Thursday, July 28, 2016

Michael Moore says Trump will Win

"President Trump ..."

Wow, is that really a possibility? It absolutely is if you believe progressive documentary filmmaker Michael Moore's line of thinking. Moore has been a pretty astute social and political commentator over the years, though his also a rather biased and occasionally conspiratorial thinker. That said, Moore is trying to prepare Democrats, liberals, progressives, and all non-Hillary Haters of the inevitbale - Donald Trump will win the Presidency of the United States simply because there are enough of his supporters who regularly vote to outpace the large numbers of women, Millennials, and minorities who would oppose Trump but are often disenfranchised. It's a pretty intriguing prediction. Moore's issues/arguments include:

  • Midwest math
  • Angry White Man
  • Hillary Problem
  • Sanders voters
  • Jesse Ventura Effect

As an unaffiliated independent who scrutinizes and supports candidates from both major parties, I have been baffled by the popularity and staying power of Donald Tump. Knowing government as I do, I don't believe or support the "myth of the outsider" or non-politician who is going to ride in on a white horse and "fix Washington." But, strangely, a lot of educated white voters do. The same thing goes for the idea that we need a businessman to run the government. That's pretty much nonsense, but a lot of people believe it as well. So, it appears that the most unqualified man to run for President has a strong chance of beating out a woman whose life has been devoted to public service and who is, undoubtedly, one of the most qualified people to ever run for office. The sad reality for the "Never-Trump" crowd is that there are too many negatives around Hillary Clinton, and I am just beginning to understand how deep the Republican animosity toward her is.

So, Michael Moore may just have a point. Get ready.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Bill Clinton Makes Strong Case for Hillary

Oh, Bill.

Just like he did at the 2012 Democratic National Convention for Barack Obama, former president Bill Clinton worked his rhetorical magic in making the case that Hillary is a "change maker" who is the "real" choice in this election. He is undoubtedly, as one CNN panelist noted, "one the great speakers and storytellers of our time." The narrative approach began so poetically with "In the fall of 1971, I met a girl." It was, as speechwriter and consultant Paul Begala noted, a line that could have come out of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. Bill just has the Mark Twain-esque knack for taking his listeners on a journey at the end of which we have learned a little more "about the meaning of life." It was a masterful speech.

The most compelling part of Bill's "little talk" with the American people was not only the narrative but the beautiful way he framed Hillary's life as one founded upon and driven by a record of public service. Rather than being an old member of the Establishment, Hillary is actually the one who has always been focused, like Van Jones said, on "moving the country forward." The folksy rambling way that Bill peppered his speeches with stories and examples of how she changed laws and made the world a better places - all the while that he was simply trying to "get her to marry me" - marked this presentation and convention as a markedly different world than that of the RNC in Cleveland and the world of Donald Trump.

There is simply no way to deny that Hillary has lived an incredibly signifcant life of service to those who need help, especially children and the poor. While critics may take exception to her motives and insinuate deep character issues around her focus, the facts on the ground remain that she has lived a life of public service. It was, in fact, something that Newt Gingrich noted, "If it were true, I'd be tempted to vote for her." Well, in all reality, Newt knows that her accomplishments - especially in terms of legislation and governance - are not in question. He doesn't have to like her, and he doesn't have to give her credit. But he can't deny her achievements. And, that image of Hillary working for a better world is tough to counter by an RNC that must promote the dark vision and division of a man like Donald Trump. Hillary is in good shape if American voters compare the portraits of her world and vision, and the Gotham-like despair of Trump's message. And, no one could ever frame that better than Bill. Hillary has a strong ally in "the man from Hope."

You know, I've always said:  Bill Clinton is a schmuck. But he's our schmuck. And for whatever reason, America can't help but love him. Last night's speech was the perfect example of why.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

25 Years after Generation X, a Scholarly View of the Early Coupland Canon

It's hard to believe it's been twenty-five years since I first picked up a low-key, oddly shaped novel about "people our age" called Generation X: Tales of an Accelerated Culture. Douglas Coupland's first novel would go on to name a demographic and tag him as the "voice of a generation," though he would quickly eschew and dismiss that title. A newly-graduated friend working a "McJob" in our college town told me of this new book about three twenty-somethings living in the desert of Palm Springs, telling stories and seeking to make some sense of their lives in the ennui of the early 90s just before the emergence of Kurt Cobain and the rise of grunge. While the great irony of Generation X is that many Xers never actually read the book - which had been originally contracted to a be a 90s update of the non-fiction Yuppie Handbook - the impact of the work and the term cannot be denied. I became an early fan of Coupland's work, and in 2001 I made his first few novels the subject of my Master's thesis, representing some of the first scholarship focused on the Coupland canon. On the twenty-fifth anniversary of the birth of Generation X, I've updated and published my critical view of Coupland's 90s era novels - McJob: Life and Culture in Douglas Coupland's Early Novels.

The novel Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture was, no doubt, a pivotal work and watershed moment for literature and popular culture at the end of the twentieth century. It established an impressive literary voice that brought a fresh look at our media-saturated, consumer- and pop culture-driven world. And, it of course named a generation. Granted, most members of Generation X have never heard of, much less read, the novel, and it was the media and critics who have attached meaning to the term. That said, the novel and term remain a permanent part of the American canon and the American lexicon, and that is no small achievement. Along with Generation X, Douglas Coupland’s early novels deftly captured the zeitgeist of coming of age in the twilight of the twentieth century when the American Dream was suspect, and the world could change in an instant. The prominent issues of consumerism, the workplace, jobs, and popular culture are intrinsically linked within the novels of Douglas Coupland and the demographic of Generation X. As a result, the lasting impact of Douglas Coupland’s fiction cannot be denied.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Brasserie Ten Ten, Bikes, & a Beautiful Boulder Day

RE-PRINT: Views on Village - August, 2012

As summer winds down and I prepared to return to school, my wife and I planned one farewell to summer outing with the kids, and it turned out to be a beautiful Boulder day.  We began with the Sunday brunch at Brasserie Ten Ten, and were not disappointed by some of the finest breakfasts in all of Colorado.  This was our second visit to Brasserie Ten Ten, and we started off with their morning cinnamon rolls and coffee.  The roll is perfect French pastry - nice, light, and flaky with plenty of flavor and not drowning in gooey sauce.  It was more like a cinnamon croissant, and we quickly put in a second order.  The coffee was rich and aromatic, and this time I bypassed the adult beverages.  Though the Brasserie Ten Ten Red-Eye won my heart last time - it's a half glass of Stella Artios with the signature Bloody Mary mix.  Not to be missed if you fancy a morning cocktail.  The Hideaway salad is a novel idea for brunch with a Ceasar, potatoes, bacon, sourdough, and a fried egg.  Beautiful presentation and quite refreshing.  Additionally, the Pomme Frites which are tempura fried Granny Smith apples with caramel sauce are sinfully good.  Perhaps one of the best desserts for brunch I've had.  Check out the menu for more great breakfast treats.  Brasserie Ten Ten is top notch in terms of presentation, service, and taste.  We'll be back for more.

We followed brunch with a day at the Valmont Bike Park, an all-terrain park for mountain biking of all levels and ages.  Having enjoyed a lot of biking in Summit County this summer, we were looking for some new local trails, and a friend recommended Valmont.  It did not disappoint, as there were trails that were fun for my seven-year-old daughter, and trails for the whole family as well.  That's not to say they don't have hard-core challenges as well.  The Valmont Bike Park is well mapped and laid out, and it is accessible for so many ages and skill levels.  My son and I had good fun on the Corkscrew - though on first glance, I almost bailed.  Ultimately, even my wife - who is not a hardcore biker - was trying out some challenging trails like the Corkscrew.  Valmont has some X-treme courses as well, and it's great fun to watch the flips and dips of the most adventurous bikers.  While we are big fans of the Highline Canal Trail and easy rides through Cherry Creek State Park, the Valmont Bike Park in Boulder was a fun discovery, and we plan to return.

Overall, a great day in Boulder, and a fond farewell to summer.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Chateau Ste. Michelle - Great Chardonnay for under $15

RE-PRINT from "Views on the Villge" - August 2012 

Apparently, the big news in the wine world for the early 2000s was the ABC movement - "Anything But Chardonnay." That said, I came late to the chardonnay party anyway, so I'm not too worried about my newfound interest in white wines. At some point in my adult years, I began to broaden my horizons in terms of adult beverages, and I've found myself often preferring a glass of wine to a couple beers. And it was generally red wine that I enjoyed - anything from a pinot noir to a syrrah to a cabernet. However, about a year ago, a neighbor brought me a bottle of chardonnay that has won my heart and actually turned into sort of a chardonnay fascination.

The wine on which I've had a crush for about a year now is the 2008-09 chardonnay from Chateau Ste. Michelle, one of the oldest and most well known of wineries from the Columbia Valley in Washington.  Chateau Ste. Michelle's chardonnay is an enjoyable wine in the $12-$15 dollar range. A fresh, light wine, perfect by itself or with a meal, it has some nice citrus flavors - maybe pear and apple in my opinion. I'm no expert, nor even really a novice. Yet the thing that really intrigued me was the hints of oak in the finish. That oak-y, smokey flavor was what I always enjoyed in a good cabernet, or a nice whiskey for that matter, and I was pleasantly surprised to find it in a white wine.

So, I'm on a chardonnay kick right now and not ashamed to admit it. If you're looking for a fresh new taste in white wines, and you haven't tried Chateau Ste. Michelle, consider it for your next purchase.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Best Ice Cream in Denver

So, it's about 95 degrees and sunny today in Denver, and that means we're going to need a nice way to cool down. At some point we're all going to want something cold, and Denver has no shortage of ice cream destinations. 

One of the best kept secrets of the West is that Denver is the type of place where you can enjoy ice cream year-round, with warm sunny days even in January.  And, there are plenty of fantastic ice cream parlors in the area.  If you're not going to head to King Soopers for some Ben and Jerry's or Haagen Daz, then you may just want to visit some of Denver's best ice cream spots.  For my money, there is no better place for ice cream than Little Man Ice Cream in the Highland's neighborhood.  Located on 16th Street in the Denver Highlands, just off Zuni and right next door to Highland's hotspot Linger, Little Man Ice Cream does not disappoint.  This fact is validated by the line that runs down the block on a regular basis.  Though, don't be put off by the line - it moves really fast and is completely worth the wait.

Little Man Ice Cream is located in an eclectic spot - a walk-up shop shaped like a giant milk container - and its flavors are great fun as well.  We always go for the hot fudge sundae - though recently we had it with the salted caramel ice cream rather than the traditional vanilla.  Whoa, Nelly.  It was all that. The whipped cream is fresh and light, the ice cream is rich and delicious, and the crushed nuts make it all perfect.  The richness of the ice cream is what makes Little Man Ice Cream better than the rest.  I know many people swear by Bonnie Brae - and it's not bad.  However, Bonnie Brae is almost cliche at this point.  It's actually better in myth than in practice.  When you really taste the ice cream, it seems more store-bought than parlor fresh.  Sweet Action on Broadway is also fabulous - especially when it comes to eclectic flavors.  The Stranahan's Whiskey Brickle is simply downright ridiculous.

But, when all is said and done, the best ice cream in Denver is found at Little Man Ice Cream in the Highlands.  Check it out.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

As Teen Boys Head Back to School, Read "Carter Finally Gets It"

As summer wanes, and the school year approaches, there will be many anxious moments about a uniquely challenging but lovably genuine species of human - the adolescent boy. Teen boys are a wholly mess of emotions and energy, and it's sometime amazing that the human race survived knowing that all adult males had to be teen boys at some point. And as parents and teachers of teens, we are often left wondering just how those brains function - or more importantly if they function. How many times have adults asked teens, "What were you thinking?" when the reality is simply that they weren't thinking. They are mystifying, even to themselves, and we are constantly looking for someone to explain why they act that way. While doctors and psychologists and parents have a lot of insight into teen boys, no one does it quite so well as brilliant storyteller by the name of Brent Crawford.

That's why each year I highly recommend that teen boys and teen girls and teachers and parents read Crawford's hysterical look inside the mind of the adolescent male - Carter Finally Gets It.   Crawford's story, told in first person from the admittedly ADHD-challenged mind of Will Carter who is struggling to find himself and keep it all together during the crazy and intense phase of life known as Freshman Year.

Join Will Carter for his freshman year, when he’ll search for sex, love, and acceptance anywhere he can find it.  In the process, he’ll almost kill a trombone player, face off with his greatest nemesis, get caught up in a messy love triangle, suffer a lot of blood loss, narrowly escape death, run from the cops (not once, but twice), meet his match in the form of a curvy drill teamer, and surprise everyone, including himself.

I first read this book years ago when it was published, and I couldn't believe how honest and candid and accurate it was, knowing this world from my own adolescence and from twenty years in public education. Since then I have recommended it to so many people, especially high school students. The girls need to read it, so they can understand these bizarre peers of theirs who are so desperately trying to keep it all together and still look cool to the girls they worship but are also terrified of. And the boys need to read it so they understand themselves. And, of course, parents and teachers need to read it so they have a clue about what's going on in those cool detached demeanors occupying space in their homes and classrooms.

Crawford's book is timeless and should be required reading for any parent of a teenage boy. Start the year off right and read Brent Crawford's Carter Finally Gets It.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Charles Hill, Henry James, & David Brooks - "A Man on Whom Nothing is Lost"

For many years I've enjoyed the thoughtful and erudite columns of the New York Times' David Brooks. The weekly ponderings of a liberal newspaper's favorite conservative have a way of opening my mind to that which I hadn't considered before. Brooks certainly has his detractors, and its worsened in recent years as few conservatives will claim him and more liberals have become disgruntled that he's not as progressive as they thought - though he really is. And, of course, the critics love to slam him for his pretentious Ivy League elitism. But I still think he's doing some of the best pop culture scholarship around today.

One of my favorite columns by Brooks contains one of my favorite phrases in American literature. It is a phrase from Henry James that I use to guide my students. It's about being "a person on whom nothing is lost." There could be no more lofty goal for aspiring students, and David Brooks used it aptly in describing a Yale professor and career diplomat who had many inspiring life lessons for students in the infamous "Grand Strategy" class. It's a column worth reading and a idea worth pursuing. Brooks describes how Hill was a cosmopolitan man, a renaissance man, who brought an authoritative wisdom to the young intellectuals around him. Here is my favorite part:

Hill was famous for his ability to turn note-taking into an art form. He aspired to be, in Henry James's words, a man ''on whom nothing was lost.'' He observed everything and quietly kept a record.

Of Course Melanie Trump Plagiarized Part of Her Speech

Plagiarism is taking someone else's words and passing them off as your own without giving credit. There is no doubt that two paragraphs of Melanie Trump's GOP Convention speech were remarkably similar to a speech given by Michelle Obama in 2008. Speaking as an English teacher who is professionally attuned to issues of language choice, I will argue that Melanie Trump - or her speechwriter - plagiarized those two pargraphs.

My parents impressed on me the values: that you work hard for what you want in life. That your word is your bond and you do what you say and keep your promise. That you treat people with respect. They taught me to show the values and morals in my daily life. That is the lesson that I continue to pass along to our son. And we need to pass those lessons on to the many generations to follow. [Cheering] Because we want our children in this nation to know that the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.
And from Michelle Obama in 2008.
And Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you're going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don't know them, and even if you don't agree with them. And Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values, and pass them on to the next generation. Because we want our children — and all children in this nation — to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.
The more interesting thing to me is the inconsistency of the Trump campaign's reporting about the writing of the speech. Melanie Trump told Matt Lauer that she only practiced the speech once because she "mostly wrote it" herself, and so she knows it so well. However, info from Trump's people indicated that several speechwriters had worked with her over several weeks on the speech. So which is it? And, if that speech was "several weeks'" worth of work, then someone needs to lose a job because that was really not an impressive bit of rhetoric.

Of course, the justifications and the dismissals are becoming silly at this point. Trump sycophant Chris Christie - who looks more like a dupe every day - told the Today Show that the speech wasn't plagiarized "when 93% of the speech is original." Like that makes sense. Uh, Chris, people aren't taking exception to the parts that weren't copied. But if you note that 93% is original, then you are conceding that 7% wasn't. And those were not just "common words" and ideas. When arranged in the same order and used in the same context, we call that plagiarism.

In reality, I think this is simply a matter of a woman tasked with a "HUGE" speech to give, and she "researched" it by watching previous speeches of prospective First Ladies. It wasn't malicious or intentional - I don't think she really understood the rules in that regard. She watched Michelle's specch and she used some parts that she thought would work well with her message. It won't matter to GOP voters at this point, but similar situations have derailed political careers. I think it's all just a bit sad. And, I am much more worried about the idea of a First Lady with this in her past.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Food Network Star - Ana Goes Home; Tregaye Somehow Stays

OK, let's be clear about last night's Food Network Star:  Tregaye failed one challenge and put in a mediocre performance on the other - yet somehow she was not eliminated. As the show narrowed to the final three (excepting the inevitable return of someone from Star Salvation), Cuban chef Ana Quincoces was sent home despite putting in her consistently talented cooking and her best camera performance yet. Clearly, the judges have concluded they never liked Ana or her point of view, and they are determined to give the show to the loud-and-over-the-top personality of Tregaye. In reality, the only remaining chef who should ever be considered a Food Network Star is Italian Damiano Carrera. The Food Network needs to remember who watches its programming. Damiano has wide appeal for a Food Network audience - the other two finalists do not.

In watching Tregaye's on-camera moments, I was struck again by how obnoxious she can be, and that was nowhere more evident than in that awkward spot she did with her husband. Sadly, in her post-scene comments she complained her Boo "wasn't saying anything," and that simply revealed how pathetically unaware she is of her excessive on-camera Tregaye-ness. She hogs a camera, never stops talking, loses track of time, isn't really cognizant of what she is saying, and turns off many Food Network viewers. She really is the perfect example of a Millennial social media personality who is popular on Vine and YouTube, but never really appropriate for prime-time. In fact, she has already found her niche market - online, live streaming that twenty-somethings can watch on their phone for a few minutes. And if Bobby and Giada are determined  to name her the winner in the naive hope of expanding the Food Network's trusted audience, then an online format is the only place for her. And, final thought: What was with the parfait for dessert? My ten-year-old makes those for herself. That's not a FNS-quality product. So, basically, Tregaye failed one task and only did one of two dishes for the second task, and she got away with that. Weak.

As far as the others are concerned: Jenard Wells is absolutely forgettable - that is when he's not making me uncomfortable. And the spot he did with his wife didn't help with that image. Certainly, Jernard can cook, though his comments about being "hurt" by the judges not liking "his gumbo" which he has been making for years was a bit pathetic. Jernard, that wasn't "your traditional gumbo," as you clearly noted. So you had to wing it in the time allotted, and it didn't work out that well. Get over it, bud. And the "steak sauce" element to the gumbo? How were the judges not completely turned off by his cooking mistakes? Jernard will simply not be a popular and widely known Food Network Star, and there is no real reason to reward him with that status if the Food Network can't use him to grow its programming. On the other hand, Damiano meets that need and goal. The Food Network execs could send him anywhere, anytime, and he would charm an audience and smoothly accomplish the task.

Which, of course, leaves Ana out of the show - unless she can knock out Monterey and Yaku on Star Salvation. While I can see why the judges sent Ana home with a solid performance that was "too little, too late," I don't think she got a fair shake in this competition. She was the only one who was cooking out of her comfort zone, and she did well. I disagree with the judges who didn't like her Cuban twist on St. Patrick's Day - isn't that the point of all these challenges? Bobby Flay regularly spices up traditional foods on his show Beat Bobby Flay. In fact, that's the disappointing part: judges always know which dish is Bobby's because he puts chilis and heat in everything. But that wins him competitions while Ana gets criticized. So, if you develop a signature POV which puts on spin on the expected, that should make you a FNS. But not in Ana's case. As far as her performances are concerned, Ana gets dinged by the judges for not being a clown. In the classic paradoxical thinking of this show, Bobby Flay warned Jernard against "being a caricature of himself," but then eliminated Ana for not being flashy and showy and, let's be honest, obnoxious enough. Some of Tregaye's and Jernard's "antics" that have the judges like Tai Mowry laughing and clapping are really quite crass - and they are not the general fare of the Food Network. Even Damiano has to act like a bit of a buffoon - which causes him to speak too fast - just so he will appear "lively" enough for the judges. That is the one sad part of Jeff Mauro's story. He became a FNS and got himself on a show like The Kitchen - but he's not himself like he is on his sandwich show. He has to clown it up, just to keep the execs happy. Back in the day, Emeril shouting "Bam!" was good fun on the Food Network. Now, everyone feels like they have to set their hair on fire like Guy Fieri.

Perhaps, someday the Food Network Star will return to classy, stylish, sophisticated shows about cooking and food culture. Until then, good cooks like Ana who could have a sweet show about Cuban cooking with her daughter are told they have to "Goof it up or go home." And true foodies who made the Food Network what it is are left disappointed by "stars" like Tregaye and Lenny.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Grammar Lessons - "Whom are we kidding?"

OK, so how much does anyone really need to know about grammar?

Whenever people learn I am an English teacher, their first reaction is a bit reserved and hesitant, and their second reaction is usually a grammar question. One of the most common: when is it "who" and when is it "whom." Sadly, most people use whom incorrectly quite often in an ill-fated attempt to sound educated. They will literally use "whom" all the time because they think it sounds smart. It doesn't, however, to the educated people.

The long answer to who/whom is that "who" is a subject and "whom" is an object. They are both pronouns, so the choice depends on the case of the sentence. Of course, since many people couldn't find the subject or the object of a sentence if it were blinking in neon lights, and because situations of questions and inverted word order confuse them even more, there is a simpler answer.

Use who in any sentence where you could substitute the word "he." Use whom in any sentence where you could substitute the word "him." I should say him/her, but it's easier to match up the "m" in whom/him.

Thus, it works like this:

Whom did she ask to the dance? Because she asked "him."

Who was at the party? Because "he" was at the party.

And for a bit more information and explanation, I must direct you toward and give a big shout out to the website -

Grammarly is an excellent resource for all your grammar questions..

Taylor Mali & The The Impotence of Proofreading

Sometimes that which must be explained by an English teacher can best be done by one who is also a slam poet.  Taylor Mali has clearly articulated - with the right amount of sarcasm and innuendo - the challenges faced by a generation of people overly dependent on a computer's spellcheck.