Got a question? Just ask Trump.

A laugh for a cold, wintry Wednesday. I borrowed this from website commenter essmeier:

Trump knows a lot of things. How do I know this? He has told us:

“I think nobody knows more about taxes than I do, maybe in the history of the world.”

“I understand money better than anybody. I understand it far better than Hillary, and I’m way up on the economy when it comes to questions on the economy.”

“Nobody knows more about trade than me”

“Nobody in the history of this country has ever known so much about infrastructure as Donald Trump.”

“There’s nobody bigger or better at the military than I am”

“I know more about ISIS than the generals do. Believe me.”

“There is nobody who understands the horror of nuclear more than me.”

“It would take an hour-and-a-half to learn everything there is to learn about missiles…I think I know most of it anyway.”

“In a short period of time I understood everything there was to know about health care.”

“I know more about renewables than any human being on Earth.”

“I understand the power of Facebook maybe better than almost anybody, based on my results, right?”

“Nobody knows more about debt. I’m like the king. I love debt.”

“Nobody knows banking better than I do”

“I think nobody knows the system (of government) better than I do.”

“I know more about (campaign) contributions than anybody.”

“Because nobody knows the (visa) system better than me. I know the H1B. I know the H2B. Nobody knows it better than me.”

Trump is a very smart man. Don’t believe me? Just ask him; he’ll straighten you out.


Why are all the black kids still sitting together in the school cafeteria?

Visit just about any racially mixed school and you will see black, white, Asian and Latino kids clustered in their own groups. Is this self-segregation a problem to address or a coping strategy?
Beverly Daniel Tatum, an authority on the psychology of racism, says straight talk about our racial identities is essential if we are serious about communicating across racial and ethnic divides.
Tatum first addressed the question in her landmark 1997 book, Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together In The Cafeteria? Now, 20 years later, with the national conversation about race becoming increasingly acrimonious, Tatum is back with a fully revised edition.
The update reflects the rapid demographic transformation that has reshaped our country, as well as the election of Barack Obama, the rise of Black Lives Matter and the early days of the Trump presidency.

What was the impetus for updating the book?

While I was serving as president of Spelman College I had the opportunity to travel and talk to people and think about some of the things I had written about in the book. I felt that 20 years later some of it needed to be updated.
When I retired as president in 2015, it seemed like the perfect post-presidential project to work on.

So much has happened in 20 years, but then you could also say that so much has happened since you wrote the prologue to this book in March.

Yes. This book goes a little bit past the inauguration of our current president. And there’s a lot that’s happened since then, of course—Charlottesville in particular. But I was happy that I was able to include information about the events leading up to the election and certainly the 60 days after the election.
Certainly the tenor of what’s happening in our country, I think, can be traced back to that 20-year period if not before.

You cite the statistic that every day the size of the U.S. population increases by more than 8,000 people, and nearly 90 percent of that growth consists of people of color—not just African-American but Asian, Middle Eastern, Latino and so on.

Certainly one of the things that I wanted to do was to expand the discussion of identity issues for populations of color that have grown significantly since that first book. 2014 was the first year that the U.S. population of school-age children was 50 percent children of color. And, as you’ve pointed out, that’s not just black kids.
When I’m using that phrase children of color I’m including the Latino population, which is the largest population of color today in the United States—close to 18 percent now. And the black population is about 13 percent. The Asian-American population—which includes people from China, South Asia, India and so on—is about 6 percent.
Every race and ethnicity in this country has a sense of identity, but you say that’s often lacking in the white population.

You describe a white girl who, when asked about her identity, replied, “I’m just normal.” Is that part of the problem?

It is a lack of awareness. But I want to say that the lack of awareness that white people often have around racial identity is similar to the lack of awareness that anyone in a dominant group is likely to have. When you are on the margin, you are more aware of that identity because people bring it to your attention.
So for white people, most of whom are still living in majority white communities and working in largely white settings, it’s no surprise that that dimension of identity goes unnoticed. If you are the only white person in a largely black environment, you’re going to be paying attention to it. One of the strongest tools is teaching by example.

You describe one effort—the Atlanta Friendship Initiative—to bring people of different races together. How does that work?

It was the brainchild of a white man in Atlanta named Bill Nordmark, and he sought out a relationship with a black man he knew only casually, John Grant. But he explained his idea to John and asked John if he would be willing to work with him on it, and John was very enthusiastic in his reply.
They set out to identify pairs of people who would be willing to make a commitment to get to know each other across lines of difference. Today there are more than 200 people participating, but the list is growing all the time.
The people who are asked to participate basically agree to do two things. One is to meet with your partner four times a year, once a quarter. And then have some gathering of your family and that person’s family at least once a year.
So really it is about developing friendships, but friendships with people you probably wouldn’t know otherwise and who are different from you in some significant way.
And as the Friendship Initiative has gotten more visibility, people from other communities have been contacting the founders to say, “We really like this idea and we’d like to try it in our town, how would we do that?”

Can something like that take place in a K12 environment?

Well, the idea behind it is that when you bring people together there’s a basic social/psychological principle operating. Bringing people together on equal footing and asking them to engage in a cooperative activity that is sponsored or sanctioned by authorities tends to improve inter-group relations.
Sports teams are the classic example of that. Everyone on the team is there because they know how to play. So in that sense they’re all equal. They’re asked to do something cooperatively.
I always think of former New Jersey senator Bill Bradley, who really had a good understanding of racial relations. He often attributed that understanding to his experience playing professional basketball, because he got to know black players and got to see the way in which they were treated differently than he was.
That opened his eyes to the issues of racism.
This is to say that it is certainly possible in a school setting to bring children together and ask them to work cooperatively toward a common goal in ways that can encourage better understanding and improve group relations.
Part of the challenge that we have in schools is that children are not being brought together on equal terms. They’re being separated, with some groups being labeled as smarter than other groups. And we know that there’s a high correlation between racial group membership and where you get placed.
There are things that schools can do structurally that certainly can help young people get to know each other and have positive relations. And when schools do those things you are much less likely to see the kind of rigid separations in cafeterias that we were talking about at the beginning.

You end the book hopeful but, again, that was before the administration rescinded DACA, threatened the Dream Act and instituted a travel ban. Is your hope still as strong?

Well, it does worry me, because progress is rarely linear. It’s usually two steps forward, one step back—you make progress, then there’s resistance to that progress and a backlash against it.
We can lift up the example of the election of President Obama in 2008—whether you liked him or not—as symbolically significant that the United States elected the first African-American president.
That said, immediately following his election there was the backlash of growth in white supremacist hate groups and also concerted efforts at voter suppression. We see two steps forward and sometimes a step or a step-and-a-half backwards before we move forward again.
I think there’s widespread agreement that we’re now in a backward moment. I do believe it’s possible to move forward again. But that’s not going to happen without a concerted effort. If there’s a message to the reader, it is that we all have to take responsibility for that forward motion if we want to see it happen.

Let’s talk about sex

If there’s one thing clear from Blurred Lines: Rethinking Sex, Power and Consent on Campus (2017 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), it is that what you think you know about sex on campus is probably wrong.
Vanessa Grigoriadis embedded herself in the campus environment, speaking candidly with students and administrators to find that the definition of sexual assault itself is anything but clear-cut. And therein lies the problem.
She says there is no consensus about what constitutes sexual assault on campus, how common it is or how it should be prevented. The book is a sometimes brutally frank examination of the world of campus sexual activity and how the idea of consent has changed and continues to change.
Grigoriadis, a contributing editor at The New York Times Magazine and Vanity Fair, profiles not only victims of assault but also those whose lives have been turned upside down by false accusations.

You wrote, “Society has morphed and sex is different than it used to be.” How so?
Hooking up on college campuses has been around in a real way since the 1990s. The way that sex happens now is divorced from not only dinner-and-a-date, but sometimes also from real emotional yearning.
This is also the situation for a lot of Gen Xers and Boomers—it’s coming from the precepts of online dating, of social media that requires that you broadcast your sexual availability if you’re single.
Our 18-year-olds may not be prepared for college, but they’re pretty good at flirting over text message. They know what they’re doing.

You say we’re redefining what sexual assault is. There are many things—a comment, a perceived inappropriate touch—that can now be considered sexual assault.
One of the key takeaways from my research was that a physically violent rape that leaves bruises and blood and evidence is not the exception on college campuses, but it’s definitely not the rule.
On the other hand, a story like Rolling Stone’s University of Virginia story, which was proven to be false, is also an exception to the rule.
What I learned in my research is that most of the time the two partners agree on what happened in the bedroom—the kind of distinct actions and sexual behaviors that occurred. What they don’t agree on is whether that was sexual assault or not.
The other thing I should definitely mention is that residential college campuses certainly have a problem with rapes that happen when one partner is blackout drunk or passed out or maybe very drunk.
Colleges are interested in reducing liability, so they have broadened the definition of “incapacitation”—which is supposed to mean you’re totally passed out or unable to consent—to include very drunk students.
I don’t want that to be lost in my description of moral relativity.
The research shows this is a serious problem at residential colleges. There are a lot of guys who go out at night with the intent of having sex, and not really caring if the girl can’t speak English as long as he can get her to follow him out of the frat house.

There are a variety of anti-sexual assault campaigns on campus, but you say most of these programs don’t work. What does work?
Well, physical self-defense on its own hasn’t been proven to stem assault. It has to be part of this complex buffet of offerings called “empowerment self-defense,” and this is teaching girls in particular—but boys also—how to physically resist an assaulter, but also how to remove themselves from a situation before an assault occurs.
Identify the dangerous situation and don’t put yourself in it, because we know that girls have a very hard time saying no, and sometimes they’ll just give in.
But putting a bunch of posters on a campus that say, “Consent. Please get it,” and telling your kids to click boxes on a webinar to say, “Okay, I understand. I won’t have sex without consent”—it’s just not really going to do it.

We’ve heard, at least anecdotally, that some schools underreport sexual assault incidents.
Right. That’s partly because we can’t even agree on terms. The topic of sexual assault on campus is complicated and there’s so much misinformation out there, and each of us brings our own biases about what sexual assault is.
If we can’t agree on what sexual assault is then how can we agree on how to stop it? How can we agree on how to prevent it? How can we agree on how to punish it?
To me, the question of what the universities are doing and how well they’re doing it is unanswerable, partly because of FERPA.
No university is allowed to talk about individual cases publicly, so when a normal consumer reads an article about a university abrogating its Title IX responsibilities in a specific case, the university is never going to be able to defend itself publicly over that.
But when you’re dealing with a prestigious private or state university that has had a ton of bad PR around this issue, you know they’re going to be trying their best right now. A university would have to have a death wish not to at least be trying.

Secretary DeVos recently reversed the Obama administration’s “Dear Colleague” letter. I get the sense from your writing that schools are looking at that with wary eyes.
Sexual assault is one of the top 10 issues as we move further into the Trump era. As long as we have that progressive platform of kids on campus who are interested in the anti-Trump movement and Black Lives Matter and combating xenophobia and combating sexual assault, it will continue to be.
They will continue to talk about sexual assault openly, not be ashamed if it happens to them, share it with their friends, and try to change the social norms around it. And, to your point, of course we know that most universities just spent millions of dollars and a lot of manpower to rewrite their rules to be in line with Obama’s directives.
They may be looking at this, again, partially from an ethics and safety standpoint, but also from a pragmatic standpoint thinking, “Okay, well, we’ve got three more years of this Trump administration, and we don’t know what is going to happen after that. The ball could bounce right back to where it was under Obama. Are we really going to undo what we’ve just done?”
There definitely will be a legal challenge to DeVos, too, so we don’t even know where this is going to end up. I haven’t spoken to anyone who has said, “Great. We love what she said. Can’t wait to change everything tomorrow.”

You suggest some proactive strategies that schools can take to minimize sexual assault. For example, you said you would like to see an end to the current Greek society.
Yes. I think we’re well past the time where a single-sex-oriented Greek system that cements gender norms should have a Title IX exemption on campus.
I want to be really clear here that I’m not saying that most fraternity members are assaulters. But the universities, in their haste to get drinking off campus, have pushed it into unsupervised basements of fraternity houses. These houses are run by men, the drinks are poured by men, and how stiff they are is determined by men.
There are a lot of unsavory characters hanging out at those parties.
The most typical scenario that I heard from freshman girls—and the majority are freshmen—who were sexually assaulted at a frat party is, they meet a guy at the party who says, “Oh, the beer’s all out. Come to my apartment. I live just a few blocks away in an off-campus apartment.”
And the girl, who is drunk or maybe has little experience being drunk, thinks the guy is somebody to be trusted, even though if such a person approached her in a Starbucks and said, “Come to my house,” she would never follow him. But here, she thinks, “Oh, this is a fellow classmate. This is safe.”
The risk is not on campus in the dark, the risk is the indoor lit places, like an off-campus apartment, and alcohol is connected to sexual assault. We need clarity on that. Universities are going to have to address the fundamental structure of the campus and the way that drinking happens on a campus.  

Think Ink to Help Save the Planet

(I’ve been reading through some of my old essays from when I had to write a monthly editorial for our publication. For the most part, they are still relevant, so I thought I’d share a few. This one dates back to 2010.)

How committed are colleges and universities to sustainability and climate change–even at a time when such things as record enrollments combined with budget cuts and furloughs top most people’s list?

The sustainability movement is not only alive and well on campus, but it is also exceeding many expectations.

For example, the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, formed in 2007 to help minimize greenhouse gasses and achieve climate neutrality, continues its work?with impressive results. In an economic downturn, environmental issues typically take a back seat. That clearly isn’t the case with the 677 schools that have signed the commitment.

Also read about the growing movement toward eco-friendly technology, with a collection of tips on how your own institution can help save energy, money, and the environment.

But what caught my eye as we were putting this issue together was a brief news item that came across my desk.

Officials at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay discovered they could save money on printing costs by switching the school’s default e-mail print font from Arial to Century Gothic.

It turns out that Century Gothic uses roughly 30 percent less ink, according to Diane Blohowiak, the university’s director of Computing and Information Technology. The font doesn’t allow quite as many letters per line, but considering that ink is about 60 percent of the cost of a printed page, it’s still a savings, she noted. And with printer ink costing roughly $10,000 a gallon, that simple change could result in real savings for the school.

A simple font switch could, over time, result in real savings.

Just the thought that someone would be able to calculate the savings produced by squeezing more letters out of an ink cartridge boggles the mind (or my mind anyway, which typically runs screaming whenever it hears that math is involved). I applaud the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s efforts at saving money down to the pica level. It’s a simple change that, over time, will make a difference.

But what U W-Green Bay probably didn’t expect was the reaction that the news of the font switch produced from people who you’d think would have more pressing matters with which to occupy their time.

First, there was some dismay from the school itself over how the story was perceived elsewhere.

“We note also that in the Houston Chronicle, it was placed in its ‘News Bizarre’ section. Is saving money and using less ink ‘bizarre?’ ” asked Communications Director Christopher Sampson. “And at the Miami Herald they think that this change is worthy of ‘Weird News.’ Maybe it’s the oxymoron of printing out your e-mails, but c’mon, practically everybody does it at least on occasion. Or maybe they’re getting too much sun in Miami and Houston.”

The topic was also fodder for a prolonged debate by a group of “Type A type types” on the tech-oriented Slashdot blog, who were eager to one-up one another with their opinions of U W-Green Bay’s ink inspiration.

“Who was the genius there that had them using ink jet printers instead of laser?” asked one commenter. “Probably the same genius that thinks this will save them money?”

Said another: “Seriously. If you’re printing e-mails on the school’s inkjet printers, your font is probably not the only change you need to make.”

One commenter chimed in: “In most universities the local IT has no power to change any of this, and has to walk a lot of very fine lines politically. Localized IT has both the responsibility to enforce these edicts, and none of the power to do so.”

Yet another pointed out, with supporting links, that printer ink actually costs more than things like human blood or a barrel of crude oil. (I am not making this up.)

So, if you’re wondering about the commitment of colleges and universities to sustainability, you can rest easy. They’re thinking about it. Trust me, they’re thinking about it.

A Trump Thesaurus

trump-hairDonald Trump had become well known for his bombastic, insulting behavior long before he decided to run for president. He doesn’t hesitate to call his opponents “losers,” “dopes,””stupid,” “liars,””dummies,” “ugly,” “fat,” “weak”–all things that speak to his shocking lack of self-awareness. His long-running Twitter feuds with …well, anyone who dares to criticize him are the stuff of legend.
He can dish it out, but can he take it? For the last few months I’ve noticed a sharp uptick in the negative descriptions people have for the orange clown who will represent the GOP in the upcoming election. That’s why I started to collect some of the better ones.
While I have plenty of negative things to say about him, this isn’t about me. Here’s a (sadly incomplete) list of the words and phrases other people (mainstream news organizations, international press, politicians, public figures, celebrities, bloggers—you name it) use to describe the horror that is Donald Trump…a Trump Thesaurus, if you will. These are all genuine statements. Some of them border on the poetic. The list will be updated as necessary.

And if you are a Trump supporter (for which you have my pity) who wants to complain about the content of the list, tell it to someone who cares.

  • He’s an asshole — Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter
  • Pompous blowhard Donald Trump has always been an arrogant dick.
  • bombastic billionaire
  • Combover Caligula
  • a demonc messiah in Oompa Loompa’s clothing — Keith Olberman
  • Birther McAssclown
  • billionaire blowhard
  • a class A piece of dog shit
  • Thin-Skin McBaby Hands
  • The Great Trumpkin
  • mangled apricot hell beast
  • the great orange human shitstain
  • a narcissistic, misogynistic, lying, word salad-spewing, oompa loompa-looking man who does not have the intelligence nor the temperament to be president
  • Human Hemorrhoid — John Oliver
  • a smug, stupid, arrogant, preening Pork-Man from one of the minor moons of Jupiter
  • the worst of America stuffed into a nacho cheese casing — Drew Magary
  • “a spoiled brat” and a “human leech who will bleed the country” — Sen. Harry Reid
  • self-described billionaire —The New York Times
  • a congealing buffalo wing cemented to outgrown armpit hair
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder poster child
  • The man is a jerk who can’t control his temper or handle criticism.
  • a man who is erratic, morally rudderless, mercurial and emotionally unstable – and that on his better days
  • a former reality television star with an adversarial relationship with the truth and a fluorescent rodent adorning his head.
  • Cheeto Jesus —Rick Wilson, GOP presidential consultant
  • epic douche canoe —Rick Wilson, GOP presidential consultant
  • a self centered asshole
  • the urine-coloured piglet-man Donald Jaundice Trump
  • fascist flim flam racist liar
  • real-estate mogul-turned-reality-TV-star-turned-national-punchline
  • the overcooked sweetpotato that is Donald Trump
  • a wall-building, immigrant-bashing, Muslim-banning, Putin-loving, tax-hiding, deal-breaking, gold-plated buffoon who rolls each morning in a vat of Cheetos
  • a “shriveled tangerine, covered in golden retriever hair, filled with bile, that I wouldn’t leave alone with the woman I love.”
  • clown
  • a lump of dung
  • Ambulatory septic tank
  • that human cheese puff of hate, insecurity and intimidation
  • a lying narcissistic bigot manbaby
  • a 12-year-old bully on the playground
  • the bigoted gasbag.
  • a huge asshole
  • America’s Problem Child
  • the biggest wussy of all time
  • this teeming boil of a candidate.
  • relentlessly tweeting like a 14-year-old girl
  • wanna be future Misogynist-In-Chief,
  • Captain Combover
  • Presumptive Republican presidential nominee and wig mannequin come to life
  • The tangerine huckster and his trusty running mate, That Thing On His Head
  • the amateur candidate
  • a virtuoso of contempt
  • staggeringly stupid
  • the high priest of strutting bombast
  • the most unqualified sociopath to ever run for President
  • “When he doesn’t know something, he just changes the subject, makes it all about himself. He is completely uneducated about any part of the world.” Andrea Mitchell, NBC News
  • “Donald Trump’s ignorance of government policy, both foreign and domestic, is breathtaking.” Eugene Robinson, Washington Post
  • “He’s deflecting from the fact that he is wholly unqualified to handle the real issues facing America.” Tara Setmayer, CNN
  • “Trump is the most radical and most ignorant major-party presidential candidate in our history.” Max Boot, conservative fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations
  • the first 6 year old to run for POTUS
  • that ignorant, aggressive, nasty, narcissistic, violence-promoting, bullying, bigoted demagogue
  • this living orange-esque hairball looking bag of dicks
  • a petulant slice of stinking, festive shit-pie
  • a narcissistic, rude, profane, misogynistic, racist carnival barker
  • talking septic tank
  • an insufferable prick
  • petulant whiner
  • Narcissistic big baby
  • Self-centered prick
  • bloated windbag
  • flaming asshole, Obnoxious asshole, total arrogant asshole, and a racist cretin (all spoken by Cher)
  • the walking punchline known as Donald J. Trump.
  • A total whiny asshole that pouts and attacks whenever he doesn’t get his way
  • a dangerously stupid man
  • il Douche
  • a bumbling stumbling clown
  • Short sighted prick
  • a dangerous, narcissistic, amoral egomaniac
  • doughy, tangerine-colored old fart
  • “the spawn of his mother having sex with an orangutan” Bill Maher
  • Donald Trump could very well be our first openly asshole president. —The Daily Show
  • he resembles a bloated haggis filled with piss, and his mouth is like that of a blow-up sex doll, permanently composed into a belligerent O, like a worn-out anus.
  • a rich bitch baby who thinks every thing he does or says is right and all the rest of us are wrong
  • This Bloviated Spoiled-Child , Self-Promoting , Arrogant , Ignorant , Self-Centered Bully-in-the-Sandbox that Only Wants-to-Hear HIMSELF SPEAK and Over-Talks ALL Others with His RANTS
  • The television clown and serially bankrupt business mogul sports a peculiar, swirling spun-sugar-colored confection on top of his head. It is clearly an elaborate work of artifice, designed to confound the eye. 
  • The shameless orange-tinged reality star
  • Orange Hitler
  • Tiny-handed Tyrant
  • Hair Trump
  • violence-inciting misogynist
  • Narcissistic Demagogue
  • Stubbyfingers McCombover
  • inompetent,nitwit
  • fucking candy-assed bully prick
  • An ambitious corn dog that escaped from the concession stand at a rural Alabama fairground, stole an unattended wig, hopped a freight train to Atlantic City and never looked back
  • an orange-Crayola Chris Christie
  • the big orange Garfield who hates Mexicans instead of Mondays— Stephen Colbert
  • Orange asshat
  • brain dead, orange motherfu(ker
  • Four-time bankruptcy filer and seething hernia mass
  • He’s a carnival barker selling tickets to the geek biting the head off a chicken, except the geek is punching black protesters.
  • Bone-in ham
  • Sun-dried tomato
  • brassy, fatuous and egomaniac
  • the human embodiment of hot dog filling
  • a large, tangerine-colored mound of pig dung
  • barely passing as a human being
  • A shithead
  • Adult blobfish
  • Deflated football
  • Fart-infused lump of raw meat
  • Melting pig carcass
  • Disgraced racist
  • Talking comb-over
  • Human equivalent of cargo pants that zip away into shorts
  • Cheeto-dusted bloviator
  • Fuzzy meat wad
  • Bag of flour
  • Human turd
  • Not in any way sexist, you bimbos
  • Decomposing ear of corn
  • His own best parody
  • absolutely repugnant
  • the orange prince of American self-publicity.
  • A rich idiot … willing to allow garbage to fall out of his mouth without batting a single golden lash
  • Pond scum
  • Noted troll
  • a poisonous, corrosive man
  • The class clown that everyone wishes would be quiet and let the class learn
  • Melting businessman
  • The person still inexplicably leading the Republican presidential primary
  • Wax museum figure on a very hot day
  • Soggy burlap sack
  • Bag of toxic sludge
  • Your next president and ruler for life
  • A brightly burning trash fire
  • Impoverished urchin
  • Aggressively stupid
  • Great judgment-haver
  • Man-sized sebaceous cyst
  • Enlarged pee-splattered Sno Cone
  • Empty popcorn bag rotting in the sun
  • Man-shaped asbestos insulation board
  • Hair plug swollen with rancid egg whites
  • Inside-out lower intestine
  • Dusty barrel of fermented peepee
  • Usually reasonable burlap sack full of rancid Peeps
  • Degloved zoo penis
  • Presidential candidate and bargain bin full of yellowing Jean-Claude Van Damme movies
  • Hairpiece come to life
  • Normal-looking human man and entirely credible choice as future leader of the free world </snark>
  • Decomposing pumpkin pie inhabited by vicious albino squirrels
  • A dishrag that on closer inspection is alive with maggots
  • The pompous tycoon
  • Lead paint factory explosion
  • Candied yam riddled with moldy spider carcasses
  • Enraged Gak spill
  • The shriveled pinto bean you had to pluck out of your Chipotle burrito basket
  • Human-sized infectious microbe
  • Poorly-trained circus orangutan
  • Chester Cheetah impersonator
  • Lumbering human-like tardigrade
  • A tiny piece of dried cat poop that you found in your rug
  • Hitler Bad Hair
  • He is still a boastful, volatile, misogynistic, race-baiting, willfully and strategically ignorant, exploitative fear-monger who is guided by profit over principle and whose hair-trigger temperament has the world on edge.
  • a furious clown with a painted on scowl Donald Trump is just a carnival barker who got dunked into orange soda every day for the first 50 years of his life
  • demagogue who panders to people’s fears, rather than their strengths.
  • not only racist but homophobic and misogynistic
  • A great representation of how awful America is
  • ridiculous xenophobe
  • vague and vapid
  • embarrassment
  • Idiot
  • Jerk
  • Stupid
  • Dumb
  • Arrogant
  • Crazy
  • Nuts
  • Buffoon
  • Clown
  • Comical
  • Joke
  • Egotistical
  • Narcissist
  • Selfish
  • Frightening
  • Arrogant
  • Racist
  • Stalk of corn
  • Nasty
  • Alarming
  • Disturbing
  • Disgusting
  • Terrifying
  • Scary

(This next section is made up of descriptions used by Chris Hardwick on @midnight)

  • Xenophobic sweet potato and wispy human queef
  • Douchebag infested hair-piece
  • Orangutang and casino miss-manager
  • Presidential candidate and cranky planetoid
  • The orange condom filled with rancid stew
  • The Jersey Shore ventriloquist dummy
  • corn husk doll cursed by a witch
  • America’s No. 1 racist Donald Trump fan Donald Trump
  • feral shouting meatball Donald Trump
  • the angriest pumpkin
  • shrieking buffalo wing that fell into a urinal
  • orange yelling machine
  • jingoistic bullfrog
  • narcissistic human airhorn
  • hotel magnate and bloated jack-o-lantern in a suit
  • dissonant bagpipe powered by farts
  • living Donald Trump caricature Donald Trump
  • tangelo fruit roll-up stretched over cat litter

(This next section is a series of descriptive quotes from the good people of Scotland, who have had a long-simmering dislike of tRump. It was compounded recently when he visited the country to shill for his new hotel and golf course in the midst of the Brexit vote. As usual, he made this globally historic and economically devastating event about himself.)

  • buttplug face
  • toupeed fucktrumpet
  • cockwomble
  • mangled apricot hellbeast
  • witless fucking cocksplat!
  • incompressible jizztrumpet
  • ignorant fuckmuppet
  • weapons-grade plum
  • absolute fucking doughnut
  • sentient enema
  • munchkin handed Creamsicle
  • rotten orange fucknut
  • tiny-fingered, Cheetoh-faced, ferret-wearing shitgibbon

(This next section was posted by Jezebel as a list of ways the site has described the orange asshat since he announced his candidacy.)

  • Seagull dipped in tikka masala
  • Bursting landfill of municipal solid waste
  • Mountain of rotting whale blubber
  • Sputum-filled Orange Julius
  • Gangrenous gaping wound
  • Racist, sexist block of aged Cheddar
  • Oversized wasp exoskeleton stuffed with old mustard
  • Neo-fascist real estate golem
  • Abandoned roadside ham hock
  • Bewildered, golden-helmeted astronaut who’s just landed on this planet from a
  • distant galaxy
  • Monument to human hubris crafted out of rotting Spam
  • A walking pile of reanimated roadkill
  • Heaving carcass
  • Stately hot dog casing
  • Flatulent leather couch
  • Swollen earthworm gizzard
  • Narcissistic bowl of rotten gazpacho
  • Yellowing hunk of masticated gristle
  • A human/Komodo dragon hybrid
  • Blackening scab artfully hiding in your Raisin Bran
  • “Taco truck”
  • A man who could one day become the first hobgoblin to enter the White House
  • A pair of chapped lips superglued to a hairball
  • Horsehair mattress stuffed with molding copies of Hustler
  • Malignant corn chip
  • Human Kinder Egg whose inner surprise is a tiny pebble of rat shit
  • The sculpture your three-year-old made out of soggy ground-up goldfish snacks
  • A man with the hair of a radioactive skunk
  • Roiling Cheez Whiz mass
  • Cryogenically frozen bog man
  • A glistening, shouting gristle mass with a history of saying terrible and stupid things
  • Screaming giant cheese wedge
  • Republican frontrunner and 250-pound accumulation of rancid beef
  • Day-Glo roadside billboard about jock itch
  • Temperamental gelatinous sponge
  • Sentient hate-balloon
  • A Rumpelstiltskin inflated with a bike pump and filled with bacteria
  • Sun-kissed ass plug
  • Self-tanning enthusiast
  • An enraged, bewigged fetus blown up to nightmarish size
  • Parental pile of burnt organic material
  • Human-shaped wad of Gak
  • Walking irradiated tumor
  • Uncooked chicken breast
  • KKK rally port-a-potty holding tank
  • Neon-tinted hellion
  • A plentiful field of dung piled into the shape of a presidential candidate
  • Malfunctioning wind turbine
  • Seeping fleabag
  • Sloshing styrofoam takeout container filled with three-day-old mac and cheese
  • A sticky, grabby, Cheeto-hued toddler with no sense of adult deportment
  • Figurative rubber, and also literal rubber
  • A carnivorous plant watered with irradiated bat urine
  • Sentient waste disposal plant
  • A disappointment
  • Poorly-drawn fascist
  • Racist teratoma
  • Lamprey eel spray-painted gold
  • A hair that you pluck, causing a cluster of hairs to sprout in its place
  • Sunken, corroding soufflé
  • Nacho cheese golem
  • Undead tangerine
  • A cartoon representation of Irritable Bowel Syndrome in a pharmaceutical ad
  • Fossilized meatball
  • Horking mole-creature suffering from radioactive spray-tan
  • Tattered Craigslist sofa
  • A full-grown Monopoly dog carefully balancing a spongecake atop his head
  • Play-Doh factory explosion
  • A new superfood made of finely-ground clown wigs
  • Unkempt troll doll found floating facedown in a tub of rancid Beluga caviar

Say it Loud, Say It Proud

We were having a discussion the other day about direct marketing and how certain marketers just love them some exclamation marks!!!

It made me recall a freelance job I once had writing ad copy for a company that sold Silver Eagle Half-Dollars as collectors items. I’m sure you’ve seen similar ads. This, I was told, would be a full-pager on the back cover of a Sunday newspaper magazine insert.

The coins were in mint condition and were packaged in a very attractive velvet-lined cherrywood box, perfect for the discriminating coin collector. The company’s owner instructed me to write copy that would impress the reader with the collectible significance of this coin and its .999 percent pure silver composition. They sold for more than $100 each. My father was a coin collector, so I knew that these things had some real value.

I wrote what I thought was a dignified ad, extolling the coin’s mint brilliance and beauty. I had researched the historical significance of the coin and tried to convey to potential customers the importance of having such a magnificent piece among their collections. I even wrote about the beautiful, velvet-lined cherrywood box and how much value it added to the piece, which would no doubt be passed down from generation to generation and become a treasured family heirloom.

By the time I was done I wanted to buy one of the coins for myself.

When I showed it to the owner, he read it carefully, nodded a few times, while muttering a few thoughtful “hmmm” and “ahh” sounds. Then he said, “This is great, but what it needs is more CAPITAL LETTERS and plenty of EXCLAMATION MARKS!!! That’s what catches their eye. Make it LOUDER.”

I was horrified. In my mind, what he was asking for was tantamount to drawing a mustache on the Mona Lisa.

Then I got over myself, shrugged my shoulders, and gave him exactly what he wanted.

A job is a job after all.

What if he really does look like that?

police sketchI found this in my local newspaper a number of years ago. It had been tacked to my office bulletin board for much of that time until it became yellowed, and I figured I should scan it for posterity. It has always been one of my favorite images.
It looks like the Danbury (Conn.) Police have turned to third graders to create their police sketches (and as you can see below, it is the real deal).

Seriously if they ever found this guy, and he looked like this, he’s got more problems to worry about than a purse snatching charge. He’s got to go through life like this.

I’ve often wondered about the conversation that transpired when this sketch was made:

Witness:  His head was shaped roughly like a cinder block.

Sketch Artist: (drawing)  Sooo… kinda like this?

Witness:  Yes! Exactly like that!

Sketch Artist:  What about his hair style? Long? Short?

Witness:  Short, like a nicely manicured lawn.

Sketch Artist:  Okay, what about facial features? Let’s start with the eyes.

Witness:  Really close-set eyes. The kind that could stare right through to my very soul.

Sketch Artist: Like…this?

Witness: Yes! Perfect!

Sketch Artist: And the nose?

Witness:  Kind of long and red and turned up at the end, like a botched plastic surgery job.

Sketch Artist: Ears?

Witness:  Two.

Sketch Artist:  No, I mean what did they look like?

Witness:  Oh, they were pretty shapeless, but they came off his head at almost right angles.

Sketch Artist:  Let’s see…. how does that look?

Witness:  Oh this is so scary!

Sketch Artist:  Let’s work on the mouth…

Witness:  He had large, full plump lips. He may even have been wearing lipstick.

Sketch Artist:  I’d hate to bump into this guy on a dark street.

Witness:  I know, right? Oh–and he had high cheekbones.

Sketch Artist:  Like so?

Witness: Higher… no, still higher…. a little more… perfect!

Sketch Artist: Geez, that is one ugly mug…

Witness:  Draw me now! Draw me now!


That little radio

thatlittleradioI’ve been looking for a photo of that little radio for a long time. I finally found it–via The Google–on Pinterest. That little radio has real significance in my life. I grew up as the third of four siblings in a noisy household. I was probably the biggest source of the noise, as I was either playing the drums down in the basement or listening to my sister’s record player. I’m sure I used that thing far more than she ever did. Anyway, this is about that little radio pictured here. It’s a Ross Micro Ten Transistor Radio, made in Hong Kong.

So, I bought that little radio for myself in 1969. I know it was ’69 because I heard the debut of David Bowie’s Space Oddity on it, but I’ll get to that in a second. It was a pretty big deal that I was able to buy it because money was tight in those days and I was just a 12-year-old kid. I didn’t get an allowance like some kids got, so somehow I earned the money to buy that little radio. I believe I bought it at a Radio Shack store, but I could be mistaken. But I can clearly recall unboxing the thing when I got home. I was so proud of it. And just as you see in the photo, it was tiny and had the key ring thing. It was a beauty. And it sounded great to my ears.
That little radio was my personal window to the world beyond my family and school. I didn’t get around a whole lot beyond my own neighborhood. My only means of escape were the family television in the living room, and my radio. And since someone usually was already watching something I wasn’t interested in, I was left to that little radio.

That little radio made me understand how important radio was in the decades before mine. Until television became so dominant in the 60s and 70s, radio was…well, radio was it. It was still hanging on to its past glories in many markets, by the early 70s.

You know how you remember certain events by where you are and who you are with? For me the “who” in many cases was that little radio.
It came with an earphone–one of those cheap cream colored things–but as it was mono, you had to decide which ear the earphone sounded better in. If you wore it too long, your ear would hurt like hell. It had almost zero fidelity, but it made the music more personal for me, so I  sacrificed ear comfort for that little radio.
I carried it with me everywhere, even risking taking it to school one day (but I probably chickened out of trying to use it in the open), so I have a lot of memories tied to it.
As I said earlier, I remember hearing Space Oddity for the first time. I was lying in bed, just zoning out and listening to that little radio. When I listened in bed, I often put it under my pillow, which somehow improved the sound, and I would fall asleep to the sounds of that little radio. More than once I woke up to a dead battery.
I remember using it while I was working a summer job doing yard work. This was through a program called YES, the Youth Employment Service. I probably signed up because a friend was doing it, but I promptly forgot about it. So I was a little annoyed when I was eventually called for a job. I mean, it was summer vacation, you know? You want me to work? Of course, I did, because I’m not an asshat. My mother would drop me off at whatever house was requiring my services, the homeowner would point out what needed to be done, and I did it. And accompanying me on those jobs was that little radio, tucked in a shirt pocket with the ear plug in my left ear.
The deejays on WABC (station of choice back then) were like friends who I looked forward to hearing from each day. They had cool patter between songs that you just don’t hear anymore. That may not be a bad thing now that I think about it. Back then, though, that’s what the groovy jocks like Harry Harrison, Dan Ingram, and Cousin Bruce Morrow did. It was very rhythmic and slightly sing-songy.
And they played. The. Best. Music. Evah.
If you take a look a the pop charts of the day, you realize what a golden era it was. I had a ringside seat with that little radio playing throughout my job and later back at home. That little radio was the soundtrack to my teen years.
And then…
And then…
I don’t remember any specific event–like losing it or breaking it–but at some point I didn’t have that little radio any longer. I have a hazy memory, which may or may not be real, of seeing it in a box of junk from one of the few times I cleaned my room.
I had moved on to another radio which I’m sure sounded better (remember, this is before Walkmans and such), but the interesting thing is I don’t remember it. Nor do I remember any of the many other radios that followed.
But I remember that little radio.

Moving education beyond the report card

Education professor Cathy Vatterott says that grades have come to reflect student compliance more than student learning and engagement.Once used to reflect successful memorization of facts and figures, the process of grading has transformed into a near meaningless code, often fogged by a variety of factors that have nothing to do with learning.

Cathy Vatterott, a professor of education at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, says that over the years,grades have come to reflect student compliance more than student learning and engagement.

In her book Rethinking Grading: Meaningful Assessment for Standards-Based Learning (ASCD, 2015), Vatterott advocates for a standards-based approach to grading that can more accurately demonstrate learning through mastery.

“When you get into standards-based grading, you can collect data that shows that those grades are more realistic,” Vatterott says. “You are actually making them learn things instead of just giving them a grade and moving on.”

It’s pretty clear from what you write that the way we teach and the way we grade are out of sync, with little relation to each other. How did we arrive at this point?

There are two historical forces that brought this on. First is that we have this legacy of behaviorism in schools—this is the way we control kids. That carries over into grading—“Well, if I want people to do something, I reward and punish. And that’s how I change behavior.”

I recently did a webinar on this for ACSD. There were a large number of questions like, “How do we teach responsibility and how do we make work habits count in the grade?” And I said, “They don’t count in the grade. That’s not what we’re trying to do.”

Teachers look at it as though points are their only tool, their only form of control, but they also have this delusion that it works. Guess what? If zeros worked, we wouldn’t have to keep giving them. If penalizing kids with points worked, our problem would be solved, right? We’d do it once and it would never happen again.

The second force is that our curriculum has changed. If you go back historically, our grades were based on rote memory and all our tests were rote memory. I was an honor roll student and I can’t draw a timeline of American History to save my life, because all I did was memorize stuff, spit it out on the test and then forget it.

Now we’ve upped the game. With Common Core and standards-based learning, we’ve said, “Wait a minute. People actually have to be able to think at higher levels.” That’s part of my dilemma with my college students—they’re coming in as sophomores and they can’t think. It’s insane.

We also see it contribute to a number of mental health issues as students go on to college and suddenly they’re not getting an A in everything.

Very true. That’s one reason we have such a high dropout rate at the college level. The students come in thinking, “OK, this is what I need to do to get the grade. Got it.”

But when they get to college, their professors say, “Wait a minute. We’re expecting you to do more on your own. We’re expecting you to perform at higher levels of learning.” And students don’t know how to do that.

I am reeducating my college sophomores and freshmen about what has to happen in order for them to get an A in my class. It’s not about showing up every day and it’s not about sucking up to the teacher. It’s a whole different world.

You write that students—and parents—learn how to game the system, because they know that the grade is the only thing that counts.

There’s a whole reeducation piece that’s got to happen with parents, as well. It’s like, “I know you are concerned about grades and GPA and all that, but do you want your kid to finish college? Do you want them to go forward with the concepts that they need or do you want them to flunk out of freshman chemistry?”

You mentioned the Common Core standards. Why do you think there is so much resistance to that?

First, I believe there’s a huge anti-government movement in this country. People have either been misled by information that’s out there or they have a kneejerk reaction to any government involvement.

Part of it is state’s rights—states don’t want the federal government telling them what to do. I do workshops all over the country. I’ll go to Indiana or Alaska, and they tell me, “Oh, no! We’re not Common Core, but we did come up with our own standards.” Their standards are 95 percent the same as Common Core—but they had to do it themselves.

And then, I think there is a group of people who are so anti-government that they have taken this and blown this all up like it’s some plot.

But people in this country are fed up with standardized tests. They are fed up with the amount of time that it takes away from learning and the absolute hysteria that goes on—especially in low-income school districts.

I also think we haven’t done a good PR job with teachers in Common Core. We’ve not gotten all the classroom teachers to join the church. When I first heard people were against Common Core, I thought, “How can you be against Common Core?” It’s upping the game. It’s upping the standards. And with the mobility rate of people that we have in this country, how can you not want some standardization across states? It has just never made any sense to me.

I hear many classroom teachers bad-mouthing Common Core because they have been told they have to do this. They’ve not gotten adequate staff development. They’ve not had time to adapt their curriculum. This is a huge shift for many classroom teachers because we’re back at the rote learning thing.

Maybe it’s the word “standard.” There’s so much backlash against standardized tests that when you say “standards-based learning” people don’t differentiate.

Right. And, in fact, when I talk to districts, they’ll say, “We’re not going to call it standards-based learning. We’re going to call it learning for achievement” or some other name.

It’s really funny that some schools won’t even talk about Common Core. Even though they are doing Common Core, they won’t use those words and they won’t say that this is standards-based learning. They’ll call it something else, because that word has gotten such a negative connotation.

When do you introduce this change? Is it best in the earliest grades, so teachers and the students go through the system knowing what’s expected of them or can it begin later?

I’ve seen it done both ways. You have to look at your teachers and ask, “Which group of people are most open to trying to this?” Most districts that I’ve seen have started at K2, which is pretty easy to do, because many schools in K2 don’t give grades anyway. That, to me, is the easiest place to start.

I’ve seen a lot of districts that have gotten their entire elementary staff on board, but the middle school and high school are not. In the middle school and high school, I think you find a department that’s interested in looking at it.

So I’ve seen schools where they started with one math teacher. And then that teacher got the whole department on board at his building. And then they got the whole secondary group of math teachers. And now the science teachers are looking at it.

You write about districts that are doing this, but what can those district leaders show politicians and the community to say, “These schools are working, whether it looks like it or not.”?

One of the things that these schools do is run correlations of the grades that teachers give with how students perform on standardized tests. And sometimes that’s the evidence to prompt the change. They can say, “We did this analysis of all these kids in the seventh grade. Here are their math grades and there’s absolutely no correlation between them and the standardized tests.”

When you go into this implementation of standards-based grading, you can then collect data that shows that those grades are more reflective of kids’ standardized tests. And most of the places are seeing that their performance improves on standardized tests because you are actually making them learn things instead of just giving them a grade and moving on. I think that’s where you go for your evidence.

How do you get people on board with this?

Most of the schools that I talked to that were successful in doing this started with a book study. There are a number of books and journal articles that discuss and document this idea.

I love this approach to doing any kind of building-wide or even districtwide change, because it gives teachers the opportunity to read about it, think about it, absorb it at their own pace and then discuss it.

Parents have to be involved, too. That’s another thing that’s changed over the years. Parents expect school change to be a democratic process in which they have some involvement and some voice.

The days of us telling parents what we are going to do are gone in most communities. The parents want to have some input into what’s happening.

Give Me Bugs

I recently saw a great film called I Know That Voice, which I highly, highly, HIGHLY, recommend to anyone who ever watched a cartoon. It’s about the men and women who voice our favorite animated characters. The one person that nearly every person in the film named as an influence was the inimitable Mel Blanc, who was so brilliant at creating signature voices for a variety of characters. It made me remember this post in which I wrote about my love of Looney Tunes cartoons and the characters — all voiced by Mel Blanc.

I’m no fan of Disney characters and I never have been. I know, that’s sacrilege in some parts of the country, but I’m willing to risk it.

(Full disclosure: My wife and I did take our kids to Disney World once when they were young because, well, parents are supposed to do that kind of thing and we bought into that. But our boys were never Disney fans either. In fact, when we were walking through Orlando airport after our flight we came upon the giant statue of Mickey Mouse dressed in Fantasia Wizard robes. My wife pointed and asked my younger son, “Who’s that, Alex?” He stared at it for a while before saying uncertainly, “I think I’ve seen him before…”
I laughed, but other parents around us reacted in shock and horror. Fathers glared at me like I was “some kinda anti-‘Murican,” while mothers covered precious Kaitlyn and Tyler’s ears for fear that they’d overhear this blasphemy. I was never so proud in my life.)

Disney characters and their cartoons/films are too saccharine-cutesy for my taste. In fact, they turn my stomach. Some of it doesn’t even makes sense. I mean what’s the deal with Goofy and Pluto? Goofy is a dog that dresses and talks and acts like a human, yet he owns a dog named Pluto who is… a dog. Huh? Seriously, did they think about this before they did it?

But this post isn’t about my dislike of Disney, it’s about my love for Looney Tunes.

Those are the cartoons I eagerly watched every afternoon after school and on Saturday mornings. They were funny, with a mixture of colorful characters, great story lines, sometimes biting sarcasm, cultural references, and catch phrases that Disney could never hope to approach. (I’ve heard rumors of rogue Disney animators who drew NSFW versions of the characters in, shall we say, compromising positions but I don’t know if there’s any truth to them. It wouldn’t surprise me. It would even score a few points in my book.)

Looney Tunes characters had depth and substance. Even more, they had unique vocal tics and accnets that made them instantly memorable. Here’s what I mean:

Bugs Bunny was wisecracking rabbit with a New York accent (think about that for a second) who was always aware that he was in a cartoon. He mugged for the camera and spoke to the audience. Bugs was Groucho Marx back in his day and, I would argue, a later prototype for Alan Alda’s “Hawkeye Pierce” character on M.A.S.H, and Bill Murray’s …well his whole shtick actually.

Porky Pig is a not-too-bright pig with a severe stutter (again, think about that for a second). He was a well meaning porker who rarely caught a break, but you could never not like him.

Daffy Duck is Bugs’ nemesis, a perpetual second fiddle who believes he is more deserving of the acclaim that his more famous colleague enjoys. (I can’t believe I just wrote that about a cartoon character, but there you go.)

Foghorn Leghorn, a rooster with a deep southern accent, was based on the Senator Claghorn character from the Fred Allen radio show (it’s probably a testament of some sort that the rooster is remembered by more people than the radio character, who was portrayed by Allen’s announcer, Kenny Delmar). He is constantly tormenting the farm dog, but his jokes often backfired, resulting in Foghorn losing his feathers. This lead to one of his more famous catchphrases, “I keep my feathers numbered for just such an emergency.”

Elmer Fudd, one of the very few human characters (Yosemite Sam, and a minor character named Granny are two others) was a hunter, usually chasing Bugs or Daffy. Elmer suffered from a condition called rhotacism–difficulty pronouncing the letter R — “Be vewy vewy quiet. I’m hunting Wabbits.”

Sylvester the Cat is a slobbering lisper — you really don’t want to get too close when he’s talking. He was mainly interested in getting to Tweety Bird, a canary with a grossly enlarged head whose tagline was, “I tawt I taw a puddy tat.”

Pepe Le Pue had to be the horniest skunk in the world, but he couldn’t get laid to save his life. When I think about it now, I’m surprised at the double entendre content of the cartoon. Extra points for Looney Tunes.

There is one thing should be clear to anyone who has had even the slightest exposure to Looney Tunes. That is, so much of what made these characters whole is tied to the peculiarities of their voices. In Elmer Fudd’s case it is rhotacism. In Daffy, Sylvester, and Tweety it’s a lisp. In Porky, it’s a stutter. And Pepe? Well, he’s French, so… you know. (Just kidding, I loves me some French peoples.) You didn’t see that in Disney characters, with the exception of Donald Duck who, in my opinion, was just unintelligible, cranky noise most of the time. Somehow these flaws made the Looney Tune characters more accessible. And the fact that nearly all of them were voiced by the incredible Mel Blanc was a testament to the man’s versatility as a voice artist.

Anyway… you can keep your Disney lightweights, and give me Looney Tunes any day.