Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Howlin' Hobbit/Rob D'Arc/Pops Bayless Continuum

I'm reading Howlin' Hobbit's blog and I discover that he knows Rob D'Arc, formerly of Kid'Stuff Puppet Theater in Riverside, which got defunct by the wise fathers of the city because I don't know why. I think it may have been due to a local trendy restaurant wanting the space.

I met Rob through a mutual friend who ran this sporadically produced variety show. I occasionally performed in this show. Rob did this Kangaroo Rat puppet with the mutual friend. Sometimes, he'd do other puppet schtick as well.

His puppets were always amazingly realized. It was a sad day when his theater was closed. He put a lot of work into it.

The last time I saw Rob, he was doing the K-Rat bit at one of the mutual friend's shows and, during the intermission, he approached me, a little angry, but subdued, and asked me what I knew about something my brother supposedly did to some deal that he was trying to work out with the local Community Players.

I had no idea what he was talking about.

My brother, a talented actor, singer, and director, was a member of the Community Players' board of directors or something and I always got the impression that every decision was democratically arrived at and that every decision was also a frustrating battle that left him and his friends frustrated to the point where, one by one, they quit. Many of the people on the board were very conservative in their tastes and resisted any new ideas or exciting plays.

I appeared in a production at the Community Players and attended one meeting of this board, but never actually joined the group, mainly because being that involved sounded more frustrating and stressful than a hobby ought to be.

So, if Rob had any deal in the works, I knew nothing about it and could do nothing about it. If my brother had any opinion about it, he never told me.

So, just exactly what Rob was angry about I did not know. I told him as much, but he quietly persisted.

I may have walked away. I know the conversation didn't get very far because I couldn't say much about something that was outside my Universe of Obligation.

Anyway, Rob is a very talented fellow and that was the last time I saw him. It look like he is doing well in his new location. I suspect that Seattle is a city with a little more creative yeast in its metropolitan dough.

The other interesting thing is that I asked Pops Bayless of Shorty Long fame to be my friend on Myspace. There are a lot of ukulelists on Myspace, by the way. He sent me a message with the words "Poly High" in the subject. Turns out he was in Poly High school's concert choir with my brother.

I wouldn't be surprised to find out that we have each appeared in a different movie with Kevin Bacon.

Monday, February 27, 2006

The Canaries Go Collectively Solo

Open Mike Night, Folk Center.

I crowded but fine evening of music. Long, but fine.

But I'll get right to the BIG question: How were the Canaries?

The Canaries didn't play together. We all played solo. We needed room to grow. Artistically that is.

Billy C was very good. He played his castratobari and sang "My Death" by Jaques Brel, a Belgian singer-songwriter who was once alive and well but is now not so. He nailed it. I especially liked that he did a song that probably few people had heard. This is a dark song that worked well with the uke-it's spritely tone the perfect contrast to Billy's deep voice and the songs somber timbre.

I sang "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime," which in the past has not been my best tune. I was introduced by my nom de blog I was going to sing another tune that I had been practicing using a cheat sheet, but thought better of it. I felt good about it and got a good response.

There was one lady there, second to last performer, who played the tinwhistle. She talked more than she played. Billy C and Liam C both thought she was amusing, but I just wanted her to shut up and play. The last singer was this woman from Peru who spoke limited English. As she sang, she had this bald guy translate for the audience.

There was also this band of French guys, one of whom played the digeridoo while the others played guitars. It was a French song, but there was no bald translator.

Liam Canary performed "Across the Universe." He was as charming as usual. He is quickly finding a voice.

Tomorrow's blog: The Bro A-Bomb, Howlin' Hobbit, Billy Canary, Pops Bayless Time-Space Continuum revealed.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Bro A-Bomb in Concert

I stopped by the Depot last night around 9 to catch UF's performance. I was surprised at his set-up, as I thought he would play a lot of uke and a little guitar-with perhaps one of those other funky stringed instruments he plays. He had his keyboard there as well and was playing some Randy Newman and some song with a riff of "Piano Man" thrown in. It was a fine performance. A rotating crew of teenagers cheered him on, as did several folk who came in and out who seemed to know him. I guess there was one kid who had even downloaded about 30 of John's tunes off of the internet. He actually has a fan base.

Hans and Dana were there, drinking froo-froo coffee beverages, fortified by a hidden flask of Bailey's they shared-she pouring while he pretended he didn't see.

Towards the end of the evening, he invited me up to play some tunes. At that time several former students from Rancho showed up and watched from outside.

I started with the Jungle Book song. All total, I played five songs. It was not my best performance as I had not rehearsed many of the songs for quite some time. What I learned is I need to rehearse my ouvre more often. I felt like I nailed "Times Like These" and was ok on "Fisherman's Blues." But the others were pretty sloppy. I just went blank a couple of times.

Probably the other thing I need to do is work on beginnings and endings of songs. I often just start and then quit, unless the arrangement already has a beginning and ending worked in. Much of what I play comes from internet tabs, which either don't include intros and outros, or are intended for guitar and assumes the player has a certain level of prowess.

It was fun, anyways.

I decided that the Depot would be a good place for a Ukulele Sunday group. The area from which UF performed, when not being used as a performance space, is an ideal fit for a small circle of uke players.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Ruins of My Young Adult Years

Today was my first day in the Riverside Community College Reading and Writing Center. I got the memo in my e-mail about where and when to report, but, because I thought I knew all about the where and when, I didn't read it very carefully. So I drove up to the Admin building and, after checking my mailbox, walked the few steps down to the where and when and stood there for a few minutes, waiting for the sliding glass doors to open.

They didn't open. In fact, the building was dark. It being early morning and me being recently awakened, I stood there wondering who had changed the rulebook of my life and why no one was there to explain this to me.

Then I noticed the scrap of paper taped to the door that explained that the Center had been moved to the Martin Luther King Building (formerly the Martin Luther King Memorial Library). So I walked to the King Building.

On my way, I walked past the Quadrangle, the oldest building on campus. This building is probably around 100 years old, if not older. I wish I knew something about architecture so I could give you a better description. Let's just say it's an old, stone building, two stories high, kind of like a castle without the minarets or bulwarks. It is square, wrapped around a large, square area-called the Quad. It was the social center of the school. In my day, it was usually lined with tables manned by leaders of student organizations beckoning students to sign petitions, join clubs, and get information about campus events. Cecil the Insane Biology Instructor would often take his classes there to gaze at the variety of flora that had been landscaped and cultivated around the quad, as well as the fauna that lived there.

In one corner, down a wide stairway-kind of like a cheap version of the Spanish Steps in Rome, the Pit sat. The pit was a blank square within the square of the quad where students and teachers sat and drank coffee, ate lunch, listened to noontime concerts, or visited with one another. The pit also was home of the short-lived summer theater that I once acted in. I liked it as an ampitheater, but it was too much of a hassle to set up and then tear down every year.

As I passed the Quad this morning, I witnessed the results of the current remodeling project to make it more earthquake ready. The classrooms had basically been gutted and all that stood there was the great stone shell. I could see through the windows that everything-walls, desks, blackboards-everything had been removed.

It made me a little sad to see them remove these pieces of my education, where Don had delivered his profanity-laden lectures about composition and poetry, where I learned that Dr. Burton was not my enemy, and that reading great works of literature was a good thing, both grade-wise and soul-wise.

I wonder what Dr. Burton's ghost must be thinking.

Friday, February 24, 2006


I followed the Buddhist nun's advice and tried to accept everything that happened to me last night. It was pretty easy because it was late and nothing much happened before I went to bed.

But today was a different story.

My colleague was off taking his comps for his Masters today and I had the class all to myself. That's two hours along with 60 students to be followed by two more hours along with 60 more students.

I had planned for part of my lesson to be done one PowerPoint, so I brought in my laptop and hooked it up to our elaborate audio-visual thing. I couldn't get the LED projector to project my PowerPoint on the big screen. I tried several times while the students worked on other things. I finally just accepted that I was missing some step and that I needed to approach the lesson some other way before I began to waste the students' time. So I told the students what I wanted them to do and they did it. Once I got them working, I tied a couple more times , but it didn't work.

But the students completed the assignment and the disruption was minor.

Sometimes, I need to accept that I've got a typewriter brain trying to function in a computer world.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Canaries Reunite, Split Up

Em had been visiting from back east and we had taken Ma out for Em's farewell dinner. After dinner, someone had the bright idea to go to Coffee Depot to cap off the night. Ma doesn't get out much, so we took her there.

Lo and behold it was Open Mike Night. This duo was playing-one guy with dreads, the other curly blondish hair. They were ok. They were followed by a guy we'll call the Droner. He played and sang without much style or even feeling. I'd go into more detail about this if it hadn't looked so dismal. Very few people were there and fewer were paying much attention to the performers.

We got the idea to rush to Billy C's house and grab some ukes and a guitar and sign up as the Canaries. Liam Canary, our child prodigy lead singer also wanted to perform a solo number. I thought that it would be his rendition of Mr. Tambourine Man that he had performed at the Folk Music Center.

So, it took us about ten minutes to get the ukes and guitar. All the way, Liam, who had stayed at the Depot, kept calling to see where we were.

When we got back, I asked Liam if he had signed us up. He didn't. He only signed himself up. Billy c and I went out to tune up. I had his pineapple, which hadn't been played in awhile and was not holding a tune well. As I tightened the pegs, Billy C came out with his Bari and said, "Liam wants to do a song alone. Then he'll call us up and we'll do one with him. Then you can do one if you want to."

Ok. Not exactly what I had envisioned, but ok.

So we go in and Liam gets on stage and starts singng "Don't Think Twice" and I'm thinking "Hey, ya little creep! That's a Canaries tune!" But he sings it just the same and as he sings, people start moving towards the stage. Pretty soon, the stage is blocked and when he finishes, Billy C and I have to push our way forward and he forgets to even introduce us but we play anyway. We play "Maggie's Farm." Billy and I play our hearts out, but clearly Liam is just calling it in. He's already got bigger plans.

He stops the song short and says, "I just can't deal with you guys anymore. You're smothering me artistically." And he just walks off stage.

Billy, who by the way is his kindly old father, shuffles off, leaving me standing there alone on the stage.

So I plow right into my rendition of Bach's toccata and fugue in G-wizz and I'm playing brilliantly, but the crowd has left the stage and followed Liam Canary to the back of the Depot, where he buys a frappuccino and starts signing autographs.

At the end of the evening, as I sit in the back and console Billy Canary, the guy who runs the show invites Liam back. Then he turns to us and says "You guys were ok too."

Oh well, at least Ma got to hear it.

Sunday, February 19, 2006


I started to write about the meditation class I took Thursday. It was my first time in that sort of class and I liked it. The topic was anger and the Buddhist nun who spoke had a lot to say about the topic. But, instead of writing about the class, I thought I'd write about Anger.

The nun essentially said that anger is a destructive force that makes us do childish, often cruel, things. She said that anger is the greatest evil.

Looking at my own life, I can see where this is true. I'm usually pretty mellow; but, when I get angry, I can become pretty cruel. I tend to hold it in and, when it finally surfaces, my anger is incommensurate with what ever has finally set me off. It's like all of the anger in me spills out on the person who has caused almost none of it, but happened to say the wrong thing at the wrong time.

There's this teacher at work who, to make a long story short, has not been re-hired for next year and has received a few unsatisfactory observations. I have been dealing with him as a site rep and agree with him that he has been treated unfairly. Now, mind, I think the guy has brought some of his troubles on himself-but he still has been treated unfairly.

One day, when I brought his grievance over for him to review, he began talking about lawsuits and how many other career opportunities were available to him and how much more money he could be making in any other business.

So he says, "I'm a devout Christian man. And the Bible tells me to be slow to anger. And I have been slow to anger, but now I'm angry."

Since then, his anger has caused him to scold some of our administrators and go over their heads and just try to cause trouble for those who could recommend him for re-hire, if they so chose.

And it dawned on me that he has completely misread that passage as saying that one should get angry slowly.

I think it means that you shouldn't let your anger make any of your decisions for you, because that's when you get childish and act foolishly. It feels good for a while, but only a while.

When it's all over, you have to live with the results an irrational decision.

Like my friend who quit his job a few years back because he got angry at his employers and felt that he couldn't take it anymore. He made sure that he burned all of his bridges and, when he tried to get a job later, couldn't find one for the longest time because employers most likely put the word out on him. When he finally got another job, it was outside of this county.

If he had been more diplomatic when leaving, or if he had gotten another job before quitting, things would have been different.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Teacher Sells Used Ukulele for $5000!

Just kidding.

I'm mapping out my summer. I don't have much disposable income this month, but this phase of vacation planning is free.

Top three possibilities are a re-visit to the Summer Solstice Folk and Storytelling Festival, the Taos Writers' Conference, and a trip up North to the Portland Ukulele Festival.

I have been thinking about the Napa Writers' Conference. I went three years ago. I didn't have the best of workshop leaders there. She was the Poet Laureate of Connecticut or some other state. She was flaky and was unprepared. All of the workshop leaders were expected to do a night time reading and a daytime lecture. She was alright with the reading-it gave her an opportunity to sell her books. But during her lecture, she kept saying "I'm really not used to doing this sort of thing." On her web page, she claimed that she conducted many workshops all over the country and apparently held a faculty position at a university. So I couldn't help but wonder why she wasn't used to lecturing.

But the food was good and the other writers ere pretty good.

I have no complaints about the Taos Writers' Conference. Both times, the instructors were very friendly and hung out with the participants. The last night, in fact, our short story instructor, who wrote a fine collection of stories entitled How Animals Mate, got drunk with us.

The Summer Solstice Festival last year was about the most relaxing weekend I have had in a long time.

This Portland Fest sounds like it might be a fun road trip, with several major players in the uke world.

Anyway, it's all about relaxing.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Another Fix for My Uke Jones

I met my friend Do at Mt. Rub this evening for our un-scheduled hike tonight and she surprised me with this ukulele that her parents had gotten on a trip to Hawaii many years ago. It's a Harmony made of Mahogany and it's in very good condition. It had trouble holding a tune at first, but I tightened the tuning pegs when I got home after the hike.

I couldn't resist taking it on the hike with me. I fiddled with it for awhile, trying to get in tune, but just as I finished tuning one string, the previous string would de-tune again. So I had to settle for approximate tuning.

So, I started playing happy tunes. Our fellow hikers would smile as they approached us. At one point I realized that I was having trouble concentrating on what Do was saying and playing the uke both, so I stopped playing and just walked.

As I did this, we approached a father and son who were chopping up a tree that had been cut down-presumably for firewood. The man stopped and looked at us imploringly.

"Please, kind sir," he said. Do not stop your fine playing. It brings my poor son and I such joy and gives us strength to finish our work on this dark and forbidding evening."

I couldn't say no to a request like that, so I played my rendition of "All You Need Is love."

"Ah, sir, that is the ticket."

As I played, Do tapped me on the shoulder and told me to turn around. A crowd of hikers had stopped behind me to listen.

I shouted "All together now!"

They all joined in singing "Love, love, love" as one great voice. Soon a coyote sat down with a sparrow. An owl hooted and swayed to the music from a tree branch.

We all began marching to the top of Mt. Rub, singing loudly all the way. At the top, our voices echoed across the Inland Empire as lights flicked on in the valley below. The world seemed as if as one with one another.

I made a little bit of this up.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

I Want to Save You Some Time

This guy I used to team-teach with came out to visit his son and his newish granddaughter and we got a chance to meet and have a beer. I jumped off my wagon for this occasion, but will jump right back on after tonight. It was a good meeting and he returned three CDs and one book he had borrowed five years ago.

Actually, I'm not sure whether two of the CDs were mine. But it has been so long and I have had so many CDs that I took them anyway. I'm sure he borrowed them from somebody.

Afterwards, I went to Barnes and Noble and looked around for about an hour. I browsed through a display of political books and had an epiphany that many of you may benefit from.

You know the old saying "You can't judge a book by its cover." Well, these days, you can tell a political book by its cover. If you read the title, the author's name, the name of whomever wrote the foreward, the "reviews" on the back cover, and both inside flaps, you've pretty much read the book. The only part you haven't read-the hundreds of pages inside-can be summed up with the words "We're good. They're bad. In fact, when reading the back cover, you can even skip the "reviews." Just read the names after the reviews. It's usually the same few people. If you see the names of Rush Limbaugh (who probably doesn't read as much of the book as you just have) or William Bennett (who is famous mainly for collecting the writings of others and then misinterpreting them), well, the book is for conservatives. If you see the names of James Carville or (I can't think of any other liberal writers) it is for liberals.

Then, go to the fiction section. The reading is better there.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

12. I Was Also Close to John Wayne...


In high school, our concert choir was a part of the Singing Christmas Tree at Disneyland. Every year, they had a celebrity join the festivities and read the Christmas story.

That year, the celebrity was John Wayne. It was '72, so it may have been a political choice, seeing as how D-Land is in Orange County and the Disney family is very conservative.

On the other hand, he was also an icon at the time.

Anyway, High Schools around the state were invited and learned some Christmas carols and were bused in one foggy December morning to Disneyland, where they were herded into a rehearsal area to go over the songs as one huge, angelic choir. I think we all wore green robes. I don't know how they worked that out. It could be they only invited schools with green robes. It could be that green is the official choir color.

Rehearsal was interrupted twice. Once, by some Disney "carolers" that wandered the park singing polished renditions of seasonal tunes. They were very showbiz, Disney style.

Which, by the way, is what has always bothered me about music at D-Land. Always sanitized. Vegas without the sin. I remember once sitting around the New Orleans section, eating a fritter, sipping a julep, when a jazz band, four elderly black men with real chops, came out and played a few songs. They were really good-probably the gutsiest music you would hear at the Magic Kingdom. Then, they played "When You Wish Upon a Star." Not badly, either. But I couldn't help resenting the fact that my brief aural departure from things Disney was cut short by a Disney thing.

The second interruption was the Duke himself. He came out of nowhere and walked up to the microphone, shouting "Hi, kids!" Of course, we all shouted "hi" back. But his greeting was also returned by a canned, pre-taped chorus of "Hi, John!" I guess the Disney people were afraid that not everyone would respond.

Later on, as the Singing Christmas Tree paraded solemnly across Main Street, as we passed through the audience and towards the tree-shaped choir loft, I noticed a man sitting on one of the end-seats, watching the procession. It was dark and I at first thought it was my Uncle Bill-he had the same thinning hair, the same high forehead, the same bulbous nose. Then, he winked at me-a paternal kind of wink. It was John Wayne, who did indeed look like my uncle.

I think I winked back. Or at least nodded.

More Famous Friends

As Some have commented, I know many more famous people.

11. Spike and Mike of the Festival of Animation. I knew Mike better. I actually rented a room at one of his houses for a couple of years. I have always thought that, if there is such a thing as being haunted, that house may have been haunted. As my brother said when Mike died, "He didn't waste any moments." When Mike would come up and stay at the house, I would often walk in and catch him napping in his chair. He would wake up and immediately be awake, where most of us would be a little groggy at first. During this time, Mike wore a half beard, ala Man Ray, often died purple. What ever he was doing, he was in all the way, whether it was work or play. Every time we talked, he would recommend books that he had read to me. As an English teacher, I always appreciated that. At the house where I stayed, his bedroom wall was lined with books. After he died, I accompanied his girlfriend down to his other house where he lived most of the time to help her go through all of the books he had down there. Some were to go to friends, others to the local library, and others to Goodwill. I spent the entire day helping her. It got to a point where it was getting dark and we had all of our boxes filled and there still a lot of books. That's when she said, "Why don't you take some with you." I just started grabbing books. I got a few for my brother. One was a first edition novel by Ken Kesey, signed. I didn't find this out until after he opened it and found this ornate, colorful signature done in magic marker. I went home and went through a few of my own books and found that I had a few myself-the main one being a first edition "The Making of Bambi" signed by two of Disney's Old Men of Animation and "Chuck amok," signed by Looney Tunes animator Chuck Jones.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Famous People I Know

It dawned on me as I wrote yesterday about my affair with Diana Ross, that I have known several famous people in my life. Here are some of them:

1. Jeff Meek. He is a local boy who appeared on a soap opera for several years. I think it was General Hospital. He also appeared in several movies. I remember one in which he was dragged to a frigid death through a stream by a horse as Kurt Russell looked on and did nothing. He also had a couple of TV shows. Yes, his own shows. In one, he was a karate detective living in Hawaii and Lee Majors (the bionic guy) was his sidekick.

2. Michael Cudlitz. I appeared with him in a local production of Showboat. I was Cap'n Andy. He was an Angry White Guy. He has appeared in A River Runs through (got a lot of close-ups). Also, he has appeared in a lot of episodic television. He once beat up the bald guy in LA Law because he thought he was gay. He was also in Band of Brothers.

3. Marco Barricelli. The finest Shakespearean actor I ever knew. Also, the only Shakespearean actor I ever knew. He appeared in the same episode of LA Law as Michael Cudlitz, playing an environmental lawyer.

4. The Schultz Boys. Both Garth and Jason played with the Skeletones, a local Ska Band that did fairly well for a time. I think Jake may still be playing with them. But Garth left and joined up with Green Day to lead its touring brass section. He's now married to the daughter of my 6th grade teacher.

5. What the hey! Now that I think about it, I also know Paul Hammond, leader of the Skeletones and former student of mine. He played the victim in a murder mystery role-playing activity in one of my classes, in which I had to break up a pretend fight between him and one his "murderers." It was worse than breaking up an actual fight. He was already making records and playing gigs at the time, so school was unimportant to him.

6. Speaking of Rock Stars, Victor K, of Camper van Beethoven.

7. This bald guy that played Hajj in Kismet to my Wazir. He shows up all over the place.

8. My cousin Larry does special effects work in the film business.

9. My former student Marlan. Also in special effects.

10. My former teaching colleague, Matt. Also in special effects.

To be continued...

Thursday, February 09, 2006

I Tried It, but I Don't Think It Worked

My friend Jim says that you can e-mail your blog entries. I tried what he said to do, but my e-mail blog hasn't arrived. Maybe it's on a delay. Maybe it ended up on someone else's blog.

I may never know.

I didn't watch much of the Grammys last night, as I said in my e-mail blog, but I did catch the photograph of Sly Stone and his silver mohawk. I often think that some rock stars feel obligated to create a costume for themselves. It may change from time to time, but you know it's them by the look. Sly was always like that too.

I wonder if they do that so, when they go about their day-to-day lives, they aren't recognized.

Once, when riding an elevator in New York, I'm pretty sure Diana Ross was riding with me. She was a dainty woman, dressed pretty casually-in sweats, if I remember correctly-and her hair was in a wrap. Had we not been in a fairly nice hotel, I might have thought she was destitute. She had a big, toothy smile, like Diana's and she smiled sort of like she knew me.

With her was a very large, well-dressed black man and a couple of other younger women, also well-dressed. I didn't ask her who she was because I didn't recognize her until after I got to my room.

I recall that, awhile back, Ross was arrested on a plane because she raised a ruckuss about being treated badly by the crew. Don't remember what specifically happened. But I wonder if the grew recognized her. Again, maybe she was dressed down-not wearing the sequines or big hair.

So, after reading about how Sly is trying to "be normal," as his brother said in one article, I wonder if the Grammy outfit, with the big sunglasses, "Sly" belt buckle, and silver mohawk was just his way of being recognized while keeping his life private. I mean, he MUST dress differently when he's mowing his lawn or washing his car.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

A Sad day

Every once in awhile, someone says something critical of education and my first impulse is to defend education, but I stop myself and realize, what with current "reforms," including No Child Left Behind, there isn't much to defend.

Today was one of those days where this point was driven home in spades.

First, this was the second day of the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE). Students were herded into our two gymnasiums, separated by sex, and submitted to two full days of taking a test that you have to get a score of 52% on if you want to get your diploma. All students, even those taking rigorous AP classes, have to take it and pass it. And, since everyone is in the gym and test security is so tight, everyone has to wait until everyone else is finished. So that means that a brilliant student who aces the test in a half-hour has to sit and wait for the students who fell asleep, went to the bathroom and had to be hunted down and brought back, or came in late after we had already started.

Folks, that's the reform you are paying for. Schools are forced to set their sights low for all students, wasting much of the time of their top students. Why should a student taking difficult classes be forced to waste their time like this when the REAL test, the AP test, is more crucial for their future?

Second, our principal called in the probationary teachers whom he intended to let go. Now couple of these needed to be let go. But, as a site rep, I sat in on four of these meetings, and will probably still sit in on one tomorrow, and I could see that many of these teachers had no idea this was coming. Nothing ever came up during the evaluation process. No assistance was offered. They were let go just because.

If you want real reform, start with the people who run the schools, you'll get rid of a lot more incompetence that way.

Monday, February 06, 2006

A Brief, Unsatisfying Entry

Just checking in.

Just back from Open House at school. Not much to say. I actually spent most of the night not meeting with parents, but getting grades caught up.

There will be a few unhappy campers tomorrow, as far as that goes.

Not many parents, at least not in my wing. Usually there are quite a few more.

I stood outside my room playing my uke much of the night,like I do during the day. Some parents just scowled at me. Others were cheerful as they walked by. Still others asked me to play.

I'm tired now. I'm going to bed.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

I Saw Sal

It's getting so I can't go a day without seeing a former student. Friday night, I went out to Buca de Beppo in Anaheim, with four colleagues of mine. While waiting for a table, this man walks up to me and says, "Mr. A-Bomb of Reflection?"

It was Sal M, from a ninth grade class I taught during my first year at my current school some thirteen years ago. A real good kid, though often a smart-ass.

"Sal," (yes, I remembered his name) "I was just thinking about you the other day."

It was the truth. I had run into a classmate of his who works at my credit union the day before and had been thinking about Sal and some of those students.

Sal was an interesting kid. There was another kid in the class that he claimed was a brother, but I don't think there was a blood relationship of any kind. I think two of their step-parents had been married at some point.

Sal was a good writer. He wasn't especially grammatically good. But he was creative good. He was inventive good. I couldn't believe when his AP teacher said that his writing was poor. I always found his essays insightful and entertaining. Her complaint was about its sophistication, or lack thereof. But she was not an especially creative thinker herself. I doubt she understood the way Sal's brain worked.

The last time I saw Sal, he was studying at the local University of California and tutoring on-campus. He had planned on attending grad school.

Apparently, a local politician and UC professor took Sal under his wing and got him working in government. Sal switched to law school and had just graduated. He moved to Anaheim and was working for the Mayor of that town.

It was good to see him.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Orson Scott Card

I heard Orson Scott card speak at a luncheon banquet I attended today. I' know he's a big name in SciFi and fantasy, but all I've read of his would be most of the Alvin Maker series. I enjoyed those books quite a bit, but lost interest after the third because it took so long for him to write the 4th one. I think I read that two, but I got the feeling that he had lost interest.

I also read an editorial from the New York Times from awhile back in which Card celebrated the end of the Star Trek Franchise. The last series had been cancelled and there were no new films in the works. He prefers scifi as literature as opposed to TV or film.

He surprised me in that he was quite scholarly. He also pissed me off a little with two comments he made.

First, he suggested that Shakespeare be translated into our vernacular, remarking that we are the only country that can't read Shakespeare in our own language. I would argue that, no matter what language, no matter how skilled the translator, if it ain't in the Queen's Renaissance English it ain't Shakespeare. You'd just be reading a translation of Shakespeare. The poetry of Shakespeare word would be lost in translation.

He might have been kidding, but no one laughed.

The problem with Shakespeare is that most of us have had the same exposure, usually from High school, that does Shakespeare a great injustice. We read one Shakespeare play a year. That's it. We probably skip this in our junior year, because that's when we get American Lit. Then we get another dose in our senior year, and then, if we don't go to college, we're done.

I learned in grad school that, if you're going to learn much about Shakespeare, you need him in large doses. If high school teachers are going to teach him, they should have their students read at least three plays in a year, preferably back-to-back. That way, the students get used to the quirks of Shakespearean English and learn that, at his best, Shakespeare is pretty simple.

The other comment Card made, the more I think about it, contradicts his opinion about Shakespeare. He regaled the teaching of haiku because it comes from an "unstressed" language and can't be adequately adapted into English. So, Shakespeare can be translated, but haiku can't.

I honestly think that he, and many others, don't get haiku. Haiku is as much about sharing an image of a moment without commentary as it is about from. The 5/7/5 format does probably work better in Japanese that it does in English, but many writers of haiku in languages other than Japanese abandon that strict form anyway. They emphasize brevity over syllable counts.

Not that I write the best haiku. But, apparently, neither does Card.

He was a fine speaker though, otherwise. He had a lot to say about poetry. And he had a lot to say about how we teach it and how perhaps we would do better to not overly praise every poem a student might write, but save the praise for student poetry that was really high-quality.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Further Lessons in Poetry

So, if you clicked on the title "Two Sijo" below, you might have learned something about sijo. What I learned was that sijo, unlike haiku, does make use of metaphor and other figurative language. With haiku, your supposed to use literal language, put yourself in the moment and capture it with direct language.

What I haven't learned is how to link the text to the same website.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Control Nature

Last night, at this god-awful class I have to take, the learning was interrupted by this shriek of a wild exotic bird. It scared the teacher.

The teacher sitting across from me told me that it was actually an aural scarecrow. When an animal approached, the bird noise went off.

It was installed mainly to scare away birds. "Bird poop," my colleague told me, "It scares birds away so they don't poop all over the buildings. Mainly, they're trying to scare the gulls. They have one on my campus too. Not a bird on campus."

Then, today, we had an inservice on the other High School campus. Students got the day off while teachers worked. I noticed the same alarm had been installed there. The campus was silent. The campus had been landscaped with trees, lawns, bushes--but not a bird to be seen.

I recall a time on campus, during an Open House. It was night and I was standing on the balcony that overlooks our quad. An owl, as silver as moonlight, glided from out of nowhere, and landed on one of the towers, where her chicks were nested. I watched her at about eye level.

I don't believe we have this robo-bird at my school yet. I hope we don't get it.