What JJ’s Reading and Being Confounded By

30 11 2010

. . .mostly news and commentary, mostly online, although the other night I did finish the latest Grisham legal thriller in real book form, with a hard cover and paper pages. It reminded me of a true story of my own and of the book, Bonfire of the Vanities — all about the power of conflicting stories full of both truthful fiction and factual fakes, stories that compete to confound us into real rage and real riots in our streets, but to no real (much less happy) end either as individual persons or as The People.

I am both aflame and unable to stop shivering.

“For all its apparent realism, Mr. Wolfe’s novel is not realistic. A 650-page narrative in which it is almost impossible to find a character who experiences a generous impulse or acts out of a generous motive may be said, in fact, to defy realism.”

As our new century’s political storms rage on and the light is dying, we can rage, rage back against it, and against each other. We certainly have the right to live our mutual lives as satire in the streets.

But if this reviewer was right, Tolstoy offers us the more enlightened lesson of problem-solving in a storm . . .

So what I’m reading is always a story with power but which story are we in, these days? And which story has the power? The more I read, the harder it is to know. Seems that as our stories and their power implode, power of story increasingly is all about power of story itself:

In a democracy, people have a right to know what their government is actually doing. In a pseudo-democracy, Read the rest of this entry »





Ho Ho Ho

23 11 2010

U.S. CORPORATIONS POST BIGGEST PROFITS EVER

. . .while actual Americans struggle on with what little we have left. And the only industry that has never been in recession: going on cable television and blaming the other guys.





Harry Potter: We Better Believe It’s Real

19 11 2010

Is the new Harry Potter movie life imitating art?

Do you need to know who said this, about whom, when and where, to believe it?

The world is a dangerous place. It has never been more so, or more complicated, more straining of the reasoning powers of those with actual genius and true judgment.

. . .The era we face, that is soon upon us, will require a great deal from our leaders. They had better be sturdy. They will have to be gifted. There will be many who cannot, and should not, make the cut. Now is the time to look for those who can. . .

It’s not a time to be frivolous, or to feel the temptation of resentment, or the temptation of thinking next year will be more or less like last year, and the assumptions of our childhoods will more or less reign in our future. It won’t be that way.

We are going to need the best.

(It was Rita Skeeter’s real-world counterpart, in Rupert World’s Wall Street Journal.)

No need for a night at the movies, to experience a war-riven world without real grown-ups, this “bleak, perilous grown-up world that tests the independence [we] have struggled to obtain” in an “especially somber and scary coloration.”

Childish things have been put away — this time there is no quidditch, no school uniforms, no schoolboy crushes or classroom pranks — and adult supervision has all but vanished. . . . Harry and his companions must rely . . . above all, on one another.

. . . Hermione for her part, seems lonelier than ever. She has broken entirely with her Muggle parents, expunging herself from their memories to prevent them from being caught up in an increasingly vicious intrawizard civil war. . . .

Time to put away childish things including the fiction that school is preparation for real life, instead of Dark Art in itself. Time for serious leaders to do serious work in serious ways.

Small screen queens billed as real moms tweeting and dancing like bears animated by corporate control set up to seem like America’s “votes” are really dangerous only if we believe it’s real. Harry Potter is dangerous only if we don’t..

Watch tv and see the new movie, or not, but get the picture.

And then act, for real.





Power of Story Can Change the World

18 11 2010

Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has done.

We need to sing our epics or lose them. For any nation in any age including here and now, the ultimate war is over competing narratives, conflicting power of story.

Oh sure, the usual ancient stories and myths of course — and here we go fighting about the meaning of Christmas again — but wasn’t the world-changing power of old religious stories most potent in their own real-world time? We don’t call “currency” that for nothing. What are world-changing power of story stories with currency in our time, in this world?

MisEducation humbly suggests she herself may be the first — of whom she in her cloistered library is aware!– to ponder The World of Potter for real school themes rather than Sunday School themes.

. . .I think Rowling’s genius is to see humans as carrying both hope and fear, both good and evil, to see us as magnificent, and animals, and facing new threats of extinction — to realize our ancient songs and stories need to be understood in progressively evolving ways, for anyone to win anything worth living or dying for.

. . . we love movies about learning to define yourself and your own creative power in the world, instead of any organized institution (church or school) conspiring with society to standardize and subjugate individuals, the better to keep them under control . .

Stories like Avatar and the Harry Potter series might seem like unlikely starting points for civic engagement, but they speak a global language, and they stir something in people.

Did you ever wish that Harry Potter was real? Well, it kind of is.

Just as Dumbledore’s Army wakes the world up to Voldemort’s return, works for equal rights of house elves and werewolves, and empowers its members, we:

* Work with partner NGOs in alerting the world to the dangers of global warming, poverty, and genocide.

* Work with our partners for equal rights regardless of race, gender, and sexuality.

* Encourage our members to hone the magic of their creativity in endeavoring to make the world a better place.

Join our army to make the world a safer, more magical place, and let your voice be heard!

Remember whatever your personal world and worldview:

. . .the whole purpose of “education” anywhere, is more and forward and freedom, not less and backward in a box. . .





Because JJ’s a Sucker for Royals, Weddings and English Accents

16 11 2010

Breaking news! You saw it here first!





Private Power of Story in Censorship

15 11 2010

CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION (subscription only)
“The Future of Free Speech”
By Tim Wu

Tim Wu is a professor of law at Columbia Law School. His new book, The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires, was just published by Knopf.

This is what speech management looks like in 2010. No one elected Facebook or YouTube, and neither one is beholden to the First Amendment. Nonetheless, it is their decisions that dictate, effectively, who gets heard.

What’s the answer? There is no easy answer. Monopolies like Google, Facebook, and Hollywood have certain advantages: That’s why they tend to come into existence. That means the American public needs to be aware of the dangers that private censors can pose to free speech.

The American Constitution was written to control abuses of power, but it didn’t account for the heavy concentration of private power that we see today.

And in the end, power is power, whether in private or public hands.

More snooking on censorship power of story:

School theatre and citizen censorship

Ideas are incombustible

More t-shirts and dress message stories, from stupid to dead serious this time

So we were saying censorship is a bad thing . . .

How the Oscars offended me today

Palin’s “Actual Responsibilities” as Madame Mayor

Ignorance makes the N-word Even Scarier Unspoken





“The Exorcist” Re-released to a Catholic Church Near You!

13 11 2010

Exorcism of our demons was not the hope and change America was expecting perhaps, but the Catholic Church is its own State even in America and it’s got time-tested solutions for people from all over, whose beliefs are all over.

(Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition, will that be next?)





“Every Conceivable Way to Screw the Middle Class”

11 11 2010

is what the deficit commission is considering.

I have to admit that I was wrong: this thing is even worse than I originally thought, and I way understated the problems with it. The co-chairs and staff found every conceivable way to screw the middle class in ways big (very big) and small, but barely nicked the bankers who caused the meltdown of the economy, or the wealthy whose massive tax cuts ended the big budget surpluses as far as the eye could see coming out of the Clinton years.

Look at some of the different ways middle class and poor people will be g[o]uged by this proposal (and I am probably missing some):

And check out Matt Taibbi’s new Rolling Stone real journalism here:
Courts Helping Banks Screw Over Homeowners:

Nowhere else on the planet is it such a crime to be down on your luck, even if you were put there by some of the world’s richest banks, which continue to rake in record profits purely because they got a big fat handout from the government . . . most people in this country are so ready to buy that explanation.

Because in America, it’s far more shameful to owe money than it is to steal it.





Homeschooling D-I-V-O-R-C-E With Children

8 11 2010

Homeschooling knows divorce. It threatens the end of homeschooling and even when that bullet can be dodged, it always means CHANGE and there’s lots for Thinking Parents to think about. Some examples are seared in my memory, most recently Unity-n-Diversity and there was the North Carolina cult classic with the mom’s best friend libeling the custody judge online in the name of homeschool defense, remember that one?

Also, how can we fight over divorce without first fighting over marriage, and when or whether there will be children of that union — conceived, born, adopted, kidnapped, abandoned — and how they are to be treated within that family, by society and by the courts?

See “Blurring Family Value lines Might Benefit Us All” and “The Most Important Lesson Whatever We Call It”:

For just one example, I have a good friend IRL I hadn’t seen in years, until Monday. Her life has changed dramatically in the ten years I’ve known her. When first we met, she was a happy, secure, homeschooling SAHM with two beautiful and smart little girls, wanting to start their own home-education Brownie troop. We spent a lot of time together because Favorite Daughter was the same scouting-curious age, and as moms we had values in common, including independent thinking and libertarian leanings.

FavD and I soon lost interest in scouting but my friend continued as troop leader, field trip organizer and general supporter of other families learning without school. She added two little boys to her brood, and the last time I saw her in person was at the fire house field trip, with her fourth child in a big sling, not slowed one bit. The oldest was a joy in pigtails, helping not just her mom but all the smaller kids on the tour.
Until.

From that time to this, this settled and happy mom faced a difficult divorce and the need to find a family-sustaining career for herself, which meant getting different kinds of educational “support” than we typically dwell on in independent unschooling circles — child care and legal advice and putting the older kids in public school after custody challenges and even “going back to school” herself. I know there were times she agonized about her kids, but not whether they mastered the state learning standards and passed algebra — it was what they were learning about life!

Then day before yesterday, we ran into each other Read the rest of this entry »





GroupThink on All Sides

8 11 2010

. . .of animal rights and how that affects the Meaning of Life to us humans.

“Ironically, it is at just this point of their agreement—about monkeys and companion animals not being special—where both groups’ values differ most from those of the general population. . .apes and monkeys and dogs and cats are being confined, vivisected, and killed while animal advocates are ignored as a lunatic fringe.”

CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION
November 7, 2010
Animal Research: Groupthink in Both Camps

Lawrence A. Hansen, M.D., is a professor of neuroscience and pathology at the University of California at San Diego, where he also leads the neuropathology core of the Shiley-Marcos Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.

Professors like me, with established research credentials at animal-research-intensive universities who are also members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, are rare. But a dual identity as a research faculty member and an animal advocate affords a unique perspective on both camps.

A striking similarity between the two is that animal researchers and defenders of animals both employ groupthink, a mode of thought that people engage in when Read the rest of this entry »





Dream or Nightmare? Is Nothing Left of What’s Right on Left or Right?

7 11 2010

Maher went on to poke holes in Jon’s arguments, saying “Martin Luther King spoke on that Mall in the capital and he didn’t say, ‘Remember folks, those southern sheriffs with the fire hoses and the German shepherds, they have a point too.’

No, he said I have a dream, they have a nightmare…Liberals, like the ones on that field, must stand up and be counted and not pretend that we’re as mean, or greedy, or short-sighted or just plain bat-shit as they are.

And if that’s too polarizing for you, and you still wanna reach across the aisle…try church.”





Jeb Bush and Rick Perry Twins Separated at Birth?

5 11 2010

I saw Rick Perry interviewed on cable news this morning and was struck by how like Jeb Bush he is, in looks and attitudes and demeanor.

And it figures. Because after Tuesday, it looks like Florida is the new Texas.