One Good Lie Deserves Another

One off my students had told me ey was moving again and that it would be eir last day in class. Ey was one of the kids that caused a stink preceding Good Friday, so I wasn't exactly disappointed to lose em. Still, I hesitated to believe eir claim since ey was a compulsive liar and didn't plan a party for the occasion until this claim could be confirmed.

After the weekend, the student strutted into my class, tardy as usual. "Are you surprised to see me?" ey asked. "Sure, you told me you were moving," I answered. "I lied," ey said with a grin. "I trusted you," I said, which was a lie in itself. Ey countered, "You should have known I lie."

I decided to give em a taste of eir own medicine, saying, "I really wish you hadn't done that." "Why?" ey asked. I replied, "I threw out all of your work! I didn't even grade it, I thought you weren't coming back."

A flash of panic struck the student's face. "But what... that's not..." Ey was so flustered, ey couldn't complete a thought.

I spared him. "Calm down, I'm just lying to you, too." The student was relieved. "Do you know why you should have known that was a lie?" "Why?" I smiled slightly and asked, "What work do I have from you to throw out?" The class erupted in laughter and scattered applause. I had clowned em so hard, ey turned red and put eir face against the desk.

That day, for the first time in months, I actually received some work from that student.


Flavor of Love

Madison: Eww!
Kevin: What?
Madison: I just saw a commercial for flavored birth control pills. They're chewable.
Kevin: Hmm.
Madison: I guess they're for women who can't swallow?
Kevin: That's what gets them into that mess in the first place.


Kevin Is What's in Your Head

As the Internet becomes increasingly pervasive in our everyday lives, new social norms are routinely created. When I first heard the word “netiquette” years ago, I think I threw up in my mouth a little bit. Nevertheless, after being ostracized by a message board for homophobic comments, being threatened with legal action for blog content, and unknowingly having my picture taken and posted on MySpace, I must acknowledge that there is a “netiquette,” a set of rules we play by on the Internet, whether we are aware we are to abide by them or not.

In the past two years, Facebook, a social network for college students (and now, frankly, any uneducated dingy), has had its community create all sorts of rules for itself. On Sunday, Susan and I discussed the strange dynamic wherein the site is clearly meant for stalking, yet stalking must be done anonymously. While it’s fun to read the latest your friends and, more often, your acquaintances have posted about themselves, acknowledging that you’re spending time doing so is considered highly lame. What you learn on Facebook stays on Facebook. (The same, by the way, tends to be true for this blog. Most of y’all won’t admit to reading this, and I respect that.) For the most part, I adhere to the unwritten rules of Facebook: don’t post on your own wall, don’t update your profile too frequently, don’t admit that you check the website several times a day. Other than that time I registered Ted as a child molester via Facebook, I consider myself a good Facebook user.

On Facebook, there is an option known as a Status. Here you can update people on your immediate goings-on. To offer an analogy, status : Facebook :: away message : Instant Messenger. Occasionally I update my status, but rarely to actually indicate what I am currently doing, because that seems a little too stalker-friendly. (Remember, you’re not supposed to appear as though you want to be stalked, even though if you use the site with any regularity, you clearly do.) The format is always one of “Kevin is…” at which point I fill in the rest. For example, I could say “Kevin is a vagina lips donkey.” Anyway, on Sunday, shortly after my phone call with Susan, I was listening to my music on shuffle (because randomness is my favorite approach to life) and on came The Cranberries’s song “Zombie.” I listened to it twice consecutively because I like its anger. It also makes me think of a time when Preston and I sang screamed it while jumping on beds, so that’s pretty fun, too. Since I was Facebooking simultaneously, I took the opportunity to change my status to indicate a fascination with the song. I had to listen to it a couple more times to get the right number of “ho”s down, but ultimately I proudly displayed: “Kevin is what's in your head. In your head. Zombie zombie zombie hey hey hey ho ho ho ho ho ho ho hey yaaa ya ya ya.”

Now you’re probably asking, Kevin, why is this a story worth sharing, you boringhead? Well, you see, after last night’s Margarita Monday, I came home drunk and didn’t start stalking on Facebook. I saw a friend was planning on attending someone’s college art show. Since I didn’t know this someone and was curious, I easily clicked on the link and was taken to eir profile. Though I recognized this person by sight, I didn’t actually know this person. Just as I was about to click and stalk elsewhere, I noticed something startling. This person’s status read: “[Deleted Name] is zo-o-ombie, zo-hombie heh heh hey.” What? How can that be? Making a “Zombie” reference n your status is just a little too obscure for this to be a coincidence. Quickly, I assume that I had been stalked and plagiarized. You’ve never seen me so drunkenly indignant. After further sleuthing, however, I realize that according to the times (yes, Facebook is that specific), this person actually had posted the status just a few hours before me.

Ahhhh! I started screaming. I ran to Michael Michael for comfort. Unknowingly, I had created a major Internet faux pas. Though I know I didn’t copy this idea from this stranger, I realized my story would be less believable than the naked Girl Scout tale. In my state, I was mortified. As I told Michael at the time, it’s one of those things that are so insignificant that it shouldn’t matter, but it does matter. It really matters, even, because it’s so embarrassing after publishing that on a site meant for stalking and judging. Because Facebook has insane statistics, I am able to learn that I have 17 mutual friends with the fellow “Zombie” enthusiast, which means as many as 17 people had easy access to seeing my folly. They will never confront me on the matter, because they will have to stick to the story that they were never stalking, but I bet at least a half dozen of those people caught that not-likely-coincidence and thought me ridiculous. Of course, by telling this story, I’m at least tripling the number of people who think me ridiculous for getting so worked up on the matter.

I deleted the status to hide my tracks. I told Michael that I did “not acknowledge glit,” (I was drunk, I couldn’t say “guilt,” apparently), so I changed my status to “Kevin is not acknowledging glit.” I think I’m okay now, but the embarrassment still lingers. You believe me, right? Please? Don’t judge. It looks like I owe Filthy Retarded Plagiarist Helen Keller the benefit of the doubt. Probably an apology, too. Many apologies, even.

Speaking of the song “Zombie,” another reason to love it is that it was featured on my favorite comedy currently on television, The Office. I know that the musical choices selected for The Office are supposed to be outdated and cheesy, but it’s ironic and right up my alley.

For example, “Lovefool” was my cell phone ringtone for nearly three years:

This one goes out to Susan who has adopted Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know” as one of her karaoke staples… can you top The Office’s Kevin?:

I recently have fallen for the Indigo Girls:

From Kermit to Andy, it’s “The Rainbow Connection”:

And this medley is fantastic, especially since it culminates with my former flame Jewel:

Other amazingly strange yet compelling songs that are featured on The Office, but that I cannot find YouTube clips for include: “Mambo No. 5” – Lou Bega, “Tiny Dancer” – Elton John, “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” – Bill Medley, “Everybody Hurts” – REM, “We Didn’t Start the Fire” & “The Longest Time” – Billy Joel, “Here I Go Again” – Whitesnake, “Islands in the Stream” – Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers, “Teach Your Children” – Crosby Stills Nash & Young, “Angel of the Morning” – Merrilee Rush, “Goodbye My Lover” – James Blunt, “We Belong” – Pat Benatar, “Your Body Is a Wonderland” – John Mayer, “Up Where We Belong” – Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes, “Carry on Wayward Son” – Kansas, and of course, “My Humps” – The Black Eyed Peas. What a collection. I could be made to use these songs as karaoke tracks daily for the rest of my life, and I would die with a smile on my face. In fact, I’m going to make a mix CD with these tracks because I’m a loser. (Note, I’m a loser, not a Facebook status stealer.)

I’d like to officially award The Office with a Dundy for making me feel better about this whole “Zombie” misunderstanding.


Notes on a Scandal

Many of my students don't actually read the books I assign to them. Why read in full when the internet provides summaries chapter-by-chapter of the literature instead? As a nerdy English teacher, it saddens me to see my students forego wonderful classics for the easy way out. Still, I can't be too critical because at their age, I did it, too. I couldn't stand to read the dialect of Their Eyes Were Watching God, so I resorted to Cliff Notes. For a few other novels, I had more pressing television to watch, so book notes became essential to breezing through the material.

As prevalent as this activity is, it is one of those unwritten rules that you don't acknowledge doing so, particularly in front of authority figures, much like the subjects of smoking pot, being homosexual, and watching VH1 reality shows. Recently, I collected my students' folders to check their journal entries and one student turned eir folder in with about fifty printed sheets of internet book notes. Given the student's responses in class and on the test, I would have suspected as much, but incriminating oneself in such a way takes it to another level. How stupid do you have to be to hand that in to the teacher?

I cackled, but I could not judge. During my junior year, I committed a similar, perhaps even more ridiculous, faux pas. We were reading A Passage to India, which made little sense to me at the time. I'd be interested in going back and trying again now that I have a better grasp on such things as imperialism; it would probably even be a book I enjoy. At the time, however, it was right over my head. I blame our nation's educational approach to teaching history: I understood the colonial perspective and cheered for the colonists' plight in the context of the United States' history, but the connection was never made between similarly discontented settlements on an international level in world history. Perhaps this is just an oversight and flaw of separating the two subjects, but it wouldn't surprise me if it was an intentional division. Fucking imperialism - but I digress. Anyway, since A Passage to India had indiscernible themes, I resorted to printing out notes from the internet. At the same time, I printed out a draft to my essay on a different novel, one of my all-time favorites, The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh. I had to turn the draft into my teacher because we were to have a writing conference the following day. In my moronic haste, I managed to staple the A Passage to India notes to my essay and hand it in to my teacher. Later in the day, I recognized my folly and attempted to break into her office to destroy the evidence. I was unsuccessful, so I came back later, bringing a friend to distract her. He briefly lured her out of the office while I snuck in and scavenged through her papers without trying to leave any evidence. I never felt more Mission Impossible-esque in my life, yet my hunt turned up empty. The following day, I was literally shaking with nerves before arriving for my writing conference, as I was going to have to cop to my crime.

As it turned out, she clearly hadn't even finished reading my paper. She made comments on the first couple of pages, and made some general statement on how the rest of it was; the vagueness was a sure sign of an unread paper. At some point when she wasn't paying attention, I discreetly tore the incriminating back pages off the essay and slid them into my folder. I couldn't believe I had gotten away with it. I had handed in documentation of being a poor student and managed to collect it back with no harm done. Now that I am a teacher, I'm not nearly as impressed with my perceived suaveness. I can't even begin to describe the number of assignments I've merely pretended to have read. Looking back, this particular English teacher is the teacher I feel I teach most like at this point. A lot of class discussion, inconsistent quizzes, and proposed projects that were never really followed through on. I use class discussion since it requires little to no planning on my part, I quiz inconsistently because I'm disorganized, and I really just never got around to typing up the explanation for the projects, though the students react very favorably when you lead them to believe that you cut it out to give them a reprieve. This isn't meant to insult her teaching, or mine for that matter. When you're first starting out, you do what you can to survive, and improve from there. To be clear, I never realized at the time that these lesson plans were probably thrown together. In fact, she exemplified such a love for literature that she was my favorite English teacher. For the most part, students don't think about what goes into lesson planning and what amount of time/effort the teacher spent preparing it. It's school, so it's being done exactly as it's supposed to be done. Unless I do an especially cruddy job at a given lesson, I tend not to beat myself up too much because the students are truly oblivious to the workings of the system.

Originally, I had intended to cut the student some slack about attaching those book cheat notes. In honor of our shared experience, I thought I should let it slide. Later, however, I decided it would be more fun to make him paranoid. Instead, I've commemorated my mistake by stapling the internet pages to his most recently handed in essay without any explanation as to how and why they were attached. That'll make him sweat. See, I am a good teacher.


Feces Theses

Hey kids.

I'm in the process of meeting deadlines on my second thesis in as many years. Consequently, I don't have spare time to blog currently. I'll try to post periodically so you're not, you know, sobbing uncontrollably. I miss writing for the fun of it and about topics other than educational strategies.

Today I had a student, an honors student no less, brilliantly tell me, "I don't have any siblings, but my brother does." You wouldn't believe how long it took me to convey to her why that didn't make any sense to me. Finally, she grasped it and said, "You must think I'm stupid, don't you?" Of course not...

I lie to my students every day.


You Love My Lady Lumps

I've been meaning to write a post about Fergie for nearly six months now. Each time I start, however, I grow too indifferent to finish. Since Fergie is the embodiment of so many good and bad qualities, it's been hard for me to form an opinion.

Pro: Fergie's first successful single with the Black Eyed Peas, "Where Is the Love" is political.
Con: The political message is trite and undermined by a whiny Justin Timberlake background track.
Pro: Fergie appeared in the best movie of last summer Poseidon.
Con: Fergie can't act!
Pro: Fergie was restricted to a non-speaking role and can be presumed drowned when the ship floods.
Con: Fergie did not sing the only song that matters in the world "The Morning After" made famous by Maureen McGovern when she similarly played the cruise singer in the original flick, The Poseidon Adventure.
Pro: Also in the category of rushing water, Fergie peed herself on stage.
Con: I have heard/read about this incident far more times then it merits. Relax, everyone's peed themselves before.
Pro: As a child, Fergie appeared on Kids Incorporated
Con: Kids Incorporated played second fiddle to The New Mickey Mouse Club, so you know it was a crappy show.
Pro: "Let's Get It Started" is a fun party song.
Con: The non-radio edit is actually "Let's Get Retarded," which is offensive.
Pro: The "oh snap" opening to the song "London Bridge" song is the catchiest intro in years.
Con: The rest of the song sucks. I know one's "London bridge coming down" must be some sort of sexual innuendo, but it's lost on me.
Pro: "Fergalicious" is the best song ending in the suffix "-licious" since Destiny's Child's "Bootylicious."
Con: It features a misspelling. When I brought this up with my students, they figured that "tasty" was in fact spelled "t-a-s-t-e-y." It's one thing to produce music that numbs children's brains. It's another to produce music that actually makes them dumber. At least Gwen Stefani can spell "bananas."
Pro: The helplessly catchy song "My Humps" was featured on the best show currently on television, The Office.
Con: It's degrading. "My lovely lady lumps"?
Pro: Hearing that song hundreds of times is now officially worthwhile thanks to this offering by Alanis Morissette:

This parody is already a "viral video" (meaning it is ravenously being passed around the internet) and I'm a little late in posting it, but I love it so much, I won't be embarrassed if I'm the millionth person to share it. I've always been a fan of Alanis Morissette, I think she is a clever songwriter with a unique voice. Hence, I'm especially a fan when she takes her unique voice and trademark whiny approach to a song that has earned the skewering. When the lyrics are slowed down, the listener has far too much time to consider how ridiculous they are. Alanis has done a great job of not only poking fun at the song, but adding self-deprication into the mix as well. In the words of Fergie, "Check it out."


I Miss Kline

Though Kline is currently abroad, even from afar, I still find her simply amazing.

She sent a postcard a while back with a sketch she did of our housemates that I adore more than words can express.

I'm not sure why Michael has a mustache (perhaps a joke I'm not privy to), but he is representing his employer and reclaiming the title of The Big M, which Kline seems to have kindly settled upon. She has not, however, granted me "The Big K" status I fought for, instead giving it to herself. I will gladly settle for my (semi) Colon Powell status. Jessica looks ravishing in her beautifully tacky dress, right near that silly snake. Next to her is Amber, known in these parts as the Bony Monster for her acute ability to elbow her victims to death. She looks to be doing just that to Shea, who acquired the hilarious nickname "Angry Baker" when one day when Shea was neither upset nor cooking, Kline told him, "You look like an angry baker." I'm not sure that we'll ever know what that means, exactly, but it sticks. And we can't forget the puppies. Oh how I love the puppies. What a house!


Good Friday

A student interrupts my lesson (they really have no qualms about doing so) to ask, "Why don't we have Friday off?"

I quickly quip, "Because it's a Good Friday, not a Great Friday."

I was so quick, in fact, I didn't even think of the consequences. In truth, I was just trying to make a play on words, but it was understandably interpreted to be some sort of religious slam, which as I've mentioned previously does not fly. Three people simultaneously respond, "That's not funny!" and many others made assorted judgmental looks and comments. Implying that an event in Jesus's life is anything short of perfect is blasphemy. I've said a lot of bad things while teaching, but I sincerely think this occasion will be the first one that actually prompts parents to angrily call me.

Again, for the most part, these are not good kids. Of the three who objected most vocally, one had just returned from a five day suspension for fighting, and another just fifteen minutes prior had cussed a fellow black student out for being a "faggot" based on the way ey dressed; evidently, collared shirts are a sure sign of homosexuality. (The third student is relatively quiet overall and hands in homework, so ey can preach at me all ey wants, I suppose.)

When I philosophized in college, I used to defend religion as a source of morality. I do not find humanity inherently good enough to be self-motivated to do the right thing. As I saw it, most people need the threat of an eternity in hell to keep them in line. Since teaching, however, I've had to adjust my perspective somewhat. While religion could be a good thing if it aided in molding people into moral individuals, I'm finding that increasingly the values it actually instills are several steps in the wrong direction. Don't get me wrong, I know plenty of religious people who should be proud of the goodness they exude and inspire in others, but I'm dismayed to find that a large portion of people who only adopt certain aspects of their faith seem to favor the hateful parts rather than the compassionate ones. When I recently caught up with my friend Dani, who grew up in the same community that I teach in, she expressed a similar sentiment that she found that many of her friends and neighbors tend to ignore the charitable and accepting virtues of the church and focus on the exclusionary and condemning parts.

It never ceases to amaze me how steadfast these teenagers are in their faith. Throughout my adolescence, questioning my beliefs was an everyday activity. How can I be sure? What proof do I have? If I were raised to be a different religion, would I feel similarly about it? I feel it's not just a coincidence that the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus are fictional characters with religious ties that with age, wisdom, and a better understanding of the world, we all come to cease believing in. These are entities our parents choose/feel compelled to lie to us about because it brings us joy, gives us something to look forward to, and heck, everyone else is doing it. Why then for many does this process of discovery stop at a gift-bearing rabbit and fat man and not gravitate toward spiritual figures as well?

By definition, religion gets a free pass. It is neither to be held accountable for its ideas nor does it need scientific proof to demonstrate its existence. No, faith is faith, it is belief in the unseen and the unproven, an idea we accept and therefore allow. Society and government have largely labeled religion as the one area that's off limits to questioning, for better or worse. While just about everything else, save maybe Wikipedia, is fair game for scrutiny (and rightfully so), what do we as the human race gain from granting religion this exception? Those who believe in ghosts, aliens, and the unseen are deemed crazy, while those who believe in God are our respected community leaders.

I used to see the beauty in religion. In an ordered world, it is attractive to give in to something you cannot prove for the sake of having faith in something. Doing so can be intensely powerful and add meaning to one's life. However, when what could be so beautiful leads to such ugly results, it's time we reconsider our refusal to question.


Mm 2nite

Alice was in town this past weekend, and a lot occurred: Thai food, student art, falling asleep in a dormitory suite, Saturday sessions at the liberry, barbecue on the mounds, dance party, Knockout, and poker. Although I still live just a few minutes away from my college, I don't think I've had a weekend that was as reminiscent of my college lifestyle since graduating.

While all of that was good if not intense for an old fart like me, I'd say the highlight was Margarita Monday; Alice purposefully made sure her trip coincided with a Monday and it was pretty special. Although the attendance was down again, (though there looks to be a high RSVP rate for this coming week,) it still managed to be wildly fun. That's right, no-shows: we still manage to have fun without you! Most Mondays I have at least a few hysterical conversations that I feel worthy of a blog post, but by the time I'm home and drunk, I've forgotten what many of them were. That's a hazard of the job, I suppose. I wish I could capture exactly what kept me laughing all night, but I have only story I can coherently share at this point:

En route to the restaurant, I text messaged Andrew a quick reminder to drop by after his class: "Mm 2nite." I figured the shorthand would suffice and didn't expect him to write back as he was academically occupied. About forty-five minutes later while well into my first margarita, I got a call from an unfamiliar phone number with my home area code. I answered, and the caller asked, "Did you text me earlier?" I told the caller I had not, then ey apologized to me and I similarly said, "I'm sorry" back. After hanging up, I recapped what had occurred to my tablemates, then sputtered "Why did I say I was sorry? I didn't do anything wrong."

It was a good deal later, as I sipped my second margarita, that I had an epiphany. I have two Andrews in my phonebook, the other being an old friend from Connecticut. I know that old Andrew doesn't have that number anymore because I accidentally called it when trying to contact California Andrew a few weeks ago and reached someone named Mike. It suddenly occurred to me that maybe I had texted the wrong Andrew, or Mike as he seems to go by these days. Indeed, I checked my phone and confirmed that I had made this error. I relayed the story to my friends and they found it rip roaring funny, especially since the message, "Mm 2nite," could be construed as some sort of booty call.

When Andrew eventually showed up with Nicole, he, too, found the story amusing and decided to take it to a postmodern level wherein the intended Andrew called the wrong-no-longer-an-Andrew and left a voicemail consisting of nothing more than "Mmmmmmmm tonight." Meanwhile, somewhere in Connecticut, someone named Mike is becoming increasingly creeped out and changing his phone number, just as the Andrew before him.


Born to Pall

While discussing my role as a pallbearer last summer with Allison, I excused my flawed experience by explaining that I had never done it before. Allison laughed, noting, "It would be funny if pallbearing was a hobby that you did all of the time." Immediately, I became fascinated with the idea of pursuing pallbearing as a personal interest.

(Yes, "pallbearing" is totally a verb now. Learn it, live it, pallbear it.)

If I am to be a frequent pallbearer, I figure I better learn how to do it better. Thankfully, I found a website explaining How to Be a Pallbearer. The steps and advice the site gives are so obvious, it's nearly comical, while the tip "sip a soothing ginger or peppermint tea prior to the funeral to soothe your body and soul" is pretty strange in itself. Allow me to direct your attention to the bottom of the page, however, where users can comment and I discover a fellow pallbearing enthusiast. Ey starts eir post, "I've borne the pall nearly a dozen times. It matters." It's not supposed to be funny, it just is. The next commenter does not offer up any advice, instead telling eir personal story, concluding it by speculating her deceased uncle would be greeted in heaven by his premie child and Jesus.

Pallbearing seems awesome. I know I wasn't great my first time, but if you give me another shot, I promise not to let you down. Or drop you for that matter.


Too Lazy to Do It

I have a horny friend, let's call her Reba, who has been complaining about wanting to have sex lately. Though Reba passes it off as a running joke, its frequency reveals eir latent frustration. When Reba brought it up again last night, I called eir out.

K: "You know, if you really wanted to have sex, I'm sure you could find someone."
R: "Well, yeah, but the thing is I'm lazy, I don't want to put in any effort."
K: "Well, you could just lay there."