Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!!!

Since this is the scariest thing I could think of, here is the inauguration of Bush in 2005.

Oh, look who stopped by.

This is Naughty Monkey (that is what he told me at least) and he also wants to wish everyone a Happy Halloween!!

The picture is actually cuter if you can see his face, but since this in one of the kids in my class and I do not have any parental permission to post this here, I thought it was best to just blur his face.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Yet another reason we need to elect Kucinich

I am sure that by now everyone has seen this article in which Kucinich questions the mental health of Bush. Kucinich says he has questions about Bush's mental health in response to Bush's thought about the need to invade Iran. Kucinich says about Bush, "There's something wrong. He does not seem to understand his words have real impact." This is the crux of the issue IMHO, when the president of the U.S. says something people listen. I know that much of the world sees Bush as not someone to be taken seriously, they are afraid of him as well. He sees the world in his own way and then is determined to make the world reflect his own vision of it. Bush decided that Saddam Hussein was involved in the attacks of 9/11 and so he attacked Iraq as retribution. There never has been any evidence that Hussein had anything to do with 9/11, but Bush decided he had. Just like the fact that Ahmadinejad may not be totally in touch with reality, but Iran really does not have the nuclear capabilities that Bush has decided they do (unless I am mistaken here, which I easily could be).

I agree totally that Bush may be mentally ill or maybe it is the combination of drugs he was taking when he was younger that fried his brain, but Bush really does not seem to realize that his words do affect others. He seems to talk out of his ass and not realize the consequences of his words. Bush does not seem to understand that as the leader of the U.S. you have to think before you speak and make sure that when you say something that it is true. I am not saying that most politicians think before they speak, but some do seem to be aware of the fact that their words do have consequences. Many other politicians seem to be better prepares as well to answer questions, Bush just never quite seems to know what to say so he makes something up on the spot.

But, and I am a supporter of Kucinich, I do wonder why he would publicly say something like that. It seems like it is a way of gaining attention. I agree that he should have pointed out that the innate stupidity and the fact that Bush does not think before he speaks, but saying he has mental health issues may have been taking it too far. It is one thing for a blogger or non-public figure or even a political pundit to criticize Bush like that, but as someone who is running for the presidency, it would seem that a certain amount of diplomacy or tact might be in order. Kucinich also does seem to take the issue of mental health seriously and does say that there are those who do need help and maybe the president is one of them and that he (Kucinich) is fine with that. I cheered when I read this, but then I did think about what are the ulterior motives behind this. The other possibility is, how was the question asked by the newspaper? Maybe the paper asked something like, do you think Bush is crazy for his comments on Iran? This comment may have been a way in which to discredit Kucinich in a backhanded way. As the RNC spokesperson pointed out, this is just an easy way to dismiss Kucinich as some kook and an unpatriotic kook at that. One never knows what the MSM will do to discredit a politician that is not named, Clinton or Giuliani.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Movie Review- Happiness

So yesterday was a bit of a disturbing, but awesome movie marathon. I watched both Requiem for a Dream and Happiness on the same day within only a few hours of each other. Both were awesome. I have to thank DCap, Morse and Franiam for recommending this film, I am not sure if I would have seen it otherwise. This is an amazing film that shows a dysfunctional family at their most normal. I know that dysfunctional and normal are not normally put together, but this film really shows how the dysfunctional family is becoming the norm in America. The film centers around three sisters in New Jersey. Laura Flynn Boyle plays Helen Jordan, a successful writer who sees herself as a fraud in private, but in public and even with her family gloats about how much she has and how amazing she is as a person. Cynthia Stevens plays Tricia Maplethorpe, a stay at home mom who feels she has it all, a husband and two great kids. Her husband, Bill Maplethorpe, is played by Dylan Baker, who is a psychiatrist. They seem to have the perfect life. Finally, Joy Jordan is played by Jane Adams who is a struggling musician and works as a telemarketer. Philip Seymour Hoffman is also part of the movie and seems to have some kind of connection to almost everyone in the film. Jon Lovitz, Camryn Manheim and Molly Shannon have smaller roles in the film. I normally detest both Jon Lovitz and Molly Shannon in most things they do, but in Happiness, they were really good. The sisters parents are going through a separation, which also adds to the dysfunctionality of the family. I know at this point they do not seem all that dysfunctional, but trust me they are and really you have to see this movie to see how and why I say that, as I do not want to give too much of the movie away.

The most disturbing scenes, other than some obvious ones that I will not talk about as that would ruin the movie, are these three scenes where where Bill and his son are talking about sex. the conversation is so frank and honest, it is a good in many ways, but it is also kind of freaky. In the first conversation, they are discussing what cum is. In the second conversation is about penis length and the third you have to see, but it is definitely the most disturbing. The other line that bothered me was when Bill is talking to the father of another boy and the other boy's father is afraid his son is gay. He responds that maybe he should get his 11 year old son a hooker, when Bill disagrees, his response is along the lines of oh yeah it is probably too late anyway, huh. This bothered me not because I didn't like it and not because I didn't think it was authentic, that was the issue, I know that is probably a typical thought of a certain type of father.

I mentioned the actors by name earlier because all of them were superb. I didn't necessarily know them by name, but I recognized many of them when I saw them. As with Welcome to the Dollhouse, his other film that I reviewed here, the story seems so true and you know that these exact situations happen regularly. As I mentioned above, the movie is another movie that shows just how fucked up life truly can be at times. This is reality at its best/worst.

This song appears in the film and really adds to the oddness of the entire film. I mean Air Supply and well it just is odd in this film, but is so great as well so I had to post the video.

Go BoSox!!

They won in a sweep. I figured they would win, but not in a sweep. Anyway, it is a good week to be a Bostonian. Boston College is ranked #2 in the nation in college football, the BoSox just won their second World Series in four years after not winning one in 86 years and the Patriots are undefeated and look unstoppable. I am not a Bostonian, but my grandparents were and my mom grew up near Boston, so I feel some kind of bond. Go BoSox!!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Movie Review- Requiem for a Dream

This an amazing film. This is also the most fucked-up and one of the most depressing film I have ever seen. The film revolves around four people whose drug addiction spin out of control. Three of the characters are friends with ambitions to go from just being drug users to drug sellers. Jared Leto, Harry, and Jennifer Connelly, Marion, play a couple who want to make enough money so that Marion can open her own clothing shop. Marlon Wayans, Tyrone, is the third of this trio and he has the connections to get them the drugs, so that they can become drug sellers and make real money. He is also driven by his memory of his mother and wanting to be somebody to make her proud. Ellen Burstyn, Sara, plays Harry's mother. She becomes addicted to amphetamines when she wants to lose weight so that she can go on TV. The film is interlaced with these amazing, but really disorienting scenes of the characters hallucinating and their drug fixes.

The acting is awesome in the film with Ellen Burstyn amazing as a widow with no one to take care of, who becomes addicted to the "uppers" so that she can be on TV and be noticed. The scenes of her hallucinations are possibly the most disturbing as hers are so intense and scary. They are not scary like horror film scary as much as the intensity of what is happening and her reactions are just overwhelming. She also seems to fall the farthest as when the movie starts she is just a lonely woman who watches TV all day, but still is not taking any drugs let alone addicted. The other three are already drug addicts, but their decline is accentuated by the fact that at some point the drug supply dries up in NYC and so they are desperate that they will try anything including driving to Miami to get a supply of drugs.

This is a short film at an hour and forty minutes, but it is intense from beginning to end. The cinematography and directing are amazing as well. It took me some time to really process the whole film and then figure out what the hell I was going to say about it. If you have not seen it yet, go out and rent this film.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Seperated at birth?

...And they are both from Tennessee. Coincidence? I think not. Sorry to my fellow blogger and a Tennessean, Monkey Von Monkerstein, but they look too similar not to say something.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Book Review- A Thousand Splendid Suns

This is simply an amazing book. It is written by Khaled Hosseini who also wrote The Kite Runner. I picked up The Kite Runner randomly at a book store and loved it, so when I heard that Hosseini was writing another book, I was interested and excited to read it. Again this book takes place in Afghanistan like The Kite Runner, but unlike The Kite Runner the entire book takes place in Afghanistan. It is the story of two women and how their lives intertwine in Afghanistan over a thirty year period. Mariam, an illegitimate child of a movie theater owner, is fifteen when she is married to a man in Kabul and forced to move there from Herat after her mother dies and her father's waives will not let her stay in Herat with them. She marries a man who is forty and her life begins in Kabul. Laila is born in 1978 on the night that the Soviets invade Afghanistan and so all she knows is the war and violence. This starts with the Soviet invasion and then leads into the muhjadeen's war agains the Soviets and their withdrawal. This then leads into the fighting among the muhjadeen and finally the take over of the Taliban. These women's lives intersect and join when Laila's parents are packing to take her away to Pakistan during the the fighting among the muhjadeen and a mortar shell hits their house. Both of Laila's parents die and she is taken in by Maraim and her husband Rasheed.

This is a story of love. The love of Laila and her childhood sweetheart Tariq. The love that develops between Laila and her children. Laila's first child is born because of one night that she and Tariq share when she is fifteen, right before her parents die. Laila's second child is the product of her marriage to Rasheed. This is also the story of the love that develops between Mariam and Laila. Their husband is abusive toward them, physically, emotionally and sexually and so they must learn to find common ground and love so that both of them may survive his attacks.

This is also the story of life and two women in a culture that does not value them as humans. Laila grows up in a household in which her father is a University professor and so he stresses the importance of eduction for all including and especially his daughter. We see life in Kabul prior to the takeover of the muhjadeen and Taliban and their institution of law based upon the Koran. We see women who are able to get an education, who are able to travel and have their lives as they wish to live them. Although, Mariam is poor and is then married to a man who follows the Koran exactly hence she has to wear a burqa even before it is mandated by the government because her husband demands it of her, she is still free to travel to the communal bread oven and she can travel to the market. Laila has a lot of freedom until she gets married to Rahseed and that is mostly because she knows she is pregnant and needs to have a father for her child.

Hosseini does show us life inside Afghanistan and how it changes from prior to the Soviet invasion to the rise of the muhjadeen and the Taliban and then finally we do see what happens in Afghanistan after the U.S. invasion. But the politics are never the focal point. As readers we are not forced to read how good or bad each of the different regimes are, we are given the positive and negative of both the Soviets and the U.S. There are really no positives about the Taliban, although there is an interesting court scene ( I do not want to give too much away in case you have not read it yet) where one of the judges enforces the law, but does not seem to be convinced that what was done was totally wrong. There is also some interesting look at how Titanic becomes a huge movie in Afghanistan, although it is banned by the government. The actual movie cannot be bought except on the black market, but there is a market in an old ravine that is the Titanic market and there all kinds of merchandise labeled with Titanic, from toys for the kids to even burqas. And there are armed Taliban guards who are patrolling, but do not interfere with the sellers unless they are selling the movie itself.

Overall I thought this was an awesome book an I would recommend it to all. It is a great way to see Afghanistan from an Afghani point of view, granted Hosseini moved to the U.S. in 1980, so The Kite Runner may be a better book in terms of his own experiences, but A Thousand Splendid Suns is far more accurate than the picture that BushCo. and many others would have us believe about Afghanistan. It also discusses the beauty of a place, Afghanistan and Kabul in particular, before it is ravaged by war. So please go buy or borrow this book along with The Kite Runner so that you can see a place that is only ever viewed as the enemy in its more true form.

YouTube Friday-serious

This is a great video for the Rage Against the Machine song "Know your Enemy".

I have seen this video on other blogger's sites and so I am sure all of you will recognize it, but it is a great video and fits perfectly with the video above.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

YouTube Friday-funny

Ok so this is not technically YouTube, but the YouTube version has been stopped by NBC, so I had to use this flash version. It is one of the funniest things I have seen on SNL for a while although I don't watch SNL that often, but I saw this one when it was on. It seems to haunt me as many of the kids I work with love Dora and so this is perfect in my opinion.

Get Games and Fun Videos at MyPartyPost.Com

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Naked sweet potatoes. They are the potatoes that I had asked y'all to help me figure out how to cook in this post.

Here they are cut up and ready to be roasted.

Here is the final meal. I was going to put tilapia with this, but when I pulled the tilapia out of the refridge and started to get it ready, it just didn't smell right, so I decided to just scrap it. So I had roasted sweet potatoes, a salad from a bag (Pacific Northwest mix, it had a poppyseed vinaigrette, sunflower seeds and some other nuts) and some Challah that I had sitting in the refridge that I figured need to be eaten.

I owe a debt of gratitude to the Gourmet Goddess and Whiskey Marie as they gave me the idea for the roasted sweet potatoes. It was yummy.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A few things

1. I was calling Time Warner Cable because I was having issues with my high speed internet and their 1-888 number was busy. How is an automated customer service line busy? It makes no sense. I did finally get through and the women was very helpful. Apparently, yesterday when I called and my phone died and I could no call back, the guy scheduled a technician to visit me tomorrow between 1-5. This did not work for me because I have to work, but this customer service rep was helpful and rescheduled my appointment for Saturday. There were a few other times this week, but they were all when I had to work, so I have to wait till Saturday.

2. So then if my high speed is not working, how am I online? Well, I am borrowing the wireless from an unknown neighbor. I kind of feel bad about using someone else's wireless without their knowledge, but if you don't want anyone on it, then use some security. When my wireless is working, I have it set for WPA.

3. If you have not seen this post at Feministe, you have to go see it. This is the reason that we need universal healthcare.

4. I have just received Happiness, so a movie review is coming soon, I hope. This is for those of you who told be I had to see this after my talking about my review of Welcome to the Dollhouse.

5. I just found out that Jim Neal, who is running against Elizabeth Dole for her Senate seat here in NC, is openly gay. This now means he will not win, as we are very much like Iran in this regard ( I am sure in more than this regard as well) as there are no gays in NC. This is the land of Billy Graham and Jesse Helms, unfortunately Neal will probably not win now that he has admitted that he is gay. Dole will now attack, attack, attack this point and the repubs will keep this seat. But I will be voting for him and want to support him as much as I can.

6. The World Series starts tomorrow. Go BoSox defeat the Christians!! This must be the goal of Jewkilis (1st baseman Kevin Youkilis). Also, will Schilling really pitch well against them? And if he does, does that mean he will not be a good conservative Christian?

7. I anticipate a book review of A Thousand Splendid Suns as I should finish it tonight or tomorrow, so you can look forward to that. Just in case you do not know about the book A Thousand Splendid Suns, it is by the same author as The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini.

Back to paying attention to the Penguins playing against the Rangers.

Monday, October 22, 2007

My birthday

Ok so yesterday was my birthday and as you can see I am posting this a day late, but also as you can see I did no posting yesterday. In fact I did little to nothing yesterday, I watched some football and read a book. It was grand, so anyway, some random things that happened on my birthday.

-Junior Dude shares my birthday
-There are 71 days remaining in the year.
-1517 - Martin Luther nails his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, thus beginning the Protestant Reformation.
- 1520 - Ferdinand Magellan discovers a strait now known as Strait of Magellan
-1921 - President Warren G. Harding delivers the first speech by a sitting President against lynching in the deep south.
-1917 - Dizzy Gillespie, American musician (d. 1993) was born.
-1929 - Ursula K. Le Guin, American author was born.
-1959 - Ken Watanabe, Japanese actor was born.
-1978 - Will Estes, American actor and Joey Harrington, American football player were born in the same year as me.
-1969 - Jack Kerouac, American novelist (b. 1922) died on this day.
-2003 - Elliott Smith, American musician (b. 1969) died on this day.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Movie Review- Knocked Up

I have to start this review with the disclaimer that I really like Judd Apatow. I liked Freaks and Geeks and I liked The 40 Year Old Virgin. But that said, I was a little bit apprehensive about this film. All of the previews that I remember seeing seemed to make this into a stupid film and possibly a bit misogynistic as well. The 40 Year Old Virgin also had that feel in the previews, but I really liked it and felt that it was a funny and yet very well done movie. If you are not aware of the premise, it is about a couple who get pregnant after a one night stand. They are exact opposites of each other with the woman, Allison (Katherine Heigl), being very serious and career focused. She had just gotten a promotion and that was the reason that she was out at the club where she met Seth Rogen's character, Ben. Ben is a pot head who does not have a job and lives with his stoner buddies where they are trying to create a website which shows all of the films that celebrities get naked, basically a rip-off Mr. Skin. They have never heard of Mr. Skin and so when they find this out about this site, it blows open their whole plan. Anyway, the film shows this couple as they go through the pregnancy because she decides to have the baby. They also decide to try and give the relationship a chance as really they do not know each other after a one night stand. I thought it was funny and actually pretty smart. I would recommend it if you just wanted a non-thinking comedy. There is the review in a nutshell, the rest of this is more commentary and probably has some spoilers, although most of what I am going to comment on does not ruin the end of the movie. So stop here if you really want to be surprised at this movie.

So as I thought about this movie both last night after I watched and then most of today, I thought about how really this is an interesting movie that seems to break a lot of normal stereotypes about the whole romantic comedy genre and yes I would call this a romantic comedy. First, Seth Rogen is not Brad Pitt or Johnny Depp or Denzel Washington. He is a frizzy haired, slightly overweight man. He looks more like me than most movie stars. So, the romantic lead for the male is not super attractive, something that is slightly different. Ok, so Katherine Heigl is very attractive, so they do not totally blow the doors off the stereotypes, but still...

Second and more importantly is that the film embraces the idea of this couple having a child. Now, of course it does as this is the premise of the movie, but there were several scenes where Ben's friends could have ridiculed him for having a baby. They could have ridiculed him for ditching them for the OB/GYN appointments. They could have ridiculed him for spending so much time with her. Ben always wants to be a part of the life of the child and actually so do his friends. I am not saying that they are perfect gentlemen the whole time, at first they do make fun of him for not wearing a condom and basically saying how could you be so stupid, but really how could you be so stupid. There is no mention of the fact that he could have gotten all kinds of diseases by having unprotected sex and I guess that could have been mentioned, but this is a comedy and so I understand not wanting to go to much into the other consequences other than an unwanted pregnancy. But it is refreshing to see the male lead not be forced or guilted into wanting to be a father. There is a great discussion between Ben and his father where he talks about how this pregnancy messes up the plan he had for his life. His father responds, life doesn't care about your plan. And that having a child is a great experience when Ben refers to it as a disaster. But there is also not this grand discussion on his part with Allison about having the child and that he will be there as a father and all of the other cliche things that seem to happen in the movies when a couple has an unexpected child. It is more subtle. He goes with her to every Ob/Gyn appointment and picks out cribs with her and they even buy baby books for him to read. But they also struggle with their relationship and things are not perfect. You believe it when they are together, or at least I did, and you believe it when they break up.

The third and final point about this film that I really liked is that Ben changes and become more mature. He gets a job and moves into his own place by the end of the film. He creates a part of his apartment for the baby, getting his own crib and putting up wallpaper. This is after they have broken up. But there is no real discussion of this fact. He doesn't tell his friends, I have to grow up and be able to support a child, at least not in the film, he does in one of the deleted scenes. He and Allison never had this grand discussion where he tries to get her back by saying how much he has changed and that now is becoming more responsible. We, as an audience, just see the change and it is definitely throughout the film. He does talk to his friends about the fact that the website needs to get off the ground soon. He does begin to act more like an "adult". He hangs out with Allison's sister and brother-in-law who have kids (by the way Paul Rudd as the brother-in-law I thought was great and Judd Apatow's daughter as one of their children is also very cool). Ben changes and becomes more of someone who can become more responsible for the life of a child and even a relationship.

This film had some very subtle points that make it a good movie in my opinion. Judd Apatow does not beat the audience over the head with things that we can see ourselves. He shows Ben moving, he shows him getting a job and he shows us this relationship and the struggles. But Apatow never makes the characters have discussions to explain what is going on or force feed us what we should think. But as I said in the first part of this review, this is not a subtle film. This is not a film that takes a lot of thought to make it through and I guess I am over thinking it a bit, but these are the thoughts I had as I was trying to decide what I thought about the film and how to review it.

I also have to say that the scene where they are having sex and she is pregnant is one of the funniest scenes in the movie and is a bit obvious in the jokes, but still very funny. But on the other hand, they are having sex and she is seven months or so pregnant and very much showing. It seems that the assumption in movies and maybe even in real life is that when women become pregnant the sex stops until the baby is born or the man has urges that he cannot overcome, so he basically coerces the woman into giving him a blowjob or just having sex so that he doesn't explode or some other nonsense. In this scene, the woman is the aggressor and the man is the one who is freaking out because she is pregnant and they are having sex with the baby right there. It basically ends when he feels the baby kick as they keep changing positions until they are on their sides with him penetrating her from behind and his hand is on her stomach. He decides that the baby was kicking him away from mommy and that the sex should end.

So if you have made it this far, I will add that I also loved this film because it is more subtle in some of its elements and that the story just plays nicely and does not seem as fake as most romantic comedies.

Friday, October 19, 2007

YouTube Friday

I am not sure if I call this a parody, but it is a take off on a great YouTube video, Shoes. I think this is almost as funny as the original.

Because a blog friend mentioned her love of bad '80s pop and I think this was the first audio tape I ever bought.

Apparently, since I can read, I am a fucking genius

I ran into the grocery store after work today because I really wanted hot dogs for dinner so I grabbed some tofu pups. On my way out, I decided to rent a movie from one of those Redbox video things in the store. I was going to watch Requiem for a Dream which I had from Netflix, but decided that was too intense for me for tonight. So I am waiting in line for the video dispenser and the couple in front of me is having real issues with the machine. They are basically not reading the instructions on the screen and so every minute or so they look at each other and say what do we do next. Then one of them looks at the screen realizes that there are directions there and follows them. This means it is taking them over five minutes to get a movie and they have already picked it out by the time I get behind them. At one point, they look back at me and say, "Are we done? What do we do next? Where is the movie?" They have a screen that asks for an email address and they have already said to each other, "That is OK." But if you read on the screen there is a button that says, "No thanks." So I just said, "push the no thanks button." They det their movie and the wife turns around and says, "We are sorry it took so long. Thanks for helping us out. We wouldn't take so long next time." I am thinking well I hope not to be behind you next time, but I just shrug and say it is ok. She then asks if they return the movie in the movie slot and I just think that they are getting ahead of themselves and that they should worry about getting their movie first before they worry about how they will return it. I really wasn't having that much of an issue with their problems with the machine, but when I noticed that they had rented this movie, it explained it all. As I am getting my movie, a mother behind me tells me she will just watch what I do so that they do not take as long as the couple before me. She then asks who I am not sure, whether it is me or her teenage daughter about how you pay, if they take a credit card. Her daughter then is sarcastic and points all of the places on the machine that show the credit card symbols.

Anyway, I guess because I can read and actually pay attention to what the directions on the machine tell me to do, people just assume that I know what is going on. Most of the time I don't, but again I read what the machine tells me to do and I do it. This is the downfall of American society and the reason that we voted BushCo. into office, twice, people don't read things anymore nor do they pay attention to what the fuck is going on.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Leave it to Dennis!

I am stealing this from Blue Gal, I even stole the name of the post because as the TV shows goes, Blue Gal Knows Best.

I am being spied on

As I was driving to work today, I saw a white van with Department of Homeland Security painted on it. The first thought into my head was shouldn't they have something like Geno's plumbing painted on the side, I mean isn't that what we see in the movies. When the cops are going to do surveillance, they have some fake plumbing or florist or something else painted on the side to not draw attention to themselves. But, no this had Department of Homeland Security painted right there on the side for all to see. This seems to be really counterintuitive for spying purposes.

Second, the road they were on really only leads to some hotels or the road to the daycare I work at which also has another daycare and an insurance office nearby. Also along the original road there are some entrances to a shopping center with a Sam's Club and a McDonald's, Chick-fil-a and a Burger King (yes they are all there in a little line). So I figure they either just stayed at some hotel or they had bought some equipment at Sam's Club as you know that Sam's Club has everything and they are basically Walmart so they are evil. I just assume that Sam's Club has most of the listening devices or night goggles or whatever the Department of Homeland Security would need.

Or maybe they figured out who I am from this blog and are listening to me. Maybe BushCo. is trying to find out what movie they should watch or how to make kugel, so if I disappear for a few days you know what happened. Pickles tried to make the kugel and couldn't, so I was kidnapped to make it for them.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The obligatory sports post

So I say I am a sports fan in my profile and yet I have not yet done a sports post. So here is the one I want to do.

I am a Boston Red Sox fan and they are now down, 3-1 in the American League Championship Series. I guess I should be more disappointed or annoyed or something, but really I am not. I am a BoSox fan because my maternal grandfather was in the Boston area and so was a BoSox fan. This is a connection to him. I am not a big baseball fan, I watch the post season and enjoy it, but to just sit down and watch a game, not something I would do. I do like going to games, but have found that minor league are much more fun as they are cheaper and the stadium is smaller and so you can enjoy the enjoy and actually be able to see the players. As much as I would like the BoSox to win, I am Ok if they don't win because then I don't have to feel so badly about cheering for the Rockies. They are an amazing story. They have won 21 out of the past 22 games and have swept two straight series.

I am also consoled by the fact that my Steelers, and yes I do refer to them that way as I have grown up watching and cheering for them, are 4-1. They are looking good again after last year's struggles and although I recognize that the Patriots and Colts are probably better teams, anything can happen and maybe we can back to the Superbowl. I am just happy that they are playing so much better this year.

I also really like hockey. It is tough to find this on TV though, which is always disappointing. I can go to the Carolina Hurricanes games as the stadium is probably 15 minutes form my apartment, but the games are still so expensive that I can't do that all of the time, which I would like to. I am a Pittsburgh Penguins fan, but hockey is hockey since I don't live in or near Pittsburgh and so would settle for Canes games.

I also love college football, which brings me to the final sport for this post. During college basketball season, I am a die hard UNC Tarheels fan, but during football season it is more up in the air. I can and do cheer for the Heels, but since they are not known for football and I love just watching the game, I will watch most any team. The BCS standings came out this past week and they have the University of South Florida ranked number two in the nation. My first reaction is who have the beaten and really they have not beaten anyone other than WVU. But then the underdog supporter in me kicked in and I thought that is great that they are ranked that high. It is not really their fault that no one will play against them, they are still very new to Division I football (I think like 11 years) and so are not a big enough draw yet. But college football is always fun for me to watch and so as long as we keep having the good games and the upsets that keep things interesting this year I will be happy.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming of lefty politics and random thoughts.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Lukschen Kugel

I made Lukschen Kugel tonight as I have been craving it for a while and after this post, I thought it was only fair that I share the recipe and the meal with y'all.

Here are the noodles in a bowl soaking in the liquid.


Covered with the wonderful crunchy topping

Cooked and ready to eat

Here is the final meal, I added salmon and some leftover green beans that I re-heated to finish it off.

Here is the recipe.
Apricot Kugel
8 oz. boiled medium noodles, well drained
3/4 stick of margerine. Mix until margerine is melted
4 oz cream cheese
3 eggs, beaten
1 c. apricot nectar
1/2 c, sugar
1 c. milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Add noodles to cream cheese mixture. Mix well. Pour into 9" x 11" baking dish.

1 c. crushed corn flakes (or cereal)
1/4 c. sugar w. cinnamon

Spread topping over noodles mixture in baking dish.

Bake 45 minutes @ 350 degrees. Remove from oven & cover w/ foil. Let stand 1/2 hour before uncovering.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Movie Review- Welcome to the Dollhouse

I have not done a movie review in a while. I have seen several films, Taxi Driver, Cape Fear, Chinatown, but none of them inspired me to do a movie review. The movie I saw yesterday did inspire me. Welcome to the Dollhouse is an independent film about a seventh grade girl, Dawn, and her life. It takes place over a span of a few weeks or at least that was my impression. She is made fun of constantly because her last name is Wiener (pronounced weener) and so she is called Wiener Dog. She is also struggling with junior high while her older brother is in high school and trying to start a band. Her younger sister is of course the cute little dancer, who is always telling on Dawn because Dawn takes her annoyance at everyone in school out on the little sister. Dawn has few friends and struggles socially. The movie is short, but very well done.

I kind of identified with Dawn, as I pretty much hated middle school. It is a time where everyone is just beginning to try to figure out who they are and hormones have started racing and you just have not figured out how to handle yourself. There are also some great scenes where she has a crush on this high school boy, that is in her brother's band and she is trying to figure out ways to hang out with him and even attract him. I guess this film is kind of like Mean Girls and all of those other films that come out where one girl is supposed to be ugly and unpopular, but rallies the whole school against the "mean girl". This film is better as the unpopular girl really is not super attractive like Lindsay Lohan (yes she is a bit skanky now, but still attractive in Mean Girls and hence makes no sense). This film is maybe more like Heathers, but not as long and there is no revenge just the trials and tribulations of being a junior high girl, which I wasn't, but I can still understand the pain she had to deal with.

So this is the quick review, see this movie if you want to revisit the pain of junior high and see a really well done movie.

The wisdom of children

I was talking to one of the children in my class today and another teacher called out "Jackson..." My student said hey that is like Jack in our class, but they look different. I said how do they look different. He mumbled at first and I thought he said their hair, since one has red hair and the other has brown hair. But when he repeated it he said, "That Jackson has dark light skin and our Jack has light light skin." Now both children are Caucasian and the child talking is Indian, so his skin is darker than both of the other children. Again, I realized how perceptive and smart many kids are, and how they state the truth in unusual, but often honest ways. This child was stating a fact. He was not making a value judgment on what color skin is better and he saw a difference in skin color between two children that would ordinarily probably be considered white with no distinction toward skin color other than that. Which reminds me that when we say we are teaching our children to be color blind, we are only hurting them. We need to teach children that all people should be treated fairly, but that we are all different and unique. Some of us have red hair, and some have black hair, some of us are light light skin and some of us are dark dark skin, but we are all people and we need to be viewed thusly. And finally, Everyone's a little bit racist.

Because this song has been in my head all day

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Ouestion of the day

This is not exactly the question of the day, but more the weekend as I probably will not get to this till Monday night.

What should I do with these fingerling sweet potatoes I got at the farmers market last weekend? I have been debating this in my mind most of the week. I don't really want to make mashed sweet potatoes. I was thinking of boiling them and them pouring a sauce/syrup over them made from butter and brown sugar and just reducing it down. Any suggestions will help. Also if it matters I have no idea what I am cooking with these, so any fish or vegetarian suggestions to go with the sweet potatoes would be awesome as well. I promise I will post pics if someone has a great idea, hell I may post pictures anyway.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

When they came for me...

In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;
And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;
And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;
And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up."

--Martin Niemoller

I heard on CNN that Tulsa, OK had enacted a tough law that was fining all of the businesses that hire illegal workers heavily. The reporters noted that it is estimated that 20,000 people have left the Tulsa area and another 10,000 more are expected to leave before November 1 when the law goes into affect. They showed the town council meeting where this law was debated, citizen supporters of this law said that this law is about nationalism and patriotism. CNN interviewed one individual who said that although the rest of the county may not follow suit, Oklahoma would be a leader. This scares the shit out of me. Anytime one individual or group of individuals invokes nationalism and patriotism for discriminating against another group of people, I cannot help but think about 1930s Germany. This is exactly what happened, the Nazis stated that their banning of Jews and other groups from running business was in defense of nationalism. They said that their immigration policies were in defense of nationalism and was patriotic. They persecuted anyone who disagreed with their policies saying they were unpatriotic. This is exactly what is happening in this country with the right side of the political spectrum. I thought of using the terms fundamentalist, but that seems to imply something about their religious beliefs, this is not just the religious right, this includes everyone who is anti-immigration reform, anti-gay rights, anti-Muslim, and anti-gun control. Sure some of them are religious conservatives, but not all are citing religion as the reason for their beliefs. The gentleman (and I use this term loosely) that was interviewed was focused on immigration and was stating that the immigrants were taking away jobs for Americans.

We in the left talk about revolution, we talk about the fact that we are scared that BushCo. will not give up power or that the conservative Republicans that are running for office will somehow win. We say that we will fight this and that we will fight for our freedoms, we want the freedoms that are guaranteed by the Constitution. But we will all fight through intellectual means, we will blog about the injustices and we will march and protest the injustices. But how many of us have the weapons or desire to have the weapons to really fight violently?

The right may not be quite so peaceful. I am afraid that Hilary or Obama will win and we will have a real revolution on our hands. The religious right has had a certain about of control and influence over the more radical and violent elements of the right. There is a strong anti-government militia movement that is bubbling just below the surface. They are heavily armed and are ready to fight for what their views of what the U.S. should look like. If Hilary or Obama wins the more mainstream elements of the right may not hold back the militias anymore or want to. These groups I am sure will be joined by the White power groups and now we have some very heavily armed, very radical elements coming together to topple the U.S. government. We will see more domestic terrorism, meaning terrorism that is perpetuated not by outsiders but by U.S. citizens. I believe that we will see more assassination attempts on the lives of politicians and there will be more than words flying around. We may even have a coup or at least a coup attempt.

I hope that this does not happen and I am not saying that it will happen, but every time I hear nationalism or patriotism invoked in this country as a way of denying people basic human rights, I think back to the quote by Winston Churchill, " Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it."

Shift happens

As many of you know, actually probably everyone who reads this blog even somewhat regularly, so when I saw this I knew I had to post it. It comes from Karl Fisch at this blog.

I have the same challenge that this presentation does, so what can we all do to change education in America? I am thinking about this and I will post my thoughts in a few days or so.

Friday, October 12, 2007

YouTube Friday

I could blame this post by DCup for this weeks YouTube clips, but that would be wrong. I have actually been saving these clips for a while and thought this was the week I would show them anyway, but then after Dcup's post and a shirt I saw in the grocery store that said. "It is only KINKY the first time" (the emphasis is not mine), I knew this was a sign from the great beyond that this was the week for Coupling. This is my favorite sitcom of all time so here are two clips from it.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


I made you a cake. Have a great birthday, DCup!!! You are the original Lefty Blogger Hottie.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The classics, part three

Today is books and what will live on and have a lasting effect. I have no idea, that is the end of my post.

Ok so that is not the end, I will make some type of effort toward coming up with some kind of list, but really there are two huge problems in my opinion. One, people do not read as much as they used to, they are distracted by so many other things that books just do not seem to have the same cultural impact as say movies or TV. Two, there are so many books being printed right now that how do you determine the maybe 5 books maximum a year that will have some kind of impact. I thought that it is maybe easier to look at authors and try to judge, but I am not sure it is easier this way either. John Grisham has another book on the NYT best sellers list, but really do I think that he will ever be considered a great author of our time? No and I have read several of his books. I do think that maybe Stephen King will have a lasting effect on books partly because of the shear number of books he has written and how many of them are turned into movies, hence making more people aware of them. He has also written a variety of different books. He is known of course as a horror writer, but he also wrote the Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and the book that become Stand By Me. I also love his Dark Tower series. This set of books is possible my favorite series of books written by any single author after the Lord of the Rings. The Dark Tower series has everything, it is a mix of sci fi, western (kind of), fantasy, horror, and pop culture from the mid-70s to current times. These books have references to everything from the Seven Samurai to the Wizard of Oz and Richard Adams. Ok so now I am done plugging that series.

I thought maybe if I saw what current high school seniors were reading I could figure out what is books seem to be considered new classics and guess what I found. I found some books that are Ok like Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri and Cold Mountain, but I also found out that in some Washington, D.C. schools they are reading The Da Vinci Code or the Secret of the Ya Ya sisterhood. I have read the Da Vince Code and it is an interesting read, but it is not a book that I would see making high school seniors read as an example of American literature. I would hope that books like the Kite Runner and Life of Pi would begin to be read in high schools as these are great books by non-American authors.

I have heard that the Harry Potter series of books may become a classic for children's literature and that may be true. It has brought many children back to reading and they have been made into movies, so maybe it will become like the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe that these books are considered essential for teens to read, but I just don't know.

I guess this is like music as we will have to wait at least 25 years to find out what stayed and what was gone.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The classics, part two

Today is music. This one is difficult with as is tomorrows post, books. There are so many genres of music and so how are we supposed to know what is going to last? How do we know what will affect future musicians? This question has actually been in my mind about fourteen or so years, as opposed to the other media which I only really started to think about recently. I started to think about this when my father asked me what music would be the remembered in the future. I am guessing I was probably fifteen or sixteen and we were in the car listening to what I wanted to listen to, he didn't really like what I listened to at the time which was the grunge rock/alternative rock of the early to mid-nineties. I am guessing at the time based upon the fact that I think that it was right after Kurt Cobain died as I think I named him as someone who would live on. I would stick with this thought. I think that Kurt Cobain and Nirvana were the voice of Generation X and as such will have an everlasting place in history.

As I started to think about this post, I thought about maybe Michael Jackson. Although now he is associated with pedophilia and other weirdness, I also think that Thriller was one of the greatest albums of my lifetime. The Thriller music video did something to define the art of the music video and really has not been replicated. I think that in time what he did as a solo singer and with the Jackson 5 will be able to be looked at more critically without the current view of him obscuring it. Madonna also seems to have to make this list. She was another voice of the 1980s that would seem to have defined a generation and paved the way for Britney and Christina among others.

When looking at hip hop and I know I am not qualified to do this, but I would have to say that groups like Public Enemy, N.W.A. and Digital Underground would have to be seen as critical to the growth of the hip hop movement. Tupac and Biggie Smalls would also seem to be important to the change in hip hop. All of these people took hip hop from more of a party sound to more hard hitting. They attacked the current situation in race relations and how the modern black man is understood and at times even were critical of their own neighborhoods and the prevalence of black on black violence. I know that this is what cost Tupac and Biggie their lives, but in this way it also shone a light on what was happening. These groups and individuals also brought hip hop out of the strictly urban areas and created mass appeal.

As to country music, I can only really think of Garth Brooks. Since I did not listen to country until I turned at least 18, I have the same issues with country as hip hop, I know I am not qualified to judge them. I know there are plenty of other singers like Brooks and Dunn, Tim McGraw, and Faith Hill that may live on and have a lasting effect, but it is difficult for me to judge.

This really is tough for me and I look forward to who future musicians quote as their musical influences to discover who really has an impact and who was a limited pop culture idol. I will leave you with the Thriller video as I still really love it. Ok so the original Thriller video is not available to embedding from YouTube, but here is a version using Legos. If you want to see the original you just have to go to YouTube and look it up.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Gotta love the church

According to an article in the NYT, the fundies are having big Halo 3 parties where they are encouraging young men mostly, I would guess, as that seems to be the typical profile of a gamer to come to church and play Halo 3. So is it ok to kill people in a game at church, but there is too much violence in the media? Is it ok to not only kill someone in church in a game, but to do so violently and horrifically? This makes no sense to me. They condemn violence in the media and yet they encourage it at church. They want to ban sex education in schools, but they want to encourage violence in church. First and foremost, doesn't this break one of the ten commandments, Thou Shalt Not Kill. I know this is a game, but still this seems to be a blurry line. Is it ok to also have sex on a video game in church or to rape a women in a video game in church? This seems to be backward to me. I understand trying to attract a younger crowd, but really the only people you are attracting are those under 17 who cannot legally buy the game themselves. I guess the real question is, What would Jesus do? Would he play a violent video game? Would he try to attract people using values that you the church would not seem to support? Would he be a hypocrite? I love this quote and I think it cuts to the heart of the issue,

“If you want to connect with young teenage boys and drag them into church, free alcohol and pornographic movies would do it,” said James Tonkowich, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a nonprofit group that assesses denominational policies. “My own take is you can do better than that.”

Now that is something that I could get behind, having porno and free alcohol at church for underage members. This is the next step in the evolution of youth groups and bringin young people into the church, first there were the WWJD bracelets, now Halo 3, next come Beers and Broads night at the local church. Whatcha y'all think of that?

Maybe because I am Jewish and so I did not have to read the New Testament I missed the part that said it was Ok to kill and maim in a video game, but I doubt it. Just another wonderful example of how hypocritical the fundies really are.

(h/t Jess Wundrun)

The classics, part one

So this is going to be a three part post, one today, one tomorrow and one on Wednesday.

I was watching AMC today as I was flipping around channels and the Three Amigos was on, yes that Three Amigos, the one with Chevy Chase, Martin Short and Steve Martin. They were also showing Teen Wolf after that and Sister Act later tonight. Are any of these three films actually classics? I actually like all three, but I am not sure I am going to identify them as classic movies. One of the definitions given by the American Heritage Dictionary of a "classic" is "having lasting significance or worth; enduring" Can any of these films really be considered having lasting significance or worth?

So that got me thinking fifty years from now what will be considered classic films? I wanted to limit my time frame a little bit because well films like Casablanca, The Wizard of Oz, The Sound of Music and the Maltese Falcon are already considered classics. So I started to try to think about films from the 1980's till now and what will still have a lasting impact fifty years from now. I cheated and used the AFI's list of 100 films to help me start to think about this.

9. Schindler's List- I agree this will last for a long time as this is probably one of the most powerful films I have ever seen.
24. Raging Bull- First I thought this film was made in the late '70s I was wrong there, it was a great performance for Robert Deniro, but will it be remembered 50 years from now I am not sure.
25. E.T.- This is such a great film that I hope it will be remembered not only 50 years from now but 100.
53. Amadeus- I am not thinking it will stand the test of time.
60. Raiders of the Lost Ark- Now I love this film, but does it have lasting significance I am not sure.
62. Tootsie- I have not seen this film so I can't comment.
65. Silence of the Lambs- This will be remembered I think for, if nothing else, the amazing job that Anthony Hopkins does as Hannibal Lector.
71. Forrest Gump- This may serve as a view of American history at some point in the future so I guess so, but it just doesn't seem to have that same everlasting quality.
75. Dances with Wolves- This is a long film and a good one. It also has a view of the decline of the Native Americans that is not often shown, but again is it enduring. Will people 50 years from now still wnat to see it, will I still want to see it fifty years from now.
83. Platoon- I have only seen parts of this film, but I would say that it will last. It will fall into that genre along with Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket as the seminal films on the Vietnam War, at least in my opinion.
84. Fargo- Hmmmm...not sure about this one.
94. Goodfellas- Yes I would say this along with the Godfather series may at some point define the gangster film genre so yes this film could be considered a classic.
95. Pulp Fiction- Yes actually I would say this will be remembered. It was the film that really introduced most people to Quentin Tarentino even though he did Reservoir Dogs first.
98. Unforgiven- This falls into the great Westerns along with many John Wayne films. I am not a huge Western fan, but I can see how this film with endure.

Ok so this year the AFI deleted 23 films and Amadeus, Fargo, and Dances with Wolves were all deleted. These three films seem to fit with my thoughts so I am Ok with them. They obviously had to add films back in so here are some of the new films that have made the list that fit my criteria.

50. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings- Ok I love this series of books and when I do my post on books I will definately include them, but I am not sure the movies will endure, but hopefully I am wrong.
71. Saving Private Ryan- This selection I agree with as it definitely can be considered a great film on war without glorifying it.
72. The Shawshank Redemption- This is such an awesome film, so I am gong to say yes.
83. Titanic- Ok No, not a classic.
89. the Sixth Sense- I am not a fan of this movie, but it did introduce the world to M. Nigh Shymalan so maybe.
91. Sophie's Choice- Never seen so no comment.
96. Do the right thing- Absolutely, great Spike Lee film.
97. Blade Runner- Hmmm...not sure
99. Toy Story- I would say yes as it really was the first film that used a lot of CGI (computer generated images) for the animation which was a true revolution.

So from this list I would say 11 are definate in my opinion: Schindler's List, ET, Silence of the Lambs, Platoon, GoodFellas, Unforgiven, Saving Private Ryan, The Shawshank Redemption, Do the Right Thing, Toy Story and Pulp Fiction.

It is hard for me to think about other films that should be considered classics as there are so many, but I will attempt to list a few other films.

Memento- This is an amazing film with a unique style and I think that in retrospect this film will be remembered as the film that launched Christopher Nolan who directed it and is now doing the new Batman series and has done several other films since. Although, I am a bit biased as he is probably one of my favorite directors.

Reservoir Dogs- I would rather see this on any list than Pulp Fiction, that maybe my personal preference, but I think it is a better film.

The Matrix- I am sure some of you are laughing at this choice, but I really like this film and I think that in thirty years if will be viewed as Star Wars is now, as a classic film with special effects that look amateurish by modern standards, but were amazing for their time. They also created special effects that were never used before and were again revolutionary in their use of CGI.

There are a lot of other films that I love, Ronin, Face/Off, Serenity, The Princess Bride that I just am not sure will last story wise. This brings me to my final point, do or should any of the Brat Pack Films (Pretty in Pink, Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, St. Elmo's Fire) be considered classics. They were films that defined a generation, I think, so is this enough? And do and Mel Brooks films make the cut? I think he is a comedic director genius, but do they become classics?

By the way I just found out there will be a Spaceballs:the Animated Series coming out out on the channel G4 sometime soon I think so that is weirdly exciting for me and Mel Brooks will be directing and voicing several characters.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

I am in awe

This was stolen from Tengrain, but it must be shared and passed on as this should be our next president.

Friday, October 5, 2007

106 Books Meme

Ok so I saw this over at Harp and Sword and since I love to read and was curious about how many of the books on this list I had actually read I am posting this meme here. The original is from Evolving Thoughts through Science Blogs. You take the list of 106 books, bold the ones that you have read, italicize the ones you have partially read.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi : a novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
The Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies ( I really want to read this one just haven't yet)
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury tales
The Historian : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible : a novel
Angels & Demons
The Inferno
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels
Les Misérables
The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake : a novel
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers

So my final tally was 20 that I have totally read and 8 that I have partially read. the interesting this is that I could use this as a reading list for me because a majority of them I want to read. No you do not need to tally them up, but since part of why I did this was to ee how many I had read I decided to.

YouTube Friday

I thought this was super cool. I especially like the life and death montage toward the end.

Dr. Monkey, does this answer your question about my thoughts on Regina Specktor. I love this song and the vidoe rocks too.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Nature vs. Nurture

I wrote a post here on competition in children and the gender differences that I saw in the classroom. In one of the comments Fairlane (I hope you don't mind me reusing your words again here) responded,

I'm not so sure it's simply "social programming." Look at how we lived for 90% of our time on this planet. Males, in general, are physically stronger than women (We know testosterone increases muscle mass), and it was men who did most of the "hunting and warring." (If not all). Women did the "gathering," which is a more social behavior, and is not as competitive. In a hunting or war party, (Although I've never been in either) I imagine you don't speak as much, and it's very competitive... I'm not saying people "have" to be a certain way, but there's little doubt evolution has played a significant part in our "gender roles."

The Gourmet Goddess took exception to what Fairlane had posted and responded on her own blog (after getting her permission I am reprinting this as she said that she did not want to offend anyone),

Um, the "man the hunter" theory has actually been pretty well debunked over time. Men, evidence is finding, were probably the primary hunters (or scavengers) of large game, usually in groups (which seems to me to be a pretty, ahem, social, cooperative activity as is going together as a war band to destroy your rivals). Women were the primary getters of food through gathering, fishing, as well as hunting small game and birds. And this idea that women are not as aggressive as men? Said commenter has obviously never been to an after-Thanksgiving sale at Target or the Filene's Basement bridal event.

These two comments made me think of the nature versus nurture debate that seems to spring eternal in child development. It also can come into play with discussing the sexual preferences of people. Basically this debate is whether we are inborn with certain characteristics that we cannot change such as sexuality, temperament and intelligence (nature) or whether these characteristics are a factor of our upbringing (nurture), yes there is more to this debate than that, but for now this is what is important. So, when I say that the boys in my class tend to be more aggressive in competition, people on the nature side of the debate say that this is merely evolution at work and that it is a genetic trait that causes this aggression and men are predisposed toward more aggressive nature. It is in our DNA. While those who argue for nurture say that it is the way in which children are raised with the violent media and the emphasis on aggression as the tool for boys to use to solve conflict.

I tend to see most human behavior as a combination of both nature and nurture. I see the aggressive behavior that is displayed by the boys and the less confrontational manner of girls to be a combination of these two factors. Part of my thoughts are that children this young do not have a firm grasp on gender roles, yet. This is easily evidenced when I have a little boy say that that he is the mommy or the sister and the little girls who sys that she is the daddy or the brother. Mommies and sisters have to be female and daddies and brothers have to be male. I am not saying a child cannot have two mommies or two daddies, but I am saying that the female cannot be called a daddy and the male cannot be called a mommy. Our language has established the names for the male and female caregivers and we cannot arbitrarily change that. I am not commenting on the connotation of what a mommy or daddy is, just that language has determined these are the words we use for a female caregiver, mommy, and male caregiver, daddy. So when children do not identify the correct gender word with the correct gender child it is a prime example of the fluidity of gender roles for children. There is actually a lot of research that says that children are still defining gender roles at this young age, I do not have in front of my know, but if requested I can find some. So back to the expected gender stereotypical response to conflict, I am not totally sold on the fact that children respond purely based upon nurture, I believe that there must be some nature that affects children's responses to conflict. But on the other hand we are bombarding children constantly with our cultural expectations for each gender, children are certainly assimilating much of this into their psyche and utilizing it whether they realize it or not. There is simply no way of knowing which one, nature or nurture, affects a child more. The only way to really find out would be construct an experiment where a child would receive no human contact at all and then see how they reacted to certain situations after a period of time. Since this is totally unethical, it will never happen and so are basically stuck trying to guess at and use other scientific experiments to determine the affect of nature versus nurture.

The other thought I have is that this seems to be a chicken or the egg situation, which came first the way in which children are nurtured or the way in which nature has designed humans. Did we first notice that males seem to be stronger (I am not arguing that they are or aren't here) and then our culture decided to condition children to this or did we condition males to be stronger living in a patriarchal society and then based upon this we created males that seem to be stronger (again not arguing that they are or aren't stronger here)?

If you agree or disagree, please comment here, as I am constantly struggling with this whole nature versus nurture debate. I know this seems to go without saying, but I wanted to say it anyway.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Songs in my head right now

I have had both of these songs in my head the past few days, so I thought I would share.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Children and competition

This is my response to Blue Gal's post here about relationships, in other words arm candy, titty fucking and homoerotic dating. And as you can tell from the title of this post I am going to talk about children and these issues, well ok not these issues as any of them do not really seem appropriate for children. But Driftglass wrote a response and then Blue Gal wrote a response to that and that is what this post is about. I know you are saying get your response already and I will, but these were all such great posts that I wanted to include them here.

In the points that were made by Drifty and BG it seemed competition for sex and for relationships was important. Well, guess what this is not only an adult phenomenon in my experience. In my classroom I regularly see children who are competing for the affections or friendships of other children and the adults in the room. I see children who will push another child out of the lap of an adult just so that they can sit there or who will push a child away from another child so that they can become the "best friend". Children compete for a lot of resources in the classroom, crayons, the computer, and toys, but it seems they fight the hardest and react the most to issues of human affection. I hear a lot of "you can't come to my house" if you don't do what they want you to do, this goes for both adults and children. I hear a lot of "I am not your friend" or "he/she is not my friend". I also hear "I am so-and-so's best friend, right?" in which there are normally several children who are saying this about one child. There are popular children and non-popular children even at this age. Popularity may not always be as noticeable immediately, but over time you can easily figure out who are the popular children.

The other issue that is brought up is the way in which boys and girls compete is different. Boys tend to be more physical and aggressive, hitting, pushing, or kicking another child. Girls tend to be more verbal saying things like "I am not your friend anymore" and then walking away or turning their backs. Girls at this age do not seem to be all that catty yet, but you can definately see where this could develop. The use of verbal communication is more acceptable and hence we do see boys using this method more than I see girls become physical although this does happen as well.

So, why do we see these difference in how each gender handles conflict and why do children tend to fight over relationships? I think the second question is actually easier to answer as all people want to be loved and accepted so it makes sense to fight for this basic need. But then shouldn't children still fight in similar ways or at least shouldn't we see less of a split along gender lines? Has mother culture really inundated these children so much that even at the age of 3,4, and 5 they are already showing gender stereotypical behavior? YES, as a culture we condition these children from their birth to act in a certain way. They may begin to reject our conditioning at some point, but it certainly takes a while for children to become cognizant of the fact that they do not agree with what they are being told and fight back. I look at homosexuality as an example. We are conditioned in most cases toward heterosexuality, it is in our TV, movies and even books. We are pushing children toward a one man-one woman relationship. And I have heard many people who are gay say they realized that they were different even as young as in elementary school, but didn't know why. They recognized that as their sexuality grew that they were attracted to people of the same sex. I would imagine this would feel weird, culture tells you that this is not normal in both overt and covert ways that homosexuality is not normal. Sure plenty of us say that there is nothing wrong with homosexuality and even encourage gay couples to adopt children, but the overall cultural message is still pushing children toward heterosexuality. That seemed to be a long and involved explanation for what I am trying to say, but it is still true, we are being pushed toward what are expected gender roles and that includes how we compete with others for affection and love.

I also do not see a way around this. As a parent or teacher, you can try to encourage children to buck the system and learn another way to solve competition or to go against the gender stereotypes, but when you are constantly having the message slammed into your head it will get there. And finally this message is not always being shouted at the children, most of the time it is being whispered quietly, but constantly, this is how girls talk, act, dress and behave and this is how boys talk, dress, act and behave. So can we break the mold as we get be adults and men not treat women like property and woman not act as though they have to have a man or they will die, sure, but remember that you are fighting a lifetime of constant and covert conditioning, so you must be constantly aware of your actions and words and fight at all times to be different and I would bet most of us are not doing as good a job as we think.

Monday, October 1, 2007

This is awesome

Yes, I stole this from elsewhere, but still so great I had to post it here.