Before I get to the teacher in question, I want to talk education for a minute. It's been written many times that U.S. students are, well - not number one. They are not number one in math, not number one in science and not number one in reading/writing. In fact, they are far from number one. The World Education Ranking system ranks, as you can guess - education in the world. The U.S. has never been number one. Ever. In 2016 U.S. kids had their best showing since the 70’s and placed 7th, but in 2017 dropped to 20th and last year (2018) - the U.S. dropped off the list entirely.
But you know what U.S. kids are number one in - thinking they are number one. No, seriously. If you ask U.S. kids how they expect to perform on a test when up against kids from other countries, American children universally believe they will perform much, much, much better than they actually do. And many U.S. kids honestly believe they will be number one in math, science, literacy and pretty much everything else under the sun. Number. One.
Well, let’s take a look. There is a test called the PISA (Program for International Students Assessment) and it’s a worldwide exam administered approx. every three years to 15 year old's in 72 countries. About half a million students take the exam. The test results are compiled by the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development). Their most recent test was in 2015.
Out of 72 countries tested:
U.S. kids ranked 40th in math with a score that puts U.S. teens 11 spots lower than the average score.
U.S. kids ranked 24th in reading comprehension with a score that puts U.S. teens 4 spots higher than the average score.
U.S. kids ranked 25th in science with a score that puts U.S. teens 4 spots higher than the average score.
Not exactly “‘We’re number one!” And, sadly, according to those 17'-18'World Education Ranking numbers I posted above, it looks like U.S. kids are dropping further down the list.
So, what’s going on? Who’s to blame?
Well, I don’t really know and I’m not going to speculate much; however, I find it interesting to hear how much self confidence U.S. kids seem to have vs. how they actually perform. Keep in mind, just because I’m not going to speculate doesn’t mean that other folks won’t speculate. Hell, everyone seems to have all the answers these days, you know? Just check social media where everyone is certain their all caps FB post is clearly the one and only way you MUST think or they’ll unfriend you.
It seems as if parents blame teachers. Teachers blame parents. Republicans blame teachers. Democrats blame the system. Education administrators don’t seem to blame teachers, but they certainly bail out on protecting teachers when irate parents come screaming or, God forbid - someone on a sports team is failing! “You can’t fail our basketball/baseball/football star!”
Yes, yes teachers can and should be able to fail students up to and including athletes. It is the teacher's exact job to evaluate if a child has done the work to pass, or not. If kids are terrible s#!t heads and parents are ignoring email, after phone call after text message saying, “Hey - your kid is a bully, hasn’t turned in 10 of his assignments this year and I might have to fail him! Please respond!” Well, if parents don’t take a vested interest in their own child’s education and their kid acts a damn fool and never does his/her school work - that kid deserves consequences. Just sayin.
And that’s exactly how Julie Marburger felt. Marburger is a sixth grade teacher at Cedar Creek Intermediate School in Texas. She was worn down by the chaotic destructive students and the irate road raging parents. And so, just before she quit, she wrote an epic FB post blasting them all. The rant went viral and within two weeks had millions of hits. (Editor’s note: It doesn’t appear as if she quit. She expected to receive hatred for her post and thought she would have to quit as a result but instead of recieving negative press she has received overwhelming support and it sounds as if the support has stayed her hand from quitting, as of yet).
Marburger’s view is that parents and children have become awful, abusive, entitled pricks. The kids don’t seem to care about consequences and parents lose their minds if their Precious Angel doesn’t get an A. It doesn’t matter if Precious Angel destroys school property, turns in zero work assignments and verbally abuses teachers and/or students because parents will still demand that Precious Angel recieve an A! After two years of, as Marburger describes it - abuse, she finally had enough and called parents and students out for their behavior.
Her full FB post:
“I left work early today after an incident with a parent left me unable emotionally to continue for the day. I have already made the decision to leave teaching at the end of this year, and today, I don’t know if I will make it even that long. Parents have become far too disrespectful, and their children are even worse. Administration always seems to err on the side of keeping the parent happy, which leaves me with no way to do the job I was hired to do ... teach kids.
I am including photos that I took in my classroom over the past two days. This is how my classroom regularly looks after my students spend all day there. Keep in mind that many of the items damaged or destroyed by my students are my personal possessions or I purchased myself, because I have NO classroom budget. I have finally had enough of the disregard for personal and school property and am drawing a line in the sand on a myriad of behaviors that I am through tolerating. Unfortunately, one parent today thought it was wrong of me to hold her son accountable for his behavior and decided to very rudely tell me so, in front of her son.
Report cards come out later this week, and I have nearly half of my students failing due to multiple (8-10) missing assignments. Most of these students and their parents haven’t seemed to care about this over the past three months, though weekly reports go out, emails have been sent and phone calls have been attempted.
But now I’m probably going to spend my entire week next week fielding calls and emails from irate parents, wanting to know why I failed their kid. My administrator will demand an explanation of why I let so many fail without giving them support, even though I’ve done practically everything short of doing the work for them. And behavior in my class will deteriorate even more. I am expecting this, because it is what has happened at the end of every other term thus far.
I have never heard of a profession where people put so much of their heart and soul into their job, taking time and resources from their home and family, and getting paid such an insultingly measly amount. Teachers are some of the most kind and giving people I have ever met, yet they get treated so disrespectfully from all sides. Most parents can’t stand to spend more than a couple hours a day with their kid, but we spend 8 with yours and 140 others just like him. Is it too much to ask for a little common courtesy and civil conversation.
It has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember to have a classroom of my own, and now my heart is broken to have become so disillusioned in these short two years. This is almost all i hear from other teachers as well, and they are leaving the profession in droves. There is going to be a teacher crisis in this country before too many more years has passed unless they abuse of teachers stops.
People absolutely HAVE to stop coddling and enabling their children. It’s a problem that’s going to spread through our society like wildfire. It’s not fair to society, and more importantly, is not fair to the children to teach them this is okay. It will not serve them towards a successful and happy life.
Many will say I shouldn’t be posting such things on social media ... that I should promote education and be positive. But I don’t care anymore. Any passion for this work I once had has been wrung completely out of me. Maybe I can be the voice of reason. THIS HAS TO STOP”
Disney and Marvel Studios have agreed to rehire writer/director James Gunn following his July 2018 firing over dozens of online statements he made regarding women and LGBT folks. So, what exactly happened (and for some folks - who is James Gunn and why should I care?):
James Gunn, he’s a writer/director of feature films who had to back to back hits with Marvel Studios Guardians of the Galaxy 1&2 both of which were surprise hits and have combined for a total world box office of $1.5 billion. So, when conservative personalities dug up old tweets on the Trump hating Gunn, they could not wait to manufacture some fake rage. Like most things in internet outrage culture it didn’t matter that Gunn wrote the tweets ten years ago and that, while tasteless and sometimes insensitive, they were clearly not to be taken seriously. But no matter. Disney caved to the faux rage and fired Gunn from the upcoming Guardians 3.
At the time, when reporters were questioning him about the tweets, Gunn clarified his earlier comments via Twitter: "Many people who have followed my career know, when I started, I viewed myself as a provocateur, making movies and telling jokes that were outrageous and taboo. As I have discussed publicly many times, as I've developed as a person, so has my work and my humor. It's not to say I'm better, but I am very, very different than I was a few years ago; today I try to root my work in love and connection and less in anger. My days saying something just because it's shocking and trying to get a reaction are over."
After Disney fired him for the decade old tweets, Gunn responded: "Regardless of how much time has passed, I understand and accept the business decisions taken today. Even these many years later, I take full responsibility for the way I conducted myself then. All I can do now, beyond offering my sincere and heartfelt regret, is to be the best human being I can be: accepting, understanding, committed to equality, and far more thoughtful about my public statements and my obligations to our public discourse. To everyone inside my industry and beyond, I again offer my deepest apologies. Love to all."
And if you read over the tweets some of them clearly go to far. In fact, what I thought was far more inappropriate was Gunn’s post titled, "The 15 Superheroes I Most Want to Have Sex With," which was filled with some pretty idiotic fanboy misogynist writing. ( Editor’s note: We are unable to find a link to that now deleted story, but numerous op-eds exist in which they discuss it including this one at the Marysue.com).
So, my general take on the firing was, “Gunn wrote stupid tweets, probably when he was drunk.” He should apologize, not do anything that stupid again and move on with it. And that should have been the end. Alas, Disney caved to outrage culture and so Gunn was fired. And that as they say - is that.
But didn’t you say he got hired, again?
I did. Which means that, as they say, was not that. How did Gunn get hired back? Well, shortly after the firing, a pretty obvious narrative emerged - Gunn was an often harsh critic of President Trump and so therefor - angry conservative personalities manufactured some engineered fake rage to shut him up! And it worked. It did not matter that all the movie stars that worked with Gunn on Guardians were like, “Um, this is BS. Please hire him back.”
But that wasn’t exactly enough to get him hired again. Thankfully, according to Deadline, Disney felt Gunn’s apologies were very sincere, and they were impressed with how Gunn handled the firing and how he didn’t blame the company. The other thing Disney noticed is that Gunn’s firing didn’t stop other companies from hiring him as he had signed on to direct the next Suicide Squad film. Which means, Disney probably figured, “Well, if other studios are hiring him - maybe we screwed up what with that firing thing we did to him.”
And so Gunn won his job again and is back to directing Guardians 3. To be honest, it doesn’t really matter. Most of those tentpole flagship franchise films are so predictably cookie cutter that the director no longer matters - that much. Obviously, you need A director. But if it’s James Gunn, or Peyton Reed, or Joe Johnston, or Scott Derrickson, or hell even Brett Ratner or Katherine Hardwick … I mean, they’re all basically the same. The idea of the auteur director is mostly gone. At least, it’s mostly gone in Hollywood franchise films.
Another white supremacist right-wing terrorist commits mass murder. I’m sure you’ve heard all about it. I’m not going to talk much about gun control because you already know where you stand on that issue. I’m not going to even talk about the actual massacre because you’ve probably heard all about it and, honestly, I doubt I have anything new to say. I do want to talk about the fact that I wish I was more shocked. I mean, do you actually remember a time when it would be shocking to hear about any kind of massacre? I certainly do, and I honestly feel like it was decades ago. Now, I just wait for it to happen, knowing it will.
Remember back in 2011 when a white supremacist right-wing terrorist massacred 79 people in Norway? I hope you do, because I actually forgot all about it. I seriously did. This morning I read Huffpost’s really excellent: Mass Shooters Have Exploited the Internet For Years. New Zealand Took It To A New Level. (No, seriously, it’s great, you should take a few minutes to read it because they accurately point out some of the social problems that lead to mass shootings). Somewhere within the Huffpost story, the writers mention the 2011 attack in Norway that killed seven nine people, and I immediately thought, “Attack on Norway? Jesus, I don’t even remember that one.” I had to look it up. It took me a few moments of reading to recall the details. And then I thought, “Oh, I think there's a Netflix movie about it that just came out a few months ago - maybe I should watch it.” Sadly, my thoughts were not “What a horrible, f**king thing to have happened!” Nope. My thoughts were, “Don’t remember it. Oh, right, now I remember it. I should watch the movie.” =(
I mean, there are plenty of mass shootings I do remember. Without looking anything up: Vegas. The Ariana Grande concert in the UK (I think this was a bomb and not a shooting, or maybe it was both, or maybe I’m mixing up concert attacks). The FL nightclub massacre. Columbine. Virginia Tech. Sandy Hook. The Synagogue attack in … um, I can’t recall which city (and I even wrote about that attack). The attack on the movie theater where viewers were watching Batman, but I don’t remember the name of the theater chain or the city it happened. Multiple attacks on black folks while they’re in church. Multiple attacks in Paris within the last five years. The Kenya school attack. The Australian massacre in Port Arthur and I only remember this one because of the Jim Jefferies stand up routine about the attack and his views on gun control (which, is a pretty good routine). The Amish school shooting in … actually, I don’t remember where. Those are the ones I remember off the top of my head and there are clearly important details that I just can't recall - like the horrible massacre in Norway where 79 people died! Five years from now, after another couple dozen mass shootings have occurred, I wonder which of the above I will have forgotten?
Obviously the point being that mass shootings happen often enough that I no longer even remember some of them. I don’t claim to have a solution; however, I do see a few things in common with modern day massacres.
And there we have our game of Clue: The modern day massacre edition! Pick a mass shooting and ask - who did it? Oh, I know! I know! Is it ”the crippling insecure white male right-wing extremist, in the city, with a semi-automatic weapon?” (Well, not 100% of the time but, close enough).
Hey, how about this for a new law - men are banned from owning and operating guns! No, that's illegal. Let's remember the Second Amendment here so, oh, I know! Men can own, like, a flintlock rifle or a blunderbuss, or something as equally inefficient in the modern world - but women are allowed to own Uzi's and 9mm semi-automatic pistols! That would probably cut down on mass shootings. =)
Anyway. We all know mass shootings are not going away. Maybe the next time a cripplingly insecure man decides to shoot up a movie theater - I’ll be there and get killed. Or maybe the next time a cripplingly insecure man decides to “ignite a race war” by walking into a church filled with black folks and gunning them down - you’ll be there and get killed. Or maybe the next time a cripplingly insecure man decides to walk into a nightclub and gun down dancers - your kid will be there and get killed.
But I hope not. I hope someone, somewhere has a solution. And I hope it comes sooner, rather than later. Until then, I will cynically just wait for the next mass shooting to happen. I’ll probably post a bitter story about that one too - "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
The word has spread all over the internet, and all over the news that as many as 50 people conspired in a scheme to help their kids cheat on SAT/ACT tests and / or get their kid admitted to a privileged school on an athletic scholarship - even if the child had never played the sport.
Okay. Well, that’s clearly fraud. You can’t pay someone to take tests for your kid and you can’t get admitted on scholarship for a sport you’ve never played. That’s a crime. And let’s not forget the general idea that the moment you pay for the privilege of placing your child in a college that he/she probably didn’t deserve to be at - you’ve actually significantly harmed someone else who deserved that place but was rejected due to your fraud.
And there are some high profile people involved in this including actress Felicity Huffman (of Desperate Housewives fame) and actress Lori Loughlin (of Full House fame) both who paid huge sums of money to cheat their kids into college. Now, I know parents will do anything for their kids so, to be honest - I’m certainly not surprised to hear that rich parents will, you know - pay large sums of money to give their children even more privilege and more advantages than they already had. This is not a big shock to me.
And this is nothing new, right? I mean, all you have to do is apply common sense and reason to the George W. Bush Yale/Harvard question. How did Bush Jr. get into either ivy league school with his C average in high school, his decent (but certainly not great) SAT score and his zero college sports scholarships? You or I would NOT be able to get into Yale or Harvard with a C average and a decent SAT score. So how did Bush Jr. get in? Well, we all know that answer to that - because his family is well know and rich, rich, rich.
Obviously both schools accepted Bush Jr.., probably for the prestige of the Bush name but maybe, like in these recent cases - out of fraud. It’s very possible the Bush family just shelled out huge sums of cash to both schools until the universities in question said, “Sure, we’ll take your C student son!”
Well, that’s pretty much what this new scandal is all about. And we’re talking all sorts of universities are involved in this - Georgetown, Stanford, Yale, Wake Forest, UCLA, USC, Harvard, to name a few. And officials are claiming this might be just the tip of the iceberg.
So, how did this all happen?
It appears that a man named William "Rick" Singer is the front runner. Singer is CEO of “The Key,” which is a college admission prep company. And Singer pretty much told super rich parents that, for a specific fee, he would pay people to take standardized tests for their kids and then Singer would bribe test administrators to look the other way. If that wasn’t going to work out, he told parents he could create fake sports photos to submit to the schools and pay coaches to recommend a sports scholarships. He did that too! Well, Singer was caught, and he confessed to everything, so I’m not going to bother with the word - alleged.
And, of course, sometimes the parents helped in communications with university officials or coaches. Sometimes they didn’t. But they all paid and they all knew what they were doing was illegal. And some of the parents paid huge amounts of money - up to millions of dollars! I mean, how much does your kid have suck in school for their parents to need to pay millions of dollars to get them accepted?
Anyway, then Singer used his “The Key” business to launder all the money, and all the parents agreed to the scam from top to bottom. And this is pretty much the epitome of fraud, racketeering and conspiracy. So this is going to get a whole lot of rich people in trouble, all their kids are going to get thrown out of their respective schools and lots of money is going to get lost. The lawyers will all make out like bandits, though (but don’t they always).
What will happen now?
Well, will anyone go to jail? Ummmm, probably not any of the parents. They’re all rich and have expensive lawyers. They’ll probably pay a fine or two and get a hand-slap or two. And there will certainly be public embarrassment and humiliation. Prosecutors might pin a few things on some low power scapegoats and throw them in jail as, “a lesson,” but that’s probably all that will happen.
Anyway. I don’t know about you but I am not surprised that super rich people pay ridiculous amount of money to get their kids into a college that they clearly don’t deserve to be in. Is it a crime? Yes. Should their kids be kicked out of school? Yes. Should there be some kind of punishment and/or fine? Yes. Will there be lawsuits? Yes. But, to be honest, the only thing that really shocks me here is that, this time - the rich folks actually have to pay for their crimes. That's actually, pretty surprising.
After two horrific airline crashes within six months many airlines around the world are grounding the Boeing 737 MAX 8, the model of plane used in both crashes. Investigators are still looking into the most recent crash that happened on Sunday to see if it the reason for the crash is related to the previous 737 MAX 8 which crashed just six months prior.
Boeing is the largest aerospace company in the world and it’s a leading manufacturer of commercial jetliners, defense, space and security systems, and service provider of aftermarket support. It’s also one of America’s biggest (if not THE biggest) manufacturing exporter, as the company supports airlines and U.S. and allied government customers in more than 150 countries.
Boeing leaders should be panicking right now. This is a brand new plane and now it’s responsible for the deaths of several hundred people. I mean, the investigation for the recent Ethiopian crash isn’t complete and it might reveal that the crash was due to pilot error and not as the previous crash, because of a manufacturing error. But, I doubt it. The Indonesian crash six months ago was due to a malfunction with the MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System) which is an “automatic feature that detects if the nose of the plane is pitched up too high and pushes it down to prevent the craft from stalling.” The MCAS during the Indonesian flight sensed that the nose of the plane was too high (even though, it wasn’t) and forced the plane down, sending it into an irreversible nose dive that killed everyone on board. The recent Ethiopian crash on Sunday has all the same signs of the Indonesian disaster.
Many world airlines are not waiting for the recent investigation to conclude and have grounded the Boeing MAX 8. This is the right move! Sadly, some airlines are ignoring the threat and are keeping that model in flight rotation. This is clearly a risk/profit analysis, right? They are choosing to risk the death’s of their passengers because they are concerned grounding the plane might cut into their profits and they certainly don’t want to admit any guilt because that will only add fuel to all those future lawsuits that are coming.
Enter Senator John Thune (R) who is ranking member on aviation oversight of the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). Thune told reporters that he would be open to grounding the planes if the evidence pointed to it, but absolutely did NOT say that the Boeing MAX 8 should be grounded out of precaution. That is, of course, until a reported asked this question:
Reporter: Would you feel safe flying in a Super Max 8 right now? Would you fly on it?
Thune: Uhhh...well, I guess I would uh, probably like everybody else, prefer flying on some other plane.
Isn’t that just like a spineless politician? He won’t go against his corporate masters but he certainly wouldn’t fly on that plane! He can’t even come out and say it out loud. He has to stammer and stutter his way into a “prefer” comment.
Obviously, the Boeing 737 Super Max 8 should be grounded. And Thune knows it. I mean he certainly won’t risk his life, or the lives of his family but - you? He’s fine with that. I hope his constituents vote him the F out of office come next election day.
As of Tuesday here are the airlines that are still flying the Boeing 737 Super Max 8:
GOL Linhas Aéreas
Update 3/13/19 - 3:00pm: Most countries have grounded the Boeing 737 Super Max 8. Boeing did NOT ground the planes themselves because they care more about $$ than human lives. Finally, just a few minutes ago - President Trump issued an Executive Order grounding all 737 Super Max 8 models in the U.S.
Update 3/21/19 - 1:10pm: The investigation has concluded that both planes went down for the exact same reason - a faulty MCAS! From my understanding, all Super Max 8 models are now grounded.
This is an updating story.
Multiple sources are reporting that Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 from Addis Ababa, crashed Sunday morning killing everyone on board. It was just six minutes into its flight and investigators are currently searching for the black box and have only just begun to unravel the tragedy. But what we do know is that this is the second time in the last few months that a Boeing 737 MAX 8 has gone down within minutes of takeoff.
Last year, Lion Air Flight JT610 out of Indonesia went down a few minutes after takeoff killing all 189 on board. That black box was found and investigators determined that the MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System) was suspected to have caused the crash. To my understanding the MCAS is a, “automatic feature that detects if the nose of the plane is pitched up too high and pushes it down to prevent the craft from stalling.”
And sounds as if, if the MCAS malfunctions then it believes the plane is rising to quickly and, in order to avoid an engine stall, forces the plane to push down into a nose dive. Which means the pilots of the Indonesian flight desperately fought the nose dive. In fact, the crash investigation found that the pilots attempted to raise the nose of the aircraft more than 20 times in 11 minute flight before they crashed into the sea approx. 13 minutes into their flight.
What we don’t know is if the two crashes have anything in common other than the fact that they were both the same model of plane but it’s certainly something to be aware of. The model in question, the Boeing 737 MAX has only been out for a few years. As of now investigators are treating it as “coincidence” that both recent crashes had the exact same model and have gone down within minutes of take off but, I’m sure that they will be looking into similarities.
Boeing, of course, immediately entered damage control mode and released a carefully worded “Boeing is deeply saddened by the passing of the passengers and crew of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 …”
Did you catch that? The “passing” of the passengers and crew? That kind of pisses me off. The passengers didn’t peacefully “pass” in their sleep, no - they died a terrifying & horrible death and it might be because your (Boeing) brand new planes are not safe.
It’s too early into the investigation to know exactly why the plane crashed but, to be honest, if you heard that two of the exact same plane model have crashed under similar circumstances - would you buy a ticket on that plane? Because I certainly won’t.
This is a developing story.
Okay. As a huge Michael Jackson fan I did not want to watch Leaving Neverland, the HBO documentary detailing MJ during the height of his stardom and his relationship with two boys, aged 7 and 10 (now in their 30s), and their story of how MJ sexually abused them. I mean, I was always on the fence with MJ's guilt. I’m sure that over the years, I defended him in conversations, even though I had my doubt.
I grew up in the 80’s and MJ was THE super star of my generation. Everyone loved him. I mean, don’t get me wrong, there was always a kid or two that was like, “I hate Michael Jackson” but, whatever. No they didn't.
In fact, one of the hardest decisions my 9 year old self ever had to make was this: It was Friday night and there were two things on TV at the same time that I desperately needed to watch.
The first: Doctor Who: The Key to Time Part (something) Dude, you may not care about Doctor Who but for me, as a nine year old kid - Doctor Who was the everything! I can’t remember exactly which episode of Key to Time was going to be on, but I know that it aired at 10pm and went until midnight. On Friday.
The second: Friday Night Videos. Which, from memory was on from 10:30 to 11:30pm. And, you know what video was going to be the featured? Thriller! For the first time, ever!
OMG! What to watch. What to do? What to watch! Doctor Who or Thriller? Thriller or Doctor Who?
I watched Doctor Who. Which, come Monday morning at school, turned out to be huge mistake because everyone else had seen Thriller and I was suddenly the uncool kid, and the only kid in class - who had not seen it. Which, is a big deal when you’re nine.
Moving forward, personally, I think Bad is actually a more consistent album than Thriller, and Smooth Criminal is the greatest dance video ever produced and probably my favorite MJ song. I bought MJ’s early 90s album, Dangerous, but by then the magic was fading. I never bought HIStory and never even heard much of his music after that because by then we were neck deep in “Wacko Jacko” stories and abuse allegation trials. And, even if their wasn’t actual abuse, which is what I believed at the time - Jackson was f**king weird, man! He did himself no favors by … ummm … admitting to sleeping in the same bed with lots of children. For many years. At his private ranch. While the parents of the kids where at a completely separate part of the ranch. And MJ had alarms on his doors & hallways so no one would be able to sneak up on his bedroom unnoticed - where he was alone with the children. In bed. But, um, nothing happened (says Jackson.)
And a lot of us … kind of believed it. I mean, the idea that MJ, who’s public persona was nothing more than a grown up kid himself, actually molested children was difficult to believe. But now, in 2019, the very thought that I didn’t believe the allegations against him feels pretty damn naïve. But at the time, I mean, he was weird and he was rich - which makes him an easy target. And just because he’s weird and rich doesn’t mean he’s evil. And besides, I like his music and his dancing is awesome. Therefore - he probably isn’t guilty. Right? (And "probably" was good enough for me.)
Shortly after his death (in 2009), I read about a couple of the police officers that had collected evidence in the 90's Jackson child abuse allegations. And while they were under a gag order and were unable to discuss specifics, both of the officers said something that struck me, which was to the effect of, “I make sure no one, and I mean no one in my house, or family - listens to Michael Jackson. Ever.”
Hmmm. Reading between the lines there, it sounds as if the officers involved in collecting evidence from Neverland Ranch were so disturbed by said collected evidence against M.J. - that they refused to let anyone in their family ever listen to his music.
To me, that suggested - something. Not everything, yet ... but something. But still, at the time, had you asked me if I was 100% certain of MJs guilt I probably would have made excuses defending him, but then at the end of the conversation would have said, “But I don’t know, I wasn’t there. So … maybe he’s guilty.”
Back to the fact that I really didn’t want to watch Leaving Neverland. You know why? Because it’s pretty damn clear I always suspected in my heart that my childhood idol was guilty of pedophilia and I just didn’t want to hear proof. Which is a sad admission, but there it is. Also, I suspect many, many people feel/felt this way.
And so, I watched it.
Holy God. The documentary is as horrifying as you’ve heard. Part 1 details the allegations, which are stunning. Part 2 deals with family trauma, which is heartbreaking. And it's true that the documentary doesn’t offer “proof,” per say (for example - video of the abuse), it does; however, offer two extremely believable, sincere testimonials from James Safechuck and Wade Robson, both of whom accused MJ of sexually molesting them for many years when they were young, Wade as early as seven years old. Seven years old! And the documentary does not make any case that MJ doesn’t know what he is doing. In fact, it suggests the exact opposite in that MJ is a totally self aware f**king monster. The grooming. The planning. The lying. The seducing. The gifts. Getting the kids to lie for you. Just about everything we know about child molesters is there and it was probably always there, and most of us ignored it - because Michael Jackson is awesome!
Corey Feldman and Macaulay Culkin, MJ's two famous childhood actor friends, have both repeatedly said that MJ never did anything inappropriate to them which, I actually beleive because they were both famous child actors at the time. Pedophiles target kids with no power. Feldman and Culkin had, at least a modicum amount of power which is probably why MJ didn't target them. Culkin, as far as I am aware, has yet to comment on the documentary, but Feldman pushed back calling it “one sided” and criticized the film because MJ has no chance to defend himself. But, that's not exactly true, is it? I mean, MJ had every chance to defend himself when he was alive and in fact, he did so because there were acusations and trials. It occurred to me that we’ve only heard MJ’s side of the story - over and over and over - that he's innocent, he would never hurt kids, the alleged "victims" were out for money and that the media lied about him because he's rich and weird. That's the story we've been told. Leaving Neverland is actually, the first time we’ve ever heard from any of the alleged victims. So, I kind of feel like, while it's true we don't have "proof" that MJ is guilty or innocent - we've heard his side of things - that he's an altruistic angel and does nothing wrong and is the target of a smear campaign. And now we've finally heard from two of the alleged victims. And they are very, very compelling.
Feldman, himself an alleged victim of sexual abuse, quickly backtracked his early defense of MJ, telling CNN:
“I cannot in good consciousness defend anyone who’s being accused of such horrendous crimes, but at the same time, I’m also not here to judge him, because, again, he didn’t do those things to me and that was not my experience … It comes to a point where, as an advocate for victims, as an advocate for changing the statutes of limitations to make sure that victims’ voices are heard, it becomes impossible for me to stay virtuous and not at least consider what’s being said and not listen to what the victims are saying … As I’m watching it [the Leaving Neverland documentary], I’m going, ‘This doesn’t make sense to me. This isn’t the guy that I knew. But look, I’m a guy that at 14 years old was molested, did have a pedophile completely lie to me about who he was. I trusted him. I believed in him as a friend, and I thought he was a good person, and then he molested me. It all proves that I’m not the best judge, and that’s why I shouldn’t be the judge in this situation, and especially given the fact that I’m so close to [Jackson].”
Jackson still has his defenders. He always will. I used to be one of them. Not so much any longer. I mean, MJ was weird and rich and was an easy target and his estate is worth … God only knows … a couple of billion dollars? That, right there, is motive. So, I feel that I really understand all the reasons people don’t want to believe that, Michael Jackson, the best selling recording artist of all time - is a pedophile. I really do understand the reasons for doubt, but - I no longer believe any of them.
Not one bit.
Meanwhile, in the gaming community there has been some controversy about an upcoming game. Well, actually it’s been more like a huge fight. You see, there is a game developer called, “Desk Plant” and they are planning to release a game in April called “Rape Day.”
If you think the name of a game Rape Day means that you get to play a game where you … you know, rape women. Well, then you’d be right. That’s right - some douchebag company honestly thought it would be a great idea to market a game where you could rape women.
But who would be dumb enough to release such a game (you might ask)?
Enter Steam. For those that do not know, Steam is website developed by Valve Corporation. The site is used to distribute games & related media online and provides the user with installation and automatic management of software. Steam has a lot of games. And I mean - a lot. I use it all the time. In fact, 90 million active members use Steam every month, just to give you an idea how big the game site is.
Steam is no stranger to controversy. They sell a huge variety of games that cover a huge variety of topics up to and including - controversial topics. There has been game drama. Which led Steam to come up with an official response and, they kind of washed their hands with policing games they sell on their site. They feel that folks should be able to tell stories and create games about any and all controversial topics. It’s the free speech argument. Which is totally fair, so they basically said that unless the game is illegal - we’ll sell it. From their official June 6th, 2018 blog post:
“...we've decided that the right approach is to allow everything onto the Steam Store, except for things that we decide are illegal, or straight up trolling.”
Okay. Fair enough. The “straight up trolling” comment is the interesting part because that could mean … well, a lot of different things.
Cut to Rape Day. The developers call it an interactive graphic novel. What this means is the game is not a traditional animated movement game as your characters walk around, interact with objects and fight bad guys. Instead of that, it’s more like you (the player) are flipping pages of a comic book and get to make choices in order to reveal specific drawn pages.
The premise of Rape Day is simple: it’s a zombie apocalypse. And in the zombie apocalypse you play a sociopath. And you get to kill zombies. You also get to murder survivors and rape any and all women you encounter!
As you can imagine, the ridiculous premise brought the gamer social media house down. Multiple petitions and almost ten thousand emails flooded Steam Sales owner Valve Corporation with a universal cry of “WTF?”
After a few days of deliberating, Steam released this as their official word on the matter:
"After significant fact-finding and discussion, we think Rape Day poses unknown costs and risks and therefore won't be on Steam. We respect developers’ desire to express themselves, and the purpose of Steam is to help developers find an audience, but this developer has chosen content matter and a way of representing it that makes it very difficult for us to help them do that."
I’m fine with Steam’s decision here. Now, this doesn’t mean no one will be able to find the game anywhere. Desk Plant will probably just sell it off their own site, or something. But not getting on Steam will certainly restrict its findability, for sure.
BUT .... like all controversial things … controversy breeds sales. And I know I am part of the problem here. For example: It’s highly likely that, had I not written about this game - you may have gone your entire life without ever hearing about it. And I wouldn’t have ever heard about it had several game sites not written about it. Had the game just been released on Steam it might have come and gone and the overwhelming majority of us would have lived in blissful ignorance. Which, probably, would have kept sales for Rape Day, very, very low. And then the game and the company that developed it, probably would have come and gone and faded into obscurity.
Alas, now it’s out there. It’s not even just on the game sites any longer as Variety, Business Insider and Fortune all have articles about it. What probably began as some legitimately concerned women and/or parents sending a message or two to Steam asking them, “Is this seriously what you want to sell on your site?” has now blossomed into free advertising for a game that most folks would have never, ever heard about in the first place.
Which makes me a little sad. I mean, technically, these guys aren't doing anything illegal (as far as I am aware) but the idea of trying to "normalize rape" (that's the game developer's words, not mine) frankly, is kind of disgusting.
So, while Rape Day, as a game, might be legal - at least it won’t easily accessible and found on Steam. And I'm okay with that.
Although, I am suddenly playing Devil's Advocate here and thinking, "But if it remains on Steam, you could see which of your friends are playing it and then you could sit them down and be like, "Dude - WTF is wrong with you!?"
Nah. I guess I'd just rather just have it off Steam, go find it somewhere else, Incel Troll.
Tanner Wilson, a student at Caddo Hills High School in Norman, Arkansas often walked the halls of school with his wheelchair bound buddy, Brandon Qualls. Tanner took notice that his friend Brandon, would often have to stop and rest his arms due to fatigue. And it’s easy to imagine why. I mean, you try pushing yourself around in a manual wheelchair for hours at a time and see how long you last. Right?
Anyway, Tanner took notice alright. So much so that he spent two years saving his money from a part time job. He also spent a year searching the internet for a motorized wheelchair that would work well for his friend Brandon. After two years of work, saving and then finally finding a motorized wheelchair on sale on Facebook, Tanner bought it for his buddy. Tanner then surprised Brandon during class one day, presenting the wheelchair to him in front of his friends and teacher.
You can watch the video here. (This is the same video linked to the front of the page).
And that is why Tanner Wilson is my favorite person this month.
Two devastating tornadoes ripped through Alabama on Sunday night killing at least 23 people, injuring dozens more with at least ten people still missing. The Governor immediately declared a statewide emergency and by Monday afternoon FEMA had search and rescue teams in state in hopes of finding those still missing.
In fact, 18 tornadoes hit Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina over the weekend, it’s just that the Alabama two did the most damage, including one that blasted through Lee County and caused the most deaths. The storm hit several families tragically hard - seven from two families related by marriage were killed and at least three families had two or three people die in the storm. The names of the all the victims can be found here.
By Tuesday morning rescue operations turned into recovery operations and residents were told to push any debris on their property out to the edge of the roadway for eventual pickup. But if that’s not bad enough, the weekend might bring in more storms from the west.
According to CNN there are multiple ways you can help families affected by the storm - here is the official link to the Public Good campaign to help victims of Alabama tornadoes. Or you can donate to the Alabama Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund.