Monday, September 21, 2009

Movie Review: Time Traveler's Wife


I'm bummed cause I dont get to go to the movies all that often. I really should have seen Julie & Julia, but thought that since I just finished reading Time Traveler's, well, you know...strike while the iron's hot and all that.

It was lame. Of course I didnt expect it to be just like the book, but High Fidelity succeeding in communicating the goings on of John Cusack's (cant remember the title characters name) mind. They could have at least tried to incorporate the characters' wrestlings with fate, free will, predeterminism, etc. Brad Pitt was the exec. producer. You'd think he'd want to at least take a stab at being deep. Oh well. I'll have to save my quarters for movie night next month. Any good recs out there?

Conversations on Race: The Race Card

Last week, in an interview with Brian Williams, Jimmy Carter accused Joe Wilson's comments, and the current political tenson, to be racially motivated.
"I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he's African American," Carter said. "I live in the South, and I've seen the South come a long way, and I've seen the rest of the country that shared the South's attitude toward minority groups at that time, particularly African Americans," continued Carter, who is famously from Georgia:

"And that racism inclination still exists. And I think it's bubbled up to the surface becauseof the belief among many white people, not just in the South but around the country, that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country. It's an abominable circumstance, and it grieves me and concerns me very deeply."

Those who have disagreed vehemently with Obama's policies, particularly those regarding health care reform, denounce these statements with equal vehemence. They have called Carter's comments ridiculous left-wing rhetoric that bubble up from his "sanctimonious guilt". Glen Beck, not surprisingly, took it one step further and touted that Jimmy Carter's comments were analogous to terrorist attacks:
BECK: Nobody is saying we’re blowing children up or anything like the Taliban. But this is the same kind of tactic being used now in America. You can’t get your agenda, so you unleash the hounds and point the fingers, and everybody is a racist.

I have read several op-ed pieces that call out Carter for pulling the "race card".

What do you think? Do you- my white, black and brown friends- think the fervor demonstrated regarding politics today has anything to do with Obama's being black? I think it is interesting that the White House spokesperson stated that Obama does not feel that the opposition to his policies are racially related. Do you think that is really true or is he just trying to stay above the fray?

I find it interesting that Jimmy Carter is even considered to have a race card. He is white, and therefore, seems excluded from the right to even carry one (Of course, he could, theoretically, have a white one, but certainly can't have one a black one in his deck, if he is, in fact, not black. But, this would also bring up the matter of whether or not a white race card even exists). I think Obama is right to disagree with Carter's assessment of his opposition's motives because he himself is black. He can't say he's being discriminated against. People will assume he is just pulling the race card and dismiss it. But, Jimmy Carter, precisely because he does not have a (minority) race card, he is able to call it as he sees it. He thinks its time to discuss this issue.

These conversations on race are critical at this time in history. It is an ideal time to talk publicly about the state of race relations. Our children are growing up in a culture that communicates openly about the value of all people, regardless of race, gender, age, etc. But, they see something that is altogether in conflict with those messages. They hear adults say they refuse to vote for a man whose middle name is Hussein. They see people of color without jobs. They see the media filled with pictures of dark criminals. How can they be called to value people of other races when their parents have not had opportunities to show them? Well, we have one now. What next?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Time Travel Possible

So, it seems that time travel is theoretically possible, to the future at least. UConn physics professor says so, so it must be true. Also, I read The Time Travelers Wife and it seemed pretty convincing. Not that Doc Brown didn't already have me half way there. Though, the prof from UConn said it would take too much energy to travel to the past, but if you used enough speed, you could go to the future. I'm kinda confused by that. I mean, didn't we already know that?Like, if I were riding my bike, and I left my house at 4:15pm and when I was done riding, it was 4:45pm, I'd be in the future right? Apparently, it took several physicists in Texas with a laser beam to figure that out (I couldn't find any reference to this on the web, but someone at a Bible study told me so; so again I say, it must be true.)

All I know is, in The Time Travelers Wife, Henry, the main character's husband, mostly time- traveled to the past. The future was much harder. The opposite of the theory the physicists are trying to explain. I'm not convinced. I saw what travel to the future did to Henry. It really took at lot out of him. And, I'm not really sure these physicists really understand how emotionally draining this whole time-travel thing is. I mean, Henry really could have used a therapist. All this back and forth, and the nakedness. The nakedness seemed exhausting. I don't know how the UCONN prof will suggest we handle the nudity, but, I am very interested in finding out how Hollywood handles it. Looking forward to it, really.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Jesus Storybook Bible

Currently, my favorite book is The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally-Lloyd Jones. My mom bought it for my kids, but I help myself to it regularly. Its the best children's Bible I have ever read. Most children's Bibles contain disconnected stories from the Bible, highlighting the characters of each story, along with the "lesson" to be learned.

The Jesus Storybook Bible approaches these stories a little more holistically. The book connects each story to the Christian meta-narrative: God made a people for himself; his people destroyed that relationship and consequently all these became broken; God is relentless in his pursuit of these people, and because of his great love for his people; God provides a way to restore that relationship through the life, death and resurrection of his son Jesus Christ; one day all things will be righted, all brokenness, pain and sickness will be healed and God's people will live with him in peace. Each story reveals the main character to be Jesus. Underneath the title it reads, "Every story whispers his name."

Sally Lloyd-Jones writes the most artistic and poignant versions of the stories I have heard from the womb, stories that I could tell in my sleep with absolutely no emotional connection. But, reading them from this book, I am surprised by hope each time. My children become curious when I am weeping reading to them. They want to know what it is that has touched me so deeply. I have never been so moved by the story of Adam and Eve.

In my opinion, this book deserves the Caldecott Award. The illustrations are phenomenal. An interview with Jago, the illustrator, about the book can be read here.

Monday, September 7, 2009

A Change of Title, A Change of Heart

I decided to change the title of my previous post "Permission to be Exposed to Bigotry and Ignorance" to just "Permission to be Exposed". The reason for my change: A few of my friends have vehemently challenged the presumption that this controversy has anything to do with race. Because I respect these friends vehemently, I wanted to change my title. It does not change the fact that I am saddened that my child had to be exposed to the permission slip sent home, the permission slip that caused her to doubt others' value of Obama's words based on his race. (Yes, she did assume that it had something to do with race.) But, I also am saddened that my friends might think that my title accused them of being bigots and ignorant. I titled it to grab attention, but that attention is not worth making others feel belittle by me.

My friends' reasons to shield their children from Obama's speech may, in fact, be completely ideological (which I still have issue with. AND many parents weren't boycotting the lesson plans, they were boycotting the speech itself.) However, I do ask that my friends also consider how my child, and all other American children, have the great privilege to be encouraged by a our first minority president. For most children, this is the first minority role-model who is not an athlete or entertainer. The reason why my child, and many others, might assume it has to do with race is not hard to understand. Never has America chosen to put itself under the leadership of a person of color before (brown, black or purple.) Now that it has, people are refusing to let their children listen to him. Its not a huge stretch. My 9 year old made it.

No, I do not think this is only about race, nor am I the one making it about race. However, it is, in part, about race. I just would like my friends to acknowledge that part, to know that I am understood. That my child's assumptions and fears are understood.

Friday, September 4, 2009

My Vision for Grad School

12 Steps To Getting Admitted into Colleges & Universities in the United States: Playbook on Applying to Colleges and Universities in the US">Im reading a book called 12 Steps to Getting Admitted into College... I will be teaching a course this fall called Academic Orientation: Application and Admissions. The class aims to help international students in the application process to undergraduate and graduate schools in the US. Coincidentally, I will be applying for grad school at the same time I am slated to teach this course. So, all the work I do for my application will actually be count toward my time lesson planning. What better way to lead students than to experience something first hand with them?

Step 1, as encouraged by this book, is to have VISION and PASSION. The chapter encourages the reader to think about what initially motivated them to think about college or a career. The author relates an experience in high school with see a photo of a cyclotron in his middle school physics book. The inscription below the picture said -Courtesy of MIT Nuclear Laboratory. That one photo and that 5 word phrase birthed something in him. Now, I don't know what a cyclotron is, but I get it that it excited him. From that point on, MIT was his destination.

So, what is my vision and where did it start? These are great things to think about. I have always thought it would be fun to be a writer, but it never really occurred to me as a career choice. I don't really no why not. I am always writing little humor columns in my head, re-wording jokes, sequencing events to make the best story-line possible. But, it wasn't until recently that I considered it an option to pursue. What flipped the switch?

Three things really: 1. David Braud. 2. David Sedaris 3. David Bonales.

David Braud is my husband. This summer, Dave and I were discussing grad school. I have mentioned several times this year that I want to go back to school to get a Master's Degree. As Dave and I were discussing different practical options that would further my current professional track, Dave asked, "Why dont you study something you will love to study about, not just something that will help you once youre done?" So, I had to ask myself if the study of urban leadership, social work and ESOL would light my fire. I know the actual jobs that require those degrees and skills would be really exciting, but not necessarily the studies of those things. Anyway, my brain started spinning. Figure drawing? Another foreign language? Writing?

Once I thought it, once the word "writing" scrolled across the screen of my mind, it was done. I wanted to be a writer.

Oddly enough, during the same week Dave gave me the inspiration to do something that excited me, I was given David Sedaris' book Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. I read the first chapter, and again, it was done. I wanted to be a writer. Sedaris' story, which I am posting here for your enjoyment, included all the things that I believe make a great story: personal experience, provoking thoughts about the human condition and poop. I read it and thought, I think I can do that. I think I want to try.

And then there is David Bonales. He is a third grader in my daughter Ellie's class. She has a bit of a crush on him. I think he is cute and think he probably poops. He hasn't really had anything to do with my vision for grad school, but his name is David and I like to work in three's.

Permission to be Exposed

On Thursday, September 4, 2009, as part of our fall curriculum, we are sending home a permission slip that notifies parents that they will be watching a live televised address to students from the President of the United States. Parents will need to sign this form if they do not want their children to participate in this event.

If you do not want your children to see the permission slip and then have to explain why people won’t let their children watch President Obama, please sign THIS form.

______________ ____________ __________________

Name of Student Grade Parent Signature

Reason you do not want your child to know about the permission slip (please check all that apply):

rI’m afraid of the unspoken message my children might hear: There are many parents who don’t want their kids to be influenced a black man.

rI don’t want to have to explain to my children that parents of their classmates won’t let them listen to others they disagree with.

rI don’t want my children to think that it is legitimate for the Public School System to spend tax money (let alone our precious environmental resources)on all the paper and ink for all the forms sent home making sure to give parents every opportunity to choose something that could potentially harm other children’s faith in humanity.

rI do not want my kids to know that parents in my community, who I am teaching them to trust, are afraid that our elected officials might try to manipulate and brainwash them to believe scary and dangerous PG-13 things.