Friday, January 30, 2009


Never again will I automatically think "Some Like it Hot" when I hear or read about Billy Wilder. I will automatically think "Ace in the Hole."


In her Afterward, Ursula K. LeGuin mentions the difficulty of this novel, and its rewards. I read it seeking unusual and interesting children's lit for middle schoolers; this book is alas too tough for my youngins, and likely for many early teens these days.

But it is marvelously imagined and a joy to read. Young Kay is an orphan living in a grand manse with a horrid governess. Kay is wakened one night by The Midnight Folk, who set him on a series of nocturnal adventures in a quest to restore a long-lost treasure his Grandfather was to carry to safety for South American clerics. Animate toys, traitorous felines, witchcraft, and hidden passages abound. I loved it, and there is thankfully a sequel called "The Christmas Box."

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Friends in the Press

Good buds Ellen Cherry and Rob Thorworth in the Baltimore Sun. Both of them deserve wider audiences and more attention for their songwriting.

And I've only met David Glaser once, but I like his CDs a lot too.

I saw this trio play at the Austin Grill in Canton about a year ago, and I'm sorry to have missed them at El Rancho Grande, which is only a quarter-mile from my house.


For a short bio, quite substantive, and a breeze to read. While taking a quite positive view of King and his accomplishments, Frady is not engaged in hagiography: the failings are here, too, rounding out a complex and insightful portrait. I might have to check out more of these Penguin Lives books.

Sick Day

Two things about me:
  • I have little tolerance for repetitive, unproductive meetings
  • I don't often call out sick from work
Since I would have to be deathly ill to miss school on a day when students are around, and since there are two full days of repetitive, unproductive meetings scheduled, I am using sick time.

I don't feel guilty. I AM sick. I've been continuously sick since September with a rotating combo of sinus/throat/flu symptoms. And my neck and left shoulder hurt like a mother after I slept in some unintended Yoga pose all night Monday. And I've already written two lesson plans today to boot! I'll be far more productive here at home.

February and March are a long bleak stretch, if memory serves from last year. We've got the oasis of President's Day, and that's it.
I need to rest and re-charge now.


The Wayward Cloud is a sequel to What Time Is It There? While not quite as aesthetically pleasing as its predecessor, this cloud is mostly silver linings.

The young watch-seller from What Time Is It There? continues his voyage along the margins of capitalism, moving from the sale of tacky baubles and plasticized crap to the Taiwanese adult film industry. The female object of his obsession has returned from Paris and is now busily responding to a terrible drought in her home country by collecting discarded plastic bottles, filling them with water, and stashing them around her house.

This is a deeply funny film, but only if you think David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick are hilarious. It functions with the anarchistic gusto of Goddard's Weekend or Pierrot le Fou. Director Ming Ling-Tsai is boldly silly, and unafraid of repulsive images. A quite refreshing film-maker. This is an inventive, raunchy, ridiculous mix, and even includes some zany musical numbers with nods to Busby Berkely and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.

There is a lot of sex and nudity and there are numerous graphic scenes: the main actor is making a porno, and part of the fun is how Ming pokes fun at that genre as well. A meditation on desire and need and priorities in late-phase capitalism.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A New Venue

So another local Irish joint has hired Move Like Seamus to play multiple gigs this spring. Soon we'll announce several shows at Lucy's in March, April, and May.

Already scheduled at Mick O'Shea's: February 27th and March 17.

Ice Ice Baby

It's a good thing school is closed today. I slept on my neck wrong and can't turn my head. That's a liability in a City School classroom.

Tomorrow and Friday are Professional Development days without students. I'm thinking this neck thing, and my sinus infection, are good reasons to use sick time, of which I have about 150 unused hours.

Five-day weekend! Woot.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Day 37

I don't understand the City Schools snow policy. Every jurisdiction closed today because nobody knew what was going to happen, but the City Schools stayed open. Turns out the snow wasn't so bad--we had a couple inches by noon when the snow stopped completely.

AND THEN the City decided to close early. WTF? I mean, I'm not complaining, but why do that? It took us a half-hour to get the school cleared of kids hyperventilating with excitement, and then they formed a gauntlet of snow-ballers outside. When I left the staff were huddled in their coats in the lobby looking out the windows at middle schoolers clutching fistfuls of dirty snow. I was like "I'm not waiting" and I went outside. The kids cleared a path for me and I cleaned off my car and left. "He ain't scared like them others," one boy said, turning back with his snowballs and waiting.

C'mon, ice storm! I need tomorrow off because Thursday and Friday are planning meeting days with no students. I fully intend to use sick time for the first time as a full-time teacher. I am POOPED.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Day 36

I love when I struggle to get a tough 8th grade class under control and then the Administrators say "8-04 is under control now, let's put a lunatic in there with those kids to straighten him out," and then I get a transfer notice in my mailbox that a lunatic is coming into my nice, calm, class that I got in line after months of work.

And the lunatic blows up everything and sets off a conflagration day 1. Sigh.

I met my new sixth grade class today, speaking of lunatics! I gave them a student interest survey and for the question "What are your hobbies" one of the girls wrote "licking balls." Can't wait to show that one to her mommy! They're an unusual and active bunch, but appear to be infinitely more manageable than the old 7th grade class. Of course Day 1 is no gauge--they're feeling me out and have not yet decided to test me. I have McGiilicutty running around watching behavior I can't see, which helps. Male teachers are rare in the City--two males in one room is extremely rare. The kids asked if we thought they were "retarded" and needed two teachers. I said "No. We think you're so smart that we need two teachers to keep up!"

Tomorrow Home Office inspectors are walking the school at random. I'm ready.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Sometimes a film is so unusual and lovely that it gets into my marrow. The last time it happened for me was The Spirit of the Beehive.

What Time is it There? is a quiet masterpiece--and literally quiet, because there is about ten minutes of dialogue in a two-hour film. If you need traditional plot in your flicks, avoid this one like the plague. It moves like an ethereal dream.

A young man in Taiwan sells gaudy plastic digital watches from a case on the streets. One day a beautiful woman asks to buy the watch on his wrist because she likes it; he tries to offer her those in his merchandise case, but she is not interested. She tells him "I am going abroad tomorrow, to Paris." I don't know that I should say much more, because the plot is so light and airy. Let's just say the rest of the movie is about peculiar obsessions: a dead woman pines for her deceased hubby in a most peculiar fashion; the watch seller makes it his mission to set every clock in Taipei to Parisian time; a Taiwanese woman in Paris finds the city of romance an unbearably cold and lonely place. Along the way there are curious references to Truffaut.

I can't describe the effect of this film, but the cinematography and the colors and the acting are exquisite. I can't wait for the sequel The Wayward Cloud.


We saw Frost/Nixon last night. I liked it fine, most particularly Frank Langella's turn as Tricky Dick (his best performance since he choked Lena Olin to death with her pentacle necklace in The Ninth Gate).

But of course Frost/Nixon is not merely about Watergate--like the best of historical fiction it reflects current situations, and reminds us what happens if you fail to prosecute high crimes and misdemeanors by high officials: their henchmen come back with the same ideas and even more disregard for the law. They ran covert and illegal foreign policy out of the White House under Reagan, alongside domestic propaganda operations on a grand scale. And George H.W. pardoned them all and Clinton had no will to go after the bastards.

Now Obama is signaling that he likely won't go after another crew of lawbreakers, many of whom are recurring characters from Nixon's time like Cheney and Rummy. Where Nixon was compelled by courts and Congress to cease and desist and finally to resign, cats like Cheney just ignored the courts and said "fuck you" literally to Congress. It's dangerous to let their crimes go unpunished.

Each time one of these "I must break the law to protect the Republic" Caesars comes along, we lose our Republic. Next time we might not get it back.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Day 35

I decided to lively up the joint and let my students pick out of options to show they understood characterization. Kids could make posters, sing or rap a song, act out a scene. Fun! I had kids drumming on tables and rapping, I had great big colorful posters, I had letters written in character, I had scenes acted out with wit and charm. The students were laughing and gleeful and K-shawn told me "we learning stuff in here."

And then I got the new schedule which starts next week. The Big Cheese has decided to have me mentor a teacher who's been at it for some time. Dude's coming to "assist" me with my new section of 6th graders last period. Apparently this crew is Big Trouble, but how can 15 6th graders stack up against my 27 bad-ass 7th graders on the misbehavior scale? Let's just say I'm not quaking in my boots.

So McGillicutty, once I found out I was to mentor him--I went to see him with the head of the Language Arts Dept. She said "I don't want any goddamn dittoes or puzzles or vocabulary exercises. Mr. G does creative stuff with his kids. I want you to align with the skills their Lang Arts teacher is doing and make it entertaining." So she leaves and McGillicutty starts in with "I'll start making dittoes and puzzles and vocabulary exercises for next week," and I'm like "no--didn't you hear the lady? That's not how we roll." And McGillicutty gets all up in my grill with "I've been doing this for some time. I know what's research-based and aligned with national standards." And I'm like "Step off muthafucka or I'ma pluck you."

Dude doesn't even have rules and consequences up in his room. The kids call him names to his face and he just smiles and looks away. They role over him and he doesn't even call their houses. I got a feeling that McGillicutty is tenured and they can't fire him, so they're just sticking him with me to give him something to do. My assessment right off the bat is this guy just shouldn't be a teacher, and definitely shouldn't be in B'more. He's lazy and ineffectual and is obstinate to boot. Just what I need!

I need to look at the Union book and the Contract--I think I'm supposed to get compensated for mentoring.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


John and I don't always agree about films, but we agree often enough that when he earnestly presses a film on me, and then follows up with delivery of a loaner DVD, then I know it's likely worth watching. So, even though my taste in James brothers runs more to the William and Henry end of the spectrum than to the Frank and Jesse, I watched The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

I'm glad I did. John was correct to note its elegance and peculiar mysterious intensity--it reminds me of Terrence Malick at the top of his game. I don't think Brad Pitt has ever been better, and though I've enjoyed him in other films this performance is his closest attempt yet to that art called acting. Typically Pitt is an amalgam of carefully cultivated mannerisms-as Jesse James he finds new depth and comes across as less artificial.

Don't expect an action-packed shoot-'em-up. This is plodding, moody melodrama with a nice dose of irony. Right up my alley.

One complaint: the voice-over. I didn't mind it at all, really, but have to wonder if the fine performances by the actors wouldn't already express what the voice-over reiterates? An experiment for a future viewing: turn that off and see?

Day 34

Whence came the fetid stench I had the misfortune of discovering last period. One of the students had removed her shoes, and the resultant sulfrous vapourings caused consternation far and wide. I attempted to address the issue by pushing the shoes back toward her feet with a yard stick, but I couldn't stay so close for long to that brimfire whiff, so redolent of bedeviled eggs wrapped and forgotten in a glove box in July. I tried to coax her to replace those lost soles but she'd succumbed, alas, to their miasmic exhalations. I had to act fast, but failed.

My ineffectual fussings with the aforementioned measuring device aligned the gaping maws of those monstrous calamities, frankly emblazoned with faux swooshes, and thereby amplifying their effect. This set off a peculiar loosening of geometry in Room 317, as Newton lost his grasp and previously unbeknownst corners appeared in the shadows betwixt and beyond. In these corners leering shades of Hades moved and grasping hands reached forth to the mad piping of a sightless eldritch god...

Mercifully, I lost consciousness before she arrived, foul denizen oft-mentioned in the mad ravings of monsieur Docteur Alonso Alhazred, CEO of City Schools. My classroom library is not short stocked in certain unmentionable titles, including De Vermiis Mysterium by Gerber, the terrifying 12 Steps of Basil Vaseline, and I Ate Pazuzu by M. Malkin. Consequently, I know when losing consciousness is most convenient, and I did so last period, avoiding the horror of my penultimate day with the dread denizens of Innsmouth. I missed by mere miliseconds the visage most dread, she of smellless ear and sightless nose, she of the AP's office...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Day 33

Just pooped today. I walked about 5 miles total yesterday, stood on my feet in the ridiculous cold for four hours in one spot, was pushed along and pulled and bobbed like a buoy in a sea of aimlessly wandering souls in subway stations, at Union Station, and on various jammed avenues (and was jostled by D.L. Hugley--and saw Garrison Keillor).

Even though I slept deeply and well I was exhausted at wake-up this am, and have not recovered. I've been exhausted since September, with no relief in sight!

The kids liked my videos from the Mall, but complained that I didn't actually film Obama. "He was a half-mile from me," I explained to no avail. Then they asked me if the Mall had an American Eagle.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Brrr-ack Obama!

Getting to DC was easy--Penn Station in B'more was well-organized with signs and abundant helpful staff. The train was on time and got to Union Station in 50 minutes. We planned to walk a couple blocks to the Navy Memorial building, where we had tickets to hang out inside and watch the parade, and thought we could move to the mall later, or vice versa.

But then we got a text update from the campaign which said we could only enter the Mall from the south, so we had a quick vote concerning the parade or the Mall, and the Mall won. We jumped on the Metro and got to L'Enfant Plaza where the scale of the crowd became evident. It took 45 minutes in a grindingly slow push to get out of the station. Thank goodness nobody panicked or yelled "fire!"

The walk to the Mall was bitter cold, and the entire area had been converted into a series of single-exit corrals, set up like a cheese maze for a rat. We found a spot a quarter-mile in front of the Washington Monument at about 9am; that was about as close as we could get at that time. Gradually the entire Mall filled in behind us.

I froze my nards off, but had a great time. We could see the dome of the Capitol Building, but watched the Inauguration like everyone else on TV. The energy was unbelievable.

Getting out of the Mall was a disaster. The lines for the Metro were ridiculous. I walked from L'Enfant Plaza to Union Station because my ticket home was earlier than everyone else's--I got there at 3:30 to find a mob crammed to the side of the building with some ineffectual moron cops incapable of crowd control yelling through a malfunctioning loudspeaker. I finally go into the station at 5:10, just in time for my train.

Pooped! I am plumb tuckered out. How can I teach today? I can barely stand up.

Monday, January 19, 2009


The #1 fan of our band gave us each a copy of this novel for Xmas--a nice gesture, offered with sincere appreciation, and very thoughtful.

But by page 20 reading it was a sore duty indeed; by page 100 I was contemplating homicide; by page 200 I knew I'd rue time spent reading it on my deathbed; by the end I felt scourged like a good desert monk, flagellating himself on a high post and wearing a hair shirt.

This novel of fey interference in rock cover bands' destinies is not my cup of tea, alas.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Happy Birthday

We started dating almost 19 years ago, and I can't imagine life without her.

Happy birthday Cha!

It's nice to see a speech by a President who understands history. Barack in B'more yesterday not only made dutiful references to Charm City's historical importance, but he also riffed on Lincoln's "better angels" and made an important point notoriously absent from American leadership of late: the American Revolution did not end when the British went home. It continues in a noble experiment. Each generation of Americans either moves the United States toward a more perfect Union, or moves it backwards. Obama understands this, after too many years of backsliding and the elevation of know-nothingness into a presidential virtue.

Gone is the arrogance. Now we have a leader willing to say "I will make mistakes." Refreshing, that. I for one will be ready to pounce when I disagree with policy decisions, but for now I'm pleased and hopeful. Looking forward to a big day on Tuesday.

Cha and Leesha and The Bus left from here and were able to get in to see The Big O. I stayed home sick and watched on TV.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


a dear friend is working at a roadside snowball stand/snack bar. He and a female employee quit suddenly while I am there ordering lunch, and it makes me sad to see them do so. The owner is despondent. Then something about my friend's demeanor leads me on a quest and I gradually uncover clues confirming that he has murdered and disposed of two neighborhood children. I involve the police who quickly arrest my friend. He thanks me for ending his misery. The police ask if I want to notify his pregnant wife or if they should do it. I tell them I will do it and then I wake up.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Day 34

Two full weeks of school. Only two full weeks after Xmas break and i'm already rundown and sick again. It took about a week and a half to get the kids back into reasonable behavior for teaching to begin, and now we have a four-day weekend. They are going to be a mess when they come back and we'll start the process anew. Will a Ravens win make their behavior better or worse? What about a loss? Who knows.

The higher-ups asked us to have students write letters and poems to Obama and use the time for teaching about the president elect. I made a slideshow about his life which went over really well. About 3/4s of the kids worked hard on their projects, the rest said things like "Fuck that n*****, he ain't helpin' me." Typical! We made a book of student stuff to send to the White House. Unfortunately, the Language Arts support team put together a packet of "suggested activities" which repeatedly spelled Obama as O'bama. And that wasn't the most egregious error in the packet--merely the most o'bvious. Barack does have some Irish in him, so a case could be made....

There were some fights today and the Big Cheese is starting to really hammer teachers about the upcoming standardized tests. We're being pressured in Language Arts to teach to these exams, which test skills I find secondary in importance, like theme/characterization/setting/plot and all that literary analysis jazz. Now, don't get me wrong, these are vital skills, but for students who read three or four years below grade level and for students who can't put together a coherent paragraph at age 13, they can wait. I would prefer a unit on patterns of textual organization and comprehension skills and main idea/supporting details right now...

But that's the kind of stuff which gets tested, so we have to ramp things up and teach it for the next two months. There's a sliver of hope that I'm getting a Smart Board in my room, which would be fucking awesome. I use an LCD projector every day, and it would be nice to be able to manipulate text on a Smart Board with a pen instead of typing changes into Word to project on a screen. I'll know when I get back to class next Wednesday.

A busy weekend--dinner in Fredneck tomorrow (and Obama is in town). Sunday is Cha's birthday, Tuesday we're off to DC. Hope I can find a bit of rest in there somewhere.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Wolverine flies around space in a snow globe in order to fulfill the Mayan calendar. Sometimes he's a Spanish Conquistador on a quest for the Tree of Life, at others a scientist seeking to cure death.

I had to see it because it's Aronofsky--I'm glad I did, but the parts which held me rapt were alas outnumbered by those which make Alex Gray's canvases look like high art.

Still, a nifty digital take on Kabalah and The Golden Bough; riverrun, past Eve and Adam's and all that--and I have come to wound the autumnal city.


Day 33

The kids are excited about Notorious, which opens tomorrow. They ask me if I'ma going to see it. I say "I've seen it--I have it on DVD. It's got Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant." They look puzzled so I stop teasing them. "I'll see it, but I'ma wait for the DVD."

"Shit, Mr. G," they say, "We knew you wasn't really into Biggie."

I say: "There's gonna be some slow singin' and flower bringin' if my boogalur alarm start ringin'."

And they fall out like the Fat Albert characters, laughing each with their own little groove.

"He kilt it! He fuckin' kilt it!" JJ said. "He know Biggie." Then he busted on my corduroy jacket. "You tryin' to start a fire with that shit?"

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

RIP Ricardo

Day 32

So my seventh grade class-the last period nightmare-is what is called a "SPAR" class, meaning it was intended to be a half-year class. They were supposed to be in a Tech class but when New Transfer Sucka Teacher (me) arrived they were thrust into my room as a "Reading" class, despite the fact they have 90 minutes of Language Arts second-to-last. That's part of the reason I have such management issues with them--they're already sick of reading and writing by the time they get to me, and I have to always keep them engaged with crazy projects or they go nuts. They're an extremely challenging group of 27 students, at least 9 of whom are substantially troubled and volatile on a daily basis.

I found out today that I had the option of keeping them all year (I never even knew it was an option) or ditching them for an as-yet-to-be-named class starting Jan 25th. At first I said "You, know, I think I'll keep them. They're horrible a lot of the time, and many are incorrigible, but I like all of them nonetheless." But then I thought better and said "I will tell you my decision after I teach them today.

I let their behavior today decide things for me. They were horrible and incorrigible, yelling, throwing glue and magic markers, breaking my stuff--not ALL of them, but more than half. I am trading them in for a new last period class.

It's a big gamble. There are a couple classes which are worse. There is a possibility I'll end up with 8th grade knuckleheads instead of 7th grade knuckleheads. But at least they'll be new knuckleheads, and I won't have the same stupid shit happening every day.

We got our train tickets for Tuesday. I've decided to do the Inauguration after all-despite my anger over Rick Warren and the Gaza situation. I want to be there.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


I recall reading a non-political essay by Noam Chomsky about rationalism and science nearly a decade ago wherein he discussed the limits of scientific understanding. His prime example was the structure and function of the human eye, and he was rather eloquent in his discussion of how scientists could describe the structure and explain the roles of many more pieces of the eye now than could Descartes four hundred years ago, but that our actual understanding of how the eye works or how it is formed is no greater than Descartes' despite our advances.

In other words: we know what pieces are associated with what functions more clearly than old Rene, but still nobody knows really how the eye works or how it was formed despite a lot of specialized research and confident claims to the contrary. Chomsky went on to say that this description of function was true of almost all science. We observe until we can describe better, but describing is not true understanding. I thought that perhaps the old atheist and advocate of Enlightenment values had gone religious--it sounded to me like he was calling the eye a miracle.

I won't even bother describing Bolano's magnificent novel. Somehow, like the eye, it captures everything and translates it all into my brain in curious and refreshing ways. I haven't had this much fun reading a fat book since the first time I dove into A Confederacy of Dunces. I can't wait to tackle 2666 sometime this year.

And I don't share Noam's hesitation: The Savage Detectives is a miracle.

Day 31

So we read a crappy article in class about Death Valley and the students are supposed to figure out those lame things the standardized tests check for, like Main Idea and Author's Purpose and what kinds of Text Features are used. Nothing better than forcing 14-year-olds who read at a 4th grade level to look for an implied Main Idea in a passage about Death Valley.

To break the monotony I ask a volunteer to come up and find California on my world map. It takes an alarmingly long time to find a student who can do so. Then, just for kicks, I ask why it took Americans until 1849 to "discover" Death Valley.

Dead silence ensues. Then I ask who lived in California before white people arrived, and someone finally says "Native Americans." And then: "What's the difference Mr. G between Native Americans and African Americans?"

"Where do you think African Americans originally came from?" I ask. Nobody knows. Nobody fucking knows. What do they teach these kids in goddam social studies class? (I shouldn't be so quick to judge. I teach them Language Arts, and they read at a fourth grade level after all.)

Finally a timid young lady ventures "Africa."

"YES!" I shout. "Yes! African Americans came from Africa! WHY?" I demand. "How?"

Nobody knows. Finally a new girl--who transferred in yesterday--says "they came on ships. A bunch of white people--excuse me, I mean Caucasians--"

"You can say 'white people,'" I tell her. "It's fine."

"They came and went to villages and stole people and brought them to America to use as slaves."

I won't tell you how many of my students don't know what a slave is. This week we're making projects to celebrate the election of the first African American president, and my kids have really no concept of the significance of this event. Where to begin?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Saturday Night

I had a really great time at our gig Saturday. The crowd was into it--and though there were many regulars, we had some very enthusiastic new fans dancing in the second set, which brought the energy level up a great deal. We were loose and confident and took no prisoners.

Unfortunately Cha missed the intro to "Baba O'Reilly." D'oh. But I'm pleased by the vids this little Kodak YouTube camera takes.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Move Like Seamus @ Mick O'Shea's Irish Pub, 9:30

The Mrs. has chosen to associate our gig with her 37th birthday next week. There will be dancing.

Also, this is the last Seamus gig before Earthdragon turns 50. Can you dig?

Titans? Nevermore!

My passion for sports--professional sports, in particular--is at a historic low. I can't abide pro baseball, I find the NBA unwatchable, and I rarely watch tennis.

But I still watch a little NFL from time-to-time. I've seen at least part of most of the Ravens games this year, and take pride in the fact that Baltimore has one of the few teams with a literary pedigree (I suppose, too, that the Tennesse Titans have a literary pedigree--Greek Myths are taught as literature most often these days after all).

I like the current Ravens team with its mix of various running backs and its tough young quarterback with an undeniably basic football name: Joe Flacco. They're fun to watch, because they have Nothing to Lose. Nobody expected them to make the playoffs this year, after all.

The current Ravens are not the same team Tennessee rolled over earlier in the season. I'm looking forward to a major upset today, and I'm hoping Flacco and Todd Heap finally get in-synch, because Heap is going to be a key option if Mason and Clayton can't get open downfield.

Plus, I wrote "Go Ravens" on my chalk-board yesterday during first period, and my students became unbelievably excited. I let them use multi-colored chalk to write the names and numbers of their favorite players on the board and all day the other classes were like "dag, Mr. G, that look HARD."

I can think of no better way to laze away today than watching the Terrapins play Georgia Tech at noon and the Ravens play Tennessee at 4. I have a gig tonight so will need to be well-rested for that long haul to 3am. Cleaning the house? F@ck that sh@t.

Friday, January 09, 2009


Best. Gorey. Ever.

UPDATE: And Fleshbot (link NSFW--ha, sorry Nick) has it online.

Day 29

I was taking a nap after school this evening and the phone woke me up. I went downstairs and Cha had a message for me: TV Wonder had called, asking to speak to me. He was the rotund fella in my 2nd period class at the Book who, when I announced I was leaving, said "I'ma go into the corner and cry." He promptly did so.

I called him back and we chatted for 15 minutes. There was another former student with him. They told me how much the kids miss me and want me to come back. I said "I miss you guys too." They talked about the student who was killed and about Ed Reed coming to the school. They told me someone lit the band room on fire.

TV told me about this page, which has a nice video of Ed Reed at the Book the month before I was transferred (and TV of course is in there). Reed's a good guy, and will hopefully snatch a couple picks as the Titans get their livers eaten out for all eternity by the Ravens tomorrow. Many of my former students and co-workers are in this vid, and to watch it makes me happily sad.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

for art geeks

If you're a fan of Lucas Cranach the Elder, you might enjoy fiddling with this funky tool at the Getty website. Apparently Cranach hid highly decorative micro details in his canvases that have only recently been discovered. Pretty cool!

Thanks to Julio for the tip--and for that time he got me back-stage at the National Gallery to see a Cranach under treatment. A special memory.

You might also enjoy the following novel by an old professor of mine at Temple University. Toby used the image of obsessively detailed canvases quite effectively therein:

And, of course, the greatest novel about art and northern Renaissance painting:

(image credit)

Day 28

First period, an auspicious beginning as Take This Job and Shove It threw a hardback novel at Danger Boy--he ducked like Bush in a YouTube video and the novel hit my laptop, where I was typing anecdotal notes. Dead silence in the room. Tie Fighter said "Dag, Mr. G gonna blow his top." But I didn't. Take This Job and Shove It walked over to the board and wrote her own name on the Phone Call list. Then she picked up the book and apologized. "Thank you," I told her. "I'm glad you didn't break my computer." Tie Fighter said "She'd have to be cashing them welfare checks then, dawg!" I glared at him and he walked over and wrote his name on the Phone Call list too.

Third period the kids were rowdy but they got their work done. I'm to the point now where I have a reasonable rapport with the kids, even those who tell me to fuck off regularly. Those dwindle in number. Many of the kids--even those who wear on my nerves 100% of the time--are growing on me. I'm starting to feel the same passion for them I had for my sixth graders at the Book earlier this year.

My seventh graders put on their plays today--disastrous! What a mess. They kept screaming at each other over mistakes and their script pages were out of order and in one play a corpse got tired of playing dead and jumped up and said "Are you all coming to my funeral?" Fun times. I get paid for this?

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Day 27

My first period nut jobs were sedate this morning, so I knew I was in for it later. Sure enough, the relatively calm 3rd period class was off the chain. I bounced a girl with an office referral five minutes in, handed out 3 1-hour detentions, played loud country music, banged on my desk with a broken chair rung, and finally turned a three-question classwork paper into a QUIZ WORTH 1000 POINTS. That finally quieted things down.

Last period was a laugh-a-minute. I told the kids to write plays about bad things that could happen if they break my classroom rules. I said "you should have a student play me so your plays will be funny" and oh my goodness the kids were so excited. They went more nuts then usual. I lost complete control of them during "rehearsals." I can't wait to see the plays tomorrow.

On the not-so-fun side, a murder victim was found on the school campus over Xmas break. No info forthcoming yet.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Day 26

I was all freaked out following a surprise staff meeting called at the last minute yesterday. The principal read the staff the riot act because the school had been hell all day (I note that the administrators weren't much help--ahem!). Then she listed several things she'd seen in classrooms--one was a veiled reference to mine--that displeased her.

I brought my concerns up at a team meeting today and everyone laughed at me. "You just got to handle your business the way you been doin'," they told me. "We hear that shit all the time. They drop pressure on us because some fool above them drops pressure on them. Everyone panics for a few days and nothing changes. Do your thang and ignore it. The day they actually fire teachers in Baltimore is far off, recession or no. They still shipping 'em in from the third world, for Christ's sake!"

Two of the worst offenders in my first period class have been remanded to "alternative in-school academics." I have to write lessons for them, but I won't have to deal with them. Woo-hoo! I might be able to teach the other kids something for once. JJ and Motormouth are no more.

Upcoming MLS Shows

Move Like Seamus, in full effect, for three shows at Mick O'Shea's:

January 10th (this Saturday!)

February 27th

March 17th (Oh, Good Lord!)

I better re-string the Taylor.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Day 25

Ugggghhhh. What's worse than teaching in a City middle school? Teaching the day after a 12-day hiatus. The kids are typically tough to manage--today they were wholly unmanageable. Who can blame them, what with their new gear?--MP3 players, cell phones, cameras, etc. These kids qualify for free and reduced lunches paid for by the Feds and they get more loot for Xmas than I do.

I didn't sleep a lick last night. I kept having absurd dreams that I had slept through my alarm and I was late, and then I would wake up and check the clock. This happened every ten minutes between midnight and 3am, at which point I simply stopped going back to sleep.

After school I called more than a dozen parents--and called about six more houses where the number was disconnected. I assigned detentions but nobody showed up. It's gonna be a fun January baby!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

New Books no more

Each month I look forward to Harper's for a variety of reasons--one of my favorite bits is the New Books column, where John Leonard's pithy reviews often have me adding titles to my Amazon cart. His blurbs are short but are as learned as anything by Gary Wills, packed with far-ranging references and biting wit.

I excitedly turned to his column this month only to find he'd passed away from lung cancer. A damn shame, that. I'll take a moment to thank Mr. Leonard here for turning me on to Roberto Bolano, whom I'm reading right now for the first time. I suppose that will be the last time he'll cost me money.

spirit=willing; flesh=weak

What heinous infectious beasties are breeding in my bloodstream I know not, but they suck. I've had sinus difficulties on and off since September--this is the plight of the public school teacher, and I deal with it. This new illness is disheartening, however, because it drains me at a time when I need to be energized. School starts up again tomorrow! We have a gig next Saturday! I need to fire on full cylinders starting at 6am Monday.

I feel like I have the flu but without the vomiting and diarrhea--very weak, feverish, and tired. I slept more than 10 hours yesterday, and only woke shortly before noon because the Mrs. was poking around the bedroom. Then I took a three-hour nap in the afternoon. Whatever this is, I've had it for three days running and would like it to go away.

This morning after a sold 8 hours of sleep I felt more tired than last night. My muscles ache.

Good thing I'm not planning much today. I'll sit through the Ravens game at 1pm and do some reading. Got a couple days' of lesson planning done this morning, which helps.

Despite the sickness I feel renewed. Saw friends and family over the break and that's always fun--ate a ton of great food and had good wines and heard good music. I intend to grab 2009 by the cojones and run with it. Here's hoping you do the same.

Friday, January 02, 2009


Cherlize Theron won an Oscar for her performance in Monster--it's not merely her spot-on mimicry of Aileen that makes this a worthy performance. There isn't a frame in the film where Theron as Aileen is not deeply conflicted and suffering, and not once is there a false moment or exaggerated emotion (the same is not true for Christina Ricci's performance as Selby--she's good but not quite at the same level).

I think the clincher scene is when Aileen faces hard truths during a job interview in a lawyer's office. Theron's face falls and she really took my heart with her. Director Patty Jenkins might say that her intention was never to make us feel sympathy for Aileen Wournos--but wow, that's certainly one effect. Good stuff.