The other day, we were having some work done on our chimney. One of the workers climbed down the ladder and handed me a bullet that was embedded in our roof.
(Eww, not a good picture; sorry.) So I asked, what, was our house under fire some time? He said it had probably been shot into the air sometime, and after all, what goes up...
I've never understood people who do that sort of thing. It doesn't seem to happen much around here, but I've celebrated New Year's in New Orleans, and the cracke of small-arms fire can be heard all night. It doesn't make much sense to me to pop off a few caps when fireworks make just as much noise (and can be at least as dangerous). If memory serves me right, a US aircraft over Afghanistan even mistakenly targeted a group of people who were firing their AK-47s skyward in celebration of something.
But please, please, someone explain why it's necessary to shoot off a freakin' mortar shell to celebrate a wedding? A shell intended for such use in a Pakistani wedding exploded prematurely, killing the groom and more than 20 others.
Saturday morning started well for me. Naomi woke up at about quarter after 5, but after I gave her a bottle she went back to sleep and let me sleep until nearly 7—practically a miracle. Once we were both awake, I fixed her breakfast and she watched some traditional Saturday Morning Cartoons. As we went about our day—me cleaning house, she furniture cruising and playing with her toys—I decided to recall the days when I was a youngster and watched our local then-independent station all day Saturday. It’d run kung fu movies, Japanese kaiju (giant monster) flicks, old science fiction films and, later in the evening, horror movies.
So I’ve had the VCR and DVD player going all day, showing stuff like Godzilla vs the Sea Monster (which obviously didn’t have much of a budget, as Godzilla stomps not Tokyo but an Inept Evil Organization’s base on a tropical island; but it’s the swankest of all the Big G films, with a dance marathon, the mystic Mothra twins and swingin’ island rhythms) and a double-feature DVD with Beast from Haunted Cave and The Brain that Wouldn’t Die. Today’s kung fu offering—admittedly too recent to have appeared on WDRB—was Jackie Chan’s 1995 US breakthrough, Rumble in the Bronx (official site).
This thoroughly entertaining movie made Chan—who had starred in dozens of Hong Kong movies and appeared in Hollywood films like The Big Brawl and Cannonball Run—a star in the US. Chan’s character travels to New York (which appears only in second-unit establishing shots; the movie was filmed in Vancouver) to help his Uncle Bill (Bill Tung, who appeared with Chan in the Police Story series) sell a market, and stays on to help the new owner (Anita Mui of The Heroic Trio).
He runs afoul of a multiethnic gang that travels around on brightly-colored dirt bikes, complete with racing numbers, and despite his kung fu prowess finds himself on the wrong end of a couple of beatdowns. Meanwhile, he sparks a friendship and very tentative romance (the pair share exactly one onscreen kiss) with Nancy (Franscoise Yip), the gang leader’s girlfriend—I guess that’d be ex-girlfriend. Notably, Chan’s usual reaction to the gang’s threat is to run away, which results in some breathtaking stunts, including a leap from the roof of a parking garage to a fire escape across an alley.
The gang goes too far, though, when it trashes the market. The fur flies during a frenzied fracas in the gang’s headquarters—stocked with presumably stolen property that gives Chan ample opportunity to exercise a trademark flair for impromptu weaponry. Chan single-handedly dominates the group and the leader gives up. Just then, word arrives that one of the gang has been killed by a group of diamond thieves whose haul was intercepted by another gang member, and the diamond thieves soon trash the market again. All of a sudden, old rivalries are forgotten as Chan tries to save some of the gang and nab the diamond thieves.
Rumble in the Bronx is full of goofy fun. During a fracas in the store, Chan punches a gang member into a tall display of soda cans—which prove to be empty as they clatter to the ground. Examples abound—the stage where Nancy dances is encircled by a tiger cage complete with tiger; the climactic chase occurs with the diamond thieves make their getaway in a hovercraft; and the gang challenges a rival crew to a cycle race—over the tops of parked cars. (As funny as it sounds, the stunt was no laughing matter; the actress who played Nancy and two stuntpeople broke legs filming it.) And notable exceptions depart from the film’s generally lighthearted tone. Chan is beaten bloody on at least one occasion and there are several murders by the diamond thieves; this and some strong language gave the film an R rating.
As is traditional with Chan movies, outtakes appear under the closing credits. They show numerous occasions where a particular stunt goes awry, including one occasion when Chan broke or sprained his ankle during a leap onto the hovercraft, which led him to perform some stunts in a cast covered by a fake rubber sneaker.
Aside from being entertaining pratfalls, the outtakes make it even more obvious that the preceding story is just a fantasy, a story. They drive home the fact that the punches and kicks shown on screen can hurt. They also make it clear that the people in the movie are just characters—several times and stunt people stop fighting and rush to aid an injured colleague, and the cameras catch actors breaking out of character and into applause when a stunt is over.
I’ve ranted before about people who blur the line between fantasy and reality. But in a way, the stories movies tell help shape our reality. A culture’s stories give it context and a shared reference point. While there’s been a lot of worry about the effect of onscreen violence, what disturbs me is the fact that violence is often the first and only response ever presented to resolve a conflict. And the violence that occurs is often without cost and consequence.
Violence is not only the sole solution offered, it’s also almost invariably the successful course of action, the thing that usually resolves the conflict in the hero’s favor. It always works, and usually at little cost to the hero (although best friends and love interests sometimes become dramatic collateral damage), and innocents never get hurt except by the despicable heavy.
I sometimes wonder if this subtext doesn’t pack much more influence than the desire to imitate the moves one sees onscreen. Sure, after seeing Star Wars you might pretend you have a light saber—but after hundreds of these movies, most made with much less attention to detail than Star Wars, a subtle message that violence is the answer might be delivered. Then again, I think I’ve seen more violent movies—and movies that are more violent—than the average guy, and I think I know that the world doesn’t work that way. (At least, I hope not.)
Rumble in the Bronx shares these tendencies, but after his victorious battle, Chan tells them he regrets their being enemies, which makes the gang’s eventual turnaround less surprising. And in a significant departure form action movie tradition, the major villain—who’s responsible for the deaths of several people—is not killed, but humiliated (and presumably arrested).
But Chan’s character, who despite his obvious skills that ultimately lead him to prevail against the entire gang, runs away whenever possible. That tendency not only lends Chan greater credibility a martial artist, but also renders his eventual resolve to fight the gang more dramatic. Chan also isn’t always successful either in running away or fighting; at times he’s injured, even when he wins (although his cuts and bruises tend to vanish by the next scene).
Rumble in the Bronx doesn’t need heavy analysis, though. It’s mostly goofy and good-natured, you get to see Chan and a team of expert stunt players in action, and then there’s the lovely Franscoise Yip and Anita Mui, so what’s not to like?
(A sad note: Mark Akerstream, who played gang leader Tony, died in a 1998 stunt-related accident.)
Remember my rant about the Arizona student whose parents hired a lawyer when she flunked English, disqualifying her from participating in her graduation? Out of curiosity, I checked the Arizona Republic to see if there was anything new.
The school district issues an apology for the furor but denied any wrongdoing, contending that administrators were unaware of the lawyer's actions when they decided to let the student take an 11th-hour makeup test. (coughBScough) School officials claim better guidelines are needed. Of course, it sounds like the declaration that the student would walk in the graduation, which forced the retest, is guideline aplenty; as reported by the Republic, it seemed to make her participation a foregone conclusion regardless of the outcome of the retake: "I was told that the student was going to walk (in the graduation ceremony)," Joice [the teacher] said, "and that I needed to figure out a way to get her to that point."
Meanwhile, the Arizona State Bar Association took the unusual step of launching an ethics investigation into the lawyer whose letter to the teacher threatening a lawsuit sparked the controversy. Normally an investigation does not occur in the absence of a complaint, but the case's high profile led the Bar Association to act.
I found this story while researching links for my update below: Russian naval investigators have ruled out a collision with a NATO vessel in the August 2000 sinking of the submarine Kursk. Apparently one of the sub's own torpedoes exploded, according to senior Russian minister Ilya Klebanov, who chairs the commission investigating the disaster, which claimed the lives of 118 crew members. Back in March, the last recovered remains of the victims of the disaster were buried, including the boat's captain.
According to the WaPo, major retailers, including Circuit City, are starting to completely phase out VHS videos in favor of DVDs. Although VHS currently enjoys an impressive market dominance, with a video player in an estimated 95 percent (!) of American homes, retailers seem to have concluded that the future belongs to DVDs.
My one concern with that is there are plenty of movies--including The Crazies--that are only available on VHS so far. But then, as long as they're available online, I won't care much.
...I'm pretty busy today, and probably will be through the weekend, so I doubt I can maintain this posting schedule. Beside having a ton of things on my to-do list today, my lovely wife Crystal is in Colorado picking up our toddler Cecilia from her parents, and they won't be back until tomorrow. Until then it's just me and Naomi, who's with a babysitter right now, but will no doubt keep me busy when we get home. While they're gone I plan to take advantage of the opportunity to geek out with movies and video games, but I also need to clean the house some before they get back.
I'll comment on breaking stuff as I get the opportunity, and I'm cooking up a couple of mini-rants for your amusement as well, but posts are going to be sporadic over the weekend.
// movie alert //
Last night, I watched an little-known George A. Romero flick, The Crazies. After a military virus infects the drinking supply of a small Pennsylvania town, infected people become homicidal maniacs, and a hasty military operation is launched to contain the outbreak. Of course, not all the citizens appreciate the Army rounding them up, and a few escape into the woods, where they must contend with soldiers, infected townspeople and the spread of the disease among their own group. I was expecting to like it, but I liked it even more than I expected--it was excellent; it conveyed a lot of the paranoia and nihilism of Night of the Living Dead and, like Night, it generated an incredible amount of tension and suspense on a low budget (though this flick is in color) and with a cast of mostly unknown actors (look for Richard France, the guy who plays the scientist with the eyepatch in Dawn of the Dead, here too as a scientist). I plan to write a review of it, but until I do you can check out the ones at Teleport City, Cold Fusion Video Reviews and ZombieKeeper. I was surprised my local non-Blockbuster video store carried a copy of such an obscure movie (and the fact that it did is exactly what I like about smaller chains).
An asteroid described as roughly the size of a soccer field zoomed by Earth at about one-third the distance to the Moon, according to astronomers. The rock, which travels at about 6 miles per second, was not detected until days after it had passed the Earth, which means that if it'd hit, it would have been without any warning at all. "It's a good thing it missed the Earth, because we never saw it coming," Steve Maran of the American Astronomical Society said in the story.
According to reports, the impact of an asteroid that big would have been destructive--perhaps massively so--but not cataclysmic. So what the heck is the graphic of a monster asteroid blasting the Earth doing at the top of CNN's story? That stikes me as overly sensationalistic.
Astronomers estimate a one in 100,000 chance the asteroid, designated 2002MN, could hit the Earth in 2061.
Update: I just had a scary thought...given the tension in South Asia (which seems to be cooling lately) and elsewhere, it'd be truly scary if the asteroid had hit. Despite what movies show you, it's incredibly unlikely that a meteor would hit any major population center, but if it did, it might be interpreted as an attack.
...I'd like to congratulate the German soccer team on what was apparently a hard-fought 1-0 victory over the U.S. team in the World Cup quarter-finals, and send my congratulations, thanks and admiration to the U.S. team, which has made an incredibly impressive showing.
This just in:Librarian of Congress adopts webcasting royalty plan. It seems the Librarian of Congress has rejected a two-tier royalty system, but I haven't read the decision enough to decide if it's good news for Internet radio (my first impression is that it isn't). I'll be back with more as soon as I figure out what this all means.
Update: In passing this link along, I failed to make clear that it's an urban legend, which CotB has acknowledged. I frequently visit the Urban Legends Reference Pages; it's a fascinating site that debunks many email-forwarded stories (often pointing out yawning gaps in logic) and confirms others. I'd seen this little tidbit before, but I didn't make that context clear to my readers. I apologize to all (six) of you.
By the way, Barbara and David P. Mikkelson of the Urban Legends Reference Pages also pass along this true story about Starbucks pulling an ad because of perceived similarities to the World Trade Centers. They provide a photo of the ad, wonder if any "depiction of two similar, side-by-side objects taller than they are wide is now going to be considered an unacceptable reminder." I'm reminded of the petition on an Internet poll site over the title of the second Lord of the Rings movie, although that poll has been "suspended temporarily due to a lack of maintenance by the petition author," according to the site. (I still wonder if the original petition was a joke, but it's clear that some people took it seriously.)
Florida police reported that they'd busted an international prostitution ring that used a Web site for clients to arrange meetings with hookers. A sting operation by the police created a fictitious ad charging $300 an hour for services rendered.
Update: Today, I think, is the first time this humble blog has been cited as a source by Ipse Dixit and Cut on the Bias, let alone both at once. (If I missed one, my apologies.) I'm deeply flattered, the more so by Susanna's comment on her post:
Those of you who read the comments here know Gregory is newly among my favorite liberal readers – cogent and willing to tackle questions directly, even though often misguided.
Praise indeed. I feel loved today! Not unconditionally, of course; see this.
According to this CNN story, listeners--and, most notably, young listeners--are beginning to turn away from commercial radio, criticizing it for being boring, homogenous and repeating a narrow playlist to death. (I dig the Elvis Costello reference in the story title, too.)
Shoot, I quit listening to commercial radio a long time ago for pretty much those reasons. I do tune in to one local station (92.3 WTTS-FM) on occasion; I think it sad that the fact this station shows even occasional touches of unpredicability should be so refreshing.
Philips, the consumer electronics manufacturer that helped invent the Compact Disc, is demonstrating a new protoype technology that can store up to one gigabyte (GB) on a three-centimeter-diameter disc. Most CDs store up to 650MB of data on their 12-centimeter-diameter media surface. The storage increase is achieved by using a blue laser as opposed to the red ones found in current CD and CD-ROM readers. A standard-sized CD using this technology could store a whopping 27GB of information.
This is disappointing, to say the least. NPR--which, by the way, I support as a contributing member--has a policy on its Web site that prohibits linking its content (like I just did) without permission. There's a lengthy form to fill out to describe the site where the linkage is proposed, the wording to go along with it, and so on.
Naturally, such a policy is reminiscent of the flap that resulted when the parent company of the Dallas Morning News sent a cease-and-desist order to a Web site that deep-linked stories in the DMN Web site. However, I can see a number of differences. For starters, NPR does not seem to have ads on its site (I didn't check every single link, so I could be wrong, but it seems to make sense), so bypassing front-page advertising doesn't seem to be the issue. (Of course, many argued that it wasn't the issue in the DMN case either, but rather an attempt by a media company to intimidate a sometime-critic into silence.) Also, much of NPR's content is streaming media, which takes rather more expensive bandwidth; I don't blame the site's Webmasters from at least wanting to know how often a particular sound clip is likely to get linked. Frankly, if the form were a voluntary request, I'd be likely to comply--I often email other Web sites to let them know I linked them.
It's the "permission" thing that gets me--it implies that such permission could be denied, and I don't think that's right, not to mention being practically unenforcable. By posting content to the Web, I think inherent permission is given to link to that content. If bandwidth is a question, the streaming audio could be moved offline or offered on a subscription basis. (For example, registration is required to view content on the New York Times Web site, and I'm not registered, so links to NYT stories go nowhere for me.) Furthermore, I was unaware of the site's policy until I stumbled across it on Blogdex; I've linked to NPR content before never imagining the policy existed because it's frankly counterintuitive.
I don't plan to ask permission from anyone to link to anything. I have no problem with courtesy notification, but the concept of hyperlinking is inherent to the World Wide Web. The possibility of being linked is the price anyone pays for whatever benefits they feel their Web presence brings.
Update:Wired News reports on the furor; the story quotes NPR ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin as saying the organization "just wants to make sure that the links are appropriate to a noncommercial and journalistic organization," a position I can understand, even if I don't condone their policy. He also said a clairified policy is currently in the works. But the Wired story also appeared to quote Dvorkin--it's hard to tell; there's no attribution at all in this paragraph, although preceding grafs do name him--as saying "we want to keep track of who's doing it."
Equivocation, Greg, you have equivocation. NPR is unequivocally wrong in this. If you can't take the bandwidth hit, stay off the Internet. And if you're wanting to make sure "the right people" are linking you, stay off my earth.
Fair enough. Let me make myself perfectly clear: NPR is indeed unequivocally wrong. The essential nature of the Web implies that material posted to a Web site may be linked by anyone, any time they please. Permission is never required, and as long as said link is not misleading or fraudulent, the linkee should have no power whatsoever to force the linker to remove the link.
When it comes to being mysterious, that's what you do best. You like to leave others puzzled and speak in riddles. You're not out there for the fame and fortune, you're just being yourself, doing what you do best. You're strong and courageous, and you're always the leader of the pack. You're skillful; people respect you, and you respect people.
...okay, enough of this. We now return you to your regularly scheduled program....
You are Rinoa! Your relationships with others are important to you. You like to socialize and have a good time. To some people you might seem a little shallow, but you really just like to be happy and make others happy too.
What's with these homies, dissin' my girl? Why do they gotta front? What did we ever do to these guys That made them so violent?
[Woo-hoo] But you know I'm yours [Woo-hoo] And I know you're mine [Woo-hoo, and that's for all time]
Oo-ee-oo, I look just like Buddy Holly Oh-oh, and you're Mary Tyler Moore I don't care what they say about us anyway I don't care about that
Don't you ever fear, I'm always near I know that you need help Your tongue is twisted, your eyes are slit You need a guardian
[Woo-hoo] And you know I'm yours [Woo-hoo] And I know you're mine [Woo-hoo, and that's for all time]
Oo-ee-oo, I look just like Buddy Holly Oh-oh, and you're Mary Tyler Moore I don't care what they say about us anyway I don't care about that I don't care about that
Bang! Bang! A knock on the door Another big bang and your down on the floor Oh no! What do we do? Don't look know but I lost my shoe I can't run and I can't kick What's a matter babe are you feelin' sick? What's a matter, what's a matter, what's a matter you? What's a matter babe, are you feelin' blue?
Oo-ee-oo, I look just like Buddy Holly Oh-oh, and you're Mary Tyler Moore I don't care what they say about us anyway I don't care about that I don't care about that I don't care about that I don't care about that
Then allow me to shudder when the answer page noted that:
67 percent of students knew wind was not a form of precipitation
49 percent of students knew the Moon is always closer to the Earth than it is to the Sun
30 percent of students answered correctly a question regarding atmospheric pressure being lower at high altitudes
41 percent of students answered correctly that the Earth moves in an elliptical (heck, it just says "not circular") orbit that is closer to the Sun in January than in July
Only 36 percent of students knew that a 10-liter sample of CO2 gas contains the same number of molecules as 10 liters of O2 gas at the same temperature and pressure, but I barely got that myself. Of course, I also barely passed Chemistry in high school.... answered correctly (link via Ipse Dixit)
Here's a book that, I think, is more talked about than read, but the current conflict against terrorism makes Sun Tzu's The Art of War even more interesting reading. One of the earliest known military treatises, it emphasizes intelligence, terrain, mobility, morale and supply and hardly mentions tactics. Here are two quotes:
Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.
All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.
Just to show that Sun Tzu's analysis remains relevant, consider WWII's Operation Fortitude South. Prior to the Normandy invasion, German intelligence detected radio traffic concerning the Fifth Army Group massing in southern England, with the redoubtable Gen. George Patton in command. Aerial reconnaisance showed massive buildup of tanks and landing craft. All indications pointed to Allied plans to land in Calais. But the radio messages were faked, and the military equipment phony (I've seen pictures of four soldiers carrying an inflatable dummy "tank"). Still, the deception was so thorough that when the actual Normandy invasion occurred, Hitler was convinced it was a feint, and rather than reinforce there, sent troops to Calais to counter the expected "real" invasion.
June 19th is World Sauntering Day. This morning, NPR's Bob Edwards interviewed the son of W.T. Rabe, who came up with the celebration, which encourages leisurely and aimless strolling. I hereby resolve not to run anywhere today...not that I was very likely to in the first place.
SixDifferentWays links to this rant against the notion of a royalty on used CDs. I estimate I've bought at least as many CDs used as new, so I was concerned. A quick Google search located what I believe is the primary source for Menta's comments, this San Diego Union-Tribune story, and it does appear that the recording industry, alarmed at declining revenues, is considering requesting the Federal government assess a fee on used CDs. Apparently sales of used CDs have been growing--after all, a CD is much more durable than an LP or cassette--and the RIAA wants a piece of the action. The industry cites concerns that used CDs undercut sales of new copies, and that music fans can buy, copy and then resell CDs.
Of course, the music industry has been aware of and tolerated stores that sell used music for decades. In an April 14 USAToday story (that's just two months earlier than the Union-Tribune article), an RIAA spokesperson acknowledged that a CD is the property of the person who bought it:
"We follow the doctrine that the original purchaser can resell the product if they bought it," says the RIAA's Jonathan Lamy
The very notion strikes me as the desperate flailing of an industry that's saddled itself with a failing business model and trying compensate by requesting legislation that reverses the long-standing notion that music, once purchased, becomes the buyer's property to keep, discard, trade, or sell as he or she pleases.
A couple of hours ago, I felt a rumble through the floor. It was a mild vibration; I thought someone may have been dragging a heavy piece of furniture, or maybe it was some big machinery from the construction next door. Turns out, it was an earthquake! No damage has been reported so far; see Indianapolis Star coverage of the event here; USGS data on the quake here. (Zannah of /usr/bin/girl was in a mild earthquake the other day, too.)
Looking back, all this started with my flip remark in response to an article Susanna linked. I'm genuinely surprised at all the subsequent hubbub, but I can see this is an issue many people of good conscience are wrestling with. For one thing, I don't consider the issue of whether the civil rights of some of the post-September 11 detainees have been violated an especially "liberal" one. I think one of the things going on--and I don't mean to ascribe any specific motivation to any individual--is the September 11 attack caused a lot of fear (that's why it's called terrorism), and the public clamors for a decisive response from a strong central authority. I think one of the first responsibilities of government is to protect its citizens; that's why I've found the ability of the terrorists to strike despite at least some indication they were up to something disturbing, as I do resistance to inquiries as to what happened.
If nothing else this shows the inadequacy of the political lingo. I found enlightening the Political Spectrum test. Although it's intended mostly for a UK audience, it postulates something more complex than a simple left-right dualism left over from the French Republic. The spectrum has two axes, not one. In addition to the traditional left-liberal/right-conservative axis is a vertical one that measures degree of authoritatian/libertarian sensibility. I test like this: Economic Left/Right: -1.62; Authoritarian/Libertarian: -3.44; by the standards of the test (which I remind you is not based on the US political culture), I'm slightly liberal economically and libertairan to a somewhat greater degree.
This dual-axis measure goes a long way to explaining how "conservatives" and "liberals" alike can be alarmed at a perceived threat to civil liberties. Dodd has expressed such concerns on his own blog, and even though we disagree about the validity of Senator Biden's quote, the post I cite here acknowledges a number of questions and embraces the notion that questioning authority is not treasonous.
Believe me, I wouldn't research this stuff as hard as I have if I didn't respect Dodd's opinion and intellect.
By the way, it looks like I've reached the character limit for my original link list, so I'll have to update it later from a system that is less L4m3.
I wanted to point out that the online journal Spinsanity has noted that the AP story I cite in yesterday's post (now updated) is a bit misleading. According to a later version of the AP story, the "thunderous" applause urged when President Bush spoke at Ohio State University's commencement was on behalf of University President William Kirwan, not Bush. Spinsanity also points out that there are conflicting firsthand accounts about what happened to protestors who turned their backs on Bush's speech; a University spokesperson told Spinsanity that no one was ejected for protesting.
However, even the revised AP story reports that students were admonished against "demonstrating or heckling," and I still find the advice not to exercise one's First Amendment rights disturbing. Spinsanity concludes by saying:
People have every right to oppose OSU's policies toward protests at commencement, of course. But they have an obligation to get their facts straight.
I certainly agree. I hope this post clarifies matters and I apologize for any wrong impression I gave.
SixDifferentWays offers this link to a roundup of lipstick-lesbian imagery being used in ads targeted at men. Such ads almost invariably sell fashion or alcoholic beverages...go figure...
This image struck me as funny because it looks like it was taken straight out of those fake lesbian pictorials Penthouse used to run...um, not that I've ever seen one...yeah... The site quoted the director of marketing for Diesel brand sunglasses as saying this ad sold more than a million pairs of shades. The same campaign also featured an ad that depicted two male sailors kissing.
25 years after his death, Elvis Presley made pop music history in the UK as a remix of his 1968 song "A Little Less Conversation," which features in a Nike ad for the World Cup, topped the British pop music charts. The event gave Elvis more number ones than any artist in the pop chart's 50-year history, breaking a longstanding tie with the Beatles at 17. The original 1968 version of the song reached No. 69 (with a bullet) on the U.S. singles charts.
Here's a fresh take on the size-isn't-everything debate. The search engine All The Web claims it has indexed more Web pages (2.1 billion) than Google (2.07 billion). While a Google spokesperson did not comment specifically on the disparity, he said Google delivers fresh and relevant results and offers user-friendly service.
The students were also admonished that any demonstration or heckling would result in expulsion and arrest. (It isn’t clear from the story whether the word expulsion refers to from the event or from the University, although someone who claims to have been there says in this post that the latter was the case.)
That’s bad enough, but here’s the real kicker: In 1996, President Clinton spoke at the same university. Clinton was heckled. He also had the presence of mind to respond to the hecklers. No pre-speech threats of expulsion or arrest then (however, the presence of security guards probably had a lot to do with the hecklers quieting down). The obvious double standard is disturbing.
However, even the second version of the AP story reports the admonishment against protesting. While it seems no protestors were arrested, I think a case can still be made that students were threatened if they exercised their First Amendment rights.
This almost made me do a spit-take with my morning coffee. It seems a teacher was threatened with a lawsuit after one of her students blew an exam—and a multiple-choice exam, no less!—and earned a failing grade in her English class, thereby forfeiting her participation in the upcoming graduation ceremony. But that isn’t the worst part.
The attorney’s letter claims that the emotional distress the student suffered requires the teacher to “correct the situation.” An Arizona Republic editorial quoted another letter as containing veiled threats to drag the teacher's private life into the courtroom. Yet in a letter in reply, the teacher, Elizabeth Joice, bravely stood by the principle of not making a special exception for one student, noting that:
The student was already failing the class; the exam was the last chance to achieve a passing grade.
The girl had already racked up unexcused absences and a partially plagiarized paper
The girl’s parents had been notified of their little darling's poor performance—including by phone—and the teacher asserted that the parents showed no concern until informed that their precious girl had in fact blown her chance to pass the class.
The teacher also points out that the lawyer portrays the student as the victim, not the one responsible for passing the class in the first place, and justifying that victimhood on the fact the little angel didn’t get special treatment. She also had the temerity to suggest that as an adult (and I can only assume she meant in the legal sense, since utterly refusing to acknowledge the consequences of one’s actions is hardly the mark of maturity), the student is responsible for her own actions. So the teacher invited the lawyer to go ahead and sue. But even that isn’t the worst part.
Apparently upon getting wind of the whole donnybrook, the teacher’s superiors in the school district caved like a spelunker’s convention and ordered the girl given a make-up exam, which she passed shortly before the graduation ceremony, in which she was awarded her diploma. (The girl's stepmother acknowledged that bringing in a lawyer "did get a quick decision.") Citing Federal privacy laws, school officials declined to say exactly which spineless educrat undercut Joice’s brave stand. And even that isn’t the end.
As this Arizona Republic editorial points out, once it got hold of the story, the press preserved the anonymity of the litigious parents, because identifying the parents would have unmasked the person this whole fracas is about. In general I think that not doing so is a sound policy, but good Ford! This student is apparently on the student council, no less (hey, that ought to narrow it down…). But rather than accept her responsibility and achieve her diploma after summer school, Mommy and Daddy bring in a lawyer to bail her out. And it worked.
This situation stinks on ice. What makes it worse is that that graduation ceremony certainly consisted of dozens, maybe hundreds, of students who’d earned the privilege by working and following the rules, not special privileged won by threats from Mommy and Daddy’s lawyer. Other students who’d blown it—and no doubt also suffered “emotional distress”—but didn’t think of having an attorney go to bat for them will be spending their summer in school, earning their diplomas. By shielding the anonymity of someone who went to great lengths to demand special privilege, the media has tainted the graduation experience of every other student, who can only wonder whether the person next to him or her in the class picture got a special break.
The notion that this kid’s parents countenanced the idea of resorting to a lawsuit—let alone going so far as to hire a lawyer—is thoroughly disgusting. It makes a mockery of the entire notion of education. In her letter to the lawyer, Joice, who declined to attend the graduation ceremony, noted:
The student would be a very capable student if she would apply herself, study and get her assignments in on time. Instead of being scarred for life, perhaps she will learn these lessons now, rather than when she is in college or in the work force…I think your clients would be better off investing their money in summer school tuition for the student rather than wasting their money on attorney fees.
Well, this student has surely learned her lesson. She knows that playing by the rules and doing what’s expected of you doesn’t count as much as a letter on some law office’s stationery. She’s learned that she can do whatever she darn pleases, and if she doesn’t like the outcome, it’s someone else’s fault. I guess her high school experience is preparing her for life in today’s society, after all.
I can assure you of one thing. I can’t imagine one of my girls would be in danger of failing school, period, let alone without my knowledge. If she was in academic trouble, you better believe she’d hit the books at night instead of TV time. If she still blew it, off she’d go to summer school. And she’d know how badly she disappointed her mother and myself, and worse, let herself down. One thing I won’t do is call a lawyer. That’s a promise.
One more thing...I hope my girls have a teacher like Joice.
Lots of rich fanboy goodness to kick off this Monday morning. As I often do, I was listening to NPR on the way into work, and they carried an interesting story about the creation of Batman. Checking their Web site for that link, I discovered a story I had missed about the creation of Star Trek.
In further NPR adventures, Saturday night my wonderful wife and I managed to get out to dinner at an excellent Thai restauraunt in the Broadripple area of Indianapolis. The food was good and the staff was cool when The Baby knocked a dish onto the floor. On the way home, we caught a program about the thoroughly-debunked recovered memory syndrome." Two things struck me about the program (unfortunately, I don't know what program it was; it didn't pause for identification dutring the time I was listening. It was on WFYI-FM at about 8 pm on June 15). One was the much greater impact of hearing the voices of the people involved in one false memory syndrome case. I'd read a number of debunkings (sorry, I can't seem to locate any links right now), but hearing the anguish in the voices of a father who was falsely accused and a daughter who belatedly realized the pain she put him through was incredibly moving.
Another thing that struck me was the rememberances of a psychologist who was trained to believe that false memory syndrome was real and now realizes the psychological damage she committed, however well-intentioned it may have been. Many of the debunkings I've read relied on ardent defenders of repressed memory syndrome, who sound faintly ridiculous in the face of evidence and common sense. This woman, who even realized that she challenged her own adherence to the theory later than she should have, was also in obvious pain in recalling the harm she'd done. Commenting publicly like that was a brave thing, and I hope for her it was an act of atonement.
Great googly moogly! Check out some awesome straight-up rockin' courtsey of the Belmont Playboys, available here and here. I hardly ever burn a CD unless I have at least an hour's worth of music, but I will for these eight songs. Props to Dodd at Ipse Dixit for tipping me off--trust me, check it out. It's 100-proof dashboard-slappin' tuneage.
I haven't talked much about what things are like with Cecilia, my oldest girl, visiting her grandparents (my in-laws) in Wyoming. Monday after they all left, my wife called me crying. This is by far the most time we've ever spent apart. Of course, we're all surviving, but there's really an emptiness without Cecilia around. We've talked to her on the phone almost every day. Hearing her voice is great, but in ways it just magnifies the distance. I suppose there's also a little bit of charge in the fact that she can get along without us...no one likes to feel replacable, so I guess as a partent I harbored the notion that Cecilia would be a wreck without her folks around. No dice...she's appearently having a lot of fun out in Wyoming. There's also a definite sense that her absence is tolerable because I know it's strictly temportary. Moreover, as I've observed to my lovely wife, Cecilia's turning into a really good, interesting person ,and it's fun being around her. It also melts me when she says "you're my best friend in the whole world," which I think is what she says when she likes someone. I haven't heard that in a while, and I miss it.
It isn't all bad, of course. Tonight at dinner my lovely wife said dinners are easier without having to divide her attention between my conversation and Cecilia's. And I'm not as tired as I sometimes get...any of you who are parents know that more than one child takes more than twice as much energy, as their times of greates need can overlap and keep you from getting much-needed rest. But I miss Cecilia telling me about her day, I miss her and I miss her hugs when I get home from work. I'll see her in less than a eek, and I'm looking forward to having us all together again, you betcha.