Thursday, April 26, 2012

I'm a Professional Writer!

Dear Readers,

At the movie screen factory where I work, I’m mostly a grunt laborer.  But recently, I started writing and editing documents.  And I get paid for it!  When I quit teaching two and a half years ago, I thought I would never again make money using English skills.  But look at me now! 

I wrote the following in the “About Us” section of the CrossfireScreens website:

Crossfire is an American-based company with a loyal and highly-trained staff.  We've been in the movie screen business for over twenty-six years.  Crossfire boasts a dealer and distribution network that spreads throughout North, Central, and South America.  Recently, our network of movie screen dealers and distributors has begun to expand into Asia.  Why are we selling Crossfire Screens to so many people in so many different areas of the world?  The answer is simple.  We're on a mission to deliver a top-quality yet affordable projection screen to everybody who wants one.
Crossfire seeks customers who have an eye for good images.  We desire to serve those who want their visual entertainment experience to have the added brightness and clarity that only a Crossfire Screen can provide.  We want customers who recognize the difference between the cutting-edge techniques, craftsmanship and quality control that goes into the production of every single Crossfire screen and the not-so-impressive way that other companies make their screens.
Even though you'll be getting a top-notch product with Crossfire, you won't be paying top-notch prices.  After twenty-six years of experience, we've learned to run our business as efficiently as possible so we can keep our prices competitive.
And have we mentioned our reputation for good customer service?  Our trained and knowledgeable staff are happy to assist you with the selection, installation, and service of your screen.

If you are an end-user, contact your local dealer for your Crossfire Home Theater Screen.  If you are a retail store manager, an installer, or an integrator, contact your local Crossfire Home Theater Distributor to work with us.
Get a Crossfire Screen.  Do business with us.  We'll make it easy.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Prime-time TV Programming

and the public school textbook
with the chapter on evolution, praising
that darling of the Devil, Charles Darwin
and the pool hall on the school night
and the teenagers painting their
faces a frightening green,
clamoring for the spotlight,
unclean hands feeling for the
center of an unclean stage.

And behold, I am sent to destroy the children.

The children.  Who can blame them when their
grandmothers are peeling off price tags,
slipping press-on nails into purses?
Who can blame them when
the man is at the bar again tonight
concerning himself only with pleasure 
and the continuation of pleasure?
And the woman on the couch fantasizes;
she views her full-color self 
in a lacy evening gown,
pearls hanging around her neck, 
a handgun strapped to her right thigh.
She shifts her eyes this way, that way.
It's part soap opera, part spy thriller,
a major box-office hit, all about her.

And yet, in this house,
when the heads bow down,
when her mouth offers prayer,
a warm light spreads.
Smiles are given, kind looks received,
the plate of steaming bread passes
from humble hand to humble hand,
and I, an angel of destruction, plead with God,
spare them all a little longer.

Chicken Jokes

Q: What does a chicken eat for breakfast?

A: Sometimes cereal, sometimes toast, and sometimes he eats bawk.

Q: How does a chicken beat you up?

A: He just punches you a whole bunch of times. Then he says, “bawk!”

Q: How does a chicken pronounce the word “box”?

A: bawks

Q: What term did the ancient Mayan chickens invent for an religiously significant time period?   

A: Bawktun

Q: What was the chicken for Halloween?

A: Bawkbeard, the Pirate.

Q: Who is a chicken’s favorite classical composer?

A: Jean Sebastien Bawk.

Q: Who did the chicken vote for in the 2012 Republican Primary?

A: Michelle Bawkmann

Q: Who is a chicken’s favorite celebrity?

A: Mike Tyson, because he was a bawkser.

Q: Why did the chicken leave the coop?

A: He wanted to take a walk around the bawk.

Q: What’s a chicken’s favorite month?

A: Bawktober.

Q: What's a chicken's favorite pie?

A: Bawkberry pie.

Q: What did the chicken say when he saw the new chicken coop?

A: Oh me!  Oh my!  That new coop is absolutely incredibly bawk-tastic!

Q: Why did the chicken fail elementary school?

A: He sat in the back row and he couldn't see the bawkboard.

Q: What does a chicken dream about?

A: He dreams of catapults… he dreams of life among the clouds… he dreams of the dignity of every frog in the forest.  Bawk!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Why do I have to go to school?

Dear Readers,

Sooner or later, my daughter is going to ask me, “Dad, why do I have to go to school?”

I’ve been to a lot of school myself. I went to elementary school, middle school, high school, and then I went to college. I got a Bachelor’s degree in English and drama at Northern Arizona University, and then I almost got a Masters degree in General English Studies.

But after all that schooling, I still don’t really know how to answer my daughter’s question.

 One of my favorite books is The End of Education by Neil Postman. The book argues that our public schools are suffering from a lack of a reason for being. The students and teachers don’t know why they are there. Postman argues that schools are serving four false gods: Economic Utility, Consumership, Technology, and Separatism.

Economic Utility: You go to school because you once you graduate, you make money and contribute to the larger economy. The god of economic utility ultimately fails because making money is not spiritually satisfying. Unless wealth is pursued within the context of a higher moral code or meaning, it proves to be hollow.

Eventually the money-seekers come to the conclusion, as does the writer of Ecclesiastes: “And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labor: and this was my portion of all my labor. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun… therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit.” (Ecclesiastes 2: 10, 11, 17)

Consumership: You go to school to learn how to be a good consumer. This false god says that the fulfillment of life’s potential is found in the consumption of products. The more educated you are, the more refined your purchasing decisions are. This god is a false one. See, again, the second chapter of Ecclesiastes.

Technology: You go to school to integrate new technology into your life. You learn about new technology, you use new technology, and you try to invent still newer and newer technology. Postman writes about how our American culture today is changing to integrate technology in his book Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. Postman argues that we are abandoning time-honored notions of values, family, education, and religion to accommodate the next gizmo that Apple makes. Basically, our American culture has a hammer, and asks, “I need to use this. What can I hit with it?” In contrast, more ancient cultures said, “I need to feed my family, be happy, and worship God. Can this hammer help me do that? If it cannot, I will discard it.” (The Amish are an interesting example of people who are shunning technology in an effort to fight the culture erosion that comes with the proliferation of technology.)

Separatism: You go to school to learn the ways your tribal group, and to learn why your particular tribe or ethnicity is, at least in some ways, superior to others. This false god is worshipped in Ethnic Studies classes, and to a certain extent, Gender Studies classes. This false god pits one group against another. It encourages racism and segregation. Separatism only leads to strife.

Postman offers new gods, or myths, or narratives, that may give public schools a more satisfying reason for being. These proposed new gods pretty much express the idea that public schools should create good Americans who can achieve great things if we all work together. Also, Americans can accomplish great and fulfilling things if we individually pursue our interests in a capitalistic yet cooperative society. Postman writes that the moon landing can be used as a quasi-religious symbol of American achievement.

(The problem is, in our liberal schools today, the moon landing is probably more likely to be used to teach postcolonialism. We projected our masculinity, our ethnocentrism, and our xenophobic arrogance into Outer Space when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin planted a flag on the moon. Planting a flag? Who are we trying to be, Christopher Columbus?)

You can read more about Postman’s proposed gods in his book. You’ll notice that Postman is talking about public schools. Religious schools, on the other hand, do not have the same existential crises that public schools have. The purpose of religious schools is to serve and glorify God.

For now, when my daughter asks me why she has to go to school, I’ll just say, “Because Mom and Dad say so.” That reason seems pretty good to me, and I think it would satisfy a trusting elementary school student.

The answer, “Because Mom and Dad say so,” communicates a few messages to my daughter. It communicates the idea that there are beings, Mom and Dad, who are wiser and more intelligent than my daughter. These beings existed before my daughter existed, and in their existence, they have accrued wisdom. In their wisdom, Mom and Dad have created commandments, which my daughter must obey. One of these commandments is, go to school. The reason for going to school cannot now be understood by my daughter’s elementary school mind. Suffice it to say that Mom and Dad say so. My daughter does not need to trouble her mind on this matter. Mom and Dad are wise. Mom and Dad are benevolent. Mom and Dad are just lawgivers.

When my daughter goes to school because Mom and Dad say so, she’ll be operating on the same motivational basis as was the animal-sacrificing Adam in Moses 5: 5-6: “And he [God] gave unto them commandments, that they should worship the Lord their God, and should offer the firstlings of their flocks, for an offering unto the Lord. And Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord. And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me.”

But I fear for the time when my daughter gets to high school, and she starts questioning Mom and Dad. She’ll start to think that we’re not the wise, mysterious beings we purported to be. She’ll discover, as did Dorothy, that there is no great and powerful Wizard of Oz. There is only a charlatan behind a curtain.

But if I give my future teenager daughter a good explanation for going to high school, she might be satisfied.

The angel gave Adam a good explanation for sacrificing animals. The angel said, in Moses 5: 7 “This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth.” Animal sacrifice pointed towards the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. At this moment, when the angel talks to Adam, Adam changes from being an ignorant but obedient churchgoer to being an enlightened man who comprehends the meaning behind the ritual of animal sacrifice.

What’s funny though, is that the angel’s answer is only satisfying to Adam if he believes that the sacrifice and Atonement of Jesus Christ was a literal event. (Right?) If the symbol of animal sacrifice only points to another symbol, well, then… what’s the ultimate meaning behind the second, deeper symbol?

I don’t know. In the meantime, I’ll just tell my daughter to go to school, and to go to church.