Monday, October 19, 2009

In Which Atticus Finch Gives 12 Racist Men a Faceful of Scowl...

First, read this article. I'll wait.
Malcolm Gladwell is a media whore. I look at him and see a pimply faced weirdo who probably wore trench coats unironically in college and constantly pestered professors with non sequitur questions. He is the author of such abysmal affronts to good science and economics as Blink and The Tipping Point. One of his most dubious downfalls is his almost religious belief that correlation indicates causality. Using very small pools for his social experiments, Gladwell tends to make gross exaggerations verging on hyperbole, assuming that because his data challenges the status quo, that it immediately indicates that he has done something brilliant that deserves praise and adoration. The problem is that this modus operandi actually works for him, as his books tend to spend ridiculous periods of time on the New York Times bestseller list. Not only that, my good old alma mater, Stony Brook, required that I read Gladwell's The Tipping Point in my freshman year. Why? Well, people think that the only way to get uneducated people to talk to one another about something other than reality television requires that they read some trashy book and discuss it at length, praising only what is in the text, and not critically analyzing it. "At least they're talking!" supposes the New York State Board of Regents.
This particular article that I have forced my noble readers to suffer causes me no small measure of consternation. As an adamant admirer of Atticus Finch, the noble lawyer of Maycomb, Alabama in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, I found this particular article offensive, almost dangerous. I venture to use the word dangerous here because I fear that in the hands of unthinking cretins around this world, such information would downplay the importance of Atticus Finch and thus Mockingbird as an entire piece. He compares Atticus to Jim Folsom, a man well known for seeming to believe that hypocrisy scribbled by Thomas Jefferson saying something about "all men [being] created equal." The parallel is weak. It is true that Atticus worked in a small area of "friends and neighbors" in Maycomb, but Gladwell seems to conveniently ignore the time that Atticus spends at the state capitol. Mockingbird is, at heart, a narrative of the experiences of one young girl growing up in a small town in the Deep South during the most depraved depths of American racism. As such, we never know what Atticus is up to when he is not in Jean-Louise's (a.k.a. Scout's) immediate presence. For all we know, Atticus may have been drafting a Civil Rights Bill in his spare time. While this may sound a stretch, and borders on fan fiction, one cannot discount it. But even based on his language and convictions on equality, one can assume he was not a proponent of Jim Crow.
Gladwell accuses Atticus of being nothing but an inactive character in the civil rights movement, and thus commits the same crime the Maycomb County jury did when they proclaimed Tom Robinson guilty - he ignores facts in favor of his own prejudices. As Tom wouldn't have the money for his own lawyer, the judge appointed Atticus to take the case, knowing that Atticus' belief in universal equality and justice for all would guarantee at least a good fight against the jury's obvious racist slant. Atticus went well beyond his call of duty. Another lawyer in Alabama during Jim Crow wouldn't have bothered to visit Tom's family to make sure they were keeping afloat during these trying times. Atticus did just that. Another lawyer wouldn't DREAM of waiting outside a prison to protect his client from the cruel hands of a lynch mob. Atticus did just that. Another lawyer wouldn't bother going for the appeal process, but Atticus swore to do just that.
We never asked Atticus Finch to be a Civil Rights leader. Stripping him to his essentials, what is he but a loving father, an avid reader, a terrific checkers player, a dead eye with a rifle, and a staunch believer in equality for all people. Gladwell seems to hold the idea that people are inherently different because of the color of their skin; he would favor making laws that protected people whose pigmentation appeared darker than some set scientific standard. It is my belief that Atticus transcended this belief. Rather than championing the single cause of rights for Blacks, Atticus instead challenges humanity to look deeper, seeing that there is no inherent different between people, no matter what color, religion or sex they may identify as. Atticus would fail to see the need of affirmative action, noting that color shouldn't even be a consideration when applying for a job - that giving jobs specifically to minorities is itself racism, as it identifies these people as inherently different and declares them more deserving of something as a result.
I've wasted too much breath downplaying Gladwell's importance in society. Any person with even a scrap of intelligence can see through his wishy-washy pop-economics. If people still think reciting his bogus claims at parties counts as intelligent conversation, so be it, but he will not be allowed to bash well-established literary heroes - NOT ON MY WATCH!
Stay tuned NEXT TIME for my EPIC deconstruction of our NATIONAL PAST TIME!
My Thesis:
How Postseason Baseball Destroyed Baseball: A Nocturne of Too Many Commercials, Too Many Pitching Changes, and the Inane Ramblings of Incompetent Men Named Tim McCarver.

Monday, October 12, 2009

In Which We Dine in the Style of "Diamond" Jim Brady and Brave New England...

Saturday marked Julie's birthday celebration. Being she happens to be a citizen of the rival principality to the Kingdom of Brooklyn's north - the Queendom of Queens - she adhered to the Treaty of Orchard Beach §485.99 which declared that any celebrations requiring the attendance of Subjects of BOTH rival territories shall be had on a neutral THIRD BOROUGH. She chose the famous Delmonico's restaurant in the Financial District of Manhattan.
Those unfamiliar with this establishment's fabled past need LOOK NO FURTHER, for I herein provide and COMPLETE and ACCURATE history of Delmonico's in the fashion of a timeline.

18 A.D. - Jesus and 312 of his closest friends celebrate his 18th birthday and inadvertently invent the Jägerbomb - a drink recipe still on the menu, still at the low, introductory rate of 30 pieces of silver (FORESHADOWING)!
1890s - Renowned psychic Edgar Cayce visits Delmonico's and slips into a deep, dreamlike state wherein he mumbled "Sewards icebox... Alaska... 49th state... vice president?" amongst fevered ramblings about the lost continent of Atlantis. Chef Bjørn Strangelove immediately invented a meringue encrusted ice cream dessert to prematurely celebrate our penultimate state - Baked Alaska.
1910 - "Diamond" Jim Brady becomes the first customer to ask for a snow shovel with which to heap food into his obese girlfriend's gaping maw. Geologists of the time believed that Jim used the massive heat and supergravitational force that was his lady friend in order to make MORE DIAMONDS! Customers may still request a snow shovel to enjoy their suppers.
October 1929 to ca. 1980's - After thoroughly enjoying a brunch of Eggs Benedict, President Herbert Hoover enlisted the Army Corps of Engineers to design a TIME SHIELD to protect the restaurant. Simultaneously, he had the secret service subtly influence the market, causing a massive panic resulting in the Great Depression to ensure that NO ONE BUT HE could afford such a luxurious dish! It was not until stage magician David Copperfield decided to cause the Statue of Liberty to disappear, accidentally focusing his TIME MAGIC on the financial district, that the restaurant was once again open to the public. When authorities searched the grounds, they found Hoover hunched over a plate by a fireplace shoving entire eggs and English muffins down his throat, quenching his thirst with an oriental vase full of Hollandaise sauce.
Yesterday - Dressed in a double breasted seersucker suit, a foolish young man asked for truffles atop his steak, garnishing a $40 surcharge - thus ensuring he would have a funny story to tell for the rest of his life.

Well, we seriously enjoyed it. It was an historical experience, and atrociously delicious as well. Thanks be to Julie!
Maria and I required respite from the State of New York, and so plotted an escape to that neighbor to the United States' north - Red Sox Nation. Formerly a geographic area known as "New England," so named because of the area's propensity to drink tea and worship a monarchy, the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut incorporated into one obnoxious political unit in 2004 in celebration of the third rate baseball team - the Boston Red Sox - winning a championship for the first time in 89 years. In a stunning blow to Red Sox Nation, their much beloved army (whose actions are mostly confined to football playing) the Patriots were crushed by the New York Football Giants (literally persons who suffer from gigantism) in the 2006 Battle of the Superbowl. But I have digressed.
Red Sox Nation is very beautiful this time of year. October, being my favorite month, is marked by the caramelizing tree leaves and brisk, bright weather. It was really breathtaking driving past gilded birches and scarlet sugar maples. For all of its obnoxious sports fans, Red Sox Nation is far and away the most beautiful part of America in the autumn.
We drove our adorable silver Volkswagen Jetta (courtesy of Zip Car) to the Northampton area of Massachusetts. There we went to Atkin's Farm, a produce market so popular that the parking lot suffers from traffic congestion. There we feasted on a mug of warm apple cider and cider donuts, a product that was pretty much the main reason we made the whole trip. Indeed, if it weren't for Maria salivating at the very thought of these confections, no way would we have driven up there. A little ways away, we went to an apple orchard, where I went apple picking for the first time. It felt a little like we were on a movie set - picking apples amongst autumnal trees, bright blue sky, green, gold, red spotted hills... and I practiced my cricket bowl with the fallen, spoiled apples.
I declare this the finest usage of a three day weekend. I am currently re-reading Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird and scouring it for evidence of Truman Capote's handiwork. Do NOT be surprised if any of my forthcoming entries contain Atticus Finch worship - though that might be an interesting topic: challenging Malcolm Gladwell's essay denouncing Atticus.
Until I decide what to write again...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Tally of My Murderously Delicious Wake...

Some basic math will come up with the following rough tally of the animals that had to die for my meals today:
  1. At least 2 pigs.
  2. At least 1 cow.
  3. At least 2 chickens (most likely 3)
  4. 6 oysters
  5. 2 clams
  6. 5 mussels
  7. 1 lobster
This amounts to AT LEAST 19 animals. I consider this a day well spent.
And now, I set off to write a lesson plan wherein I make my students write a letter to Sen. Schumer suggesting a law that ought to be passed. At ease.

Monday, October 5, 2009

In Which We Catch Up...

I have just been informed that I won tickets to see They Might Be Giants perform on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Does that mean I have to sit through Jimmy Fallon for an hour or more? God help me.
Well, I certainly have been remiss of my updating duties, haven't I? I promised to mention the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) [D-for deceased] in this entry. Well, I've just done that. And when I write my long winded entry about my proposed Mosesesque P-Train, you will certainly hear more about him particularly pertaining to my views on the proposed Moynihan Station across the street from Pennsylvania Station.
Student teaching has been swell. I have an exceptionally smart and informative cooperative teacher, Ms T - a native of Germany whose educational excellence has garnered her a principal's license. I work at The High School of Health Professions and Human Services on 15th Street in Manhattan - the former site of Stuyvesant High School, a fact which original engravings still boast on the 16th Street side of the school. Autobiographer Frank McCourt actually taught English two floor below me just a few decades ago, and to celebrate this fact, I read Teacher Man, his account of working in the New York City educational system courtesy of the G.I. Bill.
I am in charge of two periods of Global History I (JOY!) and three periods of U.S. Government (RAPTURE!). Long story short, I couldn't have chosen better classes with which to whet my teaching skills. I have already incorporated Star Wars and the HBO miniseries John Adams into my lessons. So far: it appears that my professor is happy with my performance - going so far as to suggest that I work towards an administrative position once I've achieved a teaching position.
Problems? I have a few. Certainly learning all of my students' names has been a bit of a challenge, and I estimate that I still don't know about 35% of them. Even so, I believe I am not entirely at fault, as some of these names are entirely new to me: Dazia pronounced as "desire" with a New York accent, Ivyz as "EE-vee," Satabangkot as "Fern," &c.
It is already October, which was officially declared The Finest Month by Scientific Proof Magazine. Two days from now marks Maria's and my second anniversary. Given my current financial situation, it will prove a modest celebration, though certainly a very happy one. I certainly can't believe that the imperious, aristocratic, moody, sanctimonious behemoth with which she resides hasn't driven her away, but I genuinely thank her and owe all of my new-found success to her. Were it not for her selflessness and complete dedication to our relationship, I probably wouldn't be back in Stony Brook and headed towards the goals I should have achieved years ago.
It is worth note that yesterday was the Atlantic Antic Festival along Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. This is far and away the greatest of all street fairs. As proof, I offer the meal I had just while walking around!
  • Oysters and clams on the half-shell
  • Delicious Six-Point Amber Ale
  • Generous handfuls of kettle corn courtesy of Bob
Now, last year I was served a tremendous slice of red velvet cake from a wonderfully charming old black woman from one of the churches on Atlantic Avenue. For $3, I was given approximately one QUARTER of the cake (red velvet being one of my favorites, for cream cheese is certainly the most appealing of all icings) and granted only one fork, because, as she said, "Honey, I know you ain't gonna need no help eatin' this cake." How endearing is it when a kindly old lady makes fun of your obesity issues?! Endearing enough to ask for another slice next year.
My October resolution is to write more observations in this journal - so I trust all six of my beloved readers will press me on the matter and keep me true to this resolution. Until then, as my cooperative teacher's people say:
Auf wiedersehen!