Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Claycord Witch Trial

I realize that there are people who might be reading this who don't live in the Concord/Clayton area of California (To the east of San Francisco.  No, not near Oakland.  Further east.  Berkeley?  Keep going.  Go through the tunnel.  Go a little further.  Little further.  There ya go.)  After all, I just checked my blog traffic sources recently, and apparently somebody from Brazil checks out my site from time to time.  Still, I figured that I'd post this to my blog, as it addresses larger issues of journalism, blogging, and basic integrity.

There's a blog for those who live in the Concord/Clayton area called Claycord.  It's usually a pretty useful site.  If you want to know what the deal is with all those helicopters flying around your house, you can find out which murderer is loose in your neighborhood, among other local news items.  It's run by "The Mayor", and as far as I know, his real name is not given on the site.  Perhaps his first name is "The".  Who knows for sure?

Just recently, a friend of mine, Andrew Nolan, received an email from The Mayor regarding a post he made on Facebook.  The post was the first sentence of a student's very poorly-worded essay, and he was basically pointing out that this is the kind of thing we teachers have to deal with when we read essays.  It was all meant in fun, and he never named the student (or even specified if it was a boy or a girl).  Also, it turns out that when he talked to the student about it, he/she thought it was funny that he put it up as well.  Oh, and apparently he called a former student an "asshole" in the thread.  The former student is now a 25 year old man, and "liked" the comment - so obviously there were no hard feelings involved.

The email was basically a series of leading questions along the lines of:  "Do you think it's appropriate to mock a student's essay on Facebook?  Is it appropriate to call a former student an asshole?"  He, quite smartly, ignored it.  Another email was sent to the principal, who after talking with Nolan about it, didn't think it was worth the trouble bothering with beyond that point.  Why?  Because Nolan didn't violate his contract or break any rules; that's why.

Not surprisingly, The Mayor posted an entry on all of this.  You can find it here, but be forewarned that it's been deleted, re-posted, deleted, etc.  It might not be there when you click on it.  I'd write a breakdown of all the distortions, but my friend and colleague, Josh Coito, already did it for me.  He tried to post the following to the Claycord blog, only to have it deleted twice:

I am ashamed that claycord concocted this story. I know Mr. Nolan and there are tons of holes in this story that everyone should be aware of before they weigh in:

1. Nolan's facebook is set to private; one of his friends copied a screenshot and sent it to claycord. He is not putting anything "out there ... for all to see."
2. He posted a single sentence from a student's work and didn't identify the student at all. He didn't even include the name or gender of the student. No matter where you work, you should be able to post about it on your private facebook wall without naming names.
3. The former student whom Nolan called an "asshole" is 25 years old, friends with Mr. Nolan, and he even "liked" Nolan's comment. Please notice that Nolan never calls a current student an asshole; the comment is directed at an adult who graduated several years ago. Notice how claycord doesn't include this information. The Mayor doesn't want readers to contextualize the story or have all the facts. Should the fact that this guy was Nolan's student seven or eight years ago give him amnesty from insult?
4. The whole thread is missing; claycord only provides a snippet, so readers have to guess about the context of the discussion. Pretty convenient, Mr. Mayor.
5. Mr. Nolan is friends with nearly all of his students and many parents of students on facebook. The insinuation that he is choosing to exclude certain people is unfounded.
6. The photo album title is a joke. All the pictures (again, left out by claycord) are of Nolan posing with students at prom.
7. Mr. Nolan is adored by parents and students at College Park. I don't see claycord reporting on Mr. Nolan dancing for kids at rallies, planning engaging/popular lessons, putting in time after school for his students, or praising his students on facebook, all of which he has done.

The Mayor should feel ashamed for attacking a public servant like this. Claycord has become a joke.
When I got home to discuss this with my wife, I found out that she had written some comments which were deleted.  The same was true for my sister-in-law, and there were a few comments on Claycord's Facebook page which were taking The Mayor to task for his obvious witch-hunt.  Those comments were subsequently deleted.  (I got to see a screenshot of one of them, where The Mayor defends himself because he's "not a journalist" but a blogger - which apparently excuses a lack of integrity.)

The really insane thing involves many of the comments that did make it through. While several posts defending him (most of which were from former students and parents of former students) somehow made it through, there were plenty of negative ones.  Some of them called for him being fired.  Really?  The man should lose his job?  Let's say that we all agree that he made a mistake.  Is that really something that should get him fired?

Of course, the comments get even nuttier, with people accusing him of union thuggery and being like Ted Bundy.  Yes, that's right.  Andrew Nolan is comparable to SERIAL KILLER Ted Bundy.  (Personally, I always thought he was more of a Richard Ramirez.  Just watch, Claycord's next headline:  "College Park Teacher Suspects Fellow Teacher of being The Night Stalker".)

The really crazy thing, and this didn't just come from people who were attacking him, but you also got it from those who were supporting him, is that people were taking this one little out-of-context post and doing entire psychological evaluations on the man.  Even when people who knew him and described him tried to chime in, their opinions didn't seem to hold much weight.

I got involved as well, and was taken to task for posting while school was in session.  When I tried to explain that I posted during the seven minutes of the beginning of class while my students were writing in their journals, I was accused of having absolutely no work ethic, and all sorts of judgments were made about my curriculum.  I suppose I could have written about all those times I disappeared during the weekend to work on lesson plans and grades, but it's only the negative that matters.  (If you can call that a negative - my class was working as I took a few minutes to respond - they weren't juggling flamethrowers while I spent the whole period posting.)

I'm not sure what's worse:  The Mayor's blatant censorship and "gotcha journalism" or the fact that he's safe behind his little pseudonym.  The people who posted all sorts of vile things about my friend also didn't have the guts to put their real names to what they wrote.  How cowardly.  Hopefully with this, at least a few people who actually care about the truth will get it.

Monday, May 28, 2012


My son, Logan, is going to turn two in August, and as people who are familiar with kids that age would expect, he's developed quite the personality by now.  He has developed a couple of fixations as well, which I understand is pretty typical.  One of them is with clocks, as he always points out a "cock" whenever he sees one.  Sometimes he points them out while we're in the grocery store, and what he's actually pointing at are the thermometers in the refrigerated section.  Of course, when  he does this, I yell at him:  "That's a thermometer, STUPID!  Why must you be such an embarrassment?"

His other fixation is with rock music, and more specifically, guitars.  He has about five toy guitars by this point, and they are among the few toys that he actually plays with.  Usually what he does is picks one up whenever some music is playing, particularly some loud, catchy rock and roll, and "plays" along.  Lately, he has taken to handing everybody in the room one of his guitars so they can play as well.  My wife said that this was his equivalent of what some little girls (and boys too, I suppose) do when they have a tea party and pass out tea cups to everybody.  (Some other kids like to talk about how Barack Obama is a SOCIALIST NAZI FASCIST COMMUNIST at their tea parties.)

I try to play him a variety of music, and for the most part, he likes whatever I play for him.  I've played some jazz and classical, and he's enjoyed them.  But for the most part, and this probably has much to do with the fact that it's primarily what I expose him to, he really likes loud rock.  His current favorites are AC/DC and Van Halen, as he's always asking for "more" when he hears some of their songs.  (He also has been doing this for The Beatles, but they don't quite fit the same mold.)

One time, I was watching an episode of Stephen Colbert's show, and he had a band on that was from North Africa.  Their music was definitely not very Western, to say the least.  While it was playing, Logan was watching quite attentively.  He even swayed along to the music.

I have some other similar stories to this, but the cool thought that occurred to me was "Hey, he has no musical prejudices."  To him, music is just music, and all that matters is whether he likes the way it sounds or not.  He doesn't have an idea in his head as to what music should and should not be.  Let's face it, most people, when they hear something different, don't really gravitate toward it.  They'll say that it sounds "weird" or something like that.  But for him, it was just as much music as anything else he had heard.

This is similar to when we have dinner.  I know some adults who would never try Indian or Thai food, but he'll sample pretty much anything that we put in front of him.  Just as there are no genres of music for him, there are no types of food.  It's just food to him, and either he likes it, or he doesn't.  He doesn't care if the beef is Chinese, Persian, Thai, or good ol' American in style.  He just likes beef...period.

What I'm getting at here is that I'd like to foster this open minded attitude of his as long as humanly possible. The one thing that I realized that I can do is that when I hear a particular musician whom I don't like, I'm not going to express that in front of him.  I'm also not going to talk about how different kinds of foods are "gross" or "disgusting" - even if we're watching something like Bizarre Foods and the guy is eating a tarantula - as after all, what's disgusting can be relative depending on where you live.

Basically, I want him to make up his own mind as much as that's possible.  It's inevitable that parents are going to indoctrinate their kids to some degree, and when it comes to some things like morals, that's probably a good thing.  But when it comes to him becoming the man that he's going to become, I hope to provide a good example by being as open-minded as I can possibly be, and let him figure out everything based on his own reasoning and the merits of what he's judging.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Comics Roundup for 5/23/12

Batman Incorporated #1 - I missed picking up Batman:  The Dark Knight even less since this one came out on the second week.  This was easily one of the best Batman books before the relaunch, and it's nice to see it back again.  Of course, there's some awesome stuff going on in Batman and Batman and Robin but this one gives us Grant Morrison at his best, and the new artist, Chris Burnham, is doing a nice job.  Fun, wacky, intricate, and slightly demented stuff here.

Aquaman #9 - I need to take the time to reread every issue of this series.  Not that I'm having difficulty following the story, but I have a feeling that there are some little details that I'm forgetting.  Anyway, I wonder how much of the stuff here is brand new to this series and how much was part of the older continuity.  One thing's for sure, I thought that the clilffhanger ending left open some pretty interesting possibilities.

The Amazing Spider-Man #686 - As always, it's somewhat tedious to write about a series that's as consistently solid as this one.  I like the twist with Mysterio in this issue.

Captain America #12 - Not much different to say with this one after the last issue.  Once again, this feels more like the pre-"death" of Captain America stories that Brubaker was doing, and that's a welcome thing to see.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Comics Roundup for 5/16/12

Winter Soldier #5 - A pretty satisfying end for the first story arc, with a good cliffhanger that makes me want to get the next issue.  Am I the only one who's realizing that Bucky's situation is kinda similar to Jason Bourne's?

Avengers Versus X-Men #4 - Hmm...didn't like this one as much.  After the great bit of tension that built to Wolverine being tossed off a plane into the snow, suddenly everything seems to be okay between Wolverine and Captain America again.  I can see him not necessarily going back to the X-Men, but this wasn't resolved very well.

Wonder Woman #9 - We get a guest artist this issue, but it's still a pretty good read - not quite as shocking of an end as the last one, but Brian Azarello knows how to end a comic with me wanting to see what happens next.

The Avengers #26 - Nice to see them finally do something interesting with The Protector, as he hasn't been doing all that much since he left the Dark Avengers.  Also nice to see Walt Simonson on pencils again.

Justice League #9 - While I'm enjoying this series, I'm somewhat disappointed at the same time.  I figured that Geoff Johns would do the same thing for the League that he did for Green Lantern and is now doing for Aquaman, but I'm not quite seeing that just yet.

Daredevil #13 - As always, not much to say other than this is a fun series.  Nice to see how much DD is interacting with the rest of the Marvel Universe.

The Secret Service #2 - I liked the first issue; this one was pretty good as well.  Mark Millar just doesn't let me down.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Comics Roundup for 5/9/12

Lots of stuff - only enough time to write a little about each:

Batman #9 - Am I the only one who thinks that "Night of the Owls" would make for an awesome Batman movie?  And couldn't you see Christopher Nolan directing it?  Ah well, hopefully The Dark Knight Rises will make me forget that.

Captain America #11 - This feels a lot more like the kind of stuff that Ed Brubaker was doing when he started on the character.  A new Scourge?  Cool.

Batman and Robin #9 - What was Robin doing during the "Night of the Owls"?  You find out here.  Another fun read, and Damien Wayne is in good hands in this series.

The Avenging Spider-Man #7 - The weakest installment story-wise has the best art with Stuart Immonen.  Didn't love it.  Didn't hate it.

Avengers Assemble #3 - Thanos shows up at the end of an Avengers story?  Why does this feel like deja vu? Anyway, a decent read, but easily this is the weakest Avengers book.

Lord of the Jungle #4 - I still find myself enjoying this a lot more than I thought I would.

The New Avengers #26 - While I enjoyed this issue, I don't like how The Avengers books always focus more on tying in to the current crossover rather than featuring the team that I'm paying to read about.

Fatale #5 - This series definitely reads better when you read all the issues in a row.  I wish that I had just waited for the trade paperbacks on this one.

Batgirl #9 - While I enjoyed this "Night of the Owls" crossover, I would have liked it more if we got a bit of the ongoing subplots from this series.

Wolverine and the X-Men #10 - Now this is how you do a tie-in to a crossover.  Just like last issue, it gives us a lot more interesting stuff than would have fit in the Avengers Versus X-Men limited series.

Green Lantern #9 - Whoa...the secret of the Indigo Tribe was surprising but still made a lot of sense.  Good stuff, like usual.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Comics Roundup for 5/2/12

I've heard more than once from somebody that he or she reads my blog "with the exception of the comics stuff".  But every now and then, somebody actually tells me that he or she reads the Comics Roundup.  Sometimes that makes me feel obligated to write more thorough reviews/critiques.  But then again, if these weren't good enough, then why would they be reading them?  As I've stated before, the purpose of this is to get me to think about my comics purchases, as I sometimes keep getting some stuff out of habit.  If I hate it and have to write about it, I'm less likely to keep getting it.  This also explains why you don't find a lot of negative comments, as when I stop liking it, I stop getting it.  Anyway, here's what I got this week:

Avengers Versus X-Men #3 - I'm enjoying this series quite a bit.  I believe that I said before that the whole idea for this series seemed like perhaps Marvel was running out of ideas for events, but so long as it was entertaining, I didn't mind.  The further we get into this, the more I realize that Marvel did it not just because it's such an obvious crossover, but it's really ripe for all kinds of conflicts.  Basically, it's not just Avengers fighting X-Men and that's that.  With this issue, the whole Avenger/X-Man situation with Wolverine has just gotten a lot more complicated, and I'm thinking that this might be a bit more of a Avengers versus X-Men versus Wolverine and the mutants who are loyal to him.  He's definitely got his own agenda going on here.

The Amazing Spider-Man #685 - Quite a cliffhanger here, and we're only halfway through?  Anyway, like always - not much to say, just a fun read that leaves me wanting more.

Daredevil #12 - Matt Murdock is dating again.  What can possibly go wrong?  Anyway, no DD in this issue, as it's mostly a flashback to his college days with Foggy Nelson.  Did I mind?  Absolutely not, as it's another solid issue in yet another series where I just can't bring myself to repeat the reasons why I like it.

Earth 2 #1 - I dropped a few "New 52" books by now, and with this "Second Wave" I'm only interested in a couple of the new titles - this being one of them.  I don't know if I can see myself getting this title long-term, but I'm intrigued enough to pick up the next issue.  Basically, this is DC reviving the old "Earth 2" concept, but doing it in a completely new way.  We get introduced to the Golden Age Green Lantern and Flash, but they're not a whole lot like the versions that we've known for some time now.  Since I was never that big of a fan of the Golden Age heroes, I say why not?  They could just keep doing the same thing or try something new, and if this doesn't pan out, then this Earth can get destroyed and we'll find some other Earth that's more to the liking of the fans.