Sunday, January 30, 2011

Moment of silence?

You almost had it, Newseum.  You almost featured an entirely appropriate violence-related display.

Don't get me wrong.  I fully believe in freedom of speech and of the presses and everything like that.  But a museum, a museum of all places, should retain that caution, that gravity with respect to the violence.  Justin and I have been locists, or tourals, for a while.  Tourists and locals.  We live here, we've lived here a couple of years now, but there are seemingly infinite sights, so you're kind of stuck being a tourist for a long time, even at the clip we've been seeing them.  First year: statues, memorials, major Smithsonians.  Next six months: neighborhoods, restaurants, more offbeat museums (shoutout to my good peeps at Renwick!).  Second year: refresher on the majors, and (dun dun dun) The Ones That Cost Money.  These are only coming now because of our friends at group discount websites whose popularity has soared and caused them to invest in such costly fare as Madame Toussaud's, Crime and Punishment, International Spy, and, most recently, the Newseum.  The memorials are very serious.  They command all the sincerity and respect you have.  The Ones That Cost Money, however, are kitschy.  They're not "DC" as generations have imagined it.  They're attempts at information and entertainment, and that second label is getting increasingly upsetting, because it undermines the horror a human is supposed to feel.

Crime and Punishment and International Spy are, in a strange sense, to be forgiven.  Or maybe it's just that I've gotten so used to this fact that I don't expect any differently -- the standard glorification of mobsters.  Now.  It's occurred to my generation in recent years that pirates aren't really as lighthearted as we liked to think.  They were brutal terrorists, on ships instead of planes.  Somewhere along the way, they became dissociated with profound violence and associated with parrots, cartoons, and hilarious accents.  That bothers me -- but, unfairly, it dates back too far for me to get as offended as I do about mobsters.  Mobsters are, obviously, way more recent than pirates; but also obviously, of similar blood.  Senseless violence (or, senseful: power and riches, duh), innocent lives.  The press coverage at the time resembles a thrilling novel, released by chapter daily or weekly, and that's bad enough.  But we understand the actions, we understand the people, and shouldn't we know better as a society by now than to make light of these characters, now an undeniable, sickening part of our history?  Should we really be okay with museum reviews like "Good news is I got to get my friend in the gallows, where he belongs" (Yelp, Crime and Punishment)?  Shouldn't we have thought twice before opening our mobster wing exhibit with life size cutouts, advertising "POSE WITH MOBSTERS" adding, as an afterthought, "Or J. Edgar Hoover"?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Only in PGC

Well, I guess also in MoCo too.  And probably a bunch of other places.  I guess I amend it to, only in the Mid-Atlantic.  Snow day, full on snow day, with ~0.5" on the ground.  The big forecasted storm was for TONIGHT, folks.  Also, after Christmas break means MSA Panic Mode, so even the teachers, at least at my school, are frustrated by missing a complete day.  We like delays, that's just two hours and it doesn't get tacked on at the end of the year (Did you know that it only counts as  full day of school if everyone eats lunch?  So for an early dismissal day, the lunch shifts start at 9:30, no jokes).  But a whole day off?  A colleague pointed out that we should be in 24/7 school by now.  Boarding school.  Sigh, oh man.

In other news, I'm still REALLY TICKED off that no one told me that the hilarious black friend in No Strings Attached was Luda.  LUDA!!!  See #2.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I am offended by other people who are trying not to be offensive

Guys.  If you know me, which I think both of you do, you know that I'm not easily offended by things.  Or at least I like to think I'm not.  But a trendy example that really gets my goat, and not because anyone else ever implied that I should be offended by this, is the new fad of plus-size women's clothing stores having the subtitle "Woman."  Jones New York Woman.  Talbots Woman.  Other Well-Known Store Woman.  This gets at two principles that are really pretty ridiculous -- the first, much smaller and more specific, that because I don't shop at a plus-size store, I am not a "Woman."  That Women have curves, and if you don't have curves, well, you're not Woman.

The other really ridiculous point gets to the overwhelming amount of tiptoeing we do as a culture these days.  Apparently, somewhere along the line, "plus size" became offensive, so now we call it "Woman," because that's flattering.  I live and breathe this phenomenon at an elementary school with 20% of its grade 3-6 students in special education.  Children aren't "bad" at something, they don't even have "weaknesses," they have "challenges."  Really -- we can't even say at a staff meeting among colleagues that children are bad at certain things anymore, or even that such and such a topic is a weakness?  In my enormous binder for my last certification class, there are sections of strategies to use in the classroom, assuming we have zero curricula.  One of them encourages the teacher to "have the skilled reader model effective reading strategies for phrasing and fluency for the learner.  The learner then echoes the skilled reader."  So, now slower, lower-performing students are called "learners."  Oh, I thought everyone was a learner, IT'S A SCHOOL.  It's the same principle as these new no-one-loses t-ball teams.  Everyone gets a trophy, no one keeps score, snacks and juice for all!  Can you even imagine what would happen if we told children that they LOST?  All this dancing around people's feelings to keep their worse qualities on the DL is making me sick.  When can we as a society go back to calling a spade a spade?  I hear that other countries are way less insane about not offending people.  That makes so much more sense to me.

A spinoff of that is using diseases or disabilites as adjectives.  For instance, it's politically incorrect to say, "he's autistic;" it's politically correct to say, "he is a child who has a diagnosis of autism."  (And don't even get me started on "nondisabled.")  The idea is, people with disabilities are people first.  But, like affirmative action, we're actually calling more attention to the condition when we pay it so much homage.  It's understood as a bad thing.  We don't say things like, I am a person who has brown hair; we say, I'm a brunette.  But that's neutral.  We don't say, she is a child who is gifted and talented; we say, she's gifted (and talented).  But again, that's positive.  My point is, in my ideal society where we call a spade a spade, we cut the crap and just come out with it, and moreover, it's not offensive.  Autism is only recently understood, I know.  We have understood blindness and deafness, however, for centuries.  No one insisted we say, he is a person who is blind.  He's blind!  The Deaf are the most prominent example of my ideal citizens in my ideal society.  They are so proud!  They have their own culture!  They capitalized their 'disability,' for goodness' sake!  We should all take a cue.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Do I contradict myself?

I am a very subtle person.

(In lots of ways, I am not: I hug wildly; my ridiculous face shouts from miles away, betraying any emotion ever; heart is totally on my sleeve.  But for the purposes of this post, let's focus on the ways in which I am a subtle person.)

(Clearly, I contain multitudes.)

Anyway, I really appreciate subtlety.  I make really obscure jokes based on references to things no one else would possibly remember (especially sad when I'm talking to someone and refer to something that that very person said or did last week, and that person has no idea what I'm talking about, sigh).  I make connections between things that would never go together.  I am full of really strange metaphors that (I think) beautifully explain totally unrelated things (ask Justin about his favorite, comparing a job and boss I used to have to improvisationally playing the violin).  I like poetry and body language and license plates that need deciphering.  I love under-the-breath comments, my own or someone else's, and looking around to exchange glances with anyone else who may have caught it.  In general, I put a lot of stock into well-timed eye contact or knowing smile.  There's a quickness in subtlety, a level of being "smart" that I really appreciate, especially in other people.

Unfortunately, my aspirations of common subtlety (like common sense!) are unattainable.  Let's say a group of people have found something to joke about -- one person will always take it one step too far and ruin it.  So many times someone will just go to that overly-obvious level and make it all unfunny.  Also, I have never understood people who habitually, upon seeing x, ask if x is indeed happening.  Say you're reading a book.  "Oh!" says this woefully unsubtle person, earnest as ever.  "Are you reading a book?"  (Or its even less subtle cousin, the sincere "What are you doing?")  Using Bloom's taxonomy levels of higher-order thinking, this person is stuck on level, like, half.  Level 1, Knowledge, would even be better: "What book are you reading?"  But alas.  Often I'm so baffled and angered by this density that I scramble for a response.  Honest (Yes, I am reading a book!)?  Sarcastic (No.  Riding an elephant.  It's insane up here.)?  A simple raised eyebrow?  I am frequently at a loss.

These complaints apply not only to people but also to endless magazines and other articles purporting to give "ideas."  In my recent free issue of The Nest, there was a little section on fun ways to announce that you're pregnant.  One of them was to SEND AN EMAIL.  Another was to HAVE A PARTY.  Or the ubiquitous sidebars that explain how to save money; the first idea is always something like SAVE MONEY.  DO NOT GO TO STARBUCKS EVERY DAY.  Hmmmm!!!  I think we all hate being told (especially in an honest way) things we already know.  For further example, bank advertising.  Attention, bank marketers and advertising agencies everywhere: We now are pretty confident that the internet is open all the time.  There is no need to highlight that I can bank 24/7.  I can, in fact, do anything online 24/7.  You don't see me being like, LOOK YOU CAN NOW READ MY BLOG 24/7!  You don't see Gmail touting YOU CAN CHECK AND EVEN LABEL OR SEARCH YOUR EMAIL 24/7!!!!!!!  Calm down already, and get all classy about it.  Furthermore, if I couldn't bank online with you, if I couldn't set up automatic bill-pay, I wouldn't even consider you.  You would hardly be allowed to stay in business.  Don't pretend that that's your new "green" initiative that's going to save me hours of trouble and heartache.  It's kind of been the norm since, oh, 2000.  Maybe 2001.

In conclusion, subtlety is just classier, smarter, and sexier.  But of course, I hope this post wasn't too obvious.  What a hypocrite I'd be then!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Let's lighten things up in here for a minute

Let me count things I am excited for or happy about:

  1. People who talk me off the edge.  Like Justin.  Thanks, husband.
  2. Hugs.
  3. Teacher friends I can trust.
  4. Modern Family.
  5. A cappella music.
  6. Magazines; Oliver Sacks.
  7. Early dismissals due to snow that never falls.
  8. Swing dancing.
  9. Unexpected friends.
  10. Engaged students.
There's ten... what else, everyone?!  Tell me yours that I may share in your joy, for a joy shared is a joy made double...

Friday, January 7, 2011

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Double Standards

This double standard, my friends, is what kept me from even considering teaching my entire life.  Despite the fact that my family contained teachers, lifelong and otherwise, since the tender years of elementary school (let alone much more voraciously in high school) I realized, "I would hate to say goodbye to groups of students year after year."  Let a dozen or more years pass, and here we are.

Fortunately, in my current position, I happen to have the freedom of grade levels, and furthermore it so happened that I had 3rd and 4th graders last year, and 4th and 5th graders this year.  No one really left me, except to a different homeroom.  And it's elementary school, so I see everyone during morning bus duty, lunch duty, the hallways, and afternoon bus duty.  They're everywhere, in the same way that high schoolers wouldn't be.  But the double standard still holds in crazy ways here too.  In some ways, even more strongly.

I'm in the middle of a training called Life Space Crisis Intervention.  I'm also reading the book of the same name for said training.  It's how to handle emotionally disturbed kids who have just finished lashing out ("crisis").  Picture a troubled youth who for whatever reason starts, say, throwing furniture in the classroom -- that's the sort of crisis this book is showing me how to intervene.  It's a very kind-hearted book; the whole thing is about affirming the student through talking about the crisis, draining off intense emotions, getting to the central issue and choosing one of six 'therapeutic goals' before developing a plan to reenter the classroom.  It is so serious!

Here is the thing:  You have to put your whole self, your whole entire self, into building a positive relationship with kids who have a history of self-destructive behavior.  No part of that relationship-building should be insincere.  You really, deeply have to believe in your person-to-person connection with this child, and build it up with as many nurturing experiences as possible.  And then, when things go terribly, terribly wrong, as they will, you cannot take any of it personally.  They will swear at you and say awful things and you cannot let it get to you.  The strength!  The strength through the injustice of giving your all into the relationship but the "it's not aimed at you, don't take it personally" through the hard times!  How do people do it!  How do they give and give and then totally remove themselves from the equation of these offensive interactions!  I get it in theory, I really do.  In practice, I have no clue how that's supposed to happen.

It's baffled me since the earliest age I could conceive of being a teacher, or a doctor, or a counselor.  How do you care and care and care and then ... not care?