2

PSA on the BSA

So, the big news of the day, other than it being the International Day of the Girl and National Coming Out Day, is that the Boy Scouts of America, aka the BSA, has announced that it will now be accepting girls into its programs. 

And of course this has caused controversy.

A few truths here to start out this post. First of all, to all the naysayers out there, this is not happening tomorrow. In fact, the organization itself said that it will be two to three years before the organization is fully co-ed, since they will start having girl cub scout dens, and eventually units as they grow up. Second of all, this doesn’t make anyone who is already a Boy Scout any less of a Boy Scout. It’s not always about you.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way…

Not that I follow news in the world of scouting (other than APO, which has been co-ed since 1976), but it was an unexpected move by an organization that has, in the past, been pretty strict on its membership. The Girl Scouts have allowed boys and non-gender-binary kids to participate in its programming for awhile now, and maybe it’s time for the Boy Scouts to catch up.

Then there’s the question: why would a girl want to be a Boy Scout? 

Easy. I’ll boil it down to this scenario: do you want to be in an organization where you can become known as an Eagle, or do you want to be a part of an organization that is most famous for overpriced cookies which most people in America only realize exists once a year? There’s also the issue of nomenclature. While the Boy Scouts get to be in levels known as lions and tigers, animals known for power and ferocity, groups of Girl Scouts get to be…daisies and brownies. I could imagine a girl wanting to be an awesome animal rather than a flower, or a dessert, despite the fact that brownies actually refers to brown vests. The Boy Scouts traditionally engage in activities like engineering, wilderness survival, and woodworking. While Girl Scouts do those things as well, most people probably think that they cook, identify wildflowers, and talk about their feelings. These activities are ones in which Boy Scouts  most likely do not partake, or at least not to the same degree, as they are traditionally seen as more feminine and less empowering.

On the whole, I think it’s a positive move. Who knows, maybe somewhere down the line the groups will merge completely.

 

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5

Staying In and Getting Real: Current Events Roundup, Part Two

Oh, man.

It’s been a few days since the insanely horrific shooting in Las Vegas. 59 people are dead (including the shooter, who did happen to be a member of the human race) and 500 are injured. There has already been so much said about it, and even though I’m not a super political person in any way, I just felt like I needed to share some thoughts.

Unlike Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria, this tragedy was 100% preventable. If you didn’t believe in gun control before October 1, I hope that you’ve reconsidered your position. It’s not like getting into a fistfight; 59 people are gone. 59 people will never come back. 59 people didn’t think that their last day would be spent at a crowded country music concert in Sin City.

People kill people AND guns kill people.

8

Leave Raven Alone

At the risk of sounding too much like one of the most annoying people to ever exist on YouTube, I have to stand on my soapbox and rant about something: leave Raven alone.

As many of you know, Raven-Symone is my spirit animal. She is the inspiration for my blog and the way I live my life, with no fucks given and a little bit of pizzazz in my day-to-day. Ever since she’s been on The View, she’s been on the out-of-control side, but I firmly believe that she still has her head on straight. She speaks her mind, hasn’t gotten involved in drugs, alcohol, or disobeying the law, and she’s just electric.

Recently, this viral video of a police officer, or “school resources officer” manhandled a young girl who was repeatedly told to put away her cell phone, literally flipping her upside down, tossing her across the room and cuffing her. On the view, Raven-Symone had this response:

And the Internet exploded, mostly with hate.

Frankly, I think that everyone just needs to calm the eff down. In the above video, Raven says two very true things. First, “there’s no rhyme or reason for him to be doing this type of harm, that’s ridiculous,” and then, “you gotta follow the rules in school.” And for some reason, everyone immediately jumped to the conclusion that Raven was defending the officer for what he did.

But that’s not at all what I heard Raven say.

I heard Raven tell me that two wrongs don’t make a right, which is very true. Everything she said is true, and I think that she has the story completely right: one, excessive force is bad, and two, children and teenagers need to obey the rules of their schools. Having been a teacher and a student, I’ve been on both sides of this debate over cell phone usage in school. I didn’t get a cell phone until seventh grade, and it was one of those old-style Nokia phones which maybe had Znake on it, and during class, I had no reason to use it. Even still, as a college student, I don’t use my phone in class. When I do absentmindedly have it on my desk and it vibrates, I turn fifty shades of embarrassment, even though nobody really cares because it’s college and it’s 2015 and these kinds of things happen. But in high school, what could be that urgent that you need your phone in class, and on top of that, you choose to flout the teacher when they instruct you to put it away? This type of behavior in schools is symptomatic of the “student is always right and can do whatever he/she wants” mentality that our society is doing nothing to control or combat. Above all, high schoolers are by and large minors, and as such, have to listen to the teachers.

As a teacher, I generally do not allow cell phone use in my class. The only time I do is when I have a video clip to show; since my room does not have a projector, I email the link to my students who then watch in on their phones, with me, in class (which is actually kind of fun). When I was an undergrad TA at UMass, one of my students was actually having a conversation on her phone during class, and had to be told several times by us to stop. And it was annoying. Not worth being tackled, but extremely annoying and disrespectful to the rest of the students and the learning environment.

Then, there’s the issue of surveillance. Something tells me that there is much more to the story than we (Raven included) are being fed. For one thing, it is clearly being recorded from multiple angles, meaning other students had their phones out too. That strikes me as having an element of provocation, and a bit of voyeurism on the part of the students. Documentation of these incidents is important, but there is clearly something else going on in the background. As with many stories, there is more to it.

But I’ve gone on long enough. The issue notwithstanding, I firmly believe that what Raven-Symone said was completely appropriate and true. She was commenting on two different issues at the same time, a concept around which many people on the Internet can’t manage to wrap their minds, instead opting to yell at her, demean her, and call her a crazy lady. I wish I could reach through my computer and give Raven a hug, because she speaks the truth, no matter how anyone chooses to interpret it.

3

Emily Litella: Another Fun New Word Game

Not much happened to me today, and I’m not in the mood to do anything because I’m kind of lonely and there’s so much wrong in the world, but I decided to make a fun new word game which I call Emily Litella.

Emily Litella was a character from classic Saturday Night Live, played by the late great Gilda Radner. She would appear on the Weekend Update segment with an opinion piece based on misheard news, and would proceed to ramble about it until corrected, usually by an annoyed Jane Curtin. Subjects included Russian Jewelry (that’s Russian Jewry, Emily), and Making Puerto Rico a Steak (that’s making Puerto Rico a state, Emily). She would end her report by saying “Oh, that’s very different. Never mind.”

So today, I decided to do just that; Litell-ify some headlines by changing just one letter. You can do it too.

Here are mine:

From FOXnews.com:

Security Forces bill school massacre planner in Pakistan shootout.

Emily Litella: How much did that cost?

Experts skeptical N. Korea guilty of Pony hack

Emily Litella: Well that’s not very nice! They must really be as hungry as a horse to do that!

Wake held for 1 of 2 cups gunned down in attack

Emily Litella: I thought shooting whiskey meant drinking it, not having a funeral for it!

Try it. You might laugh a little.

 

5

Turbulence: You May Experience Jerks

The title pretty much says it all.

But to give you some context, it started this morning, when I was supposed to be getting ready for class but reading Facebook on my phone as usual, and I came across an article from a newspaper in New Zealand about this. By the time I had thought of a response, I had long lost the link, so I found an almost identical article here, in the Washington Post.

The article I linked above adds some scenarios that I didn’t encounter in the New Zealand article, so I’m just going to focus on the first one. It happened on an El Al airplane leaving New York (Kennedy, presumably) for Tel Aviv. Several dozen Orthodox Jewish men, some of them rabbis, refused to take seats near women, as Jewish law forbids close contact with non-related women, see one of my negia posts for more on that. After getting all the men seated, the plane finally took off, only for the men to stand back up during the flight and congregate in the aisles, rather than sitting next to women. This made life difficult for everyone else on that eleven hour trans-Atlantic flight, especially when the men offered passengers money to switch seats before takeoff.

I have to say, well done rabbis. You sure showed that plane full of people your true colors. Well, your true monochrome, that is. Now, you’ve not only gotten yourselves a reputation for being jerks, but this stunt will absolutely do wonders for the image of Jews, specifically the Orthodox, around the world. The world is not tailor-made for Jewish people; I’ve learned that the hard way, going to school on Jewish holidays and not being able to eat much from menus in places like Applebee’s, Wendy’s or the entire state of Louisiana. You’re right in the fact that it’s just not fair sometimes. But you have to pick your battles, and when you’re faced with being stuck in a giant metal tube for eleven hours with one hundred or so other people who are trying to live their lives, just sit your ass down and make your your seat belt is securely fastened. This whole not-sitting-next-to-women crap has gone way too far. The Talmud says that men and women may touch in unavoidable situations or during goal-oriented tasks, such as passing plates around a table, doing the laundry, or moving furniture. Why can’t travel fall under the same category? After all, nobody goes on a plane just to sit there and do stuff for the rest of their lives; it’s a temporary situation, so open your book, crank some Miami Boys Choir up to full volume and suck it up. The fact that it’s almost Rosh Hashanah makes it even worse. It’s like, you want to get written in the Book of Life? Try acknowledging other human beings.

I actually have two personal stories about this. The first happened in Israel. I was flying back from Cyprus, and my then-girlfriend surprised me at the airport to accompany me back to Jerusalem in a sherut (shared taxi). The principle of the sherut, especially at Ben Gurion Airport, is that you hand the driver your suitcase and pile in, sitting wherever there is a seat. Not a hard concept. It was late at night, and in our sherut there happened to be, other than us and the driver, five others: an elderly couple, a secular Jewish guy, another guy, and a younger Haredi woman traveling alone, which is a rarity. There were plenty of seats in the van, so we clambered into the back row. The couple sat in two of the front seats, and the Haredi lady sat alone next to a window. The secular Jewish guy enters the van and sits right next to Haredi lady, who asks him to give her some space, because she’d rather not sit next to him. He moves, but as soon as we’re all packed in and the motor starts, he lets Haredi lady have it, laying into her for being a Haredi, always wanting her own way, not living in this century, having so many extra privileges for being religious, and so on. Keep in mind that it’s creeping close to midnight, and we’re all tired. Haredi lady says something back to him, and he keeps going. I can barely see her face in the moonlight, but she looks like she’s on the verge of tears, so the other guy and the elderly couple come to her rescue, while we watch bemusedly from the backseat. It basically lasts the whole ride back to J’lem, not letting up until he gets out. Thankfully, he’s the first stop. After he is off, she breathes a sigh of relief.

The second story happened at Kennedy Airport on New Year’s Eve. I was on my way to Vienna, Austria, to meet DAT for the Slovakia Winter Retreat and I was boarding the plane for the first leg of the trip: New York to Zurich, Switzerland on Swiss Air. Not a lot of people fly on NYE, which is fantastic, because there is plenty of leg room. It seemed like I was among the only American on the flight. Everyone else was either going back to Switzerland, a religious Jew connecting to Israel, or a brightly-clothed African who, as I later learned, were all connecting to Douala, Cameroon. I get to my seat, and there is a super-religious Israeli girl about my age sitting in the window seat of the row. In my pajama pants, Edward Gorey t-shirt, and bright green DAT headband, I look anything but Jewish. She very visibly rolls her eyes and starts chattering in Hebrew to her friend who is standing right there. I did not catch all of what she was saying, but she was mostly bitching about having to sit next to a boy the whole time and how much this flight was going to suck. All while I’m sitting right there, pretending to stare off into space but actually listening and understanding most of their conversation.

People are starting to settle into their seats, and a lovely flight attendant comes over to me and asks me for my meal preference. She then asks if the religious girl is also sitting in this row; by this point, she has gotten out of the seat and is standing in the aisle pouting. She then addresses her directly, that she needs to sit down so she can get her meal preference, and the girl either ignores her or does not understand her English. I whisper to the flight attendant that I can speak Hebrew, and I proceed to get Miss Orthodox Jewish Bitchface’s attention by locking eyes with her and saying in rapid and pretty-well-accented (if I say so myself) Hebrew something along the lines of:

“Listen, honey. This nice lady wants to know if you’re sitting here, so you can get the food you want.”

The religious girl doesn’t look so much surprised as she does disgusted that I’m even talking to her (in her own language!) and says something like:

“Maybe I’ll sit here, maybe I’ll sit over there with my friend, I don’t know, whatever.”

I translate this to the flight attendant, who tells me she needs the girl to sit down in a seat because we are preparing for takeoff and she needs to know what the hell this girl wants to eat. Just doing her job. I translate this into Hebrew and convey it to the religious girl, who walks off in a huff with her nose in the air. Turns out I will not be seeing her for the remainder of the flight.

I turn to the flight attendant:

“Yeah, so from the bitchy display we just saw, I take it she’s not going to be eating on this flight. And if she gets hungry, well, tough luck.”

I earn some brownie points with the flight attendant, whose life is made easier by drawing a line through the religious girl’s name on her list. I feel powerful, and a little bad that she won’t get any food, but frankly, with the way she talked about me in front of my face and how she brushed off both me and the flight attendant, she didn’t deserve the delicious hot rolls and free champagne. If you don’t want to cooperate with me, someone who is trying to help you potentially get the food that you want/need, fine. But don’t take it out on a lady who’s just doing her job.

People. Entitled people.

Anyway, gentlemen…you can always swim across.

***

Works Cited

Sullivan, Gail. “Ultra-Orthodox Jews delay El Al flight, refusing to sit near women.” Morning Mix. The Washington Post. 26 September 2014. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/09/26/ultra-orthodox-jews-delay-el-al-flight-refusing-to-sit-near-women/&gt;

5

Staycation, All I Ever Wanted

So, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed this morning and came across a link to this story about Zilla van den Born, a 25-year-old from the Netherlands, and her fantastic five-week adventure through Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos.

Except…she didn’t actually leave her apartment.

Well, a few times for photo opportunities, but in essence, she took a five-week staycation in her Amsterdam apartment, using the magic of Photoshop to tell her family, friends, and Facebook about her life-changing adventures in southeast Asia, with only her boyfriend in on it. Two days ago, she revealed that she’d been in town the whole time, and had used this as a sort of reverse-undercover mixed media project/social experiment to prove how social media impacts our lives, or in van den Born’s words, “…to show people that we filter and manipulate what we show on social media – we create an ideal world online which reality can no longer meet (Victor).”

More commentary on this subject after I finish my schoolwork.

***

Works Cited

Jones, Will. “Dutch Girl Fakes a Trip to South East Asia.” Gapyear.com 9 September 2014. <http://www.gapyear.com/news/230749/dutch-girl-fakes-a-trip-to-se-asia&gt;.

Victor, Anucyia. “What a scam!” Travel News. The Daily Mail Online. 9 September 2014. <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/travel_news/article-2749306/What-scam-Student-boasts-friends-trekking-Asia-visiting-stunning-beaches-tasting-local-cuisine-meeting-Buddhist-monks-using-FAKE-photos-taken-home-town.html&gt;

0

The Spelling Bee Sting

Tonight was the finals of the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee. I usually watch, but this year I forgot when it was supposed to be, and I happened to catch parts of it on TV over dinner at a cafe in Milwaukee. At least, until they changed the channel to basketball. After some geocaching, I filled my tank in West Allis and got back to Madison about an hour ago to discover that this year was a Spelling Bee first: co-winners.

The rules of the Spelling Bee state that if, after five rounds, the final two spellers do not misspell a word, co-winners are declared. This has only happened a few times in Spelling Bee history; the last time was in 1962. This year’s co-winners were Sriram Hathwar of Painted Post, New York, and Ansun Sujoe of Fort Worth, Texas. Even though the final-round words usually mystify me, I had actually heard of both the final words. Stichomythia (Sriram’s word, which I spelled correctly without looking up) is a word I use all the time that describes the back-and-forth dialogue that originated in Greek theatre, and Ansun’s word was feuilleton, a type of editorial.

My school never had spelling bees. We had the geography bee (more about that in a future entry) and the Bracha Bee (yeah…) but I only remember one spelling bee. It was among all the first grade classes. I entered first grade on a third grade reading level. I also had a knack for spelling, which was pretty much the only thing I had going for me, thanks to having a mother who was a schoolteacher and babysitters who taught me words with flash cards, and also just being kind of a weird kid, having taught myself to read at age 4. I wasn’t reading and spelling the same words as the rest of the class, so when the spelling bee was announced for the next week, I didn’t really think about it; actually, I don’t really remember how the news was broken to me, I think my teacher just said it in front of the whole class. It was something like,

“All the first graders will participate…”

::everyone looks at me::

“…except for Jacob. Because we all know that he’d win and nobody else would have a chance.”

For some reason, thinking about it makes me wonder why I wasn’t more upset about this. I guess I took it as a compliment, because I don’t remember my parents or my teacher telling me anything about being excluded.

But then…

“Jacob will be serving as a judge.”

YES.

Finally, I had the power over my classmates! No one could stop me. Bwahahahaha INVINCIBLE.

…except it was just a spelling bee. I got to define the words and make sentences when asked. Then someone won, and the prize was a piece of paper with an ice-cream scratch-n-sniff sticker on it. I got one too for being a judge.

That was the highlight of my elementary school career.

I had a sad childhood.

This was not a very interesting story.