Wednesday, May 31, 2006
favorite albums: may
As you may or may not recall, last month I posted about my favorite albums so far of 2006. Some of you may have chuckled at my overenthusiasm to put a bow on the year and be done with it already, but I view it more as making up for 4 months of lost music-talking, list-making time. I'm thinking about making this a monthly thing; let's see how long I stick with it until either a) the funds run out, or b) I lose interest like a raccoon who's got her eye on some other shiny thing. So, whatever, here's my May faves:

#1: "You in Reverse" - Built to Spill
Favorite Track: "Liar" (although it changes with each listen)
Admittedly, I'm not one for long jams, so each time I started listening to this album I tended to get hung up in the 10 minute-long first track, but I was sold from track #2 on. The whole album (even the jammy parts) is excellent and highly recommended, especially for when you're punishing your pecs on the weight machines at the gym.

#2: "Gulag Orkestar" - Beirut
Favorite Track: Umm, not that kind of album.
I have an extraordinarily difficult time explaining why I like this album so much, and each time it comes out completely convoluted and I end up sounding absurd. It sounds like something my imaginary Russian grandfather would listen to while eating some borsch after a long day working in the Gulags - appetizing, eh? (There's that convoluted absurdity again.) It makes no sense that I like this album so much, but it's on endless repeat in my car. Truly, listening to one song in isolation won't give you the same feel, so if you decide to take a chance on it be warned that this really is an album that must be listened to in its entirety to be fully appreciated.

#3: "The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living" - The Streets
Favorite Track: "The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living"
Although I wouldn't say that every song on this album is a strong one - far from it really - the ones that are strong are completely addictive. This album hasn't taught me anything I didn't already know about The Streets - half of the songs sound discordant and a bit grating to me and the other half are crazy catchy - but it's still been playing an awful lot on my fancy new i-pod, so there must be something to it.

There there it is, May in a nutshell. Suggestions for June listens?

Tuesday, May 30, 2006
hot. so, so hot.
Remember back to last winter when the temps hit below zero, you had to scrape an inch-thick layer of frost off your windshield before driving anywhere and it was so cold the snot in your nostrils would freeze instantly upon entering the frigid air? Yeah I don't either - actually I seem to remember skipping around in a spring coat in January at one point last winter. Nonetheless - really? This is what I was waiting for all winter? Sitting on my sofa at 9 o'clock at night while sweat dripped down my back knowing full well that sleep will be impossible because it's so damn hot? Silly, silly whinny January self. This sucks. Don't pine for it ever again.

It boggles my mind that it's this hot and it's not even June yet. Until the temps go back to a more sane 80 degrees, here's a list of activities I'm swearing off on:

1. Working out. I'd like to (I think), but the thought of willingly raising my own body temperature more than its current level sounds like the definition of insanity.

2. Talking on my cell phone. I've never been one to enjoy talking on the phone, so this is really just an excuse to give up something that's more of an obligation than a joy (of course not when YOU call. When YOU call, I love talking on the phone!). But it's so hot that the act of holding my phone up to my face makes it feel like the tiny hairs are being burned off my cheek, and that ain't right.

3. Sitting on my sofa. I love my overstuffed sofa, but it retains heat like a pregnant woman retains water. Ugh.

4. Holding my laptop on my lap. I think there are actually 3rd degree burns on the tops of my legs from trying to do this seemingly safe activity earlier today. 3rd degree burns!

5. Laundry. Unlike sitting on my sofa this one won't be too hard to give up, but anyone who's entered my laundry closet can attest to the fact that I seem to have a portal to the bowels of hell adjacent to my dining room. Right now I can't even open those inferno doors, forget about turning on a giant, white, heat-producing box.

So I suppose I'll be a sweaty, fat, incommunicado chick who crawls around on the floor in the same pit-stained close that she's worn all summer until the heat breaks. Not too different from Chloe Sevigny, no?

Let's you and I both keep our fingers crossed the heat breaks soon.

Monday, May 29, 2006
everyone i know has a myspace page but me (and why i'm okay with that)
I admit, I have a history of jumping on bandwagons. (Mall hair? Check. Radiohead? Check. Baked Potato Chips? Check. Pilates? Check. Reality television? Check. Blog? Check.) I'm the first to admit that if a bunch of people who I like and respect are doing something, I'll probably be doing it too. But, and perhaps it's my age, there is one trend that I can't get behind - MySpace. And please, I really mean no harm or offense to the myriad people who have MySpace pages. Having a MySpace page won't improve or lower your stock in my eyes and I certainly understand why people are signing up for them faster than Dubya can jump to a false conclusion - it's rather nice to be able to type in the name of a long-lost friend or enemy and be able to see what they're up to and it's kind of cool that I can have The Decemberists and Voxtrot listed on my page as being friends of mine. 75 million people currently have MySpace accounts, but for some very good reasons I will never be one of them, and here's why:

1. it makes me feel old, and i'm too young to feel old.
It's no longer surprising to me that teenagers no longer find me cool. I mentioned Pulp Fiction the other day in class and was greeted with blank faces and crickets and, although I think that I'm fairly well in touch with current music, most teenagers think that my taste in music "sucks." After perusing a few dozen of my students' pages and reading their profiles it really hit it home to me that, although I swore at age 16 that I would never lose touch with popular culture, I apparently have. I haven't heard of most of the bands that my kids are listening to, I hate most of the movies they love, and their lingo is often lost on me. Someone pass me another Pabst Blue Ribbon, turn up the Air Supply and hand me my walker.

2. i love my students but please, some distance.
Because I'm old, I only first heard about MySpace last fall when an article about it appeared in the school newspaper where I teach. Apparently, about 85% of the students at my school have MySpace pages and, upon investigating a few of them first-hand, they all make me blush. Everyone's posing provocatively in a bathing suit or talking about how much they drank last weekend and how awesome that was. If it's that easy for me to find them, that means it's that easy for them to find me. I hate running into students at the grocery store and in the underwear section of Target so much that I deliberately bought a house 25 miles away from where I work to avoid intersections between my work self and my home self. I'm paranoid enough that some student or administrator might stubble upon my blog - I don't need to add to the list of things I want to keep out of my professional life.

3. it can only hurt my already tenuous self-esteem.
From what I understand, a person's MySpace profile page is the only part that can be viewed by the public; if someone wants to view your blog he or she has to be accepted as one of your "friends." The number of friends you have is listed on your homepage, and I really don't need my webpage to remind me that I only have five friends. I have my little brother for that.

4. i've managed to get through 28 years of my life without being stalked or sexually molested and i'd like to maintain that winning streak.
'nuff said.

So, even though it might be nice to reconnect with some of my long-lost friends from elementary school, for these reasons this is one woman who you will never be able to network with on MySpace. It's probably for the best; I'd most likely choose Foreigner's "I Want to Know What Love is" for the song that gets replayed ad nauseam on my profile page and really, who needs that?

Friday, May 26, 2006
I’m frustrated because…
For as many questions as Lost’s season finale answered as many new questions were raised. (Look here and here for Lost-related posts with more effort behind them.)

I’m sad because…
I just signed a senior student’s yearbook and while signing it I noticed that the only other signatures on the inside cover were the names of other teachers.

I’m humored because…
I just realized that I work in a place where, at least on one day of the year, itching powder covers door-handles, rainbow-painted mice are released in the hallways and a student has been knows to streak, entirely naked save for white tube socks and duct-tape wrapped around his pelvis and no one is in the least surprised.

I’m ashamed because…
I share a home state with this guy and probably sat in the same library for story hour in the same library where he practiced his perversities when I was a small child.

I’m excited because…
I’m a matter of hours my three day weekend filled with debauchery with my partners in crime will have officially begun. Bring it Memorial Day Weekend! I’m ready!

Thursday, May 25, 2006
forget 700, Pat's founding a 2000 Club

Pat Robertson can leg-press 2,000 lbs. If you doubt this than you don't believe in the power of God or the his new age-defying protein shake that he invented himself. Clay Travis of CBS SportsLine is a doubting Thomas and claims that the leg-press weight lifting record of Florida is 1335 lbs and the guy who did it had capillaries in his eye burst. This is just a further testament to the power of the Pat Power Shake. It's age-defying, strength building and capillary protecting. I wonder if he was wearing black jeans when he accomplished this astonishing feat?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006
oddest phone conversation of the day...
Dad: Mags?

Me: Yeah?

Dad: Hey, I'm having dinner right now with a bunch of Japanese guys and we're having trouble thinking of the names of all seven dwarfs. Right now we have Doc, Sneezy, Sleepy, Grumpy and Dopey. Do you know the rest?

Me: Uh..Bashful, and ...I don't know, wasn't there a happy?

Dad: That doesn't sound right.

Me: Maybe not....I don't know - I can't think of the last one

Dad: Okay, thanks. So we have six now. We just can't think of the seventh. Okay, I'll talk to you later.

Me: Okay? Bye dad.

(Turns out Happy was the seventh, just soes you know.)

who died and made me the fashion police?
I’ve never claimed to be the queen of fashion, especially when I’m working out, but recently there has been a serious wealth of fug at the gym. As a Joan Rivers-esque form of community service, please allow me to share some of these sad stories with you so you can avoid your own future embarrassments. I have also supplied my conjectures as to the psychological forces driving these fashion faux pas, pretty much just to amuse myself. (Yes – I am out of blog posting ideas. Don’t judge me)

Black Jeans –
Who: Mostly men over the age of 55.
Why it’s awful: You aren’t fooling anyone; just because your jeans are black doesn’t mean that they can pass for sweatpants. Plus, I’m pretty sure that the rapid rubbing of denim on denim is a fire hazard or something.
Psychological Motivation: Men who wear jeans to the gym so do to hide a rather large secret - they’re aliens. I know it sounds bizarre, but it’s true. Jean serve a very important purpose for aliens posing as human beings. Apparently alien technology, although incredibly advanced, has not advanced enough to create believable human-looking fake legs and jeans are the only fabric thick enough to hide their spindly, green limbs. As to why aliens are spending some of their time on Earth working out – that remains a mystery that even I cannot answer.

Who: Honestly, I’ve only seen this once on a middle-aged woman, but once was enough.
Why it’s awful: Why would anyone decide to wear a sweater, even one that ends under your boobs, to the gym?
Psychological Motivation: These women are especially sad because they are spending their whole life is one constant quest for love. As a consequence for not getting hugged enough as small children, thus they decide to fill this void by wearing sweaters that provide a constant embrace around their torsos. Unfortunately, the shrug actually hinders their quest because an obvious side-effect to working out in a sweater is terrible body odor, making future hugs highly unlikely.

Chandelier Earrings –
Spotted on a great many women of varying ages, although most commonly on recent college graduates.
Why it’s awful: The juxtaposition of great big, sparkly, dangly earrings against sweat-matted hair and pit-stained t-shirts hurts my eyes. That – and I keep waiting for some poor woman to catch an earring on something and rip an earlobe clean off.
Psychological Motivation: Although it may appear that these women are wearing these to be fashionable, it actually serves a much more serious and important purpose. These large earrings are actually tiny satellite dishes which record conversations which are then transmitted to a top-secret CIA headquarters in Washington DC. Apparently Dubya is no longer satisfied with tracking the phone calls of his citizens and has instituted a new satellite program to collect conversations in the community. Unfortunately for the program, most of data collected at the gym consists of pants and grunts. Unfortunately for me, now that I’ve revealed this top-secret program I will most likely be killed.

Any questions?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Happy birthday to me.
Happy birthday to me.
Happy birthday
- dear god i can't believe i'm already 28-years-old which means my life is at least one third of the way over and I have no discernable savings of any kind and the closest thing i have to a child is a dog and i have a hard enough time meeting its basic needs and keeping it out of prison -

Happy birthday to me.

Thursday, May 18, 2006
jodie foster's a gangta
Oh, Jodie. What were you thinking? I'm sure you figured that the kids at Penn State would dig your hip, pop culture references, but....awkward.

dear in-box,
I'm not going to beat around the bush, we both deserve better than that, so I'm just going to come out and say it; this just isn't working for me anymore. I know that things started out well in September when everything was fresh and new, but things have changed and I think we both know this but are refusing to face the facts. It's not that I don't respect you - you know I do - it's just that I really need my space right now. I think that all that time that we spent apart when my student teacher was here really created a irreparable fissure in our relationship. Face it, we've drifted apart. For awhile I blamed it on springtime, but the weather has been pretty crappy recently so I can't really blame my wandering eye on sunshine anymore. Most likely, it has more to do with the infinite amount of papers you insist on throwing at me every day. I've been trying to pretend like I can handle your insatiable demands, but I just can't do it any more. I'm sorry.

I'll be honest - I'm just not that into you anymore. I know this might be difficult to hear and don't worry, I will clean out my stuff soon, but in three weeks I'm out of here and I thought you deserved some warning. I hope that this won't make things too awkward between us during these last few weeks, but I just had to get this off my chest; it's been weighing on me for so very long. Perhaps after some time apart this summer we'll be able to reunite in the fall and have some sort of relationship again, but I probably shouldn't give you any false hopes.

Please don't call; I really think it's best if we just make a clean break.

-Mrs White

Tuesday, May 16, 2006
boston was...
Not that there was anything that could have been done about it, but awful bad luck that our first trip to Beantown happened to coincide with record-setting rainfall and major flooding. Unfortunately, Boston is a walking town so the rain put a bit of a damper on our plans but we made due and the kids, amazingly enough, hardly complained at all about the rain, even while it poured buckets on us at Fenway Park. Fortunately, the only major adjustment we had to make to our plans was substituting a whale watching excursion for a trip to an aquarium (not exactly an even trade, but what can you do).

Thanks to trips to Salem and loads of Colonial period burial grounds this trip certainly met its spooky quota. The thin thin veil of fog that hovered over the city thanks to the weather certainly contributed to the ambiance - almost making me wistful for October. Almost.
Obviously, Boston is full of historically significant buildings and artifacts, but as always, my travels have brought me more than just historical knowledge. Namely, tour guides always know where you can buy the most unnecessary kitsch, my post-trip level of exhaustion is a clear indication that I am getting old, and chaperones are nearly always much more annoying than the kids. Beautiful
Despite the layer of fog hovering over the city the entire time, Boston is quite a pretty city - definitely one of the prettiest American cities I've had the good fortune to visit. As I tend to do whenever I travel to a big city I began to bemoan the fact that I don't live in a big city and started creating plans in my mind for how I could relocate. I later spotted a newspaper article about the recent lost of Massachusetts residents due to unemployment and the high cost of living which brought me back to reality. My but the grass is always greener, isn't it?
And that's about it. I hope this post made sense. I'm still recouping from a 13 hour overnight bus trip; my brain is still feeling a bit fuzzy and I've had a difficult time forming comprehensible sentences all day long. (Feel free to insert sarcastic comments about my typical fuzzy logic and lack of verbal skills below - I'm too tired to end with something witty myself.)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006
heading to boston - see ya'll monday

You know what's crazy? Volunteering to spend 5 days with 50 teenagers in the big, bad city of Boston. So call me crazy I guess, because that's what I'll be doing tomorrow. I'm actually pretty excited about the trip since I've never been to Boston before. Looks like it's going to be a cold, rainy one - perfect for stomping around Revolutionary War battlefields and the site of the Salem witch trials. Hopefully we don't leave a kid behind or something. Don't worry - I'll be back Monday chock-full of snarky comments, silly stories and bloody awful poetry.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006
haiku of the week
It's been awhile, I know, but today I finally found something that moved me to poetry. My muse? The very bizarre looking man on the elliptical machine next to mine at the gym. In brief, he had divided his hair in half and dyed the right half pitch black and the left half platinum blonde. Odd - but odder still was the fact that he was wearing something that resembled a trashbag for a shirt. I'm sure it was some very expensive mini-sauna or something and he was really, really cool for owning one. However, call me lame, but tent-like trashbag shirts don't impress me much. On top of all this, I swear he was flashing his best "blue steel" in the mirror for a good 40 minutes, which takes incredible stamina considering he was doing it while working out in a plastic shirt. I've dubbed him "Dirk" and wrote another god-awful poem about him. Here goes:

Sweat on, Dirk. Layers
of plastic and bleach can't hide
the tiger inside.

Monday, May 08, 2006
sub plans
Once again, McSweeney's has helped me with my lesson plans. I'll be leaving half my kids this week to take the other half (the good half) to Boston and I'm thinking about leaving some of these writing prompts for the sub. Here's some of my favorites:

Write a story that ends with the following sentence: Debra brushed the sand from her blouse, took a last, wistful look at the now putrefying horse, and stepped into the hot-air baloon.

A wasp called the tarantula hawk reproduces by paralyzing tarantulas and laying eggs into their bodies. When the larvae hatch, they devour the still living spider from the inside out. Isn't that fucked up? Write a story about how fucked up that is.

Choose your favorite historical figure and imagine if he/she had been led to greatness by the promptings of an invisible imp living behind his or her right ear. Write a story from the point of view of this creature. Where did it come from? What are its goals? Use research to make your story as accurate as possible.

Write a short scene set at a lake, with trees and shit. Throw some birds in there too.

So what do you think? Administration won't mind, right?

Saturday, May 06, 2006
post-script to the steinbeck post
On a lighter note, what's the funniest response I got when I asked "Why was Candy angry with Curley's wife when he discovers her dead in the barn" on a quiz?

"Because she was a dirty little whore who deserved what she got."

Poor Curley's wife. She never gets any sympathy.

Friday, May 05, 2006
steinbeck, god, genocide and one ridiculously long post
You may not know this, but suburban Detroit has its own bible belt and I work in the buckle. Despite being one of the most diverse areas in the state we tend not to integrate here - ethnically or religiously - and I have noticed that over the last five years the community where I work, while becoming a smidge more ethnically diverse (we have a handful of African American students now!) is becoming more and more zealously Christian. As a girl who attended Catholic school for eight years I certainly have a first-hand knowledge of what it means to get a Christian education, but what has become increasingly troublesome to me in the number of students and parents who, despite electing a public education, seem unable to separate their faith from my classroom. I attribute this to two things: 1) the growing popularity of a school sponsored Christian club and 2) heavy student "recruitment" into a local non-denominational, evangelical and very charismatic church. (I smell cult, but perhaps that's unfair. I tend to distrust organized groups that wear matching t-shirts and sing with their eyes closed.) I certainly don't mean to begrudge my students' personal beliefs and, of course, prayer groups are preferable to underage sex and drugs, but what has become more and more concerning to me is the growing intolerance that I'm sensing in this group.

Case in point: loyal readers may remember my recent classroom controversy surrounding The Great Gatsby. Well, looks like it's now Steinbeck's turn. On Monday my American Literature class began reading Of Mice and Men. To "hook" the kids, I read chapter one aloud to the class like I do every year (I do a mean Lennie, by the way), but the experience was dramatically different this year. Thanks to my previous cloud of controversy I flinched at every "crazy bastard" and "Jesus Christ, Lennie" and that came out of my mouth, and was entirely unsurprised when I came in to work on Tuesday to discover my voice mail light blinking on my phone. A mother (the same who opposed The Great Gatsby) had called to complain about the language in Of Mice and Men. My defense for the book was easy - it's in the school's board approved curriculum - to which she countered that the school board must hate God. She then asked me how I handled the use of such language. When I asked her for clarification, she asked if I prefaced the novel by letting the kids know that Steinbeck was "breaking a commandment by using the Lord's name in vain." (Silly me. I was under the impression that I taught at a public school.) When we spoke, she admitted that she's never read this book (or "Gatsby", or "Huck Finn", or To Kill a Mockingbird, or Romeo and Juliet - did she go to school?!) and has no intention of reading such "filth." Which is really too bad. She's missing the underlying message of friendship, love and responsiblity - which, if I remember correctly, are still "Christain values." I guess what shocks me more than anything is not that a parent complained about the language used in this book but the fact that she assumed I was teaching the ten commandments in my classroom. Huh? I must admit that I didn't bother even trying to defend the book to her this time. What's the point? Anything that I could have said would have easily been dismissed as the rhetoric of a sinner who is bound for hell.

As if this weren't disconcerting enough, religious intolerance reared it's ugly head again three hours later. This class has just completed Night, a Holocaust memoir, and we were discussing the issue of responsibility. Hitler, the German citizens, international governments came up, of course, but I was a bit stunned when I called upon a usually quiet girl who offered the Jews as being a responsible party. When I pressed for an explanation, she said that her mom told her that the Jews brought the Holocaust upon themselves because they "turned their backs on Christ."

And that's when my heart broke.

Perhaps I could have gently explained to her that God wouldn't want genocides to happen and that Jesus wouldn't have approved of the Holocaust, but then I would basically be saying that everything her mother told her was ignorant and wrong and I can only deal with so many angry parents in one week.

My husband tries to console me by saying that my kids need me because I offer a different point of view - one that they won't get from their church or their parents - but I wonder how influential I am if my words are so easily dismissed by parents and ministers as those of a typical, liberal teacher. Ironically, from what I understand, Jesus was a pretty liberal dude too.

God damn it.

Thursday, May 04, 2006
what my neighbors heard coming from my open living room window last night between the minutes of 9:54 to 9:55:

No! Libby! OH MY GOD!!


Seriously, I'm surprised the cops weren't called. (Or worried. It seems like a woman screaming in terror should have alerted someone to some sort of action.)

So Lost has officially "brought it" with last night's episode. I believe the following to be true:

1. Clare and Jack are brother and sister.
2. Jack's father is part of some conspiracy and is pulling some sort of strings (whether he's aware of it or not) to throw all these people together (Jack, Claire, Sawyer, Ana Lucia, more to come??)
3. Michael has been brainwashed by the others. Why else would he kill Ana Lucia? How was she keeping him from getting Walt back? Besides, according to Henry Gale the others think Ana was "one of the bad ones" so Michael must think that now too.
4. Libby is obviously aware that she and Hurley were in the same psych ward and is keeping that from him for some reason. I smell "other."
5. Libby's not dead. She can't be. We haven't gotten her back story yet.
6. Lost is the smartest show on television. Period. Doubters and naysayers need to just be patient and keep the faith. Lackluster episodes are the foundation to something awesome.

Of course, all my beliefs will probably fly out the window after next week's episode. And that's why I love this show - more twists and turns than you can shake a stick at.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006
lorelai who?
Well, the student teacher has left the building, so to speak, and I'm manning the ship alone in a state of splendid isolation. It's really nice to not have to share my desk and computer with someone else who doesn't share my obsession with neatness and not spilling coffee all over everything, but there are some drawbacks. Namely, teaching five hours a day. It's exhausting. There's actually been quite a bit of activity this week, most of it worthy of a blog entry or two, but I just don't have the emotional and mental energy for it today. Perhaps tomorrow.

So instead of witty rants I have a question. Awhile back Steve posted that his students told him what famous people he looked like. He then challenged us to ask our own students who we remind them of. I was a bit afraid to ask (imagine being told that you remind them of Rosie O'Donnell or something) so I abstained. I know that several of my readers (of which there are like - DOZENS) are fans of a little show called The Gilmore Girls. I must admit that I've never seen an episode myself, so when a student raised her hand last week to interrupt my genius pontification I was a bit taken aback when, instead of commenting on my wit or asking some thought-provoking question, she felt it necessary to tell me that I remind her of Lorelai from The Gilmore Girls. This was followed by a chorus of fifteen year old girls giggling and shouting "Yes! Yes! She does remind me of Lorelai." Again, I've never seen the show so I have no idea what this means. When I asked, she told me that I looked like her a bit, but I mostly reminded her of that character because of how I talk. So, I guess I'm uncertain of whether to be flattered or offended. I need to know what this means - it's been a bit torturous here.

<----Lorelai vs. Me (with Turkey Leg)----->

Tuesday, May 02, 2006
game over
"I feel like going out and hanging myself," said Manny Legace after the loss. Don't be too hard on yourself though Manny, your teammates (minus Zetterberg) had much more disappointing performances than you. The loss hurts more knowing that it was probably the last time we're going to see Yzerman on the ice. But as Gordie Howe is known as Mr. Hockey, Stevie will always be The Captain to me no matter who might have the letter C on their sweater.