Wednesday, March 21, 2018

March 21

When the school board of district 5, in Marquette Michigan announced that they would be broadening the Social Studies curriculum at the high school level to include a unit on African American Vernacular English, public opinion was divided. In a compelling letter to the school board, 5th generation Michiganian Liam Larsson stated his argument against their decision in simple terms:

"My objection has nothing to do with with race. I have no issue with our African American brothers and sisters, and have had black friends, myself. My objection to the new direction the school board has taken is that it's just one of many recent steps towards* the complete bastardization of the English language. As a retired English teacher, the preservation of the English language - of both the words encompassed within it, and the grammatical rules which govern it -is something I take very seriously. Language is not a fashion or fad. Teaching an "alternative," "urban" form of English is nothing more than pandering to those who seek to introduce low, common slang into the lexicon. This sort of thing might sit well with flat-landers** and other mitten-dwellers***, but we Yoopers**** have an opportunity to draw a line in the sand and declare that there is only one true English language, with no room for slang or deviation of any kind - regardless of a speaker's ethnicity!" 

*In a deviation from standard American English, residents of Michigan's Upper Peninsula tend to use the word "towards" instead of "toward."

**A playful, affectionate colloquialism referring to Michigan residents who live in the less rugged Lower Peninsula is "flat-landers." This terms is Michigan-specific, and not to be confused with Vermont's use of the word "flatlander" (no hyphen) to refer, disparagingly,  to out-of-state visitors.

***On the map, Michigan's Lower Peninsula vaguely resembles a mitten. Those who live in the Lower Peninsula are often referred to as "mitten-dwellers." 

****Derived from the abbreviation U.P., which stands for Upper Peninsula, "Yooper" is a colloquial term which refers to anyone from this region of Michigan.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

March 20

On this day in 2016, when the announcement regarding Hendrickson Technologies' annual college scholarship - which provided full 4-year college tuition and related expenses for a local high school senior exhibiting excellence in STEM - was made, the news caused dissent among residents of Chattanooga, Tennessee where Hendrickson was based. The winner of 2016's award was Francisca Delgado, a 16 year old high school senior, whose family had moved to Tennessee, from Puerto Rico, 2 years before. 

Delgado, who had been enrolled in gifted/talented public school programs since the first grade, and who had skipped a grade when she at 12 years of age, when it was found that she was performing at an academic level far above her peers, even within the gifted/talented spectrum, had only recently exhibited a special affinity for science. In a short time, however, it was clear to both her parents and her teachers, that this was where both her greatest talents, and her truest passion lie. 

While faculty of Leonidas Polk High School appluaded Hendrickson Technologies' choice, many Chattanooga families voiced their opposition, citing that the award had historically been granted to a local young person in the pursuit of his or her goals, not an outsider. A handful of parents banded together to form a coalition - Society for the Preservation of American Rights - and set about to have the rules of the Hendrickson Technologies annual award clearly define the parameters for qualification to include American students, ONLY.  SPAR issued a press release stating that, while they wished Delgado the best in all of her future endeavors, they were dismayed at the growing trend of men, women and even children from other countries coming to the U.S. and snatching educational and professional opportunities that rightfully belonged to Americans. 

When a reporter from the Chattanooga Times Argus called SPAR's leader, Gilroy Benton III, to ask if he was aware that, not only was there nothing to indicate that Hendrickson Technologies had ever intended for their prize to be reserved for U.S. citizens, but that Puerto Rico was, in fact, an American territory, and that all Puerto Ricans are American citizens, he was told that Mr. Benton had no comment. 

Monday, March 19, 2018

March 19

Arianna Jackson was thrilled when her agent called to say that Paragon Studios wanted to speak to her about the possibility of the young screenwriter taking a stab at adapting Octavia Butler's Earthseed Series for the big screen. It was the sort of opportunity every writer dreams of. She flew to L.A. to meet with Paragon's Head of Development, Malcolm Fuller. Jackson was flattered to learn that Fuller was familiar with all of her work - even her early credits for a couple of very low budget web series. Fuller had clearly done his homework, and recognized Jackson's raw talent. The discussion about what Paragon was looking for in the adaptation was robust: Fuller was a fan of the novels, and was thinking they could easily be adapted into a screen trilogy, or even a four-part saga. The conversation hit a snag when Fuller mentioned that, in writing her outline, she should keep in mind popular teen singer Pamela Quick, who was looking to branch out into acting, and had expressed an interest in the lead role. Arianna pointed out that the Earthseed series revolved around a protagonist who was African American, and that Quick, who was white, would never work in the role. Fuller just laughed and said, "You're the writer. You'll make it work. Color means nothing in this day and age, anyhow." Jackson, who had been a fan of Octavia Butler's work since her teens, could not let this go. She pointed out that, while the idea of color-blind casting might seem great in theory, in this case, it would be detrimental to the spirit of the source material. Fuller took Arianna's words to heart and then explained that, as a black person, herself, she should know better than anyone that,"Blacks, in general, just don't DO sci-fi. Quick has a huge following among white AND black music fans, and she wants to star in this. We've got you writing it, so there's no way anyone can say there's any kind of racism going on. Pammy Quick gets her movie career, the studio makes a bundle on a big-budget film series starring the hottest teen pop star to come along in decades, you get a very impressive writing credit under you belt, and fans of the Earthseed books get the movies they've been clamoring for. Everybody wins. " When Jackson naively asked, "What about Octavia Butler and her vision?" Fuller's answer was chillingly concise and to-the-point: "Octavia Butler is dead. Paragon buys properties, not visions."

Jackson turned down the offer. Her most recent IMDB credit is for a corporate training film on workplace diversity. 

Sunday, March 18, 2018

March 18

After a brutal attack on a NYC street, 60 year old Indrajit Laghari had to be taken to Bellevue Hospital by ambulance, where he was treated for cuts, bruises, several broken ribs, and a broken jaw. Police on the scene had been forced to use significant force to pull Laghari's attacker, 19 year old ameteur wrestler Jesse Barberra, off of his victim. On the drive to Manhattan's First Precinct, Barberra informed the officers that Laghari, a street vendor, had sold him a DVD of the most recent Wrestlemania extravaganza. Upon trying to watch it with a group of his wrestling buddies, he'd discovered the DVD was a shaky mess, clearly filmed using a cellphone. The poor-quality bootleg had ruined everything, and Barberra's friends had given him a hard time about having been ripped off by a "dothead." In the heat of anger, he'd gone out to find Laghari packing up his wares, and attacked him in full view of several passers-by, who called the police. At this point in his confession, Barberra began to cry, saying he didn't want to go to prison, and that his mother would be heartbroken, as he'd never gotten into any kind of trouble, before. Taking pity on the young man, Officer Mike Mulraney assured him that nothing discussed in the squad car was "on the record" and that, seeing as how Langhari had been selling bootleg merchandise, and didn't seem to have a vendor's license, anyhow, it was highly unlikely that a kid with a clean record would spend any more than a few hours in jail.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

March 17

David Jorgenssen and Jean-Pierre Montreaux, a San Francisco couple who met through Prêt-à-Porter Elite Matchingmaking, a service for gay professionals searching for life partners, researched matrimonial customs from all over the world, as they planned their own wedding. One custom, which came up in internet search after internet search, was that of jumping the broom. They liked the aesthetic of this tradition, and decided it would have a place in their wedding ceremony. Upon hearing of their idea, wedding planner D'arren Riggins, a mixed-race man originally from South Carolina, informed them that he felt uncomfortable about two European-American men integrating a custom so closely associated with African-American slave culture into their wedding, and urged them to forget it. He explained that, most closely associated with Africans enslaved in North America, the tradition of jumping the broom harked back to a time when slaves were not afforded the opportunity to enter into legal marriage and, instead, carried out the ritual of jumping from one side of the broom to the other, signifying a passing of one stage of life into another. He further explained that appropriation of a ritual which had such strong significance to the African-American community, and such strong ties to America's history of slave trade, for purely aesthetic reasons, was something many people - including himself - would find somewhat offensive. After discussing it, David and Jean-Pierre decided the only course of action would be to find another wedding planner - no small feat, with a wedding date just six months away. After all, this was supposed to be their day and, as gay men, they had fought long and hard for the right to marry - no one was going to tell them how they could or could not do it. 

In the note David sent, demanding their deposit back, he wrote, "We expected you, of all people - a gay, black man from the American south - to understand why getting married on our own terms is so important to us. We were clearly mistaken, and your true colors have come to light." 

Friday, March 16, 2018

March 16

At a meeting of the Harper Lee Elementary School PTA, in Mobile, Alabama, faculty announced that a new program, wherein all homework assignments would be done and submitted by students using a new, cloud-based portal, was going to go into effect for 5th graders. For the most part, parents looked pleased. One parent, though - Jessie Monroe, a single mother who earned her living as a bookkeeper - raised her hand to say that her family didn't own a computer or have wifi, because they couldn't afford such luxuries. Principal Charlie Mansfield prevented his staff from replying, and took the mike, himself, to say, "Miss Monroe, we're here to give your child an education. Other than that, it's your job to see she gets what she needs. I advise you figure something out."

At the end of the evening, after all the parents had left, Mansfield heard a couple of his staff saying they'd felt badly for Jessie Monroe. Their sympathies were put to rest, though, when Mansfield noted that, if Jessie Monroe owned both a car and a cell phone, she could find the money, someplace, to get her kid a laptop computer. 

Thursday, March 15, 2018

March 15

On this evening in 1986, Christian Televangelist Winston"Dill" Pickles of Andalusia, Alabama, who had risen to prominence with his staunch, public condemnation of interracial marriage and lax U.S. policies on immigration, was publicly humiliated when he was arrested during an FBI sting operation. Operation Lost Child, which was the culmination of 8 years' worth of FBI undercover work, targeted a multi-national sex slave ring which victimized underaged girls from Southeast Asia. The girls who were rescued during this raid ranged in age from 11-16, spoke no English, had no Green Cards, and had traveled from Thailand and Laos under the impression they had been granted full scholarships to a Christian boarding school, only to arrive in Alabama and end up being held captive in a private, members-only "gentleman's club." The club occupied the second floor of a Pickles Ministries-owned building which not only housed the ministries' administrative offices, but a private suite which Winston Pickles, whose main residence was in Birmingham, used as a pied-à-terre. Considering his standing in the community, Pickles was granted full immunity in exchange for information leading to the arrest of a Laotian travel agent.