Thursday, January 31, 2008

Everyday I write the blog

It's late and I'm tired, so I'm just going to toss out a few things. Not that I'm going to drop off to sleep after I post this. I never fall asleep easily these days. Tachycardia and so forth. So unhealthy.

(1) Next year's position is supposed to be a secret for a while, but the admin told the kindergarten teachers, so I suppose it'll be a day at most before everyone knows. There's no place like schools for gossip. But the other K teachers were very welcoming and congratulatory about it.

(2) Today I subbed for the art teacher. I went around with a cart of supplies to nine pre-K classes to supervise a pattern project (gluing paper squares to make borders for pictures). I also covered a recess and another teacher's reading time. This was perhaps the most tiring day I've ever had at Prestigious. Nine pre-K art sessions takes the pep out of a man.

(3) I am excited about it, but I'm naturally pessimistic and refuse to believe that the position is mine until it actually happens. Someone might decide they want to stay after all, and then I'd be put back in the sub team.

(4) Today a second-grade girl told me that when women put on lipstick, they're putting "pig butt" on their lips because lipstick is made from pig butt. I'm pretty sure that's not true. I said that most lipsticks were synthetic now, anyway.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Movin' on up, maybe

Yesterday, on Brother's advice, I went to schedule a meeting for today with the Head --- just a sort of "how am I doing" mid-semester self-check. His secretary, amazed, said she had just been told by the Head to get me and schedule a meeting for today. Everyone was bemused by the synchronicity of it all.

The Vice-Head told me they wanted to talk to me about next year, decisions we had to make. Given the drawn-out process in which I was hired, this brought up the grim specter of them not renewing my contract for next year. However, she said, in conversation, "You're such a great addition to Prestigious," so I wasn't too worried about it. Of course, I wouldn't be me if I hadn't worried about it just a little, so I did.

Today, I had the big meeting, before classes. First, they said I wouldn't be getting the temporary room placement I mentioned here; they gave that to the young tall hot inexperienced girl. However, they're confident enough in me to renew my contract for next year two months earlier than the "probation period" that had been established. And not on the sub team, either. They're hiring me for next year as a solo kindergarten teacher, with my own room. And, possibly, a part-time assistant. Nice.

I always have friendly and funny chats with both the Head and the Vice-Head. They agree that it's a hard road being new here, especially being one of the few males. The Head told me his wife jokingly accused him of only hiring gorgeous women. And yes, there are quite a few fashion plates here.

Oh, today I subbed for the music teacher. That's a laugh, given my utter ignorance of the mechanics of music and my total absence of musical accomplishment. Still, I gave it a go. I had six kindergarten classes and one pre-K. I went to Prestigious' library and checked out a couple of picture books about music. We started each session with some songs, then I read a rhyming book about an animal band, having the kids pay special attention to the beat and rhythm of the words. Then I flipped through a book about percussion and defined the term. Finally, the kids played with Boomwhackers.

So, next year is set, at least in theory. I personally won't believe it until the contract's signed and in my hot little hands. But I'm more or less satisfied.

Now all I have to worry about is sudden heart failure between now and the end of the next school year. Goddamn old age and timebomb heart disease that goes off just when life's getting tolerable.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Music response meme

Via daveawayfromhome.

Turn on your iTunes (or iPod).

Or, in my case, Windows Media Player.

Set the player on "Shuffle."

It always is. I have music-appreciation ADD. Not an album purist. I used the shuffle button before there was a shuffle button. We called it "making a mix tape" back then.

Write something (a sentence, a paragraph, a story, a word,) about the first 5 songs that come up. Can you handle that? It's really not as hard as it might sound… as music, no matter your taste, is what makes the world go round.

Don't be patronizing, meme.

1. "You Belong To Me," Elvis Costello
"Your eyes are absent, your mouth is silent, pumping like a fire hydrant." A rockin' bit of New Wave vitriol. Love that high-pitch machine-gun piano in the middle. Nothing like the Dylan song "She Belongs To Me," but seeing this title always makes me think of the Dylan song, even though Dylan actually has another song called "You Belong To Me." And here's me, a Dylan fan for twenty year gone now, and I don't have that song in my collection. Man, I gotta get the Natural Born Killers soundtrack. What was I talking about again?

2. "Purple Haze," the Bobs
The Bobs are an a capella group. This is from their covers album, which I obtained almost 15 years ago now (and they said CDs wouldn't last over time!) from my old college. Specifically, I stole it from the radio station. In my defense, it was heavily scuffed and not being treated with the appropriate reverence. The Bobs' vocal imitation of Jimi Hendrix's wailing and crunching guitar riffs is something everyone ought to hear at least once.

3. "A Woman's Life and Love," Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire
Andrew Bird's violin-based, almost unclassifiable melange of jazz and other '30s styles is sheer delight to a guy like me with a broad musical palate (I like Fats Waller and Rancid, Dean Martin and Procol Harum). Superb vocals by the amazing Katherine Whalen.

4. "Nobody," Johnny Cash
From the American III album, perhaps my favorite of the series (it contains "One," "I See a Darkness," and "The Mercy Seat," perhaps the three finest covers Cash ever did --- oh, and "Solitary Man," too). This song is not one of my very favorites of his, but it's a terrific blend of comedy and pathos, a plaint by a perpetually put-upon sad sack. Cash has a long tradition of doing humorous pieces like this (as on his Live at Folsom Prison album), and he pulls the goofiness out of the lyrics' righteous ire with a practiced, knowing drawl. Anyway, I'd enjoy Cash singing the phone book, frankly.

5. "Lost in the Harbour," Tom Waits
Tom Waits has so many sides, he's round. That is, his career has been largely composed of various performing personas. There's the otherworldly roaring noise merchant, the growly burlesque-house pianist, the streetwise Beat poet, the noir throwback, the highly literate stream of consciousness lyricist, and so on. On this track we have Waits the slow, sad balladeer. It's not the flavor of Tom Waits I like best, but it's raspy and beautiful. And when Tom Waits does a sad song, you either feel sad or you're dead.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Republicans encourage welfare

Still full of sputtering, impotent rage.
Bush Opens Roadless Tongass National Forest to Logging
JUNEAU, Alaska, January 25, 2008 (ENS) - Today, the Bush administration put a "for sale" sign on trees in pristine roadless areas of the Tongass rainforest in Alaska - America's largest national forest.

This move by Bush officials to reverse roadless area protections parallels two others made recently in national forests located in Idaho and Colorado.

In December 2003, Bush officials "temporarily" exempted Alaska's Tongass rainforest from the Clinton era Roadless Rule, designed to protect 58 million acres of roadless wild forests in 39 states.

The Bush administration's new management plan for the Tongass National Forest will raise no revenue for the U.S. government, as the U.S. taxpayers will have to pay to build the roads the timber companies need to access the forest.

Republican lawmakers are evil, plain and simple. Just evil. Despoiling the earth for short-term profits, and adding insult to injury by making taxpayers pay for it. As for Republican voters, there is no explanation except that they're ignorant fools who believe everything Ann Coulter tells them. "Hell yeah, let's get them damn black welfare mothers off the taxpayers' backs! Good old American-loving Republicans want smaller government!"

Actually, Republicans adore corporate welfare, which drains government funds much more than the pittance given to single mothers living in poverty.

Basically, everything Republicans say they're for, they're actually against.

Law-and-order party? Bush and Cheney between them have three DWI convictions. And when it came to lining the coffers of companies he worked for, Cheney never met an ethics violation he didn't like.

Party of patriots who know how to wage war? Cheney and his five draft deferments are just the tip of the iceberg. This fiasco of a war has been managed by people who don't understand the military because they came of age scared shitless of it, and have to swagger around pretending like they're Real Men now.

Party of straight talkers? Then why was the party line from 1991-94 that Iraq would become a quagmire if invaded, but once W got his tiny little hard-on for Daddy's Revenge, the party line was that the invasion would last six weeks tops and we'd be welcomed as liberators?

Our glorious Republican lawmakers. Lying, hypocritical, cowardly, genocidal, amoral, venal pieces of slime.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Vocabulaire: un blaireau

un blaireau - a badger
Les meilleures brosses de rasage sont fabriquées traditionellement en poils de blaireau.
I just got one, and they really do help with a closer shave.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Republicans hate veterans

I don't often rant about politics, because I'm only a dilettante in that area, so many others speak more eloquently than I do on the subject, and I don't have the audience that justifies too many information round-up posts. And also, I can't even so much as think about that sneering lying pile of sleaze Dick Cheney (surely the most nakedly corrupt and hypocritical figure in American politics, ever) without seizing up into an apoplectic fit that prevents me from unclenching my jaw and fists until I have a hot bath and some nice chamomile tea... But every now and then the spirit of impotent, righteous rage moves me.

After manufacturing a war through outright lies to the American people, Bush and his cronies decided that the brave men and women who serve and die and are mutilated in the name of father-issue revenge complexes and oil money for billionaires don't deserve the limited recompense they get. Hypocritical lip service and a sanctimonious "God bless you" is good enough, according to the human scum who call themselves Christians, patriots, and conservatives.

Here's a flash video with a few facts.

An op-ed article on the lack of health care for veterans.

A story about one of many VA hospitals with staff crunches and patient backlogs.

More health care budget cuts.

But then, that's what happens when people who avoid any and all responsibility, let alone the honor and danger of military service, make the decisions for people who do the fighting. Here's an interesting look at who served and who had "other priorities."

George Bush's legacy, a table provided by the Democratic caucus.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Diversity and tolerance

Second grade again today. I like this age; still young enough to like their teachers and be silly, but old enough to be responsible and largely self-sufficient.

I was reading a book about Jackie Robinson for social-emotional time. One one page was both the words 'colored' and Negro.'

Me, after finishing the page: "Those are words that white people used to use for black people, but not anymore because they're not considered nice."
Girl: "And watermelon."
Me: "Uh, what?"
Girl: "Watermelon is a name for black people too."
Me: "Oh dear."

Later on, after one of my usual enthusiastic "Awesome" shout-outs, another girl said, "You're always so happy, Mr. Chance."
Me: "Well, that's the first time anyone's ever said that, ever."
Girl: "What?"
Me: "I'm screaming angrily on the inside. All. The. Time."
Girl, giggling: "You're so silly!"

In her naiveté, she mistook my fondness for children and my natural inclination to build up kids' self-esteem in jovial ways for self-contentment on my part. Ha ha! I'm actually full of angst.


Also, here is a new proposal for a flag of Oregon, as per Michael5000's contest. Michael is fast becoming my favorite blogger, which is no mean feat considering the strong competition out there with the likes of Chris Sims, Churlita, the Waiter, and Scipio.

Anyway. Michael is right to call for a redesign; flags with words and dates on them sort of miss the point of flags in the first place. It's a banner, not a mission statement. My design is primarily forest green, to represent Oregon's wondrous forests of pine. The top and bottom and bordered with gray, which represents the eight months of rainfall that keeps the place green. In the middle is a beaver icon (the state animal and nickname, as well as representing the spirit of pride and labor that I love in so many independent-minded Oregonians who are not hobos). Finally, the beaver is in a circle of blue, which represents the all-too-brief spring, during which the weather is perfect.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Lo and Behold

I subbed in the second grade again today. I've now subbed for each of the four second grade teachers. It's not my favorite thing, but it's nice. The team is very nice and helpful, writing out detailed schedules and overlooking my blips of uncertainty.

Prestigious Elementary pays very well, has a superb benefit package, is an esteemed institution, quite easy compared to public school, largely stress-free, and full of intelligent teachers with solid professional standards. And I think I may hate it.

The real tragedy --- the thing I'm truly scared of --- is that I may not fit in anywhere. I'm too unlike most teachers, too anti-social, too vehemently individualistic, too socially damaged.

What's the matter, Molly dear?
What's the matter with your mound?
What's it to you, Moby Dick?
This is chicken town.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Letting the days go by

Today a third grader told me what college he was going to go to. He'd investigated several, he told me (and named them), but finally decided on one with an emphasis on performing arts.

He was Daddy Warbucks in Prestigious' production of "Annie."

It's nice to have a life plan.

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself....
Well, how did I get here?

And you may ask yourself:
How do I work this?
And you may ask yourself:
Where is that large automobile?
And you may tell yourself:
This is not my beautiful house!
And you may tell yourself:
This is not my beautiful wife!
And you may tell yourself:

Seriously, though, good luck, kid. It's a tough field, and anyway your father's probably going to make you go to law school.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Pride of America

Today at school we had visiting day. Classes were canceled and hordes of prospective new students were brought to the classrooms for informal observation. Anxious parents lined the hallways, sitting in chairs and every one of them looking like they were waiting for a doctor's life-saving diagnosis. Sonar and his gorgeous wife were there for their young son, as was T-Bone's wife with their younger daughter (the latter a shoo-in).


After work I went to the post office to mail a package. After waiting in line for an unusually speedy eleven minutes while two out of a four possible clerks slowly processed the every-growing line of customers, I was told by the clerk that the last digit of the zip code was wrong. And they couldn't tell me what the right zip code was.

In a U.S. post office. They couldn't look up a zip code.

This was a task that took me approximately two seconds on Google once I got home. What, they don't even have a big book where the codes are listed?

In the post office?

Now I understand that in this time of war born of deception, recession, disappearing middle class, uninsured working families, voter fraud, and so forth, this is a petty thing to be dwelling on hours after the event. But seriously, isn't this lack of initiative, or caring, or effort, symptomatic of a depressing downward spiral of this country? Where's the willingness to get the job done by any means necessary that kept the pioneers alive and got us through WWII?

We let illegal aliens shoulder the mantle so we can hate them for it, I guess.

Monday, January 21, 2008

A few graphic novel reviews

Nothing like comics to distract you from the harsh reality of the world. Here's some of the graphic novels I've read in the last few weeks.

Castle Waiting Volume One and Castle Waiting: The Curse of Brambly Hedge, by Linda Medley (Olio Press). I'd flipped through one of these volumes at the store before and shrugged and put it back. It seemed a bit amateurish to me. Also, for whatever erroneous reason, I felt the series was too redolent of John DeChancie's Castle Perilous series. Well, I got these books from a friend recently, and I was wrong about everything. I'm a convert to Medley's work. This series has nothing in common with DeChancie's novels; if anything, it's close to Bill Willingham's Fables, but with less of a dark, Vertigo feel. Furthermore, the art is decidedly not amateurish. Medley is a terrific artist with a sure, fine hand, and she definitely knows how to tell and pace a story. These GNs are billed as "Young Adult," but as with all great youth fiction (do kids even read Alice in Wonderland?), an adult can enjoy it without the least sense of superiority.

Annihilation Book One and Annihilation Book Two (various creators, Marvel). A lot of comics bloggers love this series, and it was on a lot of the year-end best of lists, so I got these books. I think the twenty-year-old me might have enjoyed the hell out of it (even while sniffing, "It's not as good as Sandman"), but the me that's on the near side of forty thought there were too many explosions and fight scenes and not enough human drama. I'm not saying it's childish, exactly, and I certainly enjoy my share of guilty nerd pleasures, but my tastes nowadays run more toward Sean McKeever's The Waiting Place than space opera. Though it was well-written for the most part, and I'm awed by some of the detail in the art, I wouldn't call it one of the best series of the year by a long shot.

Blue Beetle: Shellshocked and Blue Beetle: Road Trip, by John Rodgers, Keith Giffen, and Cully Hamner (DC). Another series that comic bloggers raved about. This time, I'm fully on board. Here in the story of Jaime Reyes, outcast teen turned unlikely and reluctant hero, is the human drams that the loud, perhaps overly-busy Annihilation lacks. I read on the Intertubes somewhere that these two slim GNs are from before the series "got very good," but I think it's already terrific.

White Death, by Rob Morrison and Charlie Adlard (AiT/PlanetLar). This is a WWI drama, focusing on the Italian resistance to Austrian attacks in the Dolomites. The white death of the title is the deliberate causing of avalanches using artillery. Morrison was inspired to write this book when he heard about the avalanche strategy, which he calls "even more obscene" than the course of normal warfare. Maybe it's just me, but I don't find it any more horrifying than shooting artillery directly at people, or any other way of killing or maiming people in war. So perhaps I was never in the mindset to properly get into Morrison's tale. Adlard's unusual art --- charcoal on grey paper --- is terrific, but I didn't think that this book had anything to say about WWI that hasn't been said thousands of times in other media. ...Well, maybe that's too harsh. If Garth Ennis' name were on the cover and not a word inside was changed, a lot more people would probably seek out and praise it. It's a good, solid war story, with a chilling ending (no pun intended).

In disgrace with fortune and men's eyes

Sometimes people commit suicide after something good happens to them, and those that knew them wonder why. It's because in depression, one tends to pin one's hopes on a single thing: "if I get this job, life will be better," or "once I get married, everything will go more smoothly," or "if I could afford a car that worked, I'd be happy." That sort of thing. But when the good thing actually comes to pass, the person finds that it doesn't shine any light on the rest of their lives. It only made a small corner of their lives better in a certain way. And so, seeing clearly now that one improvement isn't sufficient to give their lives that complete overhaul they'd been craving, they now realize the futility of that kind of hopeful fantasy. And, because depressed, they think that therefore there is no hope of any kind.

Anyway. I understand the viewpoint.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I'm ignorant about our world


...Also, I can't spell "Liechtenstein."

Friday, January 18, 2008

When usually it's nothing

Today I was the drama teacher again. Unlike the previous days, when I had first, second, and third graders, today was pre-K's turn in the drama room. All of them, apparently. The entire day was taken up by eight half-hour classes of pre-K kids.

I read some Mother Goose rhymes and the kids illustrated them with flannel board pieces for the first half. The last fifteen minutes of each session was given over to play with the fairy tale puppet sets. The younger kids were not quite as adept or familiar with the stories as the second-graders had been the day before, but the point today was really just familiarization with theater items, and a little fun, of course. I walked around showing them how to use the puppets and open their mouths and helped the kids along with the basics of the stories.

I'm actually fairly surprised at how unfamiliar the kids were with the basics: few easily recalled the three-step progressions of big eyes, big ears, big teeth of Red Riding Hood or the straw, sticks and bricks of the Three Pigs, for example. They were also surprisingly unfamiliar with the Mother Goose rhymes. I don't expect three- and four-year-olds to recite anything, but I did think it was strange how few could supply the words to, say, "Little Miss Muffet," even with prompting. These are kids who are read to by their parents (or nannies); maybe Mother Goose is out of fashion.

Anyway, after eight classes of fifteen pre-K kids each, "Hey Diddle Diddle," and Billy Goats Gruff puppetry, I was pretty tired of that routine. Give me the first-graders any day.

Speaking of repeating stuff, it was little Crafty's birthday --- Friar's son is now one year old. There was a birthday dinner, with me and Mrs. T-Bone and her two daughters in attendance. (The oldest daughter goes to prestigious, and kept calling me "Mr. Chance" and making me watch her eat chips with queso and Craisins.) Guess where we went? The same restaurant I'd been to twice this week, the Tex-Mex place mentioned here. I had the exact same thing again.

When I gave my taco order, the waiter (Mexican, of course) said, "Corn or flour tortilla?" I said, "Corn. That's the best." He smiled and said, "Yes, it is." I added, "Flour is for white losers." He smiled even more and said, "I know!"

So, if you're in a Mexican restaurant and you order flour tortillas, the Mexicans are laughing at you.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The clock I'm punching in, I'm a monster

Aside from less than an hour assigning take-home readers to another teacher's kindergarteners, I was the drama teacher all day today.

First was the second-graders. I was very pleased that I'd happened to drop in Tuesday and watch the lesson. I just repeated it. The kids broke into groups, read some brief plays, then discussed and voted on them. When I'd observed, Mr. Drama Teacher had ended the lesson with a game called Remote Control (in which the kids reacted to buttons he'd call out: "Play" meant act silly and run around, "Pause" meant freeze, "Rewind" meant go backwards, and so on). Being a failed child actor, I decided instead to end the lesson with some on-the-spot improv suggestions. Watching second-graders pretend to smell something disgusting or come into a surprise party that disappoints them is hilarious. Prestigious has some very creative, bright kids.

First grade was next. We discussed the difference between narrative and dialogue, then I split the kids into groups and they chose fairy tale puppet sets. They rehearsed and then acted out, all on their own, The Three Billy Goats Gruff, The Three Little Pigs, Red Riding Hood, and Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Again, I was amazed at some of the kids' creativity and humor. They put on silly voices, added narration between scenes, and made the puppets move in interesting and appropriate ways. I was especially proud of how much they did on their own, from picking which group would do which story to adding sound effects. After the plays, I led a rousing game of Remote Control.

Third grade had the most boring class. They watched a video of the opera Turandot. Although they listened fairly well, they were mostly interested in the executions and the riddles that would kill the suitor or bind Turandot to marriage. The kids hooted at a lot of it, mocking the woman who played the supposedly gorgeous title character. The general consensus was that she was unforgivably ancient (possibly close to forty, I'd guess). "She looks like my mom before she's had her coffee," a girl said. Another girl said she wasn't ugly: "She's just... I want to get the right words here and be fair... She seems like she's been in a car wreck is all." I don't know whether that girl was honestly trying to be solicitous or ironic. During a lengthy scene in which Ping, Pang, and Pong, the councilors, were waxing rhapsodic about their lives before the palace, a girl said, "We get it! Get to the riddles already!" Frankly, I felt that way too.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

If I had wings and I could fly I know where I would go

I was in second grade again today. More math, but the work was review this time. To tell the truth, the day is kind of a blur to me. I don't remember much, though it was an easy schedule. The kids were gone over three hours at various specials.

I'm tired. Saturday, I saw a midnight movie with Epalg (Reservoir Dogs --- very visceral). Monday, I went to dinner with 74, Zaftig and their baby. Tuesday, I went back to the very same restaurant and had the exact same dish (chicken tacos on corn tortillas -- very authentic-Mex) with Epalg this time. Tonight, I went to the Hangout with the Friar. Early mornings, on my feet the work day, then filled evenings, and I don't sleep much or well anyway.

Friar and I talked a bit about whether I should move to a duplex-type place with a yard or stay here and save money and, once I find out what my job situation will be next year, buy a house for about the same monthly expense.

The latter plan is good, especially if I could get Mr. Hangout (real-estate mogul as well as bar owner) to help find a good deal. Of course, the plan's also predicated on the assumption that I'll live to enjoy a house. And remember the old adage: when we make an assumption, we make an ass out of u and mption.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Long, slow day

Got up earlier than usual and was at school by 7:00 a.m. The faculty have a "book club" in which they discuss professionally relevant texts. They're currently reading a book about how boys communicate. The Vice-Head was presenting a few chapters, and asked me and another male teacher to be there and act as her uncommunicative sons in a little skit to illustrate the concept. Afterwards, I sat through the talk and said not a word, possibly enforcing the stereotype.

We had a very light schedule. I wandered around a bit, sat in on a second-grade drama class where the kids read and evaluated short plays about Great Americans, and helped do some reading assessments in kindergarten. Then, in the afternoon, I subbed for a pre-K teacher (who will be leaving sometimes this semester; either I or another reserve teacher will get her spot).

Calm, easy day, with no problems. Also, got my first check. Sweet!

Monday, January 14, 2008

A real-life teacher

Today I was in a second-grade class all day (subbing for a woman who went to seventh grade with me). Despite all my experience in schools and teaching pre-K, I must say that today was my very first full day as a paid grade school teacher. I've been an aide, a student teacher, and a pre-K teacher, and I've helped and observed in other classes before, but this was the first time I was the actual and sole teacher, no qualifications, for grade school class, all day.

I had a lot of help, both from the other grade teachers and from the kids themselves. The other teachers kindly went over my schedule, showed me where some supplies were, and so on. The kids knew their schedule backwards and forwards, so they only needed the slightest verbal prompt from me to go through their day. For example, I said, "Let's get started with the calendar now," and one kid popped up and put the right day and date on the board, and then another kid read them off. I said it was time for math, and one kid pops up with a previously prepared estimation project. And so on.

The day was mostly math teaching (parallel lines and simple geometric shapes), with a little journal writing by the morning group and reading to the afternoon group. (The kids wrote about what their dream day at school would be like --- mostly art and gym and recess --- and I read them Roald Dahl's The Magic Finger.)

For some reason, very few of the kids in either group could draw a quadrangle with no parallel sides. They just couldn't get their heads around it, possibly because they had a hard time fulfilling a negative request. I got a lot of parallelograms (uh, no), trapezoids (closer), even a few triangles (couldn't be more off) or some desultory crossed line segments (I take it back about the triangles). This after much review of both "parallel" and "quadrangle."

I'm not mocking the kids (well, much); it's a hard concept to grasp, and I'm not sure I explained it well. If I'd known what I'd be asked to do, I might have been able to think of a strategy or an example that worked.

Anyway, I liked being there a lot.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


A few non-fiction books I read recently (in the realm of fiction, it's been pretty much only thrillers and crime novels lately) and what I thought of them:

  • The Math Instinct: Why You’re a Mathematical Genius, Keith Devlin
The author describes the truly amazing abilities of dogs, bees, ants, birds and other creatures when it comes to eye-mouth coordination, navigation, locomotion, and so on. He uses this data --- along with some studies on how infants pay attention to certain sets of things up to three, and some other studies on poorly-educated street vendors who can do complicated math procedures in their heads but not on paper --- to argue that people have an innate instinct for mathematics. It’s an interesting book, but not a cohesive one, and ultimately unsatisfying. The animal studies are fascinating, but nearly completely irrelevant to the matter at hand; the animals, as Devlin himself says, aren’t “doing mathematics” any more than the world is “doing physics” as it spins. The studies on humans, especially the differences between school math and real-world math abilities, are germane, and Devlin has a good case to make that people can do math, but are turned off it through poorly-done formal study. Finally, the book concludes with an exhortation for people to practice the basics more through memorization. Gosh, thanks! Never would have thought of that.
  • No Touch Monkey!, Ayun Halliday
A humorous memoir of bad or just plain weird travel experiences. Nothing is spectacularly unique --- from a dislocated knee in Sumatra, to getting clothes stolen while staying with monks in Hua Hin, Thailand; from being burglarized by an aggressively fearless monkey while too stoned to move in Pushkar, to the austere welcome a theater troupe receives in Soviet Romania. But Halliday is an engaging and very funny writer. She has an admirable talent for keeping the reader too amused to notice that nothing much of note is actually happening (hey, she was in Scotland with a baby!).
  • The Big Year: A Tale Of Man, Nature, And Fowl Obsession, Mark Obmascik
Three birders --- a bumptious salesman, a software code writer, and a retired business executive --- each set off on a “big year” in 1998: they are determined to see as many birds in North America as they can in one year. At first, the men are unaware of each other, and later, a somewhat personal rivalry develops. Obmascik, who wasn’t there during any of the expeditions, uses journals and interviews to tell the three men’s stories, and while it’s impossible to tell how much he’s glossing over, it does read as if he were a fly on the wall (or ship rail, or tree, as the case may be). I could have used more in-depth interviews with the birders themselves: their thoughts and feelings. At the end, the business exec seems rather disappointed that he’d done a big year; I’d like to know whether it was worth it. The recently divorced code writer’s tale is the most maudlin: he maxes out all his credit cards and battles depression to see 715 birds that year. Is he glad he did it? I did enjoy the various trails and trials the birders went through, however: seasickness, cliffs, cold weather, thousands of frequent flier miles.
  • Cross Country, Robert Sullivan
A 380-page rumination on the author’s experiences driving across the continental United States, several times over many years. Interspersed with his own experiences, Sullivan talks about history: Lewis and Clark; Carl G. Fisher and the Lincoln Highway; the See America First campaign and the rise of motor tourism; Kemmons Wilson and the Holiday Inn; the rise of the interstate system; the use of Jersey barriers; Jack Kerouac’s beginnings; even a brief look at the history of the to-go coffee cup lid. The factual information is fascinating, and told very well. That’s good, because the personal information is banal in the extreme. I don’t know whether Sullivan believes there’s value in acting as anthropologist of the quotidian (remarks on motel stays and breakfasts, sketches of parking lots), or if he truly thinks his experiences are interesting (he spends quite a long time detailing “the worst cross country trip ever,” in which nothing especially bad happens), but in either case, this book would have been an exceptional history of travel in America without them. It’s too bad. Sullivan’s a terrific historian, but he put way too much of himself in this book.
A look at some of the freaks, wonders, curiosities and con men of the past. From mentalists like Harry Kahne to limbless marvels like Matthew Buchinger and Sarah Biffin, from water spouters to growers, from learned animals of all types to Max Petomane the farting impressionist, there’s quite a lot to wonder at. Some of the acts get only the briefest of mentions, which left me a bit dissatisfied, more questions arising than facts presented. When Jay deigns to write a lengthier investigation, complete with a little information as to how a trick is done (for example, Laroche, who went up a spiral ramp inside a large sphere), it’s a much more enjoyable book. The illustrations, mostly old photos and playbills, are extremely illuminating. On the whole, however, nothing in this book was an interesting to me as a short piece on Jay himself which I read by Mark Singer earlier this year. Jay's deep learning in his esoteric field (the history of magic, con games, and freaks), skill to the level of miracle-working at card manipulation, and obvious psychological idiosyncrasies (why does he refuse so much work? Why does he avoid publicity?) could and should fill a whole book.
  • Soldier’s Heart, Elizabeth D. Samet
The author has taught literature at West Point for ten years, and writes of the ways in which literature has shaped her students. The book provides a few glimpses at memoir, but mostly it’s a look at how 9/11 changed cadets’ attitudes toward academics, and a reflection on the connection between the analysis of literature and military life. I was blown away by the passion of some of her students for classic literature, film, and poetry; the book certainly does much to destroy uninformed stereotypes about officers in the US military. More to the point, Samet does an excellent job justifying her position, making a strong case for the study of literature in all its nuances being good background for the future choices an officer may make. She writes of appreciating through literature moral courage as opposed to physical bravado, as in the writing of General Grant. It’s a thought-provoking and even moving book.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Saturday Cartoons: America

by Ralph Steadman, who foresaw it all thirty years earlier

Friday, January 11, 2008

I tell myself something's comin' but it never does

Feeling better than yesterday about work. Tiring day. Tiring week, in fact, mostly because I'm getting seven or fewer hours of sleep per night. Also, I'm walking or on my feet a lot all day.

Had a cathartic talk with the vice-head about the auction thing and being excluded by my fellow reserve teachers. She commiserated with me about the girly talk and gave me a few suggestions on what to do about the auction. However, before I could ask anyone else about it, the woman who's a putative leader of the team suggested that we do something else so that I would be included. So now we're offering our time to entertain some lucky (that is, rich) kids with a treasure hunt party. These private school auctions are nuts, man. I've been to one before (memories I blogged here but I'd rather not revisit) and with the open bar and the impetus to look good while supporting the school, parents spend truckloads of cash on all manner of goofy prizes.

Anyway. feeling better about that. Did not see hide nor hair of my nemesis.

All the kids are singing "Had a Bad Day," that Daniel Powter song, while they play tag and such. Apparently it was in the no-doubt execrable Chipmunks movie. Kinda weird.

Had dinner with the Friar and Palfrey and their baby at Green Margarita. Always a fun evening of tipsy laughter. Palfrey thought a lot of the traditions at Prestigious (like their distinctive method of quieting the children, and the preferred method of referring to and addressing them), were ridiculous. In some ways, she's even more anti-social than I am.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Garden, meet serpent

Today outside, the same two cute little girls from my Lesbian Nemesis' class came running up to me gleefully. One wanted to be picked up, so I swung her in the air. I didn't hold her, just swung her up briefly. Instantly, ol' L-Nem comes running up and tells the girls to go play, saying again "He's not there to play with you. Mr. Chance needs to watch all the children." Now, teachers giving kids extra attention may be her pet peeve or something, but I doubt it. One, I've seen her giving total attention to one or two kids briefly and appropriately, as I was doing. Two, it's not like I was walking around with the kid. I picked her up briefly. I really do think L-Nem is jealous that two of "her" kids happen to find me amusing. Three, I'd literally just arrived; L-Nem had no idea what I was out there for.

Second thing that got me down today: the school's having an auction in a couple of months, where parents bid on donated prizes to raise money for Prestigious. Teachers are strongly expected to donate time or projects. Not knowing at all what to do, I asked my fellow reserve team members about it, and they said that they donate as a group. I was relieved for about half a second, until they said they were going to do a "makeup party." Obviously, I can't be part of that. So much for team unity. Like last year when they had a different male reserve teacher, they've left me to find my own project to donate. My ninth day on the job. Fantastic.

This event exemplifies the atmosphere in general. I've worked with women all my life, and never have I been surrounded by so much girl talk as I have here. It's nothing but kittens and weddings and pregnancies and makeup and shoes and on and on. I understand a little female excitement at such things, but all the time? Where are the, shall we say, more earthy women who don't natter away about babies and marriage bouquets and rings? I've worked with them before. They're not at Prestigious, I guess.

The third thing that's bringing me down is the downtime. Quite a lot of the day, I'm just walking around seeing if there's anything for me to do, and almost always, the answer is no. I know most teachers (overworked and underpaid) would guffaw derisively at this "problem" (especially considering my paycheck), but really, it makes me uncomfortable. I like to be busy, or at least look busy. Being a reserve teacher, I don't have a set group of kids to track the progress of, or plans to make, so my downtime can't be filled with planning or long-term projects. I end up, as I say, trolling the halls, and I feel like I look useless out there. Or perhaps worse, unwanted.

If it weren't for some kind words from a couple of sympathetic teachers (one said that being new at Prestigious was one of the hardest things she'd ever done), I might have been very depressed at the end of today.

This is a terrific job and a huge notch in my belt career-wise, but I'm not so sure I fit in. At Brown, even though I wasn't getting paid, and the work was much harder and the hours unforgivable, I went home satisfied and happy with what I'd done that day, and nearly everyone raved about me, and I had a great time laughing with the other teachers. This has not been the case at Prestigious, yet. Obviously, it's too early to decide that I may not be happy here, but it's a possible gnat in the ointment at this point.

I've been at this job nine days. Am I hysterically over-reacting to a couple of bad moments? I am such a girl.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

BFT sandwiches and other serious silliness

Today I was in a third-grade class. They were studying Native American peoples. Out of nowhere, one kid asked me if Indians ate BLT sandwiches. I said they couldn't, because they didn't have lettuce. Or bread.

We got into a rather lengthy discussion about what they could eat instead. My favorite suggestion was the BFT, the Bacon, Fish and Tomato sandwich. Opinion was split as to whether that would be disgusting or interesting to try. The whole discursion was a big digression that ended, rather predictably, far from the original topic (who liked sushi and who didn't), but hey, anything to avoid real work, right? Kids after my own heart.

I liked being with these third graders. It's a much more different atmosphere than the pre-K. I take a very relaxed, smiling approach to discipline with the older kids. I'll approach a "problem" kid slowly and coolly, hands in pockets, and say in a soft, cheerful and confident voice something like, "Do you think you can do your work and sit here, or should you move?" After they gawp at me a few moments, I go on, "I honestly want to know the answer to that. What do you think?" This tells them that (a) I'm serious and (b) I respect them enough to give them the power to control what happens after that. Gentle reminders and the expectation of self-control, mixed with a pleasant, even goofy, demeanor: that's how I play it.

Also, I told one kid who was acting up --- again, same smile, gentle tone, and kind but serious expression --- "You must have mistaken me for someone who's going to let you do whatever you want." (It's a line rephrased from "The Wire.") That clammed him up real good.

Let you think it was all redirecting and discipline (as if the BFT story wasn't enough to disprove that), we had fun playing with a Rubik's Cube and making silly signatures on the dry-erase board at the end of class.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

I feel mistreated and I don't mind dyin'

I wore a 24-hour heart monitor at work today (discreetly, under a sweater; it's very small). Soon, its readout will inform doctors of whether I need to have some kind of horrible mechanical device inserted into me in the near future. Which is a fate worse than death, in my book.

Anyway. I had no schedule at work, so I spent all day literally walking around seeing where I was needed. I opened doors at the Older Students carpool; cut lengths of yarn for a teacher's project; cut lamination for another teacher; sat in on a fascinating fourth grade science project in which students designed Lego engines that could throw a ping-pong ball two feet; sat in on a second-grade math lesson; went on a 3-D shape hunt with a kindergarten class; showed off my infantile Chinese language skillz to a Chinese teacher; gave breaks to teachers at recess; and generally fluttered around trying to be helpful. Oh, and the Assistant Head asked me and another male teacher to play her sons in a drama preceding a book talk. That means I have to be at work before 7:00 a.m. next week. The things I do to ingratiate myself.

Monday, January 07, 2008

New year, new nemesis

I was out pretty late Saturday night, and slept until 1:00 p.m. Sunday. So pretty much the opposite of my intention to gradually get used to getting up early again before school starts. Anyway, I had trouble falling asleep Sunday night --- heart absolutely pounding for unknown reason --- but had to get up at 6:15 a.m. today. Such is life.

So, back at Prestigious. A few of the teachers are very friendly, and most are polite but indifferent. One, however --- the same one who acted hugely aggrieved at some slight of mine back here but was only mildly offensive here --- seems to be one of those people who need to lord it over others whenever they get an opportunity. She shall be my Lesbian Nemesis. (Yes, she's out.)

Case in point. Today, I was in one of the pre-K rooms. My co-teacher was a pleasant women who complemented me on how well I connect with the kids. (She also showed me the common courtesy of thanking me at the end of the day, as opposed to L-Nem, who acted like she had done me a big favor when I subbed for her co-teacher.) Anyway, I was circulating as the kids colored, and I said pleasantly to one of the kids, "Let's try to color closer in the lines a bit here." Obviously, I don't expect or ask for anything approaching completely neat work from pre-K kids, but this little guy wasn't trying at all, just listlessly dragging his marker up and down the page regardless of what was on it.

From across the hall, in another room entirely, L-Nem called out, in a cheery voice, as if to the kid, "Tell him, 'I'm only three, Mr. Chance! I'm gonna scribble a little!'"

Seriously, that's so controlling and arrogant. Naturally, I didn't say a word, just glanced at L-Nem and smiled before going on with what I was doing. Now, I honestly wouldn't mind if a co-teacher of the same room took me aside and established, with adult conversation, that I wasn't being some sort of martinet and expecting stuff that kids that age can't deliver. (I wasn't, and being slightly familiar with early childhood education and children's behavior, I do know the difference between age-appropriate coloring and just plain not trying.) But that kind of passive-aggressive nonsense from someone who ought to be minding their own business is rather trying.

Here's an anecdote that really shows L-Nem's controlling ways, though. I was at recess, when all the pre-K and K kids were out, and two of the kids from L-Nem's own room came running up to me and grabbed my hands, saying they were "getting me." I was smiling and responding to them for all of about two seconds when from across the entire damn playground I hear L-Nem scream, "Girls! Girls! Come over here! He needs to watch all the children!" (As if I couldn't give a couple of kids some direct attention for a minute while also keeping a general eye out on the area. Everyone can do this, and does, including L-Nem herself.) She made the girls run back to where she was. They didn't come near me again.

It's pretty sad when you're jealous of the attention a coworker gets from a four-year-old.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

I'm a goddam saint here

Since I spend so much of my time on this blog slagging on myself (I got low self-esteem), here are a few things that I do to make my tiny corner of the world a tiny bit better.

1. I smile and say "thank you" and "please" to clerks and waiters. Having done some truly menial jobs in my life, and not being a complete tool, I understand that other people are not on this earth for my personal pleasure, even when their jobs require them to "serve" me. It seems rather obvious to say (citing Kant) that other human beings are ends in and of themselves, not means to your own ends. But based on sad-but-true tales found on such sites as Insane Waiter, it probably needs to be said more. Which is sad, really.

2. I leave shopping carts in the return area, not the parking lot. It's not in any way a hassle to do this, and not only does it relieve the burden of grocery store employees, it protects the other cars from dents. (Worst of all is the asshole who leaves a cart in a parking space.) It amazes me how few people are able to empathize; they just can't get it into their skulls that the cart they leave rolling around the parking lot as they drive away is the same cart that gets in their way when they pull in another day and prevents them from parking. See, it all goes back to that little Golden Rule thing you may have heard about. In any case, Tubby, you need to work off those Twinkies before you heft yourself into your car, so how's about waddling the damn cart the thirty feet required to prevent it from becoming a nuisance?

3. I try not to let petty things irritate me to the point where I have to let the whole world know how petty I am. I'm talking about little stuff like when the car in front of you doesn't drive away for a few seconds after the light turns green, or when some clueless dolt cuts in front of me in a line. I'm not saying I'm Buddha --- these things do piss me off, unfortunately. What I'm saying is that life is too short to let that irritation control you, and honk at people with slow reaction times or act like an entitled dick just because someone's too stupid to realize where the line starts. Let the little things go, I say. Sure, you don't want to be a doormat, but a little humility never hurt anyone. Like Caine in "Kung Fu," brush off the absurd, quotidian injustices in life and save your righteous ire for things that matter.

4. In a similar vein, I try to treat everyone the same. The yuppie creep who'll loudly castigate a dippy old lady who cut him off would probably keep very quiet and still if the same was done to him by some 275-pound UFC wannabe. That's being a power tripper and a hypocrite, two qualities I strenuously try to avoid in my life. The Victorians and the ancient Chinese agreed that a gentleman was someone who acted with the same courtesy in the presence of inferiors and superiors. That's good advice. I'm not going to back down from a fight if it needs to happen, but there are honestly very, very few times that fighting is a better option than ceding ground.

5. In my simple, probably ineffectual way, I do try to cut down my "carbon footprint." I unplug the microwave when it's not in use (why the hell do I need a clock there?). I turn off the DVD player. I drive a fairly fuel-efficient Toyota, and I don't take pointless trips. I don't consume mindlessly; I buy very little. I reuse things. I buy recycled paper products, and recycle. On the other hand, of course, I am a resource-guzzling upper-middle-class white American male, and my lifestyle perforce uses a disproportionate amount of energy. Sorry, Third Worlders.

6. I teach young children and I am very good at my job. I honestly believe that teaching is the most important job in the world. Opening minds and imbuing confidence in the next wave of humans. Too bad there are so few teachers who succeed.

Also, here is a word game that I've been wasting my time on recently.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Saturday cartoons: Popeye, October 24, 1930

by E.C. Segar, creator of the original Hard Man

Friday, January 04, 2008

Random musings

My father continues to... well, not improve, but not get worse. Impossible to tell if he's still misusing, now with the meds his doctor has given him. Perhaps he's genuinely reeling from the effects of detox, but I doubt it. He's an addict to the core, always trying to wheedle as much medication as he can (he once told me that he found facing the world without pills unthinkable), and then he wonders why he has no energy. I've been getting rather upset with him lately (but never showing my displeasure), because he's been acting like a baby, and that's just not pleasant to see in the 72-year-old man you (along with everyone else who ever met him) once revered as the smartest and coolest man on the planet. These days all he does is ask me to fix his computer, to tell him how a simple wind-up alarm clock works, to drive him places for no particular reason, to help him with various tasks, and on and on. I realize as I type this that it sounds a bit petty to resent my elderly father now that he's less capable of helping himself, but it really isn't good for my psychic health to be depended on so much. My aunt said, rather aptly, I thought, that he uses me too much as a friend.


Went to another cardiologist today. She was a little less alarmist than Dr. K was on the 20th. She said there is the risk of sudden cardiac death, but she was currently leaning toward not instituting any kind of invasive preventative care at this point. She said I seemed in fairly good shape: no irregular heart beat, appear totally healthy, still asymptomatic of failure. She's going to read up on the literature, I'll do another test, and then I'll see her again.


It's funny the things you remember. My memory, which used to be infallible when I was a kid (I could recite conversations, verbatim, days after they occurred), has gradually been getting worse with age. When I'm introduced to someone, I never remember their name. Ever. I mean not even seconds after I've heard it. I was looking at a neighborhood directory today, reading the neighbors' names with deliberate precision, in order to remember them. An hour later, I had forgotten again. Yet I drove by the house where a kid used to live back in my eighth grade carpool --- and that's twenty-three years ago now, Ganesh help me --- and his first and last names popped unbidden into my head.

I think that's a sign that you're getting past "no longer young" and into "late middle age."


If you offer someone a piece of fruit or other food, and they say "No thank you," but then add, "But they look great!" or "But I love dried fruit, that's one of my favorite things!" --- what's that all about? I mean, this is food you almost certainly haven't sullied with your touch, if that's their concern. So if they love it so much, why don't they have some? Is that just a way of trying to make the refusal more polite? I don't get it. It seems a bit less polite to me: "I love dried fruit, but I don't want any from you, thanks."

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Will We

Another free verse. This was written fairly recently and given to an acquaintance.

Will We

Will we meet again through the blood-rimmed eyes of ghosts
Or in some stranger’s stomach
Or will we lay side by side, paralyzed
By the biting burn of freezing metal
On our respective slabs
Where bursts of breath no longer cloud the chilled air between us?
Will you be the nails that puncture me
And will I be your cross as well?
Or will I be the rock that you push uphill
Until I mischievously slip from your exhausted fingers
And roll to the safety of the valley bellow
Cradled like a hug between looming hills?

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Oregon Journal (Leavetaking)

Here's one of those free verse poems I referred to yesterday. It's probably the poem I'm proudest of (the best of a bad lot, perhaps). I wrote it many years ago when I left Portland for the first time.

Oregon Journal (Leavetaking)

The sun filtered through gray clouds
became the color of burnt orange
a rectangle of ocher on my brown tiled floor
shining slanted into the room
I went to the window to see
the imposing gray cloud
pushing back a few streaks of
brilliant pale blue
as the day ends and the sky says dusk
and dusk is the color of a bruise
slate blue, gray, smoky, burnt
But that fiery pale orange blur
and those wisps of cyan
show what the sky could be
if dusk never fell

Clear gray drops
From a pale blue gray sky
Fall to the brown gray pavement
Making little dark asterisks
And the pedestrians
Under caps, umbrellas
Work-boots plodding
Look down at the sidewalk
Always at the sidewalk
As if they were reading the sidewalk
As if the sidewalk were a text
And the answers could be found
In the footnotes from the sky

A city of books, indeed
Shelves of musty tomes
Fiction poetry cooking
Travel erotica bibles
Classics comics
Pulpy rarities with brittle pages
And scuffed leather covers
Mass market paperbacks
Shiny new crisp stiff clean
Hand me down archetypal class texts
On their seventh reincarnation
Dog-eared, scarred with wobbly underlining
Swerving inadvertently across printed lines
And tattooed with five different
Dayglo colors
Slim zines, local acid poetry
Cranked out in somebody’s basement
Stocked here as a favor to a friend
The customer scans the eight-foot shelves
And decides that sometimes
The only thing worse than no choice
Is too many choices

Quality time at Quality Pie
formica tables and bad food
and a puffy waitress
who runs a zine about her personal life
in her spare time
“Lovely Darlene” perhaps
The table of drag queens
loud and tall and glossy
and feathered like peacocks
laughing at everything and nothing
The table of students
nervous or carefree
smoking, taking it all in
trying to learn something here
or vacant and numb
The blue collars at the pinball machine
and at the counter
shaking their heads at it all
At Quality Pie, the poorer
tawdrier flashier
more adventurous younger sister
of the Hot Cake House
It vanished one day
Like an impulse to adventure
like all recalcitrant wayward girls
climbing in a stranger’s van
in the rain

“It really does smell like pine trees here,”
She observed,
Stepping out of the airport
Into the crisp wet air, and
Even standing on the pavement
Surrounded by circling cars and buses
Facing the layer cake parking lot
With the fumes and noise of jet engines
Overhead and behind us
I had to agree

Springtime at the college
The sky bluer than a picture
Clearer than any day you’ve seen before
No one can remember the rain
When they see that sky
And the emerald expanse of lawn
Between the elegant brick
Hallowed halls
Young men from another era,
Tie-dyed and long-haired and goateed
And grinning with that hippie mellow
That is so easily dispelled
And replaced with righteous ire,
Mingle with bald-headed standouts
In plaid workshirts and boots
Faces set in determination
Determined to make something
Out of something
In this place that may not be for them
And beautiful diaphanous sylphs
Long-haired brainy and nut brown
In calashes and tank tops
And thin sun dresses rippling
In the almost imperceptible
Breeze that brings this warmth
To just this side of pleasant...
For the figures in this picture
There can be no surrender
And an endless web of possibilities
Until the spring ends
And leaves turn gold, red, brown

Pioneer Square
is a city
It is a home
to the street rats
Studded, leathered, spiked
Begging smokes and change
Squatting on the bricks by the fountain
Young man, your face is
a bleak map of indifference
Masked by a forced hostility
But under that...
under that is surely fear
Fear they will take your city
Fear they will make you a new home
Fear they will make you one of them
Young man, there is no healing of your bruise
Not until you find something
The cop on his horse
who has his eye on you
(there is an eye behind that mirrored disc)
he’s found power in the law
The pinstriped suit, ramrod straight
who looks right though you
who cannot see you
who will not try
he’s found money
he’s found family
he’s found each one feeds off the other
and each one calls out for the other
and he’s trapped
but he’s striving
The filthy tottering drunk
muttering swaying muttering
till tourettic barks of insults leap out
he’s found oblivion
ahead of time
and that’s just fine with him
The bellowing fanatic with his unwieldy placard
who hands out little rectangles of salvation
twenty crudely drawn pages of warnings
a free ticket to godhead
well he’s found the supreme confidence
of being right
he’s found the arrogance of the minority
he’s found the justification
for what he’s always wanted to do
(tell people what’s wrong with them)
What will you find
in Pioneer Square
by the transit system office
by the fountains
by the cop
by the businessman
by the drunk
by the prophet
By yourself

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

No Denying

Readers of this blog know that ol' Chance enjoys himself a little poetry. From the title of the blog itself to quick allusions peppered throughout the posts' titles and texts, from outright quotations to my often-Googled top ten list, I have never been shy about showing mad respect for the classic wordsmiths.

But never have I shared my own execrable attempts at verse with my largely hypothetical reading public. Until now. Yes, it's 2008, the Year of the Rat, and it's time to dig through my youthful indiscretions with Calliope and revive some of the least shabby entries.

This one is called "No Denying." I wrote it around ten years ago. It's pretty much doggerel, I'm afraid, but it's deeply felt doggerel. It's a bitter description of a very bad breakup. Like almost all my poems, it rhymes; influenced heavily by the poets who worked within strict rhyme schemes (Tennyson, Keats, Houseman, Shakespeare, Dylan), I tend to agree with Garth Ennis' devil in "Hellblazer" --- "poems that don't rhyme reflect a fundamental lack of effort." That said, however, I have written a couple of free verses in my time, and I'm going to share them in future posts.

No Denying

There's no denying, I would be lying, if I said I wasn't in love
It just goes to show that you never know what happens when push comes to shove.
There's no true answer, hate spreads like cancer; I won't say that I think it's right
But nothing will last and some things end fast and love dies like switching a light.

There's no denying, I wasn't trying, I don't think that I'd call it fair
That awful sunrise you tore out my eyes --- you taught me what it meant to care.
Thought you'd drained me dry, I couldn't say why; saw myself as only a void
I felt them that dawn, and then they were gone, love's remnants you'd finally destroyed.

There's no denying, spent some time crying, once I learned it truly was dead
I know you wept too, I felt it anew: within me compassion had fled.
Yes I could have tried before our love died with some hope of finding a cure
It's almost a crime, and yet by that time our motives were no longer pure.

There's no denying, I would be lying, if I said I wasn't to blame
I am still haunted by what you wanted, but my life is only a game.
I was part wild, part little child; my love was so grounded in trust
You drifted away, then finally one day you crumbled my pride into dust.

There's no denying, I wasn't trying, my apathy guided me through
My myriad fears throughout all our years had taken a back seat to you.
So what a surprise fell from those blue skies, put to death my ignorant dream ---
Like some insane hoax, the cruelest of jokes, and rooted in low self-esteem.

There's no denying and no defying your base urges and your senses
I gave you a ring, asked only one thing, and lowered all my defenses.
Like some lovesick dog, I walked in a fog; in your heart no light of love shone.
Now hurt and afraid, I've gravely repaid the wages of being alone.

There's no denying, I wasn't spying, I was in no way suspicious
I couldn't conceive, in no way believe you could ever be that vicious.
Perhaps in your heart, that cold twisted part, those urges were too long denied
There's nothing to say, no point anyway --- I feel cold and empty inside.

There's no denying, we are all dying, we move toward our graves with each breath
We go with a debt of pain and regret to the court that we know as death.
I gave you your space, let you set the pace; me alone in our double bed
You wanted it all, the rise and the fall; now your hands are maculate red.

There's no denying, I think of dying, more than I consider my life
Taunted and hunted, every part stunted, I'm no man to take on a wife.
At least I was torn before I was born; a bad jar, but quite a fine start ---
Twisted and scarred and calloused and hardened for further assaults on my heart.