Wednesday, January 31, 2007

In which I abuse my liver and lungs

For the first time since the birth of little Crafty, Friar was allowed to go out. And --- coincidence rears its ugly head --- I had the next day off. So we went to the Hangout until four in the morning.

It was the final night of the Karaoke competition; lots of pretty good singing, and a couple of girls who made it to the finals with a combination of merely competent pipes and a willingness to show the judges their tits.

We listened to a couple of new unreleased songs by one of the most talented artists in Friar's roster. We had a brainstorming session about the Creative Internet Project. Friar talked to some locally famous magazine people. I talked to a friend who, I discovered, worked on an album by one of my favorite artists (a relative unknown); he said that this guy, whose first album I played so often it burned into my brain, is a total jerk and ripped off his studio musicians. We played a little trivia.

The evening wore on. Nothing of real import happened, but it's nice to get out once in a while anyway.

Exceptionally dull students

In Exceptional Children, more note-taking. Main idea this session was the Individualized Family Services Plan, a sort of IEP for preschoolers.

Some concepts presented that were new to me included the APGAR score (as an example of screening for at-risk children), the Bayley Scale of infant development, and the Battelle Development Inventory. Not that it's at all likely I'll ever need to know the specifics of such things as an elementary teacher.

The second half of class was taken up with a review for the first exam, which is next week. So, to recap: readings are assigned; the prof gives lectures which are compressions of these readings; and then before the text he gives an encapsulation of those compressions, highlighting the really, really important (test-relative) material. And I should purchase a $100 book?

The girl sitting next to me (so brain-dullingly attractive that I felt like offering her my car, but then as Friar and I have said before, from the vantage point of the 35-year-old male, girls in their early twenties all look amazing --- so fresh and new compared to us decrepit old wrecks) and I shared a good laugh over the sheer silliness of all this summarization. My fellow classmates kept asking whether the prof would post the PowerPoint slides from the lectures on the web (no); whether today's review would be on the web (no); or so forth. Their quest for yet more and simpler summaries was so persistent that poor beleaguered Mr. B had to say to them, more than once, "If you are here, in this class, you are receiving this information."

I mean, what more did they want? To have the prof mail each of them taped instructions on what to study? Seriously, the only way his "review" could have been more specific is if he had said, "Okay, you'll want to write these down. Ready? A, C, B, B, D..."

Monday, January 29, 2007

A timeline like a dead tree

In Social Studies, we did more demeaning kid stuff. Such as: learning and presenting "cross-lateral movements" (little dances meant, I suppose, to ease transitions or give students a chance to wake up and stretch); reading and presenting "self-worth activities;" and creating and sharing a ten-item timeline of our own lives.

I realized that not only would every entry on my timeline be its own little eidetic nightmare, it would also put into stark clarity the uselessness I've put my 35 years to. A laughable document in both its components and its gestalt.

I realized that there were no ten items in my life that I wanted to share with my classmates.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

2007 CD project: 4/52

The fourth CD I bought this year was Elastica's eponymous debut.

"Eponymous Debut" would be a good name for a band.

Anyway, Elastica's 1995 album cost me a scant $7.53, which I pretty near the maximum which I would have paid for it. Not that it's a poor album, just rather common in the used bins.

There's a mine of good, driving Brit-pop here: the massive hit "Connection," "2:1," "Waking Up," and my personal favorite, the cutely risqué "Car Song." (I always found Justine Frischmann rather alluring. "Every shining bonnet makes me think of my back on it.")

And that's about all I can manage to say about Elastica. Well, not every post can be a fountain of eloquence.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Our terrible loneliness crackles and flakes like the rust on iron rails

Title: "By an Unknown Poet," Gyorgy Petri

It was the Maddening Angel's birthday today or yesterday or maybe tomorrow. I went last year, briefly. This year, I skipped it. I was awakened at 2:00 in the morning by two calls in quick succession by K and then MA, remarking on my absence. (I didn't take the calls, but the ringing woke me up.)

And the next day she called to see if I wanted to go hiking, but I didn't. I'm too busy --- this is true; I'm working on a rather lengthy albeit simplistic project for Social Studies --- but there's more too it than that. I feel a strange, dark emptiness of the soul. I'm not fit company for man nor beast. I'd like to reach out, but perhaps I'm afraid that if I do I'll drag someone else into my abyss. Or maybe I'll just bore them with my pretentious self-pity.

Inside there may be growing
a sea monster within a sea monster,
a black, talking bird,
a raven nevermore that
can't find a bust of Athena
to perch on and so just grows
like a bulbous emphysema with cyst development,
fibrous masses and lung hypertension.
--- "Vanishing Lung Syndrome," Miroslav Holub

Friday, January 26, 2007

Give me hunger, O you gods that sit

Title: "At a Window," Carl Sandburg

Look, The Onion wrote an article about my personal life.

I got an envelope in the mail from the Ex, totally unexpected. It contained no personal note of any kind, but some official papers, a few childhood photos that I had forgotten the existence of, and --- most surprising of all --- my original Social Security card, which I had long ago given up for lost and was too busy or lazy to get replaced.

***

Well, I'm not sure I have anything noteworthy to say about it, but I finished listening to Moby-Dick. It's a long book; a good thick novel (such as the typical Aubrey-Maturin entry by Patrick O'Brien) runs around 10 or 11 CDs. Moby-Dick clocks in at 19 CDs of 75+ minutes apiece. But, man, what a wonderful, rich epic.

The guy who read it, by the way, William Hootkins, was a masterful narrator, so much so that I actually did a library search for any other audiobooks he might have done. That's how good he is, and how much of a nerd I am, I guess.

And now the book. Having never read this classic but (like anyone with a decent education) knowing a bit about the plot, I think I was expecting a dry, meandering discourse, or the dated, simplistic tale of a madman chasing a monster.

But what this book actually is? It's possibly the finest American novel ever written. Seriously.

As a rule I don't care too much for most American classics, being drawn more toward the lofty eloquence of British literature, your Pride and Prejudice, Picture of Dorian Gray, or Frankenstein. American literature, I always felt, is strong in story or message rather than language. This is exemplified by Uncle Tom's Cabin, or the vastly superior Huckleberry Finn. So I never really thought that Huckleberry Finn had a rival for the title of Great American Novel (unless it's Lolita, which I always mentally disqualified because its author was born Russian), but Moby-Dick just might be it.

Yes, this tome has its share of meandering discourse, but it's also refreshingly self-aware and steeped in learning; it contains humor both high and low; sheer drama; poetry; amusingly dated amateur scientific investigations; tragedy; a confident knowledge of what it means to be human and of man's fate; and some of the finest language this side of the Atlantic. Mody-Dick may be one of the last examples of that King James Version-drenched, eloquent, complex English that muscles its way across the page, bursting with meaning without a syllable out of place.

And, of course, this book offers what may the greatest character in American literature, Ahab. Ahab is no one-dimensional madman; he's a masterpiece. He’s a compressed ball of madness and drive powered by a monstrous will to power, but Melville tempe
rs his character with flashes of humanity and compassion, flashes which are driven back by Ahab’s overriding thirst for vengeance. And while the entire opus has some of the most eloquent prose since Shakespeare --- no kidding --- it’s Ahab who gets the really good lines.

Or maybe they just ring home for me personally; I'm crippled and driven by rage at the world, my own self.

Like so, as when the simple carpenter is fashioning Ahab a new ivory leg: "Here I am, proud as Greek god, and yet standing debtor to this blockhead for a bone to stand on! Cursed be that mortal inter-indebtedness which will not do away with ledgers. I would be free as air; and I'm down in the whole world's books. I am so rich, I could have given bid for bid with the wealthiest Praetorians at the auction of the Roman empire (which was the world's); and yet I owe for the flesh in the tongue I brag with. By heavens! I'll get a crucible, and into it, and dissolve myself down to one small, compendious vertebra."

Or his advice to the ship’s smith: "Thy shrunk voice sounds too calmly, sanely woeful to me. In no Paradise myself, I am impatient of all misery in others that is not mad. Thou should'st go mad, blacksmith; say, why dost thou not go mad? How can'st thou endure without being mad? Do the heavens yet hate thee, that thou can'st not go mad?" (Seriously, this sounds just like me when I was in high school, except I didn't say "thou" as much.)

Ahab on looking looking past the merely superficial physique: "Ye see an old man cut down to the stump; leaning on a shivered lance; propped up on a lonely foot. 'Tis Ahab - his body's part; but Ahab's soul's a centipede, that moves upon a hundred legs. I feel strained, half stranded, as ropes that tow dismasted frigates in a gale; and I may look so. But ere I break, ye'll hear me crack; and till ye hear that, know that Ahab's hawser tows his purpose yet."

Or his widely-quoted, fearsome final words: "Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee. Sink all coffins and all hearses to one common pool! and since neither can be mine, let me then tow to pieces, while still chasing thee, though tied to thee, thou damned whale! Thus, I give up the spear!"

This is, quite simply, a mind-altering masterpiece.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Vocabulaire: un cachalot

un cachalot - a sperm whale
Quand un cachalot énorme et blanc a percuté le navire, celui-ci a coulé à pic avec tous les marins à bord --- sauf un.
Yes, I have been reading Moby-Dick.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Crazy accusations

Mr. Lawrence always has horror stories from the classroom, but this one may be most horrifyingest of all.

As a male who works in early childhood (a rare breed), the possibility of "crazy accusations" must always be lurking somewhere in my mind. It doesn't help that so many child molesters seem to be elementary teachers and Boy Scout leaders and swim coaches and so forth. For the love of all that's holy, why don't these sick fucks just get jobs that keep them away from children, and then crawl off somewhere to die?

Teaching, no matter what the age of the students, really does seem to be a calling. I doubt anyone who knew me in high school would have guessed then that I'd turn out be, of all things, a pre-K teacher --- I was gruff, wild and even violent at times. But you know, I sort of fell into it, and I never looked back. It's like the little kids came to me, not the other way around. And yes, they love me, and I'm good at what I do, and for all the grief I get, I love my job. If it paid better (and had a retirement plan), I'd do it proudly for the rest of my life.

But that's not something that very many people understand. I've written about one recent "could have been" accusation here. I've had other very minor confrontations before. For instance.

Once, when I worked for Volunteers of America (a program working with very low-SES kids of mothers often on a methadone treatment for drug addiction), K, a precocious and very disturbed four-year-old, started punching his thigh while I was giving him a reprimand for an unrelated matter. I put my palm between his fist and leg, told him not to hit himself, finished giving him the talking-to, and forgot about it.

Later that day, I was called into the big boss' office. She said that K had told his mother (herself a seriously disturbed individual, who had abused her daughter) that I'd punched him repeatedly in the leg, and the mother had gone to the boss about it. I was just naive enough back then to be appalled, and with eyes wide, quickly protested my innocence and asserting that indeed I'd stopped the kid from doing the punching.

The boss, bless her heart, just smiled and dismissed my fears, noting there were no marks on K, and anyway that K's mother was not to be trusted. Thank God that then I, like Mr. Lawrence, had the benefit of an understanding and supportive administration.

But.

It won't always be that way, I know. And some crimes don't leave marks. It would only take one child and one determined parent falsely accusing any elementary teacher of sexual abuse to ruin that teacher's career, reputation and life. And I've read enough news accounts of people sent to prison for sexual abuse based on no evidence, only on the word of an accuser, to give me a lot of food for thought about the career path I'm on. No, I certainly do not trust this country's appallingly backward justice system with my life.

Don't get me wrong; a lot of accused sexual predators are guilty as sin. And if there's evidence, I say castrate them and then kill them. But I'm not fool enough to think that everyone in prison deserves to be there.

I'm alone with my kids a lot. Granted, my classroom's hallway-facing wall and door are only about four feet high, so everything is visible to anyone who happens to wander by, but still. I often wish the place was videotaped, for my own safety.

I don't have any answers or conclusions to this one.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Scribble, scribble, scribble; another great big notebook

Title: from Duke of Gloucester

Filled in another four pages of Exceptional Children notes tonight. The first part dealt with strategies for communicating with parents of all SES, ethnicities and linguistic backgrounds. (Good information. Summed up in three words? "Don't be prejudiced.") Then there was a guest speaker. She talked mainly about IEPs and ARD reviews: two acronyms that meant nothing to me back in October of 2005, but which now I'm passably familiar with.

Since I already go to every class (as far as I know, I've skipped only one class session, Math Methods in March of 2006, since starting school in September 2005), actually listen, take copious notes, and am not a complete idiot, I've determined that I probably don't need to spend a Benjamin on the textbook. Let Mr. B give me the gist, and then before the exams he can narrow it down to the stuff he'll ask about. There's no need for me to actually read anything else.

Lord, but I've become jaded, but really: if (as, in my snooty academically inclined mindset, I think ought to be the case) he assigned chapters, then lectured about material that built on the material or somehow improved my understanding of said material, then, sure, I'd read the book and attend the lectures. But if, as is the case in this Short Attention Span State School, the lectures are just going to be the Cliff's Notes of the assigned material, then by golly I'll read the textbook, or I'll go to class, but I won't do both. And you can't make me.

***

I went to State School straight after The Job, which turned out to be a waste. I swung by the bookstore to reassure myself that I didn't need to buy any books. Then I made an appointment with my advisor about my schedule, a meeting which will doubtlessly turn out to be another exercise in banging my head against the wall. I don't need to take Biology, dammit, any more than I needed to take half of these stupid classes. Oh well. nearly over now.

To tell the truth, I'm beginning to get a bit anxious about student teaching. It's a big step, and it starts in eight short months.

I ate dinner at the Pizza Inn express on campus. I'm not used to fast food, and I felt slightly queasy afterwards.

Monday, January 22, 2007

It's like we're all kids again! Huzzah!

So, Social Studies Methods. More of the same juvenilia. What did we do? We --- no kidding --- drew pictures of fish, wrote little poems about ourselves, wrote a pretend tourism pamphlet for the state we were born in, thought of activities to do based on specialty days (like Cherry Appreciation Day), made visual organizers for some mini biographies Ms. W2 passed out...

Gosh, I wonder why teachers are often looked down upon as professionals? I find this all so demeaning and useless. So far I stand by my decision not have bought the textbook.

***

I downloaded Firefox 2.0, and notice that it has a spell-checker built in, so I can notice typos as they happen in email and in blog entries and comments, as well as other web-based forms. Technology sure is impressive these days. Well, cave-man me is impressed, anyway. I seem to be older than everyone I know.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

2007 CD project: 3/52

The third CD of the year: A Nod To Bob, a collection of fifteen Bob Dylan songs redone by folk artists (from the Red House Records stable). This was the most expensive CD so far, breaking the ten-buck barrier at $12.54.

I'm a fan of covers in general, and I have a fair though certainly not extensive collection of Dylan songs as done by other artists. I would call this set adequate. It's an adequate anthology. A serviceable selection. A competent collection. A not unpleasant omnibus. A mainly middling mélange. OK, done now.

Eliza Gilkyson, whoever that is, does a terrific, ethereal "Love Minus Zero" (one of my favorite fifty or so Dylan songs). Martin Simpson somehow reaches into the soul of "Boots Of Spanish leather" (a song that feels both ancient and timeless) and pulls off a rendition that may well equal Dylan's own. Suzzy and Maggie Roche (of the Roches, obviously) turn "Clothes Line Saga," already a weird song, into a weirder, subdued but quite pleasant kind of chant. Spider John Koerner and Dave Ray, two of Minnesota's best-known folkies, contribute a different version of "Delia," not much based on Dylan's but still enjoyable enough. Greg Brown, a songwriter I revere, disappoints with an unremarkable "Pledging My Time" (though the original never really grabbed me, anyway). John Gorka has always struck me as boring, so it's no surprise that his "Girl of the North Country" bores me. Hart-Rouge, a Québec band, make their "With God on our Side" interesting only by singing it in French, as "Dieu à nos Côtés." Everything else is not much worthy of comment either way.

Though am I the only Dylan fan who thinks Ramblin' Jack Elliott is a shambling mess of little talent? Huh?

So, in sum --- one of those CDs that you like the idea of better than the actual execution. Yes, I'm glad I own these Dylan covers. But I could easily have gone on in my music-listening career happily enough without ever hearing 'em.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Dreams flickered on a white cloth

Title: "Leaving the Cinema," Wislawa Szymborska, tr. J. Trzeciak

Here are some of the DVDs I've watched the last few weeks.

Hard Target, starring Jean-Claude Vondom! and directed by John Woo. I saw this in the theater when it first came out and remembered it as a silly but enjoyable action film with some pretty cool sequences. So, although it's not my usual kind of thing, I put it on my Netflix list for some mindless escapism. Bad idea. This is possibly the very worst major motion picture ever made. This was Woo's first American film; I can't for the life of me understand why Woo wasn't run out of the country on a rail by The People For Films That Aren't Totally Fucking Retarded shortly after its release. Terrible acting; execrable script; decent concept (lifted, of course, from a famous eighty-year-old short story) mauled to complete laughability by over-the-top presentation; negligible characterization. This is a movie that thinks having a villain say "I don't want you hurting my feelings" on two occasions before he shoots someone is establishing a fully-rounded character. This is a movie that thinks motorcycle gangs with machine guns and vans with grenade launchers can cause mayhem in the streets of New Orleans with total impunity. A film that doesn't bother to give the main character any interesting, devious ways to overcome overwhelming odds, preferring the reliable old "he's invincible for some goddam reason" standby. Utter, complete garbage; I'm ashamed of myself for watching it all the way through, but that's me. I'm a finisher.

Millions, directed by Danny Boyle. Two young lads find a satchel with millions of stolen pounds, days before the conversion to the Euro. Will they spend it all? Will they, influenced by young Alex's visions of long-dead saints, give it to the poor? Or will the crooks get it back? I was not prepared by how entrancing and entertaining this movie was. Boyle takes a well-worn cliché and, with a few twists, such as a dead mother and a new girlfriend and a boy possibly slightly touched with religious zeal, makes it fresh and new. He uses some inventive cinematic tricks as well, such as some apt fast-motion or the same scary, breathy sound effect whenever the crook is seen.

Kicking And Screaming, directed by Noah Baunbach. A few recent college graduates, at a loss for how to begin their lives, remain in their old ruts for a while, flirting and arguing and musing over the Great Questions. I may be, like some of the actors playing students in the film, a bit too old for this kind of thing. It's not bad per se, and it skirts the trap of just being pretentious wankery, but a film about college graduates holds no interest for me at this stage in my life.

Kung Fu Hustle, directed by Stephen Chow. I rented this movie knowing nothing about it. (Actually, I saw this webcomic, and based solely on that, rented the film.) Great idea. I was literally crying with laughter at some of this movie. Holy hell, what a terrific viewing experience! It's derivative of and a mixture (an homage-mélange, perhaps) of a great variety of American films --- musicals, Tarantino, spaghetti westerns and more. but it transcends all its influences, blending them with a pace and wit of such blinding speed that you won't be able to believe your eyes. Complete entertainment.

Vocabulaire: un manège

un manège - a merry-go-round
Quand le foire installe ses manèges, on serait sûr que plusieurs enfants va finir par tomber par terre.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The written word

So on some stupid fooball game recently, a woman was wearing a shirt that said "Fuck the Eagles," and FOX broadcasted it, and across America hundreds of self-righteous drips with sticks up their asses called and wrote in with their mealy-mouthed, smug complaints.

Listen, people: if you see or hear the word "fuck" on TV, and you feel the need to actually make the effort to contact the TV station, or anyone else you think may have authority to dictate what you shouldn't hear or see --- then you are living a shallow, sheltered, pale imitation of life.

Instead of writing an angry letter, go watch a video report about a third-world country. Study up on the Holocaust. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Volunteer for the armed forces. Ride-along with an EMT crew. I think you'll find that there are about a trillion things in the world more important than you accidentally reading the word "fuck."

You stupid fucking idiot.

***

Ahem. Here is a meme that Samurai Frog did, and as we both know, we regularly steal memes from one another.

1) One book that changed your life.
It's a play, but what the hell, plays are books. "No Exit," by Sartre. The trifecta of this play, Miguel de Unamuno's novella Mist, and Luigi Pirandello's play "Six Characters in Search of an Author" changed my life in tenth grade. I was introduced to meta-text, irony, and most important of all, existentialism. I became the person, the type of thinker, that I remain to this day.

2) One book that you’d read more than once.
I believe I have mentioned this before on this blog, but there is no scene in Joseph Heller's Catch-22 which I can read and then not want to continue on the next scene, and the next, to the end. One of the best books of all time and one of my top five favorites.

3) One book you’d want on a deserted island.
Frog mentions, astutely, that one would probably want a survival guide of some sort, but I'm thinking this meme is intended to deal with literature or at least sequential non-fiction. Anyway, this is a tough one, but maybe I'd take Shakespeare's collected works. That way, if I ever got back to civilization, my memorization of the Bard's entire oeuvre could wow the ladies. (Form an orderly line, girls!)

4) One book that made you laugh.
Well, again, Catch-22, but in the interest of not repeating answers, I'd have to say (picking one of the many hilarious Bertie and Jeeves novels nearly at random) Bertie Wooster Sees It Through, by P.G. Wodehouse.

5) One book that made you cry.
Ethel and Ernest, an autobiographical graphic novel by Raymond Briggs. Every damn time. I don't think I've ever cried at any pure text books.

6) One book you wish you’d written.
The Firm, by John Grisham. I don't want to take anyone's art, but I'll take anyone's cash cow. Come to think of it, Harry Potter and Whatever the First Book Was Called.

7) One book you wish had never been written.
The Koran, of course.

8) One book you’re currently reading.
Like Frog, I read several books at once. Right now I'm listening to Moby-Dick on CD. It requires a hell of a lot of attention but it's incredibly rewarding.

9) One book you’ve been meaning to read.
I have a very, very long list of non-fiction books I want to read, but even at my rate, I'll never get around to them all. Every time I knock off two or three, I get all enthused about some new titles and put five or ten more on the list (just like my Netflix queue). But I really ought to read Plutarch's Lives.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Great Dallas Ice Storm, day three: we eat our dead

So, it snowed a bit last night. The Job opened three hours late, at ten a.m. I was the first one there, about half the staff deciding it was too dangerous to come at all. (The Boss arrived at about ten past ten, and the Assistant Boss an hour or so later.) By 11:00, everything was melting. That glistening, slick-looking surface on the roads? That's called water. Just drive through it.

Anyway. I stayed a bit late because of the low numbers, and then drove up to the hospital to see little Crafty again. This time I got to hold him; he was rolled up in a bundle as tight as a log. While I was there, he got taken away to be castrated circumcised. Poor guy. He was asleep when they took him, but when they brought him back, his eyes were open and rather accusatory.

Palfrey said, incidating both herself and Friar: "Man, this frickin' breast-feeding is taking all our brain power!"

After I misspoke and said something about how some babies never take to the breast and end up being bottle fed "all their lives," the three of us had a good laugh about what the world would be like if we all indeed drank from nippled bottles into adulthood. We figured there'd be a lot fewer bar fights or lunch meetings; it's hard to be mad or look intimidating when you're sucking from a bottle. Also, think of the camaraderie induced from everyone patting one other on the back after drinks.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Oversensitivity

The second class of Exceptional Children was less boring than the first, but only because the first was so very, very boring. The prof didn't go over the schedule ad nauseam this time, but this seems to be the kind of class, massive number of students be damned, that is conducive to telling personal stories. So about half the class jumps at every opportunity to talk about their own autistic or ADHD or dyslexic son or nephew or student. I understand that sometimes anecdotes can be illuminative when trying to grasp a subject as fraught with misconceptions as "exceptional children," but these anecdotes are not helpful, just a means for the teller to get something off her chest. Clearly some of these people burn to talk about their children's experiences, and I understand that because having a child with learning differences can be very stressful, and perhaps they should join a discussion group to vent, and stop wasting class time.

In a discussion on how evaluations of students with special educational needs must be free of bias, somehow we got onto cultural bias in general. One student mentioned that she was at a teacher's meeting in which some of the teachers were concerned that a question on a test was biased because it mentioned the circus. Apparently one of the students taking the test was from Cairo and had no idea what a circus was (which seems a bit odd to me --- it's one of the world's largest metropolitan areas, not the desert).

Anyway, this bit struck me as a bit over the top. Obviously, in some areas teachers must be very sensitive to cultural bias. if we want to make sure a test is assessing intelligence and only that, we must strive to make sure the test taker understands the concept behind every question. Standardized tests must be free of bias and be totally valid.

But --- and this may be hard to express --- I don't think that mentioning American cultural themes in all tests is necessarily a bias, or if it is, it's not a bias that we need to concern ourselves with stamping out. I mean, one of schooling's missions is to prepare children for the world they will enter, correct? In America, this includes coming upon such things as circuses and banks and waiting at red lights and other cultural norms. Even if the test is in a math class, it's part of the educational experience to incorporate cultural norms into the questions. But they're from Egypt? Yes, but they're in America now, and should probably start assimilating certain broad social ideas. I'm not saying children should be penalized for being ignorant of the customs of the country in which they reside in, but I don't think they need to be protected from encountering those customs, either. It's almost as if teachers nowadays are trained to infuse their lessons with every culture of the world except their own, this Western American culture (itself an assimilator of cultural mores and fashions) in which they and their students live.

So, yes, for example, here's a math question about birthday parties. Don't celebrate birthdays in your family, or in your country of origin? Well, we do here. Know that, accept it, move on, figure out the math.

Monday, January 15, 2007

It's a bouncing baby monk

Friar and Palfrey had their baby yesterday evening. He's a boy, and he was about half a month premature. Yes, my best friend, the man whom I have known for twenty years as a smoker, drunk, reveler, music aficionado and impresario, a man who is rather child-like and yet fiercely independent, immature and precocious, lazy and accomplished, self-deprecating and expansive, is now a father.

The mind boggles.

After work (we opened at ten because of "the ice storm," a chill in the air which only Texans would consider unsafe), I tooled up to the hospital and saw young Crafty for the first time. As when I visited 74 and Zaftig's baby girl in the hospital the November before last, the child was barely 24 hours old. This time, however, because of the premature delivery (C-section), and the fact that he doesn't seem to have caught onto the concept of taking nourishment quite yet, I couldn't hold him.

By sheer coincidence, I ran into Flax's mother in the lobby. I assumed she was coming to see Crafty as well, but it turned out she was ignorant of the birth, and was only there for her own appointment. (She stopped by after her visit.) Weird how the branches of the past sometime converge. Seeing Flax's mother reminded me of just how young we all were fully two decades ago, back when we'd hang out in Flax's kitchen, enraging his father and acting like idiots. Now it's 2007 (and I honestly, sincerely never thought I'd live long enough to see that) and here we are, most of us parents and respectable people to boot.

How morbidly depressing, come to think of it.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

2007 CD project: 2/52

The second CD I bought this year was the album Hyacinths And Thistles (and say that three times fast!) by The 6ths (another name deliberately chosen because it is difficult to pronounce). The 6ths is a side project masterminded by Stephen Merritt, who is better known as the mastermind behind the Magnetic Fields. I spent $9.59 on this CD, so I am still on track for getting all 52 CDs for under $10 each.

Merritt is an incredibly gifted lyricist, not in the raw poetic way that Bob Dylan or Nick Cave are, nor as a painter of characters and scenes such as Tom Waits. Rather, he's of the old school, strongly influenced by Cole Porter's gleefully witty style. Merritt's strengths are in rhyme and a clever phrase. He can be deeply sentimental:

I haven't seen you in ages
But it's not as bleak as it seems
We still dance on whirling stages
In my Busby Berkeley dreams
The tears have stained all the pages
Of my True Romance magazines
We still dance in my outrageously beautiful
Busby Berkeley dreams
--- "Busby Berkeley Dreams"

He can be so goofy, it's clever:

Acoustic guitar, if you think I play hard
Well you could have belonged to Steve Earle
Or Charo, or GWAR
I could sell you tomorrow
So bring me back my girl
--- "Acoustic Guitar"

He can be mocking:

I could listen to all my friends and go out again and pretend it's enough
Or I could make a career of being blue
I could dress in black and read Camus,
Smoke clove cigarettes and drink vermouth like I was 17
That would be a scream
But I don't want to get over you
---"I Don't Want To get Over You"

And I could quote a dozen more favorite examples. "The Death of Ferdinand de Saussure," perhaps my all time favorite Magnetic Fields song, has it all --- wonderfully inventive rhyme, a twist of black humor, and a premise that requires a bit of knowledge about 19th century linguists. That's my kind of song!

Anyway, enough gushing about the Magnetic Fields. Merritt often uses other vocalists, but for The 6ths he uses nothing but guests. Hyacinths features Bob Mould (of Husker Du), Sarah Cracknell (of Saint Etienne), Katharine Whalen (the Squirrel Nut Zippers' homegrown Billie Holliday reincarnation) and Neil Hannon (he of the divine, pop-operatic [poperatic?] voice and of the Divine Comedy), among others.

Hannon's brief turn, "The Dead Only Quickly," is a favorite of mine off this disc, concluding with the cheery, "It would be swell / To see some folk burn in hell." Whalen's "You You You You You" is also terrific, a sweet and straightforward love song (unlike a lot of Merritt's oeuvre, which often looks at love through the bleak lenses of breakups, disaffection or unrequitedness).

The 6ths' use of varied vocalists fits well with Merritt's tremendous output and apparent compulsion to dabble in every single musical style known to man. A lot of critics, while appreciative of Merritt's talents, say that Hyacinths sounds like a bunch of songs thrown together with no cohesion, and not an album as such. Well, first, I disagree, because since Merritt wrote every song, they all come from the same creative wellspring, and visit the same recurring themes in all of Merritt's work. And second, even if that were true, I wouldn't mind. A great song is a great song; not every album has to work equally well as a compendium and a gestalt. I'll take a collection of unrelated songs, even if they span a lengthy period of time, by a great artist (Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Ray Charles) over 99% of the studied and superficial "theme" albums out there.

So, anyway, The 6ths. Yeah. good stuff.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

I got nothing to say, especially about whatever was

I've started this new "tagging" of my posts. Seems to be a useful tool for me; sometimes I want to see what I've said on a certain subject before, or done a specific meme, etc. Going back to tag some old posts, I found that many of the comments from when this blog first started have vanished completely. Not that big a deal, I guess --- though I did like them --- but I do wonder why. Perhaps the transfer to Blogger Beta is to blame? Doubtful, because other, not so old comments are still there.

Also rereading, I begin to think that my posting of late hasn't been as sharp or finely forged as some of the entries in the archives, when I really seemed to have been bitten by a bug and needed to get something off my chest. But hey, these things go in cycles.

A cold front has suddenly descended here, and with it heavy rain. It feels like winter at last. The Job sent out an email about being closed due to icy rain and sleet on Monday (no, we are not closed for MLK Day), but that's not going to happen. This is still Texas, after all.

My father, brother and I chipped in to buy my mother a new computer for Christmas. I found an out-of-box (read: used) HP for cheap at one of those chain stores. I was a little chary about it being a return, and chagrined when I found it came with an old-fashioned ball mouse and flat keyboard, but it seems to be running smoothly enough. I installed virus protection and Office, and transferred most of her data to the new machine using a flash drive. Man, to a guy like me who was introduced to the world of computers in the age of five inch floppies (which were literally floppy), these flash drives --- the smallest of which stores the equivalent of thirty of the now equally obsolete 3.5" disks --- are amazing.

So yeah, my four-hour mp3 player is fascinating to me too. Last of the cavemen, that's me. "Tiny metal thing make music?! Thog like!"

Friday, January 12, 2007

There's a first time for everything

This school lost a tremendous and valuable asset, if you know what I mean. HA! It's funny if you read the story.

I gotta say, I'm with the school on this one. Too disruptive.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

It's true, you know

After two weeks exploring information on planets, rockets, stars, comets, asteroids and aliens, I have found the number one fact about the vast expanse of infinite wonder that is our cosmos which my pre-K class delights in remembering and repeating:

"If there was no sun, we would all be dead."

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Out, damn bright spot

Gosh, those last two posts were cynical and arrogant.

Let's always look on the bright side, even in the face of utter global catastrophe. Ah, article's "one bright spot" inset --- you bring a smile to my face even as I despair for the human race.

Today at The Job a parent brought deli sandwiches, potato chips, tea, and pickles for the whole staff. I eschewed the tea --- I've totally dropped caffeine as an incredibly unhealthy and addictive stimulant --- but ate a lot of sandwiches, though I really oughtn't to have had so much bread. I gave a bunch of chips and cold cuts to the kids. We have some pretty generous parents; my Christmas bonus was $250.

I'm pretty sure I meant to discuss something else, but as my memory is now as porous as a sponge and I've been rather long-winded lately, I shall close rather than vainly rack my brains over what it was.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Exceptional Children

Or, as I like to call them, Abnormal Prepubescents. Esteem is everything in education.

Tonight's class was, as the title indicates, Exceptional Children, a psychology class taught by Mr. B. There are about 100 people in this class, which makes a welcome change from small classes and their infuriating "meet and greet" time wasters.

Speaking of time wasters, the first hour was taken up with The Reading of the Syllabus That I Just Handed Out and You Have In Front of You. Oh, what a masterful tradition this is! I wish professors wouldn't do this, but I suppose if they didn't, they'd be inundated with e-mails from students who can't read about what the class is going to cover and when.

The second hour and a half of the class was taken up with some good old fashioned lecturing. I took copious notes, which is wrist-straining but keeps the mind, body and spirit focused on the material and moment and is infinitely preferable to the soul-deadening boredom of hearing the syllabus read aloud for an hour, which makes me want to punch someone in the back of the head.

Oh --- the sentence below from our syllabus made me think of IB a Math Teacher. Especially this post.
"Exams (75% of final grade): There will be three non-cumulative, equally weighted exams (each counting for 25% of your final grade)."
As IB might say, why is that second paranthetical phrase included?

Bonus tip for those in seminar classes that take place in expansive auditoriums: sit on the second seat in from the end of a row, look surly and read a paperback as other students come in. People will feel weird about sitting on the very end with you right there, and will traditionally sit two seats down on the other side as the room fills up, and you may well end up one of the few students in the place to have an empty seat on both sides of you. Score! One seat for me, one for my bag (I call him "Mister Holder") and one for my aching, kid-corralling feet.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Spring 2007 semester begins!

It seems like just last year that 2006 spring semester was starting. Actually, I have only vague memories of anything to do with State School.

I'm taking two evening classes this semester. Today's was the laboriously titled "Language Arts and Social Studies Methods." The professor, Ms. W2, has a very bizarre accent. Born in New York, she went to school in England. As a result, her accent, which I can tell would be, without the time abroad, a very thick and typical "New Yawkah" brogue with broad vowels, has been twisted into a bizarre melange of that and the poshest, final-R dropping British speech. She's both fascinating and somehow disturbing to listen to at the same time.

She's also one of those teachers that seem to love to treat those who are learning to become teachers as little children themselves; we got stickers and a poem and had to make an "about me burger" (with spaces to respond to trivial personal questions on a picture of a bun, lettuce, cheese, etc).

Under "Things that bother me" I put "Filling out children's work, which infantilizes the learning process." Under "What I enjoy doing" I put "Listening to music" and "Worshipping Dagon, the fish-god of the Levantine people." I guess that proves what I put under "Words to describe me:" "Impatient with those who ought to know better."

What a colossal asshole I can be.

We also did a childish "get to know each other" activity where we linked arms in a big line around the classroom. Another terrific way to spend valuable class time.

We labelled states on a blank map of the US. Most of my fellow teachers-to-be correctly identified around ten to fifteen states. How sad is that? I got 46; the next closest was 44. There's a three and a half year old kid in my pre-K class who knows all the states by shape and their location on the map. I'm not saying that's normal, but it's so eminently attainable. This isn't African countries or something esoteric; it's our country's most basic geopolitical makeup! Lord, people are willfully ignorant.

Ms. W2 used the jigsaw approach on us as well, breaking us into small groups. We each studied a different handout on strategies for teaching social studies, devised an outline for the handout on poster paper and presented it to the rest of the group.

There were other silly games too, like sharing "bio-poems" (something I had to write for Diagnostic Reading last semester), more useless meet and greet material based on, of all things, where we'd like to go on vacation and how and what we like to eat and what magazine we'd read and blah blah feckety blah, some handout with emotion icons on it we were supposed to identify with, some quotes from Maya Angelou, and etc.

Is this time-wasting a tacit admission by State School that they are actually incapable of giving teachers concrete information on pedagogy and content? whatever, I think I'm done with writing about tonight's class now. Maybe we will get down to brass tacks next time.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

2007 CD project: 1/52

I could talk about my dinner and movie with the Maddening Angel this afternoon; or last night at the Hangout where Deuce, the lead singer for one of the Friar's more successful bands, said I look exactly like this guy (I really don't see it); or my recent flirtatious correspondence with a State School classmate; or my bouts of soul-crushing self-loathing and depression; or I could talk about some of the things that happened during The Sapient Sutler's Missing Months, like the time a kid got knocked unconscious by a drunk right in front of me at the Hangout on his 21st birthday and the Friar, MA and I all stepped in to help... But no, the personal stuff is verboten for a time.

So anyhow, my self-imposed project this year is to buy 52 CDs. Don't ask why. Some people collect stamps. Some make model cars or trains. Some have actual lives and accomplish things of importance. I'm doing this. Get off my back!

The first CD purchased this year is a bit of an obscurity but a favorite of mine: A Wilderness of Mirrors by Paul K. It cost me $7.58.

It's a sort of concept album based around a re-imagining of the book of Job. Now a lot of people could get turned off instantly by the sheer pretentiousness of the setup, but I'm kind of a sucker for this kind of ambition in rock. And Paul K. pulls it off, with a wide variety of styles and a voice that sounds like it really understands pain (he was in legal trouble for heroin for a few years before making this album). Here's a review of the album by someone better at this sort of thing than I.

I was first introduced to Wilderness by someone I don't know and have never met. I trade CD-Rs online, in another guise, and sometime in late 2005 a guy offered me this in exchange for something of mine. Being the swell, broad-minded person I am, I agreed to the swap without having heard of the artist, read a word of a review or listened to a note of his work. I gave the CD-R he sent me a few listens, and --- as often happens --- though it didn't really grab me the first few times, after repeated exposure, some of the complexity of this layered, emotionally-rich music sank in. So I bought the real thing this week, and passed along my CD-R to someone else. Although I wouldn't call it a masterpiece, exactly, it remains a favorite of mine, and one of the few albums that I like to listen to as a whole (it really works better that way). Oh, and the album's title comes from a line in one of the best and most famous works of my favorite poet (whose work gives this very blog its name, as well).

So, anyway, that's the first CD of the year. Hope I live long enough for another 51!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

30 Days in Sodom, or something

In my never-ending quest for entertainment, Netflix has delivered to me the collected first series of Morgan Spurlock's TV show "30 Days." Spurlock, of course, is the Michael Moore-lite most famous for his documentary Supersize Me, in which he ate only McDonald's for a month and nearly died. Famed blogging curmudgeon Samurai Frog hates Spurlock, because Spurlock is so healthy and Samurai Frog is bitterly jealous. I kid, I kid. Actually, there are a lot of valid criticisms to be made about Spurlock's message and his use of the medium. But what interested me about Supersize Me wasn't the stunt, any more than Michael Moore's brilliant move in Roger & Me was the stunt of trying to interview GM CEO Roger Smith. The strength of those two films, to me, is the light they shine on areas of American culture (the appalling crime that is the plight of our working poor, the chronic ignorance about basic nutrition) that don't usually get much mainstream media attention.

So I enjoyed "30 Days" for much the same reasons. The stunt here (and, yes, Spurlock's kind of a one-note stuntster) is putting people in situations they are diametrically opposed to for 30 days and see if the experience changes them. (Well, duh. Experience pretty much is development; thus the success of boot camps.)

So you have a Christian going to live as a Muslim in Michigan; another Christian living with a gay man in The Castro district; two urbanite hyper-consumers learning about their massive ecological footprint and living off the grid (and recycling their own feces to make "hu-manure!" cool!); Spurlock himself living on minimum wage for a month; a pudgy salesman going on an anti-youth drug regimen; and, bafflingly enough, the mother of a college freshman embarking on a month of binge drinking so as to, uh, understand or help her daughter's drinking problem for some goddam reason.

Of course, the show heavily promotes and rewards Spurlock's leftist expectations --- how could it not? The homophobe learns that gays are people, too; the Christian realizes that all Muslims aren't terrorists; and the guy taking the HGH and steroid regimen, of course, realizes that we shouldn't mess with mother Nature.

I did enjoy watching the Muslim and homosexual segments, even if they may have been tweaked a bit (and hey, maybe they weren't). One thing struck me about the Castro show, though. The guy living as a gay man meets several times with a lesbian pastor, who tries desperately to convince him that homosexuality isn't a sin.

That, to me, is weird. Christian gays must be to some degree self-loathing, not unlike black Republicans, Western women who convert to Islam, and, uh, gay Republicans. I mean, why try to ingratiate yourself? Homosexuality is a sin, period. If you ascribe authority to the Old or New Testaments, if you believe in the very concept of "sin," then you must admit that. It's a very different thing than saying homosexuality is wrong. I find nothing wrong at all with homosexuality as a practice, but -- sorry, gay Christians --- it's a sin. Says so in the book that defines "sin."

Most gay people understand this, but the subsection of the population that wants to call itself Christian doesn't get it. Why do they lend the Bible authority in the first place, since it condemns them for who they are? The lesbian pastor says during the show something along the lines of, "I think God is more concerned with our potential than what we do with our genitalia." The guy mutters something like "Sorry," which is an acceptable answer, I suppose. If I'd been in his seat, I might have responded, "Well, that's nice that you think that, reverend ma'am, and you must be happy with the God that you made up to make yourself feel better, but actually the Christian God is very, very concerned with what people do with their genitalia." Personally, that's one of the reasons why I don't ascribe any authority to His text. Why use as a crutch an institution that despises you? It's the same hypocrisy as homophobes who only know one verse of the entire Bible: the one about stoning homosexuals.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Review: The Once and Future King

I recently re-read The Once And Future King, by T.H. White. I first read it way, way back in 1986 --- indeed, the volume I just completed is the same physical one I had back then --- and as I was only 15 in 1985, I didn’t understand quite a lot of it.

The book is divided into four parts, each published separately: The Sword in the Stone (1938), The Queen of Air and Darkness (1939), The Ill-Made Knight (1940), and The Candle in the Wind (1958). Altogether, they make up an amazing tome of adventure and philosophy, two things requisite to any fantasy work. There is a strong case to be made that this is the richest and deepest fantasy book of all (as I've said before elsewhere on this blog, I'm utterly indifferent to the Lord of the Rings series).

The first book is most akin to children’s literature. It's almost a parody of the Arthurian legends, with plenty of anachronisms and humor at the expense of the bumbling Merlyn. Disney made an animated movie from this section, and it was good one, but it could be remade better today, using advances in animation and special effects techniques as well as taking advantage of the darker tone of children's adventure in general these days. This section is written as if for children (albeit very well-informed children), but even this early, White uses the young Arthur’s adventures in animal form to make points about human political structures. In fact, the scene in the ant colony is amazingly evocative of Orwell's (later) 1984.

The second book, which is less humorous, deals with the Orkneys, the wild northern clan who with their heritage of blood allegiances and feuds, will prove to be the Round Table’s undoing, and Arthur’s accidental liaison with his aunt.

The third book is quite serious, and deal with how Lancelot, the ugly but invincible knight, is torn between guilt and desire --- the conflicting desires to be true to his God, to give in to his lust for Guenever, to remain loyal to his friend and lord Arthur; and the guilt he feels about his abandoned wife Elaine and son Galahad, as well as for what he's done to Arthur. White maneuvers the principals expertly, showing all the tragic results of what is not a love triangle, but actually a love pentagon (if you include God). This is the part of the epic that makes the characters seem the most human. In fact, a few passages hit rather close my own humble home. Viz: "Lancelot never believed he was good or nice. Under the grotesque, magnificent shell with a face like Quasimodo's, there was shame and self-loathing which had been planted there when he was tiny, by something which it is now too late to trace. It is so fatally easy to make young children believe that they are horrible."

Hey! T.H. White knew me personally!

The fourth book is absolutely grim: Mordred, Arthur's twisted and evil child by his aunt, is presented as a proto-Hitler whose lust for power is abetted by his canny manipulation of Arthur’s ideals of Justice and Right. The final pages, in which the now elderly and soon to be defeated Arthur ruminates on why men fight wars, is as apt and insightful today as it was in 1958, and I suppose will be as long as humans cannot fly over national boundaries.

(The line in the X-Men 2 movie, in which Magneto says to himself, "When will these people learn how to fly?", is actually a reference to this allegory.)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

For I have but the power to kill, without--- the power to die---

Well, yet another school shooting. This was in a public high school in Tacoma. I have huge admiration for public high school teachers; frankly, I'm amazed anyone still wants to do it. Of course, there's violence in even the elemntary schools these days, sadly enough, but adolescents are the most prone to these horrific gun-related incidents.

One of the reasons that I want to be an early education teacher (I think the highest grade I'd like to teach is third) is to mold minds, serve as a role model and make impressions on kids before they get so deadened that shooting someone is the only response they can think of to conflict. That sounds fairly egocentric, I know --- but part of me does believe that an elementary teacher can change lives, even if the students never have any idea that they've been changed, or in what way.

At least, that's my hope.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Early to bed and early to rise

Makes a man healthy, doesn't affect his finances one way or another, and neither does it seem to affect the wisdom at all.

I'm arriving at work at 7:45 in the a.m. these days. And I'm actually arriving on time, sometimes five minutes early. This makes areturn to my normal work habit, which is to arrive promptly. Three years at The Job has deadened that impulse, and instances on my part of being 15 or even 30 minutes late were not unusual last semester.

Now, in part, this was because I was going to school then, and I am not now. And in part it's because The Job is such an unprofessional, risible black hole of incompetence, there was really no incentive to come in on time. When the director comes in at 9:00 or 10:00, doesn't seem to do anything, and leaves early, and the assistant director is ten to thirty minutes late every day, you start not caring about your own schedule. But no matter what the excuse, it's not right. It certainly wouldn't be tolerated at a public school, which is where I'll be next year, so it's good for me to start thinking of myself as a morning person and calling it a night early and getting into work on time and chipper.

I just hope I can keep it up when I start classes again next week. Lord, but it seems like I've been going to school forever.

As to finances, the monstrous debt that the Demonic Ex left me saddled with when she left is now about 25% of what it was, thanks in part to a long-term loan by my cousin (he's ten years younger than I am, and in debt himself quite deeply, but he works in finance and is wealthier than I am, which isn't hard to be; I swallowed my pride and took the loan). I may in fact be debt-free before the end of 2007, which would mark the first time since before I met the Predatory Ex.

Monday, January 01, 2007

I'm back

I'm back at the old blogging keyboard and more boring than ever. And I mean that sincerely. The social aspects of this blog, which gave it the bare scintilla of appeal it had, like a garish pink tie on a maggot-infested corpse, will not be resurfacing for the indefinite future. As I'd noted before, chronicling all that just makes me depressed. So no more exciting but ultimately tragic rejection stories.

Anyway, I'm pretty much an anchorite these days, at least compared to those wild times when this blog was young.

Classes start up again in a week. I'll take one or two more classes in the summer of 2007 and then I'll start student teaching the next fall. Unless I'm dead, which is a definite possibility. (If I don't die of old age, I may well just keel over from sheer uselessness.)

[Cue up Bowie's "Chubby Little Loser," though I'm only two of those things.]

So, what did I get for Christmas, which after all 'tis the season for avarice and self-interest, and for reckoning up all the swag?
  • A five dollar gift certificate at Satan's Own Video Store, Blockbuster. I bought Kurt Russell movie Soldier used. Not bad for a crappy action flick.
  • A fifty dollar gift certificate at The Gap, which I have not used yet. Clothing is not my primary interest, nor even my tertiary interest.
  • The Gap Red book, a photo album with mostly celebrity ad shots. Some nice pictures, though there is a photo of Ian McKellen propped up on an elbow and giving the camera a come-hither look which fingering his nipple, and this is a sight that you can never unsee.
  • Kurt Busiek's graphic novel Tarnished Angel, which is one of my favorite Astro City stories, though the premise is suspiciously close to the "Bobo" Bennetti story in James Robinson's Starman.
  • The first volume of Fantagraphics' Popeye Series. I'm a huge admirer of Walt Kelly's Pogo, Krazy Kat and some of the other brilliant early newspaper comics that expertly turned the English language inside out while providing hilarious insight and political commentary. E.C. Segar's Popeye is right up there with the best of them (and to me, Pogo will always be the best newspaper comic ever). Just a beautiful book.
  • The Complete Peanuts, 1953-1954. I've talked about my admiration for Schulz' masterpiece before here. Simply astounding work.
  • A boxed set of Marx Brothers movies, including A Day at the Races, A Night in Casablanca, and A Night at the Opera. I've only seen a couple of the short films that came with it so far, and I have already had to go to the emergency room twice to get my busted gut fixed. Plus they gave me something for my knee, which got some extra-hard slapping.
  • An off-brand mp3 (MP3? they both look funny) player that holds four hours. Great for walking the dog. I am fully in the 21st century now, buddy boy! Yeah! I'm digital!
  • Some money and some joke gifts.
I'm doing something creative on the Intertubes that I'm not going to talk about here. I will say, however, that it's great to be working on a creative project.