2007-05-31

I Whole-Headedly Agree

After successfully petitioning for the opportunity to take an English class rather than a teaching class as part of my Masters program (I am an English teacher after all,) I've found myself a bit over my head. The reading load is quite lengthy, approximately 400 pages twice a week, which is not an easy task while working full time. During the class' first meeting, I was excited to be surrounded by pretension. It had been a while since I've discussed literature in an intellectual fashion (no offense to my ninth and tenth graders) and watching masters and PHD students jockey for mental superiority was more stimulating than a carnival.

The appeal wore off after a few meetings, however. I prefer to dabble in pretension rather than immerse myself in it, so eventually I've kind of checked out. Your ideas are brilliant, I get it already.

Some of my classmates drive me nuts. There are two in particular that I look at like bobblehead dolls. The entire - that's entire, not just some of the or most of the - time, these two sit next to each other and vigorously nod their heads at everything the professor says, accompanied by a smug smile announcing "I was already thinking that." I've previously spoken of this annoying phenomenon's existence in comedy audiences, but it reaches new heights in an academic context. Rather than literally kissing the professor's ass, the students just keep their heads in motion to unmistakably demonstrate that they understand and agree with what the professor is saying.

Worse yet, it's really throwing off my own participation in the class. How can I gather a coherent thought to share with a distraction of that magnitude? Stop nodding. Stop nodding! STOP NODDING! I try to look away, but I can't help looking back to verify that, yes, in fact, their heads are still bobbing more frequently than a chicken's. I have a morbid fascination that one of these days their necks will snap off.

2007-05-29

Re-Xamined

Yesterday was Margarita Monday, which, as usual, was one of the highlights of the week. I'm pleased to say that in spite of that unfortunate graduation business, we're still maintaining a crowd of about a dozen. As long as practically lethal margaritas are two dollars, the tradition will continue!

Well into our second round, I asked where someone, Michael Michael I think, went, to which Preston responded, "He disappeared!" making a terrifically well played callback to my Zolar X incident. Making a fool of myself is no rare occurrence, but doing so in front of a 70s glam rock band fronting as aliens is quite an accomplishment. (<-- If you're not familiar with that story, you need to get reading it right now before proceeding further.) Since I think Zolar X is one of those musical acts you have to see believe, I leave the following for you to be perplexed by:



That story really is a riot, I fear my initial post doesn't do it the justice that multiple people chiming in embarrassing detail after detail creates. Jessica was laughing so hard, she shot margarita through her nose, which only served to extend the laughter. Within two minutes, Jessica had a full on nosebleed; I told you those margaritas were potent. Being the sadistic individual that I am, I felt good watching the embarrassment passed on to someone else for a change. Quick, everyone forget that I'm an oblivious drunk.

A while later, finding a tiny umbrella in someone's drink, I pick it up and pretend to put it over my head and sing one of my favorite songs of the moment, Rihanna's "Umbrella."
(Under my um-bah-rella ella ella ey ey ey...)



So I'm performing my song, probably thinking I'm all sorts of cute, too, when Michael Michael says, "You do realize that you're under two umbrellas, right?" I glance upwards and notice that, yes, not only am I pathetically gripping a flimsy drink umbrella, but I am also beneath one of the restaurant's oversized sun-shading umbrellas. Suddenly, I recognize myself to be a fool again. With "fence" likes these (and some assistance from a margarita or three,) I will never have to worry about losing my humility, with or without the presence of alien musicians.

2007-05-28

What Is This MM?

I finally got around to posting photographs of my friends graduating. How cute are they? This year's class featured a lot of genuinely good people who I enjoyed spending great times with and will miss as their subsequent adventures inevitably take them to bigger and better things than me.

For the graduation ceremony, I made Margarita Monday stickers and ran around placing them on everyone who attends with frequency. Consequently, many of my friends appear branded with the tags in their post-grad photographs alongside friends and families. Were I a diabolical alcoholic genius, (and, ahem, I am not,) I might have planned for that to happen. Instead, it was merely a merry unforeseen result.



Another merry unforeseen result was placing the stickers on my friends. When I flattened a sticker onto his daughters' chests, Mark commented with a smile, " I know what you're up to." Again, I didn't consider it ahead of time, but it did permit me to get up-close and personal with some sun-dress-clad-breasts. I made sure to conduct my business innocently, but I ran into trouble when slapping a sticker onto Heather. From over her shoulder, Heather's father tells her to stop letting "this guy" feel up her breast. I make eye contact with him, but can't hold it and as I try to stutter an explanation, I become so frightened that I literally flee. When I bring up the situation later to discuss how awkward it was she just laughs and says how he was being sarcastic and didn't actually care. I mentioned that the sarcasm was hard to read and Heather countered that her dad shares her humor and it all made sense. Heather's sarcasm is so strong, I assumed she hated me the first few months that I knew her. It is only fitting that on our initial "meeting," her dad would terrify me as well.

After finally leaving campus, Michael Michael, also wearing a MM sticker, stopped at the liquor store a block from my house. The person behind the register asked, "What is this MM? You're the tenth person to come in here with MM on your shirt." This comment is hilarious because that means that all of our friends were buying booze and unwittingly shopping at the same establishment. It's good to know that even on a Sunday, Margarita Mondayers are frequenting the spirits scene and stimulating the economy.

2007-05-27

Juliet, Let Down Your Weave


While reading the reknowned balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet ("wherefore art thou Romeo?"), a student interrupts to ask, "When is Juliet going to do that thing with her hair?"
"Sorry?" I ask back.
"You know, when she lets her hair down for Romeo to climb up."
"Yeah, that'd be Rapunzel."

2007-05-26

Dangerous Dog

Bosco, perhaps one of the most docile dogs I've ever met who gleefully greets all guests at our door, seems to hate the mail carrier. Each day, Bosco, with Darby following to be cool, barks as angrily as I've ever heard him at the mailperson as our letters are delivered. Bosco is obedient in almost every way, but no matter how many times we shame and yell at him, Bosco will still put on a ferocious face to intimidate the mail carrier away. It's like a comic strip: he wants to terrorize the mailperson much like Garfield, or perhaps Dagwood.

Though it's embarrassing to watch your dog vehemently hate someone, (I do hope it's not bigotry,) the worst it has done is cause a brief but noisy disruption on a daily basis. Since the mail carrier never acknowledged the barking, it didn't seem to have long term consequences until today when we received a DANGEROUS DOG notification in the mailbox. We had to fill out a form identifying our dog and potential problems it might pose to the postperson. Apparently, the barking has finally provoked the mail carrier to shake in eir blue knee high socks.

Warning! DANGEROUS DOG ALERT!


Terrier? More like Terror!


Truthfully, though the content was true, posting this story was for no other reason than to include a picture of our cute dog. I am too ashamed to turn this blog into an "awww, look how cute the doggy is" site, so I manufactured an excuse.

With that in mind, rather than forcing some sort of similarly pointless story about how Darby plays catch well tomorrow, why don't I just include an adogable photo of Darby in a baseball cap, too:

2007-05-25

Indie Rock

While discussing a character's ability to survive by maintaining hope, one of my more intentionally ridiculous students says, "It's like that Journey song, 'Don't Stop Believing.' Do you like that song, Mr. [Kevin]?"
Mr. Kevin: Um, no.
Intentionally Ridiculous Student: No?
MK: It'd be fun to do karaoke to since it's so cheesy, but I think it's pretty dumb.
IRS: Well what kind of music do you like?
MK: Lately, indie rock.
IRS: Indie like Indiana Jones?
MK: Yes Indiana Jones rock. The rock is that big boulder that chases him.
IRS: That's music?
MK: Yeah, it's the sound of the boulder that I like, I find its movement's sound soothing.
IRS: That sounds like rock and roll to me.
MK: This is the worst conversation I've ever had.
IRS: And yet the best!

2007-05-23

Forehead Hickey

The best thing about having a forehead hickey is that it is in such an absurd location, no one at work would ever recognize it for what it is.

2007-05-22

Causing a Scene

I brought Amy to my high school's play, which was about a high school putting on a play. When someone later asked me what I thought of the play, I tried to avoid having to compliment it by suggesting it was "meta." When that wasn't understood I tried "postmodern," which, of course, also meant nothing. Alas, I had to say, though it took a lot, "It was good."

It wasn't good. Or to quote Amy, "It [was] good in the way that America's Next Top Model is good." What it lacked in quality, it made up for in its absurd, over-the-top nature. Why speak a line when it can be screamed? Why resort to a subtle performance when you can approach it with an exaggerated presence? Perhaps I am too critical -- I know I entered teaching with expectations that were too high.

A few things surprised me that shouldn't have. 1. Misbehavior in the audience: the kids were loud, rude, and disruptive, not much different than the classroom. 2. An overreaction to a quick stage kiss: ohmguh, two people kissed in a far more timid manner than I see many engage in in the hallway. 3. Homophobia: a boy on stage is heckled with cries of "homo!" 4. Religion: the actor bios in the program feature numerous praises to God and Biblical quotes.

The best part was that when intermission was announced, a kid behind us told eir friends, "We're having a fifteen minute commercial now." Alas, there were no advertisements made during this break.

In addition to the scheduled show, I apparently became an unwitting part of the show, too. Having attended with a companion, I was being stared at. As soon as I walked through the door, I was greeted with, "Hi Mr. [Kevin], is this your girlfriend?" Don't let the commas fool you, there were no pauses in the affront. After that, I tried to hide in the back corner so as not to attract too much attention. Still, a student managed to sit behind me and, without my knowledge, snap photos of Amy and me, which ey proceeded to show to eir peers at school yesterday. Many students inquired about Amy. One student who hadn't seen her said, "I heard she was pretty." (Not a bad rumor, huh, Amy?) As the questions continued to roll in, I initially tried to ignore them, but eventually for the sake of accomplishing anything, had to explain that Amy and I were just friends. Several students asked if I would bring her back to school, so I had to explain, no, Amy is moving to Africa.

I thought that by speaking up, it would squash the rumors by the following day, but it actually seemed to have the opposite effect. "Mr. [Kevin], I hear you're married!" What? Um? Shrug.

2007-05-21

Romeo and Juvenile Humor


Given my students' initial protests of how they "just know" they will hate it, I've been apprehensive to teach Romeo and Juliet. Truthfully, I haven't looked at the text since I read it my freshmen year of high school, so I forgot how dirty the opening scene is. In fact, I'm not sure I ever realized how dirty the opening scene is. Though I read almost no Shakespeare in college, my years of perversion, however, have given me the wisdom to read the bawdy lines as Shakespeare intended.

While the textbook is very good at annotating the language in the margins, it conspicuously offers no explanation of the dirty parts. As I lesson planned, I realized that if I were to brush over the opening without giving an indication of what was actually being said, I would be losing the kids from the beginning, having them assume the play made no sense when, in fact, the humor was right up their alley. For this reason, I made the decision to go for the gusto, and, perhaps against better judgment, connect the dots for the students. I prefaced the lesson with an explanation of the Groundlings and the concept of comic relief in drama. I had students volunteer to read the parts aloud as I interrupted periodically to give my two cents - the filthiest two cents I could muster.

ACT 1 SCENE I. Verona. A public place.


Enter SAMPSON and GREGORY, of the house of Capulet, armed with swords and bucklers


SAMPSON 
Gregory, o' my word, we'll not carry coals.


GREGORY 
No, for then we should be colliers.


SAMPSON 
I mean, an we be in choler, we'll draw.


GREGORY 
Ay, while you live, draw your neck out o' the collar.


Here we discuss the use of puns.


SAMPSON 
I strike quickly, being moved.


GREGORY 
But thou art not quickly moved to strike.


More puns

SAMPSON 
A dog of the house of Montague moves me.


I clue the kids in that the character is not speaking about an actual a dog, but a woman. I ask, "When might you hear a young guy refer to a woman as a dog?" "When she's ugly?" comes the reply. "Maybe. I mean more so as disrespectful, a bad word one might use." After I receive no answers, I add, "Like ... a bitch." "Oh!" comes the cry from the class, with many snickers.


GREGORY 
To move is to stir; and to be valiant is to stand:
therefore, if thou art moved, thou runn'st away.


SAMPSON 
A dog of that house shall move me to stand: I will
take the wall of any man or maid of Montague's.


GREGORY 
That shows thee a weak slave; for the weakest goes
to the wall.


SAMPSON 
True; and therefore women, being the weaker vessels,
are ever thrust to the wall: therefore I will push
Montague's men from the wall, and thrust his maids
to the wall.


By now, the students have become confused again. “Why might the women be thrust against the wall?” Blank stares. “Do I need to act this out for you? Thrusting them against them wall…” I start to make a suggestive movement, but catch myself. Fortunately, I had gone far enough, as the filthy light bulbs were clearly going off over their heads.


GREGORY 
The quarrel is between our masters and us their men.


SAMPSON 
'Tis all one, I will show myself a tyrant: when I
have fought with the men, I will be cruel with the
maids, and cut off their heads.


GREGORY 
The heads of the maids?


SAMPSON 
Ay, the heads of the maids, or their maidenheads;
take it in what sense thou wilt.


Here, I had to clarify that maidenhead means virginity; by now, that kids were fully engrossed


GREGORY 
They must take it in sense that feel it.


“Wait, they must take it and feel it?” a kid shouts. “That’s what’s being said, right?” I reply. I see two kids actually high five.


SAMPSON 
Me they shall feel while I am able to stand: and
'tis known I am a pretty piece of flesh.


“Does that mean he thinks he’s hot?” a student asks. “Yes, he fancies himself a stud,” I answer. “But ‘pretty piece of flesh’ indicates something else, too. What specific piece of flesh do you think he might be bragging about?” “His…” no one actually says it, but the laughter indicates comprehension.


GREGORY 
'Tis well thou art not fish; if thou hadst, thou
hadst been poor John. Draw thy tool! here comes
two of the house of the Montagues.


“When he says ‘tool,’ does he also mean…?” I answer in the affirmative, proud to see perverted minds at work. Then I explain what a phallic symbol is, much to my students wonderment.


SAMPSON 
My naked weapon is out: quarrel, I will back thee.


Now getting the penis joke, seeing the word naked used to enhance the pun excites the students.


At any rate, the students love it. By highlighting the sexual innuendos, they’re actually excited to continue reading the text, as well as scouring it for deeper meaning in order to find the grosser comments. Thankfully, Shakespeare keeps the anatomy jokes coming (I didn’t intend to make a pun there myself) two scenes later with the nurse’s penchant for discussing the finer points of breastfeeding and again later with Mercutio’s admittedly pointless Queen Mab speech. It's all in the name of education, you see.

2007-05-20

Smells Like Spirits


I'm a nostalgic person, which is readily evident in the music to which I listen. I don't tend to let go of old favorites, instead keeping them in steady rotation on my musical playlists. Even songs that I never enjoyed when they were originally released can become sentimental favorites more than a decade later. In my dorm room a few years ago, a friend commented on my song selection and suggested that I host a 90s party. Sitting in proximity, Ted noted that "It's always a 90's party in here." Indeed, the soundtrack to my room was almost exclusively 90s pop-rock.

At about the same time, I was introduced to 90 Proof a local band that became my favorite, second only to We Are Scientists (who have gone on to big things - or so I hear). 90 Proof is a band that exclusively covers 90s rock songs, appealing right to my sense of nostalgic. Each concert was a certified hit: intoxicated college students love bouncing and screaming along to songs from their youth. When the band went MIA on campus for a while, I made it a point to track them down and find funding for them to come back. In doing so, I established a friendly relationship with the band members and I was smitten. They are genuine, affable people who enjoy paying homage to 90s music as much as I do.

While I was trying to finish my thesis, 90 Proof asked if I would arrange another concert for them and, overwhelmed, I didn't follow through, though I felt guilty about it for a long time to come. Thereafter, I lost touch with the band, but still grew giddy each time I thought of them. When they returned to play at my college again last month (thanks, China!) I similarly had to make an appearance, despite needing to teach the next day. With a 40 in hand, I bounced and screamed along with the other graduates, not feeling nearly as self-conscious as that other time. The only thing more impressive than the wild scene was the fact that Lexi knew every word to "One Week" by the Barenaked Ladies. I had a great forget-I'm-a-teacher time.

When the band played again at a local bar last night, Allison, RJ and eir sibling, Lexi, Stacy, and I went for yet another nostalgia trip. This time, I had a chance to reacquaint myself with the band members when they took breaks in between sets and I still found them to be so down to earth and sincere that I wanted to be real friends with them again. Though they pay tribute to the music of the 90s rock era, they don't adopt the stereotypical asshole rock attitude. And if you know me, you know that Kevin doesn't do assholes. (Well, not anymore anyway.)

The band kept giving a shout out to our table because we were the most enthusiastic for the music. Collectively, we had drank enough beer to have an empty pitcher for each of us to play with during "Everlong." Feeling the rock, we alternately crashed these pitchers into each other and banged them against the table. Somehow, I had failed to notice that my pitcher was not actually empty, and with one solid thrust of the pitcher against the table, its surprisingly plentiful remaining contents flew up and out of the container and on to me. Not just a part of me, but my hair, face, shirt, shorts, and bare, now sticky, legs; I was not just wet, but drenched. Normally, this point in the evening is when one would say, "I'm sorry, I must go home," but there were still a few songs to go, so I waited it out.

I did indeed speak to the band members again at the end of their set. As wet as I was, I felt compelled to admit that I spilled on myself. The lead singer chuckled, "I saw that happen." After trying to seem cool and perhaps even impress the band, I had managed to embarrass myself. Fortunately, I'm not too embarrassed to go to the next show in two weeks.

2007-05-18

Tequila!

Since we began to read the novel, no fewer than three students have erroneously called Harper Lee's masterpiece How to Kill a Mockingbird, thus turning the heralded piece of fiction into an instruction manual. Step 1: Procure a gun. Step 2: Aim...

I figured this mistake would be the height of the hilarity in regards to confusing this novel's title until, while taking eir test, a student reads aloud, "To Kill a Mockingbird? I thought it was Tequila Mockingbird." "Tequila Mockingbird?" I repeat. "Yeah, like the alcohol," ey says. I literally thump my head on my desk. It's as if the student never even opened the book; then again, it's not even necessary to open the book to learn its title. Annoyed by my evident annoyance, the student growls, "What? It's not as if To Kill a Mockingbird makes any sense." Ohmguh! The symbolism referenced in the title is so significant that if it isn't understood, there is almost no point in reading the book! To say that the title means nothing is so infuriating, distressing, and short-sighted that I just want to...

Speaking of tequila, I could use some right now.

2007-05-17

This Is Why I'm Hot

Last week, I lost my cellphone at an amusement park. I was optimistic that the fine folks at Six Flags would recover my phone, expecting it to have fallen out of my shorts on an upside down loop on a roller coaster. Alas, by the next day, my service provider disclosed to me that my phone was actively being used, meaning whoever found it was not intending to give it back.

I did my best not to panic. Generally, a phone is no more than a phone to me, but I had become attached to my recent phone not for the phone itself, but for the ringtone I purchased, "Africa" by Toto. Each time the phone rang, I got excited and delayed answering it until the song nearly reached its conclusion. After several months, I still never tired of the song. My friends and I would dance/sing to the ring on a daily basis. Losing this song was devastating.

At any rate I needed a new phone. If you're buying a phone outside of the specified time designated by your contract, it's crazy expensive. As I tried to figure out how to handle this situation without losing a couple hundred of dollars, Michael Michael offered up the fact that his coworker had an extra cellphone and if I wanted it, I could take it, with the one stipulation being if ey were to lose eir new one, ey would need it back.

I'm thinking, great, seems like quite a deal. Throughout the cellphone-owning portion of my life, I have always had a pretty standard grey phone that was behind the times. Frankly, it was probably all I could handle. So imagine my surprise when Michael Michael brings home this phone:



Ohmguh. It's lime green. Technically it's called "mint chocolate" (mint being the color, chocolate being the make of the phone), which sounds like food, not a phone. I hate it. Don't get me wrong, I'm appreciative of the gesture of Michael Michael's coworker, but Mint Chocolate is not for me. It looks like something a teenage girl would own and whip out to gossip to her friends with at the mall.

Though I lost "Africa," the phone did come with its own exciting ringtone, "This Is Why I'm Hot":



Even before receiving this phone, the song "This Is Why I'm Hot" has been a house joke. For the reason, look no further than the lyrics:

This is why I'm hot
This is why I'm hot
This is why
This is why
This is why I'm hot
I'm hot 'cause I'm fly
You ain't 'cause you not
This is why
This is why I'm hot

It is a persuasive case, huh? The song is 100% ridiculous. And it is my ringtone. It's my cheap, headed-nowhere, meaningless fling with a song after losing my longtime love song, "Africa." It's embarrassing, but I figure when I have a phone that looks so absurd, I might as well go all the way with the ringtone as well. Most of the time, I find it funny, and I feel comfortable enough with my friends to just laugh at it whenever it rings. There are other situations, however, when I am not comfortable. The song goes off and I feel dumb. Moreover, depending on my company, I'm embarrassed to even take my phone out of my pocket, as it projects an image of me as some kind of faux-trendy poser. 95% of the time that's something I don't care about, but there are times when I'm just not up for being fearless and I "step out" to conceal my phone's appearance.

I can't decide how committed I am to this joke; as soon as I accidentally leave my phone on at school, I will probably regret my decision to have an "ironic" cellphone situation, since most people won't understand.

Michael Michael understands, though. Anytime he feels like hearing the song and laughing, he merely dials me up and watches me scurry for my phone. I'm totally setting myself up by admitting this, but if you ever want to embarrass me, just give me a call.

2007-05-16

Color Me Good

Though I rarely watch music videos anymore, YouTube provides me with the occasional access to greatness, like my new favorite music video, Feist's "1, 2, 3, 4," which I present here:



For reasons I can't quite pinpoint, sometimes I am intrigued by colors. The color scheme of the outfits that this motley bunch sports is fascinating. Additionally, it features cheesy choreography. Nothing excites me more than average people performing ridiculous dance moves. (See: Fatboy Slim, OK Go.) If I could be granted one wish, it would be to participate in some elaborate, absurd dance with a large group of people. (My birthday fast approaches, hint hint.)

Before Feist's video, my previous favorite is by my dearest, Regina Spektor, which I share because it also is visually appealing due to its color:



With any luck, seeing as this song has been out for quite some time, you've already swooned and nearly dyed (poor pun) at the aesthetics of this video. Technically, it's the transition from the absence of color that causes this concept to work well. Though it's sappy and simple, I buy into it; Allison even claims she cried. Not only is the color captivating, but it provides me with some fond memories of my first year of college where my friends and I celebrated Holi:




2007-05-15

High Art

Two summers ago, Desiree and I went to a tag sale (though we don't call them that here in California) and I found a hideous piece of art that I could not resist purchasing for a dollar:



It has two semi-pterodactyl figures flying above a sea parting (finally the dinosaurs vs. Biblical story controversy depicted artistically) complete with a bizarre faux-wood frame. Truthfully, I'm not sure I ever really liked it even in a campy way, but when it hung in my apartment two years ago, it received so many compliments and fascinationed plenty of people that I had to keep it. In my current house, I hung it next to the refrigerator, though Amber disliked it even more than the singing boy. On the other hand, Kat loved it more than footjobs, so when she came to visit on her birthday last month, I decided it was time to pass the torch and give her the piece of art to warm her own home.

We commemorated the event with a photograph. In typical Andrew fashion, he took a picture that makes me look pretty terrible. (In truth, I'll take the blame on this one - what kind of face was I making?)



And finally, Kat is happy with her gift.



Happy Birthday (again), Kat. Enjoy!

2007-05-14

Quack

As a thank you for my fine service at my high school, I was given a tube of chap stick from the fine folks at Aflac; I believe it was insurance-flavored. Unless my lips are literally about to crumble into pieces and fall off, I don't use chap stick, so when Nikki came, I gave her the tube for her fine service as my friend.

Several nights later, at a particularly substance-laden post-graduation party, someone whined for chap stick. I offered up mine, or rather the one I had gifted to Nikki. Many people were intrigued as to why Aflac would manufacture chap stick in the first place. As we struggled to reach some kind of understanding (yes, it was that kind of night), a thought overwhelmed and outraged me.

Ducks don't have lips.

It was the epiphany that changed everything, including the entire tone of the party, although, in hindsight, that might just be how I perceived my revelation at the time. In that moment, I had never felt smarter. I felt as though I channeled Angela Lansbury and cracked the mystery just in time. Truthfully, I hadn't solved anything and merely added a question to a question, but, you know, Socrates would be proud.

Ducks don't have lips!

2007-05-13

The Nice Boy with the Knife

Last night, I attended a pre-graduation potluck with my senior friends and their families. I had every intention of baking something myself, but then a haircut, terrific pickup basketball game, eating chicken, and an extended nap got in the way. I went to the grocery store to see if anything tickled my fancy at the last minute, but instead of ingredients, I found a ready-made Boston cream pie and bought it, along with some pink cake writing gel which I used to scribble "Happy Graduation Ohmguh."

Thinking ahead, I brought the largest knife I could find with me to cut the pie. Holding the pie with two hands, I rested the knife atop the pie container as I slowly shuffled out of the house. Jessica admonished me for carrying it so dangerously, but I couldn't figure out how to approach the situation better and continued with my method all the way to the car.

After driving to the potluck, en route to the building, I placed the huge knife in my pocket, which was probably also dangerous, but at least not noticeably so to passersby. As soon as I walked into the room with the pie, Allison greeted me with a hug I couldn't quite return with my hands full. Ey asked me to meet eir family, so I sat the pie down on the table and began to shake hands and alternate between "nice to meet you" and "good to meet you." Hello, Allison's mom. Hello, Allison's dad. Hello, Allison's brother. As I went to shake Allison's grandmother's hand, a thought struck my mind. "Oh wait!" I exclaimed, then I pulled the large knife out of my pocket and held it upwards by the handle...

Before we move on, I need to make sure you are picturing this scene properly: I formally greeted a friend's relatives. About to shake eir grandmother's hand, without a more substantial warning than "oh wait," I whipped out an oversized knife. From the looks of it, I pulled a knife on an elderly person.

The immediate reactions were gasps and looks of fear. That included one on my own face, realizing how insane and perhaps homicidal I must have
appeared. After attempting to hold the knife in a less threatening manner and explain that I had brought a pie and forgot that the knife was in my pocket, I managed to coax the family into a state of awkward laughter, and after some more of my patented self-depricating humor, perhaps even genuine laughter. (Although perhaps they merely faked it well to appease the knife-wielding stranger.)

If there were a hall of fame for worst first impressions, I would be an instant inductee. Fortunately, once the weapon was away, I apparently charmed Allison's family enough into liking me. When I inquired what they said of the incident later, Allison said they ultimately found it funny and referred to me as "the nice boy with the knife."

What a hysterical reputation I established for myself. Hearing that almost made me want to stab Allison* just to read the inevitable newspaper article with a quote from Allison's mother: "I can't believe the nice boy with knife was capable of such a thing!"

* for the record, no, not really

2007-05-08

Hellish

Though my graduate program will run through the end of July, I have finally completed my thesis, which is one major hurdle out of my way. Though I had initially dismissed the undertaking as something I was merely going to do rather than be proud of, I switched plans and actually put effort into it when I realized how therapeutic it was to pursue the writing with an extreme level of candor. Most theses completed for this program are overly positive outpourings of BS wherein teachers reflect on their amazing students and the way they have changed their life and consequently the world around them. I didn't even attempt to fudge my experiences and instead approached the assignment with my general cynicism and dejected outlook on teaching after my first year on the job.

I understood that it probably wouldn't be well-received, but I wanted to defy the norm on this assignment. To my surprise, my gamble paid off, as I was given an award for my thesis by my school. It was announced as a "refreshing, honest departure" from the usual thesis. It's nice to be recognized for openly airing my failures as a teacher. I'd hazard that I'm one of just a few people who uses the word "hellish" in the opening sentence of eir thesis, let alone the only one to be rewarded for doing so. I'd like to thank all of my brats for giving me an endless supply of material for the thesis. Oh, and of course, I'd also like to thank God, without whom my students would not be the morally hypocritical twits worth writing about.

I'm still not sure where my head is at in regards to my future in teaching. Even my own adviser, who I love to death, gave me a gift that said, "Every exit is an entry somewhere else." - Tom Stoppard. I've never explicitly told her that I constantly consider bailing on teaching, but she clearly has me pegged - and still couldn't be any prouder.

For a while, I wanted to quit and never look back. More recently, I've been eager to undergo a second year of teaching to see what I am capable of without the added stress of being a full time student, as well. By next year, I should have an idea of what works and doesn't work, and, with any luck, might actually teach my students something. In a sense, I don't want to admit defeat before I've had the opportunity to give it a genuine try.

I won the aforementioned thesis award on Saturday with a handful of other people including Jessica, the classmate who lied to the reporter, and a very smily Spanish teacher. This last teacher was in eir thirties, married with kids, and on top of eir game. Two days later, ey dropped dead in eir classroom. This tragedy has really affected me, though I'm not sure I can pinpoint how. I lament the loss of such a warm person, and think it entirely sucks to have this happen after going through so much work. If I were to drop dead, I'm not sure I'd be satisfied with my professional accomplishments. Maybe I don't want to stick with a job I don't see myself in for the long haul. Will a continuation of my current job prove fulfilling or a waste of time?

2007-05-04

I Don't Get It: An Interaction with a Student

Student: Do you have an older brother?
Kevin: No.
Student: Do you have a younger brother?
Kevin: No.
Student: So you're an only child?
Kevin: No... I have a younger sister.
Student: Ooooo! Can I date her?
Kevin: She's kind of old for you.
Student: How old?
Kevin: A junior in college.
Student: That's okay, I like smart people.
Kevin: Unfortunately for you, so does she.
Student's Friends: hahahahaha
Student: I don't get it. Why is it funny?
Student's Friend: He dissed you.
Student: How? I don't get it.
Student's Friend: He said you're not smart.
Student: Oh. Hey! Mr. [Kevin], you're killing my self-esteem.
Kevin: I'm not saying you're not capable of being smart enough, just that you're not there yet. You know, I could give you a picture of my sister as your inspiration. You could keep looking at it to stay motivated to go to college to become smart enough to date her.
Student: Does she look like you?
Kevin: I don't know... Wait, is that why you want to date her?!
Student's Friends: hahahahaha
Student: I don't get it.

Aside to Alison: Let me know if you're interested. Don't worry, you're probably not actually too smart for him.

2007-05-01

So It Goes


Kurt Vonnegut is dead. So it goes. Up until two weeks ago, I considered him my favorite living author. Now, he joins the ranks of the brilliant writers who have left behind a literary legacy. Vonnegut has played a large role in my life. In high school, Cat's Cradle was my favorite book. For my sophomore year term paper, Slaughterhouse Five was the text for which I slaved tirelessly. (Oh, to be back to the days when a ten page paper was the longest, most grueling essay of my life.) In the past six months, in the nonexistent free time that I have, I've devoted my leisure reading time to a collection of Vonnegut's short stories as well as his memoirs. When I worked at the Mark Twain House and Museum, I worked on an exhibit for Vonnegut's wife, Jill Krementz, who specializes in photographing writers at their craft. The opportunity allowed me to see all sorts of publicly unseen pictures of authors in their homes, most of which still have not been released - including (SEXY ALERT!) Vonnegut in states of undress.

After returning from spring break, it was my intention to screw the regular curriculum and teach Vonnegut to the next generation, refusing to let them forget him. As it turned out, only two out of about 150 students had even heard of him in the first place, so my job turned into finding a way to make them know about him in the first place.

I chose to teach the story "Harrison Bergeron" because it's good, it's relatively short, and there were pre-existing lesson plans that I found on the internet. It would be exaggeration to indicate that the lesson went excellently, but it went pretty well. More students read the text than usual and were intrigued by it. Actually, a lot of them found it "stupid," but once we discussed that this story was an example of satire (and, of course, explained what that meant), they realized that it was the world that was being described that they found stupid and not the story itself. That was an essential hump to overcome, but once we got there, I think I had them.

To complicate the assignment further, I assigned each of the students two different "handicaps." Some students couldn't read, others couldn't understand unless ideas were represented visually, others had to lie on the ground in order to think, and still others couldn't spell. In small groups, the students had to work together to accommodate for each other's disabilities and answer comprehension questions on the text. It was a ridiculous spectacle, but work was being accomplished, so I couldn't complain.

But wouldn't you know it? The principal dropped in. Ey came in and looked puzzled as one student was sprawled on the ground, another was doing toe touches, a third was shouting answers, and a fourth had eir sweatshirt over eir face. The principal walked up behind my highest achieving student who at the moment was unable to spell. When the principal made a face at the glaring inaccuracies, the student simply said, "I have a spelling deficiency." Though it was organized chaos, I'm not sure it read as that to the administrator. Ah, but if I haven't been fired yet, I'll probably be okay.