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April 11, 2012

The Truth About Baseball

Nawaaz traveled to Los Angeles and was taken to see his first baseball game. He was nine years old, accompanied by his aunt Lopa, a school teacher, and her friends, Wilbur and Veronica, a scholar and a writer. Nawaaz, not being American, knew nothing about baseball, so he asked his hosts: the teacher, the poet and the intellectual, to explain the game to him. Here is what each one said.

The teacher: A baseball is a round ball, and the object is to go ‘round the bases, running counter-clockwise. The innings when the two teams switch positions also go around nine times. So just remember three bases to touch before they let you come back across the plate plus three strikes, that’s when you swing and miss, plus three outs before the sides trade makes nine, the number of turns in each game. It’s really simple!

The intellectual: That’s quite true, but there’s also a leverage thematic problem-based dialogue transforming pitcher and batter, the real-time stakeholders, that operationalizes metacognitive enabling to enhance visionary risk-takers and strategize, even synergize, disintermediate interactive systems. Baseball embraces multidisciplinary objectives assessment to facilitate and orchestrate transformative paradigms by reinventing critical thinking mechanics and extending articulation to benchmark engagement structures, to target cross-contextualized proactive facilitators.

The poet: Baseball is the search for the lost soul’s return home. The foul lines continue into infinity embracing the universe and linking all playing fields, players, spectators as pseudo-players, and imagined or remembered childhood experience mythologized into a legend of the self. The traveler earns his/her reward by overcoming physical limitations and contrasting enemies to arise victorious or fall in shame and disgrace, symbolizing the angst of human endeavor and the metaphorical literature on our Creator-construct. It’s a dance, a ritual, a faith that informs everything else.

Nawaaz nodded and smiled as he enjoyed the game through to the end. Then he went home and called his parents. “Aunt Lopa took me to a show called baseball, and I got three explanations, but I couldn’t understand a word. It was the worst three hours of my life. Please let me come home, so I never have to watch another one of these things ever again!”

Happy trials, Martin

Mutt: Wanna play twenty questions?
Jeff: No, I don’t.
Mutt: Number one: What's the longest piece of furniture in the world?
Jeff: Seriously?
Mutt: The multiplication table.
Jeff: When does a boat show affection?
Mutt: Dunno.
Jeff: When it hugs the shore.
Mutt: Let’s save time by giving the question and the answer.
Jeff: Even better. Why are rivers always rich? Because they have two banks.
Mutt: Why did the little fella sleep on the chandelier? Because he was a light sleeper.
Jeff: Why do cows wear cowbells? Because their horns don't work.
Mutt: Why does lightning shock people? Because it doesn't know how to conduct itself.
Jeff: Why is your hand similar to a hardware store? Because it has nails.
Mutt: Did you hear about the dyslexic Satanist? He sold his soul to Santa
Jeff: How do crazy people go through the forest? They take the psycho path.
Mutt: How do you get holy water? Boil the hell out of it.
Jeff: What do prisoners use to call each other? Cell phones.
Mutt: What do the letters D.N.A. stand for? National Dyslexics Association.
Jeff: What do you call a boomerang that doesn't work? A stick.
Mutt: What do you call four bull fighters in quicksand? Quatro sinko.
Jeff: What do you get from a pampered cow? Spoiled milk.
Mutt: What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire? Frostbite.
Jeff: What do you get when you cross an elephant and a skin doctor? A pachydermatologist
Mutt: What has four legs, is big, green, fuzzy, and if it fell out of a tree would kill you? A pool table.
Jeff: What is a zebra? 26 sizes larger than an "A" bra.
Mutt: What lies at the bottom of the ocean and twitches? A nervous wreck.
Jeff: Was even one of those funny?
Mutt: Yeah, one.

April 1, 2012

Kurt Vonnegut Letter to Drake School Board

In October of 1973, Bruce Severy — a 26-year-old English teacher at Drake High School, North Dakota — decided to use Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, Slaughterhouse Five, as a teaching aid in his classroom. The next month, on November 7th, the head of the school board, Charles McCarthy, demanded that all 32 copies be burned in the school's furnace as a result of its "obscene language." Other books soon met with the same fate.

On the 16th of November, Kurt Vonnegut sent McCarthy the following letter. He didn't receive a reply.

November 16, 1973

Dear Mr. McCarthy:

I am writing to you in your capacity as chairman of the Drake School Board. I am among those American writers whose books have been destroyed in the now famous furnace of your school.

Certain members of your community have suggested that my work is evil. This is extraordinarily insulting to me. The news from Drake indicates to me that books and writers are very unreal to you people. I am writing this letter to let you know how real I am.

I want you to know, too, that my publisher and I have done absolutely nothing to exploit the disgusting news from Drake. We are not clapping each other on the back, crowing about all the books we will sell because of the news. We have declined to go on television, have written no fiery letters to editorial pages, have granted no lengthy interviews. We are angered and sickened and saddened. And no copies of this letter have been sent to anybody else. You now hold the only copy in your hands. It is a strictly private letter from me to the people of Drake, who have done so much to damage my reputation in the eyes of their children and then in the eyes of the world. Do you have the courage and ordinary decency to show this letter to the people, or will it, too, be consigned to the fires of your furnace?

I gather from what I read in the papers and hear on television that you imagine me, and some other writers, too, as being sort of ratlike people who enjoy making money from poisoning the minds of young people. I am in fact a large, strong person, fifty-one years old, who did a lot of farm work as a boy, who is good with tools. I have raised six children, three my own and three adopted. They have all turned out well. Two of them are farmers. I am a combat infantry veteran from World War II, and hold a Purple Heart. I have earned whatever I own by hard work. I have never been arrested or sued for anything. I am so much trusted with young people and by young people that I have served on the faculties of the University of Iowa, Harvard, and the City College of New York. Every year I receive at least a dozen invitations to be commencement speaker at colleges and high schools. My books are probably more widely used in schools than those of any other living American fiction writer.

If you were to bother to read my books, to behave as educated persons would, you would learn that they are not sexy, and do not argue in favor of wildness of any kind. They beg that people be kinder and more responsible than they often are. It is true that some of the characters speak coarsely. That is because people speak coarsely in real life. Especially soldiers and hardworking men speak coarsely, and even our most sheltered children know that. And we all know, too, that those words really don’t damage children much. They didn’t damage us when we were young. It was evil deeds and lying that hurt us.

After I have said all this, I am sure you are still ready to respond, in effect, “Yes, yes–but it still remains our right and our responsibility to decide what books our children are going to be made to read in our community.” This is surely so. But it is also true that if you exercise that right and fulfill that responsibility in an ignorant, harsh, un-American manner, then people are entitled to call you bad citizens and fools. Even your own children are entitled to call you that.

I read in the newspaper that your community is mystified by the outcry from all over the country about what you have done. Well, you have discovered that Drake is a part of American civilization, and your fellow Americans can’t stand it that you have behaved in such an uncivilized way. Perhaps you will learn from this that books are sacred to free men for very good reasons, and that wars have been fought against nations which hate books and burn them. If you are an American, you must allow all ideas to circulate freely in your community, not merely your own.

If you and your board are now determined to show that you in fact have wisdom and maturity when you exercise your powers over the education of your young, then you should acknowledge that it was a rotten lesson you taught young people in a free society when you denounced and then burned books–books you hadn’t even read. You should also resolve to expose your children to all sorts of opinions and information, in order that they will be better equipped to make decisions and to survive.

Again: you have insulted me, and I am a good citizen, and I am very real.

Kurt Vonnegut