Friday, March 14, 2008

Clinically Wild Alaska

I have been watching a lot of the Animal Planet channel lately. There's one show called Clinically Wild Alaska. There is something about the female vet on that show, especially her eyes that I find incredibly attractive.

Am I alone here?

Update: Her name is actually Dr. Shannon Kesting

Valentine's Day For Men

Technically, Valentine's Day is supposed to be for men and women, but for a myriad of reasons has devolved into "treat women ronmantically day". So, in order to restore balance to the universe, there is a proposal to make March 14 a companion holiday for men.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Generic Blog topic #2,090,897,456,001

What are the ten greatest songs that were better as covers than the version sung by the person who wrote them?

To keep the list kosher, we'll confine the list of possible songs to those written by people who have had at least one song sung by them make it to the top ten. The song also must have been released in some form by the writer as well as been sung by someone else.

The first two people that come to my mind immediately are Carole King and Bob Dylan. I'm not a big fan of either of their voices, but they both wrote some great songs.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Behavioral Skills and Expectations

Here is an argument I am participating in on an education blog called The beginning quote is from someone on the otherside of the argument. The discussion began with a post about disruptive students filming "out of control" teachers on their cellphones and posting them on youtube.

"I have a big problem believing that teachers who know how to teach reading and arithmetic can’t figure out how to teach behavioral skills and expectations."

Really? Why?
When did it become the role of teachers to teach behavioral skills and expectations instead of parents? Not too long ago, it was expected that students would already have behavioral skills and expectations before they entered school, and the results were rewarded and punished at home.
We used to teach behavioral skills and enforce expectations by having concrete consequences, and enforcing them uniformly and immediately. This enforcement included corporal punishment, public embarassment, and meaningful expulsion.
Then the 1960's came along and brought us the self-esteem movement and dangerous kooks like Dr. Spock.
Every animal on the planet that raises and teaches it's young uses negative reinforcement to do so. There's a reason for works. We now have a society in which not only can't educators use corporal punishment, but parents are afraid to do so also, for fear of being reported for abuse. The second most effective form of negative reinforcement, shame, is also out of bounds. I have parents who have actually filed complaints on me for embarassing or shaming their child. When I explain to them their child's behavior deserved shame and embarassment they look at me like I am crazy. Shame and embarrsment have also gotten much less effective as popular culture has glorified and celebrated behavior that was once deemed shameful. There literally is no sense of guilt anymore...maybe a little chagrin at getting caught. The most popular kids at school aren't the athletes or cheerleaders, they are the thugs. The ruder and more out of control you behave, the more popular you are. Academic success and good behavior is ridiculed (school boy, acting white). Politeness is seen as weakness.
There are problems with positive reinforcement also. Praise has been completely devalued, because these students have been receiving false praise for poor performance and effort for years. Rewards are ineffective because the students feel entitled to them regardless of performance or behavior. In my experience positive reinforcement doesn't motivate those who don't earn it to try harder, it motivates them to belittle and deride positive reinforcers. As for the students who earn positive reinforcement, they tend to be the students who are going to behave and succeed anyway.
Children are not civilized beings who can be reasoned with. You cannot get children to behave by explaining to them that it is the right thing to do. Children are barbarians. They must be civilized. How do you civilize barbarians? By making the price of barbarity too high to pay, and civilization a more attractive alternative. We are refusing to punish barbarity, and instead glorify it in our popular culture.
So what are we left with? Calling home? About half of the time, the parents side with the students indiscriminately. Much of the rest of the time, the parents have no control over their kids. (This year I have had literally half a dozen parents ask me how to get their child committed to Juvenile Hall) A significant number of parents are simply unreachable. Time outs, detentions? My students either ignore them or simply see them as the cost of doing business. Suspensions? 50% of my referrals to the admin are ignored. When students are eventually suspended, they stay home for a couple of days and watch TV and play video games. (I have students who if they were literate enough would be taunting me with "go ahead and throw me in the briar patch") Expulsions? The district simply refuses to expel students. If they do, they immediately suspend the expulsion, and move the student to a different school instead. I currently have a student who has been expelled twice already this year. (once by a different district with a much better reputation who actually enforced their expulsion)
So, I have 5 classes with 35 students that I see for one hour a day, five days a week. At least half of them see no value in an education and expect (and fell entitled) for society to provide for them. They have no sense of shame or guilt, and no fear of corporal punishment. They know the worst thing that will happen to them is that eventually they will get a couple of days vacation at home.
For the sake of arguement, let's grant that I am responsible for teaching them behavioral skills and expectations? How am I supposed to do that? And if I do try to do that, when am I supposed to teach them the subject matter material?

Sunday, March 09, 2008

What the @#&*% Is Going On With TV? Pt. 2

Did I really just see Ana Marie Cox on CNN's reliable sources on a panel discussing journalistic ethics?

Does no one have a sense of irony?

Bill Murray Is America's Greatest Living Actor

One of the HD channels was running a mini movie marathon tonight, and I suddenly realized just how many great movies Bill Murray has starred in.

Most people start with Caddyshack, but don't over look The Rutles (Spinal Tap before there was a Spinal Tap) done by a Monty Python/SNL hybrid cast. Next comes Meatballs, a pretty decent summercamp movie. Compare it to the modern versions, say the American Pie version. Which would you rather watch with your kids? Notable also because this is the beginning of the Ivan Reitman/Bill Murray partnership that is going to work so well together in the future (Stripes, Ghostbusters).

He follows this up with Where The Buffalo Roam (he plays Hunter S. Thompson) This movie doesn't get the respect it deserves. Should be a cult classic.

Next comes the part that broke him wide open...Caddyshack. A great role in a great movie. Sadly, younger audiences don't seem to get it...but how many thousands of boys have memorized his "on the green" monologue? This begins his partnership with Harold Ramis (Stripes, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day).

Stripes quickly follows, another comedy classic. The definitive military comedy for at least two generations.

He has a supporting role in Tootsie, which was very popular at the time. But in 1984 along comes Ghostbusters. If you weren't around at the time, it's hard to imagine the impact this film had. The theme song was a hit, the movie was a hit and it was just good, clean fun.

He has a small, but classic role in Little Shop of Horrors as a masochistic dental patient.

Next is one of his best, in my opinion an all time classic, Scrooged. This is my favorite Christmas movie of all time, hands down. If you haven't seen it, you are in for a treat.

Ghostbuster II was an obvious attempt to cash in on the success of Ghostbusters. About the only notable thing about it is the fact that the writers, director and major cast all returned for it. Quick Change and What About Bob were funny, but nothing special.

However now we get to a true classic, an all time great. Definitely in my top ten favorite movies. Groundhog Day. Fittingly, I can watch this movie over and over..there is a surprising amount of depth in it.

His work since Groundhog day has been a little uneven, good stuff like Ed Wood and Rushmore, but also commercial roles in Charlie's Angels and the Garfield movies. I'm hoping he decides to take on some more serious roles, perhaps character acting stuff. I'd like to see him do a reverse Leslie Neilsen.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

What The %@*# Is Going On With TV?

Let's see last night I saw a commercial for a movie that featured a pearl necklace joke, a prime time sitcom with a thinly veiled blowjob joke and just now on Fox News an anchor used the phrase "piss off".

How far we have come from the days when Lucy and Ricky shared separate beds, and they couldn't use the word "pregnant".

Why all the Favregasms?

Brett Favre retired. Finally. Why is everyone acting like the world came to an end? Why are people calling him the greatest of all time? That's simply ridiculous!

Yes he has lots of numbers. He played a long time in an era and a scheme that allowed him to. He's the Bill Ripkin of football, not the Babe Ruth. Most of those records he broke were held by Dan Marino, another quarterback who played a long time in a scheme that allowed him to throw a lot.

Is he better than Elway, Bradshaw, Montana, Young or Staubach? Seriously? Among current players is he better than Peyton Manning or Tom Brady?

Supposedly (I don't know him) he's a great guy and a great teammate. OK. Fine. But one of the greatest?

Favre was a good player, not a great player. Let's give him his Hall of Fame membership and stop the deification.