Saturday, December 29, 2007

update again

I just wanted update everyone to my progress. Essentially everything is improving, except my right arm. I keep trying, but it just doesn't work. I drop almost everything a try to hold with that hand. I can't eat with it either, or pretty much anything. I mean i can sorta work with it, but its at half the strength of my left hand.

My job has been really, really nice about this, but I want to get back to work. It is getting boring around here. I know I should be scared about living, but I can't live that way. After the 1st of year I make almost an appointment a day for a while. So i will get busy, but I can't really think on that.

So thats pretty it...

Friday, December 28, 2007

Classic Film Friday: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

This movie review takes a look at the 1958 film, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Elizabeth Taylor plays Maggie the Cat and Paul Newman plays Brick, her husband. While, Burl Ives plays Big Daddy Pollitt whose family fortune is sought after in this adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play.

Its good because of good acting but also because of the down home, didn’t even suspect it until the end kind of ending. Burl Ives is the runaway character of this movie, but all the characters are good. Rent it yourself, and you’ll see what I mean. Short review, for obvious reasons.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Still stroke victim, nothing else new

I don't get to post here as much because of the time it takes is now a lot longer. but still i will post and their saying in a mouth or two i should be fine. Define fine I don't think so, but I can be labeled the skeptic.

Christmas is finally come and gone, and quite frankly I couldn't wait for her to leave. All those well wishers that hoped everything was ok, well really weren't anything but hopeless asses. If you really were worried about me, then make the trip out here end of story.

Anyways we got another holiday right down the pipe. Once that is done, then it will be smooth sailing. Although I still make a hideous face when i laugh or cry at least i still do. Hoping to do better by next Christmas...maybe I'll have a classic film friday

Friday, December 21, 2007

what the hell

There's a lot going on at my house. To break it down I've been better off. I've lost all kinds of myself. What am I talking about? Basically December 5, my body refused too respond and I went into a stroke. Yes you heard right. Mr Madhatter, Mr idontcare, was down with a stroke and its not even thought of.

What now? How should I even know?

My right arm is dead, no ability of writing, no ability to drive, shit i can't even put my shoes on. This will probably will be my only post on this, so now you know...

Monday, December 3, 2007

My Case For Having Children

I’ve realized recently that I have once again entered a fleeting moment in parenthood that is about to fade into memories. Those of you out there with children probably know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s that time between being a baby and a full fledged kid, “toddlerdom” if you will, when children are excessively cute, exceedingly curious, and incredibly fast learners. She can now pick up on a new word within the 1st or 2nd time she hears it spoken (much to my embarrassment sometimes), and like a broken record, repeats it over and over and over again. Always testing the waters, whatever can be touched, seen, heard, smelled, not to mention opened or taken apart, simply must be felt, looked at, listened to, sniffed, opened and more likely than not… dissected.

She’s also very much aware of the variances in her social interactions with all of us. She’s learned (mostly) that the cat is not the one to be trifled with, and yet tests her almost daily. She’s cognizant of the consequences involved and treads lightly at first. If the cat happens to be in no mood for the child’s antics it’s not long thereafter that warning bite is delivered and a “NO, NO, NO, kitty!” is heard throughout the house. She knows how to garner her sibling’s attention, push mommy’s buttons and how to get daddy’s affection. She’s basically manipulated everyone in the house to do her bidding, and yet we all happily accept our servitude (cat included).

It’s hard to imagine a voice that can’t even properly annunciate the word “popsicle” (usually pronounced “gogck-pickle”) would carry that kind of clout, but it is what it is, and my kid isn’t even spoiled. She sleeps in her own bed, no more bottles or pacifiers, and TV shows (the Wiggles and Sesame Street primarily) are rare treats. I can only imagine how tight the bonds of parental slavery are in other, less disciplined households. And so it is that every part of our day is scheduled around the youngest, weakest, least capable amongst us, and yet one unsolicited kiss or hug …an act so pure and free of ulterior motives… somehow easily justifies the expense, the snot noses, the sleepless nights, and the complete encroachment upon life as I knew it.

Parenting is a hard, often times thankless hobby, but worthwhile nonetheless.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Classic Film Friday: His Girl Friday

I must admit, this 1940 classis took me by surprise. Its playful banter in corrupt government and a biased press is light and fluffy. But gloomy connotations stay at the forefront so much that you find yourself loathing certain characters’ wickedness while eagerly awaiting their next punch line.

"Hildy" Johnson (Rosalind Russell), former star reporter for the Morning Post, arrives at her old job to meet her ex- editor, ex-husband, and outright swindler Walter Burns (Cary Grant) and break off their failed working and personal relationship by revealing that she is engaged to Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy), an insurance salesman from Albany. Walter then pulls a myriad of dirty tricks to keep Hildy in town and sparks the reporter in her into overdrive.

The film is a comedy and it is funny, but the dark undertones of manipulating the news to support various agendas hit a sour note of exaggerated realism. Other than the social connotations of a crooked press, the dialogue of the movie is lightning fast and razor sharp. Everyone should see this movie before they let anything within a newspaper sway them one way or the other.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

School Board Special Meeting Nov. 27, 2007

I’m a bit late on the draw with this one and I admit that I’ve only glanced over it, but according to the summary issued to BCSD employees recounting Tuesday’s School Board Meeting (that went untelevised by the way) Board member Laura Bush thinks “the public should appreciate that by using prototype schools, it will save taxpayers money and is an efficient way to conduct business” (FYI: I’m quoting the summary here, which is NOT considered meeting minutes).

Take that in for what it’s worth... “prototype school” and “efficient” in the same sentence. You’ve got to be kidding me. Using untried school construction techniques (i.e. prototype) is going to save us money and we the public should appreciate that.

I wonder if Laura Bush is being sarcastic or craftily using a double negative to fool us. I’m not falling for it. Now really isn’t the time to get fancy.

The rest of the summary basically glosses over things we already know... the district is probably going to break up the referendums, to make it more palatable and they promise taxes will only go up by $50 or so for a $200,000 home. If anyone wants a copy of the summary drop me a line. Just remember it’s not really “official” until the Board approves the minutes and hopefully they’ll then post them on their website (in about a month or so).

Still, nobody seems capable of adjusting attendance zones as a means to alleviate overcrowding; all they talk about is construction and needing money.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Bumper Stickers

Maybe I’m still a bit miffed by some of the previous overdramatic religious hyperbole I’ve been exposed to lately, or maybe I’m just a little too cynical, but today I had an encounter that sums up my general feeling about most (not all) folks that proudly display their religion for all to see.

On my way to work this morning I looked up into my rearview only to see it full of white Lincoln Navigator riding my bumper. I quickly moved over to the right lane and as this whale of an SUV whooshed by I noticed a gigantic vinyl window sticker of 3 crosses centered on the back windshield, no doubt displaying this individual’s devotion to Jesus. As we traveled along on the highway the cross stamped Navigator zigzagged between lanes and tailgated until the other drivers yielded the right of way or an opening in the opposite lane presented itself. The Navigator, though aggressively trying to negotiate traffic wound up behind me yet again (I travel with cruise control as I find it to be much more efficient and effective than my analog and unreliable foot).

As the hulking white SUV flew by me again complete with an encore display of said crosses I wondered to myself, is this the Christian way to drive? Now I realize bad drivers come in all flavors, sizes, colors, and religions, but when one goes through the trouble to advertise something on their vehicle, the road manners of the driver automatically get lumped into one’s view of the business (or in this case religion) exhibited. How many of us have been cut off by a work truck, complete with phone number and a “How’s My Driving” sticker and at least made a mental note to not support that business?

Does that mean I’ll boycott church because some jerk with a Jesus fish on his trunk lid almost ran me off the road? No, but it does, over time and repeated experiences, help solidify my opinion that the majority of Christians are in fact no more divine and just as prone to bad behavior as anyone else, except of course for the fact that most religiously minded folks tend to push their morals and religious doctrine on the rest of us.

I suppose the old “do as I say not as I do” line might apply here, but I think whenever anyone plasters an advertising across the back of their car it behooves the driver to remain cognizant of the fact that they are a representative of that signage every time they get behind the wheel.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

My Case Against Organized Religion

A recent discussion about a certain movie and the religious implications involved got the old gears in my head churning. Before I get into a full fledged rant, I should first make a declination of my religious background. I grew up with parents who were divorced and each of them struggled to find their way into a church that fit their spiritual needs. We started out Catholic (the divorce pretty much ended that rainbow ride) moved on to Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Assembly of God. Within those particular flavors of Jesus, you could find everything from the fire and brimstone pulpit thrashing to the crying on one knee to an all out rock concert. I wouldn’t say I’ve seen it all, but I’ve seen a lot. And all of them, for the most part, were full of hypocrites, telling you how to live your life and how some sacrifice made now will pay off in heaven.

I guess that’s where “faith” enters the picture. Maybe I could blame my parents’ indecisive church hopping on my cynicism toward organized religion. That and my father was renowned for smoking pot on the way to church. And that in and of itself is enough to raise the cackles on any god fearing Christian. It didn’t (and still doesn’t) bother me at all. Now it does make my father a hypocrite (probably), but if you think about it many pagan religions used some form of mind altering drug to “elevate their awareness” (i.e. get high) in order to make contact with the spirits they worshiped. I could also turn this into a marijuana legalization thing but that’s not a direction I want to travel right now. Let’s just say while I think people should be free to do with their body whatever they please, I also respect the law enough (and my employment) that as long as something is against the law, I will not cross that line.

So what do pot smokin’, church jumping parents instill in their children? First and foremost, though probably unwittingly, they liberate one from the shackles of dogmatic principles. Suddenly (or not so suddenly in my case) burning a doob, or having a drink, responsibly, without losing employment or hurting others isn’t so taboo anymore. The church would never really stand for that, had they known what my parents did behind closed doors. Or maybe they would have overlooked it, provided their tithe was adequate, so long as they kept it under wraps. Neither of my parents smoke pot anymore, it’s simply not commensurate with employment laws, worker’s compensation insurance, or anything else really. Neither of them go to church much anymore either. My mother tries, now and again to find spirituality and acceptance in churches she visits… with the same unfulfilling result in the end.

Which brings it back to control. I don’t really care what form or flavor organized religion takes, it’s really about control… and I’m not just talking about Christianity. From what you can wear to what you can eat to what day you can/cannot do something or who you can associate with while doing it, organized religion is really only about propagating itself and the only way to do that is to control the thoughts, will, and decisions of its members.

I want to make clear, this isn’t a protest against God, it’s defiance toward those people who use God as a tool to subjugate the rest of us. You can’t scare me with damnation or lure me with deliverance. You could try to emulate the teachings of Jesus, by showing the same love, acceptance, and understanding that he supposedly wanted for all of us. That would certainly entice me. So far in 2,000 years of trying, he’s the only one that was any good at it. I won’t hold my breath while waiting.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sports are for Suckers (like me)

2007 will go down (for me) as one of the MOST CRAPPY sports years in history. It’s downright pathetic. In fact it’s so bad, I hardly ever watch anymore. That goes for pretty much everything, but more so toward the racing and football genres.

It’s so bad that the 2 football teams I follow could combine their wins and still not be close to the league juggernaut (AKA Patriots). So why bother? Don’t go calling me a fair-weather fan. I grew up in a town whose team didn’t even have a winning season (much less a playoff berth) until 20 years or so into its miserable existence. There are only so many ass whoopins a body can stand.

Seriously I’d rather spend my Sunday cutting grass or watching reruns of This Old House than witness my team get pummeled yet again. And there’s the rub. You can’t just give up on them, so you find yourself coming back, like a chump at the black jack table fishing another 20 out of his wallet, because maybe this time, it’ll be different. Not likely, but hope springs eternal and like they say, sometimes the sun will even shine on a dog’s ass.

Kind of like politics, I’m pining for next year, but in the back of my head I know the outcome will be the same. Is there any room on the bandwagon for one more? Never mind, Bob Vila is touring a beautiful Victorian estate in the historic district.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Travel Time

I’ve been mired down in work lately. You’d think with the holidays upon us that wouldn’t be the case, but for me it simply means fewer days to accomplish the same amount of work. In fact, I wouldn’t even have time to write here now if it weren’t for the fact that I’m waiting on an overnight package to arrive. While I’m thankful of the time off, there is definitely a price to pay for it.

Speaking of paying a price, I can only look back at all of the people traveling back and forth for the holidays and wonder if it’s worth it. The last two years we traveled 800+ miles to spend Thanksgiving with family and while it was nice to visit with the folks, I’m not sure if the trek warranted the fuel cost, travel time, and vacation days spent to get there and back. That’s not even getting into travel snarls and the danger involved with such crowded roadways.

I love my family but I think a nice, quiet dinner at home and the ability to just relax traffic, no hurry-scurry hither and yon, no expenses... outweighs the small amount of time (time that often comes with great stress) spent with family. So I’m staying home this year. I realize that stance might lead others to consider me an ungrateful bastard, but honestly everyone is more than welcome to jump into the travel madness and stay at my house this year.

As usual, I got no takers.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Hey Dumbass, Read Already.

On the way home I heard a NPR report state that 55% of people who read below the basic level are unemployed and only 3% of our prison population can read at a proficient level. Fun statistics that could probably be twisted around to show just about anything, but still when our schools are in the dumps it’s not much of a stretch to think reading more books certainly couldn’t hurt anything.

Our public schools have reading programs and initiatives throughout the year. Let’s not forget, it’s free to borrow books from the public library. Not that any of that matters, most kids and adults prefer the pictures they can see with their eyes (TV, video games, movies, etc) to ones they create in their heads.

Want your kids to do better in school and life in general? Buy them a book for Christmas.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Classic Film Friday: After the Thin Man

Due to some unforeseen family health issues I really don’t have a movie to review today. Unless you’d like to hear about After the Thin Man, the sequel (#2 of 7) to the Thin Man which has already been reviewed. These movies are great, but they typically follow the same premise. And that’s not a bad thing at all, but the review is going to be pretty much the same for all 7 movies.

Nick and Nora Powell get drug into yet another murder mystery, with sarcasm and one liners and the consummate Clue-like ending, where all suspects are put into a room together and eventually the culprit is identified. Some say After the Thin Man is the best of the series. A minor side note: Mrs. Asta (the dog) apparently has a touch of infidelity as a litter of puppies is displayed, one puppy looks exactly like the neighbor's dog... scandalous by today’s standards, but maybe folks back then knew how to take joke. So I managed to get a movie review in anyway. Enjoy!

Good News? Bad News? Who's to Say?

I can’t help but comment on yesterday’s newspaper articles concerning our public schools. The Island Packet presented a glass half empty story, while The Bluffton Today presented a glass half full piece. Both periodicals presented the same information and yet both twisted the government data to tell their own story. What gives?

From the IP: Bad grades: Majority of county's schools post below average academic ratings on state report cards

From BT: Elementary schools close achievement gap, pull district up to average on report cards (page 8, Nov 15th edition)

You could read either report and make your own judgment call, but I have to give the nod to the IP here. Though both pieces were near vacant of named sources, the IP listed both BCSD Superintendent Truesdale and State Education Superintendent Jim Rex, while BT only quoted Truesdale and honestly came off more as a propaganda tool for the school district.

I think those requisite 5 named sources really could have made a difference here. What’s the school board got to say about these report cards? Or local government representatives? Parents, teachers, and/or principles of failing/excelling schools?

Lazy reporting only leaves me wondering.

DIY journalism anyone?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Darwin vs. Jesus Phreaks

I watched the 2 hour Nova documentary Judgment Day, Intelligent Design on Trial last night. Darwin’s theory of evolution never seems to fail at firing up the emotional pressure cooker to “nuclear”. I should start out by saying I want nothing more than for there to be more to life than the bleak, cold, scientific explanation of how we got here. I can understand how unnerving it must be for those devout in their faith to reconcile with the theory of evolution. After watching last night’s program however, I can also say, without a doubt, that the religious sect just got slam dunked so hard not even Pat Robertson’s hurricane diverting prayer power can save them.

Oh that wicked thing called knowledge, such an insensitive liberator. I’ll never look at Intelligent Design as anything more than religious whack-jobs with a religion agenda to push. The real kicker is the death threats toward the judge, parents, and teachers that only wanted to uphold the establishment clause of the Constitution. Death Threats (and lying)... How very un-Christian of them.

These are probably the same people who balk when an Islamic extremist blows something up. What’s that saying about let he without sin cast the first stone? We’re not all that far from the same level of religious fanaticism we seem to abhor.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Busy, busy, busy

The official “run around like a crazed idiot” season kicked off last weekend. Between now and Christmas the family and I have no less than 10 (probably more like 15) dinners, parties, or social gatherings to attend, host, or cook for. I’m not really sure why it’s common place to have half a dozen Thanksgiving dinners before the ACTUAL Thanksgiving. Lord knows I eat so much turkey on that day alone that I can’t stand the smell of it 11 months out of the year. By the time I get to Thanksgiving this year, I might resort to hot dogs or pizza. Ok, not really, but still I can’t help but feel the myriad of holiday inspired get-togethers, however well intentioned, take away from the official day of celebration.

It wouldn’t be polite to say anything like that out loud. Some of our friends go to great lengths to put on a spread. So I’ll hide my wincing acknowledgment of yet another holiday party behind a genuine smile and graciously accept. Being nice this year is bound to take a toll on my poor taste buds… and waistline. Let the good times roll.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Classic Film Friday: A Place in the Sun

George Eastman (Montgomery Clift) is a down and out young man looking for a leg up in life and hitchhikes his way out to work for his well to do uncle, Charles Eastman (Herbert Heyes) at his bathing suit factory. The only catch is it’s is strictly verboten to date employees. Enter Alice Tripp (Shelley Winters). The two work on the assembly line together and one thing leads to another and the inevitable happens.

Meanwhile rich Uncle Charles wants to reward George’s hard work and gives him a promotion. George starts to get a taste of the high society and the beautiful and out of reach Angela Vickers (Elizabeth Taylor), suddenly becomes attainable. Except for one minor snag… George’s extra curricular work policy violation with Alice has led to a rather sticky situation. Watch as a man starts with nothing, works himself up to more than he ever dreamed, and losses EVERYTHING. A true tragedy that every hormonal, sex crazy teenager should be made to watch.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Attendance Policies

There’s a dark undercurrent at the school district. It seems the upper-management isn’t happy with teacher absenteeism in our schools lately. I can’t say as I blame them, any day a teacher isn’t there is pretty much a day lost for the class and I understand the district has spent thousands on substitutes this year already.

So word is going round and principles are beginning to come down on teachers skipping school… except this is only going to cause discontent because teachers and staff have been allocated sick days. You can’t give something to someone and expect them not to take it. That HR approach (at least everywhere I’ve ever worked) only pisses people off, and does absolutely nothing to promote better attendance. Instead of focused instructors, we open the door to have disgruntled employees that feel they can’t use a benefit given, and that will never make test scores higher.

This really isn’t all that hard. Instead of haranguing all teachers and staff because of a few bad apples, why not make a policy that affects the most grievous offenders without giving truckloads of crap to the folks who honestly got sick (probably from so snot nosed kid) and need a day of rest? Set the bar at 2-4 absences in a 90 day period and encourage those with good attendance records with some kind of reward.

This isn’t Human Resources Rocket Science. Seriously, “more flies with sugar than vinegar” fits the situation aptly.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

We Will Rock You

Do you like the rock and roll music? Do you wish that you could pick up a guitar and jam like an old pro, yet never really had the time or fortitude to actually practice? Now you can rock like a hurricane without really knowing the first thing about music.

I picked up Guitar Hero III this weekend and I’ve already had the cops called on me twice. Ok, not really, but this game is so infectious, everybody in my house, from toddler to adult is throwing their fist in the air and banging their head.

The game is awesome. It’s loaded with great songs, most of them by the original bands (from Black Sabbath to Rage Against the Machine, and everywhere in between). It’s fun, we’re still conquering easy mode at the moment but everyone can play and hitting the notes to a great rock and roll song totally immerses you into the game by blurring the line between listening to music and being a part of it.

All of that is wonderful, and as I started writing this post, that’s all I had on my mind, until I looked up at my wife, rocking out with the guitar to “Welcome to the Jungle” and that’s when I realized how truly lucky I am. I’ve been around the block a few times and for the life of me I can’t think of another woman that would not only play a game with me, but pump her fist into the air and high kick as if she were in a Van Halen video. And that to me is simply amazing.

She’s all about flare and showmanship, spinning around and moving her hips to the beat of the music (who cares if she misses a few notes), while I’m biting my lip, almost stiff as a board trying to meticulously nail every strum to the proverbial cross. Ironically we swap roles in real life, she’s the perfect one, always by the book, patiently and persistently accomplishing what must be done, while I’m the party guy, the jokester, that guy embarrassing the lady of his life by grabbing her ass in public.

One of us always picks up where the other leaves off. In my mind we are the perfect team; similar enough to have common goals, different enough to travel different paths to achieve them. And while hearing Barracuda in a video game is incredible, watching the love of your life become a guitar god(des) beside you is just that much better. To coin a much marketed phrase around here, life is good.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Kids and Music

The other day I was perusing through my iTunes play list. I got to the newish Finger Eleven song “Paralyzer” (anything less than a decade old is new to me by the way). Anyway it’s a catchy little tune, in a rock-pop "of the now" kind of way, so I crank it up, because I’m not so old that I can’t kick out a jam or even shake what I got now and again... I’m just cool like that. About mid way through the song my eldest (and almost teenage) offspring bebops into the room and stares at me, mouth agape and utterly mortified.

She bemoaned that I’m not supposed to like that song as it is played often on what I’ve dubbed the “ghetto” radio station she listens to and that SHE likes it, which is somehow supposed to magically exclude me from ever even listening to this song, much less liking it. I don’t ever recall hearing “Paralyzer” on said “ghetto” radio station while cruising down Simmonsville in my hip minivan (complete with factory 16’s… alloys dawg), but keeping up with the new music only gets harder with age. Something about mortgage payments and work and laundry etc. pushes the importance of the latest groove hurtling down the priority ladder. Growing up sucks like that. But that doesn’t mean I don’t know a catchy tune when I hear it. The mind might be older and crustier, but the ears still work (mostly).

Anyway the song is about a man in a bar that really wants to be in a “dark lit place or your place or my place” with a woman he sees there (that’s the gist of it anyway). Not exactly what I’d like my young impressionable child to listen to, but I’ve learned long ago to pick my battles, and this one isn’t winnable. She gets to listen but she doesn’t get to participate. Know what I mean?

But I do have more influence over my emerging independent tweenage child than even she would like to admit. I’ve caught her in my ELO stash, and she’ll never admit it, but she even knows all the words too. Here’s hoping she listens to more than just dad’s not so funky-fresh “antique” music collection.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Non Classic Film Friday, or... Adventures in YouTube)

I have no film for this Friday, sorry, but I did post a classic film review two days ago. You can check it out here.

The new Snickers "FEAST" ad campaign has me rolling. It's not often that a commercial gets that kind of rise out of me, but this one in particular is hysterical.

And through the magic of the internet and the prevalence of Amazon-ish "if you like this, you'll love ____" I came across this:

Which then led to this:

And finally this:

Behold the power of the internet!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

My Case Against No Child Left Behind

A report was released recently that reveals all but 7 schools in Beaufort County are not meeting federally mandated adequate yearly progress. In fact the report mentions that many schools in the state and even the country didn’t meet AYP.

What the hell?

Since NCLB’s inception professional educators have been warning that the program sets unrealistic goals that are impossible to meet. But those people were generally scoffed at as being too liberal or defeatists, meanwhile schools continue to focus on the bottom of the barrel (NCLB’s Achilles’ heel) sinking ever scarce resources into a segment doomed to fail no matter how much money is thrown at them.

You’ll notice that many schools not meeting AYP missed it because one particular ethnic or socio-economic group failed a certain criteria. Next year more money, more time, and more energy will be devoted to these chronically failing kids and since all of these resources are finite, that much more is taken away from the “regular” kids.

Self-serve education anyone?

No Child Left Behind is tunnel-vision at its worst, but saying that doesn’t let our schools off the hook in my opinion. Room for improvement abounds even in our overcrowded classrooms. There's a lot of dead weight within the district and it needs to be jettisoned ASAP. In fact I'd go so far to say if you got rid of the slackers, bumped up teacher pay a bit, and brought in some new (more qualified, motivated, and/or mission driven) blood, you'd likely see across the board improvement, even amongst the usual low performing suspects.

That's not to take the onus away from parents either. But you can't control the uncontrollable. Manage it? Maybe... Minimize it? Perhaps. The environment a child comes from will always be an X factor for educators.

We have to start somewhere, but NCLB isn't the answer. Not only is No Child Left Behind "feel good" rhetoric that'll never fulfill the promises it makes, it gives lazy parents an easy excuse to defer blame when their kids fail and that's a losing situation for schools, teachers, and kids.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Classic Film Friday (Special Halloween Edition): The Haunting

Ok boys and girls, this is (to me anyway) the mother of all haunted house movies.

Dr. Markway (Richard Johnson) aspires to scientifically prove the existence of paranormal activity. To accomplish this he enlists the aid of people who have had prior experience with the supernatural to explore what is regarded to be the VERY haunted Hill House. Only 2 applicants are brave/dumb enough to meet him there, Eleanor (Julie Harris) a socially repressed loaner that has spent her entire adult life caring for her bed ridden mother and outspoken clairvoyant Theo (Claire Bloom). They are joined by devil may care, silver spoon progeny, Luke (Russ Tamblyn), who is next in line to inherit the Hill House.

And the ghosts show up almost immediately thereafter.

It doesn’t use special effects or gore or much of anything really, except a voracious appetite for the fear of the unknown. And it is incredibly effective. In The Haunting, it’s what you don’t see that’s really scary.

The Haunting is playing on TCM tonight at 6pm.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Beaufort County Newspaper Report Cards

Have you ever read the newspaper and felt cheated? How does one verifiably identify the quality of their local news sources? Does a litmus test exist, with measurable standards, that can help us make sense of it all?

The answer? YES.
is a website authored by journalists concerned about the lack of ethics in journalism. This website was instrumental in helping me put numbers to perceived bad reporting. Here's how it works.

Each news story is graded on the following 3 standards.

1. Core Stories vs. Peripheral Stories

Core stories include – government, natural disasters, education, crime, health, environment, science/technology, major fires/accidents/emergencies, weather, social issues, consumer reporting, and the military

Peripheral stories include – Sports, celebrities, minor fires/accidents, human interest pieces, and others not fitting any of the above categories

Core stories are worth more than peripheral stories. 2 points are awarded for a core story, 1 for peripheral.

2. Knowledge Impact

High Impact vs. Low Impact

High impact translates to how many people does the subject effect? A lost dog story might emotionally impact many readers, but it doesn’t affect their daily lives, while a tax increase or a natural disaster will likely affect many people for an extended period of time.

High knowledge impact stories receive 3 points, low impact stories get nothing. Sometimes the impact is hard to determine, these articles will receive 1.5 points

3. Named Sources

The standard requirement for newsprint is 5 named sources. Named sources help the reader distinguish the importance of information given and also help identify possible biases. More sources help present diverse viewpoints, thus giving a better overall view of the subject at hand.

5 named sources receive 2 points; failure to meet this requirement earns no points.

The highest possible score an article can earn is a 7 (lowest would be a 1). Article scores are added up and then divided by the number articles written to give a average score. Grades are as follows.

A = 5.5 - 7
B = 4.5 - 5.4
C = 3.5 - 4.4
D = 2.5 - 3.4
F = less than 2.5

So far all standards are in accordance with guidelines. I changed a few aspects to better relate to this community. Because I don’t have time or resources to grade every article (and if I did all papers would get F’s) I only graded the first 4 stories (or less if enough stories were not available) and I only graded local stories. All national/world type stories written by AP writers were ignored. If a national subject is involved in local life (i.e. Rudy Guliani’s visit to Bluffton) then it is included.

I wanted to get an accurate feel of local newspaper performance and to do this I took a sample of random days over the period of 3 months. I did this in an effort to account for slow or “off” news days. The process wasn’t perfect, but I’d make the argument that it was fair. The grades are as follows:

Island Packet: Average Score 3.72, Lowest Score: 3.1, Highest Score: 4.75
Grade – C

Bluffton Today: Average Score 2.79, Lowest Score 1.0, Highest Score 4.33
Grade – D

As a side note, both papers produced 1 story each that scored a 7. This proves that staff/resources/gumption exists at both organizations to meet a higher standard.

This entry probably won't make me any friends in the bullpens of the IP or BT, but my hope is that if we demand better, more responsible news reporting, or at least know how to recognize when we don't see it, news agencies will make the extra effort to do the right thing. Feel free to contact either the Island Packet and/or the Bluffton Today and ask them how they feel about responsible journalism, I'm sure they look forward to hearing from you.

Sex Sells... Again & Again

Nothing gets the emotionalism pressure cooker up to full steam like adolescent sex. The national fervor over a Maine middle school passing out birth control pills has everybody’s panties in a collective wad.

First off, I’d like to go on record as saying THIS IS NOT NEWS. Well, it is news, along the same lines as Brittney’s exposed cooter or the latest update in Hollywood rehab/divorce court/adoption service is news. What this issue lacks in celebrity it makes up for in scandalous supposition. 11 year olds having sex?!? Oh my!!!

Nope, still not news.

That said, I think the school board and the school nurse made the right call. Offering birth control isn’t going to make kids go out and have sex. If it does, your parental skills (or the decision making ability you taught your kids) should be called into question more so than the offering of contraceptives. But of course the way the reports play out over the TV make it sound like a school sponsored orgy and that scares people. Never mind the fact that if you’ve guided your children throughout their lives and helped them understand what is considered appropriate behavior according to your values that this hubbub about birth control would be nothing more than a blip on the social radar... free, non-parental solicited birth control equals a school full of horn dogs having gratuitous sex anywhere and everywhere.

I have a middle school aged child and as she gets older I realize my control over her is waning. It is scary and I don’t like it, but sticking my head in the sand and pretending sex doesn’t exist isn’t an effective plan of attack against teen pregnancy. Did the school in Maine take a nanny-government stance in its drive to offer birth control to middle school aged girls? Without a doubt, YES. But if everyone was living the prim and proper life they all like to pretend they are living, the birth control thing would be a moot point now wouldn’t it? I’d go so far as to applaud the girls who seek out birth control from the school or health department, at least they’ve demonstrated better life choice skills than their parents who chose to avoid the issue altogether.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

How About a Fake News Conference?

As if media outlets making up the news wasn’t bad enough, who can you trust when the government plays both sides of the field? For those that don’t know, FEMA orchestrated its own fake news conference in relation to the wild fires in California. Since no actual news agencies were available (mainly because it gave such short notice) FEMA staffers played the roll of interviewers.

Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff promised “appropriate disciplinary action”. I hope that includes canning the brazen idiot who thought he was smarter than the rest of the world. Let’s bump our collective bullshit alert system up to fuchsia.

Just don’t depend on the inconsistent news organizations to help you stay informed.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

See you next Fall

Ever have one of those moments in time that last mere fractions of a second yet seem like an eternity? It’s funny how the perception of time changes relative to the situation at hand.

I was taking off my pants, in the process of getting ready for bed, when a baby toy (stuffed animal or something, probably “Elmo”) jumped right out in front of me and caused me to lose my balance. Had I simply just let the inevitable happen... that being the eminent busting of ass... well it simply wouldn’t have been nearly as entertaining would it? So as I’m flailing around practicing cartwheels with my pants just below the knees, I found all kinds of time to consider my options. Falling down however did not make the short list.

It felt like enough time passed by that I could have prepared my tax return, completed next year’s Christmas list, or even accessed the local newspaper’s website. But in actuality, there was barely enough time for my wife to gasp (and then hysterically laugh once she saw I survived) as I crashed into the floor sans my dignity.

They say that 15 minutes of laugher a day provides a great health benefit (from weight loss to a healthier heart). I got those 15 minutes off to a rip-roaring start tonight, without even trying. Ironic isn’t it that the said 15-minutes of laughter appear to come and go so quickly and yet the half a second of shear terror and mortification plod along for an eternity.

Thankfully a good laugh is worth a 1,000 embarrassing moments (and vice versa) at my house. And we’ll be reliving this one for years (and years) to come. I don’t recall anything on the “Elmo” packaging stating fall/trip danger or heart attack inducing giggle hazard, but I’m not complaining.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Classic Film Friday: 13 Ghosts

I picked this 1960 classic movie in honor of Halloween. The destitute Zorba family finds themselves penniless and without so much as a chair to sit on. Young Buck makes a birthday wish to live in a house with furniture, and suddenly a stranger shows up at the door with a summons from a lawyer. Little did the Zorbas know that Buck’s wish was about to come true, and then some.

It seems long lost uncle Zorba, a ghost collector of sorts, off and died and left them a house, furniture and all. And ghosts, 12 of them to be exact, the 13th to be added by the end of the movie. Who could it be? I’ll never tell.

This isn’t anything at all like today’s version of a horror movie. Margaret Hamilton (THE Wicked Witch of the West) makes an ongoing cameo appearance as house caretaker and spirit medium Elaine. The cheese factor is sky high in some parts, and in others the primitive special effects leave something to be desired. But it is fun, especially during Halloween. And you probably won’t even have to sleep with the lights on after you’ve seen it.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Adventures in Parenting

Some folks might think I’m just a curmudgeon to anything nice. Well believe it or not I actually have a job, pay bills, love my wife and kids, heck I even cook dinner on occasion. For all intents and purposes I’m basically human, just like you (most of you anyway). Here’s proof:

The other night a downbeat trend began at my house. It seems that before and right up the time my wife puts our toddler to bed everything is great. In fact there’s a bit of a regimen involved. Go upstairs, take a bath, read a few bedtime stories, perhaps a lullaby or two, and finally off to bed. Happy times all the way around. Up until a few days ago this routine has worked flawlessly.

Now at the point our darling youngest child’s head hits the pillow, there’s bellowing and crying and lots and lots of “mommmmmy’s” and “ut-oh’s” (the little one’s method of communicating something’s amiss). I might not be an old pro, but this dang sure aint my first rodeo. What we have here is a classic case of “mommy attention seeking” syndrome. The first couple of nights we attributed said child’s clinginess to illness (common daycare crud, teething, ear infection etc.) but as the problem turned into a nightly pattern we had some hard decisions to make.

At first we just let her cry it out. 10 minutes, 15 minutes, even 30 minutes… this kid has the stamina to go the distance. Finally, just before my wife prepares to make that guilt ridden journey of no return, I opt for a preemptive strike. I walk up to our little one’s room and open the door. There she waits with arms outstretched, tears rolling down her cheek, and a snot river flowing out of her nose... the pity-guilt-sad puppy dog machine is in full effect. It’s hard to NOT pick her up, but I know my sanity and my marriage depends on my ability to curb this behavior. I clean her face up, pet her on the head, and tell her it’s time to go to sleep. She grumpily lies down. I cover her with a blanket, tell her “I love you” and “ni-night” and close the door. And she goes to sleep. Just like that.

We’ve been on this new routine now for 3 days. I’m not particularly fond of it, especially the snotty nosed screaming part, but what’s a parent to do?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Nothing Hurts More Than Saying Goodbye

Years and years ago, when I was a naive teenager that was just one day graduated from high school, I was bound and determined to start my life in the military as quickly as possible. I had my entire life planned out. Obtain training and work experience in the military, get married, have kids, get out of the service and find a good job back home, live happily ever after, THE END. Quaint wasn't it?

On the day the recruiter came to my house to drive me down to the MEPS station (where you are processed and sworn in) the veracity of my decision to leave home suddenly rabbit punched me in the stomach. It was like the first day of kindergarten all over again. Except this time there was no “see you after school” as the implications were much more permanent. I spent many sad, lonely nights in my bunk questioning the prudence of that decision. The letters from home telling me how proud they were and remembering “the plan” gave me strength, at least enough to get by.

Reality is prone to not sticking with anyone’s plans, especially those of a silly teenage man child. But who has the ability to see that far ahead at any age? I did join the service and obtain that training and work experience. I even got married (twice!) and had kids, and got out of the service and found a great job (several even) but I never, no matter how hard I tried, found my way home. Oh sure I’d visit, but your hometown and the friends and family you left behind just doesn’t feel the same anymore. Going home now almost instantaneously turns into a circus of dinners, visitations, logistical juggling nightmares... and stress.

I haven’t been home in over a year, so I never really thought much about it because my daily life usually preoccupies my time. But today I drove my mom, who was in town for a brief visit, back to the airport and just as we said our goodbyes that twang in my chest and the feeling of sad resignation washed over me all over again, just like it did that day first day I said goodbye and every other time since. This day was no different. I hate that feeling. And of course after the fact, when it’s too late, I always think of something I’d like to have said or done. Just one more “I love you” or hug goodbye seems so easy, but completely impossible from afar.

To make matters worse, each visit marks that much more time passed by. We all grow older, and it forces me to wonder not only WHEN I’ll see my loved ones again, but IF I’ll ever see my loved ones again. When I was younger I was scared of how I’d make it through life without them, now I worry about how they will make it without me to help them. Worry-free living is a farce.

Nope, life sure didn’t turn out anything at all like I planned it. And all these years later I’d have thought that saying goodbye would be easier. It never did get any easier for me, I’m just better at hiding the pain.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

TGI3rd Friday

Though the weather forecast predicted 90% chance of rain yesterday (of which I only received a droplet, as in one) I decided to take my chances and make my way down to Calhoun for 3rd Friday festivities. I really want to support local businesses and I can’t really think of a better Friday evening than strolling around and taking in some live music and cold adult beverage refreshment but, I can’t see how the current format is sustainable.

Why do I say this?

Because I simply cannot afford to buy anything out of the shops the event is being held for. I like walking around perusing, but clearly I’m not in the segment these places are marketing to (me being middle class family with kids). I hope TGI3rdF or some other kind of regular free music venue remains as I think it does nothing but enhance the cultural aspect of Bluffton, but the organizers might want to consider a new location or bringing in a more diverse group of vendors (and price points) if they want to attract more than just the filthy rich, retired sector.

Still the family and I had a great time moseying around, taking in the music, but other than a few glasses of wine, they’re not making any of me. Sorry `bout that. Hope ya’ll don’t mind...

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Real Life Friday Funny

Most times, truth really is stranger (or funnier) than fiction. I was at the gas station this morning filling up, which in and of itself is an exercise in masochism. There I was, jockeying for a spot between day laborers, construction contractors, and lawn service folks, singing the song from Sesame Street...

One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn't belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?

That would be me, by the way. But that’s ok, I’m used to it.

So as I’m settling up with the station pump and fumbling around with the gas cap I overhear three black men laughing and carrying on as they walk back to their truck. Just before they get in the vehicle one of them says,

“She was too old for R. Kelly, but she was too young for me.”

I’ll admit it... that was pretty damn funny.

Classic Film Friday: The Invisible Man

In this 1933 James Whale adaptation of H.G. Wells classic novel, Claude Rains plays Dr. Jack Griffin, a scientist who takes his experiments too far and turns himself into the Invisible Man. The only problem (other than being invisible) is the chemicals used to make him invisible also drive him mad. He becomes psychotic to the point that he instills a reign of terror over the populace, killing hundreds.

The movie features groundbreaking (for its time) special effects, especially when one considers that this was made almost 75 years ago. The Invisible man is a bit short (only 71 minutes) but it makes for a great warm up for Halloween or a double feature.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Case for Smelling the Roses

I work around life and death. Almost everyday there’s a new tragedy, death, birth, or simple moment in time that changes someone’s life forever. With so many of these kinds of situations unfolding in front of me, it’s easy to take things for granted.

I found myself walking along side two co-workers. One is an older woman in the twilight of her working career, far from her 1st rodeo, defining her as “well seasoned” would be an understatement. The other is a younger woman, closer to her high school graduation than that point we all reach when the bartender or checkout clerk doesn’t bother to ask for ID anymore.

The younger woman was frustrated with the stress of her day and eventually blurted out “I can’t wait for this day to be over” and trudged away. The older woman looked over at me and said, “When you get to be my age, you learn to like the wait”.

That one sentence hit me like sledgehammer. Life really is entirely too brief to shortchange ourselves. There are many ways the younger woman could have made her situation better. Hopefully she’ll figure it all out before she runs out of days to rush through.

Here’s to making the most of your day...

School Briefs

I’ve been pretty busy (still am) and I haven’t had time to properly update in depth, but I did want to at least briefly mention what’s happening in and around the schoolhouse.

Capacity Argument Continues

The district tried to break their high dollar consultant, Kelley Carey, but came up empty handed (sort of). The school district was looking to justify the $35 million dollar North Area High School project (A.K.A. Whale Branch High) by saying the consultant’s capacity numbers were overestimated. The Carey didn’t back down from his original position, but he still says the district needs to spend $200 million.

New Classrooms Open for business

Okatie Elementary added a new wing and bumps its capacity from 550 to 700. Current enrollment is 805. Redrawing of attendance zones remains off of the table.

On a Lighter Note

Last Saturday teachers attended the 2nd installment of the master naturalist program. I’ve mentioned this before but this pilot program is offered by the LCI and gives area educators firsthand knowledge about ecosystems found in the Lowcountry so that it can be passed down to their students.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Bluffton Beer & Brat Fest

I realize there was a big animal rescue event today, but honestly, I'm over it. I'm not against them or what they want to achieve, but I have a life and part of that life is charity, but I don't make charity my entire life. So I didn't save a puppy today... oh well.

That said, the family and I took some time out to travel down to Calhoun St. and check the Beer & Brat Festival this evening. There was all kinds of German beer available (for about $4 a bottle) along with German food and live music to boot. The $10 cover charge was steep and I was a bit miffed by how expensive the event was... until the B-Town Playaz ripped out "Hot Potato"... and then I realized it was worth every penny.

The Good: Live Music and gorgeous weather

The Bad: Expensive everything, $10 for plastic cup seems excessive

The Ugly: In 6 days you can do what cost $10 a head for free at TGI3rdF

Still, the music was great and the beer was cold, which makes for a good time no matter how you slice it.

For those who don't know who/what "Hot Potato" is all about, I give you...

The Wiggles

Friday, October 12, 2007

Want to Hear a Pathetic Story?

There was a party recently at McCraken Middle School. It was a reward to kids who participated in the Summer Readers' initiative. Want to guess how many kids were eligible to attend said party? According to my sources, about 12-13… out of what? Maybe 1000 kids? Of the dozen or so that were eligible NONE were in the 8th grade, 2 were in the 7th grade, and the remainder were in the 6th grade.

That is what most people call a TREND and not a very good one at that. Reading throughout a long summer break exercises kids’ vocabulary and helps them hone everything from reading comprehension and context cues, to grammar and spelling, not to mention expand the horizons of young minds.

The books cost nothing if you simply check them out from the public library, all that’s really needed is the time (and gas) to take your kids to the library and the gumption to make sure they read the book. It’s really not that hard, but when you consider how many kids failed to read over the summer, you’d think it was damn near impossible.

Classic Film Friday: You Can’t Take it With You

Unenthusiastic Vice President of his father’s company, Tony Kirby (Jimmy Stewart) falls in love with his secretary, Alice Sycamore (Jean Arthur). Which is nothing earth shattering, but thus begins the dual plotline that sets moral epiphanies throughout. It just so happens that Tony’s father A.P. Kirby (Edward Arnold) is about to create a monopoly (in the munitions business of all things) and to do so he needs to buy off Alice’s grandfather, Grandpa Vanderhof (Lionel Barrymore) to do so. The problem is Grandpa isn’t selling, no matter what the price.

In fact Grandpa is a bit of an eccentric and on top of that he encourages people to quit doing things they hate, and start doing what they love. This leads to a house full of weirdos doing all manner of things from dancing or writing, to constructing their own fireworks. When the snobs from Kirby meet the kooks from Vanderhof the sparks really fly and by the end of the movie, everyone winds up in jail.

This Frank Capra directed movie was made in 1938 and many of the premises it tackles are applicable to today’s world. I will say there seems to be a bit of a communism bent to the film, but the movie goes out of its way to dissuade anyone from practicing anything with an “ism” attached to it. You Can’t Take it With You is a parable in its own way, but it will also make you laugh... hard. If you’re not smiling by the time the credits roll at the end you might need to check yourself for a pulse.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Wednesday Ramblings

Gosh it’s hot. It certainly doesn’t feel very “Octobery” outside. Still, I find solace in Summer’s reprieve. While I do look forward to cooler weather, there’s something about swimming other outdoor activities in a time when others areas are supposed to be bundling up. It’s one of those “love it or loathe it” deals. 4 seasons would be nice, but I’ll take 80 degrees and a sunny day at the beach... if I must.

I’ve come to the conclusion that big media isn’t satisfied until they’ve completely removed your every reason to live. Scary must sell great. Between the housing market (that scares the bejesus out of me personally) or terrorism, or global warming, or hurricanes, or god forbid, the presidential race... we’re all scared of something. There’s a lot to be said for being blissfully ignorant.

With the coming holidays (even though the weather isn't exactly cooperating) I start to think about get-togethers with family and friends and that of course requires food. I admit to being a bit of a Food Network Junkie, mostly because my "crap tolerance" pegs out within 2-3 minutes on most other shows. Somehow watching other people cook is more tolerable to me. Anyway of all the shows on the Food Network, Good Eats is the one I like the most. Alton Brown mixes entertainment with pertinent information like no other and his knowledge and presentation make me more apt to try his recipes (which have all been great so far). At least they aren't trying to scare me on the cooking shows... yet.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Norah Jones

I know she’s been overplayed in every grocery store and elevator the world over, but Norah Jones has more talent in her little finger than most bands have in the their collective bodies. I had the chance to watch her performance on Austin City Limits last night and her show only solidifies my opinion. Folk, Jazz, Blues, Country, hell she could probably front a Heavy Metal band if she really wanted to. She sings, plays the piano and guitar, writes her own music and she’s fairly easy to look at too.

No fake dubbed over lip syncing, no pyro or anything else really. Just real, honest, soul touching music. If you missed the performance last night, look for it to repeat some time in the future. Simply amazing. The following clip isn't from ACL, but it does give a great representation of her abilities in a live setting.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

For Sale?

If this story doesn’t scare the living shit out of you, then nothing will. One could easily fill in the name of several Bluffton area developments/neighborhoods with the one in the article. I’m trying not to lose any sleep over this as I feel I’m relatively safe (key word being relatively), but honestly the real estate/new home construction market is just about the only game in town. How this area will survive is beyond me, but then again everybody has got to live somewhere. I wonder if banks are considering getting into the home rental business.

And yet they keep building new homes here…

Friday, October 5, 2007

Classic Film Friday: Calendar Girls

This is yet another fairly new movie (technically not a classic), but it’s one that merits a review here. I guess I’m just a sucker for the inspirational movie based on a true story genre.

When Annie (Julie Walters) Clarke’s husband John (John Alderton) dies with cancer, her oldest and dearest friend Chris (Helen Mirren) comes up with an idea to raise money to buy a new sofa for the waiting room of the local hospital in his name by producing a calendar complete with nude pictures of them and their Women’s Institute friends. Scandalous as that sounds it also happens that these women are no younger than 50 and most of them are otherwise modest, socially conservative “church ladies”.

These innocent women seek to bring attention to a greater cause by publicly sacrificing their modesty, privacy, and morals by baring it all in the name of charity. The journey they take from small town Knapely, Yorkshire doldrums to million dollar Hollywood celebrity is inspiring and humorous all at the same time. The story hits close to home for any that have witnessed the torturous embrace of cancer, but it also shows how real beauty comes from within. John Clarke himself says "The flowers of Yorkshire are like the women of Yorkshire. Every stage of their growth has its own beauty, but the last phase is always the most glorious.”

The clip below shows the women seeking a photographer with the right qualifications, artistic talent, and will to help them accomplish their project. Easier said than done…

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

School District to Tackle Obesity

I just so happened to catch some of the school board meeting tonight. There’s not a whole lot going on, but one thing that stood out to me was the new health initiative the district is looking at implementing. I don’t have specifics or links as this is a real-time deal, but the gist of the presentation (that played like a broken record 3 times…I love it when that multi-million dollar technology they use makes them look like a 3rd world country) was that many kids are obese and the school district is going to tackle the problem through education, limiting bad food choices, and increased exercise. Sounds good right? Not so fast. Some of it made sense, most of it was downright laughable (like placing the responsibility on vendors like Sodexho to teach nutrition).

Here’s the problem, a lot of kids are fat, but honestly it’s not JUST the school that’s making them this way. Forcing teachers to implement and document some 15-20 minutes of extra exercise a day (rubric and all) isn’t going to erase that bag of Doritos and zombification sessions in front of the TV for hours on end once these kids get home. What this will do is put an even higher workload on teachers, who already have more than enough ineffective paperwork to chase and it will take away from academic instruction time.

This is nothing more than a “feel good” program that will not effectively curb adolescent obesity, but it’ll give those folks up top something to pat their own backs about.

Here We Go Again

New boss, new plans, same problem. It seems the construction of the new Red Cedar Elementary School is over budget by a paltry $3 million and behind schedule (look for it around 2010). So what happened?

Well you’d think with the passage of an “Emergency Referendum” complete with special election that the folks in charge would have moved diligently but in fact they screwed up the design by not accommodating for enough kids and they pussyfooted around finding adequate land to build on (land they already had elsewhere, but anyway). So an emergency building up since 2005, culminates into a possible solution by 2010. Remember the 2000 referendum for a high school in the northern part of the county has yet to break ground (and really isn’t even wanted by the majority of the county now).

Exactly how does someone screw up the design of a school in an area literally bursting at the seams? Easy… there was always a second school in the plan. The district rigged the game so people will feel they have no other choice but to vote for yet another school, and better yet, they can add a smorgasbord of related items to the “urgently needed” school referendum to bilk the tax payers out of millions of dollars, and thus take care of family and friends for years to come with sweetheart contracts, not to mention crony admin jobs at the new schools once built.

Meanwhile schools in surrounding areas have plenty of empty seats. Adjusting the attendance zones county wide would be the most psychologically painful, yet most financially responsible decision we could make. Yes it would mean “tearing” kids away from their friends and exposing them to a different environment, but we are already a transient community. Look around, how many of your neighbors are still around that were there when you 1st moved to town? Better yet, how many of us have “moved up” because of a real estate windfall in the area? One more move isn’t going to kill our kids, but it could very well save us a considerable tax burden, not to mention cut the travel time to and from school. There is no better charity than the altruism in taking care of your own.

Adjusting attendance zones means alleviation from overcrowded schools, shorter bus rides, and lower taxes by minimizing the need for new construction... all for the children.

Monday, October 1, 2007


The government oppression in Burma is disheartening. I don’t like the fact that our president has used this as a political distraction from the problems his policies have created elsewhere in the world, but I can’t think of a regime more despotic than that of Burma/Myanmar.

Seeing the images of protesting monks and the accounts of ruthless beatings (and murders) by the police on those who are simply voicing their opinion is worlds away from anything we’ll ever have to go through. It forces me to wonder if we could ever overcome the brutality of a crushing military state. Our liberty fosters our own apathy. I doubt very seriously that many of us would have the gumption to rise up if we found ourselves under a totalitarian ruler’s thumb.

My heart pours out to these people, who are willing to die for their freedom. Which is more than I can say about the intentions of the public we interact with through our nation building activities in other countries. Then again countries like neighboring China or India could do more, but seem satisfied to just to rub salt in the wound. Big business is more than willing to exploit the situation there. Just another reminder that human rights are a luxury most other places don't enjoy.

Click here if you're interested in learning more about the United States Campaign for Burma.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The War

There’s a 6-part documentary running on PBS called “The War”. It’s simply incredible. It takes the accounts of World War 2, both overseas and here at home, and puts an insightful, human face with what usually winds up being nothing more than high patriotism and casualty numbers or weaponry stats.

The most amazing part of this documentary is the way the veterans talk about feeling like expendable cannon fodder or their own mock bravery, unabashedly. I’ve served in the military and even went overseas (but I’ve never been deployed during a conflict) and I can’t help but feel like the military has always had this way of inflating the troops with high emotionalism and/or false pretenses, right before it does something that would to the normal person seem insane (i.e. charge into battle with guns ablaze, running 5 miles or more up steep hills with a boat on your shoulders, push-ups, etc.). That’s not to take away from the acts of bravery those people accomplished in face of adversity. I’ve always supported our military, but I’m not above questioning or critiquing the policy makers jockeying from the desk that get our men and women killed, especially since they don't personally suffer from the mistakes they've made.

Anyway my point was that you don’t have to be a military or history buff to appreciate this documentary. It portrays the sobering reality of death in what most considered a “good fight”, while pointing out that war and everything it embodies, especially the suffering, is timeless. War is a terrible thing. We should honor those who are willing to pay such a high price to preserve our way of life and yet seek every possible avenue to avoid putting them in such a perilous position ever again.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Classic Film Friday: Kiss Me, Stupid

This movie is a free love 60’s style rendition of The Gift of the Magi. Ray Walston plays Orville Spooner, an insanely jealous and distrusting (yet conniving) piano instructor/song writer that will go to almost any length to sell stranded Vegas celebrity Dino (Dean Martin) his tunes. Knowing what a “player” Dino is, Orville concocts a scheme to run his wife out of the house for the night and have the local prostitute Polly (Kim Novak) play his wife in her place. He hopes to use his surrogate “wife” as leverage, in essence pimping her for guaranteed royalties from the big time entertainer.

The movie is loaded with Dean Martin shtick, Director Billy Wilder comedy and an inconceivable ending that is uncomfortable at first, but winds up being the only way everyone involved can come to terms. As the movie trailer suggests, this one’s for adults only.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

My Case for Universal Healthcare

President Bush is threatening to veto a congressional spending bill that would increase the number of children eligible for State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

This is more than ironic if one takes into account that our president is adamant about rescuing our nation’s children from educational demise (No Child Left Behind), yet could care less if they receive adequate healthcare. Get smart, just don’t get sick... get it? Equally ironic (and hypocritical) is the fact that the president seems to have no problem letting the public foot the bill for his own medical coverage, yet is dead set against government involvement in healthcare for the rest of the country.

Consider that every government employee, from our military to paper pushers working for the IRS, is on some form or another of government healthcare. So government style, “socialized” medicine sucks for the everyday citizen but it’s perfectly fine for the military men and women who put their lives in harm’s way regularly (not to mention the Prez himself)? I’m not advocating “giving away the farm”, quite honestly I believe that the drains on society are already getting their “free”, universal healthcare or non. There’s got to be a better option than what we have now, as we taxpayers are funding indigent care claims and tax write-offs for non-payment anyway.

I’m a staunch supporter of capitalism, but it is impossible to quantify or monetize access to medical treatment. Adequate healthcare is a public good along the same lines as public safety, transportation, and education. That doesn't automatically make firemen, police officers, or teachers "Comrades". For that matter, the most popular universal healthcare plans don’t involve the government taking ownership of the delivery of medical care at all (the true definition of socialism). The key phrase is “single-payer”, not “socialized” care and private hospitals already bend over backwards to get that Medicare/Medicaid money, which is a de facto government funded single-payer enterprise (and nobody calls grandpa a commie for being on Medicare either).

To punch even more holes in “socialist medicine” mythology, you’d have to be in complete denial or extremely lucky to discount the myriad of hoops and rigmarole private insurers compel customers to negotiate in order to receive anything above an everyday regular doctor visit. The argument that service would be bogged down by bureaucracy holds no weight when care is already stymied by greedy insurance companies and their traffic-jamming, non-payment and/or pre-authorization requirement tactics, forcing individuals into a paperwork backlog that makes government pen pushers look like overachieving models of efficiency.

Lets not forget the federal government is already in the insurance business. How many of you socialist commie bastards are on the Fed’s Kool-Aid FEMA Flood Insurance Program? Hands? Who in their right mind could afford it any other way? Do we really need a Katrina-like catastrophe in the healthcare sector in order to see a real change?

Citizens shouldn’t face bankruptcy from a medical malady or postponement/neglect of vital medical treatment for purely financial reasons. There are a lot of ways our government wastes money, and without doubt, there’s room for collusion in healthcare. But is there a more noble or just cause for public funds than caring for the sick amongst us? I’m sure there’s more than one way to address this issue (and I personally invite all comers to an open discussion), but we can’t afford to stick our collective heads in the sand any longer. The only people left who fail to realize the dilemma in our healthcare system simply haven’t been victimized by it... yet.

Monday, September 24, 2007

More Monday Ramblings

What a weekend. Ok, not really. Most of my weekend was spent attending to a sick child and/or running in-between raindrops. I had every intention of going to TGI3F, especially since it was to be the last performance of Amos Hummell's "In Living Color" show, but sick kids and crappy weather plotted against me. Saturday I managed to be somewhat productive (between sick kid naps) and painted our old wine rack to match our new dining room furniture (flat black). Sunday was dedicated to gathering up groceries during fever-free periods sponsored by Motrin cocktails. Sounds exciting don’t it? Well we can’t all have the James Bond lifestyle can we?

Moving on…

Watching the news is nothing more than an endurance test crafted to analyze one’s tolerance level for stupidity. I’m good for maybe 5 minutes (including commercials). Print news isn’t much better. After reading some of his stories, I question whether one local reporter graduated middle school, or even realizes the concept of using facts to support a story, instead of just making it up as you go or inserting completely non-related facts into a story for no apparent reason. I’m not calling names, yet, but the fact that such poorly written stories ever see the light of day speaks volumes for much more than just one reporter. There is a project I’m working on to effectively and fairly address this issue, but I’m still going over the semantics (doing it right is better than doing it fast).

But Enough of That…

The first installment of the LowCountry Institute's Master Naturalist workshop for teachers took place over the weekend. A friend of mine emailed some pictures (along with an account of the class) and I must say I’ve already learned a few things I didn’t know about the area including the abundance and diversity of living organisms in our waters (periwinkle snails, sea squirts, and ghost shrimp... oh my!).

Speaking of education…

Today begins year-round calendar intersession. Hopefully this extra help over the next two weeks will give under performing kids the help they need to improve their academic standing.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Classic Film Friday: Casablanca

I had reservations about reviewing this movie. For one thing it’s impossible to get away from the high-cliché factor (the song "As Time Goes By" is a tad bit overplayed) and the fact that it’s probably one of the best known/most loved classics of all time. I’m more into reviewing movies a little less known (and equally deserving), but because of yet another Netflix movie mix-up it was the only movie available this week (unless of course you want to know about Samurai Cop, which is probably the worst movie ever made… bad movies are a guilty pleasure of mine).

This is a good movie; especially considering it was made while the Second World War was in progress. The seedy desert town of Casablanca on the French occupied North African coast is the final stop for many European refugees seeking passage to Lisbon and freedom from Nazi rule. Government officials operate on bribes and political favors and leave their morals at home (as does everyone else there) before they start the day.

Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) runs a bar/gambling hall there and is renowned for his unemotional, strictly business transactions. He has built up his profitable operation by taking care of government officials and making money off of refugees. That is until lost love Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) comes back into his life. She left him in Paris for no apparent reason just as the Germans moved in to occupy the city and they were to escape together. She hasn’t seen him since, but now she’s accompanied by her husband and underground resistance leader, Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid). Rick painfully discovers she was married to Victor when they met in Paris (he was in a concentration camp and believed dead) and now Rick is torn between the contempt of love lost and a greater cause.

The strength of this film lies in the actors effectively portraying the story being told. I tend to harp on this more than I should, but there are no advanced special effects, no excessive violence, and no gratuitous sex scenes… yet the movie is interesting and still relevant, some 60+ years later. The film makes it on the story and the multifaceted relationships between the characters throughout. It’s one of those movies you just gotta’ see at least once, so here’s looking at you kid.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Latest Weather Forecast: 100% Chance of High Drama

I got a phone call from my mother last night, and it was rather frantic. She is due to fly out here to see us next week and all she could talk about was the status of the tropics and the oncoming hurricane. Puzzled, because I didn’t realize there was any such development, my deductive reasoning kicked in. I asked, “Mom, are you watching the weather channel?” She admitted that she was. With a sigh and phone in hand I logged on to to see if I could make any sense out the latest hubbub Jim Cantore is spewing in order to terrorize the naive amongst us (again). I found there was NOTHING. Well there was a small “disturbance” of the coast of Florida, but it is far south of us and is predicted to travel west, not north. I didn’t even bother to turn on the TV, what’s the point?

Ah yes the Weather Channel, the same respected cable network that pollutes our brain cells with garbage like "Tornado Week" and "Storm Stories." The Weather Channel is yet another “news” entity looking to profit from info-taining the public (i.e. scaring the bejesus out of little old ladies) rather than unbiased and yes sometimes BORINGLY reporting actual events. It’s a shame it can’t just rain anymore, sans the dramatic music, flashy graphics, and consummate video footage of stormy destruction.

Make no bones about it, TWC wouldn’t broadcast this crap if people weren’t watching it. Like rubberneckers at the scene of an accident we simply can’t tear our eyes away from imminent carnage. This link from Scientific American tries to explain our obsession with weather and its destructive power. Heck I even considered putting a weather widget on this site (and still might!) but by in large I’ve already tuned out the high drama weather coverage. If only I could convince my mother to do the same...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Well, through the process of trial and error (mostly error) I’ve spruced the place up a bit. You’ll notice the title header and picture has changed. I’ve also changed the layout and added some things on the side bar. One of which I’m most interested in is the Cbox. This lets anyone drop a comment, be it to stroke my ego a bit or tell me what an idiot I am… without actually logging in to a given service and is totally anonymous. Well, as anonymous as your IP address anyway. Hopefully those that visit will utilize this newfangled bit of technology. Don’t be shy. I put it there for a reason.

And feed my fish while you’re at it.

Anyway please excuse the mess, I’m probably hovering around a 2nd Grade... make that pre-kindergarten HTML reading level and it will take a while before I get it all the way it should be. More to come...

Monday, September 17, 2007

Monday Ramblings

There’s not much in the way of (real) news going on today.

Well there is the whole school capacity debacle and some very astute blogger input on the issue, but that’s more of the same, and for today at least I really don’t have the energy to properly address it. Check out the links if you have time or gumption and decide for yourself.

Football season is cranking up and the NASCAR circuit is winding down, none of the teams I pull for have done much of anything, so I find myself pining about next year already. About the only thing good going on in respect to my old stomping grounds is Brett Farve has seemingly caught on fire. Too bad he’s not playing for a different team... or that Kiln Mississippi doesn’t have one of it’s own. **sigh** Maybe next year.

It’s mid-September and just a few days ago I smacked my forehead and cried, “a month with an R in it!” This means oysters (do they really still follow that rule?) and how I love me some fresh oysters. Around these parts you can obtain fresh out of the water, locally harvested oysters at very affordable prices.

Local + Cheap = Happy!

Everybody wins in this deal, so go get yourself a bushel or three, fire up the grill (or eat them raw, I like `em either way) and devour all the oysters you can, because they aren’t only good, but good for you and good for the local oystermen who pull them out of the pluff mud too. This is pretty much as good as it gets when it comes to fresh seafood around here. I wholeheartedly encourage anyone within driving distance to take advantage of this unique local resource.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Non-Breaking News Flash: War Takes Forever

I hate to ruin the mood of Classic Film Friday and I swear I’m really not politically active but, after taking in the morning salvo of “news”, which is a subjective term at best, I find myself more than a little pissed off. George Bush (who gets no love from my house, just so you know) declared yesterday that we’d be in Iraq for a while.

How is this news?

Any idiot could have told you when we invaded Iraq that we would be there far beyond the terms limits of our current president. In fact there’s only one country that we’ve engaged in a military conflict (either for the sake of invasion or liberation) that we don’t currently maintain a military presence in… that being Vietnam. The one we lost. The Korean War took place over 50 years ago and World War 2 some 60-odd years ago and the United States maintains military personnel throughout Europe and Asia. We’ve been in Kuwait since The 1st Persian Gulf conflict and will probably still be there 50 years from today.

War is a messy, monotonous, and very painful process. Which is why it shouldn’t be waged with bad information or the full realization of what the consequences entail. Yes I’m angry about the fact that many of our troops have been killed and maimed in what seems to be a fruitless war, but that’s not the point. My point is the fact that the president admitted that roughly 100,000 troops will remain in Iraq for years to come is not news. And the politicos standing upon the altar preaching the sermon of Bush’s atrocity take us all for fools. Seriously, people are dying everyday over there, come up with something better than “let’s go home”.

Even if Mr. “It Was Wrong to Ever Invade Iraq” Barack Obama (and I happen to believe he’s right) were sworn in as president this morning, we’d still be stuck in the deserts of the Middle East for years to come. The debate about whether or not we should have waged war on Iraq has expired. It’s time to look at viable ways to get the hell out of there without creating another Saddam or bin Laden and somehow foster an environment non-conducive to America hating jihadists with a death wish and an explosives hobby.

And oh yeah, it’s time for news people to stop trying to invent or embellish the news and simply report it. Personally I believe we’ll be out of Iraq (and on to some other war) long before that happens.

Classic Film Friday: The Apartment

The Apartment is tale of C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) and how he trades the use of his apartment to superiors so that they can have sleazy trysts outside of their marriages in exchange for political favors. On his way up the corporate ladder Baxter falls for elevator operator Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine). The only problem is she happens to be the mistress of his boss.

There’s an all-star supporting cast in Ray Walston and Fred MacMurray, but it catches one off guard to see such familiar faces, (Walston on My Favorite Martian and MacMurray on My 3 Sons) entering into such sordid situations.

Baxter essentially makes a deal with the devil, constantly selling out his morals for a better position in the company, but each advance only makes him that much more miserable. Will he find happiness, love, and job security with no morale compass? Watch The Apartment and find out.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Iraq Pose-Off

Before I go on, I want to reiterate that this is really not a political blog. Seriously. Not. Political.

Listening to the radio during lunch yesterday, I heard a live feed of the congressional hearing on the “surge” in Iraq and the related benchmarks and what I thought was supposed to be a question/answer session with General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker. I say “thought” because there was actually very little “questioning” taking place. It seems the hearing was really nothing more than an opportunity for senators to get whatever is bothering them off their chests. The 5-minute long soliloquies coming from both the right and left, only gave me that sinking feeling about our legislative branch of government. Needless to say there was plenty being said, but not a whole lot of listening going on.

That’s not to say I support the war or immediate withdrawal, because on this particular issue, I’m torn. But the posturing and overly obvious baited questions have solidified my view that the people in government are only looking out for one thing, and it’s not the public interest or our troops or even something as inconsequential as oh, let’s say… The Constitution. These people would all sell their grandmother to a salt mine operator if it would get them re-elected.

Meanwhile the results of this hearing give everybody involved plenty to go home and talk about and none of it will produce anything meaningful. The left seems content to sit in the position of complaining without doing anything and the right is just trying to not get caught with their pants down in an airport men’s room (amongst other things). Everyone is scrambling to say whatever it takes to keep their job. So much for civic virtue...

Monday, September 10, 2007

Photo Illustrations on TV

To those who might not know, a photo illustration is a photograph that has been somehow altered, usually to help to support a story or help convey an idea. It’s important to remember the ratio (and believability) of “photo” to “illustration” varies wildly with each particular case, but ultimately the piece is never anything more than a work of art, emphatically not a factual representation of anything. That said, photographic illustrations bother me. I’m not against the practice completely but when they are used to depict an idea or story as true there’s potential for crossing a line. Take the infamous fake hurricane photo illustration for instance.

Ok so we’ve been here already what’s this about TV?

I’ve noticed a common practice in TV sports coverage (NFL and NASCAR in particular) where a representation of a giant screen is used to give the appearance that a humongous video screen lives atop the stadium. These resemble large screens found at many sporting arenas, except they are quite a bit larger (perhaps 10-fold), and the engineering required to make something like this a reality would be astronomical. ESPN even makes the screen fold out as if it were the convertible top on an automobile. These pretend screens are almost always used when cutting to or from a commercial and (to me anyway) give the impression that the stadium experience is much more technologically advanced than reality would prove.

So what’s the big deal?

I can only answer that by saying nothing in sports is supposed to be “enhanced” or “altered”. Why then do we need a visual lie to somehow improve the viewing experience of an inherently “real” event? Also consider that these jumbo screen illustrations are so good, more than one person I know has asked “is that real?” I searched for the actual depictions I mentioned but came up empty handed. Perhaps this means nobody else notices or even cares. But I say if they’re willing to go through so much trouble to fool you here, who’s to say they aren’t lying to you about something else... oops, maybe they already did.