Wednesday, January 31, 2007

"Lights out tonight, trouble in the heartland. Got a head-on collision, smashin' in my guts, man. I'm caught in a crossfire that I dont understand. But there's one thing I know for sure, girl: I dont give a damn for the same old played out scenes. I dont give a damn for just the in-betweens. Honey, I want the heart, I want the soul, I want control right now. You better listen to me baby: Talk about a dream, try to make it real. You wake up in the night with a fear so real. You spend your life waiting for a moment that just don't come. Well, don't waste your time waiting. Badlands, you gotta live it every day. Let the broken hearts stand as the price you've gotta pay. Well, keep pushin' till its understood and these badlands start treating us good. Workin' in the field 'til you get your back burned. Workin' `neath the wheels 'til you get your facts learned. Baby, I got my facts learned real good right now. You better get it straight darling: Poor men wanna be rich, rich men wanna be kings, and a king ain't satisfied 'til he rules everything. I wanna go out tonight, I wanna find out what I got. Now I believe in the love that you gave me. I believe in the faith that could save me. I believe in the hope and I pray that some day it will raise me above these Badlands...For the ones who had a notion, a notion deep inside that it ain't no sin to be glad you're alive. I wanna find one face that ain't lookin' through me. I wanna find one place, I wanna spit in the face of these Badlands..." ~bruce springsteen

I tried to pick a short quote out of that song but I couldn't, so I had to post the whole thing. I've had the same Bruce Springsteen CD playing in my car for the past 4 weeks. I'm still not sick of it. As I was driving home from school today I listened to that song 3 times because I just couldn't move on to the next track. I do that a lot, listen to the same song over and over again. The lyrics don't fully convey that song's addictiveness. You have to hear him sing, "Honey, I want the heart, I want the soul, I want control right now" to get it. I love the rhythm of that line. It's pure poetry.

Speaking of poetry, I get to start teaching it tomorrow. I taught all the classes today because my cooperating teacher was absent, but she planned the lessons that I taught. Tomorrow I start teaching my own lessons. I'm nervous about it. I'm afraid I'll finish my lesson and look at the clock and see that I still have 30 minutes left until the period is over. Or I'm afraid that they won't listen to me or they won't understand. I have no real experience with this. I'm sure I'll manage, though.

I finished reading Frank McCourt's Teacher Man today. It was very good. I have a few complaints about the book, but they're minor. McCourt writes about some hilarious incidents and I couldn't stop laughing while reading those sections. I was in stitches. Even if you're not a teacher you'll probably enjoy the book. McCourt taught high school English in New York City public schools for 30 years. I hope to be half as good at that job as he was.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

"I walked the avenue 'til my legs felt like stone. I heard the voices of friends vanished and gone. At night I could hear the blood in my veins, black and whispering as the rain on the streets of Philadelphia." ~bruce springsteen

Today has been an emotional day. So this won't be a fun post to read. But I feel like writing it.

In school the kids read an article on teens and alcohol and then had to write a response to it. Luckily I read the responses when I had the classroom to myself, because one of them made me cry. The girl who wrote it seems like a sweet girl in class, and she's pretty quiet. In her response she wrote about certain events in her life, and she has been through so much. I don't really feel comfortable sharing the details here, even if I'm not naming her name, so I'll just say that she seems to have recovered spectacularly well considering what has happened to her. You'd never know what secrets she's got buried inside her just by looking at her. Reading her response made me so sad and made my heart break for her, and yet it made me hopeful because the fact that she was able to write about it made me think that she's coping well and has been working on coming to terms with her feelings. I want to do my best to reach out to her now.

Then my cooperating teacher got a phone call and learned that a three-year-old boy who is very close to her family was just diagnosed with cancer (stage 4, which I think is bad). She cried and I didn't know what to do. I'm not good at comforting people. I'll be praying for him. The two of us were just a mess today.

That made me start thinking about Liz. I miss her. She died of Leukemia when she was a sophomore in high school (I was a junior). Her dad died of cancer a few years before she did. His funeral was on my birthday. It was not a happy birthday for me. Liz lived on my street and I knew her since I was about 5 years old. Her house was right in front of the bus stop and I remember huddling inside her garage waiting for the bus when it rained. I remember she had great birthday parties when she was little. I remember her huge, deep, beautiful dark brown eyes and the way they looked when she smiled. I remember her dark, silky hair before it all fell out. She looked beautiful without her hair, though. Her eyes stood out even more. She was sick for awhile before she died. One time Jen and I went to her house and made friendship bracelets with her. At one point I said something like, "I would rather die than..." or some sentence making light of death. Jen glared at me and I couldn't believe I had just said that to my dying friend. A teenager shouldn't have to worry about what to say or what not to say to a dying friend. Teenagers shouldn't have dying friends. Teenagers shouldn't be allowed to die. Teenagers especially shouldn't know that they're going to die. Jen and I live on one end of the street and Liz lived on the other, so Jen and I walked back to our houses together that night and we talked about how we hadn't known what to say to Liz. I remember the day she died. It was a Saturday morning, and she never woke up. My mom told me that morning. She said Liz had told her mom the night before that she was nearly ready to go. It was so hard for me to grasp the fact that my 16-year-old friend was so calm about dying. Jen and I had swim practice that morning, so I drove us there and we didn't talk during the drive. During practice Jen had to get out of the water because she was crying too hard. I drove her home and then drove back to swim practice and got back in the pool, trying not to cry myself. At the funeral I sat with my friend Amanda. Jen sat up front because she spoke. I admire her so much for that; I don't know how she managed it. Amanda and I sobbed the entire time. I think we used up a box of tissues. Life isn't fair. But I know she's up in Heaven with her dad, and her mom and her brother are doing great now, so I have to believe that God knows what he's doing.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

"You've gone a million miles. How far'd you get? To that place where you cant remember, and you can't forget." ~bruce springsteen

In 6th grade my friend and I memorized all the words to that song (Secret Garden). We would actually study them. Yeah, we were that cool.

My synchro meet went really well yesterday. It lasted forever, though; we left campus at 6:30am and didn't get back until around 8:00pm. I got 5th in figures (out of 31 people) so I was pretty happy about that. My trio swam well, and overall our team got 2nd place (out of 5 teams), which is what we were hoping for.

After I got back I went to see The Departed, which was fabulous. I loved it. Martin Scorsese better get his Oscar this year. Seriously. If Clint steals it from him, you will be able to hear me screaming from across the country. The acting was great. I love Leonardo DiCaprio. I've loved him since What's Eating Gilbert Grape? (1994). I loved him when it was uncool to love him. And in The Departed, he is in top form. Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Walhberg, Alec Baldwin, and Martin Sheen all give good performances as well. There is a LOT of blood and a LOT of violence, so if you get squeamish this definitely isn't the movie for you. I'm not bothered by stuff like that, though, so I had no problems with it. It's a suspenseful, dramatic, violent movie, but there are some great humorous moments interjected throughout (most of them courteous of Mark Wahlberg and Martin Sheen), and overall it was a very enjoyable film.

Friday, January 26, 2007

"In the day we sweat it out in the streets of a runaway American dream. At night we ride through mansions of glory in suicide machines. Sprung from cages out on highway 9, chrome wheeled, fuel injected, and steppin' out over the line. Baby, this town rips the bones from your back, its a death trap, its a suicide rap. We gotta get out while were young, `cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run." ~bruce springsteen

I think I remember "Born to Run" being voted the best rock song ever written in an XPN poll a few years ago. Not that I usually give XPN much credit for their lists/polls/etc., but I wasn't too disappointed with that result (I was thrilled to see something besides "Bohemian Rhapsody" on one of those lists). I'd definitely put "Born to Run" somewhere in the top five of my own list of the greatest rock songs ever written (U2 has to have #1 of course).

I had an interesting dream the other night. I dreamed that I went to a Jeanne D'Arc reunion. It was at a huge restaurant (with multiple floors, bigger than any restaurant that I've ever seen) that had been rented out just for us. It was beautiful, with candles and chandeliers everywhere. My mom dropped me off and I felt awkward when I went inside because all the other girls had brought their parents and I was alone. I saw someone who had been in a cabin with me one year (not in real life but in the dream), and I felt better because she was wearing jeans and everyone else was dressed up, which made me feel like I stood out less. The girl was a younger Kate Winslet, and at first she didn't remember me. I kept waiting for Kelly (my roommate) to show up, which is strange because she didn't go to JDA. I guess it's also strange that I was in a cabin with Kate Winslet (who, by the way, received her 5th Oscar nomination earlier this week). But dreams aren't supposed to make sense. I don't remember the rest of it, but the details of what I do remember are so vivid in my memory.

The dream made me start thinking about JDA. I miss it. I miss campfire most of all. Campfire took place every night before bed, at it wasn't outside around a campfire but was instead inside the Hearth in front of the fireplace, with the lights turned off. We sang songs together for about half an hour. We sang "The House at Pooh Corner" (Cat Stevens), "Father and Son" (Cat Stevens), "Wide Open Spaces" (the Dixie Chicks), and other songs like those. We didn't have the words to the songs from which to read, but we didn't need them. If you didn't know the songs at the beginning of the summer, you knew them by the end. I still have all the words memorized to the songs we sang. I know it sounds like an unbearably corny activity, but it was so...soothing. We all took it seriously and it brought us together.
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I've thought about going back to JDA as a counselor before, but it never worked with my schedule (college has always started right before camp would be over for the summer). Maybe next summer. I wonder how it's changed. The pictures on the website make it appear exactly as I remember it.

We have a synchro meet tomorrow at William and Mary, and we're leaving campus at 6:30am. Ugh. At least I'm somewhat accustomed to getting up pretty early. Tonight the team is going out to Pasta Luna for dinner, and that'll be fun.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

"Everything dies, baby, that's a fact. But maybe everything that dies someday comes back. Put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty, and meet me tonight in Atlantic City." ~bruce springsteen

I love that song. Counting Crows do a good cover of it. I may have to make this a Springsteen week. Although the week is almost over and I don't know when I'll update again, so maybe it'll be Springsteen time until I decide to move on. There are just so many good lyrics of his that I can use. I'll stick to the classics, though. Like Atlantic City. And because I try to talk about Bono as much as possible, I'll bring him in now. I haven't posted a Bono picture for a long time. So here he is with The Boss at U2's induction to the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame. Springsteen gave the speech to introduce the band, calling them "a band that wanted to lay claim to this world and the next one, too." Bono's hair was getting dangerously long at this point. U2 gives a lot of credit to Springsteen for influencing their music.
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School has been going well. I've only been student teaching for 2 weeks, and I haven't done any actual teaching yet because this week is exam week and last week they were reviewing, but what I have experienced so far has solidified my desire to be a teacher. I love it. I love being around the students. I love hearing them say my name (they call me by my last name, of course). I love the way they look at me when they ask me a question; it's as if they're certain that I'll have an answer for them. I love how a few girls come into the classroom every day during lunch and eat with me and my cooperating teacher. I love how there are always students in the room, complaining or whining about grades, making up work, or just hanging out. I'm fully aware of the probability that my feelings towards the job will change slightly after I start teaching; I don't know that the kids will be as friendly to me after I start giving them assignments and grading them. I graded the essays they wrote on their exams, and most of them probably won't be too pleased with me when they receive their scores. I always used to think I would love grading papers, but I'm already sick of it. It's not a fun job. It's very difficult to be objective. I have gotten to read some pretty interesting things, though. It's a miracle that some of these kids have made it to 12th grade. They had to write essays on what they see as three important values evident in the English literature that they've read so far. Despite the teacher's explanation of what 'values' are, including examples such as honesty, courage, etc., some of them still don't get it. I've read essays on "values" ranging from "money" to "this is my deer, go hunt your own." Oy.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

"Well the dawn was coming, heard him ringing on my bell. He said, `My name's the teacher, that is what I call myself. And I have a lesson that I must impart to you. It's an old expression, but I must insist it's true. Jump up, look around, find yourself some fun, no sense in sitting there hating everyone. No man's an island and his castle isn't home, the nest is for nothing when the bird has flown.'' ~jethro tull

My kids are all hoping for a snow day tomorrow. I don't think they'll get one, although I wouldn't mind staying home, either. I got some planning done this weekend, but not as much as I would have liked.

I just got around to uploading some photos from winter break onto my computer. Two photos are of Josie, and I think they're hilarious. Here's an example of what Josie normally looks like:
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She sleeps a lot, she's lazy, she's very friendly, and in the 13 years that we've had her she's never bit anyone or showed any real malice (well, some rabbits, moles, and cats would disagree, but she's nice to humans at least). She's a sweetheart. But she does have a bit of an attitude that shows itself every once in a while. When her nails are being clipped is one of those times. I took these pictures when my mom was brave enough to clip her nails over break:
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She's just following her instincts by reacting that way, and she would never actually bite my mom, but she certainly looks pretty scary. It's pretty funny if you know her, because she's definitely not scary. I miss her a lot when I'm at school.

Okay, I have nothing to say really, so that's all for now.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

"Video killed the radio star." ~the buggles

Today I got an email from my MTV summer intern buddy. I miss her. She forwarded me news of a certain young starlet's recent entry into rehab. It reminded her of a crazy weekend we shared last summer. I don't think I ever blogged about that weekend, so I'm going to do so now. Blogging is one of my main ways of remembering things, and I definitely want to remember that weekend. So here goes. Warning: this will be long.

I'm pretty sure it was late July. Tatum and I were hired by a director (with whom we had already worked a few times) be PAs on a music video shoot. We were actually being paid for it, so we were pretty excited. The shoot was on a Saturday and Sunday. I should first point out that it was incredibly hot that weekend. Which was ironic because we were shooting a Christmas music video. On Saturday we ran around like crazy on set and throughout the city. Everything was chaotic. The producer had been fired or quit or something (apparently he had a substance abuse problem that went too far the week before the shoot), so the guy who hired us ended up being the director, producer, and production manager...the poor guy was left with waaaay too much to do. In the morning, one big job that the PAs were assigned was to haul 30 (live) Christmas trees off of a truck and into the studio (imagine how much it cost to buy those trees and to haul them into NYC in the middle of July). By the end of that task we were dripping with sweat and covered in sap. Then, once the trees were inside, someone realized that we had no good way to stand the trees up. I ran (literally ran) to the nearest hardware store (about 5 blocks away) and back 5 times that morning. The trees kept falling down and we kept needing more equipment to hold them up, so I was the runner. It was insane. And remember that it was incredibly hot outside. Finally everything was set up (hours late), and we were actually ready to start shooting the video. During the two-day shoot, I was assigned to be the personal assistant to the star of the video and her mother. If you follow Hollywood news at all, you will have read about this mother (she's mentioned and quoted in the article linked earlier in this blog). I was terrified of her at first because of some things I had read. She turned out to be very nice to me. Anyway, the rest of the day went okay. The shoot lasted forever, though. After the important people got to leave, we stayed to clean everything up. Tatum and I both live outside the city, and we missed our last trains home. It was about 2:30am when we finished working (and we had gotten up around 3:30am that morning to be at the shoot on time). Ginger, the wardrobe lady, was very kind and offered to let us stay at her apartment. We had never met her before that day, so her offer was very generous. We hadn't anticipated the need to stay in the city, though, so we didn't have clothes to change into, toothbrushes, contact cases and fluid...a shopping trip was required. So at 3:00am we found ourselves wandering around the city looking for a Duane Reade that was open. Luckily we found one and bought toiletry stuff. We needed to do something about our clothes, though. We smelled awful and were covered in sweat and sap, and we would have to wear the same outfits the next day. So we got a cab and Tatum gave the cab driver a long narrative, explaining that we were MTV interns and we were working on a music video and were stranded in the city overnight and needed to buy new clothes. I'm sure he thought we were drunk. We were certainly acting like it. The absurdness of our situation was intoxicating to us. Anyway, he drove us to a tourist shop that was miraculously open at 3:30am. We bought matching New York City touristy t-shirts, and we were finally able to head to Ginger's. We slept on her foldout sofa bed in our underwear for a few hours before we had to get up again and get back to the set. Sunday was even more chaotic than Saturday, which I wouldn't have been able to imagine after Saturday was over. I got to make one fun trip to Bloomie's to buy jeans for the star to wear in the video. I can't imagine ever spending that much money on a pair of jeans for myself. We were shooting at the Ronald McDonald house, and they were under the impression that we would leave by 4:00pm. They informed us of this at 3:00pm. We still had hours of shooting left to do. We somehow managed to find an open studio (which is an incredibly difficult task), so we packed up all of our equipment into our trucks, drove to the studio (I rode with the talent and her family in their car), and unpacked everything. The move took a few hours; we had a lot of equipment. We worked well past midnight, until everyone decided that it had been a long weekend and no one could take any more. I got hugs from the star and her mom (who were both very sweet), a souvenir ornament from one of the Christmas trees, a big paycheck, exhaustion that would last throughout the next week, and a pretty great memory. Here's Tatum and I on Day 2 of the shoot (with our poor director/producer/PM in the background):
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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

"Cause institution's like a big bright lie, and it blinds you into fear and consuming and fight. And you've been in the desert underneath the charging sky. It's just you and God, but what if God's not there? But his name is on your dollar bill, which just became cab fare." ~jenny lewis with the watson twins

I'm pretty tired today so I don't feel like writing a lot. But after another good day of student teaching, I have more fun quotes. I'm not sure they're all that funny (some might be "you had to have been there" situations), but I'll post them anyway.

The first one was written (and not spoken) by a student, in an essay:
"At the end of Macbeth, Malcolm is in his rifle place." (my teacher is assuming that by "rifle" the student meant "rightful." Not so much funny as scary, actually.)

In one of the AP English classes, the students were asked to write down what central question they believe Hamlet poses. One answer (remember, this is an AP student):
"Is life better when you're alive or when you're dead?"

Some quotes from AP students during class discussion:
"Hamlet was whack."
"You can't just go around killing people all willy-nilly."
"At the end everyone's dead, and you're just like, Dang!"

Each class definitely consists of a colorful group of students. They're funny, aren't afraid to speak their minds, and seem to have a great, comfortable rapport with their teacher and each other. I hope I'll be able to ease into their world without much trouble. I think I will; they all seem like good, accepting, friendly kids.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

" I've got everything that you want. I've got everything, and someday I'll be president. I've got everything that you want. I've got everything, except the single thing you really need." ~counting crows

Those few lines of that song ("Love and Addiction," which really should be released on an album) are an example of why I love Adam Duritz. Actually, just one word in that song is an example of why I love him. The way he sings the word "president" makes me want to cry. The first syllable ("prez") starts off on a high note, and then his voice sort of cracks and the the next two syllables of the word are sung at lower notes. Then he rushes right into the next line. It sounds like he starts off full of hope, but he can't even get the rest of the word out of his mouth before he realizes that his hope is futile and he will never be president. It's so sad. He manages to communicate so much by simply singing one single word. It absolutely amazes me.

I started student teaching today, and I survived! My cooperating teacher is really nice. The students are going to be taking exams for the next 2 weeks (and they were taking a test today), so I didn't really get to interact with them and won't get to for awhile. That gives me time to plan some lessons, though. I'm teaching 3 12th grade English classes (Brit Lit), and during a free period I'm working with the drama teacher and one of her drama classes. It seems like that will be a lot of fun. I met so many people today whose names I forgot 2 seconds later (teachers, principals, librarians, etc.), but everyone was so friendly to me. I think I'll post funny quotes here fairly often, because I know I'll have a lot of them. It'll probably be awhile before I get some really good ones because when the kids are testing they don't have much opportunity to be funny, but here are a couple from today:

"That was a fun test, Ms. W. Almost as fun as a hysterectomy." ~a smart-alecky boy

"By 12th grade most of the baddies are in jail already." ~my teacher mentioning one of the pros of teaching 12th graders.

If anyone has any great ideas on how to teach Renaissance poetry to apathetic 18 year olds, please let me know.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

"Heaven's waiting on down the tracks. Oh oh come take my hand, riding out tonight to case the promised land. Oh oh Thunder Road, oh Thunder Road, oh Thunder Road." ~bruce springsteen

I blasted Bruce Springsteen during most of my drive back to Richmond today. When you're driving down the New Jersey turnpike, Springsteen's music is definitely the best music you can listen to. It captures the soul of NJ. Don't laugh, that's not supposed to be funny. NJ has a soul. Here's a quote from Bono about how Springsteen inspired him: "Springsteen had filled my head with all kinds of images of America, and particularly New Jersey, the shoreline, Atlantic City, all that kind of funfair, boardwalk America." If you're from NJ, you have to love The Boss. He makes us proud to be New Jerseyans. He's brilliant.

I'm back at school. It's good to see my apartmentmates again. Tomorrow I have student teaching training, and then on Tuesday I head out to the high school. Luckily I get to ease into teaching a little bit. I'm excited to meet my cooperating teacher and the kids. Can I call them kids if they're 18 years old?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

" After the operation my heart will become erased, and I will miss you, in the morning, in the morning." ~anika moa

Anika Moa is a fabulous singer from New Zealand whose second album, "Stolen Hill," was released in NZ while I was living there and made quite a stir. Of course I bought it, and I fell in love with it. I think I blogged about it from NZ.

I watched 2 movies today that I Netflixed and hadn't gotten around to watching yet. They were In America and Whale Rider. I highly recommend both. In America is simply beautiful. Whale Rider made me ache for New Zealand. It reminded me how much I love and miss the land, the culture, the Maori language, the accents, everything. I want to go back. Keisha Castle-Hughes looks so young in the movie; I still can't believe she's pregnant now.
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I have a thing for accents. I love them. And New Zealand and Irish accents are my two favorite accents in the world, so watching those two movies today (one from Ireland, one from NZ) was perfect.

I head back to Richmond tomorrow. Not really looking forward to it.
"I can see all the moments passing by. Yeah, I'm looking above all the buildings and all the billboard signs. I can see all...all the world, all the world tonight. I can see everything...everything." ~the graham colton band

I took the Praxis this morning, which was pretty difficult. I think I got 3 questions wrong because I forgot what a participial phrase is. I think I did well on the passage analysis questions, though. And I came through with some good guesses on identifying passages. I IDed a few lines from Alexander Pope's "An Essay on Criticism," which I haven't read for awhile, and I think I correctly recognized a passage about Agamemnon (I hope). Both of those were tricky questions so I was proud of myself. There were some other difficult questions that I'm not sure I did so well on. Anyway, I'll see how I did in about a month. I was talking to people before the test started, and I found it funny that no one actually knows the highest possible score you can get. For example, everyone knows the SAT is out of 2400 (used to be 1600), but no one knows the perfect score for the Praxis II exams. They don't publicize it; they don't even tell you on your score report. They just give you a number. One girl there has taken the test 5 times already and still hasn't passed. I only have one more chance, so I hope I did okay. And the passing score is different in every state. For Virginia, I need a 172 (of course I have no idea what that means). In NJ I think it's 160 or something.

My Vanity Fair magazine came yesterday. I look forward to getting it every month; it always has such interesting articles. It takes forever to read, though. This month there's a great piece on why women aren't funny. It looks at gender stereotypes and traditional expectations about women. The cover story is fabulous; it's on the Dreamgirls movie, and the story of Bill Condon's development of the film is so interesting. What fascinates me most of all in the magazine, though, is an in-depth story based on intense interviews with members of the "Finch" family featured in Augusten Burrough's memoir Running With Scissors. Their family is suing Burroughs for inaccurately portraying their family. I tend to side with Burroughs on the issue. I guess I can understand why the family is upset, because they're not exactly pictured in the most positive light, but I don't think Burroughs is as cruel to them as they're making him out to be. I don't know how a court will determine who's telling the truth, either. There are specific incidents written about in the book that Burroughs claims are completely true and that the family members claim are completely false. It's his word against theirs. How do you decide who's telling the truth? In the interview they talk about how much pain the book has caused them. "Natalie" had to go to the hospital multiple times because it made her seriously, physically ill. They claim that the book has ruined their lives (I'm not exaggerating). Maybe that is the case, but if it is, it's because their lives weren't all that stable to begin with. And I think going to court will just drag out everything and prevent them from moving on. I'm probably being too harsh on them and I shouldn't judge them because I haven't experienced their situation, but I think they're overreacting. Anyway, the article is an interesting read for anyone who enjoyed reading Running with Scissors or who is interested in memoirs in general. It addresses the issue of the rights of a memoirist, going beyond the topics of embellishment and the portrayal of truth and addressing whether people should be able to write about other real people without even consulting them first.

Friday, January 12, 2007

"I've seen your frown, and it's like looking down the barrel of a gun. And it goes off and out come all these words. Oh there's a very pleasant side to you, a side I much prefer. It's one that laughs and jokes around. Remember cuddles in the kitchen, yeah, to get things off the ground. And it was up, up and away. Oh, but it's right hard to remember that on a day like today when you're all argumentative and you've got the face on." ~arctic monkeys

Okay, it's a day later and already I'm changing my list. I forgot about and have to add Ray LaMontagne's "'Til the Sun Turns Black." Which means I have to remove one. So, after careful consideration, I'm taking off Arctic Monkeys. Sorry, guys. Q Magazine called "Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not" the best album of the year and one of the best debut albums ever, it's one of the most talked-about albums of the year, and it's done extremely well in terms of sales (especially in Great Britain), but it didn't resonate with me as much as the other albums on my list. Even though it's still fantastic. "Mardy Bum" is a particularly good song, so it gets the opening quote today. Here's my updated list (still subject to change):

Damien Rice, "9"
The Strokes, "First Impressions of Earth"
The Killers, "Sam's Town"
Dashboard Confessional, "Dusk and Summer"
Regina Spektor, "Begin to Hope"
Bruce Springsteen, "We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions"
Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins, "Rabbit Fur Coat"
John Mayer, "Continuum"
Ray LaMontagne, "'Til the Sun Turns Black"
Bob Dylan, "Modern Times"

Some runners-up are Arctic Monkeys, M Ward, The Decemberists, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Pearl Jam.

I went to see the movie Notes on a Scandal today. I've been waiting forever to see it, and it finally opened in my area. It was incredible. It was such a well-made film. The directing, acting, script, were all superb. Have I mentioned that I love Cate Blanchett? I saw her in Hetta Gabler at BAM last year and she gave one of the best live stage performances I've ever seen (and I've seen lots), so that exponentially increased my respect for her as an actress. She's great in this movie, and so is Judi Dench. And Bill Nighy. It's definitely one of the best movies of the year, and I really hope it gets an Oscar nod for best picture. Dench and Blanchett will surely get noms for best actress and best supporting actress, respectively.

Ooh, I don't think I've written about Dreamgirls yet. Sorry if I already have, I forget. I saw that a couple of weeks ago and loved it as well. I predict that it will (deservedly) win the best picture Oscar. Jennifer Hudson blew me away. Her "And I am Telling You..." was phenomenal. The theater was completely packed (there wasn't an empty seat; I think we saw it on the day it opened) and J. Hud. got a standing ovation after that song. It was the kind of movie where you wanted to just stand up and clap at multiple times throughout the movie. It definitely inspired hope in me that the movie musical genre is not dead.

Praxis II is tomorrow. I'm afraid I haven't studied nearly enough. I don't even know how many points it's out of. I'll be glad when it's over.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

"Well, we are big rock singers, we've got golden fingers, and we're loved everywhere we go. We sing about beauty and we sing about truth at ten thousand dollars a show." ~dr. hook

Lots of magazines, websites, radio stations, etc. have recently released their lists of the best albums of 2006. Most of those lists frustrate me greatly because each one manages to overvalue, undervalue, or omit at least one deserving album. Of course I do realize that, to a certain degree, it is a subjective task to pick the best albums of the year. Anyway, here are my top 10, in no particular order because it's too difficult to place them:

Damien Rice, "9"
The Strokes, "First Impressions of Earth"
The Killers, "Sam's Town"
Dashboard Confessional, "Dusk and Summer"
Regina Spektor, "Begin to Hope"
Bruce Springsteen, "We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions"
Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins, "Rabbit Fur Coat"
John Mayer, "Continuum"
Arctic Monkeys, "Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not"
Bob Dylan, "Modern Times"

It's very difficult to choose just 10. I'm sure I'll think of another album I love that I'll want to add to this list in favor of one of those already listed, but these are the ones that initially come to mind. They're all wonderful and I recommend checking out and buying the ones that you don't already have if you're looking for some good music.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

"Questions I have many, answers but a few. We're here to learn the spirit burns, to learn the greater truth." ~dolly parton

I love that song. I'm surprised it didn't win the Oscar last year (it was considered the lead contender among the nominees and was upset by "It's Hard Out Here For a Pimp," which shocked everyone).

On Friday I went to see Freedom Writers. It's about a first-year high school English teacher, which is what I'll be in about 8 months, so it was a little frightening because it hit so close to home. I hope my job isn't as challenging as Hilary Swank's character's. And I hope I can be half as good a teacher as she was. I really enjoyed the film.

On Saturday night I went into the city and Nic and I went to see Mook play at a bar downtown. They weren't bad. Paul Dano (you probably know him as Dwayne from Little Miss Sunshine) is the lead singer and guitarist. Here's a really bad picture that I took:
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I stayed at Nic's apartment that night. Then on Sunday we went to see The Little Dog Laughed, a hilarious Broadway play. It was sooo good. It's about an actor trying to navigate the movie business and live a happy life, and his crazy agent doesn't help him with the latter all that much. The cast consists of 4 actors, all of whom are incredibly talented. Julie White will probably win the Tony this year for her performance. Ari Graynor was absolutely hilarious, and Tom Everett Scott was also great. I'm a huge fan of the movie That Thing You Do!, and he's the star of that, so it was cool to see him perform live. And I sure saw a whole lotta him. There was some full frontal nudity going on. Anyway, here's me and Tom Everett Scott:
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I read Wintersmith, which was great. I was sad when I finished it, though, because it's the last book in the Tiffany Aching series and I want to know what happens to her. Of course I can imagine for myself, which is fun to do, but that doesn't seem as real as reading Pratchett's ideas.

I need to start studying for the Praxis II, which I'm taking on Saturday. I don't know how to study for it, though. Basically you have to know the material or else you're screwed; it's not exactly something that you can cram for, it's something that you've been preparing for throughout your entire education.

Friday, January 05, 2007

"In New York, freedom looks like too many choices. In New York, I found a friend to drown out the other voices. Voices on the cell phone, voices from home, voices of the hard sell, voices down the stairwell. In New York, just got a place in New York." ~u2

Yesterday was one of the best days ever. I'm still reeling. So here are the highlights:

1. I went to MTV to visit my old office. I spent about an hour and a half hanging out with some of my favorite people in the world. I laughed harder than I have in a long time. It was wonderful. While I was there, I completely forgot what had been making me nervous for the past few days (see #2).

2. I had an interview with the NYC Dept. of Ed. for a teaching position. After the interview (which went okay, even though there were so many things I thought of afterwards that I should have said), the interviewer offered me a contract. And I signed it. So now I am officially employed by the NYC Dept. of Ed. and are guaranteed a teaching position for the 2007-2008 school year. I have a job. A real job. A career. And I know that it is what I really want to do. It's what I've wanted to do since forever. I still can't wrap my mind around the fact that I will be an actual teacher in 8 months, in the only place in the world I want to be. I am beyond happy. I don't have a specific placement yet; I have a Recruitment Manager and a Case Worker with whom I'll be collaborating to find the position for me. And I have a whole lotta tests to take and papers to fill out to get certified in New York. But I don't care, because I have a job.

3. You're probably wondering how this day could have gotten any better, but it did. I went to see The Vertical Hour on Broadway. It was a very good, thought-provoking play about politics written by David Hare. The acting was great. Bill Nighy was the stand-out. He's so good at using his whole body to act, and his facial expressions are priceless. Here's Bill Nighy in a scene from Love Actually, one of my favorite movies. I love him in that film. Check out his ridiculous outfit:
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Julianne Moore was also wonderful. I have believed for a long time (and still do) that she is the most talented actress working today. Someone needs to give that woman an Oscar already (she's been nominated 4 times).
What really topped off the whole evening, though, was the fact that both actors were so incredibly friendly and gracious. I love it when famous, talented people are nice, because they don't have to be and often they aren't. Here's my pics:
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So it was a good day.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

"If the children don't grow up, our bodies get bigger but our hearts get torn up. We're just a million little gods causin' rain storms, turnin' every good thing to rust. I guess we'll just have to adjust." ~the arcade fire

I may have written about this before, but I don't care because I just listened to that song and it's in my mind now and I feel like writing about it. Seeing U2 live in concert has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life; I've seen them 3 times, and the 3d time was the best. It was in Madison Square Garden, and I had an impossible-to-get GA floor ticket. I was on the railing in the front row around the ellipse. That day I waited outside in line for about 10 hours so that I could get a good spot. While we were standing inside the arena waiting for the concert to start, my legs hurt and I was tired and still thawing (because it was late November and it was cold and windy outside and I had spent 10 hours out there). But when that song, The Arcade Fire's Wake Up, started playing, I can't even describe the feeling that came over me. That's the song that played right before U2 came onstage at each concert on their Vertigo tour. So the song started playing and the crowd went crazy because we were all insane U2 fans and all knew that the band would be coming out next. We all sang along, because of course we all knew all of the words. I know I just used the word "all" quite a few times in the last two sentences, but it's appropriate because there was a feeling of inclusiveness, like we all were feeling the same thing and wanted to shout it out together. Chanting that opening refrain (I would write it but it's basically just chanting notes and I don't know how to write that) in unison with 20,000 people in the greatest arena in the greatest city in the world was just so cool. The song was perfectly chosen by U2 to open their show; it perfectly encapsulated the audience's anticipation and excitement. And then suddenly Bono was directly in front of me (he started the show on the ellipse right in front of where I was standing) and confetti was falling all over us and I was just so filled with joy that I thought my heart was going to explode. It's amazing what music can do. So whenever I hear the song Wake Up, I think of how I felt as that U2 concert started.

The Arcade Fire is releasing a new album soon, and I can't wait. It's called Neon Bible. If it's anywhere near the quality of Funeral, it'll be fabulous. A release date hasn't been officially announced but most people are guessing late March. The album is finished already.

Today I went shopping with Kim and my mom. We spent almost 3 hours at Loehmann's (sp?) and hardly bought anything. Then we decided to check out this really cheap store called Shopper's World, which my mom described as a clothing version of the dollar store. There were no dressing rooms so Kim and I went to the back of the infant section, hid behind some clothing racks, and tried on everything. It was pretty funny. It was a good day.

Here's hoping everyone has a wonderful 2007!