Anything Goes, Though It Shouldn't

There are only two reasons to attend children's theater: out of obligation or masochism. I must fit in the latter group since when Allison invited me to attend eir grade school's annual musical, I accepted. I didn't have high hopes - it would be unreasonable to expect more from preteens - but Allison told me that the director was hyping the show as professional and the best one yet. This same director also claims to have "Broadway training," so it struck me that this person was likely delusional.

We arrived at the school, but had difficulty finding our way inside. A school in the city is different than one in the suburbs in that it requires far more security; this one is enclosed in an intimidatingly spiky fence. We paced the large campus' perimeter looking for an entrance, only to find ourselves sufficiently locked out. After searching unsuccessfully in a location that could best be described as an upscale crack alley, a friendly face finally took pity upon our lost souls and snuck us through a back gate.

We were escorted to the theater by passing through backstage. Momentarily, I felt privileged to have this opportunity to see the behind the scenes action until I came face to face with a member of the cast: a ten-year-old in a costume dress shakily practicing her tap dance. Though the theater still reeked of self-importance, I fast realized this show was not going to be something worth writing home about. Blogging is another story, evidently.

The play was Anything Goes, a musical about upper class Brits and Americans on a boat in the 1930s. In other words, it was a high interest piece for Latino children. The show was so distant irrelevant to both the cast and the audience that it became a chore for everyone. The detachment from the piece was evident in the delivery of the lines. Though most of the words seemed to be correct, the awkward punctuation and inflection revealed that the kids had no idea what they were saying. Between the dated cultural references and pun-driven humor, I wouldn't blame them for this fact, however. Truthfully, I feel the same way when I have my students read Shakespeare. Sure, they (well, some of them) can read the words, but when they don't even attempt to comprehend their meaning, what's the point? It's an exercise in tradition rather than education, something I've come to recognize as a true fault of the system.

If I didn't know better, I'd have thought half of the performers were missing their hands. Amusingly, the costumes were comprised of ill-fitting adult clothing such that the sleeves covered the kids' hands. As they gestured without visible appendages, I liked to imagine that they were all amputees, which kept me giggling pretty much the entire show.

The most dramatic aspects of the play were the dramatic pauses. For up to a minute at a time, the theater was deafened with silence as an actor missed a cue or struggled to remember a line. At this rate, the play appeared as though it might drag on for four hours. Fortunately, one unskilled actor made up for lost time by reciting his lines as quickly as possible, seemingly afraid that if he didn't say it quickly, he might forget it altogether, which sometimes he did. He also was monotone and mumbled. He was a lead and he was awful. Heck, Mischa Barton could act circles around this kid. Worst of all, his character was meant to be constant comic relief, but without the necessary comic delivery, it took me a while to realize that his character's lines were remotely funny.

In addition to being situationally inappropriate, Anything Goes, it was also inappropriate for preteen students at a Catholic school. If I understood it correctly, and I can't be sure that I did, there seemed to be a lot of religious satire, which I suppose makes the whole performance even more satirical in that context. Additionally, there was a great deal of sexual innuendo. I don't quite enjoy nine-year-olds behaving friskily with one another, though I realize I'm in the minority on this issue. On some occasions, I could tell that some alterations must have been made: a line in the song where the word "hell" would have fit as the rhyme was replaced with "heck." The censorship was inconsistent, though, because they followed through with the song "I Get a Kick out of You," which unapologetically features a verse about sniffing cocaine. After the cocaine lyrics, the subsequent song "Blow, Gabriel, Blow" also carried a new meaning.

The show legitimately offended me with the young Chinese characters Ching and Ling. Their sole purpose is to allow for extraneous, stereotypical Asian jokes, particularly when the protagonists steal their oversized hats and speak in broken English in a successful attempt to disguise themselves. Unsurprisingly, the audience loved these characters, as it was the "easiest" humor to understand. Allison and I cringed and slumped in our seats.

The problem with Anything Goes, as it the case with most musicals is that between all of the song and dance numbers, there's simply no time for a plot. Nothing happens. There are two sets of love interests and by the end they swap partners, even though there's no character development for the audience to give a hoot over who ends up with whom. During "I Get a Kick out of You," after picking my jaw off the floor following the cocaine lyrics, I tapped Allison to ask who the character was singing about. It was so ambiguous, I had no idea who she was even in love with at that point.

At intermission, we contemplated leaving, but I was curious how it would end. Not because there were loose story lines, but because I was genuinely confused where the plot would go since I didn't see the point in a damn thing that happened thus far. The title "Anything Goes" is right: the writers apparently pieced together a bunch of barely cohesive songs and dialogue and passed it off as a genuine musical.

If this show indeed demonstrated "Broadway training," then people need to start studying elsewhere in order to hone their craft. Regrettably, I must strongly not recommend the St. Catherine* Catholic grade school revival of Anything Goes. Those kids truly put on a shitty show and, frankly, they should be ashamed of themselves.

This article will also appear in the New York Times Arts section this Sunday.


Something I've Been Meaning to Address

A true philanthropist, Amber has trouble saying no to charities. Any organization who mails eir a request for money is likely to receive at least a nominal donation. Amber's contributions are not thankless: in addition to positive karma, Amber also receives gifts of gratitude from the charities, most often in the form of return address labels. Over the past few years, Amber has amassed literally thousands of personalized return address stickers. They come in many colors and fonts. Some come plain, some come with clip art, and some even come adorned in glitter. The point is they keep coming, and coming, with no end in sight. No joke, if Amber were to ever mail as many letters as ey has address labels, it would require eir taking out a loan to purchase the necessary postage stamps. They would make great items to share and re-gift, the only problem being that since the labels are customized, other people can't actually use them.

Well, most people that is. Seeing as we're housemates, I've been known to help myself to Amber's massive stash. Granted, the labels do say Amber's name, but as I see it, it adds momentary intrigue as to who sent the letter on the part of my recipient. Plus, should my envelope need to be sent back, it'll wind up at the right house.

My parents were the first to call me out on this behavior. "I notice you are using Amber's address labels. Do you want us to get you your own?" I was insistent that I was not interested in having my own labels. I barely send mail, and when I do, what's the harm in using the preexisting ones rather than creating even more? My parents found my stance peculiar and amusing - given that they are so frequently confounded by my slightly offbeat actions and mentalities, I think it's fair to say that that's how they find me 90% of the time. I can picture my mother sharing this tale at eir weekly scrapbooking parties: "Now he's using his housemate's address labels. Can you imagine?"

Three weeks later, I received a small package in the mail. It thanked me for my donation to some charity and included a couple hundred address labels to reward my generosity. I didn't remember giving money to this organization, but I didn't question it much either. Besides, having return address labels with my very own name on it was hardly a bad thing.

Less than a week later, I received more labels from another charity, again thanking me. Two days later, additional stickers arrived. This pattern continued as I was greeted by the March of Dimes, National Children's Cancer Society, and Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Suddenly, after collecting forty here, a few hundred there, I went from having no address labels to owning more than a thousand. Something was fishy - what was the source of this onslaught? Who would donate to charities in my name so that I could receive address labels? Oh...

When my parents came for a Margarita Monday, I confronted them. They denied it, so I pressed harder. Obviously, they had a hand in this sticker windfall, finding my decision to forego my own labels ridiculous. My interrogation was unsuccessful, however; they seemed genuinely confused by my account and I now believe that they had nothing to do with it.

The case is still not closed, though. I will find my mysterious label benefactor and I will make em stop! I can even mail hundreds of requests if necessary. Don't think I won't.

Over time, I mercifully stopped receiving the address adhesives. Out of the hundreds of labels I've collected, I've used four, maybe five. I might need to start sending chain letters again in order to utilize them. Just when I thought the madness was done, a couple of weeks ago I received more labels from a veterans charity. Three days later, I got more labels on behalf of the injured veterans. Why was the same organization giving me so many labels? Then I checked their original envelopes: one was from the Disabled American Veterans and the other was from Paralyzed Veterans of America. Those are different organizations? As if I would give to either of them! I mean suppose I would if I knew that the veterans were in fact wounded in the line of duty, but if their injuries were sustained after their military service like in a car accident or after slipping on a banana peal, there's no way I'm paying for that shit!

You know what I need? Some Return to Sender stickers.


More Power

Recently, I mentioned how much I adored Samantha Power's commencement address at Pitzer College. At the time, I was unable to locate video or text of the speech, but now that both have become available, I'd like to share them now.

Plus, in case anyone is holding Power's "Hillary Clinton is a monster" comment against her, I invite you to give her a second chance. Hillary's recent heartless insinuation that she is staying in the presidential race in case Obama is assassinated a la Bobby Kennedy helps to at least show where Power is coming from.

The video can be viewed via Pitzer's website.

As I look back to my original post, I'm embarrassed by the ways I attempted to characterize some of the main points of her speech, especially now that I have the original text, as made available at
The Huffington Post, to compare it to. Below are two of my favorite passages:

Focus on the next thing, and take some of the pressure off finding the eventual thing. Emphasize the substance of what you will learn, not the status of what you will be called. Ask yourself, "What will I take away from this? Will I learn a new skill? A new town? A new mindset?" Put one foot in front of the other for as long as you can afford to, rather than trying to map your way to the winner's platform.
Last weekend I attended a conference in honor of a Nobel Prize winning Princeton psychologist named Danny Kahneman. Kahneman is a remarkable scholar who has done groundbreaking experiments which showed the ways in which humans are not as rational as had long been assumed. At the conference, which celebrated his retirement, lawyers, economists, and psychologists got up to present work that had been galvanized or influenced by his theories. The day was a tour de force, a monument to the kind of impact one man and his ideas can have on the world. At the end of the day Kahneman was asked what he was most likely to be remembered for. The audience hushed in anticipation. Here Kahneman would elevate one of his many theories above the rest. Posterity would record which experimental research the great Kahneman himself thought most landmark. "The one thing that I'm sure of," he said, "is that I'll be forgotten." But he was next asked the source of his nearly unrivalled professional success. Again the scholars in the room waited expectantly. This time, he gave them a response they could take home, answering, "my choice of friends."
The beauty of this is that, while much in this life is beyond our control, all of us hold the power to choose our friends. We can each be a Nobel prize winner at friendship. None of us are perfect friends always, but one way to think about friendship is in terms of carefulness. Be careful with those you love. And surround yourself with people who are careful with you.

Looking back, a lot of the same criticisms that are hurled at Senator Obama could apply to Power as well. In a way, she is relying heavily on feel-good cliches and truisms to boost morale and gain favor. As an increasing cynic over the past eight years, however, I'm pretty excited to have people I have faith in get me excited about the state of the world again. If these sentiments are indeed garbage that anyone could be saying, how come no one else is saying them?

For the first time in a long time, as far as politics go, I actually have some hope. Admittedly, that's all it is, hope, but at least I have some. As I see it, there's a chance that some positive change could arise from an Obama administration. I'm not convinced; I'm not even willing to bet on it. But I do see a chance, and that chance it so much more promising than what we've faced in the previous decade.

While we're hoping, here's hoping that Obama realigns with Power if he has the opportunity to build a cabinet.


The Paper

Now that it has reached its series finale, let me tell you about my new favorite television show, The Paper. Just when I had given up altogether on MTV "reality" programming for being trite phony shit, someone recommended The Paper to me. As a cable-less individual, I turned to watching them here at MTV.com, and I highly recommend you do the same.

While most of MTV's reality fare has devolved into a showcase for America's young, rich, and insipid, The Paper stands out in stark contrast, featuring a cast of high school seniors who serve as the editorial staff for their newspaper. Unlike most reality programming, it comes across as genuine. Sure, some of the moments appear to be re-staged for the cameras, but it doesn't sting with artificiality. Moreover, it's not about superficiality, cheating significant others, and drunken antics. Instead, the show is about the production of a student newspaper and the formation and destruction of relationships that develop around it. Rather than manufacturing drama like similar series, The Paper allows the natural drama and comedy to arise from the scenario, and it flourishes.

Perhaps most captivating is that I've never seen my own life reflected so closely on television. I say that not as Mr. Kevin the teacher (my students aren't driven overachievers that write for fun), but as Kevin the high school student about seven years ago. I, too, wrote for the school paper and over the years rose through the ranks to reach the position of editor-in-chief. I relate to the drama of power grabs, missed deadlines, and stressful last minute layout changes because I've been there. I went to a similarly upper-middle class Caucasian school where I was that nerd who attended school events for the sole purpose of reporting on them later.

The Paper's protagonist and editor-in-chief, Amanda, is largely unpopular with her peers. She's too smart, too overachieving to be well liked. Inevitably, jealousy surfaces. For all of her quirks and awkwardness, she's endearing in her underdog status, particularly as her former friends attempt to usurp her power. The other kids on the staff are witty, if not just assholes. I do actually feel bad for the other kids who never really got a chance to do much beyond serving as opposition to Amanda, the unappreciated hero. Nevertheless, the kids are real. They're ambitious, envious, immature, sarcastic, fallible, and most refreshingly of all, average looking. Even the newspaper's adult advisor, Ms. Weiss, is refreshing: they don't put Jew 'Fros like hers on television anymore.

I look back and think that my own newspaper experience could be fodder for a similar program. During my freshman year, our student newspaper became engulfed in a controversy that garnered some national media attention because of its issues associated with the First Amendment. The school administration shut down the newspaper for a while, though in the interim, a renegade crew produced an underground publication.

In time, the administration permitted the official newspaper to come back. I chose to align myself with this newspaper for a few reasons. First, I thought the "good" thing to do was to participate in the officially sanctioned publication. Second, I saw an increased chance for leadership opportunity at the less popular paper. Third, no one ever asked me to join the underground rag, so, frankly, I didn't feel cool enough. Ultimately, the two publications became rivals, with staff members looking to somehow outdo one another.

My choice of allegiance was right for me. I put a lot of work in and by my junior year, I was elected second in command, beating out a veteran staff member with seniority and a title; I'll say it: I deserved it. I was the heir apparent to the editor-in-chief position when an Amanda-type asked that I share the title with her. I reluctantly agreed, mainly because I wasn't assertive enough to say no. "Amanda" had her hand in everything at school; there probably wasn't even enough room to mention her editor-in-chief position on her college applications. Did she really need to take charge here, too? While we were friends, being friends with her wasn't always easy. The shared position led to numerous scuffles when it came to making executive decisions.

None of these incidents were life-altering theatrics, but it was real drama and real conflict resolution (or lack there of) occurring naturally out of a high stress environment. As The Paper embraces these same elements rather than trying to concoct over-the-top story lines, it flourishes. I'll never watch Laguna Beach or The Hills and their hyper-sexualized, inauthentic depictions of teenage life. Instead, I'm drawn to what the mainstream television audience would immediately and mistakenly dismiss as boring. The subtleties of real real life are fascinating -- hence The Paper is as well.


Commie Bastards

Allison and Stacy have neighbors that are Communist organizers. It's funny to think that that over the course of a few decades the term "Communist" in America has gone from the ultimate insult to just another way of describing an alternative lifestyle like "bisexual" or "vegan." Granted, in some communities, these are all four-letter words, but the Red Scare is pretty passe in the mainstream where hating Middle Easterners is all the rage.

At worst, Communists are nuisances. In my friends' apartment building, the Communists regularly hold organizational events; invariably, these meetings evolve into raucous nights of music and imbibing. Or as Stacy and Allison cleverly call such an evening, a Communist Party Party. I never really thought of Communists as partiers, but I suppose so long as everyone's having an equal amount of fun and doing the same amount of shots, it could work just fine.

I spoke to a tired Stacy on the phone today. Evidently, she was kept awake until 5 am by last night's Communist Party Party. It's highly amusing to listen to a contemporary earnestly give a disgruntled rant about those damn Communists, like ey is my grandparent in the 1950s. It's a little known fact that Senator Joseph McCarthy started stirring up shit about sympathizers after a self-identified Communist neighbor blasted Elvis tunes a bit too loudly for him to concentrate on his crossword puzzle.

Anyway, I just wanted to warn everyone about a new Communist insurgence. The Commies are infiltrating our homes and they're going to play their music TOO DAMN LOUD!


Face It

A conversation about Eric's musical idol, Elliott Smith, inevitably devolves into a discussion of his suicide. Smith stabbed himself in the heart... twice. That's... well, that's something, isn't it? Michael Michael, whose idol is Kurt Cobain, similarly deceased via self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, exchanges some competitive jabs with Eric on the topic. After Michael makes a snide comment against Smith, Eric goes for the below the belt slam.

"At least my guy still has a face."

End of conversation.


Never Tell the World

Contrary to popular opinion, Free Design is not all fun and games: It's not just kite flying and bubble blowing. Free Design is not afraid to tackle more serious social issues such as taboo relations. In fact, this subject matter is precisely the focus of the wonderfully harmonized tune "Never Tell the World."

Listen or download: The Free Design - Never Tell the World

Never Tell the World
The Free Design

Never tell the world, no, no, no.

Never tell the world, never give it reason
To mock a love like ours; never sing our song.
Keep it locked inside, keep it just between us.
Keep it secret, never confide until they all have seen us.

Never has the world complied with a love that seems to reproach it;
And every wrong-spoken word that we’ve ever heard....warns us:
We better keep our cool, our love’s too precious,
People hate a broken rule, people won’t accept us.

But someday the world might change and a love like ours might belong,
But until that day comes along...never tell.

Their love is pure, but the world is not. The first time I heard this song, I assumed it was about interracial dating. Over time, I recognized the ambiguity of the lyrics leave the circumstances of this relationship up in the air. It could be so much sexier than an interracial pairing. They could be homosexual in a time before gay marriage, or perhaps there could be a large age gap, the kind of adorable statutory rape scenario that similarly inspired Alanis Morissette to pen songs. And maybe, just maybe it's about an inter-species relationship. We'll have to look for clues of bestiality when we investigate the song "Daniel Dolphin" in the future.

Only today, however, while preparing this post did the most obvious answer strike me: incest! Duh, it's a family band. According to the band's website, sisters Sandy and Stephanie "urgently" cowrote the lyrics to this song before calling upon their brother to add some music. It is a collaboration out of inspiration and/or necessity.

With any luck, some day society will be accepting of their affection. In the meantime, love freely, Free Design.


Finds at a Christian Thrift Store

Last week, I had just received a rental car to repair the damage and found myself near the Christian thrift store where I still fondly recall the cashier's witty religious Scrabble pun. The store is called Threeway because its proceeds are split between three charities, though its title is a bit too reminiscent of a ménage à trois for a religiously operated shop.

Inside, I was immediately drawn to the Christian book section, where I discovered some amazing literature. Allow me to share some of my favorites with you:

Training Children in Godliness
Or "Everything you ever needed to know in order to indoctrinate."

He Touched Me
It shares its name with a popular Lifetime film.

How to Pray for the Release of the Holy Spirit
Forty-seven easyconvoluted steps! It's some serious prose. Even better is the photo on the back:
These are the shwanky TV Bible thumping hosts that authored the book. To be that glamorous!

Parents: Everyone Is NOT Doing It: Effectively Teaching Teenagers Abstinence
My favorite chapter is for the parents with teenagers who weren't quick enough with preventing copulation. Evidently, virginity is an attitude that can be reclaimed. For example, if you have stolen once, you aren't forever a thief, so long as you make a commitment to yourself to never steal again. Or at least not until you're married. Wait, that's probably where the analogy ends. Hmm...

If God Loves Me, Why Can't I Get My Locker Open?
The title is a great spin on "Why does God let good things happen to good people?"

Chapter titles include: God Loves You -- Pimples and All; Are You Starring on Broadway or Being Yourself?; You're Not Okay, and Neither Am I; The Bible Talks About Figs, Not Dates; Does Your Tongue Need a Prison Sentence?

Each page-long chapter follows a very precise formula:
1) Rhetorical question as an opening sentence-grabber
2) Ridiculous metaphor
3) Another ridiculous metaphor
4) Confusing blending of the aforementioned metaphors
5) Religious/morality lesson put in capital letters or italics for emphasis as a culmination

After a quick skimming, here are a few of my favorite passages:
Do you ever feel like the little kid who sings, "Nobody loves me. Everybody hates me. I'm gonna go eat worms"? If you answered "yes," join the human race.
Are you able to talk yourself into and out of almost anything? Can you think of sixty-nine good reasons for not doing your history lesson?
Watching "Roots" on TV, or studying United States history can make you hate slavery. In fact, maybe you couldn't imagine anything worse than being a slave. But did you know that millions of people are slaves today? Their master is sin and sin is a terrible master.
Do you ever feel like you're caught in quicksand, a slimey [sic] bog, a bottomless pit -- a situation you don't think you'll ever be able to get out of? Well, the Bible calls this kind of vicious circle the law of sin and death.
Marching with the high school band in a big parade can be exciting and enjoyable -- unless you're in the front row marching out of step and you're wearing the last available hat, which would have fit Humpty Dumpty, but which won't stay on your head even though it's stuffed with two newspapers.
We can enjoy God's love only if we accept the fact that He knows how to run His universe. If you're a cat lover, you know that some kittens can be lovingly petted on your lap and their purr will nearly drown out the TV set. With the same loving intentions, you can pick up another cat and it will spit and scratch and bristle. The difference is only a matter of the cats' attitudes. In the same way, you can choose to accept God's love or reject it. Are you a "purrer" or a "spitter"?

Finally, Proverbs for Graduates
At this point, inspiration struck: this book -- nay -- all of these books would make great graduation gifts! And so it was. And they were indeed admired.

Next, I went to the t-shirt section, hoping to find something laughably religious. The very first shirt I looked at was this one. It has my name! Nevermind that I have no idea what the first time to Vince's means, or why it was significant enough to make a shirt to commemorate such an event. On the one occasion I've worn it thus far, everyone asks what it means, and I have to respond that I do not know.

Finally, I found the Christian-themed shirt I wanted. Jesus was a carpenter -- he builds character more sturdily than anyone.

Before leaving the shop, this dramatic, colorful poster of an enchantress attracted my eye. How does such pagan art find its way to a Christian thrift store? Knowing it is of questionable taste, I've hung it in a central location in my living room, drawing the ire of some of my housemates. I find it beautiful.

Upon leaving the store, I searched the parking lot frantically for my car. It's not as if I don't see it since there's only three cars in the parking lot. Did someone really steal my vehicle from a Christian thrift store? Then I was struck with some divine intervention: I had just picked up my rental car, which I entirely forgot about. This car next to me was, in fact, my car. If God Loves Me, Why Am I a Moron?


Graduation Day

I graduated this past Saturday! Well, that's not entirely true, I opted not to walk in the ceremony, but technically it was my graduate school graduation.

I was harangued for my decision by some friends, but I just couldn't get motivated for numerous reasons. First, I finished my last class about ten months ago, so I'm far removed from the experience by now. Second, at the conclusion of my classes, my department had a capstone "celebration" (they can't technically call it a graduation, apparently), for which I was trashed, that was far more timely and personal of an event. Third, when we discussed graduation nearly a year ago, my friends and I were committed to not participating; it's not my fault they faltered. Fourth, participating cost almost $100, which might as well be highway robbery. Fifth, I already received my diploma back in September, so I'd only be handed a dummy certificate. Sixth, I planned to attend Pitzer's graduation on the same day and didn't want to be graduation-ed out.

To appease and support some friends, however, Jessica and I sat in the audience of the graduation. In other words, we attended our own graduation, but did not participate. If that sounds strange, I assure you it felt weirder sitting there knowing that could be us sweating in a robe for three and half hours. Honestly, I don't regret my choice; I view that graduation as just a bunch of, excuse the pun as it is the best way I have to describe it, pomp and circumstance. The whole ceremony was remarkably impersonal -- throughout the event, the audience was rudely chatting and walking around -- just as I found most of my graduate school experience. Plus, if I might confess (don't hate me, friends), Jessica and I actually snuck in for the last forty-five minutes and acted like we were there the whole time so that we didn't have to sit through the tedium.

After some brief exchanges of hugs and pleasantries, Jessica and I trotted to Pitzer for our alma mater's commencement about twenty minutes late. This class was the last one to have a significant number of people I adore, so I'm a bit sentimental about it, seeing it as the end of an era of sorts. Additionally, the intimacy and power of the words at the Pitzer graduation made it far more meaningful than the graduate school commencement. In fact, it even topped my own from the institution, for which the best I could muster was that I took off my pants during the ceremony.

I was particularly moved by the speaker, Samantha Power, a human rights activist and Pulitzer prize winner. She made news recently when, as a foreign policy adviser to Barack Obama, she was quoted for an off-the-record statement in which called Hillary Clinton "a monster." It wasn't about that incident, however; Power had been asked to speak prior to the controversy and thanked the Pitzer community for not rescinding the invitation.

Power has been a professor, a respected writer, a critical voice toward our country's lax policies on genocide, and a political player. For each bullet on her resume, I grew more and more impressed and envious -- that's the kind of career trajectory I'd like to have. Though it wasn't the thesis of her speech, Power mentioned a college graduate she recently met that confessed to wanting to be just like her and asked for what steps to follow to get to that point. As Power saw it, at no point in her life did she have a concrete plan on how to get from point A to B. In fact, she never would have guessed she'd end up at the various point Bs that occurred. Instead, she opened herself up to opportunity and took the developments as they came. As someone who is at crossroads in my own life, this advice and perspective resonated with me. I don't always have to know exactly know where I'm going to end up somewhere great. I'm open to possibilities, and hopefully from there I'll make great things happen.

Power continued that one factor in life that you can control is who you call your friends. If you surround yourself with good people, you'll have a better time and good things are bound happen. The message is slightly cheesy, but nonetheless true. I keep my sanity in life by choosing caring people to be around, and notice my quality of life definitely improves when my friends are people I respect and feel comfortable with. To the members of the graduating class of '08 who I count as true friends: thank you. Please accept some distinctly unflattering photographs of you on your big day as a token of my gratitude:

On the same day, my sibling, Alison, graduated from undergrad on the other side of the country. Her speaker was George Bush Sr. I suppose her speaker was more prestigious (a former president: la-dee-da), but I'm happier with the speaker I got to hear.

The best part of the Pitzer ceremony, however, was when Michael Michael, still using a cane, and a man four times his age, also on a cane, attempted to walk (if you can call it that) past each other from opposite directions through a narrow passage of people. Madeleine and I both had to cover our mouths with our respective programs to hide our laughter.

Following graduation, I participated in about eleven hours of partying. It was a hoot, especially during the hula hoop contest featuring more than thirty competitors who spanned at least four generations. After partaking in merriment for that long, however, some of the details are hazy. I can state for a fact that I did not pass out in a doorway like Dan did.

When you pass out in a doorway on your graduation day, that's not a drunk moment... that's a metaphor!


More Pregnancy Drama

Since I posted about my pregnant students, everyone's been asking me about the situation. On several occasions, friends have asked if I can finagle my way into a godparent position. The answer: not likely, especially after Mommy stopped speaking to me altogether.

You see, it all started when I thought it might be cute if I had the class' most intimate couple read the title roles in Romeo & Juliet, so I asked if she wanted to read the part. Mommy dearest got rude with me, saying she can't read since she's pregnant. Finding this absurd, I countered, "So what, as soon as you get pregnant you can no longer read?" "Yup!" she responded proudly and defiantly. Apparently, literature will be the new type of pregnancy test. No need to pee on a stick, just pick up a book and see whether you can still read it.

"That's not true, you don't have to read aloud, but you do have to read silently."
"I can't," she snapped. "I'm pregnant: all I can do is eat and sleep!" "If that's the case, don't bother coming."
"But I'm pregnant!" she screamed.
"Just get out of my classroom," I commanded.
"I SAID I'm fucking pregnant!"
"Get out," I repeated.
"I'M PREGNANT!" she screamed again, once more using it as a clutch.
It's my turn to scream. "GET OUT!"
She started sobbing and runs from my classroom.

For as long as I've known her, she's been rude, and it seems like she's finally found a nearly airtight excuse to justify any behavior. That said, I wasn't about to stand for blatant disrespect and disregard for education; being two months pregnant is hardly an excuse. In theory, no, I don't want to be kicking pregnant people out of my classroom. This theory was the same one my class held leading to near mutiny.

"How can you kick out a pregnant girl?" "You can't do that to her!" "Don't you even have a heart?" "What if you stressed her out and gave her a miscarriage?"

I lost all control of the class and had to push through trying to appeal to a decidedly unreceptive class (including Daddy) for another hour.

When Mommy came back the next class, I heard her tell another student how everyone in the office was nice to her and told her that since she was pregnant, she didn't have to do anything she didn't want so she's not going to give a fuck about what I tell her to do anymore. I don't know how true this claim is, but seeing as the administration has been largely unsupportive of dealing with these kids in the past, it wouldn't surprise me much if it were true.

She didn't tell me anything, however, instead giving me the silent treatment. Frankly, I prefer that to her constantly giving me lip, so I didn't make an issue of it. When I'd speak to her, she'd ask her beau if he heard anything. It was extremely childish, which I suppose isn't all that surprising, given that it's coming from a child.

By the next class, however, Mommy was at least momentarily forgetting her grudge. She had just received her first ultrasound and was sharing the photos for the first time with Daddy. Though Mommy was told it was too soon to know the gender, Daddy looked feverishly for a penis on the white blob. Mommy then shared the photos with me and asked if I even knew what an ultrasound was. Just before explaining that I've had ultrasounds before, I caught myself and realized that she would probably think I was crazy, full or shit, or a woman (all of which are synonymous, I know).

While I still fear this whole ordeal will go awry, I couldn't help but smile at the ultrasound and feel a bit warm and fuzzy about it, too. Sure, it doesn't look even remotely human yet, but tickle me Juno, I find it adorable. I'll probably keep being a bit sentimental about it until the next time the parents curse me out.


Bosco Spinning

One of my favorite things about our house's dog Bosco is the way ey plays. When ey has a toy, Bosco spins rapidly in circles, showing the toy who's boss. I can't accurately describe this motion like I could from just showing you. Fortunately, Shea filmed one such play time for your viewing pleasure:

Nothing in that video is sped up or manipulated, that's just how Bosco rolls. Isn't Bosco awesome?



Do you remember where you were when the world nearly ended, December 31, 1999? This past Wednesday, I was invited to a party with one of the best themes ever (recall the circus party?): Y2K.

If there's a better example of unfounded, international paranoia, I can't think of one. Moreover, in the face of potential global annihilation, this event was paired with raucous partying -- a bitchin' combination. In retrospect, I'm not sure how this mayhem was supposed to unfold. At the strike of midnight, society collapses -- one time zone at a time? It doesn't really add up

A mere reference to Y2K is amusing, particularly nearly a decade later. Lindsay's favorite catch phrase of late is in fact "party like it's 1999," as if to indicate that there is no better way to celebrate.

Since Priscilla and Lindsay's apartment is a short distance away, I opted to walk to the party. It was dark, so I put on a silver chain necklace to ward off any potential assailants. Plus, silver chain necklaces were all the rage circa 2000. I arrived to find Priscilla wearing a too-hot-for-words fanny pack, also standard turn-on-the-millenium attire. Sort of.

Shortly after arriving, Corey asked everyone to gather around and share our respective "hopes and fears for the new millennium" and I knew this would be a funny time. We recalled Will Smith and his egotistical approach to Y2K, dubbing it the Willennium. At some point, I accidentally bumped against a switch and turned the lights off, prompting some appropriate hysteria from the fellow party-goers who articulated fears of the apocalypse. And when Amy and clan were late to the shindig, I called and screamed "Our balls are dropping!" a dirty New Years pun that understandably got lost in translation.

As for the music, it was one ridiculous song after another, with everybody getting in the '99 spirit by riding da train. ("Come on ride da train - woo woo - da ride.")

At the stroke of midnight, we screamed "Happy New Year!" undoubtedly perplexing the neighbors. Then we rushed to check our computers -- and our Tamagotchis -- to make sure the technology we hold most dear didn't fail us. Even my beeper worked.

More importantly, the party was still going. Thank goodness, that party was Y2K compliant. We broke out the canned goods we were hoarding in case of an emergency and dined on cold golden corn nibblets.

Since I had to teach the next day, I couldn't stay and party until 2001 like I had hoped, so put my chain on and walked back home. En route, I encountered a Port-a-Potty inexplicably positioned on the side of the road, so of course I used it.



Progress? Fat Chance

As a reality television addict, I've fairly loyally followed all ten seasons cycles (it's the feminine way of measuring increments of television series) of America's Next Top Model. I didn't get into the show when it first premiered, finding the concept too insipid to support. However, a couple of cycles later, a friend insisted I give it a try since its insipidness is the precise reason it is enjoyable. I conceded; ey was right; I caught up on the cycles I missed. Like any reality program, the show is far more about embarrassing its contestants than pursuing the supposed premise of the show. Tyra Banks desperately wants to be America's Forever Top Model, and this show is eir way of maintaining the spotlight and some sort of cultural relevance (albeit entirely campy). The show will never find a model to rival Tyra's former success, nor is it trying to.

If you watch ANTM for the modeling, you're not in on the joke. The modeling is an excuse to indulge in superficiality and the humiliation of the dimwitted. Throughout college, various friends and I watched the show to laugh, criticize, and play the ANTM drinking game which involves sipping each time the word "fierce" is used. Evidently, being fierce -- whatever that means -- is far more important in the world of modeling than being attractive. One friend who used to watch, Raumene, gave up on the show after realizing it contradicted with eir values too much. I respected that, but couldn't bring myself to do the same, since it was so much fun.

Although I more or less enjoy the program, I do also wish it would go away. While I can trust myself to examine with a critical eye, there's a whole wealth of people, particularly teenagers, I reckon, developing body image issues and taking its superficial ideals to heart. Between the blatant hypocrisy, cruelty, and product placement, the modeling industry is certainly nothing to forego your education for.

On Wednesday evening, the cycle finale awarded its first "plus-size" winner. In the modeling world, plus-size does not mean "fat," mind you, but rather "not toothpick thin." In the past, the show has featured plus-size models, who though beautiful, never stood a legitimate chance. Understand, this wasn't Tyra's fault; instead, the fashion profession just wasn't "ready." Apparently, it wasn't ready until the tabloids called Tyra out on eir cellulite. Now, Tyra is pro-fat and about embracing all body types, even though there are early audio snippets that glaringly contradict this sentiment.

The winner, Whitney, is indeed pretty and all, but it felt extremely contrived. Though the program generally goes out of its way to edit its champion in a positive light, Whitney is consistently portrayed as a snotty, condescending bitch. Furthermore, eir modeling skills were questioned each and every episode, being placed on the brink of elimination four times, a record for an eventual winner. If the show wanted to convince the audience that it had finally discovered a model who could break the barriers (I swear that's not a fat joke), it could have done a much better job of it.

Momentarily, I was fooled. Even though the runner-up was exceedingly deserving, I bought into how progressive it was to select a curvy winner instead. Finally, ANTM had dropped its superficiality!

That high concluded quickly. It's still America's Next Top Model, the most shallow, ridiculous program on television.
(Note: she's not even fat. Sure she's not quite a twig, but most American women would kill to look like Whitney.) Validating the selection as forward-thinking would be giving the show credit it doesn't merit. It's hardly worthwhile to commend a media entity for pushing its self-imposed restricted limitations when everything else all about it is backwards.

Congratulations, ANTM, even when you're trying to be progressive, you're still as irrelevant as ever.


Detective Kevin

Mysteriously, a series of ten tally marks suddenly appeared on our living room floor.  Neither I nor my housemates could explain how they got there.  We tried to clean it, but even after extensive scrubbing with bleaches and chemicals, the tally marks, though fainter than before, persisted.  The confusion also persisted: Who so disrespectfully put tally marks on our floor?  Why?  While my housemates and I watched a movie one night, my focus was not on the film as much as the etchings on the floor.  Truthfully, I was frightened by them, because I thought each mark had some sort of significance.  Since it was a week after the robbery incident at my home, I worried that it might be the calling card of a robber; perhaps the number signifies the amount of times an intruder has been in our home or the number of stolen items.  Midway through the film, I confessed that if the number were to ever increase, I would freak out.
I shared my theory with my housemates and spooked them out a little bit, too.  Katy believed the tally marks to be the work of one of our drunken friends while keeping score during a board game.  Michael Michael immediately countered that this scenario wasn’t remotely plausible; instead, ey believed that the permanent marker vandalism was the result of a ghost.  (No really, ey sincerely thought that – it might be a ghost, but it couldn’t possibly be a friend scrawling on the floor.  Go figure.)
At the conclusion of the film, I continued pondering the tally marks.  I stood over it and stared at length.  Searching my mind, I tried to recall an occasion when tally marks held some significance; I had an inkling that I had seen some recently. Finally, I had an epiphany: that night at the bar! We wrote on our hands!

It started with a childhood throw-back of inducting unwitting people into the "PEN 15" club. As the juvenile game dictates - you can only be in the club if you have PEN15 written on your hand, at which point you realize that PEN15 looks a lot like ::snicker snicker:: the word penis! Ever the contrarian, Jocelyn penned vagina on eir hand.

Allison also inked something on eir hands, though the flash obscures the evidence. Specifically, Allison was tallying the number of beers ey drank on the back of eir hand to keep score in a consumption competition against Michael Michael. In fact, Allison had drank ten beers at the bar -- the same number that appeared on our floor.

Now I had my prime suspect, but how do tally marks on Allison's hands translate into vandalism on our floor? It took a moment to consider, yet I was able to place Allison at the scene of the crime. After the boisterous action at the bar, we reconvened at my house, where Allison played fetch with Darby while lounging on the floor, rolling the ball for several minutes before, without warning, passing out. Vividly, I can still picture a discernibly sad Darby repeatedly nudge the ball into Allison's body in an effort to wake eir back up in order to continue playing. Allison remained asleep on that floor for four hours, during which time I speculate ey sweat, causing the ink to bleed and transfer off eir hand and onto the floor.

I shared my deduction with my housemates and there was instant rejoicing. Amber coined my latest nickname "Detective Kevin." Michael Michael declared that ey had never been as impressed with me as ey was in that moment, which I suppose was meant to be a compliment. I certainly do feel accomplished and am prepared to offer up my services to others. If you have a crime that needs solving, I am officially for hire. There is no crime too small -- and I mean excessively small as that seems to be my specialty.


Daft Punk

I have a friend who has made three CD purchases in the past several months after hearing and liking a song used in an iPod advertisement. I'd question eir susceptibility, but this person still doesn't own an iPod, so it's not utter conformity at any rate.

Who am I to judge, anyway? My musical tastes have been influenced by television advertisements, too. I still recall being so enamored with the following Gap commercial that I had to download it so I could watch it at whim.

Though I was previously familiar with the dance/electronica band Daft Punk, I didn't purchase their music until falling for what is still my favorite Daft Punk song, "Digital Love." Nearly a decade after that commercial originally aired, I'm still enjoying it. It's not selling out when it's cool, by the way.

Daft Punk - Digital Love

Evidently, Daft Punk music is the gift that keeps on giving. In other words, fun begets fun. Last week, Michael Michael discovered the following Daft Punk inspired viral videos set to the tune of "Harder Better Faster Stronger," delighting everyone who watches. They genuinely, thoroughly impress me.

If you're the impatient type, it doesn't actually get started until forty-five seconds in and not until about half way through when the song goes into full speed and the gals show what they're really capable of.

Now, what if you wanted to watch a video with a similar concept, but instead of having underwear-clad women with boxes over their heads, the dance was completed solely on someone's hands? Well then, I'd offer you this video:

I want to be that cool.


The Margarita Monday that Wasn't Supposed to Happen

Every Monday is a Mexican-American holiday for me because I celebrate Margarita Monday on a weekly basis. However, this past Monday, it was a Mexican-American holiday for everyone: Cinco de Mayo. Our gang has been excited for weeks about a fortuitous Cinco de Mayo Margarita Monday. We planned to drink margaritas like we've never drank them before -- and that's saying something. Alas, our favorite bartender informed us the week prior that the $2 drink special would not be in effect on May 5th because of the holiday, which immediately turned off most people. Who wants to pay $7 for a drink that usually costs $2?

Consequently, some regular members began to devise alternative plans: a pool party with margaritas. It sounded fun and I said I was game, but wasn't sure whether everyone would get on board with the rival evening. A small contingency of MM-ers felt we should continue supporting the establishment since they hook us up so often, plus, it was a holiday. I agreed with the arguments on both sides, but figured I would just go with the majority and head to the pool party.

Since the rival plans were sort of last minute and not concrete, it wasn't clear whether it was actually happening. Numerous MMers called and texted each other in an attempt to definitively make the plans; I refused to make the final call since, as I saw it, it wasn't mine to make. In the meantime, a thirsty and festive Michael Michael asked me to go to the usual Margarita Mondays. Because my plans were uncertain, I put em off initially, until ey talked me into just going until the plans were solid and then leave from there if necessary. It made sense, plus, if things worked out, I'd get to be at both events that night, which would be a great compromise.

I've never seen the restaurant so crowded. Gringos from far and wide came to celebrate Mexican culture (or just get drunk, I suppose) on a day our country designates it appropriate to do so; everyone was gorging on expensive margaritas as well as tacos. For the first hour, I continued to receive calls about the hypothetical Margarita Pool Bash, though I could rarely hear them over the sound of a loud, live mariachi band.

Because of drinks' price, I made sure to limit my margarita intake. Furthermore, I kept assuming that any given point, I would be leaving for wetter pastures at another margarita event. Although this other event never happened, most members still didn't come to full-priced Margarita Monday either. Nevertheless, a solid crew of Melissa, Spencer, Eric, Lisa, Lena, Greg, Michael Michael, and me still had a good time.

What we lacked in numbers, we made up for in rowdiness. There was shouting, cheers-ing, cigarette thievery, and biting. Yup, angry about who knows what, Lena bit Michael Michael's arm so hard, ey still had the mark the next day, though it was hardly eir worst injury. (Foreshadowing)

While most people were inside buying drinks, I made a brief trip to the restroom. As I came back, I discovered that only Lena and Eric were sitting at the table that had been entirely cleared of its contents, its former inhabitants all strewn in a mess on the floor. I asked why everything was dumped off the table, and the response was "It ain't a thing." Fortunately, it's true, it wasn't a major thing: because of the full house, for the first time ever the margaritas were served in disposable plastic cups, so the only real non-edible casualty was a shot glass, the pieces of which I buried in the soil of a potted plant in order to hide the evidence.

The real adventure occurred in the parking lot on our exit from Margarita Mondays. Out of nowhere, Michael Michael challenged me to a race to Boo Boo, eir car which has had more accidents than a toddler undergoing toilet training. Up for the challenge, I accepted, and after Lisa counted to three, off we were. Being less intoxicated, I had a better start and pulled off to an early lead. As we were close to the car, I felt Michael Michael closing in on me, so I decided to take a final running dive in my quest for victory. I reached out for the car and fell a couple of feet short, as well as fell horizontally to the ground, face-planting. Fortunately, I put my hands down a split second before my face hit, so my hands suffered the brunt of the collusion rather than my head. In retrospect, my stupid accident reminds me of the German kid who tries to jump into the pool far too early, the video of which I have posted previously.

Michael Michael wasn't as lucky as me to fall. Instead, ey charged head first at the car. Technically ey "won," a distinction I'm proud to award to em, but it's hard to feel like a winner when you charge full speed head first into the car. Since both accidents happened nearly simultaneously, I didn't quite see Michael Michael's collision as much as I heard it. Ey crumpled to the floor and wailed that ey was in pain and couldn't breath. It sounded horrible, it looked horrible, I knew it was bad. My hands were gross, bloodier than they've ever been, and my knee was busted up, too, but in this circumstance, I had to prioritize the injuries at hand (kind of like people must have to do after an earthquake) and ignore my own wounds to help a friend.

Michael Michael wasn't able to communicate well and what ey did was fairly nonsensical, so I was pretty certain ey suffered a concussion. Lisa, Lena, and I brought em home, drugged em up, and dressed Michael's wounds -- eir knee was a bloody mess and ey could not move eir back without wincing like mad. Once that was settled, Lisa assisted me with my hands which were also gross, as well as my knee. My nice work pants were torn and soaked in blood and I was obviously upset about that on top of everything else. It was my job to keep Michael Michael awake (a difficult task if you know em) because you're not supposed to let someone with a concussion sleep. Eventually, I went to bed and got maybe two hours of sleep before I awoke to the sound of Amber puking (unrelated to margaritas as ey didn't have any) and took care of eir until it was time for work where I showed up with embarrassingly bandaged hands. I was candid about the incident, minus the drinking aspect, which the kids found, rightfully, comical. A few wanted to see it in the flesh, so I unwrapped it and gave them a peek, and they found it gross. It wasn't until today practically that the wounds fully scabbed over and I could grip things without feeling a sting. Damn race did a real number on me.

Not as much of a number as on Michael Michael, however. Ey remembers hitting Boo Boo with eir head, but nothing after that. Michael's back is still screwed up, leaving em to barely hobble to get around, so ey is using a cane to maneuver a little better. Fortunately, the doctor says that there was no spinal damage, only severe muscle tension, so ey'll just have to wait out the pain until it feels better.

It was the most dangerous Margarita Monday ever. And to think I was this close to not even going.



Look at that cute animal. It's called an opossum, not a possum. Don't get it twisted.

It intrigues me how Americans have almost uniformly dropped the first letter O from the opossum's name. I'm sure that often it is the result of ignorance rather than the disrespect it comes across as. Last I checked, we don't call snakes "nakes" or tigers "igers." That would be rude, and they'd probably kill us for it. Just because opossums don't pose us a serious physical threat doesn't mean we have the right to belittle them with cutesy nicknames. One of these days, they might get their paws on some weapons and then we'll be wishing we hadn't tried to save a few precious seconds by abbreviating their name.

I have a couple of conspiracy theories at play, the first being the Alphabet Theory. In an attempt to marganilize the opossums and advance their own status, certain members of the animal kingdom might have begun a covert "possum" pronunciation campaign, hence pushing opossums further back alphabetically. Since it's a small drop from "Op-" to "Po-", there's only a short list of species that stand to gain from this scheme. The main suspects are the ostriches, otters, and pigeons -- perhaps there's even a coalition between several of them. If I had to pick a ringleader, it'd be the pandas -- they have an endearing exterior, but are surprisingly aggressive. One animal I feel safe eliminating from suspicion is the orangutan since it'll be dead soon anyway.

My second and more probable conspiracy theory is the Shamrock Theory. It's no secret that there is a lingering Anti-Irish sentiment in this country. It may no longer be the 19th century, but there are still plenty of jobs for which people like the O'Donnells, O'Haras, O'Learys, O'Malleys, and O'Neils "need not apply." Alas, the O'Possums suffer a similar fate. Ashamed of the opossums' Irish heritage, people have conciously stripped the "O'" from their name in an ethnic affront. Refuse to condone linguistic racism: put the O' back in opossum.


Or We Can Get Dylan

A month ago, Katy found a note on the beach. It's written lightly in pencil on special lined paper for first graders, so you may have to click on the photo to adequately read the words.

or a transcription:
Ryan #14

Geuss what? Well, you know about how Cole is all mean to me, right? Well, we'll get him back, TODAY!! If you want too or we can get Dylan!


Cute -- and somewhat creepy. If you mess with Ryan and Courtney, expect prompt revenge against you -- or someone else.


Pregnant Students

I have an overly amorous couple in one of my classes. They are unflaggingly in love like only a high school couple could be. Because of them, I have had to institute new rules about touching and kissing in the classroom. On some occasions, they have refused to part; one day I couldn't get them to quit their tongue wrestling, so I kicked them out of my classroom, where they were moved to the in-school suspension room together where I'm told the problem persisted. Also, since they're partners in crime (and in love, awww), they have been outright suspended together twice, allowing them an opportunity to stay home alone together.

In case you can't tell where this story is going... she's pregnant! They're 14-years-old and couldn't be happier. A baby is exciting when you're in love! Fortunately, the child wasn't conceived in my classroom, but I imagine if I had ever had my back turned to them for long enough, it would be a strong possibility.

I first heard of the pregnancy from other students, so I wisely brushed it off as a rumor. Then I recalled an incident in class where the girl had lifted her shirt to reveal her belly to her boyfriend, which he rubbed. I saw this happening out of the corner of my eye, but having learned to choose my battles and that commenting would only alert my other students to this occurrence, I elected to ignore it. "Are you looking at my roll?" she asked me, gesturing to her stomach. "Of course I'm not," I said, adding, "You don't have a roll." Sure she had some pudge, but I was insistent that it did not exist, unwilling to promote an unhealthy body image. Little did I know it was an emerging sign of pregnancy.

Thankfuly, I never had to ask them about whether this was true. Returning from yet another paired suspension, the duo officially confirmed the rumor to the class because they are oh-so proud! At least I can take solace in knowing most of my students call them stupid behind their backs.

The mother-to-be is smart. Were she to apply herself, she could accomplish a lot, but instead settles for Ds. On the other hand, the father-to-be is, diplomatically, decidedly not bright. Some might call him an idiot, I just call him my student. I probably don't need to convince many of you of this fact, but they are not ready to be parents, despite their assertions to the contrary. Not only are they obviously unemployed, but they aren't even on track to graduate and obtain themselves a job one day. For months, the impending mommy has an outstanding $5 liberry fine that she insists she can't pay, so it's unclear how this child, this child of a child actually, will be financially cared for.

Although I have a wealth of snide comments I could make on the topic, I ever-so-professioanlly resist the urge to play them during class. I hear the gossip and stay mum. The boy moved in with the girl's family, and when that quickly failed, she moved in with his family instead. Now, they get to sleep in the same bed, since, you know, she's pregnant already.

She missed my class last week because she was having her first pre-natal doctor visit. She called her beau during my class to give him an update and I was conflicted as to whether to stop the conversation since it was interrupting my class, but I didn't want to come across as an unreasonable asshole. Besides, I want to stay on their good side so they'll name the baby after me. I'm going to have to push hard: he wants to name it after himself. At the rate they're reproducing, there could be four generations of people with his exact name in the time it takes most people to produce a junior.

Daddy was insufferable during this period without his woman girl. He was obnoxious and couldn't sit still, throwing books off my shelf out of what he called boredom. I encouraged him to hug his backpack since he didn't have his usual friend to snuggle with today, to which he complied. I playfully reminded him that the no kissing rule was still in effect, and while some of the other students laughed, he didn't get it. I mean, even by his own girlfriend's admission, he is slow. Later in the period, he loudly played with a miniature skateboard toy that people manuever with their fingers. I gave him a couple of warnings to cut it out, but eventually I had to confiscate it. I had to take away a toy from him, as if he's still a kid. Oh wait, because he is still a kid. As I took it away, I told him that his skateboarding was driving me nuts. He responded, "Yeah, well, you're busting a nut." I gave him an are-you-kidding? look and asked, "Are you going to raise a kid with that mouth?" I know I said I wasn't going to comment, but I should get at least one good slam, right?

Someone asked Daddy if he wanted a boy or a girl. "Duh, a boy," was his response. "What if it's a girl?" someone asked. "I don't want a girl, that's gay." Now, I'm legitimately afraid for the unborn child, especially if its genetalia proves unpreferable to the father. Most would consider the act of reproduction to be a predominately heterosexual act, regardless of the ultimate gender, but Daddy believes otherwise. Attention all fathers with daughters: you're gay. Maybe you've fooled yourself into believing you're straight since you've been in a longterm, sexually active relationship with a woman, but that girl you've created is a sure sign of your closeted homosexuality. My student, however, is a man, so you can be sure he's going to have a boy. And only have boys from here on out. Actually, only wanting boys is a mentality that strikes me as particularly gay, but whatever.

So, yeah, my babies are having babies. I've been so frustrated with what I see in this generation, but I've held out some hope that one day they'll grow up and learn to be better people. But if they're currently breeding the next generation and inevitably passing on their frightning knowledge (or lack there of) and opinions to them, as well, then we're thoroughly fucked. Although we're getting fucked, hopefully, we'll at least know to use protection.

I am sort of upset that I won't still be working at the school when the baby is born. Perhaps I'll send a card, especially if it's a girl: "Congratulations -- You're Gay!"


I'm From Barcelona

Formerly, I wasn’t crazy about live music.  Shelling out large amounts of money to witness people sing songs I hear for free on the radio didn’t prove too satisfying.  Then, I became more discretionary in my live music attendance.  After seeing the the Polyphonic Spree, I altered my perspective, realizing that live music could be an amazing experience when it’s an actual show.  While seeing a band stand and play their songs can be dull, seeing a band full on performing is captivating.
Having developed an affinity for large, feel-good bands like the Polyphonic Spree , I was instantly drawn to a similar act, I’m From Barcelona, whose music is cheerful goofy, and danceable.  I’m From Barcelona is a 29-member band from - no, not Barcelona, don’t be so literal - Sweden.  I first learned of the band from the video for its first single, “We’re From Barcelona,” which I previously shared with you, and will do again now:

I didn’t have to see the band live to know I’d find it fantastic.  It’s not easy to take 29 people on the road, particularly all the way to the United States, so I jumped at the chance to see them in concert.  Last year, I shared the song “Treehouse” with Amy and ey liked it so much, ey made it eir cell phone ring tone, so Amy was the perfect buddy with which to attend.  Cutting our Margarita Monday a bit short (an act I’ll do only in extreme circumstances), Amy and I drove into Los Angeles to the El Rey for the festivities.
Oh golly, they’re great.  I’d probably describe their music as ridiculous before phenomenal, but I’ll be darned if they weren’t root-tootin’ entertaining from start to finish.  We jumped, clapped furiously to the beat, sang nonsense lyrics, and threw balloons and confetti incessantly.  If I’m From Barcelona’s good humor wasn’t evident already in the over-the-top lyrics, it would be apparent from their welcoming nature toward being affectionately pummeled with balloons throughout the set.  Only nineteen people were on stage, an understandable downsizing for traveling to another continent, especially considering a lot of the people in the band are unapologetically just singers/shakers of percussion instruments.  That’s not to say their contribution is meaningless, however; on the contrary, their spunk is contagious and adds immensely to the atmosphere.

It brought Amy and I great joy to see they had a dance for building a treehouse. The band might have reached its goofiest while poignantly singing the refrain to "Chickenpox": "You can't have it once you had it." So true, yet so peculiar.
The band was immensely fun to look at, too.  How can it get boring when you have that many people to alternately glance toward?  Plus, they all performed with a laughable intensity, even though they clearly don’t take themselves too seriously.  More than anything, I was obsessed with the band’s personal style.  Each member donned peculiar, yet fun clothing.  The fashion was bright, clashing, and daring.  One woman wore a hideous (read: delightful!) pantsuit and one man bopped around in a full-bodied banana costume the entire time.
Naturally, I was crushin’ like crazy.  Between their clothing, grins, and giddy attitudes, I found myself attracted to the Swedish sect.  I’m particularly enamored with the identical öhnell sisters: oversized glasses, facial piercings, and awkward haircuts?  Check, check, and check!

Also crush-worthy is Mattias Johansson, also known as “The Charmer” in the band.  It’s no wonder how he earned the nickname since he’s constantly wearing a contagiously stupid smirk.

How do I learn to smile like that? I was digging his red pants which look remarkably similar to a pair I own, when suddenly he turned around while dancing and I noticed something spectacular: a mullet!  Oh sweet heaven!

I'm From Barcelona - Barcelona Loves You
I'm From Barcelona - We're From Barcelona
I'm From Barcelona - Treehouse


My Brother Woody

Ohmguh, it's Free Design Friday. This week's song is "My Brother Woody," which has never been one of my favorites, but after reading the lyrics, its stock has certainly risen significantly.

Play or download: The Free Design - My Brother Woody

First, let's get some background on the song from Free Design's official website: "Chris' brother Woody is eight years old. His real name is Jason, but he and a second cousin who lives across the street have a group; and for "professional" purposes they call themselves Wo and Woody - The Woodpeckers ("We Live In The Sea"). Woody plays ukelele and, Chris says, plays all the right changes. In this song, Chris and Sandy and Bruce have caught the lively feeling of a little boy busy with his fun. Ralph Casale and Jay Berliner set the introduction on guitar, while Bill Lavorgna's drumming helps to build the piece as it becomes livelier and livelier."

Oh, it gets livelier all right. If it were any livelier, it'd be a living, breathing creature and not just the greatest song about a sibling ever. It's nice to see that even the younger siblings not a part of the family band have musical talent they are pursuing.

I'd contend, though, that the family is not really celebrating the "lively feeling of a little boy busy with his fun," but instead pointing out what a dumbass he is. Let's examine the lyrics:
My Brother Woody - Free Design

Hikin’ a football between his knees
runnin’ to catch a pass
Climbing up the friendly trees,
fallin’ in the grass
My brother Woody.

Singin’ a song and playin’ guitar
laughin’ at every goof
Tryin’ to touch the morning star
from the toolshed roof
My brother Woody

Don’t go away and leave the lights on
Curtain strings don’t get yanked
Gotta watch out for Mom "the Bomb"
Be good enough not to get spanked
My brother Woody

In the first verse, their brother Woody is a clumsy dumbass that falls out of the trees. In the second first, their brother Woody is a naive dumbass that attempts to touch something light years away. In the third verse, their brother Woody is an inconsiderate dumbass with no concern for the environment or the upkeep of the house.

Notably, this is Free Design's second reference to their mother, the previous one being when she ignorantly denied the appeal of flying kites, both of which add up to a portrayal of an uncaring, aggressive stage mom. Don't fool yourself, the phrase "the bomb" didn't mean "totally cool" until the 90s, so apparently the kids envision their parent as a brutal spanking machine. Sigh, when even family bands have problems, how can there be hope for the rest of us? I suspect alcoholism is at play, but we'll let future editions of Free Design Fridays more fully illuminate this issue.


Scrabble Babble

I'm a modest person. The most modest person you'll meet, actually. I'm more modest than anyone else in the world, I reckon. Kidding, obviously. I feel that since I'm plenty self-deprecating in this blog (for example: getting lost at the right address, but in the wrong city, looking like a tool at a party, running into a screen door, losing my pants at the Olive Garden), I'm allowed to brag occasionally.

In the past few years, I have become a Scrabble aficionado. On and off, I play online against strangers, and while I win more than I lose, I do regularly get my ass handed to me. Several months ago, Facebook introduced its own version of Scrabble, called Scrabulous, to the fold. Rather than playing out the game all at once, users can play one turn at a time at their leisure until their opponent had completed eir subsequent turn; after a couple of weeks of this slow-paced back-and-forth action, the game is finally completed. I've enjoyed playing this game with my friends around the world, and, given my excessive practice at the competition, I won each of the twenty-something games I played.

One day a few weeks ago, I logged onto Facebook and checked Scrabulous to make my latest move and discovered that I had been challenged to seven new games by strangers. Previously, I had never been challenged to even one game by a stranger and suddenly in the span of several hours, I had seven new games. I wasn't sure why I was being challenged, but didn't think much of it. Only a few hours later, I checked back to start playing the games and found that I now had ten additional challenges from strangers. Thoroughly confused, I began investigating the Scrabulous page to see if there was some telltale information that I was missing. Clicking on the global stats page, I found what was the likely source: I was ranked as the number two player on Scrabulous.

Hot! Out of about three and a half million people who play Scrabulous, I was ranked #2. It was an exciting achievement, but a definite inflation of my actual skills. Part of the reason I was ranked so highly was that I was undefeated, and with all due respect to my friends, I can't honestly say I took on a top contender to truly earn that distinction. Furthermore, I was currently playing a game against Anna in which she was creaming me by nearly 200 points. (Anna and I play a lot of Scrabble: when the time changed twice in a weekend, while watching the awesomely bad film Troll 2, and before a Polyphonic Spree show.) Since Anna traveled to South America, our game all but ground to a halt, but if we were to have finished it sooner, I would have never won the distinction.

Upon realizing of my honor, I realized that I faced two choices: I could accept the games and risk putting my ranking in significant jeopardy, or I could chicken out and deny them all in an act of preservation. Since there's no glory or honor in dodging a Scrabble challenge, I accepted them all, gradually playing more than thirty-something games simultaneously.

There was plenty of formidable opposition. A couple of people even started the game with unheard of 100+ point words. Unfortunately, some of the best players were also ridiculously arrogant, taunting me in what should have been a friendly game. I never claimed, as they stated, that I was the best Scrabble player: the Scrabulous site declared that for me. I contacted Anna to make sure she'd speedily finish our game so that I lost my first game to her and not some asshole who would smugly berate me after depriving me of my ranking.

Over time, I lost five games, and my moment in the spotlight as a Scrabble champion came to a surely permanent conclusion. Still, it was fun being at the top while it lasted.

In the meantime, we're grooming a bespectacled Bosco to be the next Scrabble champ:

Download and/or stream:
The Cardigans - My Favorite Game
The Polyphonic Spree - The Championship