Friday, September 28, 2007
subterranean homesick friday

Not sure what Dylan would make of the blatant commercialization of his music but...screw it. It's fun. Have a happy little weekend.

Thursday, September 27, 2007
overheard in my classroom
I want to preface this post by making it perfectly clear that I'm not complaining. Not in the least. To complain about a GOOD thing is to ensure that it will take a terrible turn for a BAD thing. So, no. Not complaining.

Not. At. All.

But, see - here's the thing. I have an incredibly nice group of students this year. And while that's certainly a GOOD thing for my work life, blood pressure and overall mood stability; it also happens to be a BAD thing for dinner conversation, hollow victories in arguments over 'which one of us has it worse,' and for blogging. Especially for blogging.

But even though I no longer have to keep my handbag locked up in my car, perform daily checks on the underside of my desks for scribbled death threats, and am now able to cancel that extra life insurance policy I took out, if I pay veeeery close attention I can still find a tiny little gem every now and then. Like this one. And so it goes...

Mike and Brandon sit next to one another in my Honors American Lit class. Mike is of a rare breed in that he is taking AP coursework, yet doesn't come from an educated, wealthy family. Rather, he is the surrogate father for his little brothers and sisters, while mom - who's single - scrapes together a living at the local WalMart. I suspect Mike may be in over his head with his current schedule, but is something of a workhorse - possessing both amazing focus and humbling drive. He also lives and breathes hunting, and if you know nothing else about him, you should probably know that. (He sincerely wears wildlife sweatshirts, if that helps to visualize things a bit.)

Inversely, Brandon comes from a very stable, comfortable home with two highly literate parents who strive to provide him with all the necessary tools for success. He is kind, well-spoken, endlessly polite, completely void of sarcasm, and has excellent posture. Of course, he’s also on the tennis team.

Mike and Brandon are not friends, but they sit next to one another in my 5th hour. Being both very nice young men, they often make awkward attempts at conversation before class (since they are always early, of course). The subject of today’s chat was MADE – the MTV reality show that takes a kid with a dream and provides him with a few months of expert training in the hopes that he can fulfill said dream. As it turns out, MADE will be holding auditions at our high school in the near future, and the kids (understandably) are all a buzz.

So, it’s three minutes or so before the bell is due to ring, and Brandon - maintaining impossibly perfect posture - turns to Mike to initiate this little chat:

Brandon: “Have you heard that MADE is doing casting calls here?”

Mike: “Yeah. I reckon it’s a bit weird, huh?”

B: “Perhaps. So, what do you think you’d want to be made into, should you be selected for the show?”

M: “Oh God…I don’t know. I’m just a redneck, you know? I don’t think they’d put someone like me on MTV.”

B: [smiling, and sincere] “A redneck, eh? Well, perhaps they could make you into a gentleman.” [wink!]

M: --- [frowns, furrows his brow, politely adverts his gaze and shuffles his feet while the sound of imaginary crickets fill the uncomfortable silence]
Don't know about you, but I'm an absolute sucker for fifteen-year-old suburban kids who talk like 50-year-old British socialites. And maybe that story wasn't gold, but a girl's got to work with the material she's been given, yes? Perhaps I'll get lucky tomorrow and someone will accidentally set something or someone aflame...

P.S. I've always wanted to be a prima ballerina despite never having taken a lesson, and with the proper dress and hairstyling I can maybe still pass for eighteen. Move over, kids. Mrs. W is 'bout to get MADE!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007
indifference and perspective
Things have been busy, consequently time to read has been drastically and depressingly reduced. However, this week - somehow and somewhere between all the et cetera whatever - I was able to take in Dinaw Mengestu's well-crafted, beautiful, melancholic little novel titled The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears, a piece which I'm almost certain will end up somewhere on my year-end "Top Five Favorite New Releases of 2007" list.

The book deserves a much better review than I have time/energy for at the current moment, so that is not my intention with this post. Hopefully, that beast can be tackled when my mental faculties are a bit sharper and more up to the task. But for tonight, there's this one particular passage that, after underlining it and rewriting it (as I tend to do with sentences and passages that move me), is still gnawing like a raspberry seed lodged between my back teeth. It's a conversation between two African immigrants who both escaped violent coups in their separate homelands in the perhaps naive hopes of finding security, safety and opportunity in America. And it reads like this:

Everything is beautiful to you.

Not everything.

But damn close.

You just have to have the right perspective.

Which is what?

Indifference. You have to know that none of this is going to last. And then you have to not care.

And then the world becomes beautiful?

No. It becomes ridiculous. Which is close enough for me.
I'm not sure why this passage is sticking with me three days after I read it. Maybe it's the notion that what we so often laud as "beautiful" is really just the ascetically-pleasing oddity. Maybe it's the idea that we need to resign ourselves to indifference before we can look past all the beastly to truly see the beauty. Maybe I'm just an overworked, underpaid civil servant with a penchant for navel-gazing.

Probably all of the above.

But, what I am certain of is that there's a cohesive post lurking somewhere in this mess. Just maybe not this particular one.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007
i'm declaring it video tuesday
...because it's a pretty song and a lovely video, because I love you and wish you could always be surrounded by pretty, lovely things, because mustaches and mandolins are separately awesome but even better when combined, and also because I'm going to be working today until nine o'clock in the evening or thereabouts and don't have time to say much, but still wanted to say hi if I could say nothing else. So, please do take this Elephant Gun, and, you know...hi.

(Yes, that's Beirut. No, I'm not deliberately trying to be annoying.)

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Monday, September 24, 2007
random words, phrases and clauses that i'm trying to sneak into tomorrow night's "meet the parents!" open house speech...
...because 1), they may not notice, seeing as my public speaking voice tends to lean towards the snap-fire, verbose, and slightly lilting, and 2), I'd find it amusing:

my sister wives
...which I studied while serving my second prison term
By the hammer of Thor!
my discipline stick
...where I taught occlumency, potions, and defense against the dark arts
chocolate rain
...because poetry is just another way to rap
...protecting my precious Thetan from Xenu and the aftereffects of his Galactic Confederacy
my expansive machete collection
...since the moon landing is so clearly a hoax
...because teaching with a hangover ain't easy

Of course, this is probably a very, very bad idea after all, isn't it?

friday night lights


Thursday, September 20, 2007
events that, at least one point in my life, I found myself wishing someone would make a greeting card for:

Happy “coming out of the closet” day!

Our deepest sympathies upon hearing of your recent mugging/firing/arrest/home invasion/failed drug test.

Sorry to have borrowed, then crashed your brand new car.

which would be purchased along with:

My sincerest apologies for making that sudden left turn in front of you, effectively totaling your car while mine escaped damaged, yet reparable.

Thank you for un-grounding your son just long enough for him to escort me to the prom, since I bought a fairly expensive dress, got my hair all did, and there’s simply no one else available to take me ‘cept my twelve-year-old brother (and he already said no).

Congratulations on graduating! Eventually!

Our deepest apologies for the recent bite you endured, inflicted by our dog. Perhaps she did not break the skin, however we are both terribly embarrassed and deeply appreciative for your understanding/failure to sue.

Aww, shucks. Kids can be terribly cruel, can’t they? But you know what? I, a person with absolutely exquisite taste, happen to think you’re awesome. Yay you!

Sorry for dissin’ you on the Internet. My mama totally taught me better than that.

Sure do wish I would have known this existed earlier so I could be better prepared to cheer on my baseball boyfriend at tomorrow night's game...

And, by the way (hint hint), I wear a woman's small.

(Thanks Carrie :)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007
mashed potatoes and hot dogs for myface (is perhaps the worst post title ever)
VSL recently pointed me to this article about class divisions and MyFace (or MySpace and Facebook for those unfamiliar with my *witty* vernacular), and seeing as I'm someone who recently jumped on the "well, if the cool kids are doing it..." train, I thought it was pretty interesting.

The author's crux (since I'm a bit of a pessimist and sort of doubt you'll ever click on that link and read the article in its entirety) is that Facebook, after recently opening its Interwebby arms to high school students when it was previously limited to college kids, has become the social interfacing tool of choice for the "goodie two shoes, jocks, athletes, or other 'good' kids...(who) tend to come from families who emphasize education and going to college...They are primarily white, but not exclusively. They are in honors classes, looking forward to the prom, and live in a world dictated by after school activities," whereas MySpace has become the preferential choice for a more disenfranchised sort - "Latino/Hispanic teens, immigrant teens, 'burnouts,' 'alternative kids,' 'art fags,' punks, emos, goths, gangstas, queer kids, and other kids who didn't play into the dominant high school popularity paradigm....MySpace has most of the kids who are socially ostracized at school because they are geeks, freaks, or queers."

And although I'm not sure any of this has any real impact in my little world, I do find it interesting to wonder whether or not I would have chosen Facebook over MySpace if I were still in high school when these sort of neat little distinctions actually mattered to me.

* * *

Since I realize that there are a fair number of you who have little to no interest in MyFace (nor in my actual face, for that matter), here's a picture of a turtle attempting to eat a mountain of mashed potatoes that you might enjoy. But perhaps not. One can never be sure about these things.

* * *
Finally, and for absolutely no good reason at all, here's the joke that I was obsessed with when I was four:
Question: How do you make a hotdog stand?

*wait for it...*

Answer: Take away its chair!
(Don't feel bad. My 5th hour didn't think it was funny either, and their tastes aren't exactly discriminating...)

Okay, that's it. Happy Wednesday, people.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007
happy birthday, matt!
Today is my baby brother's 26th birthday, and to mark the event here are 26 reasons why my brother rocks wicked, wicked hard. So, and in no particular order, Matt...

1. is perhaps the only person I know who can hold his own against me in a song lyrics battle.
2. has excellent bone structure.
3. is freakishly strong for someone who weighs approximately as much as me, yet is six inches taller.
4. has been rumored to cook quite well, despite being a boy.
5 can create very funny and amazingly accurate caricatures of most anyone using only circles.
6. put up with a ton of my bullshit growing up. (Remember the "let's run away from home game," Matt? So sorry about that one..)
7. despite being touch-and-go with some adults, is surprisingly good with small children and animals.
8. has an impressive amount of knowledge about a great many modern illustrators who you most likely have never heard of.
9. does a mean karaoke version of "Total Eclipse of the Heart."
10. has very passionate feelings about MLA format and is unafraid to share them with you.
11. owns both a fez and a smoking jacket.
12. was reading Vonnegut and Heller when I was still reading VC Andrews.
13. can play the guitar very, very well.
14. is the proud owner of a very thick, luxurious mane of hair and is unlikely to ever go bald.
15. is a much better golfer than I am (Although that's not saying much. Nope, not much at all.)
16. is one of the most creative swearers I know.
17. once, in middle school, convinced a bunch of his friends to sell him their souls.
18. has excellent navigational skills.
19. occasionally can be seen doing a mean pole-dance while riding the subway.
20. went through a period in Kindergarten when he only ate tins of sardines in mustard sauce, and for some reason I think that's awesome.
21. has endless patience with me and my myriad Mac questions.
22. has reasonably good taste in music and film.
23. has been known to smell nice sometimes.
24. at five-years-old was known to tear it up at family weddings with his mad breakdancin' skillz.
25. looks quite nice in a suit and tie.

and finally,

26. is the closest person on the planet to sharing my exact DNA, so he really has no choice but to be awesome in most every way imaginable.

Happy birthday, buddy! Love you!!!

Monday, September 17, 2007
As a few of you may recall me mentioning, I spent today with 100+ students and faculty experiencing something called Challenge Day, the objective of which is to break down barriers that exist between people, create empathy, and in doing these things hopefully create a more positive, supportive learning environment. I didn't realize it until today, but Challenge Day is something of a phenomena, existing in nearly 50 states, several other countries, and earning praise from Oprah (for whatever that means to you). You may also recall me mentioning my high levels of apprehension over this event, since I had heard that it would be a very difficult, emotional experience, and I try to avoid these if at all possible. See, contrary to popular belief it's not that I'm devoid of emotion, but that I'm actually incredibly sensitive with an unfortunate tendency to deal with my emotions by closing them up. Wanting to be better about this is the primary reason why I volunteered to participate this year.

As for the day, I have no intentions of sharing the fine details, but I will share that I left feeling overwhelmingly sad, debilitated by exhaustion, and nursing a headache borne from over two hours of crying (perhaps a personal record). However, I also left feeling incredibly proud of so many people, grateful for my childhood knowing that not everyone truly gets to experience one, incredibly thankful for the opportunity to do the job that I do, and so in love with my family and friends. I don't care how corny this all sounds, only that it's true.

And even if I don't know you very well or even at all, thank you for caring enough to regularly check in on me and my crappy excuse for a blog. To show my appreciation, I promise to write something very soon that will make you smile. Just maybe not today.

Friday, September 14, 2007
thank goodness for tenure moment of the week
It struck me on my drive home that when a group of students asked what the word "sodomy" meant, I would have probably been much better off to just define it rather than encourage them to go home and look it up on the Internet.

(And I'm sure you're wondering why sodomy would come up in my class in the first place, but I refuse to offer an explanation. Your curiosity is amusing to me.)

Now go on and have a wonderful weekend. I demand it.

Thursday, September 13, 2007
things in threes
Because it feels like it's been a while, and because my school district - despite housing only a minutia of Jewish families - inexplicably decided to take the day off for Rosh Hashanah, I'm going to make this one extra long, rambling and pointless for you. You're welcome.

Three of the Dumbest Things I've Done/Said This Week:
1. Galavanted around last weekend in the rain, spurned adequate rest, diet and Zicam's recommendations for best results (i.e. use it more than once if you expect it to work, eeediot) and caught me a icky cold. *sneeze* Boo. *sniff*

2. Put all my week 1 fantasy football hopes and dreams in Steven Jackson's fugly corner. (Perhaps more unfortunate than dumb, but...well, it still hurts. You know?)

3. Asked my husband, "How often does Entertainment Weekly come, anyway?"

Three Things I'm Currently Excited About:
1. New Band of Horses
2. The Darjeeling Limited
3. Cider Mills

Three of the Best Student Responses of the Week:
1. In response to the question, "Jonathan Edwards says it's natural men who should fear God? What do you think it means to be a 'natural man'?," a student proudly answered, "A lumberjack!"

2. In response to the question, "Based on the readings, traditional early-American folklore and what you know about the Puritan position on the natural world, where do you think they thought the Devil could be found?," a student, in complete serious, answered, "Georgia?"

3. In response to my syllabus, a shy 9th grader raised her hand and inquired, "Will we watch very many movies in here? Because we did that all last year and I really want to learn this year. And you seem funny, so I'd rather hear you talk anyway."
(True story, folks. Is she a sycophant? Perhaps. Did it work? Ohhhhhh yes.)

Three Things Recently Read/Seen on the Internet that Made me Laugh:
1. Yahoo Sports's advice on the subject of Tom Brady's limited participation in Wednesday's practice: "This is par for the course. Brady will be listed as probable on the official injury report Friday, play on Sunday and date a super model all week."

2. New McSweeney's: I See No Other Option than to Resign as Emily Dickinson's Rap-Battle Coach, although the title is probably the funniest thing about it.

3. This video Steve sent me on the impotence of spill cheeking:

And finally, Three Ways I Plan to Spend My Rosh Hashanah:
Alternating between sneezing, imploring the almighty Master of the Universe to forgive me of all my sinning, and remembering that I'm not Jewish.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007
It's a funny thing when you perform a Google search for the word "officially" and the first hit is an essay on Tolkien's official stance on elf sex.

Yep, a funny little thing indeed.


Monday, September 10, 2007
it's Monday and I'm tired...

because I appreciate how Danny DeVito is representin' for all us short, sarcastic, funny folk...

because I really have nothing even remotely interesting to say...

because I'm a bit more excited than I should be that It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is coming back on Thursday...

because not enough people watch it and I feel quite strongly that more should...

and last, but certainly not least,

because I somehow managed to work the word "crackhead" in today's lecture on the Puritans...

please do take this video. Yes, please do.

But, on the other hand...maybe let's not if you're easily offended.

I don't know. It's your life. Perhaps you should be the one to make the decisions, after all.

Friday, September 07, 2007
leci n'est pas une nerd
One week down; 40 something more to go.

Not that it's been a bad week, mind you. A bit tiring perhaps, but my kids seem to be a significant improvement over last year's bunch. (Or, at least I'm not saving up for a bullet proof vest and contemplating the necessity of regular tetanus shots. Yet.) But who can really tell this early in the game, you know? And when it comes down to it, we're still trying to figure each other out. Realizing this, I've been intentionally fluctuating between humorless, abrasive, motherly, and *ahem* comical, because this early in the game I find it important (and not to mention fun) to keep them guessing.

What I'm pretty sure they've figured out by now, however, is that although I might be other things too, one thing that I most definitely am is a great big nerd. Case in point, over the course of the past four days I've referenced The Transformers, organic chemistry, Stephen Hawking's theory of time travel via wormholes, Severus Snape (multiple times, that one) and actually told a 'joke' ending with "and that's why a solid grasp of correct semicolon usage will help improve your love life." So see, it's hopeless. I'm a nerd.

And in keeping with that theme, here's some other nerdy things I've been enjoying these past few days:

Nerdy Books: I Love You, Beth Cooper (by Larry Doyle of The Simpson's fame) is one of the funniest books I've read in some time. The protagonist, Denis Cooverman, is a newly graduated high school valedictorian whose obsessively pathetic admiration of the beautiful head cheerleader leads to all sorts of humiliations, shenanigans and a myriad of both physical and emotional injuries. It's sweet, goofy, often sarcastic, awesomely references numerous nerds to have graced the silver screen, made me chuckle several times, laugh out loud at least three, and can easily be managed in a few hours. Consider it, yes?

Nerdy Fashion: Threadless had a sale last weekend so I stocked up, and one of my purchases has easily become the nerdiest thing I own, fashionistically speaking. See:

(And if you get the joke without having to consult either the Internet or your closest expert on Belgian surrealism, then guess're a nerd too! But a cool nerd. One who I'd expedite to a space in my MyFace top eight, even.)

History-Rich Websites about the connections between religion and war and leadership and war (I expected Republicans to be the war mongers. Turns out, not so much. Huh.)

and Documentary Film: God Grew Tired of Us shows the stories of four of Sudan's "lost boys" - refugees from the 1992 genocide who all fled their homeland on foot as small children, raised themselves and one another in squalor, and were then brought to America as young adults. Their stories are terribly sad yet triumphant, and watching them try to maneuver modern conveniences like toilets, pre-packaged butter, grocery stores and shaving cream is both funny, sweet and humbling.

And to bring this all full-circle, the genocide in Sudan reminds me of last year's 9th graders (and not in the hyperbolic sense you may think). One kid, after studying the genocide, actually raised her hand during a class discussion and said, "People think Detroit is a bad place to be. However, when you really think about it, Sudan is much, much worse than Detroit." (I can remember this four months later because it so struck me that I jotted it down on a post-it note, which I discovered in my desk yesterday.) Yes, so have I mentioned recently that I'm glad last year is over? Because I am.

And with that, let's toast. To nerds!

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Thursday, September 06, 2007
not that I'm the sort to gloat...

...but fantasy football season (and regular football season too, for that matter) starts today, and I thought some of you might be curious to see what winning looks like. You know, for the sake of research or whatnot.

And interestingly enough, winning apparently looks a little like a dorky, bobblehead version of Tom Brady. Who knew?

(P.S. Viva la Jock!)


Wednesday, September 05, 2007
and the award for the best google search that recently led someone to my blog goes to:

some guy from Redmond, Washington who conducted a search for "my wife makes me wish I were dead!"

*thunderous applause!*
*deafening screams of approval!*
*the gentle weeping of the winner!*

But wait! If you can believe it, he also wins second place for searching "I think my wife is nuts," which (and perhaps logically so) led him back to 'the pretty' a mere thirty minutes later!

And what does he win, you ask?...Well...Nothing!

See, I don't actually know this man, silly. But if I did, I think I might have to award him with a prolonged and sincere hug, since it sounds like he might need one a bit more than most...

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007
overheard at the renaissance faire
A dad, looking uncomfortably out-of-sorts amidst a sea of people dressed in faerie wings and chain maille and plus-sized bodices, shouts out to his toddler-aged son,

"Hey! Don't run ahead! The last thing you want is for one of these freaks to come up with a sword and hack your face off!"
How...fuzzily fatherly. Makes me wonder how he bids his son goodnight. Something along the lines of, "Goodnight night, sleep tight, and don't forget nearly 1,000 children get abducted each day in the U.S.!," perhaps? Eke.

UPDATE: Good God I had to edit that tiny post far too many times, and my apologies to those who read it in its original form. Scary. I forgot how mentally exhausting this teaching thing can be, and I'll try to be in better shape tomorrow.

And by the way, I have no idea how many children are abducted each day in the U.S, but I think I read 1,000 somewhere on the Internet. And as we all know, if it's on the Internet, it must be true.


back to school! back to school!
And if a girl runs up with something to prove, I plan to not just stand there.

I plan to bust a move.