Friday, May 29, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
My brother-in-law hooked me up with this set at Xmas, and I only just finished the 12th hour-long CD. These lectures are much more accessible than Watts' books, which can be tough going and at times dry and academic. Don't believe me? Try The Supreme Identity! I think reading Watts is a lot like pole-sitting in the desert, in that one suffers merciless deprivation but achieves rewarding enlightenment afterward.
Here Watts is more groovy and guru-y. I can see him smoking a spliff, sitting on his houseboat with shirt open, talking dharma and Hindu deities. That's not to say that the material is light, by any means; the presentation is merely more laid-back, with goofy humorous interjections.
By the time we'd gone on and turned around and come back to the park the old man had disappeared, presumably to fetch his hood and sheet.
80-odd 8th graders from the March descended on a little playground full of white mothers and their tots. Ten minutes later all the white mothers and their tots were high-tailing it outta there and the 8th graders were on the teeter totters, the swings, and the monkey bars, talking about pussy and dick and dropping casual f-bombs and n***** this and n***** that. Mr. Fletch tried squawking at them: "you see them families? you see them little kids? Why you so rude? Why you drive them outta here? Act like you been someplace."
Then he turned to me and said "Shit, I'd run too if I saw these kids comin'!"
But aside from cursing and hogging the equipment the kids were delightful. They self-organized basketball and football games. They waited patiently in line as we prepared burgers and hot dogs, they only packed my shoes moderately. I only have one more week with them before (most) move on to high school.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
It takes me standing by the door and pushing them away when they make a move to exit. Forget teaching a damn thing. They won't even watch a DVD at this point.
At least there are lots of activities scheduled: skating trip yesterday, Lion King in NY today, picnic in the park tomorrow, prom Friday. For big chunks of the day many of my 8th graders have been elsewhere. Of course I've been getting a lot of the students whose behavior prevents them from going on trips. VERY interesting! I ended up with a mixed class of 8th graders and 6th graders first period: an administrator took me over to the gym with them and locked us in. Concurrent games of football, dodge, and basketball kept them busy.
My last-period sixth graders are also getting more rowdy again. I've had them pretty well in line for a couple weeks. I gave up on phone calls home, detentions, and all the other exotic punishments required by the administrators, and started instead an incentive program with treat rewards. Everyone who is on task gets an initial, small treat (a sucker or a couple peanut butter cups) at 2:00. Then, at 2:30, everyone who turns in all their work and has not gotten on my nerves gets a second, more substantial treat (chips/cookies/juice/soda). This worked like a charm until today, when only two kids behaved well enough to earn their 2nd treat. There was a revolt when I stuck to my word. To those who complained, I sung my little ditties: "Name on board, no reward!" or "Out your seat? You get no treat!"
Tomcat was angry because several of the kids in class wrote letters to the principal calling her a bully and saying she was bossy and threatening all the time. She got up and started cussing out and threatening everyone. "You all are petty liars for writing letters saying I'm a bully. Each one of you who snitched on me is gonna get beat. I am not a bully!" Hilarious. A true teaching moment.
Monday, May 25, 2009
Moves with the diffuse attention and peculiar mosey of a European film, but its subject matter is pure Americana. If you need straightforward narrative, avoid, but I rather liked the jumbled plot featuring infidelity, musicians, political assassination, and Lilly Tomlin.
If you are interested, the tragic source material for the presentation is summarized here.
Saturday I got a massage at Massage Envy, which is a chain of massage joints. I regarded it with suspicion, but Melissa gave me a high-quality hour-long deep tissue rub for a paltry $49; it was so good I signed up for their massage-a-month, locking in that low price for a year. If you're into a reasonably priced massage, try them out (and if you mention my name I get a free half-hour).
Saturday night we played Lucy's again. Very nice to see the remaining members of MLS United out in force--thanks! We heard lots of set list suggestions, and since the plan is to learn six new songs before the next gig in June, we'll of course pass along this input to the powers which be.
I spent much of yesterday lounging and doing chores, but did manage to start planning the Peru trip. Why did we choose such a rugged adventure instead of a cushy European gig? Because I'm not getting any younger, and getting a taste of the Andes and the rain forest in one 2.5 week excursion is going to become less likely as I creep further into my forties. Do it now! Our standard philosophy of hitting the ground with little planning won't fly in Peru. This is a country where tourists tend to end up in buses which plummet into ravines, and renting a car and driving oneself is discouraged in bold print in virtually every tour book I've seen so far, what with insane drivers, dangerous roads, bandits, and Shining Path revolutionaries. So I've got to figure out ways to get us from Lima to Cuzco, from Cuzco to Machu Picchu, from Machu Picchu to the Nazca Lines, from the Nazca Lines to Lake Titicaca and back, with tour guides, flights, buses, and lodging ideally pre-arranged before we leave. AND I want to avoid tour-groups with 3 hours here and 2 hours there and rushing to catch buses. Screw that.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
So, yeah: props to the Big Cheese for trying, but I really have a problem with the General Scold leadership style. This is the type of leader who gets on the intercom and lectures all staff for the mistake of one staff member. It is cowardly behavior, because the leader figures he or she is solving the problem while actually he or she is avoiding the problem, and in fact the morale in the building goes down every time it happens. Please: Take the offending staff member into your office for training, counseling, or dressing-down or whatever that person needs: don't lay heavy guilt on everybody for one person's sins.
I also distrust and dislike leaders who contradict themselves routinely, and the Big Cheese is a walking contradiction. Here are a few examples:
(over the intercom) "I need you to write an AWOL slip for any student who is not in your class when they are supposed to be. Give these to the Administrator for your grade level."
(while I am delivering my AWOL slips not two hours later) "Mr. G, why are you wasting time and paper filling out those AWOL slips? Take some initiative and call those parents yourself!"
(at the staff meeting) "I need you to write detailed and engaging instructional plans every day. We are not done this school year yet. I expect full 90-minute plans with teaching and learning until the last day of school."
(the very next day at another staff meeting) "I am tired of staff sitting in their rooms writing plans during their planning period. What are you planning for this time of year? You got nothing going on. Get your behinds out in the halls and patrol during your planning time."
(at the staff meeting) "Do not, under any circumstances, send children to the administrator. Handle your business. The children will never respect you if you don't learn to handle them without calling for an administrator all the time."
(over the intercom) "If children are disrupting your class room, you need to send them to the administrators immediately. This is not rocket science. We have procedures in place. If the student is continuously disruptive, send them out of your room."
I could go on, but you get the point. Every day she issues directives and then forgets about them and/or backpedals. Today we had two fires set in two different wings of the school consecutively. While we were outside yet again for an hour watching firefighters schlep hoses she was screaming at a substitute teacher for not bringing his roll book and taking roll of his class on the field. The poor sap doesn't have a roll book because he's a fucking substitute! He doesn't know the kids who are in his class, and, in fact, he had six or seven kids pretending to be in his class because they didn't want to go to their real classes. Who is responsible for this? The Big Cheese, who should ensure that subs get attendance sheets which are accurate and current.
I don't even get an accurate attendance sheet--I've reported a dozen times that there are children who withdrew months ago still on my attendance sheet each morning. Nothing ever gets fixed. Not once have I received an accurate roll list for a single one of my classes. This is not the teachers' fault.
2) Get loose and flabby Self into shape by increasing lame 12-mile weeks into decent 25-mile weeks
3) Focus on sitting and following the breath
4) Expunge useless and silly objects from the house via donations, flea markets, eBay, and the recycling center
5) Finish, at long last, Tagalog Rosetta Stone Volume 1
6) See Machu Piccu, the Nazca Lines, and a couple dozen other fabulous things in Peru
7) Refresh long-lost math skills
8) Take lots of baths
9) Play gigs
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
We stood outside for an hour while the fire department and arson investigation squad checked the building. I had to protect my sixth graders from horrors like dragon flies, which send them into paroxysms of fear.
The kid who set the fire is one of the kids who is always in the hall causing trouble, but the administration seems to ignore him and let him do whatever he wants. As the Big Cheese always tells us: Consistency, Accountability, Communication.
Are there really still 3.5 weeks left in this year? Good God.
Monday, May 18, 2009
Volume 2 of Casanova's memoirs ends with his flight from Venice to escape a blasphemy charge. At a party somebody punked him by sawing a plank bridge over a mud moat; when our hero leads a line of sexy women on a nature hike he ends up with a ruined suit and wig. Casanova's revenge is to cut the arm off a fresh corpse and use it in a dreadful prank which makes its victim permanently bat-shit. If this doesn't intrigue you, don't read his History of My Life. If it does, you shan't regret reading these witty, bizarre, and thoroughly entertaining books.
By volume II a pattern emerges: following a disaster of his own making, Casanova must escape to a new town where his natural intelligence, keen wit, and noble bearing quickly get him into society and earn him a wealthy benefactor. Then he either gambles himself to ruin, steals the virtue of the wrong virgin, seduces the wrong noblewoman, or wounds the wrong man in a duel, precipitating the next astounding adventure. When I was 23 I was going to grad school and working one full and two part-time jobs. Casanova had lived several full lives by that time.
Apparently we've got a State Dept. of Ed. audit tomorrow. None of the required things are up in my room, because when I took a personal day last week the sub let the classes tear down all my shit off the walls. And no, I'm not replacing it with three weeks left in the semester.
Tai Chi class tonight, and I need it.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
I'm done with books about gray aliens and abduction: I had a fascination with these modern eruptions of mythic imagination in my late 20s, but exhausted that vein of inquiry. Daimonic Reality deals to a large extent with these stories; much in the same way recent books by Graham Hancock have, Harpur's associates modern abduction myths with earlier myths of trolls and faeries up to the same sorts of mischief. Harpur's intellectualizing is more interesting, however, as he crafts an "explanation" of these stories based in Jung, Yeats, and the Neoplatonists: occurring alongside our own reality and operating in elaborate conjunction with it is a daimonic reality, a shady realm of collective Shadow, which, if ignored, erupts in disturbing misdeeds designed to re-integrate our consciousness.
Much as I enjoyed the ideas in Harpur's book, I found little new or challenging. I already know Jung, and I've read Budd Hopkins (Harpur's critiques of Hopkins' hypnotic regression technique are spot-on).
My verdict: interesting, but derivative. I wonder if Harpur has read Terrance McKenna? McKenna's descriptions of "machine elves" after taking DMT might fit into Harpur's hypotheses in enlightening ways.
Friday, May 15, 2009
I don't care if Leon Panetta has documents out the wazoo. The CIA specializes in forging documents in order to mis-lead Congress. Who forged the Italian yellowcake docs? Nobody knows yet. Hmmmm?
Oh, and Mr. Obama: release the photos. Everyone in the Middle East already knows what our interrogators and soldiers were up to in Abu Ghraib. The only reason you're keeping them secret is to protect American citizens from the truth (or, to protect public officials from the wrath of an informed public). Release the photos. Get this mess out in the open NOW, or it will fester and set horrible precedents, and when I am 70 we will be going through another torture scandal bemoaning your failure to put people in jail for violating our laws and commitments and treaties and principles.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
No cause is known at this time, but the baby had good vitals a week ago. This is a terrible blow. Only last Friday we were admiring their pram and high chair. Adrienne's good friend is pregnant with twins, and they were to be mothers together. Just devastating.
So, re: turning 40, all I can say is how lucky I was to get this chance. We all take it for granted far too often.
Monday, May 11, 2009
Fortunately I have a personal day Wednesday this week and a half-day for students Friday because of Parent Conference day. Unfortunately, no parents ever show.
One month to the end of school. I can taste it.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
I sit on the stoop reading the newspaper and drinking coffee. Doves and starlings flit and scurry in the shadows cast by leaves, scavanging for nest material. Bibs walks Loki back to the stoop and asks if I will be outside for a while. I say "yes" and she ties Loki to the lone tree in front of our house. The dog is deaf but he enjoys being outside. I look up from my paper now and again to see him staring intently at a bug moving along the dirty furrows of the tree box.
I first hear the sound without acknowledging it, as part of "city noise," perhaps a burst of radio or television. But it repeats several times and I know it is a woman sobbing. Sometimes on Sunday mornings when the City is still asleep it can be hard to locate the source of sounds, which echo from houses and vehicles and stone or brick walls, but gradually I pinpoint her location. Whoever is crying is coming west along Whitelock toward Madison. I can hear her feet shuffling. Loki, who is deaf, does not respond. The woman comes around the corner, holding her face and crying irregularly. She suffles forlorn gray bunny slippers along the asphalt. Her tight blue T-shirt and sweat pants with "pink" emblazoned across the seat could be pajamas, but students wear this stuff to class in college these days.
I immediately ask if she needs assistance, if she is ok. She says "Can I hold a napkin?" and immediately I retrieve a pile of said same from the dining room table. She reaches for them, applies them to her nose, and they come away bloody. Her lip is swollen. "Can I get you something?" I ask, to which she shakes her head. Loki is pulling against his leash, backing away from her, I notice. This is strange because he is a very social dog. "Can I call someone for you?" She starts crying. Loki is straining so hard I fear he will hurt himself against his harness. I move to comfort him and turn again to find the woman and her bloody napkins gone. My house is fourth down from the corner and there is no way she could have moved away that fast, and had she gone south on Madison there is no turn for a full city block, no where to hide at all.
There are no napkins on the sidewalk or blowing along the street. Loki has ceased pulling against his leash but is staring at the wall where she stood with the same intensity with which he regards insects.
Saturday, May 09, 2009
I don't often re-read novels, but I just re-read this one for the fifth time. I adore The Haunting of Hill House. I love the slightly out-of-kilter angles which swing the doors shut, I love Hugh Crain's disturbing obsessions, I love the suicidal companion dangling from a balcony in the library. I don't even mind that the characters are forever visualized as the actors in Robert Wise's The Haunting, because I adore that too.
The playful, witty dialogue and Eleanor's imaginative thoughtscape never fail to enchant, nor does the supporting cast, from Mrs. Dudley and her particular scheduling to Mrs. Montague and planchette.
Each time I read it I relish more Jackson's careful characterization. We are trapped in Eleanor's POV but never fail to understand that things are going badly wrong inside there. Although the book is amusing and charming it is powerfully disturbing at points. I appreciate most the scenes early in the book when Luke, Theo, Eleanor and Dr. Montague are whistling past the graveyard. They still regard Hill House as an adventure, and keep up their flirtatious banter as incorporeal evil batters the bedroom door.
Were I ever tempted back to academia, I might write a paper about Theo and Eleanor and feminism. Naive, traditional Eleanor is sacrificed so that cool, worldly Theo can continue! But that's a spoiler, sorry. Even though Theo is in many ways a hateful character, I feel most pity toward her. When Nell begs Theo to take her under her wing, Theo refuses, leaving Nell to a sad fate. There is a gorgeous chapter where still-quick Eleanor practice haunts Hill House, unaware that she will soon be 'walking' its halls in a metaphoric sense. Theo has to live with her failure to be compassionate. The relationship between these two polar opposites is grand psychic vampirism, straight out of Henry James; Hill House merely amplifies the catty and petty attacks and reprisals--it does not originate them.
Thursday, May 07, 2009
I leave work so tired.
I heard all week the stories about Shake: he's perpetually getting tricked into doing stuff by the "it" girls, and they abuse him mercilessly, and yet he allows them to manipulate him over and over. The girls are plain and simply evil, and their cruelty is far beyond the boys' doltish and poltroonish "meat check" behavior. Shake just doesn't learn. Early this week the "it" girls convinced him they wanted to see his penis, so he showed it to them, and they took a picture with a cell phone of his shriveled weenis which is now in the public domain. Everyone is "packing" and "riding" his genitalia, and then the poor dolt comes to me and tells me he needs to talk to me about "something serious." I knew what was coming, and I wasn't up to the task. I mean, how can you console a kid in that situation? "Tell 'em you're a grower, not a shower, Shake. It's all good!"
I did the best I could. Shake showed up for class today and was in much better spirits, even when he said "I'll fuck you up!" to somebody who teased him and the class responded in unison "with what?"
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
Follows the life of a Honolulu debutante who has an on-again off-again fling with a covert operator before marrying a politician. As Vietnam collapses so does Inez Victor's family: daughter on smack, son a jerk, husband shifting opinions with the polls. There is a murder in the family, and sudden insanity, and the covert operator reappears. What's a gal to do?
Democracy is a stylistic melange of Graham Greene and Marguerite Duras, and like all Didion's novels it's very short and very interesting. This one is peculiar because Didion puts herself into the narrative as novelist/character, which is sort of like player/coach in baseball. Also evident is the heavy research she did about patients on life support, and this of course became very important to her late in life, as you know if you read the excellent The Year of Magical Thinking.
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
But I can tell when she hasn't taken her meds, and I knew it this morning. I warned the sixth grade administrator and I sent her immediately out of my last period class to the assistant principal because she was climbing the walls and I know how volatile she gets, throwing chairs, stabbing with pencils, performing lewd acts, etc.
So the administrator sends her BACK TO MY ROOM, where she promptly stabs another boy with a pencil. He jumps up, pushes back, and is promptly pummeled into a bloody mess. Pulling them apart, I get blood on my shirt, my hands, my pants. There is blood all over my desk, my window, and my ungraded papers. Then I hear about "controlling my classroom" from the same administrator, who knows bloody well this girl is uncontrollable off her meds.
Poor MacEnroe. He got his ass whooped. He kept trying to tell me he hit his head on the window, that's why he was bloody. "She ain't beat me, Mr. G" he said. "I hit my nose on your window!"
Yeah, after she slugged you two heavy ones to the jaw and nose first!
Monday, May 04, 2009
So I'd been trying to get a class which was half-high and half-indignant under control, all the while k-shawn was yelling at me "Mr. Godfrey you might as well go back to teach college 'cuz these motherfuckas don't care, they don't want help, and they are hopeless."
"I refuse to accept that," I shouted back over the din.
"You need to accept what's true," she replied.
Sunday, May 03, 2009
(thanks to Phil Romans for posting some nice pics of the show)
Right before we went on Friday Drew said "Bm G A Em--got it?" and then we played "Message in a Bottle" to open. We'd never played it before, and it came off pretty well. This incarnation of Seamus is about 14 months old and we're actually a band now.
But there were problems Friday. My guitar sound was intermittent, and I kept losing the signal completely. I thought it was a pedal problem at first because it happened primarily during lead breaks. I switched cables and it happened again, and then I started to worry that my electronics might be loose and/or fried again. But I borrowed another cable from Drew in set three and then we were problem-free. Turned out that both cables I used were faulty. The tech problems weren't simply mine: at one point Mark's bass drum pedal came unhinged mid-song.
We hadn't rehearsed or played together in a month so some endings were rough, but aside from the tech troubles I thought it went well for a Mick O'Shea's gig. They didn't even ask us to turn down!
Looking forward to playing Lucy's again on the 23rd. We've got a regular gig there now, every 3rd Saturday.
Michael is a 15-year-old student in post-war Germany. On his way home from school he is struck by scarlet fever and vomits outside a shabby flophouse where he collapses on a bench. He is assisted by an older woman, a total stranger, and months later they begin an affair. In exchange for his sensual awakening, she asks him to read to her, which he does with gusto.
An affair between a 30-something woman and a 15-year old boy is morally questionable for everyone who is not the 15-year-old boy, but Hannah's crime of seduction seems small potatoes when she turns out to have a disturbing past. As an intellectual and young law student Michael must come to grips with his conflicted emotions. His experience with Hannah reflects modern Germany's struggle with guilt, denial, and memory.
I like The Reader because it elegantly unfurls serious moral questions while refusing to answer them. The viewer is left to her own devices as acts in the microcosm find their context in major crimes against humanity. Is there really such a thing as an unforgivable act? Can even the most heinous villains find redemption? Another remarkable performance by Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes is excellent, Lena Olin drops in and is as cool and lovely as ever, and David Kross will go on to do further great things I'm sure.
The Reader is right up there with The Lives of Others, which I also really admired.
Friday, May 01, 2009
I grew to hate my job at Borders after 3/4ths of a decade, but I often miss working in a bookstore because I like knowing what's new and what's hot and all that jazz and for the past 7 years I've been woefully out of touch.
I went to Daedalus the other day and found The Best American Comics 2006 for $3. I was totally unaware there was such a series.
Harvey Pekar did the choosin', and I think he done a fine job. Many of the pieces are quite touching ("Dancing with the Ventures" and "Portrait of My Father" and "13 Cats"), some are bizarre and challenging ("Rabbithead") and almost all of them are quite good excepting a handful of filler. I think this selection (topped off by a great R. Crumb strip about his relationship with his brother) is better than the last four or five Best American Short Stories volumes I read; I stopped reading those about five years ago because the stories were boring me to tears. But I will pick up more of these comics annuals if I see them cheap and/or used.