Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Clone Wars -- "A Necessary Bond" (Ep. 5.8)

-- Choose your enemies wisely, as they may be your last hope,

[Remember, you can sign up to join the Clone Wars Project at any time by clicking this link.]
[Well, actually, considering that we're into season five, now, probably no one new is going to sign up, BUT! Hop over to The Armchair Squid for his take on the current episode.]

Ahsoka is still being rescued as the episode opens but, as she says a bit later in, there are complications. Grievous being one of those, as Ahsoka has to go back and rescue Hondo from Grievous so that she and the younglings can get a ship and finish their escape from... Hondo.

Remember way back in... season two? I think it was season two. Okay, fine! I'll go look! Well, no, it looks like it was the episode "Dooku Captured" back in season one. Anyway, remember that episode? The one where Dooku was captured by Hondo and Hondo attempted to ransom him off to the highest bidder? Well, Dooku really knows how to hold onto a grudge, and he's finally coming for Hondo in revenge for being held captive that one time, so Grievous has shown up and overrun Hondo's base and captured him.

While somewhat coincidental (what, as a writer, I would call contrived), it makes for a good episode, and I 'm willing to overlook the part where this whole plan of Hondo's, from a couple of episodes ago, to steal the kaiburr crystals happens to coincide with Grievous' attempt to take over the system Hondo is in, a fact that Hondo is either oblivious to or is intentionally ignoring.

Also, remember how I was recently talking about how you should never forget that Hondo is a pirate? Well, this episode is a reminder of why it's so easy to forget.

"Well, today is a new day, and, lucky for you, today I like children."

Monday, March 27, 2017

"The map is wrong" and Why It's Time To Ignore Trump

Living with an autocrat is never easy, not least of which because they can be erratic and unpredictable. Some of that unpredictableness comes from the fact that they warp reality around their assertions that their view of the world is the one and only correct view of the world. Let me give you an example:

When I was no more than seven or eight, I was having a discussion with my mom about a geography thing I learned at school that day. It was one of those "what did you learn today" moments. As I was telling her, my dad butted in with, "That's wrong."

Now, when I was a kid, I never held that typical belief that my parents were the ultimate authority on things. That was a view I held for teachers. Teachers were infallible. At least, at that point in my life, they were. So, of course, my response to my dad was something along the lines of, "But my teacher said..."

To which he responded, "Your teacher is wrong."

Some of you may have realized that I can be pretty... forceful... about the things I believe, and that has always been true, even when I was a kid, so an argument ensued. An argument which ended with the purchase of a map of the state, upon my insistence, because I was determined to prove that I was correct. We opened the map up, found the landmark, and...

I was right. It was just as I said from what we learned in class.

And my dad said, immediately, "The map is wrong."

I tried to argue. An argument which was cut short by my dad saying, "I'm right because I say I am."

I was, needless to say, flabbergasted. I just could not understand his insistence that he was right when, clearly, reality said otherwise.

It was also the very last time I ever argued anything with my dad. What was the point?
Also, that's a difficult lesson to learn when you're only seven or eight.

My dad also had that infuriating thing that you've probably seen in movies where he would ask me a question then yell at me not to "talk back" to him when I tried to answer. So, yeah, reality warping.

My tactic for dealing with him by the time I was in middle school was to just walk away. Literally. (And I have to say that it was actually quite satisfying, because it would leave him flustered and yelling, spittle flying out of his mouth as he did so. Seriously. (You didn't want to be close to him when he was yelling about something because there was always spittle.)) I refused to engage with him because you could never tell where you stood or what kind of crazy -- I hesitate to call them lies, because he was never "lying." -- untruth was going to come out of him. And you couldn't argue because facts didn't matter. He was right because he said he was. So, yeah, maybe it was disrespectful, but I would walk away, usually to my room but, sometimes, to outside.

And you know what? It would shut him up. I mean, after the "don't walk away from me while I'm talking to you!" part, that was the end of it. He never resumed anything later and there were never any consequences. Well, okay, there was the occasional "you're grounded!" that followed the bit about not walking away, but he never paid enough attention to ever enforce that; it just made him feel good to say it. Like he was actually doing something, I suppose.

Now, here's the punch line:
Trump is just like my dad. Or like my dad would have been if he'd had someone to give him a "small loan of a million dollars" to get him started off in life.

I realize what I'm about to say is more than impractical, but the way we need to be dealing with Trump, as a society, when he starts spouting nonsense is to "walk away." Ignore it. Deal with the actual business at hand and not pay any attention to his untruths. Because I'm pretty sure that Trump, also, isn't "lying." He's just saying stupid shit because
1. He's not very smart. and
2. He's right because he says he is; therefore, to him, anything he says is reality.

So here we are, two weeks later (as I write this and, probably, three weeks later as you read this), and we're still talking about Trump's completely unsupported and demonstrably false statement that he was wiretapped by Obama. Why are we still talking about it? Because we have allowed Trump to warp or reality. Rather than talking about him and his ties to Russia or any number of other things, we are now focused on whether Obama, the least scandalous President ever, had Trump under surveillance. With the British! Because Trump has to continue to warp reality to keep us focused on the wrong things. On non-things.

All of that to say this:
It's time to move the conversation back to where it should be, on Trump and the evil of his cohorts and how they are trying to ruin the world for everyone except the very wealthy. Because, actually, some of Trump's untruths are lies and, certainly, the people around him are lying all the time, just look at Flynn and Sessions for starters.

What we need to learn, as a society, especially the press, is that when Trump offers up something that comes without proof, something like "I was wiretapped," we need to not even acknowledge it. You stay focused on the actual story (in this case, it was the story about Sessions and how he lied under oath, but we haven't heard anymore about that since Trump made his completely fallacious claim) and resist chasing the squirrels that Trump is tossing into the room.

Personally, I think it would be great if we really could just walk away from him, just like I did with my dad. I bet Trump spittles, too, when he yells.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Day 13

Thursday, February 1, 2018

I wrote a letter to my friend in Australia. On paper. With a pen. I need to know something about what’s happening in the world, and I couldn’t think of anything else to do. I walked to the post office after school with it – and that’s not close! – and just got a blank stare from the mailman. He looked like he didn’t know what he was supposed to do with it. Finally, I said, “I want to mail this.”

His expression didn’t change. He said, “Are you sure?” I said, “Of course, I’m sure.”

He said, “You know we’re not accepting any mail from outside the country, right?”

I think I probably stared blankly at him because I hadn’t known that. So I asked why not. He just shrugged, then, for a moment, he looked like he wanted to say something, then shrugged again. I said, “What does that mean?” And he answered that it meant that I could mail the letter and it might even get there but I wouldn’t get anything back even if my friend responded. I cussed.

We stared at each other for a while and his expression never changed. He looked bored. I stood there getting angry.

Finally, I took his pen, opened the envelope as carefully as I could, wrote a note at the end of the letter to my friend that he probably couldn’t write me back, asked for some tape and sealed the letter back up, and told the dude I wanted to mail the letter. He told me it would be $7.00.

$7.00! I think I cussed again. I’m not actually sure. I don’t remember what I said, only that I was SO angry. His expression changed, though, to shock. I didn’t have $7.00 with me. Since when did it cost $7.00 to mail a letter? To anywhere? I stormed out and tried to slam the door. I really wanted to slam the door, but it had one of those stupid hydraulic arms, and I couldn’t make it slam. I’m pretty sure I screamed.

Now I have this letter that’s worthless. If I’d had the $7.00 while I was there, I would have mailed it, but there’s hardly a point in making another special trip to mail a letter which might not ever arrive and from which I will get no response.

So I tried to sneak a long distance call, and that was worthless, too. After almost an hour, I got connected to the operator because I was trying to make something that wasn’t a local call and was told that only local calls could be direct dialed anymore; everything else had to go through an operator and approved before it could be made. Which explains why it took me so long to get through, because the operators are backlogged with calls. AND she told me we were going to be billed JUST because I talked to her. $12.00! Twelve fucking dollars so that the operator could tell me that I couldn’t make my call. My mom is going to kill me.

There are a lot of rumors at school. Almost everyone has their own rumor. Almost none of them have to do with China taking over any part of the United States, though some of them are that Russia has invaded New York. And a lot of people are saying that there is fighting in New York. A lot of it. With tanks and missiles and all of that. I don’t know if I believe it or not.

Some people are saying it’s because Russia invaded and the fighting is against the Russians.

But some people are saying that it’s New York fighting against Trump and the United States.

They’re saying it’s a civil war. A new civil war. And that’s why that thing from the Statue of Liberty is showing up everywhere.

It is, too.

There are new flyers on buildings everyday.

Give me your tired, your poor,
your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…

It makes me cry sometimes. I feel like I’m yearning to breathe free.

I hate it here.

It even showed up on TV yesterday. When the teacher was turning on the TV for Trump’s daily shitfest, she accidentally changed the channel… and there it was, just on the screen.

Give me your tired, your poor,
your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…
come to California

Oh, God, I want to go to California! Or Washington. Or even Oregon. Anywhere that is out of this hell of a place where I feel like I’m a flower without sun.

No one said anything when it was on the screen. It was like no one breathed. Four seconds… five… I don’t know. Long enough for me not to be the only one with tears in my eyes.

Then the teacher changed it back to the right channel and Trump was talking, and I did cry. Sobbed. I wasn’t even embarrassed because I wasn’t the only one. Shelly ran out of the room with her hands over her face.

That was the first time I realized how many kids are missing from my classes…

Mom is calling. Dinner, probably. Yea. More hamburger meat and baked potatoes. It will be the third day in a row.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Clone Wars -- "Bound for Rescue" (Ep. 5.7)

-- When we rescue others, we rescue ourselves.

[Remember, you can sign up to join the Clone Wars Project at any time by clicking this link.]
[Well, actually, considering that we're into season five, now, probably no one new is going to sign up, BUT! Hop over to The Armchair Squid for his take on the current episode.]

Ahsoka got captured. My feeling is that this is a thing that has happened frequently, but, then, so have Obi-Wan and Anakin, I suppose. There really is a lot of getting captured and having to escape or be rescued! Mostly, that's not an issue.

Of course, Obi-Wan is going to mount a rescue operation, but he gets interrupted by being attacked by Grievous. It doesn't go well.

Which leaves the younglings on their own to figure out what to do about being left on a ship that has been damaged and with no supervision other than R2-D2. They do what all kids do -- or, at least, all kids in popular fiction -- they take matters into their own hands.
And join a circus.
Yeah, you'll just have to watch it to understand what that means.

Hondo's still around, because he's the one holding Ahsoka, expecting to make a profit of off her. From whom is a bit of a mystery since, when Ahsoka tells him he can't ransom her to the Separatists, he says he knows because, "Don't ask me why, but Dooku holds such a grudge against me since our little I-held-him-hostage affair." It's a great moment in an episode which is a bit anticlimactic after the previous one.

"If you don't let me go, you'll wish you had been born a protocol droid."
"Sometimes, I do anyway."

Monday, March 20, 2017

Education: The One Step To Improvement

If there's one thing everyone agrees with, it's that education in the United States is not what it once was. That, however, is probably not true. The truth is that education in the United States is precisely what it once was, mostly stuck in a 50s era mindset of how education ought to work.

Sure, things have been tried, but the basic model hasn't changed.

And, certainly, Betsy DeVos doesn't want to change that model. In fact, she wants to reinforce it by funneling the "right" kids into the Right kinds of schools so that we can get back to schools full of wealthy white kids to bring back excellence. With her model, that's what will work, too, because it will be select schools which are well funded by affluent white people, and everyone else... Well, everyone else can go to hell because, if you're not white and not rich, you don't deserve an education anyway.

So, while DeVos pushes vouchers and school "choice" (which, by the way, is just a code for affluent whites to get to put all of their kids in schools together in places where minorities can't afford to get their kids to (just in case you didn't get that from the previous paragraph)) and everyone else pays administrators huge salaries and experiments with programs, the education system is still missing the mark on how to fix itself. And so is everyone else. Except, maybe, teachers.

After all, there is only one real problem with education: teacher pay. That and the fact that we don't pay them. Well, pay for them to be teachers.

See, teacher pay is also, really, stuck in the 50s, so what we have now are babysitters. That's what we pay for, so that, on the whole, is what we get. A big, national system, state by state, of babysitters.

Before anyone starts taking umbrage, I don't mean any disrespect toward teachers. This is not a statement about "bad teachers." I've known some really great ones. But, having been involved in teaching, I also know the general state of teachers, which, actually, is most often tired. It is, beyond doubt, the most over worked, under paid "profession" out there. And, yes, the quotation marks are to indicate the lack of being paid to do the job they are hypothetically being paid to do.

I'm not going to try and break all of this down and make it into a numbers game to show just how little teachers are being paid per hour (and don't start yelling "summer" at me, either, because that doesn't balance anything, especially when many teachers have to pick up some kind of summer job to make it through the summer). What I'm going to say is this:
If teachers were paid more, there would be more teachers in the teaching profession. By that I mean that many people, especially men, who would be good teachers (and might have been a teacher at some point) don't teach (or quit teaching) because they can make more money somewhere else for far less headache and less time on the job. More money, fewer hours: Who wouldn't take that, right? Only those extremely highly dedicated to teaching.

I actually hate having to bring up men specifically, because that's part of the problem. Men are more likely to leave teaching because men are paid more than women just in general and men are more likely to find higher level jobs that pay more in and of themselves. All of that while teaching is seen as a woman's job so is inherently less likely to receive wage hikes. All of this is wrong and plays into why teaching suffers.

If teachers were paid competitive salaries, you'd find people, both men and women, competing for teaching positions, which would weed out those people who go into teaching because "anyone can teach." Come on, I know you believe that. That's what everyone thinks. "Well, if I can't get a job doing [X], I can always teach." And that is not what we want from our teachers, people who opted into it because they weren't qualified or smart enough or ambitious enough for anything else. We want people who want to be there even if that desire is spurred by a good salary. People who know they have to do good work because there is someone else waiting at least as qualified as they are will do better work, will be more invested in the job, than someone who knows they're not going to lose their job because there's no one else waiting to take it.

And, seriously, if you have good, motivated teachers, you don't need to focus on programs because one good teacher in a room with nothing more than a chalkboard will motivate even poor students to do well; while, one bad teacher, no matter what kind of programs you have in place, will kill the desire to learn in all but the best students (because they're already doing it on their own, anyway).

Look, I'm not saying anything new here. We've been, as a society, talking about teacher pay for... decades? Since I was in high school, at least. However, instead of just paying teachers more, we've been funneling money into programs and to administrators and, as a result, other countries, countries in which teachers are held in higher esteem, have continued to outpace the US in education. And that gap keeps getting bigger. So, if we're going to be serious about educating the next generation, and if we really want to "make America great" again, it starts with education, and that starts with paying teachers to be more than babysitters.

And all of that means we, as a society, have to start looking at education and being educated as something worthwhile again. We have to start looking at science as something more than just an opinion. It's time to quit with the whole Right wing/Conservative/Republican view of education and science as the enemy. We live in an information age where facts, real facts, are right at our fingertips. It's amazing, actually, and it's time to start making the most of it by grasping what is real and true and dumping disinformation and lies, and all of that starts with education.