29 September 2010

Excerpt from my short story in progress

He is devilishly handsome.

"Let us not be so remiss as to disregard the wisdom of the great Roman poet Horace," sermonizes the beautiful man, cheekbones carved by Michelangelo himself. "’For the sins of the fathers you, though guiltless, must suffer.’”

The stone cellar walls play stage to shadow gyrations, the soft staccatos of the torches conducting a ballet of illuminated shapes. His arms dance with bold sensation, every syllable pushing feeling. And the blackest darkness of the room, the limb long slender specters, performs a wicked tango upon the stone. Haunting. Sinful. Intoxicating. This fellow is charisma incarnate. And while the conductor of this hypnotizing production may be the flame, one has to ask who, or what, it may be that conducts the fire.

His listeners, a congregation of stiff black-cloaked figures, watch each and every move of those godly cheekbones as they, in a mutual endeavor, serve as the gatekeepers of his rhetoric, opening and closing his majestic jaw and unleashing the message, its meaning less important than the manner of its reveal. He could ask the men to climb to the highest tower of Heidelberger Schloss and emulate the ravens. They would oblige. Anything Herr Schwarzenherz requests, Herr Schwarzenherz sees done. This is what makes my employer fearful.

Horace could not be more correct if he were a book of balanced equations. Our German state is in crisis following the Great War, a war built upon the idiocies of our parents and all the other patriarchs of Europe. And with defeat, we who are left must suffer. The Weimar Republic is weak, the Communists are leading massacres in die Ruhrgebiet to the north, and there are dangerous men like Schwarzenherz, who always seem to come out of the woodwork when weak and defeated men need a crazed maniac to follow.
I am personally relieved the war is all done. Even in crisis there is still always hope for a safe tomorrow. The suffering now is nowhere near the suffering of a few years past, when black smoke and bombs blanketed the entirety of eye’s vision. Charred grass. Forever gray sky. At the very least, there is color now. And perhaps the war was inevitable and we were destined to lose. At least it is done. I have seen a lot of regrettable things. I have done a lot more. At least it is done.

I am not paid to think. It is a dreadful habit of mine.


Copyright 2010 - Robert M. Montenegro

23 September 2010

Ich bin so müde

The semester is in full gear and I've got 15 units, two jobs, and a dozen textbooks that I should be paid overtime for reading.

Safe to say I'm tired.

14 September 2010

Why I dig Chris Christie

Since I guess all I've posted recently are communist manifestos and diatribes detailing my vast anti-American hate (Praise Allah!), let me take some time to highlight Chris Christie, a guy who I hope to God doesn't turn to the dark side and affiliate himself with nutjobs like Palin or the Tea Party wing of the Republican party.

Watch as he destroys this know-it-all teacher, first by chiding her for her childish behavior and then defending himself against her attacks point by point. There's some fuzzy math (what's $100 million between friends?), but I like his bluntness. Whether its just the way he is or simply a show to set him apart - it works.

Good for you, Chris Christie. The phattest governor in the land.

11 September 2010

I am 9/11!

Two can play it at this game, Greg.

The Curse of the Piazza would like to welcome loyal contributor Glenn Beck to the site.

Greetings Fellow God-Fearing Patriots!

It has come to my attention that there are those who have the audacity to call themselves AMERICANS who dare to challenge the sanctity of America's most terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day! I don't know what kind of glue these terrorist lovers have been sniffing, and who they think they are trying to make 9/11 an issue to be responded to as opposed to what it rightfully is - NOTHING BUT A TRAGEDY. GOD CRIED FOR AMERICA THAT DAY.

Who in their right (or in this case, left - like Trotsky-left) mind would dare suggest that 9/11 should be anything but a day to talk about how awesome America is and mope around about how the Muslims hate us so much?!?

I don't know about you
, but I don't want anyone trying to turn such an emotional and sacred topic as 9/11 into a medium for "progressive" blabber. Oh, I hate hate hate that world so much. You know who else were progressive? The Nazis. They called the Holocaust progress. And Jews died on 9/11 too! 9/11 was just like the Holocaust! Don't you see?!?

Only someone like Hitler would try and pick you up off your 9-year crying shoulder and force you to think outside of your comfort zone. Not in my country. I don't want anyone forcing me to do anything. Not in my country.

Do you think Abraham Lincoln, a glorious American hero and republican treasure, would be so inconsiderate at a time like this?!? It's not like his Gettysburg Address urged Americans to look forward past the horrors four months past and keep our eyes on more broad, universal goals. No way would he be such a wuss. The way I remembered it, he called out Jefferson Davis and damned the Confederacy to the depths of fiery hell. Good for him. God loved Abraham Lincoln.

These villains want America to be weakened. They want you to completely forget 9/11 happened. And if they're successful, 9/11's influence on everything will completely disappear, because this is exactly how all this works!

But let's get back to me. I'm like 9/11. I've been attacked by the terrorists - terrorists of the progressive left. They've progressed to strip God away from my country. They've progressed to strip away my rights and take my taxes to pay for Islamic Terrorist Training Centers at Ground Zero. They are trying to knock over my twin towers - for my love of freedom and God are just that, two large spiritual structures. I wouldn't want people forgetting me if these Dumbocrat terrorists were to succeed.

And how dare they speak ill of America anyway? Don't they know that this country could never succeed if there are citizens questioning the values and actions of society? Who's ever heard of a nation getting better when its citizens refuse to accept dogmatic patriotic doctrine as holy and sacred truth? I think these communists are trying to destroy America from within, much like the entire religion of Islam destroyed the Twin Towers (and not like how the entire religion of Christianity destroyed the Middle East multiple times in the Middle Ages - that was different, much different).

No, Patriots. I won't stand for this. I won't let any of those dope smoking, Lady Gaga worshiping, America hating hippies turn 9/11 into a political issue. That's why I want all of you to think of 9/11 when you join a tea party and harass Mexicans and berate Muslims and vote for Sarah Palin in 2012.

That is how we will re-establish faith and honor in our country - through dogmatic closed-mindedness. We have freedom in America, but not the freedom to doubt America. We have no faults. America has never acted wrongly. America is awesome, like Jack Bauer, whose show 24 didn't suck and wasn't absolutely retarded.

Farewell, Patriots. And to all you nay-saying "Americans" who shed tears of joy whenever an American flag is burned by those Arabs in Afghanistan you love so much... I say this: I hate you, for a man and his opinions are inseparable. And God hates your opinions. And I hate your opinions. And God hates you.

Nazi.

-Glenn

9 years later, still a big hole in the ground - that's progress

Nine years and this is all we have to show for it.

We've had nine years of compassion and sympathy, of remembrance and reflection. Nine years of feeling so damn bad for ourselves about 9/11.

Ask a second grader what they know about 9/11 and you probably won't get much, considering none of them were alive in 2001. They'll give you the basic gist their parents have talked about - the U.S. was attacked by terrorists who knocked down these two big buildings and it was very sad.

It was sad. The symbolic meaning of 9/11 is undeniable. The self-proclaimed "Greatest Country in the World" was shown to be very, very susceptible to the right kind of attack. Despite our vast economic, political, and militaristic wealth, a small group of extremists was able to destroy the tallest buildings in America. This was a wake-up call for everyone.

But now here we are, nine years later, and this nation is still groggy from that wake-up call.

The United States is a far worse country since 9/11. We've seen civil liberties stripped from citizens in the name of "national security." Our ludicrous federal government bureaucracy has swollen to an unfathomable (and incredibly inefficient) size. Patriotism has quickly transformed into a laughable political tool.

And the one building in downtown New York that anyone seems to care about is an Islamic community center.

As a country, we're too focused on the Islamic influence on 9/11. The United States is Islamophobic, and I'm not just talking about Koran-burning preachers or Michael Savage.

When I look back and think of the overall effects of 9/11, I can't hold much more contempt for those who acted out the attacks than I do for Professor Plum for his actions in the conservatory with the candlestick. The perpetrator is just another part of the overall equation. Instead of thinking about 9/11 in a universal sense, too many folks just like to focus on the Muslim part. While we couldn't just let those responsible get away with it (catching Professor Plum is part of the game after all), we shouldn't have neglected the many other swirling details and effects of the event.

How is our overall understanding of 9/11 any different from that of the aforementioned 2nd grader? Don't most of us just see 9/11 that way? Shouldn't we have advanced further as a country in 9 years to see see 9/11 as more than just Muslim terrorists who made us sad?

Part of our over-emphasis on the "bad guy," our perpetual preoccupation with Islam, is the comfort we get from our sense of victimization. It makes us feel better about ourselves and all that we do if we continue to believe that somebody had wronged us so much, and continues to pose the threat of wronging us again.

We need to stop feeling so fucking bad for ourselves all the time about 9/11. That sense of "woe is me" has led to nothing good. There are a lot more dead U.S. soldiers from wandering around a desert somewhere than the 3,000-ish civilians who died in the 9/11 attacks. The symbolic meaning of the day cannot be denied, but Hiroshima/Nagasaki this was not.

There's nothing wrong with remembering, but to have every September 11 just be a day where we commemorate the event and cry and feel sorry for our poor selves while there is still a huge hole in the ground means we've missed the point.

04 September 2010

Rethinking purpose

It's funny. My initial purpose for starting this blog was primarily because I really dig Dodger blogs and I thought it'd be fun to get in on the action. The fact that I could practice my writing (since I legitimately felt I had become worse at it the past few years) was a bonus. The ability for me to drop some knowledge every once in a while was merely a secondary goal.

Well last week my roommates and I canceled our cable because we don't watch anything enough to warrant paying as much as TimeWarner charges us for such miserable television service. The Dodgers aren't even interesting to follow anymore, as their ineptitude on the field is only matched in pure awfulness by the farce that is the McCourt trial. The season is almost over, Vin Scully is coming back next season, and I'm apathetic.

And school is back in session. That alone is going to take up a lot of my time. This is mostly because, for the first time, I legitimately feel like a university student. This stems from an array of different things I picked up while abroad - philosophies and opinions, ideas and realizations - that caused be the rethink my role as a scholar. I feel like, after 3 years of running in place, I've finally found my purpose. I'm ready to realize it.

I'm taking German II, Theory of Teaching Writing and Reading, Rhetoric of Religion, StreetWrite (student teaching), and American Lit II. I'm passionate about each class and I'm ready to pulverize the status quo and truly be - wait for it, wait for it, wait for it - intellectual.

For isn't that what a liberal arts college is about in the first place? A place for intellects to come together and learn from each other, a place where knowledge is the ultimate goal.

But in America, knowledge has ceased to be the goal of education. Where and when we lost our way, I'm not quite sure. But the aim of so many college students is no longer to be scholars and intellectuals. The aim is to make the grade. The grade. The grade is the goal of education for America's students.

It stems from our system being so test-based. It stems from the fact that schools have become so competitive. It stems from a bachelor's degree being the standard minimum requirement for a successful career.

But never mind the reasons why - we must focus on the unfortunate truth that education is becoming (if it hasn't already reached this sad point) a sham. People from all age groups - from elementary school to college - have been bred in a way where the ultimate goal is to sustain a solid GPA. That's it. If you graduate high school with a 4.0, you're set.

But how many kids graduate high school with a solid GPA and don't know squat? How surprised would you be if I told you it was quite a few?

It's not enough that the standards we hold students to have become laughably low. Remember when getting an A-grade meant you were truly an exceptional student? Remember when "exceptional" meant what it literally means - an exception to the norm? But when you see how many A-grades are given out, it makes it hard to distinguish between those students who were truly exceptional and those who were simply there every day. We're grouping the prodigies together with the posers.

Our colleges are full of a bunch of idiot who have mastered playing the system. Any idiot can cram the night before and get an A on a test. Any jackass can turn in an extra credit assignment. Most classes have review sessions that are less "let's go over basic ideas" and more "here's the test a day early." I remember in German last semester a specific review session for a midterm or final where my classmates were able to get the format of the test, the contents of each section, and even the exact verbs we would need to be conjugating.

Our purpose for taking the class was to learn basic German so we could function better abroad. The idea of testing us was to assess our progress in understanding basic concepts of the language. Yet come the big day, it was our ability to take a test that was truly being tested. Those of us who took good notes on the test format were guaranteed a good grade. Our actual knowledge or progress up to that point really didn't matter.

I've been developing what I call The Template Theory. My research is nowhere near extensive enough yet to publish my thoughts, but here at the outset I feel like I can explain the basic tenants of my ideas.

So much of the things students are comfortable with in our education system come in template form. The syllabus, class structure, grading scale, etc. etc. etc. - it's all a sort of checklist for success. Many students have been bred to think of education (and life, for that matter) as one big fill-in-the-blank. Students like following directions and meeting expectations. They like order and detailed, definitive lesson plans. This is, after all, the easiest way to memorize and regurgitate information. Our students are excellent at this.

But let's take a look at a hypothetical situation and test this dependence on order. A teacher stands up in front of a class and says, "your one assignment this semester will be to write a research paper expanding on a theme you've learned in my course. It'll be due on my desk the last day of class. Any questions?"

What happens? Naturally, the questions erupt like automatic gunfire. This kind of assignment description would not fly at LMU.

Student 1: "How long does it have to be?"
Trying to assess the professor's expectations.
Professor: "However long it needs to be."
Student 2: "But what's the minimum?"
Coming back to the fact that you need to live up to a professor's expectations.

Professor: "If you think you can write a good research paper in 2 pages - more power to you. It's not quantity that counts, it's quality."
Student 1: "Wait, you're saying it can be 2 pages and I can get an A?"
Professor: "It's not likely, but not necessarily impossible."
Student 2: "Wait. So it has to be more than that? We need to know what you want here."
Failure to realize that this isn't something that ought to be explained further.

Student 3: "What are some possible topics? Will you provide a list?"
Trying to get the prof. to feed you a topic

Professor: "Anything you want. No list."
Student 4: "Well how will we know if our topic is okay?"
Playing to expectations again.

Professor: "Your topic will be okay. It's anything you want."
Student 3: "Do we need citations?"
Asking what should be an obvious question.

Professor: "Of course, this is a research paper."
Student 4: How many do we need?
Professor: "However many you need."
It's safe to say this kind of thing wouldn't fly at LMU.



We're excellent at developing problem solvers. The students all asked questions based on answering their own question: "how am I going to succeed here?"

But we're awful at developing people who think outside the box. My qualm with problem solvers is that they're not idea people. They just absorb information and regurgitate it back out. A ton of my papers for classes in the past 3 years have been based entirely on things said by my professors. I got A's on those papers, encouraging the idea that all I had to do to be successful is just regurgitate the information learned. Rarely have I been challenged to think for myself and write a paper based on something I wasn't just force-fed by Dr. Whatshisface.

So, to make a long story short, I've finally realized my purpose is not to be a drone. I'm going to read all my assignments, I'm going to try and set myself apart.

I want to be exceptional and I know that I don't need someone else's template to get there.