2007-11-30

The Company of Dogs

An acquaintance dropped by for a visit recently. This acquaintance was there to see one of my housemates who wasn't home, but I invited em in anyway. We exchanged pleasantries, gave brief updates on our lives, and pet the dogs. As our conversation was quickly grinding to a halt, this acquaintance made a comment about good it is to have the company of dogs. "You can just pet them and you don't have to say anything. Since I've been in town, I keep seeing people I kind of know and have nothing to say to. After a few sentences, it's over, but you're still awkwardly there with each other. It's not like that with a dog."

I panicked. This acquaintance had accurately described the situation as I currently saw it unfolding. But if he were conscious of the fact that this were occurring, ey wouldn't dare say it aloud, would ey? I guess I don't know em that well, which is exactly the point! I gave a half-hearted "yeah" to agree to the point ey expressed even though it made me nervous.

We continued petting the dogs. I wanted to say something, because it seemed like maybe this person gave our relationship more credit than I had, that we should be able to break the barrier of having nothing to say to one another, but I could think of nothing. The whole situation made me so anxious that I hadn't realized how vigorously I was rubbing my now irritated puppy. We sat in silence petting the dogs for another five minutes, though it felt like hours. By that point, even the acquaintance must have also realized that we, too, had nothing to say, making his previous comment accurate and turning an awkward situation into a super awkward situation.

Ey was right about the dogs, though. You don't have to say shit to dogs, and they're still great company. Finally, I excused myself to take a shower (because that's some pressing event that requires cutting off a non-existent conversation, right?) and we parted ways. Awkward, awkward, awkward.

2007-11-29

Mentoring

There's a phenomenon in teaching wherein it isn't your favorite students that come back to visit you in subsequent years, but the kids who failed and caused problems. I suppose it makes sense that the teenagers comfortable enough to cuss me out are also comfortable enough to drop by for a casual hello. While it's nice to see the troublesome set in a more cordial setting, I miss not conversing with the kids I bonded with previously. I don't fault them, however, since when I was younger, my favorite teachers might as well have been dead in later years, even when they were still in the same building. I decided to rectify this situation with my own students by being direct. When I spotted last year's favorite (of baby in a dumpster fame), I said, "Stop by and see me sometime."

About a week later, the student actually did; I was ecstatic. For an hour, we talked about writing, education, college, poetry, the writers' strike. The student even showed me a book ey was reading by Kurt Vonnegut, which the student says ey loves, inspired by my own fascination with the author.

The student was having issues with eir current English teacher, primarily stemming from a comment the teacher made about not wanting to pay taxes that pay for illegal Mexicans to have their babies in our country. Whoa! That's not appropriate comment to make in most settings, particularly not in a classroom with a largely Mexican American student population. My student's initial reaction was to say, "Sorry for being born!" but of course ey didn't. So eager was I to help this student, I offered to speak to the teacher without really thinking about how I was going to realistically broach the subject of "Don't be racist in front of your students or, you know, ever." If you any have ideas, please let me know.

I fawned over this student. Maybe I should have limited the ego-stroking, but I told eir ey was wise beyond eir years and encouraged eir budding sense of social justice. I also did my best to empower the student to speak up against injustices eirself, to take opportunities to educate eir peers about their ignorance. Also, I pushed eir not to settle for Cs. Truthfully, I often did the same in high school, figuring if I learned I learned, grades were just some number that can't actually reflect my knowledge.

I share this experience because it's important to note that for every twenty shithead students I have, there's one I adore. I only wish the shitheads didn't take up so much of my time that I only get to enjoy the brilliant proteges in small doses. Still, if I make a mark during my short teaching experience, it'll be having mentored a few good kids and sending them out into the world with confidence and desire to challenge ignorance and social norms. It's the one thing that's still keeping me going.

2007-11-28

Blankets

Good: Amber runs a program involving her students in community service. One of the first projects is for the kids to make blankets for old sick people.

Bad: Amber's supervisor checks out the blankets and finds them to be of "embarrassing" craftsmanship. (Uh, yeah, they're not perfect, they're made by 11 year olds. I mean it's not like they're Croatian.) Amber is forced to spend hours redoing the blankets to make them more presentable.

Good: Amber gets permission to take some students to the hospital so that they can deliver the blankets in person and receive that warm gooey feeling of doing something nice for the less fortunate.

Bad: Amber leads her students and delivers blankets to patients in the quarantined, yet not well secured Infectious Disease ward until officials catch them and rush them out of the area.

Good(?): Amber makes the kids promise not to tell their parents about this "little" mistake.

It's reminiscent of when the Europeans gave the Native Americans blankets infected with small pox, except that this time the blanket-givers are catching the diseases.

2007-11-27

Rethinking Rape

I take the controversial stance of being firmly opposed to rape. To tell you the truth, I haven't always been that way. That's not to say I've ever been in favor of it, but my perspective toward it was in need of some adjusting. During high school, sometimes at lunch, I would lay on the ground, close my eyes, and say aloud, "Someone could rape me right now and I wouldn't know who it is!" No one ever took me up on my suggestion, however. Another time I wrote an essay about a female character who I argued was weak, my main evidence being that she had been raped. Correctly, my teacher objected to this reasoning. At the time, I was indifferent to the revision, but now I'm embarrassed.

By college, I fell in with some legitimate feminist types, not the watered-down housewife variety most commonly found in Connecticut. Through them, I adopted a more earnest perspective. With that transformation, however, comes the temptation to still abuse its "don't touch" attitude. When preparing a standup comedy routine for my History of Laughter class, I wrote a bunch of offensive jokes for the act. While the abortion and incest jokes made the cut, I did not have the guts to go forward with the rape one because I figured it would be so taboo it would turn the audience against me.

What's worse than rape? (Highlight below for the answer.)
Having to take her out to dinner first.

I have yet to have anyone react to that joke with genuine laughter, though there is plenty of the awkward not-sure-how-to-respond laughter, which is why I hesitate to share the joke even now. It's important to realize that I created this joke while brainstorming the most offensive thing I could think of to say. It's wrong because I made it wrong. I certainly don't endorse this viewpoint, in fact that's the part that makes it a joke: if not funny, it at least is not meant seriously and does it's job of shocking.

On this blog, I say offensive things all the time, but rarely do I clarify that I'm joking. I don't normally feel the need to explain such a thing, but the truth is that in this case I'm afraid of the repercussions of not doing so. Heck, I'm afraid for sharing it at all. I find it noteworthy that this internal conflict is occurring now when it normally doesn't.

Oddly, the only jokes about rape that have been acceptable within my circle of friends are of the dead baby variety. I would guess that raping dead babies is just so foreign and obviously not commonplace in our world (though perhaps I should just speak for myself) that it can be laughed off as over-the-top offensive material. Still, sometimes even a baby rape joke has been known to halt a crowd, demonstrating its taboo nature.

At Margarita Mondays a few weeks ago, Professor Keeley brought up how many animals rely on rape to procreate. This is something I learned from the Biological Exuberance book (yes, it revealed the prevalence of rape in addition to homosexuality), but didn't know exactly what to think of its implications. Keeley used the example of otters, wherein the female will fend off the male for up to three days, attacking and submerging one another until the male finally tires out the female to the point where he can conduct his business. This "foreplay" of intense scratching and biting results in blood before copulation. Apparently, some scientists prefer to use other terms for the sort of rape that ensures re-population to differentiate it from the act perpetuated by humans. Isn't the otters mating ritual rape, though? The female never consents. Of course, if the rape didn't occur, there would be no more otters. So in this case rape is good? Or acceptable anyway? Am I even allowed to say that?

Then there are animals where both sexes are not interested in one another, like pandas. Most panda bears would sooner gouge their eyes out with bamboo than have sex. In fact, one of the main reasons they are endangered is because they just don't tend to enjoy mating, resulting in very few babies. What a zookeeper wouldn't do for a panda rapist, though! If they found a panda willing to copulate without the other panda's consent, that panda would get passed around the world for species propagation, perhaps even be declared a hero.

Sigh. If only there were a panda rapist.

For hero status, I guess I would be willing to rape a panda.

Wait, is that another rape joke I'm not supposed to make?

Hello?

2007-11-26

The Coupon


I am never going to Margarita Mondays again!

At least that's what I thought last week when something awkward and embarrassing occurred. I suppose that's nothing new, but it reached a different level. I don't often get entrees as the restaurant because they're rather pricey, but I learned of a 2 for 1 special (plus the purchase of two drinks, which is hardly an imposition) and tried to do a Google search for the coupon. Finding one immediately, I printed it and shared it with Michael Michael. The bartender accepted the coupon and all seemed great.

Later in the evening, my coupon was rejected. Apparently, the new manager who I am not friendly with like I am the other one, thought I made a copy of a real coupon to counterfeit it. And instead of speaking to me, ey yelled at Michael Michael instead who didn't know to deny the accusation while I was oblivious outside. So of course when I find out, I'm humiliated that this place I have been to about 50 times in the past years thinks I would try to cheat them and I wanted to crawl under the table. Could I still show my face? Granted, I'm cheap, but this made me seem far cheaper than necessary. Supported by a couple of friends, I finally worked up the never to go in to explain that I located the coupon online. The manager countered with what the "real" coupon looks like. Glancing at it, I pointed out the fine print on the coupon that gave a website to get more coupons; I was vindicated, sort of, but it still seemed awkward. There was apologizing by both parties for the confusion, but I didn't leave feeling good.

Tradition is tradition, however, and I was hardly going to abandon a weekly good time over a misunderstanding. Though I was apprehensive to show up tonight, it worked out fine, the manager gave me a free margarita with the message "sorry about last week" which is as good as any peace offering I've ever received.

It was just one of many fabulous things about MM. First, our attendance has been up; our group is thriving. About fifteen people, all of whom are enjoyable no less, have come the past two weeks. Second, the complimentary chips were fantastic, better than they've ever been: hot, crispy, and just the right amount of salty. Third, the soundtrack of the evening was unrivaled with the music alternating between Christmas fare and crappy techno remixes. The Christmas music got Allison and I harmonizing again, and we also took the opportunity to start club Margarita Mondays by dancing wildly in the corner during the dance beats.

If I haven't mentioned it enough before, Monday is totally my favorite day of the week, even if it gives me horrible diarrhea every Tuesday.

2007-11-23

Thanks For Giving Me Cough Medicine

My Thanksgiving started like most people's: at a lesbian karaoke bar. In all honesty, it must be some kind of tradition, because even at just past midnight on Thanksgiving, the place was packed to the extent that none of my party had the opportunity to sing. That's okay, we had some fun, then some minor drama, then someone threw up on my nicest pair of shoes -- my bowling shoes, but it all ended fairly nicely with a group hug incited by strangers. You know, typical pilgrim stuff. Since I've been fighting an intense cold, once home, I self medicated with some nighttime liquid medicine and knocked myself out for a few hours before waking and concerning myself with cooking.

I was in charge of the turkey. I sampled a few online recipes before choosing the most promising, and got to cooking. I rinsed the bird then followed the directions to "pat it dry." I did so by slapping it repeatedly with my bare hands. Michael Michael and Phoebe laughed at me and told me to use a towel; Phoebe compared it to an Amelia Bedelia moment where I followed instructions a bit too literally. I felt stupid, but not deterred.

The turkey was a bit of an enigma. Everything I read suggested it would take at least three hours, if not four and a half, to complete. Within two hours, however, the meat thermometer revealed that it was done. I was thoroughly confused, but sure enough, it was complete. That caused a bit of a problem since now the turkey was done a good three-four hours before dinner was to be served. Plus, the bird looked ugly. It just looked a bit off. I told my friends about how my family always coos "what a good looking bird" to compliment holiday turkeys, but that no one would find themselves saying that for mine. Kindly, people appeased me, sporadically noting it was a "good looking bird." They're cute. Fortunately, it tasted good. Or at least average. Overall, I'd rate my first cook-a-turkey-by-yourself experience to be an adequate job. I could do better. Maybe.

By the time dinner rolled around, I was barely functional. My illness was taking over. When the post-meal nap rolled around, I went down for the count. Most of my friends slept off their tryptophan spells within an hour, but I was unable to wake up for dessert or do whatever. By 10:45, however, it was time to go bowling, and by virtue of sleeping through earlier festivities, I slipped into a designated driver position. Fortunately, I was already wearing my bowling shoes (all vomit had been cleaned, though not disinfected) and went on my way. Unfortunately, we got there toward the end of the promotion and opted to wait an hour for the cheaper games.

While most people sat and drank beer in the interim, Michael Michael, Phoebe, and I went hunting for wood to make a fire later in the night. This expedition turned out to be the most part of the night. There's something thrilling about being mildly delinquent and cruising the streets for timber. We trespassed on a public park after dark, constantly watching our backs for police. To the side, we spotted a row of shrubbery, some of it dead. We disassembled some of the dying ones, collecting the branches into piles. We knew we'd get in trouble if we were caught, but in actuality we weren't doing anything worse than some landscaping/groundskeeping for the greater good of the town. That's the kind of wrong-doing I get off on: petty crimes that are inconsequential. I pulled up the getaway car, they shoved the wood in my back seat, and we sped away! Actually, we were going under the speed limit, scanning the sides of the street for wood. After traveling for a few more minutes, we came across a school. "Maybe there'll be wood!" This location actually caused me to panic, since I know police officers frequently check schools to prevent trespassing and vandalism. Just as we were about to give up on the spot, we spotted a whole lot of wood located behind the dumpster. It was far too large to fit in my car, so we had to snap it in pieces as quickly as we could. Then we sped away again (again, not so much speeding though). Phoebe wanted to stop to pick up a piece of litter on our way out, but I screamed "there's no time!" Sure enough, a minute later, we encountered a police officer. Whew. A close getaway for the wood crew.

Bowling was fun, although no one got a turkey on Thanksgiving. Disappointing. I was the spare king, I spared just about every turn, but it culminated in the high score of 161 -- not bad for a sicko. (The likely equation at play: my illness < others' intoxication.)

Then we came home, built a fire, watched as Michael Michael was overly paranoid about using a gas fireplace, and played charades until passing out. Most absurd was the time Stacy tried to get us to say "Margaritaville" and acted out $2 and all of the rituals of Margarita Mondays without us managing to guess "margarita." I kept guessing "2 buck chuck" and "wine", but never margaritas. Pathetic. But hooray for Thanksgiving!

2007-11-22

Cookie Monster

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all. I'm at Phoebe's participating in merriment, which I can update you about at a more appropriate time. For now, I want to share a video filmed a couple of months ago:



I imagine it merits an explanation. Stacy was wearing Michael Michael's sweatshirt while laying on my bed, and the way the hood draped looked like a face. So Allison put Stacy's glasses on it and moved the mouth while speaking Cookie Monster style, exclaiming random phrases like "memory foam" and "clitori" that had come up earlier in the afternoon. In context, it was hysterical, but I'll leave it up to you whether the humor translates to others.

After it was filmed, we all knew we had to put it on YouTube because it was perfect for the format. Seeing as it is poorly lit and shot, incomprehensible, and overly self-referential and yet still perfect for YouTube, it actually proves Professor Juhasz's point about the medium. But I suppose that's the pleasure of YouTube -- the you; mainly seeing yourself doing dumb shit.

Memory Foam!

2007-11-21

Brawny Man

In honor of Thanksgiving when I found these photos two years ago, it's time for another found photo!



What this photo lacks in humor it makes up for in intrigue. I find the composition so captivating i had to own it. Who is he? What's his story? How did he end up in a bin next to a tiny figure skater?

2007-11-19

Licked


From the moment I met Darby, I identified em as a licker. Though the puppy has been with us for just over a year now, Darby's licking habit has not subsided one bit. Darby will lick me incessantly until I finally push em away, not wishing to drown in saliva.

While laying on the kitchen floor Friday night (there wasn't anything more pressing to do), in my vulnerable position, Darby predictably approached me and licked my face. In that moment, I declared a battle of wills. With enough determination, certainly I could last longer than Darby, allowing him to lick until ey finally got bored or literally tired emself out.

For the first five or so minutes, we both held strong. As I laid there, barely flinching, Darby went to town on my forehead, occasionally dousing my hair and making quick trips to visit my ear canal as well. Darby showed no sign of stopping, but it couldn't last.

During the following five minutes, Darby must have decided that my ear was delicious, since ey lapped his tiny tongue deep into my ear repeatedly. I squirmed each and ever time but resisted the urge to actually restrain em. Those tongue muscles must be aching by now, so I wasn't going to quit now.

Finally, a noise came from the other room, grabbing Darby's attention. Sure, it was a cheap, though unintentional, diversionary tactic, but if it meant me persevering, I'd take it. Upon hearing the noise, Darby lifted eir tongue from my face for all of three seconds before deciding it was not as exciting as continuing to soak my head. I couldn't help but clench in frustration as the tongue met my eyebrow again.

I did my best to hold out, for what felt like half an hour, before the process began feeling a bit like Chinese water torture. As much as I didn't want to admit it, Darby got the best of me. Dampened, I stood up, and checked the clock. Darby had licked me consistently for nineteen minutes, only pausing once briefly.

I love my little spastic Darby, but ey might love me more.

2007-11-16

The Eye of the President

I've been holding out on you. I was going to save one last Presidential Essay for a special occasion, but that special occasion came sooner than I expected. The essay below was the only paper that I felt worthy of copying down word for word.

After grading this essay, later in the day I had a meeting with this student's teacher. I warned em, "[Student] wrote an amazing essay!" "What's so good about it?" the teacher asked. "I... I don't even want to ruin it. You just have to read it, it's pretty... wow." I turned to some other teachers I had shared it with for corroboration. "It's something special," they admitted.

The following day, I passed by this teacher. The teacher stopped me and said, "Hey, Mr. [Kevin]! This is [student] who wrote that paper you liked so much!" Turning to the student, the teacher said, "Mr. [Kevin] said you wrote a great paper." Immediately, I panicked. I was being sarcastic - had ey not picked up on the sarcasm? - clearly ey did not pick up on the sarcasm! "Hi," I greeted the student awkwardly. "What exactly did you like about the essay?" the teacher asked, trying to initiate a conversation between me and the student. I paused, realizing that honesty was not going to be appropriate in this situation. "It used strong language," I said, before excusing myself. The essay did not receive a good score, and soon enough the student would realize it, AND know who gave eir that score.

Tonight, I went out for drinks with some coworkers again. I finally worked up the nerve to tell the teacher that, actually, I was sarcastic, and that the student's essay did not pass. The teacher turned pale, explaining that in addition to our awkward encounter, ey also hyped up the essay to the whole class, all without ever having read it emself. "Well, that's it," ey said. "That essay has officially 'gotten lost.' I can't give it back."

Ah, but it's not lost. I've made a copy, just for you, dear readers. Sit back and educate yourself about politics. Just remember that as you read, you should remain calm. I repeat, REMAIN CALM!

2008 is arriving, citizens. That means it's just about time to elect another president! That's right, say goodbye to Bush, and pick another guy (or girl, for once) to watch over this INSANE country! But wait, don't just elect the friendly old man in your apartment; these people need the eye of the President! So, what does it take to have this awesome ability. KEEP READING AND FIND OUT!

To start, all of you wise guys need sense of leadership. That's right, you watch, care for, and lead this country no matter what it takes! They need to know what to do if a group of assassins plan on taking them out. If another country wants to wage war, and you think you can take them on, don't be afraid to send a message, saying, "Bring It On!" If you think you can handle any of these, you've passed the first test.

Next, no matter what's happening, the president must remain clam. I repeat, REMAIN CALM! Don't freak out when you're watching a video of a terrorist threatening to blow up a state in five minutes. No, just sit there, robotic looking, and simply reply at the end of the video with a, "No you're not, fool." A president must not panic if a building has been bombed. Either you try to sit down and talk with the bomber or bomb them right back; and the last thing that bomber will see is a sentence printed on that bomb that says, "Right Back At You!" A little wit in your mind will also help with the situations as well.

So, do you see anyone with the Eye of the President? Maybe you realize you've had the ability yourself. Either way, now you know to elect for 2008! What are you doing still reading this? Go get a piece of paper, write down who should be president, and save it until THAT day!

2007-11-14

I Need Some Fashion Advice

I need some fashion advice.

I know what some of you are thinking: I thought you'd never ask! But no, it's not like that. I'm not about to become dapper or lardy-dardy suddenly. I already am familiar with most fashion rules: only wear white on Labor Day, plaid is the new black, and pants should be worn around the knees rather than the waist. (In all honesty, that last one is quite popular with my students. I think it has something to do with the fact that their boxers are more trendy than their pants.) Though I'm familiar with many of the rules, I still choose to break them, however. Adhering to societal norms is not only boring but hardly progressive, so when I, for example, show up to your semi-formal event dressed a bit too literally with my top half nicely in a jacket and tie and my bottom half a pair of torn shorts and white socks, I full know well that I'm making a mockery of your dress code.

With this in mind, any fashion advice I ask for would be in jest. Today we had a disaster drill at school. As per procedure, I put on the First Aid fanny pack before we evacuated the room. Since the kids were pretty ungrateful for having survived a hypothetical 8.0 earthquake, I decided to garner their attention. "Wait, I have a real emergency," I said anxiously, before clarifying, "A fashion emergency. When you're wearing a tie and a fanny pack at the same time, do you let the tie hang over the fanny pack, or do you tuck it under?" My students' first reaction was to make fun of me or ask if I could possibly be serious before they realized that it was so absurd that I couldn't possibly be serious. I approached the self-professed shopoholic. "Come on, you know a lot about fashion, right?" "Yeah, but no one ever wears a fanny pack and a tie at the same time," came the reply. I interrupted, "Okay, nevermind, I need someone who actually knows about fashion." I strutted a bit, modeling the tie both over and under the fanny pack and asked for opinions. "We're not evacuating this room until I know I'm looking my best," I said as other classes passed by our room.

For once, the kids were laughing. Generally, they don't get my sense of humor, but the tie/fanny pack combination seemed to be a hit. I'm going to have to wear them together more often.

Still, I must pose the question, and I'm not talking about toilet paper: Over or under?

2007-11-13

Our Next President

Today is one of my favorite teaching days of the year, especially because there is no teaching involved. Once annually, the English teachers are given substitutes so that the teachers may grade the official essays and check on the state of our students' writing. Not only do I get paid a full day's wage, but it's a nice change of pace away from the brats. Plus, since the state of our students' writing is pretty cruddy, there's plenty of fodder to laugh at. I spend most of the day giggling, perhaps more than appropriate for a caring teacher, but I swear, I can't help it.

This year's prompt asked the kids to describe in a five paragraph essay the ideal characteristics for a presidential candidate. If asking freshmen to describe their views on politics is not an utter mistake, it is at least an amusing premise. It left me pondering whether the kids are more uneducated about writing or political knowledge.

One paper taught me a new word: "Firstival," which I assume sounds like festival, but is apparently synonymous with "first of all."

The following are excerpts from essays that I was compelled to copy down word for word, for the purpose of sharing. Mistakes are the students' own.

You might say what about a woman president? Any woman president might not be the right person for the job, or she maybe think about a woman president like this another who has children and the do something wrong, she says do that again and your going to be in big trouble, yet the child continues to do it and this mother does nothing and isn't consistant, what next? you think she will do the same with our country, we are practically putting our lives in her hands. She could be like a mother to our country.

It's the first time in as long as I recall that being a mother to someone comes across negatively. I'm pretty sure this is sexist rhetoric, but it's too incoherent for me to be positive.


Who is going to be our new president? Hilary Clinton? If she is then she'll be our first woman president. I forgot who faced George Bush back in 2004. Who was it? Tell me, because I forgot. Well in the future, I hope they choose the best president there is. Good luck voting in the 2008 election, people.

It's always best to conclude essays with statements that show your ignorance.


The next president should be male, more importantly a Republican. he should be a Christian and not care about what other people say... He should be pro-war and not be cowardly and pull the troops out. He should be well aged. He should also lower taxes... He should be against gays, murderers, and other people the disobey the law. he should go to Church and always ask God for advise espesually before making any really big choices that could affect the country.

This paper was one conservative rant and made me want to vomit. Though it is funny to chuckle at "gays, murderers, and other people the disobey the law."


I'm forteen so I can't vote yet but I won't vote when I'm older anyways because if I vote for someone and they lose I will be pissed.

I hadn't realized that elections were all about building self-esteem.


In 2008 we we will finally get to kick Josh W. Bush out of the election.

Really?


[The president] needs to be active or maybe do something. Also go to schools and then maybe do something.

Yeah, doing something might be a good idea. The suggestions here are concrete and stellar.


The president should be 49-58... It should not be a women because they are to emotional and needy.

Amen!


I don't think it should be a woman because I know about there menstrual pains.

Compassionate and well-informed.


Someone who won't drive our country into a wreck like a drunk driver.

Best figurative language of the day.


Our old president didn't have alot of fans that like him because I saw pop up in computers that makes fun of him like a boxer punching him. Maybe the old president did something that made the people angry.

This is from a student who has been in the country for just a couple of years. It's not a good essay, but it does show skills of perception, no?


It's alright to be a little ignorant if it means making your own decisions.

Ha! This is my new mantra.


"A good president needs to be organized and file all his papers so that he can find them later. A good president also needs to not be forgetful. What if he forgets a meeting?"

Strangely, the two characteristics given most often were being organized and being good looking. While the good looking aspect can be chalked up to either their shallowness or jaded feelings toward politics, the organized part is amusing. As if the president is filing his own papers and scheduling his own meetings. You know it's a one man job, right?

I only read a fraction of the essays, and that's what I found. It paints a pretty clear picture of why we have people like George W. Bush in office. As much as many of the papers seemed to despise him, from the state of their papers, I have no doubt they would re-elect him, even erroneously, if given the chance. Him, or maybe Josh W. Bush.

2007-11-12

Declogging

It's been a month since the toilet clogged in a tremendous way. Since then, our house has had one bathroom, but it can't well accomodate eight people's feces on its own.

For this reason, I've had to manipulate when nature calls. I'm usually a three-times-a-day pooper, but I've adjusted my schedule to poop twice at work and have that work for me. All peeing occurs outdoors, just like the dogs.

During my first year of college, I had a similar situation. I shared a bathroom with some truly gross people and felt more comfortable using a public restroom whenever I needed to poop. If I was out, I would try to poop while I was out so I wouldn't have to use the toilet when I got home.

Why not call a plumber? We're kind of in a bind with the landlord. We get away with a steal on rent and not putting down a deposit or being bound to a lease by not causing any trouble, including raising a stink about any house problems. If we are to ask for something to get fixed, he threatens to raise our rent and all sorts of gross things. Although tenents have rights in those regards, we're not officially tenents, so we kind of forfeit those rights for the other privileges.

So we can't call our landlord to send a plumber. Instead, I tried snaking the toilet, then Sisco tried snaking the toilet, but no lasting fix was found. Finally, we called a plumber on our own, hoping to pay a modest fee to resolve our issue. The plumber claimed to fix the clogging issue more than temporarily, our plumbing needs a major overhaul, costing more than $3,200. Obviously, we are not paying $3,200.

Yesterday, Shea found a fix by shoving a hose in the toilet and running warm water into it until it declogged. That's good to get the toilet up and running again, but we all agreed we're going to have to be careful with the amount of toilet paper we use. The best solution someone came up with was having a separate trash can for toilet paper. Rather than flushing it, we'll put it in a bin like they do in foreign countries with limited sewage technology. I agreed at first, but this solution is a little, well, stinky. Either we agree to empty it immediately, or we have got to find another way.

As requested, that's an update on how my bowel movements are going. All right, so no one requested it, but I just know you've been wondering!

2007-11-11

Lions for Lambs

Well, I did it. For the first time in nearly a year, I saw a film at the theatre. The distinction goes to Lions for Lambs, a movie I mentioned before because it was filmed, in part, at both of my alma maters, Pitzer College and Claremont Graduate University. The trailer in the earlier post gives you a good idea of the Pitzer exterior shots, though it was fun to see the hall director’s office doubling as a professor’s office used in a series of scenes.

Technically, I was even more excited to see my CGU classroom’s part in the film. Specifically because that's not just any classroom from my college, but the main classroom I spent my time in, more than 100 hours in the past year. That's where I zoned out and pretended I cared about teaching; it was like serving time. It was also where I defiled a teacher's Van Gogh art, acted selfishly, and first was recognized for winning a thesis award. Observe the chairs that tilt back every so slightly: I ever so slightly tilted back in those chairs frequently. I can't say that my classmates and I were ever as antagonistic as the "students" in the clip, more often we were disinterested, but I can point out that that chair that Robert Redford sits in on the far side was the seat I sat in most often. Brag to your friends: Kevin shared a seat with Robert Redford -- and vice versa.

It's also interesting to note that I was displaced from my class once while this scene was being filmed, meaning that I was directly affected by this movie. Admittedly, however, that's the only way I was affected by Lions for Lambs. Although it's supposed to be some grand thought piece on the state of politics and media, it was pretty boring and simple. It made me feel smart, though, as I could anticipate the film's every move, not that there were many moves made. The characters were annoying, the plot was slow, and I learned practically nothing. At first I thought I could at least commend it for being evenhanded politically, since the conversations between characters of different leanings bounced back and forth, albeit slowly. But then the film suddenly stops on the liberal side on all acounts, even though the points it ends with aren't particularly strong or moving. Heck, I agree most readily with the liberal sides presented in the film, and it was still utterly painful.

Except for the parts that showed the locales dear to me, during which I cheered, overall I give this film a big fat meh. Maybe I'll try going to the movies again next year.



It's also interesting to note that I was displaced from my class once while this scene was being filmed, meaning that I was directly affected by this movie. Admittedly, however, that's the only way I was affected by Lions for Lambs. Although it's supposed to be some grand thought piece on the state of politics and media, it was pretty boring and simple. It made me feel smart, though, as I could anticipate the film's every move, not that there were many moves made. The characters were annoying, the plot was slow, and I learned practically nothing. At first I thought I could at least commend it for being evenhanded politically, since the conversations between characters of different leanings bounced back and forth, albeit slowly. But then the film suddenly stops on the liberal side on all acounts, even though the points it ends with aren't particularly strong or moving. Heck, I agree most readily with the liberal sides presented in the film, and it was still utterly painful.

Except for the parts that showed the locales dear to me, during which I cheered, overall I give this film a big fat meh. Maybe I'll try going to the movies again next year.

2007-11-10

You Won't Be Going Far

One of the coworker's whose company I've enjoyed the most recently was only hired at my site for a temporary position. Now that the tenured teacher is back from maternity leave, my substitute teacher friend lost eir position. Fortunately, the administrators decided to hire eir for another lengthy substitute position that begins soon (clearly, they won't let anyone leave), so the friendship can easily continue.

All the same, another teacher thought it important to send around a card to thank the teacher for eir service. When the card came to my room, I was in the middle of leading a lesson, so I attempted to multitask, literally giving instructions aloud as I wrote my ill-considered expression of gratitude on the card:

It's good to know you won't be going far! - Kevin

A second glance at my message allowed me to realize that these words might not be construed as a good thing. Sorry you're out of work temporarily, your life sucks. Although you'll be reemployed here soon, it's kind of a dead-end position.

I tried to fix my message, crossing out my name and adding, I mean I'm sure you'll go far in life, just not now.

I'm sure you'll go far in life, just not now? What was I thinking? I tried to amend it some more. As in distance.

Now my message read:

It's good to know you won't be going far! I mean I'm sure you'll go far in life, just not now. As in distance.

I cringed. If it weren't a card that a dozen people had already signed, I would crumple it up and start again. It's not only a shitty sentiment, but exemplifies some horrendous grammar and sentence structure for an English teacher. Nevertheless, I signed it and called it a day. Another one of life's triumphs.

2007-11-08

How Low Can I Go?

This past weekend, I went to Daniel's birthday party. It was fun, boozy. and even included a pinata. With one foul swing, Daniel decapitated a pinata. Shortly thereafter, Kirsten and Jessica started a game of limbo using the stick. Each time the stick was lowered, I thought, there is no way I can do that, it is far too low. Yet each time, I miraculously passed to the next round. My strategy at limbo is to quickly tilt backwards and sprint under the stick before gravity catches up to me. Since I'm not particularly flexible, I have no hopes of bending backwards and precariously shuffling forward like most limbo champions because I inevitably fall. Though I don't even remember the last time I limbo-ed, I know that this strategy was unsuccessful at its last implementation. This time, however, it brought me all the way to the final two with a dance major/Pilates instructor. I vowed not to kill my back in a friendly competition against a far more skilled opponent. But when she tried twice and failed twice to clear the next level, I figured I better employ my strategy to the fullest and go for it. And wouldn't you know it? I won. It surprised even me, though not as much as this photo finish:



That photo was taken a split second after I cleared my victory round, and there is not one flattering aspect to it. If I realized my strategy made me look like that, I would have probably been too embarrassed to try it. It's the kind of party photo that most people would demand their friends erase, but that I embrace for it's ridiculousness. I look toothless, my brows are furrowed, and I have no fewer than thirty chins. Evidently, I committed to that limbo even more than I thought. Katy says it looks like I ran right into an invisible wall.

Thanks to Daniel for capturing and sharing that photo.

Afterwards, someone came up to me and said, perhaps joking, that he lost money on the limbo contest. "I mean of course you'd pick the Pilates instructor before the school teacher," he said. The phrase "school teacher" stung. It's funny how much I resent that term when applied to me. I'm so much more than that! I am not lame! I don't even want to be one anymore! The next day, however, something stung even more: the muscles in my upper legs. The pain lasted for three days, in fact, leaving me hobbling and grimacing as I walked. Clearly, I contorted in ways I was never meant to. I suppose school teachers really shouldn't limbo.

2007-11-07

Lesbian Gangs

This summer, I learned of Fox News' expose on lesbian gangs from grits & eggs. The report is so absurd, Shea and I watched it three times consecutively just trying to make sense of this irresponsible mess. Though it's no longer topical, it came up again recently in a conversation with Bianca, and I wanted to share it with my readership for an uncomfortable giggle.



In case you weren't aware, Bill O'Reilly is an asshat. It would almost comical that they can air a report like that and call it news, were it not for the fact that plenty of close-minded Americans watched that report and added fuel to their intolerance toward homosexuals. I read that Fox News later apologized for the story, since its claims were in fact inaccurate and sensationalized, but most likely the intended damage was done.

I do adore that agreeable crime analyst, Rod Wheeler, though, who could stand as a symbol for "yes men" everywhere. Pretending this segment wasn't scripted to maximize its homophobic punch, it's as though Wheeler will validate any outlandish passing thought that strikes O'Reilly.

So you're saying that lesbians want to harm us?
That's right.
They just want to hurt people?
That's right!
And they're recruiting kids to join them?
Yes!
And forcing them to perform sex acts with them?
Yes!!
And this is happening all over the country?
Sure thing!!!

We're supposed to believe there are well over 150 lesbian gangs in Washington DC and it's only now coming to light. Yeah right. I suspect the conservatives fabricated/exaggerated this story as a precursor to some Pink Pistol scandal they hope to pin on Hillary come election time.

As an educator, I wish someone told me to be on the look out for lesbians trying to "indoctrinate [kids] into homosexuality" like some of these more proactive schools.

My favorite part is where O'Reilly acts as though he's been down with the gays in the past by saying he would never think such a thing about homosexuals previously, but now "it makes sense." Yes, with such overwhelming evidence like women fighting in a parking lot, it's hard not to be swayed; I'd bet even lesbians are appalled, assuming there are any that aren't involved in gang activity, of course.

Face it, fear-mongering is real.

2007-11-06

Tapped for Information

Here's the funny thing about being a teacher: kids will accept anything you say, as long as it's off topic. When I'm up there leading a lesson, the students want nothing to do with what I'm saying. But as soon as they take a conversation off-topic and I have some kind of comment about that, I am suddenly an authority. I'll be circling the room trying to shut down the side conversations, then encounter one about Scooby Doo and feel compelled to put my two cents in like the big hypocrite that I am. I had a pair of students insisting that Scrappy Doo was cute, but by the time I had my say, they were in agreement that Scrappy was the downfall of the cartoon series.

I try not to abuse this power too often, because I think it's important for kids to reach their own opinions if they're ever going to become independent thinkers, but sometimes I can't help it. Most recently, I found kids discussing how much healthier bottled water is than tap water. Before I refocused them, I couldn't help but take the opportunity to educate them a bit on the subject. I ranted that most bottled water has been found to be no more healthier or cleaner than tap water, and that in blind taste tests, most people preferred tap water. I spouted about how expensive it is and how having name brand water boils down to a status thing, which mirrors our world's elitist and unfair approach to ownership of water supplies. I continued that bottled water is horribly bad for the environment and that although the plastic bottles can be recycled, 3/4 of them aren't. Furthermore, the energy/oil it takes to transport water to our stores, particularly from foreign countries, is astronomical for something you can find even more easily locally.

And they listened. They don't listen to me say much of anything, usually, but when it comes across as a distraction rather than a legitimate lecture, they eat it up. Plus, since I'm a teacher, they take it as truth. I believe my aforementioned rant to be entirely true, so it's not like I'm pulling the wool over their eyes, but still, these teenagers are antagonistic by nature, so the fact that they don't argue with me demonstrates how atypical these circumstances are. I'm going to have to stage supposedly off-topic lessons in the future for topics that are most important for them to grasp.

Once my bottled water rant was over, the class was silent until a single student finally dared to voice eir own opinion: "My favorite kind of water is from a hose."

I have to agree, hose water is pretty damn good.

2007-11-05

A Broken Reflection

Sigh. Teaching is hard enough. Although I shouldn't have to, I can tolerate kids being disrespectful. I will not tolerate them threatening my life, however.

So I have this "I care about nothing" menace of a student in my class. She had a piece of technology that kept making noise loudly. The first time I heard it, I warned her to turn it off. Hearing it again thirty seconds later, I warned her that next time I would confiscate it. Since she doesn't give a crap, she intentionally let it keep making noise, so I grabbed it. A slight struggle ensued as we both held onto the piece of technology until I ultimately out-muscled her and pried it from her hands, putting it in my pocket.

Almost immediately after our scuffle, her friend tried to do something and her mirror fell off her desk, breaking into two large, jagged pieces. As I tried to resume my lesson, the technology-using student grabbed a piece of the mirror, stood up, and said, "I'm gonna cut your throat."

Now, I want to portray this situation accurately. She never came at me with the shard of mirror, though she did act aggressively to intimidate me. My belief is that she was trying to spook me and amuse her classmates. Fortunately, none of the other students found her threat of cutting my throat funny and I relatively kept my cool - outwardly anyway. While I never thought she would actually attempt to attack me, I had to remove her from my classroom immediately. She has been suspended for fighting, so at the same time, I wouldn't entirely put it past her. I called security and she, putting down the glass, begged me not to. I told her it was too late, and she was shortly escorted out.

I tried to resume class as if nothing had happened. Teaching is mostly performance anyway, so why not just pretend everything was fine. On the inside, I wanted to break down. I wanted to shrivel into a ball and be anywhere else in the world, with someone who could hug me and let me know everything was okay. We were doing a grammar exercise, and someone lobbed me a question about semicolons, which was about as close as I could get to taking my mind off the situation. You see, the period had only just begun, I had to teach for nearly two more hours.

While I pretended as if it were business as usual, my classroom essentially became a crime scene. Officials came back to quickly gather my account, which I gave briefly, as I had my students complete an impromptu writing prompt. Also, in the terror of the earlier moment, I failed to collect the glass from the mirror, leaving a lethal weapon (which in some circumstances would be an exaggeration, but here made sense) in the hands of other students. Then, as I continued with another activity, they pulled out a random student to give witness testimony. A friend of the apprehended student ever so wisely shouted as the witness student was taken out, "Don't tell them the truth!" Thanks for corroborating my story in advance, I thought.

I was ready to cry, but instead I had to lead a note-taking exercise. A security guard dropped by again to interrupt. She told me that it was very important that I press charges against this girl. I was hesitant, but the security officer insisted the sheriff would walk me through the steps -- after school. I agreed.

The witness student came back. Other students asked what she said. "Only the truth," she said. Another student told her that the apprehended student would surely "fuck her up" for ratting. "Never be a snitch!" another student warned. Truthfully, I'm now more concerned with the safety of the witness than me; it would be extremely stupid to attack a teacher, but she's been known to rough up fellow students before.

After the two hours finally passed, as much as I was ready to go home, I had to meet with the police officer. He ran through the details and told me what the consequences were. If I pressed charges, I was going to royally fuck this girl's future. We went over the situation, and he gently coaxed me into not pressing charges. The school would still have the power to punish her, but if I wanted to keep her out of a child detention center and the like, I shouldn't press charges. It was my call to make, a call I didn't even want to make, but I decided that since I didn't think she actually intended to attack me, I didn't want her to fall into a heap of trouble over what was probably just an extraordinarily dumb comment. Of course, this is far sweeter than I needed to be, but I am her teacher, and you know what, as much as she tested that, I do care about her well-being. So for her best interest, I declined to press charges. I can't help but keep going to the old saying that a broken mirror brings seven years of bad luck. Had that mirror not accidentally broken, it probably would have never occurred to the student to "kill" me, thus drastically altering her life path. Bad luck indeed.

The assistant principal came to me later. The Sidekick, or "piece of technology" as I referred to it many times in the official reports since I'm that clueless about these new-fangled contraptions was stolen property. During our conversation, she learned that I wasn't pressing charges, and then yelled at me/lectured me about the situation. Yes, the security officer encouraged me to press charges, but the police officer gave me new information to consider. The assistant principal wanted to expel the student, but without me pressing charges, this would be a nearly impossible task to accomplish.

As if I didn't feel like shit enough already, now I'm being chastised for my choices on a situation I'm not prepared to be in. Is everyone else forgetting that I had my life threatened? No one asked if I was okay, no one offered me support, they just gave conflicting opinions when it seems to me like there really was no "right" decision.

After a deal of paperwork and lectures, I was finally free to go home. I teared up in the car, finally having an opportunity to have some sort of emotional release. I went to Margarita Mondays by 4:30, which was early, but was already planned as such since Madeleine was going to catch a plane an hour or so later. I needed friends and I needed a drink. Several, even.

I'm safe in bed now, but I still don't know whether I did the right thing. Since I didn't press charges and because of the laws, after a suspension, she'll most likely end up back in my class. How do I deal with that? How do I deal with any of these students anymore?

I've never wanted a desk job so badly.

2007-11-04

If I Could, I'd Give Rooney the Clap

I can now add being directly, disdainfully called out by a mildly successful rock band to a list of my life's accomplishments.

On Tuesday night, Anna and I went to see the Polyphonic Spree show in Anaheim. Note now that I call it the Polyphonic Spree show and not the Rooney show. Rooney is a typical pop/rock band that has never really hit it big, aside from one mediocre hit thanks to its inclusion on an episode of The O.C.. If it weren't for the fact that I went to college with a former member for the band, I probably would have never heard of Rooney at all. When I learned that Rooney was opening up for the Polyphonic Spree, I was surprised, since they do not musically compliment one another. Generally, the Polyphonic Spree tours with cool indie artists that could use the exposure, so it didn't make sense to me that they would be paired on a single line up.

My intention was to skip Rooney altogether. Anna and I found a pizza shop nearby the venue, and played Scrabble until the an hour into the show hoping to avoid Rooney's set. Alas, the show got off to a late start, so we didn't miss a single moment of Rooney goodness. I wasn't too familiar with Rooney's repertoire, but I was quickly unimpressed. Most songs featured just a few lyrics repeated ad naseum, and most of those were about being an awesome rock star and getting laid. In other words, the kind of music that kills you a little bit inside. In its cliches, however, it seemed pretty harmless, until it became increasingly clear that the leader singer, Robert Carmine, was entirely full of himself. He spoke of Rooney as though were one of music's great, yet under-appreciated bands. When a band sounds pretty similar to Matchbox 20, I suppose it can have a bit of the "why-not-me?" syndrome, but it can't act like it deserves it.

The music was clearly not gelling with the crowd who came to see the Polyphonic Spree. We wanted something cool, something different, something, well, good. After a couple of songs, Carmine was clearly underwhelmed by the audience's reception of him. "Don't be pussies, Anaheim!" he screamed. I cringed in annoyance. What a rock star! I would have thrown my panties, but I didn't wear any in hopes of getting backstage. Sure, the audience wasn't feeling the band, but no one was being disrespectful, yet, so just play the music without incident, please. But no, Carmine kept prodding the crowd to get more into Rooney, his oozing ego only putting the audience off more. Cursing at an audience might rile up some more typical rock crowds, but when performing before a band known for its message of love and harmony, berating them isn't going to go over well.

Anna and I grew so bored and agitated during the set, we looked for something else to do to amuse ourselves. With little warning, I began rolling around on the floor, in the same manner one would do without abandon down a hill. Soon, security approached me and gave a warning with a shine of the flashlight as if to say, "No fun during Rooney!" I opted to stop rolling since I probably appeared as though I was on drugs. Anna and I briefly flirted with the idea of playing leap frog to kill the remaining time, but we decided to be on our best behavior.

Toward the end of the set, Rooney took the time to "introduce" us to the Polyphonic Spree in a casual mention. Carmine encouraged us to stick around for the following set and told us that "even if you haven't heard of them, and even though you probably don't know their songs, I think you'll like them." At this point, I went from bored to irate; I'm sure the Spree appreciates such high praise. What a cocky cock to act like some kind of musical authority. If he wants that status, he's got to play songs that don't suck. Besides, Rooney is the opening band, the act that people put up with to get to the music they want to hear. Is this guy so deluded as to think that we came to see him and only him? Rooney is not the headliner! We did not shell out $30 to see your stereotypical asses. This asshole totally crashed an amazing concert and acted like we should be thankful for his presence.

Before the next song, Carmine introduced his latest hit single that admittedly wasn't getting any airplay in California. "But it's number one in Germany," he said, before sarcastically adding, "Thanks a lot, California." Dude, maybe someone could get away with a snide comment like that when the crowd is on eir side, but I think it more so restored the faith of a crowd of people who largely don't listen to mainstream radio. Plus, Germany? If I've learned one thing in world history class, it's that Germany is known to make huge, unfathomable mistakes; count Rooney as one of them.

When they announced the last song, Anna and I stood up and crowded closer to the stage to get a better location for the Polyphonic Spree. Carmine still wasn't satisfied with our level of rock and let us know we weren't going to get away the entire night without responding positively to the band. "I want to see you clap!" he screamed. He got a reasonable response, considering his behavior so far, as most people sort of played along, clapping as a form of appeasement. "No really, I want everyone to clap!" he repeated, at which point it got a bit uncomfortable, so I'd say at least 90% went with the crowd and clapped, even if they weren't really enjoying it. Anna and I, however, still fed up, held out and stared, arms crossed. Carmine looked directly at us, the two people closest to the stage blatantly disregarding his instructions. "I want you to clap!" he said yet again, making eye contact directly with us. Instead of complying, Anna and I gleefully laughed and slapped each other playfully at the fact that the guy from Rooney was calling us out for not liking his shitty music. Carmine proceeded to get pissy mid-song and chastised, "If you're not willing to clap, you shouldn't be at a rock concert." Thanks for those wise words, Rooney. It brought me great pleasure to give them a reason to be their whiny, misanthropic selves.

Polyphonic Spree, however, was flipping amazing as usual. I clapped for them for nearly two hours, and they didn't even have to ask me to. As usual, I am impressed by the band's showmanship. I know I've said it multiple times here already, but you need to see Polyphonic Spree live. Hell, I would sit through Rooney nine times over just to see some Polyphonic Spree. They managed to erase every ounce of ill-will in my body as they played, they're so jubilant. As Anna says, it's not just music, it's performance art. They played past midnight, and welcomed in Halloween with us, which was the best way I could imagine spending that holiday.

Below, I offer up a video of a live performance of Polyphonic Spree covering Nirvana's "Lithium." Check out twenty-plus people in matching robes playing every instrument imaginable and featuring a devoted choir truly rocking out to one of music's classic grunge songs, while still infusing their own positive pep. I am enamored. I'm not even going to find a clip of Rooney to offer as a comparison, because you know what? Fuck them. They should fuck off to Germany where they'll be appreciated, no less. And now, I dare you not to get excited as the Polyphonic Spree and audience jump wildly in unison:

2007-11-03

Resigned

I never mentioned this here last year, but a couple of months into the school year, I tried to resign. After a particularly horrible class, I marched directly to the principal's office and tried to get out. I wanted out and then some. My resignation was not accepted, however, and the principal gave me a pep talk, told me the administration had faith in me, and gave me some suggestions on how to make things better. Things got somewhat better, but not enough to keep me satisfied.

Part of the reason I signed back on to do this a second year was because the administration granted me a dream schedule: all honors classes. I didn't even ask for it, they just gave it to me as a pretty blatant attempt to have me keep teaching. It worked - I figured why not take a second try at teaching with the students who are far more interested in learning? While I enjoy teaching, I do not enjoy managing, and dealing with a nonstop barrage of behavior issues. I'm told by my colleagues that that is most of what teaching is these days, with some quick lessons taught in between the chatter. My two honors classes last year were my favorites because they had the fewest management issues, so I anticipated this year being much easier.

Two days before the school year started, my schedule was changed. I went from having all honors classes to just one. Though it's been easier than last year overall, there are still a lot of overwhelmingly bad kids. I don't handle it well, either. Though my understanding is that most teachers have trouble in this area, I am pretty confident I have even more trouble. I'm short, young, and passive -- the kids don't tend to respect me. As I've reflected on my management, I realize that my failures as a teacher correspond with my failures as a person. I put up with too much shit and I give people too many chances. Rather than addressing maltreatment or disrespect, I tend to put up with it, feeling that it's much more reflective of the person being an asshole than anything to do with me. Still, I'm sure this approach is seen as weak and leads to people being even more disrespectful. Though it destroys me inside, I'll bare it for far longer than necessary or appropriate just because that's how I am and I'm not quite sure how to handle it otherwise. Figuring this out would definitely help me both personally and professionally, but it's been one of the bigger struggles of my life, and is much easier said than done.

I went in for an evaluation a couple of weeks ago. It went okay, but there were some pointed suggestions on my management style. I agree on all counts, and though I hadn't anticipated doing so, I again offered up my resignation. Just as the first time, this offer was denied. In fact, I was told as far as they were concerned, I've already been hired back for next year as well, meaning if I want out, I'll have to quit in a more grand fashion.

One interesting aspect is that the administration is back to bribing me again. In the past two weeks, for no explicit reason, I have been given a few technological gizmos that no other teachers are receiving, objects that other teachers would kill to get their hands on; meanwhile, I'm a relative technophobe, so I probably will barely use it. I realize that it's been given to me to keep me happy and to keep me from quitting, which is nice, but technology is not actually going to fix any of my current problems. That'll have to come from within... if I can find it.

2007-11-02

Troll 2

As part of Alex's birthday celebration, as well as in preparation for Halloween, Michael Michael and Alex rented a handful of scary movies for an all-night marathon. Anna and I played Scrabble in the corner, paying some attention to the screen. First, we watched Troll, and, in my opinion, it was nothing interesting; Michael Michael and Alex expressed genuine fondness for it, however. Shrug. It was not until the second movie, Troll 2, began that I became entirely engrossed. Troll 2 is one of the worst movies I have ever seen. I should clarify: Troll 2 is also one of the best movies I have ever seen. It's pure camp, complete with some atrocious acting. Contributers of YouTube have deemed the following brief clip the "worst acting ever." I would probably agree had I not seen the rest of the even more poorly acted film.



For the record, Troll 2 has nothing to do with its predecessor, without so much as even a casual reference. In fact, Troll 2 is about goblins, not trolls at all. Clearly, it was a case of a studio creating a horrendous film, then slapping a known name onto it to make it appear as though it were a sequel in the hopes that someone might come to see it.

If you read contemporary interviews with the cast, the actors blame a shoddy (I say genius!) screenplay and the fact that the movie, shot in Utah, was filmed by an Italian crew that barely spoke English. Perhaps there was something lost in translation, wherein they thought the director asked them to pause awkwardly between lines, punctuate sentences incorrectly, and save their corresponding facial expressions until after delivering the jilted lines. Regardlessly, the result is delightful.

The film centers on a young boy who has conversations with his dead grandpa who warns him to beware of goblins. The boy's family thinks he's crazy, particularly his mother whose demeanor and face is consistently more terrifying than any of the goblin characters. The family goes on vacation to the town of Nilbog and meets people who behave even more awkwardly than the family members themselves -- as it turns out, the townsfolk are goblins in disguise. The goblins attempt to get the humans to eat green goo so that they can kill them. With assistance from both the deceased grandpa, and a mirror that reveals that Nilbog backwards spells GOBLIN, the boy learns of the goblins secrets and tries to save his family before it's too late.

One of the odder aspects of this film, though that's certainly a difficult distinction to make in an entire film of oddities, is the vegetarian subplot. The goblins are staunch vegetarians, disgusted by the very notion of eating meat. My initial take on the film's message was carnivorous propaganda, that vegetarians are crazed individuals. Since reflecting on the theme further, however, I've thought about how the goblins still wanted to feast on humans, they just first turned them into vegetation so that it wouldn't require them to eat meat. Perhaps the message is that even vegetarians eat living things, even if it isn't technically meaty, thus showing a level of hypocrisy. If you've seen Troll 2, though, you'd realize I'm giving it far too much credit.

To see vegetarianism in action, watch this next nonsensical clip. It's not merely nonsensical due to the fact that it's out of context, it has really no context in the film itself either. It features the "sexy" female goblin and the film's most undeveloped character (and wow is that saying something) making love and popcorn simultaneously.



Though I wasn't aware when I watched the film, Troll 2 has become a bit of a cult classic, billed the Rocky Horror Picture Show of the Myspace generation. Apparently, it attracts sold-out crowds when it plays in cities and the audience shouts along with the funny lines. I found a clip of my favorite scene filmed by someone at one of these events.



The people are counting aloud because the boy is told that time is frozen for thirty seconds so that he can find a way to prevent his oblivious family from eating the food that is covered in the fatal green goo. The scene takes well over thirty seconds, however. His ultimate solution - to piss on the food - is genius, only topped by the dialogue that follows.

Mom: "Don't hit him, Michael, please don't hit him."
Daughter: "My god, it's what he deserves: a big spanking for a little shit."
Mom: "Joshua is not a little shit, he's just very sensitive."
Daughter: (in reference to the food) "It smells."
Dad: "You see this writing? Do you know what it means? Hospitality! And you can't piss on hospitality, I won't allow it!" (adjusts belt buckle in a way that suggests he might pee on his son for revenge)
Son: "What are you going to do to me, Daddy?"
Dad: "Tightening my belt one loop so that I don't feel hunger pains, and your sister and mother will have to do likewise. Okay, Joshua, you wanna get rough with me? Wanna show me that you don't like the choice of this house for our vacation by going on a hunger strike? Well I accept the challenge. But just remember, when I was your age, I really did suffer from hunger. We'll see who gets through this, but just remember I've got more practice than you. I'll see you tomorrow."

The father's implied impoverished childhood is neither referenced before or after that moment, just one example of this ill-planned script. By the way, "You can't piss on hospitality" is my new catch phrase.

If you're ever in the mood to watch an atrociously bad yet enjoyable film, gather your friends, pop some popcorn (it's plot related, remember), and rent Troll 2.

2007-11-01

Doin' Da Butt

This past Saturday night, Phoebe arranged a trip to a roller-skating rink. Upstairs, it had a bowling alley, bar, and karaoke, hence one-upping one of my other favorite locations. Also, because it was the weekend before Halloween, everyone wore costumes. My favorites were a LiteBrite and a Nevernude from Arrested Development.

Before going roller-skating, I wondered whether I would still be any good at it. When I went ice skating last year, I thought it would come back to me easily, but instead proved difficult and almost disastrous. Fortunately, perhaps unfortunately actually, my ability to roller-skating has not vanished over the past decade. I quickly whipped around the rink with no problems for about 40 laps before I found it sort of dull. Thankfully, there was an alternative activity, so I herded people upstairs to the bar. After a couple of drinks, I came back down to skate and on my first lap around I totally fell face-first onto the rink. Finally, roller-skating was now a challenge and fun again.

Also, if you think the karaoke went ignored, you are clearly not a loyal reader. Stacy and I searched for a duet, ultimately choosing “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.” Though I have fond memories of performing it with Betsy in the privacy of our own rooms, I had forgotten how ridiculously repetitive it is. As I sang Elton John’s lyrics, I found myself having to sing the line “Don’t go breaking my heart” a whopping twenty-six times. That’s a lot for a three-minute song. Stacy and I were ready to put the song out of its misery, but it kept going. I’d sing, “Don’t go breaking my heart” and she would respond, just as genuinely as the last nine times,“I won’t go breaking your heart.” It was like I were deaf, and unable to hear her response, I just kept repeating the same sentence.

Clearly, that wasn’t the best performance of the night. Heck, the best performance of the night didn’t even go to the, let me be cautious about how I say this, seemingly homeless person (maybe it was a costume!) who chose Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” in honor of Halloween then demonstrated ey didn’t know the lyrics. With karaoke, that’s generally all right since they provide the lyrics, but if you both don’t the lyrics and cannot read, that poses a whole new set of problems. For the 5+ minutes, the potentially homeless karaoke performer occasionally spoke the few lyrics he knew then filled the remaining time by dancing like a zombie from the song’s video. The audience was pretty forgiving of the situation and danced right along with him.

No, the best performance was by the KJ herself. She sang a song previously unknown to me called “Da Butt.” Check out the video here:



During the duration, I couldn’t stop laughing at the song’s absurdity. With lyrics like “Hey, sexy sexy, ain’t nothing wrong if you wanna do da butt all night long,” I figured it was pretty blatantly about anal sex. Subsequent research taught me, however, that “Da Butt” was considered a dance move in its day, hence “Doin’ Da Butt” is not much different than doin’ the locomotion or doin’ the Macarena. Except that Da Butt involves shaking one’s ass – and nothing more.

I apologize to “Da Butt”: it is not blatantly about anal sex as I had suspected. No, it is a song about anal sex that masquerades as a dance craze, which is pretty awesome and, naturally, makes it one of my new favorite songs.