Friday, August 31, 2007

Classic Film Friday: Rabbit Proof Fence

This movie isn’t a classic yet, but after watching it, I’m confident that it will be. As citizens of the United States we often tend to believe that we invented oppression. Rabbit Proof Fence proves that subjugation can crop up anywhere, even in the desolate Australian Outback.

The film is a dramatic retelling of a true story about 3 “half-caste” aborigine girls in 1930’s Australia. In that time, aborigines were considered wards of the state. And if you believe the premise of the movie (it is the subject of controversy) the government wanted to eradicate the cultural divide between white settlers and aborigines via assimilation …or essentially to get rid of aborigines altogether.

Since he girls were of mixed race, or “half-caste”, they were under the authority of the government. The state extricated the girls from their mother’s custody and delivered them to an orphanage some 1200 miles away so that they may be assimilated into the white culture.

Molly, the oldest girl, decides to run away and bring her younger sister and cousin with her. The rest of the movie is spent portraying the agonizing and seemingly hopeless journey they made trying to find their way home.

This is one of those movies that lingers in your mind for days after seeing it. There is irony in the fence, an inherently non-native apparition of the landscape, and how the girls use it as a navigation tool that would have otherwise made the trip impossible. Rabbit Proof Fence is a (near classic) tale of heroism that rises above the barbarous mentality of the past. Through great tragedy and despair comes a story of empowerment. If you like Rabbit Proof Fence, you should also enjoy Whale Rider, Water, and/or Children of Heaven.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Drowning in a Sea of Negativity

Over the past few days I’ve been perusing local blogs on the Postscripts Big Blogroll. It’s quite the cornucopia of ideas, pictures, opinions, and information. I ran across a few that were rather scathing and reading those scornful blogs forced me to reflect upon myself. The last thing I want to do is come across as some kind of mindless naysayer filled with so much venom and disdain that I give the impression of a lock jawed, paranoid, close-minded antagonist stuck in only one frame of mind. This is not what I want to accomplish. Nope, not at all.

But I’m not prepared to plow my head into the sand and pretend everything is just fine either. So how does one straddle the fine line? Seriously, it’s really hard to not appear overly negative, just as it’s equally difficult to not come across excessively positive. Moderation is the key right? Easier said than done, but I’m going to try. This isn’t going to be a place that will only point out what is wrong, it will celebrate, promote, and encourage those who are doing right too.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Citizen Journalist, Social Revolutionary, or Pool Pooper?

You know when newspapers started offering online “blogs” I envisioned “citizen journalism” as being a catalyst for newspapers to take an online lead and run with it to fruition. They plow the field and provide water and sunlight (along with the occasional weed removal) while the public provided content is the seed that will eventually grow into that harvest-able news piece.

Sounds like a good deal right? The “blogger” gets the satisfaction of his/her particular issue receiving exposure and the paper gets another data source from which to mine news stories. But it hasn’t worked out that way. At all.

In fact the juiciest, most titillating or scandalous tidbits pointing toward government corruption or incompetence, openly and thoroughly discussed online, got little if any exposure in print. One can only guess as to why. The paper has limited resources, concerns about alienating advertisers, or the editors simply have their own agenda to push... take your pick. But something has been happening via “citizen journalism” in Beaufort County, just not as I would have ever expected it.

When the school district decided to have a mandatory countywide meeting, forcing all employees to travel at their own expense from one end of the county to the other, all it took was a slight stir of the pot and suddenly buses were provided. When it came to light that a certain school was almost completely devoid of updated teacher websites, within about a week of open discussion online and out of the blue contact information and teacher bios started popping up on the school’s website.

So while the citizen journalist might have been woefully ineffective at getting newspaper reporters to pick up the torch and shine it brightly on the injustices of the world, bloggers can take at least a small amount of solace in realizing that sometimes, even if the issue is rather small, they can make a difference by speaking out. Sure you’ll leave yourself wide open to public ridicule and character attacks. And it probably won’t win you any popularity contests, but the public awareness gig has always been a thankless job, no matter what the medium. The internet and public web logs are becoming more intertwined with everyday life and has made it that much easier for an ordinary John Q. Public to become a rabid watchdog. It’s time everyone took notice.

Who’s next?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Teachers to Learn About Area Ecology

My detractors out there (millions and millions of you) think I’m a sniveling complainer that is unable to say anything positive about anything. Admittedly my posts do tend to be on the negative side, but it is hard to remain positive when you find so many things wrong. Anyway I’d like to take the opportunity to step aside from the vigilance for a moment and mention something good, or rather “fluffy” about local education.

The LowCountry Institute has offered (free of charge) workshops to 40 educators within Beaufort County that will introduce them to various natural habitats found in our area. These workshops should enable teachers to cover environmental topics in the classroom as they relate to our surroundings. The classes will be held one Saturday per month beginning in September and runs through until May.

The classes include:

Marine Life and Geology of Port Royal Sound Intertidal Habitats @ Fish Creek Park & Pinckney National Wildlife Refuge

Ecology of Freshwater Habitats @ Spring Island

Barrier Island Ecology @ Hunting Island State Park

Longleaf Pine Ecology @ Webb Wildlife Center

Nemours Plantation @ Combahee River

Bear Island & Donnelly Wildlife Management Area
Ecology of Sea Islands @ Spring Island

Ecology of the Savannah River Floodplain

Old Growth Cypress Trees @ Beidler Forest

This isn’t exactly book math or social studies type stuff, but simply knowing more about our local habitats and spreading that knowledge is an important step in conserving our limited resources. Teachers will be giving up one Saturday a month for a period of 8 months to attend. A big thanks to the LowCountry Institute and the educators who committed to donating their time to help keep South Carolina’s natural habitats pristine.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Check This Out

I just wanted to give a shout out to Postscripts, a website affiliated with the Post and Courier out of Charleston. If you want to expand you horizons and see what other people in the lowcountry are blogging about, check their Big Blogroll. The site offers "one stop shopping" for REAL (and local) blogs.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Classic Film Friday: Some Like It Hot

Considering the time it was made, Some Like It Hot has got be one of the more risqué movies of its day. Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon play two hard luck musicians who are forced to cross-dress their way out of Prohibition Era Chicago in order to avoid getting “rubbed out” by the mob. The reason they have turned into transvestites is they cannot find work as men, but land a job in a women’s band traveling to Florida by rail. On the train they meet singer Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe).

Staying in drag, “Daphne” (Lemmon) garners the attention of a rather over zealous millionaire while “Josephine” (Curtis) attracts the affection of the bell boy. Joe (Curtis…again) steals some men’s clothes and glasses, because Sugar loves a man in glasses, and contrives a scheme to make Sugar fall for him. Our two cross-dressing comedians then formulate a plan to trick Daphne’s millionaire admirer out of his yacht while Joe leads Sugar into believing she’s finally scored the big money boyfriend of her dreams. All of these shenanigans quickly come to a screeching halt when the Chicago mob shows up (what a coincidence) at the same hotel the band is playing.

There’s plenty of laughs from Curtis and Lemmon and plenty of eye candy in Monroe. The movie also features Monroe’s classic “I wanna be loved by you”. And if all that wasn’t enough, the last 10 seconds of the movie delivers one of the biggest punch lines to ever come out of Hollywood.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Still Wondering Why South Carolina Schools Rank Near the Bottom?

According to this article: Thousands of students miss 1st day of school.

Everyone all together now. W T F?!?!

I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, if parents can’t drive the importance of education into these thickheaded kids, their educational careers are already doomed.

Meanwhile, closer to home, my daughter has completed 3 days of middle school and has yet to receive a single textbook. So essentially she could have skipped the 1st (and 2nd and 3rd)
day of school and not missed anything at all. It’s not hard to connect the dots here and the picture doesn’t look good.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Year Round School Calendar on the Chopping Block (again)

Rumor has it that year round school in Beaufort County has one foot in the grave, the other on a banana peel. What a shame. I know there’s information out there that might suggest year round is too costly, or rather that running two separate calendars is wasteful. But I’m not convinced. And even if it were true, I would equate the minor cost difference (if any) as an investment worth paying. The improved performance at our year round schools justify keeping them intact, especially when area demographics (like a high population of ESOL and Free/Reduced lunch kids) and strong parental support are taken into consideration.

But new leadership likes to keep everything the same, as shown in the ill planned district wide (mandatory) pep rally. It was so important to force every BCSD employee to be at the same place at the same time that traffic jams, capacity issues, and parking tickets were mere inconsequential annoyances, because we’re all in this together. It’s difficult to wrap one’s mind around this outlook of “all the same for everyone” because the district up until this point has never had any consistency whatsoever. It’s not hard to agree with individual clusters conforming to uniformity, but forcing the same rule set found in Hilton Head on working class Bluffton or impoverished areas north, seems close-minded at best.

Schools are linked in that the elementary school prepares for middle school that prepares for high school. But exactly why would a high school teacher care one way or the other about what’s going on at a neighboring elementary school or another high school on the other side of the county? As long as those younger kids are receiving the proper groundwork to prepare them for the step up to high school, it doesn’t and it shouldn’t matter, nor is it within the scope of high school teachers’ control anyway. My point is that while coming together as a district might make people feel good, it has no effect (other than to institute the Gestapo mentality) on individual schools. How are 2 elementary schools 30 miles apart going to pull each other up, simply by instituting the same practices at both schools? It won’t. It can’t.

That’s not to say there aren’t some innovative ideas or resources that could be shared, but chances are, this is already happening anyway. Meanwhile we continue a policy of being penny-wise and pound-foolish. Ask any year round teacher if they’d give up a computer if it meant they could retain the year round schedule, suddenly you’d have piles of computers at your doorstep. Yet the district enacted a $3 million dollar computer purchase program (per year at this point) and we might (MIGHT) save some money by unifying the calendar, but that number in and of itself is a major bone of contention.

The latest version of superintendent isn't worried about the money. She’s concerned about unifying the district, even if it costs academic performance. So here we’ll be, sinking in the same boat together. Isn’t that lovely?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Hold onto you Wallets Beaufort County

The school district is set to ask for $200 million more. Never mind that when they asked for $120 million in 2000, nothing got built. Never mind that the $43 million “emergency” construction referendum of 2006 has not even broken ground yet, we need to fork over another couple hundred million.

Forget that most of the schools in the northern part of the county are under capacity. The school district is the addict and the good intentioned (for the kids) folks of Beaufort County are the enablers. I’m confident that voter turnout in a special election (that will cost the taxpayer even more) will deliver the extra cash. I’m unsure that we’ll see any of these new schools built anytime soon. In fact all projects are now over budget.

Oh did I mention the one school board member, the only one that seemed to have any integrity or common sense... resigned? Why? Because the rest of the incompetent board members called off an internal audit. An audit shown to implicate high ranking school district people were either very friendly or directly related with contractors holding multimillion dollar contracts.

Voter apathy is very expensive around here. Tell the addicts you're not going to support their addiction anymore. Vote no.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Classic Film Friday: My Fair Lady

Ok, I admit it, I completely screwed up my Netflix cue and really didn’t have a classic movie to review this week. However My Fair Lady is a perennial favorite of mine that everyone should see at least once. The story (an adaptation of Pygmalion) is a true rags to riches or ugly duckling epic. Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn) is an impoverished flower girl that struggles to make ends meet while daydreaming of a better life.

Enter Professor Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison), a pompous, egotistical, and arrogant language/phonics professor. Eliza realizes that education is her only ticket out of poverty and enters into an agreement with Higgins along with Colonel Hugh Pickering (Wilfrid Hyde-White) to turn her into a “lady”. Of course she is a fish out of water and blunders her way through lessons but with Higgins cruel tenacity and Eliza’s own brand of stubbornness, she eventually meets her goal.

Meanwhile Eliza’s miscreant-deadbeat father Alfred Doolittle (Stanley Holloway) makes an appearance for nothing more than to cash in at his daughter’s expense. Needless to say being the unapologetic drunkard, Alfred is the movie’s comic relief and social critic.

The movie outlines a woman’s struggle to get the credit she deserves and even after she achieves the seemingly impossible, her efforts go unrecognized. The movie is endearing (to me) because it pokes fun at words and shows how common sense is just as important as anything one might learn from a book. My Fair Lady’s musical numbers are memorable, the cinematography is award winning, and Hepburn’s eloquence shines throughout.

Through the magic of YouTube, I give you a day at the races:

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What’s wrong with our schools

Let’s be brutally honest for a moment. The state of affairs in our education system... sucks. There’s no better or nicer way to put it. We suck. The easiest thing to do from here would be to blame the government, all the way from Federal initiatives like No Child Left Behind to local school board idiocy... there’s plenty of (rightfully earned) fault to pass around.

Blame is fun and all but it rarely does anything other than implicate the source of conflict; it doesn’t fix anything. How can we fix the long list of deficiencies in our schools? Look in the mirror. Until we can reflect and point our collective finger squarely at ourselves, revamping our education system is a crapshoot at best, a complete waste of time at worst. We owe it to society (and ourselves) to send our kids to school ready, willing, and able to learn, and that is just not happening. The devaluation of education is staggering.

I originally broached this subject in September of 2006, but the story remains the same today. We live in a society that coddles the lazy and rewards the undeserving. We are blessed to be so fortunate as to suffer from this dilemma, but looking back at this documentary forces me to believe that if we had to deal with the conditions that the rest of the world faces, we’d have “potty trained” society’s underachievers long ago.

Make no mistake, our system is broken and it needs to be fixed, but by in large the repairs will mean nothing if we don’t get our kids ready.

My 4-step plan for improvement:

1. Change the culture that aspires to fantasy celebrity instead of hard work (i.e. musicians, athletes, or anyone else glamorizing a something for nothing/easy money mentality)

2. Put educators back in charge of education (not political cronies or tap dancers... real, qualified, credentialed educators with experience and results to show for it).

3. Make our elected officials accountable for their decisions and somehow insure that those folks making multimillion-dollar decisions are doing so with accurate, unbiased information (this goes for new school construction, capital purchases, or anything else really).

4. Hold parents responsible for their children’s failure. This means enacting a plan for success with the student, the parents, the teachers, and the school, outlining each party’s responsibility and the consequences involved when a particular duty isn’t completed.

Parents, it’s time to do your homework.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

An Update to Yesterday’s Post Concerning Local Seafood

A friend of mine recently contacted the South Carolina Seafood Alliance and passed along some additional pertinent info that deserves public exposure. The most shocking is that 83% of the seafood we eat, comes from waters not our own. Not only are we missing out on local and fresh “taste”, we’re contributing to the downfall of our local seafood industry by not supporting it.

State House Bill H 3028. If enacted it will provide for punishment to those that misrepresent the identity of food or food product that is served. Call or write your representative and tell them food origination and integrity is important to you.

Here’s a link to The SC Aquarium’s Sustainable Seafood Initiative. This is another organization that seeks to promote good business practices while promoting a healthy environment for local businesses and wildlife. Look for the restaurant list that identifies local establishments who support sustainable local seafood.

The South Carolina Seafood Alliance (SCSA) is working with the South Carolina Department of Agriculture to certify sellers of local seafood and have them display the new "SC Brand." Look for this label as a sign of assurance for a quality local food product.


Just because a business claims to support local seafood doesn't mean you can shop or order without worry. I noticed a local eatery on the "good restaurant" list and yet their menu is almost completely devoid of any local fair. As always, buyer beware.

Monday, August 13, 2007

South Carolina's Dirty Little Secret.

Fresh local seafood (with the exception of oysters and maybe some shrimp) is a farce in South Carolina. The way the state regulates commercial fishing and game fish designators makes it nearly impossible to obtain fresh locally harvested seafood, unless of course, you go out and pull it from the water yourself. In fact, the majority of “fresh seafood” one would find at a market here is of the same quality (and origination) that one would find in say Kansas City or Denver… which is to say, from foreign waters (farmed or otherwise) from a delivery truck, empirically not a local fisherman’s net.

If you’ve been to any of the higher priced establishments around Beaufort County you’ve probably noticed fancy wording for otherwise ordinary fish. This is not just for the air of sophistication; it likely has a lot to do with the fact that the ordinary (aka local) version of the very same fish is not available commercially. Case in point: An area restaurant sells “Dorado” (for almost $30 a plate). Dorado is the South American import version of Dolphin fish or mahi-mahi (all are the same fish by the way). 30 bucks for some frozen South American fish? How fresh is that?

Some restaurants claim to “specialize in fresh local seafood” but that’s a far cry from guaranteeing the locality (maybe one dish on the menu entails local oysters or shrimp) and is misleading at best. At any rate most seafood restaurants are banking on customers assuming that since they are located close to the water, therefore must have fresh and/or local seafood… which in actuality is not the case at all.

That’s not to say the area is devoid of tasty seafood fair, but my point is just because you’re this close to the water doesn’t mean you’re getting fish from that same water, which is a damn shame.

There’s a glimmer of hope. The backlash from cheap Chinese imports has caused outright bans and brought prominence to quality local shrimp.

It’s time we demand better. Make informed food choices and assume nothing. Ask for local seafood from your food server or fishmonger.

For more info checkout the South Carolina seafood Alliance.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Classic Film Friday: Neptune's Daughter

Here’s a story about a man, a woman, and a bathing suit. No kidding. I must admit I saw the preview for this movie on TCM and knew I would miss it so I Netflixed it instead. Neptune’s Daughter takes us all the way back to 1949, and boy were sexist and racist stereotypes all the rage back then. There’s the black maid, and the simple minded Latino (who I swear sounds EXACTLY like Speedy Gonzales) and of course the hope that a girl, above all else, will find a husband.

The story pairs workaholic swimsuit designer (and model) Eve Barrett (Esther Williams) with Polo star/playboy José O'Rourke (Ricardo Montalban). Eve’s dingbat sister Betty (Betty Garrett) accidentally knocks out masseur and bonafide loser with the ladies Jack Spratt (Red Skelton) while predatorily seeking a Latin polo player, which she then mistakes Jack for Jose, because you know they could practically be twins.

The two couples struggle through all kinds of sticky situations because of the mistaken identity and somehow figure it out before it’s too late.

This is definitely a period piece and it might not be the best in the synchronized swimming genre, but there’s singing and dancing and swimsuits galore! The extras on the DVD include a short film detailing some pretty hairy water stunts and a deleted scene with Betty Garrett singing “I Want My Money Back”.

Here's a clip to "wet" your appetite.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Note to Banks, Mortgage Brokers, etc.

This whole mortgage debacle has got me nervous. Not so much for fears about my own home loan, but more related to how this might affect my ability to sell my house if needed and/or the risk it poses to my neighborhood. I hear stories of whole communities becoming ghost towns and even those who have great credit and manageable house payments are financially ruined because of so many foreclosures all around them.

Maybe I’m completely naive or maybe I’m simply overstating the obvious but isn’t the solution to the home loan rut to just back off on the insane ARM monthly increases? What good does it do for a mortgage company to own a bunch of houses that won’t sell because the area is depressed from their own predatory lending practices? Instead of trying to milk people for unattainable amounts of money, wouldn’t it make sense for these loan companies to simply let whatever deal they had before ride or at least only bump up the loan payment slightly? It sure beats having nothing, but again, I’m not a mortgage guy.

Up until these 2 year ARM loans got to the “meltdown” stage people have been paying their mortgages and otherwise been model citizens, but even somebody with stellar credit isn’t going to try to keep up with $200-300 increases every month. I know the onus is on the person who signed up for these ridiculous loans, but perhaps a reality check could save all of us a lot of pain and suffering. Sure you might not make as much money as originally planned, but it beats sitting next to the people you foreclosed on in bankruptcy court.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Random Thoughts

I’ve been busy. Well not so busy that I haven’t been able to get online, but busy enough that I haven’t been able to formulate my thoughts concisely enough to warrant a full-fledged post.

County School
Board Meeting:

I only caught the back half but a few things came up worth mentioning.

Smart boards are good. I’m a big fan of the technology, but I wonder how/why it costs just over $1,000 per room for installation. I’m not talking about purchase price, because the units have already been procured. I’m referring to mounting the projector and wiring the unit to a computer/ providing electrical power. Over a grand per room, to the tune of 86,000 (and change) for 72 units seems a bit much. Not millions and millions like other projects, but still…

Fred Washington, the board chair seems hell-bent on getting out early. I’ve no doubt that those folks work hard and would like to get home to the family, but incessantly telling everyone to be brief only seems to cheapen the efforts of anyone who actually bothered to show up and make a comment/present a report. If it’s important enough to be brought up at the school board meeting, the only openly public meeting related to our schools most citizens have the opportunity to get exposed to, is it asking to much to demand more than the Cliff notes?

Moving on... It’s hot.

Miserable hot. The wife keeps mentioning something about Satan and buttocks creases. Anyway, many an air conditioning system is having trouble keeping up with the demand of the heat outside. I almost became a heat casualty over the weekend while working in the yard. The key is not over doing it, and as much as it pains me to say it and I’m not that old, but I’m not as young as I used to be. The bones and joints and tolerance to temperature extremes just aint what it used to be.

While organizing my Ipod play list…

I rediscovered the Black Eyed Peas. The band’s panache certainly isn’t for everyone, but their commercial success and the retooling of their songs by corporate America means they must have gotten something right. There’s just enough ghetto vernacular to make the Black Eyed Peas adult only fun, but they ride the line just enough so as to not seem juvenile. Regardless the licks are catchy, in fact they’re damn near infectious. I call it a guilty pleasure that only our free society can provide. Everybody get stoopit’ just not in the school board meeting (unless only briefly) or in the direct heat of the day. Just sayin…

Friday, August 3, 2007

Classic Film Friday: Kiss Me, Kate

I’m not setting this in stone, but I’m going to at least attempt to post a classic movie review once a week, thereby creating Classic Film Friday. Sounds catchy doesn’t it? Today’s pick is Kiss Me, Kate. This is a 1953 silver screen version of the Tony Award winning Broadway musical inspired by Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew.

The movie stars Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel who play a divorced couple that really want to get back together but have a breakdown in the middle of their on stage performance (a show inside of a show as it were). The only thing that keeps the show together are two mobsters with a case of intentional mistaken identity.

It’s everything you want from musical; singing, dancing (some really great performances here, especially by Ann Miller and Carol Haney), a bit of comedy, and spanking. Yes I said spanking… what’s not to love?

Wednesday, August 1, 2007


I took a trip recently that included a short stay in our nation’s capital. The kind of money one needs to throw around to have a good time, much less simply survive is astronomically out of whack with a majority of the county. An annual salary of $50,000 in South Carolina (good money by most respects) would have to be at least $65,000 + in DC. It’s so expensive to live (or visit) our nation’s capital it’s not hard to understand how our politicians (most of them anyway) cannot relate or connect with the everyday “normal” person.

Some are better than others at SAYING they know our trials, but seriously those cats are so far removed from our everyday life, can any of us realistically expect an elected official to keep the proper perspective (especially in a world of “favors” and money wielding lobbyists) while living in a completely different world away from home? As far removed as that sounds, I’m willing to bet NONE of them even remotely understand what is taking place in a war zone.

I’m fairly certain a senator or congressman has never had to budget groceries or fore-go a 401k payroll deduction to make the mortgage… much less life on food stamps. What drives the disconnect even wider is the sense that organizations… PACs, unions, corporations, people with money are the only ones in the politicos’ ear. It’s gone so far as to trickle down into pop culture. John Mayer’s (a great artist BTW, especially in the Trio format) Waiting for the World to Change is catchy vanilla pop, with a dark undertone of reality.

This isn’t exactly 'Anarchy in USA' type fair. John Mayer, while extremely talented, isn’t known for political prowess. But the song underlines a common cynicism among younger voters that isn’t going away any time soon. Add to that newspapers and other media that have proven to be less than trustworthy and it quickly turns into a quandary of doubt, which only exacerbates the disconnect.

Which brings me back to DC (sorta). Of all the American heroes out there, I admire Thomas Jefferson the most. It’s hard for me to believe this man ever suffered from a lack of perception. Below are some of his quotes that are well served to us all... even some 200 odd years later.

“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”

“Advertisements contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper.”

Educate and inform the whole mass of the people... They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.”