Archive for October, 2011

We the 99

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a theme song.

Also, JaySmooth:

Carlin, Standup, and Teaching

Last week I read George Carlin’s “sortabiography”, Last Words. It’s a very interesting look at his life and career and all the stuff you never knew about but really wondered as he went from HBO special to album to Kevin Smith appearance and everything else.

I was especially struck (as I often am) by the similarities between standup comedy and how I teach. To wit, on p. 250:

I’d never use the word “teaching” (rhymes with “preaching”), if for no other reason than when new ideas are conveyed via instruction (or speechifying or debate), people seem to have an instinctive defense against them.

But when you’re in front of an audience and you make them laugh at a new idea, you’re guiding their whole being for the moment. No one is ever more herself or himself than when they really laugh. Their defenses are down. It’s very Zen-like, that moment. They are completely open, completely themselves when that message hits the brain and the laugh begins. That’s when new ideas can be implanted. If a new idea slips in at that moment, it has a chance to grow.

And later he returns to this theme, on p. 280:

The creation of material is the ultimate freedom because that’s creating the world I want. I’m saying to people: the world you imagine isn’t really true: THIS is what’s happening: “Boogadee! Boogadee! Boogadee!” Even if I’m just babbling. I’m saying: THAT is what’s true. What is. Here and now. Whatever you think to be true, you with the suit and the hat, on the subway or the freeway, is bulls***. THIS is true: “Boogadee! Boogadee! Boogadee!” I am momentarily changing the world to THIS. I am reinventing the world because I can.

Yeah, that’s pretty much what teaching is all about.


Here’s a turtle dancing to Benny Benassi’s song “Satisfaction”. Much better than the official video.

Also “Flat Beat” is really cool.

Today I’m listening to: PWOG!

An Open Letter to Ron Johnson (R-WI)

Sen. Johnson,

I wish to express my frustration and outrage at your vote of “nay” during yesterday’s Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S. 1723. This measure would have (according to the Wall Street Journal) imposed a 0.5% surcharge on incomes over $1 million, in order to retain or rehire teachers and first responders.

As you know, our nation’s economy is in a perilous state. The wealthiest Americans can best afford to make a small sacrifice to help the rest of us keep our footing, or get back on our feet, as the case may be. I know you are a strong believer in private-sector job growth, but from one public-sector employee to another, I urge you to reconsider the importance of the work we both do.

I am a teacher, and I can tell you that the esprit de corps of our state’s schools has never been lower during the decade I have spent in it. Right now we need visionary leaders who will resist the ephemeral and fleeting winds of televised punditry, and take a stand for the greatest good of our nation. Sadly, your vote yesterday achieved the opposite result.

Those funds — and others like them on which you will surely be voting in the coming weeks — are needed not only for struggling families in Wisconsin and elsewhere, but also for the health of our economy as a whole. Private-sector businesses require many things to expand, but more than anything they need demand. A business will not add workers to its payroll if there is no demand for its products or services, right? The $35 billion in public funds you voted against could have been a powerful boost to local economies, spurring demand and creating the climate which allows private-sector employment to expand. So even by the measurements of a narrow free-market fundamentalist view of our economy, your vote yesterday was a mistake, don’t you think?

I encourage you to revisit your thinking on these matters. Please resist the rabid influence of Grover Norquist and other narrow-minded ideologues who put an abstracted and unrealistic premium on stagnant tax rates. Instead, consider the health of our nation’s economy from multiple perspectives, and cast future votes with an eye toward economic justice, wisely targeted government spending, and support for those who need it most. (Hint: Those making over $1 million are not included in that group.)

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter. I look forward to hearing from you.