It seems that Star Wars: The Old Republic, the latest Star Wars video game, will allow players to enter into homosexual relationships as part of the plot. That’s great! In a modern world where many young people have embraced the idea of gay marriage and gay relationships, it makes sense to give that part of the fan base and population an opportunity to be themselves, even if it is in a world of turbolasers and lightsabers.
Of course, you know what this means?
Star Wars is going to make your kids gay. I know, I know. But now, to my eternal delight, someone has summoned the poor, innocent children. Won’t someone think of the children?!
By the way, the group that is protesting this? It’s the same group that called for a boycott of Girl Scout Cookies. The Family Research Council really has a knack for going after things that are trying to help children or just provide entertainment. I love how they’ve got their tighty-whities in a knot over the possibility of kids seeing a digital gay couple that won’t be able to do anything besies announce its gay and they don’t bat an eyelid over the fact that, in a Star Wars game, starships filled with hundreds or even thousands of people get blown out of the sky on a regular basis. There’s also the little fact that you can have a high Dark Side score by committing questionable acts.
This is what I love about anyone spinning like a top over something like a gay character in a game somehow corrupting the youth. Said critics never seem to be worried about the MASS MURDER going on in video games. It might be the sci-fi aspect, and it’s not like people didn’t complain about killing and guns in games like Grand Theft Auto. But add sex to the equation?
It’s like yelling Frau Blücher. Somewhere, a horse is going to bray.
I have a part-time job. It’s the only work I can find. We are expected to do full-time work on a part-time schedule and everyone I work with is over-worked and underpaid. But we do our job and we do it WELL. On occasion, when the work is available, I teach college courses and run workshops for students. I do freelance work when I can find it, but it’s nowhere near a steady income. I get up at six, sometimes five in the morning, to work on said freelance work. I get maybe $25 per article, and I write three to five articles a week. I also maintain this blog, another three to five articles a week there, work on my own writing in the hopes of getting published, and try to read as much as I can to better my skills.
I work a full day. I have a work ethic. Others in my economic bracket have a work ethic. Speaking on behalf of the Hispanic population at least, we have a damned good work ethic. The problem, and this is key, is that there ARE NO JOBS. Even though the private sector’s been getting better the last two years, the economy still has a long way to go.
This is kind of like blaming famine victims for dying because they just don’t have proper table manners. If only they knew how to properly sear a tuna steak and garnish a salad!
If you are conservative, you should be appalled that this man is leading the running for the Republican Party. The GOP thinks that people who make a million dollars don’t have enough money, but people who make $20,000 a year and get by on government assistance have it TOO easy.
I’ll admit that we’ve gotten lazy as a country in many ways. Television, for the most part, sucks. We don’t read nearly as much as other people around the world. Fast food is preferred to actually cooking. If we can’t Google it, we probably won’t even bothering looking for a book to get it.
But we like money. We like having enough to survive and a little extra to go shopping, catch a movie, or save up for a big trip. When I worked in DC, I had to get up at 5:30 AM so I could be in the office by 7:30 AM. We clocked out at 6 PM most days, but if there was important legislation going through or other urgent matters came up, we stayed an extra hour or two, sometimes three. This was NORMAL even when Congress was NOT in session. And we weren’t paid much. In fact, we were paid peanuts compared to private sector jobs. I actually make more per hour working as a part-time tutor than I did working as a Congressional assistant.
Don’t tell me poor people don’t have a work ethic.
I have a damn good work ethic. Nearly everyone I know in my situation has a good work ethic. Five back-to-back tutoring sessions, a presentation, and on-the-job training? All in five hours? Sure thing.
It’s just that pricks like Gingrich and the rest of the GOP seem to think having money must mean you worked for every dollar. Did Gingrich somehow work a thousand times harder than I did last year? No?
Will all respect to Burt Gummer, is his head up his own ass for the warmth?
Let’s watch something less scary than the thought of Gingrich as President, shall we?
If you’re a kid, you get free candy and get to dress up and essentially play all day and night. You get to watch horror movies and act out in the darkest way possible without getting arrested (for the most part).
But as an adult?
I’m going to warn you right now. I’m about to get all philosophical up in this post.
At some point, we stopped enjoying life. We go to work, cash a paycheck, and go about our routine. We’ll watch a television show or learn a hobby to pass the time, but we seem to have lost the spark of being able to play and enjoy life. This has to do with work and time as much as anything, and it’s not like we couldn’t make an extra hour in the day if we really wanted it. It’s just inconvenient. We work and act professional, and for most people this “professionalism” bleeds over into everyday life.
We become the suit we wear. The formality becomes normal.
And then Halloween comes around and we can wear a mask or a costume that, ironically, usually tells us more about us than anything else. Mary wanted to dress up like a bloody clown because she likes to creep people out. I dressed up like a calaca because I enjoy the mythology and symbolism of Dia de los Muertos.
It’s odd, but a lot of people get to be themselves more on Halloween than any other day. They let loose. It’s like they’re drunk without the hassle of drinking. There’s a general feeling that you can do anything on Halloween and it doesn’t count, so you get to see who is reserved, who is really a freak, and who likes to show off.
Maybe I’m over-analyzing it, but I think more adults need to just loosen up and have fun. Do something childish. My dad is a consummate professional in everything he does, but get him to a car museum and he turns into a little boy in a candy shop. I’m almost thirty and I work as an educator and freelance writer, but yesterday, my fiancée and I watched Tom and Jerry yesterday for a good hour.
I loved watching the Treehouse of Horror specials, but they seem to have gotten kind of lame lately. When I read this ranking, I was glad I wasn’t the only one who thought so.
I said everyone needs to calm down and just have fun with Halloween. It seems even Planned Parenthood got in on it. They released a very important memo about the dangers of vampire sex. And yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like.
Yeah, that's me in Joker make-up. I made the paper, too! For non-criminal reasons!
October 25, 2011
As if the stupidWaronChristmas wasn’t enough, Fox now thinks there’s a War against Halloween. I guess pulling out of Iraq left them wanting combat of some sort, so let me indulge them.
The Fox story goes something like this. Schools are banning Halloween celebrations because they don’t want kids eating candy and they want to not exclude anyone who doesn’t believe in the celebration, i.e. immigrants. But allow me to let Ren and Stimpy here to say it far more stupidly than I ever could.
The schools are banning candy to help kids eat healthier.
The celebrations are not being banned. They’re being moved to after-school so the parties won’t disrupt classes.
Likewise, kids can still wear costumes, but so as not to distract from valuable class time, the kids may wear the costumes after school.
Some of the kids cannot afford costumes because of tough economic situations, and this led to hurt feelings and isolation. Worrying about other people’s feelings is NOT a liberal conspiracy. It’s called basic human decency.
Now let me get to the one major point of contention for me.
Immigrants are offended by Halloween? If anything, I think Halloween is TAME by the standards of most immigrants. Take me for instance. I come from a culture that doesn’t celebrate Halloween, but instead has a holiday where we lay out altars dressed in food, flowers, and booze so the spirits of our dead relatives can visit us. We INVITE the ghosts in. Little Timmy in his Situation costume? Lame. We deal with real ghosts.
The only reason I can assume an immigrant would be offended or feel left out by Halloween is if he or she did not know what it was. Seeing things like spirits and magic treated like a kid’s game might be offensive to some who hold on to beliefs that treat them as real, and I’m sure a lot of pagans and Wiccans take offense to things like the portrayal of witches. The celebration’s spread around the world, though it’s only here in the States that it seems to have attained the kind of holy reverence once reserved for Christmas. Halloween is not some sacred rite here. It’s a fully commercialized day where kids get hopped up on sugar, get to play dress-up, and women are made to dress like pseudo-hookers.
...and a lot of people apparently DO let the words hurt them.
August 17, 2011
It’s no secret that the words and language we use color our perceptions of the world. Having grown up in Mexico, my thoughts often start out in Spanish even though I speak more English than anything. That syntax and sound are the things I use to measure beauty in speech. I think, though, that there is no better recent example of this ability for early language to shape our perceptions than this little article.
In short, Johanna Gohmann talks about how her parents used euphemisms for certain words, especially things pertaining to sex or bodily secretions. From her article:
Perhaps not surprisingly, my parents’ modesty spilled over into s-e-x terminology as well. To be fair, we didn’t exactly live in Berkeley, Calif., with 9-year-olds openly shouting, “Mommy, my vagina itches!” This was the ’70s and ’80s in the suburbs of Indiana. Many families employed a certain slang with these words, and not just because “rectum” is a difficult word for a toddler. For many, it’s a given that girls have their “coochie” and boys have their “weiner.” But not us, thank you very much. A brief dictionary sampling displays words that were all our own.
Boo(verb) – to defecate: “Mom! The baby just booed in his pants.”
Tink(verb) – to urinate: “He just tinked into a root beer can while driving!”
Tote(noun) – both the male and female genitalia: “Jo kicked Marty in the tote!”
Bo(noun) – buttocks: “Where’s the Benadryl? A bee stung Graham on the bo.”
Giving him elbows(verb) – breast-feeding: “Mom is busy. She’s giving the baby elbows.”
Did you catch all that? It reminds me of a child a coworker once taught. He didn’t know any words for animals or numbers. He knew the baby words. Instead of dog, he’d call said animal a “bowwow.” A seven? That was a “stick w’nother stick.”
My niece, being all of six years old, is actually a very eloquent young lady who can speak a few English phrases and has near-perfect Spanish diction. Why? Her parents never baby-talked to her. I’m assuming my boss and her husband did the same thing with their daughter, a precocious little thing that has syntax down.
Check this out. I’m going to substitute the word “Funyun” for “spic,” and all death-related verbs will be switched with “splooge.”
Okay, you see those Funyuns over there? They come here, they steal our jobs, and leave us with nothing. I’m not saying we need to splooge them. No one is saying anyone needs to get splooged. I’m just saying that something needs to get done about the Funyun problem or some of the more radical elements in this country might splooge them if they feel they’ve been pushed too far. And it’s not that I’m racist. My best friend is a Funyun. I just don’t want to see splooge on the streets of this great country.
Back in the third article ever posted here, I said that words have power when we give them power. Unless you have synesthesia, changing one word to another will not take away the meaning of a word. It might make it silly, but it doesn’t mean your subject’s changed.
Don’t be afraid of using the correct words and terms for something. Granted, there is such a thing as being polite in casual conversation, and certain words are funnier than others, but don’t sugar-coat the conversation because the topic upsets you. If the topic is what bothers you, don’t even talk about it. Be honest with yourself. Words have meaning for a reason.
Stop blaming the phonetics and start confronting the vocabulary.
And now, I present to you the only good thing to come out of Final Destination 5. You have to admire the self-awareness these actors and actresses had towards the entire project. They’re comfortable making fun of their movie even before it comes out. Enjoy the campiness!
I’ve fought the good fight here on Randomology. I’ve battled the nitwits and the stupid, the racist and the close-minded. I’ve pushed back against those who would hijack education, the Constitution, and twist the idea of progress into something awful. I’ve ranted against those who likewise hijack religion in the name of ratings or fame.
But when you go after Sesame Street, you better believe I will FUCK YOU UP. I grew up with Sesame Street. Sesame Street helped me learn English. I loved the Muppets growing up, and if you grow balls big enough to go after Jim Henson and this pure, fun, educational part of my childhood, I will personally rip your spleen out through your knee.
Behold the wisdom of going after puppets. No, really. Just watch the video and see how these guys can see the Mongol-like invasion of progressivism in… Elmo teaching kids letters.
Now, maybe you watched the video, but maybe you didn’t. That’s fine. Let me go over a few of the more… interesting points they try to make regarding Sesame Street and the media in general.
0:36-0:51 Sesame Street was created to cater to poor black and Hispanic children who didn’t have reading material at home.
…And? What’s wrong with originally catering to sections of the population that traditionally lag behind in education? I would think this is a good thing. Blacks and Hispanics usually lag behind in education, and this isn’t a stereotype. Research throughout the years have shown this. This is due to a number of reasons, everything from inadequate resources to troubled home life.
And yes, I myself am Hispanic, and while I didn’t have these kinds of problems, the show helped me.
0:51-1:26 Sesame Street’s website tells parents to use gender-neutral nouns, give dolls to boys and trucks to girls, and just this year, an openly gay boy was crowned prom queen in a school in Virginia, so this is a “direct assault on this country’s moral foundation.”
Okay, this string of accusations has three parts, so let’s go through each individually.
First of all, using gender-neutral pronouns isn’t some subversion of morality. It’s the inevitable result of both genders being equal. Do these two clowns have something against equality? Even MLA and APA handbooks say you should use gender-neutral nouns. However, this being Fox, I doubt they’d know the standards of journalism.
Second of all, could someone please tell me where on the Sesame Street website these evolutionary throwbacks found that little piece of information?
And third of all, this thing with a gay man being voted prom queen? How exactly does Sesame Street link back to this? This is really the point of the clip where the discussion goes into generalities and strawmen, but let’s pretend that this has nothing to do with Sesame Street. Let’s say they’re just outraged that the media in general is saying that a gay man can be prom queen.
I guess these are the kinds of people who would also be upset over two lesbians going to prom. The school voted and the kid won. Fair and square. And it was an affirmation that the student body embraced this young man’s decision. Just watching him and how proud he was of his friends and family speaks volumes.
1:37-2:14 “The values of young people today scare me because we’re robbing them at earlier and earlier ages of their childhood. They know more. They do more.” Our shows used to be more wholesome, and parents aren’t monitoring what their kids are watching.
The children! They invoked the children!
And if you too would like to know how you can tell people to stop using children as a shield for their own ignorance, just click here.
So many things wrong here… What, exactly, is Sesame Street taking from our children? Just read that quote again. The panel is actually mad that children are LEARNING. That’s right. They don’t want children learning things like reading and math or about other cultures. God forbid little Timmy learns that in Mexico, they use a lot of spices and have different kinds of limes.
As for the whole “wholesome” shows thing… as much as I loved I Love Lucy and similar programming… Lucy smoked while she was pregnant. Everyone smoked. Aside from Ricky, name another visible, independent minority. Please. Show me the episodes where they addressed things like racism, inequality, and the rights of women. Show me when the Cleavers had to deal with an unwanted pregnancy.
And don’t even get me started on The Honeymooners.
Yeah, the shows were “wholesome,” and I’ll admit they were funnier than half the crap on TV right now, but don’t hold them up as ethical and moral beacons.
2:15-2:26- Artists are liberal, and artists make these shows, so…
Now, our former Miss America got cut off, but if you listen carefully, it sounded like she was going to make a case for “Artists make and write these shows, artists are liberal, and therefore, since we know liberals are evil, these shows are evil.”
I got news for you, Spray Tan. Artists made those shows you and the Right-Wing Brigade were pushing up a few minutes ago. Yeah, artists tend to be more liberal and open minded. We have to be.
But the politics or personality of the artist have no merit on the aesthetics of the art itself. Let me put it another way.
I hate Michael Bay. The guy is a diva who is full of himself and can’t take the blame for his own mistakes. On the other hand, The Rock happens to be one of my favorite 90’s action movies. Not surprising, since Bay made it before he apparently replaced his blood with pure testosterone and diesel fuel. Likewise, H. P. Lovecraft created tales of morbid and alien terror, yet he was an unapologetic racist. On their own, though, the stories created an entire sub-genre: Lovecraftian horror.
Oh, and may I just say that, when you want in-depth commentary on the state of the media, education, and child psychology, your first choice for a panelist should ALWAYS be a former Miss America, right?
2:27-2:54 If you look at tyrannies, the first thing they do is go after the family and religion. Then, government can become the family and religion.
Again, this has nothing to do with Sesame Street, but let’s ignore that.
How is the media going after family and religion? Can we get examples? Specific shows and incidents? No. All we get are generalizations. The fact is that if you want to make the case for the media destroying families and religion, it’s not because television is preaching against it. It’s more likely that parents aren’t paying attention or being involved with their kids. Religion does not address the issues it needs to address.
I would never raise a child just on Sesame Street, or any other show or book. That’s called bad parenting, so stop blaming the television for parents not doing their job.
2:54-3:15 Liberals think they’re so great, that their morality is so good, and they want to spread their message. They don’t even teach the basics in school like reading, writing, and math! They don’t even use their own money to get their message out.
Yeah, we like to think we’re right. We want to get our message out. So does the right. This is really just Hannity mad that liberals have the balls to say what they believe. I’m serious. He’s just ranting that the Left has the gall to try and spread its message as though it’s some instant thought-converter.
And Hannity, how much of YOUR money do you spend to get your message out? How much does Beck spend? Beck was crying about this Israel trip of his costing a few million dollars even though he is worth $80 million. Even if he spent only 10 million dollars, he could fly more than 2,000 people there for free.
The rest of the video is just ranting against how liberals supposedly don’t have their own charities, how there’s apparently between rich liberals and the American elite that involves some weird word-play on Hannity’s part, and Sesame Street is never mentioned again.
There are legitimate concerns about children’s programming. I know this, but at least make a substantial argument. I’m very protective of Sesame Street because it really did play a big part in my childhood, although seeing the raging liberal that I am today, I may have proven the panel’s point.
Sesame Street is one of the best educational tools for young children. Combine it with good parenting, and kids get a lesson at home they might not otherwise get. It’s a great tool for learning English for foreign-born kids, and it’s evolved throughout the years to show a more multi-cultural, open society.
And if anyone goes after Sesame Street, Oscar, Gonzo, or any of the Muppets without some actual justification, I will go after them with extreme violence. Napalm may be involved.
It’s time for another sneak peak at Charcoal Streets. In case you haven’t looked over the old stories or wanted to get to them later, all except for Beautiful Lies (Parts 1 and 2) and She Wept Flowers are now only in sample form. That means the whole stories won’t be available again until the anthology is published in a few months, and almost every story published from now until then will only feature a sample.
This little number is about one of the more famous Hispanic legends I heard growing up. Everyone’s heard it. It’s like the girl that got picked up for a dance, then the driver found out she was dead. Everyone’s heard a version of it or maybe knows someone who saw… her.
Well, it’s good to be back, and it’s going to be a very eventful month. Stay tuned for a new article on Wednesday where we discuss just why you don’t mess with fanboys, why Captain Kirk needed to die, and why Hollywood is raping us without us even feeling its tiny, tiny weenie.
“I always heard she was a killer,” Luz said. The lights and pop-country music blaring from the speakers rattled the beer just enough to create ripples. The clove cigarette between her fingers dropped its ash. Carmen followed the little bundle of burnt cloves and tobacco as it hit the table and Luz said, “Yeah, a killer. See, this woman a long time ago had this guy after her. He owned a ranch or something. He was loaded. She was real pretty, but her husband died or something. Anyway, she had these three kids and no job. Or she worked a job and she couldn’t make a lot of money. Fuck, I don’t know.”
Across the table, Carmen took slow sips of her beer while watching everyone coming and exiting the bar. She said, “You suck at telling stories, you know that?”
Luz flipped her off and said, “One day, some rancher comes along and spots her and says she’s the most beautiful woman in the world. He makes her think she’s fuckin’ Helen of Troy or something. He wants to marry her, but he doesn’t want any kids, and this chick’s got a couple already. Pinche bruto is loaded and can’t afford a fuckin’ nanny or something. Anyway, she sees she could have this guy and everything she ever wanted, so she goes and kills the kids. She drowns them in the river. Or she drowns one and burns the other. I can’t remember. Well, the guy finds out and leaves her because, well, she killed her fuckin’ kids. She goes crazy and drowns herself. When she gets to heaven, they ask where she left her kids. She has to find them or they won’t let her in.”
Carmen and Luz turned to see the woman standing by the table. She had one green and one purple eye. Luz could barely see her true shape, but Carmen picked out the demon for what she was: a humanoid mass of constantly shifting skin tones, hair color and length, and clothes. Carmen didn’t know what Luz saw, but it had to be something appealing and trustworthy.
“Hey, Lilith,” said Carmen. “What’s a cunt like you doing in a dump like this?”
“Fuck you, Carmen,” Lilith said. “I heard they had a special on beer tonight and I overheard la bruja talking about la Llorona. And I hate it when people get the good stories wrong.”
Luz crushed the butt of her clove as she said, “That’s how it happened.”
“And how do you know that?”
“I just do. Everyone knows the story.”
By the time Lilith sat down, her curly, red hair had straightened into jet-black locks and her blouse was a studded leather jacket. She said, “That’s not how it happened. Do you really want to know what happened to la Llorona? She wasn’t some psycho-killer. She committed the greatest sin a mother could commit and she did it out of love.”
Carmen grinned and said, “Entertain us.”
Placing a glass of water on the table, Lilith said, “A long time ago, she was just some woman. Her husband left her and she had to take care of her children by herself, but she couldn’t make enough money to keep everyone fed. She’d starve herself to feed her two escuincles, but eventually, that wasn’t enough, so, to keep them from slowly starving, she did the only merciful thing any mother could do. She took her kids out to the riverbank and drowned them. Then, overcome with grief, she drowned herself. Now, she wanders the streets, searching, hurting people, because she can’t find her children and she can’t accept that she killed them. She’s cursed to forever haunt the world, never knowing why she does it.”
Luz and Carmen looked at each other, and then Carmen waived a waiter to take another drink order.
“That’s stupid,” she said. “Why not give the kids to an orphanage or leave them in front of a church or something?”
Lilith grabbed her glass of water and tapped the rim, turning the contents into deep red wine, and said, “I didn’t make it up. That’s the way it’s been told for years. If you don’t like it, just say so.”
“I don’t like it.”
Smiling and momentarily showing fangs, Lilith sipped her wine. She stopped at the same time Carmen noted the smell of flowers in the bar. They both turned. Luz followed their gazes to the young woman, no older than twenty, walking through the crowd. She wore a long blue and white skirt and a blue hoodie. Carmen and Lilith could smell the thick aura of marigolds, roses, and other flowers emanating from the girl. She walked up to their table and said, “Can I take a seat?”
Lilith moved her chair away from the new arrival. Luz said, “And you are…”
The Girl in Blue started to say something, but Carmen said, “An old friend. I’m sure you’ve met her before.”
Luz said, “No, I don’t think so.”
“It’s okay,” said the Girl in Blue. “People usually forget me. So, what were you ladies talking about?”
“La Llorona,” Carmen said. “Luz and Lilith have two different versions. And they both think they’re right.”
The Girl in Blue giggled as the waitress arrived to pick up the empty bottles. She looked to the new arrival and said, “And what can I get you?”
“Corona, please. Oh, and a new round for everyone on my tab.”
The waitress left and Carmen said, “Why so generous?”
The Girl in Blue said, “I always like taking care of my friends.”
“Even me?” asked Lilith.
“Even you, chingada.”
“Cool,” Lilith said, then quickly added, “So what do you know of la Llorona? You’ve been around a while.”
The Girl in Blue smiled as the drinks arrived. She took a sip from her Corona and said, “She was real. But it’s nothing like what you know.”
Luz giggled and said, “It already sounds like a bad movie trailer.”
Carmen playfully punched her in the shoulder said, “Keep going.”
The Girl in Blue said, “A long time ago, she had a husband. He wanted children, and she wanted to give them to him. They tried for a long time, but she never conceived. She started to think that perhaps God had forsaken her. What kind of woman didn’t bear a child? What kind of woman could not give her husband a son? Then, one day, she was pregnant. It wasn’t by her husband, though. The father was… insistent to say the least, but she never told her husband. She carried the child and he was born. They never had a lot of money-”
“Boring,” muttered Lilith.
The Girl in Blue just smiled and said, “They were happy, though. Her son grew up, but he was killed… and his real father made it all possible. He needed a sacrifice. She watched him die, and in her grief, she wandered, crying out for her son. She never forgave his real father for letting it happen. She never forgave everyone for being used, so she guards little children, protecting them from those who would hurt them, because she wants to be the mother she never was.”
Luz finished her beer. Carmen looked around while Lilith smirked. The demon said, “So she cries and wanders the streets looking for her son?”
“Yes and no,” said the Girl in Blue. “She cries for him and for her other children.”
“Why does she cry for them?”
The Girl in Blue slid her beer away and said, “I have to get going. I have an appointment to keep. I just needed a drink.”
She left a few bills on the table and stood. Lilith said, “Same old shit?”
The Girl in Blue said, “Going to see a friend I haven’t seen in a while. So yes, same old shit.”
She left Sonny’s and walked into the cool night. She pulled her hood up as a large Caddie pulled up with bone-thumping bass. The three men inside put out their cigarettes and walked out towards Sonny’s. One checked her out. The other walked right inside. The third took his jacket off and revealed the large Virgen tattoo on his chest.
The Girl in Blue wept black petals. Flowers withered behind her as she walked into the Via Rosa night and let the hood cover her tears and muffled cries.
Want to read more? Just visit the main Charcoal Streetspage and take a look at the complete stories, samples, and other fun features, and stay tuned in 2011 for the release of the first volume of collected stories!
When I was younger, my mother had a book of fairy tales she would read to us. That book is long gone, maybe still in a box somewhere in Mexico, but I’ve always held hope I would find it again. This story is based on the only tale I remember from that old, cracked book.
I’ve spend the better part of my life trying to figure out what it means. Every time I think I know, it throws a curve-ball. Maybe someone out there will have better luck. It’s one of my favorite stories from my thesis, and I’d like to share it with you.
Once upon a time, there was a man known as the Painter. The Painter lived a long time ago. It seemed like everyone in Via Rosa knew him only as the Painter since no one knew his name and he didn’t have any family. He lived in a house near the edge of the city and, every morning, would open his windows to let the sun in. For the rest of the day, the street smelled like paint as he worked on every bit of canvas he could find.
In the afternoon, he put his paintings out in the yard and set out a table with mangoes and pineapples. Just like his name was a mystery, no one was sure where he got the fruit. It just appeared, and for a few dollars, he’d cut a piece for you to take home and enjoy. The children liked the warm mango and the neighborhood mothers frowned upon the juicy mess their children made. Sometimes, someone would buy one of the paintings, too. The Painter usually created portraits of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and angels. He said they were angels, but no one bought those. Men with eyes of two different colors, gringos with pale blue eyes… these were not the angels of cathedrals. No one knew it, but the Painter was the only person to ever draw Jesus as he really lived.
No one knew except the angels who bought the pineapple and Jesus paintings.
No one knew they were angels, but then again, no one knew the Painter had talent. They bought the paintings because they had Jesus on them, much the same way people exchange money because it has God’s name on it.
The Painter didn’t care. He was just happy for the attention.
One day, a storm came through Via Rosa. It was the biggest storm anyone had seen since people had panicked from the last storm. People panicked, but the Painter just saw the way the drops splashed on his windows and the plants outside and made it a point to draw that moment between the perfect drop and the splash.
Just then, a butterfly flew into his room.
Like many in Via Rosa, he’d never really paid attention to butterflies. They flew with the dust in the summer. Most people thought they were leaves. The Painter, though, saw the butterfly and expected to see the patterns of God’s design on its wings. However, this butterfly was special.
It was a metaphor. Like angels.
Its wings were almost clear. Only the tiniest bit of color clung to them. The Painter saw this sorry excuse for an insect, a failed creature that lost its only reason for existing to something as simple as rain, and felt sorry for it. Most people would have taken the butterfly by the wings, but the Painter cupped his hands and let the paper-light creature crawl towards him. When the butterfly was safely within his palms, he took it to the desk by the lone light in his bedroom and studied it. The rain washed away the fine powder on its wings and it was a miracle it managed to fly at all. The Painter took one leather-like hand and picked the finest brush he owned. It was a thin, chipped thing with only a few bristles left, but it would do the job.
Slowly, as though he were writing an illuminated manuscript, he painted the butterfly’s wings. It was a Monarch, he could tell. A little copper and a touch of black slowly moved onto the creature’s wings. The pale, gray material turned back into a vibrant canvas. A few hours later, the Painter put the brush away and watched as the butterfly stood by the window, waited for the rain to stop, and left. The street smelled like heat and vapor as the sun came back out. Even though it was nearly evening, the Painter took his mangoes and pineapple outside to see if anyone would buy any.
The next day, the Painter received another unexpected guest.
Another butterfly landed on his windowsill. At first, the Painter was confused. He’d never really seen more than one butterfly in a week. Well, that’s not quite true. He didn’t think he’d ever seen more than one butterfly at once, maybe one every few days in the spring, and now he was looking at his second miracle in two days. This butterfly was smaller, red by the looks of the faded markings on its wings, and it nuzzled against the Painter’s fingers.
Any artist would know what to do next. The Painter took his fine brush and repainted the butterfly’s wings. With the last day’s work, he knew enough to paint this butterfly’s wings in half the time. He was done so quickly he had time to set his fruit and paintings outside. He didn’t sell any pictures of Jesus, but he was content with his work with the butterflies.
That night, Via Rosa drowned in a storm. It was the worst storm since the last time it rained. People said the bridges were washed away. Entire sections of the market and even the cathedral were rumored to be underwater. The Painter stayed inside. He readied his brushes, waited, and before the last drizzle went away, his windowsill was covered in dulled butterflies. Anyone walking by, and that would be no one after it rains, would have thought the Painter’s house had been covered in tissue paper because of all the butterflies covering the garden and windows.
No one bought mangoes or pineapple for days.
No one saw the painter for just as long. Eventually, old ladies wanted their mangoes. Angels wanted their paintings. Demons wanted the chance to seduce him with promises of fame and fortune.
He never appeared. Someone finally went to knock on the Painter’s door. It made a hollow sound that no one could really place. The door stayed locked, and after a few more days, someone called the priest and asked if it was proper to enter someone’s home to check on the person.
The priest said yes, it was proper, and a brave young boy from the neighborhood finally entered through a window into the Painter’s bedroom. Inside, he found the old man on the bed, paint in every color drizzled on his fingers and a workbench with a hundred colors standing by the door. The Painter didn’t move.
The boy checked him and found he was dead.
After much deliberation, the priest confirmed the Painter was dead. The old ladies wept for their mangoes and pineapples. Angels held on to their paintings. They all felt bad enough to put some money together to give the Painter a funeral with a nice casket, a good piece of land in the cemetery, and a ride from the church to his final resting place. The old ladies thought it was the least they could do. The angels watched on.
As the casket left the church, the real procession started.
Butterflies in every shape and color and even some moths swarmed the casket and followed it all the way to the cemetery. The ribbons of red, white, yellow, green, and white stretched for a mile. People had never seen that much color in Via Rosa. They’d never seen that color anywhere except the Painter’s work. While they pined for mangoes, the butterflies stayed and swarmed over the gravestone. They stayed there and kept vigil until the next rain came along. By then, the butterflies were careful to keep their paint out of the water.
And what’s the moral of the story?
Who knows? Maybe everyone eventually appreciates art. Maybe you have to die for your art to be appreciated. Maybe there is no moral. Maybe it’s just a made-up story that means nothing and you’re supposed to listen to it or read it until you fall sleep.
Or maybe it’s all completely true.
Good night, and sweet dreams little one. Maybe, someday, you’ll paint a butterfly, too.
Want to read more? Just visit the main Charcoal Streetspage and take a look at the complete stories, samples, and other fun features, and stay tuned in 2011 for the release of the first volume of collected stories!
Hello, Randomologists! Welcome to another exciting episode of Divine by Zero, the only tri-weekly internet feature that gives you news with my biting social commentary!
Oh, who am I kidding?
If you thought government lobbysist had no shame, you are right, especially when they petition Congress for the right to nudity. A group called the American Association for Nude Recreation will be lobbying this week to combat internet filters that could affect nudist websites. My only question is… will they be petitioning in the nude? I’ve worked in those buildings, and even though staff members could wear jeans when Congress was out of session, I’m going to assume the dress code is a bit stricter than that.
I’m a staunch meat-eater, so when I heard that a lab in the University of Missouri had developed a soy-based chicken meat that tastes and feels like the real thing, I was skeptical. However, if it’s as realistic as it looks and is described here, I might try it.
And speaking of self-defense, any good father would upon hearing his daughter had received a naughty image of a fellow classmate’s genitals do the right thing. By “right thing,” I mean lure the guy to your house, tie him, threaten him with firearms, then taser him.
A new study reported on CNN shows that children with two lesbian mothers are actually better emotionally adjusted than children of the traditional Adam and Eve variety.
Could somebody explain why I never found out Sean Hannity has a dating website named “Hannidate”?! I’m tempted to just make a profile to see what bites. Of course, I might need a shot afterwards.
Anyone who thinks government has too many employees has never worked IN government. Just to give you an idea of how many people it takes to really get a bill together, check out this graphic. Also, I should mention that legislative staffers are highly under-appreciated.
Finally, Iceland got a bad rep with that whole “volcano that disrupted air traffic for half the world” thing, but they have a sweet little promo they hope will turn others back to Iceland. Check it out!
No more teachers... or opportunity, advancement, motivation, and all those nasty things you get from educators.
April 26, 2010
You wake up. Eat whatever you want. Maybe some cookies and milk. Maybe granola. Instead of rushing off to catch the bus or wondering if you did all your homework, you pick up that novel you were reading and finish it. Maybe you want to go out for a jog. Hey, you planted that garden in the backyard and you need to find information on making sure the crops will make it through the incoming cold front. Better do a little reading.
Welcome to the world of unschooling.
I’m actually surprised I’d never heard of unschooling until recently. Home-schooling is teaching kids at home. Parents become the educators and create or use pre-built curriculum for children to learn as well if not better than they would at public schools. At least, that’s the goal.
Unschooling, on the other hand, is letting the child find his or her own passion and do the learning his or herself. In essence, the child would learn in much the same way a baby learns: through play and exploration. An even more extreme form of unschooling called radical unschooling means that the parents will not even discipline a child in the hopes of not stifling creativity or imposing barriers.
And I want you, my dear reader, to understand the difference between these three philosophies, because this is about unschooling. Not homeschooling.
I have a bit of a problem with it. And by “bit of a problem,” I mean, “Sir, we’ve hit an iceberg. And there are meteors falling on us. And Great Cthulhu has risen and is eating the crew. Just thought you’d like to know.”
When I first heard of unschooling, my first thought was, “You’re going to tell kids they can learn whatever they want, whenever they want, at their own pace? And they’ll learn better than formally educated students?”
The hell they will!
Think about it. How many people in this country, or the world for that matter, have the natural curiosity and inclination to just learn at-will? I can count in my hands the number of people I’ve met over the years that might make it through the unschooling system as good if not better than they would fare in the public education system. By giving the child that much responsibility for his or her life, it makes it so that the child will learn nothing unless he or she wants to learn it.
I don’t know about you, but when I was in first and second grade, I wanted to watch Looney Tunes. And that was it. You place that much power in the hands of someone who doesn’t have a clear concept of responsibility and consequences and you’re asking for trouble.
Who is going to do this teaching? A book? The internet? There are certainly people who think that just reading books and going online is enough. I present to you Dan Brown (no relation to the author, I think) who gives a fairly complete look into this philosophy.
Let’s break this down. Schools only teach facts now, but since you can get facts from the internet or from books, you don’t need schools. I’ll admit it’s a great description of a bad school, but even a bad school still forces you to learn things you wouldn’t want to learn on your own. I never had a passion for mathematics. Still don’t really like it, but it’s through math and reading that I found my passion for science, specifically physics and astronomy. I would have missed out on that if I was left to my own devices.
At this point, long-time readers will point out that I have my own set of qualms about the current educational system. Well, yes, I do. I think it’s broken, but even a broken system is better than no system at all. A measure of control is still required to show a student how to learn.
The unschooling crowd proudly yells, however, that you don’t need to know as much as you think. Once you find out what you want to do, you focus on that and there you go. I studied art on my own and have taken only one formal class, yet I think I’ve developed some pretty good skills. The logo on this site, the eye with text, is one of my works.
Sadly, this unschooling argument goes back the level of intellectual curiosity in a student. You can nurture this instinct and good parents can push a child to learn more than the standard curriculum allows. My parents were two such examples, but they are far, far from the norm.
As it stands, unschooling kids suffers from two major drawbacks. First of all, a parent is still required, especially in the younger years. How many families can afford to have one parent at home? If only one makes more than enough to provide for the family, great! Hurdle avoided, but we’re not done yet.
The second problem is that you can’t learn only from books. You do have to go out and experience things. I know unschoolers will say that their kids do go and experience the real world. They can farm, they read, they travel, and they do all the things they love to do. However, what happens when they decide they want to be doctors? Engineers? Who’s going to teach them these professions? How are they going to get into a college, get these kinds of certifications, if they don’t even have a GED? I read everything I could on writing before I got to college. Everything. Once I got to DePauw, however, I realized that knowing all these things did me no good if I didn’t interact with others, share my thoughts with experts, and otherwise learn proper structure before going off and doing whatever I wanted.
I will admit something. The idea that children learn best by play is not a new concept. In fact, I and many other educators embrace it. Whenever possible, I try to make class as fun as possible while still ensuring my students learn. I try not to lecture if I can give the students hands-on examples, activities where they interact with others, share ideas, and discuss. They have to apply themselves, think, put it together themselves with my guidance, and in the end they’ve basically done the same thing they did as babies. They played. And they learned.
But it doesn’t mean that you leave children to their own devices. Children are dumb. They are. I’m sorry if you think your kid is special. This rationale that children want to emulate parents may hold part of the time, but children are children. They don’t want to read a book and learn mathematics. They have to be pushed into learning or they seek out their baser instincts and satisfy only those that give immediate satisfaction.
Let’s imagine, for a second, that we did embrace the idea of unschooling. Everyone had the chance to do it. How long do you think it would take for a massive gap between the educated and the uneducated? Many people are more motivated than others. Within a generation, we’d have one group of people that can do everything needed to survive and has no incentive to go further. Then we’d have a much smaller population that drove forward and and had the resources to learn from experts.
But that’s good, isn’t it? Those who want to learn will learn and those that don’t stay where they are. Everyone gets what they work for…
Let me be as clear as I can here.
This is perhaps the dumbest idea in the world. And this is coming from a guy that once came up with the idea of a giant gun that fired Ewoks with Jawa tracers.
Quiet. There was bourbon involved.
The bottom line is that a formal education is necessary to both be exposed to different ideas and to push students to learn. We aren’t born with the intuition to just learn. We learn what we can to survive. That’s it. Anything else is extra once we meet basic requirements. I’m all for the rights of the individual, but we can’t possibly know how to learn or even what to learn if we just go out on our own. A few gifted individuals may be able to do this, but we’re not all geniuses. If we’re not pushed, we don’t get anywhere. Personally, I’d advocate a mixture of the traditional and Learn by Play methods. Implement better teaching strategies and teachers at school, but also make sure parents get involved. The idea that forcing a child to do something he or she doesn’t want to do will somehow crush the spirit is ridiculous. If you were told “no” when you were a child and lost the will to achieve later in life… I’m sorry, but look at your priorities.
The educational system is broken. I’ll be the first to admit it and get behind efforts to make it better, but to say that you need to just take your kids completely out of formal, structured schools is the educational equivalent of an auto-immune disorder.
Sorry, but until we make some fundamental changes in the ways parents work with kids and kids themselves learn, unschooling will be the equivalent of Lupus.