Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Back from the desert, mountains, etc.

I'm back.

Had a great vacation. One of the best ever.

I'll publish the journals here forthwith. Get right on it. No excuses. Time lays before me uninterrupted. A great resource to plumb, or waste on YouTube, television and trash novels.

A few highlights off the top of my head.

-- Cutting steps through three foot snow drifts at 9,000 feet on a Sunday morning and getting water from a cow pond Monday morning in the desert north of Oracle, AZ.

-- Going three days without seeing another human being (or roads or houses), then going another three days without contact after walking through crowds of tourists at Mt. Lemmon and Summerhaven.

-- Getting picked up on a lonely desert dirt road by Steve, who just so happened to be the landowner and leader of a 10-acre hippie commune in the desert somewhere between Tucson and Florence. I stayed there the last four days of the trip and made many new friends, including the leader of a biker gang, The Seekers (despite not having any tattoos)!

-- The hitch down the control road off Mt. Lemmon, which I took because I didn't want to deal with any more deep snow, was one of the craziest ever. I rode in the bed of a pickup truck as the driver did everything possible to nauseate me, including taking hairpin turns at such speed I could feel my cheeks receding from the G forces.

-- Seeing a family of javelinas (desert pigs), including a boar with long tusks.

-- Crossing roaring, 100-feet-wide Sabino Creek, barefoot.

-- Almost falling down a 50-foot cliff as I tried to find a saner, narrower, place to cross.

-- Camp fires and cook fires. Mesquite, juniper, cedar, and palo verde. Good wood. Fragrant. Gave a nice, smoky flavor to my mac and cheese. I've improved immensely with my fire cooking skills. Only spilled once. Hint: Find two rocks with flat faces, space them apart, put on pot, direct coals from fire underneat pot, build secondary fire with small sticks, stir often to avoid scorching food.

-- Slept outside every night. Spent less than $180 the whole trip. Didn't use the credit card.

-- Found much-needed solitude, then met cool, interesting people just as I was getting lonely.

Last year's trip was an escape. This year's a true adventure. Affirmation of the Goethe quote about the genius, power, and magic of boldness. Or, to quote the magic bus trip immortalized by Kesey and Wolfe: FURTHER!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Sunday morning cartoons

I got up early this morning and watched most of a DVD of Spiderman '67 cartoons. One episode, "Revolt in Dimension Five," seemed a far departure from the others with a long introduction of space aliens, a particularly free form jazz/fusion soundtrack, tripped out visuals and timing. My hunch about the episode's uniquity is confirmed by a one-minute net search.

From TV.com:

"ABC did not air this episode with the rest of the third season due to the incidence of death, spatial creepiness, and great psychedelia. However, "Sting of the Scorpion/Trick or Treachery" was aired in it's place.

"This show's villian, Infinata, never appeared in the Marvel comics. He comes from another Kranz Films cartoon series, "Rocket Robin Hood". In fact, the entire plot of this episode, as well as much of the animation was lifted from the RRH story, "Dementia Five". "

IMDB: Two episodes of the series ("Phantom from the Depths of Time" and "Revolt in the Fifth Dimension") heavily recycle animation from episodes "From Menace to Menace" and "Dimentia Five" of the earlier series "Rocket Robin Hood" (1966) by simply substituting Spider-Man for Rocket Robin Hood on the animated cels.

YouTube: One of the most psychedelic cartoons ever made for childrens television. The same episode was re-made into a Spider-man episode called Revolt in the Fifth Dimension (1968). Both episodes have achieved true cult status for those in the know.

Check out the ORIGINAL Rocket Robin Hood episode here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRw49ggXO4Q

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BokBaUE5Yeg&feature=related

And the Spiderman "Revolt in the Fifth Dimension" episode:

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-793560162495688336

Saturday, December 08, 2007

No excuses... none necessary

Whew! Whirlwind life lately, but really no excuse for not writing other than sloth. A well-earned sloth. Busy with school and boy and portfolios, grading, lesson plans, etc.... As of today, the grading and lesson plans are done.

I'm finished student teaching.

This weekend is all about the portfolio. I've got a 3-4 inch stack of papers to sort through. I kept a copy of everything I did. On Thursday I tracked down two or three diligent students who I know kept all their papers, and made student copies of most of my lessons.

So, no, I have yet to write that novel. Or a short story for that matter. But I've got a pile of lessons here. And I have to write "reflections" for my portfolio.

I do other non-fiction writing to avoid writing fiction. I'm too emotionally involved when I write fiction. I should just plunge in and fail miserably, and be humbled by it. Just like I took the plunge with my lessons and succeeded, with practice and effort I could succeed in fiction.

Some ideas about style. Keep sentences short. Open with verbs. Absolve the person whenever possible. Characters "said," never "explained" or any other adverbial accouterments. Adherence a struggle for word man me who wants to show off his vocabulary.

I'm 35 now. Wow! Feels old sometimes. I literally creak when I walk. My facial wrinkle lines are established. I don't care. I'm more handsome with age. My skin is healthier than ever. I still have all my hair. My face is less doughy looking than 10 years ago. I could lose 15 pounds, but who couldn't? Need to start running again. Give up the chicken wings.

Funny how certain life skills have helped me as a teacher. I had a very organized grade book with a little help from Nina, my cooperating teacher. She showed me how to set it up. But my past experience keeping score while watching baseball games helped me be more efficient and organize the information. Of course, I'm still a math dummy, despite my 'C' in Trigonometry this past summer. Most of my assignment point values were in increments of 20 points so I could figure out the grade percentage without a calculator.

I always had up to the minute grades for each student because I also entered the grades into Skyward, a grade-keeping software used by the district that allows parents to log in and check their child's grade on a moment's notice. We got to know whose parents checked when I posted an assignment to Skyward without entering the grades. The assignment was entered as a zero, and some e-mailed, called, or sent messages through their children asking about that 'F.' The number of inquiries was in single digits.

Skyward has a dizzying array of options. Its menu interfaces could be more streamlined. I didn't tinker with it too much. Nina took more time to learn many of its functions. Paul, the school's tech guy for the system, is on our team, so he was readily available to answer questions.

One thing I take a certain pride in is quick turnaround on grading papers. This alone gives students the impression that you care, that you mean business, that you expect them to meet their deadlines for work and you'll respect their timeliness with equal timeliness in return.

I realize I'm a mix of old school with modern education. My classes will read modern young adult fiction and will also look at classical literature across the entire epoch of western civilization. One thing grad school and net tinkering has taught me is the value of supplementary texts. Knowledge learned in a context is more easily recalled.

While I won't require my students to always read challenging texts, I will provide them bits of it either through quotes of the day or weekly book talks.

*********************

Gawd. Gotta get away from school. It's all I think about these days.

Thirty-five is one of those signpost years. I look at the next 20-30 years of my life (if I'm lucky) as the productive years. I've learned some professional skills, had many valuable life experiences, but am steady on my feet. Now is the time to buckle down, be an adult, build up equity, devote my time and energy to a few worthy endeavors, establish roots, buy a house, be a steady, stable, guiding force in my son's life, and travel whenever and wherever I can.

Steady? Stable? Me?!

Yeah. I've learned to manage the wanderlust. Fatherhood, you know. It brings with it certain responsibilities. Even part-time. I look forward to finding a teaching job and settling in for a long haul. As much for me as for my son. Student loans need to be repaid.

********

When I get back from Arizona, I will have about three weeks to get ready for the spring semester. In that downtime I plan to relax, maybe go on a five or six-day local winter backpacking trip (Ice Age Trail?), BIG MAYBE, I just thought of it now.

But I also need to plan lessons and write my syllabus for the section of ENGL 104 I'm teaching in the spring. I took the liberty of requiring them to buy Strunk and White's The Elements of Style. Considering all the liberties I take with language, it would be difficult to believe I am a fan of this book, but I am. I re-read it every couple of years or so. That's why I know to put a hyphen in re-read.

There I go again with the teaching talk. [Flicks hands.] Stop!

Also have to make amends with Founder's Memorial Library [I lost a book. Long story.], find out what texts I need for the spring semester, and get on the interlibrary loan bandwagon. I can count on one hand how many required textbooks I've purchased since I've been in graduate school.

This semester feels like a break from NIU. I hardly spend time on campus and have not gone to ANY campus events this fall. No concerts or sporting events. No time spent in the library or computer labs. The break from the university was welcome. I feel recharged now for the last hurrah this spring.

My grand master plan for the spring is to be a devoted, diligent academician. I want to immerse myself as deeply into my classes and teaching, read all required texts, write papers and present them at conferences [One of my goals as a grad student is to present three different papers at three different conferences. This would help me in the somewhat unlikely case I pursue a doctorate. Still, it's nice to have options and conferences are, I believe, an essential part of the graduate school experience. There, I've said it. Could this possibly be the longest side note ever? You've forgotten what the original paragraph is about, haven't you? It's essentially a winter Saturday morning musing. But I've found such prognosticating, repeatedly, if need be, actually leads to results, kind of like all that "Zone" bullshit popular in motivational psychology five years ago. You can find that zone if you constantly visualize what you want! Guh! Dreck. I hate to think I'm like that, but I guess I am. Naw, I'm just a listmaker and Central Scrutinizer (Frank Zappa Joe's Garage reference). I am vast, I contain multitudes. All and nothing. Whitman.], submit resumes, and get a middle school language arts or social studies teaching position by May.

"Pigs eat turtle eggs and turtles eat jellyfish, and now you get stung when you swim in the sea."-- Crash Test Dummies, "Our Driver Gestures"

Gotta change the name of this blog. I'm hardly living up to its current name. How about:

A Thousand Words TODAY

A Thousand Words whenever I Damn Well Please

A Deep Dark Well of Bullshit

Free Reggie!

The Realm of the Mendicant

Wanderlust

Greg/Ru's Search for Meaning

A Steaming Cauldron of Bullshit

A Thousand Words Written on the Head of a Pin

Windmill Chasers

The DeKalb County Interfaith United Walkers Club

Chicken Beak Wilderness

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