Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Mock the midnight bell

At work we once again took the kids trick or treating up the street. I did not rain, unlike last year (what a debacle that was). We stopped in at all the shops, and the employees oohed and ahhed over the kids in their costumes and gave them candy, and I took pictures. It does touch my heart to see how enthusiastic and happy kids are at Halloween; it reminds me that innocence and joy do have a place in this world somewhere.

After work and a brief nap, I drove up to State School. As I was waiting in the Halloween night traffic I got rear-ended on the way by some daffy old lady driving an expensive car. It was a fairly gentle bump, so I just took down her phone number and drove on. No need to report the idiot. She told me she was talking on her cell phone. What a world we live in. Looking back, I think she may have been a trifle tipsy.

I got all the way up to State School only to find a sign on the door saying that class was cancelled. Lame. There was no email notification sent, but then I hadn't checked my email anyway. Back in February when this happened, they very courteously called me at home to tell me; someone may have done that this time as well, but I haven't had my land line plugged in for months, so I wouldn't know. I only have a land line for DSL; I neither take nor make calls on it.

So I drove down to the Hangout, stopping briefly at work to pick up my camera, which I accidentally had left there. It's nice to have a key. I met Friar at the old watering hole, and we played a little video golf and ate bad fried food and drank. A Beatles cover band played. I'm not even a big fan of the real Beatles; the cover band was just kind of blah. Mr. Hangout wasn't too pleased with them, either. After a while, Friar and I went out to get something real to eat. We tried two places, including Cheesefries, but they were both closed. So we did something we haven't done in years and years. We went to --- gag --- Denny's. That got us reminiscing about our high school days, when our whole group would stay at Denny's nearly all night, acting like fools , drinking coffee and making a big mess ("I bet you can't hit the ceiling fan with this creamer by catapulting it off the handle of this spoon"). Good times, literally two decades back now. I'm so old and useless.

October is traditionally my most depressed month. A lot of seriously bad shit in my life has happened in October. It may be related to the cold weather and dark days, too, I don't know.

I may be starting the Prozac again. I've actually thought seriously about contacting a suicide prevention center. I'm not thinking seriously of offing myself, though, at least not for the time being. I've been trying to use my much-vaunted cranium and applying the problem of my depression to rational thought. It seems to me that if your life isn't making you happy, instead of ending it, the sensible thing to try first is to change it. So that's what I'm going to do.

And with that, this blog goes dark, at least for a month and perhaps longer. Detailing my spiral of failures and recriminations has not been helping me --- not that I ever thought it would, not that such was the "intent" of this blog, not that this blog ever had anything as concrete as an "intent." But the fact remains that this kind of electronic lexical catharsis has only depressed me; reading the archives is for me like watching a badly written and badly acted Shakespeare tragedy adaptation going in (painfully) slow motion.

So a break for November, then. And, inshallah, if I feel fine about it then, maybe longer. But I guess I probably will start up again next year, if only to document my tortuous path to public school certification. which reminds me, cutting out now means that I won't be able to record how the last of this semester went! Well, it's not like it's the outcome is exactly Hitchcockian in suspense. Let's just assume I'll get a trio of aces.

So anyhow, to my three faithful readers, Samurai Frog, NYC Educator, and Janet, thank you for your comments and links. I don't comment on your own terrific blogs as often as I'd like, but I do read and appreciate every post. See you in this space sometime later.

Locked in a room
Waiting til kingdom come
Although I felt elated
I felt like I was scum
I was carried away
Caught up in an affray

Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,
Strong and content I travel the open road.

O death in life, the days that are no more.

The gale, it piles the saplings double,
And thick on Severn snow the leaves.

Shantih shantih shantih

Monday, October 30, 2006

Vocabulaire: se noircir

se noircir - to get drunk
Il ne faut jamais se noircir chez un espion russe.

Ah, la politica

An Italian opposition MP and former showgirl has expressed outrage after meeting a transgender colleague in the parliament's ladies' toilets.

Now, why can't we have political representation as diverse as this here in America, the original melting pot? Politics would be much more interesting.

I guess for the same reason that in America, the same nudity and language that is presented with nary a raised eyebrow all over Europe is routinely censored. This once-great land, the supposed cradle of free speech, is ruled by terrified old tight-asses who make it their life's work to make sure other people can't see, say, hear, smoke, drink, or feel the same things normal adults all over the civilized world do.

Just one tiny inconsequential example, but for what it's worth, this is the item that set that little rant off.

I hate everyone.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

i am one good dog

hello people i am killer, the dog of my daddy. right now he is stroking his gun and singing 'suicide is painless' to it. he doesnt feel like making a blog right now so he let me do an entry ok. yes ok.

i am one fierce dog. i have killed squirrels grrrrrrrr just the word squirrel grrrrrrr makes me grrrrrrrrrrrr. they chitter and squeak and i have to shake them. shake them shake them shake them shake them. and then they dont chitter or squeak or run any more. ha ha grrrr.

also one time i caught a cat and i shook it too. shake shake shake. but my daddy got upset and yelled and the cat ran away into a tree. my daddy wrote about this before and i would refer to that entry but i dont know how to hyperlink as i am a dog. come to think of it its amazing that i can type so accurately with these paws ha ha grrrr.

and another time after that i saw another cat and i ran but daddy yelled and hit me. i dont know why because i just wanted to shake that cat and maybe bite it just a tiny nip or two and see what color its insides are. i think they might be red. red red red ha ha grrr.

ok where was i?

ok yes well one time after that time after the other time that i first wrote about up there, my daddy and i went on a walk and we met all the other dogs in the neighborhood. there are lots and lots of us and we are a big friendly pack. we are all named killer because we are all so fierce. it is quite a coincidence. it is always 'oh hello killer, how are you?' 'oh i am just fine killer and you?' 'hey killer, i see a squirrel' and then we are all running and shouting and ha ha. and then it is all 'that was a close one killer' 'oh yes, killer, didn't he just run?' 'good job killer.'

anyway it is all fine and dandy running and jumping and smelling tails and boxing with paws and chewing sticks and suddenly one of the killers and i got into a big argument. it was all shouting this and yelling that and snarl grrrrr! and the biting without the teeth so we were all both covered in dog spit and grrrr and ill show you! but no real biting of course because we are not savages!

anyway the people managed to separate us after a while but it was pretty fun while it lasted going grrrr and i showed that killer something all right. she was always kind of a snob anyway. daddy says killers mommy was angry. killers mommy was angry because her dog lost and was scared and ran away with her tail between her legs ha ha grrrr! daddy said he apologized even though he didnt have anything to apologize for but killers mommy was still kinda mad and had her lips pursed and isnt very friendly now and avoids us now. even though daddy says i am a gentle submissive dog who would never start trouble and its really that killer who is a territorial bitch. but he also says even though i never start trouble i sure know how to finish it. i am one tough fierce dog ha ha grrr!

daddy read this and said it amused him and he could go on living one more day now.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Ah, the eremitic life

I had tentative plans to join Waitress T and her boyfriend at a rock show, and K called to see what I was up to, but I thought I'd rather stay in and watch the third season of "The Wire." I think I made the right choice. The third season is the best one, and the show is the smartest on television, no question. Forget "the Shield," "NYPD Blue" in its prime, or "The Sopranos" --- "The Wire" is the grittiest, deepest, most thoughtful, most realistic, most biting crime show, bar none. It's not even about crime so much as the human (or at least urban) condition. It shows how everyone --- cop, crook, politician, family man, wife, drug addict, laborer --- becomes trapped in a specific system and falls prey to that system's rules and pressures. If everything on TV were even half this ambitious and clever, I'd own a TV.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

In no mood for meretricious musings

Head: hurting due to excessive (related to my current fatigue and lack of tolerance) revelry last night.

Work: shoddy.

Tutoring: fair to middling.

Stressed: out.

Mood: indigo.



"The Bells" is possibly the single most pleasurable poem to read aloud in the English language. For this masterwork, Edgar Allen Poe received the princely sum of fifteen dollars. A few months later he died of drink, or a brain aneurysm, or something.

So it goes.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I gotta straighten my face

The good thing about having a leisurely morning is that you can fix yourself a delicious hot bacon sandwich and a good cuppa hot tea for breakfast instead of cold cereal. It's a bone-chilling 53 degrees in the mornings nowadays.

Anyway. On to Art class. We had a quiz, which I felt I did quite well on. We had to analyze a given illustration from a children's book in terms of five art elements (line, color, shape, texture, space, and form). Now, a quiz on facts from the book I've never read? I might not do as well as possible on that. But a quiz where I'm given a setup and told to "analyze" (read: BS) the holy hell out of it? That, my friends, is where a man with a philosophy degree is in his element. We're specially trained to be able to write convincingly any number of pages on any topic. It takes a certain kind of vacillating blowhard to handle the true philosophizin' skillz.

I drove home after a truncated class, finsihed up the various Diagnostic Reading assignments that have been stressing me out all weekend, and then drove back up to State School for class. I can't even begin to express how boring, yet enraging, this class is. Dr. C is the most maddeningly obtuse, flighty, obstinate ditz I have ever had the misfortune of calling a "professor." We watched a video on a word recognition program at a special school, which although slightly boring was nevertheless pure entertainment manna compared to Dr. C's contradictory, confusing, confrontational lecture style.


After school, I stopped by the Hangout, something I haven't mustered up the energy to do for a good while now. An acquaintance of mine runs a karaoke show with full band, and has installed herself at the Hangout for the last few weeks. This was the first time I saw it, and I enjoyed it. The Friar was there, of course, and Sonar, and the guitarist for Auric's band was a judge. Only one singer was bad, and most of the people were surprisingly good --- I was surprised to hear a brother rocking the joint with a note-perfect copy of "Highway to Hell" --- but the show started and ran late, and I've been exhausted all week. I left as the singer for one of Friar's bands was drunkenly mangling "Folsom Prison Blues."

I had asked both K and the Maddening Angel to attend as well, but they declined. MA is dating a new guy and has no time for such shenanigans, but K was just home watching TV and still didn't want to go! I was under the impression that the ladies loved karaoke. I may have to adjust my entire worldview.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

It's not about two clean kids who play pranks

We had our second of three tests in Math tonight. I suppose I did fine. My mind was on other matters. As I walked away, the teacher whispered that she had been looking forward to reading my creative word problems all week. I said she might be disappointed; I didn't do anything silly this time around. Not depressed, exactly; just harried, and morose, and lacking lustre.

Awaking from the long night of what seemed, but was not, nonentity, at once into the very regions of fairy-land—into a palace of imagination—into the wild dominions of monastic thought and erudition—it is not singular that I gazed around me with a startled and ardent eye—that I loitered away my boyhood in books, and dissipated my youth in reverie; but it is singular that as years rolled away, and the noon of manhood found me still in the mansion of my fathers—it is wonderful what stagnation there fell upon the springs of my life—wonderful how total an inversion took place in the character of my commonest thought. The realities of the world affected me as visions, and as visions only, while the wild ideas of the land of dreams became, in turn,—not the material of my every-day existence-but in very deed that existence utterly and solely in itself.
---the narrator of Edgar Allen Poe's short story "Berenice," describing me to a perfect T. Hopefully I won't be performing any needless dental work on unwilling loved ones, unlike that guy.


Speaking of the classics, he seamlessly segued, I recently finished listening to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in my car. It's long been a favorite of mine, nearly a perfect book. I won't presume to "review" the greatest American novel of all time here. I will make the following observation, though. I think that if you asked most people, they would describe Tom Sawyer as one of literature's clever characters, a sharp trickster always one step ahead of the common, deluded ruck of people. I further imagine that conventional wisdom holds Tom Sawyer to be a noble and good character.

Actually, at least in this book, Sawyer is a complete dunderhead, an ill-informed fool whose infatuation with his own fancies puts his friends' freedom and lives at needless risk. Worse, although he does volunteer to help (though he doesn't actually help) Huck free Jim, he does it only because he knows that Jim's "rightful" owner has died and granted Jim freedom in her will. Yes, it seems to me that Tom Sawyer's a flag-flying square, believing everything he reads and not caring whose skins he risks as long as he has a little fun. He's the ancestor of the frat boy, the protester-basher, Uncle Sam's favorite cannon fodder. It's actually Huck --- unschooled, unclothed Huck, to whom lying comes as natural as breathing --- who is one of literature's most clever and compassionate characters. Huck feels sorry for all those hurt or hunted, even the frauds (who try to sell Jim behind Huck's back) when they are tarred and feathered. (Tarring and feathering as a historical punishment was generally not a joke; hot tar burns skin.)

In short: fuck Tom Sawyer.


I'm so tired.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Those wacky Mohammedians!

See, when a woman doesn't cover her head, men can't help but act on their innate desire to rape everything that moves. So the slut's asking for it. Or so says this douchebag, a Muslim cleric in Australia (though he's wily enough, it appears from the story, to use the Western system to his fullest advantage; he understands that a quick apology keeps the heat off for a bit, and then it's okay to preach his seditious and destructive hate again).

Which is just another in a long line of anecdotes that make this argument so palatable. Note that a stance against against the burqa in the West is not dictating what people should do behind clsoed doors, just arguing that propriety works both ways. I would never enter a Jain temple with shoes on. I would also never place a child of mine in a classroom where the teacher wore a face veil. There's a connection that's lost when the face is hidden, a connection too important between teacher and student for the teacher to wear a mask.

We ought to face our problems head-on.

Just like when two fireflies fluoresce

I was watching a TV show I really like on DVD and there was this sort of romantic moment between the two characters and suddenly my good pal Auric's voice started singing the wistful fragile love song soundtrack and it kind of ruined it and made me depressed because, you know, I've never accomplished anything.

So there's that.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

I'm junk but I'm still holding up this little wild bouquet

Time to do another of those spam survey things. This one is fifty questions about the music.

1. What are you listening to right now?
Police, "Message In a Bottle."

2. What song makes you sad?
So very many. The one that springs immediately to mind is Billy Bragg's "You Woke Up My Neighborhood." Not only is it about the dissolution of a tumultuous relationship, that song is intensely connected in my mind with the morning of a very bad break-up of my own.

3. What is the most annoying song in the world?
I tend to tune out things I don't like rather than sit and absorb whatever crap MTV wants me to "grind" to, so I don't know many songs that I would dislike. But I did recently have to listen to that "My Humps" song. Lord Krishna, what utter garbage. And people get wealthy for that kind of talentless waste.

4. Your all time favorite band?
Can I narrow it down? I'm not sure, but I guess the Clash.

5. Your newly discovered band is?
It's not all that new, but The Hold Steady. I've mentioned these guys a time or two before. True genius.

6. Best female voice?
I don't listen to many female artists, because, frankly, I don't really enjoy the typical female singing voice. My favorite female voices are rather rough around the edges, like my favorite male voices: Liz Phair, Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls, etc.

7. Best male voice?
Bob Dylan, of course.

8. Music type you find yourself listening to most?

9. What do you listen to, to hype you up?

10. What do you listen to, to calm down?
The more folky stuff, children's music, They Might Be Giants, humorous music like Tom Lehrer.

11a. Last gig/concert you went to?
The Hold Steady. I blogged about it here.

11b. Last BIG band that you saw live?
The Hold Steady are getting pretty famous --- they've got a 4 1/2 star review in Paste Magazine and were interviewed in the Onion AV Club this week alone. But more famous than them are the Flaming Lips.

12. Band you find yourself listening to the most?
Lately, the Hold Steady. In general, Rancid.

13. Most hated band?
I tend to ignore stuff I don't like. I'm sure I'd hate most of the new (sorry, ) throwback cock rock that the music congolomerates are pushing to the kids these days. I can't think of a band I'd actually give enough of a crap about to muster up genuine hatred. Maybe a white power act.

14. Song that makes you think?
All the music I listen to makes me think. I'm a thinker.

15. Band that you think the world should love as much as you do?
The Hold Steady.

16. Coolest music video?
What the hell is a music video? You mean those little films they used to show on TV when they played the songs? Okay, I'll give three answers. (1) Straight-up coolest of all time: A-ha's "Take On Me." Shut up, you know it's true. (2) Video I watched a lot with some cool cred: Johnny Cash's version of "Hurt." (3) Current nifty (but possibly uncool) video: Weird Al Yankovic's "White And Nerdy." Hee hee, funny.

17. Can you play a musical instrument?
I'm learning to play the recorder for a class in State School. So, no.

18. Ever been in a mosh pit?
No, I haven't been to too many concerts where a mosh pit arose, and also, I'm a wuss.

19. Are you in a band?
No, because I lack even the tiniest shred of understanding of what is meant by key, pitch, rhythm, or tone.

20. Ever dated a musician?
Nope. This survey is making me out to be a bit of a gormless old bore, innit?

21. Do you wish yourself that you were a musician?
To some degree. I think most people do, because of the enormous cool factor attached (not to mention the accompanying chick magnetism). But if a friendly genie gave me a choice of dream careers with fame and respect perks, I'd pick writer over musician.

22. Last song that you heard on the radio, etc?
Couldn't tell you. Haven't listened to commercial music radio in literally years except for hearing a co-worker's radio every once in a while.

23. What do you think of classical music?
I ought to listen to more, because I do like it (at least stuff by the all-time greats) when I hear it, but the rock and roll is just in my soul, baby. Classical is more like background music to me; I have no real connection with it, even if I can appreciate its beauty. Also, I like lyrics.

24. What do you think of country music?
Real country music (Johnny cash, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, Dwight Yoakam) is great. The prefab pop they play on commercial country radio is pretty bad, and basically just today's pop sung with a southern accent by a guy in a big stupid hat.

25. What do you think of death metal?
I don't give it a thought.

26. Do you listen to music in foreign languages?
A bit. I love Georges Brassens and I have several compilations of other world music. I think I like the Afro-pop the best.

27. What famous musician would you like to have sex with?
Liz Phair.

28. Worst concert moment?
You know, I'm starting to think it was the Flaming Lips show. I was just kind of disappointed in the whole thing.

29. Funny concert moment?
The Hold Steady were funny all the way through, not from telling jokes or anything, but just from a carefree, tongue in cheek attitude they evinced. Their opening act Sean Na Na was unintentionally funny, because Friar and I made fun of them (and the singer's ass-crack) a lot. Jonathan Richman was funny. I guess I can't think of a funny moment.

30. Sad concert moment?
I can't remember being sad at a concert, except of course for times I happened to be dwelling on unrelated sad stuff in my life anyway. No concert has done something to make me sad.

31. Best local act you can think of?
Hmmmm. Sonar's very good. The now-defunct band on Friar's label was awesome. Auric's band is the best, but they're hardly local anymore.

32. If you were a musical instrument what would you be?
what kind of drum gets kicked? I'd be that kind.

33. Do you watch music TV?
Does this still exist? No. I don't have a TV in my house, but if I did, and if I had that really specialized cable that showed a variety of music video channels, I probably would watch it.

34. Do you follow the music charts, like the top 40?
There are few things in life that I care less about, honestly.

35. Have you met any famous musicians?

36. Are any of your friends/family etc musicians?

37. Lyric that best describes your feelings right now?
"I've thought so much about suicide, parts of me have already died." ---The Old 97's, "Lonely Holiday"

38. Lyric that describes your life?
"Oh Lord, if you made me, it's easy to see that you all make mistakes up above." ---Greg Brown, "Lord I Have Made You a Place In My Heart"

39. Do you know the names of all the band members that you listen to?
That would be quite a feat of memorization on my part. I can barely remember the names of people I've met.

40. Does a musician’s physical attractiveness play a role in the music that you listen to?
Not at all.

41. Favorite movie sound track?
Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

42. What music do your parents listen to?
My mother listens to no music whatsoever. She hates all music. My father, while no audiophile, listens to French singers, Irish rebel songs, bluegrass and folk, German marches, Tom Waits, the Pogues, the Doors, Johnny cash, sea shanties, and a lot of other varied stuff.

43. Do you wear band T-shirts?
I have a few. When I go to a concert, I try to get a T-shirt as a souvenir.

44. What music sub-culture do you feel like you belong to?
The thirty-something, chart-ignoring, genre-spanning whiteboy genre. it is informed by '80s nostalgia, memories of '70s classic rock, and those blissful heady college years (cue up R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the World As We Know It...")

45. Do you sing in the shower?
Oh, no. See answer to #19 regarding my utter lack of skill.

46. Would you rather marry a musician or be one yourself?
I think being married to a musician might be stressful. The road offers many temptations to the touring artist, surrounded by adoring groupies...

47. How important is your partner's taste in music to you?
Well, I wouldn't want her to listen to white power punk, but if she liked stuff I hate, that'd be okay with me. We'd just have to learn to deal.

48. Hanson moves in next door to you, do you go introduce yourself, or do you arrange to beat them up?
I'd be perfectly pleasant. Their music is no more or less offensive than any other prefab pop. I would, however, loudly sing "Mmmbop" every time I passed one of them in the street, so they'd probably hate me.

49. Sex, Drugs or Rock 'n' Roll?
To tell you the truth, the only one I really couldn't live with is rock 'n' roll.

50. Now what are you listening to?
The Pogues, "Young Ned Of the Hill." This useless survey took thirteen songs to fill out.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Ashamed of a stupid Texan

Are people still talking about the Dixie Chicks' 2003 joke on-stage at a London concert about their feelings for our chowderhead president? Apparently the media is at least, I think because a tour film or something about them has come out recently. (I don't follow their music or their career.)

Typical of the media (and the American public) to make mountains out of molehills, while (to extend the poor beleaguered metaphor to the breaking point) pretending to themselves that the enormous volcanoes in their midst are pebbles.

It was a joke, son. A musician said something silly on stage. Is this anything for thousands of people to get their uptight little knickers in a twist over, or for the media to devote tireless days to?

There are two ways someone who is offended by this political remark of no consequence or weight, uttered by an entertainer of no consequence or standing beyond the entertainment world, can react.

First, one can deny the person's right to make such remarks, especially during "wartime," especially in --- gasp! --- a foreign land, citing damage to morale and "the troops" and suggest that it is close to treason to undermine Our Exalted Chimp President's authority in any way under these conditions.

Well, the only thing you can say about this reaction is that it is the provenance of deluded, very stupid hypocrites (because you know the people who make such objections to political protest didn't feel that way when it came to Clinton), and it's too bad those who react in this manner weren't born in China, where they would fit into the political climate a lot better.

The second way to react is to grudgingly admit that the entertainer has a right to make such remarks, but then vigorously assert one's own right to boycott the entertainer's product and to malign him or her long and loud.

Which is all very well and good and at least somewhat rational, but it sort of misses the whole point about free speech, which is, you know, the right to express oneself without fear of repercussion, whether it's being muzzled by the government or having futile economic sanctions imposed on you by tight-assed retards.

Hell, there are dozens of actors whom I think are clueless and misguided and say all kinds of stupid things. Should I refuse to go to their films and instead stay home sulking or perhaps writing furious letters to the local editor about what Must Be Done? Boy, that'll get 'em where it hurts. Well, no it won't, and more to the point, I wouldn't do that because it's okay to say things that I don't agree with. Because we live in America.

Oh, and between the two of them, our President Ape and Vice-President Ogre have three DUIs. Also, Laura Bush ran a stop sign when she was 17 and got in an accident that killed someone. No charges were filed. And Bush, after ignoring warnings about real threats, has gotten us into a needless war for his own personal reasons that has turned into an American bloodbath. This despite the fact that Bush and Cheney both weaseled their way out of military service (Cheney had "other priorities"), Bush not even bothering to show up for his safe domestic service. And Bush doesn't read newspapers and may be one of the least qualified presidents in our history; what's unarguable is that he proudly presents himself as a fool. And the Bush administration shows no respect for America's natural heritage or civil rights or education programs or health or even poor veterans of war, but a lot of respect for the ultra-wealthy.

So it seems like it's pretty normal to feel ashamed of Bush in particular and the whole lying bunch of them in general. Why would anyone even raise an eyebrow about saying it in the first place? If I met the guy, I wouldn't even shake his hand.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Informal Reading Inventory

I administered an Informal Reading Inventory to young W at the tutoring session today. Since Dr. C repeatedly warned us that it would probably take over an hour, I was surprised that it actually took about half that. W hit his independent, instructional and frustration levels in consecutive succession. His listening comprehension, on the other hand, took three readings, each one a lower level than the last. I think this is uncommon; students are supposed to understand more of what they hear read aloud fluently than of the material they read themselves. But oh well. I taped the whole thing and I'll review the whole thing this weekend and fill in all the paperwork about it (and there is a tremendous amount of paperwork).

I can't imagine a teacher of twenty or more kids putting this much effort into one student.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The drama I've been craving

In Art, the last two groups made presentations. The first had us make whales out of paper bags stuffed with newspapers and construction paper find. We used blue pipe cleaner for the water spouts. They ended up looking kind of boxy, but I'd make these with second graders or so.

The second group had us make butterflies in the usual way --- paint on one side of the cut-out wings, then folded over to make a symmetrical pattern.

After the art presentations, we were split into small groups. We were given a children's book and twenty minutes to write and practice a skit based on the plot. I thought ours was pretty good.

When all the skits were finished, Ms. M asked everyone if they'd had acting experience before. I told the class that I was a professional actor as a kid and that I'd been in lots of TV and radio commercials and plays and audio books. I don't know why I said that. I mean, it's true, but I usually don't share things about myself in class. I was probably still high from the skit adrenaline.

Diagnostic reading was an online class, supposedly time given to us to administer the IRI. I'll do it tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Berated, castigated

Math class was a review of fractions, which most of the class doesn't seem to get.

After class, the teacher took me aside and said to me, 'I know you understand, but I'd ask you to watch your professional demeanor, because it's starting to affect classroom climate."

Apparently I'd been talking and laughing a bit too much with a classmate who also finds the material basic at best.

Whoops. I felt embarrassed and guilty. I don't mean to be unprofessional and I certainly don't want to insult the teacher with rude behavior, nor would I want to distract the less adroit students.

I take full responsibility because I ought to know better and I make no excuses... But the pretty girl was talking to me and saying funny stuff!

I'll be better in future.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Big heads and soft bodies make for lousy lovers

She said "You're pretty good with words
But words won't save your life."
And they didn't.
So he died.
--- The Hold Steady, "Stuck Between Stations"

Craig Finn is my new God. He demands beer and tribute and wants you to stay positive.

Chips Ahoy!

P.S: Bats have no bankers and they do not drink.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, 1931-1941

I watched the 1941 version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde starring Spencer Tracy. Then I watched the 1931 version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde starring Frederic March.

I thought the 1941 film was excellent. Tracy is absolutely superb in his dual role, playing the tortured scientist with the right blend of self-restraint and impatience, then really letting himself go as the unfettered maniac Hyde. I was amazed at how risqué, given the epoch, some of the scenes were. For example, when he first takes the potion, Jekyll has a brief dream full of wild imagery, representing all his repressed desires: at one point he's riding a carriage, laughing uproariously and whipping the inflamed horses. Then the horses are gone, replaced with the two women in his life --- they are drawing the carriage, and he's whipping them and laughing. Later, a seduction scene involving garters and a lot of exposed legs seemed to me, for the time, quite daring.

At first the 1931 version didn't hold my interest. Frederic March, of course, was an actor of his era, made up and hamming it up like he was on the Vaudeville stage. But soon I realized that the 1941 version is a completely faithful remake, scene for scene, of this earlier classic film (this made me revise my opinion of the later movie a bit). Yes, there are very awkward moments early on, such as the chemistry-free wooing scenes between March and Rose Hobart, his fiancée, replete with awkwardly close face shots, stilted dialogue and expressionless proclamations of love while one's nose is practically squished up against the other's.

However! March's performance grew on me, especially after he turned into Hyde. The makeup was a bit distracting (he looked like a cross between Grandpa Munster and Eddie Munster --- Hyde's not the Wolfman, for pete's sake!), but I suppose representative of the novel's intent to represent Hyde's moral evil physically, "giving a strong feeling of deformity." And March throws himself into the bad guy role, breaking out of his textbook Thirties Leading Man Type restraints and coming off almost frighteningly evil, even to the modern viewer.

And this version, too, wowed me with its risqué scenes. At one point, Miriam Hopkins (who plays doomed Ivy, object of Hyde's cruel lust) actually appears to be naked under the covers, which surprised me. She, too, shows a lot of gam in Jekyll's seduction scene. I didn't know the studio bigwigs allowed that kind of thing. A real old movie buff would know more than I about what was acceptable then.

In all, I have to give props to the 1931 movie for its terrific adaptation, March's joyously evil Hyde, and its apparently boundary-pushing subject matter. However, I'm a big Spencer Tracy fan, and I think the 1941 film's screenplay tightens up the drama in a few key ways (though it gets points off for lack of originality: not only are the scenes exactly the same and in the same order, some of the dialogue is taken from the March movie).

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Only a fool in here would think he's got anything to prove

I'm an unappealing nerd now, but in high school I was really an unappealing nerd. I'm talking mostly about physical nerdiness, here. Socially, I was okay. I had an equal number of male and female friends (and these latter were popular and attractive), and I had charm and social guiles enough to make my way in non-nerd society. So I wasn't a D&D playing outcast who could only talk about video games or Star Wars or something.

Okay, the guys and I played D&D one summer in high school. Oh, and were we the object of the girls' vituperation for that.

But anyway. Physically, I was a scrawny, ungainly, goofy anti-jock that, you might reasonably assume, no cute girl would ever notice, much less admire. But oddly, despite all my flaws and through no effort of my own, I received attention from a couple of very good-looking girls. No Lothario's or even an average high schooler's success rate, but pleasantly surprising given what I had to work with. So, why was I somewhat popular with the ladies? Because I was extremely intelligent. Even among a circle of privately-educated, literature-reading, creative and talented people, I stood out as extraordinarily smart.

(No false modesty here, just as no dissimulation in detailing my many failures.)

And intelligence, to women, is an aphrodisiac. Up to a point.

Because, although I'm only slightly more dumbed-down now (when you leave an academic setting, you stop being challenged mentally and so stop growing, no matter how many classics you read or cryptic crossword puzzles you do), my intelligence is now no selling point to women.

What's the difference? I'm glad you asked. Here's my theory. In high school and in college, I was still a potential waiting to be realized. My intelligence implied that I would make something spectacular of myself. So women (and in college this became true on a consistent basis) overlooked my ridiculous exterior and found my intelligence attractive: it was a possible path to power. "Men go for looks, women go for status." Smart men tend to make money, and, let's face it, chicks dig the money. So a young smart man? A good bet for a young woman.

Now, however, as I approach middle age but remain steadfastly rooted in mediocrity if not outright failure, my intelligence is no longer such a starring attraction. Indeed, it's almost like a freakish deformity: since my life is such a disaster despite my intelligence, my very psyche must be defective in some way. I'm like a child prodigy who never got any better at doing math or playing an instrument, and so ends up doing the same tricks and demonstrations that seemed so wonderful in a five-year-old, but are just kind of creepy in an adult. According to the theory, my current situation shows that in my case, intelligence will not lead to power or riches. Thus, it is not a consideration to the opposite sex.

All this raises and skirts the question of why, if I'm so fucking smart, I've made such a colossal mess of my life.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Popular permeation

The kids at work were arguing today about who was what superhero. They all wanted to be Batman. Naturally, I played the peacemaker (not the one with the gun) and assigned them roles. "You're Aquaman," I said, pointing to B. I made another one Batman, another Wonder Woman, another Hawkgirl, and so on. Then they asked me, "Who is R?"

Now, R is a child who is special, as in the Olympics. He's also rather hefty. He's not obese like some unfortunate kids; but he comes from East European origins and carries a lot of genetically-programmed weight on him. So I looked into his round, grinning face and said, "He's Bouncing Boy." And what do you know? One kid had heard of Bouncing Boy. I think he's on a cartoon about the Legion, but I've never seen it.

Anyway. I am turning my preschoolers into nerds.


Somewhat apropos, in that it deals with the permeation of popular icons and characters into the national consciousness, I received a spam email that contained a silhouette of a cowboy on a horse facing a silhouette of a camel. Above this picture were the words: "Which do you prefer?"

I only looked at the thing for the nanosecond it took to delete it, but in that time, I was baffled. Why would I have any preference between a cowboy and a camel? Was it, I reflected, giving the spam letter another picosecond of my precious mental attention, some kind of USA vs the Arab world thing, with the cowboy as America and the camel representing Islam?

A few dozen emails later, I got another of the same spam letters. This time, the screen had scrolled down a bit farther, and I saw that the images represented two brands of cigarettes.

I am so removed from the worlds of smoking and advertising (I don't have a TV and haven't listened to the radio in years) that this never would have occurred to me. I guess I'm not the target audience for that particular scam.

Stomp a mudhole in my heart

After work, I had my second tutoring session with young W. I gave him the IRI locator test. This involves having a student read aloud lists of ten words each increasing in difficulty until he misses one. The highest level list on which he reads all the words without a mispronunciation is his level.

I started with the word list two grades below his, as is customary. He read the words so rapidly that I could barely ascertain that he was pronouncing them right. On the next grade list he did the same thing. On his own grade level he read them nearly as quickly with a pause before one word. Only on the list for the grade above him did he stumble, and then he mispronounced more than half the words. Which seemed odd to me, because the previous ones were such a breeze to him. It's not that much of a leap in difficulty level to the next list, so go figure.

Then we read two chapters from a Magic Tree House book. You know what those Magic Tree House books are?

Them's a license to print money is what they are. Mary Pope Osbourne's got a good gig running there.


Anyhoo. In the evening I drove up to Waitress T's house. We went to the venue near Cheesefries where Auric's band was playing. I got to play the big shot with my name on the guest list and VIP badges and shit. It was a terrific show; the band was in fine form. Friar, T-Bone and his wife, Gunner, local musician Sonar and others were all there in our little roped-off VIP section. Everyone thought T was my date. Which she decidedly wasn't.

Indeed, she got into a couple of phone arguments with her actual boyfriend about going out on this little concert "date" with me.

Anyway, we met Auric after the show and T got a picture, but Auric was in a hurry to leave so we didn't hang out or anything. Auric told me that he had heard from Friar that I was juggling multiple women. Ha! If they knew how boring my actual social life was they'd probably weep bitter, bitter tears.

Friar followed the band to their next gig a few cities over. Damn his happy-go-lucky blessed life! I really wish I could have gone.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Parts of me have already died

I woke up earlier than usual for a Wednesday and finished up some work for Diagnostic Reading. Then I headed over to Art class.

We had a quiz. I got 85% on the previous two in this class, I guess because I don't do any reading in the book at all. Hey, I'd like to do the reading but every time I crack open the text, a soul-leeching cloud of 99.99% pure boredom rises out of its pages like the miasma around a particularly foul swamp, and I grow catatonic. It truly is the wort kind of brainless textbook, saying nothing with endless verbosity and needless lists of things like "the ten philosophies of art integration," where five of the ten things seem to be exactly the same but are worded differently.

Another thing that bit me on the ass in the class is that I plumb forgot to bring in a children's book to discuss its illustrations. Stupid of me, especially as literally hundreds of children's books are at my fingertips every day.

Three more groups had art lesson presentations. We made paper spiders that glided along fishing line (or, as the southern belle doing the presentation charmingly called it, "fishin' war"), paper flowers in a Styrofoam cups, and trees with colored tissue paper fall foliage. This last project suggested a good way for kids to make tree trunks: trace their forearms and fingers.

Evening rolled around as evening will (you just can't stop it), and then I went to Diagnostic Reading. I turned in the approximately seventy-four different printouts and lesson plans that were due, and the class went laboriously over how to give an IRI. Dr. C, the magpie-brained, is so incredibly boring, self-serving, self-contradictory and incomprehensible that it took quite a while, but finally, with the help of several questions from me, she wrote out a step-by-step chart of how to do it on the board and I think we all have a fairly good idea about it now. I feel very sorry for the three students in the class for whom English is not their first language; given how little we native speakers get from her blather, they're probably lucky to understand every tenth sentence or so Dr. C says.

We got the midterms back. I got 190 out of 200, which is good. I missed a couple of points on only one of the 40 short-answer items, because I failed to provide a few explanatory words for the four "IRI comprehension levels" that I listed (literal, inferential, critical and creative). As I'd noted when I took the test, it was the multiple choice section (with questions so badly written as to be self-contradictory, incomprehensible, etc.) where I lost the most points.

Example. One of the questions asked what happens when the student reaches the frustration level during an IRI. Two of the answer choices were: (a) the student stops reading and (b) listening comprehension begins. If Dr. C weren't so Ba'al-blasted bird-brained, she'd have realized that these two answers are in fact mutually inclusive, and therefore one can't be wrong if the other is right.

I'm glad that there my classmates this semester seem to be a bit more academically grounded compared to the dingbats from last semester. But there are a few. As I said to a classmate who was laughing with me about some of those said dingbats on the way out of Art, "I realize that elementary teacher is sort of the default profession of young white women, but really, if you 'can't do math,' and you have no interest in science, and you don't read for pleasure in your own life, why be a teacher?" And yes, sadly, there are a few people about to become teachers for whom that description is accurate.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Math apathy

Did you know...

A unit fraction is one which has 1 as its numerator?
An improper fraction is one that is greater than one (such as 3/2)?

Well, you do now, or least for the next ten seconds or so before your brain replaces that information with more crucial facts such as with whom Paris Hilton's was last caught feuding.

So. In Math we discussed fractions a bit, throwing us back to the very basics as far as I'm concerned. Putting fractions in simplest form, multiplying, etc. The graphic model for the multiplication and division of fractions (as opposed to the rote and less comprehensible algebraic method, which is second nature to me) was as interesting and illuminating as the subject might be expected to be. It's basically approaching the problem like it were a pan of brownies. I'd elucidate, but I'm crippled by apathy and depression.

I don't know if I mentioned that I got a 97 on the midterm. Good for me and entirely expected. However, I missed at least one question on the quiz tonight, which will have no bearing on my overall grade but rankles at me because I hate careless error.

Monday, October 09, 2006

I may be insane

A while back, I mentioned an extremely nerdy dream I had. Well, last night I had one that in terms of sheer nerdiness put that one to shame. I record it here for posterity, because I have no secrets from you, my electronic confessor.

Okay, the Justice League, see---

Yes. It is a very nerdy dream.

Some of the Justice League had been reverted to children. And one of them was Aquaman, represented in the dream by B, a mischievous three-year-old boy in my preschool. I guess because he's blond. Anyway, Batman---

Well. Batman had soiled his Bat-pants, I'm afraid. Only he wasn't one of the children, he was still his usual adult self. And some of the junior JLAers were sniffing, wondering where that smell was coming from, when kid Aquaman (the spitting image of the mouthy, precocious B) said, "Batman pooped his pants!"

So Batman slapped him in the face. Aquaman started crying. But there was no denying it, so Batman lied, "The Joker gave me a toxin that made me lose control of my bodily functions."

But that wasn't true. He said that to save Bat-face, but he really had just pooped his pants.


Okay, upon closer inspection, I see that this dream is equal parts nerdy and creepy.


Ahem! New topic!

As my lyric-quoting ways suggest, I love sharing my love of the music I love with other people, so I now have a Last.fm page. Made for music geeks like me!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Yet another

As I predicted, I'm doing quite a few of these lately. Gunner sent me this one. Hell, it takes my mind off my troubles for a few precious seconds.

1. The phone rings. Who do you want it to be?
Selma Hayek, asking me to come away with her. Si, Selma, si!

2. When shopping at the grocery store, do you return your cart?
People who don't are assholes.

3. In a social setting, are you more of a talker or a listener?
Depends on how comfortable I am. I am extremely verbose, sometimes to the point of annoyance, but if I just meet you, I may go the whole night without saying a word to you.

4. Do you take compliments well?
Not really. I have self-esteem issues.

5. Are you an athletic person?
No, despite my weightlifting and clean living, I am weak and get winded easily.

6. If abandoned alone in the wilderness, would you survive?
I'd like to think so, but I doubt it.

7. Do you like to ride horses?
I've had fun riding, but I could go the rest of my life without ever touching saddle again and I wouldn't miss it.

8. Did you ever go to camp as a kid?
I went to computer camp once. I am a geek. I was also a Cub Scout.

9. What was your favorite game as a kid?
I liked to pretend my friends and I were heroes or spies and so on, and I would mastermind long, drawn-out action operas that we'd play. I was a GM in my mind before I ever even heard of D&D!

10. If a sexy person was pursuing you, but you knew he/she was married, would you get involved with him/her?

11. Are you judgmental?

12. Could you date someone with different religious beliefs than you?
Sure, unless they were nuts about it like, say, the Murderer.

13. Do you like to pursue or be pursued?
I like to be pursued. I'm shy and it strokes my fragile little ego.

14. Can you speak another language?
I'm fairly fluent in French. I've dabbled in others but never gotten very far.

15. If you had to choose, would you rather be deaf or blind?
That's tough. Music is a huge part of my life, but so is reading. I guess blind, because I can always listen to books on tape.

16. What's your favorite food?
I like spaghetti with cheese. But I also like sushi. And pizza.

17. Do you know how to shoot a gun?
Yes, but I'm not a great shot. I haven't been to the range in a couple of years. I can put a bullet into an intruder's head at ten feet, though, so that's good enough.

18. If your house was on fire, what would be the first thing you grabbed?
Assuming the Dog could get out on her own feet --- and why not --- my computer.

19. How often do you read books?
Every day. When I'm otherwise occupied, say with school, I don't read as much, but that's a relative term, because I've been known to read a book a day for a month straight.

20. Do you think more about the past, present or future?
I obsess about the present constantly, much to the detriment of my psyche. However, fretting over the past has often made me sick with stress. Who has time to worry about the future?

21. What is your favorite children's book?
The Giving Tree always brings a tear to my eye, but I was probably influenced most by The Book of Three. As an adult looking back, I'd say The Wind in the Willows.

22. What color are your eyes?
They change from light brown to green and back, depending on the light, I'm told.

23. What was your first concert?
The Rolling Stones, Guns 'N' Roses and Living Colour. Los Angeles, 1990. Surprise guest Eric Clapton. I started out the gate with a bang.

24. Where is your dream house located?

25. Last person you talked to?
My father, via telephone.

26. Have you ever taken pictures in a photo booth?
I don't believe so.

27. When was the last time you were at Olive Garden?
A good few years. It's good for college students, but once you have taste, it's best to go to a real restaurant.

28. What are your keys on your key chain for?
Car, house, work, parents' house.

29. What acclaimed musical act do you just not care about?

30. Where was the furthest place you traveled today?
Work, which is not far.

31. Where is your current pain at?
In my soul.

32. Do you like mustard?
On hot dogs.

33. Do you prefer to sleep or eat?
Sleep, except at night, when my body suddenly decides that I hate sleep.

34. Do you look like your mom or dad?
Neither, really.

35. How long does it take you in the shower?
To do what?

36. Can you do splits?
No, but I can put one foot behind my head.

37. What movie do you want to see right now?
The new Scorcese picture with all the testosterone. The Departed, I think.

38. Do you put lotion on your dog or cats?
What the hell??!? It puts the lotion on its skin, or else it gets the hose again!

39. Do you own a camera phone?
Nope. But although I have no desire to take pictures while I'm calling to talk to people, I often have the intense desire to call people while I'm taking pictures. Where is my phone camera?!

40. What are you drinking?
Chocolate Silk.

41. Who was your favorite American Idol?
I have never watched a single minute of this show.

42. How many hours of sleep do you get a night?
Six or so.

43. Do you know how to play poker?
Yes, and I can break even with the best of them, unless I've been drinking in which case I lose money extremely rapidly, as happened at the Friar's wedding.

44. Do you wear your seatbelt?
People who don't are idiots.

45. Got any piercings?
No. Piercings freak me out. Even on girls.

46. Ever been to LA?
Yes. It's an interesting place, and if I were a writer I'd love to live there. It seems like it would probably suck if you weren't "somebody," though.

47. Do you steal or pay for your music downloads?
I grab the occasional free legal download when I want to investigate an artist, but if I like some music, I buy the record. Crazy concept.

48. Is your cell usually on vibrate or ring?
It's been on vibrate for over a week now. I'm in a "I'll get your message and call you back later" phase. Not that my phone is exactly exploding with calls lately...

49. Are you gullible?
Considering the events of this past summer (the Spooky saga), I'd have to give this one a definite yes. I tend to take people at their word when they say things.

50. Do you need a significant other in your life to be happy?
I'm afraid so.

51. What is your dream job (a real, reasonable job that you have interest in)?
What, Executive Manager of Sleeping With Jessica Simpson isn't a real job? Oh, all right, then. This is weird, but I'd like to write comics.

52. Do you have a Tivo? What's on it?
I don't even have a TV.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

We are all the Hold Steady

Gaw damn.

The Friar called me and told me he had two tickets for the Hold Steady in Denton tonight and should we go? Of course.

Best. Decision. Ever.

I bought a Hold Steady T-shirt and their new CD, Boys And Girls in America, for $10 and you ought to buy it too. I cannot recommend this album too highly, unless I foolishly opine that it is better than their previous, Separation Sunday, which is insanely great.

The joint (a place called Hailey's Club) was tragically empty. The opening act was a band called Sean Na Na, whose lead singer looked kinda like Paul Simon but who danced awkwardly and showed his butt crack in way that Paul Simon probably would have found undignified. They played Mr T Experience-like punky rock which was okay.

The main show was loud and exuberant and life-affirming in a way that the Flaming Lips show, for all of Wayne Coyne's rather forced "seize the day" message, wasn't. Lead singer Craig Finn roared his literate beat poetry with joyous abandon, often forgoing the mike and shouting the words inaudibly but happily over the heads of the audience. At the end the band bought four six-packs of beer from the bar and invited the whole audience on stage to dance and spray beer in the air while they performed a terrific sing-along that ended, as far as I could tell, with the line, 'We are all the Hold Steady."

Finn signed my CD with his slogan 'Stay Positive" and Friar had the whole band sign the poster he bought. The drummer ruined my Sharpie my sucking on the tip.

Boys go for looks, girls go for status.

Some nights the pain killers make the pain even worse.

Most nights are crystal clear, but tonight it's like he's stuck between stations.

She's hard on the heart and she's soft to the touch, and she gets migraine headaches when she does it too much... and she always does it too much.

Lost in fog and love and faithless fear, I’ve had kisses that make Judas seem sincere.

She looked just like a baby bird, all new and wet and trying to light a Parliament. He quoted her some poetry. He's Tennyson in denim and sheepskin.

If you get tired of your boyfriend's things, there's always other boys. There's always other boyfriends.

We had some massive nights, we had some crushing lows. We had some lusty little crushes. We had those all ages hardcore matinee shows.

Southtown girls won't blow you away but you know they'll stay.

There's strings attached to every single lover.

It was about 3:00 a.m. when we got back to town. We stopped at the Hangout, where some of the usual crowd was still there drinking with the staff. We hid out for a while until a cop parked across the street got called somewhere else and then we all drove home.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Nasty day

Today at work, the parent of one of the kids came (without her kid) and asked to talk to me alone. She started right off with, "I want you to know that if I had any serious suspicions about you, I would go to the police, not you." Well, that took me by surprise, let me tell you. She told me that she didn't like it when she had come to pick up her daughter during nap time a few days back and I had been alone in the room with all the kids asleep except her daughter. She said she didn't like the idea of teachers being completely alone with kids. (Of course, this happens all the time, and what she meant was that she wasn't comfortable with me one-on-one with her kid. If it had been Maddening Angel or one of my co-workers, I'm sure she would have thought nothing of it.) Very insulting. I got a bit mad, but then calmed down and heard her out.

Our conversation went basically like this:

Parent: "Legally, the doors should be open when teachers are alone in a room."
Me: "Well, it gets very noisy in the hallway with the babies right across, so we just crack the door. It's not shut, but it's not exactly wide open either."
P: "Why was she tucked away hidden in the corner?"
M: "I wouldn't call it hidden, but she's there because she never takes naps. Kids that don't sleep I put off to the side; if they're in the middle, their state of wakefulness keeps all the kids around them awake longer. Also, I put her by the bookshelf so she can amuse herself with books while she lies there awake."
P: "Well, she needs to be in the middle of the room."
M: "I guess I can find somewhere else for her."
P: "Why all the blankets? I mean, it's warm, and..."
M: (Beginning to see the extent of her paranoid suspicions) "Well... uh... You gave us blankets for her. All the kids have blankets."
P: (Not listening) "Yeah.. if she wants a blanket she can get it herself."
M: "All the kids get their own blankets off their hooks before nap. She asked me to cover her up and I did."
P: "We just want to avoid even the appearance of anything inappropriate."
M: (Rather nastily) "Well, I can stay six feet away from your child at all times, if that's what you'd like."

She cut her Inquisitional tone a bit after that comment and she made small talk about the class in general and my plans. when she left, I didn't smile or thank her.

I've been working with children for seven years altogether. I've worked with highly disadvantaged and at-risk middle schoolers, severely mentally challenged toddlers, and physically handicapped kids. I've been a tutor and an after-school care worker and worked with preschool kids of every SES for more than five years. I'm a professional; this is what I do and what I want to do and pretty much the only thing I can do. While I understand the need for everyone to be comfortable and I know there really are dangers for children out there (even in the hallowed halls of Congress), it is hugely insulting for a parent to take this unfounded accusatory tack with me (and it was, no question, about me, not about "policy" or "teachers" in general).

I went to The Boss when she came back in, and it turned out that this parent had been in before, coming to Boss with her paranoid worries about me. What the hell! The Boss told me that she would talk to the parent and try to reassure her, and that she's had nothing but the highest praise for me from other parents. I'm thinking of asking this parent if she'd rather take her daughter somewhere else. Not that I have the power to expel her from the program or anything, but I'd like to make it clear that if she can't trust me, she should look elsewhere.


Ugh. I feel literally sick about this whole thing.

After work, I took poor Dog to the vet. the vet's not sure whether the giant red growth right over Dog's lip is a tumor or some infected wound. He gave me some antibiotics and ointment (which Dog immediately licked off). I hope it doesn't require removal.

When I went to the lobby to pay, a large Mexican man was loudly telling everyone in the lobby about his pit bull and how his dog would attack any dog who came over to sniff him and how it was silly for the rest of us to let our dogs amble over toward each other. His pit bull, unmuzzled and seemingly very calm, sat next to him. Dog padded over toward his dog as the man talked, and the man shot his foot out and blocked Dog's way. (His own dog didn't react at all.)

"Get your dog away, boy," he said to me. "What kinda stupid shit move is that?"

I looked at him with contempt, said nothing, and kept paying (a hundred bucks, by the way; pet ownership is rather expensive).

The man kept up his inane boastful jabber. "Maybe I'll get my other pit bull in here and your dog can try to face him, huh?" he asked. I said nothing. "And then you and I can go at it while our dogs are fighting, huh?" He stood up. He was well over six feet tall and looked very strong. He also had a large knife strapped to his belt. (Yes, this is Texas.) Like the civilized coward I am, I ignored him, signed my receipt, and walked out without saying a word to him.

I don't want to make an unfair generalization here, but men like him --- loud, obnoxious, violent, fizzing with rabies --- should be taken out and shot like mad dogs, without the world being any worse off. Maybe I should start carrying my gun.

So, to recap: putting me in prison, where I would surely be tortured to death, was a parent's immediate consideration as an option when she saw me putting a blanket over her child, and a maniac threatened to beat and possibly kill me because my dog walked toward his dog.

What a lovely country this is shaping up to be.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


After work today, I had my first tutoring session as part of my Diagnostic Reading assignment. My tutee is W, the third-grade brother of one of my preschoolers. First, I had him fill out some reading interest surveys. The results pleased me; they seemed to indicate a kid who likes reading more or less but absolutely hates being asked about or demonstrating reading in class. It bolsters the idea that kids naturally want to learn and explore their world, but school crushes their inquisitive academic spirit.

I gave him a running record, the first I've administered to a real live student. Those things are hard to do --- you have to mark every single word the child reads, using a different symbol for each miscue (a check if correct, a dash if the word is omitted, an R if the child repeats the word, and so on). It's hard to keep up. I skipped making the checks and only put in the miscues and filled out the checks later. Shh! Don't tell the Teacher Police.

Then I helped him read his science assignment and answer his worksheet questions.

He's a good reader, but skips over punctuation as if it weren't there. I think students need a good solid review course in punctuation every year. A lot of adults don't seem to know how to read punctuation marks fluently either.


The Dog has what is either a big blood blister or a tiny tumor or her muzzle adjacent to her upper lip. I hope it's not a growth. She also had an accident on her chair, which is bizarre, as she's been totally house-trained for over a year. How could the two be related?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Like school in the summertime

...No class. Neither Art nor Diagnostic Reading met today. We had some very desultory online work to do.

I have bought (at half price or less) the following graphic novels since last time:

* 100 Bullets Volume 7: Samurai --- $7

I wasn't immediately drawn in by Brian Azzarello's ultra-gritty street epic when I read the first volume (I later traded it away), but I'm a sucker for prison stories, and the first half of this book deals with a righteous con trying to keep from getting stomped by a couple of really bad dudes. The second story's pretty good too. I'm not going to rush out and buy all the other books, but I did like this one a lot more than the first.

* Earth X --- $13

Alex Ross' wordy "epic" about Marvel's future dystopia. More like Earth Zzzzzz! Ha! See, that's a pun 'cause I was bored by it.

* Top 10: The Forty-Niners hardcover --- $13

I love me some Alan Moore, but he's an amazingly prolific guy, and they can't all be gems. I'm not very interested in the Top 10 franchise. I know the premise that everyone's a science hero leads to some interesting pastiches and parodies, but I get tired of seeing thinly-veiled alternates of famous icons in comics. It's an over-worked concept at best. This book, while a fun, light read, offers nothing new. I did get a kick out of seeing all the throw-away allusions and references hidden in every panel, though (like Popeye at a bar, firemen carrying away Curious George in the background, and so on).

* Queen and Country Volume 5: Operation Storm Front --- $8

Another superb, taut spy thriller. Greg Rucka can do no wrong. I'm still struck by the many similarities between this series and the BBC show "Spooks," and I wonder which medium had a specific plot or character development first.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

I'm a negative creep

We covered operations involving negative and positive numbers in Math tonight. There was one good technique for explaining why "reversing the operation" (i.e., adding when subtracting a negative number, subtracting when adding a negative number) works.

First, realize that a positive number and its negative equivalent together add up to zero.

And of course, you can add endless zeroes to any expression or equation and not change its value.

Now, suppose you have 5 - (-2). If you recall your elementary math, you know the answer is seven, but why do you add two?

To understand this process, imagine five counters, like so:

Next add on zero twice, using the form X and -X.

Having done this, you now have
X X X X X X -X X -X
All you have to do then is remove the two negative counters. What remains? Seven counters! So 5 - (-2) is 7!

A way to wrap your brain around it using non-mathematical terms is this: 5 - (-2) means you are taking away the removal of two. You are removing the removal; in other words, you are putting the two back. Five and two more is seven.

What about multiplication and division using negative numbers? Well, I didn't get a nice understanding of the bizarre concept that multiplying two negative numbers gets a product that is positive, as I did with the adding. But here's a simple way to see it in action, starting with positive and negative multiplication:

5 x 3 = 15
5 x 2 = 10
5 x 1 = 5
5 x 0 = 0

See how each time you lower the value of the factor by one, you get a product that is five less? So it stands to reason that if you lower the factor by one more (to negative one), you will get five less than zero. And so on.

The same concept applies with the multiplication of two negatives. Start with one negative factor. Each time you lower the value of the factor, you will get a greater product.

3 x -4 = -12
2 x -4 = -8
1 x -4 = -4
0 x -4 = 0

So -1 x -4 must be 4, and so on.

Math is cool, even if I don't really get it.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Seeing the light

I have mentioned my father's friend Potato a couple of times in this blog. (My usual interaction with him is when he joins our trivia team.) Well, Potato's got a neighbor at the trailer park where he lives. My father calls this neighbor "The Murderer." I don't think he's actually killed anyone, but he is a petty criminal (and so for that matter is Potato, who finds shoplifting --- food, books, CDs, DVDs --- as natural as breathing).

A while back, my father and Potato were in his trailer when the Murderer mentioned that he thought that Satan was speaking through his estranged wife. "You see," he explained earnestly and sincerely to my appalled father, "God talks to me. And my wife often says things that are opposed to the things that God says to me. Since there can be only one God, the only thing that could be putting those ideas into her head is Satan."

Yes, there really are people like that all over the country.

You'll be happy to hear, however, that afterwards, Murderer made peace with his wife. As he told Potato, she came over to his trailer and they had a long talk, and then the Murderer prayed to God to let her come to Jesus. "And the Spirit of the Lord did come upon her," he earnestly told the appalled Potato. "In fact, I'm sure you saw the lights emanating from my trailer last night."

He truly believed that his trailer had flickered with Godly light, and that Potato must have seen it.

"What on earth do you reply to that?" I asked Potato after he told me the story. After all, you can't hint that perhaps the "lights" were only visible to the two of them --- that it was a contained, quiet Visitation not meant for the prying eyes of the Unblessed. If you implied something along those lines, Murderer might start thinking that was the devil talking through you.

Potato said, "I told him I was asleep."

Sunday, October 01, 2006

It smells like updog in here

Trivia at the Triviabar was fun, even though it lasts three frickin' hours. (I really only go because my mother likes it and it's the only excursion she gets.) The Friar dropped by, and both of us were roaring with laughter, exchanging very stupid jokes with the waitstaff (W, T and others).

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to get another glass of Jadooan.

The miserable have no other medicine but only hope

Maddening Angel came over today. We lay on my bed and watched a few episodes of "Scrubs." We love that show. Then we ate dinner together at an Indian place that I'm not too fond of. Then we went our separate ways. (I have lots of vague lingering wisps of feeling that broil to the surface whenever I'm around her, but sticking to my recent imposition on the pity-party posts, I am not going to dissect them. Suffice it to say I'm still conflicted.)

I went to the Hangout where a rally was staged for two people who are running for elected municipal positions (both of whom I know personally so won't mention). I invited K, and she came down as well. We played the old video games and chatted for a bit. One of Friar's acts played. He was a one-man-band with an acoustic guitar and a tape machine and the sound was dull and muted. The other band was terrific.

They were selling shirts on behalf of Mr. Candidate for $20. I approached Mr. Candidate and asked him, "I have a question about a serious issue. Where do you stand on ridiculously inflated T-shirt prices?"

He said, "I'm in favor of them, tonight."

That was about the extent of the excitement, except for when a pretty girl I didn't know sidled up beside me as I played video trivia and used her feminine wiles on me to make me stop playing video trivia and play (and pay for) endless sessions of the game she wanted to play. I didn't mind; I have fun with the photo search game too, and she did buy me a drink in return. It was a beer. I didn't have the heart to tell her I don't drink beer, so I took miniscule sips of the nasty thing until she left with her friends, and then I threw it away.