Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Day 25

Things Fall Apart. The Center Can't Something-Or-Other.

Kids in the halls, suddenly, running amok. 8th graders banging on doors and screaming, pulling shit down from the ceiling, hitting each other with drum sticks. I've seen this before--it's the old Book trying to come back. Fearless Leader hides in his office all day, then makes an announcement about how he won't tolerate what he is hearing has happened in the building of late.

Instead of not tolerating it, get your ass out in the halls. This is how things went last year! Relative calm until October and then Da Shit Hit Da Fan. Another couple days like the last two days and we will have chaos in the building.

Both hall monitors were out today for half the day, and the building was brought to its knees. God forbid they quit.Inside my classroom things are devolving, mostly because of the transfer of jerks into my well-behaved college-bound sections. I called four times to have a student removed from my classroom who was fighting other kids and destroying private property. Four times I was assured assistance was coming, four times it failed to show. Meanwhile nobody learns anything because I'm trying to restrain a clueless jackass who is punching girls in the vagina whenever I stop sitting on him. What a joke. For two days in a row my last class has been calm and quiet while the others have worn me out. A flip of circumstances I did not want.

Monday, September 29, 2008


We're only three episodes in but it's already one of the most sophisticated and elegantly made TV shows I've seen. Each episode is like a John Cheever short story directed by Wong Kar Wai. Lovely period design, gorgeous smoking, hateful mysogynist jokes--takes me back to my youth (yes, my youth was a decade and half later than the setting of this series, but I lived in the sticks and small-town USA, where the late '50s still reigned for many years).

Too late for that Weezer video


Sunday, September 28, 2008


buffet, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

Kumari on Charles St has always been yummy, but recently they hired a new chef and they've gone off the hook with bonus deliciousity. I can't go to that buffet too often because I eat so much food it literally makes me sick.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


Sad that I have so little time these days. To read a 300-page novel takes weeks instead of a couple days.

After Butcher's Crossing I bought Augustus and it is an excellent novel about Rome--not quite up to the high bar of I, Claudius, but close. I enjoyed the epistolary approach, and the shifting views of Augustus from a variety of persons. I liked particularly the wonderful journal of his nursemaid Hirstia. We don't hear from Octavius himself until the end.

Soon I'll read Williams' other famous novel, Stoner. And then there will be no more from him. Sad.

Debating the Debate

Ah, middle age! "Sleeping in" means getting out of bed at 7:00am instead of 5:30. I read the Times and the Sun and graded some papers with the always craptacular Morning Joe on, in s special post-debate Saturday edition.

Hot topics of discussion so far? Obama looked darker, more menacing. McCain looked like your crazy grumpy uncle, and it was strange that he never once looked at Obama during the debate. Thank goodness for this in-depth analysis.

Unfortunately it's this kind of bullshit that wins the debate--not the actual remarks of the candidates. The pundits score appearance, mannerism, aloofness, hipness. Like this dipshit talking about Obama closing his eyes too much. That's how I select presidential candidates--their rate of blinking.

Because Cha's boss is the daughter of well-heeled NEA/Education big-wigs who move in donor circles at the Fed level, she scored us tickets to a debate watch shin-dig at the DNC headquarters last night. Luky accompanied us because she's getting her Master's in Government at JHU and she's an inner-city teacher and advocate for the kids in B'more and she needed to be there. We mingled with former secretaries of Ed and drank Yellow Tail and sat on the floor in front of a giant projection screen as the Bluest of the Blue applauded Obama and booed McLame.

Obama scored a couple good blows but failed to deck his opponent. He was too cautious. McCain failed to demonstrate his vast experience and was fumbly. Neither was a clear winner, but I thought Obama showed himself to have the demeanor and smarts for the job, and McCain failed to connect to issues important to the middle class. The guy has lost his sense of humor completely. Many who doubted Obama's capacities saw them last night. As presidential debates go, it was better than any I've seen in recent memory, mostly because of the absence of a truly stupid guy for the first time since 1996. But like all debates, it was disappointing.

I can't wait to watch Joe Biden eviscerate Sarah Palin Thursday. She is truly a cream puff. If the lightweight Katie Couric can't keep Palin's stupidity from the public, then Biden is going to put the dunce cap on her and sit her in the corner on national TV. Of course Bush was moronic every time he appeared on television and he got elected twice--with catastrophic results. If Biden is too cruel to Palin people might feel sorry for her.

Friday, September 26, 2008

6th grade editorial cartoons II

6th grade editorial cartoons

6th grade editorial cartoons, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

I gave out an extra credit packet. The last page asked students to write ten sentences or draw a picture about their experience at The Book. Some of them are heart-breaking.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Beer and Boating Don't Mix

Pleased today to hear from Pork Heaven and his lovely wife via snail mail. Apparently someone let my brother pilot their 36-foot yacht around in the Pacific. Guess the owner didn't know about Pork Heaven capsizing a row boat in a Canadian lake at 2am by attempting to piss off it as we were moving along on an electric motor. Of course the fact that J was tickling him and I was rocking the boat at the time didn't help.

Good times.

Funnier Even than Orrin Hatch

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

McCain Jumps Snake River Canyon

I was trying my best to avoid politics but it's simply too much fun. Just in the last two hours I saw three different McCain spokespeople give the exact same response to questions about McCain's decision to "suspend" his campaign and take his aweseme Tiger Shaolin negotiating powers back to the Senate and solve the financial crisis he helped cause by chairing the Senate Commerce Committee.

My favorite appearance of the day (so far) was Orrin Hatch on Chris Matthews. Dude is the best stand-up comic, I tell you. I fell on the floor at several of his quips, but when Hatch said "there's just too much daggum partisanship in Washington" with a straight face my spleen leapt straight out my left nostril I snorted so loud. Orrin Hatch bemoaning partisanship? Ooh, hoo, oh no, I'm losing it again. Ha.

Even better, when Matthews asked Hatch who was to blame for the economic crisis, he said Bill Clinton. The guy can really work old material into his act. We loves those classic jokes, Orrin! Ha, I'm crying.

So nobody with a non-microcephalic brain (and most with) know that McCain is pulling a purely political stunt here, the most ballsy move since Knievel launched a rocket sled over the abyss on national TV. The fact that everyone from his campaign and the Senators on TV are all on carefully crafted scripts is proof positive of that. Just a few days ago the economy was strong according to McCain, and now the crisis is so bad that he can't sit down with Obama for ninety minutes and discuss policy. I'm curious how this will play out. It's the sort of bullshit the gullible love to gobble in the good ole' USA, which is why "jumping the shark" works for failing TV shows.

A lot will depend on the House Republicans too--will those stubborn free marketeers hold good on their promise to stop the $700 billion bail-out, or will they see a chance to boost their man's standing in the polls if they roll over and give him funding for that big fat package.

"It's Clinton's fault!" Terrorism and WMD don't work any more, the economy isn't working, reform isn't working--so let's go back to blaming Clinton for everything. Ha, heh-heh. My stomach hurts.

Day 22

Ibraheem joined my 2nd period class last week. He was totally silent, finished his questions in about two minutes, and put his head down. All his responses were detailed, exact, and advanced in construction and depth of thought. He disappeared after that for four days straight. Yesterday Ms. R the 6th grade AP opened my door. "Ibraheem will do anything he can to get kicked out of here. Do not put him out your class," she said, fixing me with that "don't fuck with me" glare she has.

Ibraheem refused to stay in his seat. He went back out in the hall. I followed him and said "Ibraheem, I don't want the hall monitors to jack you up. Come back in my class."

"Fuck you," he said. "Fuck this school. Them pussy ass hall monitors can suck my dick. They can't touch me."

"I don't know what school you were in before, Ibraheem, but you at Booker T. now. I am warning you the hall monitors do not play."

"Fuck you."

"Okay," I said. "I will leave my door unlocked if you change your mind." Ibraheem was crying. His eyes were as vivid and red as some icon of the Man of Sorrows.

Next thing I was teaching a context clues lesson and I heard Mr. Linebacker growling outside my door. Then I heard Mr. Safety. Then I heard Ibraheem cussing them out. Then my door opened. Mr. Safety had Ibraheem by the neck and the belt. He carried him in, asked me where Ibraheem's seat was, and roughly shoved him down in it. Mr. Linebacker got right in Ibraheem's face and grabbed it with a hand the size of a mid-size terrier. "You shut yo mouth youngin', or we make an example of you."

"Thanks gentlemen," I said. Ibraheem immediately did all the context clues exercises and got them all right.

Today Ibraheem came to class on time but refused to stay in his seat or do his work. I remembered Ms. R and her glare: DO NOT put him out your class, she'd said. I kept him. His misbehavior was curious--he would wait until I was looking right at him and then he would throw something. I ignored him. He hit me in the eye with a paper ball and laughed. I told him it wasn't funny and put his name on my phone call board. I knew he was asking to be thrown out, and I wasn't about to give him what he wanted. He picked up a chair and before he could throw it I had my hand around his neck and he was pinned against the wall and the chair was safely out of reach.

Today we had a meeting about "problem" students." Ms. R told us that Ibraheem had been put out of two private schools and six public schools. His mother was "four years clean" and her three older sons are on the streets, all of them having dropped out. The mother was desperate to keep her last son in school. I mentioned that I suspected Ibraheem was brilliant. Ms. R smiled. "I don't know how you knew that but he has tested off the charts on IQ and academic skills tests. He simply does not want to be in school. He idolizes his thug-life brothers."

"Well we need to keep him in here then, a young black man with all that going on upstairs," said Mr. S the social studies teacher. He talks just like Carlton on The Family Guy. When the kids do his Carlton voice I have to admit it makes me laugh too.

I have a feeling Ibraheem has not yet begun to rebel. I have to: A) save his ass from a terrible fate B) keep him from wrecking my second period class C) keep him from getting his ass kicked by tougher jerks at the Book.

On top of everything else!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Day 21

So my last class of the day had their best day of the year so far. A social worker familiar with that crew popped her head in at one point and could not keep her jaw from sagging to her chest. Earlier she'd given me a high-five and said "May the Force be with you in that last class of yours!"

The kids were working. Quietly. They were hanging on my every word. Somebody slipped NyQuil into their milk at lunch, I figure. The social worker gaped, knuckled her eyes furiously, and gaped again. She gave me a "WTF?" look. I laughed. I didn't do anything different today.

Of course during the last ten minutes of class their somnolence wore off: TeeVee Wonder jumped up and punched Mikala in the face and started choking her, and the PlayMate of the Month went berzerk and took off her shoe and hit Chanty on the back of the head. But still--this was their best day. By FAR. I think they actually learned something about exposition, rising action, climax, and falling action. I know I did.


Ken takes me to task for pretending to know something about economics the other day.

I respond: I am no economist, but I know a lot about hypocrisy and lying, and that was the crux of my rant. "Free markets" fail and socialist bail-outs happen. I've seen it several times in my short life. No where did I say I prefer socialism, though I prefer socialized medicine and higher education and...I'll stop now.

Monday, September 22, 2008

I shoulda made that left turn at...

So a couple years back I "won" in an auction two round-trip tickets anywhere in the continental US for $500. It was at a fundraiser event for my wife's organization, and at the time I thought we could have probably gotten cheaper fares than that through Expedia. Now I know we got a good deal given skyrocketing airfare prices.

We chose to go to Albequerque: I wanted to see New Mexico and US Air doesn't fly to Sante Fe. So in March we'll be spending a bit more than a week tooling around in the Southwest. Yippee! Hot food. Cold mojitos. Anastazi ruins, caves, and deserts.

I need to add more US travel to my travels. I've seen shockingly little given my world travel experience.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

merry go round

I read enough Chomsky in my 20s to find it amusing when anyone in the elite media or in politics froths at the mouth about our "free market economy" and how the market is a great moral arbiter and that the solution to the market's problems is a tiny government with limited regulatory intrusions into the business of business and finance. While spouting this junk, everyone knows that free markets don't work, and there is no greater proof than the actions taken yesterday by Bush and Paulson. When you have free markets you end up with gangster capitalism like in Russia since the Chicago School re-organized their economy, or outright looting like in Baghdad after the neocons re-organized their economy, or total collapse like in Chile under Pinochet after privatization (again under the guidance of the Chicago School)*, etc. Those who profess their admiration for and pledge their committment to free markets nod and wink at each other, because they are planning to bilk what they can and leave the scraps to the rest of us, knowing full well that free market ideology will disappear into periodic hibernation when the inevitable bail-out happens. The investment class will be taken care of, no matter what. Then after the rich have had their pockets lined first by looting and then by a bail-out, the free-market ideologues will re-emerge unscathed by the past failings of their theory, our chirruping cicadas against big government regulation.

Look how quickly Bush and Co. morphed into FDRs, just as Reagan and Co. did after the Savings and Loan crunch two decades back. Funny how Average Jane and Joe can suffer pretty harsh circumstances for two years and nobody gives a rat's ass. But some big-shot investors lose value in their portfolios and then we have a trillion dollar bail-out package that makes EU market manipulations look downright conservative. As Noam used to say: in America it's "socialism for the rich, and the free market for everyone else." Remember that much ballyhooed bailout of Mexico?
Remember all the TV talking heads and policy wonks bemoaning how we bailed out the Mexican currency to prevent a crisis because they couldn't handle their business south of the border? Well, we didn't actually bail out the Mexican currency. The Fed paid investors back who lost their shirts on foolish speculations. Why? Because of socialism for the rich. And that was on Clinton's watch--and at the same time that Clinton and Gingrich were screaming at welfare moms to go back to work or else.

Free markets are bullshit. The free-est free markets have immediately preceded every great crash, including the greatest of them all in '29, and its current runner-up. Businesses are geared to grasp every cent of profit, and will break every rule in order to do so. Without a strong government to audit and check them, they will eventually manipulate the system into total chaos. We just saw it again. Americans however will quickly forget and enthuse over another rash deregulatory nutcase in a few years I'm sure, even if the current collapse worsens (H.L. Mencken taught me about the confounded buffoonery of my fellow citizens. He also told me to take pleasure from observing it. I try.). Governments are at least somewhat responsible to the citizens--corporations are huge transnational organizations now, often monopolies, and citizens have no recourse for protection and redress of grievances other than government regs.

The ideologies of the Chicago School of Economics have been discredited time and again, but still remain the economic theory of choice for Republicans and most Democrats. Hilarious.

I wonder how this trillion dollar bail-out will work. Are we going to throw this money at the very financial institutions whose corruptions have been so well-documented? Are we going to let Bush and Cheney and Paulson hand it over to fat cats so that a tiny percentage might trickle down to the rest of us? Is a subsidiary of Halliburton going to manage it? I don't have much confidence in Reid or Pelosi to handle this business. Schumer I trust a bit more.

My prescription for what ails us? Drown Grover Norquist in a bathtub.

*of course in Chile after the disaster following Chicago school remodeling, the free market/privitize everything idea was tanked and heavy regulation was re-introduced to save the system. But somehow the Chicago School takes credit for the current success of Chile's economy. Hardee-har-har!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Day 19

He's one of the truly problematic kids in my last class. I know he's smart because I've seen some of his writing and I've seen his ingenious devious behavior, but he fills in random circles on bubble sheets when we take tests, smiling at me as he does so.

Because he's bright and he was previously held back a year the higher-ups decide to move him to 7th grade. I think this is a great idea. They tell him "Next Friday you're moving to 7th grade." Suddenly he does his work daily and sits in his chair and stops stealing my stuff. He becomes a rock upon which the chaos in that classroom breaks.

Then, inexplicably, he starts throwing paper airplanes. Right in front of me or Mr. H he'll stand up and throw something out the window. I confront him of course and take him for a talk in the hall. "What are you doing? Is this the behavior of someone going to 7th grade?" I ask. I can feel my hair graying.

"They changed their minds. I'm staying here."

Oh, I think. Now I can see why he's acting out. I decide to give him some space because I'd be pissed too. Yesterday he stole one of my gel pens--no big deal, whatever. I saw him after school and I told him "I hope you put that pen to good use. Write me something."

He glared at me.

Today he sits on my desk sharpening the same pencil over and over at the electronic pencil sharpener. He pauses, I start to talk, then he starts again. This is his new game. I tell him to get off my desk, but as I start to talk he pushes the pencil in again. I put my hand on his chest and half-shove/half-lift him back off the desk and onto his feet. He returns to his seat, he breaks the pen he stole yesterday open and pours ink onto my desk and onto his table mates' papers. I hit the roof and write him a referral to the office. He comes back twenty minutes later and I talk to him in the hall. I tell him I'm not angry, but I'm disappointed. He apologizes but he won't look at me. He enters the room where we are taking the Unit 1 test, and he fills in the circles at random.

"Why don't you actually try?" I ask. "You could ace this!"

"I did try," he sneers. I point out that he has filled in responses for 30 questions on his answer sheet, and there are only 26 questions on the test. He crumples up his paper.

"Are you gonna call my grandma?" he asks. I say no, because the assistant principal already did. He draws me a picture of Piglet and colors it in. I hang it on my wall.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Day 18

She's in my homeroom and my first period class. She often comes in and asks for food immediately. Half her face is a purple stain birthmark. She is in 6th grade and weighs perhaps 40 pounds, a tiny wisp moving about the room. Sometimes she bangs a frozen plastic bottle on her desk when I am teaching, trying to dislodge chunks of ice to eat. Students are not allowed to have water or any food or bottles in school. I reprimand her.

The first couple times I refuse her requests for food. "Go to the free breakfast. We have free breakfast here," I tell her. She has the same name as my niece. She is in trouble and I know it. I think she gets lunch at school and only lunch at school. I am sure she gets no other food anywhere. She gets no food at home. Does she even have a home? When I tell her I'm calling her guardian for not doing her school work she is desperately afraid. "You don't know. Don't do it, please. You don't know." Her eyes are enormous. The one on the birthmark side is vivid.

She appears in my dreams, flitting around the dream school halls. I can see through her.

In class today I can't get her focused on work. "My stomach is growling. I'm hungry." She tugs the hairs on my arm. "Does it hurt?" she asks. During independent reading time she has a version of Sister Carrie re-written for sixth graders. Her selection breaks my heart. She won't read it, so I ask her to sit next to me and tell me about it. On the cover is a haggard white woman between two darker men.

"I seen all the Sister Carries. I seen Sister Carrie I, II, and IV three times. I never seen Sister Carrie III until last night. Sister Carrie has her own clothing line and I like to buy them. My mom wears Sister Carrie perfume."

"Does she wear it on her ears or on her wrists?"

She points at her wrists.

"What does it smell like?"

"It smells like grass and sunshine. Sister Carrie is really black but she is light-skinned. Her perfume is called Rainbows."

She moves in my dreams, crying her hunger. I can't take it.

She is staying after school to work on the art project team. They are making things for Ed Reed's 30th birthday bash. Ed Reed gives lots of money to the Book. She appears in my room at 2:40. I am glad the Panamanian teacher is there, the one who flirts with me, because I don't feel comfortable when I'm working in my room alone and female students stop in. I always quickly move to the hallway. "I'm hungry" she says. "My stomach hurts."

The Panamanian tsks with her pouty mouth. I get my treat bin and give her some cookies and chips. "Can I have BBQ?" she says. I give her BBQ. I am breaking my own rules about my treat bin. Treat bin is for Fridays only, when students cash in their good behavior stamps.

Making dinner I see her and she is translucent, hovering above the skillet. I can't take it. I'm buying PopTarts tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Day 17

My wife was a classroom teacher for a decade before moving on to non-profit land, so I knew about the endless contradictory and useless meetings to which public school administrators subject their staffs. According to our contract we are supposed to get 30 minutes for lunch every day, and we are supposed to have 90 minutes of free planning time a day to do our filing, our grading, our attendence, our phone calls, our paperwork, our planning, etc. Let's just say that ain't the way it works. I get ten minutes for lunch if I'm lucky, and I have yet to get a minute of my planning time because there's always a mandatory meeting scheduled during planning time. Yesterday my sixth grade team-mates and I thought we had no meeting and we were excited because we thought we could actually meet with each other to do some planning and get on the same page. But then we were paged to a last-minute meeting. The first item on the agenda? A fifteen minute discussion by administrators about how there were too many meetings.

Tomorrow I have a mandatory professional development about using technology in the classroom. Fuck that. We had this professional development ten times last year. All they ever get to is how to login to email and how to turn on a fucking LCD projector. They can suck it. So I'll sit there for an hour not getting my work done, and then after school I have a mandatory meeting for an hour (again, our contract states we are required ONLY to attend a SINGLE after-school faculty meeting per month--this will be the THIRD after-school event I'm attending this month).

If I actually got to use my planning time I might not have to work these ten-hour days every day, including Saturdays and a few hours on Sundays. I'm not holding my breath, however.

Yesterday the Big Cheese held me after school to talk to me about inaccuracies on my attendance. "Some of the kids you mark absent are actually tardy," he said.

"Well, you told us to hand in our attendance by 8:15. Many students come in later than that. If they come in later than that I have already marked them absent."

"That is an inaccuracy on a legal document. Hold your attendance until 8:30."

"If I don't turn it in by 8:15 Mr. Mac comes and yells at me."


"Yes, sir."

So today I had my attendance at 8:16 and I was changing a couple absents to tardies when Mr. Mac opened my door and screamed at me for not turning in my attendance on time. I did what I always do in the face of moronosity--I smiled. And then blogged about it.

The full moon this week launched the student body into lunacy across the board. The Book this week looks like the Book last year all of a sudden. They better get this shit nailed down quick. Teachers are starting that old calling out every day trick. Mr. T across the hall has already used 2 weeks of sick time. Mr. W laughs about this every day. "He ain't gonna make it Mr. G. He on his way out."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Mrs. at Work


Werner Herzog moves from the jungles of Peru and into the desert of Australia, and loses himself along the way. This is perhaps the sloppiest and least focused work I've seen by the man.

Still, it's a Herzog, so it's worth checking out if you are into his stuff. But I can much more enthusiastically recommend other films about Aboriginal magic and culture: Rabbit-Proof Fence, and Weir's The Last Wave.

Day 16

After input from several 6th grade faculty members, Fate has been moved from chaotic Class From Hell and into my calm 2nd period class. She's kind of funny, sitting there astonished at the fact that people pay attention and do their work. Most of them. I do have to lay down the law in there from time to time, but it's nothing like the last class. Today a new kid threw a paper airplane and poured sunflower seed shells on my floor. He found out quickly how I roll. I called him momma right then and there on my cell. She assured me he would do right tomorrow, but that "he might not be in his seat because his ass gonna burn for two weeks!" This same kid told me in a little autobio assignment that he prays to Jesus every day. He better do so before going home tonight!

An 8th grader burst into my room today and refused to leave when I said "8th grade out!" He sneered at me and continued moving forward. This is common since I broke up that fight last week--youngsters want to see what I'll do. I bulldozed his ass out my door. He said "Fuck you nigger,I show you what's up comin' up on me like that." I looked at him over my glasses, calmly. "Don't come in my room." "I told you man, I show you what's up." "You threatening me?" I asked. He turned and left. Gold teeth in the front, sinister demeanor. He runs with the blues in the hood--I've seen him in a crew headed by the guy who brought a gun to school last year and kicked another kid into a coma outside my classroom.

Some of the 'wannabe' gangbangers in the building are actual gangbangers.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Many rationalists might not buy it, but I think most human beings believe animals share some of our more noble traits. We think of certain species as emblematic of higher, more regal emotions or aspirations: dogs evince loyalty, elephants demonstrate mourning, cats share our inquisitive nature and our ability to recover from catastrophe and land on our feet. Other species show these traits, perhaps in smaller measure. Horses share with humans one of the rarest traits: our desire for glory, for eternal renown.* It takes a fine writer like John Hawkes to see this and form a wonderful short novel about it.

Like humans, horses can renounce glory or ride its fiery impulses to fame or failure. Oh, Sweet William!

I had this book for a long time, and would periodically pick it up and think "This is the only extant John Hawkes book I haven't read. Should I use it now, or save it for later?" 15 years of delayed gratification paid off.

*I worked a summer on a horse farm as a child. I know of what I speak.

PS--It took me more than 2 weeks to read a 270 page novel. That really shows how little free time I have now.

i heart politics

Slowly the media begins doing its job re: Sarah Palin. Lies, cynical manipulations of fact, vendettas, cronyism, hypocrisy, absenteeism, nepotism, egotism, secrecy, subversion of the law, and general incompetence. In other words, Palin is G.W. Bush cloned with a wig. Or Dick Cheney with better marksmanship.

Unfortunately this catalogue of corruptions will not sway American voters. They care more about people sighing too much, or wearing "gay" sweaters, or getting wounded too many times while opponents were skipping National Guard duty back home and having daddy cover it up.



I'm touring a part of Europe I've seen before, though in my dream it is not named. I decide to visit a favorite small church though it is far off the beaten track, because though it is a Romanesque church its construction hints at the commencement of Gothic flourishes. A fan of both styles, I find it appealing, and adore it as much as the great Notre Dame do Poitiers. There are only a handful of vitraux after 750 years, but the examples are spectacular 13th century, with those mysterious pristine reds and blues whose process of manufacture was lost long ago. One, I recall, has a curious emblem at its apex--Jason grasping the toisson d'or.

In the church are hints at its locale: small canvases by Petrus Christus, Dirk Bouts, Hans Memling. Before I arrive I can already see the paintings in their nooks, the Bouts in the nave, the Christus in a chapel to the right, the Memling in a small entryway before the crypt.

Upon arrival I see a grand commotion. My first fear is that tourists have descended en mass to wreck my appreciation of a favorite spot. Had it been tourists, it would have been a blessing.

Inside the church things are awry. The vitraux are on the floor, leaning carelessly against pews and walls. I assume they are being cleaned, and upon seeing the portly priest I recognize from last time I ask if I can look more closely. He laughs and tells me to enjoy my last glimpse. "Are they going to a museum?" I ask, but he continues bustling about. There are people rushing around everywhere, and something doesn't feel right. I head to the right to see the Christus, a precise and vivid passion, and find instead a digital picture frame exchanging every few seconds the banalities of Thomas Kincaid. The Memling is gone as well, replaced by a rolling billboard which flashes photos of evangelical heavyweights. Where Bouts once hung is an electronic ad alternating zippy adverts for Nike and Channel, who funded the "remodeling."

The stained glass is not off to a museum, I see--the priest is having it dismantled by his flock. They are doling out irreplaceable bits to children who are taking it outside to play with. Some of them are stomping the bits to shards and thence to powder with their heavy shoes. I quickly announce in French that I am willing to buy the remaining windows and take them away immediately but the priest scorns me as an unbeliever.

I realize that there is a peculiar fundamentalism at work here. My beloved 12th century church is being converted into a modern-day megachurch. There is a big sound system, there are projection screens and LCDs. There is piped-in John Tesh. I race behind the nave and off to the side where an ancient addition was placed. I know there was a tiny stained glass window there and think perhaps I can save it. In the room children are throwing balls around and dancing ecstatically. Some wear pig masks, some are donkeys. I find the window and put it inside a box which holds post cards. As I walk out the priest is shouting about Satan and his works. Parishoners gesture at me and I feel great menace. I get to the door and it beeps like a retail store exit and then the alarm is going off.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Sometimes the most terrible and awful things can have a peculiar beauty. I think, for example, of atomic explosions.

300 is a wretchedly bad piece of shit. I spent the better part of a year reading Herodotus in my early twenties--I don't recall Xerxes using dinosaurs and Orcs and trolls to conquer the world. Nor do I recall Spartans giving a rat's ass for "freedom." But of course this is a comic book, an alternate reality history, so all that's fine. If it's interesting. The only thing interesting about 300 was its ability to plumb new depths of silliness.

And yet 300 was entertaining now and again, and strangely lovely. Lots of really hot guys oiled up and grappling each other in slow-mo make anything worthwhile. Oh, and naked chicks too! That's really why I liked it. Yeah. Especially the red-headed oracle. Whoof.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Power of the Internet Tubes

Within a bit under 30 hours of posting my Donors Choose library was fully funded. You guys are awesome. I felt ridiculous but I was crying on my way to Back to School night tonight because I was so happy. How often do we cry from happiness? Not nearly enough. I thought it would take weeks to raise $400. I know teachers who wait forever.

The kids are going to be VERY excited, and I get to take pictures of them reading the books to send to donors as a thank you!*

I see that my former mentor has also had her project fully funded--the same day as mine. Awesome. Booker T. is already on the rebound; this kind of generosity is exactly what we need to help the kids. Thanks to Earthdragon and Ellen Cherry for putting up links offering assistance. Thanks to Sharkycharming for finding me someone with a stash of used books to donate.

Now I've got to unwind from a trying week. I've got loads of work to do tomorrow--grading, lesson planning, etc. But now I'm going to drink a glass of wine, take a hot bath, and get my mind in the right place to play music tonight at Mick's. Hopefully I'll see some of you there.

*Pending permission slips, of course!

Day 13

Ah, that last class. Yesterday Ms. R the 6th grade AP detained them after school. Imagine Snoop from The Wire but about two feet taller and ruggedly beautiful, like a wood carving come to life with cornrows. She don't play. I would never fuck with her. She told them "You cannot return to this building until I speak to your parents tomorrow." Some of these kids had already had parent conferences.

So today again when they came in I had two social worker interns. Within five minutes I had three office referrals written and one picture dictionary out my second floor window. All my furniture was moved around and papers and books were on the floor. Someone stole my grade book. Pride was pulling a girl along the floor by her pony tail. I wrote him a referral to the office and he pulled his typical "Oh my God. You always pickin' on me!"

"You never take responsibility for what you do young man. I am not dealing with you any more."

Then Fate jumped up again shouting "I'm gonna bring my father up in here and he will beat your asses." Office referral #2. Then Mr. W the long-term sub knocked on my door. Mr. W is an imposing African-American man who stands about six foot six. Next to him was Mopey, one of the six severely emotionally disturbed kids in my last class. Mr. W and I spent a lot of time in the trenches at the Book last year, striding into 8th grade melees like Legolas and Gimli into a swarm of Orcs. We have rooms next to each other now.

"You know what Mopey done?" Mr. W asked me. "He asked me if I could carry his bag up here and then he cussed me out."

"Mopey, you tell Mr. W you are sorry or I am calling your house."

"Tell him give me my damn stuff."

"You apologize and he will give you your stuff."

"Tell him give me my stuff."

"You have ten seconds." I counted down and Mopey just stared at the floor. "Ok, I'm calling your house and Mr. W will keep your stuff in his room until you grow up."

Mr. W looked in my room at the chaos. "Don't tell me the guy who man-handled 8-23 last year can't handle 20 little blue shirt punks!"

"I saw you had to call the police in twice today Mr. W. We'll see who can't handle their shit!"

"It takes special people Mr. G to do what we do."

"Yeah--crazy people."

Mopey was sitting in my chair when I returned. "Get out my chair Mopey, or you going to the office like Fate and Pride." He didn't move, so I wrote him a referral. The poor intern social worker who helped yesterday served today to escort youngsters down to the office one at a time. This is how it is going to be in that class until they break it up and get these kids appropriate services. Again Mr. H sat at a table and worked with the six or seven who can sit still for fifteen minutes at a time, while the rest of us chased the others around the room.

On an up note, I broke up my first eight grade fight of the year. Mr. T, one of the Filipino teachers, had a commotion in his room. I entered to find two young men charging each other. I got between them and one reached around me to sock the other on the nose. At that point the burly hall monitor and one of the police officers came in and handled business.

The one who socked the other got arrested. His younger brother is in my homeroom and first period class.

A big thanks for the response on Donors Choose. You humble me, and my kids will be so happy!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hell yeah

The Move Like Seamus String Trio Side Project is playing Friday at Mick O'Shea's. Join Drew, Kristen, and some other guy if you want to hear pop covers and Celtic folk tunes and bash-yer-mouth pub songs played with a unique combination of finesse and raw power.

Or join us if you just like a Guinness now and again.


For those who know me and my name and my school I have a project up at Donors Choose. I can't link or give specifics because the donations are supposed to be anonymous and I'm not supposed to tell locations, etc. But if you want to help it would be appreciated. Let's just say the project has something to do with a classroom library for sixth grade. In a struggling inner city school. You know where.

Update: OK, nobody is able to find the it, so subtlety be damned!

Day 12

The Class From Hell--I love them so. After repeated complaints from faculty and the social worker experience with them Monday and six fist fights involving students in that group the administrators called an emergency assembly yesterday and gave the entire sixth grade a dressing-down. I loathe this tactic. If one particular crew are responsible for 94% of the troubles in the grade, get that crew nailed down--don't lecture everyone. But I'm not in charge. I hoped it would help.

Today my first two classes were wonderful darlings again. They are terrified of me and they like me at the same time. I approach my Verbal Warning list with a piece of chalk in those classes and you can hear the mice sifting through dust in the walls. They always come to my room asking if they can come to my class instead of going to art or music (not gym, though).

But the last class of the day? Wow! The social worker intern who helped me in there Monday fled back to her superiors with reports of the crisis in that class, and they sent me TWO interns today. Again I had a good laugh talking to the new one ahead of time.

Things started smoothly. I told the class I was proud of how they entered my room, and that every one had done the right thing for the first time all year. I showed them a video about hurricanes, we answered some questions, and then we read an article about hurricanes. Then Fate jumped up and started threating other students, and Hubris and Pride strolled in late. Mopey started rolling around in my desk chair, and Whiny kept whing "Mr. G can you wipe my nose/tie my shoe/fix my pencil/copy this down." The two social workers and Mr. H fanned out into the chaos as I tried to bring the class under control. Two fights erupted and in another corner Pride had his hand up a girl's shirt. By banging on the board with my fists and using my timer and the Phone Call Home board I got everyone in their seats and quiet. I read them "Rikki Tikki Tavi" and showed them a video of a mongoose killing a snake. Then they were writing in their journals about Rikki when three more fights erupted and all was lost, social workers or no. The school police officer happened to walk by and she was so astonished that we held the class after school and the administrator told them that none of them were allowed back in the building until their parents came up and spoke to all the teachers.

Tomorrow Mr. H is getting the poor souls who want to learn--they are leaving that class and going with him to his room where they will be able to do their classwork without jerks fucking with them. He will teach them from my syllabus. I am taking the jerks and we are going no-nonsense now. They will sit where I tell them and they will do their work or they will be sent to another school. That's the way it goes from here on out. I still love them but 60% of the kids in that room need a one-on-one assistant and I don't have ANY. I don't have a special educator and more than half these kids have IEPs for emotional disturbance or learning disabilities--and I have them for 90 minutes straight, a tough haul for ANY sixth grader. All the sixth grade teachers face this group every day.

No more. The social workers have seen it and now the word has spread up to the state level, so the slow in-house bureacracy is now moving or it will face state interference. Thank goodness. These kids need help. I can't keep them safe right now.

Monday, September 08, 2008


Dag, yo! This little guy would fit right in at Booker T.!

A lovely film. Good double feature potential with The Enigma of Kasper Hauser.

Day 10

And now the Book reverts to form!

Whilst escorting my 2nd period class to lunch there was a bloody fist fight between two girls from my first period class in the hall. I had to manhandle kids to get them apart and to get the crowd control going.

A social worker stopped in my room while I was eating lunch. "Hi, I'm a trainee social worker and I have been assigned here as an intern. I have seen 8th graders all morning and would like to observe your 6th graders last period."

I laughed a morbid laugh, then: "You can certainly observe that class. Get ready though, they are off the chain."

She said "6th graders are too cute to be off the chain."

Ha. As the class came in young Fate had words with young Hubris. Fate is explosively violent and anytime someone gives her the least cause she will bang them in the eye piece. Hubris is a jackass wannabe gangbanger with an externalized locus of control. Any time he gets busted for doing something foolish it's somebody else's fault. The started pushing, I got between them. They cooled off. The social worker helpfully took Fate aside and spoke to her. An eighth grader and a student from my second period class came into my room and started fussing. I commanded them to leave, and the eighth grader said "fuck you get out my face." I called security, who never came, and then I looked up to see the social worker in the midst of a melee. I called for security again and started peeling onion layers of blue uniformed youngins apart. Fate was shouting "my father come up in here and kick your fucking asses bitch for touching my stuff." She unleashed a sidewinder kick of remarkable violence. Fortunately she missed her target and kicked me in the gut (thank goodness for that inversion table and inverted crunches!). This gave me sufficient cause to involve an administrator. Hubris shouted "bitch my fatha carry hard iron. You bring your fatha up in here he be full of holes!"

We got the situation calm again. Mr. H my hapless co-teacher took Hubris for a walk to the office and the social worker took the other. When they returned an 8th grade melee opened up in the hall and my students immediately swarmed toward the door. Uh-huh. I put out my left arm and swept 18 youngsters back and slammed the door. D-man said "Dag, you strong." I said "I told you not to play in here. Get in your seats."

The social worker was very helpful. I'd warned her this class needed a lot of support, and hopefully she takes word of that back to the powers that be. I have many parent conferences coming up for that group, but have my doubts based on phone conversations that this will be at all helpful. I think several of these kids run their own homes.

Already many faculty are starting to call out sick, and some of the subs are leaving mid-shift. A bit of last year starting to creep in. Here we go. Someone threw a fruit cup at me in the hall, and peaches splashed along the corridor. I was lucky not to get drenched in Dole syrup.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

the hood

So the remnants of Hanna blew through yesterday. We had some high winds and steady rain but the storm wasn't as bothersome as predicted (the breathless media coverage resulted in runs on local groceries, which of course is the intent of breathless coverage). We had invites from a couple friends to hang out and play boardgames, but the mother-in-law was here so we were socially stuck. I made lasagna and we were settling in to watch movies when the phone rang: the house next to door to Julio--the one we almost bought 18 months ago--was foreclosed upon months back and has been vacant since. Well, not really. During the storm the front door blew open. The latch had been forced. Julio called the cops and they did a walk-through. Apparently people had been sleeping in the basement and in the living room. Whoever was squatting there was pretty respectful. They didn't steal the fixtures or pipes or radiators, they didn't steal the gigantic ornate mirror or vandalize anything. There were bags of cast-off clothing and candles and bedding here and there, and some peanut butter and a tray of 9 mm bullets. The police advised Julio to "secure" the house. If one of the candles started a fire it could be a catastrophe.

So I went up there and helped cover the windows and doors with plywood. We felt bad locking someone who had no home out of a house that had no residents, but I gathered up as much of their belongings as I could and put them in bags out front by the stoop so they could at least retrieve their clothes.

I felt the whole time that I knew who was living there. I saw some things that reminded me of someone I know who lives on the margins, and even his scented oil pachouli odor permeated the house. But I'm not sure. I hope he's ok.

Someone--perhaps the previous owner--had left pages of rants about discipline and overcoming cancer. "Cancer results when cells forget what they are. They revert to their original protean mission, to reproduce like mad. With discipline we can bring our body back to health and remind cells of their true function." This went on for pages and pages. I thought about taking it for my found literary object box, but left it behind. I wanted to take as little as possible from someone who has next to nothing; especially when next to nothing includes a 9 mm weapon of some kind.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Day 9

I have many delightful readers and writers in my classes this year. I tell these sixth graders that they write and read at a much higher level than my eighth graders last year. It's true. Today's warm-up asked them to use one of our new vocabulary words in a sentence. If they choose they could use all three in a sentence for extra credit. One of my students wrote:

The previous 5th grade class had a majority of truants, the better student emerged from the shadows and put a stop to the bad behavior.

She scored some extra points. She's awesome. In her homework she wrote about her high self-esteem and her Islamic faith. I wrote her name on the board in Arabic and she corrected my spelling.

Another adorable little scamp wrote for his warmup:

When I walked pass the flowers they flourished.

They probably did!

It is almost 6pm on Friday and I have my Monday lesson planned and most of my grading done. About three hours more this weekend and I'll be totally caught up and planned through Wednesday. Whew. I think I'm getting my feet under me.

Politics as usual

Cthulu For President!

I'm still hoping that Yog-Sothoth runs as an Indy.

[with a nod to the Contrarian--scroll down his page and see the Sarah Palin at church videos if you want a true fright]

Thursday, September 04, 2008

no comment necessary


Bee U T Fied

Bee U T Fied, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

Yo! Adrienne planted zinneas in the empty tree boxes on Madison Ave and they have really added a spark to the street. I adore having bees and butterflies buzzing around when I leave the house and come home.

pimped-out teaching platform

pimped-out teaching platform, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

Sixth graders--even the proto-thuggish wannabe gangsta corner boys--are already pretty darn cute. But make an announcement that B'more City Schools are closing early due to heat and the cuteness becomes darling exuberance. Tiny voices yelling and squealing "hooray" like Peanuts characters? I could hardly bear the joy.

And I shared the joy. It was HOT today. I sweated through my shirt ten minutes before homeroom started. The kids were lethargic and the asthmatics were suffering hard. My over-taxed box fans moved swampy foetid air around a classroom turned terrarium. They made the right call. I didn't have to face my class from hell today, and I had three hours of peace to work on my room, my posters, my grading, and my planning. Nice to leave at 2:30 and actually be kind of caught up!

Administrators came into my room during the quiet and productive morning classes today. They gave me quite positive feedback, saying they liked what I had done with the class from hell yesterday, and complimenting my content knowledge and classroom management skills. They also gave me good news: one of those last-period kids has been upgraded to another special education code which distinguishes him as potentially dangerous. I don't mean of course that it is good news that the kid is in this category, but it means he will get more appropriate services and may actually have a chance of learning something. It also means he will not set off the other troubled kids in my room every two minutes, and it will prevent him from sexually molesting the young ladies in his class, as he has done several times already.

Mr. C checked out my new command console (pictured above). I got an LCD projector and I have the Internet. I have music, I have an overhead, and I use all of them every day. I have a printer/scanner/copier. My kids are engaged with sound, color, art, and motion picture examples every day. Mr. C said "You so pimp!" He's right. Now I need real screens. I'm using the back of a world map and a sheet. Maybe on Donors Choose? For right now I'm waiting their approval of my classroom library request. As soon as it goes live I will link it here for anyone who wants to throw a couple bucks at my youngins.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


So Palin's big moment was quite impressive. Yeah, she told some whoppers, like the charge that Obama has never authored any major reform legislation (he wrote the Transparency in Government act with Republican Senator Coburn while Bush and Cheney were hiding documents and deleting emails).

But such fibs are par for the course in any campaign. As political theater I thought it was pretty magnificent. She gives good acid tone. I haven't seen a Republican so capably deliver a speech since...God, it's been so long I can't recall. Gonna be a fun election to watch.

Democrats must remember that they've rarely faced an election they could not lose, even with the odds heavily in their favor. All the nonsensical attacks about Palin playing hoops and giving her kids silly names and her preggers daughter are a giant bear trap The Huffington Post fell right into. Same goes for ridiculing her time as mayor of a tiny town. Lots of salt of the earth in those tiny towns, after all. Go after her on creationism in schools and environmental issues and whatnot. Leave her family alone.

Oh, and note to Palin: You can't be both FOR bringing outside change to DC AND for a guy who's as hooked in as anyone in that town, "maverick" rep or no.

Note to Obama and Biden: Point out that Palin's party just oversaw the greatest expansion of the US federal government in history, and that its intrusions into our lives are well-documented. Attack hard with the facts. The idea that the Republicans will shrink government and curb spending is hilarious.

Day 7

"Be ready. They doin' walk-ins today."

This the rumor running at the Book today. Administrators on the prowl for NCLB bullshit requirements up on your walls and what's in your files 'n shit. Whatever. The administrators looking for this garbage used to be teachers, and they know full well the requirements are fads which change continuously, and they know we know it just as they knew it when they were classroom grunts.

But why did they have to come in during my last period? Mr. H is a 30-year City school vet, and he co-teaches with me that period. Neither of us has had any luck corralling that group. He asked what I wanted to do today and I said: "You take the quiet well-behaved kids who want to learn. I'll make packets and you can teach them in the corner. I'll take the fuck-ups and see what I can do." At least SOME kids learned this way, but about four of the kids were impossible to keep at either group and they roamed around or played with my overhead or fans. The administrators walked in, scowled at me working with a table of 8 lunatics while Mr. H worked with 8 calm kids and 4 were up to who-knows-what. I'm sure I'm getting scolded tomorrow. Don't care. They can come into my first two classes, the ones with 33 and 27 kids, where there are some troubled students with behavior problems, but I am alone and things run smooth as silk. The sixth grade faculty were planning a meeting about that troublesome crew today but the principal announced another last minute required fac meeting so we still haven't gotten together to pool resources. I have spoken to the sixth grade AP. She said "ain't a muthafucka in B'more who can handle that class, don't fret it." Easy for her to say. They are not coming up in her grill with observations and shit.

Worked a 12-hour day yesterday, rushed off to Wendy's and then rehearsal. Hence no blog. Today worked a mere 10 hours. Feels like a vacay.

I will say that the Book is a different joint in many ways. Today was the first time I seen a kid get jacked by 5-0 for putting his hands on another student. Officer W. was all "here your new bracelets jackass. Hope you like juvie!" Shit was daily last year. Nobody is running the halls or causing chaos this year, wherease last year the kids were in charge outside the classrooms, and inside many of them too. Somebody did take out windshields with a steel bat on McCulloh St today; don't know if was students or just the typical hopheads and fiends or bangers. I saw the aftermath on my drive home at 5pm. Hope no teachers got a taste!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


A charming little fantasy starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Bob DeNiro. It completely slipped under my radar until Faulty Landscape clued me in. A bit of Terry Gilliam mixed into The Princess Bride. Quite compelling and deliciously silly.

Monday, September 01, 2008

now I'm sad

I wasn't disappointed in the end the way many fans were. I thought its ambiguities and dangling plotlines were appropriate--Baltimore is deeply fucked up, and deserves a show that ends in deeply fucked-up ways. Much more satisfying as a whole than the catastrophic demise of Homicide. That two-hour movie finale was a joke!

I will say I was sad to pop in DVD #4 and find only one episode left. I'd assumed there'd be at least 13 episodes as in the other seasons. 10 episodes is too short. And yet I don't think they could have carried anything further.

The media focus is excellent and timely, given that my Sun paper arrives each day now with even less news and more Oprah-esque soft coverage. And about 30% more ad space in the A section following last month's latest re-design/re-launch.

Favorite moment? Kima in the window a block up my street with her partner's baby, saying goodnight to the hoppers and addicts and po-pos.

Now I gots to pour one out for my homies who departed this mortal realm in season V.

Next up? AMC's Mad Men.