The Last Post on Michael Jackson
June 21, 2005

After reading this vapid USA Today article, there is nothing left to say. My favorite part?:

Adds Oxman, formerly a member of Jackson's defense team: "Michael is an extraordinarily resilient human being. He has been through storms of monumental proportions since he was 8 years old and seen his way through them all."

Still, the accumulated effect of decades of high-profile odd behavior could be tough to overcome.

Thomas Mesereau Jr. told NBC's Today that Jackson will no longer share his bed with young boys.

"He's not going to do that anymore," Mesereau said." "He's not going to make himself vunerable to this anymore."

Well there's a relief.

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So You Wanna be a Toys'R'Us Kid?
June 21, 2005

If there ever were a trait of the Western society, it would be our glorification of extended periods of youthfulness. While some cultures celebrate Bar Mitzvahs or some other meaningful rites of passage into responsibility, most Americans deem the right to legally drink alcohol the defining event of adulthood. It matters not how old you are. If you don't want to grow up, darn it, you don't have to. There is a general consensus that grown adults with facial hair and aging spots can continue to shrug off responsibility and act like juveniles without common sense.

This "celebration" manifests in a number of ways. On any given Saturday night, a stroll through your city's center will reveal the decay of responsibility as we know it. There you'll find career panhandlers, 42-year-old women lining up in miniskirts to get into the club, and adults with day jobs and mortgages walking around the streets in a drunken stupor and singing karaoke very badly. Which isn't to say karaoke is a bad thing. If that's your bag, then by all means please, butcher yet another Whitney Houston classic.

While some people just refuse to grow up, the rest of us sit back and make excuses for the partakers in youthful revelry. We say things like, "His father beat him," or "She was poor," or "She grew up without parents," or "He never really had a childhood." Somehow the presence of life's hardships qualifies certain people for a pardon of the same responsibility of adulthood. In light of this reality, I have a news flash for us all:

Life's not fair. And then you die.

No matter who you are or where you come from, someone else has it worse. We have all faced hardship in varying degrees and measure, but the onset of adulthood requires us to grow up. It is truly disheartening to see people so thrown off the course of life by a family curse, a rocky childhood, or a devastating life experience. What's sad is a world that would have us to think we must remain shackled to our past--that there is no deliverance and no possibility for "success." The true overcomers don't get the credit they deserve and instead we make excuses for the sick.

So how is it that a 46-year-old disfigured pop icon who's admitted to inapporpriately sleeping with boys still remains "innocent?" Many have chalked it up to poor prosecution and sketchy witnesses. I chalk it up to a society that is sympathetic to the plight of the immature and dysfunctional adult. Enough with the romanticized acceptance of Jackson's brand of strange. We live in a society that has standards (no matter how vague and low). Still, I am certain a court of law will never be the location of Jackson's conviction. Our culture isn't ready to set such a presendent of accountability. For that reason alone, it's a good thing conviction of the heart is a far more accurate judge of character.

The biggest issue at stake isn't that justive be served, but that Jackson would break out of the shackles and join the mature, healthy, and fully functioning adults of our society.

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I Knew I Liked Steve Jobs
June 21, 2005

I'm not a fan of commencement speeches. In fact, I think commencement in general should be entirely revamped. The graduates should be given their diplomas first and then be dismissed to party while parents, relatives and faculty partake of the pomp and listen to the rambling commencement addresses which are generally wrought with cliches, and "feel good" messages that couldn't motivate me to move my couch let alone move my life.

So understand that it is with a relative amount of cynicism that I listened to Apple and Pixar CEO Steve Jobs' recent Stanford University commencement address. In a detour not typical of these types of speeches, Jobs avoided the bland talk of the responsibility that comes with a college degree and went in for the kill:

You've got to find what you love (an excerpt)

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?" They said: "Of course." My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Now that will preach. He ends:
"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."
Mr. Jobs, I'm taking notes. Read the speech in its entirety. The liberation of failure is unparalleled.

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Coming Soon...
May 26, 2005

Fresh content! Bear with me.

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Voir Dire
May 24, 2005

You know you're busy when you consider jury duty a "vacation" from the normal stresses of life. In a wonderful turn of events, it seems I wasn't picked as a juror in the three-week civil trial for which I was called. I never stood a chance. I'm all for fulfilling civic duties, but I find it odd that jury summons always seem to come at the most inconvenient times. Then again, last I checked, there's never a good time.

I'm beginning to re-think this whole "being an adult" thing. It's highly overrated. Oh what I would give to have somebody blow my nose, pick out my clothes, and tell me when to go to bed. There are days (few and far between) when I've even considered climbing back into the womb. At least then I'd be warm and have plenty of time for napping. Isn't it amazing how you grow up rebelling against the concept of "naps," and grow old wishing the traditional workday included mandatory naptime? I think I've figured it out. Naps (among other things) are wasted on the youth.

Those ungrateful wretches.

I often wonder the exact time the line between childhood and adulthood is officially crossed. Does it happen when you get your first bill in the mail? When you have your first child? When you buy your first piece of property? Too often we sit back, waiting for adulthood to happen to us. Meanwhile, it already "is." I have friends who are married with children and still can't believe God actually let them procreate. No matter who I talk to, it seems most people have moments of feeling completely unqualified for the task at hand.

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Jury Duty Blogging
May 18, 2005

While this week's been hectic and left me little time for writing, today and tomorrow (at the very least), I am on jury duty which means...LOTS of time for blogging. I arrived this morning to find that much to my suprise, King County Superior Courthouse now has wireless access available to jurors. For an ADD wannabe like me, this is fabulous news. I won't lie and act like I didn't almost break out in the "running man" when I learned of this, but I'm a juror now so there's no happy dances allowed. I have to be serious.

So here I am in a room full of 300+ disgruntled individuals, no doubt unhappy about their selection as jurors. Meanwhile, I'm sitting here grinning from ear to ear because not only do I get to fulfill my civic duty, but I also get some much needed time to catch up on writing. Glass. Half. Full.

I can pretty much guarantee that the minute they find out I'm an opinion writer/columnist, they're kicking me out of this place. I don't even know if the word "impartial" is in my vocabulary. We shall see.

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More Thug Life to Hug Life
May 13, 2005

If you haven't yet noticed, there is a sweeping trend in the film industry to produce more family-friendly films. Nearly everyone's going soft. While I wish folks were going wholesome because they genuinely believe "wholesome" is better, the truth is wholesome sells and movies are about making money. Research shows that family films generally make more money because they appeal to a broader audience. The average parent isn't going to take their child to a rated-R movie.

It's not just parental ratings that determine success either. Time and time again, research shows that whether they admit it or not, people like wholesome entertainment. Even the sadomasochist sitting at home can't help but feel all warm and applepieish when he watches ABC's "Extreme Home Makeover."

Today even the most hardcore celebrities are trying to affiliate themselves with kittens and lullabies.

In a move to make kids' films and cartoons more "edgy," MTV and Nickelodeon made history when they recently inked a deal with Andre 3000 (born Andre Benjamin), one-half of the rap group "Outkast" to co-produce and star in a series of kid-friendly movies, including an animated adaptation of E.B. White's classic, "Charlotte's Web." And here we thought the "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," was the only book in danger of being contaminated by money-hungry humanists. Are we talking about the same explicit-lyric-having Outkast whose albums that have consistently made good use of that "Parental Advisory" sticker? If we are, these television executives have collectively lost their minds. The AP reports:

Andre 3000 says kids' movies need to be edgier -- and he plans to make it happen through a new deal with Nickelodeon and MTV.

"I've noticed that kids, they're looking up to the Jay-Zs, they're looking up to OutKasts," the rapper (and father of a 7-year-old boy with singer Erykah Badu) told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "So kids' movies and cartoons, they're getting smarter ... because it seems like kids are cooler."

As part of the deal, Andre, one-half of the Atlanta-based duo OutKast, is set to star in a new Nick Movies film, "The Hit," which he will also co-produce. It's about a fifth-grader, seeking a new wife for his father, who discovers his next-door neighbor is Cupid."

For lack of a better word, the logic behind this deal is retarted. I've waited a long time to use that word on this blog and I think it's appropriate for this occassion: retarded, retarded, retarded. And before the PC police get all bent, I offer you this:
sometimes offensive : slow or limited in intellectual or emotional development or academic progress
So let's get this straight. Smart + Cool = Jay-Z and Outkast? Riight. That equation sounds pretty retarded to me.

I'm all for making movies that are relevant to kids, but seeking out pop culture icons who can't make up their minds if they want to be clean and credible, or foul and despicable, is not the answer. It is neither smart nor cool. These double-minded artists are not the type of examples we want children looking up to.

Oh but MTV does. That's why they're partnering with Nickelodeon. They want to pull them in while they're young.

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Thursday's Missive: things that will always make you laugh
May 12, 2005

I consider myself to have a fairly good sense of humor. I don't take myself too seriously. You shouldn't either. So I'm curious to know, come hell or high water, what things will always make you laugh? Here's the beginning of my potentially long list:

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High Schools Fail to Engage Students
May 12, 2005

Just in: American high schools stink. Why we need studies to figure these things out, I just don't know. Monday's USA Today reports on the failure of high schools to engage students:

A majority of high school students in the USA spend three hours or less a week preparing for classes yet still manage to get good grades, according to a study being released today by researchers who surveyed more than 90,000 high school students in 26 states.

The team at Indiana University in Bloomington calls the findings "troubling." The first large study to explore how engaged high school students are in their work, it adds to a growing body of evidence that many students are not challenged in the classroom.

Just 56% of students surveyed said they put a great deal of effort into schoolwork; only 43% said they work harder than they expected to. The study says 55% of students devote no more than three hours a week to class preparation, but 65% of these report getting A's or B's.

Because I spent my life in private school, high school was homework-heavy. We usually averaged between 5-6 hours of homework a night. To make it without drowning, we skimmed through readings and wrote essays on books we never read. It was busywork but nothing profound.

America's educational systems are all about regurgitation. "Memorize what we teach you and then spit it back out on the test...So long as you get the answers right, we'll pass you." That's why the Indiana University study isn't shocking. The average high school student has mastered regurgitation. I know I did. I could cram the night before a test and spit stuff out Modern European history verbatim. Too bad I can't remember squat about the topic now. Unfortunately, high schools (and many colleges) aren't teaching students how to think. I learned this most valuable skill from my parents.

God Bless 'em.

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May 11, 2005
  • Macaulay Culkin Denounces Charges Against Jackson: Today Culkin testified that Michael Jackson never sexually molested him. He also admitted to innocently sleeping in Jackson's bed a dozen or more times between the ages of 9 and 14. Does anyone think this odd? Odd? Hello? Anyone? But I guess it's okay considering how stable Culkin is and all. Blog Critics has more details.

  • The Chronicles of Narnia: "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" Trailer:
    It might be one of the most anticipated films of the year, but I'm not looking forward to seeing Disney jack up a perfectly good book.

  • Microsoft's New Xbox Details Leaked:
    Ouch. I'm currently doing some contract work for the Xbox's competition and I must say, this is a hurter for Microsoft. Most producers of gaming consoles are expected to release teasers of new products next week atE3 in California, the biggest interactive media conference of the year. My claim to fame is that my mother plays one of the voices on the game HALO.

  • PETA Kills Animals:
    At least that's what this watchdog (no pun intended) website says. I never have much trouble believing PETA is hypocritical. Why? Because they are wicked. See "7 Things You Don't Know About PETA."

  • No Handcuffs Necessary:
    Joanne Jacobs points to a program in Lowell, Massachusetts that hopes to curb student tantrums and chair-throwing by teaching "Self Control" classes to elementary school students. If only they'd had a self-control class for 42nd presidents.

  • Booker Rising's First Blogiversary:
    A shout out to Shamara Riley, proprietress at the fabulously informative Booker Rising for completing a full year of blogging. This is a great feat. If you can pass the one year mark, you're headed for longevity.

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Why I'm Not a Republican Parts I, II, III, IV
Reflections on the Ill-Read Society
The ROI of a Kid
The Double-Minded Haters
Hip-Hop in Education: Do You Wanna Revolution?
Oh parent Where Art Thou?
Requisite Monthly Rant: the State of the Nation
College Curriculum Gone Wild
Walmart Chronicles
An Open Letter to American Idol
Gonorrhea and the City

I Have a Talk Show