Thursday, March 29, 2007

Why We Homeschool - Reason #2


According to Little Sis, the PTA in her community in the Lone Brain Cell Star State have adopted Amway tactics for recruiting. All that's missing are Diamond Retreats for top recruiters.

My daughter was drafted (almost literally) into her PTA when her hubby was stationed at Travis AFB. She became president by default in their last year there, and I spent many an agonizing hour on the phone with her so she could detox after each meeting, event, or issue to be resolved with the parents, teachers, and principal. She swore never to get involved again.

Instead, my daughter now volunteers at her daughter's school as an aide. This way she can keep a weather eye on her own daughter even as she helps an attention-challenged child in the special ed classes. It's not much more fun than the PTA, but (as my daughter points out) it most definitely is not the PTA. She'll take it.

My sister, at least, has the courage of her convictions. Keep the faith, kiddo!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Couric and the Edwards

Understanding that Hugh Hewitt is about umpteen times smarter than I am, I beg to differ with his characterization of Couric's interview with the Edwards on yesterday's "60 Minutes."

Couric was merely doing what she's being paid all those millions to do: interview people and report news. Hewitt opines that she stepped outside the boundaries of decency, however, when she tried to get John Edwards to admit that his decision to continue his candidacy was nothing short of callous disregard for his wife's condition. I don't quite see it that way.
Note: All previous disclaimers about having no love for Edwards' politics (or Couric's, for that matter) are still in effect; lest you think that I have somehow gone soft on Edwards the Candidate.
There are two problems here. One obvious problem is the definition of when, precisely, something that occurs in the life of a very public figure should be none of the public's business. In this case, although I happen to understand Edwards' decision, I also understand the need to keep our candidates under the microscope. We're talking about a man who has designs on the seat of perhaps the highest political power in the civilized world. His motives for seeking office are just as suspect as his views on the issues we all face. It behooves us to know how this man supports his own family, how they support him, and whether any of this factors into his ability to lead the nation.

The second problem is Couric herself. She finds herself trying to fit into a mold cast by newscasters of days past. Newscasters are supposed to ask the "tough" questions in order to root out the news that they then pass along to the unwashed masses. Unfortunately, Couric is no tough-guy newscaster. She spent far too long portraying the "America's Sweetheart" personna on daytime TV to be believable as a hard-nosed reporter today. Thus, she comes off as more of a Barbara Walters-like touchy-feely interviewer (she practically fed them the answers to her "tough" questions) as opposed to a Mike Wallace ambush interviewer.

Like Hewitt, I didn't watch the segment. I refuse to watch "60 Minutes" unless my name is mentioned somehow (in which case I'll likely be in prison). However, having read the interview, I can state unequivocally that I'm glad I didn't.

Another non-event.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Llamas and the Anglican Church

One needs to be extremely careful when reviewing Robbo's ongoing Episcopalian Church Deathwatch. Be particularly careful following links he puts in his posts, as they can lead to, um, rather colorful language and imagery.

That said, this is precisely why I prefer belonging to a restored church rather than a (prolifically) protesting one.

Good luck and best wishes to all my Episcopalian friends, assuming I have any left.

Regarding Elizabeth Edwards

When I saw the flash on Drudge last night, I immediately suspected a recurrence of Elizabeth Edwards' cancer. Turned out to be true.

While I was initially surprised that Edwards would decide to continue this campaign in spite of his wife's condition, I certainly understand not quitting. Whatever else I may think of John Edwards, he is no quitter. Whatever his underlying motivations may be (and it's all mere speculation on our part), he is completely dedicated to running for the office.

One thing this blogger will not do is take Edwards to task for this decision, nor impugn any ulterior motivation on his part. That would not only be impolitic of me, it also lowers me to the level of some Kos Kid who crows over the deaths of anyone with whom he does not agree.

Cancer is insidious. It cares not what a person's politics may be, nor what color their skin reflects. There are also as many ways to react to cancer as there are victims of this disease in its seemingly countless forms.

I have written elsewhere about RoboMom. RoboMom is my mom-in-law, and she fought that battle for six years before succumbing to the disease. One thing she did not want was for anyone to be inconvenienced on her account. Fortunately, we as a family (all of her kids, grandkids, and siblings) were far too stubborn to let her get away with that. We graciously overrode her objections to "fussing" too much over her, and I think she was secretly pleased and grateful that we insisted.

Elizabeth Edwards is a politician's wife. Being a political spouse requires certain sacrifices; sacrifices that, I suspect, Elizabeth came to grips with many, many years ago. She understands what a campaign like this means to her husband, and she is just as dedicated to seeing it through as he is. The last thing a woman like Elizabeth wants is to be a distraction to her husband. I count this as a good thing.

Decisions like this are never made lightly. When Edwards says that they really never even discussed the possibility of his dropping out, I take him at his word. What I suspect is that these issues were discussed and settled during the onset of the disease in 2004. The talking part is behind them. Edwards has already indicated that he will be where and whenever his wife may need him. This, too, I would expect.

This is not to say that this decision to go on might not change in the foreseeable future. Heaven only knows what kinds of treatments Elizabeth may receive, or how the disease may progress. Six years of watching RoboMom taught me that you can't reliably predict anything about cancer. Can't be done.

So, this blog may consider John Edwards to be a fool of a politician, and I reserve the right to rake him over the coals for his politics, but you will not find me berating him for his "handling" of this intensely personal issue.

You just won't.

What Goes Around...

So, Senator Hoyer, what you're saying is that extending vote times is an unacceptable practice for Republicans, but perfectly acceptable for Democrats. Is that what you're saying, sir?

Yep. That's what he's saying.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Attention, CBS Executives!

In case you were wondering about Katie-Poo's tanked ratings, we gotcher reason right here.

Save yourselves some money, guys. Kill the telecast and hire Huffington Post to podcast your news. You'll be wealthier, and we'll quit accusing you of having "liberal bias" in your so-called news organization. Can't allege you to have done something if you've already been convicted, right?


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Simon Cowell and American Idol - "Moo"

(H/T: Joanne Jacobs)

Professional educators do, on occasion, get it right. (I kid, of course; I have every respect for professional educators. It's only their unions for which I hold contempt.)

Nancy Flanagan, being a music teacher, understands the full impact of an American Idol society.

Flanagan is one of those souls who understand the value of music in a person's life, even if that person's voice would never make it on Simon Cowell's stage. She writes about music as a gift:
Singing is a great gift—a fun, wholesome activity that builds community, expresses joy, sorrow and humor, entertains and binds us together in life’s transitional moments. There is no human tradition that is not made richer and illuminated by good music.
Of course, in American Idol's world view, therein lies the rub. How does one define "good music?"

American Idol exists for one reason: to make money. Simon Cowell, contrary to whatever altruisms he may spout in interviews, exists only to make money. His recent rantings about being worth more than Bruce Springsteen (just another of today's overrated and overpaid entertainers, as far as Woody is concerned) are far more indicative of how Cowell views his contributions to the entertainment industry. Cowell is a cash cow, and the industry will continue to worship at his feet for as long as he creates revenue.

Thus American Idol is less about "good music," and more about making sure that the industry continues to create revenue generators; talented (if only by Cowell's narrow judgements) people who look good and will sell records. I have long since given up on the popular music industry being able to define "good music" to my own satisfaction. Then again, I ain't in it for the money.

Flanagan continues:
What bothers me is that children watch American Idol, and children are now developing this idea that singing is something that should be attempted only by the “talented.” Some children now believe that judging singers is an amusing spectator activity, and making fun of imperfect singers is perfectly OK. Hilarious and justified, in fact: anyone who dares to sing in front of a camera deserves our scrutiny and scorn. None of this encourages children—or their families—to participate joyfully in group or individual singing. In the American Idol paradigm, singing is now reserved for those who have a “good” voice.
This is not unique to the popular music industry; this is the entire entertainment industry's paradigm. But we must be careful to keep things in their proper perspective. The entertainment industry does not represent the best that music has to offer. Not by a long shot. The best example of this would be classical music. While technically part of the entertainment industrial complex, classical musicians are typically ignored by the industry until the awards are handed out.

Quick: without Googling it, what classical albums scored Grammys this year? Were they even acknowledged in the telecast? I confess to not knowing for two reasons: First, I haven't watched a Grammy telecast in over twenty years. Also, my own tastes in classical music are fairly narrowly defined, and the stuff I tend to like would probably never win an award. But I find it odd to note that, for an industry that owes its very existence to classical music, there is so little appreciation of it among the rank and file.

So what, then, does American Idol represent? The superficial, I'd have to say. The shallow. The self-indulgent. The cash. Nancy Flanagan is quite correct: American Idol teaches our young people that if their voices are not worthy of Simon Cowell, they must be hidden away. American Idol encourages only American Idolators; those who worship at the false altars of pride and self-justification.

Thank goodness Simon Cowell wasn't around thirty seven years ago when a small, wiry boy who didn't know any better first auditioned for a small part in "Oliver!" I'm no American Idol, but I'm no slouch, either. And I'd much rather have someone come up to me after a concert and thank me for singing, than have Simon Cowell berate me for my lack of "presence" any day. What does he know, after all? He's just a cash cow.


Sunday, March 18, 2007

Getting Educated about Global Warming

As the debate widens over global warming (I absolutely refuse to use capital letters for this issue), I find myself in the uneasy position of having one foot in both camps. On the one hand, it's perfectly logical to me to assume that man as a creature has been less than responsible in caring for this planet. On the other, I see absolutely no reason to presume that man is entirely to blame for the current warming trends, and even less reason to teach that presumption in our schools.

Consider the fact that Woody has grown up in and around Los Angeles pretty much all his life. You can't grow up near a city of this size and not understand the impact that we have on our environment. Since I happen to be a life-long asthmatic I can tell you that whenever the atmosphere immediately surrounding the city is anything less than healthy (which is most of the time), I find myself at greater risk of not being able to draw a full breath. I've battled bronchitis and pneumonia from childhood. What's interesting, however, is that recent years have given me a healthier set of lungs overall. Strict emission controls that were implemented back in the 70's and 80's are paying off now. We haven't had health alerts due to air pollution anywhere near approaching the scale we saw as late as, say, 1985. Thus my asthma has been under control for several years now, and seems to flare up more from allergies than any other cause today.

Do I agree with those emission controls that were implemented? You bet I do. In this case it was easy to see the corollary between our manufacturing arrogance and the immediate effect it was having on our air quality. We even banned backyard incinerators in order to make our air a little more healthful.

But, of course, we're not there yet. Not by a long shot. As a society of commuters we are surgically joined to our vehicles. We really can't get along without them, at least not yet. The very fact that most of us need those vehicles in order to provide livings for our families will keep us firmly attached to those vehicles for years to come. It really has little to do with whether (as Al Gore insists) our continual driving of these carbon-spewing anti-climate machines of doom is obliterating the polar ice caps. That's disturbing and all, but pales in comparison with our immediate need to feed, clothe, and house our families.

On the other hand, and perhaps ironically, I still get upset whenever I drive behind someone who tosses his cigarette butt out of the window right in front of me. I'd take his license plate number and phone it in, but I suspect the local cops are a tad busy keeping tabs on all the sex offenders who refuse to tell people where they're living. The last thing they want to do right now is go after some smoker who never cleans out his car's ash tray (if, indeed, the car even has one).

I teach my Woodyettes to pick up after themselves in public. They've gotten so environmentally conscious that way that I have to occasionally remind them not to pick up after anyone else. One never knows just what kind of germs they might encounter, you see, and I'd rather they either learn to "tsk, tsk" at the problem, or carry a pair of rubber gloves around with them if they really want to clean up someone else's mess.

Then I pack them up in our gas-burner and drive them to church, play groups, field trips, family visits, and goodness knows what else.

(Speaking of field trips, if "An Inconvenient Truth" were to come to our local IMAX, do you think the screen would be big enough to contain Al Gore? Me, neither.)

So I'm conflicted about global warming. I don't really want it to be taught in our schools because public educators have a way of making these issues become a religion unto themselves, just as they have with evolution. Rather than teach it as a theory, they make it an absolute fact that entertains no other possibilities. This they will do (and have already done in many cases) with global warming. Thus they will instill in our children a sense of dread and guilt that no amount of reasoned discussion will ever overcome.

Wonderwood Academy will not be teaching Al Gore's version of global warming. And "global warming" will never be capitalized, unless rules of grammar (not Al Gore) insist.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

About Mayan Purification Rites

They don't typically work. Given the fact that Guatemalan indigenous peoples have lived in obscurity and poverty for hundreds of years, I would submit that any purification rendered would be (to put it generously) symbolic at best. Guatemala's political past is riddled with tin-hat military dictators, Marxist crackpots, U. S. puppet-governments, and smatterings of leaders "of the people" who typically fiddled while indigenous factions burned. Literally.

If I read things correctly, this Juan Tiney has actually done what LDS missionaries to the region have been accused of for generations: exploiting the Maya. If you remove yourself from the less rural regions of Iximche and Lake Atitlan, it doesn't take long to find settlements of Maya who not only have no idea who George W. Bush is, they also couldn't care less. George W. has no effect on their ability to plant and harvest corn or beans. George W. is not the reason why they need to move their adobe huts from one corner of their land to another. All they know (or care) is that they have work to do. Politics is for those who have time on their hands.

Yes, I'm sure that Mr. Tiney was able to find very sincere Mayan "priests" (shamans, really) who are eager to purify the land after Bush leaves. Just be sure to ask them how life has been since they last purified it after one of their own government officials visited the place.

Pursuing Happiness

(H/T: Mrs. Woody, who has never once failed to make me happy!)

(Note: My apologies to those who found this post when you were, in fact, looking for reviews of "The Pursuit of Happyness." I don't talk about the movie starring Will Smith in this or any other post. I haven't even seen the movie yet. I'd like to, but we'll probably rent it sometime soon.)

Dennis Prager defines "happiness" over at I heartily suggest you read the entire article. He does a beautiful job of distinguishing between happiness and pleasure, and makes one wonder just why so many people mistake the one (pleasure) for the other (happiness).

One of the hardest paradoxes in modern cultural debate is the idea that the men who framed the constitution of this nation knew exactly what they were saying when they indicated that one of our most basic, sacred rights is the "pursuit of happiness." I call it a paradox because, in today's world, far too many people confuse the pursuit of happiness with the attainment of happiness. In fact, the two are not at all equivalent.

As I watch my son mature into adulthood (only the law makes him an "adult," I'm afraid - he still has a ways to go in my view) I see the effects of an entitlement culture already in his thought processes. If (the thinking goes) I am unhappy, for whatever reasons or circumstances, then someone owes me. He cannot understand why he should not be allowed to indulge in whatever vice or self-destructive activity he currently favors without having to suffer some sort of consequence. In the entitlement culture there should be no consequences for hedonism. If he believes drinking should make him happy, then we (the nebulous "we" always referred to in progressive thought) owe it to him to allow him that pleasure.

In fact, the only person who can be truly responsible for his happiness is himself. If anyone "owes" him anything, he does. This is the essence of the "pursuit of happiness." It is also anaethemic thinking to a young person who wants to live the life of a party animal.

These are the same forces that perpetuate the myth of "political correctness." Political correctness draws its power from those who believe that it is our sacred right never to be offended for any reason. This thinking is illogical in the extreme. If any one individual or group has the power to limit what we may say in any arena, then the very First Amendment that those same individuals or groups claim to cherish becomes, in fact and deed, null and void. There has never been a constitutional guarantee that we will pass through this life having never been offended by something someone said or did. We have only the guarantee that we will be allowed to pursue our own happiness in spite of those offenses.

I once had a co-worker who was the quintessential bachelor of the 90's. Every Monday he would regale me with his tales of bar-hopping and romantic conquests over the previous weekend. He really wanted to sell me on the idea that he was of all men most happy in his life. Yet what he had could hardly be classified as "happiness." He was single and seemed to have tremendous difficulty with relationships. He drank probably enough to be classified as an alcoholic, and it was probably a miracle of statistical averages that the man never was arrested for DUI. He had talent and training as a concert pianist, yet had trouble achieving any real measure of success as a pianist. Happy? Only in his self-justifications. What he had was the freedom to pursue any number of pleasures, but lacked the character to truly pursue a course leading to happiness.

Consider my own life. I have married twice. My first marriage ended for various reasons with a healthy heaping of issues on both sides. But I still find happiness in my two children from that marriage; even in the aforementioned son, who also has contributed to the graying around my temples. My second marriage has been a match made in heaven. We are not wealthy people, but neither are we living in poverty. We have a common love for and grounding in our religious beliefs, and we are passing those beliefs along to our own two children. I have never once been bar-hopping in my entire life, nor even so much as sipped an alcoholic beverage (not counting some cough medicines). I have never smoked. Do I feel deprived? What a silly question. Do I consider myself to be happy? Absolutely. Compared with my former co-worker, is there anything that I am missing in life? Probably. Is there any one of those things that I need in order to be happy?

Not one.

If, as Dennis indicates, I have a moral obligation to be happy, then I feel justified with my life to date. Am I happy every hour of every day? Of course not. The pursuit of happiness means that there will be times in my life when sadness intrudes, or tragedy intervenes. But a happy person is one who can meet such challenges and overcome them. When my wife's mother passed away this winter, a great sadness entered our lives. Two months later we still grieve, but we also remember that we are happy in general. Do we still miss Mom? We do, and we're not ashamed to shed tears when those feelings are near. But we find happiness in the thought - in the belief - that we will see her again.

Of course challenges will always exist. This will be especially true of the next eighteen months, when our pursuit of happiness will be tested to its uttermost limits.

But then the election will finally be over. Happiness will return, if only because the windbags will go away for a couple of years.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Ordinary Conservatives to Coulter: "Not Helping!"

It says something about modern culture that no one in high visibility positions of the media (whether news or entertainment) seems able to communicate without going for the "zinger." That one sound bite guaranteed to catapult them back into the limelight, where they will spend the next umpteen months having to defend themselves.

Et tu, Ann?

I have admired some things Coulter has said in the past because they show that many conservatives are not afraid to confront the insanity we see in the so-called "progressive" movement from the political left. "Progressive" is another word for "irresponsible" in most cases, as it denotes the kind of philosophy that worships at the altars of "choice" (abortion), "diversity" (gay marriage), and "immigration reform" (entitlement programs). As a conservative I find these things unpalatable, and I've certainly never been shy about saying so. Count me firmly among those who count entitlement programs as socially irredeeming, gay marriage as just another attack on the traditional family unit, and abortion as pre-meditated murder in most cases (not all cases, but that's a subject for a much later date).

No matter what my views may be, however, and no matter how passionately I believe those views, I see absolutely nothing of value in lowering ourselves into the depths of bitterness and gall that generate the kinds of filthy mud-slinging we've seen in recent decades in our on-going national debate. Vehemently disagreeing with an opponent is one thing; calling that opponent a "faggot," even indirectly, is worthless.

It's as if every nationally visible firebrand - conservative, liberal, and everything in-between - attended the same twelve-step program that I attended briefly in the 90's. "Speaking your mind, even if it's profane, is therapeutic," they said. This is the same kind of empowerment and enablement that has created an entire generation of comics who can't generate any true comedy of their own without resorting to what used to be shocking and vulgar language. This verbal dysentery has now spilled over into what used to be a reasoned and insightful discussion of the issues we all face. Global warming, the war, gun control, gangs; these are topics that need reason and insight, not an ability to out-shout or out-profane the other side.

Wanna know what effect profanity and name-calling have on Woody and his family? We have no idea who you are, because you have made yourselves irrelevant in our lives. Truly. Do you think this family ever has seen or ever will see "South Park?" Not a chance. Do you know how nervous I get whenever a movie comes out that we think we'd like to see but worry about it because it has Robin Williams in it? We generally don't see those movies in theaters anymore because Mrs. Woody and I feel a strong need to pre-screen them before we let the kids see them.

Well, Ann Coulter has just placed herself in the same category as Margaret Cho. One is a failed comic who tries to impress us with her "social awareness" and sewer-mouth, while the other is a failing pundit who can only express herself in terms of perceived liberal inhumanity.

John Edwards learned the hard way what happens when one allows guttersnipes to represent one's image to the nation. You become that image, even if that may be an unfair representation. You assume responsibility for the actions of those who are associated with you. At least, you assume that responsibility in the eyes and minds of your intended audience. Whether or not that may be fair, it's still a fact. Your reality is created by your audience's perceptions. You can't escape it.

I refuse to read Kos because this is a world that thinks comparing people with insulting bodily functions is funny, and who seriously believe that assassinating the Vice President is not only funny, but necessary. I don't need people like that running my country. I have a hard enough time trusting the ones that don't talk that way.

Which is precisely why, Ann, what you said at CPAC - joke or not - did absolutely no good to the conservative cause. We're supposed to be better than that. We're supposed to be able to express our ideas without insulting the honor of the office we're striving to capture. That is why the candidates are backing away from you. Sure you're an intelligent pundit. You definitely have a firm grasp on the issues that most concern us. But you're also a loose cannon, and candidates do well to separate themselves from loose cannons. So do we average, ordinary conservatives.

Pack it up, Ann. You're not helping.