Monthly Archives: May 2012

I Remember Roger

Tonight, the series finale of _House, MD_ airs, and on June 13, Larry Hagman will reprise the role of J. R. Ewing on TNT’s new _Dallas_, saying to his new sister-in-law, in a promo shown for almost a year now, “Guns don’t seem to have much of an effect on me.”

And my thoughts turn to the character–and the actor–to whom Hagman, Hugh Laurie, and so many in between have owed their success.

It was 1971. _Guiding Light_, the longest fictional narrative ever told, had already been on the air for 35 years, and there were certain “rules” still in play. Only “good” characters were allowed to “stick around.” Characters could have faults but were expected to redeem themselves. Anyone truly evil had to be punished in some way, or in rare cases redeemed. Only a few actors received long-term contracts, and writers could easily add or remove people from the canvas as needed.

A few years before, GL had gone from 15 minutes to a half an hour, and the cast was increased to reflect the change. In one of the first known cases of Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome, brothers Mike and Ed Bauer, both born onscreen in the early 1950s, were now in their late 20s/early 30s on the show, a lawyer and doctor, respectively, and a new family named the Norrises had recently been introduced.

Barbara Norris was a widow with three teenagers, and her ex-husband was Stanley Norris, one of the richest men in town. Stanley was intended to be the show’s driving villain for the time being, but every good archvillain needs a henchman. His daughter Holly was intended to be a new love-interest for Dr. Ed Bauer, and to fill out the triangle of the storyline, the show needed a young man who would rival Ed for Holly’s affections. He was going to be a short-term character tied in to the eventual murder of Holly’s father.

When the casting call went out for a roguish young man in his 20s, out of a crowd of stereotypical “leading man” types, the casting director picked a young stage actor who wasn’t necessarily TV/movie star “handsome,” but had a deep charm and charisma.

Thanks to the casting of Michael Zaslow, Roger Thorpe, intended as a catalyst for one story arch of a few months, became one of the longest-running, most well known and certainly most influential characters in the history of daytime, and arguably in the history of all television.

Never before on *any* series had people tuned in specifically to watch the “bad guy,” with the possible exception of Barnabas Collins on _Dark Shadows_, which while a cult favorite was not a ratings success. But I had the same exchange at least three times with different middle aged men where _Guiding Light_ came up, and the fellow said, “You watch *soap operas*??” “Just _Guiding Light_.” Then I’d mention Roger, and the person said, “I remember Roger! I used to tune in all the time to see Roger!”

Before Roger Thorpe, villains were supposed to get their comeuppance, but Roger always kept coming back, and one of the reasons he worked was that he was, like the best comic book villains, a character with depth. He was an ambitious young corporate executive, first working for Stanley Norris and later working for Alan Spaulding, a blackmailer, embezzler and con artist. He also had a horrible, violent temper, and at the peak of his reign of terror committed spousal abuse and rape. But he also had a sensitive streak, the streak that made him so appealing to the women on the show and in the viewership. He wanted somehow to have it all: family, power, money, and his conflicting desires led to the conflicts in his life. He would try to be better, but his appetites always got the better of him–and when he managed to keep his appetites in check, others’ low opinions of him would lead him back into his wicked ways. For the ultimate driving force in his life was his father, Adam, a wealthy executive and “good guy” on the show who was publicly known for his righteousness but was extremely hard on his son and, according to Roger, abusive at home.

After several departures, faked deaths, and an arrest or two, Roger was to finally be killed off in on April 1, 1981 (the announcement that Roger was “going to die” was also the first “spoiler”), though 8 years later the character would return yet again, and with his fall from a cliff retconned into yet another faked death and a “fifteen year” stint in the CIA.

Certainly, every long-running villain in daytime in the past 40 years has owed his or her existence to Roger Thorpe. After Zaslow left GL, some of its competitors even cast actors who bore a resemblance to him to play their villains.

Zaslow never had much of a career outside daytime, sadly. Years before Roger, Zaslow played the first crewman whom Dr. Leonard McCoy pronounced “Dead” on _Star Trek_, and had another notable but short appearance as a different _Enterprise_ crewman. IMDB and several Wiki sites claim that Zaslow played an uncredited role as a background character in _Star Trek First Contact_, but the character in question looks nothing like him.

Zaslow also had a couple guest appearances on _Law & Order_, and there was a rumor that Dick Wolf was considering him for a starring role in the series at a point when Jerry Orbach was considering leaving–but Orbach stayed, and Zaslow was stricken with ALS, dying within 2 years of his diagnosis.

In the meantime, the original “man you love to hate” inspired a myriad of prime time imitators, and as scripted daytime television nears extinction, as Hugh Laurie announces his retirement from television and Larry Hagman comes out of semi-retirement, I hope they stop and at least give some thought to the equally talented but nearly forgotten actor to whom they owe their careers.


Email and Generation Gaps

My wife and I are constantly frustrated by sending emails and not getting replies from people.

It occurred to me this morning that email probably signifies an interesting generation gap of the “8 track” variety. While certainly email has technically existed for decades, and continues to be used, email saw its heyday in the late 1990s and first few years of this century. As a casual form of communication, it has largely been supplanted by texting and social networking.

There are still those Luddites, even in their 20s, who have resisted the rise of technology and insist on the superiority of face-to-face conversation (which I, for one, have always found highly problematic), telephone conversation and/or handwritten communication. However, as a general norm, those born after, say, 1980, are more likely to prefer texting, and the younger they are, the more this is so.

I read an interesting article in a local parenting magazine last year by a mother who was trying to invite her teenager’s friends to a party, and her teenager gave her a list of phone numbers–which she found odd, since she expected a list of emails. So she tried to call each teen on his or her personal cell phone, and did not get a single answer or callback.

Then, in desperation, she tried sending a text to one of the kids. She got an almost instantaneous response. By texting, she was able to get an immediate response from each and every kid on the list–a much better success rate than either email or phone.

On the other end of the spectrum are those 50 and above who may have adapted to all this technology but did not necessarily grow up with it. They may use email, texting and/or social networking–they may use it as much as those of us under 40–but they don’t see it as their primary or preferred means of communication.

There’s that very common experience of “Mom” (or “Dad” or “Grandma” or “Grandpa” or whomever) calling up and saying, “Hi, I got your email!”

Regardless of artificial or argumentative distinctions between being a “geek,” being “gifted,” being “eccentric” or being on the Autisic Spectrum, the fact is that Hans Asperger rightly identified a basic personality type that doesn’t socialize well with others. In any literal or metaphorical playground, you’re going to find a small percentage of kids who prefer to read, sit by themselves, or play imaginative games by themselves rather than engage in the more popular group activities.

Those of us who are like that came easily to technology–and it was our forbears who invented the Internet in the 1970s to begin with.

My generation was the first in which it was actually “cool” to be a “geek,” both in terms of computers and in terms of popular culture interests. Mine is the generation of Comic book conventions and toy collecting, a generation embodied by Shawn and Gus on _Psych_.

In any case, those of us born in the 1970s are probably the only generation who grwup on email as a principle form of exchange and consider it our preferred form of exchange, especially when we discovered it as a liberation from the unpredictability of face-to-face conversation and the inscrutability of facial expressions.

Thus we find ourselves in a world where we struggle to communicate with those both older and younger than we are, because to those older, our preferred means of communication are newfangled faddish technology, and to the younger, our preferred means of communication are passe.

My Message to Occupy Wall Street: Make a Job!

Supposedly, the main impetus of the “Occupy Various Random Places” crowd is the somewhat valid complaint that they’ve been encouraged to get good grades & go to college to “get a good job,” and now they can’t get jobs. Now, of course, as a classicist, I have to object to the notion that a college education is primarily about getting a job (see C. S. Lewis’s “Lilies that Fester” on that one).

However, it dawns on me that they’re missing the point: a college education is supposed to arm one with the intellectual tools to think creatively and critically, so that one can be an effective worker in any job, or be successful in graduate school OR go into business for oneself.

Working in “non-traditional” education as both an instructor and admissions officer, I’ve often laughed at how many of my students, with their poor educational backgrounds and various disadvantages, say they’re going to college to get a business degree “to someday start my own business.” Now some of them do have very clear plans for what *kind* business they want, and I applaud the clear initiative of those students. To most, however, regarding starting their own businesses one can apply the same principle that Flannery O’Connor says of most people who say “I want to be a writer”: they want the wealth and fame they think will be guaranteed if they can “own their own business,” but they don’t particularly care what kind of business it is. To be successful at one’s own business, one must have a passion for what that business *is*, just as one must be passionate about any career.

Neverthelesss, even those whose ambitions are more vague clearly have more ambition than the OWS types, who think that a career is something they’re owed, something they’re given, rather than something they achieve. The Left things OWS is to be praised for how these people have joined together, organized online, etc. Well, why can’t they use these organizational skills to get together and start their own businesses?

The main hindrance of most people in starting their own businesses is the money to survive off of while they’re getting started, or the money to find a facility. These OWS people are living on the streets for weeks or months in little tent communities, so obviously they’re not concerned about those problems. They’re able to do their tweeting and blogging and facebooking, so they obviously have some access to technology.

So instead of devoting their energy to complaining, they *could* be devoting their energies to talking to one another, networking *constructively* among themselves, finding out what their mutual skills and passions are, and starting their own businesses.

If they want to protest against intrusive bureaucratic licensing laws and whatever, and start collecting money for whatever services they want to sell, more power to them. But if they’re truly as college-educated as they claim, they should be smart enough to come up with *some* kinds of ventures or to just plain sell stuff.

If the cliche is true of the OWS types that, like most hippies, they’re really just the offspring of upper or upper-middle-class families who have a sense of entitlement from their privilege, maybe they can even get the rich relatives they protest against to invest in their ideas. Maybe they can go to the banks they so vehemently despise and get starter loans.

And then they can apply the self-denial they’ve supposedly been applying to vague protesting and apply it to starting businesses the way so many successful entrepreneurs, like their idols Steve Jobs, George Lucas, or Ben & Jerry have done.

And then one day the OWS people can start coming to the Tea Parties when they realize that the GOP is not the party of “the Rich” but the party of the middle class.

Why I am a conservative: The Fine Arts and the LCWR

There are two reasons I am a conservative.

The first reason is abortion.

The second reason might seem more trivial but is just as important and perhaps moreso: Beauty.

Both reasons tie to the fact that what I rejected were liberal or progressive Catholics.

For Russell Kirk, conservatism is primarily about what he, following T. S. Eliot, calls the “Permanent Things,” or what Mortimer Adler would call “The Great Ideas.” In 1986, Kirk added a chapter to his magnum opus _The Conservative Mind_, officially about T. S. Eliot but also dealing with Robert Frost, talking about how it is impossible to have a truly liberal poet (he notes Shelley as a possible exception) because poets are all about the Permanent Things. C. S. Lewis, in his inaugural address as chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge, _De Descriptione Temporum_, says that there are only three true historical periods. Today, we might call these the pre-Christian, Christian and post-Christian eras. Lewis argues that only 2 true changes ever occurred in history: the arrival of Christ, and the arrival of Modernity. He suggests that he sees Western Civilization as a continuum, with the Greeks at one end and Jane Austen at the other. While he thinks that the West has tapered off, he sees Jane Austen as the last solid example of a “Truly Western writer.”

Indeed, one of the reasons I went into English was to write a thesis on Lewis’s fascination with Jane Austen, though my thesis got redirected by my committee. We can further compare Lewis’s analysis of Western culture to G. K. Chesterton, who said that Western civilization is a back-and-forth of the Greco-Roman view (i.e., Renaissance, Neo-Classical) with the Judeo-Christian view (i.e., Medieval, Baroque, Romantic/Gothic). With the rise of artistic and intellectual modernism in the late 19th Century, something new happened. The Greeks and Romans saw the world as essentially divinely-given mathematical order. The Judeo-Christian view saw the world as a miserable place infused with divine beauty from which we reach out for God.

Modernism was the first widely accepted worldview, and the first artistic movement, based upon rejection of a notion of God. As one of the music critics in the old print _Crisis Magazine_ once put it, “Music died with Nietzsche’s God.”

One of the only times I had the opportunity to teach literature, as opposed to writing, was in the 2007-2008 academic year. I avoided being overt about revealing my political or religious views, but I *did* talk about these figures and guide my teaching of literature according to explaining the back and forth of those trends in culture. This led at least one of my students to raise her hand and ask if she was correct in guessing that I supported Mike Huckabee in that year’s primary (I did).

While I read most of Lewis’s work when I was 13 and 14, I didn’t read Kirk or Chesterton till college, though _The Conservative Mind_ was one of those books that, when I read it, I put it down and said, “THIS is what I believe”!

But I was conservative before I read any of them. I wasn’t conservative from my upbringing, other than the fact that my parents were staunchly pro-life. My parents started off as “Reagan Democrats.” My father was union activist in Pennsylvania, and I despise labor unions as institutions. I was born in Erie, PA, the hometown of “Sr.” Joan Chittister and PAX Christi USA. The bishop of Erie, when I was a child, was Michael Murphy, who infamously wanted to tear out seats in St. Peter’s Cathedral to make room for a stage for liturgical dance. His successor, Donald Trautman, is known for his courageous stance against pro-choice Catholic politicians . . . named Republican Tom Ridge.

Trautman is also known for spearheading liberalism in both liturgy and Scripture. He headed the committees that created the atrocious, and Vatican-Rejected, “revised Psalms” of the NAB. He has headed the USCCB’s liturgy committee numerous times, even beyond conventional term limits. Over a decade ago, he wrote a piece on liturgy in _America_ that elicited a response from some Vatican bishops, who wrote in the letters page of _America_ that Trautman’s article was essentially calling for a schism. Trautman single-handedly stonewalled implementation of the New Translation in the US, starting with his immediate reaction to, and rejection of, _Liturgiam Authenticam_ when it was issued and his insistence over the last 10 years that Americans are too dumb to know what words like “chalice” and “consubstantial” mean.

Somehow, in spite of that wide Catholic environment, in my early childhood I managed to pick up the beauty of Catholicism that Murphy and Trautman’s generations tried to strip away so meticulously, part in thanks to my parents’ guidance (though many others from similar backgrounds wouldn’t have gotten the same result). I was as bored at Mass as many children are, and clueless about what was going on or what the Readings or homilies said. I was awed by the stained glass windows, statues, the gothic architecture, the pipe organ, the choir, and the vestments and processions.

I read my Fr. Daniel Lord _Miniature Lives of the Saints_ I got for First Communion and was impressed by the piety of the saints. I read my “Children’s First Mass Books” I got for First Communion and was moved by the beauty of the prayers in it.

It was Beauty that called to me in the liturgy and in popular devotions before I understood anything.

I thought it was so cool that monks and nuns got to stand out by wearing their habits to show their love for Jesus.

Then we moved to the South, and while the South tends to be “conservative,” generally, and maybe southern Catholics are more actively pro-life, southern Catholics, especially the ones who are not transplants, tend to be rather liberal about their faith, because of the whole, “We have to avoid getting persecuted” mentality. When they’re conservative, they tend to be the racist kind of conservatives. So I spent the second half of my formative years surrounded by charismatics and progressives, and carrying the stigma that conservative=racist, and the only people who seemed to be externally following the Church’s teachings generally seemed to be stuck-up.

Yet, in spite of all that, I was drawn to Tradition.

I had plainclothes nuns and priests telling me that everything I found attractive about Catholicism was done away with by Vatican II.

While what drew me to the faith was its *difference* from the world, I was told that to be “relevant” and “attract the youth,” the Church had to embrace the world’s “pop culture,” that organs and traditional hymns had to be set aside for guitars and folksongs (nevermind that I had not yet really understood the great patrimony of traditional Catholic music; I was just working from congregational hymns). Stained glass windows (at least those depicting saints and biblical events) and statues had to be stripped away for colorful banners and potted plants. We’d have a big day for “Thanksgiving,” when Protestant Orange would be draped over the sacred altar and the vestments of the priest.

It made no sense to me that the religion of Aloysius Gonzaga, who walked on his own to daily Mass at age 3, or Stanislas Kostka who miraculously received Communion from an angel, was to be replaced by balloon Masses and “Glory and Praise for Kids,” that the faith which so many martyrs died for *PRECISELY* because they didn’t want to participate in the evils of their own cultures was now to be spread by embracing the evils of our contemporary culture.

John Paul II coined the term “Culture of Death” in _Evangelium Vitae_. Yes, the term has been used and abused since, and become a cliche, but if you actually read the encyclical, the context of the term might make even the most avid Ron Paul supporter blush (especially those who think the Pope is *in* on “the New World Order”), for His Holiness speaks of a vast worldwide conspiracy against Life and against the Catholic Church. If we’re going to speak of a “Culture of Death,” then we have to acknowledge that concept includes “culture,” that the Culture of Postmodernism is itself part-and-parcel of the Culture of Death. The culture of contraception, abortion, and euthanasia is also the culture of sex, drugs and Rock&Roll. If a worldwide conspiracy against the Catholic Church is trying to promote abortion, contraception, divorce and so many other evils, then one must also acknowledge that such a conspiracy is involved with the government pays for crucifixes in urine or feces on images of the Blessed Mother. If we’re fighting against these evils attacking human life and the family, then we must also attack the culture which encourages people to participate in immorality, so they feel the “need” for abortion, contraception and divorce as “protection” against their own immorality that the culture has taught them is inevitable.

Those same nuns were all about “helping the poor”–which is laudable, but not when it’s politically subordinated to abortion (a position refuted by Bl. John Paul II in _Evangelium Vitae_) or worse when it’s subordinated to spirituality. In that sense, it was not so much abortion that made me conservative as “Catholicism is about serving the poor, not all that prayer stuff. You shouldn’t be doing Eucharistic Adoration. The Eucharist is supposed to be about going out and serving the poor, not staying around and worshipping it. Marian devotion was done away with by Vatican II, and it’s not what you’re supposed to be doing. You’re supposed to be serving the poor.” And to a disabled kid, whose parents were basically teetering on poverty as it was, being told that the only “true” way to serve Christ was by helping the poor, came off as essentially telling me I was damned (if their worldview was true), and it seemed hypocritical of them to be so worried about poor people who *weren’t* Catholic but not about those in their own parish, to go out and do habitat for humanity but not be bothered to help a parishioner who was likely going to die before age 20.

So *that* is why I’m a conservative. Now, as an adult, I’ve seen the faults of many who call themselves conservative, but take solace in that most of them are more neocons, anyway, but the fundamental issues still remain.

Now, I knew my understanding of Catholicism was validated by JPII, sort of, and I knew it was validated by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (which is why I spent most of my life till 2005 waiting for him to be Pope, and literally hit the ceiling when he did), and by Cardinal Arinze, and Mother Angelica, and so many saints. I knew my view of Catholicism was validated by Kirk, and Chesterton, and Dietrich von Hildebrand, etc.

However, the struggle against the habitless nuns and their cronies has raged on. It is amazing how there are so many people out there who consider themselves devout and practicing Catholics, whose worldviews are so completely different, who totally embrace “Vatican II” (or rather the “Spirit of Vatican II,” since the Council itself never said or advocated most of what they claim it did), who think that Joan Chittister and Rembert Weakland (even in spite of the latter’s disgrace) embody the “true” faith, it can be quite disheartening. Look at _Commonweal_, _America_, _US Catholic_, _St. Anthony Messenger_, or _Maryknoll_. Look at the “we’re not liberal” Catholics at Vox Nova and “Catholics United for the Common Good.” Look at so many “Catholic” colleges and institutions, like Georgetown, which invited Kathleen Sebelius to be its commencement speaker, even in the current crisis. While many of these people are intentional agents of Communism and Freemasonry, many of them really *are* well-meaning, but totally brainwashed, and think they’re following the Church. And they insist that their “view of Catholicism” is at least a perfectly valid one, if not the only valid one, and the Pope and “the Bishops” (even though many of the bishops in the US agree with them) are “out of touch.”

So, with all that said, the second great gratification came seven years after the installation of Pope Benedict XVI, when the Vatican issued its “smackdown” of the Leadership Council of Women Religious a few weeks ago. Finally, the Vatican has confirmed that all those habitless nuns are way off-base, regarding their subordination of both moral issues and personal spirituality to social justice (which is a perfectly valid concern in its proper context). Finally, they’re being told to put their habits back on.

“Photographs and Memories”: Attachment and “Big Sacraments”

It’s that time of year again: first Communions, Confirmations, and, soon, weddings.

“There is a time for penance and a time for partridge,” Holy Mother Teresa of Avila said, and celebration is great, especially when we’re celebrating Christ’s grace in the sacraments.

However, in the vein of cautioning people about the secularization of Christmas, it is important to beware the secularization of the Sacraments themselves. We know it’s a problem with “Cultural Catholics” who treat the sacraments as merely ceremonial “rites of passage”. And again, celebration is wonderful.

I just worry we become too hung up on fancy clothes, photography, and party planning, and we forget to actually remember that these are all supposed to be prayerful occasions.

I also worry that we take times when we’re supposed to be growing closer to God and turn them into times for building on our human habits of attachment–the very attachments we need to shed if we hope to not spend a few centuries in Purgatory.

What did they do to _Young Justice_?

Even my trivia-minded brain couldn’t list the numerous adaptations of the DC super heroes without help. When we first started seeing ads for _Young Justice_ on Cartoon Network in Fall 2010, my wife said, “Can’t they come up with something new?”

In many ways, _Young Justice_ *was* something new. First, like _Batman: the Brave and the Bold_, it attempted to put the “big names” in supporting roles and focus on some of the less-overexposed DC characters. Familiarity with the big names of the Justice League and their rivals provided a fictional backdrop in which to focus on character development and story development.

So we had a limited team out of which only Dick Grayson/Robin was a major character. The other Young Justice team members–Wally West/Kid Flash, Aqualad, Artemis (a very obscure character), Miss Martian, Speedy/Red Arrow, and Superboy (the more recent concept that is a clone of Superman and Lex Luthor, not Clark Kent as a teen)–were relatively obscure or relatively recent characters. Superman and Wonder Woman hardly showed up at all in the first season, except in big group scenes. Batman was the only major character with a regular speaking part, and the team’s “adult” “chaperones” were usually Black Canary, Captain Marvel or Red Tornado (and Captain Marvel is a fantastic treatment of the character, retaining the personality of a 10 year old boy while in his magically adult form).

As the season progressed, the team expanded slightly. The latter part of “Season 1” (which technically ran from Thanksgiving 2010 until last week–Cartoon Network has a weird concept of “seasons”; I think all three “seasons” of _Transformers Animated_ aired within the same kind of time frame as season 1 of this show) introduced Zatanna to the team’s ranks, and another female character I never heard of, whose name I don’t recall, was added at the very end.

This small roster, again, led to great character development. Meanwhile, there were several excellent ongoing story arcs. In particular was a conspiracy called the Injustice Society, which in turn was overseen by a group of mega-villains called The Light (including Ra’s al Ghul, Vandal Savage, Lex Luthor, and a few others I hadn’t heard of before this show). They carefully weaved plot threads and elements throughout the season. The show developed an _X-Files_ or _Law & Order_ technique of time cards, but unlike even many fictional live-action series (let’s start with _Star Trek_’s stardates, and then look to how L&O episodes play out over months, technically overlapping each other when the characters’ lives move from episode to episode), the producers intentionally use this technique to show where the episodes all fit together. It starts in the pilot, when four “cold theme” villains (e.g., Mr. Freeze, Capt. Cold) attack different cities at exactly the same time.

Season 1 was just tremendous.

Season 2, called _Young Justice: Invasion_, premiered this weekend, and I’m scratching my head. First, the story has skipped 5 years. This throws a wrench in both the sequential action and all the carefully built story threads. All of a sudden, it’s five years later, and everything’s different (for example, the romance of aliens Superboy & Miss Martian has apparently ended, and she’s now dating some amphibian dude). Correspondingly, the “teens” from season 1 are all grown up, and are now both the junior members of Justice League and the overseers of Young Justice. Dick Grayson is now Nightwing, and Tim Drake is Robin (no word of Jason Todd).

A few of the regulars from last season were missing in this weekend’s premiere, with no word of what happened to them. The team’s roster is expanded. The plot’s scope has broadened to an impending alien invasion (hence the title), which is somehow related to the supervillain conspiracy from season 1.

It took years for them to progress from _Batman The Animated Series_ to _Justice League Unlimited_. _The Batman_ introduced Justice League in Season 4 or 5. _Smallville_ became essentially a Justice League-without-the-costumes series by somewhere in the middle of its rather long run. Even _Batman the Brave and the Bold_ (IIRC, the original comic of that title was really what got the post-1960s concept of “Justice League” going), which had started as an attempt to scale back down to Batman & 1 other guy per episode, ended up as essentially another Justice League show by its last season.

I’m hoping this season will be really good, but I’m bummed they’ve jumped right back into “big team with tons of obscure characters,” because the character development was part of what made season 1 so great. I’m also bummed that in a show with such a finely crafted narrative (though largely drawn by the original _Young Justice_ comic book miniseries), they took such a big jump in time. I wish they’d at least gone one more season before doing this.

Why is anything bad the parents’ fault and anything good random chance?

One great irony of parenting is that your kids’ faults, or anything bad that happens to them, is always your fault. Anything *good* that happens to them or they do is like some random chance.

“Your child misbehaved. Obviously, you’re a bad parent.”
“Your kid got hurt. You’re obviously a bad parent.”
“Your kid isn’t doing well in school. Obviously, you’re a bad parent.”

Then, when they behave, the school, or “genetics,” or the child alone gets the credit, as if the parents had nothing to do with it.
If they do well in school, it’s the school’s credit, or theirs, as if the parent has nothing to do with it.

Which is it?

Are parents just dumping grounds? I guess that’s one of the sacrifices.

This is a constant annoyance, but has come up several ways recently.

One was through a back-handed compliment. Our daughter’s orthodontist recently complemented her improved behavior and said, “If you’re doing something differently, it’s working.” I said she’s on a new ADHD medicine.

Another exception-that-proved the rule was at our second daughter’s First Communion Sunday, when our closest friends from our former town came to celebrate with us. They’re homeschoolers, and we met them through the homeschooling group there. They know our kids are in brick-and-mortar school this year because of our help.

The two eldest girls entered their respective grades with a few deficiencies we were aware of–and the school hasn’t particularly done anything to correct those deficiencies more than we would, except complain to us that our daughters weren’t performing well in those areas. The only exception is math, because the school has a nominal math tutoring program, but I’m not even sure how much that helped when it was one volunteer parent tutor dealing with a room full of kids from various grades. Our eldest “struggled” with math (on her standardized test scores from last year, all her other subjects were exceptional. Math was only a few points short of “exceptional”). She was, in the first couple quarters, a “B” student in Math, making her eligible for both math tutoring (B & below) and Math Club (B & above). She finished the year as one of the top performers in the 4th & 5th Grade category of Math Club, and her team won their big tournament last week, partly because of her key contributions.

Our second-grader started the year with a skills test that said she was at a 4th grade academic preparedness level. She’s had nothing but “Greens” for behavior” and high “A’s” all year.

Much of the commentary we’ve received from family has implied that this is *in spite* of their being homeschooled up until this year. Our friend at the First Communion party actually *credited* homeschooling with it, and it was so refreshing to hear.

If you seek help for your kid’s needs, you’re a bad parent because you’re showing weakness (“If you can’t feed ’em, don’t breed ’em” as the modern day Republican Scrooges like to say). If you don’t seek help, you’re a bad parent. If you seek help for your kids psychological or behavioral issues, you’re a bad parent because you’re showing weakness or “labelling your kid.” If you *don’t* seek help for those needs, it’s “Why do you let your kid act like that?”