Saturday, March 31, 2012

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Reading list

I was up until after 12:30 last night reading (#12) The Hunger Games, which I had only downloaded Friday after work. Few are the books that I cannot put down once I start, or that will keep me awake so long after bedtime. Now I must buy the other two of the series.

Have I mentioned lately how I love the instant gratification of the kindle?

Nobody said it's great literature, but sometimes you just want to read something entertaining. This was a book I had not intended to read until Mandy's comments on FB and until a thread that hijacked a FB post of Traci's. In the comments, someone said:

"I've quit reading it after seeing an interview with the author. She said she wrote it to encourage the youth to question authority. Seriously..."
(continuing after reply by Traci)
"My first thought, and I haven't bothered to check, is that she must not have kids."
 To which I replied "Questioning authority is a bad thing?"
Came the answer "For a teen? Perhaps."
And my response "I was a teen of the 60's, so it was a lesson I learned early. I don't believe it did me much harm."

But remember, this was all before I read the first book.  Now I would say that on the simplest level it is about basic morality and ethics.  The "authorities" are hardly that.  The people in power are barely fleshed out, coming across as simplistic (though sometimes sadistic) buffoons.   The story is in the interaction of the teens:  in what ethical choices they had to make for survival in their home districts, and about altruism, morality, and yes, love, during the games.  

But if the book had been about the challenge of authority I repeat "Would that be a bad thing?"

Answer: Especially not for a teen.

It is the job of the young to challenge the status quo, to question what is fed to them as truth.  Think hard of beliefs over the ages which have been handed down as truths.   And think of some of the moral edicts that are being shoved down our throats even today by those in "authority".

Being an "authority" does not make one "right".  Which is one part of the moral of the story.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

"But I know what I like"

Paintings from MOMA. We threw this visit in on our last morning in NYC, and I am so glad that we did.  There may be better representatives of these famous works on-line, but this is proof to myself that I have seen them with my own eyes.  A huge collection: these were some of my favorites.

Click on each picture for details on the MOMA website.

The Dream by Henri Rousseau..

Also Rousseau: The Sleeping Gypsy. But I look at it and start singing "In the jungle, the mighty jungle . . ."

The Olive Trees: Vincent van Gogh. Obviously.

Van Gogh: Portrait of Joseph Roulin 

Needs no introduction.  More magnificent in person than I had imagined.

Still Life with Three Puppies: Paul Gauguin.  Dog art!

Francis Picabia: I See Again in Memory My Dear Udnie.  I left a portion of the floor in the picture to give an idea of scale.

Kurt Schwitters: Revolving

Pablo Picasso: Three Musicians

Claude Monet: Agapanthus

Amedeo ModiglianiAnna Zborowska

David Alfaro Siqueiros: Echo of a Scream

David Alfaro Siqueiros: The Sob

David Alfaro Siqueiros: Proletarian Victim

Thomas Hart Benton: Homestead

Salvador Dali: The Persistence of Memory

Natalia Goncharova: Rayonism, Blue-Green Forest

Henri Matisse: Landscape at Collioure

Yves Tanguy: The Furniture of Time

Robert Rauschenberg: Bed

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Teach your children well

Something is bothering me. I can't escape it. Everywhere I turn, the subject is brought in front of me.


Last Sunday, there was an episode of Shameless in which Fiona makes a deal with Lip.  If he stays in school, she will also go back to finish her high school diploma.  When she gets to school (with baby Liam in tow) it is suggested that she take the GED, at which point it will show that "you know almost everything a high school graduate does."  Tom opined that if Fiona passed the GED that she would know more than most high school graduates.

People are quick to place blame on teachers.  They call for performance reviews and the abolishment of the tenure system.  I  don't believe that bad teachers are any more rampant than they were a half-century ago when I was a school child.  They just have less raw material to work with.

But then there's "No Child Left Behind" which could have been named "Lowest Common Denominator".   Or perhaps "Must Issue Diploma No Matter What."

This was recently submitted to the payroll department by one of our younger employees.   This is a 2011 graduate of North Medford High School.

(Yes, he's trying to say that he took a half-hour rather than an hour lunch two days that week.)

I know some of the background of this boy. I know that he was in special classes with an I.E.P. and that he was credits short of "walking with his class". I know that he was playing computer games (I have to assume non-verbal ones) when he was supposed to be studying for summer school. I know that he passed a test to receive his diploma a few weeks late. Or rather I know that he didn't pass the test, then the teacher gave him the answers, and then he passed the test.  I am sympathetic to his mother who was thrilled that he was the first of her children to earn his high school diploma.

But he didn't earn that diploma, and this North Medford High teacher did a disservice to the young man who now has entered the work force. Every case like this cheapens the value of the diploma, turning it into a meaningless piece of paper.

Have you seen the movie Idiocracy?

No, I don't think that we are going to devolve quite into that.   I do believe that our society is morphing back into the rigid class-based society of earlier times.  The American middle class was created by our formerly great public school system.  As a mid-twentieth-century product of that system, I am sad to see both go.

Many of my friends and relatives have young or soon-to-be-born children.  It's a disconcerting thought that these children will just finishing their education and entering the work force at the end of my normal life-span.  What kind of society will they inherit?

I see one with even more boldly drawn lines between the "one-percenters" and everybody else.  And that line will be marked not just by wealth, but by education.  The two cannot be divorced.

I'm currently (re)-reading Great Expectations (#11 for the year).  I must have first read it when I was much too young to appreciate it.  It appears that I missed reporting on #10 The Help.   Both books deal with a societal class system: the first demarcated by wealth and education, the second by race.

Which brings me to one of the points that I wanted to make when I started out on this rambling rant: parents, please create readers of your children.  Read to them.  Read in front of them.  Keep books in the house and load up their electronic reader of choice with something other than games.  Read the classics.  If you need to, give them reading assignments for their summers (I admit to having done that to our children).

Take them places whenever you can.  We did quite a bit of camping and some travel when ours were young, but I wish we had done more.  Instill in them a thirst for knowledge and a vision of how large and varied and wonderful the world is. I know what the home life was like of the young man above as a child, and his parents bear more of the responsibility for his deficit than does the school.

Give the schools some raw material to work with.

I know that most of you are too young to receive the AARP Bulletin, but there is an editorial in the March edition that should be of general interest: "How About Some Adult Supervision".  It is available on-line so I have linked to it.  Suggested reading not just for parents, but for others of you in your 30's who believe that Social Security may not be around when you need it.

For those who believe in  private schools as an alternative to our failing public schools: I have seen the results of enough to know that they are not always so much better.  The same can be said for home-schooling. There are exceptions, but there is also the exception of those children who manage an excellent education through public schools.

Of course it goes without saying that the class system is in the best interests of some.

Enjoy Bill Maher's "New Rules" from Friday, March 9th.  Applicable part starts at about 03:26.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Ellis Island

Added to list of places where we did not have enough time to spend.  Added to list of places that I am definitely going back with Tom.

The immigrants could see the city beckoning across the water.

Statue of Annie Moore, first immigrant to be processed at Ellis Island.

Downstairs of the registration room was a great historical exhibit about the settling of our country and the westward expansion.

 Included were fun copies of old travel posters.

Looks like home!

And then there were some other exhibits and posters.  Filed under "the more things change, the more they stay the same."

In last year's readings I read several books by Lisa See, including On Gold Mountain.  In the book, the author explores her family's past from great-grandparents on down.  It was eye-opening to learn about the prejudices that were held against the Chinese in the early days of California and the west.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Liberty Island Ferry

More New York photos after a brief hiatus. 

 Merchant Mariner' Memorial at Battery Park.  
"This sculpture at NYC's Battery Park is a hauntingly powerful depiction of sailors drowning after a Nazi U-Boat attacked their American merchant ship during World War II."

 The statue and Liberty Island from the ferry landing.

 Cities with water and bridges are the best.  Seattle, Portland.  New York.

 Central Railroad of New Jersey terminal.  Before the tunnels, train lines ended here and passengers were ferried to Manhattan.

 Manhattan as viewed from Liberty Island.

 Some things turn out to be smaller and less grand when you finally see them in person.  Not so the Statue of Liberty.

 Verrazano-Narrows Bridge from Liberty Island.

But . . .
Statue of Liberty Barbies?  Really?