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 level...it'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!
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
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.
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
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
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.