Poly 416

Last Friday, while grading my students' homework, I found a cover of People Magazine slipped into the mix. I'm not sure who turned it in or why, but it made me giggle, first in concept, then for its content. "Texas Polygamy Sect: Behind the Gates" -- what a brilliant headline.

I mean, look at their hair! Look at their matching modest, dowdy dresses. I decided since I had the good fortune to receive this photo, I should pay it forward and taped it to the passenger window of my car for others to enjoy.

A couple of hours later, Cecilia came by my house to carpool to an anthropology talk. Jenna was hosting an event for eir graduate school that we decided to go ape for. Honestly, part of the appeal I think was having an opportunity to make monkey puns. We intended to act inappropriately: monkey around and go bananas.

On the car ride over, we discussed Polygamist Fashion and the inevitable mainstream trends that were sure to follow. During the conversation, I let the phrase "the Poly 416" slip from my mouth as if it were some kind of established name. When Cecilia questioned it, I explained matter-of-factly that I was referring to the 416 children of the polygamist compound. I admitted that it actually sounded like a Bible verse. Cecilia suggested that I make it into my instant message screen name, and I compromised, agreeing to get a vanity license plate. If you're driving behind a Corolla that reads POLY416, give me a honk.

The event was pretty well-attended by anthropology students. You know, people who when they hear the word "gibbons" think of a species of small apes and not talk show host Leeza Gibbons.

One of the lecturers was a former standup comedian, though eir talk was hardly funny. It was all about how orangutans are all going to die and that it's too late to really do anything about it. The most important thing I learned is that orangutans are pronounced orangutans, not orangutangs. There is no second G. This was never explicitly stated, but I realized that must be the case when the lecturer who devoted eir life to the cause persisted in this pronunciation and probably had more knowledge on the subject. Probably.

Also, I learned how horrible it was for people to dress up orangutans and treat them like baby dolls. The lecturer showed a picture of orangutans playing golf and stressed how not amusing it was. I felt bad when I laughed audibly anyway. They're monkeys! And they're playing golf! Look at their monkey suspenders! When humans are being exploited, it often involves the removal of clothing, but it's the opposite with primates. You tell me which species is more primitive! For the record, I don't think it's appropriate for apes to play golf... I would let them carry my clubs, though. Hah! Take note, former comedian, this is how you reel 'em in.

At the conclusion of the evening, Jenna held a raffle with some genuinely impressive items, so Cecilia and I bought a few tickets in the hopes of winning. One of the prizes was a pair of tattoos; afraid of permanency, I've never desired a tattoo in my life. A free, prize tattoo, however, is another story; Cecilia and I made a pact that if we won, we'd get "Poly 416" tattoos. Previously, we brainstormed ways to brand me with the catch phrase, and now we had found a way to literally brand our bodies with it. I still don't want a tattoo, but I always like a crazy story, so why not do something stupid where I then have to explain for the rest of my life that I won a tattoo at an anthropology talk and put a nonsensical inside joke about a topical news story inked on my calf?

Jenna called out a ticket number. As anyone who has been part of a raffle before knows, the caller doesn't usually say the first several numbers of the eight digit ticket since everyone has those, just the last few that are unique to the holder. Jenna read the number "1-0-8," then paused. I looked at my ticket and screamed, causing a minor scene. I was going to get a ridiculous "Poly 416" tattoo -- this was my fate. Then Jenna gave me a confused look and said, "I'm not done yet." Apparently, the last three digits of my ticket, 108, were also the same three digits that each ticket number started with. So I'm pretty sure everyone assumed I was a dumbass, but I think my confusion is justifiable. In the end, we lost the tattoo to a sixty-year-old woman; the mere thought of what she'd do with it compensated for losing it in the first place.

More and more tickets were drawn until there were just a few undesirable prizes left. Someone drew Cecilia's ticket, and she screamed and grabbed a Gross Soap kit, a box with soap-making materials and fake bugs to put inside them. When it was down to just one last prize, a Glitter Butterfly maker, my ticket was finally drawn, so I once again screamed with delight and grabbed my Glitter Butterfly kit. An organizer came up to us and apologized that we got stuck with the kid prizes. Evidently, ey bought them with kids in mind, and though one young girl won three times, she kept inexplicably choosing mature prizes like garden supplies, leaving us with the children crafts. Whatever, everybody else won legitimately awesome prizes, and we took the cheap crap, and we still acted more excited for it than anyone else. That's called gratitude, monkey lovers. Gross soap!

We left the event intending to make our respective crafts, but got sidetracked at Jenna's house. She has two ridiculously tiny dogs, one of which could just about fit in the palm of my hands and is pregnant. The baby daddy was standing on my lap at one point, when the pregnant mama came up on my lap under him and started sucking on his penis. Now, I've seen dogs lick and sniff one another's genitals, but this was full on, prolonged fellatio. Naturally, it made me uncomfortable and I was unsure of how to handle having miniature canines engaged in a sex act on top of me.

If only the orangutangs were this sexually forward -- they might just stand a chance. Maybe some fashionably dowdy polygamist dresses would inspire some procreation, too.


Hidden Narratives

A phrase that often runs through my head is "hidden narrative." I'm obsessed with the concept of the stories that go untold, particularly those that run parallel to the stories that are being told. Often times, there are certain aspects that are significant yet not imperative to the overall story that are purposefully neglected. Sometimes it's for brevity, sometime it's for simplicity's sake, and sometimes it's because it just wouldn't be appropriate to give the entire picture.

As a blogger, someone who frequently adopts the role of a story teller, I constantly think in terms of hidden narratives. Since this forum is public for all intents and purposes, I can't necessarily speak freely, even though there are all sorts of hidden narratives that could accompany many of my posts. I'll leave out a lingering sexual tension between the players that makes all the difference. I'll leave out a character altogether since eir presence might get em in trouble with someone else. I'll leave out the heated theatrics that follows an incident, instead cutting off on a funny note. These are aspects that would if not make the stories better, make them more real, but if I want to maintain these friendships, I need to keep their trust on what I publish. (That's not to say I haven't crossed the line in the past or tried my hardest to find a reasonable way to present the hidden narrative.) Truthfully, I'm not just protecting others by hiding certain narratives, but myself, as well. Although I'm fairly candid, there are certain subjects I won't broach in this arena. Occasionally, I'll get questions from friends asking about why I didn't write on a given topic. My response is, "Would you want me to reveal that about you?" or "Would you ever admit that about yourself?" It's not all fit for print.

I think one of the ultimate case studies in the hidden narrative is the CBS television show Big Brother. I've watched this past season between sporadic hiatuses due to disgust and frustration. The show's contestants are especially vile, even as far as reality television participants go. In addition to its nasty people, Big Brother distinguishes itself from similar fare in that it offers 24/7 internet footage of its contestants in the house. While the television show is still heavily edited and manipulated, the raw web video affords the public a rare opportunity to see as close to the true picture as the media allows.

The series finale was the ultimate in hiding narratives. There was a reunion of the players, but everything Anyone who followed what happened on the show via the internet knows that anything worth talking about was never broadcast on the television show. This occurred with reason, I suppose, but the show would have been twenty times better if the best narratives were not concealed.

So on Big Brother there's this crazy girl, Natalie, who fell hard for Matt, a rare breed of asshole. He was openly hostile to her, but she was pathetic enough to tell everyone how much she knew he loved her. In an effort to win him over, Natalie began giving Matt on camera blowjobs. Unsurprisingly, it didn't work: he continued making fun of her to her face, but she kept on giving her gift hoping it would pay off eventually. Watching Natalie at work was nothing short of a captivating train wreck, but of course CBS couldn't air a story line revolving around oral sex.

If Natalie had her own hidden narratives, I would hate to know them, since she seemed overly honest with her past considering it was broadcast to millions of people. Natalie admit to twice having abortions, which was the reason her breasts shrank and she got implants. From these fake breasts and terminated pregnancies, she claims she still regularly lactates. Heh? Anyway, two people, Chelsea and Joshuah, who hated Natalie opted to whip up a concoction of eggs and ketchup to put on Natalie's bed and call it her third abortion in order to taunt her. Thankfully, the show intervened before the plan was carried to term (at least my abortion joke is classier, if you can call it that), but they never called out

By the way, Chelsea and Joshuah were also responsible for suggesting during a verbal altercation that contestant Amanda should go hang herself like her dad. (Her dad had recently commit suicide.) Tasteful. Was this heinous moment discussed on the reunion? No, instead, we see a clip of Joshuah pretending to cry to someone, portraying him as a masterful actor.

The winner of the show, Adam, was the first to make headlines when during the first week on the show, he called the autistic kids he worked with for his job "retards." A public outcry ensued, and Adam was fired from his job, even though he never received the news since he was in the house out of contact with the outside world. After winning the money, he declared he wanted to give some of the money to his Autism organization. The show's host, Julie Chen, never took the opportunity to explain to him that he didn't actually work there anymore, even though it would have been a brilliant television moment. Instead, they swept over the best part yet again.

The best story of all might belong to James, however. James is a free spirit who prior to being on television was bicycling around the world in an effort to, get this, inspire other people to bicycle around the world. Genius! To support himself financially, James appeared in gay pornography. Meanwhile, during the show, James began dating the aforementioned classy lady Chelsea. Again, this topic was too racy to be addressed on the television show, but if only... I guarantee you that within minutes of going off the air, someone pulled an as-yet uninformed Chelsea aside to say, "I think you should know, your boyfriend does gay porn." I would pay to witness this awkward revelation. For the solely television watching sect, however, this narrative will remain hidden.

As a television show, Big Brother was pretty awful this past season. But factoring in the hidden narratives, it might have also been the best show that you never were able to watch.


I Grade Harshly

Maria*: Mr. [Kevin]! Someone wrote in my folder!
Me: What does it say?
Maria: Uh…
Me: Or do I not want to know?
Maria: No. It says "bitch."
Me: That’s rude, I’m sorry.
Maria: I’m mad. Who did it?
Juan*: (who I suspected before he even spoke) Not me, bitch.
Me: Hmm. Who in this class would call you a b word?
Juan: Do you mean me? No… bitch.
Me: Well, that’s not a comment I would write while grading.
Juan: Yeah you would!
Me: (sarcastically) Oh yeah, that’s right. Maria, I graded your journals and I gave you a “bitch.”
Maria: What?
Me: It’s a B, right? Not too bad. I thought you’d like it.


I Fought the Corporation and (after an insufferably lengthy period), I won!

Two months ago, my spanking new car was rear-ended after being on the road for less than two days. What I figured would be a simple problem to deal with fast turned into a nightmare. An auto mechanic struck my car, so in the spirit of charity, I offered to not report it through insurance and instead let him fix it. He agreed to these terms, but gave me a phony phone number in an attempt to hose me.

So I contacted my insurance company, Travelers. Though I usually don't use corporations' names in my posts, I'm going to do so here since I love the customer service of my insurance company and find them worthy of my verbal support. Even though I thought the guy who hit my car is an idiot for ruining a chance at an easy fix, I still felt a little bad for him for screwing himself over.

While a Travelers agent came to my place of work within hours of my reporting it to check out my damages, the other insurance company, Allstate, whose name I will mention since they are awful and I think everyone should know it, made me drive half an hour to their location two weeks later to check out my damage. That was after having to call them twice just to get them to take my accident statement. Allstate told me that resolving this accident would be easy since there was nothing really to stipulate, and not to worry about it.

Two weeks passed. I call Allstate to find out what my car's status was, but got no response. Only after my third message did I receive a return message, which informed me that the client is disputing the accident. Immediately, I called concerned by this development, and when my call was returned three days later, I was told that while the other driver admits to hitting my car, he did not cause any damage. I told Allstate that this was preposterous and asked whether their client claimed the damage was pre-existing or not there at the time of the accident. The Allstate representative looked over the report then said that that fact was not specified. Huh? That seemed like an important detail that they should have if they're going to claim they didn't do the damage. I was told not to worry, there would be an investigation.

At that point, I realized that I was about to get screwed. As someone in the automative business, the Lying Fuck Face, our new name for the other driver, probably knew he could get away with it. Admit to hitting the car since I managed to get all of his information, but claim you didn't do the damage.

I followed up with several calls to Allstate in the next week and a half; each day they told me they would have an answer for me the following day, though that never panned out. Finally, I received a message telling me my deny had been claimed. Lying Fuck Face disputes the damage, so Allstate would not be paying since that apparently means he did not do it. He would have no incentive to lie, right? The feeling I had was not that they didn't believe that their client caused the damage, but that they realized they could get away with not paying it for this reason, so of course they'd deny it.

Travelers helped me out with how to approach the situation further. I raised enough of a stink with Allstate (in a politer fashion than I did with the cable company) to finally speak to a manager, who was the first helpful employee at Allstate (out of several). She admitted that they didn't even have my own side of the story on file, and neglected to ask for my input in the investigation as should be procedure. Convenient!

From there, I went into detective mode. I knew I should be able to prove that the accident happened in the manner I said it did since I had the truth on my side. I drew pictures of the scene and went and took video footage of the freeway exit where it occurred, demonstrating how countless cars pass through in the same formation I stipulated. (The main reason they said the damage didn't happen was because it wasn't possible for my car to sustain that damage given the details of the accident -- as relayed by their customer and their customer only, mind you.) I submitted photos of my car two days before the accident occurred. Additionally, I got proof from my car dealership that I had purchased an undamaged car just days prior. After hours of work, I put together one hell of a case to prove my point. I didn't hear from Allstate for a few days, but in the meantime I was commended by my Travelers rep for my effort. He was genuinely supportive -- amazing customer service.

After I made it clear that with the evidence I gathered I would file a lawsuit (a bluff, but whatever, they were being assholes), finally, Allstate had no choice but to acknowledge that they did the damage. Since they already cleared Lying Fuck Face of blame, they couldn't put the blame on him and will instead just pay for it themselves. Part of me is irritated that Lying Fuck Face is getting away with it, but then again, all it would mean is his rates would go up and he'd pay more to Allstate, a company I equally despise. So as long as my damages are being taken care of, I suppose it's okay.

It's been a lot of work for a few hundred dollars, but it became the principle of the thing. And I'll be damned if my principles don't trump your harmful lies and corporate greed.


Meat Your Local Grocer

When Katy was in kindergarten, eir class would take regular field trips to important locations around the community like town hall, the fire station, and the bank. On one such trip, Katy and class visited the local grocery store. As they walked around the aisles, Katy, a rather pokey individual, trailed in the back. A high school-aged employee who worked behind the butcher counter approached the doting Katy and offered to show eir a special room that the rest of the tour group would not be able to see. Excited, Katy accompanied em back to the meat room where giant slabs of meat hung from the ceiling, dripping blood onto the ground. Suddenly overwhelmed, little Katy fainted and landed with a splash into a puddle of animal blood where ey marinated until revived. Katy was shaken and eir dress was ruined.

It probably goes without saying that this incident made an instant, lifelong vegetarian out of Katy; who could blame eir?


Tubman Teaches Typing

Here's a question a student called out in class recently. I can't stress enough how there was absolutely no context for it.
"Who's more famous: Oprah, Harriet Tubman, or Mavis Beacon?"



This upcoming week of school is my favorite of the year: state standardized testing. Forget the politics of it all, I enjoy the shortened teaching periods and rare tranquility on campus. Nothing but the gentle sound of number two pencils filling bubbles. Ah, bubbles.

Bubbles are ubiquitous. Bubble tests, bubble gum, bubble baths, bubble butts, bubble wrap, bubble wands, bubble letters... the list bubbles on. Hence, it is only appropriate that Free Design commemorate bubbles on their many successes in a song called, you guessed it, "Bubbles."

"Bubbles" is a venture in funk. Indeed, this tune is grooving, all the way to its sassy conclusion featuring mastication, a pop, and a fit of laughter. Lauding bubbles in a sea of funky harmonies is nothing short of genius.

I began to bold my favorite lyrics only to realize I had bolded more than I had left alone.

Blowin’ bubbles outta the window

Chewin’ bubblegum and blowin’ big bubbles

Gettin’ gettin’ ridda ridda all my troubles,

Watchin’ the tadpoles glubba, glubba in the puddles

Soap bubbles carry my dreams up high

Bubble gum kinda keeps my heart from gettin’ heavy and cryin’

Ma ‘n’ Pa are arguin’ again,

today I lost my best friend

The kitty has a little cold,

‘n ‘ grammama is getting older

My tummy has a little pain,

‘n’ when does Jesus come again?

I'll admit, I'm a bit concerned for the tadpoles residing in puddles rather than ponds. Perhaps the glubba noise is a cry of impending death? I'd get sad, but I'm chewing gum, so my heart's obviously not about to get heavy or cry.

A kitten with a tiny cold is precious enough to erase my visions of an aging grandmother. It still doesn't distract from the most perplexing lyric of the song: "My tummy has a little pain/'n' when does Jesus come again?" What does one have to do with the other? JESUS SAVES... with Pepto Bismal. Is that bubbly? Does Jesus come to earth in a bubble?

In spite of the ridiculousness, you'll genuinely love this one.
Free Design - Bubbles


Bad to the Bone

I was a good kid in sixth grade. So good, in fact, that I needed a release, which I addressed in the form of making rebellious friends, including someone who smoked cigarettes and a kid who pointlessly shoplifted candles from the local gift shop. I felt “bad” just associating with them, and liked it since it didn’t require me to do anything bad myself. Unlike others, I was cool to them because I didn’t judge them – not aloud, anyway. Although I was cool with them, I wasn’t actually bad enough for them, an opinion I wanted to change, so long as it didn’t require actually being bad.

In those days, our motley crew played four square each day at recess. Though I was not especially athletic, I was skilled enough to be competitive at this game. Still, I was not bad (as in badass) enough even at this activity: Most of my opponents would slam the ball into others’ squares so that it was nearly impossible to return, but I refused to engage in such heartless play. Consequently, I was called a wimp and other such variations, for which I couldn’t stand. I had to find a way to up my “bad” quotient. At last, I conceived a solution: Swear Square.

Swear Square wasn’t a new game entirely, rather an enhanced version of classic four square. The caveat, however, was that each time you were eliminated, you had to say the swear word that corresponded with the letter of the box in which you stood, be it ass, bitch, crap, or damn. In retrospect, I can’t believe how such a desperate, juvenile idea was so well received. As we saw it, however, swearing was bad, and so were we. That’s right, we, since I, too, was swearing right along with them. Plus, I came up with the concept, so I was essentially extra bad, regardless of whether I was willing to slam the ball. “Crap!” I’d yell when I lost in the C square. While in the B position, I’d scream, “Bitch!” Some of the girls who used to play with us, including my top-secret-girlfriend, stopped because they weren’t willing to curse freely. That was unfortunate, but they were causalities of war. Not everyone could be as bad as us.

Swear Square persisted for nearly two months before being declared passé. Apparently, swearing had become kind of boring, so the people I was trying to conform with effectively ended the game. I could hardly blame them: I had sworn so frequently, I had become desensitized to it and no longer even felt “bad” for doing so, a positive situation for me. Nevertheless, in an effort to maintain my position, I tried to convince everyone it was still bad to swear and play four square, to no success.

I needed a new plan. Soon thereafter, I proposed a variation where in addition to swearing, we’d have to use just our middle fingers to hit the ball! Bad, huh? Right?! Yeah, well, I understand it would take a lot of the action out of the game, but it’s worth it to hold up our middle fingers, though. Right?! Right? Come on, let’s just try it…

I wasn’t bad, I was pathetic. By seventh grade, none of my “bad” friends were even speaking to me.

All-4-One - I Swear
The Shins - Turn a Square
P. Diddy - Bad Boys for Life


Do You Have a Boil?

My student who threatened to cut my throat is still in my class. It's funny how laws work: she'd probably have to succeed at killing me before switching classes. She knew enough to be a bit better behaved upon her return to my class after the suspension, but quickly let her true poise shine through again. Every other word out of her mouth is "fuck" and she loves announcing to the class how promiscuous she is. It's really hard to even pretend to respect this student when she is so openly nasty. Therefore, I simply ignore her as much as possible as she spends the entirety of class applying layers of makeup to her face and taking photos of her cleavage with her cellphone. On Monday, this prized student asks me about a former student of mine before class starts.

"You know Harry*?"
"Yeah, I know Harry." Harry's gross, too, by the way. He's the only guy who has the audacity to have made out with two girls in my class on the same day. It's confounding to me why he can attract anyone, truthfully; sure he's "smooth," but he's also all sorts of dumb -- more on that later.
"Should I get with him?"
"Oh gosh, don't ask me a question like that."
"No, I need your help to make a decision!"
"It's none of my business."
"Look, he wrote me a note."

I should continue not caring by not looking, but I do. The note read:
"Do you have a boil? Becuz I could make sweet luv 2 u. - Harry"

I laugh aloud. "A boil?" I ask. The student isn't familiar with what a boil is, so I explain.
"A boy!" she says. "b-o-i-i." On second inspection, indeed, the "L" in boil could be a poorly constructed "i." It' s funny how kids use these ridiculous abbreviations just for the sake of doing so. Boii has more letters than boy, so there's definitely no shorthand going on there.
"Okay," I respond, shaking it off.
"So should I do it?" she pesters again.
"Why are you asking me?"
"Because you have him in your other class."
"He used to be in my class," I correct. You see, Harry was moved to special education. (Don't laugh... well, too much anyway.)
"I think I'm gonna do it," she decides.

Of course.

Forget the boils, Harry. Beware the crabs.


The Spelling Bee

Sunday Basketball was as lackadaisical as it’s ever been.  With the temperature at 94 degrees, no one was up for running around so we played an unenthusiastic game of Around the World while running off to the shade when it wasn’t our turn until someone pointed out that the community adult spelling bee was currently underway.  Though I don’t spell well – better than you’re average person, I reckon, but I’m not good with difficult spelling bee words, I still was interested in participating until I learned that there was a $300 entry fee.  I was appalled at the price – how typical for my elitist town to hold an even inaccessible to its lower class citizens.  With this fact in mind, Amy, Ted, Terri, and I elected to abandon basketball and crash the spelling contest.  We ran in single file in our basketball shorts, chanting the letters B-E-E.  This competition wouldn’t know what hit it.
When we arrived, we did not cause any mayhem, however, as the event seemed genuinely fun.  Rather than having people compete individually, contestants were lumped in teams of three with gimmicks like school principals, Rotarians, city council members, sports coaches, residents of retirement homes, members of the school board, downtown store owners, college presidents, and clergy.  Furthermore, they were dressed up in funny costumes as if they were on Let’s Make a Deal.  These people were as close to celebrities as the town gets, so it was a compelling cast of characters to watch rack their respective brains.  And they were good!  Shoot, they could spell words I’ve never heard of, let alone know how to spell.  I only wish the cost of entry were cheaper so that other core demographics of the town that are often ignored could participate as well: college students, residents of the wrong-side-of-the-tracks, and the homeless.
The audience was packed; most competing teams had its own cheering section, particularly the old folk homes, which were so bleeping cute.  The only people silent throughout the competition were the middle school cheerleaders, supposedly on hand to keep the audience pumped.  It’s clear that each and every word went straight over their heads, creepily adorned with gross hair extensions.  Despite it being part of their job description, cheerleaders cannot spell.  The only time I saw them excited was during their performance of “YMCA,” a brilliant song choice given the event.
I was pulling for the team representing the local cemetery, its members were ancient, with one foot in the grave, you might say.  I decided to do a spelling chant for them on their turn: “R-I-P!”  Even though my intent was to be witty and supportive rather than offensive, my friends found it appalling.  The cemetery team proceeded to be eliminated that round and I felt it inappropriate to reprise my cheer given the circumstance.  After that, I threw my support behind the two retirement communities, both of which did quite well until the last round.  My favorite audience member, however, was Terri, who instantly became a dork when she charted the Bee’s progression in her program, noting who was eliminated when and on what word.  In this case, being a nerd and being awesome are synonymous.
Here’s my gripe about spelling bees: it’s too dependent on luck.  Since some words are far easier than others, it often comes down to which team got which word, not who spelled better.  Also, there was a frequent issue of pronunciation and mishearing.  In what was clearly the result of auditory issues, a team would spell a different word or have it start with a letter it clearly shouldn’t have.  I, too, found myself mishearing words and trying to spell a word that was not what the word ended up being. In truth, most words should come down to a game of vowels. Those are the letters that most easily could be transposed or confused when trying to spell, not consonants.

In the end, the team representing a domestic abuse crisis center took home the top prize. Rather than thinking up a clearly tasteless joke for this occasion and then agonize over whether to include it, I'm going to halt that line of thought and instead wish them a sincere congradulations.


Bank Error in Your Favor

A couple of months ago, a bank error was made in my favor. In Monopoly, that earns you $200. In my case, however, it was to the tune of nearly $30,000.

That’s right, according to my bank statement, I was suddenly quite wealthy. I’ve never noticed a bank error for even $3, so this windfall of $30,000 was quite remarkable. Sort of.

Immediately, it was obvious from where the money came. I had just purchased a car and not-so-coincidentally the amount of money that appeared in my savings account was exactly twice what I paid for my car. With this fact in mind, it seemed apparent that instead of taking out the money I had written a cashier’s check for, the bank had added that amount to my account, meaning not only had they not taken cash, but they gave me the price of a car as a bonus. Plus, I legally owned a car. Oddly enough, totaling my vehicle might have been the most profitable thing I’ve done in my life.

I knew the money wasn’t mine, but I liked looking at it, pretending it were mine. There’s nothing like a thirty grand jump in your account to make you feel good about life, especially when you’ll be unemployed in a matter of months.

I went to my bank to try to clear up the matter. First, I asked to verify whether the amount in my account was accurate. The teller assured me that it was. Then I asked if ey could tell me how the most recent deposit was made. According to the teller, the computers were down, so that kind of information wasn’t accessible. From there, I tried to explain that I thought there was a mistake and that there was $30,000 more in my account than there should be. The teller told me that it couldn’t be a mistake and not to worry about it, but that I could check back another time when the computer system was operating.

Evidently, banks don’t make mistakes – they’re perfect. You’d think if someone attempted to give $30,000 back to the bank, they’d want to hear me out rather than letting me walk out the door, but you’d think incorrectly.

I spoke to my dad about the situation and he encouraged me to not do anything about it for a while. He was afraid that if I were to report the mistake and someone else was to catch the mistake independently, they would try to take the money out from me twice over and it would be far more difficult to retrieve my rightful money back. Not wanting to live out that horror story, I agreed that the best move was to sit and wait for a month to see if the bank would catch it.

That’s when I began to research the matter. While I didn’t think in good conscience I could keep the money, I was curious about my legal standing in this issue. You know, in case my conscience was to someday change. I literally spent hours investigating the matter. Though bank errors in a patron’s favor are far less common than bank errors in the bank’s favor, they do occur.

Here’s an example of how the government protects corporations better than its citizens: If the bank commits an error against you, you typically have 60 days to report it or there’s no longer anything you can do about it. Meanwhile, if the bank makes an error that hurts itself, however, there is no limit on when they can reclaim the misappropriated funds. In other words, ten years from now, if they recognize they make a mistake, they legally have the right to reclaim that money.

Also, it tends to be most banks’ policy to not admit to making mistakes. I read accounts of many people who were told upfront that the bank had not made a mistake, only to see the amount disappear from their accounts weeks later without warning, often resulting in over-drafting and garnering fines.

Precedence in these types of cases shows that it generally ends poorly for people who have been accidentally gifted additional funds in their accounts. Withdrawing or even moving that money to another account is considered a fraudulent action on the part of the account holder, subject to fines and threats of prison time. I found a case of someone who let the money sit for five years before finally deciding it was safe to use it only to prosecuted shortly thereafter.

The laws protect the corporations who have all sorts of procedures in place where they can cheat you of your money, but it doesn’t go both ways. I realized that in actuality, I was at risk for criminal action for a mistake I didn’t make that I even attempted to report. Though I could possibly get away with leaving that money untouched in my account for years to come, it would never be safe for me to actually spend it.

This past week, my dad took charge by calling the bank and speaking to increasingly higher employees until the matter was dealt with. Though I imagine the bank will still not say they made a mistake, it did ultimately find reason to remove the magical $30,000 from my account.

Part of me is relieved to have an ongoing source of stress removed from my life, while the other part misses my hypothetical 30 grand and wishes I could have found another solution. I’d definitely have played it differently if I had a Get Out of Jail Free card.


I Found Love

It’s Free Design Friday! Our second song in the ongoing series is “I Found Love.”

I invite you to read the lyrics as poetry.

I found love, didn’t even know I needed it
But I found love, never even crossed my mind
I found love, had a garden never weeded it
But I found love, took an apple just in time

I found love in the fall and it did not hurt at all
I found sunlight and flowers, soft summer showers
I can feel my heart touch my Adams apple
I can feel the feather in my head
There is a lightness, politeness, fingers tingle, tootsies tap
‘till dawn comes and finds me never in my bed

I found love, didn’t even know I needed it
But I found love, never even crossed my mind

I found love in the spring and I did not lose a thing
I found love in the fall and it did not hurt at all
I found sunlight and flowers, soft summer showers.
I can feel my heart touch my Adams apple
I can feel the feather in my head
There is a lightness, politeness, fingers tingle, tootsies tap
‘till dawn comes and finds me never in my bed

Had a garden never weeded it
But I found love
Took an apple just in time

I found love in this world and my heart strings just unfurled
I found love in the spring and I did not lose a thing
I found love in the fall and it did not hurt at all
I found love in this world and my heart strings just unfurled
I found love in the spring and I did not lose a thing.

1. My favorite lyric is “I can feel my heart touch my Adams apple,” followed closely by the rhythmic progression of the words “lightnes, politeness, fingers tingle, tootsies tap.”
2. Love can be measured in seasons.
3. The un-weeded garden totally represents pubic hair.
4. The word “unfurled” is only used in poetry/music to accomplish a rhyme. When is the last time you’ve heard the word in normal conversation?

I found a music video for the song created by a teenager. Yeah, it’s pretty bad, but endearingly so, hence it is worth a view. I’d like to think that if The Free Design were to have made a music video for this song, it would be exactly like this one.

Given the intro, it seems the star discovered Free Design via the Gilmore Girls soundtrack – who’d have guessed? I’m digging the drag costume and the lip-synching failing to match up to the song. The literal interpretation of the lyrics (embodied in this video by torn notebook paper) is charming: I’m particularly taken by the parts involving summer showers and having a feather in one’s head. Then the video gets all high-tech with the introduction of fake blood. And you assumed this video had no budget.

Tootsie tap to this song to your heart’s delight:
The Free Design - I Found Love


Bigotry at a Lesbian Bar

Last night Kirsten, Lindsay, and I returned to the lesbian karaoke bar The Hook-Up , after having a memorable time a few weeks ago. It wasn’t too crowded, so we sat at the bar. Lindsay quipped, “Here we are sitting at the bar, just three single gals.” “Looking for love in all the wrong places,” I chimed in. For the most part, we were ignored, but the bartender remembered Kirsten and her drink of choice from her one previous visit. Hot.

Since I’m currently obsessed with Willie Nelson’s cover of “Time After Time,” I decided to give Cyndi Lauper’s classic a go, to mixed results. I think the chorus worked when Kirsten and Lindsay harmonized with me, but otherwise it wasn’t a song worth adding to my repertoire. Lindsay, however, rocked the joint with her staple performance of Guns’n’Roses’s “Welcome to the Jungle.” It’s pretty amazing and turned many a lesbian head. Since this trip was Lindsay’s first, we warned her that she might be propositioned; following Lindsay’s stellar performance, she had a 50-year-old woman with scary teeth and a frosty Jheri curl breathing down her neck and singing right to her. She was a good sport, though, and snogged her for a few minutes. I’m kidding, I’m kidding. It was fifteen seconds, tops.

Next, Lindsay and I teamed up for ”Total Eclipse of the Heart”, a great duet to which to contribute raw emotion, particularly once it climaxes in a weepy mess. As the night wound down, I anticipated leaving the bar without any big news to report, in other words, nothing substantial to blog about. That’s when a remarkable character entered the picture.

The subject of college graduation speakers came up, and I commented on how my class’s speaker, politician Fabian Nunez, was lame and predictable. He pandered to a largely liberal audience by making easy proclamations like “Bush is an idiot.” Suddenly, this sixty-something year-old man who has been sitting next to us at the bar the entire night, not once saying a word, looks at me with intense, deranged eyes and adamantly declares, “Bush is NOT an idiot!”

I tried to clarify that I was paraphrasing someone else, but this man’s rant was already in full force. Apparently, it’s the commies and the immigrants that want us to believe that Bush is in idiot, led by that bitch Hilary Clinton. Although I knew I shouldn’t engage him, I couldn’t help but see if I could get a positive spin from him. “Who will you be voting for?”
“Well there’s McCain, but he’s a son of a bitch, too. I hate his father. His father’s a Commie. We did not lose the Vietnam War, it’s a myth that McCain’s father made up. They teach you that we lost the Vietnam War, but WE DID NOT!”

Since I’m not familiar with McCain’s father in any capacity, I tried to get clarification on the scenario he was describing, but got nothing but incoherent ramblings until he starting talking about the missteps of some politician he called Urkel. Because the only “Urkel” I know is Steve Urkel from Family Matters, I confessed that I wasn’t familiar with a politician named Urkel.
“You don’t know Urkel?”
“That’s what everyone calls Obama!”

Ah, suddenly I got it, and I had to sip the melted ice from my glass to stop from laughing out loud at his outlandish bigotry. Kirsten rushed to pay her tab so we could make a necessary exit, but the man was not yet done sharing his views with me.

“There’s only been one Democrat in the office in the last 100 years who wasn’t a Commie bastard.”
“Who?” I ask, taking the bait.
“Jimmy Carter. And he’s retarded.”
“Dumb but lovable,” I found myself saying, but not sure why. There was no segue into his next rant.

“THIS COUNTRY HAS A PROBLEM WITH 80 MILLION PEOPLE! ILLEGALS! WE MUST EXTERMINATE THEM ALL! Get the beaners out of here.” Fortunately, Kirsten had paid her tab before I even had to figure out how to respond to such hateful rhetoric, and we up and left. I told the man to “take care” because that’s exactly what he needed to do. I didn’t feel bad about not challenging his views, because sometimes there’s no reasoning with someone that is that crazed and I especially didn’t desire to be stabbed by him for being a Commie sympathizer and fan of Urkel.

What’s peculiar about this incident to me is sadly not what he said, but where he said it. How does a deranged bigot end up at a hole-in-the-wall lesbian bar? He was clearly oblivious to the Sapphic affection all around him, and at least indifferent to the bar’s Latina demographic. Every time I go, I always see someone who doesn’t seem to understand where they’re at until too late. A few trips ago, I sat near a pair of presumably heterosexual women and overheard an exchange between them after a long time of silence.

“Do you… do you think this is a [mouthing the word]gay bar?”
“Hmm. I didn’t really notice. I guess it might be.”

I love the second woman’s overly PC answer, as if she simply hadn’t noticed the mullets, string of Melissa Etheridge songs, and lady-tonguing going on all around her. I suppose it’s the same blindness the intoxicated stranger next to us at the bar experienced, unaware that the people he claims to hate are serving him drinks and crooning Janice Joplin in his direction.

Songs to stream/download:
Willie Nelson – Time After Time
Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse of the Heart


Oh What a Night

I hold an unpopular opinion that I’ve never felt comfortable sharing: I don’t like Night, the Nobel Prize winning memoir by Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. I hesitate to express this fact, however, since in many circles this admission might as well be accompanied by wearing a Nazi uniform. Though I have respect and admiration for Wiesel’s strength and perseverance, I find Night to be a sub-par piece of literature.

For a novel about something as intense and dramatic as the Holocaust, Night sure is boring. Wiesel eliminates any sense of suspense and excitement and states all events matter-of-factly. There is no character development; given the tragic events, I always feel sympathy for Wiesel, but I never get to know him as a person. Wiesel’s prose is thorough to a fault, seemingly including every detail he remembers with no sense of discretion. His use of symbolism is painfully obvious. Worst of all, the sentence construction exhibits mediocre writing at best, which is probably at least partially the result of translation issues, but it’s difficult to plow through all the same.

I’m intimately familiar with the novel since I taught it last year. Despite my distaste for the book, I treated it like a masterpiece in the presence of my students; because they don’t like reading anything, imagine the results if I copped to having a less than favorable opinion of a novel. On a positive note, Night is a successful text to teach to tenth graders. Firstly, the book is both sad and true, the perfect combination to appeal to a demographic obsessed with drama. Secondly, the public education system is in such a sad state that before this novel, most of the students are not even familiar with the Holocaust. Consequently, the story is understandably shocking, especially when it’s someone’s first exposure to such a travesty. Thirdly, aside from a small portion of the vocabulary (“Yiddish is like Jewish slang” is one of my favorite lessons), the book is so remarkably simple to comprehend that it works well with budding young minds.

Just one day after the Obama email incident ended at my school, a coworker from the English department sent an email titled “My Husband Sent This To Me – Interesting!” (Note: she was recently married and has sent out a couple of other emails recently not-so-casually mentioning her husband):

Elie Wiesel Mortified After Rereading Night
BOSTON—Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel said in an interview Monday that he recently revisited his debut work, Night, nearly 50 years after its publication and was "absolutely horrified" at the amateurish quality of the memoir.

"It was painful to read," Wiesel said of the story of his journey from his childhood home to the Nazi death camp Auschwitz. "I know every great author says they hate their first book, but frankly, I'm embarrassed this ever made it into print. The sentence structure is artless, the plot is repetitive at best—and the constant mentioning of how I felt abandoned by God? What was the point of all that?"

Wiesel said that, although Night is not his only work that deals with his personal experience of the Holocaust, it is by far his "most humiliating."

"I got so wrapped up in what I was writing, I couldn't separate myself from the subject matter," said Wiesel, adding that the eight-page account of the train ride from Gleiwitz to Buchenwald could have been trimmed down considerably to focus on the essential events. "I just assumed everything about my life was so fascinating, people would want to read about it. I was so naïve."

Wiesel went on to criticize Night for lacking the subtlety of his later writings, claiming the use of foreshadowing was predictable and the description of the harrowing gas chamber selection process felt "clichéd…like bad daytime TV melodrama."
"I simply seized on this 'dehumanizing people through starvation and fear' angle and beat it into the ground," said Wiesel, who has learned over the years to "show, not tell" in his writing. "Rereading it now is absolute hell."

The author also spoke harshly of Night's publisher, Arthur Wang, who encouraged Wiesel to write the book nearly 10 years after he was liberated from the concentration camps. He said Wang kept pressuring him to publish the story, while ignoring the inherent horror in Wiesel's prose.

"[Wang] didn't even have the decency to tell me my writing was completely self- absorbed," Wiesel said. "He should have stopped this book before it got out of hand. Somebody, anybody should have intervened before it was too late."
Night was a recent Oprah's Book Club selection, selling more than a million copies in only a few months. It returned to the No. 1 spot on The New York Times best-seller list, introducing a whole new generation of readers to what Wiesel calls "shoddily written, college workshop garbage."

Despite initially agreeing to the Oprah deal, Wiesel has told reporters he now regrets not revising the manuscript before its new publication.

"I would have at least liked to put in an interesting dream sequence, and extend this part here where my dying father calls out my name with his final breath," said Wiesel, holding a heavily annotated paperback copy of the memoir. "I can't believe another million people are going to read this atrocity. We're just repeating the same terrible mistakes of the past."
Added Wiesel, "God, I wish I were dead."

Although he told interviewers his embarrassment over the memoir will continue to haunt him "during every waking hour," Wiesel hopes that those who have already read his book will "just forget the whole thing ever happened."

The first paragraph surprised me, though I could hardly disagree. By the time I read the second paragraph, however, the article didn’t sit well with me. With each passing sentence, as much as I wanted to believe that Wiesel recognized his work to be lackluster, too, I came to be positive this article had to be satire, particularly when the book was being made to seem nearly as atrocious as… well, the Holocaust. Although I agree with the points made in this article, it's probably not that bad. Probably. I Googled the title and, sure enough, I found out the article originated on the king of satirical news, The Onion.

I contemplated the situation and wondered whether I should mention that the article is meant in jest. Within moments, a second email came from a teacher expressing shock that Wiesel would speak so poorly of such a great novel. Great. Teaching satire is supposed to be a state standard, so I’d like to hope my fellow English teachers would recognize satire when they see it, but clearly…

Ultimately, afraid that a class would be taught this article as fact, I sent out a simple message to the English department: “I just thought I’d point out that this article is satirical.” Then I linked to the article on The Onion.

It is customary at my school to end your emails with a signature, which gives your name, position, phone extension, and often an inspirational quote. Since I work where I do, typically people have quotes that are a Bible verse or something like “Humble Servant of God.” Elsewhere, this would be inappropriate in the workplace, but when the administrative team does it, it almost seems like people feel peer pressured to out Jesus one another in the sign-out to their emails.

I should have left well enough alone, but I couldn’t resist adding an element of mockery to my informative email, so I added a signature to my email for the first time, utilizing my favorite, most over-the-top quote from the article:

Kevin [Last Name]
English Teacher, Room [####]
Ext. [####]
“God, I wish I were dead.” – Elie Wiesel

It’s satire on top of satire, get it? Plus, it pretty accurately sums up how I feel at work most days. Though a couple of my teacher friends found my email amusing, evidently the original email’s sender does not – she now refuses to speak to me and told a mutual friend that I am an “asshole.” Certainly, I could have been more tactful, but did she even read the article? If I’ve embarrassed her, it’s only because she first embarrassed herself.


More Masculinism

The controversy with Pitzer's unofficial Masculinist Coalition has turned downright ugly.

I have to hand it to the club's founder, he's media savvy and, as I expected, using the media to spread his plight. A week ago, he landed an interview on the Kevin & Bean morning radio show out of Los Angeles.

I sometimes listen to the Kevin & Bean show, though I can't say I'm particularly proud. Its station is one of a few I flip between on my drive in to work. Admittedly, sometimes, I find the show funny, however, sometimes, it's remarkably offensive. In the past, I've heard the show make sweeping generalizations about homosexuals, African Americans, and women. The show makes a habit of dinging a bell each time a woman is mentioned that the crew finds attractive. A week prior, the team did an investigative report as to why Latino Americans don't support Barack Obama, which was really an excuse to bring up stereotypes and make the Latino community look ignorant when it comes to politics (you can see a modified video of this report on Kevin & Bean's website to give you an idea of the un-PC nature of the programming.

Wanting to catch the madness, I listened to the on-air segment (you can find a link to the audio here) with my first period who was fascinated with the story and excited by any distraction to get out of working. Since the show is so male-centric, I feared it would be a glorification of the Masculinist cause without having a full understanding of the story; alas, my prediction proved to be true. Most of it just made me shake my head; two of my students used their cell phones to call in on my behalf so that I would argue as other callers were doing, but I was not about to take the bait of entering a debate where my perspective wouldn't be given a fair shake. For that reason, I panicked when I recognized the last caller to the show to be my friend. Before she even had a chance to speak, the radio host stopped to ask the Masculinist head whether my friend "look[s] as hot as she sounds." If you're objectifying someone before they even speak, how can you expect to have their points taken seriously? Thankfully, in a classier moment, the Masculinist founder refused to comment on that matter and bring himself to that level. As expected, my friend was prettily handily shot down, ultimately being cut off by a Family Guy audio clip which said, "I know you're a feminist and I think that's adorable, but this grown-up time and I'm the man," clearly culminating in some impressive discourse.

Speaking to my friend later in the day, I learned that she hadn't even realized she was on the radio. When she called, she was first subject to two different people who asked what she would say if they were to put her on air. After that, she was speaking to the radio hosts, but at no point was she was told she was on the air yet, so she assumed they were going through more hypothetical questions in preparation for the actual interview, unaware that she was at that point being broadcast. For that reason, rather than making any concrete points, she kept saying things like "I will talk about this" and "I will address that" without actually getting the substance in, causing her to look a bit silly to the radio listening public who didn't know the situation. Also, at one point she gets bleeped out and chastised for cursing on air, making her look like a foul-mouthed irrational person. Again, she didn't know she was on air at that point, so when the Masculinist president said he had been threatened via email over this cause, she said "You know I think that's fucked up." They didn't just bleep the f-word, however, instead bleeping her whole statement, making it look like she responded to this claim unsympathetically with a curse word.

After wasting a lot of class time listening to the show, at least I was able to go back to my students the next class to give them a real life example of media distortion and to not take everything they see and hear at face value.

The story is being blogged about ad nauseam (and yes, I'm contributing to that) and has been picked up by the Associate Press. As a result, people with no relation to the college are giving private donations to the organization to support men. I'd wish that people concerned with gender inequality would give to more legitimate organizations that could break down barriers rather than to a group whose minutes claim they are intending to spend it on astronaut suits, a go-kart, fireworks, and alcohol, but then, it's not my money, so private donators can give their money as they see fit, I suppose.

Meanwhile, on campus, the support for the group is still under-whelming; Student Senate has rejected the group's charter three times. By a loop hole in the bylaws, the Masculinist Coalition can re-propose its charter each week by editing it slightly since that technically constitutes a new charter.

To make matters worse, the founder is now claiming he was verbally threatened by a member of the Feminist Coalition. This news is new to me, so I can't comment on its validity. It wouldn't surprise me, actually. I do know that there have been intimidation tactics by both sides and that both parties at various points have claimed to feel threatened. Clearly, actions of these sorts are unacceptable and no one should be threatening anyone.

Everyone has a right to feel safe. I'd say Pitzer's campus is rather safe as far as colleges go, but it's hardly perfect. On the five campuses at Claremont, I have female friends who have been sexually harassed, sexually assaulted, and even raped. I'm still haunted by an incident freshman year when drunk men tried to force their way into a friend's dorm room, claiming they wanted to "stick it in" her. There is legitimate reason for concern.

Let me explicitly state that I have no reason to believe that the members of the Masculinist Coalition would be party to any of the aforementioned harmful activities directed at women. What it comes back to is the club's name, a name that carries a history of female oppression. The name in itself becomes threatening to some members of the student body. For this reason, Pitzer College should not feel pressured to approve a club with this name.

The Masculinist Coalition claims that they want to turn the name into something positive. First, there's the problem that people outside of the community who look up the word in the dictionary would get the wrong idea. Second, the ongoing saga has left the larger community distrusting the club. If you're going to take on the large task of forging a new definition for the word Masculinism, you need to have demonstrated that you are devoted to such a political undertaking. The Masculinist Coalition has not proven this state, however, given its first mission statement, the initial denial of any political agenda, and the manifesto's homophobic statements. (I do believe that the homophobic statements were meant to come across as a joke, but just because jokes of that nature against homosexuals are largely accepted by the greater society does not make it okay. As it has been pointed out to me, if the comments were related to race, ie "our club is a celebration of white men (not in a black way [not that there's anything wrong with that])" it would not be tolerated.) Because the organization has had a history of making members of the student body uncomfortable with their words, jokes, and methods, how can they be trusted? Understandably, the Senate cannot disregard these events which have been interpreted as off-putting by many when considering whether to allow a club that represents the college to take a potentially offensive name.

A compromise should be easy: the Masculinists agree to take another name, one that doesn't align itself with an agenda that promotes inequality, and it can have its club. Not so coincidentally, this reasonable compromise has been the same one on the table practically since this whole ordeal began. But the Masculinists insist on keeping their name.


Because compromising would put an end to a supposed controversy, which would put an end to the litany of media attention, which would put an end to the private donations that will undoubtedly amount to far more than the Senate would/could ever reasonably give them. The Masculinist club is playing the game, and they're quite good at it. They know how to spin the story to make it appear as though they are being discriminated against and they know how to earn both press and money for their pursuits. It's probably one of the most complicated ways I've witnessed someone undergo to have his alcohol paid for, but I'll still give a resigned kudos.

From what I've been following, it would be dishonest for me not to acknowledge the Masculinist president as an intelligent, funny individual. I might not agree with all of his tactics, but his blog is at times amusing and the club's minutes do seem to reflect a good time being had by its members -- having fun was a pivotal part of my experience at Pitzer. I see potential for the Pitzer community to ultimately be enriched by this club's existence. However, by refusing to compromise on the name issue, the Masculinists will only alienate much of the community instead and make it more difficult

Furthermore, I respect the fact that the president took the highroad on the aforementioned Kevin & Bean episode and didn't objectify my friend on air when asked. That showed me that he was in fact better than a lot of that. Why, then, does he seek out these media venues who do often buy into a more traditional Masculinist mindset if he claims to be against such perspectives? Why seek both affirmation and funds from individuals who do hold sexist values? We don't need this little experiment to prove that these attitudes are the norm outside of the Pitzer community; hell, Pitzer prides itself on being ahead of the curve on these matters, as it should be.

But what I don't respect is a person who badmouths a college I love under false pretenses. What I don't respect is a person who acts as though he's been persecuted for wanting to engage in stereotypical male activities when there are still far more people on that campus who drink beer than are engaging in this debate with him. What I don't respect is a person who claims to support gender equality starting a debate that will undoubtedly spurn more hatred toward the feminist movement based off of misunderstandings. And more than anything, I don't respect a person who is overly stubborn.

The Masculinist's president is stubborn. Since he hasn't built the trust to be given approval to use the name, why not get the club approved under another name, then prove to the school its political stance is one that can override the existing rhetoric of the Masculinist movement and have the name changed then?

In spite of the opposition, I project that the Masculinists will win. If they employ the full resources available to them, and it appears as if they are, men have enough clout to impede any feminist rebellion -- that's just the way our society is structured. If, indeed, this result is the ultimate outcome, it will just go to show yet again why groups like the Feminist Coalition are positively necessary to achieve equality, not groups that, although fun, thrive on perpetuating stereotypes.

I hope this issue continues with discourse rather than ugliness and threats. It shouldn't be about "winning," which I'm concerned starts to become a concern for everyone involved after becoming so embroiled in the situation. There seems to be an achievable outcome of coexistence and respect, so long as the parties involve recognize this fact as well.


Fact and Fiction

My students are delivering narrative oral presentations, but I start to suspect a student is fabricating eir account.

Me: Can I interrupt you for a second? Is this real?
Student: Huh?
Me: Did your story really happen?
Student: Uh, no, I made it up.
Me: You know it's supposed to be true, right?
Student: Well, yeah, it is.
Me: How's that?
Student: I made up a true story.

That's a new one.



Cuban-American student to Asian-American student: "Shut up, Wong"
Mr. [Kevin]: "Stop being offensive!"
Cuban-American student: "What did I do?"
Mr. [Kevin]: "You called him a name that's not his just because he's Asian."
Cuban-American student: "It's from a movie."
Asian-American student: "It's from Norbit."
Cuban-American student: "You've never seen Norbit?!"
Mr. [Kevin], rolling my eyes: "Why would I see Norbit?"
Many students in unison: "Because it's funny!"
Asian-American student: "He's never seen a Chris Tucker movie either."
Cuban-American student: "You don't watch movies with black people? You're racist."
Third student: "That is racist, Mr. [Kevin]."
Mr. [Kevin], to no one in particular: "I love how not wanting to see Norbit makes me racist."

At first, I thought it was just a matter of taste, but check out this clip of Eddie Murphy in yellowface (?) from Norbit and tell me that I'm more racially problematic than this film.


Introducing The Free Design: Kites Are Fun

I've decided to start a new regular feature at this blog: Free Design Fridays. For those people not in the loop, The Free Design is a family band that originated in the 1960s. The siblings' respective vocals combined to form magnificent harmonies that only blood relation could create, or as I like to call it, symphonic incest. The Free Design's songs are pure pop, both sugary and cheesy (my two favorite groups), complete with lyrics that will not soon be forgotten.

I was first introduced to The Free Design through Cecilia who came across the band's CD in a thrift store, initially attracted to the album's cover art. This event was nothing short of fate; when Cecilia shared the album with me, I was completely smitten and demanded a copy. In turn, each person I've shared the CD with has been similarly enamored. If you don't find Free Design's songs beautiful and ridiculous, then you probably don't like music or family or wholesome fun and you should probably get out of the United States

It wasn't hard to choose which song to first introduce to this blog. "Kites Are Fun" is not only the first song I heard by The Free Design, but also the first song that The Free Design's leader, Chris Dedrick, ever wrote, as well as the band's first single and hit. Though the title, "Kites Are Fun," is obvious and innocuous, it's also, for lack of a better word, swell. Check out the song in the video below, animated by a Free Design fan.

On The Free Design's website, Chris explains the inspiration for the song. "It's a song to cheer you up," says Chris. "I wrote it on a rainy day when I was feeling kind of lonely. I was thinking about a girl whose initials were K.A.F., and out of the initials popped Kites Are Fun. It says, 'Whatever it is you like, go ahead and do your thing.'"

I like flying, flying kites.
Flying kites, flying kites.
Kites are fun.

See my kite it’s fun,
See my kite, it’s green and white
Laughing in its distant flight
All that’s between us is a little yellow string,
But we like each other more than anything
And we run along together through the field behind my house
And the little drops of rain caress her face and wash my blouse
And we’d like to be a zillion miles away from everyone
‘Cause Mom and Dad and Uncle Bill don’t realize:
Kites are fun.

I like flying, flying kites.
Flying kites, flying kites.
Kites are fun.

There are several reasons that I enjoy this song. First, the origination -- oh, to be the young lass whose initials are immortalized by "Kites Are Fun." Second, the subject matter, although fairly trivial, is treated earnestly, particularly the intensity of the harmonization that goes into the sentence "I like flying kites." Third, the giddy sound of a flute. Fourth, the lyrics that specify that in spite of the distance the little yellow string puts between the kite and the flyer, they are still quite fond of each other; it's a necessary clarification. Fifth, the fact that Mom and Dad and Uncle Bill are tyrannical and not accepting of kite flying. They just don't seem to get what it's about, to the point where the kids are willing to run away. It's as if Uncle Bill thought kite flying were equivalent to drug abuse. Then again, maybe "flying kites" is a metaphor for some illegal substance; the song might actually make sense that way.

Stream and/or download "Kites Are Fun" by The Free Design



An employee in my school district sent an email out to more than a thousand fellow employees. The subject line implored both Democrats and Republicans to read the message inside, though its contents were hardly non-partisan. First, it has the text to a speech by John McCain about how, as a veteran, ey understands the importance of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Next, the email presents the words to the Pledge, with the phrase "under God" in bolded, larger red text. Then, the email shows a picture of several people with their hands over their hearts, declaring that Barack Obama is clearly not patriotic since ey won't even place a hand over eir heart during the Pledge. To conclude, the email urges people to remember this photo on Election Day.

It's all propaganda, and old propaganda at that. This minor controversy was debunked in 2007, before this email even hit our inboxes: the photograph was taken during the singing of the National Anthem, a custom which does not dictate putting a hand over the heart. Naturally, the photograph has been appropriated as part of a smear campaign against Obama, which distorts the facts to make Obama look like a bad American. Apparently, however, most people weren't familiar with this controversy and they responded in exactly the bigoted, uninformed way I would expect from the largely conservative/religious population with whom I work. Examples of the reply-all messages include "GOD BLESS AMERICA!!!" "Thanks for showing us the truth" and "A good reminder why we should vote for a real American."

At last, a Media teacher from another school decided to bring some facts to the table, providing a link to a video of the event proving that it occurred during the Anthem, not the Pledge. Additionally, the Media teacher chastised the educators for so quickly jumping on a bandwagon to attack someone based on a photograph when we should be aware that the media has the ability to manipulate reality and be taken out of context. From there, the teacher urged everyone to question images the media presents and to verify sources before disseminating misinformation further, then reminded eir coworkers that we should be teaching our students to do the same.

I was proud to see an articulate argument put forth and figured it would put an end to the mass debate. Alas, the messages continued coming: "God bless John McCain," "I won't forget this photo," and a great argument to the Media teacher "Well if everyone else was covering their heart [sic] Obama should too!" Last I checked, the United States was founded on the principle of its people doing exactly what everyone else is doing. Conformity is patriotic, and don't you forget it.

The debate did come to an end within a few days, however, when multiple people requested that their coworkers stop cluttering their email boxes. Someone even pointed out that this dialogue was not appropriate for the workplace -- who knows why it took so long for someone to proclaim what should be obvious etiquette?

I might have sent an email to share a piece of mind, too, were I not preoccupied with keeping my right hand over my heart. I'd hate it if a photo were taken of me and construed as a moment of non-patriotism.