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20030124 - Public Schools, Cowspots & Dogspots

The public school system in the United States illustrates what would happen if the Republicans always got their way. (The worst of the welfare state and hororshow abuses of that system illustrates what would happen if the Democrats always got their way, but this is about public schools.)

Public school systems are a great example of the "I've got mine" attitude that Republicans are best at. There are a lot of really good public schools, and a lot of really bad ones. And most of them are sitting right next to each other. And a lot of the people who "have theirs" are willing to fight to keep the system the way it is.

Rochester, NY is a cowspot. Cedar Rapids, IA seemed to be a dogspot when I was in high school. Think of the United States as a lawn. A lawn that both cows and dogs have access to. Most areas of the lawn are going to be pretty's only been a week since we last mowed. But in certain areas where a dog has pooped, the grass is much taller. This is a smaller urban area. In places where a cow has pooped, there is a ring of very tall grass growing around the center blast zone of the cow pie. Many larger urban areas look like this. Wealthy, thriving suburbs with excellent public schools surrounding a city that has a struggling, wounded public school system. House prices can drop quite a bit in a really nice neighborhood because they're in the city school district and not in the burbs.

As I said, Rochester is a cowspot. A caller to a local public radio call-in show yesterday told the head of the Rochester School District Board of Directors that he would fight any attempt at merging the city school district with the suburban ones. I believe he said he works downtown--like a lot of the suburbanites.

I went to a public school in a rural area. It was part of that big normal part of the lawn. There wasn't anything spectacular, like AP courses, multiple foreign languages, or full time guidance counselors, and we didn't waste a lot of money on things like non-teaching coaches, football teams, swimming pools, etc. Nearby Cedar Rapids, IA, appeared to be a dogspot. Maybe I was too close, too young, or too envious of the good schools to see the poop in the middle, but they seemed to have everything -- all sorts of classes, activities, sports, and opportunities that my high school was missing.

Almost no one with any say in the matter (read: money) is going to work to change this. Who would donate to (or less importantly, vote for) someone who worked to equalize the school systems? Certainly not anyone in a school district that lost a single perk. And it's not too hard to threaten the rest of the yard by pointing to a cow's ass and asking "Well, you don't want that to happen to you, do you?"

It is a Republican Triumph!

20030117 - Hair police

Saw Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars tonight.

This confirms the idea that the mullet hair style (also known as the stilby, shlong, ape drape, SFLB, or Hockey Hair) is an atrocious hairstyle--if David Bowie, in the height of glam rock, can't pull it off, no one can.

20030112 - New Musical Genre Identified

I've positively identified a new genre of music, an offshoot of pop music. I've heard music in this new genre before, but it wasn't until I heard "Rockin' the Suburbs" by Ben Folds [link to album at amazon] that I put the pieces together..

The identifying features of this genre are:

  • The apparent protagonist of the song should be a White Male from a (safely) middle-class upbringing.
  • Ironic Delivery.
  • Illustrations of several situations which are considered "real problems" in an easy life.
  • Irony isn't held completely through the song, in order to make sure the pop-radio listeners understand the Message.
  • Self-loathing, and/or wanna-be status should be emphasized.

In "Rockin' the Suburbs", we have all of these displayed. The song's protagonist is a white male who is a big hit in the suburbs. But due to the ironic delivery of the song, we know that this isn't much of an achievement. Then, the irony is broken for the protagonist to tell us (just in case we didn't get it) that his achievement isn't even due to talent. Several things that make this character's life really hard -- McDonalds, getting mad at mom and dad, buying Preparation-H -- are illustrated as we swing in and out of a straight ironic delivery.

There are other songs that fall into this genre. Pretty Fly (For a White Guy) by Offspring, 21th Century Video Boy by Bad Religion, I think 311 have at least one of these, too.

This isn't to say that all songs with an ironic delivery are part of the genre. Many songwriters has voiced an anti-position by giving voice to the anti-hero though the lyrics rather than the hero. Gang of Four has an entire oeuvre of ironic songs, and while "At Home He's A Tourist" has irony and people who have to make their own problems, the neo-Marxist, pro-Feminist agenda of Gang of Four in many ways excludes them from this genre. Their songs are primarily about the pitfalls of modern Capitalism when it runs rampant upon our lives (We Live As We Dream, Alone), the economics of relationships (Natural's Not In It), the economics of gender (It's Her Factory), and economic double entendres (Damaged Goods) rather than just ironically decrying "oh poor (pathetic) me". But when the ironic delivery is tied in with whining from the suburbs, especially when the irony is turned on and off like a switch, then we have something that's probably from this new genre.

As the discoverer I should be given the right to name it, but I'm not exactly sure what to call it yet. I'm thinking of something like Suburban Ironic Guilt Rock or SIG-Rock.

20030111 - I learned it from watching you

Mom and Dad, you're going to be so proud.

I used the phrase "Don't just 'not try to', try NOT to." when cautioning someone to watch out for work politics.

Yes, I hereby formally concede. You WERE right. I'd screw something up, and I'd say "I didn't try to" do it, and your aggravating, frustrating response would be "Don't just 'not try to', try not to!" Eventually it became just the deadly "Try NOT to." refrain. Oh sure, I tried to insist that they were the same thing, because...well because I didn't want to be wrong and at fault. Sometimes I was even trying not to, but I wasn't very good at it when I was 6. You were right. They are different, and it's a lot more important most of the time to be actively avoiding something than just not recklessly trying to do it.

The thing was, it came out of my mouth unexpectedly. That's right...I wasn't trying to say it.