Friday, January 27, 2017
embrace the tiger - but return to the mountain
kicked one kid out today. it wasn't his first time, though; he was quite used to it. he was starting a mass rebellion, and he was working on everyone, but he was also talking back to me, and not minding what i said. i got sick of it and sent him packin'. once i told a kid i'd send him packin', and he didn't understand what i meant. send you packin', pretty obvious to me. but i have to give clear warnings. i'll explain it again if i have to.
once again my drive is a straight mile down through snowy mountains into rugged cliffs and down into the desert, a town which sits right up against the very mountains i live in. they just stop at the edge of this town, and tower over the town. some roads you take, you look square at them, like an enormous backdrop. the thing is, these mountains are in the east, so my guess is that mornings are quite cool and sweet in this town. afternoons are, well, sunny, but the whole place is. people don't have yards, they have rocks. but they have this view.
now i keep imagining, as i shoot down this mountain, enormous rocks falling right on the road right in front of me. it's bound to happen sometime, since it has already happened a half dozen times just in the three weeks i've done the road, only not to me, fortunately. i see evidence of it later. somebody has gotten out of their car, right on the cliff, and moved the rock over to the side. and it's a rock that wasn't there yesterday. and it leaves a huge rock mark on the road, where it was.
and i always imagine that these rocks are actually messages from the ancient people, since the ancient people occupied all those mountains, on both sides of the tunnel, where the dry mountains come up and meet the forested mountaintops, where they can get deer from above and plants from below, and a stream of fresh water comes down from the high snowy peaks. those people had caves, but they're long gone, and the only sign of their being there, is that these rocks are delicate, and in the extreme weather, they expand and contract, and come loose, and shoot down onto the road, where they might do some damage.
the only way to protect yourself is to be extremely sensitive, and to actually watch the hillsides, as you drive. if it comes with the car in front of you, so be it, you can stop in front of another car. if it comes straight down on you, what do you do? swerve i guess. but try not to swerve over the cliff.
will bring pictures, of the drive, of the mountain, of the schools i work in. there's an old chinese saying, embrace the tiger, but return to the mountain...i'm living that one. i think the essence of it is, live your life to the fullest, but keep your spiritual center. i have a more literal meaning, though. my high school is the tigers, and the junior highs are tigers and jaguars, and even the alternative school is the white tigers. it's pervasive, and the art that goes with it, well, that's on my phone. but i'll bring you some. and here's to the chinese new year, though it could be the rooster at this moment. maybe the tiger is out. but i'm living life to the fullest - discipline being what it is.
Wednesday, January 25, 2017
subbing is like, well, babysitting when you don't quite know the rules. the main thing is to not let them catch the place on fire. sometimes it seems like anything else goes, though. today i had the bad kids, at the bad school, but they seemed very much like all the kids, at all the schools. maybe they had a history, had been through the wars, but how do you know that as a sub? they aren't going to tell that to a sub, generally.
a friend asked to report our most boring moment of the week, on facebook. i told her the most boring was when a class actually did what the teacher intended. but that was like one day out of maybe three weeks i've worked. in this one class, the students, all quite good, set to work on some project the teacher had set out...this isn't unusual, teachers print out stuff for students to do. what's unusual is when they do it. i guess it depends on the teacher. wise use of time would dictate that students would want that time to do what they have to do. no. sub means, socialize, go bonkers. that's what i've found.
the drive, straight down 6000 feet, not boring. the drive back up, not boring. rocks falling from the cliffs on the road, not boring. even alamo itself, a wide, dusty, sunny, plain little town with enormous mountains shading it from the morning sun, not boring. it's kind of a military (white sands), international town, but not a college town in any way. and it's thoroughly new mexico. i don't know what that means, exactly, but it's not on the border of no texas or colorado, that's for sure.
i have time at this job, and my mind is free. i've tried planning out some of my books, but that's quite hard. writing poetry, that's not so hard. i have to get into my groove, so i don't waste my time. i have to get them printed, for one thing, so i can edit them. that's not hard. then, i have to clear the space in my head. easy enough to say.
the mountain is cold, windy, starry, frozen - walks are iced over; the wind hits your face hard. down the hill, it's sunny, always dry, not much grass around. it's desert. people are used to it. they can leave stuff outside, and it stays there, not enough rain to really ruin it. we drive by with our cars all piled up with snow, but when we park, it all melts, and i can see them saying, if it wasn't for those folks from cloudcroft, we wouldn't get any at all. they come up here every once in a while, it's a perk of living there, you have access to the streams, the woods, the mountains - but they live completely out of it, in the desert. i'm getting to know their kids.
more later - it's a tough schedule, and i have to keep up with it.
Saturday, January 21, 2017
up here the wind howls and rages and the snow swirls around. there was about five or six inches of it, and i couldn't get the car up the last hill, when i went out for fried chicken and milk and water. i also got the mail and some more thumbtacks. not going out again. car is parked down by the library, where it'll be fine until someone plows. there was just too much snow, and not enough car, there, when i was trying to get back. let the snows rage all over everything, and i'll try to get it back in the morning.
meanwhile we've been keeping our eyes on the women's marches nationwide, worldwide, mostly through facebook. i have friends at a number of them: about half a dozen in washington, a dozen or more in carbondale, new orleans, vegas, eugene, des moines. lots of friends at lots of marches. and they all have better weather than we do. my sister, who attended one in las cruces, said they got a thousand, and wondered what we were doing up here (our town only has about a thousand, and that's on a good day). nothing that i know of. i can't imagine anyone standing outside for a minute longer than they'd have to. it's raging, and blowing, and piling up, and raging some more.
an old mexican gentleman knocked on our door to tell us that the car door was open; on the street side, the side door had come open and was just collecting blizzard. i trudged up there on snow-filled steps - they are not in good shape - and he was right. the blizzard surrounded me. our own fence was not in good repair. now i'm back and by the fire, watching dark clouds and beyond, the sun shining on the white sands. my wife is reading the weather. only travel in an emergency. up to a foot in mountain areas. wind and bad visibility.
this is the day my mother died (january 21) a year ago, and though i'm not too big on anniversaries, it was a hard one to miss. a good day to wear gray, stay home, feed the fire. facebook popped up with her right away this morning; i've never been a big fan of facebook's reminding me of things i already knew. i called my dad and sister. my sister was at my dad's, taking care of him, but she was going for marches too, as it seems everyone was, all day, all over the world. everyone except us, snowed in & homebound, listening to the wind.
then, i should just be working on my writing, right? well, i should, but instead i made a movie. i've been playing with these pop-art style picture makers and just wanted to do a few dozen about the protests. unfortunately the only song i actually had, that i could put them to, was a bluegrass one made by my own band. they would surely disapprove, my using their music to make a protest video, so i stopped short of publishing it, or even showing it to anyone except my wife. and i kind of felt, that was enough, that was ok, it wasn't quite finished yet anyway, and didn't quite go with bluegrass anyway. there's a better song - might be on another computer - and i think i own it, and could use it, but it would be hard to get and transport. so i feed the fire. i've come to a point where i want to relax.
and, finally, my dad tipped me off about what's happening in leverett glacier, in antarctica. we all follow virtually everything that has anything to do with leverett, just as a matter of principal, so when leverett glacier becomes a thing, well, that's news we want to share with each other. so leverett glacier feeds into the ross ice shelf, and that's important, why, because maybe you can drive on the ross ice shelf, or at least you can get to the leverett glacier pretty easily. and once you do, that's the shortest path to the south pole. so in the race to get to the south pole fastest, those people who have chosen the 'leverett glacier route' are having and advantage, and it's big, it's a thing, it's a place where people are going.
it's a good thing to think about, on this winter-storm day, wind howling, snow blowing around like crazy. i'm glad i'm not walking to the south pole. out in the mud room, wet boots, snow suits, naked barbies, sticks, dog dish. beyond that, the wind and snow, blowing like crazy.
Thursday, January 19, 2017
Wednesday, January 18, 2017
did some more playing here and played banjo too. wrote poetry. this is partly because work is becoming easier (once they have tested you, they're ok kids), and because very little creativity is involved, as long as i'm babysitting, as opposed to actually teaching. i'm hanging around down the hill, watching the clouds swirl up on the mountain, as the whole town down there has stunning views of these very mountains - but, they have no traffic issues, no "stuck on the hill" mentality, no concept of the snow-ice combination that can make our very descent treacherous. i can call in, sure, citing the weather. but i don't want to, because they don't really believe that it's as bad as it is. they only come up here in the good weather, with the exception of those who work up here and come up regularly. in my entire school, i haven't met anyone from cloudcroft, and only one from even halfway up the mountain. they are familiar with it, recognize it as part of their environment, see the weather warnings on their television. but know it, i don't think so.
the puppy settles in on my lap after a while so i do all my typing on the arm of the chair in a somewhat twisted position. i can play pop art in this position and can do bog, though not well, and i'm kind of sick of bog, though i got sixth place by myself once today, somewhat unusual. the puppy pretends to take a nap and gets lots of petting in his thick white overgrown fur. outside the wind howls but the fog continues, and it's snowed a little more tonight although that is negligible i think. we check the weather forecasts but they change a lot; i can't see how they know from minute to minute, even, what's going to happen, so i don't blame them. but i check a lot. at six thirty in the morning, i'm on my way back down.
people are used to it here. and they come to prefer staying up on the hill, if they can. you can see why. it's all very dramatic, that mile drop down to get groceries, or work, or whatever, but after a while, there's only so much drama anyone really wants. and they're tearing up the road, not only toward the bottom, where they're widening a little, by ripping out part of the cliff, but also further up, above the tunnel, where apparently a piece of road just gave way. gave way, because of rains and snows and whatever. the weather does it. or maybe the beet-heat does it. it's a rough life, and you have to keep at it.
Monday, January 16, 2017
to do it i used lunapic, a free photo editing service, which has all these ways of doctoring photos: "van gogh," "picasso," "watercolor," etc. really i have only begun to explore them. watercolor, in particular, is most interesting if you back off of it (it tends to drench everything in red just to start out, and a red tint is fun but a red bath is a little overdoing it). there are ones called "dark" and "beauty" which you will see. other artists represented are "escher" and "kandinsky"; kandinsky is especially interesting. of course there is "warhol". there are a few more. there are ways, as i said, to back off of some of them; one can also combine them. this is fascinating!
so, after a day of mostly just researching the d b cooper incident (which is quite interesting, see below), i spent a day doing pop. i did deer, couch, from the back porch, swallow, tigers, fence, white sands, look west, skunk, and roscoe. most of them are exhibits (two, three or four trying to work together) although skunk and look west are by themselves.
glorious day, to do just pop art, like the old days of pure posterization. i admire lunapic - it's free - and whatever it's doing to these photos, it's interesting. i have no idea about the formula they use to do it, but what fascinates me, really, is the combination. even "sharpen" has a hundred variables.
Sunday, January 15, 2017
first, the guy was dressed up, in loafers and a trenchcoat, and simply dropped off the back of the plane, with $200,000, into the dark stormy washington wilderness. true, much of this wilderness may have been destroyed by mount saint helens a few years later. true, his parachute probably didn't work. but he was low enough to live; he had made sure of that. he probably didn't have an accomplice or anyone to know he was there, get him out, help him recover. but there is an outside chance he made it by himself. the fbi, by the way, has given up, concluding that he didn't make it. they are probably right, but who knows?
the most recent information is that there was material on his tie, hard metals, that indicate that he would have worked at boeing aerospace at the time, as that is the only place he could have got it. and, if it was on his tie, he must have been in there when he was wearing it, i.e. he was a professional, a manager, or some such thing. this should help them narrow it down! how many managers were there, who could have known what he knew about airplanes, and could have, at the same time, planned such a thing?
the only airplane hijacking to have ever succeeded, or not been resolved - and, for some reason, it has attracted the fancy of people left and right. one reason is that the guy totally disappeared into the night. another reason is that the money has pretty much never been recovered. out of the $200,000, one little pack of about $5,000 was recovered, with some bills missing from it; it washed up on the columbia, and the weather and the water had pretty much done it in. but does that mean 195,000 is still out there? yes, somewhere. it's been 46 years, but yes, somewhere, it's out there.
even at the time, they said he didn't meet the profile of your average plane hijacker. he was polite, well-spoken, well-dressed, and calm. he knew a little about the area; he recognized the base, and he recognized tacoma, as if he'd been there before. they were pretty comprehensive in their search for who he could be; obviously d b cooper wasn't his real name, or dan cooper, the name under which he'd bought his ticket. several people jumped forward to claim credit over the years. none of them, according to the f b i, were good enough. they had no evidence to match any of them to the scene. just drinking bourbon and smoking, occasionally, didn't do it for them. having said that someone had some of the experience that would qualify him - some familiarity with 727's, some familiarity with parachutes - that wasn't quite enough. there were lots of vietnam vets who had gone bad. lots of people who could have done it.
apparently, you don't have this kind of situation these days; they're just too good with the d n a. they picked up some stuff from the seat where he'd sat, and they got his tie, and they had some other pieces of information, but they just didn't know any more based on what they had. they had a dead end. they turned it over to private people, who were far more aggressive - and that's who came up with the hard metals on his tie.
now it also turned out that boeing fired a large number of people around that time. fired people left and right. i would think that's where they're looking now - who were these people? how many wore ties every day? how many were of the male persuasion, and disappeared sometime around 1971? and had that cool, i-could-be-anyone kind of look?
reminds me of a time, it was actually christmas day, or perhaps christmas eve, i got on a train in manhattan, hoping to make it all the way to buffalo for christmas, or by soon after christmas. there was a lot of stress on the train, as we were boarding at penn station (?), and it was busy in spite of being the holidays. as i settled into my seat i became aware that my seat-mate, right next to me, was a d b cooper-like kind of guy, didn't say anything, could be anyone, who knows. but nearby there was a post (new york newspaper, slightly tabloid-style), and on its cover it had a story about the new york killer who had been in manhattan in recent days. i can't remember what he had done; it might have been several murders, or incidents, at least. but he, too, was a d b cooper-like fellow, could have been anyone. if you asked what he'd looked like, you'd have to say, he looked like a police sketch.
so i said to this guy next to me, "hey, this guy was just in this neighborhood," to which he replied, "yes, we all were." and then, i became truly suspicious of all my fellow passengers, not least, him. but what's the likelihood that such a guy would get on an amtrak? on christmas eve? not likely, i think. still, i didn't sleep much that night. the guy himself, my seatmate, was gone early; he was going only to westchester, or some such. the train had a car where some partying was going on. i however didn't have a drink.
Friday, January 13, 2017
i should mention that he also had five classes in a row of very highly motivated, well-behaved students, so that i occasionally got to look at the books, though for the most part, i did as i thought subs should do, namely, give them their assignment, and then glare at them expecting fully that they use the hour well; benevolently i had to allow that, since i was a sub, and it was a friday, they might have had other things they'd rather be doing.
one book that struck my fancy was a new mexico history book. it had the word "indians" in the very first sentence, which was a tip-off that new mexico might be a little behind in the history-book department. the book was from 1993; it's very possible that that was the last time the guy had taught new mexico history, and that in fact it was being updated regularly and continuously since 1993; i have no idea. i read it carefully in some specific parts and not so carefully in others. one thing i'm interested in is the treaty of guadaloupe hidalgo, because of which this area became part of the u.s.a., and in which the nation, the u.s.a., promised spanish settlers in new mexico, and elsewhere, that they could keep their spanish language and culture forever, upon entering the union. the book was very shallow and not thorough about this at all. in fact i'm not entirely sure of it myself, and may do more research on it. but the book had several other insights that did fascinate me.
one was that the dropping of the nuclear bomb here was really quite a big deal, and i often forget that; it happened maybe fifty miles west of us and it happened with the understanding that there really weren't many people in the area anyway, so, what the heck. but hey, you got hiroshima, you got nagasaki, and then you got the trinity site, white sands new mexico. those are the three.
the book made a big deal out of the pueblos, and did a pretty good job of explaining the complex relationship among the comanches, various tribes of apaches, the navajo and their various branches, and others, including kiowa, ute, etc. the book maintained that the hopi were in fact like the pueblos themselves. i'm still chewing on that one.
but the whole thing stirred me up a little. my son challenges the whole concept of state history classes; he thinks it should be an elective, in which case he would decline to elect. keep in mind that he's now tolerated both illinois history and texas history, so in a sense this is a third, and he's developed absolutely no genuine or permanent loyalty to the state itself, though he likes cloudcroft itself and is ok with the move over, in general. still, when he challenged me for specific justification for a state history class, my main one was that in a world where racial and ethnic groups are somewhat isolated it's important to get a general picture of whom one lives with, where they came from and why, and how the general relationship ended up the way it did. we should know our own specific region for the same reasons we should know our country and our world. but that's all i could say. i hadn't really developed a comprehensive, effective justification.
i have no idea if new mexico history is coming open as a class in which a teacher will be needed in the next five years, but, i'm inclined to jump on it if it is, being a historian, naturally, and attracted to the area. and i'd also like to write the next book. about this i'll just mention that i've had another two projects on the back shelf for years as well, and in fact, in line with my earlier post, which laid out what i want to accomplish in the near future, i'll just mention these three projects as things i've always wanted to do, but never had quite the circumstances to pull it off.
a high school grammar book, i think, would be in high demand. it would complement whatever else an english teacher does, and would be small. by the way i've noticed that there are no english subbing jobs, noenglish (or as they call it ELAR) permanent jobs, not much in the way of that kind of work. but making young high school seniors more fluent and competent in grammar, and in origin and nature of their language, would be high on my list. you look at today's high school seniors, that's one thing they're missing.
a new mexico history book, or something like it, would be quite interesting. this one i picked up had large subheadings and very simple language. it was as if he had taught a sixth-grade version of it, or something like that (very possible), or, as my wife suggested, that they were putting all books in fourth-grade language, to ensure that more people got the important concepts more often. i'm not sure; more research is necessary here. i thought of the idea only today, when the first sentence referred to "indians".
a book on linguistic theory, namely, how language is a self-organizing system - and by the way, you can look back on this blog, i'm sure, to last year and probably the year before, and confirm that this one has been on my docket for quite some time. the idea here is that it might take some calculus or high-level math to truly understand what i need to in order to explain it effectively, but i'm obviously in a better position to do that, than i used to be. and the most critical element here is time, and having room in the brain (and time to chew) that would make this whole project doable.
another book on the way technology influences a language would also be on my list, since, for years, i worked to present to the tesol conference a clear picture of ways in which technology was influencing the way people learned. i'm actually interested in a wider view: technology influences the way people learn; it influences what they know as language; it influences what is actually produced as opposed to what they perceive as right; it's a big picture. and it does this to every language. this is one more case where i can watch a simple slice of modern society, in my case 16-18-year olds, and i'm pretty sure i'm seeing an entire town's worth, more or less, about a thousand of them, and i can say, these folks are living in a different world than the one i grew up in, and the language they produce is different as a result.
part of this relies on the inevitability that 1) i receive a class to teach, thus our family has an income to live on, and, i get some insight into raising teenagers that is badly needed in spite of the fact that i've already raised three or four, or maybe six, or even seven if you count one who's in the chute as i write. one valuable thing about what i'm doing is that i can now see what things are just general to the age, the ages of 12-15 specifically and 16-18 as well; but, i also have to follow through, in a sense, want the job, get the job, get certification, keep it up, get myself in the class that will make myself most happy (determine that such a class exists), etc. it's a long road ahead of me. and, i'm sixty-two; sometimes, in this subbing gig, i'm really feeling it. i mean, people respect me, they don't give me really serious discipline problems; they are nice overall, and i feel i could teach in this situation, but after thirty years of very respectful internationals the simple lack of self control that i've seen in the last nine days is astounding. and far worse at the junior high level. i think most likely i'll stick with the high school, if only because they seem so civilized in comparison.
heard one story about a woman, sub, who had come in, and had control problems. so she brought a whistle, and thought she'd use it whenever she needed to. but alas, the students got around her, and behind her, and one actually got on the desk, and got the whistle, and was using it as continuously and as loudly as he could...while standing on the desk....this, i thought, was a pretty good story of how bad things could get. they never got quite so bad with me. i did have a v-tech class that was pretty rowdy, and a middle-school class that pulled just about everything they possibly could. paper airplanes were common. crumpled up paper that didn't make it to the wastebasket was the battleground. it was my job, the way i saw it, to make sure it did make it to the wastebasket. and sometimes i had to make sure they knew that was the line. there was a lot of line-crossing. in general, though, nothing got broken. no kids got injured. it was close, but if we weren't heard in other classes, that was a success.
and so it goes. it's my new job. and part of it is, i go down a hill 6000 feet in the morning, and back up 6000 feet in the afternoon. it's my life. there are cliffs on the side of the road; ancient caves; it snows at the top, but at the bottom it's sunny and warm. my ears pop. it uses a lot of gas to go up. the cliffs are narrow and not much room for error. deer and elk populate the roads in the off-hours. some people don't know how to use the passing lanes. there's construction, orange cones and reduced speed, delay, as they cut down part of a rock cliff to make the road wider, in a place where some logging truck clipped someone earlier in the year, because his log just couldn't get around the narrow mountain. and, heavily patrolled; at the passing lane, if you go ten or twenty over to get around someone, you're dead. safety corridor, double the fines. work area; double the fines. double it twice, it's probably over a thousand, as those have become a little steep. so the pressure's on, and winter hasn't even started. but hey, they're closing the road altogether in april, for a while, late at night, and then, things will get really interesting. hope i'm still in the game, is all i can say. i'm feeling a little old, sometimes, as i'm not used to the 40-hour schtick. gotta get my stamina up, i guess.
my job, as i said, is usually giving out worksheets, which they may or may not take seriously, and glaring at them, hoping they follow my rigid rules about cell-phone use and making noise with potato chips. as a sub, i'm fully aware that they're going to be a little looser than they usually would. i have mental freedom; i can think what i want, and do. i'm tired of my poetry, yet have been working on it, as i usually do, when i have the chance. i've written a few more stories (see below). i am kind of free to arrange it as i wish; they are nice to me; they are grateful that someone would be willing to be a sub; there seems to be plenty of work subbing. i have seen many many kids; i'm getting to know a few of them. this town, by the way, is bigger than the <1000 town i live in; there's probably >1400 kids in the school. not sure. i can tell you, there's an interesting mix.
but i've just begun to notice.
Thursday, January 12, 2017
Saturday, January 07, 2017
Tuesday, January 03, 2017
pop from around
more at the salukipop retrospective