probably motivated by the same thing that haunts me...faith envy. 

Thankfully, even if I never find faith, and people, I probably won't, there is always a shadow at my back to offer me motivation to stay alive and at least try and get along with people. Yes, I'm referring to Cthulhu. Maybe I don't believe in God...but dammit...I think I'm starting to have second thoughts about He Who Lies Dreaming. 

Saturday, May 23, 2009

GENERATION ADHD

Maybe I'm just a crotchety old man. Maybe, but I recently listened to two twenty somethings babbling at one another (I don't think they've yet developed listening skills, but I suppose it's enough that they can hear themselves). Their voices were like fingernails over nylon as they attempted to redefine superficiality. Now I had been having trouble with thirty somethings off and on (thirty somethings, own up to it---having your formative years influenced by Reagan had an ill effect on you), but that was nothing compared to the irritation of listening to the twenty somethings.

Now I know we've been quick to label generations. The Boomers. Generation X. Generation Y???? But I want to propose a tag to capture the twenty something, cooked up in a crucible flavored by videogaming, rap, MTV, and Viagra and No Child Left Behind. From now on, let us call those who are now hitting twenty "GENERATION ADHD".

Let us be patient of their shortcomings. Let us carry shiny stuff in our pockets to distract them when they are sad. Let us use polysyllabic words so that we may discuss them without offense. Instead smile and nod and they will think the world is fine.

There will be some from that generation who will comment here. They will begin with intense personalization and abruptly lapse into text-messaging phraseology that will wring the deepest compassion from you for their profound limitations. As they reach the high point of their rejoinder, however, they will suddenly stop typing and head off to the CW Television Network website so that they may bask in all things "Gossip Girl".

Friday, May 15, 2009

It's A Living



My mother was a patient woman. At one party she brought me in to meet friends and acquaintances. I remember leaning forward and confiding to one group of people: "After college? I'm planning on joining the Special Executive for Counter-Intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion."

My father rolled his eyes. I considered it an improvement from my previous declaration of my intent of becoming a diplomat for the United Federation of Planets. I felt someone needed to help reinforce the Prime Directive.

These days my declarations of identity have taken a slightly different tilt.

"What do you do for a hobby, Mr. Sternberg?"

"I'm a re-enactor."

"You mean like a Civil War or Revolutionary War re-enactor? What is it you re-enact?"

"The 1997 Superbowl. Greenbay v. New England. I usually take on the role of a pennant vendor. We make all our own uniforms."

I live for whimsy.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The High Def Frontier

I have just purchased the first three Star Trek films for blu- ray, and to be honest, I'm not sure why. It's not that I don't love them, I do. Instead, it's that I'm not convinced I need them in blu-ray. I already own them on dvd.

"Is it really that much of a difference? Blu-ray?" The answer is ..."yes" and "no". Blu- ray and high definition broadcasts are clear and colorful. They are a delight to watch. But are they enough of a jump in technology to forsake DVD's and leap into a new technology? I'm not talking about the technophile, I'm referring to average person who isn't sure what the difference is between 1080i and 1080p, or who doesn't really understand what black contrast is or how DTS makes a difference in sound.

This is actually the worst time for Blu-ray to be sprung upon the public. First, most decent blu-ray players are fairly costly and let's face it, if you don't have a HD TV, you don't need one. Second, the discs themselves are pretty steep. A new DVD is about twenty dollars and often much cheaper, a new blue-ray is often close to thirty bucks.

With the economy the way it is, with number of people who have yet to buy HD TV's (not a small investment) and with the leap from DVD to Blu-Ray not being enough of a leap for many people to justify the cash----I almost feel sorry for Sony. Almost.

As for me? I'm waiting for my delivery from Amazon so I can watch a cleaned up and enhanced version of the first three films.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Trends In Education

Sometimes when we look at a profession, we need to examine trends in that profession's workforce and ask the reasons for those trends. We are quick to talk about test scores and how teachers avoid accountability, but we don't speak often enough about these figures.

9.3% of public school teachers leave before they complete their first year in the classroom. More than a fifth leave their positions within the first three years of teaching. 30% leave the profession within five years of entry and that number jumps in more disadvantaged schools. At the end of the 2003–04 school year, 17 percent of the elementary and secondary teacher workforce (or 621,000 teachers) left the public and private schools where they had been teaching.

I think it's important to address these statistics when we talk about reshaping education. While we talk about accountability, it is also important to talk about the effect of environment and morale in a workplace and how such elements affect the production and efficiency of the worker.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Daydreaming

Did you ever feel that perhaps you were born at the wrong time? Have you stood on your front doorstep and inserted a key into the door, but before you could push it open, your action was arrested by the sound of the wind in the trees? And suddenly, you're transported, imagining yourself listening to a similar wind, in a bygone era, blowing across open fields and rushing through dense forests. You glance to the left, but instead of that mundane neighborhood that one expects, there's the slope that goes down to the harbor where the tall ships come in and go out.

Or did you ever go to work, listening to the drumming of a drone in the next cubicle and suddenly find yourself moved instead to hear a distant, and easily ignored, drumming and chanting of the Hare Krishna as they move through the park. The folk near you are grooving on the newest by Jefferson Airplane, coming in tinnily on a small transistor radio off that AM station that comes in when the atmosphere is right over San Francisco. Woodstock is two years away and you hate President Johnson and glance at a friend sitting crosslegged in the grass as he reads that book about the Hell's Angels by Hunter S. Thompson.

Or were you ever at a party, perhaps where the presence of family members remind you how ordinary you are, and suddenly think you hear the sound of a police siren, something not that common, and wonder if they're chasing someone freshly from Canada transporting boxes of bootleg whiskey. The mayor has been promising to do something about the Purple Gang for some time now, but you driving down Plum St. it's hard to imagine any of those folk you see being criminals. Not like those folks you've heard about out of Chicago or New York.

Or perhaps you've sat in a waiting room at a doctor's office, wondering about the blood test, smelling anticeptics and trying to be comfortable on the high table as your feet dangle, and you hear the sound of another batch of colonists coming down the hall, the folks gathering for an indoctrination before really commiting to the trip to Alpha Centauri.