Monday, December 30, 2013

Kids Making A Difference: Girl Wants Handicapped Doll

This is Melissa Shang. She's ten years old and obsessed with American Girl dolls. In other words, she's me seven years ago. Except I didn't have a wheelchair. And I just fired off lengthy letters when American Girl did stuff I didn't agree with, like retiring my favorite dolls. She's written to the company's president and started a petition. Click that thingy if you feel like watching a video about it. What does she want? "I've read all the American Girl books and seen all the movies and I'm ready for an American Girl like me."
For those unfamiliar with American Girl, they have three types of dolls. Historical characters come with names, books, and accessories. The 'My American Girl' line are modern and you can do whatever you want with them. Then there's the Girl of the Year, a modern doll with a story, accessories, and usually a movie. That last one is what Shang wants.

The American Girl catalog already has toy service dogs, hearing aids, and yes, hospital style wheelchairs. But what Shang wants is a handicapped doll, with books, a movie, the whole shebang-and she wants it soon.
2014's doll is a dancer named Isabelle. Given how fast they pump out products, I bet there's something on the drawing board for 2015. If her doll comes at all it will take a while. The yearly dolls are usually athletic-they've had a gymnast, an ice skater, and another dancer named Marisol.
But then, American Girl has made a point of including dolls with different races/hobbies/backgrounds, etc. They want as many people to buy their products as possible. If people will buy a handicapped doll, why not?
I love how confident Melissa Shang is. She isn't demanding diversity or scolding the company for not representing every single group out there. She's a girl who believes in herself and her power to make adults in a board room somewhere listen. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Adults Aren't Real

Alleged adult photographed in his natural habitat. What do you think? Is this a real photo?
I've come to believe that adults aren't real. Though they often appear as characters in movies, books, and TV shows, I've seen a disturbing lack of evidence for their existence. I decided to conduct some research. Here's what I found.
1. Yesterday I went to eat at Sizzler. Like every other restaurant I've been in, there are two menus, called The Menu and The Kid's Menu respectively. What are the adults supposed to eat?
2. Next I took my research to the library. There are sections for Juvenile Fiction, Youth Fiction, and Fiction. No Adult Fiction. If these adults do exist they're clearly not expected to read books.
3. Flip open the Guinness World Records book. Sebastian Harris, 13, was the youngest person to visit the wreckage of the Titanic. Robert Ballard was the first person to do it. All the articles I can find focus on the ship rather than Ballard's age. If he was an adult, they don't find it worth mentioning.
4. Newspapers. When a group of children raise money for charity, the headline is Kids Help Community for Christmas. If a photo shows a group of alleged adults, it's Insert-Town-Name Residents Make a Difference.
5. At Target, you can walk into the Children's Clothing section, and from there, buy either Girls' Clothes or Boys' Clothes. Adults are confined to Men and Women, located in Clothes.
6. I did manage to find some TV shows labeled as Adult Programming. But something weird's going on with my remote. It won't let me watch them. I guess I'll never know. Hundreds of other shows feature adult characters. Often there are no children, teenagers, or babies in the entire cast. Yet they don't fall into the Adult Programming category.
It's kind of sad. If adults do exist, they'll turn on the TV someday and realize their entire demographic is neglected. All they can watch is porn. Children have the Kids Shows. But adults are left with Holiday Movies, Romantic Comedies, and Sci Fi Shows. How are they supposed to know if those programs are for them?
Conclusion? Adults don't exist. If they do exist, they can't eat food, wear clothes, or contribute to society. Kids can. People can. But not adults.
Perhaps I'm wrong. You can read a novel shelved as women's fiction but there's no section for men. Guion S. Buford was the first black person in space while cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was simply the first person. White men do exist. They're just as capable of reading and space travel. So capable that no one bother's to notice it. Gender and race, like age, affect our view of what it means to be a person.
Are adults really out there? Do they actually have influence on society-the restaurants, the newspapers, the stores-so much influence that we forget they're there? Are actors and Guinness World Record editors all adults? Have they taken their status as humans so seriously that they forget to recognize young people as anything but young?
Nah. I say it's an urban legend.

Monday, December 16, 2013


In eighth grade, I took U.S. History for the first time. Our textbook had around 900 pages counting the index.
One of those pages had a mini-bio on Sacagawea.
One of those pages mentioned Pocahontas.
One of those pages had a mini-bio on Joseph Plumb Martin, a 15 year old Revolutionary War soldier.
One of those pages talked about student protests during the Vietnam War.
One of those pages talked about education in the early colonial era.
One of those pages talked about the girls involved in the Salem Witch Trials.
Two of those pages talked about child labor in the Industrial Revolution. There would've been one, but the paragraph started at the bottom of the page.
Using the index, I looked up 'kids', 'children', 'child labor', 'teenagers', 'girls', 'boys', and 'youth' several times. I can say with absolute certainty that these are the only eight pages in the book that talked about young people. That's less than 1% of the book.
Nearly all of the book was devoted to what my sophomore history teacher would later call 'dead white males'. Oh, there were exceptions. The Civil War chapter. The women's suffrage chapter. And at the end of every normal chapter, they'd have this half-page to talk about black cowboys or Chinese gold miners. I called it the diversity page.
Granted, it's the adult white males who were presidents and generals. We only have so much class time. We can't focus on anyone who's less than monumental. But teenagers were there and we matter as much as any minority.
Southern schools put emphasis on the Civil War. On Indian reservations you'll learn tribal history. All-girls schools will find the women who influenced an era, the women who married those presidents and generals, and the women who were just there for it all. Why shouldn't an all-children school do the same?
Because women and blacks and Native Americans can be adults. They can complain and have their voices heard. We can't. And if we could, would we? We care more about passing the tests than the actual history. And that's a problem. History doesn't come to life for us. It's "them", not "us", it's stories, not lives. Why should we care if we're "the nation's future" when we can't find ourselves in the past?
We trekked along the Oregon Trail and labored in factories during the industrial revolution. We fought in World War II and Vietnam. We were there for the women's suffrage movement and the civil rights movement and everything else. Sometimes we shaped history and sometimes we just watched. But we were there.
And we have the right to know.

Saturday, December 14, 2013


This is my favorite trivia tidbit. No one I know has been able to answer it correctly. Who is the youngest person to appear on a U.S. coin?
Thinking...thinking...thinking. Time's up! His name is...Jean Baptiste Charbonneau.
Wait, what? Some French dude? You've seen him, but you've never heard of him.
Little Jean
He's been incorrectly identified as the only child to appear on U.S. currency. You can't tell from this picture (or most pictures) but his mother was seventeen. Yes, that's right. Lewis and Clark found the Pacific Ocean thanks to a teenager.
Sacagawea had a rough life. When she was twelve, she was kidnapped during a battle that killed several Shoshone. At thirteen, she was married off to a fur trapper from Quebec. By sixteen she was pregnant. At seventeen she lead the Lewis and Clark expedition across the West. And after that? We don't know too much. She could've died at twenty five or maybe ninety.

Sacagawea guided the most important expedition of the 19th century. If Lewis and Clark had failed, how long would it have taken to map the Louisiana Purchase? She shaped our country. She's one of the few teenagers (not to mention women and Native Americans) who gets mentioned in most textbooks. And yet they never tell you her age. None of these depictions show her as seventeen. Most people only know her from the coin so they have no idea.
We may not know what Sacagawea looked like, the correct way to pronounce her name, or even when she died. But we know she was born circa 1788 and the expedition began in 1804. She was young.
Why are we so reluctant to admit that teenagers have changed American history?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Fun Facts About Abortion

Embedded image permalink

Fun Fact #1: We have laws against killing birds, fish, and trees, but not babies.
Fun Fact#2: In 37 years, over 53 million legal abortions have been preformed in the United States. The combined number of military deaths from the Revolutionary War to Iraq is 1.2 million.
Fun Fact #3: In the state of Montana, a teenage girl can get an abortion without parental consent, but she needs a permission slip to take Tylenol at school.
Fun Fact #4: Female fetuses are more likely to be aborted than male.
You don't become a person when you turn 21, 18, 16, or one minute old. You become a person the moment you are. Equal rights for unborn women.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Dear Future Generations,

So you've just got out of class. Your teacher told you to write an essay on How Social Media Shaped the World of the 2010's. I, as a citizen of the year 2013, have your answer.
Not in the way you think. You've talked about the riots organized on twitter, the facebook campaigns, the political scandal rumors that spread via youtube. You've read about how the brightest minds of this world met in philosophy forums to ponder the great ethical questions facing humanity. How 4chan did for us what coffee shops did for Isaac Newton and Voltaire.
That's not what happened. Twitter is dirty jokes, instagram is people taking pictures of their food, facebook is where people go to whine about their lives, and youtube? None of these people who drop comments can spell. Or think, for that matter. You click on a video that has nothing to do with government or America and the top comment is about the American government. Every word is spelled wrong. And right below that is a lengthy response with proper grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure. The last line is, "I apologize for any grammar errors. I'm Brazilian."
You've talked about the viral videos. We hate those. Especially anything featuring cats.
Those essay prompts your teacher gave you. The posts that generated thousands of responses within the hour. The ones written by social media mavens. They don't exist. Or at least, they might as well not, because they're outnumbered by the millions of other posts. The ones that will be nameless, faceless, and forgotten by the time you're born. Posts like this one. Blogging is the digital equivalent of ripping a page from your diary, stuffing into a bottle, and tossing it into the sea.
The ones that make it survive not because of quality or intelligence, but luck. A cat video goes viral not because the owners happened to catch something cute on camera. It's because msn or yahoo picked it up, declared it news, and put it next to the latest devastation report from Syria.
As a blogger, it's frustrating to know that I'll be forgotten in your time. Nothing I say actually matters. The sneezing baby panda on youtube, however, will live on forever. Those famous twitter excerpts in your textbooks-if you still have textbooks-do not tell the whole story. And be grateful for that. There is more stupidity on the Internet than could ever be imagined or comprehended by any one person. More people take to the forums to mock Stephenie Meyer and Justin Bieber than to discuss philosophy. Shipping wars are more intense than political debates. People just aren't happy unless they're arguing.
We live in a rapidly changing world. I am well aware of that. Some good change, some bad change, but most of it not important at all. History is deeper and wider than you can imagine. There are so many voices you will never hear.

P.S.: When your teacher scolds you for not spending enough time on your essay you can tell her I wrote this in eighteen minutes. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Teenagers, Tributes, and Fangirls

Speaking of Catching Fire, here's a good  post by a teen blogger about age prejudice and fangirling. Geekiness is becoming more socially acceptable because geeks own the internet and the internet is the world. In the Internet Age, fandom is an important source of identity. Yet fans, especially the young female ones, are often accused of liking a show for the sake of a hot male actor. Yes, shipping and character crushes are a huge part of any fandom. But any true fangirl goes deeper than that.
A fangirl is someone who knows a well constructed universe when she sees one. She calls out cliches. She anticipates plot twists three episodes in advance. She learns more about theme and character development from fan forums than any college professor could teach her in a year. She knows the jargon. She effortlessly slips between acronyms and everyday speech. She can fit a profound statement into 140 characters or less. She's genre savvy with a razor sharp wit. And if she feels like bashing her own fandom, beware, because she has the uncanny ability to speak sincerely while coating her words in a thick layer of sarcasm.
There's no shame in being a fangirl and even less in being a teenager.
Be proud of who you are.

What's Wrong With Killing Children?

With Catching Fire hitting theaters, I'm hearing more of the same old complaints about The Hunger Games.
"It will corrupt our children!"
"It's about teenagers killing each other!"
"It's not appropriate for kids!"
I haven't heard:
"It will corrupt our minds!"
"It's about people killing each other!"
"It's not appropriate!"
So killing is okay as long as it's adults doing the dirty work? Well then, you should be happier with this movie. 22 of the 24 tributes are adults. Which you'd know if you, you know, read the book. Try it. The movie will mean more to you.
Personally, I think killing is a bad thing. For everyone. You're entitled to your own opinion. Mine didn't stop me from enjoying the book. Hunger Games is not just the story of a bunch of kids killing each other. It's a complex story of hope, rebellion, and family. It provides a more realistic take on war and violence then most adult movies.
In adult movies, you can pick up a man, chuck him into a brick wall, and he slides to the ground with no bone damage.
In adult movies, you can jump through a third story window, land on concrete, and run away.
In adult movies, the hero can survive all this, plus multiple bullet and knife wounds.
In adult movies, all it takes is a single bullet to finish off the bad guys.
In adult movies, no one cries over an opponent's death. Much less sing to them as they die and decorate their body with flowers.

If you have no problem with adults killing each other, maybe you need this movie to change your mind. Do totalitarian governments and gladiator games bother you? Good! The purpose of Hunger Games isn't to brainwash the young or promote violence. It's to get you thinking. And trust me, there's a lot to think about.
Take whichever side you want:  Killing Is Bad or Action Makes Good Movies. Catching Fire will prove those both right.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a movie to watch.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

What A Child Wants

If you've read this blog for a while you know I'm strictly opposed to all ageism. From all sides. I don't believe adults are inferior to children. But after reading about the four hundred children taken into government custody after a massive pornography bust, well, let's just say I'm doing my best not to hate every adult on the planet. Surely they can't all be scumbags. What I really hate is the world they've made for us.
I don't want to live in a world where "adult media" means children are nothing more than cheap entertainment.
I don't want to live in a world where I'm vulnerable because of my age.
I don't want to live in a world where hundreds of children are subjected to horrific abuse.
I don't want to read that last sentence and remind myself they're just the tip of the iceberg.
I don't want to think back on the stories I've heard about teenage prostitutes and useless law enforcement.
I don't want to live in a world where porn can be billed as "coming of age and naturist films".
I don't want to live in a world where criminals can sell child porn without violating any laws.
I don't want to wonder if  "rescue" will amount to crappy foster homes or children forced to return to their own horrible parents.
I don't want to live in a world where teachers, preachers, doctors, nurses, cops, and parents are the ones pimping kids to the world.
I don't want to live in a world where I'll spend the next few weeks sizing up all the adults I see. Wondering if they can really be trusted.
I do want to know more about these boys. I want to follow this story and see the media's take on it. And even more, I want to read the children's accounts. I want to know about lives shattered and strength found. I want to hear their voices. I want to see their faces. This is breaking news for now and the only pictures I've seen are adults. Either law enforcement officials or some of the 348 adults arrested.
Thank you to the adults who decided to step up and be heroes. We could always use more of you. But I don't want heroes. I want to see these children become survivors rather than victims.
I want to see young people empowered.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Your Child

A woman from Fargo, North Dakota decided to embark on a crusade against fat this Halloween. If you show up on her porch and you're skinny you'll get candy. If you're not you get this:

In other words, she thinks her trees would look good with toilet paper. What bothers me most isn't her arrogance. Or the sloppy typos. I expect that from Internet trolls but not paper letters.
I hate how this letter is about 'your child'. It asks the receiver to 'step up as a parent'. But these letters are going out to the kids standing on her doorstep. She's calling them fat to their faces and won't even deign to address them. She treats them as if they're a living problem that's not intelligent enough to solve itself.
Obese kids know they're fat. A sad number of healthy sized kids think the same. They don't need a letter to remind them.  And no one deserves to be dehumanized like this. If you have a weight issue it's your problem. Not your parents, your neighbor, or your village.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Why You're Probably Not Going to Die at School

So let's recap. This week we had Jose Reyes, a sixth grader from Nevada, shooting his teacher. Two days later, Phillip Chism, a Massachusetts freshman, killed his teacher. The media's connecting these two and drawing a line back to Sandy Hook. As if they're all related.
 I've heard nothing about Chism saying, "Hey, murder-suicide! That's a good idea! I think I'll take inspiration from a guy I've never met on the other side of the country." Yes, shootings are tragic. Yes, it's nice to have someone to blame. Or at least something. Violent video games are a fun scapegoat. Now we've got Reyes.
There's no reason to tie two unrelated killings together. Not in cause-effect and not in media coverage. Phillip Chism is not connected to Jose Reyes is not connected to Adam Lanza. You don't need to worry about teenagers taking to the halls with guns. I'm happy to report that all of my teachers survived the day. Even the annoying ones who don't enter grades until the end of the quarter.
Last year, there were 124 murders in Nevada and 121 in Massachusetts. I'm sure if you look through those you'll find wives who killed their husbands in both states. You'll find strangers who killed strangers in both states. Disturbing? Yes.
Connected? No.
So don't act like they are. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Romeo and Juliet...Starring Capulet Servant Number Two!

Quick, name two characters from Romeo and Juliet! You have five seconds. And...time's up. How many of you got this?
1. Romeo
2. Juliet
Okay. Now name the two most important characters in Romeo and Juliet. Go!
1. Romeo
2. Juliet
Now, whether you've seen the show or not, guess which two characters are named first in the play.
1. Juliet
2. Romeo
Considering all that. guess which two actors get the top billing on imdb?
1. Juliet's dad (Damian Lewis)
2. Romeo's mom (Lauren Morante)
The list goes on. Now, I've already talked about adult actors getting the top billing when a teenager is the star of the show. I won't rehash that here. Sometimes it's justified when the adult's more famous. But Hailee Steinfeld (Juliet) has been in some big movies and she's listed twelfth. That's after Second Capulet servant, number nine, played by Marcus J. Cotterell. And Romeo? He's dead last. Except for some extras like Farmer, Farmer's Son, and Capulet Maid.
Hailee Stenfield looks like this:
Hailee Steinfeld Picture

According to his imdb profile, Marcus J. Cotterell looks like this:
No photo available. Represent Marcus J. Cotterell? Add or change photos at IMDbPro
Reminds me of my old facebook picture.  You may recognize him as 'old man's client during first auction' from The Best Offer. I didn't.
Now, we can't judge a play by its movie. In the original Shakespeare, Second Capulet Servant gets six lines. Compare that to Juliet's mere 118. Romeo only gets 163. Sure, they've got some cool monologues and death scenes, but look what Servant 2 gets to say.
When good manners shall lie all in one or two men's 
hands and they unwashed too, 'tis a foul thing.

Ay, boy, ready.

We cannot be here and there too. Cheerly, boys; be
brisk awhile, and the longer liver take all.

 You shall have none ill, sir; for I'll try if they 
can lick their fingers.

Marry, sir, 'tis an ill cook that cannot lick his
own fingers: therefore he that cannot lick his
fingers goes not with me.

 I have a head, sir, that will find out logs, 
And never trouble Peter for the matter.

So Juliet and Romeo went down in history as the great standard of love. But servant two? He gets to talk about FOOD. And sanitation. And fingers.
But all that considered, I still don't see why he gets a higher billing.
Can I just say how happy I am to see Juliet played by a teenager? She's not quite fourteen in the play, but she was originally going to be played by Lily Collins. You know, Snow White from Mirror Mirror. Who happens to be a decade older than Juliet. Hailee Steinfeld's sixteen.
I liked this show. In modern times, young love is considered superficial. Our emotions are written off as "hormones acting up". Critics of teen movies and young adult literature sneer at the idea of finding true love in high school.
Or in Juliet's case, middle school. She'd be an eighth grader.
At the very heart of the story is youth. Young love, young anger, and young betrayal. While both Shakespeare and these modern filmmakers explore the consequences of those things, they never put it down to something inferior to adults.
There's a reason this play has survived four hundred years.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Ender's Game

Ender's Game hits theaters in a few short weeks. In honor of that, here's my favorite Orson Scott Card
quote. He wrote if after a parent complained that the children in his books "think like adults".                 

Never in my entire childhood did I feel like a child. I felt like a person all along-the same person that I am today. I never felt that I spoke childishly. I never felt that my emotions and desires were somehow less real than adult emotions and desires. And in writing Ender's Game, I forced the audience to experience the lives of these children from that perspective-the perspective in which their feelings and decisions are just as real and important as any adult's.

-Orson Scott Card

Back in fourth grade, my dad handed me one of his favorite books: a worn paperback called Ender's Game. It's about a six year old boy called Ender Wiggin who's sent to Battle School, where he trains to save the world from an alien invasion. Meanwhile on Earth, his older brother Peter's working to conquer the world through what we'd called blogging nowadays. Valentine, the middle child, is just trying to keep the peace.
My brother Jacob's been looking for a good book, so I recommended it to him. This way all three of us could watch it together.
Ender, portrayed by sixteen year old Asa Butterfield.
Jacob is eleven. I'm sixteen, which makes me six or seven years older than when I last read the book. He tried to discuss the book with me and it didn't work out well. I barely remembered any characters besides the three I named. So I thought, why not read it again? The movie comes out soon.
I curled up on the couch with our old copy. About halfway through the book, Jacob wandered in and sat beside me. I don't mind him reading over my shoulder if he doesn't distract me.
Then he quoted a random line from the book. I didn't get it, but I laughed so he'd shut up. A few paragraphs later I found the quote. He did this several times before I realized he was reading ahead.
Me: Stop skipping ahead.
Jacob: What? Oh, I'm not. I'm reading along with you.
Me: No you aren't. I read faster. Here, I'll flip to the next page and we'll see who finishes first.
Jacob: You're on.
He won. I made all sorts of excuses. He's just read it, so he can go over it faster and still understand what's going on. I'm more educated, so I'm analyzing the book while he just reads the words. He's younger, so he doesn't have to slow down and view the text through the point of view of a younger character.
I made Jacob do it with a new page. When he won again, I had to face the truth: my little brother can read faster than me.
With horror, I realized I'm one step closer to becoming the adult Card describes. The kind who thinks children are inferior, not only in experience and intellect, but on an emotional level.
Ender's six at the beginning of the book and twelve by the end. I read it when I was nine or ten. Here's what scares me most. I don't remember thinking of Ender as a child then. Ender was simply Ender. Now I'm loosing my ability to relate.
Seven more years from now, will I pick up my favorite books and find all the joy sucked out of them? Will I say these sixteen year olds are too clever, too resourceful, too witty? Please no. I love these books. If I have to change, I want to change for the better. I want to get more out of these books than I did the first time.
I'm different now than I was all those years ago. I'm a blogger, so the chapters that focuses on Peter and Valentine meant the most to me.
We choose the way we look at the world. We choose the way we look at those who live in it. And I choose to see everyone-teenagers, children, adults, the elderly-as true people.
I hope you do the same. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Lectures vs. Arguments: Brought to You By Tangled and Les Mis

I've been thinking lately about the difference between a lecture and an argument. If you're a teenager and you try to argue with your parents, it usually turns into the first one.
I try to leave my personal life out of this blog because (1) boring and (2) irrelevant. You don't care about my life. The only famous historical arguments are formal debates. So now I turn to fiction.
Introducing...Princess Rapunzel* and Monsieur Valjean**!

Mother Knows Best from the movie Tangled
Background: Mother Gothel kidnapped Rapunzel as an infant. Rapunzel, who has lived in the same one-room tower her entire life, doesn't know that. Now she's asking for permission to leave the tower.

Look at you as fragile as flower
Still a sapling just a sprout.
You know why we stay up in this tower

"I know but-"

That's right to keep you safe and sound dear.
Guess i always knew this day was coming
knew that soon you'd
want to leave the nest.
Soon but not yet.
trust me pet.
Mother knows best.
Real Parent:
You're growing up so fast. I just want to help you.
Mother knows best listen to your mother,
it's a scary world out there.
Mother knows best one way or another something will go wrong i
Ruffians, thugs, poison ivy, quicksand, the plague.


Also large bugs, men with pointy teeth. And stop no more you'll just
upset me.
Mothers right here, mother will protect you.
Darling here's what i suggest.
Skip the drama stay with Mama.
Mother knows best.
Go ahead, get trampled by a rhino
Go ahead, get mugged and left for dead
Me, I'm just your mother, what do I know?
I only bathed and changed and nursed you
Go ahead and leave me, I deserve it
Let me die alone here, be my guest
When it's too late
You'll see, just wait
Mother knows best
Mother knows best
take it from your mumsy
on your own you won't
Sloppy, underdressed, immature, clumsy.
Please they'll eat you up alive.
Gullible, naive positively grubby,
Disty and a bit...well vauge.
Plus i belive your getting kind of chubby.
I'm just saying cause i wuv you.
Mother understands, Mothers here
to help you, all i have is one request.


Don't ever ask to leave this tower again

Yes, Mother.

Oh, I love you very much dear.

I love you more

I love you most
Don't forget it, you'll regret it.
Mother knows best!

This is a lecture.

The Confrontation from the musical Les Miserables

Background: Jean Valjean (aka convict number 24601) broke parole several years ago. Since then he learned the importance of honesty, became a business owner, and is now the mayor of the town. After revealing his identity to Inspector Javert, he's pleading for time to help a dying woman with a young child.

Valjean, at last,
We see each other plain
`M'sieur le Mayor,'
You'll wear a different chain!

Before you say another word, Javert
Before you chain me up like a slave again
Listen to me! There is something I must do.This woman leaves behind a suffering child.
There is none but me who can intercede,In Mercy's name, three days are all I need.Then I'll return, I pledge my word.Then I'll return...
There is a duty that I'm sworn to do
You know nothing of my life
All I did was steal some bread
You know nothing of the world
You would sooner see me dead
But not before I see this justice
I am warning you Javert
I'm a stronger man by far
There is power in me yet
My race is not yet run
I am warning you Javert
There is nothing I won't dare
If I have to kill you here
I'll do what must be done!

You must think me mad!
I've hunted you across the years
A man like you can never change
A man such as you.

(in unison with Javert
Believe of me what you will

(in unison with Valjean)
Men like me can never change
Men like you can never change
My duty's to the law - you have no
Come with me 24601
Now the wheel has turned around
Jean Valjean is nothing now
Dare you talk to me of crime
And the price you had to pay
Every man is born in sin
Every man must choose his way
You know nothing of Javert
I was born inside a jail
I was born with scum like you
I am from the gutter too!

[to dying woman] And this I swear to you tonight
[to Valjean] There is no place for you to hide

Your child will live within my care

Wherever you may hide away

And I will raise her to the light.
I swear to you, I will be there!

Valjean and Rapunzel are asking for the same thing: temporary freedom. But look at what happens. Mother Gothel gives a lecture. She only lets Rapunzel complete a sentence if she's praising her. Valjean and Javert get the same amount of lines. Sure, they're singing in unison for part of it, so clearly they'd rather listen to themselves talk.
What makes the difference between a lecture and an argument? And more importantly, how can you turn a confrontation into the one you want?
If you're the authority (Mother Gother and Inspector Javert) you have to respect your petitioner. Even if they're asking for something wrong or stupid or just plain pointless.
If you're the petitioner (Rapunzel and Valjean) you have to stand up for yourself. Interrupt your authority's sob story. Even if they won't listen to you. Even if they think what you're asking for is wrong or stupid or just plain pointless. You cared enough to ask for it, didn't you? Then follow through with it.
Don't lecture. Argue.

Disclaimer time, yay!
*This post is not meant to offend people. And by people, I mean Rapunzel. I love your songs, love your show, I just think you should've stood up for yourself.
**This post is also not meant to encourage you to argue with your parole officer. Unless you happen to be a nineteenth century French convict who stole a loaf of bread to feed your starving nephew. In that case, congratulations for inventing time travel. Can we hang out?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

I Got My Driver's License!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I can't exactly form coherent thoughts right now, so I'll just do this post in a list of things.
Thing #1: How it feels to take the test.
See the platypus? That's my mom.

Thing #2: How you want to feel when you take the test
Man, can I just say how much I love Phineas and Ferb? Candace is a teenager, but she can drive better than Dr. Doofenschmirtz.

Thing #3: How your instructor acts when you take the test
If you live in Utah or Nevada, don't take from A1 Driving School or test with Drive Right. They're scammer programs. They'll gladly take your money but you'll get a horrible education. If I'd taken driver's ed in school like a normal person, I would've got my license a long time ago. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Teen Movies

You just don't see many teenagers in movies. In the normal movies, the ones by and for adults, we don't exist. At most, we'll get a cardboard character whose job is to Be Rebellious at the beginning and Be Reformed by the credits. But sometimes you'll get a movie with multiple teen characters. With real characteristics and motivations. The teen movie.
Here's wikipedia's list of teen movies from the last four years. I added a few they forgot, let me know if you can think of more.

Easy A-2010
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World-2010
The Virginity Hit-2010
I Am Number Four-2011
Turn Me On, Dammit!-2011
Little Birds-2011
Project X-2012
American Reunion-2012
21 Jump Street-2012
The Hunger Games-2012
Pitch Perfect-2012
The Perks of Being a Wallflower-2012
The First Time-2012
Ginger & Rosa-2012
Struck by Lightning-2013
Warm Bodies-2013
Beautiful Creatures-2013
Spring Breakers-2013
The Bling Ring-2013
The To Do List-2013
21 and Over-2013
The Philosophers-2013
The Way, Way Back-2013
The Spectacular Now-2013
Sea of Monsters-2013
City of Bones-2013
That Girl in Pinafore-2013

34 total. I'm surprised at how many I haven't heard of. 34 seems like a pretty good number until you realize just how many movies are made each year. The list includes indie and international films. A huge chunk of the original movies (the ones that weren't remakes or based on books) seem to be about sex. No, really. That's the entire plot. A girl loses her virginity. A boy throws a wild party and sleeps with a hot girl. A girl earns a reputation as the school's bad girl. 
No wonder teenagers get such a bad rap. 

You know, some of these movies managed to tell a good story without injecting sex scenes. They resort to tricks like "plot" and "character development". And they manage to stay below an R rating, which means we can actually watch them.

I'm sixteen. So far as I know, all of my friends are virgins. We don't spend Friday nights drinking and partying. When we throw a "party", it amounts to three people hanging out in someone's basement with Doritos and a board game. But that only happens once a month, if we're lucky. Most nights I cuddle up with my chemistry book. Maybe the movie industry thinks they've got some kind of gritty realism going on here. I don't see it.
Just look at those titles. The Virginity Hit. Turn Me On, Dammit. And 21 and Over? Really? How does that qualify as a teen show? I know most movies can't bother to find teenage actors. But if you're going to make a teen movie, at least make the character young. Oh, but then you'd have to cut out a few sex scenes. Silly child protection laws.
Yes, there are teenagers who are sexually active. Yes, some of us throw wild parties that draw the cops like moths to a flame. But some of us prefer to stay home and watch a good movie.
When we can find one.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Happy Banned Books Week!

I'm only going to talk about books I'm familiar with, but you can find an excellent list of banned books here. Most of the list-toppers are books aimed at teenagers and childrends, since we have moral guardians worried about our poor little souls. Huh. Maybe if they worried more about their own poor little souls, we wouldn't have a porn industry.
This first book shouldn't surprise anyone.
1. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
In 2010, it was banned for being 'sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and violent'. By 2011, it somehow became 'anti-ethnic, anti-ethnic, insensitive, offensive language, occult/satanic, violence'.
 I'm not exactly sure how a dystopian society that hasn't heard of religion can know what satanic means.
Anti ethnic? What, because all the black characters died? So do all the white character. And the rich characters, and the poor characters, and the male characters, and the female characters and the old characters, and the young characters, and the smart characters, and the stupid characters...basically, if you're human, don't expect to survive the book.
And then they all died except for the cat.
The End!
Seriously, Buttercup was drowned in a barrel, infested with worms, survived two bombings, tossed in a sack like a hunk of meat, and treked who knows how many miles through the wilderness. If tributes had that many lives, the Hunger Games wouldn't be a problem.

2. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

2009 reasons: religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
2010 reasons: religious viewpoint and violence
Religious viewpoint topped the list in both years. I live in Utah, so I can't help but find this hilarious. A few years back, Deseret Book, a chain of church owned bookstores, stopped carrying it. For just about every reason except religious viewpoint.
Mormons: "Don't read this book! It sensual! It's sexy! That makes it anti-Mormon!"
Rest of the World: "Don't read this book! Bella's a virgin! That makes it Mormon propaganda!"
Poor Bella. She's got enemies on both sides. I think I know the real reason people want this banned, but I don't see 'sparkle' on the list anywhere.

3. Thirteen Reason Why by Jay Asher

Made the top ten for the first time in 2012. Reasons: Drugs, alcohol, smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group.
I know, right? When I first picked up this book, I thought, "I bet Hannah commits suicide because she's sick of living a life of sunshine and rainbows! And I bet everyone she left behind is happy because of it! And the moral of this story will be Suicide Makes the World Go Round. Tra-la-la-la-la."
So, not the kind of book you read as you skip off to Candyland. But it is the kind of book that can pull you back from the brink of suicide because-news flash-it doesn't actually make your life better.

4. Scary Stories series by Alvin Shwartz

Oh, it's banned now? Could you tell that to my third grade teacher? I think she traumatized us all for life. It's a completely harmless book if you read it in broad daylight. But no, she had to shut off the lights and peer at the pages through a weak flashlight. And she had to do it in her special chair with the creaky footrest. When she reached the end, she'd let out a bloodcurdling scream. One time I covered my ears because I knew what was coming. She watched me until I took them away.
It hasn't made the list since 2006 (hey, my third grade year) when it was charged with "insensitivy, occult/Satanism, unsuited to age group, and violence."
I agree. These books are insensitive towards amputees. All the disembodied heads are portrayed as villains. Do you know how many good people have been decapitated in the course of human history? And what did the author have against cannibalism? Pick any powerful ancient empire. Cannibals, all of them.
That age group's probably sixty year old women.

5. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Banned in multiple years for occult/Satanism. Okay, people, I've tried those spells. They don't work. And the wizarding world? Either they're very good at hiding from muggles, or Rowling made the whole thing up. I had to write my OWN Hogwarts letter. And look what happens if you try to board the train.


So for your own health and safety, it's probably best to avoid taking these books too seriously. Looks for storylines instead of political and religious bias. Unless you're a zombie, wizard, vampire, or cat. In that case, you can do whatever you want. I'm powerless to stop you.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Things More Dangerous Than Internet

Caution: Subtlety ahead.
Every time my school has an assembly, we kick it off with a video informing us that Bullying Is Bad, Peer Pressure Is Bad, or Drugs Is Bad. They're brought to us by what I like to call the Dude That's Not Cool Committee. Today's moral was Internet Is Bad.
Our principal introduced "this special video on one of the biggest dangers of this generation: Internet."
What about chemical warfare? They have teenagers in Syria. Sure, thousands of children have died, but at least their dictator shut off twitter first. Wouldn't want to corrupt a generation.
Gives you carpal tunnel
Attacks your face with cat memes
Sparks debates about international controversy 
Deletes several hours of your life
Chemical Warfare:
Makes your body bloated
Attacks your face with poisonous gases
Sparks international controversy
Deletes your life

Ooh, and what about bullets? I think Bullets Is Bad and Cancer Is Bad and Starvation Is Bad and Fire Is Bad and Flooding Is Bad.
Today's Dude That's Not Cool Committee were a bunch of  "average" teens. Strangely enough, they didn't look like average teens. They looked like actors. Older ones. Prettier ones. But they couldn't act, so that idea's out. An adult, who looked pretty much like the rest of them, showed them how much information a stranger can learn about you in just six clicks.
He learned...that one of the girls liked My Little Pony. And she had dandruff. Another girl got diarrhea from a goat milk smoothie and one of the boys was cheating on his girlfriend.
Let that be a lesson to you, children! Don't cheat on your girlfriend with the same account. This could happen to you.
Internet safety is overhyped. When I was in elementary school, they warned about chat rooms and mini worlds like Club Penguin and Millsberry. Don't tell anyone your real name. Don't tell anyone your age. Don't tell anyone your gender. Don't tell anyone your nationality. It all made sense to me. Anonymity is part of the point there. But I can't convince myself those same arguments apply to social networking.
Let me explain the idea behind social networking. It's networking. And it's social.
This message brought to you by Captain Obvious. 
There's a reason married women use their maiden names on Facebook. There's a reason students put the name of their high schools. There's a reason entrepenuers post their company names. You want to network.
If you use fake names (like I did when I first got into it) your friends can't find you. Big Bad Kidnappers can't find you either, but how often does that happen?
Yes, we see it on the news. About once a year. That's because it's newsworthy. If a fourteen year old girl gets abducted, murdered, and thrown in a ditch by some creep she met online, she'll make headlines. If a twenty eight year old woman meets a guy on eHarmony, dates him, and then gets married, no one will care. Except for the Facebook friends who come to their wedding.
I don't think the Internet is dangerous. It's distracting, confusing, and filled with information you'll never need, but it's just a tool. It can only hurt you if you use it the wrong way.
Like an anvil.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Pace of Modern Life

If you've read this blog long enough, you know one of my pet ideas is that nothing much changes from generation to generation. Here are a few good quotes on the pace of "modern" life.
"There is a great tendency among the children of today to rebel against their parents, not only that placed upon them by the will of a parent, but against any restraint or limitation of what they consider their rights...this fact has filled well minded people with great apprehensions of the future."
Rev. Henry Hussman
The Authority of Parents, 1906

"Our modern family gathering, silent around the fire, each individual with his head buried in his favorite magazine, is somewhat the natural outcome of the banishment of colloquy from the school..."
The Journal of Education, volume 29
I looked up 'colloquy' and it means 'a conversational exchange'. In other words, schools crack down on chatting in class, the family unit is doomed.
Now we see at that picture and think it's cozy. We wish our family could be more like that. They look like educated, refined people. Except for that kid on the floor. He just looks bored.
Happy happy happy.
I don't know any modern families who want their children to talk more than read. Now the complaints are, "I can't get them to pick up a book!
I borrowed the quotes from xkcd. Read more here.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Difference Between Lightbulbs and Children

Yes, but will it take take care of you in your old age and show up to your funeral?

Here's a transcript if you can't get the video to work.
Like a child, this CREE LED bulb could be in your house for decades. Unlike a child, it will pay for itself and spend its life saving you money. And it will never pierce its tongue!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Oh Look, Another One of Those Lists

Every once in a while, I find an article about all the gosh-dang things kids these days just don't know. This little gem  claims people born after 1980 can't name the capital of France and don't know what a kilt is. This is backed up by a study from Kent State University, but the article doesn't bother with a link you can access without a university login.
I enjoyed this one because you can tell how much research the writer actually put into this. Here's my favorite part.
Inundated with technology and saturated with second-by-second media, today’s young people find history to be so yesterday. In 1980, the name of the man who iconically cried, “The British are coming!” was ranked as the 23rd most-known fact. Now it’s sunk to 53rd place.
P.S. It’s Paul Revere.
Other American history factoids that fell by the wayside include knowledge of the woman who sewed the first American flag (Betsy Ross). This question fell from 58th to 79th place. And Lieutenant Colonel George Custer lost the Battle of Little Bighorn. His ranking dwindled from 84th to 171st.  
Nobody actually knows who sewed the first American flag. We say Betsy Ross because she was Washington's seamstress, good a guess as any. And Paul Revere never said "The British are coming!" American History 101: In 1775, we were British. Only a third of colonists supported the revolution. If Revere had been that stupid, they would've told him, "What are you hollering about, Paul? We're already here. Now shut up and go to sleep!"
He said the Regulars, or English soldiers, were coming.
Oh, and apparently Benjamin Franklin discovered electricity. Uh huh. Just like Isaac Newton invented gravity. And Mark Zuckerberg created computers. I hope it's just this article. Surely Kent State has a history department somewhere.
Let's see, should I defend my generation now? Explanation #1: The exact same test was given in 1980 and 2012. These questions are the ones answered correctly less often. So other questions are being answered more often. We've learned something. But you can twist data how ever you want if it's your article. 
Explanation #2: We know our American history factoids.
 As someone who actually bothered to take U.S. History in eighth grade, I'm qualified to say this:


Does It Count? Well, What Does?

Sometimes I wonder what I'm doing here, curled up at my computer typing about ageism. Does anybody care? Yes, there are young people trying to push down the voting age. There are old people working for equality at the other end of the spectrum. But it's not a popular idea. You don't see ageism sob stories on the news. You never hear about rallies.
Maybe it doesn't matter. Maybe I should just shut up. Then yesterday I saw an article about Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Lattes. You know, the ones made with condensed milk. Apparently that offends vegans enough to start a petition. And it's taken off.
Is this really necessary? Yes, it's an important belief for some people. Yes, it's an important health issue for some people. Yes, it's going to leave out people who can't have milk.
But you can make your own latte. Problem solved forever.
Does this really deserve a petition? Does it count as discrimination? If not, what does? I've heard people complain about prejudice for, let's see...

Hair Color
Hair length



Political Belief



If you don't get this picture, here's a song for you.



...and now food.
Let me know if you want anything else added to that list.
So which one of these should get the headlines and which ones should shut up and leave us normal people alone? The biggest minorities? The victims of hate crimes? The ones who whine the loudest? The ones who don't have a choice to be different, because that's just the way they were born?
I'm opposed to coffee too, it's against my religion, and if you try drink your pumpkin spice latte in front of me I. Won't Care. I thought this Starbucks crisis was the stupidest thing I'd heard in months. Go home and make your own latte.  But is food discrimination different than ageism? Or sexism? Or anti-goth prejudice?
No one has any right. It's all a matter of finding a soapbox to climb on and seeing who will stand with you. So long as people complain their anti-vegan coffee, I'll be here to talk about ageism.
Everyone's entitled to their own opinion. But you''re not entitled to anyone else's.