My Favorite Fifty Songs of 2007

It's that time again: time for me to hope that my musical taste holds any validity (and I realize it doesn't as I find myself almost ashamed to admit to liking some of them) and post my top songs of the year. The list is about the quality of the song, not the video, but where possible, I've posted a YouTube clip to give you a taste. As always, if you're into a song on this list, check out Hype Machine to find a way to download these tracks.

Kevin's Favorite Fifty Songs of 2007

50. Lip Gloss - Lil Mama

I tried to hate it, but damn if her lip gloss ain't be poppin'. Innocuous fun.

49. Contagious - Avril Lavigne

I've liked Avril Lavigne since she came onto the music scene, and I'm willing to go so far as to vouch for her talent. Sure, "Girlfriend" tested our patience, but I offer this as proof that she's still capable of recording a song that's both addictive and not quite so mind-numbing.

48. Read My Mind - The Killers

If for no other reason than because the vocals remind me of the way Alex H. sings.

47. Mortified - Lesbians On Ecstasy

As if the band name weren't enough, they vocals are humorous and entrancing.

46. Hell No - Sondre Lerche & Regina Spektor

I'm a sucker for duets, and an even bigger sucker for Spektor.

45. Back In Your Head - Tegan & Sara

On several occasions in the past, I've been introduced to Tegan & Sara and it never stuck. The band's new album, however, is all sorts of good.

44. When I Say Go - The 1900s

A harmony that lingers.

43. Love Song - Sara Bareilles

This year's female singer/songwriter/pianist favorite.

42. Kid Gloves - Voxtrot

Voxtrot is a band that could easily be mainstreamed if anyone would play their easily consumable music.

41. I'll Kill Her - Soko

A wee bit creepy, yet relatable.

40. The Championship - The Polyphonic Spree

If you've read this blog previously, you know I'm a bit obsessed.

39. Gotta Work - Amerie

For the third year in a row, Amerie hits my chart with a dance sensation. Amerie's swell.

38. Stop Me - Mark Ronson f. Daniel Merriweather

The first of many covers on my list, I'm kind of a cover nut.

37. Thnks fr the Mmrs - Fall Out Boy

Fall Out Boy is the best in this genre of music currently, in spite of the silly song titles.

36. Never Again - Kelly Clarkson

An angry Kelly Clarkson is the hot.

35. Love Is Here - Sophie Ellis-Bextor

When I'm in the mood for a cheesy discoesque tune, I play this one.

34. Valerie - Mark Ronson f. Amy Winehouse

Take Winehouse's amazing vocals, add big band instrumentation, receive a danceable hit.

33. Out The Back Door - Jesca Hoop

Jesca exudes fun as she alternates between poppy and prickly lyrics.

32. Don't You Evah - Spoon

Spoon's new album is one of my favorites; the band oozes slickness.

31. How Far We've Come - Matchbox Twenty

Unlike the rest of America, my love affair with Matchbox Twenty never really got off the ground. Imagine my surprise when a song this late in Rob Thomas's career finally caught my attention. It keeps me bouncing.

30. Like Castanets - Bishop Allen

I'm pretty smitten with Bishop Allen and this song, rereleased with the band's first major label release.

29. Meatblanket - The Triangles

The Triangle's website recently announced. Awww, I had just discovered them.

28. Can I Get Get Get - Junior Senior

A cheesy dance tune from a duo that specializes in such fare.

27. This Ain't A Scene, It's An Arms Race - Fall Out Boy

Don't expect me to apologize for my Fall Out Boy adoration.

26. Walcott - Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend is an up-and-coming band you have to check out.

25. 1 2 3 4 - Feist

My favorite music video of the year. Ah, Feist.

24. Running Away - The Polyphonic Spree

They make me smile until I hurt.

23. Rehab - Amy Winehouse

I dig Winehouse's voice so much, I try to avoid hearing any of her personal drama that might turn me off.

22. My Eyes - Travis

Travis is a band that keeps reemerging every so often. Though they've always been consistent, I find this song to rise above consistency.

21. Sweet Escape - Gwen Stefani

Gwen tends to be hit or miss with me. This is a mega hit.

20. Umbrella - Marie Digby

I've heard numerous covers of this song, but this is by far my favorite. Marie adds a special something to the popular tune.

19. Paper Planes - M.I.A.

M.I.A. is her own brand of genius and this is my favorite from a very eclectic album.

18. Unless It's Kicks - Okkervil River

This song puts me in a good mood.

17. Doin' It Right - The Go! Team

Dancedancedance to the Go! Team, or you're missing out.

16. Flare Gun - Final Fantasy

I've avoided the interminably whiny Final Fantasy in the past, but this song led me to give him a second chance.

15. I Feel It All - Feist

The best Feist song on a very impressive album.

14. Burn - Pink Nasty

The highest-charting cover on my list. When Usher's "Burn" initially came out, I loathed it, but Pink Nasty's spin makes me a believer.

13. Don't Make Me A Target - Spoon

My new favorite Spoon song.

12. We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives - Los Campesinos!

This song is quick and adorably clever. I love the list of Halloween costumes in the outro.

11. Oxford Comma - Vampire Weekend

My favorite lyric of the year: "Who gives a fuck about an Oxford comma?" Grammar jokes and witty lyrics make this tune a winner.

10. Before I Knew - Basia Bulat

The shortest song on the list is also perhaps the most beautiful.

9. Myriad Harbour - The New Pornographers

A song that might be about nothing carries a lot of poignancy. Plus, it's ridiculously fun.

8. Silver Lining - Rilo Kiley

I was really excited for Rilo Kiley's new album and found it to be thoroughly mediocre. This one track stands out as a winner for me, however.

7. Call It Off - Tegan & Sara

Mix heartache and harmonies. I wish I could sing like this.

6. D.A.N.C.E. - Justice

Innovative and danceable, Justice gets me on my feet.

5. Lose Myself - Lauryn Hill

Maybe my nostalgia for Lauryn Hill caused me to inflate this song's value, but I think it holds its own.

4. Challengers - The New Pornographers

A song that's so beautiful, I literally stopped everything I was doing when I first heard it.

3. No One - Alicia Keys

Forget "Fallin'." This is the song Alicia Keys was always meant to sing. I pant for it.

2. Magic Position - Patrick Wolf

A couple of months ago, Stacy introduced me to this fun video While the video is indeed fun, I'm even more taken by the song. I want to be Patrick Wolf.

1. Umbrella - Rihanna

I defy you to think of a bigger pop sensation this past year. The perfect combination of glumness, simplicity, and catchiness, it is difficult to resist chanting "ella ella ella ey ey ey" along with the song. Sometimes something is a breakthrough hit because it's just that good.



For all of my dictionary needs, I dedicatedly consult Merriam-Webster Online; Dictionary.com is for suckers. Each year, Merriam Webster announces its Word of the Year. The Word of the Year is a remarkable distinction, an award that goes to a series of letters that best encapsulates contemporary American culture. Previous winners include democracy, blog, integrity, and truthiness. This year, the honor goes to the word(?) w00t. Though the decision has caused a bit of an outcry in the scholarly community, I'm torn.

In some ways I'm pleased, since it makes me a pioneer of sorts. I've used this word infrequently for about a decade. I can't say I've ever been part of an online gaming community where the term originated, but I do believe I was first exposed to it in some Internet context. Like with any trivial thing I don't understand, I chose to mock it by adopting it into my lexicon ironically. Don't believe me? Check me out being savvy and w00t w00ting all the way back in 2006. I've always thought I had an advanced vocabulary.

Then again, how is w00t a legitimate word anyway? Last I checked, zeros are considered numbers. Word purists are going to have a difficult time accepting the symbols as a word, let alone the word of the year. On second thought, I don't think word purists would look too favorably upon "woot" either. Even Merriam-Webster doesn't seem to give the word credit for being more than a fairly meaningless exclamation of celebration.



The Conch Shell

Before winter break began, I started the novel Lord of the Flies with my students. One of the main components of the book is its strong symbolism, so it’s important for me to clue the students in on the symbolism early on so that they can look for it and understand it in later chapters. The first chief symbol is the conch shell, which represents power and leadership. I wanted to see if my students could determine this after compiling a list of the descriptions of the conch shell when it was first introduced. Alas, the list they assembled sent them into a fit of giggles:

“worthy plaything
no longer a thing seen but not to be touched
deep cream
fading pink
little hole
pink lips
slight spiral twist

The kids found it amusing because if you let your dirty mind wander, you could construe those phrases as descriptions of a penis (tehehe!) rather than the conch shell. I chastised them, first for acting like typical freshmen, then for assembling a list of penis-like characteristics that leaves off the description “eighteen inches.” (Yeah, I really did that, as inappropriate as it was.)

While the dick jokes were all good and fun, I needed to make sure that we got what the conch shell really represented. Just five pages into the novel, my students already thought the characters were gay because some of them strip naked to adjust to the island’s intense heat, so it was important for me to get them thinking about more important issues. I read aloud, hoping to share passages that demonstrated leadership/power rather than cock. Alas, I ultimately kept digging myself into increasingly deeper holes. I’ve read this book five times previously and have never once made a conch shell/penis connection, but now I’m astonished I never saw it before. It’s everywhere. As much as I tried to read the pages aloud with a straight face, once I had this notion in my mind, I was stifling laughter, inappropriately laughing so much I was tearing up. Honestly, the conch shell scene reads a little too much like a little boy gay orgy to ignore. Read the following passages as pornographic literature rather than the classic variety, and I think you’ll be equally surprised.

Ralph used one hand as a fulcrum and pressed down with the other till the shell rose, dripping, and Piggy could make a grab.
Now the shell was no longer a thing seen but not to be touched, Ralph too became excited.

Piggy paused for breath and stroked the glistening thing that lay in Ralph’s hands…
“They’ll come when they hear us--”
He beamed at Ralph.
Ralph pushed back his fair hair.
“He kind of spat,” said Piggy. “My auntie wouldn’t let me blow on account of my asthma. He said you blew from down here.”
Doubtfully, Ralph laid the small end of the shell against his mouth and blew. There came a rushing sound from its mouth but nothing more. Ralph wiped the salt water off his lips and tried again, but the shell remained silent.
“He kind of spat.”
Ralph pursed his lips and squirted air into the shell… This amused both boys so much that Ralph went on squirting for some minutes, between bouts of laughter.

He laid the conch against his lips, took a deep breath, and blew once more… a strident blare more penetrating than before. Piggy was shouting something, his face pleased, his glasses flashing.

The conch was silent, a gleaming tusk; Ralph’s face was dark with breathlessness.

Ralph found his breath and blew a series of short blasts.
Piggy exclaimed: “There’s one!”
He was a boy of perhaps six years, sturdy and fair, his clothes torn, his face covered with a sticky mess of fruit. His trousers had been lowered for an obvious purpose and had only been pulled back halfway. He jumped off the palm terrace into the sand and his trousers fell about his ankles; he stepped out of them and trotted to the platform. Piggy helped him up. Meanwhile Ralph continued to blow till voices shouted in the forest. The small boy squatted in front of Ralph, looking up brightly and vertically. As he received the reassurance of something purposeful being done he began to look satisfied, and his only clean digit, a pink thumb, slid into his mouth.

Piggy muttered the name to himself and then shouted it to Ralph, who was not interested because he was still blowing. His face was dark with the violent pleasure of making this stupendous noise, and his heart was making the stretched shirt shake.

They had been gorging fruit in the forest… More and more of them came. Taking their cue from the innocent Johnny, they sat down on the fallen palm trunks and waited. Ralph continued to blow short, penetrating blasts… The children gave him the same simple obedience that they had given to the men with megaphones. Some were naked and carrying their clothes; others half-naked.

Even while he blew, Ralph noticed the last pair of bodies that reached the platform… The two boys, bullet-headed and with hair like tow, flung themselves down and lay grinning and panting at Ralph like dogs. They were twins, and the eye was shocked and incredulous at such cheery duplication. They breathed together, they grinned together, they were chunky and vital. They raised wet lips at Ralph, for they seemed provided with not quite enough skin, so that their profiles were blurred and their mouths pulled open. Piggy bent his flashing glasses to them and could be heard between the blasts, repeating their names… At last Ralph ceased to blow and sat there, the conch trailing from one hand, his head bowed on his knees.

I was in such fits of hysterics, I had to finally concede the penis relation. On the spot, I tried to explain the significance of a phallic object. I swear, “phallic” is the first vocabulary word some of my students were genuinely interested in learning – several of them even took notes! I made the point that it would make sense that the object that represents power would also be phallic, since these were young boys that would likely equate power and manhood. As much as I’d like to think they’ll see the correlation and accurately understand the symbol in the future, I anticipate a wealth of penis jokes to come, errrr, in the future.

By the way, there is no way I’m not getting fired for this soon. I blame William Golding: what a pervert!


Merry Christmas, Andrew

Though Allison and I never made it caroling, we did have some fun recording ourselves singing Christmas songs on my computer. We performed these songs for our dear friend Andrew, our former caroling partner. Andrew is a Jewish person currently living abroad in Indonesia, an Islamic country. Since these circumstances seem to preclude him from hearing many Christmas tunes this year, Allison and I have recorded a CD we've titled To a Jewish Boy in an Islamic Country.

These songs are for Andrew, (a CD will be mailed, but we wanted this to reach you by Christmas) but we're releasing them to the public in the hopes of landing a recording contract. You can click the tracks below to sample the songs, but I doubt they will be of much interest to anyone else since they are amateur, unrehearsed harmonies. Listening back to them is humbling to say the least. When "O Holy Night" climaxes, it might make you cringe... with joy for Jesus.

1. Joy to the World
2. Deck the Halls
3. Carol of the Bells
4. O Holy Night
5. Do You Hear What I Hear?
6. Angels We Have Heard on High
7. White Christmas

Merry Christmas to all, especially the Jewish boy in the Islamic country.
(A special holiday to Kat, as well, who was cropped from this post's photo in favor of Rudolph.)



For the past couple of years, my jaw has clicked whenever I open my mouth. It was such a gradual thing, that I didn't realize it was occurring until friends and family would point it out. Even now, it's become so commonplace that I'm not even aware that it happens most of the time. It might even be more of a nuisance to others who eat with me and hear a frequent clicking noise; I just tune it out. It doesn't hurt, it just happens, it's one of those things that I've dealt with for so long I've never thought of it as a problem.

As I contemplate leaving the teaching profession, I've decided to use my nice insurance policy to the fullest before taking an exit. It'd be a waste not to get some free doctor visits out of my ordeal of an occupation. So I scheduled an appointment during my most precocious class, left early for the day, and spent a good deal of time in the lobby at the ear, mouth, and throat doctor. A person in the corner sobbed quietly, adding to the room's discomfort. Through several closed doors, I could hear the doctor screaming to a presumably hearing impaired patient about when ey should schedule the next appointment.

When it was finally my turn, I explained my situation. The doctor asked me to open my jaw, and even from a distance, he could hear the popping noise, which threw em into a tizzy. "Oh dear, oh dear!" he exclaimed, diagnosing me without even looking yet with a severe case of TMJ. Ey felt the joints and then started rambling about how I needed to take care of my jaw, instructing me to go on a strict liquid diet and to "choose my words wisely," making sure all of my speech is very deliberate and necessary to ensure I don't tire my jaw out. These alterations would constitute a major lifestyle change, not to mention that the notion of restricting my speech would be downright impossible as a teacher. Firstly, the kids don't listen to my instructions the first time, let alone the ninth time: not repeating myself is not an option. Secondly, yelling at kids is as important of a classroom aid as the textbook itself.

At this point, I'm choosing to ignore the doctor's orders. If I want to have a conversation, I'm going to have a conversation. If I want to eat ham for Christmas dinner, then gosh darnit I'm going to eat ham. (When the doctor first mentioned "no ham" specifically, I thought I might cry.) I fail to see how indefinitely going on a liquid diet is actually a healthy prescription, particularly when I'm not in pain and I've been ignoring the ailments for so long already anyway. If there's something legitimately wrong, I'll be waiting for the eventual MRI scan to sober me to this reality. Until then, y'all will just have to continue suffering through having to talk to me, watching me eat solid foods, and hearing my jaw click.



Chick's is a small chain of fifteen sporting goods store in Southern California. Symbolically, Chick's stands as the antithesis to Dick's, a national corporate sporting goods store. Well, at least it stood as the antithesis, until a couple of weeks ago when Dick's purchased Chick's. Do you see where I'm going with this? Chick's with Dick's. Finally, the world of athletic accessories reaches out to the transgender community.

This acquisition goes beyond just leading to a funny name, it also carries a disturbing significance. Chicks can't make it in a Dick dominated world. In both business and sports, Dicks maintain an unfair advantage. Sure, we'd like to think that gender equity is improving, but Dicks wiping out Chicks suggests otherwise.
Once a Chick starts proving herself successful, Dick swoops in and buys her out to prevent any future competition. Dicks are assholes.


The Ghost of Christmas Present

From time to time, I like to lead an adventurous life. Mind you, my definition of adventurous doesn't mean the typical white water rafting or skydiving (though I am in fact interested in both activities), but putting myself in bizarre, often awkward situations for the sake of getting a rush and having an anecdote to tell later. Sure, it can be painful in the moment, but it's always more quickly erased when you know you've caused the scenario to unfold.

Allison works at Catholic elementary school. This year, the staff party was to be hosted at the priest's house, featuring BYOB, caroling, and a tacky "small fee" for the employee's guests. The event was well hyped amongst the staff, including the principal who vowed to bring a pinata filled with tiny bottles of booze. The whole evening sounded like quite a spectacle: a priest's house, nuns, elementary school teachers, alcohol, and singing, a once in a lifetime opportunity, certainly not something I wanted to miss. This was just the awkward adventure I've been looking for, so I agreed to go, with great anticipation. As the night came near, however, I began to chicken out. Although I knew at some level it would be wonderful, actually being there in that moment was terrifying. I wasn't sure how to tell Allison that maybe I didn't want to go anymore, but when the day arrived, she didn't even bring it up with me. I thought maybe she similarly thought twice about bringing a "plus one," but as it turned out she rethought attending altogether, skipping out on the event. Cue the clucking sound effects, we both chickened out. It would have made an interesting blog post, however.

Meanwhile, for weeks, my friends Greg, Spencer, Allison, and I (with looser commitments from Katy, Amber, and Tanya) had been planning to go caroling around town tonight. The phrase "Christmas band" had even been tossed around, much to my delight. It wouldn't just be singing, but involve lame instruments like the triangle. We all enjoy singing Christmas tunes, so what better idea than to bring it to the people!

The reason that the concept of caroling is so appealing to me is because I find it entirely presumptuous. (And perhaps a tad assumptuous.) Who has the gumption to knock on doors under the belief that people want to hear what you have to sing? If you're performing for the public, the unwitting audience would probably figure you have talent or practiced beforehand. (In our case, they would be figuring incorrectly, bwahaha.) Combine that with the fact that caroling is such an antiquated practice, more of a Dickensian activity, that people would respond in a fairly startled manner. "People actually carol? I thought that disappeared with polio."

We aren't good. We're okay, I suppose, but we try to harmonize a lot because it makes us laugh, and it tends to fall flat -- pun intended. It's one thing if you practice harmonies and get them sounding good, but when you're like us and prefer to try to do them spontaneously and hope they work out, that only proves successful 1/4 of the time. The other 3/4 of the time, listeners tend to cringe at the dissonance. In the grand scheme of things, however, these wince-worthy moments just add to the comedy, especially seeing as it makes it seem like we think we're good if we're attempting harmonies in the first place. This mentality is emphasized by the fact that we point our index fingers or move a flattened hand up and down to mime the chords we are attempting, much like professional singers.

I looked at caroling as more of a social experiment than anything, which is exactly the mindset you'd want from a musical performer you're listening to, right? First, I was curious how many people would actually allow us to sing to them. Second, I was curious as to how long they would be willing to listen to us. I assume that at best, people will smile and politely clap for two songs then thank you for stopping by, but this limit was one I wanted to push. We had two plans, the first being to turn our songs into medleys thus not breaking between them, instead staggering our breathing (just like real singers) and keep going, watching as our audience found a courteous way to get us to leave. The second plan was when someone made an excuse like, "Thank you, but I need to get back to fixing dinner," that we would plead, "Wait, we just have five more songs," and ignore eir request.

Furthermore, caroling is about the freebies. Someone's bound to be gracious toward our presence and offer us some tea or cookies, perhaps even some figgy pudding, whatever the hell that is.

Sounds like quite an evening, right? I prepare the lyrics, but as nightfall approaches, Allison and I still haven't called the others about going, putting off making the funny event a reality. For what it's worth, they didn't call us either, meaning they were in a similar situation. I felt myself chickening out again, but I was determined to actually make a fool of myself this time. Then, Allison announced she was getting cold feet (appropriate, considering the temperature was chilly), and asked if I would mind if we didn't actually go. No, actually, I wouldn't mind, I said, taking the excuse handed to me. Again, it would have made for a funny adventure and an equally amusing blog post, I reckon, but to actually go through with it would take some nerve I don't seem to have. Bah humbug.

New Year's resolution: Follow through on crazy ideas for hilarity's sake.


Dancin' Grannies

Last night was my house's holiday party. With a touch of Chanukah, a taste of Kwanzaa, and a smidgen of Christmas, we brought holiday cheer to the less fortunate. (The less fortunate being those downtrodden enough to call us friends.) Holiday cheer came most commonly in the form of eggnog and other yummy concoctions, and occasionally pleasant conversation.

The highlight of the evening was our second annual white elephant game. We didn't put dirty socks on our faces this time, and there was no gift quite as despised as the yarn choirboy, but there was still some old fashioned gift stealing. This year, guests were asked to contribute something used or secondhand to the game.

Some highlights:
* Sisco cashed out immediately with a handheld electronic Yahtzee game.
* Amber exited merrily with a Dora the Explorer bicycle basket.
* Laura won an audio cassette tape of an NPR special in Spanish called Los Hijos de los Alcoholics, or The Children of Alcoholics.
* Allison chose a $5 voucher to Chilis, which Shea originally obtained when he was served a bowl of soup with a piece of paper in it.
* Shea won Pick-Up Stix
* Jessica won a necklace, or more specifically, a doll on a chain. Given that it is remarkably ostentatious, no one else competed with her for it. She put it on immediately.
* The most sought after item was a wooden statuette of a flamingo wearing a bikini. When I spotted it at a thrift store a couple hours earlier, I couldn't stop laughing at it, it brought me such joy. Even after its head broke off, people still wanted it, thus it was exchanged hands more than anything else. Finally, Kline lucked out, leaving the rest of us to settle for other things.
* I got stuck with a paddle ball. I think that toy is fun, I suppose, but it gets repetitive. Fortunately, Allison solved that problem by breaking it soon after.
* Worst of all, Stacy was left with trading card-like photos of fabric artwork. Only upon the game's conclusion did she reveal the unfortunate coincidence that the artwork was done by a college nemesis.

The best item of all, however, was another great thrift store find, an exercise VHS by the name of Dancin' Grannies. Katy managed to snag the gem in the game. I thought the beauty of the tape would be in the cover, but as it turned out, it was amazing in numerous ways. Later in the evening, I passed out on the couch earlier than the others, but I awoke to see no fewer than eight intoxicated people enthusiastically trying to keep up with the Dancin' Grannies. The exercisers, all real grandmothers, are energetic, wrinkly freaks of nature. They wear tight pink spandex and keep perfect(ly creepy) smiles plastered on their faces in a Stepford Wives fashion no matter how challenging the work out becomes. The dialogue is hokey. Sometimes strenuous, always silly, the steps are a hoot.

I found a clip of the Dancin' Grannies on YouTube, though it is without the original soundtrack. The quality isn't great, and unfortunately the frightening smiles are lost in the blur, but the hot granny moves remain intact. Watch as they wiggle their hips. Observe as they lift bags of frozen vegetables as weights. Applaud as they shuffle to the side. Fatties rejoice, your salvation is here.


Christmas Shoes

If you asked me a week ago what my favorite Christmas song from the last few years is, without hesitation I would respond Heidi Klum's "Wonderland." Now, however, I found something that might rival that tune in ridiculousness, also known as greatness.

I first caught the end of "Christmas Shoes" by Newsong on the car radio with Michael Michael, and we were immediately enchanted by the combination of melodramatic lyrics and harmonies of children voices. It inspired me to research the song. And what to my wandering eye should appear? But an explanation that "Christmas Shoes" was written by the band after they read an email forward featuring a similar story back in 1996. Also, it was a number one country and adult contemporary song when it was first released to radio in 2000, and remains one of the top ten most played Christmas songs today. How I've managed to miss this abominable phenomenon until now is a bit of a mystery to me, but better late than never.

The lyrics are pure poetry:
It was almost Christmas time, there I stood in another line
Tryin' to buy that last gift or two, not really in the Christmas mood
Standing right in front of me was a little boy waiting anxiously
Pacing 'round like little boys do
And in his hands he held a pair of shoes

His clothes were worn and old, he was dirty from head to toe
And when it came his time to pay
I couldn't believe what I heard him say

Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my Mama, please
It's Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there's not much time
You see she's been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight

He counted pennies for what seemed like years
Then the cashier said, "Son, there's not enough here"
He searched his pockets frantically
Then he turned and he looked at me
He said Mama made Christmas good at our house
Though most years she just did without
Tell me Sir, what am I going to do,
Somehow I've got to buy her these Christmas shoes

So I laid the money down, I just had to help him out 
I'll never forget the look on his face when he said
Mama's gonna look so great

Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my Mama, please
It's Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there's not much time
You see she's been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight

I knew I'd caught a glimpse of heaven's love
As he thanked me and ran out
I knew that God had sent that little boy
To remind me just what Christmas is all about

Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my Mama, please
It's Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there's not much time
You see she's been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight

It might be a tearjerker if it weren't trying so hard to be a tearjerker. On YouTube, Michael found a comedy routine by Patton Oswalt in which he points out what a heartless asshole the cashier must be for listening to the boy's sob story and still not selling the shoes. The narrator is also entirely self-absorbed if ey thinks that God decided to kill a boy's mother on Christmas Eve to show em "what Christmas is all about."

In 2002, they took the song and turned it into a TV movie, thus completing the tri-fecta of awesomeness: email forward, country song, holiday special. Though I haven't seen the movie, you can get the gist by watching this YouTube music video that not only has the song, but clips from the film, starring a presumably ashamed Rob Lowe:

First of all, the shoes from the movie are disgustingly ugly. I have no sense of style, and I still know those red shoes are pure shit. The only thing sadder than the kid's mom dying is that he seems to think the shoes will make his mom look beautiful. Second of all, who wears shoes to bed? If she's dying, let her go comfortably, not wearing heels under the covers. Third of all, aren't we to believe that Jesus is not so superficial as to accept a soul based upon her outfit? Besides, it's the eve of his birthday: Jesus is probably too busy turning water into wine and getting jiggy with the disciples to patrol the gates of Heaven and enforce some sort of dress code.

In truth, it's a touching song -- one that touches my funny bone. Your holiday won't be complete without it.


A Toast to the Less Fortunate

It's funny how not only was my recent apprehension toward Margarita Mondays unwarranted, but I have become a king of sorts at the establishment. The manager the past few weeks has gone out of eir way to be nice to earn back my favor. Though I appreciate the gestures, these actions manifest in excessive fashion. Last week, I asked for a napkin, and ey came back within two minutes with at least fifteen napkins. "Would you like a fork?" ey asked. "Uh, sure," I replied. I didn't actually need a fork, but I figured it would help appease the manager's guilty conscience. Nearly instantaneously again, the manager returned with about twenty forks. There were more forks than people present. Later in the evening, I presented each person a fork from my collection and we all held them above our heads in triumph while toasting to the "illegal" coupon that oddly has provided benefits for weeks to come.

Last night, the overdone kindness continued with an abundant supply of quickly served complimentary tortilla chips, extra salsa, and many plates and napkins. At first it was amusing, but it ended up putting a lot of pressure on me: I felt uncomfortable being catered to to that extreme. That's when I resolved to out-nice the manager. When ey came out with a tray, I assisted in carrying the dishes. Suddenly, the manager had to thank me as profusely as I routinely have had to do with eir. Two can play this game, kindly manager!

Someone suggested testing the extension of good-will by making a real counterfeit (oxymoron alert) coupon and seeing if the manager would accept it now. Not only would it be legitimately fake, but it would be expired at this point, too. As curious as I am, I wouldn't want to jeopardize my standing at my weekly joy. Imagine what would happen if I were banned from Margarita Mondays: I would have to stand outside the fence and have people buy me drinks so I could suck it through a straw between the gate posts.

That's when inspiration struck. I decided that Margarita Mondays needed more of a social justice bent and that one week we should have half of our crew stand outside the gate and watch the fortunate crew enjoy their night to replicate a scenario of the haves and have-nots. This idea was scoffed at, so I tried to sell it. Around the world, there are people who can't afford to spend $2 on a margarita. There are people who have to walk three miles uphill to fetch their margaritas from a well. There are people who have to split their margaritas twelve ways in order to feed their kids. There are people who have to water down their margaritas in order to have enough to go around for said twelve kids. There are even people who have to resort to counterfeiting coupons just to afford a margarita.

I was genuinely enthusiastic about this idea, but my plea was taken as more of a comedy routine. I took up a new cause a short while later, which dictated that when you receive a gift from someone, it should be customary to rub it against your crotch to demonstrate that you like it. This took a bit more than the previous impoverished bit and soon several people were rubbing the many extra plates and napkins on our crotches to illustrate gratitude. I did not, however, try out this move in the presence of the manager -- I want to kill eir with kindness, not mortify eir. All the same, this holiday season when you unwrap a gift, be sure to give it a nice crotch rub so as not to offend your loved ones. I wasn't being ridiculous, just tipsy. Nor was I being ridiculous when while Allison and I danced in the corner to electronica Christmas music, someone tried to attract my attention and I snapped at them for daring to interrupt the brilliance of Mannheim Steamroller. Dude, it's Mannheim Steamroller. You should be so happy to hear that shit that you rub the sound waves against your pelvis.


It's the Least Wonderful Time of the Year

I know this revelation contradicts a previous assertion, but the only things I dislike more about Christmas than commercialism are Christmas carols. I must clarify that while I enjoy singing them, I hate hearing them. On the radio, in the stores, on the television: Christmas carols are everywhere, invading my life. While I can handle it at Margarita Mondays in all its cheesy glory, it becomes a bit too much.

Admittedly, I'm fairly fascinated by the perseverance of seasonal songs. Most songs grow old and fade into obscurity within half a year. Once a song is labeled a Christmas hit, however, it resurfaces every December for a month of madness. Songs like John Lennon's "War Is Over," Jose Feliciano's "Feliz Navidad," Beach Boy's "Little Saint Nick," Wham's "Last Christmas," and Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?" will never die. The fact that they have a holiday association gives them a free pass to pop annually from now until eternity. The truth of the matter is that they're still just shitty pop songs, just without an expiration date. It's crucial for bad pop tunes to slip into obscurity, but we keep digging up the Christmas-themed songs' graves. If I wanted to be certain to have my music immortalized, I'd be sure to record a Christmas single, knowing it'd have the potential to be played for years to come.

I pondered this phenomenon as I caught the tail end of "All I Want for Christmas Is You" by Mariah Carey on my drive in to work last week. What about this song makes it worthy of being put in heavy rotation year after year, I wondered. If anything, the song is ridiculous; people play it because it's tradition, not because it's good. As if on cue, Ryan Seacrest came on the radio (shut up!) babbling about how much he loves that song. He then reads snippets from a newspaper article by a Jewish woman who loves the song in spite of its Christmas allusions. The writer claims to listen to it year-round and plans to play it at her wedding next spring. As Ryan shares this story, he is so touched that, get this, he begins to cry. He then puts on four callers in a row who sing the praises of the Mariah Carey song and how it is the best song of all time.

Am I missing something? Sure, it's catchy and all, but if any holiday song is going to be played at my non-seasonal wedding, it'll be Heidi Klum:

(yes, I found an excuse to post my favorite holiday song again)


How to Succeed without Even Trying

As I explained to a coworker recently, you can't plan Vegas trips, they just kind of happen. If you put too much thought into it, you're missing out on the crucial spontaneous aspect. Michael Michael and I had been kicking around going for a while yesterday but made no move for four hours to actually do it. In actuality, I was waiting for an excuse not to do it. Then we got a call from Sisco saying that he and Chico were going to Vegas for Chico's birthday. Could we be ready in five minutes? Sure. In less than five minutes, we were in the car and it felt great.

The night started out okay: I played craps and walked away when I was a rousing $4 up. Take that, Vegas!

Because there was a major rodeo convention in Vegas this weekend, there were a disproportionate amount of gamblers wearing large cowboy hats. Though they're lassoing ways were somewhat amusing, their hat-wear was not as impressive as another variety I spied. My favorite sight of the weekend was a row of five consecutive old women all wearing Santa hats while aggressively playing the slots. That's holiday spirit for you.

On second thought, my favorite sight was actually when I was at a urinal and the men to my right, were having a conversation in French with thick French accents. A drunk guy in a cowboy hat started shouting in their ears, "Fuck England!" When the French people barely acknowledged the scream, he repeated it several more times. "Fuck England! FUCK ENGLAND! GO HOME!" The Frenchmen didn't seem to take it personally, since either they knew better than to engage with the idiot or they didn't speak English. Perhaps, though, they simply aren't British, so they took no offense in the first place. I do enjoy that the cowboy heard accents and assumed they were British, however. They speak a different language in England, you know.

I joined Chico at a losing blackjack table and slowly whittled my money away. My compatriots did the same elsewhere, except for Sisco, who put $2 in a slot machine and wound up with $25. He was content with that and went home -- we could all stand to learn that lesson.

Finally, I remembered a lesson learned on a previous trip to Vegas, which is to make sure I'm having a good time so that even if I lose the money, it negates the situation. I encountered a kindly man from India who I had met earlier and joined him at a blackjack table with an attractive British couple -- these folks were actually from England, no less. They all acted jovially even when losing and encouraged me to get back in the game and have some fun. As we played, we chatted merrily; good conversations are even better with accents. Everyone had a wicked sense of humor, to boot. Each time she lost a hand, the beautiful blonde British babe would smile and crack a joke about all she wanted was to have enough money to afford a pizza later. "Please, sir, I'm hungry and need some pizza. You're taking my pizza money!" All right, it wasn't the sophisticated British humor you often hear about, but it was hilarious in the moment. Perhaps it was the delivery, coming from her perfectly imperfect British teeth -- go stereotypes!

I had put down $25 and didn't even notice that my money had quadrupled until Sisco dropped by and clapped for my progress. The money was so secondary at that point. I suppose that would be a dangerous situation were I losing, but when you're winning hand after hand in a row, it's not so bad. In the spirit of the table's camaraderie, I even smoked a cigarette offered by the Brits; we all won the subsequent round.

At 4 AM, we hopped back in our car, and made it home by 7. There's nothing like going to bed later than the time you have to be at work the following day. Tomorrow, when one of the few nice students asks me what I did over the weekend, I will simply respond, "Nothing."



(If you missed my first round of HAND BEASTS, be sure to go back and check out the classic goodness, because that stuff was good.)

People have asked me whether I did Hand Beasts again this year. The answer is yes, but they aren't quite as exciting as last year's crop, though they're still worth sharing; I just haven't been overly motivated to spend all the time required to put them up.

The concept was the same. In conjunction with our unit on The Odyssey, on the class before Thanksgiving, students would trace their hands and rather than make a turkey, they had to create a mythical HAND BEAST that had an interaction with a pre-existing mythological character. Also, because the assignment is moreso designed for my personal amusement rather than academic merit, I ask the students to draw the HAND BEAST with their non-dominant hands to give it a more childish aesthetic.

I wasn't able to be there on the day since I had an all-day meeting, so a substitute got to watch the creations unfold. Unfortunately, the substitute teacher didn't appear to enforce the non-dominant hand rule or do any sort of quality control. Allow me to share a sampling all the same.

"Once upon a time there was a Mexican turkey. He wanted a better life so he jumped over the border. Then a cholo tried to kill it so the turkey ate him. Now he has a cholo in his stomach."

A goddess got mad at a crew of sailers for disobeying her wishes, then mashed the crew together into a single monster. Various mortals have attacked this monster, nearly blinding it with swords, which is the reason Philipsion has to wear glasses.

This story's all right, something about how this monster was lured by the Sirens, but rather than killing Drasnakia, they all became great friends. More importantly, the drawing is quite impressive.

Even better than a good drawing, however, is a bad drawing. This student apparently actually listened to the requirement to draw the picture with eir non-dominant hand. It's adorably juvenile.

Considering how superficial my kids are, it's no surprise that a reoccuring theme in this year's HAND BEASTS was appearance and its implications. Such was the case with Bonita. She was an ugly girl turned beautiful by a god. Now she has the power to turn ugly people beauitiful.

As well as Calvin Klein
"This monster is very ugly/hideous/ugly. It is sooooo hideous you can just die from this picture."

And also Beautiful Gorgeous
"This monster has a very beautiful gorgeous body but ugly face that can kill a millioun people in one look. It attracts people with it's beautiful body."

It's just cute, is all.

I'm a fan of the construction of Sharkoctus: two hands are better than one. Sharkoctus and his friends kidnapped a fairy. "If they let her live she would grant them each one wish they all wished to Fly and one even wish for peanut butter!"

Karadur "shoved his hand out to [Zuess(sic)]'s throat and took out all of Zuess instestines and smashed them all up.

"Onece there was a turkey named Ana. She was from Santa Ana, Orange County. She was down for her she always had fun wit her friends & she always pardied hard. Until one day she went to the party & got drunk. Then she went to the liquor to go buy some moore beer & a cop pulled her over! He arrested her & took her stolen car away! Thats why you should be drug free! Drug Free is the way 2 bee! God bless America."

This one is from my darling student who wanted to cut my throat. As sordid and nonsensical of a myth ey has written, I think it still explains a lot.

"My turkey turkee is fat and he already knows that he kills people for nothing because hes sad he kills everyone that looks at him he will bit you, and his"

Alas, that's where the story ends. I was just getting into it.

This student didn't seem to entirely grasp the concept of the assignment and wrote her account in the first person: "Bobby is my son i got marry with a monster we live in monster town i ike it but it was a big mistake get married with a mosnster." Well, at least she's learned a lesson.

Immalickyou -- the name says it all, doesn't it?

Bloody Hand
"There was a monster called Bloody hand. He was 6 and he would ripe peoples hearts out and give it to his mom."

"Monsthand is a monster thath lives in a forest, The only thing that he does is walk." That's a pretty thrilling character trait.

Pedro, Pancho, Juanito, Chava, and Paco
"Once upon a time Pedro, Pancho, Juanito, Chava, and Paco were at a kickback and they were high so they went to a 7/11 and jacked everything in the store." And that's it. In all honesty, this is probably the most work this student has done in my class ever.

Billy Joe
This monster's myth plays out like an episode of "Cops" where the monster shoplifts and its Mom calls the police to enforce a restraining order, then there's a good old fashioned beat down with a frying pan as the scene dissolves into domestic violence until the police arrive.

Petey Paco
"This is Petey Paco. Petey Paco is the cyclops angry cousin. The reason he is red is because cyclops got all the girls and Petey Paco got mad after all the years and eventually turned red. The reason he has the yellow polka-dots is because two years ago he tried to make a serum to cure his 3 legs and make him only have 2 legs. But the serum didn't work and ended up giving him bright yellow polka-dots. The men of the village are forced to choose the ugliest women as their wife because if they don't then Petey Paco's jealousy will cause him to kill whoever was a beautiful wife."

And, of course, there always has to be one that is wildly inappropriate.

"One day god of sex was talking to Boner when Saggi tities came with Crazy eyes. They had ice cream with cherries. They had kat nipp And 'was doing Dirty thing Like Spex. Gross said Boner while He ate next to saggy tities, God of sex was acting weird with crazy eyes. Bonner & saggy tities maid a family, Saggy Boners."

Clearly, not a Homer in the bunch. Cluck them.



Suzanna just showed me her notebook, the kind with a stiff, black and white marble cardboard cover that students often own. On the inside cover, there is a series of charts with basic educational information, like conversions between units of measure and brief descriptions of the parts of speech. Although these charts are printed with the aim of being useful, usually they go completely ignored. While bored, however, Suzanna had given the bottom portion about punctuation a brief perusal, and saw it fit to share the notebook's description of a semicolon with the resident English teacher.

"A semicolon indicates a greater pause than that which is indicated by a comma; and is often used between groups of words separated by commas."

During my first reading, I winced at the exceedingly poor description of the semicolon. Though there is a loose rule that readers should pause longer for semicolons than commas as a stylistic thing, this description gives no help in how or when to use a semicolon, to the point where it is misleading and people might use a semicolon when they want the reader to pause, an already disturbingly incorrect trend. The main function of a semicolon is separating two independent clauses, but perhaps that's too much to explain on a notebook cover. I'm not even sure what to make of it being used "between groups of words separated by commas." While semicolons can stand in for commas to separate objects/ideas in ordered lists where commas are serving other purposes, this description is so unspecific that I'm not sure if that's even the rule to which it's trying to refer.

The second reading, however, prompted me to laugh aloud. I don't know how I missed it the first time, but the explanation of a semicolon actually misuses a semicolon! Golly, that's terrific.

I googled the semicolon description to see if the notebook might have borrowed this information from another source. The only site I found perpetuating this crap is someone's shitty personal webpage. I know sites like this one are too easy of targets to spend time "critiquing," but I can't help it. My favorite tidbits are the ten worst foods to eat while driving, the fact that President Garfield was ambidextrous, and the four countries with more pigs than people. Cripes, anyone with access to clipart and a collection of email forwards feels they have something worth sharing with the world. Learn how to use a semicolon first, then we'll talk.


Jelly & Jam

Allison is pretty notorious for her jokes. They're corny tales that are a step up from what you might find on a popsicle stick, yet not of too high of a caliber. It might be said that the humor in these jokes arises on the part of the listener, who is humoring Allison by listening to the Irish man's latest adventure in the tavern. That's not to say they aren't entertaining, though, with most of the pleasure coming from the joke teller eirself; often the joke endearingly includes accents, whether the joke calls for it or not. Plus, Allison always laughs merrily at the end, putting a smile on the listener's face, regardless of the joke's merit.

A month ago, Allison informed us that she learned a knock-knock joke from either a priest or a principal (someone important and chaste, I don't recall which.)

Knock knock.
Who's there?
Interrupting jellyfish.
Interrupti... (the knocker's wiggling hand comes flying into the face of the responder)

It was cute and fairly amusing. Then Allison announced ey had one other joke ey could think of.

What's the difference between jelly and jam?

We shrug, pausing for some cheesy response.

I can't jelly my dick up your mother's ass.

The four of us listening were caught so off guard, we all reacted with faces of disgust. The joke itself is positively crass, but coupling that with the fact that we had just been lured into a false sense of cuteness by the joke preceding it, I actually had to stand up and shake off the icky feeling it left lingering.

Way to keep us on our toes, Allison.