Sunday, November 04, 2012

"Why Can't We All Just Get Along?", a Modern Cry of Angst, or Get Over Your Bad Self Already!

While I will be very glad to have the elections over this week, I am concerned for the long-term health of our country. We are terribly divided right now, but the worst part is all the venom that constantly spews from all directions. Unfortunately I do notice a stronger tendency from one side to try to hush the other. Believe it or not, last I checked, we ALL still have the right, in this country, to believe what we want.

Unless, of course, you don't agree with me--then you're a hater! Now I don't believe that, but it seems a significant portion of our population does, and that side with the strong tendency to want to hush the other that I mentioned earlier hushes people most effectively by labeling. Their especial favorite is "hater." In an effort to fight back, everyone else has now also begun using this handy little pejorative, which in the end would make us all haters.

Most of you have probably figured out that I'm conservative on most issues. But guess what--that doesn't mean I hate anybody. It doesn't mean I wish bad things on you, or that I hope you'll die some slow and painful death if I don't agree with your political or religious positions. It simply means that I don't agree with you. End of story.

So if I post something to my FB wall or blog about something that you don't like, or that offends you in some way, it is only a reflection of what I believe. It isn't a death wish on YOU, or hatred directed at YOU, or meant to persecute YOU. Really, it has very little to do with YOU at all. If I wanted to be a stinkbutt to YOU, I would just post it on YOUR wall and get it over with. I mean, if I want to be nasty, I'm going to make sure it's obvious--I'm going to do the job right or my mother might make me do it again! (That's a family joke from the days when I spent too many hot July afternoons re-tamping fence posts that still wiggled.)

So get over yourself already. If you can speak your beliefs, then why can't I? I don't post, or re-post is more like it, half the stuff I agree with because I know it would offend someone else. I try to be polite that way. I try to be "tolerant."

The thing that frustrates me, though, is that so many people see even one disagreement as evidence of hate. No matter which news outlet I read (and I do read more than just conservative ones), if I take the time to dip into the comments, it doesn't take long to find people calling each other names that would embarrass a convict and using language that would make a sailor blush. The topic doesn't matter--it can be a disagreement about politics or religion, or it what's the best way to cook the *&$%^# turkey you stupid %#&^$!!. Golly folks, that seems a little more like hatred than my rather tame tax rant from a couple days ago. My only four-letter words were probably pronouns like "your" or prepositions like "into" or "from" (as in, "why should the government take your money from your pocket and put it into theirs every chance they get?" Oops, there was another four-letter word: take. Certainly that one should be offensive!).

But can we recover from all this incivility? That's part of what concerns me so much. Remember this--no matter who wins next week, conservative or liberal, we ALL still have to live with each other. (Unless there is some sort of mass exodus, which I don't think is likely.) That last sentence is so important, let me repeat it: No matter who wins next week, WE ALL STILL HAVE TO LIVE WITH EACH OTHER. Will we still disagree? Most likely, but that doesn't mean we have to be so horrible to each other. My children and yours are growing up in this world.

If you want the world to not be such a hate-filled place, why don't some of you quit perpetuating it by finding hate every time someone doesn't agree with you. We have some mighty fine rights granted us in the Bill of Rights, but the right to not be offended just isn't in there. Instead we have this nifty thing called Freedom of Speech. And since we don't all believe the same thing, sooner or later your freedom and mine are going to meet like the Titanic and the iceberg. But stop equating that occurrence with "hate" already. Hate would be if one of us pulled out a gun and shot the other one over it.

Even if you encounter true hatred, how you handle it determines if that hatred continues or not. If you continue to exercise your Imaginary Right to Not Be Offended, by exercising your right to exist in a Constant State of Huff, then you are breathing life into the problem. You make the choice to allow that hate, to wallow in that mud. The old expression about drinking poison to spite one's enemy comes to mind here. A number of my loved ones don't see the world through the same lens I do, so I live in a world of self-imposed censorship in order to live in some semblance of peace. That's my choice, too. I've pulled up my big girl socks and accepted that fact. Listen up world--now it's your turn to do the same, because no matter who wins next week WE ALL STILL HAVE TO LIVE WITH EACH OTHER. The alternative is too ugly to desire.

(P.S. For anyone who ever reads my blog, you'll notice that I have refrained from bringing my faith into this discussion. I could share many of God's directives toward peace, unity, love, etc., but I didn't because I want to reach out to some who do not recognize the authority of God, let alone God's Word. I will say that Jesus summed all God's directive into two commands, one of which was to "love each other as we love ourselves," which is many times stated in secular terms as "treat each other how you would want to be treated." Got it? Good.)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Morbid vs. Sappy: Which Wins Out?

I guess I'm just morbid. Either that or I really suffer from a lack of sappitude. I really am a sentimental person in many ways--it's just sappiness that I can't stand. For instance, today on Facebook one of the young people I know posted this message: "Sometimes you love someone so much that not even the truth can change your mind." I'm sure this is meant to fan the flames of young twitterpation, but my immediate thought was, "I wonder if the mothers of serial killers feel that way?" Edward Gorey was one of my favorite artists when I was a child. Does that speak volumes?

(This post is dedicated to Carrie and Andria--you'll both understand...)

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Today's Adventures in Art

Today my children and I attended our local comic book store's annual National Free Comic Book Day event. We duly chose some new comics to read, and then eagerly stood in line for free drawings from our local comic book artist guild. My son and I have done this for the last three years, now (if you look in my archive you will see the previous year's drawings). This year
I requested a picture of my favorite comic book character ever: Tintin and Snowy. Okay, so technically that counts as two, but as Matt Nelson (the artist who drew for me) said, how can you have one and not the other? He was quite thrilled to draw those characters because he was expecting most of the people would want Avengers characters (since the movie opened last night; to me the word "Avengers" conjures up John Steed and Emma Peel). He was also impressed that I had brought one of my books as reference material (I always stress the importance of reference material to my students), and was surprised to see it was in French. My first Tintin book was "L'ile de Noire"--the French version of "The Black Isle." My grandmother brought it back from Martinique when I was about five years old, and I couldn't read it until the fourth grade when my mom finally found for me a copy in English. Thanks to our local libraries I have been able to read all but two (the unfinished Alph Art, and the banned Congo). Even better, a young lady in the line next to me also asked for Tintin and Snowy! Tres cool! Thank you, Matt Nelson!

I've been working on some drawing projects of my own this week. While watching some history videos I've kept my hands busy drawing some cards for a school project, but I've neglected to take any photos. What I can share, though, is the other thing I've been drawing, which is a graphic for the Medieval/Renaissance Faire my other school is putting together for June. It needs a bit of tweaking still, then I have to figure out how to turn it into something computer usable when I don't have any fancy programs...

After visiting the comic book store, we went to the library and perused the wares at their semi-annual book sale. I scored a handful of art instruction books on things like collage and self-portraiture. Yesterday one of my students gave me a set of cards with John Singer Sargent watercolors on them for teacher appreciation. Happy art times. :-)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

NO Soliciting! And I Especially Mean Your Advice!

The world would be a much better place if more people could understand that unsolicited advice is usually just a cover for hurtful criticism. A recent conversation has left this thought spinning around in my head like an out-of-control top as it hits on all the tender places in my heart. (There aren't many tender places in my heart, so it really isn't good to damage the few that I have...)

Really, let's examine this concept for a moment or two. How often is the unsolicited advice about something like how to rid one's home of ant invaders in the spring time or how to properly wash a cast iron pan after burning dinner into all those little cast iron pores? More often the advice is about how to deal with the problem (that one didn't know one had) with one's favorite aunt (whom the critic doesn't like) who is coming to visit in the spring, and really all one wants to do is whack the critic with said unwashed cast iron pan. Anyone have any advice about how to refrain from such violence when confronted with such a situation? Just to be clear--I am now soliciting!

Criticism is received with so much more grace when the door has been gently opened, by either the critic or the receiver. When the advice isn't wanted it often doesn't fall on the proverbial deaf ears. Instead the advice falls with all the grace of a bowling ball onto a land mine. I don't even want to contemplate the end result, but if one is over about the age of twelve, one can probably fill in with a vivid enough mental picture. Of course, if we were all living in a P.G. Wodehouse novel, great hilarity would ensue, but unfortunately most of us live in the darker section of human nature that more closely resembles a Shakespearean tragedy where we are left brooding like a Danish prince.

It's human nature to want to fix things, but why is it so much easier to fix other people's things than our own? And it seems to be especially true of things that we have no experience of in our own lives. "I know I've never been in your situation, but if I had been this is what I would do..." While the book of Proverbs in the Bible does tell us in many, many, many (did I tell you how many?) places to listen to advice and accept instruction, there is another place in the book that tells us to pull the plank out of our own eye before fiddling with the speck of dust in someone else's. True advice isn't veiled criticism.

The world would be a better place if more people could learn to tell the difference. That's all.

Tune in next week, when I discuss the true importance of people's opinions...

(This blog is getting classier; we've upgraded to color cartoons! Of course it is Sunday.)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Random Teacher Moments

1. Playing with the layout a little tonight. Not sure what to think, but I don't really have much time to spend thinking about it, so perhaps it's a moot point. Really, I'm just procrastinating a bit. I should be writing about William the Conqueror or grading exercises on simple, compound, or complex sentences. (That last one would be a simple sentence with a compound verb. Wait, was that an unclear antecedent? Wait, what was that? No, What's on second. Oh yeah...)

2. Strangely enough I do not dream in grammar or history. Tonight I might have strange dreams, though: one of my students showed me how he could pick his nose with his tongue. This moment came after another boy wanted me to touch his knee to feel the strange spot on it that he can make pop. I declined. Recently a third grader offered to let me check him to really see if he had a cold. I assured him I would take his word for it. Older students have their own kind of weirdness, but I can't really think of any right now.

3. I finally tried a cakester today. My daughter (who is my student) called me a traitor, while her friend called me a cake-sniffer (inside joke for you Lemony Snicket fans). Last year our little school divided into factions over the cakesters and actually made signs that they carried around that said things like, "Down with cakesters!" I have to confess that I now side with that faction.

4. Today's art class had it's own moments of weirdness, nose conversations aside. What began as finishing a pop art assignment ended as an impromptu lesson on Jackson Pollock and a lot of noise. Some days I prefer the lessons that involve slides and quiet, but it's always fun to watch the students jump into the spirit of an assignment and discover something they enjoy (did you catch that subordinate connector that sets up contrast? We learned about that in writing lab today). I was especially pleased when one student told me he had planned his harmonious color scheme. Yes, they do listen through the noise!

5. I guess William is waiting for me. I'm almost done writing out the notes, and I like history, so there really is no good reason to not dive in. My brain is just tired. I never realized how much work has to be done outside the classroom until I became a teacher. The work just never ends.

6. Oh yeah, William...


Saturday, April 07, 2012

Why Can't We All Get Along, or R-E-S-P-E-C-T

It never ceases to amaze me how on the internet people seem to think it's perfectly acceptable to criticize and condemn and to do so with such vitriol, bile, and foulness. Does it really make you a better person to be so cruel because you don't like something? Does it make our society a better place to exist?

Most often I see this happen with posts of a political or religious nature, but today I see that people are already sniping about Thomas Kinkade's death. If someone didn't like his art, is it really necessary to tell the world in such nasty terms? Does it make them morally superior to do so? I'm not saying people can't or shouldn't have opinions or different tastes. What is frustrating is that people today don't seem to know how or when to share those things in a respectful, considerate way.

Deep sigh.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Tired of Silliness

“Your mind knows only some things. Your inner voice, your instinct, knows everything. If you listen to what you know instinctively, it will always lead you down the right path.” --Henry Winkler quotes (American Actor, b.1945)

This quote was posted on Facebook recently, and I have to say that it just frustrates me to no end. I read the news and I wonder how anyone can believe this kind of tripe--I mean stuff. Did Ted Bundy's instincts lead him down the right path? How about Jeffrey Dahmer? Gang fights? Are they following their reason? I doubt it. Maybe this philosophy works if you're directing a movie or when you're playing a character, but I have some serious doubts about following it as a life philosophy.

The thing that irritates me the most, however, is that people don't stop to evaluate the reasonableness of the statement before posting it. Are we so desperate for sugar candy to make ourselves feel good about everything we do? Ugh. Where's the man in uniform to show up and tell us to stop being so silly? The world really needs him right now.

Or maybe I need to dump my Facebook--it might spare me some frustration.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Random Randomness (Mostly Involving Dentists)

I suppose it's time for another very random blog post before I shuffle off to dreamland tonight.

1. My dishwasher creates a rhythmic sound as it washes. I'm not sure I like it. Perhaps it should be comforting, or something, like a safe sort of household white noise. But I actually find it rather annoying.

2. My children think it's funny that they can't remember the new dentist's name. Of course, I don't know the new dentist's name either.

3. So last night I drew a cartoon about the dentist. (I've never drawn a cartoon before.)

4. I have spent hours today reading and writing about Charlemagne, only stopping to take my daughter to the dentist. (Are you seeing a pattern here?)

5. (Okay, I have to tie this all together somehow...) The only rhythmic sounds at the dentist's office were also annoying. (Does that work?)

6. Need a good laugh? Watch the Dentist Secret Society sketch. My daughter wants a bazooka for her next dental visit. It will certainly be funnier than this post. (Although this post might be weirder.)

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

My Cantankerous Mood, OR, Just Think About It!

I'm feeling cantankerous lately. I wish people would think about things more deeply than how it makes them feel.

Today I saw a post with a cute picture that said something about how God made you just the way you are and loves you that way, so be yourself. Honestly my first thought was "Really? That's what He thought when He looked down and saw Ted Bundy? 'That's just the way I made you, and I love you that way, so be yourself!'?" Personally I can't agree. If God loves us just the way we are, then why bother to send His Son to cover our sins? He loves us, yes, but not in our natural human state.

I know that a lot of people would want to argue with me and say something like, "Well, what they meant was that people shouldn't have to conform to what the world says, like being skinny or looking perfect, etc." Yes, I would agree. God's Word tells us not to conform to the things of this world (Romans 12:2 "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."). But Romans 3:10 also reminds us that no one is righteous, and Romans 3:23 says "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." So, you're right--God loves you whether you're skinny or fat, but He's more worried about the condition of your heart than the size of your body. Unfortunately, more and more the mantra of "God loves you just the way you are!" is a convenient cover for behavior that is inappropriate (what the Bible frequently refers to as sin). God made an even better cover for sin, though! Romans 5:8 "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Why not try that cover instead--it's a far better one!

If you are offended by this (I've been seeing a lot of posts lately about people not wanting to be offended; since when was that desire listed in the Bill of Rights?), then go vent to someone else. I'm not interested in being jumped on. I'm sorry if my world is too black and white for you. But being an art teacher I know that if you squint at all those middle shades of grey in your world long enough, they'll all start to look that same, like fog (you know it's awfully hard to see in the middle of that stuff).

If you are a Christian, please think your faith through more deeply than just cute sayings that make everyone "feel good." Read through Proverbs and see how often Wisdom is lifted up. Grow your faith, think it through, and have reasons for what you believe (Peter tells us to do that, too). If you have questions, ask someone you trust and work them out.

And if you're not a believer at all, then that's fine, too, but please, please, please, people! Start thinking about what you say and believe!

Oh, and that picture at the top is NOT the cute picture that accompanied the post that set me off. That painting is Edvard Munch's "The Scream." It does a pretty decent job of showing my mood lately.

Friday, February 03, 2012

It's My Blog and I'll Gripe if I Want to, Gripe if I Want to, OR, You Should Gripe, Too

I've been reading posts and articles with great interest lately. Three thoughts are sticking with me right now.

1. "If everybody is special, then nobody is special." A quote from an article about artists and fame in our modern society, and how young people equate success with fame in our media-driven, everybody-has-to-feel-good, no-one's-viewpoint-is-ever-wrong society. That quote should be self-explanatory.

2. Building off that comment and stemming from conversations about the morality of abortion: if everyone's viewpoint is equally good and should be respected, then do I have to respect and tolerate the choices of people like Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy? How can you have law and order in a society where everyone's thoughts/opinions/desires (which is from whence their viewpoints usually come) are equally valid? Why do we want to live in such a society?

3. Our society really needs to go back to teaching critical thinking, because our leaders (aka politicians--and I do mean ALL of them!) are really good at not answering questions, as shown by the President just a couple days ago. Yet, so many people don't see that the answers are like conjurer's tricks designed to shift our attention to the other hand/issue. Kudos to the woman who asked the question for attempting to make him address the issue.

If you want to share your thoughts, feel free to leave a comment. Just note that my comments are moderated, and I have the ability to not share them. Yes, everybody wants to rule the world, and this is my own little piece of it, baby.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

An Extremely Brief Comparison

Preparing for art class tonight brought me to the realization that Hobbits would be Art Nouveau, while Saruman would be Art Deco. Dark, but Deco.

(Okay, okay, there are probably better categorizations, but I'm only teaching Nouveau and Deco tomorrow.)

Monday, January 09, 2012

A Rumination on Literature

I'm preparing to begin the journey through "Beowulf" with my students this week. The joy of teaching the great stories of the world is uncovering the timeless and universal truths in them. What can we learn about the human condition? How do we travel through this life? How do we stay true to our beliefs, frequently in the face of events we never anticipated? Where do we turn in the face of despair, desperation, and the darkness we encounter? How do we remain inspired, and where do we find joy?

As a teacher I find joy in discussing these questions with students. I am doubly blessed by the fact that I teach in a Christian school and can approach these questions from a Biblical worldview. I am continually fascinated how often Biblical truths emerge in places where they might not be expected, such as the ancient Greeks or in Norse myths, which is what we looked at last week in class.

Tonight I am reviewing some notes a colleague shared about "Beowulf," and I'm excited to see elements that we both marked for deeper exploration, albeit not always from the same vantage point. While teaching art classes I have often remarked to students how different artists can tell the same moment from the same story in such different ways and with such different perspectives. As I read such lines as "Behavior that's admired is the path to power among people everywhere" I can imagine the conversation that will take place in class as we ponder the impact and truthfulness of such a statement. But that doesn't mean the discussion will follow my vision, which is part of the beauty of teaching because in those moments I frequently learn from the students as much as they might learn from me.

Tonight I am excited for tomorrow. That might not be quite so true when my alarm sounds in the morning, but by the time we reach class the excitement will have returned. We will open our "Beowulf" books and take the first steps on our next literary adventure as we step through the door to a new time and place. J.R.R. Tolkien once wrote, “ 'Remember what Bilbo used to say: It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.' ”

Let the journey begin!