Available on home video.
This could have been a really good movie.
As it stands I think it will have to be satisfied with being "okay".
Duets, directed by Bruce Paltrow (yes, her father), is three seperate storylines all rolled into one and all having only one thing in common: karaoke. It is essentially I suppose a road musical of sorts, with each storyline containing two people, thrown together by chance and circumstance, on their way to a big karaoke championship in Omaha, stopping along the way to sing in whatever hotel bar or country-western barn-buster they can find.
One storyline regards Ricky (Huey Lewis, a singer I have always really enjoyed), who plays essentially a career karaoke hustler. He hops from city to city, bar to bar, and then like any hustler pretends to be totally ignorant of the contest he is betting a thousand bucks on ("What is this, karate-okie?"). He meets up with Liz (Gwenyth Paltrow) at her mother's funeral. Lewis happens to be Paltrow's father, only he had no idea, and had never met her before. Paltrow plays a very naive Vegas showgirl who wants to start a relationship with her long-lost father, something he wants no part of. He explains that he is a drifter, and that he has a "performance" he has to get to tomorrow. Liz's grandmother somehow wrangles Ricky into taking his daughter on the road for awhile, playing off his guilt.
Secondly there is the story of Billy (Scott Speedman), a cab driver who owns half a taxi and who walks in on his wife cheating on him with the guy that owns the other half of the taxi. Following that he understandably finds himself drunk in an airport bar when he is approached by Suzi (Maria Bello), who needs a ride out West and who is willing to offer sex for, well, anything. He's an ex-seminary student whose life is currently in the shitter, she's a hussy with lots of dreams who only knows one way to get her way. You get the idea.
The most compelling pairing is the one that, thankfully, the movie focuses on a bit more. This revolves around Todd (Paul Giamatti, a very gifted character actor you will probably instantly recognize but have a hard time placing), who is a traveling salesman who never knows what city he's in and spends most of his time in airport hotels (there is a terrific scene where he walks into a conference room and begins his presentation to the Amusement Park Association, only to half-way through realize he is in the conference room for the Poultry Farmers Association. And that he isn't in Florida, he's in Texas). His family hardly pays him second notice, he hates his job, he hates his suburban life, and he finally goes batshit. He announces to his family that he is "going out to get a pack of cigarettes" (his wife casually makes a passing comment about how he doesn't smoke), finds a bar, gets talked into getting on stage to do a karaoke routine by a pretty young cowgirl who also gives him speed to "melt his fears away", and before you know it he is doing 115 mph down the interstate to nowhere in particular with an earing in one ear and a bottle of pills in the other, a crazed look in his eyes as he tries to find any shithole with a karaoke mic anywhere on route66. He ends up picking up a hitchhiker, Reggie, played by Andre Braugher, who is another very talented actor I remember most from Spike Lee's Get on the Bus. Reggie is an escaped convict who knows nothing else but hitching and robbing. Giamatti can hold a tune fairly well, and he finds a bar that only has karaoke openings for duets, so he convinces Braugher to help him out, and it turns out the con has the voice of an angel. That scene, the duet between Giamatti and Braugher where they sing Otis Redding's "Try a Little Tenderness", is probably alone worth the cost of the rental. The two, complete opposites for all intensive purposes, stike up an unlikely friendship, and I have to say the chemistry between the two actors is definitly one of the better things about this movie.
There were many things I liked about this movie. For one, I found myself on the edge of my seat for the entire movie just desperatly waiting for Huey Lewis to sing some more. He has just such a wonderful voice, that everytime he starts singing, I was held in rapt attention. He's not a bad actor either. In the hustling scenes he does quite well. Admittedly, he falls a bit flat in the emotional scenes between himself and Paltrow, but he can do sly wit very well, which is mostly what this role calls for. Unlike most rock stars turning in a film performance, I didn't find myself grinding my teeth everytime he delivered a line.
A BIG surprise, for me at least, was Gwenyth Paltrow. She is probably the best singer in this picture, and that even includes good 'ole Huey. I would hazard to say that if she never made it in pictures, she could have had a pretty good career as a singer. I was blown away when Huey Lewis walked into a bar he was going to hustle, only to find Paltrow already down there, on stage, singing "Betty Davis Eyes". At the end of the picture, Lewis and Paltrow sing a duet, an old Smokey Robinson tune, that also probably justifies the 3 bucks you'll spend renting the film.
All the actors in this movie, who sing unaided, can hold a tune fairly well. And all the singers in this movie can act perfectly adequatly.
But before you go and think I've given Duets a glowing review (I am by no stretch of the imagination a harsh critic), there are many things about the film I did NOT like.
For one the story between the cab driver and the street-wise hussy seemed practically obligatory, and unfortunalty that's a third of the movie. Also, I thought the chemistry between Huey Lewis and Gwenyth Paltrow was, well, terrible. I can't tell which I blame that on--the fact that Huey Lewis, while a perfectly decent actor, can't hold much of a candle to Gwenyth Paltrow in that arena, or the fact that Gwenyth Paltrow plays a terribly obnoxious and poorly written character. The emotional scenes between the two are really flat and unbelievable, and during the final payoff of that storyline, the duet, you are moved by the music, the emotional charge it is supposed to hold just isn't there.
Furthermore, I found the pace really choppy. It continually tried to counter-act heavy emotional moments with karaoke performances, which was odd to say the least. It would almost have been WORSE for the pacing if the heavy emotional moments were ever actually pulled off, which was rarely if ever the case anyway.
But I think what bothered me most about the movie was that it seemed all building up to one magnificent pay-off, and then kind of fizzled and let the credits roll. The ending of the picture was like something out of a bad TV movie, and I frankly felt a bit betrayed. The storyline regarding Braugher and Giamatti was the most compelling, and the pay-off for it was cheap and over-sentimental. The build-up regarding Huey Lewis and Gwenyth Paltrow never actually worked in the first place, so at least I didn't feel cheated there (their pay-off was the second great musical moment of the film, but had no heart whatsoever). And the storyline between the cab driver and the hussy was just so bad, that even though the pay-off was probably the best done of all three, at that point I could not have cared less, and just kept hoping the director would hand over the mic to Huey. It made a passing attempt to reconcile all three storylines together, but by then it seemed like the film knew it had burnt itself out and decided why bother.
All that said I think I WOULD probably recommend the movie. There really are some TERRIFIC scenes, everytime either Paltrow or Lewis take up the mic, you will be held in rapt attention, and the storyline between Braugher and Giamatti really stole the show. But I kept getting the sense that the movie was a rough draft of something that could have been a really great final product.
So all in all, I'd gie it 2 1/2 stars out of 4.
I read about a fat lady by the name of Saarjite Baartman, a young Khosian woman from Southern Africa. She had a body that became the main attraction at public spectacles in both England and France for over five years. Baartman, who became known as the “Hottentot Venus”, was brought to Europe from Cape Town in 1810 by an English ship's surgeon who wanted to publicly exhibit the woman's steatopygia, a word that refers to an extreme accumulation of fat on the buttocks. Her steatopygic appendage became the focus when she was exhibited naked in a cage in Piccadilly, England. Abolitionists tried to put an end to Baartman's public display of her body. She even shared in profits with her exhibitor.
Can you say early porn star?
The showing of Baartman's body continued even after her death at the age of twenty-six. Pseudo-scientists interested in investigating "primitive sexuality" dissected and cast her genitals and put them on display. Yes, that's right, her fat was put on display. Baartman, as far as we know, was the first person to be dismembered and displayed in this manner. Anatomist Georges Curvier presented her dissected parts to the Academie Royale de Medecine. Curvier concluded that her oversized genitalia was physical proof of the African woman's primitive sexual appetite. Long after her death, Baartman's genitalia continued to be exhibited at La Musée de l'Homme. In my opinion this shows that fat woman were adored hundreds of years ago, and they may well have been the original porn stars.
All I have to say is, I'm fat and proud! Let's see someone try to put Katie Holme’s little ass on display...
As has been typical thus far, we go to the next great pupil in the line of the Greeks. Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) was a student of Plato, and studied at his Academy in Athens for some twenty years. Unlike his predecessors, he was a not a native Athenian and was in fact born in Macedonia to a father that was a physician. The last of the great Greek philosophers, Aristotle’s work can be justifiably seen as the foundation and grounding of the world of science as we know it today. His work differed sharply from Plato’s in that he was not concerned and preoccupied as Plato was in the internal forms or ideas of the natural world. Both Aristotle and Plato agreed that the world was changing, but whilst Plato was concerned with the elements that did not change, Aristotle took the alternative line and looked at the natural processes directly, and what their changes were.
I guess one could say that while Plato wanted to close his eyes and see the immutable world of ideas and escape from his cave, Aristotle was the one that wanted to stay in the cave and analyze the things he found there. Plato wanted to rely on reason alone, whilst Aristotle wanted to rely on his senses. It was therefore Aristotle that brought the world the idea of modern science, he was the one that categorized things and devised the terminology that many scientists still use today. Aristotle, whilst studying the natural processes of the world also worked on his own philosophy to reject that of Plato’s and the forms.
Aristotle argued that Plato was wrong, that there were no innate, immutable ideas. If you remember, for Plato, ideas were something that existed independently and immutably outside of the natural world. For Plato the ‘idea’ of chicken came before both the chicken and the egg. Aristotle argued against this. He said that whilst the form of say, a dog, is in someway immutable, the idea of dog is merely a concept; a concept that is based squarely on a number of experiences in which one has seen a dog. Thus the idea or form of dog had no existence independent and its own for Aristotle. It was something that existed as the result of experience. The form was in someway immutable in that it defined certain characteristics that we say a dog has.
This is essentially Aristotle's argument against Plato’s theory of ideas . Aristotle did not believe that there was, somewhere, an immutable mold for the dog. He believed that the form was within the dog in its features, and also in all things. He argued that Plato was trapped in the world of the mind. Aristotle argued that nothing could exist in consciousness without first being experienced by the sense. In comparison, Plato would have said that there is nothing in the natural world that has not first existed in the world of ideas.
So Aristotle argued that we have no innate ideas. That we start blank and fill up with ideas as we experience the world. He did however say that we have innate reason. That is, we have the innate capacity to think and categorize the phenomena in the natural world that we see. For example: ‘stone’, ‘plant’, ‘human’. But our reason is completely empty until we have actually experienced something.
From this standpoint of refuting Plato, Aristotle was able to develop his own philosophy and theory of the world. For Aristotle the world was made up of two things, ‘substance’ and ‘form’. Substance being what things are made of, and form being that things characteristics. So a dog say has the characteristic of wagging its tale, and therefore that is part of its form, whilst once it dies, its form no longer exists and all that is its substance.
As I said before, Aristotle was also concerned with how the world changed. Aristotle believed that everything that is substance has the potentiality to be a specific form. Thus every change in nature, Aristotle said, was the transformation of substance from its potential to its actual.
An example of this can be seen in the chicken and the egg. Every chicken’s egg has the potential to become a chicken. Now, it’s true to say that not all eggs actually achieve that potential, as they end up in a frying pan, etc. However, it is true to say that a chicken’s egg cannot ever become a goose. It can only ever achieve its potential. This potential and actual does not apply to living things for Aristotle. It can also apply to things like rocks. If you throw a rock high into the air, its potential is that it will, and does fall to the ground. This potential is what Aristotle saw as immutable. An acorn would always grow into an oak tree and never into, say, a Ferrari. This is what is known as the telos of a substance. The potentiality is the telos, or the end of goal-making process. This argument of teleogy also held throughout much of Greek society at the time. If you were born to a father that was a cobbler then you would also be a cobbler. Nothing can exceed, or deviate from its potential.
Whilst Aristotle dealt with the reality of things as he perceived them, there was also the matter of dealing with the question of why. Aristotle approached this question by looking at causality. He argued that there were four causes of things, and that the most important was what he called the ‘final cause’. If we take the example of rain we can see these four causes. First there is the ‘material’ cause of rain, in that there was moisture in the air. Next there is the ‘efficient cause’ which is the action of that moisture cooling. The third cause is the ‘formal cause’, this being that the nature or form of water is to fall to the ground. Finally, Aristotle added the ‘final cause’, which was essentially a thing's purpose. In the case of rain it would be that plants and animal and living things need the rain to survive.
It is arguable to say that this is one place where Aristotle differs from today’s world when looking at nature. For Aristotle water, and in the case of the example rain, has a purpose. That purpose is to sustain life. For Aristotle all natural things had a purpose. Today, however, we would probably say that water is a necessity for life, rather than saying that water's purpose is to provide us with life.
If you remember, I mentioned that Aristotle categorized things. This stemmed from Aristotle’s view of logic. By this I mean that he studied things and placed them all within a framework of categories and sub-categories, particular things related to biology. It is in this that we see one of Aristotle’s great achievements left to science, and still used today. Aristotle argued that each and every thing has a logical place within a category. Animal, vegetable or mineral is a prime example of this. All things fall into a category, or at least a sub-category of something else. We put books on bookshelves; we put underwear in one drawer, shirts in another, and so on and so forth. Aristotle saw that this logical methodology was a key to understanding nature and all things around us.
Finally, I think it’s important to look at Aristotle’s view of politics (after all, a column from sp00ky would not be complete without politics would it?). Aristotle famously stated that man is by his nature a ‘political animal’. Political in the sense that he will play and dabble with power each and every day in his life during his interactions with people, be they in responsible office or simply the political relationship between a father and son. For Aristotle, man is nothing without a society around him, for that is what makes him what he is. Therefore the highest form of human fellowship can be found in the form of the state. The question for Aristotle was what form that state would take, or what characteristics it would have. Aristotle described three very brief types of constitution that were good, but Aristotle also warned that each of these had negative aspects which ought to be avoided.
The first was monarchy or kingship, a system in which there is only one head of state. In order for this form of constitution to remain good, Aristotle argued, it must avoid falling into tyranny. The second form was aristocracy, similarly to monarchy, it was important for this form to avoid becoming oligarchy in order to remain a good form of state. A good example of oligarchy can be seen in the likes of the former ‘junta’ in Argentina. The final and third form of state for Aristotle was polity, or what we might call democracy. The negative aspect to be avoided here for Aristotle was that of ‘mob rule’, or what one later philosopher would call the ‘tyranny of the majority’. For Aristotle, all this form of constitution had their advantages, and he did not directly express any as being preferable to the other.
And thus we come to the end of the Greeks and their contributions to the ideas and philosophy of the world. Of course there were many other Greeks we could have looked at, but the three ‘big hitters’ in Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle are the seminal thinkers of the period. I want to jump forward next to the Middle Ages and look at the transition period before modernity as we have come to know it. The time in which Christendom was the driving force in Europe, because, whether one believes in God or not, the period of Middle Ages was a time when thought and philosophy still went on, and it's interesting to see how the ideas of Plato, et al, were able to be snuggly fit into what the they would have probably seen as a regression in ideas back to the mythical world that they wanted to escape from.
Coming back to the States brought with it a bevy of emotions and thoughts. For the longest time there was just a feeling of "outness" -for lack of a better term- wherein I just felt incapable of identifying with people. A couple days of chilling with my sister, playing with the pets, and just all-in-all relaxing down home remedied the situation nicely. But there are a couple aspects of life in the States that I doubt that I will be entirely comfortable with.
I don't watch much TV in Japan and didn't really watch all that much in the US before moving. But I admit that I was looking forward to being able to enjoy a few of the shows that entertain me (aka the Simpsons) as well as surfing the Discovery and History Channels. I watched a bit here and there, but I was blown away at the commercial industry.
Advertising in its current incarnation is the bane of humanity, in my opinion. There isn't anything inherently evil about promoting a product or idea or competing for a particular market share. Both of these aspects of advertising contribute to better products and empower consumers to exercise the power of their dollar. But advertising in the U.S. at least (and probably in many other places as well) goes beyond product promotion. Modern advertising works in ways to make you want goods that you didn't know existed, desire goods that you didn't want, buy goods you don't need. Pure psychological manipulation contributing to rampant consumerism. It's wasteful, it's hypocritical, and it's unhealthy.
A good example of this (and the incident that sparked this oh-so-inspiring article): Brand name drug advertisements. One of the first things I saw on TV was a slick commercial for a new drug that not only presented itself as the cure for a disease, but actually fabricated the disease right in front of you. A beautiful nature scene provided the backdrop for a soothing paternal announcer who asked a few questions about your state of health (Do you get hungry during the day? Do you find yourself using the bathroom outside of the house? Do you get tired at night?) that while not as obvious as my examples are nevertheless entirely useless and inappropriate for identifying a malady in need of chemical remediation. We are then informed that if we answered yes to any of these questions, we may be suffering from a "New Disease You Haven't Heard of but Sounds Like Something You Might Have [and might need to get new and expensive drugs for!]." All you have to do is ask your doctor about this wonder drug that can solve your problems.
The trick here is that many people in this day and age are unsatisfied with their lives in one way or another. Marketing magic waves its sleight-of-hand and describes an illness that is non-descript enough to cover just about all of us in one way or another. Advertisers in this case slip into our wallets by tapping into our tendency to accept a medical cause for our problems. The drugs they market are actually mind-numbing anti-depressants with minimal side-effects (who needs a sex drive when you aren't depressed anyway!). The real kicker though, is that the doctors that prescribe this medicine are as often as not shareholders in the companies that produce them. For every pill you buy, they get a return on their investment. Can you spell c-o-n-f-l-i-c-t o-f i-n-t-e-r-e-s-t????
(Don't you think it is odd that America hates certain self-medicated recreational drugs, but loves, desires, endorses, supports, subsidizes, yearns, seeks, believes in, has a fucking bill of rights for, prescription drugs? If you feel a little down about life, you can get a prescription for a designer anti-depressant, but if you decide to relax by smoking a particular plant instead, you get jail time. This is all the more surprising in light of a recent survey indicates that death due to prescription medication mishaps may be one of the top five killers of Americans. Funky, huh?)
None of this is new to any of you I'm sure, but I can't help but think that some of you have become so accustomed to it all that you fail to realize how incredibly insidious it has become.
Advertising has become astronomically competitive at the same time as the industry has gained intricate knowledge of human culture and psychology. Advertisers are no longer content to promote their products and inform consumers but aim instead to create "Brand consumers," people who identify personally with a particular product and thus consistently (and loyally) buy it ALL the time.
Many of the evils laid at the doorstep of capitalism are products not so much of the capitalistic economic system per se but are more accurately outgrowths of advertising run amok. Admittedly this is likely an inevitable outcome of competitive capitalism, as the pressures involved in profit enhancement are vented via psychological manipulation of the populace. But it is reaching incredibly far into our lives, beyond the waste and illegitimacy of branded consumables and has begun affect us on deeper levels.
Laid over in L.A. on my way to Idaho, I found a USA Today newspaper abandoned in the terminal. The cover article of the business section was all about companies' efforts to attract and retain kids on their websites. Not only was I shocked to discover the blatant efforts at psychological manipulation, but I was stunned that they were at ease enough with it to detail this to a major national newspaper. The article describes their efforts to turn kids into brand consumers at the earliest possible moment.
As if this type of literal cognitive-branding wasn't bad enough, the article discussed the methods that they use to entice and retain kids' eyeballs. One thing that really disturbed me was the choice to reduce text and make more graphically oriented pages. I understand that kids can't read so well when they are 3,4,5 years old (the target age of these advertisers), but considering the time that kids spend gaming, watching TV and using the internet, it is scary that they can function in life without reading. This is a perfect example of how the monetary bottom line sells out kids to economics of modern life.
I am perhaps guiltier than most for spouting off endlessly about the problems of the world while contributing very little to the solutions. But this one is easy, folks. I beg, plead, urge, advise, cajole, ask, beseech, command, dictate, and otherwise impress upon you to think long and hard at the type of advertising you are exposed to. Think about what product is being endorsed and what techniques (celebrity heads, hardbodies, Image with a capital I, etc.) Have you ever paid attention to the sex in advertising? The blatant use of sex to sell is well known and documented (remember the Swedish Bikini Team?), but if you watch, you'll find it much more subtly in many, many places where you won't notice unless you are looking.
My wife didn't believe me at first when I told her about the irrelevant use of sex to attract your attention and tug at your pursestrings. I then pointed out to her all the times that sex was needlessly used in a product promotion. I haven't run the statistics, but at least 2/3 of advertisements use sex or other tools that are unaffiliated with the products or services sold to garner your attention and your loyalty. Among the rest, a large portion are image sales pitches (many of which have sexual undertones).
For example, many sporting clothes companies sell an image of "coolness" which sports (ha!) an underlying association with health, beauty, and ultimately attractiveness regarding the opposite sex. I need to rein myself in here to avoid going off on a tangent completely, but let me leave you with something else to chew on. Everyone knows and agrees that modern (American and Japanese at least) society is incredibly preoccupied with particular conceptions of what is beautiful and attractive. We all know that this is primarily driven by the media images we are immersed in. But did you ever stop to realize that it was mostly fabricated to create consumables? Diet plans, health club memberships, sportswear: all driven by manufactured propaganda who's sole purpose is to transfer the monetary fruits of our labor to a company's bank account.
As I said before, this is not really new or revolutionary at all. If you already think about this stuff, I would apologize but I figure you deserve if it you've read this far. If you are interested in reading up more on this topic, I highly recommend Doug Rushkoff's book "Coercion." The author spent a couple years hanging out with the advertisers of the world and then wrote a book all about the techniques and methods they use to influence your buying behaviors. You will be shocked and learn quite a bit, I guarantee. I hear that Noam Chomsky's "Manufactured Consent" is also very good, but I haven't read it yet. The Primer on Revolution also lays out a plan for combating the powers that seek to think for you.
Think about what you buy and why you buy it. Resist the urge to play the consumerism game. I am not a saint in any respect here as well, but every attempt to influence you via advertising that is resisted is a step in the right direction. Pay attention to the pervasiveness and subtleties of advertising. Watch for the tricks they pull to garner your attention and get you to associate positive but irrelevant images with their product. Take control of your purchasing decisions. Fight the power!!
Asylum will be down this evening starting at 5 p.m. CST (11 p.m. in Limeyland, ~7 a.m. in Oz and Nute's house). We're doing some upgrading along with maintenance, so expect it to be unavailable for about 4 hours. Chat will still be accessible using galt.mindasylum.net.|
For I long time I have been concerned with the state of education in the states. Often I hear about reports that find high school graduates in the states to be far behind students in other developed countries. Also I hear about non-Caucasian children not performing as well as their Caucasian peers. With all the resources we in the states think we have, why do these discrepancies exist?
In this section all the statistics are from the National Center for Educational Statistics' Digest of Education Statistics 1999. According to the digest only about 70% of students graduate high school. This includes students who receive GED's. The published findings also indicate that female students perform better in reading writing, while males score higher in math and science, however; male students were found to score better on both the verbal and math sections. Also Caucasian students were found to score significantly better all across the board. In regard to school environment the students were reported as follows. There was a strong tie between students' income bracket and how safe they felt in school (the higher income bracket students' feel safer). A similar trend was reported with regard to violence between different racial/ethnic groups, and the presence of gangs. On environment between Caucasian and non-Caucasian students: Caucasian students fell safer at school, experience fewer disrupting outbursts by other students, experience fewer racially motivated incidences of violence, and have fewer gangs in their schools. Since many of the findings between upper class students and Caucasian students were similar, for the majority of this essay I will assume that most upper class students are Caucasian. With respect to our international competitors: fourth grade reports find American students to be far above many other nations, but graduating seniors are far below many other nations, on average.
So what are we doing wrong? It is apparent that education of non-Caucasian and low-income children is inferior to the education received by others. Based on the aforementioned statistics, I believe the problem is not due to the nature of the public school system. The violence and gang activity experienced by lower income children (and I will continue to assume this includes most non-Caucasian students) is most likely to blame for this groups fall off in educational performance. I believe other studies would indicate that most children of this class are members of broken homes, homes where both parents work, homes where parents make money by illegal means, and homes where there is no authority figure present (i.e. mom, dad, or daycare) when the school day is over. These factors all contribute to undisciplined children. I think we would all agree that when we were children doing homework was not exactly the highlight of our day. When I was young I often found ways to get out of it, but usually my parents were around and forced me to develop a work ethic and get my work done. I am of the opinion that if my parents were not around for one reason or another, the chances of my getting involved in activities that would adversely effect my education (i.e. gangs, illegal pursuits, drugs, etc.) would have increased significantly.
The problem with other children may be the same. In our modern world the middle class mom (and many other moms) often feels the need to supplement the father's income by working so that they can have all the luxuries the Jones' have. While middle class children are less likely to be involved in criminal type activity (likely because their parents can provide them with money), still in this situation there is no authority figure around to provide discipline for these children. Often mothers may stay home until they feel the children are okay to take care of themselves when they get home. This may account for the drop off in educational performance between the fourth grade report and the level of achievement at graduation.
So how can we remedy these problems? I recently read an article in "US News and World Report" concerning education in boarding schools. The main difference between the lives of students in boarding schools and students in other schools seemed to be structure. A boarding school student has ever-present authority figures. They always have someone of whom they can ask questions. They always have someone close by who is concerned with their performance to motivate them, encourage them, and, with care, push them to accomplish all that they can. As a result many boarding schools send at least one third of graduating students to Ivy League schools. In order to get the rest of our students to be able to perform at this level, it is important to provide a similar environment in the home. Parents must be present to encourage their children to succeed in school. They must be present to answer their children's questions. They must teach their children the importance of education and the importance of discipline and structure in their lives. This approach will not only help improve our level of education, but would also turn out a next generation of adults who are secure in themselves, their abilities, and their direction in life.
Often as adults we tend to put our careers, our education, our social activities, before the needs of our children. Once we have children it is important that we remember that we are parents, that should be our first responsibility. As parents it is our duty (not foster care centers) to raise our children and make certain that they are properly educated both mentally and morally. It is important that we provide a stable atmosphere for our children. It is important that our children feel comfortable coming home. It is important that someone is there when they get home. It is important that our children feel safe and loved and motivated. If we can accomplish this, our children will make far more effective use of the education provided them.
I've heard many people say that public education is what you make of it. Most schools offer curriculums that include all the necessary classes, and teachers who are capable of teaching them. Often there are programs in place for students, who exceed the curriculum that their school offers, to be able to take classes from a local college or a neighboring school. The system has all the material for our children to succeed, we just need to teach them to use it, motivate them to use it, make them comfortable using it.
Tomorrow is the day that 225 years ago, give or take one or two, that those silly colonists sent a little note to the British Royal Family that they were to basically piss off. The Brits, humorless lot that they are, replied by shelling the hell out of a few towns and then, to top it all off, sent a bunch of guys dressed up in scary red coats (with tails) and big assed ole hats to march up and down the roads so the silly colonists would use up a bunch of their ammo shooting the shit out of them from the trees and shrubs along side the road.After awhile, the Brits tired of getting all shot up and cruised over to India so they could sit on elephants and kill tigers, which was much more fun than getting shot up by the silly, sneaky colonists.Left to their own devices, the colonists just ran amok and years later completed Disneyland which made them the most powerful nation in the history of the Universe according to themselves.And that is pretty much the whole story.Happy Co-dependence day, America!!!!|
In March of 1991 I was living in Rochester New York. I would have been about 12ish or so at the time I guess. It had been a fairly heavy winter that year as I recall, but nothing living in upstate New York doesn't prepare you for. |
But one particular night still lives in Rochester folklore. A night when Mother Nature stood up and screamed "you think this is YOUR planet? You think YOU'RE running the show? I'll show YOU who's running the show!"
For those that don't know, an Ice Storm is when freezing rain hits, and the temperature is still well below freezing. I don't know the meterological specifics, but basically what happens is the entire area is covered with water and then that water turns quickly to ice. The world quite literally becomes frozen in ice.
I remember only bits and pieces of the night it all happened. I was awakened very late at night to a tree in my room. It had fallen through my window and was now poking through my room only a few feet away from me. Outside it literally sounded like a war was going on. Enormous crashes, sirens, bangs, pops, and impacts.
For those that can't figure it out (as I couldn't at the time), most objects can't really withstand having 500 pounds suddenly added to its frame. Especially trees. They hate that. So what happens is that too much ice will encase a branch and then the branch falls. Too much ice encases a tree, and the tree simply topples. Old roofs and whatnot just collapse. And I'm not just talking about rickity sheds or small baby trees. I'm talking gigantic oaks will just come crashing down, destroying whatever happens to be in it's way. Magnificent old houses will shudder and topple. Office building windows get covered in ice and the entire sheet of ice some dozens of feet in area, will slide off whatever floor it is on and smash to the ground. Power lines and poles falling everywhere, on a city-wide scale (Rochester is by no means a small town). It was a total war zone.
We didn't sleep the rest of the night as I recall. The power went out all over the city at around midnight. We just stood huddled around candles in our basement listening to walkman radios for news and looking outside at the deafening noise of the sky falling just outside our range of site. Occassionally, a falling tree would tear through part of our home.
I can't really find much documentation on the net (this was a few years before the net "broke" but as I recall damage estimates as high as 5 or 6 billion dollars where being tossed around for that first night alone. The only thing that can really come close to the experience would be a major earth-shattering earthquake or volcano explosion. Martial law was declared before the sun even rose. The entire city was without power, and a good fifth without homes.
I remember when the sun finally rose, the morning after that violent night, when everybody first stepped out of their homes and took a look at the world around them.
It was, in a word, magnificent.
For those that haven't seen something like this it is almost impossible to describe or even convey. The first thing that struck you was not all the damage, the live electrical cables sputtering about in the streets, 75% of the trees lying horizontal, many on objects, the house next door looking like somebody had picked up a hundred year old oak and simply smashed it right through the middle of the structure, all the damage, all the destruction. No, the first thing that struck you was how awe-inspiringly beautiful the world looked. Everything sparkled. Everything was covered in ice, reflecting light in all directions. The world looked like it was encased in an exoskeleton of diamonds. The trees, the houses, the bushs, the grass, the street, everything. It was brilliant, it was so bright you had to put on sunglasses. It looked like some other world, some other planet, some fairy tale. We went to bed in just another suburban neighborhood and woke up in a land of fairydust. Indescribable.
After that wore off then the sheer power of the violence was seen. Decimated is a good word to use to describe what the city looked like. Like in The Regulators by Richard Bachman, it looked like some roaving band of people with enormous cartoon guns rode through the city and just destroyed everything in sight. It took your breath away. The city had, in a word, fallen.
My mother and new baby sister were in Kansas thank God visiting our family (where ironically enough they braved a tornado practically upon getting off the plane) and when we managed to contact them my father simply told his wife "I think you should just stay there another week or two." So it was me my dad my brother and my sister, the kids all around 12. I can't imagine how we got through it intact. If the power goes out for more then 30 seconds these days I go fucking batshit. We, like many, were without power for 16 days. 16 DAYS!!! It was like camping. We were stranded in the wilderness of suburbia.
The damage didn't stop that first night. The Ice Storm lasted another few days, though that first night was by far the worst and the nights that followed mostly consisted of "aftershocks". More problems arose when the ice started melting. Watching literally a ton of ice fall off a 9 story office building onto a parked car is pretty fucking cool albiet a bit of a shock. There was also a helluva lot of human goodness. It became like one big foxhole. Community spirit. There was one guy on the block who had a generator and he would spend his day going up and down the neighborhood plugging it into each house for about an hour. People let the people whose houses didn't fair to well stay with them, oftentimes complete strangers. People donated what they could to others, gymnasiums became shelters, a group of men would among falling ice and trees brave the weather to fix the old ladies roof down the street as quickly as possible, a neighborhood effort was made to track down the two missing dogs of our neighboor (who tucked tail and ran from the backyard the second the fence was smashed beyond recognition, we were all worried about all the downed live powerlines but they turned out okay). It really helped bolster my opinion that human beings are all basically good.
In any case after a few weeks order was finally restored and the city started rebuilding itself. Power came back on (that was a great day), roofs were mended, insurance companies declared bancrupcy, etc etc.
But I can't tell you how awesome the world looked that morning we all came out of our homes, rubbed our eyes, and stared at the world as if seeing it for the first time.
But I'll certainly never forget it.
So Plato (428-347 BC) was Socrates' pupil. At least that what I said (assuming you read the last piece). The only question now is whether you had any critique of what Socrates thought. The one thing that is certain amongst all of this is that Plato did. Although I said that Plato was a pupil of Socrates that does not mean he had to agree with his ideas. I won't beat around the bush though today, I will jump straight into his thought.
What Plato tried to do was bring the two schools of pre-Socratic and Socratic thought together. For Plato, he saw that the two schools were actually examining the same ideas. What were these ideas? Immutability and flow. The natural philosophers were concerned with the flow of nature and what could be immutable within it. The Sophists and Socrates were concerned with idea of flow in morality and whether there could be immutability in it. In other words they were interested in the same things except their premises were different. One was interested in the individual related to nature and the other was interested in the relationship between the individual and society.
In order to come to these conclusions Plato looked at what the pre-Socratics had said. During the pre-Socratic period there was the idea the something could not come from nothing. What Plato asked was: If something cannot come from nothing; and ideas are something; then it stands to reason that ideas cannot come from nothing; as ideas are something? Plato came to the conclusion that ideas had to be immutable in some way. From this rationale Plato came to his notion of forms.
What Plato saw was that although the pre-Socratics had come up with a reasonable explanation for how the 'four elements' came together and went apart to create things, and had shown successfully for him that things could be eternal and still flow. They had not come up with a decent enough explanation of how the four elements could come together numerous times and construct something new. Plato asked the question: If things are made up of these four elements, and the elements come together for a period as say a dog, how do they know, when they have parted company again how to come together again as a dog in say 200 years times? So Plato reasoned that there must be eternal form or idea of dog.
To give an example: you construct a dog out of Lego bricks. You then take the Lego bricks apart and place them back in their box. By simply shaking the box, the Lego cannot come back together as a dog. It is necessary for you to reconstruct the dog, and you do it from the form, idea, or shall we say mold of what you know a dog to be. The elements of the dog remain immutable, as does the idea and understanding of what a dog is.
Plato called these forms, ideas. He said that behind everything in nature there must be an idea. So his conclusions of the physical world, were that behind the material reality had to lie what he referred to as the world of ideas, and this world of ideas contained the eternal and immutable patterns that were behind all the various phenomena we see in nature.
As a result of Plato's belief in forms he reasoned that the physical world was certainly one of change and flow, but is made up of immutable elements physically that come together and move apart and which are guided by immutable patterns from the world of ideas. Of course, it’s difficult to tell whether Plato believed in the world of ideas in a literal sense during his entire lifetime. But one thing we do know is that he believed that as result of the constant change within the material world we could never really have true knowledge. We can only really have opinions of things that belonged to the world of the senses, tangible things, that were of course subject to change and never stationary.
Another example to explain this a bit better is needed here. Imagine a classroom of 30 pupils. The teacher turns to them and asks, 'Which is the prettiest colour of the rainbow?' The chances are, that teacher will get lots of different answers form the pupils, because it is their opinion of something within the changing material world. But if that same teacher asks the class: 'What is 8 +2?' All the pupils will give (at least we hope) the same answer. This is because reason is now talking, and in a way reason is the direct opposite of 'thinking' or 'feeling'. It could be fair to say that reason is immutable and eternal simply because it only ever expresses eternal and immutable things. Another way of looking at this could be that you find a pinecone. You say to your friend that the pinecone is round, and your friend disagrees. The fact here is that neither of you can have true knowledge and understanding of what you see and perceive. However you can say with certainty that a circle, which is round, has a sum of angles that amount to 360 degrees. But the point here is that is the idea of circle you are expressing. Thus it remains eternal. The idea of dog will always exist as walking on four legs even if all the dogs you see in the sensory world have a broken leg, because your reason is what tells you this, and not your feelings about material realities.
Earlier I said that Plato was also concerned with the individual’s place in the world. As you can see Plato argued that the world was split into two, between the material world and the world of ideas. Plato when thinking about man applied the same dualistic notion. He separated the body from the soul. The body was something that lived in the physical world, made up of the immutable four elements. But for Plato the soul became immutable. He believed that soul actually predated the body of a man. For Plato the soul was something that existed before entering the body, and the soul existed in the world of ideas. In this state the soul knew everything about the perfect forms of things, as they were, i.e., the ideas that made up the things in the material world. But Plato said, it is when man wakes up in the body that the soul cannot recall these perfect forms and ideas, or recall its existence in the world outside of his own perception. And so, the soul guides man back to this world without his knowing, through knowledge and learning of the forms and ideas that make up the world of his senses. Admittedly this sounds pretty fantastical, but if we think of it in the least literal senses it is possible to see what Plato meant.
Plato expressed this rationale in one his dialogues through something called the 'Myth of the Cave'. Imagine, if you will for a moment, a group of people that dwell underground in a cave. These people are tied and bound in such a way that they can only ever see the back wall of the cave. Behind them is a high wall. They often see human-like figures holding up other types of figures that flicker in the shadows on the back wall of the cave because they have a fire lit behind the high wall. So the only thing they ever see are these moments of shadow play. They have, for the sake of argument, been bound in this way since they were born, so they never actually know anything other than shadows. For them the shadows is all there is of the material world.
Now, imagine that one of the cave-dwellers manages to escape his bindings. He stands and turns to see these things that were once just shadows as clear colourful things and he becomes dazzled by them. He leaves the cave and is further dazzled by the world around him. Instead of running off to explore this new wonder he runs back into the cave and tries to tell the others of what he has seen. They refuse to believe him. They point to the wall and the shadows and say that what they see is all there is. They eventually kill him rather than listening to what he says.
What Plato was trying to do through the myth of the cave was show how philosophy goes from the world of shadows and try to see the ideas behind the phenomena of material reality. It is also possible that here he was metaphorically referencing Socrates in that he was willing to leave the cave and find some type of truth, and his findings were such a revelation that they shocked the status quo resulting in his death. Essentially Plato's point here was also too show the relationship between the darkness of the cave and its world beyond it in comparison to the natural world and the world of ideas.
The myth of the cave is a story found within Plato's dialogue The Republic. Without going to deeply into that dialogue (for it is worthy of a dissertation on its own), I will summarize it thusly. Just as Plato believed the world of ideas was immutable, so too he said was the ideas that guide a state. There is an ideal Utopian State that we all strive for that exists behind the material world in the world of ideas. The same, he said, went for morality. There were immutable ideas of right and wrong, good and bad existing in the world of ideas. The crutch however of Plato, like that of Socrates and the Pre-Socratics was that this was all argued from his reason. Plato did not really attempt to place a value on these ideas of morality. He merely argued that they must exist eternally in the world of ideas based on the rationale we have just looked at.
The real question now is whether you think Plato was right, or what criticism you might have of his ideas about the world. Evidently we are graced with living many, many years after he did, and so our knowledge and understanding have grown as a results of others that preceded him. But when you place yourself in the context of his time, do you think that you could have agreed with him?
This is a story about my chance encounter with the infamous Gonzo Journalist Hunter S. Thompson, and an editor from the Rolling Stone. An evening to remember.|
Runnin With The Big Dogs
The big male dogs, an oversized bulldog and a shepherd to be exact, entered the foyer of the restaurant; their offensive smells permeating the peaceful air; their bloody drools left dangling as a sign to the little dogs to stay back, to fuck off. Well, that was not going to intimidate me. I’m no pissin’, tremblin’ poodle. I dove off the porch in perfect whippet form and swiveled my shiny, slender curves over to the hungry men and proceeded to seat them at a table in the far corner of the back room. Not due to offense, but because I had encountered this bulldog before, and had a good sense of the digging to come.
Once ensconced the bulldog proceeded to gnaw the bones of his journalistic fortune, ordering everything he could want or need, and then some. After all, it was his right as top dog. I gave him his due and all he required, lest he should bite me with those flappin', slimy, jowls.
His shepherd friend was another story. He was an editor for a music rag. His presence was stately and dignified. There was still the big dog smell to contend with, but his coat was fine, his ears perfect, and my whippet tail was in quite the state. He wanted bones, as all dogs do, but, he didn’t want gnarly knuckle ones with flapping tendons as the bulldog did. No, he was more the T-bone or spare rib type. I was happy to oblige, and wiggled and wagged about the table serving in hopes the shepherd would catch my scent, as one never knows when a bone is going to be the rubber ball to the wild blue yonder. He didn’t notice, but the bulldog sure did. He stuck his fat wet nose right up my skinny tail. I was horrified into a shiver that rattled through to my teeth. With my tail properly tucked between my legs I ran for the porch, the nerve!
Three drinks later, I found the bulldog sniffing around the front room of the restaurant; his wet nose making slurps and wheezes, his direction unsure. I showed him to the hydrant, but he wasn’t interested in that. No, he wanted to see the ladies’ room, have a good whiff or some bizarre male dog behavior, and, who was I to judge?
Once we entered the marble lined room the situation went from strange to bizarre. Seemingly out of nowhere, he produced a stack of typed papers in one hand and a green derringer full of powdery white moon juice in the other. Frantically, he began waving the pile of papers in my face; his monstrous dark eyes gleamed with lunacy, and he barked, “Read! Read this to me.”
For lack of a better idea, I grabbed the pile of papers and replied, “Sure, what is it?”
His answer was to lean in close, shove the powder in my face, grit his teeth, and hiss, “Want some?”
His psychosis was obvious. I refused the moon juice, and launched into the role of orator to a wild tale of his runnings with a nasty little schnauzer he called “The Good Judge.”
I was shocked yet intrigued by the stories sordid details of drugs, guns, and complete madness. In real life, the schnauzer was one of those nose in the air higher echelon dogs, a Supreme Court judge to be factual. I thought to my self “Surely this story was going to blow the judges cover and expose him as the shrill, hysterical pocket dog that the bulldogs story implied he was.” Fascinating for sure, I had to read on.
For each page I turned, the bulldog would match it with a huge snort from the green container. I wasn’t concerned for myself, whippets are too cool for that, it was my slobbering companion that was cause for alarm. His color was gray and he was sweating profusely. I stopped reading for a moment but soon returned to the task as the bulldog was quivering and spouting like a volcano. “Go on! Go on, read! You must read!” His loud barks echoed on the marble walls; I did what I had to do. I read.
Upon finishing, I quickly told him how great he was, and how good his writing was, and that was true. However, it was not the pressing need of the moment, getting the bulldog back to his table before he keeled over was. Being very careful not to disturb the force, I coaxed him back to his seat in the now empty restaurant. The shepherd sat waiting patiently at the table, his demeanor giving no sign of the fact that we had been gone for well over twenty minutes. I was impressed.
I left them to their tankards of drink, and headed for the bar to have a shot or two of my own. I needed it. My stroll in the park with the big dogs was taking on a surreal effect, and strangeness was becoming the norm. Shadows were speaking in foreign tongues, leaves were shimmering at the wind’s command, and the scent of nitrogen rode the air. It was time to go home.
Figuring to put an end to the party, I tallied the monstrous bill for the dogs’ evening of slurpins and Scooby snacks, presented it to the table, and quickly went about my business of closing up shop.
I returned to collect, only to discover that the dogs were not cooperating with my plan. I found them surrounded in a cloud of white smoke, and the bulldog fervently sucking on a peace pipe.
I was shocked. It was one thing to snort moon juice in the bathroom, closed doors are closed doors. However, this pungent aroma wafting from the pipe was going to get me in trouble with the head pooch. Something had to be done.
I quickly escorted the dogs out to the back of the restaurant where a tall fence surrounded a courtyard that was decorated with three trashcans and of course the two cook hounds. They were notorious juice whores, one a basset hound; the other an afghan. They were an odd pair and I hoped that the dogs would all mix well.
All seemed fine for a moment or two as we passed the pipe about. It was a beautiful evening, and the full moon hung low in the mountain air, its pull was overwhelming. I was transfixed into a rare moment of peace and tranquility.
The male dogs had a more typical reaction. Thrusting their muzzles upward; they laid their tails flat and howled at the she mistress of the sky. It’s not very often that a porch bound whippet gets to run with big dogs, let alone partake in the howling. I was mesmerized.
The spell was soon to be broken by the foaming, seemingly rabid bulldog. His illegible grumbles had turned to raving about his neighboring dogs. They were coming over to his property, pissing on his trees, and digging holes in his yard. A direct challenge to his inalienable rights. A head-spinning jumble of political, radical and freedom toting words were spewing from his jaws, as were the strings of slobber. At any moment I thought he might pull a gun and start shooting up the moon.
He didn’t. Instead, he pulled the insidious green container out and hoovered a mountain of the moon juice. I stared in amazement. His eyes were pulsing and bulging from his head; the thick blue veins of his neck looked as if they might burst, and his rants turned to mumbles once again. I was very concerned, almost panicky. I looked to the cooks for their reaction; all I got was the disgusting sight of their pink tongues slurping the air, their dirty hound butts wiggling in anticipation, and their puppy dog eyes were holding no secrets. They wanted moon juice.
The bulldog put an end to their begging and passed the container. The hound dogs sucked up huge piles of the drug. At best, they were being extremely rude, at worse; they were about to become the bloody victims of a crazed beast. The bulldog’s upper lip was in a twitching curl, and a sickening snarl was rumbling up from his chest. I feared for their lives, or at least for there valued doggy parts. An intervention was needed and quick.
I leapt over to the hounds and asked for the container. The shepherd’s ears drooped, the bulldog was eying me in a suspicious way, but, I ignored their questioning looks, and pursued my goal. Once I had the horrid thing in my possession I gave it back to the bulldog. His glare of suspicion turned to twinkles of admiration, and the shepherd almost licked my face. I think the hounds would have torn me to pieces given the chance. I took this moment to herd the guest back to the table.
I managed to get the money from the dogs but it wasn’t easy. The bulldog was insistent on more drinks and having the shepherd listening to him rant about politics and other boring subjects. I waited at the bar.
After some time the dogs came out of the back room, the shepherd looking exhausted, the bulldog quiet. As they passed by my seat at the bar the bulldog passed me a couple hundred big ones, I knew this meant that he had enjoyed his run in the park. I thanked him, winked at the shepherd for good measure, and let the dogs out to run.
Well, they didn’t run far. Just as I was ready to shut the lights out I heard a knock upon the front door. I looked out the window to see the shepherd standing there, a look of concern upon his face. Well this was an interesting development. I hopped over to let him in. When I did, I noticed the bulldog was still there too. He wasn’t coming back in, no, it was worse. He was out on the sidewalk leaning against his red convertible, a cigarette in one hand, and in the other, a restaurant water glass full of vodka. Vodka I had served him, mind you. In addition, to really throw things in to gear, next to him stood a fat used up boxer, an ugly thing. It wouldn’t have bothered me in the least if he had not been the Chief of Police.
I grabbed the shepherd and jerked him into restaurant, quickly locking the door behind us. What the hell was the bulldog doing with a drink and the Chief of Police? How did he manage to sneak that by me? Images of fat bloody ticks and itchy fleas prevailed; I just knew I was going to the pound.
I hoped the shepherd might have a clever idea; shepherds usually do, but not this evening. Instead I got, “the bulldogs peace pipe is missing, wouldn’t want ya to get in trouble, so I came back to find it”.
This statement had me gnawing my tail and chasing in circles. Peace pipes, off-premise alcohol, cops. I spun myself into a frenzy, which came to an abrupt halt as my toenail was caught in the carpet. Like I didn’t have enough troubles? I tried to jerk the stupid thing free but it was buried good and required the shepherd crouching and gnawing on the carpet. He was such a hero; I was swooning and almost forgot the mission. I was brought back to reality by the loud voices of the boxer and the bulldog just outside the door.
The shepherd and I went in search of the pipe. We found it, and of all places, under the table. I have the fondest memories of the shepherd and I, nose to nose under that table, his eyes locked to mine. It was amazing that I didn’t roll over, throw my legs up in the air, and beg for him to take a lick. I sure wanted too, but show dogs must maintain a certain respectability to hold power in the pack, so I pulled myself from under the table and returned to the problems at the hand, the bulldog.
I peeked out the window to assess the situation. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The bulldog and the Chief were smoking cigars and laughing and carrying on like they were best friends or in cahoots on a crime. I suppose they were. The crime of drinking and driving. A crime I had perpetrated. The bulldog shook hands with the Chief, and hopped into the car, drink and all. I didn’t know what to do other than say a prayer.
The prayer must have worked as the boxer stumbled off down the sidewalk and entered the local pub. I think he was drunk. He must have been to not notice the inebriated condition of the journalist. I walked out to the car with shepherd, who returned the pipe, threw me a gorgeous smile, and leapt in the car.
So there I am, face to face with the bulldog, he pats the seat next to him and says, “want to go for a ride my pretty?”
“I couldn’t go with this lunatic, what would become of me? He was drunk and higher than any dog had a right to be and I just couldn’t do it.” I gave him my most charming smile, refused his offer, said good night, and sashayed off to the safety of my own turf.
So all is well that ends well. I was back on the porch; the dogs were off to destinations unknown, and the chance to go with them, gone.
Should I have gone? Probably not.
Did I want to go? Of course. I was born a rebel bitch, and, after all, big dogs are big dogs.
Do I now regret having not gone? Yes, more than you can imagine.