Language Arts: Reading and Whiting

Teachers are milling about. I randomly make eye contact with another person, which means, whoops, now we have to do the introduction thing.
L: "Hi, I'm Larry*."
K: "Hi, I'm Kevin."
L: "Good to meet you."
K: "You, too. You teach dog grooming*, right?"
L: "Yup, I'm the only one. What do you teach?"
K: "Language Arts."
L: "I'm like the only Asian guy here, so it'll be easy to remember me."
Actually, my best teacher friend so far is the other Asian guy; not wanting to brag, I simply nod.
L: "There's a lot of you guys, though!"
K: (stuttering) "I... wha... you mean white people?"
L: "No, Language Arts."
K: "Oh, right. Yeah."
We both nod enthusiastically. Awkward!

*details have been changed


First Real Day

Yesterday was my first of work. After the karaoke contest, I was a bit hung-over, but I had to drag myself out of bed nonetheless. The day was designed for teachers who were new to the district and because our school is brand new, we had the largest contingent in attendance. Initially, I was a bit scared when the big-haired, heavily make-upped facilitators held microphones and spoke in such a way that they came across as evangelists (one admitted to be proud of her Baptist affiliation).

Midday, we were made to watch a half hour video on blood borne pathogens. It was ridiculous and you would believe the various ways students found to hurt themselves and gush blood. (Embarrassingly, one person stapled eir hand, and I felt compelled to admit that that's happened to me before.) While watching the video, never have a group of people made so many snippy, sarcastic comments. As I soon discovered, my coworkers are some great people. They are young, funny, and friendly. My specific administrators are down-to-earth, enthusiastic, and humorous. Because it's a new staff, everyone is eager to meet one another and be supportive. I realize that this environment is perfect for me to start out as an educator and make new friends. Rather than me being the only person thrown into a new situation, all of us are being thrown into this new situation together.

My career as a teacher just became all the more real, and I couldn't be happier.


My Net Worth: Higher and Higher

Last night was the big karaoke competition. I've been stressing about it for a couple weeks now and promised myself that I'd spend more time practicing the song than preparing for school. Unfortunately, priorities arose and rehearsing took a back seat. I had dreamed of performing The Darkness's "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" because it has all sorts of crazy high notes and would sound impressive enough to lend me the $500. Alas, after some doomed attempts, I realized I could hit hardly any of the notes and neglected to consider that a strong voice would be necessary to pull it off. In my head, I can sing greatly - aloud, it comes out quite differently.

My song choice made just prior to leaving to the bar was "Higher and Higher" by Jackie Wilson. It suited my voice pretty well aside from that super high lyric "keep on" in the chorus. I tried to hit that part dozens of times. I could manage the "keep," but for the life of me couldn't achieve the same intense high-ness with "on." In a jam, vocal major Rachel, who owed me after copping a feel, walked me through the notes, training me where to position my tongue and pallet to succeed. From there, my notes went higher and higher. Y'all think karaoke is a joke, but when cash is on the line, I get myself a vocal coach.

I was surprised at the turnout. Thirteen friends showed up to cheer me on and influence the clap-o-meter. In the warm-up phase, Dan did a mean Johnny Cash much to our pleasure. I decided to try "Africa" by Toto, a song I first fell in love with weeks ago during an impromptu teacher night at the same bar. Since then, I've been obsessed, singing it with Jessica all of the time, mainly because we've twisted the lyrics. What do you call a Nigerian with both female and male genitalia? Hermafrican. Though I resisted the urge to belt "Hermafrica" during my performance, I did not do the song much justice, I could hear all sorts of pitch problems. If I did bring a third of the audience myself, I probably would have lost them before the competition even started.

Because the people performing tonight were repeat winners, not many of the performers were duds. Some were less exciting than others, though. As a very "worldly" (worldly being the polite way to describe a tipsy person who is attempting to drink a beer from each continent) Jessica complained, "Yeah, you can sing. So what? You're boring! Go join a choir!"

When it was my turn to perform, I felt the adrenaline and did fairly well. My friends swarmed the stage performing backup dances and vocals as I took them higher and higher. It was insanely fun to have such a rock star moment. My goal was to hit two out of three of the "keep on"s, but I think I actually managed all of them! (Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, friends who had to endure that.)

At the end of the competition, the audience clapped for the finalists. I survived through until the final two, with my main opponent being a more talented country crooner. The crowd was cheering wildly for both of us, but I heard the other guy receiving more applause - and rightfully so. The judge, however, declared that it was too close to call. We had the option of either splitting the money or having a sing-off. When the other guy suggested sharing the prize, I knew to take that offer because, first, he is more talented, and second, gambling doesn't pay!

So anyway, say hello to the $250-richer co-winner of Comfortably Trashy Bar's monthly karaoke concert. Thanks so much to everyone who showed up, I seriously couldn't have done it without you. Though I had the courage and unashamed attitude to humiliate myself, I lacked the quality chops to win on my own merit. I credit my victory to these friends as much as myself, so thanks so much. Keep on keepin' on, you hear?


Popped Music

With a new job comes a regular commute, which means that after a yearlong absence, I'm reacquainting myself with the pop music scene. If you're still absent from this scene, consider yourself fortunate. The only good songs have existed for nearly a year and are finally making it to the radio: "Move Along" by All-American was my favorite song of last summer, I've been gaga for the Fray's "Over My Head" since last September, and I was listening to Gnarls Barkley a few months before everyone else, except maybe for our international readers.

Out of curiousity, Chamillionaire, what does it mean to be caught "ridin' dirty?" Anal sex?

I kind of resent Nelly Furtado for her hit song "Promiscuous Girl." I remember when she was a respectable singer, just "like a bird," and put out some quality songs. "Promiscuous Girl" is an obvious attempt to get a #1 hit, and fuck it, it worked. Furtado did an interview a few months ago saying that she is no longer a feminist because she thinks that mentality makes people "hate men." Apparently to atone for her period of hating men, she wrote a song about fucking them indiscriminately. As much as I want to dislike "Promiscuous Girl," it has found a place in my heart since Jessica adopted it as her tongue-in-cheek anthem. Plus, I was willing to forgive her because I have heard other songs on the album that are phenomenally beautiful and assumed the next single would be amazing. I was wrong. Her new song, "Maneater," is undoubtedly one of the worst songs I've ever heard. It's a mess of gross, clashing notes with insipid lyrics. Hall & Oates owe Furtado a thank you for claiming the title of Most Horrendous Song Entitled "Maneater" to Ever Exist.

And a mean growl to Justin Timberlake, too. Even the snobbiest of my music snob friends had their taste compromised and admitted to liking Timberlake's last album. Well Timberlake can cry me a river, but I still find his songs boring and whiny. Everyone liked that "Rock Your Body" song, too, but when I even try to remember it now, all that comes to my head is the Backstreet Boys song "Everybody (Rock Your Body)." So it comes with great disappointment that I'm currently bopping to "Sexy Back" in spite of myself. The song is pretty bad and I can't even tell which part Justin is singing, but it's so damn catchy. To give credit where credit is due, I suppose we have been the return of sexy to our society has been long overdue, so Timberlake deserves kudos for having the courage and strength to actually bring sexy back.

Finally, I'd like to share the biggest controversy in pop music that no one is talking about. A couple of months ago, Fefe Dobson released a new song, "Don't Let It Go to Your Head" to disappointingly little fanfare. In the interim, Jojo, that teenage hussy, put out a hit single "Too Little Too Late" that sounds strikingly similar to Fefe's song, but much worse, if that makes sense. As a high school English teacher, I'd like to teach this twerp a thing or two about plagiarism; the Fefster is not to be messed with. Seriously, listen to these two songs (via download/YouTube) and let me know if you hear the disconcerting similarities, particularly in the chorus. In Fefe's video, she sits on a toilet and dances the robot, whereas Jojo merely whimpers about a guy twice her age. Which artist shows true genius? I think therein lies the answer to who is capable of coming up with this tune first. Please alert the media, we can't let Jojo steal and profit from Fefe's talent.


I'm Employed and Can Afford a New Spatula

I am employed and excited. Today I signed for a Language Arts position at a nearby high school. I've had a few offers in the past week and it's been difficult to commit to one knowing it will be my life for at least the next year. I made a goal recently to be a more decisive person, which has truly been put to the test now that I've had to make some of the most important decisions of my life.

As terrifying as this step is, I'm eager to move forward and be a real person. I'm not quite there yet, but it's time to give it a go. It helps to know that I'm being well compensated in this process. The common belief is that teachers don't make much money, but when you sign with the highest paying district in the area, you make bank! I never came into this profession for the money, but let me tell you, I'm gladly teaching for the money now. I'll make more in a day than in an entire week last summer on full time minimum wage. Take that silly internship!

After returning home, Michael Michael and I decided we had to celebrate my hiring upon spotting an ad for a sale on liquor at Rite-Aid. En route, I repeatedly got the store mixed up with Sav-On and calling it "Right-On!" which made Michael Michael giggle. In the parking lot, we encounter dozens of lame paintings for sale in front of the store. Michael Michael made a derisive comment about the hack art. "You mean these paintings by the artist that's sitting right here and can hear you?" I asked. Michael Michael blushed in embarrassment and we ran into the store where our conversation degenerated into gibberish until we broke into full-blown Beavis and Butthead dialogue as we shopped. A $5 handle of brandy? Yes, please. A pricier bottle of irish creme? Why not, I'm employed. Two bags of candy for the price of one? That's a must-buy regardless of your income. The cashier tried to charge me for both bags, but I caught the error and made eir run it up again. No matter my wage, I will always be cheap. On the way out of the store, Michael Michael attempted to book it past the artist, but not before I loudly exclaimed, "We're going to need this alcohol after having to look at this art."

The night became an impromptu party. Inviting a couple people over to celebrate our good fortune led to about fifteen people yucking it up in the house, which turned out to be an intoxicated blast. I'm quite content with my extended circle of friends. Allison and I played a nonsensical game of go fish using household items. The only explicit rule was to find ways to be racist in the hopes that casual observers would be offended. Only the overly-sensitive Jews bothered to complain. (Point for Kevin!) After each success, we'd cheers our glasses and sputter, "Chink!" to match both the sound of our beverages and the racial theme.

Later when I tried to share a story about a peculiar student, Allison admitted that she already read about that on my blog. That's the worst part about having a blog, people often learn of my amusing stories before I have a chance to tell them in person, which is fine except that it makes me that much more of a boring companion.

The highlight of the night came when a loopy Allison proceeded to the (passenger's seat of the) car. Noticing something protruding from her purse, I asked, "Is that spatula?" She checked in disbelief before doubling over in laughter upon realizing that she almost committed the ultimate party foul by inadvertently stealing the hosts' spatula. Most people would use an incident like this one as an excuse not to invite someone back to subsequent social functions, but frankly, I think anyone absurd enough to attempt to pilfer a semi-concealed kitchen utensil is just the type of entertaining guest I want to play with all of the time.

Apologies to Allison who "already knows" this story from having been there. On second thought, she might not even remember.


Snakes on a Plane, Motherfuckers

Last Thursday, ten of us went to the world premiere of Snakes on a Plane. I've been a huge fan of this movie more than a half year before it debuted when Alec told me about the premise. I preemptively loved it so much that my last college essay was ten pages on the impending beauty of SOAP for my Media Audiences & Fans class.

In case it warrants explanation, Snakes on a Plane is meant to be the most ridiculous spectacle. Therein lies its appeal. Why are there snakes on a plane? I'm expecting a plot that never fully answers this question. Rest assured - it does not!

Ten of So. Cal's finest went to the big event. Wearing homemade masks and carrying rolling airplane toys from the 99 cent store, we took the premiere by storm. Hassled by security, we still managed to get a glimpse of Samuel L. Jackson (holding a snake, no less) and whoever the hell else was in the motherfucking movie.

We couldn't get into the premiere premiere, so we settled for seeing the next showing at the same theater, Mann's Chinese Theater, or as Wes misunderstood it, Chinaman Theater. Everyone in attendance was freaking crazy, either screaming or hissing at the screen throughout the film. If you haven't seen SOAP in an interactive setting, you haven't really seen the movie. We were filmed as we watched the movie, and if you've seen the commercial that shows an audience watching the flick, you might be able to pick us out. (I haven't seen the ad myself, but Celeste has.)

Best. Movie. Ever.

Click here to see more fun photographs.


13 Dead End Dri-Hump

Wes moves out tomorrow and I'm bummed big time. Living with him for the past two months has been positively swell. Sure he'll be only three minutes away, but after the privilege of being separated by just a wall, it just can't compare.

Jessica and I love playing the board game 13 Dead End Drive. One night we left it out on the kitchen table overnight. The next morning, we found that the pieces were not how we had left them. At first we decided that the fan must have blown them into funny positions, but then we realized that the positions seemed a little too deliberate:

As we soon discovered, Wes took some liberties with the pieces and turned the boobytrapped mansion into an outright orgy. Old people doing it on the stairs. A threesome. The aged gardner mounting the cat. Juvenile, yet entirely hilarious. It's the best thing you could do with this game - other than playing it.


Parent of the Year

After dropping off some papers, I head to my car in a school parking lot. As I unlock the door, I notice a man holding a baby in a carrier walking closely behind me. Starting my car, before pulling out of the space, I know to check the rearview mirror to verify the man has passed out of my way. Just as I take that peek, I spot him placing the carrier with the baby in it behind my car and then walk to the van next to mine, open the door, and rummage through papers in the back seat.

I start freaking out. I cannot believe he just left his baby behind an operating vehicle! After staring and hoping he'll come to his senses, I finally roll down my window and say, "Hey, is your baby behind my car?" He turns and gives me a blank look; clearly he doesn't speak English. "Tu bebe... babe?" I butcher the word, but he finally seems to get it and goes to pick up his baby, clearing my path. I back out slowly making sure that nothing peculiar or dangerous happens.

I'm still livid. Who does that? Who is so careless to leave eir child unattended in a parking lot? On the pavement? Behind a running car? If I hadn't specifically seen the point where he set the baby down behind my car, I probably would have seen that the man was out of my way, assumed it was safe to move in reverse, and run over the child. I would have lived with that guilt for the rest of my life. And for once it wouldn't be my own idiocy to blame.

It is with great pride that I present the first annual Kevin Babbles Parent of the Year Award to Fucktard Man in School Parking Lot. ::applause::


Learning English

Michael Michael continues a pointless conversation well after its expiration. After receiving a look from me, he justifies, "I'm just helping you practice your English."

"Why?" I ask. "Did I not use proper grammar?"

"No," he says. "You said everything perfect."




Pick Pink for a More Slender Look

So I'm puttering about on the internet as people are want to do when they're bored and I notice an advertisement flashing in the margin.

There's nothing like weighing in on celebrities' eating disorders for sport.

You have to wonder if Lindsay Lohan knows her image is being used in this context or if she ever takes a break from snorting coke long enough to care. She looks awful. Then again, that might be the point. It's hard to tell. It likes someone stretched the photo to emphasize her thinness.

I'm curious if there is a "right" answer to the question posed: can you only win this coveted pink cellphone if you pick a certain answer? "You can't be too skinny" is probably the response of choice for those silly enough to want a pink cellphone. Would any practical individual thinking "who cares?" actually take the time to select that option?

I want to just avert my eyes altogether and yet I... must... win... pink... cellphone.

If you ask me, Lindsay Lohan's problem is not that she's too skinny, but that she looks like an 80 year old woman. Are we sure that's not a picture of Ellen Burstyn?


A New Spin on an Old Joke

Q. Why did the chicken cross the road?
A. Because she stepped on it.

Think about it if you have to. I just made it up and I can't stop snickering. I wouldn't guess that this occasion is the first time someone offered that punchline, but right now I feel like the cleverest wordplay-er alive.


Random Adventures from this Morning

On the phone, I give my dad my new email address, which ends in cgu.edu. My dad says it reminds him of what a bird would say to a worm. "If I C-G-U, I will E-D-U." I must be in a good mood, because I laugh. I can't believe I get my sense of humor from him.

Suddenly in need of duplicating services, I travel to [insert corporate name here] copy center. The old woman in front of me is so frustrated by the machine that she starts crying. "Technology," she mutters, turning to me. I offer assistance, which makes her smile while wiping away tears, and I try to figure out how to get the copier working. I may be young, but I couldn't figure it out either, and as I pressed the wrong button, the old woman angrily, yet still teary, tells me I'm doing the wrong thing. Great, I think. If she thinks she knows how to do this better than me, she's more than welcome not to take my help. Who fucking cries at a copy store?

On my way home, I drive by a thrift store I have never stopped at before. Immediately, I make a u-turn and run into the store. A sign on the first rack I encounter declares "1/2 Off All Coloreds." Though I can infer that this statement is in reference to non-white t-shirts, it's certainly a poor word choice, particularly for a store in a town with a dominant minority population yet only Caucasian employees.

I skip the coloreds section and find a Scrabble board. I stand at the register, but I'm stuck behind another old woman. She's not crying, but after paying for her new used mug, she chats up the employee about the weather, the condition of her living room couch, and her belief in the Christian causes that this thrift store's proceeds go toward. Five minutes later, I'm prepared to make this woman cry. Shut up! Finally, it's my turn to pay. The employee thanks me and reminds me the cash will go toward Christian service projects. I do my best to contain my excitement. Holding the Scrabble board, ey tells me, "I hope you get the good word!" I crack a genuine smile: that might be the best religious pun I have ever heard.

Afterwards, I stop at Wendy's for a double burger. In front of me in line, a woman and teenager daughter argue about whether she can date. "You know the rule," the mom says. "You're not allowed to date until we find mommy a boyfriend first." An argument about whether this rule is fair occurs for the following two minutes, meaning the mother is actually serious about this matter.

All of this happens in a span of two hours. How much do you wish you were me?



Last night, Daisy, Michael Michael, Alyssa, and I went to our favorite "comfortably trashy" bar for a night of karaoke. There was a $100 grand prize for the winner,
and after losing big in Vegas, I've been looking for a way to supplement my nonexistent income.

Regular karaoke-goers are hysterical. They take their craft seriously and are possessive of their song choices. With $100 on the line, however, I can appreciate their intenseness. After a while, my name was called, and I do a rather successful rendition of my standard "Suspicious Minds." The crowd got into it. Unfortunately, I forgot how many times Elvis repeats "I'm caught in a trap" at the end, and I think my boredom showed. Just after me, Alyssa nailed it with Janice Joplin's "Piece of Your Heart," and I kissed my $100 away. We sat around waiting for Alyssa to claim her prize, but then we learned that the contest had not even started, so we would have to sing something else for our money. I poured through the song book. I wanted "The Freshman" by The Verve Pipe because I think it suits my range the best (shut up!), but settled for The Goo Goo Dolls' "Iris."

When my turn came, I did the best I could with the song, but was not prepared to hit some of the notes I forgot existed in that song. As I've learned from American Idol, when you lack talent, belt. I screamed the shit out of that song; in spite of a couple sour notes, the crowd seemed to appreciate it. A bit later, Alyssa killed us softly in the best way possible, even though her track had the worst, most distracting vocal accompaniment I have heard for a karaoke song. Some of our competitors were actually quite good, but most notably was the woman who butchered "Smooth Operator." I love Sade; her voice turns me on, but this individual treated this sensual ballad like a flat spoken word poem.

At the end of the night, I wasn't expecting to win, but I did cross my fingers for a miracle $100. The names were called, and I was amongst the top four contestants along with Alyssa. I hate applause-o-meters, because it's all about how many people you bring to the bar (though I understand that system is in the bar's best interest), and wish there was a better way. After the screams are informally measured, I am deemed the second-runner-up, with Alyssa claiming second place. The winner was this poophead who asked that the "Rockin' Robin" karaoke track be turned off mid-song so he could do it accapella. He should have been disqualified for that, not given $100. Boo!

At least we received consolation prizes. A coupon for $500 off a new mattress, which I don't need. The better news, however, is that both Alyssa and I placed high enough to qualify to come back the last week of the month for the $500 (cash) grand prize. The date is likely to be the night before the first day I teach school. I can call in hungover sick on my first day, right? If a school district wants to pay me $500 to sing a song, maybe I'll reconsider priorities. Anyway, if you're in SoCal, please come out to support and hoot and holler on the 28th to make me some money. If I win, I'll share, even. In the meantime, I'm going to be practicing every day. I feel that if I can master those crazy high notes in the Darkness's "I Believe in a Thing Called Love," I'm guaranteed to win, but so far I'm finding that my voice won't cooperate with that choice. I pity my housemates for the next couple of weeks. I'm going to have to share the money with them, too.


Terrorists Aren't So Bad

"Spiders are evil. They're like terrorists, but at least terrorists don't come into our homes and bite us." - Alex



At Stacy's house last weekend, I wake up before everyone else and searched for a way to amuse myself. On the shelf, I notice a book entitled The Conquest of Happiness. Having time to kill and room for happiness in my life, I pick it up and hope for the best. By the second page, it makes a disparaging remark about "colored people." "What?" I ask aloud, before checking the copyright date and discovering it was penned in 1930. Now it makes sense, in that age, happiness wasn't meant for non-Caucasians, or women for that matter, as I discover in the subsequent pages. A little more than an hour later, I realize that I have read the entire 250 page book.

Do I feel happier for having read the book? Eh. The author's perspective is a bit too different from my twenty-first century point of view, though I can relate to his sentiment that he would have commit suicide as a teenager were it not for his intense desire to learn more mathematics.

When Stacy finally appears, I inquire about the book. She explains that the author, Bertrand Russell, is a famous philosopher. So famous, in fact, that her friend started a Vegas-based cult around him. (Note: this is my own interpretation of what she said in very different words.) I reference a moment from late in the book when Russell stops expounding on his thesis to demonstrate what a drunk Chinaman speaks like. Stacy doesn't have a defense, but explains that he is known for his work with logic problems. Formal logic was one of the most challenging and satisfying classes I took during college, so this news excites me almost enough to ignore the racism

In short, I don't "conquer" happiness that morning. I'm still not convinced that happiness is something that can be conquered. True happiness is more of a journey, and can be found if you look for it in the right places. What makes me happy? Lately, it's been my stupendous housemates, eating meat, and this period of self-discovery I've been undergoing the past couple of months. For the first time in a long time, I think I feel like what I'm supposed to feel like.

And now: an acrostic for happiness!




About a month ago, I taught a lesson on figurative language. One of the assignments was to take a figure of speech, like "it's raining cats and dogs", and draw a picture of both the literal and figurative meaning. The students drew some magnificent things including "the roar of the ocean" (a wave growling) and "giving someone a hand" (an anime depiction of the grim reaper giving a bloody stump of a hand to Yu-Gi-Oh). Still, many of them kept getting confused as to which example was figurative and which was literal. "Who knows what literal means?" I ask. "That it's real?" someone offered. "But not always," someone else said. At this point, I started to realize the problem. In today's vernacular, people throw around the word "literally" when they clearly do not mean literally. I offer up my sibling as an example, who says things like, "I could literally die." Well, no, she couldn't literally die, but she says that for emphasis, even though that's not how the word should be used. I told them that you should use "literally" only when it seems like what is being said might be an exaggeration, but you want to indicate that it really happened that way. They seemed to understand, and I'm glad to have kicked forty-five students of this nonsensical word usage as it is a pet peeve of mine. Proudly, I said, "So we all know to be literal with 'literally,' right?" I laugh aloud at my own joke, though no one else does. Maybe they still don't understand what literal means. Or maybe I'm just not funny.

Later in the afternoon, I went to a job interview. It went horribly. Well, I mean, I handled the questions well, but the school is not a good match for me. First of all, it's a junior high, and I'd prefer a high school, but I agreed to consider it because of this magnet school's rigorous academic reputation. The principal informed me of the school's stance of academics coming first, with "fun" coming fourth or fifth. The structure of my classroom would offer me no flexibility in what I teach, I would be told what to do each day. Plus, the facilities looked like a prison - I must clarify that while many schools are being compared to prisons lately, this one definitely fits the bill.

Finally leaving the interview, I reached my car and twice muttered aloud to myself, "That literally sucked balls." That's when I caught myself: there was no literal ball sucking seeing as I was too disinterested in the position to stoop to that level. I can't even teach myself a lesson successfully.

I am literally the most uneducated teacher I know.



Instead of lesson planning, I appropriately opted to watch the movie Slackers. In a feat of irony, I fell asleep watching the film - probably because it sucked. Still, I had the most amazing dream. Though I generally dream about mundane topics, this time I dreamt that I was an inanimate object: a cocktail at some sort of party attended by senior citizens. I think I was a martini. No one ever took a sip from me, but I was held ornamentally by a few different affluent elderly people pretending to wax intellectually about politics and others' social inferiority. At a couple of points, I would be set down on a table, only to be picked up by another person mistaking me for eir own drink, so I was able to observe multiple conversations and travel about the mansion.

Eventually, all of the conversation turned to the annoying music playing in the background. Indeed, there was some sort of crappy techno song with some voice muttering something about cheese. I was doing my best to ignore the music, but the old people finally couldn't handle it anymore, so I realized I was going to have to become more animate and proactive than a martini and turn off the music if I wanted to continue enjoying this dream.

At that point, I woke up, realizing that Slackers had ended and the DVD menu had been playing this song on loop for, according to my roommates twenty minutes. That annoying ditty ruined what might have been my most fascinating dream in ages.

One day, I hope to be a martini again.


Cut. It. Out.

To start the day, my student brings in a picture he drew. It's a piece of broccoli with a face (can vegetarians eat that?), or so I think. Wondering whether the drawing is Veggie Tales inspired, I inquire why he penciled broccoli. "That's not broccoli, that's a picture of you with an afro!" Oh, of course. At any rate, remind me not to get that hairstyle ever. I must not be stimulating these kids enough if they're starting to imagine what I'd look like with an afro.

I've had some difficulty keeping the kids on topic and try to monitor the discussion fervently. However, I become a bit lax(ative?) when the students bring up poop. I selfishly let the topic go on, having missed this type of conversation in life lately. Then the kids start listing different words for poop. That's a good practice in synonyms, I rationalize, and let it continue until someone utters "shit." "That's enough," I interject. "But Mister!" "Oh come on, we all knew we were going to have to stop once you brought up that word." The student slapped his forehead in shame, knowing full well the unspoken rules.

Even though I enjoy inappropriate things like poop, even I wasn't prepared for the giggling at the mention of Charles Dickens. Yes, Dickens. Unable to settle the students down, I lost my cool and said, "You can't be serious!" "Who names their kid Dickens?" asks one. "It's not a big deal," I say. "Some people have the first name Dick." "No!" one doubts. "Sure," I said. "Don't you know our Vice President, Dick Cheney?" Neither student is familiar with Dick Cheney. "Is Dick Cheney a woman?" one finally asks. If I wasn't present, I would not believe this conversation were happening. I take one of the kids' papers and write at the top "Dick --- Richard." "Dick is a shortened form of the name Richard," I explain.

On to the next tangent, though. One kid likes to do the infamous Joey Gladstone, "Cut it out!" complete with hand motions at least a dozen times during the class. I finally have to ask, "How do you even know Full House?" "I watch it every day," is the response, adding "How rude!" "Stephanie?" I ask. "Yeah, she's hot." "You know, she became addicted to meth when she grew up." "What's meth?" Oops. These kids don't know who the Vice President is, I should hope they'd be ignorant to the existence of meth as well. "It's a bad drug, don't ever do it." I pause, hoping the subject will magically change again. Thank goodness it comes, and not a moment too soon. "Michelle is hot, too." "She's a baby on that show!" I object. "Yeah, but grown up she's hot!" "Well they're twins," I point out. "It's Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen." "I know; they're hot." "Actually, they're creepy looking, all skinny and on drugs." "Why is that all the hot ones have to get screwed up on drugs?" my student ponders. Perhaps this student is actually wise beyond his years - it took me until college to reach that insight.

At the end of the day, my student packs up all of his stuff, except for one paper which he leaves behind. "You forget this," I call after him. "I can't bring that home: you wrote 'Dick' at the top!" Indeed, I had. Granted, it was in the name of instruction, but the bottom line is that I wrote "dick" on his paper.

This is my life, people. Even I can't believe it.


As Not Seen on TV

Currently, I'm working at a literacy program for students entering middle school. Going to retrieve my students from a pre-class assembly, a student that is not mine latches on to me and gives me a hug. Panicking, I ask other teachers whether this particular one belongs to them. Finally someone rescues me. I don't understand why this incident occurred, but I feel uncomfortable.

At break, I see the same kid staring at me. He approaches another teacher and points at me. I don't hear what he says, but the fellow teacher responds, "He's another teacher." The kid then struts up to me. "Are you on TV?" he asks. "No," I say, assuming he hasn't caught me on a VH1 award show. "You're on TV!" he accuses. "No," I say firmly, a bit scared. "You're on TV," he repeats, then stomps away. He returns to the other teacher, says something, then comes back to me. "You're on the Del Taco commercial." "No, I'm not." "Yes you are!" "I don't even eat at Del Taco," I ration. I can't believe I'm having to argue this.

The next day, he stalks me before and after class, always walking a half-step behind my left shoulder so that he can whisper nonsensical words and songs into my ear. Each time I inquire what he's talking about, he quickly says, "Nothing. Nothing." It may be nothing, but it sure is eery.

As I try to slip away from his uncomfortably close position, I notice him trying to shove a five dollar bill in my pocket. "What are you doing?" "Nothing." "Don't try to give me that; I don't want that." "It's five grand!" he grins. "No, it's five dollars; don't give it to me," I explain. "Look over there," he says. "What?" I ask. "Look over there, you dropped something," he repeats. In other cases, I might humor the child, but I know as soon as I turn my back, he'll slip the money in my pocket. Though I refuse to turn around, he tries to give it to me again anyway. "No!" I have to say. "I'm not in the Del Taco commercial," I remind him, which makes him sad. Apparently, because I'm a celebrity in his eyes, he wants to give me money. I'm too ethical to take money from a confused kid - or at least until a twenty is involved.

In the meantime, I'm getting a kick out of being the Del Taco guy. You can go to the Del Taco website and marvel at how much I do not look like the pushing-forty spokesperson Dan from the ad. If you're like me, you'll think the situation is so hilarious that you'll download both the Dan wallpaper and screen saver to your computer so that you can always be surrounded by the presence of my Doppelganger.


Dumb and Dumber and Dumbest

Kevin: Wait, you're friends with the blind kid from Dumb and Dumber?
Christina: Well, I know him, he went to my high school.
Michael Michael: Is he really blind?
Christina: No, he's Mormon.


What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas - Unless You Blog

Okay, so I might have exaggerated the guarantee of winning money in Vegas. Stick with me, here.

Late Friday night, we go to a casino with all-night bowling. It was rumored to be a dollar a game, but turned out to be $5.50 instead because it was a weekend. Even though I made $125 the night before, that price seemed a bit too steep for bowling; I have standards. Instead, Michael Michael and I opt to hit the tables.

Well, the night sucks. I lose all of my profit from the night before, plus an additional ten bucks. I lament to Michael Michael as we are about to leave the casino that this trip will be the first time I am leaving Vegas without having made a profit. When he finds out I'm only down $10, he encourages me to make one more bet to not tarnish my record.

I hate roulette. I think it's boring and pointless. But the odds are there: nearly 50%. Normally, I'd try for similar odds at the craps table, but the luck wasn't with me there. I put $10 on red and lose.

Shit. Okay, I should have just been fine losing $10. Now I'm down $20. But there's a system with roulette, to just keep doubling the money until you hit and you'll win your money back. At 50/50 odds, it'll treat you well so long as you're willing to continually make the risk. So I put $20 on red again. Another loss. Fuck. Do I want to keep going? Fine. $40 on red. It's black again. $80?

At this point, let me make it abundantly clear that though Michael Michael encourages me, I do not blame him. All decisions made are my own; though Michael Michael was perhaps an enabler by lending me the money to make the bets, he is not responsible for my choice. Furthermore, I am playing designated driver for the night, so I am of completely sound mind. Okay, not of sound mind, but sober.

I go for it. It's called gambling, right? $80 on red. It's bound to hit. Who misses that many times in a row? Me. This shit is rigged for black! Where's my red?! 10 + 20 + 40 + 80 = $150. I've now lost $150 in five minutes of roulette.

The next step would be to risk $160 all in an effort just to break even. This is exactly the type of gambler I refuse to become. So we walk. Not only do I not have the cash to afford that, but it's stupid. This entire thing is stupid. Gambling isn't fun anymore. I've learned the lesson I've been waiting to learn for a while.

I don't intend to gamble again anytime soon. Go figure that I would make bank on the night I'm piss drunk and kicked out of the casino, but blow it all the night I'm trying to be responsible.

Next time, I'll spring for the $5.50 to go bowling instead.


The Best Night I Can't Remember

Have you ever woken up next to your guardian angel? (A cheesy way to open a post, but I would give my students on a perfect score on their writing rubrics for including an engaging open with a similar line.)

Yesterday, a bunch of us soon-to-be teachers set off for a Las Vegas getaway. Vegas is absolutely disgusting, but provides me with free alcohol and money, so I'm always down to go. About a dozen of us were planning to all squeeze into a couple of the smallest hotel rooms, but because of a booking error on the hotel's part, they gave us a plush, gigantic suite near the top that ended up fitting all of us more than comfortably.

After a few hours of wandering the strip, Michael Michael and I headed to the tables to do what we do best: gamble. The night started well; I had a half hour roll at the craps table that won me a few twenties and some strangers at the other end literally thousands of dollars, which is always fun. People would have probably treated me to a drink if they weren't already free, and I wasn't already taking advantage. I sucked those suckers down.

At this point, it's important to note that I've never blacked out before in my life. Granted, there have been times when I don't remember things as clearly, but if someone reminds me of it, it'll come back to me. From that night, however, the last thing I remember was standing with Stacy at the craps table living it up.

It's about 10 a.m. the next morning. Feeling somebody's presence, I open my eyes and look up to see Jennifer. "Hi," she says. I respond, but realize she's not talking to me. That's when I notice that someone is spooning me. Ah, there's nothing like waking up next to a stranger on a Vegas hotel floor. Apparently, it's "Tammy," but I have to wait for her to refer to herself in the third person before I could figure that out. She's not a fellow teacher, but a friend of Jennifer's I didn't know who came along for the trip.

I thank Tammy profusely for taking watch over someone she didn't even know, and she insists it was a pleasure, because we spent the night bonding. Apparently, I was a chatty drunky-poo, and we spent hours learning about each other. Well, she learned anyway. I can't tell you a single thing about her and can't even imagine what I shared with her that made her feel so close. Let's hope that she doesn't blog, too.

Michael Michael inquires about the previous night. "Do you remember getting kicked out of the casino?" What?? I don't know whether to be more humiliated that that happened or that I can't remember it. "Do you remember throwing up on your feet?" Uh, no. "Do you remember having that awkward encounter walking by the cops?" No to that as well, but apparently that's a lie, because I was not walking, instead being more or less carried by Michael Michael past two cops who wanted to intervene. As this story is recounted, evidently I whispered, and as most drunk whispers go, in an entirely unsubtle fashion, "I see them!" with all of the creepiness of a Haley Joel Osmond, "I see dead people!"

Of course, I'm concerned. I pride myself on being a good drunk, not the type to get kicked out of the casino. Apparently, I didn't do anything too bad except curse. Some of the other patrons were bothered by my social craps playing (though craps is an extremely social game) and told Stacy and I to "focus on the dice" instead of chatting with each other, which is totally against the vibe of this table game, so bad on them. At some point, Stacy and Christina and I cut me off from the free drinks, and I'm pleased to announce that I listened. Still, the damage was already done, because I was so trashed that I was passing out on the craps table, unable to keep my head up. That was what got me kicked out. So it could have been much worse. Michael Michael reminds me that my goal for the night was not to spill on myself or the table and I succeeded. Perhaps I should have aimed a little higher, though.

In better news, I woke up with $185 in chips in my pocket. I started with just $60 worth, which means I more than tripled my money, despite being obliterated. I'm telling you, Vegas is terrific because you can't lose! I can't even tell you what happened the night before, and I still came home a richer person. Thank you, Las Vegas.

Oh, and also thanks to Tammy, my guardian angel, whoever she is.


Ey! Eir! Em!

Okay, I suppose it's finally time to address the "ey," "eir," and "em"s that frequent my posts. I thought I could just not address it and you all would gradually adopt these gender-neutral pronouns into your own vocabularies, but based upon the comments I've been receiving, I'm clearly going to need to give it some explanation.

The English language is faulty without gender-neutral pronouns. It's obnoxious, when referring to a hypothetical person to have to use "he/she" or "he and she." Why don't we have a word that doesn't specify? Many people try to fudge this dilemma by using "they," but not only is it grammatically incorrect, it confuses the number of people being specified.

Our language does not allow for transgendered individuals, those with ambiguous genitalia, and people who reject the connotations that come with the anatomy with which they were born. "He" and "she" do not suffice in these circumstances, and a progressive society should try to address this problem.

Since I am not a fan of stereotypes or social norms, I resent all constructs that force labeling individuals. When we refer to a person, we have the option of not sharing that individual's age, race, or sexual orientation, yet often, due to the limitations of our language, it is unavoidable to not reference one's gender. Our pronouns essentially force us to reveal that information about someone. We should be more socially-forward than using this archaic system. Can you imagine how ludicrous it would be if pronouns referenced someone's race, such that when you tried to talk about someone, you had to say something like, "Jamie ate shellfish. Hispanic threw up in Hispanic's toilet." What that establishes is a system where race cannot only not be ignored, but is still deemed a crucial characteristic. With that in place, we continue to focus on the differences between us and discrimination is perpetuated.

Sexism is the most ingrained form of discrimination in contemporary culture. Granted, there are certain, important biological differences between genders, but the extent to which this fact plays out in the way people consequently think, dress, and behave is largely unwarranted. Now I'm not saying one's sex is entirely irrelevant. There are times when, given the context of the story, it is pertinent to share that information. Otherwise, it is unnecessary. And that is why I advocate the use of gender-neutral pronouns.

There are a few different existing sets of gender-neutral pronouns, but I choose ey, eir, and em, as they simply chop off the "th" from the pluralized forms. Thus he or she become ey, his or her becomes their, and him or her becomes em.

I haven't made a complete jump to gender-neutral pronouns, or even a half jump for that matter. Truthfully, it's difficult to remember to use them: after a lifetime of saying he and she, it becomes a habit. Also, some people seem to find it insulting when you degenderize them. Nevertheless, I still try to remember to use it especially in cases where the gender does not play a role in the story.

Today in class, I reviewed pronouns with my students. I didn't teach them the gender-neutral options because I thought that might be a bit much for sixth graders. After listing them all on the board, one student asked, "Is that it?" "Yeah, at this point in time, in this world," responded another. I was stunned. Is this kid in tune with the sexism that needs to be eradicated from our language? Ey continues, "Cuz you never know about aliens." Oh, ey meant aliens. But that's a valid point. If for no other reason, adopt gender-neutral pronouns for the aliens.