Saturday, April 29, 2006

Moving Positively Backward

I recently listened to one of my favorite podcasts, NPR's On the Media. Friday's show was a special report on "How a devastated New Orleans became a testing ground for new kinds of media."

The 50 minute podcast dealt with different media that has grown since Hurricane Katrina and, largely, because of Hurricane Katrina. This included Pulitzer Prize-winning Sports Journalists and a failed local anchor who has been called "The Voice of New Orleans" due to the success of his internet streaming talk show. The show touches on many more interesting points, and I would suggest a listen.

It got me thinking about success. The American Dream usually includes fame, fortune, and (sometimes) happiness. How has this changed through new media like podcasting and blogging? Can new technology actually create fame where it is deserved?

I think so. If anyone with the appropriate technology and a tiny bit of knowledge can get their thoughts out on to the web, then anyone can hear those thoughts. No blogger is judged on their size or race, they are judged purely on their ideas and writing skills. Podcasters are judged on their ideas and their ability to speak with clarity. No one knows what the podcaster/blogger looks like unless he or she puts their picture up.

Is it possible that we have the opportunity to move back to the days of radio? Where a news anchor did not have to have a perfect nose or straight teeth? Would Garrison Keillor be so popular if we had to look at him every day?In this age of silicon, where people are frequently judged by their looks, size, and sex, it's comforting to know that a new, successful form of media is putting thoughts and ideas where they belong. Before you know what I look like, before you know if I'm black or white, female or male, I have the ability to tell you what I think. That's pretty valuable.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Education in Florida

Start playing the scary music now. The title of this blog should make anyone run screaming. But I won't go into the horrible particulars of FCAT, Florida Writes, and Choice. Learning about the state of education in Florida is like watching a dog chase his tail. Make that a headless dog chasing his tail. Got the picture? That's all you need to know.

This is a very particular bone I have to pick. Haha. That's my last dog cliche. I am currently going through the three day required training for substitute teachers. Yes, that is what I said, three days. A person need only have an Associates degree and this three-day workshop under their belt before they go in to the classrooms. No prior teaching experience.

The workshop consists of two six and a half hour days of training and one day of shadowing teachers. During the summer, the shadowing is not even required.

I'll make a quick mention of the fact that we actually have people who have been RECRUITED who are at the top of their field. Though they are very knowledgeable, they have no idea how to teach and the turn-over rate for these people has proven that.

Back to my little workshop. They spend these thirteen hours trying to convince us and themselves that we are not just babysitters. That's exactly what we are. We don't need a "Super Sub Sack" full of puppets and stickers and markers, oh my. We don't need to print out little crossword puzzles or games. Especially not for high schoolers.

I've gotten off track here, there's so much to bitch about. Here's what I came across as I was learning how to be a super sub.

We were told, if we had any questions or comments, to write it on a post-it note and stick it on the "parking lot." This is basically a large, laminated piece of paper, divided into quarters. There are columns marked "Questions" "Concerns" "Kudos" and "Requests." Our children are being "trained" to keep their mouths shut to "prevent interruption in the classroom." "Of course," my 'teacher' said. "You kind of have to train them to do it when they're little."

What does this mean? The end of inquisitive minds? What third grader is going to remember what they need/want to know long enough to write it down? This is completely backward. We need to encourage our children to express themselves. Yes, maybe that means that class will get a little off track (can't veer too far from FCAT training, now can we?) But this is telling children that it's not okay to say what is on your mind. It is not alright to raise your hand. And if you do raise that hand, it better be something extremely important. Not to be melodramatic, but children taught this way are being taught silence and submission. Do they get treats if they stop barking? I know, it was forced, but I just couldn't keep my dog promise.

We are drowning these children and their ideas in post-it notes.

Is it Getting a Little McCarthy in Here?

I'm sure someone has already noticed this. Today, I came across another parallel between our "war on terrorism" and McCarthy's war on "Communism." I put communism in quotes because he waged his war on any person who disagreed with him under the pretext of "making America safe." (Sound familiar?)

Illegal NSA Wire Tapping, Profiling Arabs, Arresting people for attending training sessions (whatever happened to the idea that you can't arrest someone for their intent unless they acted?), this is all sounding a little too familiar. And this time, our PRESIDENT is orchestrating, or at least agreeing to it ("The Decider").

In other news, the senate voted today Bush requested for the war to increased security on the borders. Where the hell are our priorities?

And still more depressing news: the Florida Supreme Court is debating whether the methods used for the death penalty constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Their solution if it does? Find a better method. No question of the barbarism of the concept of the death penalty.

That's all for now.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

What Happened to "Family Guy?"

I've been asking myself this question for a while now.

I loved "Family Guy" on its first run. Thought it was almost as good as "The Simpsons." I got reacquainted with it when everyone else did. I watched the DVDs with friends, caught most of the syndicated shows. I think I've seen every episode, most of them twice.

This was one of the few shows I could count on to make me laugh consistently. Then the fans stepped in.

I've been holding my opinion in for a while. At first I thought it was me. I used to dismiss anything that became too popular, snobbily casting aside anything the public accepted as good, funny, or cool. I've since stepped back from that judgment, realizing nothing should be dismissed without a trial run (that doesn't hold for reality shows and some popular "music"). So that wasn't it.

Next, I thought maybe I had changed in some way. Maybe my sense of humor had run off the path. I no longer like most of the shows I was addicted to growing up. But any moron can see how horrible "Full House" is.

Still, this option ran around in my mind a bit, supported by my waning interest in "The Simpsons" and my ultimate dismissal of "American Dad" (misogynist piece of crap!). Even after I finally gave up on "The Simpsons," I wasn't convinced. I still think the same people in my life are funny. Nope, my sense of humor is intact.

I won't go into the horrors of the new "Simpsons" episodes, because I am no longer up to date on them. "American Dad" doesn't warrant the words I've given it. But I feel there's still hope for "Family Guy." Maybe it's just wishful thinking.

In this new era of technology, where TV shows are on DVD before the season is over, I think we're getting ahead of ourselves. "Family Guy" is an extreme example. It was left to brew for too long. It sat on the stove, the ingredients mixing together, and something in there went bad. I think we put some milk in there by mistake.

"Family Guy" has become a parody of itself. It has taken the things we fans loved about it and exploited those things: taking a joke past its ultimate conclusion (see the Quahog Creek "episode" in tonight's show), repetition (Peter's repeated inhalations after hurting himself), celebrity jokes/pop culture references (INCREDIBLY over-used on tonight's episode), overstatement, and non-sequitors. They have taken them past funny. We are partly responsible. Much like Yellowstone, we are loving this show to death. We loved when the family dismissed and made fun of Meg. Now she's a walking punching bag. Some of that is funny, but she's a non-character now. We expect it now. We don't give a damn about her. I think the show's creators need to fall back in love with their characters.

I will admit, tonight's episode made me laugh. This is why I think there's hope. Seth McFarland is funny. He and the network need to stop worrying about what the audience wants and start thinking about the show itself.

The Women's Movement Needs New Batteries

The Women's Movement Needs New Batteries

Yes, I realize there have been many articles written about the feminist movement. I’m here to offer a new perspective on the subject. I am one of the dwindling minority who proudly call themselves feminists. That said, I am also one of the larger number of women who has done nothing to prove that she’s a feminist. Though I have a nifty little pin that says “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people,” and a bumper sticker proclaiming my advocacy for “Choice,” I do not take action to back up my claims or to ensure that my views are heard throughout the nation.

As an onlooker, a non-participant who is invested politically in the progress or deterioration of the women’s movement, I have some new words of advice: get some new batteries. The leaders of the women’s movement (who are they, again?) need to go to the store (not Wal-Mart) and buy an economy, family-size pack of triple Ds.

In this age, which some call the third wave of feminism while others dismiss as the post-feminist era, things haven’t changed as much as some would have us believe. The biggest difference between now and the so-called second-wave of feminism is participation. It was (arguably) easy to be idealistic in the Sixties. The air was full of revolution and spirit. There was always a meeting around the corner, a march next week. Now, women are afraid to call themselves feminists. Brilliant women in Harvard want only to get married and have children. Phyllis Schlafly is still alive. Betty Friedan is gone.

Right now, it seems like we’re headed back to the 19th century. I say, if we’re going in that direction anyway, let’s go back to the first wave of feminism. I’ll start wearing bloomers and we’ll see how long it takes to catch on.

I don’t mean to say that there are not people and organizations who are invested completely in protecting and increasing women’s rights and equality for women. Planned Parenthood continues to struggle against the villain trying to tie it down to the tracks. I’m sure they will put up a wonderful fight against South Dakota and its incredibly frightening restrictions on abortion, but I’m sad to say, I think they will lose. I think legal abortion is on its way out. So why am I not doing anything to protest this?

One of the problems is the fact that women have to be convinced that they are worth fighting for. This has been a problem in each “wave” of feminism. Women have been indoctrinated that they are the weaker sex, that they are responsible for evil. But Adam’s apple contained the sweet juice of knowledge. I say, good for Eve. If the other option is to go through life ignorant and naked, I’ll suffer the indignity of clothes.

I vote for a third wave of feminism that incorporates the good contained in the second and first waves, with a modern twist. We should have a sit-in at the fake Indiana Planned Parenthood clinic (actually a “crisis pregnancy center”) which lures unsuspecting women by sharing a parking lot with the real Planned Parenthood clinic. Hell, we should sit-in at the offices of Cosmo and Mademoiselle. We should boycott these same magazines. We should have a resurgence of women’s meetings, where people can share their thoughts and feelings in the consciousness-raising method pioneered by the New York Radical Women in the Sixties. We should give every woman a free subscription to both Bitch Magazine and Bust. We should discover and popularize energizing and inspiring women, like Elizabeth Cady Stanton. We should do what we can to inspire hope in the young women of today.

The first two waves of feminism made many mistakes, I’m not saying otherwise. The disdain many feminists of the second wave showed for women who chose to stay at home, wear make-up, or get married, is a big reason for the hesitation of many women today. Bust Magazine is dedicated partly to debunking and destroying myths that began with second-wave feminism. Bust shows that feminists can be whoever they want to be: mothers, fashionistas, or politicos.

The word "wave" indicates that there is a high point and a low point. I think we need to rise to the top of the wave and stay there. In fact, I think we should trash the wave image. Let’s call it Increasing Diagonal Feminism.

My awkward naming capabilities aside, the fact remains that feminism needs a major overhaul. I feel like I’m watching feminism riding an escalator the wrong way. The batteries are running low, we’re moving in slow motion. I can hear that creepy low voice on the tape recorder. It’s Phyllis Schlafly, and she and her supporters are coming after us. They have risen to power and we have no more revolutionaries.

I guess I haven’t said anything here that hasn’t already been said. But as I type and listen to “I Will Survive” on my iPod, I have an enormous feeling of hope. Maybe the move backward will put us back in the mid-sixties, when women realized there was something that needed changing. Maybe someone out there will write “A New Kind of Memo.” Maybe a new generation of Casey Hayden’s and Mary King’s will come around.

A Sonnet

-Amanda Elend

I think now of that graveyard beyond
the tiny church crowned with half of a cross.
In the car on the way we talked about loss.
I brought up your father, you didn’t respond.
We parked in the gravel, beside a pond
coated in layers of scum and moss.
You coughed, pointing to the filthy exhaust
seeping into the air around my car. Blond

leaves fell around us as we entered that feast
of dead names, expired stories, numbers
with no shape. We both preferred the older stones,
hidden by time, ignored the newly deceased.
You looked like your father as you lumbered
across couples forever linked through their bones.

How the Hell Did We Get Here?

It happened during an argument with a friend of mine. He is an immigrant from Armenia who, after too many years in school, finally got his Green Card. The argument was about the immigration protests taking place around the country right now. This question came to me when I realized how ludicrous it was that I was arguing for the protestors, while my friend was arguing against them.

His passion, he explained to me, stemmed from the fact that he had to work so hard and so long for his Green Card. He did not think these people should just expect to get their citizenship handed to them. He took special issue with the common protest sign, “We Are America.”

He scoffed and moaned for a while, and I listened closely, trying to see his point. Yes, I see the irony: illegal immigrants are rallying for rights guaranteed in the constitution of a government that refuses to recognize them as citizens. The question is, why don’t human rights apply to everyone, regardless of their citizenship? I thought it did. No person, in a country that trumpets the motto “Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses” should be allowed to treat anyone like an alien. The conditions that illegal immigrants are forced into have sustained our economy, but something needs to change.

There are many issues here. Issue 1: Should immigrants be allowed into our country at all? Should we kick any illegal immigrants out of the country (or put them in jail on a newly upgraded felony charge) and build a wall to keep any new immigrants away? Not only is this rash, it is implausible. There will never be a sure fire method for keeping people out of our country (a country that was, by the way, BUILT on immigration).

Issue 2: Should illegal immigrants be forced, due to their illegal status, to work under inhuman, unsanitary conditions? This is how the country has operated this way for awhile now. There are many illegal immigrants who find a place in this country that does not fall under this category. But many illegal immigrants are forced to stay quiet about their status, quiet about themselves and are forced into jobs with conditions no American citizen would ever stand for. American citizens, however, can stand up for themselves. They have ground to stand on. But because of their illegal status, immigrants are not protected under the American constitution.

Issue 3: How can we find a happy medium? There is just no easy answer here. No one in America should be forced to work under these conditions. There is obviously something wrong when someone who played the system, getting degree after degree, is complaining about people who are playing the system in their own way. The illegal immigrants were forced into these protests. The threat to their sustained way of life made them angry, then made them realize there might be something wrong with their sustained way of life. If those aren’t very American actions and discoveries, there’s something wrong with our view of America.


This word has been bugging me for a while now. I first came across it as a word of the day on Google.

According to the OED, virago is defined as:
1 Woman. (Only as the name given by Adam to Eve, after the Vulgate rendering of Gen. ii. 23.)
2 a. A man-like, vigorous, and heroic woman; a female warrior; an amazon. Now rare.
b. Applied to a man. Obs. rare.
3 A bold, impudent (or wicked) woman; a termagant, a scold.

There are a couple more entries, but these are the main ones.

1 A woman regarded as noisy, scolding, or domineering.
2 A large, strong, courageous woman.

It is also, apparently, the name of a Yamaha motorcycle. I don't know what that means.

I think this words speaks for itself. Like most derogatory female words, virago also means a strong, warrior-like woman. Because of her strong, bold nature, she is dismissed as either mannish or wicked.

I say we bring this word back and live it. We need more viragos in this day of Harvard graduates who desire only to support their husbands from home.