Saturday, December 1, 2007

A Privileged View Into Hering's Head

His latest bloviation is on the decline of reading in America.

Whenever I see this from him, I get wary:

But then I got to wondering...

Turns out Hasso just thinks that if we read the books he finds interesting, all will be well with American readers:

...I’m now rereading the Aubrey-Maturin novels by the late Patrick O’Brian, which someone once described as the best historical novels ever written.

Full of wit and vivid characters, written in elegant yet frugal English, with never an unnecessary word, they are the kind of books that keep the reader up late into the night.

More books like that, and reading in America might rebound.

I really wish Hering would realize that other people behave in different ways, and when Hering writes about himself he's obviously not describing anywhere near the majority of people in the way he seems to assume.

In other words: Hering's life is not universally applicable to the rest of us. Someone should tell him so.

Rick Alexander, Boy Wonder

Via LT, I see this DH story regarding Chris Fisher being served a summons as part of Alexander's (or should I say Meadowbrooks'?) latest court shenangigans.

Fisher gets upset, calling on Alexander to resign.

(Side note: I think Alexander picked Fisher for two reasons: One, that Rick is actually afraid of Sprenger; and two, that he thought this would piss Chris off and hamper his ability to function. I hope Fisher doesn't allow the latter to happen.)

Alexander says this in response:

“As long as the community is still supporting my actions, I’m not planning on worrying about Chris’s opinion of me,” he said. “It’s a democracy.”

1. It's a relatively open question how much community support Alexander has. I know he claims a lot, but I suspect he's got a vocal minority and that's it. My experience with politics suggests that Rick's base, outside of his true believers, is broad, shallow and probably somewhat in the dark about what's actually going on (especially if Rick is their source of information).

2. While Alexander might be considered correct in his use of the "democracy" talking point, his comeback is the perfect illustration of a long-standing conservative critique of democracy: What happens when the people want to do something stupid or obviously counter to their own interests?

I happen to think, unlike many conservatives, that the proper answer to this charge is not to move toward an authoritarian or corporate state, but to educate the people so that the people do not desire to jump off cliffs.

I get that modern media makes that hard, I do. But I still think it's a better idea than further concentrating power.

Side Note: I believe this criticism of democracy goes all the way back to the Greeks. The whole "representative democracy" thing helps to alleviate the perceived danger of direct democracy.

What I find funny about Rick's comeback - and perhaps telling - is that while conservatives are generally the only ones to bring this critique - that democracy gives too much power to the people - it's almost always other conservatives, like Rick, who lead the charge off the cliff and provide the basis for the critique in the first place.

Near-immediate update: I missed this in the DH story the first time around:

Alexander disagreed: “If you look at the majority of decisions that are made, they’re made together.” “Just because there’s a few that aren’t doesn’t mean we can’t work together.”

That may be the most politically intelligent thing I've ever heard Rick say. He's been watching his FOX News.

Either that or reading 1984, because coming from him, that's quite the Doublespeak (and by Doublespeak, I mean bullshit, of course - Rick has quite easily been the single biggest obstacle to board unity or comity, far bigger than Sprenger or Robinson).

Friday, November 30, 2007

Hasso Gets Back to His Old Form

And by that, of course, I mean that he turns into a dishonest hack; he manages to write an entire column attempting to discredit Sizemore's accusers without noting that what Sizemore is being sued for is actually against the law.

I wonder if Hering countenances the hiding of one's assets in other cases? Or is It OK If You're A Republican? (IOKIYAR)

Hasso Hering should not be writing editorials for the Albany Democrat-Herald. In fact, Hering should be fired. When he writes news stories, he tells the truth in reasonable and straightforward fashion. But for some reason, when he writes editorials, he feels license to distort the truth through lies by omission on a regular basis. This should be unacceptable to Hering's superiors, if he has any.

It really is that simple. Too bad nepotism and tradition trump professional ethics over at Lee Enterprises.

Shrek III

So, at the request of some students, I showed Shrek III in a class.

It is one of the most offensive movies I have ever seen. The other option was Ratatouille, which, as sad as that is, I would have preferred by a large amount.

From the first minute, Shrek is filled with stereotypes. The makers appeared to have crammed just about everything they can think of in there (remember that this movie is supposed to be set in medieval times): In the school scene alone, we see nerds who wear braces and glasses, jocks who beat up on people smaller then them, bullies, blonde women who use Valley Girl accents, etc.

Everyone is heterosexual and heterosexist - there are lots and lots of "girly man" jokes on the part of almost all of the main characters. There is a short montage where a group of imprisoned women are breaking out of their confinement... and one of the shots is of one of them burning a bra. Because every child should know about those crazy feminazi womenfolk.... argh.

The bad guys - and this reminds me of what I've heard about 300 - are all "outcasts" who happen to be ugly and/or have physical disabilities (cyclops, hook hand, etc.). Hell, they have one scene where the cyclops, who is an evil prison guard, brings his daughter to work and has a tender moment with how beautiful she is despite her one eye. Initially, I thought this was the normal Disneyified garbage... but the next shot is of the protagonist's face mocking the moment.

Gag me.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Wandering, Disjointed Post on Professionalism and Some Other Stuff

I am discovering that my definition of professionalism might not be the same one used by other people I work with.

To wit:

Professional = Soulless and Objectifying


Don't get me wrong - I understand where the perception of a need for professionalism, professional behavior, professional ethics, etc., comes from, and by and large I don't disagree. Certainly there needs to be some set of standards loosely governing student-teacher interactions.

However, I am also of the opinion that the best teaching requires the formation of genuine, honest personal relationships between individuals. For me, that means taking students seriously as people, and not blowing them off. [See Martin Buber's ideas regarding I-Thou and I-It for more of what this means coming from me; I think it's particularly fitting in a high school setting, as many students are just discovering how to consistently use the I-It mode.]

Do I see students get blown off that often? Not in such a direct way, but I do see what happens when they are taken seriously, how their eyes light up and how they don't want to stop talking, how they can't stop talking, how I can't get them to stop talking - and sometimes, how I don't want them to stop talking, because the things they say are incredibly interesting and insightful and intelligent, and for the moment, who cares if it's not about the geopolitical history of Europe or graphing inequalities or the narrative of Animal Farm? They are engaged (the back of my mind, of course, is wondering how to change the focus of that engagement into something that will help the student generate knowledge about something other than, say, YouTube or Dragonforce).

From this I have concluded that they don't have many opportunities to talk about things that matter to them with someone who will listen, take them seriously, and provide good feedback - ideally, a teacher or other adult. Instead, I see evidence that students are, by and large, learning about a whole host of major life concepts - love (romantic or otherwise), equality/fairness, justice - from their peers and the media (and their peers are learning from the media, so...)

Frankly, I don't think that's a good idea, though I do understand the value of peer-to-peer teaching. I understand that all those big, scary, supposedly non-academic concepts used to be the purview of parents, or at least that's how it was understood, and I don't want to imply that parents are failing; rather, I think the power of the media can be overwhelming.

Regardless, I think that taking students seriously means answering questions that are generally considered to inappropriate for school - which means creating space to have those conversations with students. I attempt to do that as best I can, but my interactions with students are fleeting and transitory at best, as is my job status. Even so, I consider it evidence of some kind of success when I enter a room and watch the faces of a dozen or more students collapse when they realize I'm not there in place of their teacher (note: I still abide by the rules of punitive discipline provided by the school, so that's not it).


Feedback on this mess post would be appreciated.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Speechless.... and Highly Amused

The Air Sex Championships.

1. Semi-surprisingly, the link is work-safe, and as far as I can tell, the event itself is pretty clean.

2. YATTA! (A reference to the heads of the six men on the right side of the screen)

Search for Yatta on Youtube or Google Video and watch it in all its glory.

Author Courtney Martin on Feminism

While this is an otherwise straightforward column, I really liked this bit:

Educated choice: Both men and women need to have access to choices and, even more, they need to have the tools necessary to make good choices. It is not enough to just say that women should have access to abortions, for example. They also need to know all of their options and feel like they have a full understanding of the health risks and quality of life issues that each entails; they also need to have the economic provisions to make whichever choice fits their lives and values best.


The whole thing is a quick read, so check it out.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The triumph of appearance

Interesting news:

WASHINGTON (AFP) — A new poll Monday showed Democrat Hillary Clinton losing a general election to all top Republican White House hopefuls, in a new sign that biting political attacks may be harming her 2008 campaign.

The Zogby International hypothetical 2008 matchup, reversing months of Clinton dominance over the Republican field, came as her camp battled in an ugly new spat with her top Democratic rival Barack Obama.

Funny thing is, it's the primary season, in which the candidates are - theoretically - running against other candidates from their own party. I don't understand how that shifts D vs. R match-ups so much.

Aravosis at Americablog has a thought:

Then again, the GOP candidates have all been beating up on Hillary the past few weeks, whereas the Democrats are still focused on beating each other.

Get that? The Republicans, even in their primary, are running against the specter of a Democrat - which is akin to softening a target by mortar before invading on foot. One might also call it working the refs by complaining in a practice scrimmage about the other team. The Dems, of course, have no clue about what's going on.

It's a brilliant strategy, really, and it only works if the public and the media let them get away with it - and we are.

It's also a tremendous showing of what happens when party/partisan loyalty becomes paramount; it's almost like all Republicans are operating on the belief that any Republican is better than any Democrat, no matter what other qualifiers are present. Forget about governance or issues - we've got the letter after their name to consider!

Society of the spectacle, indeed.

Hering's Sense of Self-Preservation and/or Common Sense

Apparently it kicked it just long enough for him to write this editorial.

Funny, though - he omits any discussion of why a nonpartisan SecState is good, or why the job has party affiliation attached to it in the first place. He also omits, well, anything else - including his usual attitude that almost always makes me want to bang my head against a wall.

Poor guy - he can't quite come out and say it, but it's obvious that he's disappointed with the state of affairs re: the secretary of state, and so is - and this is why I'm confused - begging that the person who wins be as nonpartisan as possible.

I wonder if he'd say the same thing if the party affiliations were reversed? I think he'd be pretty happy and likely to have a whole new position on the situation.

Who needs consistency, anyway?

John Howard: Australia :: Dick Cheney : United States

The big difference is that Howard was willing to put himself in public, at least a bit.

Heck, they even look the same - short, old, balding, pudgy white dudes. (Of course, it's not hard when the pool of elites to draw from is almost exclusively overweight old white dudes, but hey - sometimes they have hair).

On the other hand, Howard seemed to display the same single-mindedness that has made Cheney so effective at trying to end the world achieving peace, prosperity and democracy for rich white hetero men everybody.

Anyway, Australian novelist Richard Flanagan has this great column in the Guardian's Comment is Free section that does a fantastic job eviscerating Howard and his legacy. I wish he'd added more to the end about Australia's future, but so it goes.


John Howard famously said the times were his, and for more than a decade it seemed they were. Australia experienced the greatest and most sustained boom in its history. Yet at its end Australia's indigenous population was in a ruinous state, its extraordinary environment was threatened on numerous fronts, and its people were beginning to ask where the wealth had gone: public schools and public health were in crisis, social welfare was straitened, housing was unaffordable for many, and wages and conditions were being cut under Howard's industrial reforms.

Look, kids! It's Neoliberalism! It looks pretty but kills everything!

Please do read the rest; it's not that long and it helps illustrate one of the reasons Howard got along so well with the Bush Administration: If one didn't know better, one might think Bush had been responsible for all the things Howard did in the last decade.

It's also a great primer for what happens when neoliberalism works, which is about the only thing worse than when it fails.

And while Australia is finally free of John Howard, I'm guessing a religious conservative isn't going to be that much better...

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