Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Otic assault

Worked eight and a half hours in my old room at The Job today. It was fun as hell; I miss those kids. A lot of new faces since last I was there. And languages: in my class alone, we've got a kid who speaks German at home, two who speak French at home, one who speaks Spanish at home, and one who knows a bit of Chinese. Not bad for five year olds.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the day. It's nice to be a substitute. Except for the continuous screaming from the younger kids. No kidding, they scream all the time. happy, upset, bored, whatever --- they screech at the top of their tiny little lungs. Well, really it's only two or three offenders, but they make enough noise for the whole roomful. The adults in there don't have any idea how to manage kids. And my room's exterior wall is only about four feet high with no door. So it gets loud. Urge to kill... Rising...

But mostly it was fun as hell.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The computer told me so and computers can't lie

I took this long but fairly amusing test:

Innergeek Geek Test

And it turns out I am 17.357% Geek.

So apparently
i am a total geek
...Which is cool with me. Whatev, y'know?

It is a much more thorough test, with a broader definition of "geek," than this one, which proclaimed me a whopping 54% Geek.

Though that might be a bit more accurate. I'm startlingly geeky. Taking two "Are you a Geek" tests online pretty much speaks for itself, come to think of it.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to crank They Might Be Giants' Flood while I read Greg Rucka's Hiketeia.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Mariposa, mariposa

It was my mother's birthday, so I went with my parents to TriviaBar. They have a rather nifty birthday offer: your entire party gets x% off of the check (including alcohol), where x is the age of the birthday boy or girl. Rumor has it that once, a 102-year-old man was feted there, and not only was the entire bill on the house, management gave the antediluvian old feller 2% of the bill back in cash. How nice. So anyhoo, we got sixty-mummph percent off our bill. And we won the trivia. The Friar joined us, and brought gifts for my mother. He's the elegant, personable ideal to which I aspire.

After the trivia, I went over to Hangout, where Friar and K already sat around listening to some dreadful amateur comedians. Well, a couple of them were okay, but mainly they were jaw-clenchingly, embarrassingly, bad. It was kind of pathetic, really. One started a riff about being in a town called Welfare and how it was a metaphor for his future. Silence. So he starts mocking his patient, stolid audience, imagining that we don't know the difference between metaphor and metamorphosis. Silence. "Oh, you didn't get that one either, huh?" Yeah, we got your intricate wordplay there, buddy. It just wasn't funny.

And unfortunately for my entertainment expectations, Skullfuck wasn't there.

I said hi to Waitress W, dropped K at her place, and on the way home got a call from Friar's wife Palfrey asking where he was,. So I drove back to Hangout again and told Friar, still schmoozing long after closing as is his wont, he'd better stuff his ass into his car and get home.

My neck is almost better, thank Krishna. I was afraid it would be another month-long period of slow recovery and debilitation.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The 20 year old me would hate the now me

I watched this show called "Singing Bee." It was hosted by former N*Syncer On the Backstreet Block Joey "Fat Tony" Fatone. People get up on stage and sing pop songs and they're out if they get a word wrong.

And... and...

I liked it! I thought it was entertaining! I enjoyed it!

God save us all, I enjoyed it...


Friday, July 27, 2007

My strings have snapped

I baby-sat two of mes anciens élèves today. I was there less than six hours, but kindly grandmother gave me eighty bucks. Not bad.

I hurt my neck somehow last night. Not through any exertion (I've been working out for so many years now that I'd need to do something really stupid to incur injury to muscles while doing anything strenuous), but rather, I suspect, from lack of movement. Yesterday, I just sat around --- indolent wretch --- watching movies and surfing the web, and my chair isn't exactly ergonomic. So I went to bed with a minor twinge and awoke with a neck so stiff I now can't turn my head from side to side.

This is just following a bout of possible bursitis in my left arm, brought on by the repetitive stress of minor motions (I strongly suspect at the keyboard). That took a month to vanish completely, and now here's another thing gone wrong with my physiology.

It sucks getting old.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Isn't that special

I watched The Incredibles for the second time last night. It's one of the best animated movies ever made, in my opinion. I was struck anew during the film by its unusual, almost seditious, message:

If you're special, go ahead and shine your brightest --- but not everyone can be special.

I'm surprised that this message doesn't get remarked upon more, but then I suppose most kids and parents aren't interested in analyzing the thesis of an animated movie about superheroes. Still, as an educator who's believed that very message a long time, it struck a chord with me.

I do think that a lot of the problems today's young people have stems from an ill-advised liberal molly-coddling in education. "Everyone is special." Yeah, right. Just like there are no stupid questions. (Sometimes kids ask stupid questions. It's usually because they weren't paying attention in the first place.)

I'm not trying to crush any children's spirits or come off as an oppressive tyrant trying to drag innocent minds into the pit of despair that I'm in. I'm all in favor of optimistic teaching. There's nothing wrong with bestowing effusive praise where it's due. "You are loved." "You are valued and appreciated." "Your ideas are interesting." "With enough effort and a good attitude, you can achieve any reasonable dreams." I believe all those things, and I believe in inculcating such ideas in children. I believe in helping children recognize good actions and good words, and encouraging them to develop an instinct for responsible behavior.

The problem is when praise is taken to excess, so that it loses all meaning. I've seen teachers who are afraid to tell children that an answer is wrong. Somewhere along the way, telling a kid "What you just said is wrong" came to be seen as the equivalent of "You, yourself, are stupid." And they aren't equivalent, of course, and it shouldn't be that way. A strong, intelligent teacher should be able to correct and misdirect without hurting a student's feelings --- but also without piling on the misplaced praise ("good try!") until getting the right answer doesn't even matter anymore.

"Everyone is special." "You can do no wrong." "No one should ever contradict you." Those are the messages I've heard being fed to students. Not in so many words, of course, but the message is clear. To me, that's a litany of wrongheaded teaching that's as destructive as its opposite, continuous aspersion and degradation. It may be one of the reasons so many kids today don't understand accountability or empathy.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Half empty and leaking

Well, this just makes me sad and sick.
Boxing champion shot in the face after asking men to stop smoking

James Oyebola, 46, a former British heavyweight champion, was on a life-support machine in hospital. He had politely asked the men to stop smoking at the Chateau 6 club in Fulham, West London, shortly before 1am on Monday. One of the men produced a handgun and fired four shots, hitting Mr Oyebola in the face and leg at point-blank range.

A witness said: “Three young guys were smoking in the club and James asked them to put out their cigarettes. He wasn’t aggressive. He pointed out that smoking was against the law. But the three saw it as a sign of disrespect. On their way out one pulled out a gun and began firing at James.”

The shooting is being investigated by detectives from Scotland Yard’s Operation Trident unit, which investigates gun crime involving young black men.

Detective Chief Inspector Scott Wilson said: “It is a horrible crime to happen anywhere, but over nothing – an incident such as smoking – these people need to be caught. The altercation takes place, someone pulled out a gun and shots are fired. I can imagine it was over in 20 seconds.”
The American gun culture is spreading. England was once a place where you were pretty much guaranteed to be free of gun violence. Now the sickening culture of so-called "respect" and retaliation has spread there. Yes, we live in a world where young people believe that being asked politely to be considerate of others and to obey the law is grounds for a cowardly, last-minute ambush that leaves a good man for dead. You get these youths all over: hoodies, frat boys, guidos and other idiotic pack animals, so wrapped up in their own absurdly inflated sense of entitlement that anyone who in any way implies that they can't do anything they want is seen as an enemy to be destroyed.

What is this mania for "respect," and where did it come from? Gangster movies, as filtered through hip-hip? And why do they bandy about a term which they obviously don't understand? There's no give and take in this culture, no sense of respect based on merit, just the philosophy of might makes right. And yet it's not even that, for these kids saw that the six-foot-nine Oyebola could have beaten all three of them easily in a fist fight, so they had to bring a gun into the equation, and even then fire only as they were fleeing. Deep down, even those worthless pieces of human shit know that they're not manly or courageous enough to engage in a fair fight. So it's not even "might makes right." It's just an infantile, brainless lashing out based on misplaced monomania and lack of empathy.

Isn't it sickening that the western world is raising teenagers who function, quite literally, at the moral and emotional level of infants? And isn't it scary that they all have guns in their hands? And isn't it sad that our justice system only reinforces the cycle of chaotic retaliation rather than inculcating logical consequences, empathy and accountability?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Sesquipedelian Agonistes

I read American Bee: The National Spelling Bee And the Culture Of Word Nerds, James Maguire. In it, the author, a journalist I believe, covers the Scripps National Spelling Bee from 2003 to 2005. It’s a long book, 360 pages, and quite disjointed (it resembles a collection of loosely related magazine articles at times, flitting from subject to subject --- from profiles of past champions to the history of American spelling bees in general to a history of the English language and why our spelling is so eccentric). Nevertheless, it’s an exciting read, and all the history serves as great preparatory material for the book’s final section: profiles of five top spellers and how they do at the 2004 bee. It’s also quite fascinating to see how simple the words given to children up until the 1980s or so were; clearly, this is one academic area in which the standards have gotten more, not less, stringent. A rare phenomenon indeed.

Maguire does a great job making this world understandable and interesting. I came away from it incredibly impressed with these overachieving tweens: in addition to being national competitors in spelling, most of them play an instrument, excel at a sport, and/or compete in other areas such as chess, math or geography. It almost makes one hopeful for the future. Almost.

Of course, the ability to spell things like "ookinete" or "rorqual," as jaw-droppingly impressive as it is in a child of twelve or thirteen (or even a college professor), isn't a reliable indicator of an expansive and utile vocabulary. Neither is it a skill that comes in handy in the adult world, whereas actually knowing the definitions of words always will be. So while I do admire the Scripps competitors, and understand the broad attractions of a spelling bee --- I do kind of wish there was an equally influential vocabulary bee. Quick! Define "flocculent!"

Monday, July 23, 2007

It's all about the Salmon P. Chases, baby

How to take a billionaire
Paul McCartney and Heather Mills have finally reached an agreement on their divorce settlement after months of negotiations. Macca will pay Mills a total of $140 million broken up into an initial payment of $30 million, with an additional $7 million every year until their 3-year-old daughter turns 18.
As a very great man once said, some people will rob with you a six-gun, and some with a fountain pen. I really don't get how Mills deserves such an obscenely high sum. No one forced her to marry the guy. It seems hardly credible that she suffered any kind of "abuse" at his hands, beyond the usual emotional wringer couples put each other through.

I've never been one of those Beatle wife haters; if John was happy with Yoko, more power to him. If there's one thing I've learned in my turmoil-plagued existence, it's that no one never really knows what goes on between a man and woman in a relationship. So I'm not saying this out of some kind of misguided "she ruined his music" nonsense.

But really: 140 million dollars? I understand the money for his daughter, but come on, Paul will take care of her no matter what; he's got joint custody, I believe. How, exactly, did Mills contribute to the McCartney fortune, that she's entitled to such a porcine chunk of cash? Just how accustomed can one get to a certain lifestyle in four years of marriage? Does Mills believe she needs to live like the Sultan of Brunei now? The normal level of "richer than 99.9% of the world's population will ever be" isn't good enough?

Alimony is meant to prevent heads of household from leaving with nothing spouses who are unable to fend for themselves after raising a family instead of learning job skills and cultivating a career. It should not be an automatic and excessive money trough for the already capable and self-sustaining. If I had the power to adjudicate that case, I'd give Mills a flat one-time payment of one million bucks and tell her she's lucky to get it, and order Paul to put twenty million in a frozen trust fund for his daughter.

But that would be something akin to justice, and justice has no place in the Western judicial system.

Random music bits

First Record Bought:

Bob Dylan, Greatest Hits. I was fifteen years old, traveling around England with my family, and paid twelve pounds for the cassette, which back then was far, far too much. But what the hell did I know? I played that so much everyone else grew mightily sick of it. Looking back, and knowing now what I do about most people's views on Dylan, I'm amazed they let me hear it so often that trip. Later, my brother would rear-end another car while stoned and listening to the Grateful Dead. Let this be a lesson to you. Somehow. Moving on.

First Concert:

Aside from little club shows, mostly by Auric? First real concert: Los Angeles, 1990 or perhaps 1991. Living Colour opens (remember "Cult Of Personality"?). Then Guns and Fucking Roses comes on. It's the day after Axl Rose walked offstage in an aggravated snit, saying too many of the band members had been "dancing with Mr. Brownstone" (doing heroin). This was widely covered in the press at the time, but no one seems to remember it now. Then the main act, the Rolling Stones, come on. They rock as much as can be expected. Eric Clapton walks out on stage for a guest solo.

Favorite Music Movie:

Tom Waits' concert film, Big Time. A must. Much better than the live album of the same name.

Favorite Music Book:

I don't really have one. When I was younger I enjoyed Robert Shelton's biography of Bob Dylan, No Direction Home, which really is quite good. The De Capo "best music writing" series is very good.

Favorite Songwriter:

Well, I'm going to have to say Bob Dylan, though there are many others I probably appreciate the skills of just as much, depending on mood.

Favorite Producer:

I suppose Steve Lillywhite. He produced Big Country's The Crossing, the Pogues' If I Should Fall From Grace With God, a lot of good U2 work, and some other stuff I like. But I don't think think much about the effect the producer has on a work. Of course, Steve Albini definitely leaves his mark, despite his ostensibly hands-off approach.

Favorite Record Label:

Rhino Records. When they reissue music, they do it better than anyone.

Favorite Music Magazine:

Q, out of England, is just the right mix of clever, insidiously cheeky, and thorough. A magazine about rock written by literate music geeks with a sense of humor. It costs about nine bucks here in the states. Paste magazine has a free CD with every issue, so that's good.

Favorite Bassist:

The guy on "You Can Call Me Al."

Favorite Album Cover:

I'm one of those people who don't pay very much attention to the covers. I'm pretty visually-minded, but to me, they're just wrapping, not art. That said, Jimi Hendrix' Axis: Bold As Love is a very good one. 'Course, Jimi had more than just the one great cover [this used to link to Electric Ladyland, but I was getting way too many image searches using terms that I wasn't comfortable with].

Favorite Teen Idol:

Until I was fifteen, I had no interest in music. When I was a younger adult, I was too cool for that kind of teenybopper shit. Now that I'm a middle-aged old duffer, I still have no interest in teen idols of any kind.

Artist Who Broke Your Heart:

I don't have expectations of musicians. I don't own them or their art, so I don't care if they change. That said, it's always unfortunate when previously innovative musicians find God and start releasing crappy, stale music.

Artist You Will Always Believe In:

Bob Dylan and Tom Waits. If they release something that doesn't interest me, 99.9% of the time it's because I'm not listening hard enough.

Singer Who Makes Your Skin Crawl:

Tom Waits, in a good way. Lots of singers make my skin crawl in a bad way, but I probably don't know their names. Well, Ashlee Simpson.

Singer Who Makes You Swoon:

I am an American male. I do not "swoon."

Favorite Sound:

The Beach Boys' harmonies backed by Brian Wilson's neurotically orchestrated wall of pop.

Album You Will Always Defend:

I don't defend artists or albums. If you find Bob Dylan unlistenable, that's your problem, not mine. And certainly not his. You're missing out, but I'm not going to argue about it.

Album You Own That No One Else Does:

I have a lot of obscure albums, and a couple that I'm certain no one else in America does except maybe the artists themselves. One less obscure gem that I'd most want other people to hear is Wilderness Of Mirrors, by Paul K.

Classic Album You Own but Don't Like:

I try and try to care about the Rolling Stones, but I just don't. I know they're great, but they're not my thing. Sorry, Beggars Banquet. (Actually, I'm not a big fan of Jimi Hendrix, either).

Artist You're Supposed to Like but Don't:

Since I love Bob Dylan so much I want to get a Surgically Implanted Uterus and bear his illicit love-children, it's presumed that I would also enjoy the folkish song stylings of his epigones Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, and so forth. I do own an album or two by those guys, but outside of a few brilliant songs by the Boss, I find those Earnest Literate Men With Guitars a bit boring. Most of the time when I hear them I just think, "Bob Dylan put this better and sang it better and did it earlier."

Song You Can't Stand by an Artist You Like:

"Joey," by Bob Dylan. A long and very boring song about a gangster.

"Time of Your Life," by Green Day. Their "I Wanna be Your Boyfriend."

"Win," by David Bowie. And so forth.

Band That Should Break Up:

The Rolling Stones. Enough, skeletons! Cease thy otherworldly keening and return to thy graves!

Band That Should Re-form:

Don't they all, eventually?

Guilty Pleasure:

The Steve Miller Band. Shubada du ma ma, indeed.

Concert You Wish You'd Seen:

Bob Dylan's 1966 concert at Manchester's Free Trade Hall, where he debuted a lot of electric versions of his songs and was called "Judas" by stupid hippies.

Dream Collaboration:

Why on earth haven't Tom Waits and Nick Cave done anything together? They're both macabre, brilliant songwriters whose main instrument is piano.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Couch potatoing it

I recently finished watching the BBC's landmark "Planet Earth" miniseries on DVD. Narrated by David Attenborough, this amazing program shows some of the rarest species and most untrammeled ecosystems on earth. Some of the most breathtaking and memorable sights:
  • the extremely rare Amur leopard foraging where food is scarce
  • a mountain of bat guano literally crawling with cockroaches
  • some of the most bizarre and amusing mating dances of various birds of paradise
  • a herd of wild and skittish Bactrian camels in Mongolia
  • flocks of birds so huge they take five hours to pass above an observer
  • the rare and sad sight of a polar bear attempting to kill an adult walrus
  • hungry lions bringing down a panicked adult elephant in the dark
...And so much more. I was pleased, when I subbed at The Job a few weeks back, to find cranky old Ms. F showing the kids some of the first disc. I think all children ought to watch this series. It's essential viewing for anyone with an ounce of interest in anything beyond arm's reach.

The last disc has three shows made up of interviews with various people talking about the future of ecosystems, species, protection, and development. The interviewees include people as diverse the Archbishop of Canterbury, E.O. Wilson, a British scientist working in Zimbabwe, the head of the WWF, and a couple of thugs from the Bush administration there to pooh-pooh global warming. These interviews are also required viewing; indeed, I was a bit puzzled as to why they were set off in a sort of epilogue to themselves. Someone who watched only the first four discs, the "Planet Earth" show proper, might easily come away thinking (melting polar caps aside) that there's plenty of untouched wilderness left, and that biodiversity is not being altered irrevocably by industrial development.

Oh, and I also watched Clueless, starring Alicia Silverstone and other people who aren't famous. I'd always dismissed it as tripe, even after friends told me it was based on Jane Austen's Emma (which I love). A lot of films based on impeccable sources tend to vitiate rather than honor their source material (10 Things I Hate About You, for example). Still, I got around to watching it, and was delighted at how entertaining it was. It's really very funny, with a witty script and a lot of quirky moments. It's only marginally based on Austen's novel, being a rather frothy original tale using the framework than a real adaptation. What really saves the movie is Alicia Silverstone, who is (a) incredibly cute --- and the movie gives her plenty of chances to show off her best features, and perhaps more importantly (b) just terrifically skilled in her role as the vapid but good-hearted Cher. With a wave of her hands or a roll of her eye, she coveys volumes about her character. I enjoyed her turn in this film just as much as I did Gwyneth Paltrow's titular role in her own very funny version of Emma.

Friday, July 20, 2007


I've always been interested in flags (though I'd probably do pretty poorly in a Flag Bee, if such a thing existed). Hence:

Five Cool Flags


Look! It's got a red dragon on it! How can it not be cool? The flag dates back to the '50s, but the red dragon has been a Welsh symbol since Roman times. This is simply the coolest flag in history.


I like the stark simplicity of it. Known as Saint Piran's flag, it is said to represent molten tin and black ore. The tin trade was big in Roman times. I've visited my uncle in Cornwall a few times. I don't think you've really experienced southern England until you've walked its beautiful, haunting moors.


This flag was adopted in 1966. The broken trident is supposed to represent the breaking of Barbados' colonial ties. me, I just like tridents, I guess. Also, black on yellow is a powerful color combination.


"My pockets so empty I can feel my testicles / 'Cause I spent all my money on some plastic African necklaces / And I still don't know what the colors mean / Red, black and green." Black is the Kenyan people, red is the blood spilled in the fight for independence, and green represents the countryside. And in keeping with the proud Maasai tradition, two spears and shield are front and center.


At the risk of giving "aid and comfort to the enemy," which seems to be a rather common theme these days, Iran's flag is pretty well-designed. You've got a red tulip-sword in the middle and some beautiful stylized Arabic writing along the edges. This article contains in-depth and probably accurate explications of the details, and has a larger image as well.

Runners-up: Prince Edward Island, the Gadsden flag, Sri Lanka, Bhutan (the other dragon flag; still not as good as Wales tho).

Three Lame Flags

Rwanda (prior to 2001)

Before they changed it to a rather bland thing with a sun on it, Rwanda had The World's Dumbest Flag. Hey, Rwanda! Someone vandalized your flag! they put a big stupid black "R" in the middle! ...What? That's supposed to be there? It helps you remember how to spell Rwanda? Oh. well, I guess it's hard to put your attention to designing flags when you're busy planning the genocide of your friends and neighbors, eh?

The Isle of Man

Proving that not every British people have a cool flag, the Isle of Man's flag is one of those designs that's so stupid it makes that 180 degree into cool, but then because it's stupid keeps going and makes it 360 degrees back to stupid again. Attention Manxmen: your flag has three armored legs attached at the groin area and running! Are you aware of this?


Now, see, a flag is your chance to put anything you want on there for the whole world to see, Libya. I know you love the Islam (green apparently represents Islam somehow), but look at all the other Muslim countries. They have Arabic writing and pillars and crescents and stars and, oh, all sorts of things on their flags. Don't you want to be just a little bit creative, too, Libya? No? Fine. Your flag is boring.

See also: Poland (needs more stripes), Ukraine (needs more stripes, and colors that don't clash).

In a category by itself is the flag of Cataño, Puerto Rico (a design which, while startlingly original, may induce motion sickness).

Thursday, July 19, 2007

No More Skool!

Last day of real classes. Well, strictly speaking that's not true. But the long, strange trip begun with this post is for practical purposes over. Children's Literature met for a final exam (which I did in ten minutes, tops), and that was it. The next "class" I'll take is Student Teaching --- a sort of apprenticeship in a public school classroom alongside an experienced teacher. There's a meeting on August 18 that will inform me of the grade and district I'll be "working" at.

Getting nervous and excited about it.

I went home early and rearranged my house (I put the TV furniture in the reading room, and my big drawing table what used to be the TV room, which is much more open and spacious and illuminated). Then I repainted the front door. No particular reason, although both changes improved the place a bit --- just because idle hands are the devil's playground, I guess.

I watched the first two episodes of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," the adaptation of the John le Carré novel starring Alec Guinness. A bit abstruse for the casual viewer (no introduction of characters, the dialogue often meandering and disjointed, a lot going unstated). A very well made production that requires careful attention.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Everyone get atavistic

So at work a few weeks back, one of the upstairs teachers passed by my door and asked out of the blue, "Are you dating anyone? Because I know someone who has a crush on you."

And I thought, "Is this seventh grade?"

Present at the time was the other co-worker from item three in this post, so it wasn't her the first one was talking about. And that thing was never serious, really.

I quickly surmised that the one with a "crush" on me was a parent and co-worker whom I'd caught the vibes from early on. Ironically, she reminded me of Spooky very early on. She just had this strange air of hyper-concern for her children (I mean the kind of overbearing fawning mothering that makes kids sick so that mothers can feel good about taking care of them) and hypochondria and general nuttiness. That, and the same sort of blend of sequacious submissiveness and half-hearted assertiveness.

Oh, and she, too, has a suspiciously close relationship with a supposedly estranged husband. My interactions with this latter fellow have always been a bit awkward; I got the strange feeling that he felt I was some kind of rival. I'd always ascribed it to what he might have seen as a rivalry for his daughter's attention, but hell, maybe he knew about his separated wife's crush thing.

So, anyway, in short... so not interested.


Interestingly, Noah Webster, in the first edition of his dictionary, defined "freedom" as "a violation of the rules of decorum." Sanctimonious old goat.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Justice prevails somewhere

British girl loses "virginity ring" court battle

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A British teenager whose teachers had stopped her wearing a "purity ring" at school to symbolise her commitment to virginity lost a High Court fight against the ban on Monday.

Lydia Playfoot, 16, says her silver ring is an expression of her faith and had argued in court that it should be exempt from school regulations banning the wearing of jewellery.

"I am very disappointed by the decision this morning by the High Court not to allow me to wear my purity ring to school as an expression of my Christian faith not to have sex outside marriage," Playfoot said in a statement.

"I believe that the judge's decision will mean that slowly, over time, people such as school governors, employers, political organisations and others will be allowed to stop Christians from publicly expressing and practising their faith."

Quit yer bellyachin'. Why don't you shut up and do what the nice men tell you to do like a good Christian girl, Prissy?

The no-jewelry rule is there for a reason. There's no exception for people who really, really want to wear them, or who think God told them to wear them, or who believe that they have a moral right to wear them. 'Cause, see, that would mean everybody would be excepted. And then you'd have kids wearing blinged-out diamond crosses the size of Flavor Flav's alarm clock around their necks, all in the name of religion and purity.

It's kind of interesting, though, that it's always religious zealous who go around challenging the established order of law these days, and no longer secular idealist activists. Fundamentalists are the new hippies? "Don't trust anyone who's studied the law" is the new "Don't trust anyone over thirty?" Pray-in is the new sit-in? "Hell's where you're going to go" is the new 'Hell, no, we won't go?"

Little boy lost, he takes himself so seriously

Rather uneventful day for now unemployed me.

I finished my Children's Literature project yesterday, and it's due tomorrow! Man, this prompt attention to assignments is really quite unlike me. I feel like I have nothing to do. We've got the final exam on Thursday, but really, am I stressing about that?

I went to Maddening Angel's house after lunch. We watched a show I'd never heard of starring Andy Richter. He plays a CPA who inadvertently and somewhat reluctantly falls into the role of a private investigator. An amusing show, playing with absurdity and a few meta winks at the PI genre. I liked it.

I stopped off at work to pick up my check for the substituting I did the last couple of weeks (it wasn't there). I'd been slated to come in later this week, only to be told that Very Pretty Girl has returned from her Europe trip and was immediately re-hired, so they don't need me any more.

I feel so... unwanted. Well, not really, but it's a bit of slap. I like to think I'm indispensable at work.

Then I picked up my aunt at the airport. She took me to dinner, where our gay, coked-up waiter: offered us dessert literally before we'd taken a bite of our entrées; dropped the check off in the middle of the meal; asked us again if we'd like dessert, after the check had been left; and after we'd paid and were about to go, asked if we'd like any rolls and butter. Well, it provided a chuckle.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

As close to NASCAR as I'd like to get

So, the Friar and Sonar and I went off to Big Dumb Outside Arena, where Auric's band was playing, along with a lot of other minor and middling bands. And a certain mega-famous electric blues trio from Texas.

Man, their fans sure are... of a certain type, shall we say. We saw a whole passel of shirtless guys. Lots of cowboy hats. Lots of leather jackets. Lots of sleeveless shirts. Lots of Texas and American flag motifs. Lots of tattoos. Lots of Confederate flags (like Auric said, why don't they just carry big banners around reading "I like lynchin' the coloreds"?). Lots of halter tops and short shorts. Lots of beards. Lots of missing teeth. Lots and lots and lots of beer. Lots of tough-looking grown men acting like chumps.

I was glad I got in free. (The high end seats went for $75).

The three of us weren't exactly blending in. I'd worn a T-shirt with American Indian design on it (ethos-wise, pretty much diametrically opposed to that of the audience), Sonar was wearing a sort of beatnik ensemble, and Friar was in his usual preppy uniform: shorts, flip-flops, and a bright pink polo shirt. It's safe to say that he was the only male, of the thousands in attendance, wearing pink. Hell, he was probably the only male wearing a shirt with a collar.

Anyway, so we listened to Auric's band, which is one of my favorites, though it is a bit old hat to me by now. Then we hung backstage, and the band passed around some of the sticky and we joked around. A guy who has hung out with [a member of ZZ Top] told a very funny story involving [said musician], a bad part of town, and a briefcase with some very odd contents (nothing illegal or immoral, just odd).

Auric told me that David Bowie is one of his (distant) neighbors. Man, sure beats my living situation, dunnit? Cripes, soy un perdidor. Auric also told a story about Sylvester Stallone's on-set behavior that he'd heard from one of his friends in the film industry, but it's an old saw, so I won't even allude to it.

Oh, and the Maddening Angel was there! She went independently, with some other friends. She joined us briefly where we were sitting, kissed me hello and promptly started talking very loudly about"all the awesome rednecks." Silly women, not realizing that when they start talking shit, it's the men next to them who get thumped for it.

No less than two fistfights broke out in the crowd the short time we were there. One of the fights was between two women, I believe.

So, uh... Watched a bit of the main act, though I found them mostly boring (though I certainly enjoy their studio hits on occasion).

After the show (and the requisite screaming "woo!" in the parking lot), we repaired to the Hangout along with Auric and Drummer and played video games. Waitress W was there; she's seeming very friendly to me these days. If I weren't so self-loathing and imbued with a sense of my own physical ridiculousness, I might try to start up a spark there...

What else? Oh, Tall and Skullfuck were there. I tossed a barb at the latter, as is my wont, and some random guy leaped to the comedian's defense, saying I looked like a prick. (W leaped to my defense in return, which was nice.) It turns out this random guy is a sought-after session bassist who has worked with Fiona Apple and others. Boy, I meet a lot of musicians.

Speaking of musicians, Sonar was very excited that he'd been tapped to produce Auric's next record. That's nice for him; I'm glad to see anything good happen in his career.

Most memorable day ever.

There was noises, distractions from anything good

The Maddening Angel called me, probably to arrange for us hang out, while I was at work yesterday, and I didn't even call her back. The Friar texted me twice about a band playing at the Hangout and I didn't answer him. I do feel guilty and self-recriminatory about this anchoritic snubbing of my few friends. It doesn't come from arrogance; it comes from a feeling of worthlessness. This is sad but true.


Results came back from my urinalysis and CBC at the leech. Supposedly, I have high blood pressure, which is a surprise to me, because I've always had low blood pressure. Also, I have a low platelet count, which has always been the case (I'm a bleeder). Also, my HDL (the so-called "good" cholesterol) is low, so they want to see me again.

I always knew I wouldn't live a long time, and I've sort of come to accept it, in a kind of cowardly fatalistic way. But, amazing as it seems given my congenital health issues, I never actually thought about having to go on medication. I guess I pictured myself either healthy or dead. Or, perhaps, requiring an operation. But going on a regimen of medications, which I assume the leech wants to start up, seems to me to be the first step toward being an invalid.

If only I'd done more, earlier, with my life.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Time transported

So, out of the blue, Ram contacted me via instant message! It has been a long, long time since we communicated, and much longer still since we actually spoke.

Immediately and in rapid succession, she informed me that she was getting married soon, had a new good job, and had lost a lot of weight. (Pfft, she looked terrific before.)

Well. So I can only assume that she wanted me to express some sort of regret at losing my shot at her, so she could feel even better about the good changes that are happening in her life? Yeah, sod that for a lark.

In all honesty, I don't begrudge her individual happiness at all, except insofar as misery loves company in general.

She also said she thought that the Maddening Angel and I would have been dating by now. Which, unfortunately, shows that she utterly misunderstood that situation. Of course, it was a very easy situation to misinterpret. Weird times.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Lies and the Lying Teachers Who Teach Them

Here's what I, as a somewhat educated feller about to become an elementary teacher in the public school system, where there seem to be Rules and Expectations that private places don't emphasize as much, have been thinking about lately:

How do public elementary teachers deal with teaching the Great American Myths that are passed off as Unimpeachable Fact in the country's classrooms?

The most blatant example here in Texas is our ballyhooed "independence" that we "won" from Mexico. The Texas-Mexican war is passed off as some sort of counterpart to the American revolution in miniature, when the stark truth is that Mexico allowed Americans to settle on their land and in no way deserved to get that land outright stolen from them by the settlers. Looking at it utterly objectively, the Texicans really were the bad guys in that scenario.

Or Lewis and Clark, that beloved pair of American "pioneers." One book compares their expedition to the moon landings in the '60s. Complete hogwash. Lewis and Clark went nowhere previously untouched by white people. They found sturdy wooden cities, built by Indians, that had a greater population than Washington, D.C. at the time; they met traders from Philadelphia, French-Canadian trappers, and Englishmen; they passed mountains that had been named by English explorers years before; they dealt with American Indians who spoke English and traded goods from Boston, Europe and (East) India. Not to mention that they traveled in a group of forty or more, including slaves and soldiers. Hardly the two lone trailblazers, arm in arm with Sacagawea, that popular opinion makes them. (Also, Lewis got shot in the ass by one of his own sergeants on the trip, which is not really germane, but amusing as hell).

And the list goes on. The myth of rags to riches as the rule, how we "saved Europe's ass" in WWI, the treatment of Amerinds in general, etc. American history is full of cherished and erroneous myths.

Now, there's nothing wrong with that per se. Most nations have their myths; France likes to believe that it was one of the Allies in WWII, for example. And myths can be good for a nation, though it is odd how often we give credit where it's not due (Lewis and Clark) and ignore others who deserve our praise (the thousands of brave families who crossed the country in covered wagons in the 19th century).

My question is, what ought a teacher teach? My immediate impulse, of course, would be to teach the truth, or at least as much as young minds can be expected to handle developmentally. But policy and politically-wise, what would be the ramifications? Would a teacher who taught the truth about Texan statehood or Lewis and Clark be reprimanded, or fired?

Or does it really just not matter, since all schools teach to the standardized tests of their state, anyway?


[EHT (of History Is Elementary) replied:

I say way to go Chance. Way to go! I cannot agree with you more. I don't think you were reading my site when I wrote about George Washington many moons ago. The post is called George, We Hardly Knew Ye.....and was prompted by a conversation I heard from two lower grade elementary teachers who were teaching myths as truths to their kids.

I think you are doing students a disservice if you don't show them both sides of a coin...Columbus was not "saving" the savages when he arrived in Carribean...the Europeans were not civilizing the savage...the Europeans did not have a right to begin colonization since the land was already settled...

However, there is a fine line you ride when you do this. I want my students to love their country warts and all but by showing them the warts we run the chance of making them cynical and untrusting. It's sort of like growing up and coming to the realization that your parent makes mistakes. You have to come to grips with that, accept it, yet still love and respect your parent.

I'm sure there are many other teachers who do this but not only do I bring out the fact that the Texans were technically on the wrong side of the argument I remind students that the Sons of Liberty who participated in the Boston Tea Party were destroying private property. We also talk about the great minds of our Founding Fathers and how they wanted liberty yet they were unwilling to resolve the slavery question at the outset during the Constitutional Convention.

Luckily I've never seen a standardized test that asks questions based on a historical myth of untruth. In Georgia our "test" is based on the standards, so I if I stick to the standards which is chronological American History I'm good to go. In a way I teach to test, but I'm teaching the standards too. I don't feel as if all I do is teach with the test in mind. I'm aware of how the questions will be posed and I'm aware that maps, charts, and graphs will be used to present information. This means I try to incorporate analysis of maps, etc. into each and every unit I teach.

It's so easy to be misled in history because there are so many resources that are wrong or not factually correct...I catch myself all the time having to change how I think about something as I discover new information I didn't know existed. Unfortunately there are too many teachers that I've witnessed who are unwilling to go beyond the textbook and actually become more knowledgeable about what they teach therefore they don't have the knowledge to manipulate the content from unit to unit in order to make long range connections.

This is a great topic. I'm glad you wrote about it.]

I know the bovernor, you gastards

Okay, long day at work, then time at Kinko's (where the guy fucked up my book binding for the class project tomorrow, but nicely offered a 25% discount). Then went out to the Hangout, where I played video golf and trivia with the Friar and Mr. Hangout and Waitress W. Also, talked to MA on the phone. She's back from Mexico. She wanted me to come over, but I didn't feel like it.

Anyway, now no time to write entries of any weight. I have two lined up, though, so hopefully will write something of consequence tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Big project

Working on a big project. Downtown. That's the key. Like in the song.

Children's Literature was boring, as usual. Ms. L sure is good at talking about nothing for long periods of time. My classmates and I have a joke about the class drinking game: take a shot every time she goes off an a totally unrelated tangent, mentions her grandchildren, etc. If we really did that, we'd die of alcohol poisoning.

The class discussed fantasy for a while, then we broke into groups to talk about how Alan Armstrong's Whittington (a Newbery Honor book, and very impressively written) fits into categories such as historical fiction, realistic fiction, and fantasy.

I'm working hard on my class project (an alphabet book I'm writing and drawing by hand), so no time for lengthy posts. I stopped by The Job today to drop off a letter of recommendation for a student and found out that I apparently (like an ass!) agreed to work 10-6 tomorrow. Ten a.m.! I haven't been getting up until past ten these days. What a lazy piggo. Oh well, it'll be good for me, and a few more bucks in my pocket. The bad part is, I need to get this project finished by tomorrow evening, so must slog. And since I have to get up early-ish tomorrow and work eight hours, I won't be able to lucubrate tonight. So, buckling down... now.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Ketchup? Catsup?

So, a rough recap.

I quit the Job. Yep, bold step, but am now not working for the first time in over five years. Actually, I am still technically employed there, filling in every now and then when called. But this summer's all about sleeping in and being a bit lazy. It feels a bit strange to not have to spend 6-9 hours a day at work, but it's amazing how quickly I acclimatized to it.

I just finished taking a biology course at the Communitty Collej. It was an online course, but no cakewalk. the content was a lot tougher than many of the courses I've taken at State School, and because it was only a nine-week class, the tests and labs came fast and furious.

I am therefore now taking the only class left required of me before student teaching this September. It's Children's Literature, taught by Ms. L, whom I've suffered through before. Actually, this class is fairly interesting. It's got me reading a lot more children's literature, ostensibly in preparation for the upcoming public school apprenticeship, but really because a lot of those so-called juvenile classics (Bridge to Terabithia, The Giver, The Outsiders, Alice in Wonderland, Mrs. Frisby, A Wrinkle in Time) are damn fine reading.

So, not long now until the final step toward Public Schooldom. Getting agreeably anxious.

I went to the doctor today for the first time in a few years, let the leeches examine me. EKG and CBC, all that. I've probably got something falling apart in there.

Oh, and my father has leukemia. Possibly. There seems to be a division of opinions on the subject. Well, he's over 70, and it's Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia, so there's not much anyone's going to do about it. Ah, what do these damn medico-quacks know anyway, right? My father put the lie to a two-month death sentence from lymphoma, sixteen years ago or so now. Between, that, the alcoholism and the anemia, something's gotta give. Eventually.

Fatalistic Shrug --- that would be a good band name.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

To have and have not

Things I have done, and somewhat related or parallel things I have not done, either with regret or gratitude.

I have had many major invasive operations. I have never broken a bone.

I have had LASIK surgery. I have never worn contacts.

I have been married and divorced. I have never slept with someone whose name I didn’t know.

I have slept with a woman eleven years my junior. I have never slept with a woman older than myself.

I have shot and killed an animal in my yard. I have never shot and killed a man in my house.

I have committed a few acts of petty shoplifting. I have never committed Grand Theft Auto.

I have engaged in vandalism by spray-painting a public building. I have never committed arson.

I have been mugged on the streets of Manhattan. I have never given a mugger a sound thrashing, much to my regret.

I have climbed the dolmens at Stonehenge. I have never kissed the Blarney Stone.

I have gone down the canals of England on a barge. I have never sailed down the canals of Venice in a gondola.

I have been to the top of the Eiffel Tower, the statue of Liberty, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Empire State Building. I have never been to the top of the Tower of Pisa.

I have been to the skull-filled catacombs of Paris. I have never explored the catacombs of Rome.

I have been accosted by a drunk in the streets of Katmandu. I have never met a lama in Tibet.

I have seen a wild rhino from atop an elephant. I have never seen a wild tiger from atop an elephant, much to my regret.

I have floated down India’s holy river, the Ganges (Ma Ganga!), and witnessed a funeral rite there. I have never gone down the Danube.

I have bought and eaten a soft green coconut off the top of the head of a girl on a beach in Goa. I have never done this in Tahiti, or any other island paradise.

I have seen Roy Jones Junior fight for his championship live. I have never seen Mike Tyson live.

I have seen the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Devo, Ween, the Violent Femmes, and Arlo Guthrie live. I have never seen Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, or Leonard Cohen live.

I have seen a few bar fights, including one guy get knocked cold. I have never broken up a bar fight.

I have lifted weights in a dilettantish fashion all my life. I have never held any weight-lifting records.

I have threatened more than one person with a knife in real anger. I have never been formally charged with assault.

I have been detained and searched by the police. I have never been arrested.

I have been so drunk I threw up for hours afterwards. I have never been so drunk I blacked out.

I have been attacked by a swarm of wasps. I have never once been stung by a bee.

I have tried pot a few times over the years. I have never so much as touched any other illegal drug.

I have been in a few automobile accidents. I have never been in a plane crash, thank God.

I have been through a hurricane and several earthquakes. I have never been in a tornado, thank God.

I have lived out of my car for a month or so. I have never been utterly without a social safety net, thank God.

I have written a novel. I have never published a novel.

I have worked as a professional editor and a freelance writer and illustrator. I have never been a writer on a payroll.

I have been a professional actor on television and radio commercials, stage plays, recorded books and industry advertisements. I have never been a famous actor.

Hey, I’m boring.

Parfois on fait une chose sans savoir pourquoi

7-7-07. Auspicious and all, innit?

I've got nothing to say
I've got nothing to say
I've got nothing to say
I've got nothing to say
I've got nothing to give
Got no reason to live
But I'll kill to survive
I've got nothing to hide
Wish I wasn't so shy
---The Strokes, "Ask Me Anything"

(My good friend 神圣 sent me --- as a thank-you gift for helping to edit his thesis --- the album this is from, First Impressions Of Earth [astounding], along with the Killers' Sam's Town [brilliant] and Oasis' Don't Believe the Truth [meh].)

Anyway, back. I may have something to say.