Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Prophecy of Avatar

Woodville Drive-In
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Avatar in 3-D... I hear that’s the way to go.

Nevertheless, I settled for watching it in plain-old, everyday 2-D this past week in my little, hometown of Powell, Wyoming. I suppose we’re just darn lucky to see it with the rest of the world in the same week of its release.

Despite all of the eye-candy special effects, I sat in the theatre wondering if anyone else was picking up on that old and tired story line—the one that we should all know by heart—by now.

If we could put Avatar in a movie classification, besides the predictable sci-fi category, I think it would also fit in nicely with that long list of movies and books that recount the stories of greed, excessive capitalism, power and racism. Dances With Wolves, It’s A Wonderful Life, Remember The Titans, King Kong, and the Star Wars Trilogy are some that come to mind.

The writer of one particular column suggested that there were hidden messages of anti-war, pro-environment and racism in this latest story of underdogs battling an evil empire—that coincidentally looks much like the United States.

If they truly were hidden, they weren’t difficult to find. Even viewing the trailers several weeks ago I detected these messages loud and clear. Yet, I wonder if many viewers (especially American) simply don’t see these messages or only see them in the context of the movie and once it’s over (like church), it’s on to the usual business of mindless and excess consumption in a dog-eat-dog world.

When our civilization lies in its self-inflicted ruins, I wonder if those that survive or those that uncover our soiled tragedy will think of us as even more deserving of our demise given the books and movies like Avatar that warned us of our undoing all along.

On a related note… from James Howard Kunstler’s blog:

“ClimateGate,” the latest excuse for screaming knuckleheads to defend what has already been lost. It is also yet another distraction from the emergency agenda that the United States faces—namely the urgent re-scaling, re-localizing, and de-globalizing of our daily activities.

What seems to be at stake for the knuckleheads is their identity, their idea of what it means to be an American, which boils down to being an organism so specially blessed and entitled that it is excused from paying attention to reality. There were no doubt plenty of counterparts among the Mayans when the weather changed and their crops failed, and certainly the Romans had their share of identity psychotics who doubted reality even when Alaric the Visigoth was hoisting off their household treasure.

Reality doesn’t care if we are on-board with its mandates or not. The human race has to get with whatever program reality is serving up at a particular time. Are we shocked to learn that scientists fight among themselves and cheat as much as congressmen? Does that really change the relationships we understand about parts-per-million of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere and the weather?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Northwest College: The Slide Continues

Buffalo, Montana School
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
’Tis the season, but as one colleague of mine put it, “The children of Whoville had better watch their toys.”

As finals draw to a close and the last student newspaper is on the stands (once again), the powers-that-be at Northwest College ramrodded their proposal for the intercollegiate soccer program through the last board meeting and, on the next day, fired student activities director Mike Taylor.

Timing is everything, isn’t it? Especially for some administrators at NWC. It takes me way back to another time when an assistant basketball coach was hired in a pretty discreet manner as well.

Perhaps no one has said it better thus far about such timing matters than art instructor Kory Rountree in a campus-wide email, “Funny, firing a very popular member of the NWC community at this moment. Everyone immersed in finals & grading, students leaving town, no college newspaper to carry the news that everyone is talking about right now. Funny, that they still call it a community.”

Someone asked if the leadership of this college really believes they’re pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes? Further, others are going as far as to suggest placing bets that Taylor’s position will be filled by the new soccer program’s coach. Wasn’t it Dana Carvey’s “Church Lady” who said, “Well, isn’t that convieeeeeenent.”

I walked over to Mike’s office today as he was cleaning out his office to see if there was anything I could do. Strangely, outside of his office were the college’s vice president of administrative services along with the facilities director. Might as well have called the campus resource officer too. What a sad day and a sad sight at NWC.

Another conversation with another colleague on this subject concluded with a quote from his father, “We all know the smell of the sea when we approach the shore… and often it stinks like fish.”

Today isn’t the first day when I’ve heard fellow workers complain about the college’s lack of self-goverance, but today that word is going around like wild fire. We can only hope that these events are reflected in the upcoming accreditation visit.

One colleague went as far as to suggest the college community disbar the various governance committees on campus such as the faculty organization since they are—for the most part—powerless. That would certainly get the NCA visitation team’s attention.

* * *

As soon as Human Resources Director Heather Kobbe sent out one of her canned “going” emails about Mike’s sudden “departure,” music professor Jan Kliewer had the courage to ask and state what we all felt, “Why don’t we have the courage to tell the truth? Mike didn’t leave, he was shoved! What a sad, cold and cowardly sentence to end 17 years of service to this institution.”

In answering Kliewer’s question, “Why don’t we have the courage to tell the truth,” I would simply embody the spirit of Holden Caulfield—the main character of Catcher In The Rye—with something like “...because they’re a bunch of phonies!”

All of this leads me to believe that Northwest College (like any cold, sterile and impersonal institution) will do whatever is required to get rid of anyone who has fallen out of favour in its favouritism-prone, nepotism-based administration. They’ll find a reason, they’ll get the documentation and if need be, hold it over their head to keep them in line if they want to keep their job—or in Taylor’s case, just fire him. I’m sure my candidacy has been kicked around as well.

In short, I have serious doubts that Mike Taylor’s firing was about something so bad that the college felt it had no other choice than to fire him. It was a witch hunt—with the sole purpose of getting Taylor fired and replaced with a hopeful crony—a crony the administration is likely already courting.