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.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Logan (a movie review post)

Relatively speaking, I was an early adopter when it comes to Wolverine. I was already following him as a character when his original limited series came out in 1982, and I would be lying to say that he was not one of my main reasons for following the X-Men through the 80s. Well, Wolverine along with the writing of Chris Claremont, unarguably one of the best comic book writers ever. Ironically, Claremont didn't care for Wolverine as a character and almost dropped him completely from the X-Men lineup in the late 70s. It was John Byrne who saved the character out of a fondness for a fellow Canadian.

That said, it's been 15 years since the last time I read any Wolverine (or any comics at all, really, other than a few here or there that one or more of my kids might have had lying around), that being Origin,

a story I didn't much care for overall. It suffers from many of the same problems as Logan, those being trying to fill in details around a character to achieve a particular goal even when those details don't really fit with the character that has been created.

Mostly, though, what Logan proves is that Fox is no more capable of creating a cohesive continuity for their super hero films than Warner Brothers. It's sort of like having your tea bag break in your cup of tea. If you're careful and drink slowly, you can manage to mostly keep the tea leaves out of your mouth... until you get to that point where you have to throw the last quarter of it out because the leaves are too dense. Until that point, though, the tea is enjoyable as long as you keep it to small doses.

So, yes, Logan is a mostly enjoyable film. It accomplishes the one thing I'm sure all Wolverine fans have been waiting to see: Wolverine really cutting loose with his claws without the need of keeping the bloodshed to a PG-13 rating. And cut loose he does: arms, legs, and heads. That alone is probably worth the movie for the true fans.

The aspect of the movie I found most interesting was the question raised about mutants and their powers when they get old. Of course, the movie only works around the question without ever really addressing it, but we do get to see some of the effects in the aged Charles Xavier as he struggles to maintain control over his mental abilities.

Stephen Merchant as Caliban was a pleasant surprise. I like Merchant, and he was perfect in this role. Dafne Keen was also great. She has a brooding stare which is easily the match of Jackman's.

However, the movie is utterly predictable, wasting a perfect opportunity to do something above and beyond that was afforded it by  the success of Deadpool, probably the only super hero movie Fox has nailed since X-Men 2 in 2003. That said, considering that Jackman is not returning to the claws again after this movie (unless Ryan Reynolds does somehow convince Jackman to do that Deadpool/Wolverine team-up movie), Logan is a good send off. Good enough, at any rate.

But it could it have been better if only Marvel had done it, which is the thought I have after every one of the X-Men movies since the advent of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) with Iron Man back in 2008. Sony wised up and went to Marvel to get Spider-Man on the right track; maybe there's hope that Fox will do the same.