Thursday, June 02, 2005

Thoughts for the Evening of 6/2/05

Is it really bad when a student tells you, "I love you," because of the possible ramifications that it can have on you, or is it because the student is obviously lowering their standards? Or is it both?
If a teacher is asked to prom, can he or she ever really say yes?
If a teacher has an African-American History Class, and the class is predominantly African-American, is it really bad if the teacher reaches Civil Rights, and the class says, "We don't care about that?"
And finally, some good wishes:
To Charlie: May you find your path to happiness, and may your "Welsh Dragon" (not that you sick people) guide you.
To Jamie: Ah, Senorita Passion, Queen of the Night. May your heart grant you release.
To Greta: May you find peace and piece of mind.
To Trina: May you pass your next driver's test.
To Dima: May women finally find "the nice guy", and may you never run out of wood screws.
To Chase: May you do well in college.
To Deandre: May you learn to ask before hugging.
To Kallie: May you find your true love to dote on before your heart explodes.
To Chellie: May you be free of your keeper duties.
To Jolene: May you enjoy your college experience (that also goes for all the seniors).
To Blair: May you stand up for yourself.
To Emma: May you learn more about yourself and be happy with who you are.
To Dr. Grays: May your love life not be the topic of choice for the students (and faculty).
To Sadie: May you remain healthy and live a long, fruitful life.
To Charles: May you learn to stop stalking me.
To Phil: May you one day tan.
To Julie: May your heart's desire one day come true.
To Sammy: May the Air Force help you to be complete.
To HotDave: May you get used to your new nickname.
To Ms. R: May you understand that calling me Mr. Glib is like the pot calling the kettle black.
To Sarah F: May your "time" soon end.
That's all I got tonight.
O.G.M.L (Thanks Cole)

Strange Feelings

Sometimes I swear that I'm asleep, and my dreams have taken control of my life. Sounds odd, I know, but sometimes things happen that just don't feel like they can be real. I don't mean like pigs flying or anything like that (although I had a disturbing dream the other night where God came to me a la Joan of Arcadia in the form of Wayne Newton and talked to me about life. So strange. Should probably seek help). No, I mean a person says or acts in such a way that is so totally different then their character that you think, "This cannot be real."
For example: I was out picking up Chinese food the other night when this woman who seemed nice came in to the restaurant. I had been waiting for ten minutes and had not yet ordered (they were swamped). As I waited in line, this woman got on her cell phone in the corner and talked just loud enough that the woman in front of me and I could hear her. I had seen her talking on her phone in her car when she pulled into a parking space really close to my car. Anyway, she told the person on the other line about how she had been using the whole funeral excuse all day, and it had been working. "No one's caught on yet," she explained. So, a few more minutes passed, and the lady in front of me ordered. As it was about to be my turn, she stepped in front of me and said, "I've been at a funeral and haven't eaten. Can I order before you?" I thought about what I had heard, and honestly, if I hadn't been having a bad day, I probably would have kept waiting, but something within me stirred, and I told her, "No. Just wait a little longer." That did not sit well with her. It was like telling a two year old to stop. Her face twisted, and she got very angry. As I finished my order, she was back on the phone complaining about me. Even more rude was that she ordered while on the phone (a no-no in my book).
Now, her order came up before mine (I was ordering for two, while she was ordering for one). I, meanwhile, was talking to the other woman about cars. I even pointed out my own car in the parking lot as she asked about the model. Well, Angry Gal must have heard me, because when she walked back out there, she slammed her car door into mine and then keyed me. Yup, she got so mad at me, that she keyed me. I was walking out when she did this, and took in the situation, and finally yelled at her. Unbeknownst to me, a cop had pulled up as we were talking. The Po-Po asked me what was happening, and I began to explain. Angry Gal cut me off and used her funeral story. When I explained that I had overheard her saying it was a lie, she got very defensive. That was it for me. The cop told her to be on her way without any citation. I was pissed, so I called him on it. Whoops....Well, Officer Krupke (not his real name) did not like that, so he got out of his car and told me to be on my way or I would receive a ticket.
As I got in my car, I couldn't believe this was real. Maybe I was on Candid Camera, or maybe it was a dream, but alas, it was real.
Another example is when a student, who is usually difficult, changes and is super sweet to me. While I was covering for another teacher who was out, there was this one girl who would tell me everyday about what she didn't like about me ("You're ugly, stupid, etc). I would just laugh it off. After a week of this, she suddenly changed her tune and was all about how great I was. Total turn around and very unexpected. It didn't feel real, and I kept waiting for a Maurice Sendak creature to come out of the back room and ask to play.
I don't know. Sometimes the news and real life just doesn't seem real either. Paris Hilton marries person with same name, Trump creates ice cream flavor, man's dog shoots him, Keith Richards still isn't dead, and on and on. It's just so strange. Maybe I'm right. Maybe I'm asleep, and my dreams are holding me captive. How else can you explain that students like me (for God sake, I'm a friggin teacher)?

M scom un cat on (or What the Problem Usually Is)

The biggest problem facing humanity is not the end of the world or the death of the environment, but miscommunication. All relationships, most problems at the workplace, and education issues come down to miscommunication. Ever listen to the news after the Police raid the wrong house? Every Chief of Police always says, "there was a miscommunication." You hear it all the time:
"What happened on the lost account, Jenkins?"
"Well, sir, there was a miscommunication."
In Theatre:
"Jim, you missed that light cue. What happened?"
"There was a miscommunication."
Even in hospitals:
"Dr. Johnson, you cut off the wrong leg. How did this happen?"
"Well, maam, there was a miscommunication."
And on and on it can go. I bring this up, because over the last few weeks I have witnessed and been a part of several miscommunications. Let's start with an easy example. I was called by a school district here in Minnesota and told that they really wanted me to, "come in for an interview. You'd be perfect." Sounds great to me. So, I asked when. "We'll call you back." A little over a week passed. I thought they meant maybe a day or two, so I called them. "Did I miss the interview?" I asked. It turns out that when they meant they would call me, they meant sometime this month. Today it's June 2nd. That leaves 28 days that the could call me. I assumed (my fault) that "We'll call you back," would mean a few days, not weeks. Here I was beating myself up thinking I had blown this chance and wasn't wanted, when instead they were (and are) waiting to do the interview.
Sometimes relationships can be hurt or destroyed because of miscommunications. I don't mean lying. That's something completely different. I mean two people talking and yet, neither one really knows what the other is talking about or means. It happens more often then most people think. For example: I have a lot of respect for one of my students. She's very smart and energetic, and yet she has not learned how to balance her life (sometimes, we have to say no). Every once in a great while, she opens up to me about life, the universe, and everything else (thanks Douglas Adams). This last time, I didn't react just right (partially due to the fact that we kept being interrupted). I made a comment which was misconstrued, and thus was born anger. One side lashed out, the other lashed out, and before you know it, war (sound familiar at all?). As I mentioned before, I like this student. She reminds me of a younger version of myself (but more girlish and better liked). So when the trouble began, I must admit, it made me very unhappy. There are certain people you truly believe that understand you, and that you understand. Unfortunately, every once in a while, even the most trusted people can have a kerfuffle (a screw up as it were). When we miscommunicate, we can come off as heartless, or mean, or just not understanding. It's the biggest problem we face as humans.
There was a story I heard when I was in college. Long ago in India, two brothers, best of friends, told each other they would never come to blows, because of their love for each other. For years they had never had a problem, until the king died. Both brothers began vying for the Hindu throne, but the did not want to hurt each other. Each agreed to let the other have the throne, but this led nowhere. Finally, the older brother said, "If you truly love me, dear brother, you would let me have the throne." The younger brother responded, "Ah, but if you love me, dear brother, you would not ask me to do that. Thus, the throne is yours." Hoping his older brother would understand, the younger brother stood aside, but the older brother only saw the throne and went to take it. The younger brother declared war. The older brother did not understand why his brother was upset. Had he not told him to take the throne? He felt that this act was just jealousy, so he responded in kind. The two brothers fought until the older brother killed his younger brother. The older brother felt triumphant and declared his victory to his new kingdom. His mother, however, was devestated with grief. She told him about his brother's final words before their battle began. The older brother said, "yes, he told me to take the throne." His mother, however, countered with, "you did not listen. He said if you loved him, you would not ask him to do that." The older brother had misunderstood. There was a miscommunication between the two parties, and it led to a brother's death.
Are most of our lives this serious? Not really, but the point is still there. Make sure you really listen to what a person is telling you. Otherwise, it may lead to the end of your friendship, relationship, or worse.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Losing My Show

CBS is coming out with a new show where people try to get fired. Regardless of the fact that it looks pretty bad, I'm actually more pissed at the fact that I created a show similar to this. The problem is that I just never pitched it. Of course, this idea, much like almost every show on American television, may have been done already in Britain. They seem to come up with wacky shows that are then redone (mostly badly) over here. Anyway, back to the story.
A little over a year ago, I read an article where Donald Trump was trying to trademark the phrase, "You're fired." (Registered trademark of Trump International. Now I don't have to pay a quarter.) I figured that if he can trademark that, then I should be able to trademark, "Screw you, I quit!" From there, I came up with the idea of creating an entire show around that idea. Here's how it would work:
Twelve contestants in boring, dead-end jobs would be chosen from the millions of applicants. At their job, the network would hide hidden cameras (of course securing the legal rights to do that in order to not be sued or give out company secrets), and tape the contestants as they tried to win (this hidden camera idea is used in this new show). How do the contestants win? I'm glad you asked. They are given $1,000 dollars each to create an elaborate show at their work. They can bring in a petting zoo, or rent the circus, or whatever they can think of doing. Think about the film
Office Space. Peter pushes the envelope, and it pays off. There are, however, some rules:
1. No one can be hurt or attacked. You can't hire a hitman to kill your boss, and you can't have people beat up.
2. No property damage. If you want to hire an elephant to sit on your boss' car, that's fine, but make sure the damage is under $1,000 so that it can be paid off (less what you paid to rent the elephant).
3. The payoff. With everything you do, you have to make sure that before you can told you're fired, you have to say, "Screw you, I quit!" If you're fired before saying that, you lose. At the end of 12 episodes, America will vote for the most creative way to quit. The winner gets $1,000,000, while the other contestants are just out of a job. It's a high risk bet made by these contestants.
So what do you think? Would it work on American television? Should I call Fox and start negotiating? Do you have any ideas that would make it better? Let
me know.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Ironic Example 5/31/05

With the unofficial start of summer today (ok it was really yesterday, get over it), I felt it would be time for an example of irony. I know I should be writing more about irony in order to fit into my name, but I've had other things on my mind. However, tonight, I feel like giving an example.
Have you ever seen an angry clown? It's the strangest thing. I don't mean like
Insane Clown Posse, who are supposed to be mad. I mean a clown who is supposed to be jolly and happy but ends up becoming angry (usually due to kids if he or she works party). I saw this very thing not to long ago.
I went to Burger King (I know, I know. It's bad for me, but I felt I deserved a treat during a particularly rough day), and a child was having a birthday party in the play area. The children had finished their food, and were being entertained by a clown who was making balloon animals and dancing around. As I finished my meal, the clown had finished his routine and sat down near me. Obviously tired, he had hoped to get away from the children to rest and have a drink. Unfortunately for him, two of the children followed him to the otherside.
Now, maybe it was because he was tired, maybe he was having a bad day, or maybe he had some sort of backstory that can only be imagined in pulp novels. Regardless, he did not want those children near him. At first, he told the children to go back to their parents (he smiled as he said this). They would not, and instead they persisited that he do something for them. Again, without the smile, he told them to leave him alone. No good. Children, once they have something on their mind, are singular in their thinking. As they prodded more, our clown could not take it.
I want you to imagine a clown not unlike
Bozo the Clown. Think about that smiley make-up and such. Now twist the clown's face so that he still has the smiley make-up, but the face is angry. This is the irony. An angry clown. A person designed to make us laugh, but instead makes us upset and unhappy (this is without the phobia some people have of clowns). So, back to our clown.
Having been pushed to his boiling point, Bozo could take no more. He whirled on the children and, still in his smiley make-up, bellowed at them, "LEAVE ME ALONE!" These kids were not ready for that, and their faces looked as if he had told them Santa does not exist. One child, the boy, slowly let his lips start quivering, while the other child, a girl, looked to the clown, then to the boy, back to the clown, and said, "I'm telling!" (Children: so predictable.) Even with the make-up on, anyone could tell that the clown knew he had made a mistake.
I didn't stay to see what happened next. In my mind, I imagined that he apologized and continued to entertain. Maybe he didn't. Maybe the kids turned on him and beat him. I don't know. The part that remains for me is not that he yelled at the kids, but that it was such a striking contrast. The painted on glee of the clown, yet his eyes burned with anger.
Truly, that is irony.

Information Gluttony (or How I Like the Internet)

It's absolutely amazing to me how much information is out there. I was doing a search for a phone number on the White Pages website the other day, and when the number came up, there was an option that, "for just 25 dollars you can have the background of this person checked." It used to be that information was so hard to come by, which is why "knowledge is power," was such a true saying. Now, however, with so much information out there, that "knowledge" is easy to find. Still, I think it's easier to disappear, not harder.
We talk about "Googling" someone. That is to say we go to
Google, put in their name, and wait to see what we find. We've all tried it (even I have) to see what would happen if someone went to look for us. I googled my name as well as my blog a few weeks ago. All of the sites that came up with my name either dealt with me in college, dealt with family members, or were not really me. My blog, however, did come up. I was admittedly shocked. Still, if I decided to move to Paraguay and write from there, no one would really be able to find me. (Though on a creepy side note: if you put in a phone number into the Google search engine, it will give you a name and address. Not cool.)
I used to tell people in college that I would disappear once we graduated (and to date, I talk to only one or two of them). At the time I was single, not really happy, drinking, and felt that the people around me were really immature. I had (and still have) one of those faces that can't really be placed. According to people I meet, I look like a friend back home, or a teacher they had, or some guy they used to date. One friend of mine used to tell me I would make a great terrorist, because people don't really remember me after our first meeting, and no one can place my face. As an excercise in a Psychology class, we were supposed to jot down notes about a person. My partner's page was vague and mostly blank. At the bottom, she wrote, "He looks like everyone else, and he acts like every New Yorker I have ever met." If that's true, then SWEET! There are 8 million people on the island of Manhattan in any given moment (Most don't live there, they are usually passing through, working, or partying). One out of 8,000,000 is pretty hard to pinpoint.
Even now, as a teacher, parents and some students can't really point me out. I have had several conversations with one students' parent, and everytime I see this person, the eyes start looking for my badge to get my name. Hell, even co-workers don't know who I am. At one school, the head of maintenance does not recognize me. Once, when I shaved my beard, he grabbed me and tried to escort me out of the building. Even after I grew my beard back, he still didn't recognize me. Once a week, he would stop me in the hall and ask me, "who are you, and what are you doing here?" I thought it was a joke, but the truth is he never remembers me.
So why do I say you can disappear with all the information out there? Well, for starters how much of the information can you trust? There are so many different websites created by different people that it's hard to tell who you can trust. Just like with newspapers. Some (if not most) have a slant to them. The same can be said with the web. With so much information out there over so many different types of people, it's easy to just blend in and stay off the grid. Don't believe me? Look at the terrorists. It's easier than you think. You want to, say, drop out of Minnesota and disappear from everything? Here's what you can do:
1. Change your cell/ pager/ whatever number. That's right, first step is to get rid of ways to contact you.
2. Get rid of your email address. Change it or get rid of it. Create a new one.
3. Pack only what you really need. You want to leave quickly? Take only the clothes you might need.
4. Have some cash. You're going to be closing any bank accounts you have, it's too easy to be traced that way.
5. (For the Hardcore Change) Change your name. You're going to need some cash and a friend. (I have, unfortunately, seen this done.) Though we are supposedly safer in the new millennium, it's still easy to take a friend's (though in most cases this person is dead) birth certificate and social security card and get a license. If you have those three things, then you can start again.
So think about this the next time someone you know disappears: maybe, just maybe, they didn't want to be found. With all the information a person has out there, society (and the government) don't really want to sift through every little piece.

In Goal, #666, Satan

This is both really sad and a sign of the times we live in nowadays. Craig Stanley feels that it makes New Jersey look bad, but here's the thing: the name (New Jersey Devils) was chosen in 1982 by the fans. The fans of the team (those who actually pay to go) helped pick the name. Does this mean that fans are all Satanists? Should New Jersey hire massive amounts of priests to perform exorcisms after every game (just in case)? This has to be the silliest thing to harp on that I have ever seen. There are tax issues, budget issues, education issues, and this assemblyman is worried that the name "Devils" will hurt the state? Come on, Mr. Stanley. This is ridiculous. Do you complain to the assemblyman from Buffalo about Miroslav Satan (and it's pronounced Sha-tan, not Say-ton)? And how great would it be if the Devils traded for him? Imagine the headline: Satan Comes to New Jersey! (Jesus unavailable for comments.) What worries me even more is that you have been an assemblyman since 1996 and have chosen now (almost ten years and three Stanley Cups later) to complain. All hockey fans know about your team, that happened after they won their first Stanley Cup in the strike- shortened season. Did you JUST NOW discover that there was a hockey team with this name? Did you just discover that there was Hockey in New Jersey? Why wait this long to do something?
Understand, I am not a fan of the New Jersey Devils, but this is almost as bad as the senator who argued that the
Colorado Avalanche should change their name, because people have died in avalanches, and the name would make their families hurt. Maybe we should change the name of the New York Yankees because that might remind southerners about their losing the Civil War? What's next? I'm sorry, you can't be known as "The Gold," because it might hurt the feelings of people who have only won silver and bronze. Get over it.
Sometimes, however, a name change done for a political reason ends up becoming a huge hit.
In 2002, the
University of Northern Colorado intramural basketball team changed their name to The Fighting Whiteys. With three members of the team being Native American, this was supposed to be a statement against how certain teams have mascots or team names that are offensive to certain cultures. However, this plot backfired, because white people (and more) thought this was hysterical. Now team items are flying off the shelves or are being purchased in droves through the website.
Thus is born a dichotomy. On the one hand we don't want offensive team names and mascots (and what is offensive differs by each person), but, on the other hand, we don't want to change mascots or team names, and when someone tries to be intentionally controversial, we don't get the point but instead laugh at it and make it kitsch.
Look, I agree that certain mascots or team names can be offensive. The smiling Native American that is associated with the
Cleveland Indians can be construed as offensive. So is having a team name such as "the Redmen" (which St. Johns in New York was, until protests made them become "the Red Storm"). However, there are certain names that are not really offensive. If I were of Norse ancestry, should I complain about "Vikings" being used? Maybe protests will break out over the defamation of "Pirates" (though complaints should be lodged against the Pittsburgh Pirates for not having a winning season in a long time). The point is that if we take away names like "Pirates," or if we don't allow weather-relateed names (Hurricane, etc), and if we take away colors and animals (because they can be considered degrading), then what do we have left? "I play Right Field for the New York Trains!" Wait, I can't use trains, because they can crash and kill people. Ok, new name: "I play Right Field for the New York Bubbles!" Hmm, that might upset people who have had bubbles pop in their eyes. Ok, how about, "I play Right Field for the New York Orchids!" It's insane. So, to Mr. Stanley, I would like to say this: Forget about this problem! Concentrate on fixing your states real issues. Changing the name of a hockey team might make you or your congregation feel better, but that won't help Jimmy the Struggling Student pass third grade. Start working on the real problems in New Jersey.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Two Year Old Sitting Buddy

On Saturday I went out shopping with my wife. I am not a big fan of shopping, but I do love hanging out with my wife. Thus there we were Saturday afternoon in Ann Taylor so that she could use a 20% off coupon. While my wife looked over various articles of clothing, I headed for the only seat in the store.
You see, in the back of this particular retail store is a lone couch. It faces the shoes away from the windows and the clothing, and it is allllll the way in the back. This is the last "safe" place for men in the store. Essentially, by not facing the clothing, men cannot see what the women are looking at (and thus figure out how much it will cost). At the same time, not seeing out the window to see the sunshine and happy people walking does two things: 1. You don't think about how much you're missing out on, and 2. (less happy) you don't really know how much time has passed (think about being in a casino).
So, I sat alone. I was the only man in the store, and, armed with only a magazine, I headed to my false haven to wait. However, today would be very different.
Sitting there reading about "Good Carbs, Bad Carbs" in
Minnesota Monthly, I heard the short, fast footsteps of child running toward my position. Sure enough, there was Francesca. This little precocious two year old was told by her mother to sit on the couch, but when Fancesca saw me, her eyes lit up. I had nowhere to go (I had my wife's purse for one thing), so when she sat down next to me, I had no escape.
Francesca, as I mentioned before, is two years old. She is very energetic, likes to talk, and liked me (apparently). She sat down turned to me and said, "Hi! Do you have a name?" Pretty gutsy considering that her mom had told her not to talk to me (more on the mom later). Thus, a new friendship was born. I heard all about her favorite color (purple), about the colors she was wearing (a slight mispronunciation of green that sounded like groun), about her favorite animals (giraffe and kitty), and more. She obviously liked me, because she kept trying to show off. Ever seen a MADtv sketch with
Stuart? This little actually said to me, "Look what I can do," and then started to try and flip around on the couch. This is where the trouble began for my little buddy.
Francesca's mom saw her with me and immediately moved toward us. This is what she saw when she looked to the back. A guy with a beard holding a magazine on the far right side of the couch, and the feet of her daughter who was doing handstands on a couch. When she got to the back, Francesca's mom told her daughter to, "stop, and leave the goofy guy alone." Francesca looked at her mom, smiled and then jumped over to me and started talking to me again. I didn't look at her, because I could tell the mom was staring intently at me to see what I would do. Upset, Mom took Francesca and told her to stay with her. I thought I was now alone again, but I was wrong.
No sooner had ten seconds passed, when Francesca came bolting to the back of the store and hoped back on the couch. This time, her mother did nothing. So Francesca and I talked for another twenty minutes. During that time, she invented the finger-eating game. I would put out my hand to help her count to five. When we reached five (and thus my hand was open) she would begin to bite off my fingers to get us back to zero (I'm not kidding, folks. This was her invention). With not fingers out, she would have to tap the top of my hand in order to count up. We did this for ten minutes.
Again, her mom came to the back to try clothes on and saw the two of us together. Unhappy, she asked one of the sales clerks to watch her daughter. This woman (her name was Tammy) tried to get Francesca to talk to her, but Francesca wasn't having it. I was the dish du jour, and she was not having anything else. The clerk gave up, because she was all about me, so again, it was just the two of us.
This is where it got very awkward. Francesca was still hoping on the couch when her mom returned from the dressing room. Mom did not want Francesca jumping, so came up behind the couch and told Francesca to stop. Did she listen? No. Mom asked again. Nothing happened. I then turned to Francesca and said, "Listen to your mother, Francesca." Bam! Francesca stops jumping and sits down next to me. The look in her mother's eyes was, to say the least, not good. So Mom decided to make Francesca stick by her. "Say goodbye to the goofy guy," she told Francesca, and took her back to the front of the store. Francesca began to misbehave, because she was not happy. However, her mother did not really correct her behavior. It sounded like a person ordering at a cheeseburger: "Yeah, I think I need you to stop, please. Thanks." Do you think this worked? Show of hands please.... No. Mom then gave up, again, because she found a shirt she liked and Francesca was my sitting buddy again.
All through this, my wife was laughing. As she put it, "you have someone who is mentally your age to hang out with now." Ok, I really said that, but Caroline agreed. She agreed with me, however, that Francesca's mom showed no real interest in her child. The only time she really paid attention to Francesca was when she saw her on the way back to the dressing room, and then it was only because Francesca was near me.
Finally, it was time to go, so I said, "Goodbye," and went to the register. Well, Mom was ready to check out to, so Francesca kept running over to me at the other register and hugging my leg (and I'm sorry, I kept thinking about horny dogs, because she would not let go). As I started to leave, I waved goodbye to Francesca, who told me, "Bye-bye." It was cute. Mom apologized to me, but it really wasn't a burden. Honestly, I was more angry at Francesca's mother for not keeping tabs on her little girl. She would find an article of clothing and her two year old would be forgotten. No wonder Francesca liked to talk to me, I looked her in the eye. Anyway, I told Mom that it was fine, and one of the clerks told her to get my number for babysitting. I moved a little faster toward the door. Still, I enjoyed my time with my two year old sitting buddy, because she made me laugh and was very forward about things (best quote: I peed in my pull-up).