Students Without Rules?

Anarchists! Every last one of them!

August 27, 2012

We’re back!

Well, by “we,” I mean “me.” It’s just one person behind the sleek internet experience you are, uhm, experiencing right now.

Let’s start with why one local school district just failed an English class.

Here in Laredo, Texas, schools will no longer have rules. No, that’s too negative. We can’t have teachers telling kids not to do things. It’d be like setting boundaries and stunting their growth. We can’t have that! Instead, the United Independent School District of Laredo, Texas will now implement “expectations.”

For example, instead of “No running in the hallways,” our students will now be encouraged with statements like, “Our students walk down the halls.”

You get it? It’s positive reinforcement. The kids will do better because they have freedom and can do whatever they want while at the same time feeling shame when they don’t meet “expectations.”


Student by ~mirchiz on deviantART

I really hope I don’t have to tell you why this is a dumber idea than Kim Kardashian thinking she can have a music career. Or Snooki thinking she should be a mother. This is stupid, and I know why the district is doing it. Ever since the Penn State scandal broke, schools have gone ape trying to make sure they don’t do anything that might make a child feel uncomfortable. We have to make sure kids have a great time at all costs. I understand the need for proper training, though. I had to undergo training for dealing with minors. It included signs to watch out, for that may indicate abuse in the home or even at work. It included the chain of supervisors that needed to be notified of such signs. It also laid out in very clear language the kinds of things that were expected of me as an employee of a public education institution. And I learned a few things I didn’t know…

But the idea that kids can do fine with “expectations” but not rules is fucking stupid.

Let me put it this way. Are there consequences for not meeting “expectations?” I’m sure there are, so in the end, what we have is “rules” by another name. An expectation reminds me too much of that scene from Office Space. You know the one.


office space by ~WolfsEye157 on deviantART

There’s a big gap between personal drive and what is expected at work. A student will follow “expectations” as long as said expectations are easy. Kids, I’m sorry to say, with very few exceptions, are not motivated to learn on their own. It’s the same problem of “unschooling” I talked about almost two years ago. A child has no incentive to follow an “expectation” unless he or she wants to follow it.

On a larger scale, it’s the same problem I have with Objectivism and libertarianism: the idea that we can have near-total anarchy and people will comport themselves because it is expected of them. Let me be blunt. People are morons. People are selfish. Companies have no incentive to be humanitarian if they can corner the market and keep making money at the expense of others. Students, likewise, have no incentive to follow a suggestion if there are no consequences.

I’ll be damned if I ever tell my students that I “expect” them to pay attention. Oh, no, buddy. They will pay attention or suffer my creative wrath. After I told them I wanted them to stop leaning back on the back two legs of their chairs, I made it clear it wasn’t a suggestion. This was an order.

If I saw anyone lean back, I would get behind them, grab their chair, and pull them back just enough to make think they were about to fall. There was a consequence. I was not asking them. I was telling them.

Rules exist for a reason. Unfair, unjust rules, must be fought, of course. A rule must have a purpose. Replacing all rules with “expectations”? That’s just asking for trouble. Eventually, a good student won’t have to be told to cheat or run in the halls. Until then?

They’re still kids.

Now, let’s clear our heads with one of the later episodes of MST3K and a personal favorite of mine: Space Mutiny.

Being Complacent With Failure?

Those aren't tears! That's life lubricant!

June 8, 2012

If there’s one surefire way to get me utterly mad at you, it’s to tell me “Everything happens for a reason” right after something bad happens.

Of course everything happens for a reason. It’s cause and effect. Things don’t happen without a reason. If they did, it would mean physics themselves had broken down and we were two seconds away from reality coming apart like a cheap sweater.

“Everything happens for a reason” is a nice way of trying to comfort someone by saying that something bad had a greater purpose. This supposes a universe that runs on a set plan that cannot be altered and is eventually going to come to a happy ending for someone. For example, major disasters “happen for a reason” to maybe teach the rest of us about humility and what is really important. Good for us, bad for the victims. 9/11 “happened for a reason” to bring us together as a country. Great, except we started two wars, destroyed our image abroad, and have a few hundred thousands dead people overseas that would disagree.


depression by ~deathswife666 on deviantART
Me? I’m currently trying to pitch a book no one seems to want to buy and am eating nothing but vegetables because meat is too costly. Oh, and I haven’t filled up my gas tank with more than ten bucks at a time because I never have that much available at any one time.

“Elves With Shotguns” is selling… not well. People who’ve read it like it and have left wonderful reviews, but it’s not getting the exposure it needs. This mostly has to do with not having any money for a budget. My bank account is pretty much shot. A month of no work will do that to you. I wish we had the time to do everything that’s asked for us, as well as pay comparable to other institutions around the country, but that’s never going to happen. I’d be happy to be able to work just 30 hours a week.

And yet…

A long time ago, I learned something about being frustrated and angry and down. I learned from both being in that position and being the teacher that gave a bad grade. Yes, you can be down. Yes, go get a drink. Get a lot of drinks. Vent. Punch a pillow, not a wall. I learned that last one the hard way. Play a video game and blow stuff up. Let it all out.

Then move on.

Everything happens for a reason, I know. Politics, favoritism, the economy, whatever. I can’t control those things. I can, however, control how much harder I look for freelance work. I can control how I decide to just power through the depression and get going with my life. I’m the one who decides I will look for a second, third, even fourth job. And if that fails, I’ll go out and drink, I’ll vent, I’ll punch a pillow…

And then I’ll take a deep breath, gather myself, and start over. Again. As many times as necessary.


Morning of Determination by *xkillz on deviantART

This isn’t the first time I’ve had to scrape by. It’s not the first time a plan to bring in extra income blew up in my face. It’s not the first time I felt the world was coming down on me.

I can’t afford to get some drinks, so here’s what I’ll do…

I’m going to have a minor freak out, calm myself, and remember the people around me. I’m going to get back to work and finish Charcoal Streets. I will spend time with my friends and family. I will keep my mind busy on the goal.

Frankly, I don’t have time to fail. No one should. Everyone should have something they aspire to do. Write, draw, read, cook, whatever. It’s not enough to just work, eat, and watch TV. We have to keep creating, doing something productive. Yes, watch cartoons, go out with friends, but creation is what keeps us sane, what keeps us going. Passivity is the death of the soul.

“Everything happens for a reason”?

Yeah, it does. I’m choosing to keep going. I would never ask anything of my students I wouldn’t do myself, so if they get upset they didn’t pass a practice test, I’ll just smile and tell them to keep going. I expect nothing less from them. The reason I’m still going is because to choose to do so.

That’s the reason. And I made it. You should, too.

And now, to help lighten the mood, let’s enjoy a mini-pig going down the stairs and nailing the dive.

Tennessee Will Make Your Children Dumb

Proud patriots! All of them. And none owned slaves*

January 23, 2012

I am not part of American history. My ancestors fought and toiled and help build this country into the superpower it is today. Two hundred years ago, slaves built this country on orders of men who claimed everyone was equal. The vast expanse of our nation was cleared of the indigenous populations to make room for a newly born democracy. The thousands who died so colonists would have free land are now remembered with shame. While America has many great qualities, its history is filled with blood and hypocrisy. It’s not that we can’t be better, but to ignore the past is to live a lie.

That lie, it seems, is preferred for the Tea Party. Go figure.


FRANKLIN by *INFPartist on deviantART

In Tennessee, the Tea Party is trying to remove all mentions of slavery and genocide from American history. Why? To make the Founding Fathers look good. According to the so-called patriots:

The material calls for lawmakers to amend state laws governing school curriculums, and for textbook selection criteria to say that “No portrayal of minority experience in the history which actually occurred shall obscure the experience or contributions of the Founding Fathers, or the majority of citizens, including those who reached positions of leadership.”

Fayette County attorney Hal Rounds, the group’s lead spokesman during the news conference, said the group wants to address “an awful lot of made-up criticism about, for instance, the founders intruding on the Indians or having slaves or being hypocrites in one way or another.

“The thing we need to focus on about the founders is that, given the social structure of their time, they were revolutionaries who brought liberty into a world where it hadn’t existed, to everybody — not all equally instantly — and it was their progress that we need to look at,” said Rounds, whose website identifies him as a Vietnam War veteran of the Air Force and FedEx retiree who became a lawyer in 1995.

Let that sink in. We want to tell the truth about our country’s history. But the truth is only whatever these clowns want to tell. “Truth,” then, is a purposely distorted view of history that leaves out parts the Tea Party doesn’t even contest are false. In the same breath where they whine about distortions, they want to leave out key facts they acknowledge to be true. I have written about this before, and I’m glad Tennessee is continuing the grand tradition Texas began of dumbing down education for the sake of politics and ideology.


WW2 – The Golden Age of Propaganda – No. 8 by ~violinmerchant on deviantART

There is, of course, a difference between “facts” and “truth.” A fact is a universally accepted piece of evidence. Was JFK shot? Yes. Did the Founding Fathers have slaves while they wrote “all men are created equal”? Yes. Do Michael Bay movies almost universally suck? That’s a given.

“Truth” is what you make out of the facts, and the more facts you have, the better the “truth” becomes. It was once truth that the sun revolved around the Earth. We worked with the fact that sun moved through the sky and we didn’t feel we were moving. Eventually, we learned more facts and the truth become more complex, culminating with our current cosmological models.

If we cut enough facts for convenience, we can make any argument.

Jeffrey Dahmer was a great cook persecuted for his unorthodox lifestyle.

Bush developed a strategy that good troops into the Middle East and secured much-needed oil, helping American businesses.

Stephanie Meyer wrote a series of books praised by millions.

Newt Gingrich would be a great president because he is charismatic and women love him.

That last one, by the way, has also been argued.

I wish I could stop being surprised at crap like this. I wish I could say I wasn’t shocked to hear that someone wanted to stifle actual education and replace it with a political agenda. The sheer blatant lie, the fact that the Tea Party wants to lie about history and is up-front about it because they don’t like what actually happened, shouldn’t shock me like this.

I guess that’s what I get for still having faith in my countrymen.

Let’s wash all that bad mojo with Liam Neeson fighting wolves. He truly can make anything ten times more awesome.

Kristen Stewart’s Teacher Problem

If you take a shot whenever she bites her lip in a movie, you'd be dead from alcohol poisoning by the second reel.

October 19, 2011

Aside from starring as one half of an abusive relationship based on sparkles, Kristen Stewart has also helped to turn vampire fiction into something slightly less tame than a Lisa Frank trapper keeper. Now, though, she’s gone and taken a swipe at her teachers.

All of them. They failed her! When she was young and acting, she did not receive the support she should have received! In a recent interview, Stewart claims she had to drop out of traditional school because her teachers would not accommodate her life. When she was away on shoots, her teachers did not send her work and they counted her as absent when she was gone. This, she says, made it impossible for her to continue a regular education.

Yeah, those teachers really dropped the ball. How dare they do THEIR JOB?


school is fhuuuunn by ~Free-Hugz-4-Tobi on deviantART

See, Kristen, here’s what you fail to realize. A teacher has to keep watch over many students. Teacher gives out work. Students take work. Students study and use the tools given to them. Teacher continues to teach and build upon previous lessons, accommodating the lesson as needed for special cases.

Special cases might include things like ESL students, students who do not have a solid grasp of English yet. For example, I will give a full lesson in English. If, after the lesson, an ESL student has questions, I will be more than happy to review with them and, if needed, go over it in Spanish. That’s a reasonable accommodation.

Having a teacher mail work to a location so a student can finish it on her own schedule as she works? Not so much. If a student is sick or has to leave for a family emergency, that’s a situation beyond the student’s control. A compassionate teacher would probably mail or email work out to the student.


EDUCATE by ~Not-A-Tree-225 on deviantART

But acting was a choice on your part, Kristen. You chose to pursue an acting career at eight. You chose to go to jobs that required you to miss school. If you wanted to do this, fine. Get homeschooled. Nothing wrong with that choice.

Just don’t blame your teachers for not catering to your particular needs. They have a job to do, as do the students. Students need to put forth the effort. If I decided to become a blogger in high school and wanted to spend all my time researching and writing and not going to school, I wouldn’t expect a teacher to not count me absent or send me work.

Kristen, you already starred in a (shamefully) hit film series. You’re set for life. Stop whining that American educators did not serve your wishes (not needs) and hand you your education. You made your choice. Now shut up.

And now, let’s look at someone DUMBER than Kristen Stewart.

The Tax on Good Grades

Back in my day, we didn't tax the high GPA makers! That creates more students!

August 19, 2011

Well, it’s back to school again, and, as most of you know, those with the highest grades will be asked to give away some of those GPA points to students who didn’t try as hard so everyone can have a chance at a better education and job later on.

Oh, that’s not how that happens?

Fox sent out a camera crew and recent college graduate to a few campuses to ask students how they would feel if they were asked to give some of their GPA to lower students so the people with lower grades could have higher GPAs. Obviously, this did not sit well with ANY student. How then, Fox asks, do we justify taking MORE money away from the wealthy in the form of increased taxes and giving it to the lower and middle class? Isn’t that the same thing? Taking away from the people who worked for their money and giving it to people who don’t work hard so they don’t get as much?

I think you can already see the problem here.


Students by ~dpoephoto on deviantART

A student earns a GPA over a long period of time. It takes years. To get that grade, you have to study hard, do your work, and if you want to bulk up with transcript, you have to take AP classes that sometimes don’t even give you extra points or anything like that. They didn’t for me, and while part of the Honor Scholars Program at DePauw University, I had to take classes that were an order of magnitude harder than any other class I’ve ever taken, and said classes didn’t even count for extra points. And I still made the Dean’s List several times.

That’s not how taxes and economics work.

For several decades, the upper class has received what can only be called “corporate welfare.” They actually get taxed less than people who make WAY less and can write off any number of expenses. For Fox’s analogy to make sense, students with higher GPA should have had to do less work to get better grades over time AND people with lower GPAs should have had to give up a portion of their grades to people who were already getting good grades.

Let me put it another way. Billy works hard but can only ever get a 2.5 GPA. Tommy lucked out nearly on his freshman year and got a 3.8 average. The school then took some of Billy’s points and gave them to Tommy to keep him in the highest percentile. Now, Billy has to work harder for his points, but Tommy can cruise along knowing the points he gets from the bottom of the ladder will offset his lack of work and keep him higher up.


Fox News by ~Darren-Kelly on deviantART

Students with high GPAs generally work VERY hard to get those grades. I know I did. The upper class in this country gets a free pass and politicians in their corner to make sure they stay up there. There is an entire infrastructure just to keep the rich rich. There is no such system in place for students. Lower grades don’t always mean you’re not working hard. Most students give it their best. Job-wise, I work my butt off and make less per hour than the dean’s secretary. Stop pretending like people who are poor don’t work hard. Try teaching. Try being a sanitation worker. Try being a gardener, migrant worker, police officer, firefighter, or even a babysitter. That’s damn hard work.

People who rely on hedge funds to GIVE them money? Must be nice.

In short, Fox sucks, students rock, have fun on the first week of school, students and teachers, and I’ll see you Monday with the new Weekly Muse story. Keep voting!


first day blues by ~misternow on deviantART

The Subtleties of the Student Body

It's not mean if it's true.

July 6, 2011

Wow, that title sounded way less pervy when I wrote it.

I started teaching middle schoolers yesterday and let me tell you something. Standards have dropped in a few departments: manners, common sense, and subtlety. Don’t get me wrong, though. Most of the kids were great. They were excited, they shouted their answers, and they took their notes. I had a handful that felt my classroom was their personal playground and I was a glorified babysitter.

Oh, the ignorance of youth.

They learned that I’m a pussycat. They should meet my mom.


Mean professor .. by *mat3jko on deviantART

I did notice something that I’d known subconsciously for years, but I really got to observe as I watched them do an assignment. Their body language tipped me off to which kids would be trouble from the very beginning. These were the things that I’ve seen students do time and time again.

Future teachers or current students, take note.

When answering a test, a student will hold on to the pencil or pen at all times if he or she is engrossed in the task. You hold on to a pen when you‘re ready to write, and most people generally want to write the answer as soon as possible. Putting the pen down takes time away.

Watch the legs. Legs bent under the table and bobbing up and down signify stress. Legs outstretched for long periods of time mean relaxation. Students with legs outstretched aren’t taking your lecture seriously and aren’t engrossed.

When we’re young, we tend to suck our thumbs or otherwise fiddle with our fingers. I twirl pens in my hand when I think or get nervous. Likewise, every student that chewed a pencil or otherwise twirled something was thinking about something. The only five that didn’t were occupied with something else, talking, or just looking around.


Sherlock’s Violin by ~delfinmichelle on deviantART

Seating is key. The front rows were full. The kids who want to learn or at least hope to get something out of it go to the front. The second row was likewise full, but the third row was mostly empty. The last few rows had the rest of the students, and, combined with the aforementioned mannerisms, I quickly pegged the ones I would have trouble with.

And I was right.

Long story short, I took away one kid’s chair and made him stand. Hey, if he’s not mature enough to use a chair properly, I can’t very well trust him with it, can I?


Blind Justice 2 by ~JonnySnakeSeven on deviantART

Tiaras and Man-Apes

We also dispute American Idol winners, so obviously those never happened, either.

June 24, 2011

Okay, I know the Miss America pageant is not the best place to look to for intellectual discussion… but it seems the pageant coordinators and the contestants haven’t figured this out. It’s a beauty competition. Yeah, there’s scholarship money and a title and all that, but it boils down to fifty-one women trying their best to look nice and pretty for the gawking judges.

They’re judging you on your yabos, ladies. Just admit it.

That being said, all fifty-one contestants were asked if evolution should be taught in public schools. The results don’t, to be blunt, speak well for these ladies. If you believe these contestants represent your state in any way, be ashamed. Be very ashamed.

Warning! The following is fifteen minutes of the most mangled wordplay and most blatant social cowardice I’ve seen in a while. Especially the one that said evolution was “real sciency.” That being said, it’s funny watching them try to sound smart.

If you ever want to show someone a rundown of every bad argument for teaching creationism, this is it. Right here. All of them.

Let’s start with the obvious argument most of them made. Evolution is a scientific theory. Creationism is a religious belief. One belongs in a theology class. The other in a science class. It’s like claiming you need to teach philosophy and veganism before dissecting a frog.

A lot of these women kept calling evolution a “theory.” A theory, they say, is just someone else’s belief, guess, or opinion. We shouldn’t teach it since not everyone believes in it.

Well, I guess we need to stop teaching that the Earth is round, too. Or that we landed on the moon. Or that President Obama is a natural-born citizen. There are, after all, people who dispute these FACTS.


The Evolution of Man by ~qetza on deviantART

I swear to Bob, I was in DC working for Congress when that birth certificate rumor first came up. I thought it was a joke until we got 100 emails in thirty minutes.

Anyway…

Anyone who ever did a science fair project, even in elementary school, should understand what is wrong with this excuse. A theory, for a real scientist, is a guess based on observations, then the theory is tested, and, if sufficient evidence is found, then the theory eventually gains wide acceptance until evidence to the contrary is brought forth.

You can never “prove” a theory. You can find evidence to support it. You can, however, disprove it. If tomorrow we found a fossil for an animal that had zero relation to any animal on Earth, it would disprove the theory that creatures gradually change over many generations…

Or it would prove the existence of aliens.

In other words, a theory, as used by the scientific community, is not a “guess.” It is a set of assumptions based on observations that has survived repeated scrutiny. At its most basic level, science DESCRIBES. That’s it. The “theory” of evolution describes the fossils and processes witnessed by biology, geology, and pretty much most of science.

Let me put it another way.


I love science by ~VulpesValante on deviantART

You and I come across a lot where the charred remains of a building remain. Surrounding structures are heavily damaged and pieces of rubble are scattered over half the block. The unmistakable smell of gasoline is in the air.

After testing the burnt remains, I determine that the most likely explanation for this site is that someone used a gasoline-based bomb to blow said building up. I can’t be sure of the delivery method or ignition source, but I’ll keep working on the specifics.

You, upon hearing this, proclaim that, since I don’t know every detail and was not witness to the event, there must never have been a building and what we are witnessing is really just the way said structure was built. Someone must have put up partial support structures, then carefully burned them to make it LOOK like an explosion after scattering debris in a predetermined fashion.

It has to be the ONLY explanation.


This is NOT Rocket Science by ~BWS on deviantART

This is the logic that people use when they claim evolution is “just a theory.” It speaks volumes about the state of education, and it shows the willful ignorance we accept as tolerance. You’re free to worship and believe whatever you want. Everyone is entitled to his or her informed opinion.

You are not, however, entitled to your own facts. So, ladies of the Miss America pageant, go back to basic science class. If you don’t even understand the basic scientific method, you have no right to be looking for money for college.

It should be a rule.

That, and you are limited to two pounds of make-up on your face.

No links today, but keep reading for more updates on Charcoal Streets, some new features coming up next month, and other goodies. Don’t forget to Like Randomology on Facebook or follow the site through Twitter, too. Happy weekend!

Anarchy for the Common Man

If you join an anarchist group... you kind of defeat the purpose.

January 17, 2011

It’s been a heavy week, what with talks of violent rhetoric and other goings on around the world, so let’s talk about something light.

Anarchy.

Yes, you too can be a founding member of the new generation that destroys Western civilization as we know it!

Well, not quite.

See, to say that something or someone is “anarchist” is a bit like saying you can make pizza. Are we talking Chicago-style pizza or New York-style pizza? Do you make it from scratch or do you use biscuits to make mini-pizzas like I do? Most anarchists say they want a world without government, without an overlord-like power telling everyone what to do and what’s acceptable. That’s the one constant.

The problem, though, is that the ways to go about reaching this world differ.


we want anarchy not chaos by ~Swoboda on deviantART

Much like La Raza, anarchy is a goal that lies far in the future. That’s not to say there are not anarchists now. There are. I’m one of them. I believe an ideal world is one in which every person is free to do as he or she chooses. This is a world in which we no longer need governments. It’s a world where personal freedom and accountability are held up there with life, liberty, and the rest of Superman’s motto.

The problem, though, is people.

Let me put it this way. Anarchy is the belief that the people have the final say and can govern themselves. Okay, fine… have you met the “average” person? Churchill once said that a few minutes with the average citizen are the greatest argument against democracy.

And he’s right.

We’re dumb. We really are. Think of the average person. Now think about the fact that half the population is dumber than that. And if you don’t understand that last sentence, you fall under the “lower than average” category. Sorry.


Ode to American Gothic by *Quasimanga on deviantART

I don’t talk about education and art just because it’s something I do or like to do. Art and education, the appreciation of things not essential to survival and the ability to absorb knowledge are the keys to a fully anarchic society, one in which we move beyond progressivism and conservatism and simply evolve into a world of personal choice and freedom. The ability to learn and adapt is falling away from us. Whether we like to admit it or not, we’re in a world that embraces anti-intellectualism. Science is shunned as something evil or some conspiracy to control. Art is seen as some sort of freaky endeavor that only the crazy or slightly mad pursue.

Art and education are the key to our future.

I have friends who, despite being life-long conservatives, pursed a higher education and, through their studies and their acceptance of new ideas, realized that choice and freedom were the way to go. Art has, for many of my friends, spoken to them of themes and messages language just can’t handle or is too verbose to communicate.

The ability to think not just of the world but the world of art and reading “between the lines” is what stands between us a true anarchism.

And anarchy is not a negative term. It’s just used as such by people who don’t know better.


anarchy by ~myfriendjoshua on deviantART

Anarchy is freedom. It doesn’t mean total chaos. It means choice, but also the ability to take responsibility for those choices. And that’s why an informed population is essential. That’s why education and art are, I truly believe in my heart and mind, the key to a free society.

I want anarchy. I want a world where movies are not rated. I want a world where information flows. I want a world where we hold people accountable for their actions. I want a world where fear of the unknown is replaced by healthy curiosity for new possibilities.

I want controlled demolition of everything around me.


Anarchy by ~xMusicXcisuMx on deviantART

And now that we’ve dealt with the imminent FBI investigation, time for the links.

  • I know this is old, but Richard Dawkins explains, in the most straight-forward way possible, why adherence to old ways is so prevalent and a hindrance to progress.
  • In case you still need a little Arizona shooting talk, Rachel Maddow blows away the myth that guns at the shooting would have made it safer. There WERE guns there. Other people were almost shot.
  • You know all those bird deaths were the little guys just sort of fell from the sky. Apparently the gays did it. Not making this up. It seems that God is sending us signs.
  • And finally, showing why an understanding of the scientific process, or taking in as much data as possible, is important, here’s a Saturday morning Breakfast Cereal comic showing why the proper interpretation of data is important. Don’t forget to check the poll on the upper right, and I’ll see you on Wednesday!


The Confession of EntropyEcho

Editor’s Note: This will be the third time Time Warner drops my internet after I PAID them. I’ll insert links and images later when I don’t have to upload this at the university, but for now, enjoy a block of text.

November 12, 2010

It’s important to know who you’re dealing with, so it’s time we had a chat.

This fiasco with Olbermann got me thinking about some things. He got suspended because he made donations to political candidates, something you apparently have to ask to do first and then get permission at NBC. This comes only a few weeks after Fox made donations worth almost $2 million dollars to several Republican organizations while hosting Republican candidates and using airtime help Republicans raise funds.

So just in case anyone is wondering where I stand on the issues, and so there will be no misunderstanding later, this is my confession to you.

I believe that while religion can bring hope and comfort, it can also be easily turned into a cudgel to beat someone or a knife to discreetly destroy lives. Like George Carlin once said, religion is like a pair of shoes. If your shoes let you walk and get through the world, that’s fine, but don’t think your shoes will fit me.

I believe Disney is a business, pure and simple, and has no interest in the well-being of children. Also, the last good movie they made was The Lion King.

I believe cartoons were better before Nickelodeon’s major star became a talking sponge. Bring back the Chihuahua, the cat, the wallaby, and the babies.

I believe science and logic and reason are some of the greatest tools humanity ever developed. Although some refuse to acknowledge this information and still believe the Earth is a mere six thousand years old, the truth is there. No one had to fight against Zeus worshipers. People just realized that lightning was not the work of angry gods.

I believe cherry pie beats apple pie hands down.

I believe physical books are better than ebooks or any digital format.

I think vegetarians who don’t eat meat just because they want to make some sort of statement, not for health or religious reasons, are insulting to people who do not have the luxury of choosing what to eat, or if they CAN eat.

I believe chalkboards are better than dry erase boards. If you’re not willing to get your hands dirty when you teach, you’re not teaching. You’re babysitting.

I believe art is at the same time the most important and hardest to define endeavor anyone can undertake. Art in many forms helps us understand the world, ourselves, but how we go about it, or if it works or is even art, is sure to baffle us for the rest of human history.

I believe government has the duty to protect the people. This includes a well-funded military and departments to wisely spend the funds gathered from our taxes. I hate paying taxes, but I like having paved roads and knowing the fish I consume won’t kill me. I like knowing the medicine I buy has been thoroughly tested to make sure it complies with certain standards? Why?

Because I also believe that while capitalism is one of the best ways for each person to make use of his or her potential, its sole goal of making money means there is no incentive to be humane or rational about employees or customers. How do I know this? Because unregulated markets and businesses cost us our economy, the Gulf, and have made a mockery of our health care system.

I believe Kirk could kick Picard’s ass, but Patrick Stewart would wipe the floor with Shatner.

I really can believe it’s butter.

I believe that if a foreign movie is good, we should see the foreign movie, not remake it. Get over the fact that it will require subtitles and watch it.

I believe choosing between Republicans and Democrats is choosing between the heartless and the spineless, and both choices are brainless.

I believe politics is the art of making people give you a job for a few more years so you can convince them to give you a job for a few more years.

I believe education should make children capable of thinking for themselves, not just fill their heads with facts. Education is about making them productive members of society, and filling their heads with lies and cookie-cutter answers is evil.

Most importantly, I believe the moment you express an opinion without being prompted, the instant you throw your hat into the ring, you are a free target for criticism. You have put yourself, willingly, into the arena of free speech. You are game. If you can’t articulate your opinion, defend it, or don’t want others questioning what you believe, don’t speak.

So that’s where I stand. You?

The King in Yellow Journalism: Lovecraft and the Tea Party

Cthulhu is Santa Claus... except he eats you.

Editor’s note: Sorry for the lack of artwork and links. Internet’s down at home and I don’t have a lot of time to upload this. Will update later, as well as post the video for funds I couldn’t do because I was talking to tech support all afternoon.

November 5, 2010

Maybe it’s because I used “The Call of Cthulhu” to teach an English as a Second Language (ESL) class. Maybe it’s a general nervousness about the future. I don’t know. Something unnatural, cosmic, grabbed at me. Its tendrils inched their way into my mind like the creatures of some Guillermo del Toro movie and I was faced with the utter terror of a single, inevitable conclusion.

The Tea Party is made up of H. P. Lovecraft fans.

At first, this revelation proved too much for my frail psyche. How could these people, these angry masses fighting against invisible horrors, ancient plots, and world-wide conspiracies be fans of one of the most influential writers of the 20th century?

It was then that I recalled one of the most recognizable passages in the great Lovecraft’s library of writings:

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far […] [S]ome day the piecing together of disassociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

There it was…

The Tea Party is not some group of bigoted, close-minded idiots who believe that willful ignorance is the key to our nation’s survival. They believe the Great Old Ones are coming. They believe that holding the line against the horrors of knowledge is a good thing because it will stop Cthulhu, Nyarlathotep, and the other dark powers sleeping in forgotten tombs, ancient crypts, and underwater cities.

Books are evil things filled with dangerous quotes with strange words only evil, elite academics can understand. Beings from strange places are among us now and are slowly infiltrating our world, plotting its demise. The history of the world, the real history, has been hidden from us!

They are proud of this point of view. I mean, just look at Glenn “The Crawling Chaos” Beck proudly touting how little he knows about a subject he’s about to educate you on:

Knowledge is the enemy. It’s one Lovecraft’s most basic messages. We can’t know the truth because the truth will harm us. We won’t be able to accept reality so our minds will shatter. The Tea Party has come up with the best defense against this apocalypse: they’ve created their own reality to fight against the darkness.

It all makes sense now…

Of course, if you stop for a moment you realize that, as brilliant as Lovecraft was in some respects, he also got it wrong in many other areas. I am a complete and utter fan of his work, of the literary legacy he helped create, but he was a racist logophile who wouldn’t be able to pass a basic college writing course. The clutter alone would get him kicked out.

And the idea that knowledge, simply knowing something, will corrupt you is indeed terrifying to me and millions of other readers. Why? Because that means we cannot advance, we cannot make ourselves and the world better, and trying to learn about the world so we can NOT be afraid of it will cost us our lives.

That’s a frightening concept.

So there you have it. The Tea Party has taken a page from Lovecraft’s work and is a cult dedicated to what they perceive to be the forces of good. Too bad the forces of good have to be ignorant in Lovecraft’s world. The Tea Party simply added “stupidity” to the mix.

Cthulhu fhtagn!

And yes, I know Robert W. Chambers wrote “The King in Yellow,” not Lovecraft, but the mythology is so intertwined that I thought it still fit. Sue me.