The Nora Ephron Writing Rant

I’ve created an electronic version of one of my favorite lectures: the revision lesson based on sarcastically destroying a Nora Ephron essay. Former students, get ready for a quality stroll down amnesia lane!

Two Thoughts About “V”

Yesterday afternoon I told my oldest son about the rebooted series V, and how much I enjoyed the original version as a kid.  When I explained the plot to him–aliens show up and solve all our problems, pretending to be our friends, so they can win our trust and then eat us–he said, “Hmm.  Sounds like that Twilight Zone episode, ‘To Serve Man.'”  He’s only ten.  I was so proud I could have cried. 


After watching the show last night (truly excellent, by the way), I was struck by just how silly, impossible, and outrageous the story was, though.  I mean, c’mon, an attractive leader shows up out of nowhere, promising to magically solve our problems with little more than broad bromides about hope and peace, and everybody just goes gaga and falls into line?  Why, this leader even has a simpering media quickly trained to jump through hoops!  And I refuse to accept that this leader’s minions could be actively recruiting young people to subversively carry on their work.   

Seriously, who could ever buy into a story that crazy?  Clearly, clearly, this is some pretty far out science fiction.  Luckily, nothing like that could ever actually happen in real life.


Nothing New Under the Sun

The bulk of the Declaration of Independence–the entire body section–is devoted to a laundry list of complaints against the failures of British rule, meant to justify to the world why the colonies were revolting.  Among the intolerable items that pushed our Founding Fathers over the edge was this:

“He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.” 

Whoa.  Can you imagine that?  Being subject to a powerful, sprawling, bureaucratic federal government with infinite departments staffed by busybody stooges with nothing better to do than persecute law-abiding citizens, robbing them of their property?  Living in a nation like that would truly be a nightmare.  No wonder our forefathers had to rebel against it.  I know if I lived in similar circumstances, I’d want to change the system. 

Luckily, nothing like that exists anymore.

My Sarcastic Campaign For Superintendent

Looking through my journal this week, I found a printout of a letter that was printed in the January 20, 2000 issue of Las Vegas Weekly.  Checking their web site showed that issues that old are no longer online.  In the interest of preserving one of my first published letters, as well as adding some spunk to this droll little blog and ushering in summer vacation time in style, here it is.

First, some background.  In 2000, I was a senior in college and the Clark County School District, which had ballooned almost overnight into one of the largest in the nation, found itself without a superintendent.  Nobody around here was qualified or wanted to do it.  Seriously.  So a committee scoured the country looking for people.  Some of those seemed promising, but they dropped out of the running.  We ended up with a guy from California who ditched us a couple years ago for a textbook company.  His administration was, uh, less than universally loved.

Anyway, during the debacle of trying to give away a powerful job to somebody, anybody, I wrote in the following:


After months of standing by and doing nothing while our city’s educational establishment has been reduced to a quivering bowl of pink jelly, I’ve decided I must act!  I am shocked, even outraged, that this endless search for a new superintendent has produced so little satire, which it so richly deserves.  Accordingly, I am officially throwing my hat in the ring of candidates to be considered for the position.

Months of sitting idly by watching this committee has left me, like most Las Vegans, somewhere between morbidly offended and slightly bemused.  But fear not, for I shall accept my patriotic duty and save you from further embarrassment and costly ad campaigns. 

This process has become a bloated, pathetic farce, and nobody is more prepared to benefit from it than I am.  I volunteer to take the job that nobody wants; I will be superintendent of the Clark County School District.

Who am I?  I am an education major at UNLV.  How can I be qualified for this position, you ask?  I’m the most qualified candidate you’ve had so far!

1.  As a teacher-in-training, I’ve had literally weeks of experience being in the general vicinity of classrooms, which already puts me head and shoulders above most administrative professionals.  Also, my own career as a public school student is much more recent than any other candidate’s, giving me an edge in understanding the issues facing children today and in manipulating the public’s desire to have quirky young people in figurehead positions of authority.

2.  So critical to being an effective superintendent are the abilities of making yourself look good by doing whatever’s trendy in your field and by putting politics ahead of actual success.  I have had ample exposure to the best of the best doing just this.  I have spent the last four years at an American college.

3.  My college indoctrination has prepared me to be a quality leader in cutting edge curriculum and instruction: I can spout all the right buzzwords and quote all the fashionable experts.  Just listen to my mission statement: “Celebrate diversity and multicultural empowerment with a vision of inclusive awareness and raise test scores if there’s any time left over.”  As superintendent, I will spearhead dozens of pointless programs that will consistently disappoint everybody.  Will any other candidate make this bold promise?

4.  Much of the debate has centered on the salary issue.  Let me settle this right now: if chosen to be superintendent, I will sacrifice my entry-level wages as a teacher and work for a measly, piddling $100,000 a year, a mere fraction of what others have been offered.  No, don’t protest.  I’ll get by on bread and water.

5.  What about my career as a teacher?  After researching the superintendent’s position, I have found that he’s not actually required to do anything.  I will delegate paperwork to my army of underlings, make token appearances at social functions, and humbly continue my service as an educator of our youth if my golf schedule permits.

I can confidently assert that I am the best option as I appear to be the only person who’s actually applying for the job.  Let’s end this circus.  Choose me.  I’m a little bit better than nobody, and a whole lot better than the other yahoos you’ve looked at.  Please contact me anytime for a resume and an interview.

Eight and a half years later, I think this holds up pretty well!