Wednesday, May 30, 2018

e pluribus haiku 2018

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1000 original haiku from fifty states and the District of Columbia - written in an original 5-7-5 style. Haiku are colorful and physical and include a season word or hint. Because the USA is geographically spread out, geography clues are necessary too.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

oops turned around and there was another school shooting. now that i'm in a school every day i should probably pay attention; over half of my students have access to one gun or another, and i just made about half of them very angry. not sure if it's the same half. but i can tell you this: there's a general lack of respect around that didn't used to be that way.

i partly blame the movies. my own kids spend hours on movies, and i know they turned away from having truly good people win about forty years ago. now the ones who win are the ones who show no respect, in one way or another. they're too cool for politeness or for at least honoring the system. once i explained to my students who dirty harry was. he was one of the first to be a good guy, and to tell the local police department to shove it. and this was a best-selling movie. after that, every movie was like that. the good guy was the maverick, who didn't care to follow the rules.

now a lot of people blame mental illness, and figure anyone who would go home and get a gun, or a AR-50 or an arsenal, and bring it back and shoot up the school pretty much has to be sick. like they can't distinguish between the shoot-em-up video games they play all day long, and an actual situation with hallways and real people. well, they have a point, and that is that if you spend six or seven hours shooting up video-game people, and only an hour or so walking in those hallways, which is more real? no question that the real guns are real; they're all over the place. i think what becomes unreal is somebody trying to tell you where to get off. people don't do that anymore. if some teacher does it, or god forbid a sub, as i am, then, it's all over. talk about unreality.

i have kids who can't read too well, ninth graders who seem to have been passed along without doing much actual reading. they reach a point where they have to read something, and they can't, partly because they never really have. they have some other tricks they do instead, but sometimes they don't work. sometimes a little thing points out how little they have actually read. sometimes you can just tell: almost nothing. so what do they do? i don't know but it doesn't prepare them very well for anything. it prepares them, really, for an overwhelming frustration, and a sense that the whole world is speaking a language they don't understand. there are a lot of these kids. in a system with classes of thirty students, it's almost impossible to keep them from getting answers from their friends.

this is not to say they don't know the world of games, though. put them in a room full of computers and they have halo up in minutes and they're wandering through some empty warehouse with goons off in the distance that they have to shoot or they themselves will be shot. when they hit one he does a little flip off in the distance and their points go up in a gratifying way. sometimes it's their team, and they have an alliance with some other kid or kids in the room.

i suppose it's like their backup plan. if things don't work out, go grab a real one and go wandering through the halls.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

home with dog on lap. the kind of headache you get when you are robbed of sleep too much. girls in their room, talking loudly with an older sister back in lubbock texas. i have to remind them, you can't show off your vulgarity when you make a big deal out of being a christian. they're in a trap now. they like to go off on jesus things with their friends, but they're still capable of vulgarity and meanness. it's my job to point out, you can't do both.

ah but you can and people do. they're being socialized in the ways of the world. with my son, i flew out to oregon for a quaker wedding. the light streamed in to the multnomah meeting house, and people spoke up about the couple and how they were perfect for each other. the plane flights were long but my son held up well. my daughter drove us around a little. i have trouble with siri so i was grateful to let them do it. i got to see a little more of portland that way as well.

almost fell asleep on the lonely highway back from el paso to alamogordo, about the most hostile of desert scapes known to man. i demanded that my son talk to me constantly; that helped. i'd been deprived of sleep for over a week. it seemed like i was going to just blank out and swerve into the ditch. it's a lonely road and, fortunately, no cars were in sight. fortunately also, he agreed immediately and kept up the chatter.

the wedding was fabulous, a little on the hipster side. we stayed at the kennedy school, a hipster hotel in the middle of portland. the groom's grandparents were there, the stars of the show. the groom is my son, number five, and it was his big moment; he had friends there from illinois, and others from as far away as kansas, chicago, new mexico, north carolina. the bride and family were from north carolina, and lots of people were there from the south. they served biscuits and gravy, sausage, and collard greens, and some people pointed out that it was a classic southern breakfast. well-catered though.

the place was green and full of fragrant flowers, various shades of pink. whole bushes full of red and orange and pink flowers; they're easier to grow than grass, someone said. lots of well-tended gardens and old craftsmen houses, greenery, huge trees, and moss in the parks. the weather was unusually good, sunny and beautiful. for them, a break from the rain, i suppose, but for me, i kind of wanted the rain and instead felt i'd brought the sunny-and-dry with me. the greenery was stunning though.

some pictures, i hope, are coming.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

dry as a bone out here, not a drop of rain since about october, though there was a couple of inches of snow at one point. people are a touch sensitive about fire and fires. you can't just step outside your car and light a cigarette, or make some old campfire, the whole mountain might burn down. spring is the very dry, very windy season and we have to hope for the most part, to just get through it alive.

this leaves me wondering - where do the bears go, this time of year? the deer? the elk? not a single mountain spring anywhere with actual water in it.

going to portland on friday morning early, for a son's wedding. it's a pretty good thing, a son getting married and all, but one of the things about it is the lush plants and flowers of portland. it rains all winter out there, so things have been ready to bust out i'm sure, and i'll bring pictures. here, i have no idea how new grass even turns green. i like to say, when it rains out here, you want to go stand in it, but you don't want to rob the ground beneath you of its annual supply.

my job has taken a turn for the very twisted, very difficult. i'm only a sub, but i've taken over a class, a ninth-grade english class, of a teacher who punctured two lungs and may not make it. this class was a little tough on this teacher, i think, but they are just kids, and aren't aware of the degree to which they crushed his dreams, or even wore him out. he taught six classes per day, of anywhere from twenty to forty students per class, a hundred sixty total, and there's a lot of grading in there. these kids, all fourteen-year-olds more or less, had got a little wild, a little over the top.

one of them, my sixth hour, is by far the worst. it has a couple of very large, very physical boys and on the first day, they almost had a fight in which i thought one would kill the other, and would kill me if i were in the middle of it. i called security and it took them forever to get down there, whereupon they hauled the boys off. another kid told me that the one boy was only talking sh--, so i put that in the report, but i also told the truth - i thought it was getting murderous.

but the boys are actually pretty good friends, and so is everyone else in the class; they seem to accept each other in all their differences. there are timid kids who are scared to death of the rampant anarchy of every class and a long list of subs. there have been subs who threatened them, or cajoled them, or tried to restore some kind of order, no success. they're just too wild.

but today there was a lockdown drill, and even the local police were to come and see how well we did, and it was scheduled for two o'clock, beginning of sixth hour. they came to class exuberant as usual, ready to raise cane. a few went back and forth to the bathroom as they often do the first few minutes. then the lockdown orders came over the speakers.

the boys got everyone inside, shut the door and literally threw desks up against the door. mind you, you are supposed to barricade the door, but they took to it with a passion unparalleled in my experience. notebooks flew off the desks as they lifted them and fit them in there against the door. we all got away from the door, as far as we could, and most people sat down. with the lights off, the room got very tired, like we were taking a nap. they played with their phones. i had never heard this class quiet, even for a minute; now it was quiet for a whole ten, fifteen minutes. it was heavenly.

overall i felt like telling them, if there was any chance of some wild gun person coming through shooting randomly, i'd rather be with this particular group of wild boys, than just about anyone else.

in fact, teaching young fourteen-year-olds is like that. it's hard to see that they're actually just people, nice people, but they're trapped in this hormone factory body, and it is so all-consuming that often they don't even recognize me once they get out in the hallway. they live for the social experience, the world of fourteen-year-olds, and the need to impress is so strong, it's all-consuming. and the energy is constant, overwhelming.

that's life in the high school. barricaded doors, cell phones, a little peace and quiet. outside, the sounds of administrators explaining something to the police. over the loudspeaker, they lift the lockdown, back to chaos as usual.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018