Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Human Sausage Grinder

After another exceedingly long silence, it seems I am back -- only to talk about the same thing. How dull. And yet it is undeniably true that my life at the moment somehow revolves around food and musical genres which do not help the digestive process. So there you have cookouts and Hall and Oates (sorry to those of you who couldn't view it... well, I'm not really sorry.... it was probably for the best) and here you have congealed chicken and prom (and later "Morning Massacre" and Disco Brunch). Tell me you're not curious.

While my few American readers will have an excellent (if not first-hand and pang-inducing) knowledge of what "prom" is, my even fewer international readers may not. Let me enlighten you. Based on one's geographic location within the US, prom has small variances, but overall, it's a very formal dinner and dance party for teenagers, usually those in 11th and 12th grades. Here on the East Coast, students tend to eat together in one big banquet and go right into dancing at whatever location they have chosen (harbor cruise ships, museums, colonial mansions, etc...). The price is steep, up to $80.00 per student (depending on how diligent their class was about raising money). The boys rent tuxedos, the girls buy dresses and typically spend a fortune on having manicures, pedicures, and their hair styled in complicated, painful "up-dos."

I chaperoned prom last Friday night. Oh my (fanning herself violently). It wasn't the students, really. They were well behaved, they looked and smelled nice (for once). It wasn't the food (a typical prom meal is usually some type of "prom chicken" -- most often Kiev (stuffed with ham and cheese)) -- it was, indeed, slightly cold Chicken Marsala with lots of roasted veggies sitting in a puddle of hardening goo (butter? oil?). It was the dancing. I'm going to sound very middle-aged here, but I have never seen, nor do I hope to ever again see, 100 teenagers gyrating and grinding each other to bastardized, heavy-techno versions of DOA's "You Spin Me Round" and Soft Cell's "Tainted Love." So, like my teenager years... but so not...

The above photo is what it looks like (these are not my students, by the way... just random teens I found on google). A few things I would like to point out: they huddle together like nursing bunnies -- what this photo does not show is the 20 square feet of empty dance floor they are not using. We had a tiny dance floor -- and there was plenty of room for the ostracized and slightly creepy/embarrassing faculty dancing (which I'm proud to say I took part in). Secondly, can you imagine how great it is to be a teenage boy these days?! One of the faculty noted that as a teenager he couldn't even imagine walking into a dance at a gym and not getting an erection, much less having the opportunity to rub and grind up against every half-clad girl in the class. Note especially the couple on the right (yeah, the tubby guy giving the Heimlich to the girl in front of him). This was what amused and confused me the most. At one point, I was doing a rockin' version of "The Microwave" with a female student when a boy came and asked her to dance. And do you know what she did? She turned her back to him, he sidled up behind her, put his hands on her waist and started grinding her! Instead of punching him, she was grinding him back!

The one thing I will say for this kind of dancing is that it encourages more of the boys to dance, and if you really hate your date, you can still get some pleasure without having to face him/her. Also great for kids with bad breath.

Kids today -- they're just so lucky.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Easy ready willing overtime

I was at a cookout today and this song came up on the playlist. I haven't heard it in years. I don't remember having strong feelings about it either way at the time, but for some reason I loved it when I heard it today. I wonder what it is he (they) can't go for (no can do)? Is it possible I'm becoming nostalgic? Oh god. Anything but that.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Okay, so I decided to do it. To be fair (or REALLY unfair), I've included two samples of student work. These excerpts/essays are from their final exam in World Literature. These students are seniors, 18 years old. I have left the essays exactly as they were written. These students will both be attending accredited American colleges in the fall. After 12 years of language arts (in their own language!), this is what they can do. I love the idea that I was the last one to "teach" them -- like the thumbprint of God, it is. Tell me you're not impressed with my young scholars.

(Context: the exam question required students to explore the larger cultural implications of the importance of fate and free will as demonstrated in three different works we read over the course of the year.)

Sample One: (one-paragraph excerpt from a four-paragraph essay)
"Although in the story The Inferno, some have the choice to either go to heaven or hell, and others do not. These specific "others" were born before Jesus Christ and must go to hell either way. The people who did have the choice were categorized in cantos. Those who were not sure where they would end up went into Paturgarory, which is where people wait if it is undecided, and how the decision is made is if the people make a name for themselves. In this story, it is a matter of freewill and fate, depending on who it is."

Sample Two: (entire essay)
"I will start this with a quote from the very talented rapper Immortal technique. "I believe man made god out of fear and Ignorance." This shows that humans have complete control of their life I didn't honestly read any of these stories this year but I can tell you that the characters made all their decisions and choose their actions on their own. These storys never actually happened so I dont think this essay question is legit. Its all just made up by a guy who was emo and bored and got lucky that people for some reason cared about their works. Sorry for never paying attention, don't take it personally."

Now, here's a quiz for you. It is multiple choice. You may refer to the above passages at any point during the quiz. The penalty for cheating is a lashing with my ruler. Good luck.

1. The student in Sample One believes:
a. Purgatory is a place where one makes a name for himself.
b. Ms. Ana does not actually read the final exams.
c. those who predated Jesus got the eternal shaft.
d. sinners are sentenced to cantos.
e. all of the above.

2. The student in Sample Two believes all of the following EXCEPT:
a. capitalization rules are for pussies.
b. authors and epic poets are men who work hard at their craft.
c. punctuation is optional.
d. apologies are best followed by imperatives.

3. Which word best describes the writer of Sample One?
a. decisive
b. outraged
c. noncommittal
d. lighthearted

4. Which word would you NEVER use to describe the writer of Sample Two?
a. polite
b. arrogant
c. opinionated
d. long-suffering

5. If I were a teacher and I had worked very hard all year to learn these kids right proper and if this were the final exam I had to grade, I would:
a. give them all A's for trying.
b. join them in the bathroom for a hit off the bong.
c. chain smoke (cigarettes) every day on the drive home.
d. call their concerned parents and work out a plan for their future success.
e. become an alcoholic.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Survey Says...

Question: would it be cruel of me to post something one of my students wrote? It is not personal in any way and actually only points to my apparent failure as a teacher. I need your opinions on this.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Word to your moms -- I came to drop bombs

So, obviously, the past month or so has been both wonderful and trying. My rival's disappointment in not getting the job made things very difficult for both of us -- in many ways. That's all I'll say, except that things seem now to be on the mend.

But in the meantime (and perhaps as a result?!), there's been a disturbing development in my musical preferences. There's no way to ease into this, so I'll just come out with it: I am obsessed with 90's white boy rap. For the last month, all I want to listen to is House of Pain's "Jump Around," Cypress Hill's "Insane in the Membrane," and just about anything by the Beastie Boys, but especially "Body Movin'" and "No Sleep Till Brooklyn." What the fuck, I ask?!

To know how funny this is, you have to imagine the whitest of the white girls you know and then make her whiter. I'm an English teacher -- that should automatically put me somewhere near the top of your nerdy scale. Moby Dick is my favorite novel (those who know me know what this means -- it is severe), and don't even get me going on the Metaphysical Poets -- I might have an orgasm.

Why, then, do I find myself cranking the bass every single time I get in the car, sitting slightly lower in the seat and leaning way too far to my right, wrist-steering and turkey strutting my head to the above tunes? I especially love the songs that deal with some kind of rap off, in which bustin' rhymes replaces poppin' caps (e.g., "Feel it, funk it/Amps are a junkin'/And I got more rhymes than there's cops at a Dunkin' Donuts shop" or "You know I don't take a dulo/Lightly/Punks just jealous `cause they can't outwrite me/So kick that style: wicked, wild/Happy face nigga never seen me smile") Yo, it's all about rep, man. Don't get on my poetic turf; I mess you up good, mothah fuckah.

So, here's the deal. It's fine to go to a wedding, hear these songs and tear it up on the dance floor in a fit of nostalgia, but actually listening to them repeatedly? Why do they make me feel so good? I kid you not when I say "Jump Around" HAS to be playing on my iPod when I pull into work every morning. And that's just sad. I never even liked these songs when they came out. Is it possible that I'm getting dumber as I age? That it takes less and less to make me feel alive? Am I reliving some part of my youth I think I may have missed? All I know is that it's a slippery slope ending with a fatal crash into Vanilla Ice. A wobbly-headed infant couldn't even drown in the shallows of my intellect these days.

So, I leave you with the thoughts that run on an unending loop in my head all day long.

1. "I'll serve your ass like John MacEnroe/If your girl steps up, I'm smacking the ho"


2. "I got to get my props/Cops/Come and try to snatch my crops/These pigs wanna blow my house down/Head underground/To the next town/They get mad/When they come to raid my pad/And I'm out in the nine deuce Cad'"

Peace out.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Be careful of what you wish for...

It's a bit late for ecumenical resurrection talk, but I'm back. So it took me more than three days... I'm no Jesus, that's for sure. Thanks to my mad scientist, Bev, and a little reconstructive surgery, life seems back on track (to completely mix my metaphors... I'm in a hurry here. My apologies). And I am a stronger, if not a slightly more evil, version of my old self.

I've been reading all your great blogs and posting comments when I can. I hope to join in again very soon.

There's a thunderstorm coming. I'm off to charge up.

Saturday, April 18, 2009