Helping You Get the Most Out of Your Misery
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Time Flies When You're Not Blogging
So hey, folks. Haven't felt like writing in awhile. Nothing overly traumatic, don't worry (if you're the worrying kind.) I just haven't had a whole lot to say. Not that I'm implying that I usually have tons of insight or anything.
I think I've been a little burned out at work. They don't tell you this in the literature, but teaching's stressful. Who knew?
I've got a schedule right now that isn't really all that bad, on the surface of it. I've got a great sixth grade class. I've got my favorite reduced-class-size fifth grade class. I've got two periods every other day dedicated to getting a drama club up and going. I've got two fifth grade classes that are pretty good. I've got a reduced-class-size seventh grade class last periods half of the time and I've got a regular-ed seventh grade class the other days.
The thing is, as not bad as that schedule is, it's pretty bad.
See, my administration is busy. Really busy. So busy that it's hard for me to get in to see my principal to get approval for my drama club proposals. So the ideas I've got for drama club are on hold and I'm just using the time to write material for when the drama club is functional.
Then there are the two classes I have seventh period. The reduced-size class is full of kids I've had before and with whom I am capable of getting along. But, in this particular combination, they're willing to do work for about five minutes before things devolve into a non-stop festival of insulting each other. And not your typical insults. These kids talk about each other's mothers in ways I wouldn't use to refer to Ann Coulter. They spew forth so much homophobic, racist, graphically-sexual bile that my ears start to bleed.
The other end-of-the-day class is a group of seventh graders who have made the decision to turn my Theater Arts class into a road-company version of Lord of the Flies. They don't do the work, they don't listen and I've let myself get so ineffectually pissed that I end up spending forty-five minutes yelling. Which the students enjoy a great deal, actually. It's almost worth it to see the smile my anger puts on their young faces.
Now, I'm trying to do things by the book with these two classes. I'm reprimanding them; I'm writing detailed anecdotals; I'm going through the correct disciplinary procedures. But the reduced-size class doesn't give a teaspoon full of rat turds if I call their parents. And I don't have the same lunch as the seventh grade class, so I can't give them lunch detention. Which means it has to be after school, for which I need parental permission. Parental permission can't be obtained without the proper form; the proper form can't be sent home because the administration is too busy to review the form I've come up with and print it up on school letterhead. It's all a bit much.
In the midst of all of this, we have a meeting with the administration in which my assistant principal--who is, I should clarify, a really nice guy stuck in a fairly difficult position this year--responds to griping he's been hearing from staff with an admonition that, if we don't actually feel a calling to teach, we should probably think about moving on.
This hit me. Because, a lot of the time, I'm pretty cynical about teaching. I've been saying for a long time now that I'm in this field so that I can earn a paycheck while I write. But you can only say that for so long before you wake up and realize that you're a teacher. And, y'know, I didn't get into this field by accident. It's not like I tripped on a tree branch and landed in a pile of being a teacher. I chose to be a teacher because, way back when, I wanted to do something to help public education. I wanted to do my part to send a big "Fuck You" to the people who want to let the public schools rot while they send their kids to private schools. I wanted to do good.
It should be a good thing, teaching kids about theater. I started thinking about what I've been doing, which is approaching my subject from a fairly academic mindset. "What areas do I have to cover and what units can I come up with to cover said areas?" But, if kids don't already have a love of performing or, lingering just under the surface, a burning desire to learn new ways of expressing themselves, am I doing my best to show them why theater is relevant and fun? I don't know that I have.
I need to change the way I'm going about this. I'm tired of being so fucking demoralized. I want to reach a point where I have fun with my job.
To the five people who made it all the way through this diatribe, I apologize for being so goddamn long-winded and just puking my thoughts out here. I'll try to write more often and I'll try to be a bit more entertaining.
Hope you're all taking advantage of discounted Easter candy prices. Have a nice evening.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
I'm Too Tall!
Wow. Parent-teacher conferences were apparently so traumatic that I was unable to type for two days.
Actually, they were pretty uneventful. As I've said time and time again, very few parents' first thought when walking into the school is, "I've got to make sure I get in to see the theater teacher." So yeah.
Today, my wife and I went to see our friend/neighbor, who's a dancer with the Paul Taylor Dance Company. They do amazing work, even if--like me--you're an utter retard whose knowledge of the art of dance extends no further than understanding the phrase "Step, ball-change." (And the odds are pretty good that I'm not even spelling that right. I'm lame.)
Anyway, we got there a few minutes late, because that's what we do. So, as the show had started, we could not be shown to our excellent seats and had to watch the first piece from the late-arriving-morons section in the balcony. Even these seats aren't bad, and it's right around where we've always sat when we've seen the company before.
After the first piece was done, and I'd applauded so loudly that the poor, fragile late-comer sitting next to me had felt the need to cover her delicate little ears, we were free to wander down to our real seats, which were a few rows from the front.
I hadn't ever realized this, but people going to see a dance performance act in the exact same way as people going to see a baseball game. They feel free to upgrade their seats to the better seats around them if it doesn't look like the rightful owners are going to show.
This had happened as we'd been sitting in the balcony and we were forced to shoo an old lady out of our paid-for spot. She was a bit grumpy about it. She had to wake up the guy who'd been sleeping in the aisle seat one row behind us so that she could return to her proper spot.
After he'd been roused from his slumber, the two of them spent a bit of time loudly discussing how rude it was of us to take our seats back. The formerly sleeping man said, "Jeez, look how big this guy is! I can't see a thing." The old lady commiserated, "Yeah, neither can I."
Now, people, I'm not even six feet tall. If I'm blocking someone's view, it's because they're slumped way the fuck down in their seat and don't want to be bothered to sit up a bit. This seemed to be the case, as the formerly sleeping man refused to stand up to allow a couple returning from intermission to pass. He explained his reasoning to the old lady thusly: "Well, I went to [mumbly, inaudible]. They had, y'know, they had whiskey. And I had a lot to eat. I need to rest!" Which seems to me to be an excellent reason to make people climb the fuck over your legs.
The old lady, meanwhile, stood up to see if there were any other seats she could swipe that didn't have a virtual giant sitting in front of them. As she made her visual survey, she was holding onto her purse and coat, both of which were repeatedly ramming my wife and I in the face. Now, I've got a high tolerance for this sort of thing. A little facial bruising doesn't faze me. But my wife is more sensitive in this area. So she tapped the lady's arm and informed her that she was doing bodily harm to strangers. To which the lady responded, "Oh. Well, I can't see behind me." This didn't even slightly address her culpability in my wife's new injuries, but it seemed to satisfy the old lady's conscience.
Eventually, the old lady sat back down, resigned to her lot in life and the formerly sleeping man became the currently sleeping man and we watched the rest of the performance in peace.
Until curtain call, when the once-again-formerly sleeping man decided to skip applauding so he could grab his coat and beat the crowd out the door.
Now, other people might have been pissed off at these inconsiderate douchenuggets. I just thought it was cool that someone saw me as tall.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Sorry folks. I'll put a horoscope up tomorrow. Busy day today. I'm recording a new episode of your favorite podcast and mine: The Conversation. Look for it to be up soon.
Meanwhile, wish me luck, as I've got parent/teacher conferences tomorrow. It's the most wonderful time of the year!
Vaya con dios.
Monday, March 10, 2008
Today, the Vatican, in an effort to maintain its relevance in an increasingly secular world, released a new list of mortal sins. The new sins join the original "Seven Deadly Sins" of which movie serial killers and TV cooking shows alike are so very fond.
Predictably, the new list of sins includes such obvious no-nos as Drug Abuse and Birth Control. Somewhat more surprisingly, however, the Vatican also came down on some seemingly more innocuous misdemeanors.
Listed at Number Four, for example, is Picking Your Nose and Wiping It on the Wall of a Public Building. This means, church officials clarified, when reached for comment, that a person who dies while smearing nose-gunk on a crapper stall will be condemned to hell for all eternity.
The sixth Modern Mortal Sin on the list is Owning a Girls Gone Wild Video. The Pope is quoted in the documents accompanying the list as saying, "If you're gonna buy porn, just fucking buy porn. At least those women get fucking paid for it. And what if that was your daughter, man?"
Easily the most controversial new mortal sin is Number Seven: Being Hayden Christensen. Very tough break for young Lord Vader.
A Vatican spokesman says response to the new Mortal Sin list has been so overwhelmingly positive that plans are in the works to release an new "theme" list every year, starting with 2009's proposed "Seven Mortal Sins Against Fashion".
Hey, We've All Been There, Eliot
Hoo-boy. Man alive, you just know that people are gonna get all bent out of shape about Governor Eliot Spitzer getting caught on a federal wiretap hiring a prostitute during a recent trip to Washington, D.C.
Folks, let me explain here for a minute: Sometimes, a man just has to go outside the marriage in order to find a gal who doesn't mind spanking him while he's dressed up in diapers. It's a fact of life.
You think, because the man is governor of the state of New York, that his wife is just going to all of a sudden go, "Okay, hon, whatever you want to do in bed, I'll do, now that you're Mister Bigshot executive of a state. So bring on the watersports, I'm game!"
Every married guy out there has, from time to time, had to bring in a professional to satisfy that one itch that the wife just will not scratch. I, personally, have found it impossible to get my wife to dress up like Wonder Woman and whip me with a lasso. She just won't budge on that.
So let's all cut Governor Spitzer a break, shall we? Let he who is without nipple clamps cast the first stone.
Sunday, March 09, 2008
Live from My Blog, It's Unfunny Shit!
Oh my God! I am so fucking excited!
Saturday Night Live has this awesome new feature where you can embed highlights from the show on your blog! I am so going to take advantage of that!
Can you imagine how much funnier this stupid blog would be if it featured Kristin Wiig's still-hilarious-even-after-the-131st-outing character who one-ups everybody? Oh, how the world will marvel at my wit when I create a post that includes one of the show's awesome game show parodies! Because blogs are always better when they involve wig comedy and quasi-impressions.
So, even though some people say that Saturday Night Live is now like that girlfriend you'd love to break up with but can't because the apartment's in her name and you can't afford to move out so you keep on sleeping with her even though you have to fake your orgasms, I'm going to celebrate it by appropriating the SNL brand of humor as my own.
Saturday, March 08, 2008
Rainy Days and Mondays Always Blah-fucking-Blah
Rainy, crappy-looking days just kind of sap all of my will to accomplish what it is I need to accomplish.
There's a part of me that enjoys rainy days, but there's another part that uses them as an excuse to avoid running, getting errands done, doing laundry and generally crossing anything off of my to-do list.
At the very least, I know I'll be getting my hair cut today. Because it's once again reached the stage where my wife continually makes fun of me and tells me it looks like I've got a bouffant. Ain't marriage grand? (I'm kidding, honey. I love you even when you crush my spirit.)
Friday, March 07, 2008
And Our Glee Club Practices in the Shed Out Back
I know something about theater. I'm not the world's greatest expert, but I've been doing it for awhile and I have a degree in it. I know enough about theater that I feel comfortable putting forth a case that I'm qualified to teach the subject to children.
I've got a good handle on grammar and spelling. I can point a kid in the right direction with a writing piece. I don't know as much about math. I can help a kid out with many math problems, but there's a whole assload about which I'm clueless. I know shit about science and my social studies skills are average at best.
I certainly don't know enough to say that my children, when I eventually have some, will be best served by staying at home with me so that I can control what they learn. In fact, I'd find the idea absolutely asinine. How the fuck could I justify restricting my kids' education to the lessons I can cobble together myself--even with some outside help--when I can, for free, entrust their learning to people who, if not always ideal, at least have degrees in teaching and are responsible to an administration and, ultimately, to parents.
Home-schooling is huge in this country. And I'm not saying that it's universally ineffective or invariably a bad idea. There are kids who come out of the home-schooling world with an intellectual edge over their peers; just watch at the National Spelling Bee and you'll see any number of kids who've never eaten a cafeteria lunch in their lives.
But, while it's not always a bad thing, neither is it always the smartest plan going. A fact illustrated by a quote I read this afternoon from a father whose homeschooling efforts are at the center of a court case in California. A California District Court decided today that children must either be taught in school or homeschooled by a credentialed teacher.
The father took solace in the response of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who came down firmly on the side of home-schooling parents and said that , if the courts were going to try to restrict home-schooling, he and other elected officials needed to intervene. The father's reason for not wanting his kids exposed to the horror that is public education? He doesn't want them taught about evolution and homosexuality.
"I want to keep and protect them until I feel they're mature enough to deal with these issues," he said. "I believe the creator wants us to protect our children from things we believe are hazardous to their character."This gets right to the heart of my main problem with these people. It's not my right to impose my thoughts on others, I know. But what the fuck are you doing to a kid if you make sure that they're never, ever exposed to any ideas that don't gibe with your narrow fucking world-view? God forbid a child should ever learn anything that might lead them to ask a question.
This goes hand in hand with my other massive objection to home-schooling, which is the lack of normal--normal, I'm saying--socialization. Many home-schooled kids get to be with other kids at church or in other strictly controlled environments, but nowhere do they learn to be a member of the larger society outside of their compound.
Now, I'm generalizing a bit here, because not all home-schooled kids are taught at home because their parents are religious fanatics. Some are home-schooled because their parents are so incredibly full of self-love that they can't imagine anyone being a better teacher than themselves.
I'm sorry. This is, again, a giant generalization. And not all kids who come out of home-schooling are socially backward and weird. I have three cousins who were home-schooled and they are all three incredibly sweet people who, to the best of my knowledge--they're a bit younger than me and I don't hang out with them...ever--have intellectual curiosity.
Maybe the same belief in public schools that drove me to take up the cause by becoming a teacher fuels my hatred of home-schooling. Or maybe it really is an act of either hubris or moral myopia. I'm betting it's the latter.
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
Aries: You do not now, nor will you ever, have the proportional strength and speed of a spider. And standing around the living room, trying to shoot webbing out of your hands does nothing except make the neighbors think you're schizophrenic.
Taurus: Sometimes, we need to be able to take a step back and realize that our slippers are far, far more disgusting than anything on the floor from which we might think the slippers are protecting us.
Gemini: Shaving your pubic hair off is not going to make your penis look any larger. Mostly because you're a woman.
Cancer: Anal beads? Really?
Leo: You're really, really looking forward to the new Judd Apatow-produced comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Yet another reason so many people think you're stupid.
Virgo: This is a good time to meet with a nutritionist, Virgo. Largely because you're completely mistaken that Slim Jims make a good smoothie ingredient.
Libra: Workplace tension is greatly relieved this week when you make the decision to just start showing up to work incredibly high.
Scorpio: The security guard at work is just being polite when he asks how you're doing. So, you want to go ahead and stick with a response along the lines of "Fine, and how are you?" instead of coming out with "I'm so incredibly fucking horny."
Sagittarius: This is not a good week for investments. So you're going to want to put all those quarters back under your mattress.
Capricorn: Your baby-sitter doesn't want to see you perform another fucking magic trick, she just wants you to pay her and drive her home.
Aquarius: Winter weather may cause delays during your commute this week. So could slipping in a pile of vomit as you walk to your car.
Pisces: A taser seems like a great investment in personal safety until you accidentally fire it at your own balls.
Sunday, March 02, 2008
Working on It
Okay, quick update on my fatness:
Since last week's horrifying realization that I'd topped two hundred pounds, I've run two races, a four miler last week and a 5K this morning. I've also managed to drag my ass to the gym twice to put in some time on the treadmill.
As listeners of The Conversation may already have learned, I've decided to run the New York City Marathon this year and my hope is that months of marathon training will strip some of the yards of blubber from my frame.
So I've begun inching slowly toward my goal. Still fat, but working on it.
Saturday, March 01, 2008
I teach. Have I mentioned that I teach? More specifically, I teach middle school. Now, I will not--I would not--claim that teaching middle school gives me any especially great insight into the mind of the thirteen-year-old. In fact, I'm absolutely sure that, when we have kids and they turn thirteen, I'll be just as mystified as any other parent at how the adorable little kid who loved taking walks in the park with me turned into the psychotic little jackass with whom I have to live and am not allowed to strangle.
I do, however, know a little bit about movies that interest thirteen-year-olds. I hear them talk about what movies they saw, want to see or just bought on bootleg DVD. I hear about this sort of thing all the goddamn time. And, invariably, what they want to see is the latest crap-fest horror movie or the newest douchely parody movie that Frankensteins together a bunch of lazy-assed recent pop culture references instead of taking the time to think up an actual joke.
Never--and I'm want to reiterate that I'm talking never--have I heard a thirteen-year-old say, "Oh shit! I cannot fucking wait to see the newest romantic comedy starring Ryan Reynolds!" You know why I've never heard that? Because no thirteen-year-old has ever spoken that sentence, or even a sentence resembling that sentence, out loud.
How is this significant in my life? Lemme 'splain.
My wife and I woke up relatively early today and had a whole bunch of errands we needed to get done, which entailed running all over town. Pleasant errands, for the most part, nothing torturous, but they left us a little tired. So, as we wrapped up our tasks, we decided to reward ourselves for our somewhat hard work by treating ourselves to a movie. It's important to do this, people.
Stopping by our favorite Upper West Side uberplex, we saw some prestige Oscar films that we hadn't gotten around to viewing were on the menu, as was the latest poorly-reviewed Will Ferrell movie. As was Definitely, Maybe, a harmless little film with the afore-mentioned Mr. Reynolds and a bevy of actresses whom the wife and I enjoy.
So we bought tickets, went home to eat supper and headed back downtown (separately, as the wife was running a bit behind and I wanted to make sure I didn't get shitty seats) to catch the movie.
As it turned out, getting there before my wife didn't mean that I got un-shitty seats. I was shocked and appalled to discover that the audience for a mediocrely-received Ryan Reynolds comedy that's been out since fucking Valentine's Day was a whole lot larger than I'd anticipated. So we were stuck way down in the third row. My wife and I are committed Back of the Auditorium people. We just are. But I plowed my way to the middle of the row and figured I'd make the best of it.
And then they showed up.
Some parents, apparently a number of them, brought their kids to see this movie. They brought a whole row of kids to see this movie. More specifically, they brought the fourth row of kids to see this movie.
As--ahem--a teacher, I know that thirteen-year-olds talk. A lot. And they did. They talked through every single goddamn preview ("That dude was in Superbad!" "Switch seats with me!" "Great, now I'm all the way on the end!") They even talked through the goddamn Indiana Jones trailer. Indiana Jones!
My wife, who arrived during said trailer, worried that the little monsters would keep talking throughout. I figured they deserved a chance. It was the previews. Maybe they'd been raised well enough to hold their tongues during the feature.
They hadn't. They'd been raised by parents idiotic enough to bring thirteen-year-olds to see a fucking romantic comedy in a theater packed with adults who paid good money to actually watch the film.
I let it go on through the opening credits. Then, when I saw it wasn't about to stop, I turned around, fixed them with my best teacher eyes and said, "Gentlemen, you need to be quiet." The guy next to me thanked me. And my admonition was actually somewhat affective. For about ten or fifteen minutes. At which point, they started up again. So I turned around and gave them a little angrier teacher look and said, "Guys!"
This worked for awhile, too. Not permanently, but for awhile. Eventually, though, they started in with the talking again. This is when the guy who'd previously thanked me took up the reins.
Or tried to. He turned around and said something I don't remember which did nothing, followed by a really pissed-off "Shut up!" The thing is, the guy got too angry. And he didn't have teacher eyes. Because the kids just started laughing. I didn't see, but I swear I could feel the guy's veins throbbing in his forehead from where I was sitting.
My wife turned around, then, and made it a little clearer to them that they were ticking off an entire row of adults. They weren't perfect after that, by any means, but they were at least somewhat quieter. We put up with their noise sans comment for the rest of the flick and left the theater bewildered.
Seriously, what the fuck kind of parent brings a bunch of thirteen-year-old boys to see a romantic comedy? Playing in the same multiplex were The Spiderwick Chronicles, Jumper, even Semi-Pro. All of which would be more engaging to a thirteen-year-old.
I deal with this sort of obnoxious douchebaggery on a daily fucking basis. I don't need it when I'm trying to shut my mind down and enjoy some formulaic cinema. So, I guess the moral of this story is that, when parents want to go to the movies, they should lock their loud-mouthed fucking thirteen-year-olds up in the closet and go alone.
I'm Even Stupider Than I'd Thought
What an incredible week for fans of The Conversation! Not only were you treated to the 1st Annual Convy Awards, but now you get Episode 9, in which we talk about kicking presidential candidates in the groin. Classy!
One thing I want to point out here: in this episode, as in Episode 7, we find ourselves dealing with a listener who writes in "asking advice". Now, I need to make a full confession here that I'm utterly gullible. I had a radio show in college and, one night, we received a call from someone who claimed to be suicidal.
It was fairly obvious that it was bullshit. Anyone reaching out for help when they're feeling suicidal isn't going to call a shitty college radio station that can only be heard if your radio is no more than fifteen feet away from the building or if you're listening on a dorm lounge TV. And yet, I'm such a dipshit that my thinking went along the lines of, "Y'know, just in case..." and I tried giving the guy my half-assed helpful advice.
Turns out that it was not only bullshit, but it was my buddy Keith and his friends, calling in to fuck with us in a good-natured way.
I haven't changed much since college. Because, both times we've gotten listener e-mails in which the authors are asking for advice, my moronic instinct is to treat it gently. Y'know, just in case...
Well, here's my pledge: no more. If, ever again, someone writes to the originators of The Conversation asking for some wisdom in relation to a situation, I will do my best to remember that nobody expects anything remotely helpful from us and, further, anyone actually seeking advice from two podcasting schmucks deserves what they get.
With that in mind, please enjoy Episode 9 and have a truly lovely day.