Hole-y Moly

Feeling somewhat randy this morning, I decided to put on my super tight pants to wear to school for the first time since that occasion in October when they split. Naturally, I forgot that they had ever split in the first place, until arriving at school. The hole was big enough that not only would it reveal my boxers, it had potential for a testicle spill. Normally, when I teach, I sit on a table at the front, unintentionally yet harmlessly giving a view of my crotchal region. I had to make sure not to do that today, however, because I'd end up teaching my students more than I am credentialed to do. Still, out of habit, I found myself throughout the day, jumping up to sit on the table, only to remember why I wasn't allowed to do that, and immediately got off, hoping that I hadn't exposed the crater.

Having an especially difficult time keeping the focus of my last period of the day, I briefly contemplated showing them the hole just so they would stop talking and pay attention to me for a while. Yes, it had gotten so drastic that I would have settled for them staring at a hole in my pants. Since I'm not tenured, I decided to skip the peep show and resort to a much more effective method - begging. That's right, I begged that they shut up for forty seconds so I could explain the directions of the next activity. I even promised that if they could go a full forty seconds without interrupting me, I would leave them alone for the rest of the period.

I managed to get through maybe ten seconds, fifteen seconds tops, before the students resumed their conversations. As a result, I fainted. Not legitimately, but I pretended to faint, falling hard to the ground to see if this maneuver would finally afford me the attention I had been asking for for the past several minutes.

It kind of worked. After I scared a good portion of the students, they finally seemed ready to hear what I had to say when I got back up. As exhausting as theatrics can be, they do seem to be effective. I proceeded to yell about how ridiculous it was that I had to resort to fainting just to get their attention.

"You fainted?" came a loud voice from the back. As it turned out, a solid five students were so wrapped up in whatever else they were choosing to do, they missed my faked fainting spell entirely. I couldn't believe it: I was so upset, I wanted to faint for real.

Sigh. I don't see why I was so concerned about having a hole in my pants. I could probably be wearing no pants at all and still have no one notice.


I'm Telling the Truth! Scouts' Honor!

It is probably dumb of me to share this story, as it will probably result in far more people calling me a dumbass than vindicating me, but at this point, I'm just looking for one person, one singular soul, who will tell me, "Yes, I understand what you were trying to say, Kevin."

A few weeks ago, our neighbor, a sweet, precocious young child came to sell the residents of our house Girl Scout cookies. Unfortunately, I was not awake to make a purchase. At times, the only thing that matters in my life is Tagalongs; they are peanut butterlicious. (I can't currently think of a subtle way to indicate I want everyone I know to buy me Tagalongs as a gift, so I'm just going to put it out there like so.) Anyway, I was very disappointed to have missed out on the cookie buying opportunity and moaned to my housemates about it, while they cooed in excitement for their impending cookie deliveries.

A couple of hours later, Shea, Michael Michael, and I went for some Chinese food. I can't exactly recall all of the details of the car game Michael Michael was trying to explain, but it involved people having to take off an article of clothing when someone was the last to do something. Disturbed by this description, Shea asked what the point of doing that would be.

"To get the person next to you naked," Michael Michael responded.
"Who would want to see their neighbor naked?" Shea shuttered.
"Well, if they're attractive..." Michael Michael indicated.
"There's no such thing as an attractive neighbor." I joked, adding after a slight pause, "Unless it's a girl scout."

Shea and Michael Michael erupted in chants of "Gross!" and "That's disgusting!" which I did not quite understand. "What's the matter?" I asked. "How can you say that about our little neighbor?" came the reply.

It didn't take long to sort out that they thought I was making a reference to seeing my young neighbor naked, which is indeed inappropriate. While I am that, that was not my intention. My quip was made, in haste, as both a play on the word "neighbor" (Shea meant a hypothetical person adjacent to him in a car, not an actual person living across the street) as well as a play on the word "attractive," which has a definition not solely restricted to physical appearance, as a call back to our earlier conversation about how appealing it was to have a girl scout come to the door.

Now, I'll readily admit that assuming I meant something about how seeing a girl scout naked would be arousing would be a reasonable, perhaps even most obvious, interpretation of my statement. Nevertheless, I wish someone would concede that, given the context, my quip was meant innocently, or at least acknowledge there's enough reason to give me the benefit of the doubt; my friends won't let me live it down, however. I'm not saving face, though, and I stand by my stated intentions of my controversial remark. I challenge you to fathom a more attractive scenario than having a girl scout (fully uniformed, mind you) show up at your door with cookies.

If you'll speak up to say that you understand that I wanted a girl scout to bring me Do-Si-Dos, rather than shaking them seductively, I'll award you a merit badge.


A Busy Freeway

I'm not sure whether I'm the last to hear this joke, but my student interrupted class to share it, so I might as well share it with you as well.

How do you get a man with no arms and no legs* to cross a busy freeway**?
I don't know, how?
I'll give you a hint. Take the "F" out of "free" and the "F" out of "way."
Wait say that again, I think you messed up.
I said, take the "F" out of "free" and the "F" out of "way."
But there's no "F" in "way!"
Exactly, there's no f-in' way!

I laughed a lot at this joke, actually. As a language teacher, I feel I should approve of nerdy word jokes, even if they border on the inappropriate.

* This is where I stepped in to at least turn the interruption into what we in the biz call a "teachable moment" and explained that such a person would be called a quadriplegic.

** Only now does it occur to me that a busy freeway might be easier to cross than a semi-busy one, seeing as standstill traffic would be safer to maneuver through than mobile vehicles.


I'm Now a Licensed California Driver!

I cheated the law for quite some time, but when I got pulled over with an out-of-date registration sticker (even though I had paid up), the state of California ticketed me for driving without a license. Apparently, my Connecticut license is not valid to them. I'll have you know that it's not as if they just hand the things out in CT, California's preoccupation with making me have their license is such an elitist thing.

Since I had a mandatory court date to pay some sort of fine and explain myself, I decided that would be a good day to take off work and obtain a California license. A few hours before my hearing, I went to the DMV. Generally, people talk a lot of crap about the DMV. Actually, maybe these people are just comedians, you know, the type that also crack wise on airline food. (Here is where I would ask, "What airlines serve food anymore?" but I don't want to be one of them.) My experience at the DMV was rather pleasant, actually. The wait wasn't too bad, and all three people I spoke with were both jovial and helpful. In a weird way, I even enjoyed the employees' company.

When I first got my license in Connecticut, it was the eye test that made me the most nervous. It's not that I can't see, just that I can't see well. I have difficulty discerning which direction the spokes of the letter E are pointing; perhaps it's the English teacher in me, but I think all Es should be pointing to the right, thank-you-very-much. The proctor had me read a line, and I basically guessed directions, hoping to hit enough. "Are you reading that line?" I was asked. "Oh, that line!" I pretended, and tried a different combination. "Are you sure you're looking at the right line?" the proctor checks again. "Oh, you're kidding, that one, I'm sorry," I said, faking my way through a new set of directions yet again. Evidently, the third attempt accidentally proved close enough, because I was deemed to be visually up to par, due more to my skilled bluffing than actual vision.

At any rate, now in California, my eye sight is either much improved or the letters are larger, because I aced the test. At the next desk over, an elderly man I first encountered at the 99 Cent store two days before was failing miserably at his eye test. Had I had ready access to a computer, I probably would have wrote a blog post about this man just from what I witnessed during our first interaction. As we were in the same aisle together, I watched this tiny man amble right into a rack of junk food, knocking both it and himself over; it was truly frightening. Later, he ended up being the person in front of me at the register, totally confused by everything. He had to be coaxed into paying for his items after not remembering what to do. Before he left, he pointed at the tag on the cashier's shirt and asked, "Is your name 99 Cents?" "No," she responded, pointing to the name below the tag identifying the store's name. "It's Holly." I was expecting the man to laugh, acknowledging his horrible joke, but instead he vacantly said, "Oh," giving full indication that this man was barely functioning. I mentally compared him to Mr. Magoo, this hopeless, bumbling figure who by extremely fortunate circumstances had managed not to get himself killed yet.

Seeing (and yes, I can!) him again two days later and watching (again, I can!) him prove his Mr. Magoo status was the universe's weird way of validating that this man is one stride away from danger at any given moment. I kept waiting for how the DMV would handle this situation and try to avert crisis, but much to my surprise, they merely referred him to an eye specialist, giving him a temporary thirty day license to use until he could get his vision improved. If you're blind, you're blind: thirty days is a long time to plow over dozens of people at a farmer's market. I think it's great that the folks at the DMV are so nice and accommodating, but this might be a case where they're killing [pedestrians] with their kindness.


No More Champagne

I'm back from a brief trip to Las Vegas. Last night at about 7:30, a bunch of us took off and met up with friends who had left earlier (they don't have day jobs.) I've always found Las Vegas to be a disgusting place, but it was in rare form this weekend, as it was hosting the NBA All Star game and brought out a whole new crowd of hooligans. You would think since free porn is handed out on every corner, the perverts wouldn't need to catcall everyone walking by. I suppose it might have been hard to resist: I have never seen so much cleavage in one concentrated area in my life. If you weren't pushing it up, you weren't in Vegas.

The casinos were more crowded than I've ever seen them, and not safe. At one point, an all out brawl broke out about ten feet away from us, and when security failed to arrive within five minutes, we fled the casino. Throughout the night, I was unable to find an open spot at a craps table, save for one time which did not go so well. I managed to squeeze into a table with a bunch of foul-mouthed high rollers who put money on obscure spaces with crazy odds. I, however, stuck to my basic pass line bet (which offers the best player odds of every game in Vegas) and managed to do relatively well with that. My cohorts did not respect my conservative yet successful method, which I could determine from their name calling. I haven't been called a "little bitch" that much since... well, hopefully ever in my life. When it was my turn to roll, I did well at hitting my numbers, but won money only for me since everyone else was betting against me. Consequently, I was told I "roll like a pussy." (How exactly does a pussy roll? Perhaps like a gypsy.) At any rate, I generally enjoy jovial drunken fun at craps, and since I wasn't finding that there, I left for green pastures: the blackjack tables.

Meanwhile, Wes was hitting it big at the roulette table. I don't even acknowledge roulette ever since my related misfortune, so I stayed clear. You have to love beginner's luck: he ended up $300 overall. I told you he's a stud. Elsewhere, Amber, the perpetual cheerleader, began rooting for a stranger putting hundred dollar bets at a blackjack table. He admired her spunk and support, then invited her to join him at the table, ultimately handing her $200 just because. Everyone was at least a little lucky, in our party of 13, I think that every single person came out ahead gambling-wise, even if just by a dollar. Factor in the uncountable free drinks we consumed, and the trip to Vegas just might have been profitable!

Though I'm normally in bed by 10, I made a pact to stay up all night, which, with the aid of alcohol, proved not to be too difficult. At 7 am, I found my lucky blackjack table and started raking in the dough, with the help of a woman with a gold tooth named Champagne seated next to me. When I couldn't decide whether to hit or stand, she would give me advice, and always proved correct. Her own hands were not so fortunate, so she ran out of money, and kept having me spot her. I had thought she might share some of the winnings, but I was never able to determine whether that was true, as she continued to lose, this time with my money. That's okay, I was happy to share, even if it cost me $30.

"Sharing" is my way of pretending I wasn't made a sucker, the truth is I was conned. I was drunk and unsure how to say no (such begins many a tale of lost innocence) and so I played sugar daddy. Besides, if I was going to be conned, I'm glad it was by someone named Champagne with a gold tooth. In fact, I can think of no better way to be conned. The experience still left me up $20 overall, so no harm done.

After being awake for 36 hours, I finally fell asleep (and perhaps sobered up) on the car ride home. I'm pleased to discover that teaching has yet to rob me of my resolve to party all night.


A Dream Deferred?

Phoebe came to observe my class today. I nearly got in trouble when the administration realized I had a visitor. Apparently, they needed to confirm I didn’t bring a date to school. I can’t possibly think of a less romantic thing than to bring a date to my classroom. Certainly, I wouldn’t do so if I was looking to impress someone.

Fortunately, my classroom was impressive this morning; my students were so spot on, even I was impressed. Though I had planned a lot for the day, at the last minute I decided to slow it down to have the students savor every morsel of Langston Hughes’s “Dream Deferred.”

Dream Deferred
Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

The plan was originally to look at it for, oh, ten minutes tops, but I decided to have us analyze each and every simile, tearing apart the connotations, symbols, and connections. The students had been groaning that poetry was boring, simple, and meaningless, so I decided it was time to model how that while a poem may be short, it can still be ripe with meaning. Much to my elation, the students definitely got it; not only did they get it, but they got it at a level exceeding my expectations and sometimes even my own understanding of the poem.

To wrap up the poem, I had the kids write their own simile-question that could be seamlessly inserted into the poem. “Does it crash and then disappear like the tide on the shore?” “Does it grind to a halt like the gears of an ancient clock?” These kids wrote some beautiful, insightful things that their fellow students were just as eager to dissect and determine the deeper meaning. As I ice-skated around the room (yes, I pretty much ice-skated, so giddy was I that I slid my feet on the floor to maneuver around the desks) to check their work, I noticed that my new favorite student had the best answer of all: “Is it like a baby in a dumpster?” A baby in a dumpster is totally a dream deferred.

I told Phoebe that for the sake of her project it would only be fair to have her come back to a class when I’m screaming at the top of my lungs and accomplishing nothing for two hours. If only days like this one could be the norm rather than the exception, I’d be committed to this profession for life. I was so glad I was able to share that experience with someone I care about like Phoebe. She was nothing but complimentary at the end of the experience. Normally I’m dismissive of such praise as I have no confidence in myself, but I was completely willing to accept it for once since the class went so amazingly that it shook me to the core. I just wish I could feel more certain that I wasn’t deferring other dreams in order to make this one work.


Monday Night Love

This is a story about how I won my good friend’s girlfriend on a radio dating game show.

When I first agreed to appear on the dating show, I was looking for either the love of my life or my big break into Hollywood. Things changed, however, when Andrew got wind of the fact that the dating show was merely an elaborate setup for him to be fixed up with someone who had a crush on him. Consequently, he called to ask me if I would be willing to “take the fall.” Of course, I would. In fact, this scenario seemed all the more amusing to me. Now that we had inside knowledge that gave us a good idea as to the ultimate outcome of the show, we thought we could have fun with it. My intention was to get drunk, make a fool of myself, then have Andrew step in and say, “Though you are a good friend, I am ashamed that you are so drunk and embarrassing this classy lady, here.” He would look like a hero and win, or perhaps re-win, her affections.

Before we could script our staged interactions further, it came to our attention that not only had Andrew found out the big secret, but the bachelorette had now learned that Andrew knew the big secret. There are only so many levels of secrecy that can exist in that type of situation, so eventually Andrew met her and they went on a couple of dates before the taping of the show.

Let the record show that Andrew is a cheater. This may have been a dishonest game show to begin with, but it is super dishonest to take the bachelorette on dates before the game, allowing him an unfair advantage over fellow contestants Dan and me.

As the show was scheduled for a Monday night, I was not about to alter my regular Monday Margarita plans. I went and began drinking, fully expecting fellow attendees (and radio participants) Dan and Andrew to be there matching me glass for glass. When they didn’t show up, I brainstormed ideas for the show with the friends who were there on how to make it the best damned radio show ever. Fully expecting to lose at this point, I decided I would expose the fix for what it was live on the air. When Andrew was chosen, I would jump in and shout, “Sham! There are so many layers of sham going on here that this is a Shamwich!”

At the last minute, Andrew told me he wanted me to “try.” At this point, I imagine he had every reason to feel confident, so why would he need anyone to throw it. I don’t even know what “trying” would entail, to tell you the truth. I just planned to answer the questions truthfully. Perhaps “trying” would mean I would lie about myself to appear dreamy, which really isn’t my style.

I was far too drunk to be allowed on the air. I realized this when Dan and Andrew led me down the hall to the studio and were laughing at me rather than with me. Granted, it wasn’t mean-spirited, but moreso, “This will be fun witnessing him make an utter fool of himself on the air.” It was one thing when I thought we were all going to be drunk and ridiculous on the air, but it’s completely different when you’re the only one out of eight people on the air. Hence, I spent most of the time trying to act as though I was not as drunk as everyone knew me to be. That’s always fun. Here are just a few highlights from the evening:

List three adjectives that least describe you:
Andrew: Underwater. Dead. Metallic.
Dan: Incapable. Quiet. Freddy Mercury. (Because Dan has "never been involved with the band Queen in any way, shape, or form.")
Me: Appropriate. Shallow. Sober.

I got in trouble (which consisted of everyone silently giving me glares and mouthing “No!”) for implying that I was the opposite of sober. You’re not allowed to do that on the air, apparently.

Do you know what baby Suri is?
Dan: Wasn’t that the latest flavor at 21 Choices [a local frozen yogurt joint]?
Andrew: I’m lactose intolerant, but I do enjoy sorbet. (He never really answered the actual question, but a fine answer nonetheless.)
Me: I’m ashamed to admit that I know it’s the unfortunate love child of Tom Cruise and that Dawson’s Creek chick, Katie Holmes. It’s actually a pretty cute baby. Not that I’m into babies.

Apparently, alluding to pedophilia, even when affirming distaste for such an activity, is a giant no-no. If looks could kill!

Which one of the seven deadly sins are you?
Dan: Wrathful.
Me: I was going to say Bashful, but I’m pretty sure that’s a dwarf and not a sin. Gluttony.
Andrew: I’ll say sloth. Yeah, sloth. That’s the thing about sloth, you can’t really elaborate.

If you could invent a month, what would you name it?
Andrew: Andrew.
Dan: Rocktober. (Needless to say, Rocktober could not be topped.)

Later, in reference to Rocktober, or perhaps just rocking with the band Boston on a spaceship (how did that even come up?), I sputtered of Andrew, “Maybe you’re too sloth-like to rock.” The slam on my part was unwarranted, but I seemed to feel entitled knowing he would soon be declared the winner. There were a couple times I took swipes at Andrew, partially because of hostility, partially because of intoxication, and partially because I was hoping he’d jump in and perform the skit we had discussed previously.

Dan and Andrew are hilarious people; I spent nearly the whole show laughing. Hearing the show back, I realize you can’t tell because I always made sure to turn my swivel chair around and laugh with my hands covering my face so I wasn’t that obnoxious drunk on the radio.

It is also clear that while Dan and I were going for the bizarrely amusing responses, Andrew was carefully crafting thoughtful responses. So while he was trying to impress, Dan and I shot the breeze rather comfortably.

Would you still like me if I were a pug?
Dan said yes and he would consult Wikipedia for excellent pet care tips. I said sure, and would be sure to clean between her creases. Meanwhile, Andrew gave a cute response saying of course, and that he would do everything he would normally do with her, just perhaps slower since pugs have tinier legs. Also, they’d probably take the elevator more often. When he posed the question back to her, she also said of course, and that she’d probably put him in a baby carriage to expedite their travel. It was all so cute, I awwwed.

Just after that, when the moment of truth came and I was prepared to shout my “Shamwich!” line, I was pretty shocked to hear my own name called as the winner because, well, that wasn’t supposed to happen. I was actually a bit embarrassed for everyone at that point. Though the bachelorette had been keeping score, I thought it was all on a hypothetical level, but apparently the tally was actually counted. When asked for my reaction, I said I was excited “to have won her heart… through math.”

The game turned out to be a shamwich, however, when, right after going off the air, my prize wrapped her arms around Andrew. And then went home with him.

Sigh. Even when I win it at love, I still lose.


That'll Teach Me to Question a Technological Utopia

Sorry about the infrequency of my posts currently, my computer is dead. On Monday, my computer and I were having fun one moment, and then it died the next. The screen went entirely white. What a racist. The unfortunate part was I spent the entirety of my day writing a lengthy paper for graduate school that is due in two weeks. For once, I did not resort to utter procrastination, and I’ll pay for it by probably losing the paper altogether. That’ll teach me.

Not having a computer causes quite a blow to my life on both a personal and professional level. Yet I’m not nearly as upset for myself as I am for you, my dear readers. Without easy internet access, you will have to wait longer to learn every last detail of my life. For shame!

Today, I took my computer to the Apple store and the Genius (that’s what they call their repair workers) deemed my laptop in need of being sent away to some undisclosed location to be fixed. I’m not quite sure where this magical land is or just how many elves will be tinkering at my computer and noticing I have an unusually large number of Ace of Base songs on my iTunes.

I’ve gone through this experience before. At about finals time two years ago, I had my computer quit on me. I lost everything I had, technology-wise. All of my writing, a large collection of mp3s, obscure saved links, years worth of digital photographs. Though it was initially devastating, I eventually credited it to a grand lesson on “letting go.” That seemed to make it all okay - besides, isn’t a character-building experience so much more important than everything you worked for four years?!

So while I learned my lesson in letting go, I never seemed to learn the lesson of “backing your files up,” because I didn’t do that this time either. For a fee, Apple said it could recover my files for me, which I gladly accepted. I’ve learned enough about letting go that I know I don’t want to go through it twice. I swear, if even one hair on “All That She Wants” is harmed, I will freak out and cry.

Where is my cybernetic meadow?


Calling All English Majors and Intelligent People (both groups not being mutually exclusive)

Hi, English majors and other assorted intellectuals. I recently fell for a poem entitled "All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace" by Richard Brautigan. I brought it to my honors class to have a meaningful discussion, but the class floundered, not hitting the levels of depth I had hoped. Before we get further, I request you read the poem, analyzing it thoroughly:

All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace
Richard Brautigan (1968)

I'd like to think (and
the sooner the better!)
of a cybernetic meadow
where mammals and computers
live together in mutually
programming harmony
like pure water
touching clear sky.

I like to think
(right now, please!)
of a cybernetic forest
filled with pines and electronics
where deer stroll peacefully
past computers
as if they were flowers
with spinning blossoms.

I like to think
(it has to be!)
of a cybernetic ecology
where we are free of our labors
and joined back in nature,
returned to our mammal brothers and sisters,
and all watched over
by machines of loving grace.

The kids thought it was crap. Those who weren't overly confused by it read it at a dull surface level, believing Brautigan was crazy and that he thought it'd be cool to have a forest of trees and technology like some kind of computer nerd. Beneath the text, there was a blurb about how Brautigan was a prominent figure for the hippie generation. Whereas I have been labeled a hippie before and see it as a positive thing, my students have exclusively negative connotations with the word. Any weirdness in the poem was because "he's a hippie!"

I, too, find the poem ridiculous, but believe that to be the beauty of the poem. Maybe it's my natural sense of sarcasm, but I find it impossible to read these lines and not laugh along with its sarcastic tone. Imagery, by definition, is supposed to help paint clear pictures in the reader's mind; though the images in this poem are strong, they are nearly impossible to actually picture because the idea is so ludicrous. Mammals and computers in "mutually programming harmony"? "Deer stroll peacefully past computers"? Such ideas are said in a positive voice as if to indicate their goodness, but it actually repulses me. Furthermore, when these notions are compared to more standard images of natural beauty through simile, "like pure water touching pure sky" and "flowers with spinning blossoms," it adds to the idea that a "cybernetic meadow" would not be so swell, no matter how you shake it.

I find the parts written in parentheses, complete with exaggerated exclamation points, to be the most sarcastic parts of the poem. These words are the typical commentary by the technology-loving populace: "right now, please!" being our urgency to have these advancements made before their proper time and "it has to be!" indicating the inevitability of it all.

When I gave my interpretation to my students, they agreed with me in a "the teacher's always right" kind of sense, but not to my satisfaction. Thereafter, I went to the internet to see what others said about the poem for some kind of affirmation to my own reading. Alas, each and every bit of commentary I've located on the poem has indicated a literal reading, wherein they believe Brautigan is either as a wacky as the narrator indicates or they agree that this vision would be utopia.

That can't be, though, can it? The concept of omnipresent machines monitoring our every step is not comforting, but frightening, even if they are said to be "of loving grace." I realize that a poem can express a point of view that I do not agree with, but this poem seems like such an over the top farce that I have difficulty reading it any other way.

Ultimately, I suppose my question is one about tone. And so I ask you, friends, English majors, compatriots, how you interpret this poem. Is it a critique on technological advancements? A sincere goal for the future? Certainly, I've taken enough classes to know that literature can hold different meanings for different people, but I'm not willing to settle for that school of thought right now. Since graduating I crave intellectual conversation/debate/discussion about literature, and I ask that you indulge me with your thoughts on this piece. The more pretentious you sound, the more I'll hug you.


A Quick Announcement

I'm going to appear on a radio dating show tomorrow (Monday) night at 9pm (Pacific time). At first, I scoffed at the idea of participating, but then when I found out Andrew would be a contestant as well, the premise seemed hilarious enough that I decided I would actually be a part of it. Since agreeing to play, we've learned that the circumstances of the show have changed quite drastically, but in a way that excites me even more. Without giving anything away, let's just say I feel fairly certain that I will not be winning the girl. Nevertheless, I do intend to hit Margarita Monday hard before the show, so at the very least, I can promise something embarrassing will happen. For this reason I invite you to listen to what everyone - and by everyone, I mean everyone that listens to college radio in the immediate area - will be talking about the next morning. You can listen to the show live online at KSPC. Why, it just might be more exciting than that time I appeared with my cub scout troop on the Connecticut oldies station Big D103.*

*That final sentence has been tacked on simply to beat Susan to the punch.


Big Brother Bullying

Though I haven't completely recovered from my reality television addiction, I have managed to drastically reduce my intake. Somehow, however, I managed to pick up the habit of Celebrity Big Brother UK. It doesn't air in America, but I took to downloading the episodes daily (that's right, it was broadcast daily.) The show started out so boringly that I would have given up quickly had I not been fascinated on a personal level. Last year I wrote my thesis on the changing notion of celebrity in the era of reality television. I could add an entire chapter to my study based on the four weeks of this show alone.

One contestant, Leo Sayer, a middle-aged pop star, had hilarious delusions of grandeur. He said he participated on Big Brother as a thank you to his immeasurable fans that adore him. He recently had a hit single (I think in Australia) after a thirty year absence from the music scene, of which he said, "It's not just because it's a hot tune. It's because of the Leo Love. People are all, 'Oh my God, it's Leo Sayer!'" Right. He hated the conditions of the show because he believed himself to be a "celebrated" person who should be held to higher regard. He thought the public wouldn't want to see famous people in degrading scenarios which goes to show how out of touch he is. After having several childish tantrums that made him look like a nincompoop, Leo ultimately quit the show when he ran out of clean underwear and found it humiliating to wash his underwear on television.

What looked to be a dull show became the most talked about show in the world. That's not an exaggeration: the show was all over the international press. The issue was about the house's rampant bullying, arguably incited by racism. Jade, whose claim to fame is that she was once a non-celebrity Big Brother contestant, was constantly at odds with Shilpa, a Bollywood actress. Originally, Jade rose to fame as a brash, ignorant, working class individual who "kept it real." Unlike most, she successfully parlayed her reality appearance into long term stardom and is constantly in the tabloid media. This time around, from the get-go, Jade verbally harassed and threatened Shilpa to a sickening extent. Meanwhile, the worst Shilpa ever did was accidentally undercook a chicken, for which she was a "bitch," "cunt," etc. She showed a lot of class for neither smacking the crap out of Jade nor retaliating.

It is not fair to single Jade out, however, as she was not alone in her bullying. Jade had her cronies in the house: Jack, Jade's boyfriend famous for nothing other than who he dates - think Kevin Federline; Jo, a former S Club 7 member who exemplifies the British bad teeth stereotype; and Danielle, a former Miss Great Britain who lost her crown for dating one of the contest's judges, a famous footballer. These people latched on to anything the second Shilpa exited the room, they critiqued everything she did to the point where their entire day consisted of badmouthing Shilpa.

Fortunately, Shilpa had a couple of allies, one of which was the surprisingly likable Jermaine Jackson. Though Jermaine's weird upbringing and bizarre family realtions were sometimes evident in his behavior and outlook, he was also relatable and spot on when analyzing the social dynamics. He did a good job of trying to stay neutral at first, but once it got to a despicable point, he intervened. Former A-Team actor, Dirk, also had Shilpa's back, but he was trying to get into her pants, so he won't give him too much credit.

The most intriguing part of the show were the people who planted themselves firmly in the middle of the disputes. At the beginning of the show, comedic actress Cleo and ex-pop band member Ian were such kind souls that they were early favorites to win the show. As the others' disgusting behavior emerged, however, they remained thoroughly neutral, just wanting to "be friends with everybody." From their private diary room confessionals, they both made it clear how judgmental and appalled they were by the actions of others. Still, they would watch everything unfold and opted not to intervene in events that were deemed to be so horrendous it caused an internal incident on the outside world. (Seriously, diplomats and prime ministers made official statements on the events.) Though the public has not vilified this pair in the same manner it has the actual aggressors, they have received their own share of the flack for never speaking up and standing by idly.

I used to be an Ian or a Cleo. I used to watch people callously hurt mutual friends of mine and say nothing. Because I wanted to maintain relationships with everyone involved, I would do my best to stay out of it, even though I privately passed judgment. Somehow, I would justify that the incidents were "none of my business," as if watching a friend in pain could be considered such a thing. In the end, I found myself in a lose-lose-lose situation. Firstly, I'd resent the people who hurt my friend, and feel less close to them. Secondly, I'd become less close to the hurt friend after intentionally ignoring them when they needed support. Thirdly, I'd hate myself for "being friends" with people I didn't respect and not being a good friend to the innocent party in the situation.

I've wobbled on whether my new attitude toward these matters is correct, but after seeing it play out on screen, I feel pretty confident. That's right - I'm learning life lessons from reality television. Now I really have to rewrite my thesis.


An Alarming State of Mind

I have a new honors student who is neither honors caliber nor is it an honor to know em. Today in class, I offhandedly mentioned my home state, Connecticut.

"Honors" Student: Wait, you're from Connecticut? I could tell.
Me: What does that mean?
"Honors" Student: From your accent.
(It's true, I have a unique accent, but it is not local to any one region.)
Me: You think it sounds like a Connecticut accent?
"Honors" Student: What language do they speak in Connecticut again?
The class erupts in laughter
Me: Are you serious?
Legitimate Honors Student: They speak English! Connecticut is a state!
"Honors" Student: So? Like, France is a state and they speak French there!
Legitimate Honors Student: France is not a state!
"Honors" Student: Oh... and I was feeling smart today.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - the public education system is severely underfunded. Consider accepting an increase in taxes so that the next generation does not inadvertently declare civil war against another region it believes to be a foreign country.

I can only do so much!


Poetry Is Gay

The school district where I teach is pretty resistant to homosexuality. One of the stipulations of my contract is that if anyone is to bring up the subject with me, I am allowed to define that is the physical attraction between people of the same sex, as well as remind them that the exact causes of homosexuality are still unknown. If the student is "still curious" about the topic, I am to tell them to direct further questions to their parents or spiritual adviser. You know, "Hey kid, go ask your priest about being gay!" Talk about irresponsible.

Contract or not, I would never abide by these rules were I to be faced with a student looking for guidance. Such an issue has never arisen, however, which comes as no surprise considering the community's overwhelming bigotry toward homosexuality. If your parents would disown you, you're not going to chance having others find out you might consider yourself anything less than 100% heterosexual.

My students, like most teenagers, bandy about the term "gay" to mean something is stupid or bad. Though I reprimand them, I know I did the same thing at their age. They take it many steps further, however, by openly expressing their hatred toward "fags" and how it's gross. Despite their animosity, I have one period that is particularly homoerotic. I could never express this thought verbally without many protests and perhaps even a call for my resignation, but so many of the males in that class are more into each other than they would ever admit. They flex for each other, they rub each others' backs, they have competitions where the lift their shirts to see who has the best abs. To see them check each other out and then later talk about how homosexuality is a sin is quite a trip. It'd be one thing if they were comfortable with their sexuality, but clearly they are not.

I have students who have outright refused to participate in the poetry unit because they consider it gay. They would rather receiving zeroes than have anyone perceive them to be homosexual for reading poetry. Obviously, this stubbornness is both excessive and ridiculous, and I tell them so to no avail. One assignment called for my students to write a poem using an example of figurative language (simile/metaphor/personification). Three papers that I received said little more than "poetry is gay," yet I begrudgingly feel obligated to give them partial credit as it is an example of personification.

Fortunately, I do have two students in that homoerotic class who break the mold and are pretty progressive in their thinking. They like to challenge the norm in their appearance and actions, going as far to writing their figurative language poems to each other as a "fuck you" to their peers' bullshit.

Here are the poems they read aloud to each other, vegan and carnivore. The names have been changed and "stooooppe" apparently means stupid:

darren, darren, darren
oh my wonderful darren
you are so not stooopppe
you are like wonderful breeding penguins
Youre abbs are hypnotising
My only wish is that you're always safe
life without you is not life at all.
But in the end you are just a side of beef
with terraki sauce
Joel, Joel, Joel
O My Wonderful Joel
you are so not stoooppee.
you are like wonderful breeding penguins.
Your a skinny vegan with a mop head
My only wish is that your never dead.
Life without you would be stooopppe.
Man I love my sautayed tofu of a friend with a side
of 1,000 island dressing.

Disappointingly, the class reacted poorly. Heckles of "eww" and "fag" were prevalent. Psshh, they're too ignorant to recognize that the abbs (sic) reference was a shot at their own homoerotic competitions or notice that the simile about "wonderful breeding penguins" might be the most beautiful, hilarious comparison made in recent times. Poetry isn't gay by definition, but perhaps it should be.


The Game of Life

I have a friend who babysits a terror of a child. On one particular evening, the two were actually sharing a great time when they began to play Life. Alas, my friend had the misfortune of winning and things took a turn for the worse. The game consists almost entirely of luck, but the young girl refused to be gracous in her defeat. According to my friend, the deciding factor was that she went to college while the child in her care decided to forego it. If you ask me, that's a valuable lesson for the kid about the benefits of a higher education, particularly the child of a professor, although I doubt she saw it that way. Unable to settle the kid down, my friend said, "It's only game." Dramatically, the girl, sobbing, retorted, "But what if this were real life?!"

And isn't it, though? Life is already one big game, why discredit a board game by the same name just because it features compulsory marriage and a giant spinning wheel?


The Italian Club Sandwich

My friend Wes is a suave stud. For about half a year, Wes has been working in the food service industry. At first, the job seemed fairly nice, especially with the perk of free food. Over time, however, the business became restrictive, forbidding any snacking, going as far as installing cameras to monitor the workers closely.

Frustrated, he walked into work recently and told everyone including the owner that he was going to quit if anyone ordered an Italian Club Sandwich. Though no one took him seriously, five hours later when a customer finally ordered an Italian Club Sandwich, he promptly walked out. He didn't make the sandwich or say a word, he simply wrote a note that said, "I told you so" and left.


Perhaps more amusing was that Wes had left RJ a message from work earlier in the day, so when RJ called back twenty minutes after Wes quit, the owner could only stammer, "He... he left."

And he's not going back.


Super Bowl XXX

When was the last time the Super Bowl was actually super? I thought that after the first play resulted in a touchdown there was promise, but blah.

I don't watch much football. Most occasions when I do are accidental; the only appointment football I schedule is the Super Bowl because, well, I'm an American, and to keep my citizenship, sometimes I have to be willing to adhere to mob mentality. Since I'm not compromising on the war, I might as well concede to football.

I, like many Americans (which makes it okay!), generally tune in just to watch the commercials. I used to make sure to go to the bathroom during the game, so I wouldn't miss an ad. In the recent past, having been jaded with marketing and the way corporations control our lives, I realized how ridiculous it was to eagerly see how people were willing to sell me something. For this reason, I vowed to only half-watch the commercials, which turned out to be a good idea because the advertisements were truly at an all time worst. Granted, I was not devoting much attention, but just about every commercial I saw involved gratuitous violence. Though I no longer watch much TV, I had assumed we as a nation have evolved past the random-object-hits-guy-in-crotch hilarity since the demise of America's Funniest Home Videos. (When I went to check what year the show went off the air, I learned that the show is still on, and not just in reruns. I am so out of touch. Probably not as much as anyone still watching the show, though.)

Shea: "Why are all of the commercials about violence and sex?"
Michael Michael: "Because that's what sells!"
Shea: "Nuh uh! One year they were all about monkeys; I loved that year."

I'm with Shea (and presumably Jenna): Bring on the monkeys! Shortly thereafter, the commercial featuring lions trying to say "carne asada" resurrected my faith in marketing, only to lose it again with the montage of people slapping each other for whatever product that is that I don't care to remember.

The half-time show was a disappointment, too. While I have some friends that creamed their pants, I think Prince is one of the most overrated musical artists of all time. Personally, I'd like to return to referring to him by just a symbol, that symbol being the middle finger.

Deep down, perhaps the show just wasn't nipple-y enough for me. Then again, I'm not sure Jehova's Witnesses are allowed to have nipples. Earlier in the day, Madison made a comment about how she still remembered exactly where she was when Janet's breast was exposed. Sadly, it's probably not that farfetched to compare the fiasco to other world-stopping events like 9/11 and the JFK assassination. Janet Jackson's right titty: May We Never Forget.

At a party the previous night, a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend (that's the legitimate degree of separation) told me that he couldn't stand Justin Timberlake's "Sexy Back" because of the implications. If Timberlake is finally bringing sexy back, what did he do to it? Where has he been hiding it? And who gives him the authority to take away and provide Sexy at whim?

That got me thinking - I have a new theory: If he only got to show one boob, I bet Timberlake bringing Sexy Back involves finally showing the world Janet's other one.


My New Favorite Quote

At Jessica's school

One African American student to another who was intentionally acting like a thug: "Hey, hey, hey. Haven't you heard? Black is the new gentleman."


Don't Cry - There's Milk!

I had a pretty emotionally tumultuous day after having to involve myself in a student's messy home life. Obviously, this is not the appropriate forum to discuss those matters, but suffice it to say that it certainly took a toll.

On my way home, I stopped at a grocery store that is going out of business; today is the last day it is open. I shopped there a few weeks ago because of the immense savings: most things were at least 25% off. You know I can't resist a good deal. The funny thing is, in the past, my cheapness at this very same location almost cost me my life. During the summer, I was at the store with Christina and Stacy when the special discount rack caught my eye. Oblivious to my surroundings, I managed to step right into a puddle of lotion next to the rack and promptly lost my footing. In an attempt to prevent footing, I did the whole comedic flailing off the arms and sliding of the legs for a ridiculously long time. As my head wobbled, I spot my friends with their mouths wide open, chuckling at what I'm sure must have been an amusing sight. After probably three full seconds of slipping about, I grab onto a cart and successfully regain my composure without ever falling. Only then do I realize what a mistake it was not to take the fall and earn myself a sweet lawsuit. There was no Caution sign to be seen: I could have settled for a huge amount of money or, barring that, all the bacon I can eat. Now that the store is going out of business, however, I must acknowledge that there probably wasn't much to gain from taking that fall.

I entered the store but the shelves were absolutely bare. As if I wasn't upset enough after the events at school! Clearly, others had taken full advantage of the discounts and bought everything left in the store. The only things still in the store, and this is not an exaggeration - these were the last items: greeting cards, 90% off store brand heartburn prevention medication, and about one hundred gallons of milk. Because the heartburn medicine was so cheap, I contemplated it, finally deciding to just purchase the product I would use, the milk, grabbing a gallon marked as 25% off. By the time I was nearly at the register, one of the employees said, "Get another one, it's free!" So I walked all the way back to the other end of the store, excited at the prospect of Buy One Get One Free milk. After my long trek, I arrived at the register. An employee asked, "Do you want a bag or something?" "No," I said. "Well then just take it, it's free." "Free free?" I asked. "Yup."

You wouldn't believe my uncontrollable smile. The store was actually giving milk away for free. Two per customer. I felt like I won the lottery. I called everyone I knew, except for Sabrina.

Suddenly, all of the intenseness from earlier in the day was erased. Free milk just might be the best thing to happen to me in a long time.