Parlor Spider...Step In, Little Fly

Insightful thoughts and/or rants from atop the soapbox from one who wishes to share the "right" opinion with everyone.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Who's Bad Now?

I wonder if all teachers/adults get the impression from time to time that teenagers merely tolerate us and really don't even listen to, let alone take to heart, what we say? I had evidence to the contrary the other day, and it was a real highlight to my year and my career.
In our school, one of the favorite bully tricks is to take freshmen and others we consider to be less than worthy and set them on top of the water fountain (bubbler, in Wisconsinese). Naturally, this makes the two or three people perpetrating the act feel like tough guys in spite of their obvious feelings of inferiority.
Anyway, we have one kid who seems to be the object of this treatment more often than others, and he's NOT a freshman. As kids were talking about this one day in health class, I managed to climb aboard my soapbox and rant for more than a few minutes about the lack of leadership among our student population. I'm certain human dignity and worth were both part of the monologue. This harrassment (bubbler-setting, not me talking!) happens always with an audience (because it's no "fun" if we can't let others in on it vicariously), and I decried our lack of students who might attempt to stop such mistreatment. Knowing me as I do, I went on for a protracted period of time, at least until I knew nobody was listening anymore.
HOWEVER, this week, two of the health students actually stopped a group of miscreants from putting the same kid on the water fountain! The tough guy group actually contained a couple of our ex-cons who were off the moniotring bracelets temporarily, (and painfully lacking in anything which might pass for intelligence) and Bobby was helpless in their grasp. Paige and Jaimie stood in front of these meanies and told them that they were doing something wrong and that they should stop it right now! Incredibly, the baddies dropped Bobby and walked away (though one was later seen chasing him down the hall). All our juniors and seniors were standing around enjoying the show, and two petite girls put an end to it. I was so impressed when I heard about it that I made certain that the administration got wind of it. Of course, I was also embarrassed for all our "leaders" who did nothing to stop it.
Where were all the adults, you ask? I was wondering the same thing.
...and the child shall lead us.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Of Irish Butts and Bowls

It is said that when one stops learning, it's time to die. I guess I've got a few more years in me. It all started so simply at school: Colin walked up to me and began telling me about this game he'd heard about from his boss. He wanted to know if I'd ever heard of Irish bowling. I presumed it was a ten-pin game with a lot more drinking than Milwaukeeans might do...warm beer, at that! His description, sounded nothing like anything I'd heard about previously (me being the font of most knowledge and all!). He spoke of rolling a ball on the road outside, around curves and into and out of ditches...hmmm...I thought maybe he and/or his boss was on the sauce. Or maybe they have fewer actual buildings and more country lanes in Ireland than I had presumed. Off to Google it.
To my surprise, it's actually called Irish Road Bowling, and the game is eerily like a venture I'd always wanted to try: I bet someone once that I could throw a tennis ball from the city limits of Algoma to the western shore of Lake Michigan in ten throws or fewer. We could never find an appropriate time: the sidewalks were rolled up in the evening or the FIBs were rolling through from Chi-town or the fog was rolling so thick it actually tasted like pea soup. Anyway, I loved the idea but never got around to it...maybe on the last day prior to retirement. Let's see, I could get sponsorships from Wilson or Penn, perhaps. Nike, of course, would get in on the deal because I'd be wearing their Dri-Fit ball-throwing attire.
BUT I DIGRESS...Irish Road Bowling amounts to throwing a 28-ounce steel ball the size of a tennis ball underhanded DOWN A ROAD! Teams of two or four take turns rolling a heavy ball as far as they can. When it stops, they throw it from there...the first one to the end wins! In case of a tie in the number of throws taken, the one rolling farther past the end of the road is declared the winner. It could not be any simpler! I mean, there are rules, too, but damn few. There is also terminolgy, including the Irish term for "Let's kick some butt!" (loose translation) Actually, the mark made on the road to show where the ball stopped is called the "butt" and if the next thrower exceeds the line before releasing the throw, he/she is said to have "broken butt." It's possible since the thrower can take a running start before releasing the "bullet." I fell once, butt unbroken but somewhat cracked.
Here's a link, in case you are interested: There are currently three groups in the U.S. One in New York (Rip Van Winkle and the Dutch notwithstanding),one in Boston, and one in West Virginia from whence cometh the link.
Get the farm implements off the roads! I'm going road bowling as soon as I can get my hands on some 28-ounce steel cannonballs.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Trees I Didn't Cut

Thursday, October 20, 2005

So Close...and Yet, So Far.

Of course I didn't win the 340 million dollars in the Powerball lottery. There was no way I would in spite of all the signs which pointed to an imminent moneyfest of Washingtons. I don't mind, but I DO have a problem with Sen Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) winning over $850K. That's not right...I mean, the guy is worth between 2.6 million and 9.4 million dollars; he has a job which will pay him more per annum in retirement than I'll have MADE pre-retirement; and he's a Republican. That means there's no chance that he'll donate even a part of it to reduce the federal deficit.
I, at least, would have donated a good chunk to worthy institutions. More on that later.
I thought it vaguely portentious that when I arrived at school on Monday, there was a dollar bill lying in front of the Coke machine. Since nobody else seemed to be there, I counted to ten and picked it up. I pick up change, too, but don't wait so long for the "rightful" owner to claim the cash. A great start to a Monday!
My son from out of state emailed me later that day asking me to buy a lottery ticket for him and giving me the winning numbers, so he said. This was too much to be coincidence; I was a lock for at least part of the loot. With chances at 134 million-to-one I felt confident, but I bought one myself in addition: something I've never done before. No way I could lose...but I/we did...badly...not even close.
So, here are a few of the peole/institutions who just lost out on a windfall so other, less-deserving people could ruin their lives with loads of dough.
Kyle: sorry, buddy, you lose 1 million dollars. I would have given it to you...honest!
Leo no money for you, either.
Patty: no J. Jill inventory for a year.
Carol: you're on your own for Frappacino now.
Algoma School District: you lose 10 million dollars and the ability to keep quality programs going. You'll just have to cut more staff. Or get another Coke contract. No dome over the track, either, or a gym big enough to to accomodate ultimate frisbee.
Algoma Public Library: This one hurts. You have the best library EVER. Your ability to find any piece of research for my master's thesis amazed me and your continued efforts to have a top-notch system under financial duress need to be rewarded.
Algoma Youth Club/Rec. Department: Another really fine program which goes underfunded and underappraciated by local youth. I wish I'd had something like this in my home town. I might not be the reprobate I am today.
Uncle Sam: no 25-30% for least from me. I probably would have donated some to the national debt though it would just go to Haliburton, in all probability.
Uncle Al: yep, you were in for a cut as well. Favorite relatives are priceless, but I could probably come close to your worth if I had 340 mil.
FEMA: you'd need some money to sort out the sorry state of your organization. The aftermath of Wilma would have decided how much was necessary.
Durham St. Neighborhood: enough money to have the best block party ever. Then, I'd buy your houses and only let my friends live there.
It's probably a good thing I didn't win. I'd be tempted to quit my job, and that would be a shame.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Sodaigomi? Oh, To Be Japanese

Remember that song by Tompal Glaser: Put Another Log On the Fire in which a guy wants his girl to do the wash, fix some food, fetch his slippers, change the tire on his car and then explain why she wants to leave him? No? Well, it was a classic in a sense that Rick Springfield never was. Anyway, Japan seems to have "invented" something in response to that kind of attitude; only they are for real. It's titled "R.H.S." and it's a malady suffered by huge numbers of midle-aged women. In fact, up to 60% of married, middle-aged women in Japan are said to be suffering from "Retired Husband Syndrome" according to today's Washington Post. (I kid you not, as Jack Paar would have said)
That segment of Japanese male society is accustomed to going to work at dawn, working, hanging out with friends, coworkers and others, then returning home late at night expecting dinner, well-mannered children and a compliant wife. (Sounds like a heck of a deal to me) The problem is, now that they are retired, there is nothing for them to do but sit around the house and complain that the wife isn't doing what she should. Their buddies are all still working, and they find themselves with nothing to do because all the tee times are taken, I guess. The women have made their own way for forty years: they have groups of friends, they have regular schedules--in short, they have a life, and now the husbands are underfoot and being obnoxious and demanding about it. So many of these women began suffering real, physical malfunctions such as ulcers, rashes around their eyes, polyps in their throats and so on that doctors gave this malady the name R.H.S. and began to treat it (though mostly treatment involved time spent away from the lord of the manor! Imagine a prescription that read: "go to movies with your friends 3x/wk" or "buy those cute slingback things that you've wanted for so long") Divorce rates are skyrocketing among this age demographic because the women can't stand the men they've been "married" to all these years. One woman even noted that she changed the place she sat at the table so she could look outside instead of at her newly-retired husband!
Of course, this would seem to indicate that Japanes women do not hold jobs outside the home, and I have no specific information about that. The article noted that 85% of all married men looked forward to retirement while only 40% of their wives felt the same.
Let's see...could I sit around reading the Post, watching TV and eating food all day (prepared by my wife before she left for work) and expect her to come home, cook dinner quickly and to my liking, wath more sports on TV and expect amour later? Hmmm. Probably not. Those Japanese guys have it made, but things may be changing there, too.
Now there are support groups which teach Japanese men how to cook, clean, shop for groceries and do all the things it takes for them to survive...the simps! Even I can take a frozen pizza out of the oven and boil it until it's time to eat.
Sheesh! Whatever happened to that spirit of "can-do" that they always brag about in Japan?
There was a pretty good movie which showed the husband/wife relationship called Shall We Dance? (the orininal Masayuki Sao version in '96, not the weaker Richard Gere one in '04) Definitely worth a look into Japanese culture, as is Mr. Baseball if you like sports movies.
Oh yeah, "sodaigomi" means "bulky trash" in Japanese! That's how women refer to their retired husbands. Ouch!
Peace out to all the old guys taking care of themselves!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

A Classic...or Just Old?

A college student I know slightly made the comment the other day that Rick Springfield's Jesse's Girl was part of what she called "oldies." Believe me, I'm old enough to know oldies, and that isn't one of them. Bill Haley played oldies: Elvis is part of the oldies set, but Rick Springfield is not. I probably wouldn't even classify his stuff as "classic rock." Betty's reasoning was probably sound, though, when she said, "Well, it's old to me." Smart @## kids these days.
Rolling Stone magazine listed the 500 top songs of all time last year, and I don't remember seeing Rick Springfield listed though I could be, and often am, wrong. What I do know is that Bob Dylan held the number one slot with "Like A Rolling Stone" (shameless plug!)with the Stones, John Lennon, Marvin Gaye, Aretha, Chuck Berry, the Beach Boys, the Beatles, Nirvana and Ray Charles rounding out the top ten. Heck, Bruce Springsteen barely made the top 25. The '60's had the most entries with 202 and the decade of the 70's had 144 tunes listed. Now THOSE were oldies...Rick Springfield, indeed! This leads me rather circuitously to what I think is worthy of the term "classic" and what might just be old.

'57 Thunderbird was classic...'56 Bel Air (which I owned) is just old.

The Catcher in the Rye is a classic...Little Women is dusty (even though Oprah might endorse it)

The Treasure of Sierra Madre (badges? We don't need no...) is classic
The Love Bug (either version) pales in comparison.

The Wright Brothers flight was a classic but the Spruce Goose was just BIG.

Buddy Holly was a classic and Dick Van Dyke's pal Buddy was forgettable. Buddy Lee falls in that category,too.

Gilligan's Island made a three-hour tour last for years but the Minnesota Vikings version didn't even last for the whole three hours even though there were a lot more Gingers and a lot fewer MaryAnns. Obviously, no one there could have played the Professor!

"Jane, you ignorant slut" remains an all-time classic line while "Me Tarzan, you Jane" should be left in the burrows.

The Bay of Pigs was a political blunder of classic proportions while FEMA is just sad.

Anyway, there's classic and there's old, mundane and insipid. Take your pick. As for me, Rick Springfield will NEVER be classic...just old.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Random, Crazy Thoughts

Lately, it seems that small things that just don't seem right have kept cropping up. These are totally unrelated, in many cases...but they still drive me crazy when I think about them.

1. A leading Democrat in the Senate praises the qualities of the latest nominee to the Supreme Court. Now, Republicans express two thoughts: a) Should we dump her now? b) Is he just messing with us? I'll buy either scenario.

2. My school shortens the day so the staff can take part in staff development programs. My classes are cut by 18 minutes each but the student break in the mnorning to eat junk food and drink soda is increased by six minutes.

3. My school wants to promote the idea that we have a quality educational system yet they have cut teaching positions in math, English, science, social studies, physical education and special education as well as aides in special education. "We need to be more creative." We have the technology. We can rebuild it.
Asking us to return the envelopes in which we got our pay stubs seemed a bit silly to me, too, but I did it.

4. The Green Bay Packers are 0-4 and bars near the stadium are complaining because their business has fallen off. Gee, that's too bad...more sober people on the road or hangin' at Hooters for the wings.

5. Some legislator in Wisconsin is proposing a raise in the speed limit to 75 on the interstate system because it will help traffic flow more smoothly...all the way to the morgue. Doesn't this idiot read statistics?

6. At least five people today told me that baseball is boring. I'll admit it's not the X Games, but it isn't golf, either! And you don't have to see Spike Lee yelling at players--though I did see Jack Nicholson the other night at the game in Anaheim. Frontrunner Jack now that the Lakers are terrible.

7. It was almost 80 degrees yesterday, and it did not make 50 degrees today. Two freshmen remain frozen to the shot puts we were using in class.

8. The Catholic Church decries the lack of priests, but they severely limit the population which is eligible (no women, no married guys, no gays). Yes, I read The DaVinci Code and looked at the painting: I still can't tell if that's actually a woman next to Jesus at the Last Supper. Another conspiracy theory hatched.

9. A student actually said today, " I really didn't want to make up this late assignment, but my teacher made me. I'll give you yesterday's work tomorrow."

10. Down 0-2, the Boston Red Sox really aren't worried. The pressure is on the White Sox.

I have too much time on my hands.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Tired of Toeing the Line?

During a classroom conversation the other day, I mentioned that, if I could, I would give everyone (especially teens) a healthy dose of self confidence. In all the years I've spent with teens, self-esteem seems to be the one thing that is sorely lacking. We spend so much time educating them in word intelligence that we really don't consider emotional intelligence. The ability to get along with others and be empathetic marks very few of our students...maybe our adults as well. We work at artistic intelligence (band, chorus, drama, art classes), kinesthetic intelligence (physical education and all sorts of interscholastic sports), number intelligence (math and bowling averages)and so much else, but I fear we forget to work at "people" skills. Maybe we figure they come about naturally, or that kids will learn these lessons as we did: the hard way, in many cases. Mention is often made in health classes or in a psychology class, but do we really train our young people how to solve problems, say "no" and retain friends, lessen stress and promote positive feelings among everyone, including parents, teachers and friends? I suspect not.
A student mentioned today that I was not allowed to be mean, disrespectful and otherwise human. Why not? As a teacher, I'll admit I have special responsibilities, but why can't I make mistakes as well? Being under the continual microscope is one aspect of teaching which I will not miss. I'm not sure what students think at times: do they really think I'm upbeat, positive and incredibly enthusiastic ALL THE TIME? I admit to being that way at school about 98% of the time, but it gets to be wearing, and, sometimes, it's self-presentation: an act. Even at that, it's better than the alternative: crabby adults are never very much fun to be around. However, being a cheerleader is profitable only if the students catch the enthusiasm and get on board. They've already given up on Mondays as a waste: is that a learned behavior? I'm not giving up on 14% of my life.
Back on the smile wagon, everytone!