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.