Saturday, September 30, 2006
music: september: embrace the pensive
I've resumed my 80 minute round-trip commute to work, so there's been plenty of time to test out some new music. Here's the best of the new:

TV on the Radio – Return to Cookie Mountain

I’m not ready to get on the “this is absolute best album of 2006” bandwagon quite yet, but Return to Cookie Mountain, a clear contender for one of the worst album names, should certainly find its place somewhere in the top ten best albums of the year. It’s multilayered, complex, intelligent and super-rad.
If I were to make you a mixed tape in a teenage attempt to woo you with my impossible coolness I would lead with: “Wolf Like Me”

Matt Nathanson – At the Point

I’ve appreciated Matt Nathanson for a while, but I guess never enough I buy an entire album. I’m now wondering if I should go back and get some of the back catalog because I have a crazy crush on this live performance. Matt Nathanson has figured out the magic formula for wooing women: sing plaintive songs all alone with your guitar and fill the spaces in between songs with very funny stories and self-deprecating comments. He must have to fight them off with a stick, I swear. The album is available on e-music, and although it’s 17 downloads, it’s worth getting the whole thing, even the dialogue tracks. You know, for the experience.
If I were to throw a small, intimate party and it was the tail-end of the evening and we wanted something to sing along to with our eyes closed I’d play: “More Than This”

Hotel Lights – Hotel Lights
I downloaded this album awhile ago, but forgot about it until recently. Although there are sunny-pop moments, as a whole Hotel Lights is a beautiful, wistful album. It helps to be in a certain mood to listen to it, but when I’m feeling melancholy it hits the spot.
If I were gazing out the window, lost in my own deep, deep thoughts, being all sad and shit, I’d play: “Stumblin’ Home Winter Blues”

Maritime – We, the Vehicles
Interweb tells me that this band was formed by former members of The Dismemberment Plan and Promise Ring. Interweb also tells me that their first album wasn’t very good. I don’t know of that, but We, the Vehicles is a very, very good indie-pop album.
If you and I were to steal a car, get in it and drive West, play the tape real loud and when the tape ends, get out and get into a fight, then get back into the car and then drive to the most prestigious club of all time – The Morrison Hotel, the song that we’d play between Doors songs would be: “Parade of Punk Rock T-Shirts”

Friday, September 29, 2006

(via A Special Way of Being Afraid, who via-ed it from Deadspin)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006
first a rant, then a haiku

Last weekend I made an alarming discovery, came to a revelation that shook me to the core. While sitting around after work sharing a drink with some friends I came to the undeniable conclusion that I am getting old. I may have a baby face, but underneath that youthful exterior lies a crotchety old lady whose face gets all scrunchy and voice gets all squeaky when the subject of "the way young people dress these days"” comes up.

It's not that I'’m uptight exactly. Truth be told, I see all sorts of illicit fashions worn by the teens I work with on a daily basis and I rarely bat an eye. It actually take quite a bit - say, a lime green thong strap peaking one inch above a pair of jeans - to make me notice what the kids are wearing. While some of my colleagues are pulling kids aside and asking them to change out of shirts that expose their midriffs and skirts that fall ten inches or so above the knee, I usually find myself blissfully unaware of the tasteless atrocities that I am supposedly bombarded with on a daily basis.

But, there is one fashion trend that I just can't ignore - a trend that makes my blood boil and my skin crawl - the rebirth of the 80s.

While sitting at a local all-ages sports bar I sat is disgust while I watched one teenage girl after another strut past my table wearing Madonna'’s lace gloves, Susana Hoff's giant, plastic hoop earrings and my old sweater dress with a giant leather belt. It'’s as if the local high school raided my 8th grade closet but forgot the God-awful perm. I even saw a side ponytail. Now, I know that fashion is cyclical and all, but the 80’s were one of the ugliest times for fashion in, well, perhaps ever, and I am baffled why anyone would look at the photos and say, "Wow! Pegged jeans are so hot! Where do I get me some of those?"”

And don'’t even get me started on skinny jeans.

Perhaps it's because it's my ugly, old fashion statement that's being bastardized by The Gap. Perhaps it's because I'm getting old and I'm building up a natural immunity to all things young, hip and trendy. Perhaps it's because I now regret having thrown out all my old leggings and sweater dresses now that they've become cool again. But no, I suspect it's because I have a little thing that was is sore demand in 1988 - taste.

To tie up my angst in a poetic little bow, I wrote a haiku about it. I know it'’s been a while so savor it, huh?

Um, seriously?
Banana clips and leggings?
"“Lucky Star"” you ain'’t.

Saturday, September 23, 2006
mood ring
There's this theory that my students are tossing around that my hair may be an indicator of my mood. You know, like how you slip on one of those silly plastic rings, it turns the strangest shade or greenish, yellowish blue and that's supposed to indicate that you're feeling happy, even if you aren't feeling particularly happy at all? Well, the little boogers seem to think that my hair is a giant mood ring that may give them early insight into my present state of mind, thus warning them before class even begins if my mood be foul or pleasant.

"No, stop!," you say? "Too silly to be true!," you say? Well, stop interrupting me and I'll continue on I say.

The theory originated on the first day of school. Ordinarily, all students are angels the first day. In particular the behavior of the freshmen, most of whom are just happy that they found your room without incident, is typically exemplary, largely owing to the fact that they are completely lost in their own heads for most of the day. While the teacher drones on about his or her class rules and paper heading requirements, all they are thinking about is whether or not they will be able to find their next classroom/locker/cafeteria/bus with minimal embarrassment. Thus, they are quiet as little, awkward church mice.

But not this year.

For a variety of reasons that I won't get into here, this year's freshman class as a whole appears to have been served extra helpings of immaturity. This was immediately evident on the first day of school when I had to struggle a bit to get them to sit down and shut up so I can tell them my all-important and thoroughly riveting 'class rules and paper heading requirements' speech. I even had to pull one kid aside and give him THE BEHAVIOR CHAT at the end of the hour. Really? This is starting on the first day of school? Behavior like this isn't supposed to manifest itself until at least mid-September. If I was going to tame this beast it was clear I had to get my game face on.

Seeing what I had to do, I was a bit of a behavior tyrant for most of that first week. I learned names wicked quick, pulled kids out in the hall left and right to give them THE BEHAVIOR CHAT, and was uncharacteristically humorless. I should add that for the majority of the week I was wearing my hair up (in an attempt to look older and more authoritative) and was wearing my glasses (because for the life of me I couldn't find my contacts).

Finally, Friday came and my behavior management techniques were starting to work their magic. With fewer behavior issues, I was able to smile more and crack a joke or too. Coincidentally, I wore my hair down that day and, having found my contacts, lost the glasses. (I know you're now conjuring an image of the librarian shaking down her bun and transforming into the sexpot. Please don't. I'm a professional, damn it.) Apparently, my appearance changed too drastically for one kid who insisted for five minutes that I was a substitute, not the same woman who'd been yelling at him all week - but I digress. In short, things were going well and I had almost stopped entertaining my week-long daydream of quitting my job to work as a flight attendant. Then, at the end of the hour the 'hair as mood-ring' theory was born when a students raised his hand and declared, "You know, you're a whole lot nicer with your hair down." There's really no response to give when someone says something like this to you, so I held my tongue.

Since that moment, I've noticed a subtle change in the kids. They've been peeking their little heads in my room early in the day to check out the status of my hair. Parents have mentioned the theory in conversations. The biology teacher has even been consulted to help in the collection of data to either prove or disprove the "hair and mood" connection. I am eager to review the results of this experiment.

And I've been wearing my hair up most days.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006
congratulations amanda and dustin!
Nathan and I were thrilled to spend last weekend witnessing the wedding of my sister-in-law, Amanda, and whether you like it or not here's some pictures of the lovely day. Not that either one of them will see this, seeing as they're on their honeymoon in Mexico and all, but whatever. Congrats!

Monday, September 18, 2006
lost secrets revealed
Interweb tells me that that silly summer game that I didn't play, The Lost Experience, had a pretty big pay off - a revealtion of what the numbers mean:
The numbers represent the Valenzetti Equation, a mathematical formula having to do with the timetable for humanity's extinction. The show's sinister Dharma Initiative was an effort by the mysterious Hanso Foundation to ward off that inevitability. When Dharma failed, Hanso's nefarious acting leader, Thomas Mittelwerk, set in motion a plan to release a virus that would kill 30 percent of the world's population.
Alright then. So, um, were they planning on revealing this on the actual show???

(Via PopCandy)

Sunday, September 17, 2006
happy birthday, matt!
I would like to take a minute to wish a very happy birthday to my baby brother. Matt, I hope the beer is plentiful, the ladies are promiscuous, the commute to work is sanitary, and that you reach that same level of joy and accomplishment that you did on the day when you caught your first fish. Cheers!

Thursday, September 14, 2006
mo' freshmen, mo' problems: vol. 2
Behold, a conversation held today between myself and a 13-year-old kid named D. The subject: Pulitzer prize-winning literature.

(holding up a copy of Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex, pulled from a shelf of my classroom library) Hey. Is this a good book?

Yes. Actually, it's an excellent book. One of my favorites, in fact.

(smiling suspiciously) Can I borrow it? I think I want to read it.

Me: (frowning) You do know it's not about sex, right?

D: Yeah, I know. I read the back cover. (giggling) It's about a hermaphrodite.

Me: Well, sort of. The protagonist is a hermaphrodite. But it's not only about hermaphrodites; it's also about the history of Detroit.


Me: D, do you know what a hermaphrodite is?

(giggling) Yeah. (giggles some more)

Me: (deciding against prompting him for a definition) D, what do you think your parents are going to think about you reading this book?

D: They don't care what I read.


D: It's pretty big, though. Do you think it's at my reading level?

Me: Well, you know, it did win a Pulitzer prize.

D: So what's that mean, it's hard?

Me: Let's just say that it's probably meant for adults.

D: (his smile widens, undoubtedly because he assumes that by "adult" I mean "pornographic") Okay. I'm going to sign it out, alright? (giggling fit reaches it's peak)

Me: Okay, D. You let me know how it works out for you.

Monday, September 11, 2006
football? why not.
Well, it's happened. Pigs have flown, the oceans have caught aflame, George W is a great public speaker, and I care about football.

It truly makes no sense. I'm supposed to hate football. It's like a fundamental element of who I am. It's pretty much widely known that Mags loves depressing music, bohemian fashion trends, ice cream and dogs, while she hates most words that begin with a hard "p" sound, Star Trek, and - above all else - football. It's confusing, slow, violent, testosterone-driven, and looks like it smells - all adjectives that usually turn me off.

I come from a family of die-hard OSU fans, and I suppose it's that vehement adoration of something I have little to no understanding of that laid the groundwork for my intense dislike of football. (And I mean absolutely no offense to OSU fans. I suppose had my family been intense Iowa fans it would have born the same result. But...perhaps not. After all, OSU fans are a special breed.) Growing up, watching football always sort of made me feel like a person with dyslexia trying to read a Joseph Conrad novel - it's cute that I tried but it just wasn't going to happen - so I threw football in the "it just ain't for me" category and have rolled my eyes at it ever since.

And then I joined a fantasy football league.

I admit that I staunchly resisted this at first. My knowledge of the sport can be contained in my little finger, and I figured that I would be the least competitive person on the league. I might as well give my friends $5 a piece and save myself the trouble. But, eventually, I submitted - mostly because I there was a slight possibility that I could make money and I was assured that I wouldn't have to actually watch football if I didn't want to.

So I came up with a silly team name, drafted a bunch of players I had never heard of but apparently have infamous reputations (Really? No one else was willing to take a risk on T.O.?), and sort of forgot about the whole thing until yesterday.

It started slowly. I alternated between watching and zoning out into space while my friends watched the first games of the season, but pretty soon I was starting to wonder how my players were doing. Of course, I had to look them all up because I had little concept of who they were or what team they played for, but...whatever. Sunday night, I even passed up The Simpsons for watching The Giants and The Patriots. (True, I didn't watch for long, but the fact that I made that initial choice speaks for itself.) I've lost my first match-up (Carrie's untouchable, apparently), but that's okay. When my kids walked into my classroom this morning before first hour talking about the Lion's last minute loss against the Seahawks I actually knew what they were talking about.

And I didn't roll my eyes - not once, not even when one of them said that Central Michigan looked better than Ohio State - because I knew what the hell they were talking about. I was a member of the club, a football dyslexic no more, and it felt unexpectedly nice.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006
mo' freshmen, mo' problems
I have three times as many freshmen this year than I had last year, which means three times the drama, three times the anxiety, three times the overall goofiness, and three times as many unprompted outbursts like the following which have all been uttered in my classroom in the past two days:

"Oh my God! My dog was totally killed by a tornado!"

"Yeah, well my pitpull ate my cat once."

"This asks for 'pupil's name.' What's a pupil?"

"What's a 'syllabus'?
After hearing the answer, this is followed by...."That's dumb. Why don't they just call it 'piece of paper with rules and stuff on it'?"

"So, are you a cool? 'Cause I was hoping you'd be cool."

"Umm...I know that class isn't over yet, but I think my mom's here. So, can I leave now?"

"Yeah, I can't hear you if you don't raise your hand before you speak."

"I love the name Sven! When I have a son I'm totally going to name him Sven!"

(I bet you can't guess which one of these statements came out of my mouth.)

Monday, September 04, 2006
good-bye summer
Well, it's been great but I must face the facts - summer's over.

Good-bye waking up whenever. Hello rising at 5am.
Good-bye lazy, guilt-free Saturdays. Hello weekend grading.
Good-bye relatively nice smelling house. Hello classroom full of stinky freshman boys fresh out of gym class.

Oh well. It was nice while it lasted.

I'm usually a bit anxious before the first day of school, but oddly enough this is the first year when I feel completely unfazed by the whole thing. Sure I ironed a pair of pants, but that's about the most preparation I've done for tomorrow's big day. In all honesty, I just can't bring myself to feel much of anything about this new school year. Not excited, not hopeful, not even nervous. Perhaps it's because I just got home from a weekend trip to Brooklyn to visit my little brother, so I'm still in full-on vacation mode. Perhaps it's because this is my sixth year of teaching and the novelty of it all has worn off a bit. Perhaps it's because our first in-service day was such a downer. Whatever. It's here. Let's get to the enlightenment of young minds and the expanding of horizons already.

And for no reason other than the fact that I like it, here's Fiona Apple's video for "Not About Love." Apparently she has a sense of humor. Who knew?