Month: June 2014

Michael Keaton vs. Christian Bale

I have a good friend from high school who co-hosts a fun radio show out of Cleveland, Tennessee, with his long-time friend, Rob Alderman, Slinky’s lovely wife, AMC Mike, and an occasional assist from the Ken Dog. My friend’s radio code name is the Hollywood Slinky, and their show about movies and pop culture is called Lights, Camera, Cleveland. The show runs on Mondays on WOOP FM 99.9 at 6:00-8:00 p.m. EST (That’s tonight at 5:00 for my Chicagoan readers). They have interesting and goofy radio conversations that range from the nuances of Star Wars vs. Star Trek fandom to “How to Be a Good Parent by using How to Train Your Dragon.”

My friend, the Hollywood Slinky, tends to be a harsh critic from time to time. Here’s a snippet of an exchange—what Rob called straight talk—from a couple of weeks ago on the radio:

Rob Alderman: You [Hollywood Slinky] let the fans of people [film creators] dictate whether you like those people…I don’t think he likes to be at the whim of groups of people.

AMC Mike: Hollywood Slinky is like an old, grumpy man who just wants to yell at any fandom to get off his lawn…he’s just like, “get off my lawn, you young, happy people who like things!!”

Ken Dog: There was a look in your eye that said, to me, Slinky, that said to me, “She’s not wrong. That’s not completely false, inaccurate.”

Hollywood Slinky: I will be the first to agree with you in that, um, fandom that has become so obsessed that they are unable to see the flaws in the thing that they are fans of…is something that really grates on my nerves…it is something that absolutely drives me nuts.

Hollywood Slinky reads my blog from time to time, and he has suggested to me that I need to write more fun things. He occasionally provides suggestions about pop culture upon which to write…requests, if you will. Recently, after a boring political article about Rand Paul was published, he wrote to me, “Tomorrow’s blog should be an examination of which actor, of all actors who have done so, played the best Batman/Bruce Wayne.”

Okay. I’ll bite.

First, we have to winnow down the contenders for best Batman. I think it’s safe to say that Val Kilmer and George Clooney are disqualified; I suspect there will be no Joel Schumacher fans writing me letters of protest. Campy Adam West was more concerned with establishing Adam West as a brand name than Batman. We should stick with the live-action actors of Batman, as the plethora of animated renditions are well-wrought, but we’d be here for a while if we included all the voice actors and animators who colluded to put together the beloved animated DC character…and we’ll have to wait and see how Ben Affleck fares in the latest on-screen portrayal.

So that leaves us with two worthy contenders: Michael Keaton from Tim Burton’s Batman films and Christian Bale from Christopher Nolan’s latest Batman trilogy. We should examine the greater films first before we make a judgment on either actor.

Tim Burton’s two films, Batman and Batman Returns, are staples of my teen/early adult viewing library. 1989’s Batman is one of those films that I can watch blind-folded and still visualize the cinematography as I recite the lines one-by-one. Burton’s vision for Batman was the unique blend of colorful campiness and gruesome psychosis that satisfied this long-time reader of the Dark Knight. Tim Burton was the perfect director for the film, even if it is a bit commercialized…once Burton might have been more of a reclusive, withdrawn creator, but he has mostly abated himself of that character trait. Jack Nicholson was sublime as the Joker, and his performance still holds up to scrutiny (even if I prefer Heath Ledger’s portrayal more…however, we’re not having that debate here). I’ve re-watched the film, and like so many films I enjoyed as a youth to which I return, I spot quite a few more flaws than I remembered as a kid…

…which is strange because, as a kid, I wasn’t as impressed with Batman Returns when I first watched it….and I saw it in the theater in 1992 with the Hollywood Slinky, the past and future film critic! Upon repeated viewings, I have to state that I actually prefer Batman Returns to Burton’s original Batman. We get to see a more introspective Bruce Wayne and the dichotomy that Batman presents, reflected off the dual personas of Catwoman and Selina Kyle, played spectacularly by Michelle Pfeiffer. Batman Returns might be responsible for the established trend of cramming multiple supervillians into a superhero movie because it does so quite well. Danny Devito’s Penguin is appropriately despicable and cringeworthy…and Christopher Walken ends up being one of the greatest villians within Batman’s film mythos as Max Schrek (for younger film enthusiasts, please watch the Deerslayer for war film perfection…or if you prefer a more juvenile Christopher Walken, watch Disney’s The Country Bears to see Walken play Reed Thimple, a villain who prominently plays a mean armpit instrument…that’s right, you can see Christopher Walken making armpit farts on screen.).

What’s important for this debate is Michael Keaton’s portrayal of Bruce Wayne in Batman Returns. While his role in the original Batman is overshadowed by Nicholson’s Joker, Keaton shines in his rendition of Batman in the sequel. The chemistry between Keaton’s Bruce Wayne and Pfeiffer’s Selina Kyle is magnificent and successfully shows the flawed character of Wayne and the inner mania that compels Bruce Wayne to play the role of the Bat. (A flaw of the original is that Kim Basinger never matches Michelle Pfeiffer’s intensity as Vicki Vale, who comes off more as a scream queen than successful foil). Michael Keaton’s acting in Batman Returns makes him a strong contender for best onscreen portrayal of Batman.

As for Christian Bale’s take on Bruce Wayne, I need to confess about Christopher Nolan first. I like Christopher Nolan for attempting unique stories on film. Memento is a wonderful experiment of time manipulation and film noir, and Inception is one of my favorite recent sci-fi films for its unique premise…but Nolan films can be a bit heavy-handed and thick with superfluous dialogue…and this is especially true with the Batman trilogy of films. I liked them all, but I didn’t love them. In fact, the best thing about the trilogy was ultimately Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker. I find myself gravitating towards watching The Dark Knight film mostly, and I fast-forward to the scenes with Ledger’s Joker most of the time. The rest of the trilogy is just too slow and wordy. It takes too long in all three films to reach their climactic ends, and the only satisfying conclusion can be found in the Dark Knight. These films do a good job of taking the superhero universe of Batman and putting a realistic setting on film, but the establishment of characters is fraught with unnecessary extension and awkward plot elements.

Christian Bale is a wonderful actor (The Machinist!), and he admittedly performs a convincing Bruce Wayne/Batman on screen. However, it’s my preference for the Tim Burton films that ultimately makes my final decision for the best Bruce Wayne as Michael Keaton. It’s not by a landslide, but Keaton has a couple of lengths on Bale in this race.

My correspondence with the Hollywood Slinky continued after his initial request:

Hollywood Slinky: Tomorrow’s blog should be an examination of which actor, of all actors who have done so, played the best Batman/Bruce Wayne.

Maniacal Professor: That’s easy. Michael Keaton.

Hollywood Slinky: Sometimes you surprise me, old man.

I’m going to assume that Hollywood Slinky’s closing comment is the equivalent of a grumpy, old man telling his grumpy, old neighbor, “Your lawn looks okay, but make sure you keep it nice and trim like my lawn,” as he shakes his fist at me.

{Be sure to check out Lights, Camera, Cleveland on WOOP FM on Monday nights at 6:00 pm EST!)

If you appreciated this writing and want to help support the continuation of this blog, please consider sending a donation to:

Scott C. Guffey
P.O. Box 53
Michigan City, IN 46360

For a full explanation of author impetus, blog mission statement, and donations appeal, click About.}

Trying to Get the Girl

I’m sitting here staring at the old Zip corner store thinking about going in. My ’85 Chevy Cavalier is parked in the store’s parking lot with the engine still running, just in case I change my mind. I sit in the passenger seat playing with the keys dangling from the ignition and contemplate what I want to do. I’ve only had this car about a week, and the courage it gave me is starting to fade away fast. I’d better make my move today or this opportunity may pass altogether.

I turn the key to the off position, and the engine rattles to a halt. My father didn’t think it was a wise purchase. It only cost me 700 dollars, but it runs and there isn’t a lot of rust on the body. I know I’m going to need wheels if I’m going to start dating. Every high school student knows that. So, I spent the cash I had saved up from delivering papers and got the car. All my Dad had to say was you get what you pay for. As if I could afford anything better.

I turn the overhead lights on. I run my hand over the molded plastic dashboard to check for dust and touch the blackened Chevrolet emblem above the glove compartment. I tried to buff the emblem, but the silver just rubbed off more, so I had to leave that alone. I check the passenger seat next to me to make sure there isn’t any offending crumbs or dirt I missed. It’s still clean, and so is the floor mat on that side. I notice some pebbles that must have fallen from my shoes on the driver floor mat. I pick them up and fling them out the open window. I let the smell of a newly detailed car enter into my nose, turn off the overhead light, and allow my gaze to fall back to the front door of the store.

The bright orange “Hi, we are open” sign is displayed in the front door, but she’ll probably close up the shop in a couple of minutes. I check the clock on the dashboard and it reads 9:47. Closing time in about 13 minutes, but what if her clock is late? It could be less than that. I grope around the door for a couple of seconds looking for the handle, and push the door open when I find it.

I stand outside my car leaning on the open door for a moment and let the brisk autumn air numb my fingers and nose. I wonder what she’ll say. She always seems nice enough when I talk to her in class. She isn’t overly attractive or stuck up, and I don’t necessarily run with the nerd crowd at school. She should make an adequate choice for a first date. If she’ll allow me, that is.

I’m kidding myself. I’ve had my eye on her since middle school. I’ve never had the courage to talk to her for more than two minutes at a stretch. For that matter, I’ve never had the nerve to talk to any girl for longer than that. These butterflies are churning up a storm in my belly. I think the easiest thing to do would be to slide back into the driver’s seat, turn on the car, and head back home to do the homework I’m supposed to be taking care of at this very moment.

I need to get a grip here. I went to great lengths to ensure this moment takes place. I overheard her talk about her job many times in Spanish class. I’ve been here before when she’s working. I know she works here on Tuesday nights. I want to ask her out here at the store, so I don’t need to humiliate myself at school in front of the hundreds of other girls who spurn my advances. I bought a car to ensure that we could enjoy a proper date by ourselves without obnoxious chaperones to nose in on our activity. I’m cool, I’m hip, and I’m not too harsh on the eyes, if I do say so myself. If only I could convince my feet to start walking, this would be a cinch.

I take a deep breath and slam the car door shut. I push my way to the front door of the store. The metal handle feels slick in my hand. I swallow a particularly large lump that’s sitting in my throat. I need to open the door slowly, calmly. I can’t appear overeager. And don’t try to make eye contact right away. I’ve got to make this seem like a coincidental meeting. I open the door, perhaps a little too quickly.

I enter the store and focus my eyes on the white, marble tiles on the floor. I take a few more steps into the store and allow my eyes to fixate on a tabloid magazine rack next to the front counter, which she’s probably sitting behind. I stand still and try to comprehend some of the covers on the magazines, but my head feels thick, like my thoughts are straining out like pea soup through a sieve. I walk to the back of the store to clear my thoughts.

I open the glass door to the refrigerated section and grab a Diet Coke. I hold it open and pretend to survey my choices, thankful of any extra time I can garner. The chill from inside reminds me of being back outside in my new car. All I have to do is put the Coke bottle back and make a beeline back out the way I came. I begin to feel the red-hot gaze of questioning eyes pierce my back. Slowly, I turn my head to see if she’s watching, but no one is behind the counter.

I turn all the way around to confirm my glance. She’s not there. As a matter of fact, there’s nobody else in the store. With my soda still in hand, I walk across the back to check all of the aisles for her. Maybe I missed her pricing some items in my rush to get to the back. But nobody’s there. Maybe she’s in the washroom.

I walk to the front of the store through the aisle closest to the front door. I glance at the door and wonder if maybe I should just go to my car and wait a couple of minutes. I look down at the plastic bottle in my hand. I’d have to put it back first. That would just be silly. I could just sit at the counter and wait for her to come out. I slink up to the counter and place the Diet Coke on the counter.

I survey the gum and candy racks across the counter. I place my sweating hands in my pockets and turn to watch the hot dogs rotating on the heat racks. I remove one of my hands and try to casually place it next to the soda on the counter. I check the two doors on the wall behind the counter and wonder which one she’ll come out of. I remove both my hands from my pockets and run them through my hair. I glance at the front door to see if anyone else is coming in. Nobody’s coming. I stroll away from the counter back into one of the aisles and pretend to be interested in their selection of Campbell’s soups.

“Excuse me. Can I help you?” a gruff voice speaks from behind the counter.

I turn, surprised, to see a large man exit from one of the doors back behind the counter. I have never seen this man before. His t-shirt is ripped and has a Led Zeppelin logo. His long beard and bandana tell me he must think he’s a biker. Whatever he thinks he is, he’s bad news.

“Isn’t there supposed to be a girl here tonight?” I reply to his question. A wave of courage overtakes me. I reach for a large can of New England clam chowder soup and survey the nutritional information.

“Not tonight,” the biker replies. He gestures toward the Coke on the counter. “Is this yours?”

“Yeah,” I say coolly.

“Well, come on and buy it then.” The biker seems a little hostile. “I haven’t got all night.”

“I’ll be there when I get there.” I figure I’ll egg him on a little.

“Look, punk, either buy your stinking pop or get the hell out of the store!”

I turn from the soup display and face this villainous biker. I square my shoulders and look the man dead in the eyes. I narrow my eyes and pull my lips up to a snare to let him know I mean business. With my soup can hanging at my side, I take one full step towards this man who outweighs me by at least a hundred pounds. I don’t let his size intimidate me and take another bold step toward the counter.

“Sir, I believe there was supposed to be a young girl here tonight. And I do believe that you may know where she is.” I’m tough as nails and twice as mean. “So you better tell me what’s going on. Right now.”

The biker appears somewhat rattled. I spot a drop of sweat run down his nose. A man’s voice reports from the room the biker just exited, “Did you get rid of him?”

I let fly with the soup can just as the biker foolishly turns his head to the sound of his partner’s voice. The can flies straight and true, and just as the biker turns back to me, it catches him right above his left eye. The loud clang echoes through the store like church bells. I leap over the counter, snatching the bottle of soda as I clear it. Quickly, I spin around to see the biker staggering, clutching his bleeding eye. I latch on to a fistful of his t-shirt with my left hand, and with all of my might bring the full weight of twenty ounces of soda crashing down onto the top of the man’s skull. Liquid sprays everywhere as the bottle explodes. The biker collapses into a pile, face down into a sticky puddle of pop.

The voice of the biker’s partner erupts from the back room, “What the hell is going on out there, Bubba?” I spin around to confront the new foe. He emerges from the back room. This guy could be the other one’s twin brother. He’s obviously surprised to find me standing over his partner’s unconscious form. “You just made a big mistake, punk,” he says as he approaches me with balled fists.

I hunch into a fighting stance and prepare for biker number two’s advance. He swings at me with his right, and I deftly dodge the punch. He follows with his left, and it glances sharply against my cheekbone. I wince in pain, but I refuse to back down. I retaliate with a quick jab to his chin. Biker number two reels back, stunned at my strength and quickness. I seize the advantage and lunge at his midsection like the best of the Dallas Cowboys’ linebackers. His feet slip out from underneath him on the slick floor, and the back of his head bounces off the hard, marble floor. The hollow sound resonates through the store as this man loses consciousness as well.

I remove myself from the villain’s body, and I stand and brush the dust off myself. I place my hand to the cheek where the second biker connected. A warm bump has already started to grow there. A small price to pay, for sure. I locate the store telephone underneath the cash register and dial 911.

“911. What is your emergency?” the female voice answers.

“Ma’am, I am at the old Zip store at the corner of South Street and 23rd. I have apprehended two suspicious persons who have attempted to rob this store. Please send help immediately,” I manage in my best Superman impersonation. I place the receiver down on the counter as the operator attempts to keep me on the line. I have a victory to savor and a champion to present.

I enter the back room where my damsel in distress sits on a crate of vegetables, staring at me with wide, tear-soaked eyes. Her hands are bound, and her mouth is gagged. I search around the storeroom and find a razor-blade sitting on a shelf in the back. I return to my damsel and cut the rope that binds her. Her hands free, she pulls the handkerchief out of her mouth. “Thank you,” she cries as she wraps her arms tightly around my neck. She grips me tight enough to cut off my breath, but I allow her the embrace. Shortly, she releases me and looks me in the eye. “You saved me?” she asks, breathless.

“Of course, I did.” I smile at the sight of her big, brown eyes. Now, I decide, is the time. “Say, I was wondering if you wouldn’t want to go out with me sometime?”

I slap myself soundly on the cheek and jolt myself out of my fantasy. I’m still sitting in my Cavalier trying to muster up the courage to go into the store and ask her out. If I think about it too much longer I may lapse back into one of my delusions. I look at the clock on the dashboard. It says 9:54. Seven minutes wasted on a scenario that will never happen. I need to be more constructive.

I exit the car and repeat the anxious scene where I lean on my car door. Again, I walk to the front door trepidatiously. This time, I open the door with a much better, more confident pull. I enter the store, and, this time, boldly look toward the counter to find her. She’s there, but she’s talking to someone. One of the jocks from school is leaning on the counter chewing her ear off, probably about some nonsense about how studly he is. This guy’s trying to horn in on my territory.

I stand in the doorway calmly, like I belong there. I survey the scene. Neither of them has bothered to notice me yet. Brett or Bob…I think one of those might be the jock’s name. Whatever it is, she doesn’t seem to be particularly interested in what he has to say. Naturally, I need to intervene.

I don’t stop to pick up any products as an excuse. I walk right up to the pair and look directly at her. She seems pleased to see me.

“Hi,” she says warmly.

I greet her back and let my eyes narrow on the offending party.

“What do you want?” He starts right in with the hostility.

“I was going to have a talk with someone tonight,” I reply. I lean closer in towards him to display my complete lack of fear. I throw a quick grin at the damsel before returning to my rival. “And it isn’t going to be with you, Bubba.”

He lunges at me, but I sidestep him like a bullfighter. He crashes headlong into a display of dog biscuits. I saunter over to where he landed clumsily, face down. I reach down and flip him over. I latch on to the lapels of his letterman’s jacket. I pull him up to within an inch of my face, and catch a whiff of his foul-smelling breath.

“I’m your worst nightmare, punk,” I whisper in my best Dirty Harry impersonation.

I don’t slap myself this time, as I come back down to earth. I bang my head on the steering wheel. I instantly regret doing it as the pain causes me to wince. I rub my head where I struck the wheel in a vain attempt to make the pain go away. I turn the overhead light back on and check my forehead. Sure enough, there’s a long, red mark on it. I turn the light off and look down at the clock again. 10:00 on the dot. I curse at myself, both for mangling my forehead and lacking the courage to do something that should not be this difficult. This time, I go for real.

It’s now or never. I open my door for the third time tonight, and I exit the car and stand in my customary spot where my legs refuse to work. I look to the door to confirm that she hasn’t closed the store yet. The open sign is still in the window. I need to go now. I don’t know what to say. I don’t have to say anything earth-shattering. Just ask her if she’s busy this weekend. If I get shot down, so what? There’s plenty of fish in the sea, right? I’m sixteen years old. I’ll have plenty of opportunities with other girls if this doesn’t work out. Besides, the first time you ask a girl out has gotta be the hardest, right? This will be valuable experience for my college years. Besides, how could she resist me? I’m good looking, and I have a car.

But, I bought the car for her. I bought it for tonight. I want this to work so bad, but I know that there is no way that it’s going to. I keep trying to think up the perfect scenario, but there is no perfect scenario. I just go in, make a fool of myself, and then leave like a dog and whimper my way back to the car that doesn’t impress. I don’t think I can leave here, leave her, knowing I got dissed, rejected, discarded like five-week old milk. I won’t be able to sleep. I won’t be able to eat. I won’t be able to show my face to her at school.

For the third time tonight, I chicken out. I get back into the driver’s seat of my new ’85 Chevy Cavalier and slam the car door shut. I turn the car on, and the engine shakes the entire chassis as the engine struggles to get warm. I place both my hands on the wheel and lean my sore forehead on the backs of my hands. A new sensation has replaced the butterflies in my stomach. A slimy, oily feeling that doesn’t sit well. A harsh reality creeps into my mind. I’m not going to be able to come back here and do this again. I’m a coward, and all of the imagined antics of heroism in the world won’t change that.

I take a deep breath and look ahead. I put the car in gear, and the engine reluctantly responds. I stare at the clock which reads 10:09, and let one last foolish idea about changing my mind fade from my thoughts. I let my foot off the brake and ease the car out of the parking space. I coast towards the front of the store, and there she is.

She stands there in front of the door which now has the “Sorry, we’re closed” sign hanging from inside. She looks at me, and I find myself returning her stare. My car seems to slow down on its own and stop in front of where she is standing. Slowly, I roll down my window. Several long seconds of silence tick by.

“Hello,” I manage.

“Hi,” she greets me with a smile. “Funny seeing you here tonight.”

“Yeah, I was just driving around and thought about getting a soda. But you’re closed now, huh?”

“Sorry. So you’ve got a car, huh?”

“Yeah, it’s nothing special, but it gets me where I want to go.”

“That’s really cool,” she says sincerely. “I don’t have a car yet, but I’m trying to save up some money to get one. Having a car would be so cool.”

“Yeah, I know the feeling.”

“Say, I live a couple of blocks down off South Street. Do you think you can give me a ride?”

“Sure. No problem. Hop in.”

I lean over and unlock the passenger door as she passes around the front of my car. I grip the steering wheel tighter as the anxiety returns to my belly. This time, though, it’s a more excited variety. She hops in and smiles at me. As I pull out of the store parking lot, I wonder to myself if, this time, it’s for real.

{If you appreciated this writing and want to help support the continuation of this blog, please consider sending a donation to:

Scott C. Guffey
P.O. Box 53
Michigan City, IN 46360

For a full explanation of author impetus, blog mission statement, and donations appeal, click About.}

Soccer is anti-American now?!?

I am quite pleased to see so much interest in the World Cup this year. I was working at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago in 1994 when a group of the World Cup was playing at Soldier Field. There and then, I learned about the international passion of soccer, and I’ve watched the World Cup since. I’m not as passionate as many world footie fans, but I’ve kept it on my sports radar every four years when it comes around.

Obviously in America, soccer wasn’t very popular in the past, but this year seems to be different as the U.S.A. has exceeded expectations. As an underdog, the U.S. beat long-time rival Ghana in the first game, a win I certainly wasn’t expecting. The second game against Portugal was electric, a game we should have won except for the miracle pass and header in the final minute of additional time. The third game against Germany was well-fought, as Germany’s stellar offense pushed the ball for the majority of the match, but the United States’ defense was fairly good against the powerhouse team.

Ultimately, the U.S. made it into the final 16 tourney, which most soccer experts wouldn’t have bet if you fronted them the cash. It’s been a fun World Cup for Americans, as we haven’t really had reason to cheer. Yep, I was very pleased to see so many Americans finally showing interest and getting behind their country’s representative soccer team…

…that is, I was pleased until I learned that conservatives have started to claim that this increased interest in soccer is really a liberal plot. Apparently, people have become so disillusioned in the American dream that many Americans are now turning to soccer because of depression and defeatism. Obama has brain-washed us, and now we love soccer…oh, and somehow, legalization of marijuana has something to do with this new soccer “fad.” Americans have flat-out lost our patriotism, so that is why so many of us are now paying attention to soccer. Ronald Reagan is rolling over in his grave.

I have tolerated many a crazy claim from the Republican wing, but this just makes no stinking sense. I wouldn’t be surprised if my reader didn’t believe me. Well, here’s Fox Business News’ take on soccer with Stuart Varney and Keith Ablow (with commentary from Stephen Colbert). Here’s more footage of Keith Ablow on the new Fox News show known as “Outnumbered” (and to the hosts’ credit, they called Ablow crazy, too). Finally, here’s the more-than-willing-to-outdo-male-misogynists, hater-extraordinaire Ann Coulter with her “flawless” logic of how soccer-love is basically the same thing as liberal-love. Please! Check them out if you don’t believe me. I had to re-watch/re-read a few times just to make sure I wasn’t suffering some weird hallucinatory day-dream.

Normally, I’d argue against the claims to try and show how wrong they are…but there’s really no need here. I don’t often use the word ridiculous because it is thrown about too frequently in political discussions…but this is just flat-out ridiculous. Instead, I’ll just go ahead and keep enjoying the World Cup, while these morons keep showing how they can take any good thing and utterly ruin it for the rest of us.

Keep trying, Republicans….Maybe someday you’ll come to your senses and realize that you’ve just lost the rest of America (including some of us who wouldn’t mind seeing you come to your senses!) As long as you allow such “intellectuals” as “doctor” Keith Ablow, Stuart Varney, and Ann Coulter to represent your ideology, you will never regain the majority in this country. You just continue to show how desperate you’ve become for a liberal-killing talking point. What you’re doing is digging yourself a deeper grave from which your party will not likely exit (even if some of you are profiting from the propaganda, the cash doesn’t spend well in the afterlife). So please, stop trying to mix your politics into our sports, and quit trying to drag everybody down with you. We’ve got some soccer games to enjoy.

{If you appreciated this writing and want to help support the continuation of this blog, please consider sending a donation to:

Scott C. Guffey
P.O. Box 53
Michigan City, IN 46360

For a full explanation of author impetus, blog mission statement, and donations appeal, click About.}

Donald Trump: A Chicagoan’s Take

Donald Trump built a big ol’ phallic symbol in the middle of Chicago, and he wants to slap his name on it in big, shiny letters, like he does with all the constructed temples glorifying his simplistic self in major cities. Several Chicagoans, including Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, have made a stink about it, and Trump decided to write a self-glorifying letter, showing the public how much he loves himself and trying to persuade everybody that he deserves to put his name on whatever the hell he owns.

Having lived in and about Chicago my entire life, I can honestly say I could care less about the Trump sign on the Trump Tower (for about a week, that is). I figured, once I caught wind of his puffed up sign, that it was to be expected. His track record shows that he had the sign in mind probably about five seconds after he purchased the old Sun-Times property with plans for his tower. My way of thinking goes: if it’s his property and he has the means, then so be it. Build a sign. Stroke your own ego. I don’t mind tossing a middle finger at a giant sign every time I encounter it to declare my own distaste for Trump’s convoluted politics and opinions.

Very recently, I changed my mind. Let’s get rid of the sign right now, Chicago. In fact, let’s pass a law to keep Trump the hell out of our city.

His little letter to Chicagoans didn’t really rile me that much, even though I doubt any Chicagoans were sympathetic to his words. It’s the letter he recently wrote to New Yorkers that has changed my mind about Trump’s name being prominently displayed in downtown Chicago. I don’t want his name lighting up my city. Chicago doesn’t need to glorify a racist’s name by holding it up on its broad shoulders.

I’m sure that people will become offended because I call Trump a racist, but it’s tough to convince me he’s not after having the gall to write an editorial about how he’s offended at the financial expenditure to five young black men who had their lives ruined wrongfully. I might be convinced that his campaigning against Barack Obama is fueled by his devotion to conservatism, but Trump is selling a shoddy bridge if he’s trying to convince that his years-long intentions against the Central Park Five isn’t based on race. I’d be willing to forgive his role in the Central Park Five’s imprisonment—his unbelievably-flawed editorial calling for the death penalty for the offenders is re-printed with his current letter to the N.Y. Daily News—if he showed any consideration for the exoneration of those five black men, but he remains stoically stupid about it. The courts deemed that the five youths were innocent, using DNA evidence and a confession. Donald Trump bemoans the loss of money over the lost years of those boys’ lives. I have no sympathy for Trump’s opinions in this matter.

I’ve seen Kenneth Burns’ stunning documentary. I remember the national fervor against those five young black boys in 1989. Amy Davidson wrote an article for the New Yorker that sums up the obvious about Trump. It’s a free country, as Donald Trump revels in reminding us. I believe he’s a racist piece of crap, and I can write my opinion freely, as he seems to think it’s his right to declare his own flawed opinions in national newspapers so damn frequently. I also believe that having millions of dollars does not make one an intellectual, for which Donald Trump is the ideal case study.

Trump obviously is not a big believer in the word “reparations.” Like many, he probably thinks it’s a bad word. I would suggest Trump reads a true intellectual’s case about reparations before he rebukes the concept as if it is some insult, especially for the Central Park Five, for whom reparations are decidedly due, as many New Yorkers and Chicagoans might agree.

There’s little chance that the Trump sign will be taken down off the Trump Tower in Chicago. Even if Trump is a racist, he’ll still get his way (in a city which embarrassingly has a history of segregation, as detailed by Ta-Nehisi Coates). I’ll be sure to stick my middle finger up loud and proud every single time I pass by that gaudy sign.

{As karmic balance for Chicago’s fortunes, George Lucas decided to build the Star Wars Museum in our city. Here’s hoping Donald Trump has nothing to do with the property, lest the marquee read “Trump presents the Star Wars Museum” with an oversized TRUMP overshadowing the beloved Star Wars logo.

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Opinion about Rand Paul

With ISIS forces efficiently and horrifically taking over the country of Iraq, Republicans have experienced a meltdown, campaigning for the return of military forces to the Middle East for a third go at curing the ills of the Shiite/Sunni conflict there, all under the auspices of protecting the United States of America’s interests. Dick Cheney has resurfaced to desperately protect his self-inflated legacy and to smear Barack Obama’s withdrawal of troops from Iraq. According to Cheney, we must blame Barack Obama for his weakness, despite his desire to avoid further American bloodshed at the expense of those politicians who employ war-mongering as modus operandi for all indications of foreign conflict. Republicans have opportunistically seized yet another opportunity to besmirch Obama by ignoring his successes and seizing on conditions that might well be out of the control of American politics. We cannot assume that the ISIS movement would not have occurred if an American presence was maintained in Iraq; in fact, if there were still Americans in Iraq today, we may have been reading about staggering causalities of American soldiers these past two weeks. I would hope that we could all agree that this is best avoided.

Rand Paul appeared on this Sunday’s Meet the Press to speak sensibly about the Iraqi conflict, and I was summarily impressed by his interview. He did not berate Obama’s handling of the situation. He understood that Iraq is a country experiencing religious chaos and confusion, and he did not advocate re-inserting U.S. forces into the conflict. In response to a question of whether he saw ISIS as a threat to the United States, he in turn questioned if we want to send his son or your son to defend Iraqi cities that should be primarily defended by those who live there. He admitted that it is difficult to assess exactly where American interests should be, a common question that no one in America has been able to properly answer. He did not question Obama’s move to send about 300 military advisors to defend the U.S. embassy in Baghdad; in fact, he was especially self-conscious of himself, as he admitted his own criticism of Obama for limited protection of the embassy in Benghazi, so why would he criticize Obama for wanting to protect the embassy in Iraq? He also did not take the bait and criticize Cheney specifically, who by the way is more than happy to specifically label Paul as an “isolationist.” He instead generally questioned the validity of those who campaigned for the past Iraqi war being the best judgmental mouthpieces to speak on the current conflict.

Rand Paul had a sensible assessment of this Iraqi conflict, and it’s especially refreshing to hear it spoken by a Republican voice.

He moved to other issues, speaking prudently about immigration reform. He specifically referred to the confusion over the term “amnesty,” which might be the heart of the problem for good immigration policy. On voting rights, he advocated that we should not suppress the vote, but instead enhance it. He advocated for voting rights of felons who committed non-violent crimes and suggested that more citizens should have the right to vote. He hit the nail on the head when he said that government is unpopular with the public because it seems dysfunctional, and he further stated that “we ARE dysfunctional,” as it is like pulling teeth to pass good reasonable legislation in today’s Congress.

I am not Rand Paul’s biggest fan. I still remember his academic affront of plagiarism and how his initial reaction was, colloquially, “What…me, a plagiarist? Naaahhh…Besides, who cares about intellectual theft in the public sphere? That’s for college professors to fret over.” Rand Paul has also had one too many appearances on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show, where they have skewered Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton (although, Paul is usually slow to follow Hannity’s lead). This Sunday’s interview also displayed Paul’s opportunistic tendencies as he attacked Hillary Clinton’s presidential aspirations by stating that she would not be able to answer for her contributions to Benghazi (although, he did state some good questions about her role, specifically the lack of security forces at that U.S. embassy).

Rand Paul does have one thing that works for him as a Republican voice: his track record on the Iraqi war allows him to speak candidly and with some credibility. However, since Rand Paul stepped out of line from the neo-Conservative formation, he now faces the requisite accusations of “betrayer,” “traitor,” and “simpleton” from the rank and file. Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post was quick to attack Paul, despite her own irrational reasoning…Bush didn’t have anything to do with the current situation in Iraq? There’s no evidence that ISIS may have benefitted from America’s insertion of weapons into the Syrian civil war? Rand Paul wasn’t making sense on immigration? Rubin seems to want to pass Cheney in the race to move further right by denouncing Paul so vigorously. When will conservative ideologues understand that their adamancy on being right (pun intended) about EVERYTHING is what is preventing them from regaining validity in the eyes of the voting public?

Rand Paul’s departure from the neo-Conservatives’ talking points gives me hope that there is a viable Republican candidate to run for President in 2016. Jeb Bush, who has also suffered some blowback from neo-Conservatives for his statements on immigration, will most likely lose potential votes because of his last name. Other than that, there does not seem to be a Republican candidate who is willing to take an opposing stance to failed neo-Conservative ideology. I have been waiting for a Republican candidate for the Presidency who is willing to speak rationally and effectively about domestic and foreign policy. Rand Paul has convinced me this past Sunday that he just might be that Republican candidate…

…and it’s a good thing for this country if that’s the case, though many Republicans will now fight him tooth and nail. If the Republican Party is to be saved, then they will have to start moving back to the center on these multiple arguments. Kudos to Rand Paul for doing just that (though, I don’t think even he would admit that he has become more moderate in his platform). As an independent voter, I’m more than willing to hear what he has to say from here on out because of his sensibility on Sunday.

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My Maniacal Rant, Chapter One, Part Four

[Author’s Note: This writing project, The Maniacal Rant of a Community College “Professor,” started about two years ago, in the fall of 2012. I began writing a book that was intended to be a collection of memoirs. These memoirs were intended to testify about my experience as an instructor at Ivy Tech Community College in Northwest Indiana. My goal was to highlight the indignities I experienced, campaign for change in an unjust education system, draw attention to problems in our greater society, and share details of my incredible life story. I finished two chapters of the book, formed the majority of a third chapter, and planned fourteen more chapters. When I started this blog two months ago, I’ve found my goal as a writer has not changed much. I’ve decided it’s time to share the text from my memoirs. I intend to transcribe the text of my book periodically in this blog under the title My Maniacal Rant. Chapter One, titled “Profession as Confession, or the Professor Confessor” will be told in approximately eight parts. Enjoy.—SG]

I realize the supposition is that English teachers are to correct spelling only, not understand in-depth business models, ideologies, or politics. I become most offended with this socially-accepted assumption.

Politicians and administrators continue to lobby about increasing class sizes and reducing English professors. Indiana is paving the way for administrative hires who can now forego the pesky experience of teaching that formerly was a requirement. Apparently, business-degree recipients know best about teaching; they have certainly cornered the market on the best-paying jobs in schools and colleges. Teaching experience is seldom a necessary qualification for principals, superintendents, instructional technologists, and chancellors, all “exciting” job opportunities that are expanding at a school near you.

Four-year institutions continue to limit the amount of classes that Master’s degree-recipients of liberal arts can teach, and Indiana’s community college allows adjuncts to teach a maximum of three classes per semester at the salary rate of about $1,700 for each sixteen-week session (yes, under two grand to teach a class for an entire semester). All of this occurs while administrators, who are often paid $60,000 to $125,000 a year at Ivy Tech, thank teachers incessantly for their vital contributions and sacrifices. Often, they pat an adjunct instructor on the back as they shake hand hand, and, yes, they sometimes are looking for the best place to insert the knife, as administrators continue to reduce teaching jobs under the assumption that administration is just more important than teaching at a place of higher learning.

This is part and partial of my experience within the Indiana education system at Ivy Tech Northwest, and this is not necessarily true of all colleges and schools; however, I assume that there are liberal arts students, instructors, and professors from all over America that read this text and understand fully what is being expressed here.

Consider that Indiana has almost criminalized teaching unions. Professionals are discouraged from unionizing to challenge any corporate takeover of the education system, where millions of dollars of government money flow, but not to the teachers. Corporate-minded, public sector job-killing Indiana led the way for Wisconsin’s and Michigan’s reformation of teachers’ unions, like a virus infecting nearby states. The Midwest states are becoming infected as more and more states attempt to privatize the necessary public professions. Police officers and fire-fighters are paid minimally along with teachers, to perform supposedly-needed communal functions.

As I see more campaigning for charter schools, I cannot help but lose my mind with each passing day: Do we honestly think that schools should fall into the hands of private business? Can’t people see that entrepreneurs simply want a bigger piece of the government-spending pie? You mean to tell me that union-less teachers have to do more work with less autonomy and take less pay as administrators take more pay because it’s for “the good of the company?” You’re telling me that we should allow complete corporatization of our educational professionals under the auspices that it will improve education?! How exactly will it do that?!? When has privatization ever been about anything more than profit for profiteers?! Look what the history of the privatization of the healthcare industry has wrought?!? Hyperinflation, that’s what!…and oh, by the way, the PRIVATE college system is trying to keep pace with healthcare’s financial trends. Have you seen the jump in tuition rates just over the last decade?! Americans have been led to think it’s now a necessity, and people WILL pay the grossly-overinflated price! Now we have a country full of kids with a useless piece of paper that doesn’t seem to land them a job in the corporate sphere, and their ultimate prize?…Loads of debt that prevent them from buying a house, starting a family, or going to the doctor!! Seriously!! Privately-operated charter schools!! That’s your solution!! The freakin’ FREE MARKET!!? (Whoa, take a breath…peace and love…find your center….)

A Master’s degree in English or philosophy is often regarded as so much toilet paper when applied to the real world. The modern liberal arts college instructor, working with only a Master’s degree, has to be quite masochistic. The education system itself does not deem these degrees as worthy. Certainly, it is not worthy of the title of professor.

As a holder of this graduate degree, I do have alternatives to this masochistic Master’s degree lifestyle, of course. The most obvious is to get a doctoral degree. This would require taking out a larger loan and paying the exorbitant tuition fees required—putting a scholar further into debt after borrowing tens of thousands for the Master’s degree. It is usually encouraged to move away from the family (it would be best if I didn’t have one, according to some professors) and to take on the mostly-obnoxious task of publishing a dissertation to obtain a doctoral degree. ABDs (All-But-Dissertations) are quite popular now for professorial hires, indicating that as long as you pay the money, college institutions will give teaching positions to those who have nothing new to contribute to the academic conversation. I might invest myself further into a system that insists a professorship has to provide financial reward to the institution in which a professor is to surrender all his attention and acumen, ignoring home, family, and social lives…a system that withholds tenure on a whim, AND a system that pays assistant AND associate professors of English in Indiana on average a whopping $30,000 to $40,000 a year once tenure is granted, but only IF it is granted….

Consider that tenure at colleges is usually only granted to those who bring “real-world” money into the college…college football coaches’ salaries should be a good indicator for most of my readers, as well as a quick study of computer, engineering, nursing, and especially, business schools of discipline. Further consider that most scholarship within English and philosophy earns up to $250 for a successfully published article in a credible scholarly journal, which might take a year to be acceptable to a stubborn editor.

I am sorry, but I am not that masochistic.

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The Washington Football Team Should Change Its Name

In my last blog article, I derided the effectiveness of political commercials. Today, I’d like to perform a 180 and draw attention to a particularly effective commercial that campaigns for change. The commercial is just as powerful with what is unsaid as what is spoken aloud.

The overwhelmingly-sensible message is that the Washington NFL team should change its name from the Redskins. Yesterday, a government office revoked the patent on the name, but it seems to be more symbolic than effective. Daniel Snyder, the owner of the team, has dug himself a deep trench and is prepared to fight for the right to use the slur indefinitely. In fact, the team has already released a press release declaring, “…today’s ruling will have no effect at all on the team’s ownership of and right to use the Redskins name and logo. We are confident we will prevail once again.” What a lousy motive for which to desire victory. It seems repugnant to defend the use of a racial slur so obstinately.

To some degree, I understand why Snyder might be so stubborn. The first reaction to a change in tradition is usually one of adamant rejection. As a teen, I attended a high school, Thornton Fractional South H.S. in Lansing, Illinois, whose sports teams were referred to as the Rebels. Veteran news reporter Harry Smith and outfielder-extraordinaire Curtis Granderson also attended T.F. South. Our mascot was a cartoonish southern civil war soldier that proudly waved a saber and the confederate flag. Our “neighbors to the north” didn’t exactly participate in the civil war theme, since they were the T. F. North Stars, but I recall as a student how much I loved the name and logo of our team. Being a young, uneducated, naïve teen, I didn’t understand how it might be offensive to some in the community. I remember resisting the idea of a change of the team’s name or logo, simply because I thought it was a cool image and that’s what I was accustomed to. Years later, the team name remains the same, but the logo has changed along with removal of the confederate flag. As an adult, I better understand why the Southern Civil War stigma should have been changed (especially considering the racial segregation I experienced at the school). I haven’t forgotten that my first reaction was, “Why do we have to change the name? It’s been that way for years. Just let it be.”

While I campaign for a change for the Washington football team, I know I’d probably change my tune if the intense national focus narrowed in on the Chicago Blackhawks to change their name and logo…and it’s entirely possible that a precedent might be created if Washington does change its name. However, I will note that there are semantic differences between the two. The Sauk American Indian tribe has historic roots in the Midwest. A leader of the Sauk tribe was named Black Hawk (some history links here and here). I lived for a time in Sauk Village, Illinois, a southern suburb of Chicago, along the historic Sauk Trail that still can be traced through Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan (including Michigan City, Indiana, where I currently reside). I learned as a boy about the rich history of Native Americans growing up on the South Side of Chicago, and many of the cities and townships are named in remembrance of the area’s Native American history (including Calumet Township, where I’ve also lived). I’m especially proud to state that much impetus to learn about the history of the local Native American comes from recognizing that our hockey team honors the history; it is not meant to be mocking, as the Washington football team’s moniker is. I think there is an etymological and historical difference between the designations of Blackhawk versus Redskin, as this article contends.

Any name that draws attention to the color of one’s skin is offensive. Could we imagine a sports team with the name of “Whiteskin” or “Blackskin” or “Brownskin?”…Hell, even “Pinkskins” or “Purpleskins” or “Plaidskins” would raise eyebrows. We may have become too comfortable as sports fans using the term “Redskin,” and comfortable tradition does not justify retaining the offensive name.

Daniel Snyder strikes me as an incredibly stubborn man. I know he is capable of change, however. He certainly changed his tactics as owner once he realized that throwing large contracts at big-name players, like Bruce Smith, Deion Sanders, and Albert Haynesworth, wasn’t the best method for creating a winning NFL team. Since the name-change depends wholly on Daniel Snyder’s concession, it will be difficult to convince one individual who has so firmly staked his argumentative position. There’s plenty of incentive monetarily for him to consider a name change: selling merchandise with a new designation, theme, and logo would easily profit a team that already has such a large fan base. There’s also a standard in Washington, D.C., for changing a name for politically-sensitive reasons: The Washington Bullets became the Washington Wizards to stop glorifying the gun-violence that overwhelmed the capitol of the United States of America (although, there are those who want to change the name back to the Bullets). There’s further precedent to change the Washington football team’s name when you consider the racist history of the team: they were the last NFL team to allow black players on the squad, and as recently as 1961, the team’s more-racist-than-Donald-Sterling owner, George Preston Marshall, fought to retain an all-white squad despite public pressure to the contrary…a startling detail because history seems to be repeating itself with a Washington football owner in 2014 (though Snyder seems to be less cognitively racist than Marshall…as I’ve already mentioned, most of us have become comfortable with the slur-word Redskin, but that doesn’t mean that uttering it does not contribute to continued racism).

This is an opportunity for one man, Daniel Snyder, to display dignity to an American community that looks to continue a healing process. America’s discriminatory history to certain sects of the public is well-established, and the Native American population has plenty of beef when it comes to American discrimination. It’s my hope and prayer that Daniel Snyder has a personal epiphany and contritely changes his mind, because it seems unlikely that the mounting public pressure is affecting his moral compass. Changing the name of his football team is the right thing to do, and it would be another step forward for reparation, unity, and camaraderie in this country. It just depends on one man to be a good man, not a stubbornly selfish man who will fight tooth-and-nail against public opinion…just because he can. It depends on Daniel Snyder to change his mind.

Seek enlightenment, Mr. Snyder, and stop obsessing over tradition. Many of the traditions in this country need reassessment. The word Redskin needs to be removed from a great national pastime…and right soon.

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Opinion about Eric Cantor

When I first saw the headline stating that Eric Cantor lost the Republican primary in Virginia, my jaw dropped to the floor, just like the rest of the politicos out there. The after-effect for the political media was obviously a state of shock…and excitement! Grandiose conclusions and predictions were announced, all due to the majority leader of the House’s loss in the seventh district of Virginia. I found the reaction of the media to Cantor more interesting than the actual primary results. I also found their conclusions rather disturbing, especially concerning immigration reform.

Immigration reform is dead. Since Dave Brat made it the centerpiece of a campaign commercial and several public speeches, we can assume that the reason he won had everything to do with immigration reform. The voters of Virginia have spoken, and since Cantor’s loss is such a surprise to the political media, they have ascertained that the opinion of the nation on immigration has been decided entirely by about 60,000 GOP voters, from a state that doesn’t border Mexico (or Canada for that matter).

This is absurd. The voters of the primary were also polled on their opinion of immigration reform, and the results indicate that Virginia is quite concerned about passing immigration reform. It’s quite possible that Cantor’s loss had less to do with immigration reform and more to do with Cantor ignoring his district, overstaying his welcome, and creating general dissatisfaction with his role in Congress among the voters of the state of Virginia. Even David Brat seemed surprised that he had won the primary. I’d wager that even he did not initially think his victory was because of his platform on immigration reform.

I would suggest this is because the political media puts too much of a priority on the impact of their own medium. The power of the political commercial has become the cornerstone of how politicians are elected, according to the politicians themselves and the talking heads and writing pens that follow politics. The electorate might not be entirely swayed one way or the other because of a commercial. If there was one satisfaction I took from the 2012 Presidential election—the first to occur under the free-spending auspices of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision—it was that the enormous amount of money that Republicans spent on political commercials did not make a dent in the result. Karl Rove’s infamous public implosion on Fox News might have occurred because he was on the hook for spending a lot of GOP contributors’ money on fruitless TV commercials…if I knew I had to go back to my wealthy donors and explain how millions of dollars were spent without the desired result, then I suppose I would demand somebody double-check to make sure that the results were reported correctly also.

Another failure of the political process seems to be an over-reliance on opinion polling. Cantor commissioned the McLaughlin Group to poll potential voters, and the results had Cantor winning by a large margin. Mind you, one of the cornerstones of statistical polling is that one should employ a large enough sample to generate reliable numbers. The McLaughlin Group polled 400 people in their report. I hope Cantor kept his receipt for that costly expenditure.

I’ve taken three ideas away from the Cantor loss. First, Republicans might not sweep the mid-term elections and control both the House of Representatives and the Senate, as many pundits have already predicted. Second, I’m less willing to buy the conclusions of political experts when they are so quick to the punch to declare a much-needed reform for immigration policy as “dead,” mostly because they have to create a stunning article to coincide with such a large political loss. Third, the political media might not have been caught with their pants down if they focused less on sensationalistic political stories and more on exposition and analysis of individual state districts, the elected members of the House and Senate, and the voters that make up the fifty states of America. This is difficult journalism, for sure, and ratings may plummet because it is assumed people become bored of politics quickly, but there could be a benefit to an American populace that is mostly unaware of the political landscape. This final statement might have less to do with Cantor and more to do with journalism generally: Let us remember that good, ethical journalism, especially concerning politics, should be more about education for the people, not entertainment-laden subjects to garner ratings.

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An Inherent Human Trait to Kill

Last week when I wrote about the news, I put on a pair of rose-colored glasses and attempted to solve the country’s problems with a well-intended, but unlikely-to-happen suggestion for peace. Today, I leave my glasses on and look at the greater world, pleading futilely for peace. The problem with these damn glasses is that blood doesn’t really change its color when you wear them, so I don’t understand how others cannot see the same thing I’m seeing.

As a student of human culture, I have concluded that human beings have a proclivity towards violence. A tendency to murder and kill might be wound deeply within the human genetic code. Throughout history, human beings have proven to possess the capacity to kill one another, usually for reasons guided by personal belief systems or socially-rationalized policies that justify the selfish act of taking a person’s life. The world’s multiple news threads of the past week have done nothing to dissuade me of my conclusion.

In Iraq, we have seen a return to violence between factions of Sunni militants and the U.S.-enabled, Shiite-controlled Iraqi government. This ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) organization has stampeded through Northern Iraq, shooting, pillaging, and killing their way across the country in about a week’s time. U.S.-trained Iraqi military police have fled their posts, fearing for their own lives; those who stayed at their post have been captured, beaten, and mass-executed to prove some un-Godly point. Some have had to endure grisly decapitation while alive, a practice that involves the most brutal lack of human compassion, proof that humans are still more than capable of suppressing whatever human dignity that might prevent such grisly acts upon another human being. Many have been publically executed. Shiite clerics are currently asking the youth of Baghdad to take up arms to kill members of the insurgency. The U.S. has moved an aircraft carrier into the Iraqi waters, ready to add its efficient killing technology where needed, but without resolve about who deserves to bear the brunt of U.S. military dominance. Iran, a country with its share of practiced bloodshed, might actually intervene as a pseudo-ally of the United States of America.

The ISIS movement started in Syria, where bloody civil war has enabled mass death by use of chemical weapons, a no-no according to NATO pacts. Never mind the bloodshed caused by typical knives, guns, and explosives…the Syrian conflict has sustained itself readily, executing families house-to-house and forcing refugees to flee en masse. When the world intervened and told Assad chemical weapons were off the table, the actors in Syria “innovatively” utilized barrel bombs, dropped indiscriminately upon humanitarian facilities in an effort to kill more innocents…and once chlorine gas was discovered to NOT be on the agreed-upon list of chemical weapons, it may have been employed for more efficient killing. ISIS learned its radicalism and disregard for human life within Syrian borders, where the Syrian government has been most instructive on genocide.

Americans’ initial reaction is, of course, to get involved in Iraq again (after giving Obama the requisite blame). This is understandable, since our insurgency into Iraq has quite a bit to do with the current ISIS movement (I’d like to see the name Bush inserted into more of the conversations of blame!)…and we should also be concerned about the establishment of a terrorist nation that might make a name for itself by attacking and killing Americans on U.S. soil. We hesitate, because we have lost over 4,000 soldiers to the war in Iraq (I presume this number does not include soldiers who committed suicide because of the Iraqi war, so forgive me if I am not precise). American decisions about taking human life become more considerate when it involves the potential death of our own citizens…but I assume too many Americans will not bat much of an eye at the likely, soon-to-be staggering number of deaths that occur from Iraqis killing one another…certainly the number in Syria doesn’t really bother us much, or we might have intervened earlier, potentially thwarting this new killing trend…the problem with American intervention, in Syria and Iraq, remains that intervention means more killing.

Lest we forget, there is a lot of killing occurring not too far away in the country of Ukraine. It wasn’t that long ago that the Winter Olympics were punctuated by a rebellion of Ukrainian citizens against their Russian-supported government, in which nearly a hundred people died in conflicts sponsored by the then-Viktor Yanukovych-led Ukrainian government. Vladmir Putin reacted by taking Crimea and pushing Russian military to the eastern border of Ukraine. This past week, a Ukrainian military plane was shot down, supposedly by pro-Russian insurgents. Forty-nine useless deaths in Ukraine, and it barely registers a blip on the American news radar. We’re too concerned about Iraq. Apparently, Putin might be using the world’s attention on Iraq to push his advantage, as there are reports of Russian tanks and soldiers entering across the border into Ukraine. There will likely be more deaths across the ocean as foreign countries justify killing, both in Ukraine and Iraq, over where borders should be drawn.

Speaking of borders, we have an occasion other than war to observe human tendencies of violence…at our own southern border. Over a thousand fleeing children are now attempting to enter the United States. Most of these children are travelling unescorted by parents and were sent as a final chance to escape from an increase in violence in countries like Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. I cannot begin to put myself into the shoes of a parent that feels compelled to send her children unescorted on an unsafe journey into another country…but I’m sure that if I saw a chance for my children to escape the possibility of dying, I would probably make the same difficult decision.

Before we get too comfortable with the idea that we here in America are safe from such violence, I don’t need to remind Americans about how a 14-year-old Oregon student was shot in his last week of school by another 15-year-old. I don’t need to remind about how two Nevada police officers and a Wal-Mart customer were shot to death by two radicals. I don’t need to remind how a misogynistic narcissist killed seven rampaging through Isla Vista, California. I don’t need to remind about Newtown, Connecticut. I don’t need to remind about the Boston Marathon. I don’t need to remind about the South Side of Chicago. I don’t need to remind about Trayvon Martin. I don’t need to remind about Aurora, Colorado, or Fort Hood, Texas, (twice), or Columbine, or Virginia Tech, or Northern Illinois…or any of countless daily news stories where Americans were intentionally killed by other Americans. I don’t need to remind about the 74 school shootings that have occurred since twenty five- and six-years-olds and six of their teachers lost their lives to a single killer (no matter how CNN attempts to paint it)…and I certainly don’t need to remind Americans about September 11th, 2001.

Americans are human beings. We are just as easily capable of killing, or being killed by another, as those who might live in another country…and we are just as easily capable of continuing the human trend of violent killing that has marred much of global human history. Ask Wayne LaPierre about how dangerous America has become.

Not only do I conclude that human beings have the innate ability to take others’ lives, but I also conclude that it is a sustainable, and sustaining, human condition. We have not learned from history’s mistakes; in fact, we lean towards justifying further killings instead of practicing peace. Whether it’s because of mass media, which should allow for greater scrutiny and understanding of our fellow human beings, or it’s because of technologically-enhanced killing methods, which allow for more efficiency of killing more and more human beings, there is no denying that we have never abandoned that inherent human trait that allows for us to take another human life.

Rationalizing death is a circular argument from which the human collective seemingly cannot escape. It’s my preference that we recognize this inherent quality to kill within the human condition and eradicate it, like the historically-proven disease that it is. Otherwise, human beings collectively are simply the Earth’s most-populated virus, comprised of vicious, self-serving, hunting/gathering animals that fulfill the primal theory of Survival of the Fittest. A more human philosophy might involve how killer humans put primacy on the Self…and it’s easiest for the Self to justify the death of the Other for the Self’s benefit. At some point in human history, coldly-objective human animals might evolve and become human beings, emotional creatures capable of campaigning for peace, promoting the importance of human life, and working harmoniously with one another for the advancement of the species.

That day does not seem to be today, but I would suggest—nay, I would beg—that this day is just as good as any to stop the killing.

{If you appreciated this writing and want to help support the continuation of this blog, please consider sending a donation to:

Scott C. Guffey
P.O. Box 53
Michigan City, IN 46360

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My Maniacal Rant, Chapter One, Part Three

[Author’s Note: This writing project, The Maniacal Rant of a Community College “Professor,” started about two years ago, in the fall of 2012. I began writing a book that was intended to be a collection of memoirs. These memoirs were intended to testify about my experience as an instructor at Ivy Tech Community College in Northwest Indiana. My goal was to highlight the indignities I experienced, campaign for change in an unjust education system, draw attention to problems in our greater society, and share details of my incredible life story. I finished two chapters of the book, formed the majority of a third chapter, and planned fourteen more chapters. When I started this blog two months ago, I’ve found my goal as a writer has not changed much. I’ve decided it’s time to share the text from my memoirs. I intend to transcribe the text of my book periodically in this blog under the title My Maniacal Rant. Chapter One, titled “Profession as Confession, or the Professor Confessor” will be told in approximately eight parts. Enjoy.—SG]

There’s a simpler rationale for my uncomfortable use of the title of “professor” when referring to what I do. The nature of the college system requires that I do not refer to myself as a professor. You see, I have a Master’s degree in English. Professors should have doctorates. It’s that black and white.

When people ask me what I do, I tell them I am a teacher.

“What grade do you teach?”

“I teach in college.”

“Oh!….So what do you teach?”

“English composition and rhetoric, argument, literature, some philosophy and history, technical writing, linguistics, poetry, and a bit of anthropology.”

“Then, you must be a professor!…and you must get paid handsomely!”

The conversation usually denigrates from there as I attempt to explain what I do to a disinterested and disbelieving individual. This especially deteriorates as I communicate that I continue to live in poverty as an overworked teacher in the Indiana system of education:

“You see, I have to grade and prepare for English composition classes, which administrators try to fill my classes with over thirty students…almost one hundred in the case of distance-learning sections…and it takes me about a half hour to grade each of my students’ six major papers per semester…I have to spend that much time on each because it’s more than just correcting spelling; it’s how do you communicate to the student on how to become a better writer! It takes a lot of attention, and trust me, the other English teachers at Ivy Tech just circle a few errors and slap a letter grade on the students’ paper. I’ve seen it! They take no time at all! You can do that in English, I guess, because the grading is so subjectively based. I can’t stomach the fact that this one woman at Valparaiso—I’d tell you her name but it’d probably come back and bite me on the ass—anyways, her system consists of giving A’s to students she likes and F’s to anyone else who misspells one word…or even uses any type of personal pronoun! You can’t use ‘they’ or ‘them’ in your writing, or she will give you an F! I refuse to do that, even though I only get paid about $50 to $60 a week per class to do this. I usually lie to people about my salary because it’s too embarrassing. So, I end up spending about 30 hours a week outside of my office hours at home just grading. That’s it! No time for preparation, reading scholarship, or eating, sleeping, or even breathing, in some cases! Just grading papers! My weekends are so busy, but everyone else seems to be relieved when Friday comes. There’s a reason why all of the administrators I confront about teaching run from me when I ask them about it. I swear. If I hold my folder out to them and suggest that they try my role at that God-forsaken clown college for one solid week, then I would be happy to take on their duties for the rest of the God-forsaken semester…and you know what they do? They barricade themselves behind their office door and hope that I go away!…[awkward pause] Sorry about the outburst…I’m really not sure what I am doing here…I should be at home grading papers.”

When I’m at a bar or party, new acquaintances will usually interrupt me before I can finish my rant and politely excuse themselves from my presence. Those who know me will distract me with sports talk, usually with reliably safe results, depending on the volatility I experienced that particular week within Ivy Tech Valparaiso’s three-ring big top.

The logistical fault-lines of the English and philosophy scholar lie along the amount of masochistic torture one can take while accepting the collegiate maxim that continued scholarly turmoil is necessary to be taken seriously by the institution. This fault-line resides along the accredited degree requirements, and tenured professors often argue the ideal that a Master’s degree does not merit the full-time position or payroll that is warranted to those with doctorates, mostly because they are worried about their own positions being usurped within an institution that perpetuates the social norm that English and philosophy teachers should be reduced instead of increased. The misconception continues: the English and philosophy disciplines do not produce scholars that contribute anything to the work force, and we have to invest our money into more worthwhile teaching positions, or more fortuitously, into administrative careers.

Since the gateway course that incoming students have to pass is an English composition course, to prove a writing proficiency requirement to obtain any collegiate degree, this specific English class becomes one of the greatest needs for which a college institution needs to find teachers. The volume of these classes requires multiple teachers, which is expensive when utilizing professors. English professors, those with doctorates, for the most part, do everything in their power to avoid teaching these 100-level classes because of the amount of involved writing, personal conferencing, and increased class sizes involved with today’s enlarged enrollments. So, college institutions pay adjunct instructors and limited-term lecturers bottom dollar to perform this necessary function of the college. I’ve earned less than $10,000 a year teaching up to six composition classes a semester as an adjunct.

To use colloquial language, I’ve been working my ass off taking on one of the most difficult and necessary jobs in the college while barely earning enough to survive. The kicker is that our political voices simultaneously tell us that teachers are lazy, and we should learn to tighten our belts a bit. The next illogical step is to hear about all the “job-creation” that needs to take place while politicians eliminate teaching and other job opportunities for college graduates that are more than qualified with a liberal arts undergraduate or graduate degree.

Ivy Tech uses Jim Collins’ inane, “non-business thinking” rhetoric to caution teachers from asking for more money or more time or leniency from administrative constraints, because a great teacher is always waiting to supplant the merely-good teacher who complains too loudly. One of the first administrators I communicated with provided me the pamphlet, Good to Great and the Social Sectors: Why Business Thinking Is Not the Answer.

Collins misses out entirely on the business concept of incentive. The reason that our teaching force might be a bit lacking could be the fact that there is little incentive to teach, especially in Indiana. There’s no union, the pay is minimized, and the effort required is thanklessly compounded by administrative panic and ignorance. However, in order to be a great teacher, one must masochistically weather the storm in order to gain experience. Collins might consider that this mysterious pool of “great teachers” might not exist because the truly great teachers might find better employment, different states with better opportunity and support, or just leave the education system out of pure, unadulterated frustration. Indiana and Ivy Tech certainly do not have a clue about incentivizing the teaching profession, especially since they are too busy incentivizing the administrative roles of our state’s education system.

{If you appreciated this writing and want to help support the continuation of this blog, please consider sending a donation to:

Scott C. Guffey
P.O. Box 53
Michigan City, IN 46360

For a full explanation of author impetus, blog mission statement, and donations appeal, click About.}