Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Gary Paulsen Chews Off Own Leg!

Just say "no" to macho.

Sorry, just read The Foxman, and I'm so nauseated by the heaps of manly-man crap this guy is shoveling, I don't know whether to write him a nasty letter or vote for him for president. Don't read his books. You'll only encourage him.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Paranoia Strikes Deep in the Heartland

Honey, get the spray. We've got cats again.

That's my cat, actually, and I promise that no animals were harmed in the making of this blog. That's Clio, and how that fat girl managed to squeeze herself behind the blinds, I have no idea. There's a hole in the blinds that my much more svelte cat BeeBee made (she's too impatient to wait for me to actually open the damn things), but ordinarily where BeeBee goes, Clio is unable to follow.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

No, Tell Me What You Really Think

(#2 pencils -- I find that students
comment less if I don't sharpen them.)

Tonight is student evaluation night. Tonight is the night that my students -- to whom I've been giving grades and occasionally rather frank criticism for the past 10 weeks -- get to tell my boss precisely what they think of me. Their evaluations are anonymous, and, just in case I might somehow be able to tell who the evaluator is by the highly idiosyncratic way he fills in the circles with his #2 pencil, eval. results are staggered so I don't get this quarter's evals for at least two more quarters. By then, the thinking goes, the names and particulars of these students will have been mentally flushed and I won't be able to retaliate, grades-wise. Which begs the question why do we do this anyway, if by the time I get the answers I'll have forgotten the questions, but that's bureaucracy.

If I were writing the eval questions, I think I'd ask an entirely different set of questions. The questions are not subject-specific, so the math teachers and the English teachers and the communications teachers and the physics teachers and the Professor and Mary Ann all get the same stock Qs for the students to A. So let's ask the questions we really want to know the answers to. To wit:

a. Is the teacher an easy grader?
b. Does he/she give too much homework (translation: any)?
c. Does she wear fetchingly low-cut shirts or do his pants go all the way to his shoes or stop somewhere mid-shin?
d. Can I sleep during class? Will I want to?
e. Is it like a soap opera where I can miss several weeks and when I come back, I won't have missed anything?
f. Does the teacher use words like "rigorous" and "disciplined"? Can the teacher even spell words like "rigorous" and "disciplined"? Will the teacher expect me to be able to spell them?
g. Is the teacher (a) charmingly absent-minded, or (b) charmingly absent at least half-a-dozen times each quarter?

Tragically, teachers can no be longer educators, we now have to be entertainers as well. We must compete with TV, computer games, cable, MP3 players (some of which students are sporting during class, like I can't see those wires trailing down either side of their heads), etc. I have learned how to tap dance and am now taking lessons in rapping. I'm even considering purchasing a pair of jazz hands for when I make a particularly important or pithy point. (Can't you see it? "We no longer use footnotes in composition; now we use endnotes." Jaaaaazzzz haaaandsssss!) Faced with not so much a classroom, more a cemetery, I have to either perform some arcane, occult ritual to raise my tired students from the dead (and frankly, I'm running out of goats) or bring in the marching band. Perhaps the question that should be elected Most Notably Missing from the Evaluation is, "Is she entertaining enough to merit turning off the TV?"

Thank goodness for those jazz hands.

Monday, March 13, 2006


There's an enormous dead rat on my doorstep. It was left there by a grateful stray cat that I've been feeding for awhile. I appreciate the present, I really do; it's a sweet, well-intended gesture. But it's been there for over 24 hours now, and the blood that leaked from its head has now glued it to the pavement. I have a little alleyway that leads past my back door, and it's seldom used by people. Here the rat lies, testament to the kindness of strangers and the cruelty of cats. Later I will gird my loins (if I can find my gird, or, for that matter, my loins), wrap myself in cling film, put on my ski gloves, snorkel and mask, borrow a hazmat suit from the meth lab next door, and throw the poor dead critter down the hill and into the jungle.

I must write a hundred times on the blackboard, "I am a feminist; I will not play the girl card." It's tricky when it comes to heavy things and icky things, I know, but the girl card is evil. It is wrong. It speaks of weakness where there is really only squeamishness and unwillingness. The girl card allows for the pat on the head, the "there there, don't worry your frantic-haired head about it, little girl," and the next guy to do that is likely to lose a finger.

So, even though the rat has its upward eye open, and there are likely all kinds of vermin on it, in it and around it, even though I'll have to burn my ski gloves, I will not ask some big, strapping man to do it for me. I'll wait until he offers.

Meanwhile, has anyone seen my gird?

Rat Hearse

Rat Cemetery

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Man in the Big Pants

George W. is the rodeo clown; we -- the American public -- are the bull. It came to me just this morning. Think about it: every time we're on the trail of scandal, every time we catch someone with his hands in the till, his fat, smiling mug posing for the photo op. next to some unacceptable dictator, despot, tyrant, terrorist or quotidian corruptoid, every time it looks like this time the sh*t's going to stick to Karl Rove or Trigger McCheney or Tom DeLayMeDownInStacksofCash, there's ol' George, waving his hands and running around in the Big Pants, distracting us from goring whomever so desperately deserves goring this time. (The original Gore distraction being the 2000 elections, of course). George does it well. He fails to get through a door, he chokes on a Mr. Salty and gives himself a black eye, he calls some woman a cupid stunt sotto voce and then claims he didn't, couldn't, wouldn't. He has that smile that 34% of us still mystically warm to and the rest of us want to see someone put a fist through. He's the rodeo clown with his fat, frat boy head at the bottom of the barrel, and his hilarious, o-so-distracting clown shoes sticking out the top. How appropriate an image for a "president" who has had his head in the dark places for the entire duration of his reign.

For awhile, I thought everyone else was supposed to be distracting us from noticing what an inept yodel was occupying the White House and decorating its walls with the deluxe 128-pack of Crayola™ crayons (with built-in sharpener that had to be removed to "ensure the president's safety"). How generous of the "president's" staff and advisors to throw themselves in front of the sword or under the guillotine by accepting large piles of illegitimately gotten dosh or shaking hands with some guy who still has suicide-bomber residue on his shoes and bits of innocent bystander in his pant cuffs. But I was wrong. Those guys, those politicians, those advisors and corporate executives were actually doing those things because that's what they normally do. It's just that they're usually sneakier about it.

But now, they don't have to be sneaky. Sneaky is no longer required. In a world where there is no accountability, no responsibility (beyond saying, "I take full responsibility" which is an entirely meaningless gesture), no consequences, and little public outcry (more a sort of outwhimper or outwhine), we are no longer at home to Mr. Sneaky. Now they just do the corrupt, mind-bogglingly immoral things they've always done right out there in the public eye with a big smile and a $1500 haircut. Why? Because they know they are cloaked in his shadow. They are hidden behind his song and dance, his tap shoes, his glittery suit, his Colgate (Watergate, Irangate) smile and jazz hands. As long as George does his "look over here, America!" and we continue to look, they can do what they like with impunity.

And George has big, scary, jazz hands. George has terrorism and 9/11 and BinLaden and most of the Middle East in his Big Pants. Whenever we start to grumble about the excesses of this administration, about how desperately Bush and his cronies are overreaching the legal limits of their power, George just reaches into his Big Pants and pulls out a terrorist, a suicide bomber, a nuclear weapon program that may or may not exist. He takes out nationalism thinly disguised as patriotism; he takes out racism, xenophobia, intolerance, ignorance and fear. This is a man of Very Big Pants.

But we need to remember that the bull has power. No matter how rigged the rodeo may be, no matter that we've been drugged senseless with fear mongering, no matter that our horns have been cut with the Patriot Act (the most cynically named piece of legislation ever) and we've been fed lies instead of truth; no matter that we've been dragged into this ring very much against our wishes, we still have power. We can still trample a cowboy or two, if we have the will.

Regardless of what political parties we ascribe to, regardless of what religious doctrine (or none) we adhere to, we can surely all agree that tolerance is better than intolerance, cooperation is better than turf wars; we can agree that truth and honor in government is better than being led by those at the bottom of the barrel. Government must be according to the will of the governed. Our “leaders” have forgotten that, so we need to once again take the lead. There are Congressional elections coming up in 2006; with the proper representatives back in the seats of Congress, we can reclaim the rodeo.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Groining Pains

I have a groin pull. This may seem like rather an odd way to begin a blog, or to begin blogging at all, which is what I'm doing, but if the old stand-by is to "write what you know," then this is what I'm knowing, rather emphatically, just at the moment. I had sort of always assumed that, like prostate cancer and hernias, groin pulls were a boy thing. Wrong with bells on and spikes poking you just east and west of the naughty bits. I'm not sure that's even what I've done, only that's where it hurts, so that's what we're calling it. It's sort of onomatopoeia, actually, since groin is much the noise I made when I tried to roll out of bed this morning. Lots of groining and wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Anyway, enough about me and the ramifications of athletic overconfidence. This is my first attempt at blogging, as will shortly become apparent, if it isn't already. In fact, I'm going to stop right here and see if this works.