Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Our conversation over the phone in which I was breaking it to him that I was going to college in America still rings in my ears.
Baba: You're killing me, you know, you're killing me.
TeacherLady: I've got to go to college. I've got to go. I'll be back.
Baba: You're killing me. (He's crying.)
I hang up. I think he cried every time we met.
So much for being proud of his daughter going to college. So my brothers went to boarding school in England all the time I was a child. I was educated at home in a school with virtually no arts when everyone knew I was the artistic type. My father never saw me, so what difference did it make if I was ten minutes away or thousands of miles away?
To prove I hadn't vanished off the face of the earth, I went to visit him one summer after I'd completed half of my college education. We sat in awkwardness for the most part. He kept calling my little sister by my name and not correcting himself. When he removed his headdress, I could see grey hairs and a touch of baldness. He was much fatter, and walked with a limp. Afraid of doctors, he never had his gout seen to or the stye in his eye. He cooked us dinner and got upset anytime I said "Thank you".
Baba: You say thank you to strangers, not to your father.
TeacherLady: I like to show my gratitude.
Baba: Not to your father. I'm your father. I'm supposed to give you everything.
I tried to hint to him that I was happy and may even get married at some point. I was already engaged to my husband, but I didn't want to ruin the moment by revealing the fact that my husband to be was not Arab, and more importantly, not Muslim. I guessed I'd tell him later.
The next summer I returned, I didn't go visit him. I didn't know how to go. A little voice in my head told me he'd die and I'd never have the chance again. It's funny how often that little voice is right, and yet I always seem to dismiss it at the worst times.
When my husband called from work to say my mother had been trying to reach me but she didn't understand how to get around the anonymous call block and that my father had died my legs collapsed from underneath me. I fumbled to dial my mother's number back in the Middle East.
You know, I have nightmares that I'm trying to call my family and my fingers scramble so clumsily that I keep dialing the wrong number and can't get to them. That sounds stupid to you, probably, but I hate that dream.
It may have been the alcohol, it may have been his heart, hell it could have been cancer, anything, who knows? No autopsy was performed.
Now that I'm older and wiser, I realize how miserable he truly was. I had thought he had the life he wanted, booze, booze, and more booze without family to get in the way... If I'd known he was trying to numb the pain he felt in his heart, I would have done something more. He was lonely and depressed, and I shoved him away. If I'd been older, I would have understood that the reason he was crying when I told him mum had sold his bar and bar stools was not because he was losing a part of his beloved hobby, but that this was proof that we were excising him from our lives.
I always knew he was a sweet man, with his charming penchant for Arab equivalents of the National Enquirer (he actually believed that crap!), his love of old Westerns (he would sing "I Was Born Under a Wandering Star". Badly). His favorite movie was Paint Your Wagon. He loved Benny Hill and Carry On films. He told terrible jokes. He loved animals with a passion. In fact, he had a desert fox as a pet when he was a child, but his father killed it as punishment for something he'd done. He once bought a whole sea turtle from the souq (market place) that would otherwise had been fated to be cut into parts while still alive. He released it back into the ocean. He bought me my first pet chickens. He loved all our cats and dogs we'd had over the years, including my best friend's dog next door. He would give me hugs so tight, they almost hurt, and kisses equally strong on the top of my head.
Now that I have my own family and a daughter of my own, I can see how you can love someone so much, it hurts.
PLEASE... If you have a family member who is estranged for some benign reason, or for something you could conceivably forgive, PLEASE forgive them. A stupid argument, a difference of opinion, an expanse of miles, must not leave you regretting foolishness for the rest of your life. I sensed the regret that was to come, but didn't fully realize it until it was too late. If someone had made me realize... I'd hope I would have done the right thing. I know it sounds cliched, but at least you'll maybe have the chance I didn't take.
We're creating a monster.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Today, Bad Mood Girl hadn't been seen by the principal yet and so she walked into the room with that dreaded "untouchable" air about her, talking with pride about how cowardly Shut Up Girl had been. All through this gloating and chest thumping, Shut Up Girl is doing what she normally does: Her work.
I approached Bad Mood Girl and decided to try to diffuse the moment until the principal can get around to dealing with her.
TeacherLady: You need to get this lab done. Do you need any help getting started?
Bad Mood Girl: No, you need to tell Mr. Science Teacher to get out of my face, he's so racist. He never tells the white kids to act differently. She needs to leave me alone too.
TeacherLady: You're the only one in this class who cusses on the top of her lungs! You're also the only one making a scene! Shut Up Girl hasn't said a word about this, you're the only one making a situation out of nothing. I don't think it's racist for the teacher to expect you to be a better person than that. If he were racist, he'd think you couldn't do better than that.
Bad Mood Girl: No, he's just a racist. I want to go to home school. (TeacherLady offers up a silent prayer). But I'll be better for you, Ms. TeacherLady. (She flashes me her charming smile and I give her a small smile back).
TeacherLady: Thank you, Bad Mood Girl, I appreciate that very much.
(Relieved that a scene won't erupt, I walk over to another side of the room to check on the student progress there).
Student 1: I heard you can't catch anything if you do it that way.
Little Pervy Student (to Students 1 and 2): No man, if she bleed you gonna get AIDS. It's tighter in the butt so she might bleed.
Monday, January 29, 2007
If you'd rather choose another charity, I have a link to give.org where you can compare charities and find one that suits your interests. The direct link to the reviews is under my "links I like" section, bottom right.
I suggest that they look under the fridge, in the sofa, and in bathrooms. That's where I tend to find all my stuff...
"Oh hey, sorry about the moose landing on your head. You okay?"
"Sure, sure, yep, absolutely, no problem. My fault, shouldn't have sat there. Thanks for asking! Awfully nice of you..."
"What about that huge bruise and the fact that you can't stand up straight?"
"Oh I'll be fine. It's probably that flu thing I've got. That was probably my fault too."
After all, I'm the one who says "sorry" when you tread on my toes!
Because I realized this, I knew something was up when he'd refuse to do certain assignments unless I helped him. He couldn't do them. Could it be that I warmed to this little guy because I instinctively knew he was one of "my" students who simply wasn't identified as being one? Nah, I think it was the slight gleam of humor in his eye when I would greet him with feigned over-enthusiasm like some sort of cheery camp counselor on speed to contrast his ever-gloomy, silent, cynical, bling-encrusted facade. Now I only hope the school psychologist doesn't refuse to assess him...
I believe that the only way this kid will get through high school is with support. If he doesn't get it, he will fail and his homelife will take over entirely. I hope that doesn't happen.
Friday, January 26, 2007
The other day they were discussed The Great Depression and the teacher explained that at this time, there was no such thing as welfare and asked the kids to brainstorm how people could make money during the depression.
Male Student: Government!
Teacher: No, that's welfare. We haven't got that yet.
Same male Student: Get a job!
Teacher: If they could, yes, they wouldn't help themselves that way. How else could they get money when they had nothing?
Female student: Oprah! She was alive back then, right...?
I love how the passage of time is such an abstract concept for a lot of kids and old just means OLD. I bet if I told them I remember seeing the last of the dinosaurs when I was in kindergarten, some of them would believe me.
Please forgive our delayed response to your remarkable letter.
We can broadcast to a vast audience via media which, by its extraordinary reach, expands and enhances whatever our message may be. As you say, this has allowed us to be seen and heard, not by a few, but by millions.
What we attempt is really what you do every day. Your audience is indeed smaller but your feedback is immediate. Ours must await letters like yours.
We urge you to believe that your students will have a better life because you helped them on their journey.
Many thanks for taking the time to write to us.
Regards . . . The Jim Henson Company
Dear [Teacher] . . . Be assured that Brian Henson will see your letter!
Regards again . . . The Jim Henson Company
I adore Brian Henson! I wish I'd written a better letter if I'd known he was really going to see it! For those of you who also love the Henson family and all the magic dreams they weave, you may be interested to see Puppet Up! It's a new project they're working on by incorporating puppetry and improvisational comedy... Sort of like Whose Line Is It Anyway? with puppets. Brian is one of the puppeteers and call me puerile, but I thought it was funny hearing him swear! You can find more clips of their act on YouTube as well.
I love those people!
Thursday, January 25, 2007
However, testosterone-driven childish behavior is the birthplace of some of the best comedy ever, as demonstrated in this article.
Go on. Laugh, it's okay to be a little cruel.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
When the Wind Blows A charming retired couple in the English countryside are ready to pull up their bootstraps in preparation for yet another war, but a nuclear bomb dropped on London is a far cry from the war they lived through in their youth. Written by Raymond Briggs, an amazing children's and adult author, and based on his graphic novel of the same title. The characters are instantly likable with the wife's eternal patience for her husband's over-enthusiasm and the husband with his delightful malapropisms.
Monster House - A bit creepy for some kids, it's really more of an animator's display of muscle flexing than complex story-telling, though I felt the plot was entertaining enough that I can honestly say I enjoyed it. It tells of a mean old man and his equally mean old house and the mystery that lies at its depths.
Spirited Away - The world never seems to tire of pre-adolescent escapism (Alice in Wonderland, The Labyrinth, MirrorMask etc) and this is a prime example of the medium. Little Chihiro is led into a bizarre world, an alternate reality hidden in the suburbs of a Japanese town. As with Lewis Carrol's tale, a lot of the character hold no hidden depths of meaning and are just there to provide a help or hindrance for our leading lady, and all the while thoroughly entertaining the audience.
Le Roi Et L'Oiseau - Also known as The King and the Mockingbird. I owned a dubbed version when I was a child, and so my recollections are dim, though I was aware that there were political implications that I was too young to understand. All I knew was that the animations was absolutely stunning, the fairytale characters, albeit 2 dimensional (no pun intended) were incredibly appealing, and the obvious contrast between the greed and selfishness of the king and the poverty and kind-heartedness of the downtrodden citizens made for an exciting powder-keg setting. The film's production began in 1952 but was unfinished until 1980, and so the characters still bear a 50s look to them which only adds to the charm.
Fire- Set in India where it is common for extended family to live in the same house, a new bride and her sister-in-law both find their marriages to be loveless disappointments. One is bound to a man who loves another and the other has proven herself to be infertile and thus her husband sees no need to make any further attempts and adopts a life of chastity. The two women seek companionship in each other and in turn find intimacy, passion, and love. The nature of their love caused outrage upon the movie's release in India and riots led to the damage of movie theatres. It's a beautiful love story that just happens to take place between two women.
Brief Encounter- A beautiful depiction of a short lived affair and the thrill of the moment. It's delicate handling of their reluctant growing attachment to each other is constantly overshadowed by the fact that right from the start you know their love is doomed. The ending thoroughly convinced me of Noel Coward's grasp of real humanity and the reality that confines us in a way I thought only possible from Shakespeare.
Gentleman's Agreement- An intriguing look into anti-Semitism in America. I was especially curious to see it because it was made in 1947. It's been a while since I've seen it, but I watched it when I was going through my "controversial for its day" phase.
I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang- One of my favorite "controversial for its day" films dating back to 1932. A man is wrongly accused and convicted of armed robbery and becomes the prime example of a man in the wrong place at the wrong time. A victim of circumstance, society, inept justice and penal system, it was a far cry from the usually clear cut presentation of bad things happening to bad guys who deserved it. If the ending doesn't cut right into you, I'd check my pulse if I were you.
Fury - Spencer Tracy is a man wrongfully accused of murder and is attacked by a ruthless mob and presumed killed. In a very un-Hollywood way, he holds quite an horrific grudge.
American History X- Edward Norton is one of those actors who exudes "cool" in just about every role he plays. In American History X, he's an ex-neo-Nazi who wants to stop his little brother from making the same mistakes he made. Avery Brooks makes an appearance with his fantastic voice as a school principal, though didn't get the opportunity to show off his great acting skills. Fairuza Balk (bet the Iranian people are proud of her!) looked quite horrifying in more ways than one, and Stacy Keach
Leon: The Professional- It's been named Leon, it's been named The Professional, it's been both. Either way, it stars my favorite Frenchman Jean Reno as a professional hit-man who becomes the unlikely guardian of an orphaned 12 year old Natalie Portman. Luc Besson depicts their Lolita-inspired relationship tastefully, even in its original European incarnation. The little character quirks of the two protagonists are charming and Gary Oldman fulfills his audience's expectations of the crazy, coked-up mobster we all know him capable of. I put this under "drama" though it certainly has elements of comedy and action too.
Lola Rennt- Or Run Lola Run, as it is known in English explores the realms of "what if" in one single day in the life of Lola, as played by Franka Potente. Her boyfriend needs to come up with a lot of money before he greatly displeases a character of questionable morals and lands himself in scheisse. Different scenarios play out to their unpleasant conclusions betraying the delicate balance of cause and effect in the universe.
V For Vendetta- I don't like to compare movies to the original book version, so I won't. This is one of those films where you could press pause at any point, frame the cell and have a beautiful piece of art to put up on your wall. The concept of a terrorist as being the hero of the story was a little hard for some people to swallow, but why should every movie hero be perfect? Having known a world in which the police are to be feared, the government is aware of your interests and activities through the most annoying (and oppressive) male-gossip, and criticism of the government is unheard of, I was able to appreciate what may appear to be a far-fetched Orwellian future landscape.
Sin City- Another stunning movie based on a graphic novel. Every frame is directly inspired by the original 2 dimensional form and the director, Rodriguez, sacrificed his place in the Director's Guild of America in order to give Frank Miller credit as co-director. They both do a fabulous job of breathing life into the film-noir anti-heroes of the story set against a stunning chiaroscuro, faux-Art Deco backdrop. I was disappointed that Jessica Alba's contract meant that her stripper character in the story never actually shows anything beyond her belly, adding naivete that was a little out of place in such a gritty existence. Yes, that's the reason behind my disappointment.
The Circle - And Iranian movie that indulges the viewers into a peek into the lives of various Iranian women in modern-day Iran (an oxymoron if I ever saw one). I adore the cinematography of the film as it voyeuristically tracks one lady's plight, then another as they unknowingly cross paths, giving us just a taste of each of their existences. As the title suggests, the story comes full circle and the cycle has yet to be broken.
Dogville- In the midst of the Great Depression, Grace is on the run from gangsters and has found herself in the secluded mountain town of Dogville. Reluctant to harbor an individual who may bring mobsters to their door, the town eventually accepts her presence in exchange for jobs she is to carry out for each of them. As power is certain to corrupt the weak, the town collectively tightens their grip on Grace and abuse their position as guardian and savior enough to make a saint disappointed in humanity.
Shaun of the Dead (also could be classed as a horror)- A whopping tribute to Sam Raimi and George A. Romero, this zom-rom-com about a bunch of Brits fighting off a zombie invasion had in-jokes for all the Bruce Campbell-fan nerds like me to laugh at. If you enjoy this, look out for Spaced and Hyperdrive on BBC America. Also, look out for the stars Nick Frost and Simon Pegg as chained up zombies in Land of the Dead, though it was the only part of the movie I was really entertained by.
40 Year-Old Virgin- My favorite thing about this movie is the amount of improvisation on the part of the actors. It's rare for the opportunity to arise, I'm sure, so it's entertaining to see how much fun the actors were really having. I always enjoy seeing something I know the performers genuinely enjoy doing (which is why I struggle to watch Grey's Anatomy, now that I know the cast is miserable). Very little can compare to the "you know how I know you're gay?" exchanges.
Drop Dead Gorgeous- In the light of recent popularity of mockumentaries, Drop Dead Gorgeous is one of the grandmothers of the genre. It toes the boundaries of taste more than a few times, which is almost always something I can appreciate. It takes place in a small town in Minnesota, and I LOVE that accent, so I'm already biased. A camera crew follows the progress of a beauty pageant and exposes a gaudy, chintzy, Middle America in all its glory.
Monty Python's Life of Brian- It may horrify you to know how often Monty Python quotes lend themselves to the moment and have the opportunity to be used in everyday conversation. "It's no body's fault..." is almost invariably followed by "... Not even the Romans'..." While this film may not be as funny as Monty Python's Holy Grail, it was a better made film and delightfully controversial for its time. Brian was born in a stable near that of another rather famous chap named Jesus Christ and is constantly mistaken for a messiah as he tries his best to simply get on with life.
THIS is how I was to remember Graham Chapman... Nailed to a cross and bobbing his head along to "Always Look On The Bright Side of Life."
Monty Python and the Holy Grail- Forget Eric Idle's recent whoring of the movie in the form of the musical Spamalot, let's talk briefly about the original. Upon arrival in the States, my British-ish accent has solicited more quotes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail than anything else. It got the point that some college guys would greet me with "I'm not dead yet!" or "Tis only a scratch!" and I had to hold my polite smile as best I could. Quoting Monty Python isn't clever and it won't get you any girlfriends, especially those with HUGE tracts of land and fathers who smell like elderberries. They may show disdain by farting in your general direction, and my best advice to you is to RUN AWAY!
I'm suck a freaking nerd.
Amelie - Amelie is another example of the type of film where every frame could be mounted and put on the wall as a piece of artwork. Amelie is a sweet young lady whose view of the world is as delectable as a box of chocolates and whose love of life is infectious. Despite being French, this movie is not depressing! :)
Bubba Ho-tep- Could also be classed as a horror. Another successful graphic novel-turned-movie in my books. The inescapably fantastic Bruce Campbell stars as an aging Elvis lookalike (or is he?) who is doomed to spend his days in a hideous old folks home along with his new friend, John F. Kennedy who claims he was never killed, but kidnapped, surgically altered to appear black and had a small piece of his brain removed and replaced with a bag of sand. A mummy invades their territory and starts killing off the elderly residents one by one and it's up to Elvis and JFK to stop him. Sound ridiculous? It is. Sound fun? It IS! Hail to the king, baby!
Love Actually - Richard Curtis has found his niche writing sweet romantic comedies that actually make me laugh. I'm really not one for those cutesy movies that involve cute women who act all cute and trip over themselves literally in front of their cute crushes and it's all very cute. This is not one of those films, otherwise I never would have sat throught the whole thing. It tells the stories of various people who are experiencing love in various circumstances and in different ways. A few of my colleagues didn't get the whole concept of the movie following one story, then another, but I felt it wasn't that distracting at all.
The Happiness of the Katakuris- Could also be classed as a horror. Or a musical. Yep, it's THAT weird. If you can't handle weird Japanese movies or funny horror movies, don't watch this. I don't get the beginning of the movie other than the fact that it sets the mood for the bizarre content to follow. Once the real story begins, it's pretty easy to pick up on the plot. A rather cheerful Japanese family own a guest house out in the mountains of the Japanese wilderness. Unfortunately, their first client kills himself in his room in a most horrific way, and not wanting their business to fail before its really even begun, the family hides the body. And they do it while singing! Sadly, the charming family has quite the run of bad luck as it appears more of their guests end up dying under bizarre circumstances that the family can't be blamed for in the least. The hammed up acting adds to the charm and I can only imagine how hard it was to film without laughing!
La Vita E Bella
The Beauty Academy of Kabul
Jesus Christ Superstar
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Little Shop of Horrors
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
An American In Paris
My Fair Lady
The Sound of Music
Dancer In the Dark
Cannibal! The Musical
Singing In the Rain
South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut.
Reefer Madness The Movie Musical
Evil Dead Trilogy
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Because of the people I work with, local and state charities get enormous contributions, families get Christmas gifts (including the girl who had no P.E. gear), staff who are forced to retire because of illness get a gift of over a thousand dollars from the pockets of their colleagues, local families who lose their houses in conflagration are given the gift of clothes and blankets and toys for the kids. I know of no other career where people are so willing to spend their own money to expand on the experience of their "clients" or provide them with incentives. Students who open a door to hell when they go home have made us their family and their classes their safe havens.
We are nurses, counselors, parents, teachers, mentors, and police officers and yes, some of us can be asses too. I guess it's just a statistical probability.
There's a game we special education teachers are forced to play sometimes and it's this: Try To Soften the Blow For Regular Education Teachers Who Don't Want "Issues" In Their Classes.
Now don't get me wrong, I very rarely come across a teacher who makes it clear that he/she doesn't want kids with special needs in his/her room, it's behaviors that they don't want and quite often, kids with special needs also have behavior issues. What makes it easier for them to target the kids with special needs is that they have a case manager like myself to whom they can plead to have the child removed from the class for various reasons.
Case #1 I had a girl who was not dressing for P.E. I figured out that she had no P.E. clothes at home and was living in "one of the most disgusting houses I have ever seen" according to another special educator. Rather than admit to this, she masked her pitiful situation with defiance (as many children do). The P.E. teacher was sick of her and asked me to remove her from his class since she was going to fail anyway. Removing her wouldn't have benefited her at all at this point, it would only have benefited him in that he wouldn't have to deal with her. I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but he made no attempt to understand her or even listen to me when I told him my findings.
Case #2 A technology teacher gets to teach a fun little class with fun students who are interested in what they're doing. One of my students with Asperger Syndrome LOVES computers and so I put him in the class. I give her my usual "Here's student X" bio of his strengths, weaknesses and any behavior concerns to keep an eye out for through e-mail and I get about five back in the first day stating many different reasons why it would be best not to put him in the class. This is before she even met the kid. He ended up being just fine and she enjoyed having him.
Case #3 Same tech teacher. I'm giving her another student this year and yet again, I get the five frantic e-mails. She even tried to make it seem like the difficult text would be the best reason why my student couldn't join the class. I requested a copy of the book from her and she handed it to me in her best "boy-isn't-this-the-most-huge-and-intimidating-book-you've-ever-seen" way and I said I'd just go over the material with my girl before she even gets to class so she'd walk in with a confident step. No problem.
I actually like this teacher, she's a nice woman, but I'm sick and tired of this attitude that "those kids" are just mine and that no one else has to adapt to incorporate them and include them in the class' structure.
Case #4 I'm sick of instances like a speech therapist who say she won't see my student because "he doesn't want to see me, and I'm not going to work with a student who doesn't want to work with me". Wouldn't that be nice??! Oh my God, all this time I've been coaxing and needling and bonding, I could have just cut them off like a gangrenous limb and left them to someone else? I can understand that many teachers who don't have the luxuries I have (I rarely have to design lessons, I rarely have to grade) may not have the time, but if they've got someone like me who DOES have the time, who is willing to help them understand the child and facilitate his/her education in their room, they shouldn't dismiss it because it doesn't fit into their idea of what a good classroom looks like.
These may not be the kids of yore with the polished apple and a "please sir" obsequious tone, but they are OUR children and we have no right to avoid teaching them because we're too lazy to care.
Monday, January 22, 2007
My memories now drift back to an incident I had in the Star Trek Experience in Las Vegas... I politely responded to a fellow nerd who started to talk to me about the wall of movies and DVDs before us, when he started to go into detail about his extensive laserdisc collection of Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes. Another nerd joined in I actually had to excuse myself and walk away because the level of nerdiness had gone far beyond my tolerance level. I tend to lapse into the same level of despair when nerds argue which superhero/villain would win in a fight between two superheroes/villains, how, and why...
What truly amazes me is how picky they pretend to be about women. Even my teen male friends from my childhood.
"Yeah, I'd do her..." Right. Like she'd even grant you a glance in your direction.
Or even "Oh gross, she's OLD" said of a woman in her early thirties. I guess that was "old" to them back then.
I don't care how picky they make themselves out to be, if any of those women even gave a cursory consideration to shagging them, they'd be falling over themselves in anticipation.
If Paris Hilton staggered into a nerd's apartment, intoxicated to the point of sharing the contents of her dinner all over her pitiful dog, made Courtney Love look like she'd had a multimillion dollar extreme make-over, and threw herself at said nerd, I doubt he'd turn her down.
I have always found nerds to be my cup of tea, both as someone to share a friendship with, or fancy the pants off of, but in moderation! Thankfully, my husband and I practice a healthy level of nerdiness and it never gets out of hand...
Okay darling, tonight you'll be Batman and I'll be Cat Woman and let's see who'd win THAT fight! Purrrrfect. ;)
Saturday, January 20, 2007
I'm a dweeb because...
- I own a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine costume. (Haven't had the opportunity to wear it, though. Was meant to for a Halloween party...)
- I can identify most of the "original" Muppeteers from the 70s and 80s by watching and listening to the Muppets.
- I know Dulce Et Decorum Est by heart.
- I bought and read Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time of my own volition. When I was a teenager.
- I want to buy the Princess Leia slave girl costume, but it costs $200.
- I can imitate some of the more obscure robots/androids from Star Wars movies.
- I do a mean Fozzie Bear "Wokka wokka" impersonation.
- I love documentaries on just about everything.
- I can laugh at Dungeons and Dragons jokes.
- A trip to the bookstore sounds ten times more exciting than a trip to a nightclub.
- I used to read two or three novels at a time in high school.
- I've only ever kissed one man, my husband.
- Etymology fascinates me.
- When I hear the numbers "6" and "7", I think of Six and Seven. Sigh.
I may periodically add to this list as a form of catharsis. It's cheaper than therapy.
Friday, January 19, 2007
My only complaint is that if you decide part of a religious text is open for interpretation, then all of it may be so. You can't claim bits of it must be literal and bits of it metaphorical because who decides which is which?
Hence my inability to select and follow any single religion. I'd feel like a hypocrite, and you know how everybody hates those!
Of the ones he's got online, you should definitely listen to/read the lyrics of Great Idea For a Song, the best crazy-ex-girlfriend tribute out there, Frank's Not In The Band Anymore, and I'm Gonna Procreate.
Buy his CDs so his toddler son won't go hungry this week!
Again I say, if countries continue to either turn a blind eye or a lighter sentence onto killers and rapists, they send the message that these are crimes in which the victims may lose everything, but the criminal can live out the rest of his days in shelter and with food, more food than some of the people who starve to death throughout the continent of Africa.
I know execution doesn't allow for the possibility of rehabilitation, but in a country that has starving poor, I'd much rather see money spent on programs to develop independence of the people rather than keeping alive genocidal murderers. In fact, teaching them "to fish" may reduce the number of crimes in the process by reducing the margin between the "have" and "have nots". After all, the Hutus claim that the reason they did it was because the Tutsis were treated as a superior race to the Hutus.
Obviously, there will always be the poor and there will always be suffering (to paraphrase the cool cat, Jesus himself), but if something can be done about it, then by gum we've got to do it.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
I sincerely hope that someone starts to deal with these offenders in most terms and that it is made known to the rest of the population what happens to people who commit such crimes.
In countries that are generally led by Big Boy's Clubs, rape is punished less severely than drug use, and how many times must the victim be blamed for the crime? I refer to the Russian prostitute in the U.A.E. who was imprisoned longer than her rapists because of her vocation. Or that homosexual Philipino who was blamed for his rape because, obviously, all gay men are just asking for it too.
If countries in Africa and in the Middle East continue to let these crimes pass with minimal or NO punishment it says a lot about how much they value the quality of life for their women and children. Claiming that they don't treat their women like second class citizens isn't enough.
We at the high school are required to attend a series of presentations on the topic of literacy strategies and the first meeting was a complete disaster. We were separated into groups based on our department and special ed. people were assigned to various groups as we don't really fit in any one place. My Jewish colleague in special ed. refers to herself as "The Wandering Jew", so I guess that makes me the "Bedouin Wanderer"... Anyway, my group was fairly well behaved, even when we were required to participate in something I only ever did in my freshman classes at college... Make up one lie and provide two interesting truths about yourself to your colleagues and have them guess which was the lie. It's my understanding that another department had a great time with that one and hopefully made their presenter blush. Needless to say, the meeting was an unmitigated disaster and the presenters were taken to the shed over it for sucking so badly.
Yesterday was the follow-up presentation, and our presenter made it very clear that she didn't appreciate being complained about. When another special ed. teacher and I showed up early in an attempt to feign enthusiasm (out of politeness), she snapped at us and told us to move to a table where she had placed materials. She even called us "girls". My fellow teacher and I exchanged glances and it led to our having a smart ass answer to just about everything she said for the rest of the presentation (under our breath, of course).
For some, this might be an eye-opening experience as to how they handle their own students, but since I already treat my students with respectful yet firm expectations, I wasn't learning anything new. After all, you never know which one is packing that day ;)
She had a delightful little activity (God, I HATE delightful little activities) for us to get started where we took little round stickers up to two posters and placed them on a scale of 1 to 10 depicting how confident we felt in the areas of pre-reading activities (preparing students for the text they are about to read). The intention was to model something we could do with our own students. I leaned to my special ed. colleague and said "Can you imagine our guys? They'd stick them on their foreheads or on their asses long before they'd get to the poster..."
"Yeah I know... Tell Steve about it."
I turned to Steven on the other side of me.
"Hey Ste... Oh, never mind."
His grin shone back at me under the day-glo orange sticker on his forehead.
"Bindi!" he announced.
I love my colleagues. We make bloody awful students!
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
So in no particular order (and in no offense to my darling husband who I adore with all my filthy heart, mind, and soul):
- Groucho Marx.
- Alan Alda. (Yes, some of you will see the connection there.)
- Rene Auberjonois. (Hey, I could do a six degrees of separation thing here...)
- Alan Rickman.
- Gene Kelly.
- Morgan Freeman.
- Rod Serling.
- Mel Blanc.
- Jimmy Stewart.
- Joel Grey.
- John Krasinski. (Jim from the American version of The Office)
- Michael Palin.
- Brent Spiner.
- Patrick Stewart.
- Seth McFarlane. (Creative talent behind Family Guy)
- Patrick Warburton.
- Bruce Campbell.
Woah. That makes me look like a bit of a slut... I'd best stop now.
If you are any of the previous mentioned celebrities, feel free to contact me and I'm sure my husband would be understanding. ;)
1 package of frozen puff pastry (17 ounces)
1 15 oz can of sweetened condensed milk
3 cups water
1/2 cup cream
3/4 cup pistachios, shelled, chopped
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup sultanas or golden raisins
1/2 - 3/4 cups coconut flakes (depending on taste)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Unroll puff pastry sheets and place on greased baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes. You want the puff pastry to be golden and puffed. Remove from oven. Do not turn oven off or change the temp. Break puff pastry into small pieces (about 1-2 inches). Add nuts, sultanas/raisins and coconut and be sure that they are mixed well and evenly distributed. Place nuts and bread in a very lightly greased 9x12 baking dish. In a saucepan, heat sweetened milk, vanilla, and water on medium heat. Allow to cook for about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat then allow to cool. Pour milk over puff pastry/nut mixture. Pour creme on top and bake uncovered for 15 minutes. Serve warm.
I like to turn the oven to "broil" for the last two minutes to give a nice golden brown color to the top.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
I truly believe that the Arabic and Islam teachers I had as a child were actually rejects from some form of society of torturers and humiliators, but got kicked out because they had earned all their de Sade badges they could and had learned all there was to learn about inflicting suffering on little children.
I remember, Miss Mussarah (best I can spell it in English), with her skeletal face tightly wrapped by her head scarf, emphasizing her mummy-like qualities. What a piece of work that woman was! Not a day went by that she didn't mocked my inability to grasp the Arabic language, despised my being half British, and sought to humiliate me in front of my friends. In the second grade, I remember when she told us to get to work, and I was determined to finally make her pleased with me, so I put on my best "let's get to work" face, but she still decided to swoop in and smack away that arm that was propping up my head for no reason other than I wasn't getting to work fast enough, in her opinion. At least the only ears she pulled were the boys', for some reason she spared me that. What I really hated was when she came from behind so I had no warning of her presence until I felt her hand hit the crown of my head.
Gee, I wonder why I wasn't learning Arabic too well? I had her for two or three years, I forget. My mother and I didn't know why I had stomach aches going to school every day, so she took me to the doctor and it was there that everyone found out that it was fear making me ill. The school put an observer in the classroom for ONE DAY.
What about Islam class? We had a Palestinian teacher, so the classroom was her soap box to preach hatred of Christians and Jews. She showed disappointment when one of her snitches told of my best friend who is Christian (and she still is my best friend!) and I was told that I really shouldn't play with her anymore. I was sick of trying to hide my friendship, so I lied and told my teacher I had told my friend about Islam and that she wanted to convert. She was delighted and for the only time ever, smiled at me and gave me a hug. If you can't beat 'em... She also lied and said Islam was so much more "pure" than Christianity, because while the Christians bickered amidst various denominations, Islam had no such sectarianism. I think the rising tension between Shias and Sunnis begs to differ.
And then there was the fact that she told me my parents were going to hell. That kinda sucked too. My mother, because she was "Christian" (actually, she doesn't practice any religion short of the holidays) and my father because he was an alcoholic. She wasn't just name-calling, he really was an alcoholic, and apparently all the good things he'd done for his fellow man didn't amount to a hill of beans next to his sad dependency on fermented vegetables and grains to get through each day.
At least she wasn't a hitter, but she did cut our nails with scissors. Apparently, Satan lives under your nails and if you'd forgotten to cut them before class on the days that she randomly inspected them, you'd be in for a treat. I got many a nick from those damn orange-handled scissors. It makes me laugh nowadays when people comment on how fast my nails grow and how great they look when they're long!
All I learned about Islam from that woman is that the incarnate of evil could reside under your cuticles, Jews and Christians and alcoholics will all go to hell, and... Um... Nope, that's it. That's all I learned about an entire religion from that woman. And as for my Arabic? I can understand a lot of spoken Arab and can read written Arabic without fully understanding it, but I'm too afraid to try to speak it unless it's to make fun of someone's mother or to sing an Amr Diab song.
Oh wait. I DID learn something from these women! Something invaluable that I will cherish forever and use every day of my life:
How NOT to teach kids.
Monday, January 15, 2007
They're bloody miserable, involve naked people, and the dialogue is like no other kind of movie.
People either say incredibly dramatic stuff (eg. "He burned me with cigarettes, raped me, and then murdered my mother with my own paintbrush I loved so much") while adopting a very carefree physical attitude. Or else, they say something completely trivial (eg. "The shops were closed today. I really wanted to get a baguette") while screaming dramatically in the rain then collapsing in a fit of demented giggles before committing suicide. The sentiment behind the words never match the actions of the actors.
As for the nudity, I have no complaints to make there. If I had a body like Eva Green's, I would have it written into my contract that I'd have to have at least two fully nude scenes in each film.
As for the misery, blame it on Victor Hugo, but all their movies I've seen recently are so despairing and hopeless. I've seen Caché (depressing) and À ma soeur! (even more depressing).
However, the French director Paul Grimault made a fantastic cartoon in 1980 called Le Roi et L'Oiseau that blew me away. I hope it'll be available in the States someday, with English subtitles, because it is so sadly overlooked. If you do a search for it on YouTube, you can see a sample of it (as long as that user still has the clips). Nothing can compare to good old fashioned animation with nary a CGI shot in sight. (*Still twitches at the thought of the CGI Yoda and Jabba*)
Friday, January 12, 2007
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Unfortunately, the things that could help (infrastructure, supplies for basic day to day living needs) are denied them by the constant bombings. Bit of a catch-22 because I feel that if they had their basic needs met, there would be far fewer people blowing themselves up because they feel they've got nothing to lose anyway. (A bit of the old Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs)
It must be easier to turn into a savage in the wreckage of the rubble you call home, with your list of dead loved ones growing longer each day. It may be naive of me, but I'd like to see Saddam's assets liquidated to pay for the reconstruction of his country, money that belonged to the people anyway. It may not cover everything, but no doubt all the extravagant furniture, equipment, and art would be better put to use as funding for a reconstructive program. If they haven't already been looted, the contents of the vast underground network of tunnels would surely provide a dinar or two towards the cause.
But obviously, any reconstruction at this stage is at risk of being destroyed before completion even happens. If only things could have been different... If only Iran wasn't such a threat, if only America hadn't used Saddam as a tool against Iran, if only Saddam hadn't been a crazed, power-hungry maniac (I believe that was his title on his office door and business cards), if only Russia's invasion then withdrawal hadn't led to the rise in popularity of the Taliban in Afghanistan... And if my aunt had a willy, she'd be my uncle.
I know. I sound rather adolescent in my prattle, but it preys on my mind and I can say whatever the hell I want on here. I so appreciate being able to speak my mind. I had been so used to accepting the status quo because we knew of no other option, especially not to question the actions of the government. I so appreciate the liberties I enjoy.
If you'll excuse me, I will exercise my freedom to do go eat vast quantities of chocolate. God Bless America. ;)
However, once in a while, I find a book that makes me laugh out loud at the absurdity of their assertions and here is one book that does just that:
Motivating Students Who Don't Care: Successful Techniques for Educators, Allen N. Mendler.
Now, with a title like that, I thought THIS guy must really know what it's all about. And judging by the fact that the only book that could possibly be shorter would be A History of Successful Truces in the Middle East, I figured he must be a really succinct guy so confident in his theory that he needed very few pages in which to expound his philosophy.
On the contrary, he just thought he could get away with less typing and make a mint on a few days' work. (Smart, smart man.)
Here are a few of my absolute favorite quotes:
" Can we allow ourselves to realize that a student who chronically comes 5 minutes late to a 50-minute class is present 90% of the time, which would be an A or A- on any other graded measure of achievement? Seeing it this way would enable us to affirm the student and give a consequence. For Example,
In his defence, he does make some valid arguments about focusing on the successes of the student to the point that they become fearless in simply making an attempt rather than being fearful of making mistakes and looking stupid in front of their peers. I guess it's just his approach that puts in my head thoughts of fluffy wuffy group hugs and overpaid quack psychiatrists.
I have seen what happens when expectations of kids are dropped way below par. First, they recognize how patronizing it is and their respect for you plummets. Then they decide that if you don't care about raising their standards, why should they and they become most complacent. Rather than setting the bar low and hoping they'll gain confidence through these minute successes, they shut down and avoid even making an attempt.
I actually respect my students and that is why I expect them to come to class on time. To expect less is to say that they are incapable of it and that there is no hope for improvement in this child.
How can we expect kids to aspire to become better human beings if we applaud mediocrity and behavior that they know darn well they can improve on?
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
When I heard a sub was going to be in the history class, I felt guilty. The college student would have to endure the situation alone and I rather like her, so I decided not to ditch her with whatever sub was assigned. Especially when I learned that the sub was "Crazy Vietnam Vet Guy". The last time I avoided his work, he reduced a good student to tears and wrote up five or six not-so-good ones, all while screaming about how they wouldn't last one minute in the jungles of Vietnam.
Thankfully, the college student is new enough to the whole concept of teaching that she didn't abuse me the same way others sometimes do, and she taught the class with me tucked away in the back trying to keep the kids' snotty behavior to a minimum with hard stares and quietly muttered requests, and the "Crazy Vietnam Vet Guy" sat quietly at the computer. The students hated him, so I made sure to keep their dissent to a low rumble.
The subject of conversation moved onto Al Capone as they discussed America in the 20s. As all these students are enamored of Al Pacino's movie Scarface, they set aside their unanimous hatred of the sub to give noises of approval for their favorite mass-murdering drug-dealing addict.
Student1 (of the infamous "Gardening Time with Student1 and Student2"): I wish I could be like Al Capone.
Then the sub said something that raised my respect for him just enough to indulge him with a smile.
Crazy Vietnam Vet Guy: What, have syphilis and die?
Monday, January 08, 2007
2) I can actually go through a whole day without having my ass brushed up against by some desperately lonely, sexually repressed pervert who thinks my exposed arms and ankles makes me a cheap Russian whore. (No offense to cheap Russian whores intended.)
4) Porn. Although I can't get the Hustler channel from my satellite because of local laws for this county.
5) The maps here aren't defaced with black markers to remove that pesky little place next to Palestine.
6) Neither are the magazines! BEGONE! EVIL BREASTS OF THE WHORE OF BABYLON!
7) Guys and girls think my accent is sexy and that I'm dark and mysterious.
8) Shops dedicate a whole aisle to one type of food, making every shopping experience an adventure in itself and can last for days.
9) Thankfully, you can be sustained on such shopping trips by the abundance of free samples of food.
10) Such a delightful mix of heritages and ethnicity leads to the creation of some beautiful people. Wentworth Miller. Need I say more?
11) You can say whatever the hell you like about the government (it's practically compulsory) and you won't vanish in the middle of the night, unless you expose the truth about alien abdu............
"Didn't nobody get it"
Translation: Nobody understood it.
"Who is you?"
Translation: Who do you think you are? OR Who are you?
"I been done that."
Translation: I've already done that.
"Them's the ones I want."
Translation: Those are the ones I want.
"He be talkin' stupid stuff."
Translation: He says things that will get him into trouble.
Translation: Why should I do that?
Translation: That hurt.
"He lookeded smacked."
Translation: He looked ugly. (I have no idea why they want to add an extra "ed" to the end of words that already have an "ed", but they do.)
"There was mass people there."
Translation: There were many people there.
I know the Queen's English does not issue forth from my lips on a daily basis, but it's language like this that makes me want to go all Henry Higgins on everyone's ass!
Saturday, January 06, 2007
Other times, he would simply act out a bizarre conversation between personas as an independent skit with no need for the input of outside callers who always seem to know best. The following is an example of just that. Enjoy.
Friday, January 05, 2007
I've done various other types of dance and I can honestly say that none of them developed the same sense of sorority amongst the women. It's fantastic. We couldn't pinpoint why we belly dance. We dance for men, we dance for other women, we dance for our own health, for a giggle, for a need to celebrate our womanhood. Sometimes, I'm so in tune with the eternal rhythm of the drums, I feel like Mother Earth herself, all hips and breasts. Other times, the sultry beat makes me feel like a concubine, celebrating my skills as a lover through dance.
And other times, I'm a sweaty dope who gets entangled in her veil like a child caught in the laundry line.
Thursday, January 04, 2007
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
Prior to the Christmeidquansukkah break, I overheard this conversation:
Student1: Nah, nah, man, you're supposed to put orange peels on the soil.
Student2: Does it make it taste better?
Teacherlady: What are you guys talking about?
Teacherlady (to Teacher, quietly): Am I missing something? Is "rosebush" a new term for..?
Teacher: Yup, it's weed.
Teacherlady: I guessed as much... I can see it now. Gardening Time with Student1 and Student2.
Today, they've decided to expand their horizons.
Student1: Nah, nah, man (he always seems to be contradicting his less accurate companion) you have to make the paper wet first.
Student2: An' in worked?
Student1: Yeah man, they lookeded (that's the best way I can spell it phonetically) so real we spent them in Deveroes. Twennies an' evertyhin'. We was all up in there spendin'. There was mass of us with em.
Student2:So you fixed the border?
Teacherlady (to teacher, quietly again): I see our boys have changed vocations.
Teacher: Counterfeiting? You should have been here yesterday. They brought in samples of their "work". They were so crappy with huge white borders because they printed them on white paper, and one had the same thing on both sides, only one side was upsidedown.
Teacherlady: I'm surprised they didn't have little trains on their money.
I look forward to seeing them on World's Dumbest Criminals one day.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
This was my favorite part:
Ahmadinejad said Iran had done everything it could to prove that its nuclear program is peaceful, but the West -- in the name of opposing nuclear weapons -- was trying to thwart Iran's development.
"We have tried all legal, wise and logical ways to convince these corrupt and selfish powers," he said.
Hmmm. Seems he forgot all about that whole wiping Israel off the map thing... Maybe he meant to accomplish that through talks and conferences and negotiations. Ah yes, that's what he meant.