How Does One Say “87th Precinct” in Korean?

I’ve read one of “James Church’s” Inspector O novels, police procedurals set in Pyongyang, and mean to read another, which is sitting in my office. But it’s hard to top this hour-long film. Ladies and gents, a NorK cop movie, A Traffic Controller on Crossroads.

UPDATE: Almost forgot! A tip of the Mondo Mortarboard to the HQ.

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Reading on Target

Although I’m not a big fan of the First Lady (who was not elected Guardian of the Groceries as far as I can recall, but seems determined to play the part), I want to give her the benefit of the doubt, as I would most people. I don’t want to be an outrage junkie — my hands get tired of pressing the “eleventy” keys all the time.

But I’m somewhat bemused by a passage from an interview Mrs. Obama did with People Magazine. The ostensible topic of the interview, summed up in the headline, is “How We Deal With Our Own Racist Experiences.” One example she offers is the following:

“I tell this story – I mean, even as the first lady – during that wonderfully publicized trip I took to Target, not highly disguised, the only person who came up to me in the store was a woman who asked me to help her take something off a shelf. Because she didn’t see me as the first lady, she saw me as someone who could help her. Those kinds of things happen in life. So it isn’t anything new.”

At this point, I think there are several ways in which the incident might be taken, most of which don’t seem offensive (Yeah, yeah, privilege… blow it out your ear.) For example, perhaps the reason people weren’t clustering to her was because she’s the First Lady and surrounded by bodyguards. For that matter, did Mrs. Obama want people to come up to her? She said the trip was publicized and she wasn’t disguised, which seems to be the sort of thing one classes as a public appearance by a public figure. So is the offensive thing that no one else approached her?

Or was the offensive thing the fact that someone asked her to help them with an item? That happens to me fairly often, because I’m 6′ 4″. Mrs. Obama is listed at 5′ 11″, which doesn’t make her a human cherry-picker, but does put her within reach of some tall shelves. For that matter, I’ve had folks ask to help them get stuff into their cars before. I was glad to help.

Indeed, a reasonable reading of the incident might have been that the person who wanted help thought Mrs. Obama looked kind and trustworthy enough to help a stranger in need. Taken that way, the incident could have been viewed as a compliment: “[S]he didn’t see me as the first lady, she saw me as someone who could help her.” Quelle horreur!

But instead, this is somehow indicative of the vile racism directed at the First Family. I guess people see what they want to see. But I’m heading to Real City in a few minutes to do some research at Flagship. And if you see me there and need help reaching something on a high shelf — I’ll help if I can.

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It’s About (Keeping) Time

I’ve groused about the general lameness of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the past, and still can’t figure out how Tom Petty got in there while progressive rock and metal remain seriously underrepresented, but I have to give credit where it’s due.

I heard today that Lou Reed and Joan Jett are part of the incoming class, and I’m okay with both of those — in fact, I’m surprised Lou wasn’t put in there during his lifetime. The inclusion of the Butterfield Blues Band and SRV are also both well deserved, and I’m glad the 5 Royales made it as an early influence (and a group with a tie to King Records, back in my old Cincinnati stomping grounds.) Green Day’s inclusion? Well, I would have preferred the Dickies, but that’s just me, I guess.

But of course, the one that delights me is the addition of Ringo Starr, who finally catches up to his three bandmates, all of whom had been inducted as solo artists in previous years. When I started to play drums, many years ago, Ringo was the only drummer who really mattered to me. I soaked up his grooves and approach as I learned to play, and I still describe my playing as “Ringo with a bigger kit”.

I may have mentioned in the past that the nicest thing I’ve ever heard about my drumming came from a guitarist who said that when I play, he could be lazy, because he could just feel where he was in the song by listening to what I was playing. That’s the difference between being a chopmeister (which I’m not) and a musician (which I try to be), and that’s Ringo’s genius.

But for many years, I had to defend Ringo’s importance as a musician to a lot of people. Interestingly, not many of those people were musicians themselves — generally, they got it, and still get it. I’m glad to see the rest of the world is catching up.

Congratulations, Ringo — it was long overdue. And to the Hall of Fame voters, it was about time. Now, how about Paul Revere & the Raiders, Yes, King Crimson, and Motorhead for next year?

Posted in Culture, Music, Why I Do What I Do | 6 Comments

Sunday Potpourri

Yesterday started early, as the Spawn was having another go at the ACT in an effort to boost her scholarship chances. I fixed her breakfast and did chauffeur duties, and she said later that she thought she did pretty well on most of it, although the science section was a bit rough. We shall see.

Then my colleagues and I launched another set of Mondoville kids (including an English major) into the world yesterday afternoon. It was a lovely day for it, sunny and bright, with a high in the 60s. Afterward, I watched the men’s and women’s basketball teams vanquish their opposition, with the men improving to 9-0 by defeating Mrs. M’s grad institution for the second time this season. As most of the kids were gone, the crowd was somewhat sparse, but that worked to my advantage, as I won a pizza and a Mondoville College prize pack in a couple of contests. I shared the pizza with a few of my friends, and walked home after a long, but satisfying day.

***

I gave a couple of finals this week, and while the kids were working, I wrote a 2,000-word short story. I sent it off to Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and expect my rejection slip any day now. Meanwhile, I showed my novel-in-lack-of-progress to a friend of mine to see if he had any thoughts on it. He actually seemed to think it was pretty good, and while I was thinking about abandoning it, I’ll just return to feeling guilty about it. Ah, the writing life!

***

With a touch of sadness, I’ve had to retire my Samuel Johnson T-shirt, or at least wear it only when I’m not leaving the house. The good news is that a fresh one is now on its way for Christmas. The Great Cham will remain part of my wardrobe.

***

After several months, Clan Mondo now has a contract on Spackle Manor, and we’re hoping to close on the transaction before year’s end. It’s a little bittersweet — as I said, I lived in that house longer than I have anywhere else, but we’re happy to be in the Mid-Century Mondohaus, and as Mrs. M says (using a term I frequently hear applied to stray animals), this looks like our “forever home.” I’m good with that.

***

And for a musical selection, a bit of lovely contemporary jangle. I’ve previously mentioned Austin’s Ugly Beats, whose “Harm’s Way” inspired me to imagine a 60s teen melodrama. Ugly Beats guitarist Joe Emery happens to play bass in another combo working that side of the street, The Soulphonics (not to be confused with Ruby Velle‘s Atlanta-based backing group.) So from Austin‘s Soulphonics, here’s a cut from their album that came out last month, “Brave New Girl.”

May the rest of your weekend go well.

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Speaking of Sports at Fictional Schools…

… the Milford Mudlarks defeated the Popes of Pius XI High School, bringing Gil Thorp his first state championship after 56 years. This may not be as momentous as Charlie Brown’s team winning a baseball game, but for those of us who follow the adventures of the coach with a Simonized hairstyle (predating Jimmy Johnson), it’s a big moment.

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Feeding Saints to the Wolves

Having concluded Gradeapalooza yesterday, I decided to treat myself to a college basketball game. The Mighty Men of Mondoville (currently rated in the top 25 in a couple of national polls) were facing… well, it’s kind of hard to say.

The opponent was College of Faith — Charlotte, and this is where things get bizarre. The “College” is an unaccredited institution that seems affiliated with the equally unaccredited University of Faith in St. Petersburg, FL, both of which appear to be branches of the College of Faith in West Memphis, AR, which was founded by Memphis street preacher Sherwyn Thomas. The curriculum seems to consist of online “lessons” about the Bible, and results in “degrees” in Ministry and Sports Ministry. For this, the students at the Charlotte branch pay six grand per year, or $1000 per course. The Tampa Bay Times reports, from an interview with UoF head football coach and president Anthony Givins:

A little over a year ago, Givins said, he was on the phone with a self-identified street preacher from Memphis, and “he said, ‘Coach, get to a fax machine! The University of Faith has arrived!’ And I said, ‘Wow, I got my own college!’

[…]

Anthony Givins, 46, is best known in St. Petersburg as the little brother of Ernest Givins, who played wide receiver in the NFL for 10 years, mostly for the Houston Oilers, and is one of the finest athletes ever to come from the city. The younger Givins wanted to be a professional athlete, too, but he was a reserve running back at a junior college in Oklahoma before graduating with a bachelor’s in physical education from Midland Lutheran College in Nebraska. Then he wanted to be a head coach for a high school football team so he eventually could become a head coach in college. As an assistant coach at Gibbs High School, he applied to be the head coach at Pinellas Park in 2006, at Gibbs in 2007, at Lakewood in 2008, and at Gibbs again in 2009 and 2011. “No respect,” he said.

He is a longtime local gym teacher and an occasional driver’s ed instructor who is an incorrigible speeder. He has filed for bankruptcy. Last fall, while working at Gibbs, he rented a car for Homecoming weekend for two students — he says it was for one of their parents — but the students got pulled over and arrested for having marijuana and no driver’s licenses. School officials said Givins gave them “multiple versions” of the incident and suspended him for three days without pay. Now he teaches gym and driver’s ed at a school in Pinellas Park that specializes in students with behavioral challenges. But in the afternoons and evenings, and on Saturdays, he is the head football coach for the University of Faith Glory Eagles. And his NFL older brother is one of his assistants.

The College has no academic buildings, residence halls, or other facilities. From an NPR report by Michael Tomsic:

What College of Faith Charlotte has is about 60 students, mostly athletes. The closest thing it has to a campus is a small room in a rundown church. Students plop their football pads in a corner when they come here to go over Bible lessons and game tape. The games can be tough to watch. The football team hasn’t scored a single point against another four-year college. It was held to negative 100 total yards in a game this season, an NCAA record. The coach created the school last year. Richardson has worked at high schools in Charlotte and wanted to help young men improve their lives. College of Faith offers online degrees in ministry and sports management. It’s an outgrowth of another College of Faith, an online school in Arkansas, created by Sherwyn Thomas.

[…] Thomas helps creates the online Bible classes, and the schools operate independently. There’s another one in Florida. The degrees are not accredited. College of Faith Charlotte has a religious exemption that allows it to operate without a state license.

The College is somewhat up front about this last part. On the home page, which is long on clip art and the Courier New font, we are informed:

Degree programs of study offered by College of Faith have been declared by the appropriate state authority exempt from the requirements for licensure under provisions of North Carolina General Statutes Section (G.S.) 116-15(d) for exemption from licensure with respect to religious education. Exemption from licensure is not based upon any assessment of program quality under established licensing standards.

Sounds impressive, huh?

But CoFC does have athletic programs. It is best known for its football team, which after two years has yet to score against a four-year college. It also claims membership in the “Bible Belt Conference”, but I can’t find any references to such an athletic conference. It is recruiting a baseball team and cheerleaders. And it has a basketball team, of sorts, and that’s who I saw last night.

There were ten players listed on the roster. Seven showed up, and one (who I know only as Number 13) wasn’t actually listed on that roster. They had no listed home towns — apparently, CoFC is like the Foreign Legion or the Old West — they don’t want to know who you were back in the States. The coach (whose name I never caught) wore a striped dress shirt over a black undershirt, with dark slacks and a wide, white belt, and he chewed a toothpick impassively throughout the game, occasionally calling out plays.

Not that it mattered. CoFC has yet to win a game this season, having been blown out every time. Last night was no exception, as Mondoville cruised to a forty-point win, but only because we slowed things down for the final five minutes. The mysterious Number 13 looked like their best player, but basically, we were watching the small-college version of the Washington Generals. It was bad enough that I didn’t even feel the desire to heckle. I just kind of hoped they had someplace to sleep when they got back to Charlotte.

And that seems to be their gig — along with selling bogus degrees, of course. The various institutions “of Faith” send their sports teams around to get clobbered, in exchange for which, the institution gets a paycheck. They’re called “guarantee games”, and at the higher levels of college sports, the paycheck can be pretty big — six figures or so. One of Mondoville’s old rivals supports its athletic programs that way, serving as a punching bag for big schools.

But of course, I wondered about the kids, who were (I assume) paying to go get pummeled in tiny gyms across the South. And in turn, this led mt to think of the kids at CoFC and its higher-profile brethren at various for-profit institutions across the country, who are also paying for a worthless degree (if they finish) and a chance to get pummeled by the outside world after they’re done. After a bit, the pathos was overwhelming.

On the way out, I saw Mondoville’s athletic director. I asked him when we were going to get a game against Strayer ot ITT Tech, both of which may well be more legit than CoFC. For that matter, my Master’s institution played for-profit, primarily online (but accredited) Grand Canyon U earlier this season.

So maybe all we’re doing is dickering about price, as the joke goes. Still, as someone who has said for years that I’m “in the education racket”, I hate to think that I may be closer to the truth sometimes than I mean to be.

Addendum: The CoFC logo looks like this:

CoFC

The Facebook page for their athletic programs adds the following:

COLLEGE OF FAITH SAINTS LOGO
Color Orange-Stands for Hope
Color Green-Stands for Prosperity & the Will to make your life better.
The hooded Saint-Remembering Trayvon Martin and others that die for who they are.
God Bless our children[.]

Make of all this what you will.

Posted in Culture, Education, Faith | 2 Comments

Point? What Point?

Serhat Tanyolacar is a visiting professor and artist at the U of Iowa. On 5 December, he installed his latest work in a campus free speech area (a term, let us recall, that should appall folks in the academy). The work was a seven-foot sculpture of a Klansman, “decoupaged in newspaper coverage of racial tension and violence throughout the past 100 years.” The intention was to provoke consideration of the ongoing history of race relations in America, the artist told the campus newspaper. Not precisely original, but that may be too much to ask from artists in academia these days.

(As a side note, one wonders why Mr. Tanyolacar, originally from Turkey, didn’t do a figure of, say, a fleeing Armenian, but hey… I can make my own sculpture, I guess.)

However, Mr. Tanyolacar forgot that in the current climate, any work more subtle than this isn’t going to go over too well. Indeed, noted bastion of reasoned discourse Alternet headlined a story about the piece:

University of Iowa Students Wake Up to Threatening KKK Art Piece

So.

As Reason reports:

After several hours, UI officials decided that the display was “deeply offensive” and needed to be removed. “The University of Iowa considers all forms of racism abhorrent and is deeply committed to the principles of inclusion and acceptance,” a school memo said, referring to the statue as a form of hate speech.

Inclusion! Acceptance! Get rid of sculpture that confuses us and frightens us in our confusion! Its very existence is a threat! A threat of, well, something threatening. Especially if we don’t think about what it might mean. Acceptance! Inclusion! Eleventy!!!

Likewise:

Tweeting under the hashtag #BlackHawkeyes, UI students and others have been blasting Tanyolacar’s sculpture and the university for initially allowing it. “This person was willing to sacrifice the mental health of all the Black students here for his own gain,”read one such tweet. Yes, his own gain like making a statement about the ongoing terror of racism-based violence.

Yep — apparently all (EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM) Black Students at a major research university are so emotionally fragile that a statue jeopardizes their very mental stability. Quick! Someone send them to Harvard Law!

Apparently bucking for the position of Pitchfork Distributor for the confused and threatened mob, David Ryfe, the director of the University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, demonstrates that he knows something about censorship — namely, that he’s for it:

“If it was up to me, and me alone,” he told The Daily Iowan, “I would follow the lead of every European nation and ban this type of speech.”

Thank God it isn’t, sir. Another fine example of ducking and covering comes from Nic Arp, the U’s spin doctor director of strategic communications, who originally described the sculpture as “public art” in a tweet. But while that had the virtue of truth, such statements are apparently out of place on a University campus, and Arp retracted his statement and denounced himself for doubleplusungoodthink.

Man, semester break can’t come soon enough.

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