Friday, February 29, 2008

OCD reading

OCD reading, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

Photo inspired by a post at StevenHartSite. What a fracking mess. The first thing I need to do when I go to full salary next year is buy some more bookcases. The second thing I need to do is dust.

Even the bookcases are getting sloppy.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Day 115

At last! The new principal at Booker T. announced today that we're getting metal detectors. No more knives or guns. The kids will have to start wearing shoe bombs.


So Ralph Nader is running again. I don't care. Everyone has the right to run, and his impact shall be scant. Once Ralph started taking money from right-wing lunatics in 2004 I began to believe those asserting Ralph was merely egomaniacal and not simply interested in pulling the Democrats leftward.

But I note that Nader's running mate was announced today. I've hung out with Matt Gonzalez. I've drunk coffee and whiskey with Matt Gonzalez. I've toured around the Baltimore Museum of Art with him. He's stayed at my house two times for long weekends. He was almost mayor of San Fran, narrowly losing to that pipsqueak Gavin Newsom. I like Matt Gonzalez. He would make a great Green Party candidate for Senate or Congress (or mayor, again). He knows a lot about cool things like art and music and poetry. I think he has an MA in Lit.

I'm not sure why Gonzalez would associate himself with Nader's campaign, however. Nader won't be the Green nominee for President--he wasn't last time (it was David Cobb). I think Gonzalez should distance himself from Ralph if he wants to have a future in a viable national Green Party or grassroots progressive movement.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


So Steven Hart has evaded the flaming sword guarding the borders of the Garden State in order to tag me with the p. 123 meme. The rules are as follows:

• look up page 123 in the nearest book
• look for the fifth sentence
• then post the three sentences that follow that fifth sentence on page 123.

It just so happens that the nearest book at this moment is the last book on the bookcase to my right. A volume called At the Court of the Borgia by Johann Burchard. Here is page 123, sentences 6, 7, and 8:

The legate commissioned me to speak plainly and suitably about everything that need not be concealed from the Duke of Milan, who thereafter arranged for my journey by placing me in the care of his chamberlain. The latter arranged for me to be provided with hospitality and all other necessities in Carimate, which I reached that same evening at about seven o'clock, only to find that there was no time then to have an audience with the king and that my accommodation was not yet available. We therefore retraced our steps to spend the night in a village called Lentate, about a mile and a half away, but on the following morning returned to Carimate, where King Maximilian granted me an audience.

I shan't pass this on. It is a well-known fact of life that memes come here to die. Were I to tag others, they'd not respond.

Conservatism is Dead

Ah, Bill. You lasted long enough to see your movement exposed irrevocably as a total fraud. Now it's off to that great Yacht Club in the sky, where you can smoke all the reefer you desire.

Day 114

For the third day in a row there was a fight immediately in third period. Monday Morris and Tarantino were strangling each other over a stolen pen. Tuesday E. and Keyoe were fighting and dumping trash cans on top of each other. Today Shontrice and Keyona nearly came to blows but I got between them and kept them apart. Such drama. Such bullshit.

We might actually have gotten through a lesson today, but the class was called down for hearing and vision tests, which took almost the entire class period. It would be nice to have advance warning about such things.

The lesson plans Lukie wrote for next week, and the one I wrote for tomorrow are now useless. We've received a City-wide exam, we have to give it tomorrow, and we had no notice of this fact until today. So now we're starting a new Unit next week despite never having finished the current Unit.

Again, what bullshit, what drama. Drama is our next Unit.

I hear a photo has surfaced of Anne Frank's crush object Peter Schiff. I'll show it to the kids, some of whom really liked reading the dramatic version of The Diary of Anne Frank.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Day 113

I supervised my first detention today. The third-period kids were completely disrepectful two days running, despite phone calls home and repeated warnings. Lukie advised that I go to their final class and keep them there because they wouldn't show up at our room. I did so, and relished all six minutes.

After their detention period I spent about 40 minutes calling their houses and talking to their parents or guardians. All of this post-2:35 stuff is completely uncompensated time, but I don't care. I need to find a way to establish order in that class. The only time they paid attention to me was when I read the following part from "The Owl and the Pussycat" aloud:

'O lovely Pussy! O Pussy my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!'

Very briefly I was the center of attention in class, long enough for everyone to get a good laugh. I must admit I hammed it up a bit, really hammering each recurrence of "pussy." I was trying to teach poetic sound devices, after all.

Of course after the poem everyone went back to throwing things, drawing enormous phalli on each others' folders, wrestling on the floor, stealing each others' pens, 'blooping' each other on Nextels or paging each others' phones, talking, cussing, singing, listening to mp3 players, taking photos with digital cameras, etc.

And then last period went relatively smoothly.

All I know is I'm drinking more again because of that class. That's gonna flare up the gout if I'm not careful. Well, that's not all I know actually. I also know that part of this misbehavior flare-up is due to my lack of preparation; I wasn't properly prepared to teach this material today, I wasn't adequately set with examples of what I was going to teach, and the students can sense these things. They jump all over any sign of weakness or laziness in a teacher, and rightly so.

Lukie and I talked beforehand about how lame these two lessons on "sound devices" were. They were required by the Balto. City pacing guide, however. We're ditching tomorrow's lesson and moving on to Longfellow. Oh, God.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Day 112

One student. One student out of my two classes today. One student out of my two classes today knew what Abraham Lincoln is most famous for. One student out of the 50-odd African American teenagers in my 2 8th grade classes.

When I asked "Does anyone know what Abraham Lincoln was famous for?" these are the responses I got:

  • he invented the piano
  • he discovered electricity
  • he was the first president of the U.S.
  • he had a weird tall hat (at least this one is true)
  • his fat, fly beats
  • an f-ed up grill
  • he's on the penny (again, at least true)

Oh well, I've taught classes of sophomores and juniors at the college level who barely knew any more than these kids do about history.

John Wilkes Booth was a local boy, and is buried at Greenmount Cemetery in B'more. The kids were interested in that at least. We read Walt Whitman's "O Captain! My Captain!" but had to spend a lot of time on context.


Didn't watch a single minute of the Oscars, instead opting to watch Ang Lee's latest. Turned out to be a good idea--dark, glacial in mood and pacing, and oh so naughty. Had Merchant Ivory lasted long enough to make an art-house porno, they might have come up with Lust, Caution.

Meh. An inspiring story from real-life turned sentimental tripe. Clumsily cobbled together and manipulative as an ABC after-school special from the '70s. Actually not as terrible as expected, but still an idea done to death.

Friday, February 22, 2008

snow day

snow day, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

Just what the doctor ordered--my first snow day as a public school teacher. Shino, Cha and I are going back to sleep.

Of course we don't have much snow at all, but there's freezing rain now and that's supposed to last until tomorrow.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

YouTube is Awesome part II

Man,think of the things Isaac Newton or Albert Einstein could have done with personal computers. And then think of the kind of shit we do:

I do think this is awesome though. Jefferson Airplane and scenes from the original Star Trek? Priceless.

I couldn't show it in school, however, after reading the Alito concurrence in the Morse v. Frederick decision.

[found via Mysterious Glow/Texas Tarot]

Day 108

So the kid who beat another student unconscious the other day is out of jail. I know because I saw him outside the school when I left today. Rumor has it he was packing weapons when they arrested him two days ago. He didn't look too concerned about his arrest. A group of goofballs was hanging around my car when I walked to the parking lot. One of them is perhaps the biggest asshole student in the whole school. He asked me if he could have a "juice." I told him to get away from me.

Fortunately the beating victim was back in school today and seemed fine. The swelling was down and he even participated in class discussion for the first time.

I need to work on my "teacher tones." I speak in a monotone, rarely lose my cool, and simply increase volume when displeased. On rare occasions I can bust out an angry/scary tone, but I dislike doing so because I have to go to a Bad Place in my spirit to channel those energies. I hate to adopt an "are we going to have a problem here?" bar fight tone with young teenagers. I've used it a couple times and had success, jarring kids into wide-eyed compliance. But I need to reserve those tactics for special occasions, and find better ways to manage the class. Right now they are managing me; I know it, and they know it. Poor Lukie has to sit and observe her tightly-run ship being grounded by a rookie--I'm sure that's the hardest part of mentoring a new teacher. But this is why we do student teaching.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


shino, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

Shino is here and in charge.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Cave Canem II

Tomorrow early A. is dropping off Shino the half-pitbull half-bulldog. Last time I babysat Shino I had a great time being dragged around Reservoir Hill and used as a chew toy. I suppose I shouldn't call what happened between Shino and I "baby-sitting." Mostly I watched Shino do whatever he liked, and said "You're a good dog, Shino. Such a good dog. We didn't like those curtains anyway. It's a good thing that you ate those curtains."

Dogs, I've heard, are good for depression. It's a good time to have a dog in the house for 5 days in that case. Work is getting me down a bit.

[Image Credit]

Day 100 and something

Terrible day. Third period, kids were out of control when I got there, and I barely got them reined in by the end of class. We got nothing done.

Last class of the day I got about half of them seated and started going over the lesson. Just getting to that point took a half hour. I had to put a punk ass kid out the class for trying to start a fight.

I got through a couple stanzas of poetry and there was a huge disturbance in the hall. Immediately students were pouring out of the room. I went out and found a new kid at Booker T. on the floor. His eyes were glazed, his left arm was rigid and in the air and twitching. I thought he was having a seizure until I knelt next to him and realized he'd been beat down. There was a grotesque lump over his eye and blood was pooling under his head. I touched his chest and said "Are you alright?" His heart was racing and he couldn't respond. By this time other teachers were around. I asked the science teacher if anyone had called the nurse, she said the administrators were on the way. We lamely tried to get students back into class but there was chaos.

Apparently the kid I put out of my classroom took it upon himself to do this. He knocked the new kid cold with one punch, and when the new kid was on the floor he stomped on his face three times.

I wish I could say something sympathetic or warm-hearted. But the kids were disgusting bastards for the most part. They thought the seizing and the blood were funny. When the Vice Principal arrived and tried to comfort the badly unjured boy he confusedly tried to hug her. This caused her to burst into tears as she sobbed into her walkie-talkie for the school police and an ambulance. Again this resulted in laughter and howls of derision.

Fuck this shit. I was tempted to just leave at that point. But we went back to class. No work got done, but I kept them under control for a while.

And Lukie's in the hospital. Apparently her pleurisy diagnosis was wrong, and it might have been a blod clot. I hope she's all right.

Monday, February 18, 2008


Found via a tip from Seth. A thinly veiled stand-in for Eliade himself named Dominic Matei is a remarkable scholar whose work is unfinished. He finds himself near exhaustion and death at age 60, and resolves to commit suicide instead of facing the shame of inadequate academic immortality. On the way to do so he is struck by lightning and magically rejuvenated into a 30-year old dude with superhuman memory.

A pleasant fable in the tradition of Borges, Machen, or Dion Fortune. Soon to be a film by Francis Ford Coppola.


Strange dreams lately. Last eve I was manipulating a large apparatus shaped like a cube. There were piano wires strung over each of its six sides with radioactive energy coming from them. I had skewered several pieces of lamb chop and put them in the machine, and kept trying different alignments of the wires. Finally, one of the lamb chops began pulsating and moving about on its skewer. I'd re-animated it. This caused some consternation amongst the scientific community in my dream. They asked me to replicate my experiment, and I wasn't sure I could. Then I awoke.


Not all the episodes are great, but enough are to make the whole series worth checking out. Loved the dodge ball scene--brought back very pleasant memories. My fave episode featured Lindsay getting stoned and then having to babysit--pretty hilarious! Turned out to be much more substantial than I'd imagined, and ended on a nice note. Saturated with the music I grew up on, for better or worse.

Beef--it's what's for dinner

Humane Society video found at Raw Story which shows sick 'downer' cows being forced into slaughter pens by any means necessary. These sick cows are never supposed to enter the food chain, but Hallmark slaughterhouse in California grinds them up and ships them to, of all places, school lunch programs. The abusive treatment of the animals speaks for itself; the flagrant disregard for safety in the food supply is not atypical of corporate behavior.

The USDA has responded to the information in the video with the largest beef recall in US History. It's a shame that we can't get a USDA which proactively inspects and polices these kinds of facilities instead of waiting for a crisis to respond.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


Yes, it's a movie about a rat who dreams of becoming a chef. It's also perhaps the greatest cinematic re-imagining of Paris I've seen. When Remy climbs up to a roof and sees Paris at night I ached to be there again, to the point of welling up. Such is the power of Brad Bird, who fills his film as always with brilliant and touching moments, and his latest features a few tear-jerker bits and many good chuckles. Delicious! A memory sequence launched by the experience of good food is positively Proustian.

Other films set in Paris which made me ache to be there again include: Chloe from 5 to 7, The Ninth Gate (!), and the 400 Blows.

Films that made me want to avoid Paris include: The Last Tango in Paris, Irreversible, and Le Weekend.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


Eliade is one of those writers who makes me feel I know next to nothing. A religious scholar and linguist, a novelist and art critic, Eliade covers fertile ground in these short essays about symbolism, pagan elements resurgent in Christianity, Eugene Ionesco and Mark Chagall and Constantin Brancusi. I might know very little in comparison to Eliade, but I can read his vast oeuvre. Marthe Bibesco is perhaps the coolest thing I learned about here.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Day 106

Oh, man. Today the kids were off the chain. All I had to do was give them a goddamn unit test. Piece of cake, right? Ha. Half the class first period got zeroes for talking. Kids were out of their seats, roaming around, completely disregarding everything I said. I was breaking up a spat between a young man and young lady who were trying to spray each other with an overhead transparency cleaning spray when the 8th grade administrator popped in the room. "Same kids every day. There is something wrong with these kids," she said, and left.

Now that's leadership.

I told the kids I was calling their parents to hoots and howls of derision. I told them I was going to videotape them and show the video to their parents. They danced, they mooned the camera, they fronted hard core. I wish I could show you the video, but of course it's illegal to show video of kids without their parents' permission.

Strangely, I didn't lose my temper or lose my cool. I simply tried my best to rein it in, and worked with those students who wanted to do well on their tests as best I could.

3rd period was a dream.

Now I'm ready for a 3-day weekend.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


My Mom went in for surgery this morning to remove a ruptured disk. The surgeon went in through the front of her neck--I'm assuming that's because it's less invasive, and makes for easier healing than ripped open back muscles. But all I know about surgery comes from watching M*A*S*H when I was a kid.

She was in agony before the surgery, and within a few hours of recovery was already in better spirits and much less pain than before, and was even walking herself to the toidy and back. I was there for a few hours and she didn't hit the morphine button once. Even when I unplugged the morphine tube and held it over a shot glass she wouldn't hit it.

Poor Mom! What a way to spend Valentine's Day. Glad she's okay now, with a new shock absorber at vertebra 6.

But who's counting?

So the Mrs. and I are celebrating our 18th Valentine's Day together. But we're actually apart. I'm at Teaching Reading in the Content Area Part II, the most insipid of the insipid education courses I've taken.

Oh, well. I'll be home soon.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Intense insomnia last night. Fell asleep by 11:30pm, and woke at midnight after dreaming there was a rat in my laptop bag. As I tried to fall asleep again, gilded rhombuses, tetrahedrons, and spheres floated behind my closed eyelids, each containing an image or alphanumeric code. It was like one of those tests the NSA gives you during pre-employment. As these shapes came to the fore in my consciousness, a new train of thought would begin.

I pulled out a sleep CD given me by Big Red. Sometimes it works immediately, other times it doesn't work at all. The first segment is of a breathy female voice speaking with an upper-crust English accent over mysterious New Age music. "Imagine you are dissolving into the aether," she says, and names body parts as they drift away and evanesce. By the time she started reciting the bones of the ears I knew the CD wasn't going to cut it, but I kept listening because by that point there was nothing better to do. Later on in the CD it gets really far-out, and she narrates your merging with the Godhead in eternal bliss. The last segment asks for you to mail your credit card number and PIN to a Burbank address as she tells you "forget you heard this part, you are One with Everything," all the while electric splashes and wave sounds worthy of Vangelis carress your ears.

I gave up and went downstairs to the second floor. I lay on the couch listening to the sleet, and heard in the distance a train blowing morosely its approach to Penn Station. That took me back to my childhood in Fairfield PA, and hearing trains at night, and looking out the bedroom window to see long runs of lit passenger cars passing by in the night, the people visible inside in warm yellow glow. I used to wonder where the people were going, and if I'd ever go anywhere in a train. Those were the days when I could walk down the railroad tracks to my great grandmother's house. The tracks ran directly behind her place and from the back yard I could count cars, sometimes as many as 300, and note the then-new fancy Chessie Ferguson cars with their cool cat logos. Often there'd be a brakeman in striped hat with a lantern on the caboose who would wave to you. Seems ridiculous now, something from a TV show. And no, this train of thought (ugh) got me no closer to sleep.

At least the ice gave us an hour delay today, so I had to feign coherence through only one actual lesson. The kids were more lethargic than I, and Lukie yawned mightily a half-dozen times. I hope I can sleep tonight.

[image credit]

The Shipping Blues

I was expecting a package from with an expected arrival date of 2/9 and I checked on 2/9 to see its whereabouts. The package had been put on a truck for delivery that day out of Capitol Heights, MD, and I assumed it would safely be in my hands by that evening.

On 2/10 I checked again and for some reason my package was checked back in at Capital Heights and flown to Memphis, Tennessee, where it languished for a couple of days. Now the tracking software says again that the package is out for delivery from Capitol Heights.

And no, it wasn't DHL who did this, but the USPS. That's what I get for choosing Free SuperSaver Shipping.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Gist from the Mill

Steven is correct. The Bush Administration has been a tremendous success; they have achieved their primary goals. I said so myself here two years ago:

Their handling of foreign policy and Iraq and domestic policy might seem incompetent, but that's not their true job, at least as they see things. Their true job is transferring public resources to private hands, and they're doing a magnificent job. If Iraq or anything else was going smoothly it would be harder for them to rob us all blind.

Today is primary day in Maryland. The polls were busy when I voted at 7:35am. The big Democratic party players in MD are leaning DLC, with Gov. O'Malley and Sen. Babs Mikulski in bed with the Clintons. Rep. Elijah Cummings is touting Obama.

I haven't heard Sen. Cardin endorse anyone yet. I'm terribly curious to see how things play out today in the Chesapeake caucuses. I would not be surprised if Clinton took Va or MD narrowly. I would also not be surprised if Obama blew her out of the water in all three contests. I'd be most pleased by the latter potentiality.


I have nothing but admiration for Pullman's heresies, and for his daring to write children's fantasy with adult themes and Gnostic overtones. I much prefer his theology to that under which I was reared. In Pullman's world, rebelliousness and skepticism are the way to Truth and Good, while doing and believing what you're told leads to the False and Evil.

But I found The Amber Spylglass a chore to get through. The first two books were breezy and mysterious and engaging; this one was clumsy, busy, and I repeatedly felt abused by lame deus ex machina gimmicks. Pullman perhaps sets a fantasy novel record for having the most nearly forgotten characters re-appear at just the right moment to save the day--no mean feat, that. I wasn't swept away by volume three, and the fact it was twice as long as the others made things much worse.

Oh, well. His Dark Materials was two-thirds excellent.

Monday, February 11, 2008


Starts with a frantic foot chase through night-time London and never lets up. Harry Fabian is a long-time hustler whose schemes always fail. When he hits upon a scheme that might actually make him rich, everything falls apart in glorious noir ways. Kept me on the edge of my seat for a full 90 minutes.

Sam and Ella

Oh, god. It's been years since I was hit with food poisoning. I spent last night curled miserably at the foot of the toilet, leaping up at sudden fluctuations of bowel, stomach, or gorge. Often I had to make lightning-quick decisions about the direction of foul fluid, barely situating the appropriate orifice in time.

Those moments when two orifices were engaged at once shall remain undiscussed, except to note I felt like a high-wire act in some Hellish circus.

My stomach felt full of hot brick, my temperature achieved 102 at one point, and now I'm dehydrated and shaky and weak.

I blame a rotisserie chicken purchased at the Hampden SuperFresh yesterday. I may never eat rotisserie chicken again. At one point chunks of it were up my nose.

Needless to say I called out sick and I'm going to try and sleep for the first time since Sunday morning.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Ginger Chicken

peeling, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

Cha and her Ma made ginger chicken today. Yummy!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Here we go

I was reading a very brief interview with Barack Obama in Paris Match. He mentioned that a cornerstone of his foreign policy will be open dialogue with states like Syria and Iran. Hillary is a bit hawkish, and has a whiff of the neo-con about her, and will likely keep convenient "enemy" states around instead of reaching out (what if Bill Clinton had reached out to Khatami when Iran had its best chance to open up?).

It's true that Obama and Clinton have rather similar domestic agendas, and each is qualified, smart, and competent. But I get the sense Obama can repair much of the damage done by Bush/Cheney both domestically and internationally. I doubt Clinton's ability to inspire generally to the same degree.

Edwards was closest to me ideologically. I'm concerned that both remaining Democratic candidates are less worried about corporate power than I. But I'm throwing my hat in the ring for Obama. I like his speeches. I like his demeanor. I don't think it's just hype. I think he is inspiring and well-rounded and compassionate. I sent him some cash today.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Day 103

I was tempted to call out sick for the first time this morning, but decided against it. The kids made me grumpy yesterday, and I wanted to get right back on the horse instead of sitting around the house.

They were comparing themes across texts. I modeled a couple of Greek myths for them, then they worked in groups finding themes and comparing them for two Alicia Keyes songs: "No One" and "If I Ain't Got You." Playing the songs in class was about the most fun thing evah. The worst, meanest, most hateful kids were singing and waving their arms around, the fashionistas were off the chain, everyone was filling in their graphic organizers and doing their worksheets. When they did independent practice everyone was on point, but they asked me to play the songs again as they worked, and I did so.

Funny how when we stray from the required curriculum we get engaged students who give a shit. I wonder what would have happened if we'd read "Oh Captain My Captain" and "Daffodils" today as mandated?

Thursday, February 07, 2008


I've read many reviews of Sheldon Novick's recent volume of Henry James biography. All the reviewers have praised faintly and damned vigorously The Mature Master. None, however, has damned quite so vigorously as Alan Hollinghurst, who hits Novick upside his head with the NYRB equivalent of a bitch-slapping. Hollinghurst has convinced me not to read it.

YouTube is Awesome

Day 102

The kids at school wear uniforms--they are not allowed in classrooms with coats, hats, kerchiefs, hoodies, etc. They are not allowed in the building if they wear gang colors or insignia.

Of course kids are smart and inventive. They have subtle ways of flying gang colors, like having a colored rubber band around the wrist, or around the hair. Sometimes they come up with acronyms or acrostics to put on their folder with encoded Crips or Bloods meanings.

Today I was handing out overhead transparencies and dry-erase pens to the groups in first period. They were working on a brief constructed response about the theme of Tolstoy's very short story "The Old Grandfather and His Little Grandson." I handed Nat Turner a red pen and he said "Get that red pen away from me! I need blue." The other kids all stopped talking. "I got green Nat," I said, and he took that one. "Green all right. Not as good as blue, but all right." He looked around with his cold killers' eyes to see if everyone got the point. Nat and I used to get along, but one day he was playing and tried to pull me over during a handshake. I twisted his arm behind his back and put him face down on his desk. He did not like that at all, and since then has treated me with utmost disrespect. His little foot soldiers in the school try to scare me in the hall by lunging at me or saying "Boo!" in my ear when I walk past. Whatever. They're 13, 14, and 15-year-old kids. If I was walking on Whitelock Ave and saw them I might not feel safe, but in the school I handle my business.

In third period Yasmine wouldn't take a blue pen. "That color unlucky for me," she said. Her binder has about eight memorial photographs of dead cousins and friends and siblings, most of them barely older than she is now when they fell.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

My Patriotic Duty

These are tulips. Trust me.

Q: What's the best thing to do when you're a half-salary teaching intern going to grad school full time, when the economy is crashing and your house is perhaps no longer worth what you paid for it last year, when your savings are depleted and you face a summer sans income before you get your first fat paycheck in September?

A: Use the forthcoming Bush tax refund check and your credit card to book a trip to Europe for Spring Break!

I haven't been to Europe since 2002. I haven't been out of the U.S. since January 2006. In March Yahtzee and I are flying to Amsterdam to, ah, er, ahem look at tulips. Yeah, that's the ticket. Cha, who will be in Milan and Venice for work the previous week, is hooking up with us on her way home.

Found some reasonable prices on hotel/air packages are still available in March. Of course, once I get to the Netherlands and the $1.60 Euro I'll need all those savings to afford Indonesian food, wine, beer, museum entrance fees, and ah, er, ahem coffee. Yeah, that's it. Coffee. And tulips. The credit cards will groan with debt until next fall. But that's what credit cards are for!

Anyone want to join us? It's Australian for Beer! and Natasha are thinking seriously about it as well. You know you want to. The Apocalypse might happen in April, and boy would you be sorry you missed this opportunity to ride a canal boat and visit the Anne Frank Secret Annex Museum...

[Image Credit]

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


A corpulent, flatulent medievalist with a hard-on for Boethius is forced to get a job when his mother crashes drunkenly into a wrought iron porch and has to pay its owner for repairs. What follows never fails to make me laugh, and vigorously. I mean great rolling guffaws and tears and knee-slapping--the whole works.

Toole lampoons everyone in this epic, this supreme tour de farce. I don't often re-read books, but Confederacy of Dunces will continue to get periodic visits.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Day 100 redux

It's happened enough times for me to comment on it now, at least six times in the last few months. I'll be crouched down next to a female student helping her with class work and she'll be paying no attention to what I'm saying. This will dawn on me at last and I'll turn to see the student looking dreamily at the side of my head. Slowly she'll reach out and touch my hair, a quizzical look on her face.

The kids are amazed and disturbed by white people hair. They think it's magical. Some compliment me for having "perfect" hair, which is ridiculous. My hair is a frazzled, wiry mess if I let it grow more than 1/4 an inch, which is why I often shave it completely off.

Today I was helping a new student named Katina. She is mean and brassy, which is a combo that almost always earns my respect. I was trying to help her write a Brief Constructed Response, but she obviously wasn't listening. "You nasty," she said. "Why don't you shave that hair out yo hands." I couldn't help but laugh, but Katina wasn't kidding. She was completely disgusted that I had hair on my hands.

The hair on my head may be "perfect," but apparently arm or hand or chest hair is "nasty."

Day 100

I don't know what the weather is like where you are, but it's pretty fab in B'more today. The sun has come out after a gloomy, wet, and chilly morn, and it feels like early April out of doors. The next couple of days promise to be Al Gore "I-told-you-so!" type days, with highs near 70.

I spent this morning being harrassed and hassled and hustled by 8th graders. It's tough enough managing a City School classroom on a typical day, but give the kids a long weekend and they're nightmarish when they come back. Fuck'n a! I had great difficulty remembering "It's the behavior, not the child" today. First period was a zoo. It got to the point where I started laughing hysterically because there was nothing else to do. I feel for the poor four or five kids who were trying to learn.

I'm spending this gorgeous afternoon reading Supreme Court decisions for my law class. New Jersey v. T.L.O., Gebser v. Lago Vista, Bethel School District v. Fraser, and Davis v. Monroe County are ruining my day. I have to write a legal brief for each case, gag.

Thanks to Chuckles for turning me on to some friends of his from Michigan. I'm listening to their take on Mingus' "A Night in Tunisia" right now. New music always makes homework less of a drag.

Read a rather facile article in the current NYRB about bloggers and blogging and books about such stuff. Realized while reading it that I've been at this for in excess of six years (though two years' worth of archives were lost long ago). We near one of those "hang it up or re-invent" moments hereabouts...

Saturday, February 02, 2008


The arabbers of Baltimore have fallen on hard times. Their central stable was condemned and the horses seized by the City. According to the Sun, the horses were treated properly but were inadequately housed.

Tonight the doorbell rang at about 8:30. I was in bed reading homework, and jumped up to open the window and look down. It was our former arabber--when we first moved to the neighborhood we became regular customers, buying tomatoes, cantaloupes, bananas, strawberries, and potatoes from him.

He was crying. I barely recognized him; he was grizzled and looked unwell. First thing he did was ask about my wife. "She real nice," he said. "Soon as you came to the neighborhood I was happy to meet her." He told me he was having hard times. Their horses had been moved several times, and it looked like they wouldn't get them back until June or July. "I'm fifty years old," he said. "My work was took away. They got my horse and I don't know where my cart is." He asked if I could spare some money until the summer. "You know I'll get it back to you."

I gave him some cash, but didn't have much in the house. He often cut us deals on 'maters and good fruit, and I told him we missed having him come around. He thanked me. "Antonio won't forget what you done," he said, touching his hand to his heart. I asked if I could drive him somewhere. "No sir. I'm gonna make my usual rounds tonight and ask for some more help. I wish I had my pony."

Friday, February 01, 2008


Another book read in preparation for the Praxis II test. I feel for Okonkwo--like him, I have a distasteful and useless father. Also like Okonkwo I spend far too much time trying not to be my father instead of being who I am.

An interesting novel about tribal life in what is now Nigeria just as the English arrive and dismantle millennia worth of cultural norms. My grandfather was born in New South Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), so I found this work particularly engaging. He was the son of missionaries whose work was likely as brutal and well-intentioned as that of the British thugs hanging tribesmen in Umuofia.

Achebe brings the tribe to life; their beliefs, their customs, their morals and codes. Okonkwo is not a deep character, and is not particularly sympathetic. He's driven by a powerful will, and like many such characters ends up at odds with Fate. But one understands the internal forces which drive him, and what happens to him and his people is terribly sad.

Day 99

I write in chalk, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

Professional Development day. There is a scheduled "health and well-being" event, but we ditch it. Jumping jacks? Um, no. Lukie and I hang in RM218 and write lesson plans about "The Monkey's Paw" and theme, setting, and mood.

Lukie is a presidential history fanatic. She has Bachelor's degrees in writing, history, and political science. She teaches language arts because that's what the City needs her to do, but she's desperate to teach Social Studies. She just started a Master's program at Johns Hopkins in government.

"What homework are you assigning Thursday?" she asked. We're working through our Theme unit on alternate days, trying to out-do each other.

"Think of your favorite movie. What is the theme or message? Explain your answer in three sentences."

"Oooh. Good one. I'm doing one about the TLC song "UnPretty.""

"That's pretty hot. For Monday I'm asking them what they'd wish for if they had the monkey's paw." We chat in between brainstorming sessions. Lukie loves all presidents, and has photos of herself at many of their graves and libraries, including the most recent one, which shows her admiring James Monroe's marble tomb. Her favorite president is LBJ, so I ask if she knew about his giant Texas schlong.

"Of course! He used to put it on his desk."

"One time at a press conference somebody asked him 'Why are we in Vietnam?' Jonshon took out his unit and waved it around and said 'That's why we're in Vietnam!'"

"Yeah. He would follow fellow Senators into the Men's room and intimidate them by standing over them and shaking and adjusting his dick. They would vote for whatever he asked after that treatment."

Mr. Hall, a new language arts teacher, came in. "What are you guys doing?" he asked.

"We're talking about LBJ's giant dick!" she shouted enthusiastically. "Oh, and writing lesson plans."

Two new teachers started today. One is a rookie just out of undergrad, the other was a teacher at a University in Japan for a while and returned to the States only recently. They were scrubbing obscenities off the walls in their classrooms. Poor souls. They look terrified. They were placed at Booker T. and they've heard through the grapevine about what goes on here. We tried to improve their spirits as best we could.

Lukie has been sick lately, with chest pains and sore arms. I was worried about her, and it turns out she's got pleurisy. Since she teased me when I had the gout, I gave her a hard time about her old-timey ailment. We should go get a blood-letting, because obviously our vapours are screwed up.