Wednesday, February 28, 2007
All papers graded and recorded. check
All desks cleaned. check -- you know I have to be bored to clean student desks!
Listening to the soundtrack of Meet Joe Black. check
The one student who signed up for a meeting -- not here yet.
We are having our nextstep meetings. Third year since our legislature thought it would be a good idea for teachers to meet with parents, review their students' transcripts and then decide what classes for them to take next year. It entails two full class days and one evening. This year they fill out the next step form on the computer. Oh my but are we getting high tech!
Had most of my students come first thing this morning. It was rather busy for about an hour, then rather nice to be in the classroom alone getting caught up on the paperwork and other things that pile up, especially when you don't have a prep period. But what do you do when you're all caught up and have the evening and all day tomorrow too?
Somewhere this grading period I'm supposed to cover curriculum. On our flex schedule I had the six classes for two hours Monday and Tuesday (three classes each day), we are off for this next step for two days then a regular day on Friday. Next week Flex schedule again then we have testing for 9 & 11 grades on Wednesday and Thursday, back to a regular day that Friday. The students are really going to remember the revolts of 1848, Nationalism and the unifications of Germany and Italy when it comes time for a test.
And the idiot politicians wonder why test scores are falling! They pat themselves on the back saying what wonderful legislation they've passed to improve quality of education, but everything they do reduces the amount of instruction time.
Mummble mummble mummble grrrrrr.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Well the Oscars are over, is it just me or were the women's fashions this year rather tame? What's with Jack Nicholson going bald?
Does anyone else find Ellen Degeneros just plain irritating?
Where was Al Gore's sense of humor when he needed it the most six and a half years ago?
Peter O'Toole struck out for the eighth time. Such a shame that he hasn't been so honored.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
I've shown them the 10th anniversary concert of Les Miserables. I've discussed with them the difference between Common Law and Civil Code using the plot of the story.
What discourages me though is that the music and the story is very emotional. Certain notes in the songs just tug at your heart. The theme song "Can You Hear The People Sing?" makes you want to start marching to the beating drum. AND I CAN'T GET THE STUDENTS TO STAY AWAKE LONG ENOUGH TO SEE OR HEAR IT!
What has happened to the young people today? In all the years I was in public schools in Colorado and New Mexico no one ever slept in class. My generation had plenty of bad attitude in both Junior High and High School, but sleeping in class was never a problem teachers faced then.
If it was a problem in first period because it is rather early or sixth period when everyone is a little tired it might be understandable, but it is every bloody period. If I'm speaking to the class I have to walk through the class and tap desks to get kids to lift their heads up. (Our administration is adamant that students not sleep in class, and I agree with them on this issue)
If I have them doing group work half of the kids work on the project and the other half try to sleep here as well.
What also discourages me is the lack of feeling on the part of the students. When I showed Shogun last semester (it took me the whole eighteen weeks to get through it was shown on our flex days when we have a two hour period) when Mariko is killed at the end of the mini-series most of the students didn't bat an eyelash. A few of the girls seemed to react, but the majority felt nothing.
How can anyone listen to Fontine's aria as she is dying and worrying about her daughter Cossette and not be moved?
Does Rap and Hip Hop music, horny teenager or mad slasher movies, and video games make our children emotionally numb?
God help us all!
Sunday, February 18, 2007
10 -- Washington not running for a third term. Set precedent of only two terms, and relieved fears of a military dictatorship, which has plagued all other governments with our type of Constitution.
9 -- FDR running for a third term. Armchair quarterbacking here, but he was the right man at the right time to handle WWII.
8 -- Truman de-segregating the military. The first step towards Civil Rights.
7 -- Eisenhower creating the Interstate Highway system. How much our economic prosperity for the last fifty years came as a byproduct of his national military transport system.
6 -- Eisenhower sending the army to insure the safety of black students in Little Rock, Arkansas and uphold a Supreme Court ruling. Showed that defiance of Federal government would not be tolerated.
5 -- John Tyler setting precedent that when a sitting President dies the Vice-President fills out the rest of the term. Referred to as "His Accidency", but just filling the post until a new election would be an electoral nightmare he helped us avoid.
4 -- Theodore Roosevelt enforcing the Sherman Anti-trust act. We could use someone with the guts to do this with our media and energy behemoths today.
3 -- Lincoln ordering the resupply of Ft. Sumter and staying the course throughout the Civil War. He kept the Union together.
2 -- Kennedy ordering the blockade of Cuba. Avoided invading Cuba and starting a nuclear war. (This could be argued as the #1 since the entire world could have been destroyed at this point, but if we had invaded Cuba and Russia moved on East Berlin the right wingers might have considered this and exchange of knights in their chess game and pulled back from using nukes.)
1 -- Truman dropping the atomic bombs on Japan. No decision has been more second guessed, praised or vilified. It ended the war and saved over a million American lives, and untold Japanese lives too.
10 -- Andrew Johnson keep Stanton as Secretary of War. Leads to Congress' excuse for impeachment.
9 -- Bill Clinton spending time with Monica Lewinsky. Just plain stupid to committ the sin that the Republicans were waiting to exploit.
8 -- Buchanan not sending federal troops to settle the violence in Kansas.
7 -- John Adams signing the Alien and Sedition Acts. The first attempt to silence political opposition and fear immigrants.
6 -- Jefferson's trade embargo. Financially ruined New England to avoid war with England and would eventually be fought by Madison. Yes it was a stupid war, but running from this fight didn't stop it.
5 -- William Henry Harrison giving the longest inaugural address in his shirt sleeves on a cold day. He was dead a month later and was the first President to die in office.
4 -- Andrew Jackson killing the Second Bank of the United States. It would destabilize the economy of the U. S. for the next eighty years.
3 -- Andrew Jackson refusing to enforce the Supreme Court ruling against the removal of the Cherokee nation to Indian Territory (Oklahoma). The Trail of Tears was an illegal action encouraged and allowed by someone who was violating his sworn oath.
2 -- Eisenhower stopping the election in Vietnam in 1956 and partitioning the country. It put a lie to our calls for free elections in Eastern Europe when we stopped one in Asia because Ho Chi Mihn would win it hands down. It also led to twenty years of bloodshed and the near bankruptcy of the U. S. for the same outcome that would have been achieved peacefully.
1 -- George W. Bush proposing a pre-emptive war. We have a department of DEFENSE not offense. Now that he has set that precedent what other mayhem will be caused by future Presidents. The only decision that would be worse than this one would be if he starts another war with Iran.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Perfect timing. We got three inches of snow last night and school has been canceled. Since it was an in-service day couldn't have come at a better time.
Mom posted her concerns about a lesson in her Sunday School class concerning the afterlife. A number of people on Bruce's blogroll have responded to her concerns. I wrote my basic beliefs on this in my Human Sacrifices novel-in-progress. Thought I would post that excerpt here.
Jan decided it was time to broach a subject that had been on her mind, but she didn’t want to ruin such a wonderful vacation with heavy thoughts. “You were careful in your sermon Easter Sunday to not denounce pre-millennialism, all Dad will tell me is that he’s pan. What do you think about the second coming?”
“On this I’m a true heretic.” He told her getting a quizzical look. “There isn’t another coming of Christ.”
“Now I’m confused, your not pre, post or a millennial” Jan asked.
“I had a religion professor at Baylor that stopped me in my tracks my Freshman year.” He started to explain. “We were covering the time in Christ’s ministry coming close to his crucifixion and how all his disciples were expecting him to set up an earthly kingdom, they never really understood how His kingdom was spiritual, not physical. The professor just threw a thought out there, he said, ‘What makes you think He will change now?’ It dawned on me that Jesus wouldn’t change, that His kingdom is and will always be spiritual, All the mellinnialists are looking forward to Jesus coming again and setting up a thousand year physical kingdom. His disciples have still not gotten the message. I then read the accounts of the crucifixion. Tell me what words did He say from the cross.?”
Jan thought for a few minutes. “Let’s see. When He was being nailed He said “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.’”
“Good, what else?” He was being a teacher, and leading her to the answers, teachers hate being taught they find it irritating, but she decided to humor him.
“The two thieves talked to him, one ridiculed him and the other defended him.” She continued. “He then asked Jesus to remember him, and Jesus said ‘Today thou shalt be with me in paradise.’” She thought some more, “He said ‘I thirst’ and the Romans gave him soured wine or vinegar, what they called gall.”
“So far an A+” Paul told her.
“Oh give me a break, I’m a PK (preacher’s kid) I’ve heard this all my life, I’m just trying to go in order.” She snapped back. “He asked John to take care of Mary, his mother, and when it got dark he cried ‘My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me.’”
“What else, one last comment.” Paul nodded to her, smiling.
“No need for prompting I was coming to it.” She arched her eyebrows at him. He said, ‘Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit’ and His last words were ‘It is finished” then he gave up the ghost.” I could have gotten some of them out of order, I’d really have to look them up.” She added.
“Excellent,” Paul praised. “Now stop and think, does anything that he said while on the cross make any sense if you believe in a millennium?”
“What do you mean?” This question caught her off guard.“He told the thief they would be in paradise that day, yet all mellinnialists believe that no one is in paradise yet, they are waiting for the Rapture. A word by the way that is never found in the Bible. If you believe that Jesus must come back and set up a thousand year reign here on earth, then he should have said, ‘I’m halfway done.’ Not ‘It is finished’."
“But what about the book of Acts and Christ’s ascension?” She asked. “An angel met the disciples and told them that Jesus would come again.”
“And He did, in the book of Acts.” Paul answered.
“I missed that one,” Jan responded.
“So did the disciples and most believers. What happened on the day of Pentecost?”
Jan answered. “That’s when the Holy Spirit came and filled all believers.”
“If you believe in the concept of the trinity, God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are all one, right?”
“Yes.” She was thinking now, “What are you getting at?”
“Exactly what that song we sang on Easter said, ‘I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today, He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way. You ask me how I know he lives, He lives within my Heart. The song doesn’t say the Holy Spirit walks with me and talks with me, or that the Holy Spirit lives within my heart. But we all understand that Jesus and The Holy Spirit are one and the same, just different manifestations of God.”
Jan looked at him pondering what he said. “That’s too simple.” She said at last.
“Most deep truths are.” He answered. “And why they are so often overlooked, people want to complicate things. Just as Christ’s kingdom was spiritual so was his second coming. That is what finished God’s revelation.”
Jan countered, “Then what about the white throne judgment mentioned in the book of Revelations?”
“Why does it have to wait till the end of time? Why can’t God be doing the judgment right now?” Paul responded.
“You have a point.” She conceded.
“When my wife and son left this world it is a great comfort to me knowing that they are right now with Jesus in paradise, just like he promised the thief on the cross.” His face flushed red, and voice filled with emotion, but he held back tears. “They are not in limbo waiting for the rapture, then tribulation and great tribulation, then the battle of Armageddon and then come back to a physical reality to live for a thousand years, and then start all over again, before the great white throne judgment and finally going to heaven. Talk about complicated. If you follow pre-millennial thought Jesus would have to come back not once, but three or four times. It is not a logical or reasonable theory, nor is it consistent with the life and teachings of Christ.”
“Those thoughts could get you burned at the stake.” Jan thought a little hyperbole would lighten things up.“Told you I was a heretic.” He smiled.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
The Baptist New Mexico ran a press release a couple of weeks ago and mentioned this book signing. One couple came in with the paper specifically for the book. As we talked and I told her where I teach, she mentioned that she graduated from that school. When I inquired (impertinently) what year, it turned out to be the same year that grinnygranny graduated from there too. She didn't remember gg's name, but said she'd look her up in the yearbook. I called grinnyganny and told her the story. When I got home she had the yearbook out and had located the lady.
I stopped by today and picked up my earnings. They've said I can have as many book signing there as I like. I'm still trying to set up signings at Barnes and Nobles, Borders, Chronicles and Bibles Plus. A number of people told me that one of the larger non-denominational churches has a book store and I might talk to them about placing Optimus there.
Saturday, February 03, 2007
Thursday, February 01, 2007
Whatever happened to Science Fiction?
I grew up reading Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy, his Robot stories. Then there was Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, Tunnel In the Sky, R is for Rocket, S is for Spaceship, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Time Enough for Love.
I became voracious in reading Harlan Ellison. Just about everything he has written.
I belonged to the Science Fiction Book Club for years, and bought tons of books, but something happened around 1985. The Science Fiction Book Club stopped offering Science Fiction. It started rather subtle, I noticed the growing trend towards Sword and Sorcery, magic and fantasy in the 70's. Some of the books were really good. Anne McCafery's Dragonriders of Pern series are really marvelous, but by 1985 that's all the book club offered. The Science Fiction Book Club no longer had Science Fiction.
I don't know if people stopped writing Science Fiction or the books stopped selling, or publishers stopped accepting the genre. All I know is that for all intents and purposes Science Fiction is dead.
There was always two kinds of Science Fiction. The optimistic and scared shitless.
Isaac Asimov called the latter the Frankenstein Syndrome. Fear of the future and the unknown. That's what made the writers I've mentioned above so wonderful, they wrote about the promises inherent in advances in science instead doom and gloom. Well Ellison is as gloomy as they come, but it's not the science you fear in his stories -- it's the people.
Hollywood embraced Science Fiction in the 50's with all of its giant bug movies. Giant ants, or grasshoppers, spiders, etc usually because of radiation from atomic bombs. Again the fearmongers held sway. Then came Star Trek. Hey the future could be hip, cool, even positive.
Star Trek has run its course it seems and were back to Michael Crighton's brand of Frankenstein stories where Science is to be feared instead of embraced.
Alright already -- what got me all sappy about SF?
I came across this today on Bruce's blog: Chris Hedges essay on his book Christianists on the March.
The Christian right has lured tens of millions of Americans, who rightly feel abandoned and betrayed by the political system, from the reality-based world to one of magic - to fantastic visions of angels and miracles, to a childlike belief that God has a plan for them and Jesus will guide and protect them. This mythological worldview, one that has no use for science or dispassionate, honest intellectual inquiry, one that promises that the loss of jobs and health insurance does not matter, as long as you are right with Jesus, offers a lying world of consistency that addresses the emotional yearnings of desperate followers at the expense of reality. It creates a world where facts become interchangeable with opinions, where lies become true - the very essence of the totalitarian state. It includes a dark license to kill, to obliterate all those who do not conform to this vision, from Muslims in the Middle East to those at home who refuse to submit to the movement. And it conveniently empowers a rapacious oligarchy whose god is maximum profit at the expense of citizens. We now live in a nation where the top 1 percent control more wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined, where we have legalized torture and can lock up citizens without trial. Arthur Schlesinger, in "The Cycles of American History," wrote that "the great religious ages were notable for their indifference to human rights in the contemporary sense - not only for their acquiescence in poverty, inequality and oppression, but for their enthusiastic justification of slavery, persecution, torture and genocide."
Somehow when science fiction died and was replaced by Fantasy, the rest of the country left reality and has gone into never never land too, and that is not a good thing.