Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Gig

It's all a blur. I was so exhausted I don't remember much of the first two sets, which passed in a surreal haze. I felt I wasn't playing with any passion, like I was a robot. And singing wasn't comfortable yet--still not completely recovered from the dread sore throat a couple weeks back. We played a set of jigs and I got lost about a third of the way in and never found my way back. Ooops.

When we got the bar the stage wasn't set up yet. We waited an hour and a half for a couple to finish their beers and leave so we could move their table and start putting the gear together; then there was a mad rush to get set in time, and very little time for a sound-check. So we had some tech issues for the first set. But a couple of our new songs came off well.

This is from the 3rd set--I realized during the break that I hadn't eaten since about10:30am, and the bar kitchen was closed. Fortunately Cha had a Chic-fil-a sandwich in her car from a meeting she'd hosted earlier in the day. This restored by soul. Funny how I can still pull off a reasonable Rick O with a lung full of blech and a scratchy throat.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Tomorrow night @ Mick O'Shea's--Move Like Seamus returns after a six-week hiatus.

Multiple shows are coming down the pike at multiple venues in March, April, May and June. Stay tuned for updates!

Day 54

Man, I ain't slept since Monday night and it's starting to catch up with me a bit. I very uncharacteristically left my keys in the faculty restroom door, and didn't realize it until I left an IEP meeting for a student I have never had in my class. I rushed upstairs only to find out that one of the students found my keys and turned them in. I'm quite lucky that my room wasn't opened, my laptop taken, and my car driven off the Bay Bridge.

Tomcat is an overly developed girl in my sixth grade class. Frequently I have to grab eighth grade boys by the neck and haul them out of my room last period like panting puppies as they try to "get with" her. She adores the attention she gets, and flaunts her sexuality like a weapon. The biggest difference, in fact, between middle school girls and boys in B'more and the middle school I grew up in is the comfort with frank sexuality at an early age. When I was in middle school we of course talked about sex and dreamed about it and spent hours wailing away, but even the most attractive and developed girls and boys were awkward and geeky about sex before high school. Kids in B'more don't go through any awkward confused stage, at least in my experience. They are unafraid of sexuality, and are quite open about using it to manipulate each other. Tomcat uses her wares to get what she wants, and tries to use it on male faculty too. I'm always telling her to back off, to keep her hands to herself, and to pull her pants up. Today she was shaking her ass at boys in the hall and she actually pulled her pants halfway down her butt in my classroom, exposing herself. (Some of the sixth grade boys in my class became the awkward, gawky boys with which I was familiar at the sight. One of them drew laughter by saying "gross!"). Now I'm going to go talk to a counselor and a social worker about her--I don't want to involve administrators because they'll punish her for something for which she likely needs a frank one-on-one discussion over. If the social worker decides to involve the administrators, then I'll inform them.

I think Tomcat is acting out because a new girl transferred into our class who is even prettier and who is even more well-endowed. I had no trouble from her until two days ago when the new girl started. Tomshay didn't do any work but she would take one of my Bluford books and sit in the corner reading. Now she jumps on tables, touches boys, exposes herself, and screams at the top of her lungs.

All this after not sleeping for days is quite surreal. I hope I sleep tonight, because I've got a beastly long day tomorrow, what with the Mick O'Shea's gig and all.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Day 53

Oh, man--killer insomnia last night. WTF? Must be that I haven't had any wine or good tea since Friday last week.

I was NOT in the mood for teaching today, but go through somehow, breaking up a couple fights along the way. I even put a thug in a headlock and pulled him off another student. He was cool with it though, cuz we tight, know I'm sayin'?

De, from my first period, said "I seen you Mr. G."

"What?" I asked.

"I seen you lookin' at Ms. B's butt when she walkin' down the hall."

Ms. B is about 180 pounds past the point where I'd watch her butt. I'm not judging her--I'm just saying.

"Oh yeah, De? Well I'ma gonna pack you now. I seen your shoes in the dollar bin at CVS..."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Day 52

The Big Cheese is mad at me because I wrote passes for a couple students to get water today. "I made a directive that students were not to get passes for water. Kids don't need water!"

I disagree. Kids need water, and regularly. Especially in my room, which bakes their brains at a steady 93 degrees for 90 minutes. And I don't consider a late Friday afternoon page over the intercom saying "please limit hall passes to students" to be a "directive" that students shouldn't get passes for water. A directive is typed up and official.

But I understand why the Big Cheese is on edge. We had a group of adults from the 'hood bust into the building today looking to settle a vendetta with a student--they trashed some furniture in the main office and six squad cars and a paddy wagon showed to stop a near-riot. And then there was the small matter of a bathroom fire and an evacuation. Kids outside in shirtsleeves with an 18 windchill? Priceless!

I just lock my room and handle my business. My kids' benchmark exam scores were substantially higher, but only six out of 45 passed the test with "proficient" scores (ZERO passed the first). I'll take double-digit increases in scores, but would have liked to see more make the leap to 60%. Those who did got paid--I budgeted $100 per class and doled it out equally to those who passed the test. First I had to make sure they could make it home with $33 without getting bainked or jumped or mugged.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


A book of the very first order, of a quality such that I'm sure it will change the way I live. I thought John Williams' other two novels (Augustus and Butcher's Crossing) were exquisite, but having moved through William Stoner's life in a few hundred finely-wrought pages I now see Williams at the top of his form.

Can education rescue us from a life shallowly lived, or do we simply appreciate more fully the ways we're trapped? Can knowledge and skill insulate us from Nature, or do we benefit from them only in feeling our sufferings more keenly?

Stoner is top-shelf, next to The Ambassadors and To the Lighthouse and Joyce's "The Dead." I find myself curiously unable to comment--as though I need to absorb it more.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

My old school

Man, the kids at the Book never get a break...I don't know that any students were victims but this is a devastating revelation regardless. I sat on meetings with this guy.

And one of my former co-workers got trampled by a stampede of 8th graders there this week. She's pretty banged up. Rumor has it they're shutting the school down after this year. Despite its history and illustrious past, it might be time to do so.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

City Life

The evening started out with a quick dash to Famous Yakatori One, which combines cuisines of historic enemies Korea and Japan into a single behemoth of yummy and cheap options. Yeah, it's cramped, and smoky, and they play absurdly loud hip-hop, but the Jijgae is fucking awesome and you get a lot of food cheap. They always give us something free, too, like smelly tofu, or an extra kimchee, or fried ice cream. I got a big fucking hot sake for $1 during happy hour. Ridiculous!

We rushed through our meal because we were going to see "Killer Joe" at Single Carrot Theater. It's an awesome venue; I mean you are literally right in the living room of a dive ass country trailer. I don't know how to describe the play--kind of like a Russell Banks novel mixed with Mama's Family. It's by turns hilarious and disturbing, and though the play is set in Texas it took me back to my Southern PA roots. The place was pretty full, but it only sits about 30 or 40 people, who were very engaged in the show--some quite actively, with exclamations of surprise and delight. A very intimate and involving theater experience. With nudity. You need to get out and see this one--support your local theater troops.

And we happened to find out that Ellen Cherry was playing right across the street at Joe Squared, so we hopped over after the play to see her and hung out for a while. Cast members joined us for drinks, which was fun. Good tunes, good food, good booze, good drama--and all on a school night. I shall curse myself tomorrow morning.

Dag. Now I remember why we moved to the City in the first place.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Day 49

So the new kid in my homeroom is having a real tough time fitting in. NOBODY will give him a break. Some of the boys spread a rumor that he's gay and now everyone hammers him all the time, including the girls, and because those spreading rumors happen to be Crips he can't really say anything back without getting "bainked."*

Today I stopped at Superfresh in the morning to buy some pencils and mints for the kids before their big benchmark assessment. On the way out I saw some boxes of a pre-packaged cake called "Zebra Pies." I'd never heard of them, but bought four boxes figuring the kids likely hadn't had breakfast and I wanted them awake and alert for the test. I gave them out in the morning before distributing the test. The kids knew what they were without even seeing the box.

The new kid came in late, gloomy and downcast as always. He took a seat in the back. I gave him his cake and his face lit up, his eyes got big, and he smiled a gigantic unabashed smile of appreciation. "WOW!" he exclaimed. "I get a Zebra Pie?!" I was taken aback because usually kids are unappreciative and contemptuous of little gestures like this. I'd also never seen him smile, and had only heard him whisper questions to me as I knelt at his desk.

I said "Yes, you get one. Of course you get one!" He was so happy.

Of course some of the kids started teasing him about how happy he was. "Everybody got one, dumbass," OTay said. But I put a stop to that by putting him out of my classroom for talking during the test. Nobody teases the new kid in my room, but I hear what's happening in the halls and in his other classes. I might have to go on the offensive myself.

*to baink someone means to gang up on and beat senseless. B'more City middle-schoolers are famous for bainking people on MTA buses, at bus stops, on the streets of Mt. Vernon, in Canton, and they occasionally baink teachers and put it on YouTube.

My new axe

So the Senator Theater has been in the news again recently because Tom Kiefaber is overextended financially and his life-long mission to save this Art Deco gem from demolition or (worse) conversion into a suburban corporate multiplex is once again in danger of failing.

I wish a consortium of actors who give a shit would just buy the damn thing and put restrictions on what can be done with it. Ed Norris and others step up now and again to help out but Kiefaber needs bank--if the City takes over to manage it The Senator is doomed. Within weeks Alonso will open a middle school there.

The Senator is the best place to see a movie in this area by far. The Charles has crappy sound and often they can't get their pictures in focus (good popcorn though). The Landmarks and the Regals and all those other places are ok, but they show the same crappy ass pictures everybody else shows, and you got mobs of kids with laser pointers and cell phones fucking shit up all the time. And the Earle? I wouldn't recommend it unless you're Paul Ruebens.

I didn't make it to the gala weekend concerts to save the Senator, but did my part by buying this guitar which was donated by Paul Reed Smith and signed by some dignitaries concerned with the cause. I've always wanted Josh Groban's signature.

I should get the new guitar any day now, and plan to fire it up at Mick O'Shea's on 2.27.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Casanova was considered a moron until his 8th year, during which, as he described it, "the organ of [his] memory developed." Shortly thereafter, he became a doctor of law in Venice, and a most entertaining rogue, intellectual, and libertine. Obviously other organs developed in the meantime, and Casanova puts them to good use. He once used them to "cure" a woman of her fear of lightning in a moving carriage, for example, and several sets of sisters, maidservants, and noble women fall pray to this "gifted swordsman."

This is a great book, and I am eager to continue on to all subsequent volumes.

Updated Gig Schedule for Move Like Seamus

Turning rapidly into a busy spring!

The venues: Mick O'Shea's; Lucy's; Four Fields of Ireland

The Dates:

Friday, 27 February: MLS @ Mick's
Friday, 13 March 9:30-1:30: MLS @ Mick's
Saturday, 14 March 9-2: MLS @ Ireland's Four Fields (DC)
Sunday, 15 March 8:30-Midnight: MLS @ Lucy's
Tuesday, 17 March, 7:00 - Midnight: MLS @ Mick's
Friday, 03 April: MLS@ Lucy's
Saturday, 02 May: MLS @ Lucy's
Saturday, 23 May: MLS @ Lucy's

Day 48

My 8th grade classes ran roughshod over me today. I had a lavish slideshow prepped for test review--they've got a big standardized "benchmark" test from the City the next two days, which is supposed to gauge whether they're on pace for the big No Child Left Behind standardized exams in March. I told them all Friday that I set aside $100 for each class, which I will divide amongst those who pass. That got their attention for one day. Today they didn't give a rat's ass what I had to say, or what was on the test. Perhaps a half-dozen kids out of two classes even looked at the screen today.

The old management tricks aren't working. I call their houses so often that some of their moms sent me Valentine's Day text messages with cute emoticons. The loud country music is meaningless: half the kids know Willie and Waylon's hits by heart, the rest are keen on the Carter Family, Bill Monroe, and Doc Watson. Even Merle Haggard doesn't get under their skin anymore. Banging on the desk with The Noisemaker is no longer noisome.

Last period a seventh grade girl with whom I've had major problems in the past put her head in my room. "Yo, I know you think my Victorian lip gloss be poppin'. You'd kiss me if I was old enough, would'ncha?"

"No, I wouldn't. I'm married."

"Yeah, but you know my face and lips be pretty."

"I think ALL the kids at The March are beautiful!"

This is the girl who impersonated another student in my class for a month when I first started, and who used to talk about anal sex all the time. I don't often allow myself the luxury of judging kids, but I loathe her.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Pinocchio is a punk-ass reprobate. He couldn't walk the straight and narrow if it were the only available path between a shark tank and a bramble forest.

But though he's a block-head he has goodness in him, and therefore we follow his adventures with relish, knowing he'll inevitably make the wrong choice. Until he doesn't, and is redeemed.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


I very much enjoyed the current exhibit at the Walters. Not only is it interesting to see the new illuminated St. John's Bible in progress, but to see it in context with examples from the Walters' spectacular collection of illuminated manuscripts made it even better.

Plus, I called Julio at 10am and he was up for tagging along. Always good to get his expert input during a trip to the museum.


Happy birthday Miep!

got Milk?

Saw Milk last night at the Charles. Haven't seen many of the Oscar flicks this year, but of the half-dozen I've caught this is by far the best. Sean Penn is really great, as he usually is, but for once he's playing a tough guy of a different sort. And that Freaks 'n Geeks guy is coming into his own as an actor of some caliber too. Perhaps if I see him in a few more movies I'll remember his name without having to Google it? Josh Brolin is good too--made me want to get W. from Netflix.

I have no memory of the Harvey Milk story when I was a kid, but I lived in the sticks amongst folks who considered San Fran and its denizens an abomination in the eyes of the Lord. I doubt Channel 8 in south-central PA even covered the story. I first learned about Milk from a Jello Biafra spoken word CD 15 years ago.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Day 47

Only 79 school days left in 2009! Woo hoo!

Here's some of the lingo on B'more's East Side. It will serve you well if your car ever breaks down on Harford Road near North Ave.

pluck (v coll): to smack sharply across the head with an open palm. Students will announce their intention to do this just before a resounding slap sounds, as in "I'ma pluck you, fool!"

pack (v coll): to criticize, to ridicule in a humorous and exaggerated fashion. Students will say "Yo I'm about to pack you" before saying "Mr. G them socks so bushy they look like a buffalo leg," at which point the instructor teaches about similes, using the example just cited.

ride (v coll): to pack someone, but at a more serious, merciless level. Again, students announce their intention to engage in this behavior by saying "I'ma ride you," before tearing down someone's shoes, pants, shirt, hair, skin, parents, grandparents, cousins, taste in music, phone, MySpace page profile photo, etc.

swirl (v coll): to roughly grab the back of someone's head with a palm and snap the person's neck in a quick motion. Students will say "swirls" and then try to see if they can catch each other off-guard.

snuff (v coll): to put out; to render non-living; to eradicate; to send to perdition. Somebody says this to you, get your game face on and prepare either to defend yourself or flee. Someone says "yo I'ma snuff you!" they typically mean business.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Day 46

So the sixth grade girl who threw a chair at me last week was found having sex in the teacher's lounge this morning. "Having sex" in her case of course means being raped, because not only is she still a young child, but she's also often not really cognizant of her surroundings and/or what's right or wrong or in her own best interest.

But can the sixth-grade boy involved really be guilty of rape? Argh. It's like the case I saw recently where young teens who traded nude photos of themselves on cell phones were charged with possessing child porn. I think the boy responsible knew her susceptibility, and knew what he was about by luring her upstairs before school started, but ugh. What a mess. Now I know why her brother was so glum when I talked to him in the hall this morning. Like so much depressing and terrible information, one has to note this and move on and teach tomorrow and hope the child gets the help she needs.

I lost my voice third period and couldn't reign those bastards in. I finally flipped out and threw stuff and tried to guilt them in a hoarse whisper when they quieted down:"A lot of these City teachers call out sick every week. I drag my sick ass up in here and you treat me like dirt. We have a Benchmark test next week and I can't talk over you--that's why I came in sick today, because I know you need to get ready for that test. You need to learn these skills." About 2/3 of the class gave a hoot, the rest have no concept of guilt nohow. They thought my schpeil was funny.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


There is a segment of Salo entitled "Circle of Shit." That pretty much sums it up!

Pasolini made a film about Marxism and Lenin and medieval monks and a talking crow which was charming and funny beyond its meager elements. How could he take such hilarious and vigorously imagined source material as the Marquis de Sade's 120 Days of Sodom and turn it into one of the least entertaining films ever made? I mean, God, it's worse than Quills. I didn't know that was possible.

There's simply nothing going on here. It's not aethestically interesting (excepting perhaps a few moments near the end); the acting is at the approximate level of a Will Ferrell SNL skit; the marriage of Italian and Nazi fascism with Sade would seem fruitful, but nothing much is done with the idea (I think Sade is too anarchistic for a marriage to right-wing extremism).

After an hour I hoped to be shocked or disgusted or outraged; instead I was bored. Give me The Piano Teacher or Pink Flamingos!


Upcoming Shows

Move Like Seamus shows in the works:

February 27th @ Mick O'Shea's
March 13th @ Mick O'Shea's (pending confirmation)
March 15th @ Lucy's (trio show?)
March 17th @ Mick O'Shea's

Day 45

Blegh. Sick, sick, sick. Sigh.

I've hit upon a solution for some of the pointless meetings scheduled each week: I stopped going. My 8th grade team meeting is always a great brainstorming session where we come up with lots of ideas and then decide we're going to do something and we all commit to do that thing and then only I do it, and the following week we move on. Because we never actually follow through on the ideas generated, the meeting turns into a catastrophic waste of my planning time. I need EVERY MINUTE OF MY PLANNING TIME FOR PLANNING AND GRADING, or I have to work nights and weekends. Um, no.

So I stopped going. Today the team leader came up to my room and said "were you here yesterday?" and I said "oh yes" and then he looked confused and wandered off. This proves that I can stop going to these meetings without consequence.

Today I had a meeting with the English Department chair. I didn't go, because when I do go she always talks smack about other teachers, and while I might agree with some of her assessments, I find this a terrible breach of professional etiquette. So I stopped going to her meetings too. She saw me later and didn't say anything, because she probably had more important things to do as well. Of course she probably told everyone who showed for their meetings about how that worthless Mr. G don't bother showin' up for nuthin'...

I wonder if I can swing not going to the monthly faculty meeting? Well-timed sick days? Here I am, actually sick, and it didn't hit until two days past the faculty meeting. Bum luck, that. I think, in fact, that the stress of Monday's worthless 90-minute snooze fest is what knocked the final underpinnings from my already-undermined immune system.

Cha is in New Orleans for a conference. I miss her.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


I loved this slim volume on the prehistoric origins of alchemy. I never knew that -lithic man first worked meteoric iron, and thence came to venerate rocks from the sky. Of course it makes sense that iron from the sky would be easier to access, etc. And now I understand better the veneration of Qaaba!

Eliade traces alchemy back to its archaic routes via ancient spiritual traditions like Yoga and Taoism, but also studies historians of chemistry and metallurgy. He shows how the Eastern alchemical traditions were forged (nyuk nyuk) by smiths and smithing guilds which often were "secret societies" before 'civilization' was widespread. Very interesting stuff.

I'll never think of Shadrach, Mishak, and Abednigo in the same way again.

Day 44

Had a couple weeks of robust health and energy, and then this morning woke with a rasping cough and a scary wheeze when I breathe. I guarantee it's because it's been 105 degrees (I'm NOT exaggerating) in my room for three days, and the RM 317 petri dish is awash in tropical funk. I hope what they say is true: after the first couple years in the classroom, one develops cast-iron immunity to germs.

UGH. Had to break up a girl fight today. I got between them just as the beads hit the floor, which makes footing treacherous. Thank goodness for the Tai Chi classes, which kept me centered and balanced despite rolling detritus from broken Family Dollar bracelets and hair weaves clattering underfoot.

I let the kids in my homeroom store their shit in one of my big cabinets because they can't afford locks for their lockers; if they put their stuff in unlocked lockers it gets jacked up, of course--but my cabinet is starting to reek because these kids have suspicious hygiene. One of my students complained yesterday that I had to clean it out and spray something because it smelled like "Freetos and jizz" up in there. I thought she was exaggerating, until I put my head in there today. Actually it DOES smell like Freetos and jizz--and weed.

So today after school I cleaned out all the dank old hoodies kids have left in there for weeks. I sealed them in a plastic IKEA tub. Maybe I should rummage the pockets?

Monday, February 09, 2009

Day 43

According to our union contract, we're only supposed to get 1 hour of mandatory meeting time outside of our regular scheduled work-day per month. The last two monthly staff meetings have run 90 minutes, and today's was still going strong when I just left at the 90 minute mark. We already had a 45-minute meeting and a 15-minute meeting after school last week. Fuck this shit.

I need my Tai Chi class tonight. First I'm going to lift weights and then hang upside down for a while. And drink wine.

The kids were pretty good today, all things considered. They're distracted by the 60-degree weather, of course, but so am I.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Seen on TCM

I've rarely made it through a John Wayne film because that sort of macheesemo doesn't do it for me--but this one was a treat. Light and silly (and sexist), but with clever innuendo throughout. While Cha was out enjoying the gorgeous spring-like weather, I was home babysitting Ma. Ma laughed for two hours straight, especially at the scenes of domestic violence. My favorite gag was Michael giving the parish priest penance for his part in a conspiracy to help Sean win Dannaher's approval for his sister's hand in marriage. Or, the scene where Michael admires the destroyed marriage bed and calls it "Homeric."

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Day 42

I'd almost become complacent; things were going pretty smoothly at school, I was planned several days in advance and the kids were doing well. I felt free to do some reading and to watch DVDs--to enjoy some leisure time on week nights for once.

Then I had three terrible days in a row with my third period class, who suddenly were in open revolt. I had new students who were either being harassed and called "gay" or who were precipitating behavior problems by other students. I was receiving contradictory signals and instructions from the Big Cheese: don't follow the pacing guide, do what you need to do to get the students reading and writing more. Follow the pacing guide and make sure the skills you are teaching align with the standardized tests. Forget the standardized tests, we have a benchmark test next week based on the pacing guide skills-catch up on those! The City is going to make deep staff cuts so you better do what we're saying to the letter or else! But don't worry about the benchmark test or the pacing guide, because the priority is the standardized test in March.

I'd been on a little high, content and confident. Friday I left school wiped out, with a packet of materials handed me at the last minute on Friday by a supervisor who knew I'd already written plans for the entire next week. "You need to re-do your entire weeks' plans and focus on these skills next week instead. Email me the new plans this weekend." I threw the packet into the recycling bin in the backseat of my car. The two-mile drive home took 45 minutes because of traffic jams on North Ave. I got home, brewed a pot of tea, and started a hot bath. I wasn't going to get glum or down in the dumps.

Just as I was getting into the tub the phone rang. It was Cha. "Dad is dropping Mom off in a couple minutes." I drained the tub, took the tea downstairs. The doorbell rang. In the back of my mind: we have a surprise party tonight, and I think we double-booked plans to have dinner with friends. D'oh. I open the door. Dad's car is full of groceries for a party Cha is having for her teacher class on Saturday at our house. I unload the groceries, I take Ma to the TV room and pour her some tea. The phone rings. It's Julio calling to ask about dinner. We're talking when my cell rings. It's Cha. She needs to me to go to her office and give her boss a jump start. "She's got to pick up her baby at day care! Can you get here ASAP?" Who doesn't have their own jumper cables in the car? God. I say "Should I bring Ma with me?" No, I should leave Ma watching TV, Cha will drive home while I drive to her work. So I'm in the car again. I get to her office quickly and jump start her boss who thanks me and rushes off. Then I sit in traffic on I-83 and on Druid Park Lake Drive for 20 minutes, even though it's only a .5 mile to my house.

By now we've already missed the surprise party deadline. Dad is 45 minutes late to pick up Mom. We decide to go to dinner with our other friends. I play Galaga with Julio while waiting for a table at the pizza restaurant. My time is not my own.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Buzz Kill

This is totally lame, dude. Everyone knows Phelps got his magnificent lung capacity by pulling on a three-foot bong.

I hope his sponsors don't pull out on him, now that he's kicked off the team. But if they do, he can sign endorsements for Visine, Doritoes, Frito Lay, etc.


If you've followed Dick Cheney's Machiavellian machinations over the past eight years with any diligence, you'll likely know most of the key information in Barton Gellman's fine book. But Gellman scores some coups. My favorite is the battle of the Dicks. Dick Armey is one of the biggest dicks ever in Washington DC, but he was on the right side of history when he thought the Iraq war rationale was a bunch of bullshit, and had he not been boondoggled personally by an an even bigger dick--Cheney--Armey might have prevented the resultant catastrophe. Dick Cheney managed to pull the wool over skeptical Dick Armey's eyes in a personal visit, and Dick Armey is none too pleased about it. He says in Gellman's book that he suspected Cheney was bullshitting him, but if what Cheney was saying was true he had to vote for the war. Once Armey committed, a lot of waffling Republicans followed suit. Cheney is just the sort of dick unprincipled enough to lie to his friends, his country, and his president, and all the facts are here.

But Gellman is not overzealous in tearing Cheney down and he doesn't condemn Cheney--the coverage here is factual with limited intrusions of personal opinion. The reader is allowed to see Cheney fairly and to make his or her own judgments--mine remains the same: what a Dick!

Also great reading: Gellman's recreation of the Ashcroft hospital visit by Card and Gonzales, and the resulting Constitutional crisis which went unknown by the public or Congress until Jim Comey's testimony years later. Funny to think that a lunatic fringer like Ashcroft couldn't even stomach Cheney's un-Constitutional transgressions. The story is remarkable, and told well here.


Someone saw Ringu, Mulholland Drive, The Sixth Sense, The Shining, Psycho, Let's Scare Jessica To Death, that Japanese horror flick with the chick who says "kitty kitty kitty" while sawing your legs off, etc and decided to steal bits and pieces from all of them and cobble together a piece of derivate shit and direct it like an art-house movie.


Day 41

"Mr. G" The Snitch whispers as my sixth graders enter the room, "Lipsyncher ain't take her meds today. Watch out."

"Thanks, Snitchy" I say. Lipsyncher is the younger sister of a lunatic from the seventh grade class I had last term. I read her IEP, and I'm curious what to expect. Within the first five minutes of class she has pulled a crate of books off my library, spilling them, then torn up two classmates' work and showered it like confetti onto the floor. Then she climbs atop two tables and thumps her chest like Kong. I put her name on my detention list, she says "I don't care" and picks up a chair and tries to throw it. Fortunately I get there and stop her, but she picks up another and throws it at a fellow student. Then she lies on her back on the floor, puts her feet up over her shoulders straight-legged, and invites me to do something which would have made Pazuzu-laden Linda Blair embarrassed.

I'd already broken up three fights today in the hall outside my room, and had ditched my corduroy jacket and shirt for a black T-shirt. I thought I was back at Booker T for a while there. I called Lipsyncher's parents and she calmed down a bit, but boy what a day. It's about 104 degrees in my room because the heat is cooking on these cold days and I have no ability to regulate it, and neither of my windows opens. My poor Target box fan is getting a workout.

Aside from Lipsyncher, all the other students were somnolent today in the heat.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Michael Steele is a Tool

Thought the Republican Party would change because they have a brother in charge? Think again. Michael Steele turns out to be a typical GOP leader: he's either completely moronic or so ideologically blinkered that facts don't matter a bit.

"The government has never created a job." Moron. You've held at least two of them. Guess government didn't "create" the Lt. Governor of Maryland position. Dumbass. Schmuck.

Not to mention: teachers, soldiers, defense contractors, police, firemen, social workers, people who work in research universities funded by the Fed, NASA, highway system, Coast Guard, DEA--I could go on, but you get the gist.

What a total tool. After this gets around Steele will I'm sure be issuing some asinine "well I meant EXCEPT for..." explanation. Or, he'll put his foot in his mouth and say "The government never created a REAL job."

Day 40

"I HATE AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY MONTH!" K-Shawn yells. She got that sneer on her face she always wears when something is gettin' on her nerve. "I'm tired of MLK! I never want to hear about Rosa Parks again!"

I protest as best I can, but the chorus of boos continues.

"Oh, and that Malcolm X--ugh."

"Sojourner Truth can bite it!"

"And that muthafucka with the gotdamn peanuts 'n shit! George Washington Whatever? No fucking way!"

Ok, so it's regrettable that my students have learned their history and heritage in ways which make them cringe when you bring it up. But their reaction was also quite instructive, and amusing too.

"Ok, I get the point," I finally said. "But we can learn about some other cats you maybe ain't heard of."

"Like who?"

"Anyone know John Brown?" (NO) "How about Nat Turner?" (NO) "Stokely Carmichael?" (NO) "Ok, I got some ideas for an African American History month project--but we'll research some folks you likely ain't learnt afore. Guys who kilt people and chopped off heads."


We'll see if they like the more violently inclined abolitionists and civil rights agitators.

Two new students started this week. One, in my homeroom, has yet to show up. His mom came in, however. He got put out his other school for an attempted stabbing. Great. Mom seems nice, though. She's a big Biggie fan and admired my poster. The other is in my 3rd period class. Couldn't get him to say a thing for two days, but then today he started whispering answers to my questions. He's sitting right in front of me, whispering the correct answer to every question. Finally I said "Hey WW2, why you so quiet? I hear you!" and he vigorously shook his head as if to say "I didn't say nothing!" Smart kid, apparently. I did some research and found out he just transferred in from Baltimore County schools. No wonder he's shy and withdrawn. Hell, he's scared shitless I bet! He'll be all right. Some of the tough girls already think he's cute.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

For HPL Geeks

Head on over to The Contrarian if you care to try your hand at the newest literary craze: Lovecraftian haiku.

Maybe the Library of America will follow up their unmentionable volume of HPL short fiction with a haiku collection. Can't be worse than the Fungi from Yuggoth song cycle!

Day 39

Mr. McGillicutty-the teacher I'm mentoring-knows jack all about Language Arts. Every Language Arts teacher has gaps--Lord knows I could brush up on grammar and benefit (I know more about French grammar than English). But dude says weird things in what I believe are attempts to show me he knows about literature. It ain't working. Here's a sample from today:

  • Hemingway was a Transcendentalist
  • Thoreau could only write because he was a wealthy land-owner
  • Emerson was a Cynic
  • Richard Wright wrote Giovanni's Room

The Big Cheese wants me to give this guy a job and make him stick to it during last period. "Give him SOMETHING TO DO," she said. "If he don't do it, GIVE HIM TO ME."

I'ma put him in charge of crayons, markers, and colored pencils. Usually I'd have one of my students do that, but they don't need to learn responsibility as much as he does. A counsellor came to the door today and asked me to step in the hall for two minutes. When I returned there were children running around my room throwing things. McGillicutty was cowering in the corner and they were making fun of his pants.

This is a grown man.

Monday, February 02, 2009


Wall-e sure enough look purty and what-not, but I don't like saccharine, and CGI saccherine is even worse. I'm content to have seen it once, but I'll take the Parisian rat chef over the lovesick robot any day.

Day 38

The kids are back after five days off and they are aggravating. Loud, unprincipled, devilish--I have my phone call list filled each period, and spend too much planning time calling parents. I expected it would be like this, as it always is after a long break.

During last period--only my second meeting with the sixth grade class--I have just gotten through defending Mr. McGillicutty against the students' charges that I am the "main teacher" and Mr. McGillicutty is the "lame teacher." "We are both the main teachers," I say. Mr. Mcgillicutty just watches you from the back of the room and I watch you from the front," when Teh Big Cheese puts her scowling face in the door. "Don't let me catch you leaning on no counters up in my school," she hisses at McGillicutty. "You always doing nothing. Every time I see you you are doing nothing. You better get Mr. G to give you a job because next time I see you leaning on my counter I am tanning your hide."

She rolls out and then the kids all fall out. "We knew Mr. G was the main teacher. Better give Mr. McGillicutty something to do!" Ugh.

But I taught them a pretty successful class despite the hilarity. I taught them about conflict and then we talked about mood and tone in literature. I used paintings as examples, asking them about the mood, and they knew 6 of the 8 paintings I used, including titles and artists' names and bios. I was quite impressed. I need to visit Mr. T the art teacher and express my appreciation.