Sunday, February 24, 2013

137. Laws

It may not have been the worst experience of my life. After all, I once lived through being sentenced to two weeks of Vacation Bible School in the middle of summer while the rest of my gang fought pirates and played baseball.

When C.W. insisted that I take him to our state capitol to watch our legislature, I knew better. But, he said, “It is your duty to further my education as the North American host to our planet.” And I suppose it is.

So, when he showed up as a bright-eyed 13 year-old, what could I do? I told him that much of the drama occurred in the committee hearings, so we arrived early and picked a committee at random in the Senate end of the building and took a seat in the rear.

“The opponents of a bill will try to stop it from getting out of committee while the proponents will try to get it voted out with a ‘do pass,’” I said.

“Neat,” he said.

“Uh, yeah.”

At that moment, the committee filed in. There were four members of an eight-member committee present. C.W. produced a membership handbook from his backpack and began to study it.

“I see a quorum present,” the committee chairperson said.

Immediately C.W.’s hand shot up. “They don’t have a quorum,” he said to me, loud enough for everyone in the room to hear. He pointed at the list of members of that committee.

“Shhh,” I explained as quietly as I could. “They will proceed unless one of the members calls for a quorum-count.”

“That sucks,” he said, louder. Every eye in the room turned toward us. “They don’t have a quorum,” he explained to them. All eyes returned to the front as the meeting continued.

The first bill was introduced. The bill’s author explained that it would require a woman requesting certain medical procedures to have a probe inserted into her … at this point every eye in the room turned to us again. I turned a crimson red and tried to pretend I was studying some papers I had picked up at the door. C.W. leaned forward eagerly. The eyes continued to stare at us as if I had taken a child into an X-rated movie.

“This is neat,” C.W. said. “But I thought they were supposed to make laws here.”

I tried to make myself as small as possible.

Finally, the meeting continued. The bill’s author having finished, a well-dressed woman representing the ACLU began to speak against the bill, pointing out what seemed to her some constitutional problems. Suddenly, a committee member stood, interrupting her. “Mr. Chairman,” he yelled. “If this ‘person’ is here to waste our time again, I’m going outside for a smoke.” He spun around and left.

“That was uncivilized,” C.W. said. “Who elected him?” Again the heads snapped toward us. At this point the Chair called a brief recess. He whispered to a large man with a noticeable budge under the coat of his suit who then approached us.

“Sir” he said. “We don’t think this discussion is fit for under-aged children.”

“You mean I can’t watch them making laws?” C.W. yelled it this time and everyone stopped to watch.

As I see it, the purpose of legislation is to advance
individual agendas. Interesting. - C.W.
“Not this one son,” the man said. “Come back for the next one. It deals with who can euthanize animals.”

“Gross,” C.W. said as I hurried him from the room.

Outside, I turned to him in exasperation. “Didn’t they warn you in your training back in Falloonia not to watch Americans making laws?”

“No,” he said, his eyes turning into large innocent orbs. “They just made us promise not to watch you making babies.”

Sunday, February 17, 2013

136. Heroism

Hoping to get C.W. on a new track, I encouraged him to try his hand at something creative, like writing. To my surprise said it was a great idea and he would jump into it with all seven of his feet. Imagine. So I wasn’t surprised to find him occupying my desk, sporting a long beard and white robe, and working over large scrolls of paper.

What’s up?”

He looked up with a patient smile. “Good morning noble friend, though rosy dawn has already flung herself high into the smog-gray sky, we welcome you.”

“Okay. I give up. What are you doing?”

“Translating,” he said.


“Yes, translating. Your species needs modern versions of your great literature. And I am the servant of the Muse.”

“You are translating what?”

“Homer,” he said. “It is about time someone drew strength from the gods and waded sword-fresh into the task.”

“Uh …”

“In short, you need updated versions of The Iliad and The Odyssey. And I’m here to do it.”

“You would update The Iliad? How?”

Oh please, weary traveler,” he said. “Your species doesn’t comprehend the idea of rich men’s sons fighting wars.” He took a breath and bowed his head. “Give me a break, oh Muse of lowly word-workers. King Priam sending his son Hector to fight to the death with Achilles? That would be like sending one of the Romney boys out to fight a Koch Brothers offspring. Why, you might even have the sons of Wall Street bankers and Halliburton CEOs slugging it out on the beaches of Troy.” He looked directly at me. “Ridiculous.”

I had to admit he had a point.

“So,” he continued, “The fighting must be done by those with the least to lose. Agamemnon’s ships will pick up African slaves on the way to Troy. Your species will understand the concept of their doing the heavy lifting, so to speak.”

“C.W., I said. “Are you out of your mind?”

“Anyway,” he said. “This hand-to-hand combat has to go. I’ve come up with an improved version of so-called ‘Greek Fire’ that can be launched from 16 miles out to sea. The armies should not even see one another.”

“So that’s it? Slave soldiers and aerial bombardment?”

“For The Iliad. Now I’m working on The Odyssey.

“Any problems there?”

“No, just opportunities. I’m using the Kardashians as models for the Sirens.”

“Ah, …”

“And,” he said. “Penelope has to be a bit more of a ‘cougar.’”

C.W. often leaves me speechless. This was one of those times.

“And,” he said. “This bloody combat in the final scene is much too personal.”

“Too what?”

What could be more old-fashioned
than combatants in a war actually
 touching one another? C.W.
“Personal. I’ll abstract it by placing Odysseus in Pylos and Telemachus in Sparta. They will each have a god, or goddess if you wish, to undertake the actual killing in Ithaca with no danger to either of our heroes. Brilliant eh?”

“Hardly,” I said. “You can’t have great heroes killing people by proxy from half a world away with no actual contact.”

“Oh no, Mr. Know-it-all? Well, it so happens that I do actual research for my work, unlike some people.” He rummaged on the desk and retrieved a copy of a recent newspaper. He point to a headline and smirked. It read “U.S. military to give Bronze Stars to drone operators—will rank higher in honor than those received by actual on-the-ground combatants.”

I sank into my seat as Rosy Dawn dipped her cheerful fingers into every unlighted corner of the world.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

135. Education.3

Can’t seem to get C.W. off this education kick. So, I think we should humor him one more week, particularly since he assumed such an adorable form today. He was busy at the kitchen table working when I came in this morning, or I should I say “she” was. There was the most adorable 13-year old girl you have ever seen, dressed in her school uniform with her blond ponytail neatly flowing down her back.  Her face was drawn up around her sky-blue eyes as she was straining over a standardized test.
“Uh, good morning, I think.”

“Good morning Mr. Big Dope.”

Yep, it was he. “What on earth are you doing, C.W.?”

“I have been asked to evaluate this test for possible use in the placement program for the better schools,” she said. “And quite frankly, some of the questions confuse me.”

“You have been asked …,”

“By Mrs. Rhee.”

“To evaluate what?”

“This test will determine the quality of class a child is assigned to. And the questions are dumb.”


“Yes. Listen to this one. ‘Your mother tells you that she doesn’t have enough money to make ends meet this month. You should (1) Suggest that she give up cigarettes and beer temporarily; (2) Stay at your aunt’s house for a while; (3) Offer to eat only two meals a day for the month; (4) Tell your father to put some more money into Mom’s household account.’”

“Yes,” I said. “And?”

“Well anybody would know that the correct answer is “Four” but it keeps telling me I’m wrong.”


“And here’s another. ‘Your friend’s mom drops you off from birthday party and your mother’s boyfriend calls you from the tool shed and says he wants to show you something. You should (1) Pretend not to hear and go lock yourself in your room; (2) Request additional information; (3) Tell him you must first change into your play clothes; (4) Ask if your mom is with him.’”

“That’s a tough one.”

“No it’s not, she said. “Of course one cannot indulge in play activities with one’s dress clothes on.” She paused and looked perplexed. “But it tells me I’m wrong.”

“Boy,” I said. “This is hard.”

“You haven’t seen anything. Listen. ‘There are two direct routes to school. Each passes through a designated gang territory. You should, (1) Find a longer route that is gang-free; (2) Join one of the gangs and use the route through its territory; (3) Remind the chauffer to lock all the windows in the car when driving to school; (4) Suggest to your parents that they home-school you.’”

“Well that sounds pretty simple to me,” I said.

“Yes, but what if the chauffer forgets?”


Everyone knows that the maid does
all the cooking, so why must
a young girl learn fractions? - C.W.
“Now, here is the hardest one. Get this. ‘Pregnancy can occur when (1) One, or both, of the partners forgets to pray before having sex; (2) When a girl has sex on days not sanctioned by the church; (3) A girl has sex with someone other than her boyfriend who, he promises, can’t make babies; (4) A girl has sex without the protection of a contraceptive.’”

I thought about it. “You can answer this one, can’t you?”

“Heck no.”

“And why not?”

“Well, for one thing, what is a contraceptive?”

Sunday, February 3, 2013

134. Education.2

One must admire C.W. for being tenacious. Whether it is a Falloonian characteristic or one developed while amongst us lower species, he doesn’t give up easily. Take his current interest in education.
He was back yesterday to admit that his highly-touted “Three H” system proved flawed. It was true that classes composed of only honor students, homogeneous cohorts, and honest, law abiding students performed better on standardized tests than others. But problems arose.

The most severe involved unscrupulous superintendents channeling 3H classrooms to preferred teachers, sometimes for sexual favors, or even worse, political ones.

So, he was back with another plan. This time he was a dead ringer for Michelle Rhee herself.

“Out with the old, and in with the new,” she said.

“Okay, lay it on me,” I said.

“I beg your pardon?”

“Sorry. Let’s hear it—your new plan to save education.”

“It has eleven steps,” she said. “My old plan only had ten.”

“Eleven is better?”

“Oh please,” she said. “Pay attention.”

“Let’s hear it.”

“This one is called the Success Account Program.”


“Exactly. It has eleven steps, but the long-range teacher award system is at its core.”
“The long-range teacher …”

“Award system. See,” she said. “After careful study we decided that the long-range success of students should be the consideration upon which teacher rewards are based.”


“Yes, didn’t you have a teacher who contributed to your success?” She stopped and thought. “Well, in your case that might be a tough question.”

“I did have one, Doris Morgan,” I said, trying to be helpful. “Hadn’t it been for her, I would probably have been a TV evangelist, or worse.”

“Worse?” she said. She considered it for a moment, shook her head, and continued. “Anyway, under the SAP program, a rewards account would be set up for each teacher. For every student that proved successful in life, a cash award would be deposited into the account.”

“Successful in life?”

“Yes, say one became a respected cinematographer. Ca-ching!”


“Or, say, a Presbyterian minister. Ca-ching again.”

“Oh,” I said. Maybe one owned a successful ad firm, or editorial company, or became a police officer, a professor, a Mayor, a marketing genius, a nurse, good parent, or a teacher.”

“Ca-ching, ca-ching, ca-ching, ad infinitum,” she said with a huge oriental smile on her face.

“Or developed a successful blog site.” I was on a roll, thinking of my friend Lisa.

This time she didn’t look quite so please. “Perhaps,” she said. “At any rate, good teachers would become among the highest-paid professionals in the country.”

“I have only one question, though,” I said.

“What question could you possibly have?”

“Did you consider the Null Hypothesis?”

“The what?”

“The possibility that the results might not work as planned.”

“How could they not work?”

“Well,” I said, trying to be as ‘thoughty’ as possible. “Suppose a teacher produced a Bernie Maddoff, a Ken Lay, or …” I thought long and hard. “Say a Glenn Beck?”

Her smile vanished. “What are you saying?”

“Can the awards account be charged for screw-ups?”

She didn’t respond, just assumed her most inscrutable face.

There simply has to be a way to introduce
profit-motive into our educational system.
Why, Jeb Bush himself says so. - C.W.
I pressed her. “Are you willing to have SAP work both ways?”

She remained deep in thought.

“Can you see the implications?” I was enjoying this.

“But,” she said, rapidly running through all sorts of permutations and combinations involving high-level mathematical tests, I assumed.

“But, …,” she said.


“My plan goes to eleven.”