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Friday, November 30, 2007

Best YouTube Video EVER 

This is seventeen seconds long. Watch it.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

On Teaching: Part Three 

For years I've been scribbling notes about what teaching is, along with other things my students say or thoughts I've had. They've built up in my desk caddy, so here they are. Enjoy!
  • Being a teacher means training yourself to have no idea who to believe.

  • Being a teacher means you – the lifeguard – must convince someone that he is drowning. He refuses to believe you, and you can't save him until he does.

  • Student: "Mr. P. speaks like a chainsaw."

  • I've taken my undying love for literature, my unquenchable thirst for ideas, my relentless passion for imagination, my intense yen for the life of the mind – and gambled it all, handed it over, slowly through the years, until nothing was left – on the off chance that these seeds will someday blossom into a change of heart for people who appear to hate everything I love.

  • Being a teacher means resetting your expectations every twelve months.

  • Being a teacher in the US in 2006 means starting in the same place each year, but being forced to aim higher and higher with each iteration.

  • Being a teacher means you never have the pleasure of ignoring someone – even (especially) if that person is annoying you.

  • Being a teacher means you are host to people forced to be guests in your home.

  • Me: "What happened?"
    Student: "I had surgery."
    Me: "Why?"
    Student: shrugs

  • Being a teacher means doing variations of the same homework assignment 50 times in one day. (We call it grading papers.)

  • Being a teacher means blanking your emotional state once an hour every hour. If your second class was frustrating and annoying, you can't carry that feeling into your third class.

  • Being a teacher means you risk caring too much – to the detriment of your sanity. You must decide at times whether to turn off your heart or disbelieve what students say.

  • Being a teacher means you must always fight against personified, abstract enemies.

  • Being a teacher means your short-term desire to care for others must be painfully balanced by your long-term interest in adolescent mental development.

  • Being a teacher means you torture yourself over decisions no one else will remember in a week.

  • One of the things I have the most trouble with as a teacher is The Crustening. It goes like this: My general approach (in the classroom and the world) is cheerful and calm. When dealing with students, I always start out using logic and humor and patience. Most of the time, this works.

    But a certain percentage of the studentry – repressed by over a decade of authoritarian environs and distracted by the carnivals of consumption – take this patient approach for granted and "act a fool", as the kids say. (Talking when they need to listen or write; cursing after being asked to adjust their language for the institution their ancestors worked to give them access to, etc.)

    So what will work? Repressive, authoritarian tactics: yelling, threatening to send them to in-school suspension, calling parents. To get results, I have to be a cop sometimes – and I hate being a cop. Over time I feel myself slouching more and more toward using authoritarianism earlier and earlier in the year. I can tell – never with 100% certainty of course, but often with 80%, and apparently growing – when logic isn't going to work.

    So why bother?
No, those are not my students. I Google Imaged "sleeping students" to find some who look like mine sometimes do. I should also mention that the above mostly refers to that 10% of kids that I just can't seem to reach. Mad respect to the other 90%, and feedback is of course welcome from all.

In case you missed them:
  1. On Teaching: Part One

  2. On Teaching: Part Two

Thanks to AmyJ for this video of prisoners in the Philippines practicing a stage production of Michael Jackson's Thriller:

Today I'm listening to: Rob Viktum!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Michael Bay is a Pathetic Monkey Turd 

We watched the new Transformers movie this weekend. It was the most horrible atrocious piece of crap since Swordfish. Wretched! So there's a car, and it speaks with songs through the radio for some reason, and then the girl's driving a hundred miles an hour to rockin' thrash music, then Optimus Prime (who, thank heaven, remained a semi truck) starts blabbering on about how courageous and noble humans are, and the Barbie model British lady beats all the NASA scientists to cracking the alien code, and there's a boom box which finds the kid's grandpa's glasses on eBay, and then the fifty-foot brightly-colored robots hide – successfully! – from the kid's parents.

And who gives a [bad word] about the soldier we barely meet, trying to get home to his newborn daughter? Get to the murderous death robots! Oh, that girl he's trying to hook up with is a felon because she had to help her dad steal cars? Who [very bad word]ing gives a flying [inappropriate language]!? Go [bad word] yourselves, humans! Let's see some more laserbeam painbots attacking each other, please! If John Turturro hadn't been in it (and what the hell is he doing in that turd of a movie?), it would have been completely worthless.

Oh, yeah – the special effects were pretty cool. But it should have been 20% talking and 80% robots destroying cities and each other. Not the other way around! And here's another thing – taking an overweight black man and making him act like a total buffoon, but then also saying he's a genius master hacker is not avoiding stereotypes! Arrrgh!

I should have known, after Armageddon. If I'm ever tempted to watch another Michael Bay movie ever again, please sign me up for a frontal lobotomy. I mean, look at the guy – what a monkey turd!

Then today I had to listen to my students enthuse about how excellent the movie is. And only one – one – had seen 1986's Transformers: The Movie cartoon. At least he understood.

So then I went around looking for said cartoon film at Best Worst Buy, and Borders – nothing. I guess I'll have to find it online. Those stores didn't have Krush Groove either.



Transformers the way they're supposed to be! Note the total lack of moron humans and their cretinous efforts to get back to their newborn babies.

Also: Peep Coach Z and Peacey P's rap song! And ya don't stap!

Today I'm listening to: Autechre! The most excellent IDM (damn I hate that term) album of all time? Well, one of the most excellent, surely.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

I've Got Wood 

I needed a table. I went to Savers. I paid three dollars for a black table. I didn't like the nasty dark paint-chipping look. I went online and read about ways to remove paint.

I went to many stores, looking for paint remover. (My preferred store was closed, and this could not wait.) Finally I arrived at Menards, where a nice man showed me to the strippers. I bought a stripper, and a scraper tool, and some sponge brushes, and some wood stain, and some sealant (for a nail hole – unrelated to the table), and some vinyl gloves (men's gloves, the package assured me).

I came home and put the stripper on the table. I waited a little while, then started scraping. Scraped some more. Scrape scrape scrape. My hand ached and cramped. Still I scraped. The table surface was easy; the legs took much longer for some reason. Scrapeity scrape. No time for video games, I've got to finish this table. (Hey, that's a double entendre!)

As I neared the end of the stripper phase, I realized I wasn't using enough stripper. I started using more and didn't have to scrape so much. There's a lesson here, kids: Use more chemicals! Finally, all the ugly black paint was gone. (Well, actually, it was in powder form on the basement floor.)

Then I applied the stain. Brush brush. This part was very easy. It went on smooth, like a mountain stream. Then I let it dry overnight. The next morning it was still icky. After school it still wasn't done. Sticky sticky, every time I went down to check. I waited another night. Then I took an old towel and rubbed off the residual ickyness. Now I have a beautiful table for to hold my Wikipedia books. Hooray!

What's that? Did I forget to take a "before" picture? Did I just copy the "after" picture and select the table and slash the brightness? Of course not! Don't be ridiculous.


XRaye is fun for a few minutes. Probably via MoFi.

Today I'm listening to: MC Lyte!