Monday, May 29, 2006

I Heart the Dixie Chicks!

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If you do not buy yourself a copy of the Dixie Chicks' new CD Taking the Long Way, you are committing a musical crime against yourself. This is easily the best CD I've heard in ages. Plus, the Chicks are brave, outspoken Southern gals, and you gotta love that! Let's hear it for speaking out, even if you say unpopular things.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Good-bye

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How do you say goodbye to good friends?

I know telephones and email do wonders to keep people connected, but it's just not the same as dropping by for a beer or some dessert, or laughing over chips and salsa in someone's (okay, my) messy kitchen on a Sunday night.

But today is the day, and our Canadian friends have sold the house, packed up the goods, and are heading back to the Great White North. The parting is all the more bittersweet because they came here with great hopes and dreams and basically had the stuffing kicked out of them by people who ought to know better.

You know, church people.

So the lesson for me, as I sat there crying in the pew during the last sermon, is to keep my heart open, especially for people I'm not too happy with right now. That's what God would want. And that's what our good friends would want, too, even if my inner Angry American would like to go all shock-and-awe on some folks. I'm totally channeling the Mandy Moore character in Saved, where she's shrieking, "I am filled with Christ's love!" as she chunks a Bible at someone's head. I want to, but I won't. The Canadians wouldn't approve. Nor would God, but that's some wrestling I need to do on my own.

I'm glad I'm a Southerner. "Y'all come back" and "See ya later" are giving me a bit of comfort right now. That, and the prospect of dropping in for chips and salsa in a pristine Canadian kitchen sometime down the road.

Friday, May 26, 2006

The Bed List/The Dinner List

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BED LIST: MEL GIBSON



There's just something about Mel! Could be the Australian accent (although he was born in the US), maybe the gorgeous blue eyes, maybe the fact that he's a big prankster/practical joker. Something. That, and eeeeeeeeeeeeeeverything. Rawr.

DINNER LIST: KEVIN SPACEY



Find me a good looking, intelligent man, and I'll be happy to have dinner. Kevin Spacey doesn't trip that trigger, but he's certainly the kind of man who can hold his own from appetizers to espresso. Plus, I love the kind of actor who disappears into a role, and that is certainly his forte. I can even forgive him for Bobby Darin. It takes a set of brass ones to attempt a biopic these days. I can respect that.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!

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The American ideal of beauty is completely unlike me: tall, skinny, large rack, no butt, long, straight blonde hair. As you are smart enough to imagine, I am short, rounded, small-busted, curly-headed gal with enough junk in the trunk to make a rapper weep for mama. Which might explain why I spend very little time watching Style Network or spending big bucks on Glamour, Cosmo, Elle, and Vogue.

As a curly, I have lived my entire life surrounded by straights. I am an outcast in a straight-centric world. As a kid, I romped around the house with a bath towel draped over my head so I could feel like Marcia Brady (the fact that Marcia didn't have turquoise hair with gold-embroidered trim wasn't an issue at six). So when ceramic straightening irons arrived and got cheap enough, I bought one to see how the other side lives. Let's just say the iron lives in the drawer most of the time. I'm too impatient for long beauty and fashion rituals. I'm a half-hour-out-the-door kind of gal, and that includes makeup and sometimes a shower. Thirty minutes of coiffure every morning will never be in my cards. And once I found the Bible--Lorraine Massey and Deborah Chiel's Curly Girl--I haven't had an issue with my curls since.

Yesterday, someone I work with
told my husband that he needed to buy me a ceramic iron, since anyone with curly hair would naturally want it straight. She's a curly, but she fights her hair tooth and nail. She blows. She sprays. She pulls. She flat-irons. And the results aren't as fabulous as she imagines. Anyone whose hair recalls the one french fry charp that's been left in the bottom of the basket for about three rounds of fries (think crispy, dark, and in no condition to be seen) is no person to listen to when it comes to hair. Especially curly hair. But to be fair--or mean, actually--I got out my ceramic iron and straightened it.

Know what? People noticed that it was different, but no one raved about how it looked. Told you I'm a curly. I'm just glad I got smart enough to embrace my curl-hood and get over it.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Graduation Day

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Arena rental: $7200
Programs: $2500
Cap and gown: $45
Kicking the Class of 2006 out of the nest: Priceless

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Bed List/The Dinner List

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BED LIST: JIMMY SMITS



Jimmy Smits makes one smokin' hot president, if I say so myself. He's not bad in a Star Wars uniform, either. Or cop clothes. Or out of cop clothes. Hail to the Chief!

DINNER LIST: PAUL SIMON



Paul Simon, like Prince, is a pocket genius. He's not very tall, but he has massive talent. I've been in love with his music since I was a kid (practically wore the grooves out of my Bridge Over Troubled Water album--yes, album; you heard me; "The Boxer" is my favorite cut). Great stuff. Plus, he has the cojones to sing with Muppets. If you don't own a copy of Graceland, shame on you!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Soakin' Wet

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Seniors + end of year + frivolity + access to water supply = one soaking wet senior sponsor. Luckily, I prepared this time and brought a change of clothes and a very large towel.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Out of the Mouths of Seniors

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The last page of my final exam is always a course evaluation. How can I improve unless I ask the kids, right? As usual, the course evaluations are always my favorite thing to read. They're always a mix of encouragement (This is the best English class I've ever had!) and full-on smackdown (You need to get better control of your class). Either way, they're great food for thought. This year's verdicts:
  • I'm patient. Maybe too patient. Perhaps throwing more referrals now and then would help.
  • They loved Othello. They hated Othello. Depends on the class. Surprise for me: they agreed that the play was better than the film (although the film, the Laurence Fishburne/Kenneth Branagh, is awesome).
  • They pretty much hated A Tale of Two Cities. Then again, first time teaching it. The first time out with any new work is usually a train wreck of sorts.
  • They appreciate having the work explained clearly.
  • One kid loves the bell on my desk I ring when they get an answer correct.
  • The quiet ones really crave one-on-one attention, which I need to work on giving more of next year.
  • "Challenging" varies from student to student. Some students say the class is challenging. Others don't, but they say it's because I explain everything well. So now I have to wonder if it's really too easy. Hmm. Something to think about.
  • Also something to think about: they like having opportunities to turn in late work, but they also think I'm too nice about accepting late work. That's a conundrum.
  • They do not like it when teachers are absent. They may cut loose when a sub is in the room, but they hate not having Mom around.
  • Surprise, surprise! Although they complained about the research paper being difficult and time-consuming, many of them also rated it the best thing we did in class because they do realize it will prepare them for future challenges. Interesting.
  • Opening bellwork is either a favorite ("I love having a chance to express myself") or a most-hated ("Most of them are the same, anyway."). Probably time to mix that up a bit and include other things besides meaningful quotes.
  • Deadlines. Big deal, deadlines. They like that I take late work, but I get the feeling I'm not hard enough on them as far as balancing the work out and requiring homework, etc.
  • Believe it or not, I had a couple of kids ask for more tests!
  • Favorite comment: "I'd give you an 8, which is good, because most English teachers only get a 5."
Just goes to show you...with kids, you never know. With seniors, you really never know.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Happy Mother's Day to Me!

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Is it totally lame of me not to want to go to brunch on Mother's Day? I don't even mind no breakfast in bed (pancake syrup is hell on your sheets).Personally, I'd rather hang out with DH and the kids and relax. That, and stuff I really, really like, such as the presents coming toward my house from far-flung places.

First, a confession. I have never been much of a shopper. I didn't spend all my hangout time as a teenager in malls. I did spend an inordinate amount of time in stationery stores, which might explain my passion for office supplies of all types, and a core reason why I became a writer instead of, well, a fashion plate. (My friend D is all about bags, cute shoes, and clothes and is dying to do a home-grown How Do I Look? on me, apparently. She can't understand that work clothes that feel like pajamas are the ultimate look/feel for me.)

So since I'm all about the office supplies, for Mother's Day I'm getting pens. Fountain pens, that is. Three different ones to fill with three of the "Slightly Wild" Levenger inks my second-oldest friend, K, gave me for my birthday.

Fireball ink: Rotring Core Eternium



Always Greener ink: Lamy AL-Star



Pinkly ink: Waterman Reflex



Squee!!

(Yes, I know. I'm a geek.)

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Bed List/The Dinner List

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BED LIST: DERMOT MULRONEY



One disadvantage to letting your students turn in research papers so close to the end of the term (especially if you're a procrastinator) is that it seems to take forever to get them graded. Read: All-nighter. One bonus to all-nighters, though, is catching all the "oh, I remember that one!" movies at 2 am on We and other related channels. My treat for last night: Point of No Return, the American remake of Luc Besson's Nikita. Bonus treat: Dermot Mulroney as young sexy hero. Rowr. This picture is from one of his young sexy years, but even though he's quite gray nowadays, he's just looking better. Rowr indeed.

DINNER LIST: GEORGE LUCAS



DS has been obsessed with one of his birthday presents, Lego Star Wars for the Gamecube, and as he plays, I thank George Lucas. This is that man who brought us Luke and Leia, Han Solo, Wookiees, droids, and yes, Jar Jar Binks (even geniuses fire a dud every once in a while) and changed how we think about movies. As a teacher, I love receiving copies of Edutopia, published by the George Lucas Educational Foundation. This is a guy who knows how to use his imagination, and better yet, how to listen to freakin' teachers, for crying out loud!! Too bad more guys like him aren't in charge of official education policy.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Ring, Ring...

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Look at my new phone!













Is that the cutest thing, or what? It's totally thin. Plus, I can finally hear the ringer. And take pictures. I'm feeling very 21st century. Guess I ought to think about upgrading sooner than every three years, huh?

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Bed List/The Dinner List

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BED LIST: KEVIN COSTNER



One simple line, from Bull Durham, says it all:
Well, I believe in the soul, the c***, the p****, the small of a woman's back, the hanging curve ball, high fiber, good scotch, that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, overrated crap. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, soft-core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days.
I don't care if that's Crash Davis talking. It freakin' works.

DINNER LIST: JIMMY CARTER



Regardless of your political opinion, you have to admit that Jimmy Carter's post-presidential career puts the other living presidents to shame. This is a man who devotes his time to international mediation and creating housing for low-income families through Habitat for Humanity. And he's won a Nobel Peace Prize. And he teaches Sunday School at the First Baptist Church of Plains. Not bad for a peanut farmer. I'm partial to peanut farmers anyway, because peanuts were a cash crop at my family's farm for years, but this particular peanut farmer is something special.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

How Kaavya Got Published, Got Caught, and Got a Reputation

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Like many of my writer friends, if the traffic on my e-loops can be believed, I have been obsessing over the continuing saga of Kaavya Viswanathan, the Harvard sophomore who signed a $500 large publishing contract with Little, Brown, made her debut in hardcover, and then was accused of plagiarism. (That's the Cliff's Notes version--read the whole icky saga at Wikipedia if you're slack on the details)

I feel for her. I'd hate to be 19 and subject to that kind of media firestorm. But then again, I'd set myself on fire before I'd do what I believe she did, which is rip off a bunch of other authors--albeit through paraphrase--and present the results as my own work.

I wish I could give her the benefit, but that's where my teaching experience lends me a heaping dose of skepticism. The students I teach have no clue about plagiarism. None. And it's not that I don't hammer in the point that copying is stealing ad infinitum the entire time we're doing research papers. We're talking about masses of teenagers who truly believe that "It's not cheating if you don't get caught," who download free music off the Internet, who buy mix CDs at flea markets and don't think a thing about the original artists' royalties. As long as it's cheap and they can get away with it, well, it's theirs to get away with. Kaavya Viswanathan, whose parents paid an Ivy League admissions prep group to polish her Harvard application, may fall in the same boat. "By any means necessary" takes on a whole different flavor when you're talking a Harvard education and the kind of money it must take to do things like hire Ivy League admissions prep groups.

I don't believe her. I don't respect people who are so influenced by power and the trappings thereof that having a certain name on a college sheepskin is the ne plus ultra of existence. I'm glad I didn't buy her book.

Mostly, though, I'm glad that when I write, the words are mine. I may not have a publishing contract (yet), but I have my own life, unscripted by admissions prep groups and book packagers, and the self-respect to go with it.


Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Evil Research Papers

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Man, the senior class is freaking out today--their research papers are due. From what I understand, my students are fanned out all over the school, pecking away like a bunch of chickens because they're not clued in enough to do things ahead of time. Plus, the printer in my classroom has mysteriously gone on the blink and won't print at all. (Read: I removed the toner cartridge)

Let's just say I've been on the receiving end of a lot of strange looks today. Students who can't believe that I've marked their papers late because they're bringing them by sixth period when they have my class third. ("But I just got to school!" "You have me third period. It's late.") That's five percent off the top right there. Tomorrow, ten percent. Friday, twenty percent.

They were warned. Plus, in five minutes, I'm walking out the door. They'd better type fast.
 

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