Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The true meaning of Thanksgiving

So tonight I will spend all night putting up all the Christmas displays for Borders, and soon we'll start playing Christmas Carols and I'll drink egg nog and gain unwanted pounds. And I sort of got to thinking... what happened to Thanksgiving. I'm not really in the mood for Halloween, but that's okay, since I'll be up all night, haunting my bookstore.

Thanksgiving however, is another story. One of the books that has routinely not sold has been Thanksgiving books. No one cares... and if you think about it, Thanksgiving is just another excuse to eat a lot, stay home from work, and watch football. For kids, Thanksgiving is a time to stay home from school, maybe watch the Macy's parade which is mainly about Santa Clause and the balloons, and to start making lists for their parents to go out the next day and buy gifts.

Which is not to say that presents aren't already being bought. Why start the Christmas season at the end of November when you can string it out, balance Credit Card spending, and start Christmas shopping in Early October? HSN already has all their Christmas trees up, and K-Mart and Hallmark have had Christmas stuff up for months now.

My main beef is that students today know nothing about what Thanksgiving is about. I bet you if you go to any Third Grade classroom and ask what Thanksgiving is about, they will give you all of the above. They don't realize that it is partially a Patriotic holiday, and that part of it is a time for religious reflection made by past presidents.

What teachers need to do is to go to your local bookstore (Borders, hopefully) and get the books that will help students realize what Thanksgiving really is. Mario Thomas wrote a wonderful one, Thanks and Giving All year Long, as well as other books that give the real meaning of Thanksgiving, not just Turkey and food and shopping. I don't usually care that much about holidays, mainly because my mom always has headaches and I have to take care of her, but this time, I think Thanksgiving has been pushed aside because of the commercialization of Christmas, and it's not fair for it to be so easily dismissed.

Now I need to retire to bed so I can get up and stay up all night. (Yawn).

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Billy Gilman, Michael Vick, and Christopher Paolini

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. If we didn't, those stupid questions wouldn't be asked on interviews, and then we'd all get jobs. Those awkward silent moments when we try to figure that out are probably more job killers than any answer we might give... but anyway... We all have strengths, but whether or not we are successful depends on how we are allowed to develop and use those strengths.

I once taught a student (whose name I forget because the memory block on those days is very much in place, thank goodness) who never did his work, never did a single thing I told him, that anyone told him, and could have cared less if he did any school work or not. But that doesn't mean he wasn't brilliant. He could take a lawn mower apart and put it all back together again. He's gonna make more money than I ever will taking apart transmissions, that is, if he is allowed to develop those strengths. He should have been given tech courses out the wazoo so that when he leaves High school (at whatever age,) he would be able to walk into an auto repair shop and smoke them all.

On a similar note, the same thing goes for artists, sports people, writers, etc... In the real world, it is often the restrictions people have placed on each other, or on themselves, that hamper the natural progression of strengths in a person. Take Billy Gilman for instance. Most known for his song "One Voice." His recent albums, Everything and More and his self titled album, are, to me, disappointments, and a waste of a major talent. The song selections, arrangements, backup vocals, everything, were designed to cover up Billy Gilman's voice. Maybe they thought he needed it cause his voice was changing. There are tracks on Dare to Dream where Billy is given the chance to use his talents to the fullest extent. In other words, let him sing!!! He could be the greatest pop/broadway singer in many years, but he is targeted toward a country music stryle, which, in my opinion, is stunting his potential.

Same thing with Michael Vick. The guy can run!! Yet Jim Mora has consistantly tried to implement a passing game. Sure, Vick might get injured while running around, but if that's the way he is going to win games, then let him do it! It's a suppression of talent that has stunted the Falcons' seasons and kept them from reaching the Super Bowl. Maybe this is the year for them, I don't know.

On the flip side, Christoper Paolini, author of Eragon is a success story. He is the greatest arguement for home schooling in America in many years. He started writing Eragon when he was 15, and his writing style shines! It can easily be placed with major Fantasy works (Tolkien, Lewis...etc.), and he has done this because by home schooling him, his parents have encouraged the development of his strengths. I shutter to think what he would be now had he gone to public school. He would be drastically poorer, that is for sure.

As far as schools are concerned, if children are unique, then shouldn't the education they recieve be the same? Shouldn't the education system augment and develop strengths, instead of giving everyone the same, watered-down version of an education that will do nothing for most people? And why should money matter when it comes to developing an artist's strengths? If Billy Gilman would be the greatest singer in a generation, don't pigeon-hole him into country just because that's where people think he'll make the most money. And as for Vick, just let the guy run!!! And as for me, I'm gonna do what I do, no matter what anyone else thinks, including posting a blog at 3 in the morning. :)

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Book Review: _All the King's Men_ - Robert Penn Warren

If anyone were to pull you into the deep side of a pool, and you thought you might drown, but then you found that you could swim and you liked it, that would be the feeling of reading this book. Robert Penn Warren writes of Lousiana politician Willie Stark, in a Lousiana long before Katrina, but not so long before politics corrupted and paralyzed the system. But it's not just about politics, or I wouldn't be reading it. It's about every other thing in this world besides that.

Warren is most known for his poetry, and this long, rambling book is filled with poetic moments, grand gestures of philosophical phrases, and the bombastic arrogance of someone who things he knows much more about life than you, and as it turns out, probably does.

Take a pencil, underline the good parts, watch for the cows, the bugs, the road, the twitch, the clock towers, all the things that mean everything and yet still mean just the cow. Absolutely amazing work! And no movie can come close to fulfilling the poetic wonders that fill All the Kings Men's pages. It's simply one of the best works to come out of the south in the 20th century.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Obesity and Football

And while we're talking about Mcdonalds, it seems to me that obesity is changing many different areas of our culture. In fact, it is my position that the weight gain on most teenage boys (and college guys) is going to cause the end of football as we know it. Granted, the best football players work out and most of that bulk is muscle, but you can't expect most high school football players to be all muscle.

One of the commentators on ESPN gave an opinion on the high number of defensive games that have been occurring in the NFL and in college this year. There is nothing worse than watching an entire half of a football game and have the score be 6-0. No long bombs, no trick plays, just heavy defensive players knocking the stuffing out of the offensive line. No offensive line or TE's or WR's can survive hitting the brick wall defenses that are appearing all over the place. And some people would think that a good defense is necessary to win, and it is, but you have to score points, too. The Bears found that out last year. ND found out last year that without an offense, sooner or later you're going to lose a game.

What is the reason, then, for the decline in offense in football games. I contend that boys in high school, especially ones that are a little overweight and not the fastest in the world, want to knock the stuffing out of someone, and the only legal way of doing that is becoming a Defensive Back in football. It's more than this, though. It's a mental state, where no one wants to catch the ball, or throw it, they just want to hit somebody. In such a violent world, the defensive line can legally knock somebody down and feel good about it. I taught many Defensive players at George Walton Academy, and one of them, Danny Murren, told me that he couldn't wait for the first game because he felt a build up of this desire to hit someone with all his being. That the release of that emotion was the biggest high he could feel.

So you have a combination of the lessening of athleticism in American High Schools because of weight gain, as well as a building need for violence in boys (video games, TV, ??? who knows,). And it permutates upward into college, and eventually (I think it's gotten there now, alas) to the NFL. Games are just no fun to watch anymore. And the play by play commentators have to essentially entertain America while they wait for someone to make a play over three yards. Drives me nuts. Thank goodness for those few athletes out there that are fast enough to run around Grimace and make plays. Thank goodness for Michael Vick or Slayton and White at West Virginia, or Adrian Petersen at Oklahoma (or wherever he goes in the NFL). And thank goodness for the Mannings and Brett Farve who still know how to throw the long bomb.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Mcdonalds, when you absolutely have to pass Go

So the Monopoly pieces pile up beside my computer, and the board game is filled with all the pieces you need except the last one in each monopoly group. Which means I've won absolutely nothing.

Now, I've just spent a month going to McD's, ordering food that was bland (the french fries are getting worse), putting up with customer service that is horrible, eating food that has probably sucked one year of my life away, all to play this game which I have no chance of winning. So why do I do it?

The same reason everyone else does, because Monopoly and McDonalds is an event which draws everyone under the golden arches just to pull off those little tags to see which estate they got. There is no other time that I would go to a fast food restaraunt just because of a promotion. There is nothing in the retail world like it.

And the fact that for years, the whole thing was rigged (see news articles about the security company handling the promotion actually gave the real pieces to their friends), did nothing to keep people away from the game. People are still just as excited about it as they were long ago. I joke that the thing is still rigged, but I do it anyway. Because we have all been herded like cows to this greasy place to eat something that will kill us all eventually. And we mooooo and add to the Billions and Billions served. When I get up to Heaven's gates, I only hope that Peter has $200 dollars for me as I pass Go into the Kindgom.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Blogging... once more unto the breech.

Okay, so the main thing you do with Myspace is to keep a blog, a diary, a journal. Whatever. And the purpose of this is to do what.... let the whole world know my innermost thoughts? But then, who am I kidding? It's unlikely that all but a few would even look here, much less some unknown somebody. Why should anyone even care what I think, or what my opinions are on anything?

Well, for one, I do. I have kept a journal in the past, and I want to be able to express myself. So now, I'll do a blog, I hope, every day or two or three. There are always things to think about. Life does not just let someone stagnate. And if I have the self discipline to sit on my butt and type out these things, instead of doing something more productive, I'll have a new, electronic journal that I can keep going without having to take up space on my bookshelves, which are already overflowing. So for anyone listening, I hope you get something out of it.

Oh, and I just got back home from work, and I wanna sleep, cause I got up at 4:30 in the morning to get to work by 6.