At Home During Coronavirus 2020

A few weeks ago, when the Coronavirus was still holed up in Central China and not the global pandemic and international catastrophe it has become, my apartment flooded. Late in the quiet hours of a worknight sleep, my wife woke me up with frantic screaming. She had gotten up to pee and stepped in it. The wet floor could be a dog-related effluvium or a spilled water cup from the nightstand, but this was too deep and too cold for that. Gurgling up from between the doorframe was clean, clear, cold water. I stayed awake all night in a cycle, alternating every towel in the house between soaking up the unknown stream and the washing machine spin-cycle. Continue reading

Parasites

Parasites have a pretty nasty connotation. Vermin such as: fleas, lice, ticks, worms—are tiny monosyllabic terrors. They’re selfish takers. They bite. They suck. They kill. Parasites target bodies and blood. In Bong Joon Ho’s Oscar-winning movie Parasite, the broke Kim family targeted the wealthy Park family. Through a series of unfortunate events, the four poor Kim’s come under the employ of an outrageously opulent family, who are living their idyllic life, shuttling in their chauffeured Benz between high-rise offices, classy supermarkets, garden parties and their ultra-luxe home. Continue reading

If I Had a Million Dollars…

I taught a writing lesson to first graders this week about “If I Had a Lot of Money.” I remembered the old Barenaked Ladies song, “If I Had a Million Dollars” and played it for them. One kid said, “Why can’t I stop singing this song?” One kid said, “That’s not true, you can’t buy love.” He got a star for saying that. Continue reading

Wealth Impacts Success More Than Grit

You just woke up, it’s a chilly Saturday morning, you have nothing to do, nowhere to be and there’s a gentle rainy mist outside, your significant other says, “I’ll get you a coffee, but you have to wait two hours while I drive to the best coffee shop in the next town.” How many of us will wait for that primo java and who will take the leftover instant package collecting dust in the back of the cabinet? Your answer might be able to provide answers about your income level, emotional stability and chances for obesity. Continue reading

Mad with Money

Money is a quantifier of a certain kind of success, but a poor identifier of intelligence or ethics. Money is cherished, almost worshipped nowadays. Money gives you choices. But, it’s a corrupter, a powerful, insatiable brute. It creates an addiction that affects the world. Drugs affect the user and his or her loved ones. Imperious wealth affects the globe. Continue reading

Art for Art’s Sake: Do You Like the Painting, or The Name at the Bottom?

Do you like abstract art? Do you like these two paintings? Can you decide which one is worth 75 million dollars? It was the red and blues squares on the left, not the triangles. (The other two sold in the tens of millions at previous auctions.) Yes, it would take Alex Rodriguez, on his 25 million a year contract, over three years to save up enough to buy this masterpiece of color and inspiration. Continue reading

School Budget Cuts

The Austin Independent School District is facing a budget shortfall of close to 30 million dollars.  How does a school district make up for that size of a cut?  What can you cut back on that has not already been sliced apart?  Can you make the teacher salary lower than it is?  Can you delete books from the curriculum?  Can you eliminate libraries, theaters, gymnasiums, athletic fields or special education?  Can you raise local taxes?  Can you erase jobs and consolidate classrooms?  Nobody wants to make these decisions, and yet, here we are.  With over 80,000 students spread over 113 campuses and several thousand teachers, there is a huge shift approaching.  What can be done to simplify public schools to the tune of 30 million dollars?  It’s a number that is hard to imagine.  First, imagine a grant of 30 million.  Where could it be spent most effectively?  Who could benefit from it?  There could be better supplies, more field trips, new computers, after school enrichment programs, new uniforms or interesting guest lecturers.  There could be a fascinating atmosphere throughout the district.  Kids would be challenged in new ways and in new subjects.  Now, imagine that grant never came and in fact, the school owed money.   I can’t visualize what is going to happen next.  I can’t even figure out where they can possibly cut funds.  All I know is it will happen and everyone will pay for it.  This is one small district in central Texas, is this happening all over America?