Monday, March 31, 2008

What we dream and what we dream know

Tomorrow Mr. C comes back. The admin have still not decided who will be the teacher in the room; worried that he might continue with his absence-prone ways due to his health, they may just keep me in there and bump him to the substitute list. Of course, I'd be very sad to leave --- it's not very esteem-lifting to be just a stopgap teacher --- but I would never want to take a room away from its original teacher if he was raring to take it over. I'm going to assume that he's in and I'm out, and wish him the very best.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

If Only They Could Talk

What I'd Like to Hear Democrats, Especially a Democratic Presidential Contender, Say To Republicans

"Cut and run? If you mean cut programs that benefit working Americans and run away from your responsibilities to the Constitution, I think that describes the current administration quite accurately. As for Democrats, I guess we'd like to cut and run away from the economic policies and war that have destroyed America's economy and reputation. I can embrace that definition, but on the whole I'd rather we talk like adults and drop the empty buzzwords."

"Withdrawal from Iraq does not mean an American defeat in the war on terror; that's a fallacy that this administration has propagated. Withdrawal at this point in time means a strategic redeployment. I suggest, in fact, that the war thus far has achieved two commendable goals --- the deposing of Saddam Hussein and the definite confirmation that there were no WMDs being made in Iraq. I submit that it is past time, therefore, for a strategic redeployment. I am eager to put our powerful military to work to make Americans safer. That means going after Al Qaeda (which has grown stronger since this misdirected, botched war), as well as any other terrorist group with a similar agenda. Finding bin Laden might be a viable goal, as well. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that occupying Iraq is making America safer. Quite the contrary."

"Defeatism --- another Republican buzzword. Again, I don't believe that withdrawal from Iraq means defeatism. However, if you'd like to outline a strategy for Iraq that would result in a clear, definable victory, I'd be happy to consider it when deciding on military options that will strengthen America. But I can't see how redeploying our troops constitutes defeat when there is no victory on the agenda."

"Remember when President Bush vowed that finding bin Laden was his sole and paramount goal? And then, later, when he said he didn't care about finding bin Laden? Was that cutting and running? Was that embracing defeatism? Or was that a strategic redeployment, as I'm suggesting?"

"For years, democrats have been accused of elitism. But Cheney doesn't think that American opinion should impact policy. This was also true during the unpopular Clinton impeachment; polls were ignored and even decried. So my question to you is, why is it that Republicans ignore what the typical, hard-working American family strongly feels about government and issues that affect them? Isn't that as elitist as it gets?"

"I would like to see our military, the finest in the world, fighting for the safety of the American people and to protect our Constitution, which I hold nearly sacred. Instead, what I see is our fine military being wasted fighting a war that is producing more enemies than it eliminates, while our reputation and coffers dwindle. Indeed, the only threat to the Constitution that I can see in the past eight years has been from this administration."

"Bear with me, please, as I read you a quote. I'd love to hear what you think.
I would like to suggest that there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down --- up to a man's age-old dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order --- or down to the ant heap totalitarianism, and regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course.
Was that written by a liberal who was soft on terror? Well, perhaps this administration, the most extremely anti-freedom in America's history, would consider him to be so. His name was Ronald Reagan."

Friday, March 28, 2008

Indicate precisely what you mean to say

Today was Grandparents' Visiting Day at Prestigius. Hordes of oldsters descended on the classroom, milled around bemusedly as the kids showed them around (read books, played games, fed the animals), then left after 90 minutes with the kids in tow. It went very well, I thought. The old folks had no idea who I was, but they were very nice once I introduced myself.

***

I have a really terrible memory for names. Even now, three months into the new job, I'm still uncertain about a few of the teachers. And the students? I have Mr. C's class down and that's it. And yet, the other day I drove by the house of a kid who was in my car pool in seventh grade --- keeping in mind that was twenty flarking five years ago now --- and his first and last name popped unbidden and instantly to my mind. And I never talked to him at all.

I think that's a sign that I'm now officially middle aged. The past is more present than the past to me.

***

On the other hand, it's nice not to be a poor young man any more. I remember having to get $80 or so out of the ATM before grocery shopping and diligently tracking prices so I wouldn't go over that. Or paying for some with cash and some with credit card. Or just having the cashier take some items off.

It's nice now swiping the debit card and knowing that even if the groceries are $200, not only is the money there, it's no big deal to spend it. At least a little security has come with age, even though I'm still one of the most immature and irresponsible 37-year-olds I know.

***

It's fairly clear to me that this blog has become moribund. I'm just not getting any inspiration out of the job --- it's going fine --- and I no longer feel the impulse to pour my emotional and social woes into these pages like I did when I first started. I would have gone on one of my hiatuses a while back, but I'm hanging fire until next week when Mr. C returns. Perhaps that'll lead to a little bloggable drama.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Title Load IX

From here.

Hypotheticals: If you were an evil dictator, where would you rule?
America, of course. This is where I have the most vested interest, and it's broken. I'd fix it good.

Anything Goes: What was the most important issue in the last presidential election?
The war in Iraq, clearly. It's bankrupted us, made us an international pariah, and gutted our social infrastructure. And still our gas prices are high, oil companies are raking in record profits, and Osama bin Laden mocks us from his hideout.

No-Brainers: What is your favorite breed of dog?
I'll take a mutt any day, but if I had to pick a breed, I'd say I like boxers for their looks and their playful natures.

Personals: What is the worst grade you ever received? What class was it for?
I got a D in a required freshman course on the Western Canon (Homer, Hesiod, Hume, Apuleius, Virgil) because of some bad things I did that year that resulted in my suspension and expulsion from campus which led to a spiral of self-destructive behavior and apathy.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I hate my generation

I'm a geek and a pop-culture nerd, and I sincerely admire Seth Green as an actor and as a person (from what little I've seen and heard, he appears to be a level-headed, decent guy). So you'd think I'd enjoy his pop-culture parody show Robot Chicken. And yet, I thought it was mediocre. I laughed only about one minute out of every ten, and was straight-out bored for three minutes of every ten. It reminded me of Family Guy --- simply replicating scenes from shows and games in lieu of punchlines.

One aspect I did like, and that seems to be very popular in general, is the Star Wars vignettes.

"Luke, I am your father!"

"Nooooo! That's impossible!"

"And Leia is your sister!"

"That's... improbable!"

"And the empire will be brought down by Ewoks!"

"That's.... very unlikely!"

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Back

Back to work. As usual, I find it physically and psychologically impossible to fall asleep before 11:00 p.m., but must get up at 6:15 a.m. no matter when I fell asleep the night before, so am running on 6 or 7 hours of sleep again. I'm tired all the time, but not drag my feet at work kind of tired, just sort of sleepy. Especially once I get home. But of course, utterly wide awake after 9 p.m.

Because we had Monday off and Friday is Grandparents' Visiting Day, it's a light week. Today I had the kids painting dinosaurs and writing a few lines on "what I did over spring break." (Yes, the boring essays start early.) For math, I had them do a sheet of subtraction problems that color-code to a dinosaur picture. And naturally we read Junie B. Jones, which I consider terrific, witty EC lit.

Mr. C, the room's original and beloved teacher, returns April 1. It's going to be kind of sad for me, but the kids will be happy to see him. Also, we are going to the zoo that day. Craziness.

You know, I am extremely lucky to have such a wonderful job. It's much less conducive to blogging than a job with a lot to complain about, though.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Don't ever tell anyone anything

Today is the last day of spring break. Yes, we get an extra day; it's Good Monday or something. Still, after ten whole days of spaghetti-O's and daytime TV, it's off to work tomorrow. Ah, comme c'est triste.

Speaking of haiku, here's an all-too-sad one on current events.

I took a year of Chinese ten years ago, and I've tried to stay at least at the level of a six-year-old in the Slow Learner class since then. I recently started meeting a tutor for an hour a week. When she emailed me about our first meet, she said, 'I'm Chinese with shoulder-length black hair." Not a very illuminating description, since (a) I knew she was Chinese and (b) all Chinese people have black hair. Also, she failed to mention her most distinguishing features: her glasses and wheelchair. Huh.

***

I read a terrific debut young adult novel by Frank Portman (aka Dr. Frank of Mr. T Experience), King Dork. I loved it.

It's sort of a postmodern meta-commentary on Catcher In the Rye, but more than that, and hard to explain. The title high school outcast (Henderson, or the more derogatory Chi-Mo) narrates the events that occur over one school year, when the discovery of his dead father’s books from high school (Catcher among them) open up disturbing questions about just how he died.

Meanwhile, having to deal with the "psychopathic sadists" at his school (students and teachers alike), girls he lusts after, making and breaking codes, learning French, having an expansive vocabulary, and the perils of forming a rock band all complicate his life --- the more so because every new thing in his life seems to connect to the past in some way. It all hinges on that old copy of Catcher in the Rye of his father’s, despite how Henderson views with contempt the Baby Boomer generation and their "cult of Holden."

The various threads of the plot are so convoluted and revealing (there’s a lot of foreshadowing and clues and delicious ambiguity) that I can’t do it justice with a summary. Portman has simply crafted an amazing joyride of a "young-adult" novel; it’s hilarious and poignant at the right moments, and ends up somehow being not only a commentary on music, literature, teaching, adolescence, sex, and family, but very much a Catcher for the 21st century.

Though this is touted as a YA novel, it hit home with so-not-young me for a lot of obvious reasons (I was an outcast in school, I deliberately cultivate an expansive vocabulary, I was part of the Catcher cult between 15-20 years of age, I studied French, etc). It’s really an amazingly well-crafted novel for anyone of any age who distrusted or distrusts "normal" people.

The only thing that didn’t feel right to me was Henderson’s take on music: he listens only to punk, glam rock and bubblegum. While I’m sure there are a few teenagers today who profess to enjoy only music from the ‘60s and ‘70s, the music is presented only in album form: there’s no talk of mp3s or CDRs or even mixtapes. Clearly, this is Dr. Frank, born 1966, talking about the music he loves, and not Henderson, who is 15 in 2001. That’s a nitpick, though. Seriously, if I had read this book in high school, it may have Changed My Life. Just like Catcher did.

I'm such a dork, in fact, that I wrote a brief note to Frank about how much I liked it. He wrote back and said it was good to hear from someone who "gets it."

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Winter in springtime

Spring Break's almost done
I read some books, saw some films
And shot three squirrels

It's Easter Sunday
Let us celebrate new life
Here's an Easter post.

The message should be clear, anyway

I saw Spinal Tap
On the big screen with Epalg
Six stars out of five

Friday, March 21, 2008

In the age of chimpanzees I was a monkey

Dinner with Friar
And his (pregnant again) wife
Life has passed me by

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Boy looks for something to destroy

So much depends on
A simple quick text message
On a small gray phone

William Carlos
Williams was not all that
Great of a poet

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Like my head against a board

This bar smells like smoke
It's crammed with youthful morons
Why do I come here?

Hot chick wants to play
Photo match game on our dime
We win big; she leaves

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Waiting for my real life to begin

While thunderstorms rage
With junk food in my belly
I watch DVDs

Those haiku in French
What could be more pretentious?
鄙人不知道.

Monday, March 17, 2008

I'm a sorry entertainer

Ne pas travailler
Toujours au lit à neuf heures
Peut-êtr' faire une course

Je n'ai pas d'envie
De passer ma vie comme ça
C'est facile mais seul

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Let me fall out of the window with confetti in my hair

Spring break is this week
I'll waste it dicking around
And haiku updates

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Saturday cartoons: The Bush Memorial



















Where are the mugwumps of 2008?

by John Sheffius

Friday, March 14, 2008

We're all gonna die like hoboes

So President Evil has mentioned that we're heading for economic "rough times." No shit, Sherlock. Gee, I wonder why that is? Could it be the ungodly fucking amount we're spending on the bloody war to secure Iraq's oil supply? Could it be your greedy evil tax cuts for the super-rich and corporations, denying the federal budget a big slice of needed revenue?

I read that foreign merchants are accepting dollars less and less. In India, they want rupees more than they want dollars. American merchants here in America are taking goddamn euros. The dollar is incredibly weak and oil's at a high, and oil companies are raking in record profits.

Look at this goddamn graph of our national debt! President Evil took the budget surplus Clinton accumulated (fixing all the evil that Reagan and Bush the First wreaked in their terms), and he took the global goodwill and the high job creation, and he's given us massive debt, unemployment, and the contempt of the civilized world.

Anything this retard does is a massive fuck-up. His stupid abstinence program has resulted in an increase in teen pregnancy (which fell dramatically during the Clinton years, because Clinton actually funded programs that help prevent it, while President Evil slashed them mercilessly). We have higher pollution rates, a castrated EPA, and unsafe food packed with bear bile from our soon-to-be-overlords the Chinese.

Holy crap, remember when the United States wasn't a third-world country?

Although it was funny when people call Bush "President Chimp" or "President Chump" or the like, I've decided that it's disingenuous and dangerous. it implies a jolly, inept fellow fucking everything up because of some hack-handedness. No. No, he's doing it on purpose: he has an agenda, and it's to destroy America so a few very rich people can get richer. He's evil, pure and simple.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

That's okay, my will is good

I was at the store the other day when I saw one of those "inspiring" magnets on which was inscribed a quote attributed to Henry Ford: "Whether you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing --- you're right."

I don't mean to be excessively crude here, but that's a big pile of horsecock. Hitler (one of Ford's heroes) and his zealous followers, some of whom were extremely brilliant military tacticians, believed fervently that they would win WWII. I'm sure many of the frozen corpses littering the crags of Mt. Everest belonged to people who were convinced beyond a doubt that they would conquer the mountain. On a more quotidian level, in every major sporting event both teams typically believe that they have what it takes to win. Fully half the time, these trained and insanely dedicated people are wrong. Even fewer believers make it to Olympic gold.

I'm not saying that a strong will and dedication can't do wonders. History abounds with people born without arms or legs who played the piano, wrote calligraphy, or became proficient marksmen. In his fascinating book An Anthropologist On Mars, Oliver Sacks tells of a man with Tourette's, who overcame his spasms and became a surgeon and a pilot. Or hey, look at Muggsy Bogues --- I bet lots of people told him he'd never play in the NBA.

But seriously: Ford's cutesy precept is not only wrong, it's dangerous. People do fail, even people who try very hard and believe strongly in themselves. If we are to take Ford's sophistic bromide as a truth, failure only comes because the person who failed didn't believe or try or dare hard enough. And that means that when you don't achieve what you dream of, it's your fault.

What kind of "inspiration" is that? The horsecock kind.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Outsourcing

At the faculty meeting after school today (sandwiches and cake!) the Head talked about various speakers the school was considering to hire to come speak to us next year.

One choice was a philosopher whose books are about the way thinking is changing this century and the ways education should adapt as a result. He talks about how the new wave of thinking is going to value the accumulation of facts much less than, say, the interpretation of ideas. For example, the research and indexing work that professors' assistants usually do can be done in India by educated clerks for a tenth the cost of an American assistant on campus.

To come talk to the school, he would charge close to $30,000.

Wait a minute. Can't we get someone from India to read his book at us for a tenth that price?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Treadmill

This is the Kindergarten teaching experience in its essence:

A few days ago I introduced the penny and the concept of "one cent." Today it was the nickel. I gave all the kids a fake nickel, and we talked about how it was worth five cents, or five pennies. We put all 19 nickels in a long row on a low table, and then I had the kids set a stack of five fake pennies next to each nickel. We counted the nickels by five, and saw the whole collection was worth 95 cents (19 x 5). Then we counted the penny stacks in the same manner, by fives, to get 95 cents. Finally, I pushed all the nickels into a pile, and the stacks of pennies together into one big pile next to it. I concluded, "So this money is worth 95 cents, and all these pennies are also 95 cents, because there are 95 of them, and they're one cent each."

And one boy said, "But wait. How can they be worth the same if one pile is bigger?"

After choking back a sob, I decided we should go out to recess.

***

Outside, that same boy got knocked in the ear by another kids' elbow, and he cried out, "Ow! You intimidated my structural pump!"

Really.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Living in the flaws of an imperfect world

I watched the movie of Tosca, the Puccini opera, over the weekend. I'm a comic-reading, rock- and punk-listening, poetry-reading, opera buff. No I'm not. I've actually never seen an opera, and I doubt I've ever heard one in its entirety before now. So here I am the ripe old age of 37, watching an opera on DVD. It was pretty good, actually. Maybe this will be a new trend for me. But for now, I'll cue up Rancid's Indestructible.

***

I eat a healthy lunch, man. I drink nothing but water. I have a yogurt every day. I eat a little meat or beans or cheese. I eat a wide variety of fruit colors: kiwi, blackberry, grapes, raspberry, mango, orange. I eat colorful vegetables: snap peas, fresh cucumber, baby carrots, grape tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, bell peppers. I ought to eat some cauliflower and broccoli, too, but they just don't taste good at all.

Of course, I have also been known to eat a lot of ice cream and chocolate. But hey, you have to live a little.

***

I stopped buying razor heads for my Mach3. They're very expensive and they clutter up the environment with all that plastic. I bought an old-fashioned safety razor (the kind that you fit genuine stainless steel razor blades into by hand) and a real badger-hair brush. This is less wasteful and much, much cheaper. It is also the way Real Manly Men shave, the way our tough as nails great-grandfathers shaved. They didn't have air conditioning and they didn't watch TV and they shaved with real razors, because they were Real Men. So I'm doing that too.

I'm fairly certain, however, that these Real Men did not slice the living fuck out of their necks and faces the way I do. My skin looks like the damn Somme in 1916, all torn up and running with blood. I am inept at things that require a sure and manly hand.

It is a closer shave, though. And where I haven't cut myself to bits, my skin isn't nearly as red and bumpy as it was with the old disposable cartridges.

***

Why am I not blogging about work? It's just not saying anything to me lately. I turned in my contract for next year today.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Bodhisattva

I took my reliable RAV-4 into a shop to get its oil changed (I went synthetic this time around; more expensive, but apparently better for the environment, and lasts longer). I was there two hours and 45 minutes, which is lame, but the place is cheap and I trust them.

I ended up spending over $100 because I also needed new wipers and an air filter. Last week, I was int he same place and spent over $100 for a new tire after driving over a nail. With that, paying for my father's ticket to Europe, and paying a $500 hospital bill from before my insurance kicked in, I'm not as flush as I'd like to be. Also --- did I mention this already? --- Prestigius is prorating my salary, and spreading it out over eight months, so I'm getting less per check than I thought I'd be. Next year my salary will be as advertised, but now it's no more than I was getting at the old pre-K. Of course, we might be in a Great Depression by next September, so I'm abjectly grateful for everything I can get.

At the auto place's rather cramped waiting area, there was this businesswoman who sat at the row of chairs with one leg stretched out to cover the chair next to her, talking loudly on a cell phone. Instantly, I took a dislike to her; I'm always turned off by women who think that committing acts of rudeness is how men can be "assertive." If a guy put his foot on a vacant chair in a crowded room like that, it would be considered aggressive and ill-bred, not confident and admirably alpha.

As she droned on and on (and I sat next to the sole of her shoe, trying to read), I smirked and rolled my eyes at her stories of clients and billable hours. I thought to myself that here was a stereotypical empty-headed business drone, dropping buzzwords and acting as though the whole world were her office.

When her interminable conversation turned toward politics, she said that she was interested in having a woman president because it would be "inspiring for the girls." Because that's a good reason to support a contender for one of the most powerful positions int he world; little Ashlee and Morgan might be impressed and see once and for all that girls can do anything boys can.

But after a while, I snapped out of that judgmental attitude. I don't know what it was exactly --- her normal, unsculpted body, her less than Versace clothes, or the fact that she ended her 45-minute conversation with "bye, Mom" --- but I stopped giving a shit what her problem was. I even felt a little bit sorry for her, to tell you the truth, although both the soulless drone and the pitiful wannabe were equally likely unreal eidolons of my own construction.

Anyway, I thought to myself, "There's someone who's trying to live, that's all. Somebody with ideals and expectations and hopes and a self-image they're trying to live up to."

And I stopped caring that her foot was there.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Little Sententious Women

I re-read Louisa May Alcott's classic Little Women. The last time I read this was probably 26 or so years ago, way too early for me to understand what I read. And way too long ago for me to remember it much at all, either. So, being on a children’s literature kick in general lately anyhow, I thought I ought to revisit this two-part, 450-page “girls’ book.”

The plot's episodic and linear. The four March sisters --- tomboyish Jo, beautiful Meg, socialite Amy, and sickly Beth --- grow up to embrace their less exalted positions in the world and find happiness in the simple joys of family and home.

I wasn't as thrilled with this book as I have been with some other classics. I can’t deny the lasting appeal of Alcott’s characters, especially the literate and introspective Jo (based on the author herself); and I enjoyed the depiction of the sisters growing up along side their boy neighbor. But I had forgotten --- or possibly never realized, due to my age at the time --- how didactic, priggish, and tedious this book is, its primary purpose apparently being to moralize to young girls.

The book’s a product of its time, of course, and I have no problem with moral lessons in literature as a general rule. But I do object to being moralized at directly by the narrator and to being told rather than shown the conclusions I as a reader must draw. Of course, I’m a 37-year-old man in 2008, and the book was written for young girls in 1870. Still, so was Alice in Wonderland, and that’s timeless. This book, not so much.

Also: some of the most nauseating fake children’s speech ever ("Opy doy, me’s tummin!" is written for "Open the door, I'm coming" --- did children ever talk like that? They don't now).

Friday, March 07, 2008

What people like pt. II

This is the second part of the meme adapted by Samurai Frog. Now with more vehement opinions! As with yesterday, I bolded the things that get an unqualified endorsement from me.

#42 Sushi. Yes. I love sushi. In Portland, my friend Deep Blue and I used to routinely spend $100 at the better sushi restaurants. I've also had truly terrific sushi in New York. Here, the pre-packed sushi at Whole Foods is like the McDonald's hamburger of the sushi experience, but I still willingly shell out $10-$15 a box for it. Hey, I can afford it. Also: delicious.

#43 Plays. I've been to a few, but I'm not going to gush over the genre or anything. There are great masterpieces of drama, and there are tedious plays that put the "bored" in "tread the boards." It's such a broad category. This like saying "Do you enjoy books? What about entertainment? Do you like that?"

#44 Public Radio. I haven't listened to radio of any kind in many years. If someone's playing something interesting, like "This American Life" or the Click and Clack show or a funny quiz show they have on there, I'd be into it, but I don't actively seek it out.

#45 Asian Fusion Food. I don't know what this is. Is it fused with Western cuisine? Why?

#46 The Sunday New York Times. I don't care. Waste of trees, if you ask me.

#47 Arts Degrees. I have a bachelor's of arts and a master's of arts, but it's not like I think people with arts degrees are more interesting than people with science degrees or no degrees. I do value a good liberal arts education, but I'm not so naive as to think that you're not educated if you don't have that piece of paper. I knew a man who had to quit high school because he impregnated his girl friend; he got a job with a gas company, built his own house, and read Shakespeare for pleasure. People can surprise you, man.

#48 Whole Foods and Grocery Co-ops. Yes, I only shop at Whole Foods. I like my food unadulterated with pesticides and human growth hormone and Chinese bear bile.

#49 Vintage. What does this mean? That I value old stuff? If it's quality, sure. if not, no.

#50 Irony. I value the art of wit and arch commentary, sure. "The Simpsons" in its heyday was the king of ironic humor. But vulgar puns are pretty sweet, too.

#51 Living by the Water. That would be nice. If I could afford a house anywhere, I wouldn't mind. One reason Paris is so incredible is the river flowing though it. Portland as well. New York, come to think of it. But it's not the final selling point for me when it comes to location. I can think of a lot of other options that I'd like just as much or more.

#52 Sarah Silverman. I do not find her attractive or amusing. I don't think making a vulgar joke and then smiley cutely is a legitimate basis for a career. And she clearly thinks she's incredibly hot. Not interested.

#53 Dogs. Come on, everyone loves dogs. That's so racist. Maybe traditionally, keeping animals as pets rather than strictly for food or for another utilitarian purpose was more of an Anglo-European experience. But this is the 21st century. I doubt that black people or Asians are adverse to dogs at any higher rate than white people.

#54 Kitchen Gadgets. I'm a very Spartan man when it comes to the kitchen. Give me two sizes of pans, two sizes of pots, a couple sharp knives, a colander, a blender, and a can opener, and I'm done. And my blender's got two settings: on and off. No need for kitchen tech.

#55 Apologies. On a personal level, I'm not interested in making apologies for anything I haven't actually done, or hearing apologies from people unless they've directly offended me. That said, however, I do think that as a symbolic gesture, apologizing for slavery and for the genocide of the Indians are both good ideas. So I guess I'm a wishy-washy white guy on this one.

#56 Lawyers. Let's see. Best friend, lawyer. Brother, lawyer. Other old friend from high school, lawyer. His wife, lawyer. Another good friend from high school, law professor. Also, at one point in my slacker youth, I took the LSAT, vaguely considering going to law school. Does this make me a lover of lawyers? I don't think so. I like my friends for what they are, not for their jobs. Indeed, I have to force myself not to opine to the Friar about his job (criminal defender), because I think it's evil. A necessary evil, perhaps, but evil nonetheless.

#57 Juno. Haven't seen it, but I hear it's good.

#58 Japan. I don't have any more interest in Japan than in other countries. I think white people who go nuts over anime and the Japanese language at the expense of other cultures and languages have some kind of unhealthy More-Orient-Than-Thou fetish. But hey, everyone's gotta have a hobby. You go, gaijin! I'm just not interested myself.

#59 Natural Medicine. No thanks. I prefer science. Good solid Western science saved my life when I was born. No herb or pressure point can take the place of surgery.

#60 Toyota Prius. I don't drive one, and I don't have faith in any one particular make or model of car, but I'm vehemently for better gas mileage and energy efficiency. I'd be in favor of legislation forcing auto makers to improve gas mileage, but this car in particular is not something I care about.

#61 Bicycles. This isn't me; I can just barely ride a bicycle. I do think a culture that bikes (or walks) rather than drives as a default transportation is a healthier one. Hell, in this town, I'd settle for public transportation (there isn't any to speak of).

#62 Knowing What’s Best for Poor People. I know what's best for poor people, but only because I know what's best for everyone. Do what I say, dammit! In all seriousness, I've been guilty of this before, but only because my ex came from an extremely impoverished family. I saw firsthand the stupid decisions they made, thinking they'd save money. Not being very well educated, they were rather short-sighted when it came to financial planning. I didn't stick my nose in, mind you, I just stood aside and shook my head at it all.

#63 Expensive Sandwiches. I guess I'll bold this one, because I would prefer a nice sandwich like with foccacia and ciabatta, and avocado, and prosciutto and so forth. Well, hit my head and call me a yuppie, I guess. Sandwich chain shops like Subway turn me off. All those condiments just sitting there in vats while teenage minimum-wage servers breathe on them --- no thanks.

#64 Recycling. Yes, this is unquestionably a good idea. Yes, it uses resources and energy. Yes, it's an industrial process. So the fuck what? Use it now, and over time the tech will streamline the process. Just because something is flawed, we should utterly ignore it? What kind of attitude is that? That said, much better than recycling is reusing. This country wastes tremendous resources with its plastic forks and disposable shit. I'm the only person I know who rinses out plastic sandwich bags. It's not ruined just because it had some Cheetos in it, people. Rinse it out, let it dry, and use it again for something else. Especially if you're poor, this is a good idea. As a culture, we need to turn away from this cult of consumerism and disposal, and embrace the culture of the pioneers, who reused and reforged and repaired anywhere they could.

#65 Co-Ed Sports. I don't care about sports.

#66 Divorce. I'm against it.

#67 Standing Still at Concerts. Ha ha! White folks, dey dance like dis! [short, jerky movements above the waist] And black folks, dey dance like dis! [smooth undulation from knees to hips]

#68 Michel Gondry. I don't know who this is.

#69 Mos Def. He's okay, but I'm not much into rap, because I'm white.

#70 Difficult Breakups. What, do black people not have feelings? "See you later, bitch!" what kind of racist shit is this?

#71 Being the only white person around. No, I'm usually around other white people. See #14 in yesterday's entry.

#72 Study Abroad. Yeah, I wish I had done this. It's a great way to understand other cultures and languages when you're still young enough to change your mind. If I were obscenely wealthy, I'd start up a fund so poor students could study in other countries.

#73 Gentrification. I'm not exactly sure what this means.

#74 Oscar Parties. I don't care about the Oscars, I don't care about parties. So do the math.

#75 Threatening to Move to Canada. Nah, I'm a patriot. being a liberal, I understand that you can love your country and still be unhappy with aspects of it. Just like one can love one's family but still be exasperated at their flaws. To paraphrase Al Franken (though I'd formulated this idea on my own long before I'd read him) conservatives tend to love their country like a three year old loves his mommy. Everything she does is perfect, and anyone who criticizes mommy is bad. (But, later, if mommy does something they don't like, suddenly mommy is totally bad herself. Never did I hear the phrase "ashamed to be an American" more than in the mouths of conservatives after the last Democratic victory in the House.)

#76 Bottles of Water. No, this is wasteful and short-sighted. If you don't trust your tap water (and why the hell should you?), buy a filter for your tap and a couple of reusable sturdy camping-style bottles. It's much cheaper in the long run and you aren't littering America with your petroleum-derived crap. See #64.

#77 Musical Comedy. I don't think so.

#78 Multilingual Children. Yes, good idea. How about multilingual adults, too?

#79 Modern Furniture. I'll quote Samurai Frog's answer in toto. "I like what's comfortable. I don't care what a couch looks like as long as I can comfortably nap on it."

#80 The Idea of Soccer. I'm not interested in sports. I keep telling you that!

#81 Graduate School. If you want to go, fine. See #47 for notes on formal education.

#82 Hating Corporations. I don't hate corporations in and of themselves, but that's not what this question is really getting at anyway. What it really means, and what I hate, is the power corporations are given. I hate, in short, the governmental-industrial complex. I hate that corporations are given more power than the consumer. I hate that government limits the amount of reimbursement an individual can get from a corporation that screws him over. I hate laws that allow corporations to say no health care, to hire people for 39 hours a week so they won't have to give them benefits, to pollute with no serious repercussions. I hate American corporations than are allowed to pull up and go overseas and pay third-worlders slave wages and lay off thousands of Americans and then turn around and sell their overpriced crap back to Americans. Fuck you and everything you stand for, governmental-industrial complex.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

What people like

Despite ostensibly having a lot to talk about in Real Life --- the still fairly new job, the new room, the kids, etc. --- I find my blogging impulse a bit dulled lately.

So here's a stupid-ass meme that Samurai Frog did (originally here). It's supposed to be a list of things white people like, I think.

#01 Coffee. Hate coffee, always have, never drank it. It's too bitter for me.

#02 Religions their [white peoples'] parents don't belong to. I don't care who belongs to what religion. If it's a theocratic, vehemently anti-intellectual religion like Islam or Southern Baptism, I want no part of it. If its purpose is genuinely the betterment of the soul, as with some sects of Judaism, Methodism, and Buddhism, that's cool.

#03 Film Festivals. I have no strong feeling here. I've been to at least one. They're pretty cool, but unless the film is otherwise unavailable, I prefer just sitting at home with a DVD, really. I feel no need to talk with other film geeks about the film experience.

#04 Assists. If Frog hadn't mentioned sports in his answer, I wouldn't have had a clue what this meant. As it is, I still don't, except that it's something to do with sports.

#05 Farmer's Markets. Yeah, these are great. The Portland one is the best I've been to, but Manhattan has a nice one, too. There's one in this benighted sprawl of suburbia, but I don't go much. Whole Foods serves my needs. So I won't say I'm a huge fan.

#06 Organic Food. Oh yeah, this is essential. As if large food distributors give a shit about the consumer's health. I like my food untreated with preservatives and carcinogens, thanks.

#07 Diversity. Yeah, this is a good idea. But America's got a lot of class equality to achieve before any kind of real diversity can take hold.

#08 Barack Obama. Yes. I just talked about him here.

#09 Making you feel bad about not going outside. No, I won't do that. If anything, other people are going to tell me to go outside.

#10 Wes Anderson Movies. They're okay. You can be assured of a pleasantly quirky film when you see a Wes Anderson vehicle. I'm not a rabid fan or anything.

#11 Asian Girls. Don't care one way or another. I have no fetish for any kind of ethnicity. I find that rather creepy. I prefer thinking about character and intelligence than country of provenance.

#12 Non-Profit Organizations. Some are good, some are bad. Depends on who's running it and what its aims are and how effective its projects are.

#13 Tea. I like tea, but don't drink nearly as much of it as my English father does. It's just not a habit that became deep rooted. Too bad, because everything you read says how good it is for you.

#14 Having Black Friends. I don't have any. In fact, I don't think I've ever had any. Acquaintances, co-workers, sure. Not friends like "come on over and watch a movie" friends. This country has some serious race and class issues, but then, I'm probably to blame a bit too. I'm not exactly the hand-reaching-out-type. It should be noted, however, that I only have about five friends total anyway, three of whom I've known 20 years. I'm not a social butterfly.

#15 Yoga. I ought to do it, because it's supremely healthy, and it really does help calm the inner turmoil. But I don't. Bad associations with exes are partly the reason.

#16 Gifted Children. I'm always impressed by gifted children, sure, but I'd rather hear the normal kind chatter on about their crazy ideas. Kids are so weird, man.

#17 Hating their Parents. I've always loved my father, despite his stupid addictions that have wrecked his life. My mother, I have some issues with. She's batshit crazy, and I just can't seem to get past the fact that she didn't know how to be a mother when my brother and I were younger. I pity her, because her life isn't very pleasant, and I want to be serene as a monk in the face of her idiosyncrasies and tirades, but it never works out that way.

#18 Awareness. What the hell does this mean? Awareness of global warming? Politics? Your tongue? Your navel?

#19 Traveling. I like being traveled. I like being in France and England. I like that I went to India. But I don't feel a burning desire to do the traveling.

#20 Being an expert on YOUR [white; this should be "their"] culture. No, I'm not an expert on white people, or English people. I probably know as much about Chinese history as I do British history.

#21 Writers Workshops. No, don't care.

#22 Having Two Last Names. No, don't care.

#23 Microbreweries. No, I don't drink beer. It's too bitter.

#24 Wine. No, I can take or leave wine. I prefer white. I like it when someone introduces me to a wine that I do like, but I never bother to remember it so I can have it again. I drink cider and vodka.

#25 David Sedaris. I do like him. He's funny as hell. I've read one of his books. he's a good monologist, too.

#26 Manhattan (now Brooklyn too!). Yes. It's a fantastic place, perhaps one of the three best cities in the world.

#27 Marathons. Do not care at all.

#28 Not having a TV. This is me. I don't have one. I find 99% of television pandering, idiotic, and insidious. The good shows I watch as God intended --- on DVD, at my own pace, without commercials, which are Satan's farts.

#29 '80s Night. I do not give a crap about the '80s or any other decade in and of itself. Actually, come to think of it, I find the '80s to be the most offensive of all the decades I'm familiar with.

#30 Wrigley Field. Don't care.

#31 Snowboarding. This is a retarded sport for retarded people. Or, I'm jealous of their extreme athleticism. Perhaps a little of both.

#32 Vegan/Vegetarianism. It's a good idea, for both the health of the individual and the health of the planet, but it'll never catch on.

#33 Marijuana. It never did anything for me. I don't care. If you want to light up, go for it, man. I'm high on life. And the weird imbalance of chemicals in my brain.

#34 Architecture. I don't care about what the building looks like 90% of the time. But a master architect, of course, can create wonders as well as a master painter can.

#35 The Daily Show/Colbert Report. I like them both. Both of them are living meta-commentary on America's idiot media machine.

#36 Breakfast places. I loved the old Hot Cake House, and Fat Albert's, both in Portland. Here, there's not much aside from chains, and I don't want that crap. I can make my own eggs, and better than they can.

#37 Renovations. I don't care at all about whatever this means.

#38 Arrested Development. Yes. A very funny show.

#38.5 Really really really long stupid-ass memes that take over an hour to fill out. No, I hate these.

#39 Netflix. Yes, I've mentioned several times on this blog how much I love Netflix. If I were a dog and Netflix were a leg, there'd be a lot of humpin' going on.

#40 Apple Products. No, I'm a PC guy. I do not care at all about iPods or iPhones or any of that high-tech yuppie shit that they try to make Americans think they can't live without.

#41 Indie Music. I don't know what an "indie music" is.

Tired now. I will save the other stupid-ass things for another time.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

That's showing him

During recess, the second graders were outside at the same time as my K kids. They're meant to stay on their side of the playground when the younger kids are out, but there's a small hill where the two fields overlap.

When we came out we were greeted by the sight of R, the older brother of one of my K girls, standing on the hill and shouting, "Oh yeah! Second graders in the house!"

Eventually, there was a confrontation, as these two siblings are always putting their hands on each other (with pushing or hitting at about a 3:1 ratio to hugging).

Another teacher intervened and sent R off. The girl in my class came running up to me and I asked her what happened.

"R was pushing me and knocking me down," she said breathlessly, "and then he fell down and he was rolling on the hill, and I was kicking him in the wiener."

I... see.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The democratic process is slow moving and smells like sweat

I voted after work today. I voted for Obama, because I find him to be a better speaker, more assured, and more presidential in general. I don't put any credence in charges that he lacks experience. He's been active above and beyond the norm in the Senate.

On the other side, I find the distaff Clinton to be harsh and protean, with a shameless streak when it comes to campaigning (the crying, the digs at Obama). None of that would be a deal-breaker for me, though. What puts me firmly in the Obama camp is Mrs. Clinton's idiot parroting of our Chump President's lies about nucular weapons in Iraq and the demonization of Saddam at the expense of truth and safety. Also, her part in trying to pass a flag-burning ban.

Later, I went to the caucus. It was a raucous caucus. It was badly-organized, crowded, and chaotic. Texas hasn't needed a caucus in many years, so it's a big deal. Where I voted, there were a lot of black voters, so Obama's chances looked good. But I hear that Texas' Hispanic population largely votes Clinton. So it could go either way.

I'd be more excited about the American process, and it really would be a beautiful thing, if I had more faith in the system. If the actual physical act of voting had been managed better on the ground. If I were assured that the votes counted, and that there was no hijacking of the system on the state or national level.

O what a beautiful dream.

***

And as long as we're on politics here's something funny because it's so tragic.

Monday, March 03, 2008

I like napping after work

Well, it's week two of my generalship of Room K.

We're supposed to be starting a dinosaur theme, but frankly, I don't see how much sauropod info I can work into the day, what with all the handwriting, DEAR time, journals, literacy projects, and math requirements the kids are expected to get. Plus there's the specials and the reading specialist who pulls the kids and the after-lunch play period. Oh, and preparing the take-home folders takes time too.

We had a birthday kid today, and I gave him a paper crown to stamp and color, but I honestly couldn't find time for the other kids to make cards for him. Or for show and tell.

I guess I just need to slowly figure out time management for these kids and this schedule.

So much for my earlier "there sure is a lot of down time at this job!" blustering.

One of the kids was at his worst today, actively defying me, which he'd never done before. I had to pick him up and put him off to one side until he calmed down. I talked with his mother, and she approved my actions. His parents know he's a handful and want me to make him toe the line. It was a very minor incident, really.

So tired.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Load Huit

From there to here.

Hypotheticals:
If you had to spend the rest of your life in one place, where would it be?
I'm gonna go with Portland, Oregon. As much as I love Paris, I wouldn't want to leave America for the rest of my life. Despite the fascism, cronyism, hypocrisy and mob mentality, it's my home. Portland's got geologic variety and intelligent, quirky people.

Anything Goes: At what age did you have your first boyfriend/girlfriend?
Besides childhood friends of the opposite sex, I guess eighteen. I was a late bloomer.

No-Brainers: What do you consider the biggest turnoff?
Fascism, cronyism, hypocrisy, and mob mentality. You know, Republicans.

Personals: What do you bring most to a friendship?
Loyalty and the ability to make people laugh.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

He'd seen love get so expensive but he'd never seen love so dear

New month, new blog banner, new... something.

Looking back over last week, I was clearly and unaccountably depressed. No one thing made me so bleak, I just had a general malaise. Churlita and Michael both zeroed in on the no-hugging talk which bothered me, but that was more a symptom than a cause. It's just genetic. My father is extremely polar and depressive.

I've never liked endings. All my life I've been that way. Whenever I have fun for an extended time I feel great, but when it ends, I feel like the loneliest, saddest creature on earth. That's why I don't care too much for short-term relationships and flirtations. Hell, it's probably why I got married when I shouldn't have.

Anyway, despite Michael enjoying the entertainment value of my negativity, it may be time to chart new attitudes and altitudes. This blog can only take so much depression, self-pity and cringingly emo poetry before it will implode into a black hole of angst.

So for March, I'm going to try --- try, mind you --- to look on the bright side. It will be Merry March Month. Boy, I love alliteration. Hallelujah, I love alluring alliteration.

Heh.

***

So, Friday night I went to dinner with 74 and Zaftig and Friar and Palfrey and their respective kids. That was nice.

This morning, I met two very old friends of the family who were in town for one day and staying at Aunt's house. We had delicious sandwiches and talked about law, crime, schools, kids, and bad parents. (Mister Old Friend is a criminal defense attorney, Mrs is a teacher, Aunt's a guidance counselor in a high school, and I'm a teacher. That's the way the talk flowed.) There were also some great old stories about back when they and Aunt and my grandparents and my father and mother all lived in Paris, before I or my brother were born. They had a bohemian kind of open house lifestyle, and the booze flowed freely. A different era, and Paris was a different kind of city than it is now.

The moral of one of the stories: do not buy an ocelot for a house pet. The moral of another of the stories: if you have too much to drink in a Paris cafe and destroy a decorative glass display with your inebriated reeling, the waiters will run after you for a very long time. It is helpful if the largest person in your party picks up the smallest and runs while carrying him.

***

I never thought I'd find a Ben and Jerry's ice cream flavor I enjoy more than Chubby Hubby, but Stephen Colbert's Americone Dream is even better. Diabetically delicious!

***

So, tonight was the big Prestigious (Prestigius? I enjoyed Michaels faux-Latin spelling) auction. The theme was Country and Western, so I wore jeans, work boots and a checkered shirt. Sounds rather grunge, actually, but it was the closest thing to Western apparel in my wardrobe. (What is it about checkered shirts that implies the attire of a ranch hand? I don't know, but it seems to be the archetype in the suburban mind.)

T-Bone and his wife were there, of course, and having them there, being very nice to me, took a bit of the edge off. As T-Bone remarked, wandering around in a crowd of strangers making pleasantries is not exactly my favorite thing.

As expected, some items in the auction went for truly obscene amounts. Almost everything went well over the posted value (a $7,000 trip for ten to New Mexico, for example, went for over $25,000). The open bar spurred on the impulsiveness and there was at least a little bit of "pull out your checkbook and let's see which one is bigger" competitive spirit going on.

The crown jewel of the auction prizes was the School Sleepover. Fifteen kids are granted the privilege of spending one night, all night, at Prestigius. The administration supervises them, and there are fun activities (like pizza, maybe a hired entertainer) and keepsakes. The posted value for this slumber party was $1,200.

It sold for over $30,000.

Now, that's not very much per parent if there's a consortium of parents pooling together --- only two grand per kid --- but still. These people live in a more rarefied tax bracket than you and I. Hell, they live in a more rarefied country than you and I.

***

After the auction, I took a cab to Hangout, where I drank and talked with a whole lot of familiar acquaintances --- defense lawyers, DAs, and bail bondsmen I know through Friar, and various local rock personalities I also know through Friar.

If I didn't know Friar, I wouldn't know a lot of people. As it is, I'm lucky that I get to go to most local shows free, and have a crack legal team on my side if I ever commit a crime.