Friday, August 31, 2007

The Continuation

(CONTINUED FROM "ABOUT ME" SECTION TO THE RIGHT) --scientists and chemical experts do. I just pick up the dead birds. It's a really nice chemical factory, though. They're putting in a children's wing next year. And the year after that, they're going to have a playground outside. And eventually they're going to turn this whole chemical factory into a school.

And all of these fathers and mothers who work at the chemical factory are going to show up at work one day and say, "Hey, have you noticed all of these children working in the chemical factory?"

And the children will say to themselves, "Hey, have you noticed all these parents learning their alphabet?"

I can't wait till that day comes. That day when our parents have to learn the pledge of allegiance all over again. And learn how to write in cursive once more. And sit in the corner and wear the dunce cap whenever they say the N-word.

And I really can't wait for the day when children are testing out new chemicals to save the earth for their children.

They should call it The William Wordsworth Learning Factory And Chemical Academy.

You remember Wordsworth, don't you? "The child Is the father of man"? It'd be cool if this chemical factory/school offered some really great courses in classical literature.

But that's the one thing it's missing at the moment. It doesn't have any teachers. I should become a teacher. I hate the job I'm doing right now. It's a really miserable job. I don't know if I told you, but--(CONTINUED ON "ABOUT ME" SECTION TO THE RIGHT)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Father Knew Best

My Daddy took me out for a walk in the field behind our house one day and he said to me--

"Son, I'm going to tell you about the birds and the bees. But this is gonna be different from the way other fathers talk to their sons about the birds and the bees. I could stand here and tell you how babies are made and what contraception is, but that's not going to do you a lick of good in the long run.

"Because girls are never going to like you, son. I wish I could tell you different. I wish I could tell you that all that talk of love and procreation is going to apply to you as much as it will to the normal kid down the road. But it won't.

"Because girls are never going to like you. And that's going to be the hardest fact of life to swallow. But once you can swallow that fact, you can swallow any other facts that come along in this life. Sure, there'll be times where you're going to forget that girls don't like you and you might put your head on the chopping block and ask one out--hell, you may even marry one--but they're never going to like you.

"Son, this ain't to say that girls won't admire you, respect you, or even want to be your friend. It just means they're never going to LIKE you.

"And I don't even think you're going to remain a virgin. I think you'll get lucky here and there. And that's all you'll get--lucky. Not liked. Sexual fortune may swing your way just as it does for even the most socially maladjusted among us. And in that arena, I'll leave it to you to prod around in the dark, clumsily groping your way around a young woman's body, improvising as needs be, taking instructions from off-color remarks heard on the playground and in 80s teen flicks. You'll do all right, I'm sure. But that's not going to change the underlying fact that girls just aren't going to like you.

"You're going to talk too much, for one. You're going to feel bad about this and talk more to try to rectify the problem. This'll snowball, of course. You'll drive them batty. They'll come to regard your absence as something positive. Generally, girls don't like a talkin' man. Their magazines might say different. But son, you don't need to be reading their magazines anyway.

"Because girls don't like a man who reads their magazines.

"You'll be too passionate about things that you believe in. You'll speak forcibly, alternately pissing them off and frightening them away. It also won't help matters that the things you believe in are most likely going to be diametrically opposite of the things that they believe in.

"As a result of their ongoing dislike, you'll continue to revert inward. You'll try as you can to find comfort in the wasteland of solititude that is your birthright. From this, you'll start to develop an artistic talent of some sort.

"I'm sure by now, you've probably started to develop a love affair with the past. At this stage, I would say go ahead and nurture that all you'd like, son. Because in the day and age in which you're actually going to be living--girls are never going to like you. And because of your infatuation with history, you'll appear older than you actually are--but this won't pass for virility or wisdom. It'll be construed as an albatross of joylessness which no self-respecting young woman would ever wear as an accessory.

"You'll have flings with women who are destined to marry men with more conventional lifestyles. You will be their 'token artist'; a memory of their younger, misguided selves, before they became practical and married men with money or looks or both.

"You'll continue to take refuge in your art. This will ease the pain up to a point until applied to girls. Once you realize its fallibility in attracting members of the opposite sex, there will come a time where you will regard your art with scorn and disdain. Soon, you will come to blame the art itself for the fact that girls don't like you. Quite likely, you will reflect upon the possibility of abandoning the art altogether. In a search for a specific and defineable cause for your isolation, you will excise the very thing that has allowed you to survive in this wilderness.

"You'll feel two insatiable and cognitively dissonant desires bubbling simultaneously within you--to be like everybody else, and to be like nobody else. You'll fail on both counts.

"Like I say, you'll forget at times that girls don't like you and this will lead you in spates of foolishness to approach them. Invariably, you will be rejected. Character will be built from this rejection. Up to a point. And then that same character will be whittled away until you are nothing more than a negation of your former self (which wasn't much to begin with). In other words, son, what doesn't kill you will make you stronger until it decides to finally kill you.

"You'll scare them away, or simply revolt them, with your bumbling shyness which will only get incrementally worse over time. For the more introverted you become, the harder it's going to be to open your mouth and your ears to a hypothetical 'other person'. Over time, girls will cease to be real in your mind. They will become abstractions of love and comfort always just out of your reach. Your heart will be so heavy, only hate will keep you moving.

"You should also know that you're going to die alone. Your fantasies of becoming rich and famous and, by default, no longer alone in this world will be revealed as the security-blanket phantasms they are. And by dying alone, you'll die in the truest sense. Without family, without friends, without love. Nothing into nothing.

"And that is the future that awaits you, my son," said my Daddy before handing me his gun, "are you sure you want to go through with it?"

I thought for a second. And then I handed back the gun. "I think I'll wait and see," I said.

I'm older now. Maybe father really did know best.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Man In The Blue Coat

The man in the blue coat sighed, "I am so sad."

"Why are you sad?" asked the man in the blue coat.

"I am sad because I am not sad about anything," said the man in the blue coat. "Everywhere I go, people are sad about what we're doing to the earth and what sort of planet we're going to leave for our children's children's children's children's children's children's children. I try to be sad about this, really I do. But I can't. You see, it doesn't matter to me if my great-great-great-great-great grandchildren may face rising sea levels of two inches."

The man in the blue coat put on his blue coat, "Why doesn't it matter to you?"

"Because I'll never know my great-great-great-great-great grandchildren," said the man in the blue coat. "They could be total assholes for all I know. I mean, look at the youth of today. They're bad enough as it is--I shudder to think what their progeny will be like."

The man in the blue coat put his arm around the man in the blue coat, "These feelings you are feeling are natural. There is no reason to feel ashamed for feeling ashamed for not feeling ashamed. Why I myself am not ashamed for not feeling ashamed. I won't know my great-great-great-great-great grandchildren either. Nor will I live long enough to see the hypothetical successes of these communal efforts to make the entire world--including its oceans--green."

Just then, the woman in the green coat entered the room. "Aha! So YOU'RE the problem!"

The men in the blue coat stood up, "Well, at least we're going to heaven!"

The woman in the green coat did not believe in heaven or any other artifacts of the hegemonic paradigms of chauvenistic patriarchal theologies, so she left the room to write her term paper.

The man in the blue coats realized he was wearing two coats. "No wonder it's so hot in here. And just when I thought the globe was warming."

Kiley Rembrandt, Age 12
Regional Sales Manager,
Blue Earth Foundation


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Children Of Color Being Left Behind

By Timmy Truth
special to the Revolutionicle

A frustrating achievement gap between black and Latino students and their white and Asian American peers shows no sign of abating in the latest state test results for nearly 5 million students across California.

Overall, students of all colors made progress during the past year, but what disturbs many civil rights experts, college students, diversity seminar leaders, and newspaper reporters is what happens when you take a little scalpel and cut the whole state up into different races and economic groups. The difference in achievement among ethnic groups is the most disturbing about the results. State schools chief Jack O'Connell says, "We cannot afford to accept this morally, economically or socially."

Though the scores will be changed in a few months after enough bitching and moaning about disenfranchisement, that doesn't alter the situation today. Many students may have to wait up to two or three weeks until the rules are bent in their favor.

Many people like Timmy Truth, a reporter for the Revolutionicle, believe that education may make a difference in educating children. "Many of these inner-city schools don't have access to educational facilities. So let's blow up a bank." Others, like Timmy Truth, a Revolutionicle reporter, believe economics may play a factor in the achievement gap.

For example, schools which could afford new computers had students who scored higher on Youtube and Myspace proficiency, while inner-city students had to make do with books that had a lot of pages and no pictures. Meghan Hangem, a counselor for causeless social activists says that "schools need more money. They need money. And they also need money. The idea of the old one-room country schoolhouse which turned out well-behaved and well-read young boys and girls is a patriarchal lie concocted in the cauldron of America's sinful past! We need money! You hear me? We need money! Money, goddamnit!"

Other findings show that 30 percent of black students scored at, above, or below grade level in math, an improvement from last year. However, out of that 30 percent, 17 percent of black students with names like Jamal or LaShawn made no improvement from last year and out of that 17 percent, 16 percent of students with names like Jamal or LaShawn who listened to their iPod and talked on their cell phone during classtime despite repeated suggestions from the white teacher to turn them off or get the fuck out of class scored below the national average. From that 16 percent, 15 percent of students named LaShawn or Jamal who listened to their iPod and talked on their cell phone during class and either got knocked up if they were a LaShawn or shot some kid in the face if they were a Jamal did not even take the standardized test.

"The message is clear," says O'Connell, "If you're black, named Jamal or LaShawn, and you listen to your iPod or talk on your cell phone and either get knocked up or shoot somebody and don't show up to take the standardized test--you've already got five strikes against you. And the rules of baseball say three and you're out."

The results also show that children who grow up in households or communities where everything is blamed on white Americans fare poorly in 10th grade history and social science, while schools promoting a feelings and opinions curriculum did not produce as many passing students as schools with a fact-based curriculum. Other findings show that schools that emphasized ethnic and gender-based humanities courses produced little to no students who knew what and when a William Beethoven or Ludwig Van Shakespeare was or is. However, some experts like Timmy Truth, a reporter for the Revolutionicle, believe that racism is the reason for the ethnic and gender-based humanities courses in the first place. Many scholars blame "systemic" racism--a new form of racism discovered in the subatomic structure of the known universe sometime after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

For example, when it came to questions such as "are you black?" and "do you come from an African-American community?" and "what color is your skin?" many black students excelled. However, there are many instances in the standardized test of race bias, particularly in such questions as "Which list gives the correct order of food traveling through the digestive system after it is swallowed?" or "If a 7-pound weight stretches a spring a distance of 24.5 inches, how far will the spring stretch if a 12-pound weight is applied?"

If you're white, says O'Connell, the answer is 42. "But if you come from a disenfranchised background where slavery and race and Katrina and black and African-American and blah-blah-blah, it's not as easy."

Admittedly, not all children of color (nee "colored children") fared poorly on the standardized test. Almost 97 percent of all Uncle Toms were at or above grade level in all subjects, but many skeptics believe this to be the result of individuality, integration and Martin Luther King's dream of a color-blind society. Students who were encouraged to "keep it real", however, could barely spell the letter "B".

Also, Hispanic students who could not speak, read, or write English and who came from families where the parents could not speak, read, or write English and attended schools where they were not encouraged to speak, read, or write English did most poorly in English. Luiza Garbanzo of Farmacia Remedias, a Mexican think-tank and quality pharmacy chain based in Canada, says the fact that the state standardized test is written in English is further evidence of a growing Mexicophobia in the wake of Yesterday.

"I think the message is clear," Garbanzo said in Spanish, "when you issue a standardized test for schoolchildren in California and the language it's written in is English, you're basically telling these children--'we hate you because you're Mexican and we're going to kill you at midnight and leave your body in the ditch.' The California educational system has declared open-season on Mexicans!"

"And on blacks," said O'Connell.

Timmy Truth contributed to this article.

Schools need money. Send checks to the following photo:

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Marketing! Marketing! Marketing!

I was walking with my friend Gabe the other day near Dolores Park in San Francisco and we saw at the entrance two or three meager banners proclaiming "Jesus Christ Is Lord." A little further in, we saw a group of no more than seven people of varying ages, colors, and sexes. There were three boom mikes set up on a stand and behind one of them, a woman in her twenties was singing a song about God or Jesus or salvation or some other such thing. There was no crowd. Only that group of friends gathered ten feet away, standing on the grass and smiling.

Intrigued, I said to Gabe that we should move a little closer. I'm always interested when somebody sings passionately behind a microphone in a public setting and there isn't anybody there to hear them. Sometimes I do shows for smaller audiences and I know it's often easier to perform in front of a full house. You kind of feel like a narcissistic jack-off giving a full on theatrical presentation to eleven people.

Also, I wanted to find out what these guys had done in regards to marketing. Because, admittedly, if you're sporting a banner saying "George Bush Equals Hitler" or "9-11 Was An Inside Job" or "Zionists Go Home", there isn't usually a problem with getting folks around here to come out and "hear the word". A la:

So I went over and asked a guy wearing a "Jesus Christ Is Lord" T-shirt, "How'd you guys go about marketing this event?"

I soon discovered that the word "marketing" was a little inappropriate, not because it was potentially offensive to them, but because the importance of marketing (or converting, or proselytizing) apparently wasn't really of any interest to them. The guy responded, "We don't tell anybody. We just come out here and share the Word. And God guides us."

"So you don't send out an e-mail to other Christian churches or activist groups in the area, you don't hang up fliers around town, you don't try to get listed in the weeklies?" Writing this now, I see how weird all this must have seemed at the time; suggesting that Christianity is suffering from a marketing problem. Or suggesting that the weeklies would promote a gathering of eleven Christians in Dolores Park.

The guy continued, "Everything we need to know can be found right here in the Bible."

Boy, I tell you, that statement really took me back home to my Missouri adolescence. I've always enjoyed getting into it with fundamentalists. And since all the fundamentalists in Missouri are Christian, (this is not to say that all Christians in Missouri are fundamentalists--a common misconception out in the relativistic Wild West of the Bay Area), I felt like a teenager. I haven't gotten into an argument with a Christian in quite a long time. I was young again.

Normally out here I feel old, very detached from the youth (even though I'm only 34) because lately I've been going after Islamic--and not Christian--fundamentalists. Why? Because out here the anti-Christian rhetoric is so rabidly strong and the global effects of fundamentalist Islam are so conveniently glossed over. That's why when I walk by a situation like I did the other day and I see a geographical underdog (white fundamentalist Christians in SF), I feel compelled to root for them. That's why I'm a Mets fan and not a Yankees fan. I love underdogs.

That, and because I'm also able to draw a distinction between the polemical outcomes of fundamentalist Christianity as opposed to fundamentalist Islam.

Fundamentalist Islam will likely get you killed. Fundamentalist Christianity is--well, just kind of stupid. And here's why:

You see, you may not know this, but a long time ago, Christianity had a Reformation. There was a man named Martin Luther who split from the Catholic church because he wanted the Bible and the religious services translated from Latin into the vernacular so that the uneducated masses would be able to individually interpret the scriptures for themselves. Furthermore, he rebelled against the doctrine of papal infallibility which really burned some bridges between himself and the Vatican. After all, here was a man who dared to challenge what at that time was the immutable unquestionability of Catholic expertise in all matters clerical.

From this emerged an alternate--and comparitively liberal--school of Christianity called Protestantism.

Notice the root word: "Protest".

From this initial split, over the course of centuries, Protestantism continued to subdivide into various denominations. There were the Lutherans, of course. A few years later, when King Henry VIII of England wasn't permitted by the pope to get a divorce, the Anglicans (Episcopalians, if you're American) eventually came into being. There were Calvinists. There were Puritans. There were Methodists.

Methodists were especially cool. They were all about radical social reform. In fact, were it not for Methodism, there wouldn't have been the Abolitionist movement of the 1800s which fostered enough Biblical debate on the topic of slavery to ultimately lead Western Civilization to put an end to it.

Then came the Quakers, the Presbyterians, the Baptists, the Pentecostals. . .

Things eventually started to get a little nuttier, but in smaller and smaller doses.

The endless subdivision of Protestantism ultimately led to the "crazier" fundamentalist sects. Crazier in methodology and doctrine, but smaller in terms of numbers and less significant in terms of social and political import. Seventh-Day Adventists, for example. Or Mormons. Or Jews For Jesus. Or the Jesus Freaks of the 60s/70s. Or David Koresh.

Historically, the Reformation led to many good things. A cultural Renaissance, for example, which gave birth to great men of genius like Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Shakespeare, and Dante. Once again, Christian abolitionists--an natural outgrowth of the European Christian Enlightenment--helped end slavery. And, of course, Luther's namesake, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a southern Baptist minister, ushered in the postmodern Civil Rights Movement.

And, admittedly, the Reformation also led to some bad things. The Catholics went overboard in retaliation with the Spanish Inquisition. Nut jobs on the East Coast burned a few "witches". Koresh and clan burned themselves to the ground.

But worst of all: It made anybody and everybody (and, by definition, nobody) an expert in Christian doctrine. If one just "felt the call of the lord" and started a church "in His name", one could get an audience (congregation). This is why postmodern Christianity is a lot like the internet. There's a lot of good and a lot of bad. And it takes a good set of eyes to be able to distinguish the two.

So getting back to this conversation. I say to the man with the Bible, "Look. You have to understand where you are. You're in a city with an intellectual and literary tradition in its recent history. There are universities here. This is a very politically left-leaning town. Christianity is not heavily favored here. I hope you don't mind me saying this, but if you just point at that book and say that all truth is to be found in there, nobody in this area is going to listen to you. You're justifying all of their preconceived notions about Christianity being excessively literal and dogmatic."

I knew this was an exercise in futility. But I like a good challenge.

I said, "Look, you really want to get the message of Christ out here in San Francisco? Then start talking about William Blake. Read some Blake poems up there. Quote from John Milton. Assault them with knowledge. Assault them with the creative output of the Christian West. Right now, you're doing what the fundamentalist Islamists do--they point at that Koran over and over and say, 'everything was revealed by Allah in the Holy Qu'ran'. But you guys aren't just Christians. You're white American Christians--you've already got three strikes against you--and because of that you're going to have to work a little harder to get your message across. Pointing to the Bible and declaring it the only fount of wisdom is same thing the radical Islamic clerics perpetuate in regards to Koranic scripture. But out here, they're a 'different culture' that we must try and understand according to the abritrary, contradictory, and hypocritical doctrine of multiculturalism. We can 'think globally and act locally' about everything but that, you see. God is all right if his name is Allah. Just consider the hyperbolic postmodern sentiment that flies in the face of statistics, historical progress, and current events: 'there is no difference between radical Islam and radical Christianity'."

Here's the anti-relativistic caveat: the difference between the two is the cry for jihad against the West.

That, and they teach their children that Jews are the descendants of apes and pigs.

In New York, putting a Koran in a toilet is now a felony. Cartoons have to be pulled from circulation whenever demanded, popes have to apologize for speeches given in Germany, and Salman Rushdie shouldn't be knighted. Furthermore, homosexuals are hung on sodomy charges in Iran--

--and women should dress "modestly" according to the precepts of Islamic sharia law--

Elections in Spain swing with exploding trains and buses are set on fire in Paris. And if the fundamentalist Islamists aren't commiting suicide bombings, they're either sanctioning them from the mosques or praising their perpetrators as "glorious martyrs"

Also, in the Bay Area, you're more likely to see a Jew wearing a keffiyah instead of a yarmulke. Yes, Islam is about 700 years behind Christianity historically. But in an age of sophisticated weaponry, it's important to ask, "Would it have been a good thing if Christians from 1200 A.D. had had access to nuclear missiles?"

And the fundamentalist Christians of today? Comical buffoons that nobody takes seriously.

Nobody outside of these isolated circle jerks of "praise" and "worship", that is. Nobody of any serious consquence. Watch Christian TV for a few hours and then ask yourself, is this sort of fundamentalism really a legitimate threat to the movers and shakers in Hollywood, the global news agencies, the academic realm, the bloggers, and among today's youth? No. It's just boring. And old. And phasing itself out of existence by cutting itself off fully from its rich cultural, artistic, and historical traditions.

That's why I kept harping on this guy: "Look, what about the great figures of the Christian Enlightenment? You should be out here quoting from John Locke or Immanuel Kant. Go back to the Catholics and understand the significance of St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Erasmus. . .talk about the social activism of the Methodists, the civil rights thrust of the black Southern Baptists. . .or better yet, what about existentialism? Everybody loves existentialism out here. But be sure to remind them that existentialism was a Christian concept and that its founding father was Soren Kierkegaard, a man who wrote extensively about the relationship between faith and reason. And if you really want to impress the folks around here, you should be showing Ingmar Bergman films and discussing his positive portrayal of the Christian faith in works like 'The Winter Light' and 'The Virgin Spring'.

Needless to say, I soon tired after a few more rebuttals of "Everything we need to know is right here in the Bible."

At this point, the girl up front had stopped singing and a guy took her place at the microphone. He testified about being in a gang or in prison or on drugs or something. She looked about college age, so I thought I'd try and sell my intellectual public relations approach to her.

"Hey," I said, "you know, the literalism that guy is espousing over there is really going to hurt you guys. You're not going to be able to sell that to anyone around here. As soon as you point to that Bible, you're fucked."

She smiled. Another difference between fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalist Islamists. I don't know how many patronizing and condescending smiles I've been the recipient of when arguing with fundamentalist Christians. It's kind of a smug, "we know something you don't know" look. It doesn't hurt me--as it might if I suggested the same to a radical cleric in the Middle East about pointing to the Qu'ran and being "fucked". It just annoys me. And it makes me sorry I started talking to them. It's the zombie-esque feeling. "One of us! One of us!" But I get that with every kind of "community" situation.

She said, "But God is all-powerful. God is a big God. He finds a way to get His message out there. We're just His instruments." (Yes, she even capitalized "His" when she spoke")

"But that's such a passive way to go about it," I said, "You're not fighting. You might as well go out here and set yourself on fire. The Crusades, for example, were a defensive Christian reaction against confiscation of vast areas of land and subjugation of native peoples that began shortly after the founding of Islam.

But nowadays, the Crusades are incorrectly portrayed as white Christians arbitrarily persecuting Muslims. All I'm saying is, if you're a Christian and you don't know about the historical, scientific, artistic, and cultural advances that Western Christian civilization has brought into the world--people who aren't Christians are going to rewrite your history for you."

There is some truth to the notion that it's the winners of wars who write history. I don't necessarily disagree with this. But I also believe that it's the people who don't take some sort of interest in their own history who have their histories rewritten for them.

So this girl offered to pray for me. She wanted to do it right then and there. I hate it when they do that. Everything's always public with them. I declined and her friend jumped in and offered, "Let me explain. She has to do this because she feels what God is telling her and God is telling her to pray."

I said, "Look. I don't mind you praying for me. I even pray myself from time to time. But I believe in private prayer. So why don't you wait until we get over that hill and we're out of sight and then you can start praying for me."

She agreed.

And then I said, "But I'll only let you pray for me if you go on the internet tonight and look up William Blake. And read a poem called 'The Lamb' from his 'Songs Of Innocence'. You gotta get in touch with the psychedelic side of Christianity. And Blake is the best place to start. What better definition of Christ is there than the divinity of the individual human and his (OR HER)capacity for artistic creation?"

It's all marketing. And if you're not going to convert anymore--then you have to market.