Sunday, August 29, 2010


Yes, we live in a lethal, violent age. But have you noticed the exponential increase going on in "skinning"?

Initially, it was done for protection, supposedly for the betterment of the species. But now, it's out of hand!

Everywhere you look, someone is selling "skins"--iPod skins, blackberry skins, laptop skins, cellphone skins! You begin to realize it's as bad as when exotic hunting went wild in the late 19th century (until endangered species laws took hold). Why, I just passed a table on the street with cellphone skins just lying there, so many that they were practically giving them away, they'd created so many! And the skins being traded on the Internet run into the hundreds of thousands--daily! Soon, they'll be just for decoration--like zebra rugs or wall-mounted antlers!

Please, people! These mini electronic devices were born as our friends, for the betterment of society. They mean us no harm. True, if allowed to grow at their current rate, they will overrun the population--people will stop actual live communication as they retreat into an electronic, "virtual" world, obsessed with the latest tweet, text message, or (gulp!) blog. Teens and even fully-grown adults will become so addicted that they cannot put their text devices down for two seconds to give their full attention to those in the room! (Thumb injuries will skyrocket, as will surgeries to repair them--not too mention increased eye damage and "crow's feet" from all the squinting!) But to skin these creatures makes no sense at all and is just plain cruel! The number of silicone particles destroyed alone could feel an entire nation of computer chips!

Have a heart people--stop the thoughtless skinning of defenseless electronic devices! (What, they're not thoughtless? You mean they're using me . . . RIGHT NOW? . . . Quickly, I must alert the

Saturday, August 28, 2010


It always strikes me as ironic that the flag wavers who want to return the country to its "glory days" seem to ignore the very tenets the country was founded upon--freedom of speech, freedom of religion, creating a haven for those fleeing oppression, everyone getting a fair chance. These are the very reasons the forefathers built America. The tea party wants less government, yet complains there's no oversight. They want their own rights protected--but not the rights of others. They talk of Christian values, family values, yet their platform denies help to those less fortunate. They want their stocks, their homes, their jobs and bonuses protected, but see no value in laws or efforts to protect the rights of all--apparently, there is only so much to go around and they want what they deem their share, even if it means that others go without. We are slipping to 12th in the world in terms of college graduation rates, yet this nation cuts back on education constantly: on cultural education, on languages, arts and music--and then they wonder why we're doing so poorly in our test scores! The Tea Party wants to repeal the health care bill when we are the only "civilized" country that does not think it's a government's duty, a society's duty, to take care of all citizens in need. They support the profiling laws of Arizona and are trying to repeal a law fundamental to our founding--that those who are born in America no matter what the circumstances are Americans. Glenn Beck trumpets religious values, yet pushes a selfish and self-centered agenda. Socialism is used as a fear-mongering tactic, while Capitalism is pushed as a God-given right--even though the greed of the past decade that flourished through capitalistic indulgence has brought our economy to wrack and ruin. Any system has its imperfections, to be sure, but somehow, Beck and Palin seem to demonize anything that doesn't give them personal free rein, usually at the expense of others. Co-opting religious and high-road rhetoric is the name of their game. (They even feel entitled to trample on Martin Luther King's historic day for their own political gain.) But in the end, it is scoundrel time.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010


Being boring has never been popular, to be sure. Brevity is the sole of wit.

Lately, however, it seems that the number of words is of more concern than the quality of the words, the richness of thought. There is no patience for a real exchange of ideas. Being short-spoken is valued over accurately or flavorfully getting a point across. No one has time to talk something through, and intelligent, respectful difference of opinion is dismissed as a waste of time. It seems far more important to find out about Heidi’s divorce from Spencer than to discuss education, drilling for natural gas and oil, healthcare, the economy, art. (Why talk in person at all when we can text each other?)

Surely, there has always been a need to streamline. But the tendency to go for the shortest answer can be short-sided, and worse, lacking in imagination. Don’t ask people to explain themselves. Don’t ask people to read. Don’t ask people to be creative, and for God’s sake DON’T challenge them to do something they think they don’t want to do, even if they don’t know what it is. The resistance to stretching one’s imagination has become the American anathema. We have forgotten how to listen.

Celebrity was never intended to be an art form unto itself and is different than pop culture. PEOPLE magazine, though diverting, should never replace great literature in our society. This is not an unfair swipe at PEOPLE—it was never intended as art. It is mental potato chips, pop corn, a snack for the brain—but it is no substitution for a truly great and nutritious “meal.” Right now, our cultural and educational systems are fostering mental anorexia.

The problem is most prominent in our classrooms. Instead of bringing our youth into adult discussions, we seem to be content reducing our concerns to the lowest common denominator. Attempts to get kids to stretch their minds (taking more patience and time) are discouraged, and if kids whine, fearful of not meeting the task and therefore refusing to do it, we capitulate immediately and stop the activity. We calm them down to stop their whining—which I guess makes it easier for the adults. More time is spent on “classroom management,” finding ways to keep students controlled, docile—usually at the expense of igniting their imaginations, creativity and energy. Certainly, disruption and harmful behavior should be nipped in the bud, and rudeness should never be tolerated. But recognizing where the excitement and noise comes from is essential. It is crucial that children develop the ability to articulate their ideas, their emotions, and their dreams. And for educators, recognizing when the fear of being laughed at is causing a kid to manipulate them into expulsion from the classroom is a skill that must be developed. Kids will say “I’m bored” at the drop of a hat, if they think it will get them out of something they are resisting, especially expressing themselves. If we only let kids explore that which they choose to know, we do them a disservice, for they simply don’t know what they don’t know. They will be managed, perhaps, but they will not be creative individuals.

And national test scores will continue to decline. Those boring old teachers, who used to make us read, write in detail, explain and explore our thoughts? How come American education scores were higher and success stories more prevalent in their generation? It seems the more modern curriculum is streamlined by our latest educational gurus, the worse our education crisis deepens and the more vapid our culture grows. It’s time to start listening again, perhaps most importantly, to what is NOT being said.