29 April 2007

News from Oz

Australia, that is.

I think I might like to live in Australia, as it is a western nation that sits squarely in the Far East, and has its main political and commercial dealings with Asian-Pacific nations.


20 April 2007

Best Stories Ever

So, I am thrilled to finally have some more funny stories to share from work. I haven't been having some thrillingly wonderful days, recently, but things have gotten better this past week.

I have a student who has been in and out of Transition a variety of times in the past several weeks. He is a swarthy, stocky kid whose nickname (bestowed by the school's administrators) is Sling Blade. He has a rather deep voice, for a seventh grader, and either mumbles or barks (the latter always without warning and at inappropriate times). He has a halting cadence to his words, and ducks his head and quirks his eyebrow when they stumble out. And he is one of the funniest kids I've ever encountered. Sling Blade is a fairly active gangbanger (he claims Fresno Bulldogs) and has a tough attitude and a potty mouth, but I've never felt him to be at all dangerous or threatening. He makes me laugh.

For example, he was once in Transition with a few of his ESF BDS homies, and they were messing around. When students are noisy and disrespectful, I put marks up on the board for minutes that they will have to stay in after the bell rings at the end of the day. Sling Blade was one of the most disruptive, until he figured out that he'd have to stay in with me after school until I saw fit to release him. He started growling at his buddies, "$%&!, you guys! Shut the %^&!$ up! I don't want to stay after school. %&*!@!"

This week, we were doing standardized testing. Sling Blade came in wearing red shoes (red is against the school dress code), and started (with his buddies) being disruptive and making threats about jumping another student. The admins confiscated his shoes during the break. He came back to the room after the break in his stockinged feet, and muttered, in his hoarse monotone, "They took my shoes. I want my shoes back!" He had to finish the day of testing in just his socks. It was funny, if you were there.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of the company of a certain three students who were put in for ditching school. I get students caught for skipping class all the time, so this in itself was not notable. Their situation, however, was interesting: they'd been brought in for truancy by the cops. I started chatting with them during lunch time, which is really the best way to get a boatload of middle school gossip, and unearthed more of the story.
"We weren't really skipping school," they said to me. "Just first and second periods, because we don't like those. We were going to come back for third period." Uh-huh. I'm sure the police thought their logic was impeccable..
The three boys (let's call them John, Paul, and George) had a partner-in-crime who wasn't with us at the time. This fellow (let's call him Ringo) had recently moved, and instead of going to school that day, he and his pals went over to his old abandoned house and got inside (John, Paul, and George assured me that it was not actually breaking and entering, because they hadn't broken anything; there were no knobs on the doors, so they just were able to go in. More flawless logic.).
They proceeded to mess around, as young boys will do, and somehow a neighbor saw activity in the abandoned house and called the police. The four boys had just begun a rousing game of cops-and-robbers when the police arrived at the front door and shouted, "This is the police. Come out!" ["We thought it was ironic," Paul said, "that the real cops showed up when we were playing that game." No sarcasm intended: Color me impressed by a seventh grader's proper and utterly timely use of the word ironic in a sentence.]
"When we heard that, at first, we didn't come out because we thought it was a black guy with a crow bar trying to hurt us," they told me. "We were scared, and thought he was trying to trick us into coming out." [Note: I was never able to glean from them the origin of the black-guy-with-a-crowbar idea, but these little guys are all Hispanic, and as I've noted before, there is a lot of tension, distrust, and prejudice in a well-documented black-versus-brown urban struggle. It just goes to show how deeply rooted certain attitudes are in subcultures and communities, if little kids are already picking up racist attitudes and internalizing them.] Meanwhile, John attempted to sneak out the back door, only to be met by the business end of a police gun. The cops had them thoroughly scared and subdued in a short amount of time, and Ringo was put in cuffs and taken away from the others, who were booked with OSIS (Operation Stay in School) and then toted unceremoniously back to our campus.

After John, Paul, and George finished relating their little tale of law enforcement-flavored woe, I laughed long and hard and then, at the cafeteria lunchtable, attempted to impress upon them the seriousness of their behavior and its consequences. I can only hope that even one of them really listened.

Middle school: Come for the witty repartee, stay for the poignant life lessons.

19 April 2007

Life and virtue

I've been slowly recovering myself and trying to get chores and cleaning done. My mom got me started going through some boxes when she was here visiting, and I've been trying to get up the discipline to continue the task. Last night, I went through one entire box. It was mostly full of Utah stuff-- binders, education manuals, notes for books I'd read or lectures I'd given, even some tracts that we wrote and published in 2000. I saved a bunch of stuff for archival purposes (maybe I'll actually organize and archive it!), and still was able to throw away or recycle c. 25% of the stuff in the box. If this keeps up, I'll be able to get rid of so much stuff, consolidate boxes, streamline and simplify our life... I feel so virtuous!

And speaking of virtue, I watched part of Ben-Hur while I cleaned and sorted last night. I haven't seen that movie since I was 10, and boy does it seem different now. I liked it back then, and I liked it last night, but the general impression was so different! I'm a lot more aware of things like historical context, scripts, acting, life in general... Ben-Hur won a truckload of Oscars in the Awards for 1959, and it really is a good film. The script, despite its Oscar nomination for best writing from previously published material, isn't that good. It contains few beautiful and memorable lines, lacks smoothness, and bears too much of the stiffness of its source material (which problems can be blamed on that material, the reverent novel by Wallace). Sometimes the actors seem to be playing bipedal platitudes, rather than passionate human beings. In my opinion, Charlton Heston, however, turned in a really good performance with the material he was given, even if he seemed too ruggedly old and jaded for his part in the beginning of the film. The direction, sets, costumes, all are very nice but somehow stuffy. It's a good epic, but I wouldn't buy that it is a better movie, qua movie, than other 1959 efforts such as Some Like It Hot.

One thing that caught my attention and made me realize how much my perceptions have changed since fifth grade, is the portrayal of the relationship between Judah and Massala in the early portion of the film. The two young men are so thrilled to see one another, and grasp and touch each other, and gaze into one another's eyes... "It will be just like old times!" It was all kind of... CREEPY. Just what DID they do in those old times? Yeesh. It was like Brokeback Mountain with togas. I wonder if director Wyler was intending to portray that subtext, or whether it was just played for innocence in '59 but seems less innocuous in these morally degenerate times.

Maybe I'll do another box and watch another old movie tonight. Or maybe I'll level my WoW character. The pursuit of virtue is a complicated path.

Another legend gone

Kitty Carlisle Hart, who made films and appeared on stage as Kitty Carlisle and then married playwright Moss Hart (of Kaufman and Hart fame), died on Tuesday, 17 April. My exposure to her work is mostly limited to the few musical films she made in the mid-1930s (the most popular being A Night at the Opera with the Marx brothers).

Sorry and my hair

Dear Internet,

Sorry I've neglected you again. I actually didn't mean to. I posted over the weekend, and thought everything was okay, but my mom sent me a note asking if I'd posted yet, and I looked, and apparently the post didn't publish. And Internet, I can't help thinking this is pretty much YOUR fault, because you dumped my post, and you really haven't been working to resolve your differences with my laptop. So get on that.

And internet readers, my big news is that last weekend, I cut my hair! It is a short, cute bob, sort of Louise Brooks without the bangs. I know, I know, it is sad if my biggest news is the fact that I chopped the dead tissue from my scalp... Well, the hair is now nice and easy to manage, as it is truly wash-and-go, with no need for gel, blow dryer, or curling iron, etc. On the minus side, however, is the unfortunate result that I now look several years younger. When one is 50 years old, I'm told, taking off 10 years with a haircut is a good thing. Not so when one is younger than 50, teaching middle schoolers, and looking barely older than one's students, to begin with. Ah, well, such is life. I guess I'll enjoy it when I'm 45 and still getting carded.

All the best,

06 April 2007


I'm feeling as though I'm coming to the end of a long dark tunnel, and there is, indeed, a light. I think I'll actually start cleaning my house, communicating with other human beings, and generally acting civilized.

Part of my cheery manner is probably derived from having spring vacation and not being around people for several days. I am also watching happy old movies and reading some books.

One of the movies I've watched is Hit the Deck. The score isn't altogether great, but the film reminds me of how much I loved to dance, and how much I'd like to take it up again. I am NOT too old. Here is a picture of one great dancer, Ann Miller:

04 April 2007


Well, I'm half way into my spring vacation, and it's been nice and lazy. I've played WoW and watched some movies and done quite a bit of sleeping in. I hope to watch some more movies and eat a lot of junk food. Booyah.

I'm feeling a bit of Bones withdrawal, since we recorded last week's episode, but didn't watch it yet, and there's ANOTHER ONE ON TONIGHT. We are falling behind! Can Brennan and Booth go on without our faithful viewership?

01 April 2007

I've complained about it before, and I still don't understand:
How difficult is it to punctuate correctly when creating slides for the use of worship in the LORD's house?

One suspects that the Levites worshipping at the Temple avoided similar errors by (1) being conscientious and actually caring about things and (2) utilizing ancient Hebrew, which lacked, in its biblical forms, both vowels and written punctuation.

That's Good Satire

Or, Proof Positive That Gamers and Scientists Have Great Senses of Humor

Molecule of the Week archives from the American Chemical Society:

And the introduction of a highly desirable new item in World of Warcraft:

Yes, it is the first of April.

Benign neglect

Dear faithful readers (if indeed I do have any),

I have neglected you. Shame on me!

So what's new in the life of Deb? Not much. Jeff and I have been going to work, coming home, playing World of Warcraft, watching a few TV shows, and in general, contributing as little as possible to the advancement of the human race (which doesn't bother me, as I don't much like people anyway).

I've been slowly reading my way through a few books: After the Ice (Yes, still--it's a long book.) and The Introvert Advantage (Aha! I knew there had to be at least one.). I'll be posting information and reviews.

I've watched a fair number of my dear old movies. Some were great, some good, some just barely decent:
Sunrise - great
Peter Ibbetson - good
Design for Living - good
If You Could Only Cook - good
More Than a Secretary - decent
The Rich Are Always With Us - decent
The Importance of Being Earnest - good, bordering on great
Designing Woman - good
Two Arabian Knights - good
Cattle Empire - decent, but it had Joel McCrea, so bordering on good
Elephant Walk - good
The Penguin Pool Murder - great
The Mating Season - great
Adventure in Manhattan - decent, but again, Joel McCrea...
I also watched a more modern movie:
Bride and Prejudice - good, bordering on great

Far from being completely lazy, however, I have been doing useful things like washing dishes and the laundry.

On a larger scale, Jeff and I are trying to figure out what to do with our lives , long-term as well as in the next year or so. My current favored occupations are:
Beach bum - Low start-up cost, but becomes increasingly difficult, the further one lives from a coast.
Film and/or art critic - I think it would be fabulous to get paid to say nasty things about other people's hard work and creative endeavors. Maybe I don't know art, but I know what I don't like.
Performance artist - I could put all those black clothes from my early twenties to good use.
Shock novelist - If you thought The Da Vinci Code and National Treasure were bad, wait till you read my next opus, wherein you'll discover that Rand McNally are behind a huge international conspiracy and their road maps contain coded information regarding the path to a planet near a star called Kolob...

Anyway, glad to hear from any of you, and drop by my blog any time.

All the best,
Kiti Fantastico