Tag Archives: commentary

Support for a LEGO Wall

Recently, I saw a post on Facebook depicting President Trump building his proposed border wall from a box of Legos.  Other than a brief laugh, I scrolled down the page giving it little thought, but then it hit me like a Lego brick upside the head.  It could work!  Not only could it work, but a Lego wall would be a cost-effective way to get hog-tied American citizens and laughing Mexican leaders off the hook for funding the wall.  A Lego wall stretching the length of the border between the United States and Mexico would still be expensive, but the cost could be reduced drastically from billions to millions by taking advantage of America’s greatest untapped building material resource – old Lego sets and Lego pieces collecting dust under sofas and in toy closets in homes across America.     

Putting a plan to build a Lego wall in action would not be difficult.  Most American families would be overjoyed to donate their old Lego sets and partial sets that no longer interest their children or grandchildren to the wall.  A network of Lego Drop Boxes in malls, Walmart, churches, and government buildings could be set up across the nation to collect Lego pieces for The Great Wall of America.  Legos make sense as a money saver as well as a building material.  By using Legos – new or donated – to build the wall, money for mortar, adhesives, rivets, welding, etc. to hold the wall together would not be necessary since Legos interlock.  Donated Legos would be especially useful to the construction of the wall.  Used Legos not only interlock but are covered with a thin gooey film from sticky little fingers that once played with them.  Try prying apart two interlocked Legos sealed by peanut butter and jelly or banana pudding taffy?  It is almost impossible.  Nuking might do the job, but it’s doubtful.

Labor is the second area in which a Lego wall would save the country money.  Let’s assume every Congressman can assemble Legos (A stretch, but for now please humor me).  Why not put them to work building the Lego wall?  They receive a paycheck for doing little to nothing, so why not put them to work earning their pay for a change?  Of course, such a work force of limited skill sets and questionable work ethics would require constant supervision and mentoring, and that is where pre-school and kindergarten children come into play.  Children are Lego experts, and through their expertise and guidance, the construction of the wall would flow smoothly from beginning to end.  Now, before someone starts shouting about child labor violations, please, listen closely.  Under the Lego plan, communities would organize pre-school and kindergarten field trips to allow children to travel to the wall and spend a day eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, mentoring the Congressmen stacking Legos for the wall, and teaching them how to work and play nicely together.  If nothing else, children mentoring Congressmen on how to get along, share, and work together would be a patriotic service sorely needed in America. 

Finally, maintenance for the wall would be easier and cheaper if Legos were used.  Billions of dollars would be saved on maintenance since cumbersome and expensive steel and concrete would not be needed.  When a section of the Lego wall needed repairs, Congressmen would simply pop out the worn piece and fit a donated Lego piece in its place.  There would be no long delays waiting for replacement materials since America’s Donate a Lego campaign would produce an endless stream of Legos for repairs and additional tower construction.  This would especially be true in March and April when most children lose interest in the Legos they received for Christmas and put them aside.  That interest lull is the perfect time for patriotic parents and grandparents, tired of losing their religion and speaking in obscene tongues when they step on a Lego piece buried in the carpet, to scoop up all Legos laying around the house and drop them in the nearest Lego Drop Box.  The beauty of this process is it comes at no cost to the to the citizens of the United States or Mexico.

If you stop to think about it, a Lego wall makes as much sense as anything else happening in Washington these days, so why not give it a chance?  Who knows, it might give us a reason to smile, be nice to each other, and be proud of our country’s leadership once again.

JL

©Jack Linton, January 19, 2019

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New Year Resolutions: Fun or Serious

Making New Year resolutions is a time-honored tradition.  It is a time when many people jokingly make self-improvement goals they have no intention to honor.  Year after year, people from presidents to school teachers engage in making such resolutions in the name of harmless fun.  However, there are those of us who take such traditions seriously.  We would never think about lying, even in fun, about anything as serious as how we intend to face a new beginning.  No one is perfect in this world!  All of us have certain undesired traits and behaviors that could stand improvement, and as a Believer in the Sanctity of New Year Resolutions (BSNYR), I – along with mega tens of like believers – am thankful for the chance to address my shortcomings and improve as a human being.  Unfortunately, there are those who have no qualms wasting this valuable opportunity, and they readily show their irreverence for the occasion through their tongue-in-cheek approach.

The news media is a prime example!  They go out of their way to support the ridiculous and embrace the New Year with a facetious simplistic approach.  These perpetrators of fake news wallow in laughable self-indulging septic resolutions that cast a shadow over the first serious event/tradition of the new year.  Sadly, such a mindless jocular beginning sets the tone for the rest of the year.  The remaining 364 days never fully recover from the year’s raucous upside-down beginning.  As dubious as that may sound, the recurring lunacy that follows throughout the year – year after year – is a testament to what happens when people do not take their New Year resolutions to heart.

Therefore, please forgive me if I proclaim my resolutions with a bit more “ump” than the average Joe.  Resolutions are the yearly life blood that spurs me to continuous improvement as a human being, and folks I don’t take that lightly.  But, if your approach to New Year resolutions is little more than fun and games, I say kudos if that tickles your pickle, but for me, I choose to be a bit more impish in my annual reproach to the New Year.  However, regardless of where you stand on this issue, have a joyous and happy New Year, and above all, give your family a hug and a kiss.  That is truly the best way to start the New Year with or without resolutions!  

2019 New Year Resolutions:

1.     I will never walk when I can ride (It doesn’t make sense);

2.     I will buy new underwear (A year is about the limit for Fruit of the Loom);

3.     I will answer my cell phone when I can find it;

4.     I will go to the gym.  (I try to visit at least once a year);

5.     I will travel, travel, travel (Have I said it’s good to be retired);

6.     I will keep my opinions to myself about self-serving meathead politicians;

7.     I will give up uncooked bread and pasta;

8.     I will remember to zip my pants when I leave the restroom (At my age, there is little cause for alarm, but the draft is not good for old folks during flu season);

9.     I will be more assertive if no one is opposed;

10.  I will spend less time listening to FOX NEWS, CNN, FACEBOOK, CONSERVATIVES, LIBERALS, DEMOCRATS, REPUBLICANS, and CRACKPOTS IN GENERAL; and

11.  I will make breakable or adjustable New Year resolutions (It’s more truthful and less stressful).

This article has been approved by the 2019 Believers in the Sanctity of New Year Resolutions (BSNYR) membership board.  All lies and responsibility for belief, disbelief, offense, feelings of betrayal, shock, and repulsiveness in the content is a figment of the imagination and squarely rests on the shoulders of the believer, disbeliever, offended, betrayed, shocked, and repulsed. 

HAPPY NEW YEAR ya’ll!

JL

©Jack Linton, January 1, 2019

How to Deal with Harassing Phone Calls

One of the most annoying things about modern day life is the constant bombardment of unwanted calls to our cell and home telephones.  Telephone solicitors call day and night.  They have little, if any regard, for personal privacy, but in today’s world, that is not surprising.  Our lives are anything but private.  In fact, most of us are guilty of privacy suicide.  Daily, we toss intimate details about ourselves to the wind via social media windows such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  As a society, we readily lay our lives open to the world, so why should a few invasive telephone calls bother us?  It’s simple – it is one thing to open your front door of your own free will and invite someone inside, but it is entirely different when someone uninvited tries to slip in your backdoor by hook, crook, sham, or scam.  When the phone rings at 8:00 p.m. and it is John from The Save a Duck Foundation, how do we know John is who he says he is or if he is just another jerk trying to separate us from our hard-earned money?

On average, I receive at least ten to twelve unsolicited phone calls daily.  Callers have informed me my home computer is sending malicious code, I have been threatened the IRS will arrest me for delinquent taxes if I do not go immediately to my bank and forward money to the caller, callers have asked for donations for WOWA (Worn Out Wrestlers of America) as well as every other charitable organization known to mankind, and it doesn’t stop there!  I cannot count the number of unsolicited calls I have received for insurance, medical relief, political surveys, and save the squirrel campaigns.  It is mind boggling the schemes these modern-day bandits devise to get my personal information or inside my pocketbook.  I have placed my name on a “No Call” list more than once, but I have come to believe the service is little more than a cruel hoax.   It does not provide relief!  If anything, the harassing calls seem to increase after I place my name on the list, so what is the use!  As a result, like so many people, I am terrified to answer my phone for fear of another dip wad scam. sales pitch, petition for donations to help aging poodles, or a thinly veiled political survey.  However, lately, I have started answering my phone again, especially if I am in the mood for a little fun.  Believe me, there is fun to be had if you know how to deal with telephone solicitors.

What to do When a Marketer or Scam Artist Calls:

  1. Answer the phone and get sucked into the sales pitch or scam: If you are this gullible, you are probably the benefactor of millions of dollars that a Nigerian prince reserved in your name in a bank vault off the coast of a lost South Pacific island, and you are too busy counting your money to be concerned about harassing phone calls;
  2. Rip out all telephone landlines, and drown cell phones in the toilet: This is probably the best solution of all, but few people in today’s world can survive without a phone glued to their ear;
  3. Don’t answer: Not a bad idea but be sure to change your ringtones to something you can tolerate since whatever ringtone you choose will be perpetually ringing, singing, and hooting.  In a “no answer home,” earplugs should be mandatory for all family members;
  4. Pick up the ringing phone, and if you do not recognize the number hang up: There is a bit of satisfaction and pleasure in doing this, but it doesn’t seem to reduce the number of harassing calls at all.  If anything, now that the caller knows you are home, he often calls back within minutes.  Also, any time you answer and hang-up, your phone number is placed on a “This is a Live One” list for eternity;
  5. Pick up the phone and start breathing heavily, make clucking sounds, or yell, “Mom, we are out of toilet paper! This is the third time we have used this roll!”  The unwanted caller usually hangs up immediately, but if not, add, “Can you hold a moment while I wipe?”
  6. Answer the phone and have a little fun by wasting the caller’s time. [SEE conversations at end of blog]: This is one of my favorites.  It seems to slow down the number of harassing calls, but more important, it is heart warming to know you have wasted the time of a shameless phone solicitor.  I encourage everyone to tape a list of worthless questions to ask phone marketers to your landline or to the back of your cell phone.  The goal is to make the call as unpleasant and unproductive for the caller as possible.  Waste the caller’s time like he is wasting yours.  Strive to make the time-bandit hang up first, which he will most certainly do if you follow these three simple guidelines:  (1) Answer anything a phone marketer says with a question, (2) Never give a straight answer or confirm anything, and (3) interrupt the marketer every chance you get.  Follow these simple guidelines, and you will be amazed at how fast you begin to look forward to answering harassing phone calls, so you can harass the caller; and
  7. Always play by these five rules:
    • Do NOT play the caller’s game – control the conversation;
    • Do NOT cooperate with the caller.  Remember, the caller is not your friend;
    • Do NOT lose your temper or curse. Losing your temper and/or cursing does nothing but raise your blood pressure.  If you get so annoyed or frustrated you must curse, hang up – you have lost control of the game;
    • Remember, they called you – you did not call them!  Your space has been invaded to enable a stranger to make a buck off you or manipulate your time.  Time is money for these people, so waste as much of it as possible; and
    • Never agree to payments of any kind over the phone. With charities, you never know who you are talking to, so ask them to mail you information if you are interested.  If they are legit, they will do so.  Even if a solicitor and his cause sounds legit, the chances are good he is a fraud, so beware.

I hope you find a way to turn the tables on the phone pests.  Better yet, I hope you have a little fun at their expense.  You might as well since it is doubtful they are going away anytime soon.  Give them hell but be nice!

JL

©Jack Linton, August 18, 2018

 

The following conversations are examples of what a conversation with a phone solicitor might sound like if you decide to have some fun.  Ninety-percent of the times I engaged a phone solicitor in one these conversations, the caller hung up on me, and one-hundred percent of the time, I had a blast doing it:

CONVERSATION #1:           [Pretend you are a two-year-old, and ask “WHY?”]

Caller:             I call for Mr. Jack.

Me:                 This is he.

Caller:             Mr. Jack, can confirm you live at _________________?

Me:                 Why?

Caller:             Uh . . . Sir, I need confirm I talk to Mr. Jack.

Me:                 Why?

Caller:             Must confirm for security.

Me:                 Why?

Caller:             Both our security, Sir.

Me:                 Why?

Caller:             Must confirm. Law require.

Me:                 Why?

Caller:             Sir, must you say why?

Me:                 No.

Caller:             Thank you.  May we continue?

Me:                 Why?

Caller:             Uh . . . Sir, your computer send malicious signal.

Me:                 Why?

Caller:             Uh . . . uh . . . We identify malicious content.  If open computer and follow my instruction can correct problem.

Me:                 Why?

Caller:             Mr. Jack, you not cooperate?

Me:                 Why?

Caller:             Do you wish to speak to supervisor?

Me:                 Why?

Caller:             We may report to Microsoft authorities.

Me:                 Why?

Caller:             [muffled voices]

CLICK and dial tone  – YOU WIN!

 

CONVERSATION #2:           [Be uncooperative!]

Caller:             I call for Mr. Jack.

Me:                 This a Mr. Jack.

Caller:             Can confirm you live at _________________?

Me:                 No.

Caller:             Uh . . . Sir, I need confirm I talk to Mr. Jack.

Me:                 Who did you call?

Caller:             Mr. Jack.

Me:                 I answered, so you have confirmation.

Caller:             Uh . . . okay . . . Sir, your computer send malicious signal.

Me:                 Really!?  What kind of malicious signal?

Caller:             That why I call.  We identify malicious content.  Will correct if open                                         computer and follow instructions.

Me:                 I don’t have a computer.

Caller:             Uh . . . Yes Sir, you do.  We receive signal.

Me:                 Are you calling me a liar?

Caller:             No . . . no . . . I need fix computer.

Me:                 I don’t have a computer.

Caller:             You have computer.  We receive signal.

Me:                 You can’t.  I don’t have a computer.

Caller:             Sir, I try to help.

Me:                 If you want to help, hang up.

Caller:             First, we fix computer.

Me:                 I don’t have a computer.

Caller:             We get signal.

Me:                 Have you checked your computer?

Caller:             No.

Me:                 Maybe you should.  I don’t have a computer.

Caller:             Sir, would you like speak to supervisor?

Me:                 Yes, put him on.

Caller:             One moment please. [muffled voices]

                        CLICK and dial tone

[A couple of times a supervisor or someone playing the role of a supervisor has picked up the call]

Supervisor:     This is Bombo Ahlalli.  Mr. Jack, I understand you have problems.

Me:                    I don’t have problems.  You called me.

Supervisor:     Sir, your computer in violation of Microsoft policy.

Me:                    What policy is that?

Supervisor:     Policy against malicious virus or malware threats.

Me:                    Does that cover malicious phone calls as well?

Supervisor:     Sir, we are most legit.

Me:                    No, you are not.

Supervisor:     Yes, we are.

Me:                    Not.

Supervisor:     We are!

Me:                    Not.

Supervisor:     Why not cooperate?

Me:                    Why not hang up?

Supervisor:     Why not you hang up?

Me:                    You called me.  It would be rude if I hung up.

Supervisor:     Sir, you waste time.

Me:                   I am lonely.  I have plenty of time.

Supervisor:     [muffled voices]

Me:                   What would you like to talk about?  I have all day.

CLICK and dial tone   – YOU WIN!

 

PHONE CONVERSATION #3:        [Interrupt, Interrupt, Interrupt!]

Caller:             I call for Mr. Jack.

Me:                 This is he.

Caller:             Sir, I am . . . .

Me:                 I hate to interrupt, but how is the weather where you are?

Caller:             Sir?

Me:                 The weather.  It is hotter than Hades here.

Caller:             The weather hot here as well.  I would . . . .

Me:                 I feel your pain.  Have you seen any good movies lately?  That is a good way                          to stay out of the heat.

Caller:             No.  I call to . . . .

Me:                 I hate interrupting, but I am so glad you called.  My wife is shopping, and I                            don’t have a soul to talk to today.  I bet you make a million calls a day and                              don’t have that problem.

Caller:             Sir, may I say why call?

Me:                 You like harassing people.  That’s why you call.

Caller:             I no harass people.

Me:                 Is this the best job you can find?  I bet your mama is so proud.

Caller:             Sir?  [muffled voices]

Supervisor:     Mr. Jack, so sorry.  Our agent seems to have problem communicating.  We                           call about your computer?

Me:                   I bet you are calling on behalf of Microsoft?

Supervisor:     Yes, we . . . .

Me:                   I really appreciate the way you guys keep calling to remind me my                                          computer is doing awful things.  One of these days, I might have to take                                  you up on your offer, and I’d do it today, if I wasn’t so absolutely sure you                              are running a scam.

Supervisor:     This no scam.

Me:                    Sure, it is, and you should be ashamed.

Supervisor:     I may notify Microsoft authorities if no cooperation.

Me:                     Report away, but in the meantime, do you mind if we talk sports?  What                                do you know about sumo wrestling?

CLICK and dial tone – YOU WIN!

Choose a conversation and put it into action the next time you receive an unwanted telephone call.  It is time we start taking back our homes!

My Wife and I Shacked Up

This past week my wife and I did something we have never done – we shacked up!  We have been married forty-four years, so in a sense, we are old timer shacker uppers, but this time it was different.  We drove to North Mississippi and spent five nights at the Shack Up Inn located on the Hopson Plantation outside of Clarksdale on Highway 49.  The rustic stopover with authentic renovated tin roofed, rough wood-sided sharecropper houses as well as a cotton gin and grain bins reimagined and converted to overnight hotel apartments may not be for everyone, but it is certainly unique, and for us, a perfect getaway.  The whole complex is a historical marvel to behold, but at the same time, it is one of the most ironic places I have ever visited.  Over seventy-five years ago, families scrapping out a meager living farming another man’s land lived in these two maybe three-room shotgun style houses.  They spent their lives struggling, working from first light to sunset, to have a better life than living in a shack.  In contrast, today, people pay more money for a night’s stay in one of the shacks than most poor sharecroppers made in a year.  It is also sobering to think there are families across Mississippi still living in such poverty.

We stayed in the Crossroad Shack, relocated to the Inn from nearby Duncan, Mississippi.  The shack, although weathered and worn both inside and out was clean, warm on the cool nights we encountered, free of leaks from the rain that came later in the week, and peaceful and relaxing for a good night’s rest.  It would have been difficult to find a speck of paint anywhere, but it had all we needed for an enjoyable and comfortable stay.  The little two room building had indoor plumbing complete with a flushable toilet and hot water for a shower.  There was also a piano, a microwave oven, a coffee pot, a refrigerator, a gas wall heater, adequate lighting, and glory of glories NO TELEVISION!  The Internet was a bit sketchy, but that was okay.  Few people go to the Shack Up Inn to watch television or roam the Internet, but if that is your thing, some of the bins are equipped with television.  Like my wife and I, most people go to the Shack Up Inn to escape the everyday hustle of life, and relax away from Facebook, CNN, and Fox News.  The Inn is a place to put worries and trouble on hold and relax in a rocker on the screened back porch, read a book, take leisurely strolls around the grounds, and in the evenings kick back with a cold drink of choice and listen to the best Mississippi Blues you will find anywhere.  Of course, you can always jump in your car and head into Clarksdale to visit Ground Zero, The Blues Museum, Hambone’s, and Reds Lounge as well as many other local establishments and landmarks.  Despite being off the beaten path, there is no shortage of things to do at the Shack up Inn and in Clarksdale.

While at the Shack Up Inn, I attended a songwriting workshop I have been wanting to attend for some time.  Songwriting is a passion of mine regardless of success or lack of it, and by writing my own stuff, I don’t mess up anyone else’s music.  The workshop exceeded all expectations!  I have never been made to feel more at ease and appreciated in a workshop, and I have attended many.  Songwriters from all over the country were there, and I can truthfully say, I learned something from each of them.  If you are a songwriter or would like to be, and you are interested in learning the nuts and bolts of the songwriting craft, Ralph Carter’s “Songs at the Shacks” workshop is a no brainer.  However, don’t go if you are not serious about your craft!  You will work your butt off writing and performing, but by the end of the week, you will be thankful of the blessings that allowed you to attend.  I found the workshop well worth the money, time, and effort.  Thank you, Ralph, I can’t wait to be a part of another of your workshops.  I left the Shacks, tired, renewed, and for the first time ever with confidence I am headed in the right direction.  As an important bonus, the friendships made during the week were worth the price of admission alone.

To say, we had a wonderful week at the Shacks would be a huge understatement.  We had a super week!  How can shacking up with a beautiful woman, writing music, singing your songs, listening to great music, and being around friends be anything but fantastic?  We will certainly do it again soon, but for now it is back to writing songs, writing my blog, and writing short stories.  I hear a song, “Mama, Take Your Teeth Out,” calling.

JL

©Jack Linton, March 16, 2018

First Love

“I remember my first love,” the man said, closed his eyes and sighed deeply.  “She was as sweet as dew at first light.  I have never met another like her.”  He knelt before the altar and worshiped First Love.

For most people, first love is a careless delicious surplus of sugary puffs of nostalgia.  They swoon in memories of white lace, tender moonlight strolls, skin as soft as silk floating on feather down, and a touch so smooth and delicate it speaks of a refreshing summer lemonade or a delicate red wine with floral undertones.  Over time, first love has a way of growing into a whimsical dream-like longing that paints it as more than a simple charity of nature.  For many, it morphs into a cosmic life event colored by all that is innocent, sweet, and righteous in the world – a lavish desert and entitlement of youth.

If man could negotiate time and the universe in a single breath and look upon the original blueprints for his existence, he would find first love was a gift, a charity, orchestrated by gods with nothing better to do.  They were spirits with no motive other than creating a smile and a warm place in the heart, who, to this day, toast one another with each first kiss of starry eyed first loves.  We should also toast first love and fall in love over and over with the honey scented nostalgia that cloaks it.  Yet, unlike those candied memories, we must take care not to place our first love on a wistful pedestal like a trophy.

First love is not an altar to kneel before.  It is not a stuffed panda, or fine wine to share openly as a prize, but a keepsake to fold into your wallet for safe keeping for fear it might sour with overexposure.  Like a mother’s womb, it is not intended as a warm cubby hole to hibernate forever.  Its sole purpose is to prepare for what is to come – to open eyes to the truth that two are better than one.  First love is training wheels on your first bicycle; the first cross you bear; the first callous on your heart.

Sweet as cherry blossoms in spring as it may be, nuzzling the fuzz on that first peach is meant as a personal curio to be placed on a sheltered shelf out of the way when done.  After all, it is charity, a gift, not intended for flaunting.  Unfortunately, human nature does not always allow first love to be treated as such; it will not permit it to be dignified by fading softly until vanquished respectfully and honestly.  No, we dig up the bones, cover them with wisps of Camelot and roses, regurgitate a surreal fleeting experience that never was as we wish to remember it.

Those first palpable pricks of the heart linger in a shadowy recess of the brain reserved for what might have been, what never was, and what we wish, want, and believe to be.  Its memory is the byproduct of an underdeveloped flap of grey tissue that utilizes spotting sparks of corkscrewed energy spitting from a humping brain stem to fabricate superficial intrigue and horny syrupy sweetness for a fleeting delusional moment in our lives.  We hold to that moment with a fondness reserved for high school pranks and fetching our own switch for Mama to tan our backside.  Those good old days and memories we sweeten with saccharin.

That most people are indebted to a name they only speak in moral seriousness is without question.  That they are ensnared deep within a constantly gentrifying lair of sugarcoated indulgence of half-truths is also without question.  In the name of first love, they allow themselves to be imprisoned by plain prose exuding romantic mediocrity blinded by sunlight caught in crystal windows.   Their reason is intermittently waxed incomprehensible; they are blinded or at least enveloped by a fantasy shrouded in essentialist qualities of love – a fantasy inseparable from reality.

A charity of nature designed to unlock hearts and open souls to the beauty of the human bond, first love should be smiled upon and thought of tenderly for its intended good.  It should not be allowed to fester into a gauzy distraction or a model holding all future love accountable.  It was never intended to be idolized or placed on a pedestal that might bring the adoration of future love into question, nor was it ever intended as a gauge for future romantic relationships.  First love is a foyer to a greater room; it is simply the beginning of the grandest adventure of all – love.  It is practice for the real thing to come; it was never intended as a prototype of the real game.

JL

©Jack Linton, February 9, 2018

House Bill 957:  Same Song Different Verse

Does it ever end?  From Mississippi Senator Angela Hill’s bill to do away with the Mississippi Department of Education to Speaker of the House Phillip Gunn’s bill to bounce the MAEP education funding formula for a new less expensive formula, the assault on Mississippi Public Schools goes on, and on, and on.  Since 2013, to inform people of efforts in Jackson to weaken and dismantle public schools, I have written enough for a book on the plight of public education in Mississippi.  For those who have listened, I along with many others have written and warned about what is happening, and true to those warnings, the nightmares are becoming reality.  With little to no input from state educators, legislating and railroading changes to public schools that are not always in the best interests of children and teachers appear to be escalating.  In Mr. Gunn’s case, he has done everything from writing a new education funding formula to handpicking the man who could push his bill through the House to the Senate in record time.  Never mind the bill contains issues, and it is less than complete as acknowledged by the House Education Committee Chair.  According to state leadership, those are trivial things that can be worked out later.  Right, and we can believe teacher pay in Mississippi will be raised to the national average in the near future!  As for Mrs. Hill, buying into the reasoning behind her chaotic idea to do away with the Mississippi Department of Education makes about as much sense as conceding all government control to local independent fiefdoms, but maybe chaos is her end game – at least for public schools.

There is a little more rationality in Mr. Gunn’s proposal.  He argues the MAEP formula was written almost twenty years ago and has failed to keep up with classroom needs.  He is partially right.  MAEP became law in 1997, but what the public does not hear him say is the formula has failed to keep up with classroom needs because it has been fully funded only twice in those twenty years.  It is Phillip Gunn and his fellow legislators who have failed to meet the needs of the classroom – not the current funding formula!

Why should anyone with a lick of common sense believe a new formula will fare better?  Two maybe three years down the road, 2020 maybe 2021, we are likely to hear once again legislators cannot be held accountable to an education funding bill passed by a previous legislature – only then, they will be talking about the 2018 Legislature.  State legislators have successfully gone down that road before, so why should they stray from a proven path.  They won’t, especially when they have duped the public into believing public school educators are the bad guys and private and school choice hungry legislators are the saviors.

I do not suggest all legislators are at war against public schools; there are a few who stand by state educators.  Those few are the reason Richard Bennett, Republican Representative from Long Beach, was handpicked by Gunn as the new House Education Committee Chair.  As a colleague and friend, Gunn knew Bennett was not likely to be swayed to any degree by those few dissenting voices.  From day one, not only did Bennet blindly champion Gunn’s funding bill, he did all within his power to railroad the bill into law.  By his own admission, he has never read the MAEP formula, so he really doesn’t know if the new bill is better or not.  His job was to run Gunn’s bill through the motions and get it to the Senate quickly with as few questions as possible.

Thank goodness there were a few legislators in the House who asked, “Why the rush?” For Gunn and Bennet that was simple, push hard and fast, and don’t allow time for study and knowledgeable pushback that might delay the bill’s passage.  As Democratic Representative Jay Hughes of Oxford noted, the 354-page bill was filed Thursday, January 11; dropped to the House floor Tuesday, January 16; and passed on to the Senate Thursday, January 18.  In comparison to time frames legislators usually work under, that is a remarkable achievement.  Such swiftness and urgency are almost unheard of, especially with a funding bill that should be studied, discussed, and tweaked often prior to any vote.  Instead, Bennet asked the House to fast track the overhaul of the public school funding formula.  He told lawmakers they would have two years to work out any discrepancies or problems in the bill, so they shouldn’t worry about any issues – just pass it.  Does that mean once passed they can manipulate the law anyway they choose?  Of course, it does; they’ve been doing that for years.

This smells strangely of deeds that should be scraped from shoes before entering the house.  Why soil the carpet when it is simpler to clean the mess at the door?  For whatever reason, Mr. Bennett and Mr. Gunn have chosen not to do so, but Mr. Bennet has given his word they will clean up their act over the next two years.  He seems to think his word is good enough, but he has been in Jackson long enough to know better.  Teachers were given the word of state legislators in 1997, but legislators honored their word only twice over the next two decades.  Why should anyone who believes in and supports public education in this state believe Mr. Bennet now?  He is most likely an honorable man, but educators in this state have been bitten too many times in past years by legislators professing to be honorable men.  If you need a reminder of leadership ethics in Mississippi, think back to Initiative 42, and the boatload of mistruths used to confuse and divide the public’s support of public schools.

“We’re going to work through it,” Bennett said.  “This is not something cut in stone.”  Maybe so, but I for one will have to see it to believe it.  True, HB 957 may be an attempt by the legislature, as some have suggested, to apologize for years of inadequate funding and compromise with a formula that provides a watered down though more realistic funding formula in the eyes of legislators.  If that is so, House Bill 957 may be a bullet all educators have to bite and learn to live with at some point.  However, it does not make it easy when the process is surrounded by haste, isolation, and secrecy.  Trust means inclusion and respect, which is something public school educators have rarely received from state legislators.  It’s not easy to trust when educators have watched helplessly as other legislative promises that were cut in stone crumbled under them.

JL

©Jack Linton, January 20, 2018

My Top Five Christmas Movies

This Christmas season, I have watched a top twelve Christmas movie list on television, and read at least two other Christmas movie lists online.  There are probably a hundred or more Christmas movies to choose from when making such a list, but if you look closely, most of the lists contain the same twenty to twenty-five movies.  Usually, the only difference between list A, B, or C is how those 20+ movies are ranked.  However, my Christmas movie list is different in two ways: (1) it only lists the top five Christmas movies of all time, and (2) it is based entirely on my preferences and opinion.  If you agree with my top five movies, fantastic, and if not, it’s too cold to go jump in a lake, so instead, go watch your favorite movies and forget mine.  Here are my top five movies beginning with number five:

#5        How the Grinch Stole Christmas:

The story is about a green creepy/goofy looking monster who hates everybody including himself.  He sets out to steal Whoville’s Christmas, thinking by doing so, he will take their joy from them.  Of course, he is wrong.  His only salvation is Cindy Lou Who, who manages to thaw his cold heart and bring happiness to his dismal life.  As a child, I enjoyed the thirty-minute animated television special that aired at Christmas every year, but when Jim Carrey brought the Grinch to life on the big screen, I was amazed all over again.  The movie version with its occasional naughty innuendoes was made as much for adults as kids, and it succeeded on both fronts.  Jim Carrey’s over-the-top performance was fun to watch, and the visuals were stunning.  Simply put, the movie looked, acted, and felt like a holiday classic.  It did not disappoint.

#4        Elf:

I am not a big Will Ferrell fan, but his role as Buddy in Elf was exceptional.  I am not saying exceptional in an Academy Award sense, but extraordinarily fun and entertaining for kids and adults alike.   As a human raised by elves at the North Pole, the role of Buddy fit Ferrell like a glove.  His trademark off-the-cuff antics, which are sometimes hilarious, but often just miss the mark, were perfect for his role as a lovable human-elf in search of his identity.  His innocent childlike behavior in a world of Christmas commercialization was funny, charming, and magical.  Elf is a holiday classic that should be on everyone’s watch list.

#3        A Christmas Story:

One of my all-time favorite holiday movies is A Christmas Story!  The story, set in the 1940’s, centers around Ralphie and his quest for a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas.  Throughout the story, everyone he turns to for help to get the gun, even Santa Claus, tells him, “You’ll shoot your eye out.”  Based on a story by Jean Shepherd, the movie is a trip back in time before X-box, PlayStation, Star Wars, and cell phones.  It was a time when kids played outside, and watched Westerns on television where the good guys and buy guys fought for supremacy with six-guns and lever-action rifles instead of laser swords.  In A Christmas Story, Ralphie faces school bullies, learns the horrible truth about secret decoder rings, has his mouth washed out with soap for saying bad words he learned from his father, and through it all, never loses sight of his perfect Christmas gift.  This movie is a slice of life from a bygone era, but it contains everything that makes Christmas special – family, memories, and the spirit of being served Chinese duck for Christmas dinner.  The kids may not fully appreciate the significance of playing outside or getting “double dog dared,” but this is a Christmas movie the whole family should watch together.

#2        The Polar Express:

The number two movie on my Christmas Holiday list, The Polar Express, certainly deserves the honor.  The movie stars Tom Hanks and is filmed in “performance-action animation,” which results in a breathtaking movie spectacle.  Hanks and the visual beauty of the film are reasons enough to see it, but I simply love the story!  The story is about a young boy who is beginning to doubt there is a Santa Claus, and on Christmas Eve catches a mysterious train, The Polar Express, to the North Pole.  On the train, he meets other children like him, a sometimes-cranky conductor (Tom Hanks, who also plays several other roles in the movie), and a hobo.  One of the most visually impressive scenes in the movie (there are many) is the singing waiters.  The first time I saw the movie at home, I stopped the video at least three times to watch that scene again and again; it is simply amazing.  Although Santa Claus appears in the movie, the movie is not about Santa.  The Polar Express is about bravery, friendship, and the spirit of Christmas!  It is a classic that should be shared yearly as a family tradition.

#1        It’s a Wonderful Life:

The Christmas movie that tops almost everyone’s list is It’s a Wonderful Life starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed.  It is the perfect Christmas masterpiece for the holidays.  The story is about an ambitious young man who sacrifices his dreams to ensure the dreams of others.  Continually hounded by miserly Mr. Potter, George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) fights for the right of his neighbors to live a good life, and not struggle in the squalor of Potter’s tenant houses.  Unfortunately, life does not always treat even the best people fairly, and after a disastrous incident, George wishes he had never been born.  With the help of a guardian angel, George learns how his life has impacted the lives of people he loves, and they are not complete without him nor is he complete without them.  It’s a Wonderful Life has sacrifice, redemption, salvation, friendship, angels, and triumph over evil.  It is the root for the good guy, boo the bad guy, feel good movie of all time regardless of the season in which it is watched.  It is the movie that shows us how to get our wings.  It’s a Wonderful life is the epitome of the Christmas spirit; therefore, it is my number one Christmas movie of all time!

Whether you have a Christmas list of your own, or use one someone else has put together, the bottom line is grab someone you love or want to make friends with, and pop your favorite Christmas movie in the DVD and share the Christmas spirit.  I double dog dare you!

Merry Christmas,

JL

©Jack Linton, December 22, 2017