Thursday September 28th 2017, 9:19 am
Filed under: nextish,teaching Tags:

One louder, one more year, one more fall, one more class, one more bunch of bright-eyed, ever-younger students wondering why the fuck anybody reads Chaucer.

Moral calculus
Tuesday May 23rd 2017, 11:26 pm
Filed under: fear,grief,teaching Tags:

They were unconvinced. It is, frankly, not Lakoff’s finest. There are some truths, but he’s too eager to make them systemic, totalizing, rather than doing his best work – poking small holes in other people’s bubbles. So, moral economies, positive actions and debt repayments. Before frames, even. So we did an analysis of the Manchester bomber’s possible calculus. And the horror of seeing everything as quantifiable, the cost (metaphor not intended) was too much.

Back to it
Wednesday September 23rd 2015, 10:28 pm
Filed under: calendars,change,himself,nextish,teaching Tags:

Teaching, not work. I’ve been working. Plus himself. Which is a different kind of work. But back to it tomorrow, with a weird set of night-before jitters. It matters. But it’s different.

A minor
Monday June 24th 2013, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Berkeley,Boozy,change,friends,inner-polish-teenage-girl,seasonal,teaching Tags:

It’s all white keys and it’s sort of wistful. I really must stop being so musically lazy. A friend’s wedding in the desert by the river. A second attempt, this time with friends and family and ritual, rather than Vegas and Immigration. And two who long ago (a decade) stopped speaking to me. For lying to them? For sleeping with her? For being a self-obsessed asshole? I don’t recall (probably because I’d rather not), and though it matters, deeply, I’m not convinced it does. From finishing the last of the last Thursday to a drive on Friday and being back in today, trying to have my stars out, as it were, for the class including her son’s ex-girlfriend. Because “Young and the Restless” ran out of other sub-plots, apparently. And so another six weeks, days of talking and days of writing, evenings of reading and evenings of drinking, and Am, sounding so lovely across electric pianos and synth trumpets with articulations that will never match those in a sampler, but have me facing the keys, not the box. I don’t need analogue, really, I need only to look away from the screen, lean deeper into the headphones, and record with the impunity I lost since the first round of get it out / get it in / get it down came and went again when she wasn’t quite an ex (though I tried to leave that summer) and everybody talked to everybody (in grade school), though the two, so preciously recovered (even if the closeness is not necessarily one of many words, rather than many years) is back as a possibility. Or something. A minor, a ssociate.

IHP: Individualized Honors Program
Friday September 21st 2012, 10:28 pm
Filed under: Boozy,can't make that shit up,exit,memory,teaching Tags:

Fitz started it. 1973, it seems, give or take. I was there in the late 80s, give or take. The idea – that the time and talents of highly gifted junior high school students were being wasted. That 10, 11, and 12 year olds could do AP Physics, AP Chemistry, and some of them were up to AP Calculus. And you know what? We fucking were. I wasn’t the smartest person my year, which was an eye-opener. I had been, for all of my impossibly arrogant 10 or 11 years before. But E Hong, A Cohen, M Kauffman, maybe a few others, were smarter than me. Not always across the board, and I wasn’t always trying, which was part of the impossible look-ma-no-hands one-upsmandship: I got an A and I didn’t study; oh yeah? I got an A and I didn’t do any of the reading; oh yeah? I got an A and I don’t own the book.

I know the widow, as she’s been coming to West Coast U events for a number of years, and through the magic of facebook put things together. The daughter of a German mathematician (presumably Jewish) who fled Germany in the ’30s, a true intellectual. Someone interested in debate, discussion, the hard work of thinking.

IHP didn’t teach me to work, though that seems to have been the case for many others. It took me another decade or so, to finally meet someone who said “that’s nice that you’re smart, but that means nothing unless you also work.” I fell in love with her for telling me that, though as I look back, I still can’t explain how strong my feelings are at Fitz’s death. He was a _terrible_ teacher, in many ways. He simply chose to ignore the (many, many, and apparently quite consistent over several decades) shenanigans of incredibly-fucking-smart and finally-not-bored, but fuck-it-it’s-still-school-I’m-bored-on-principle, young teens. I cheated my way through 7th grade Algebra – I just copied my neighbor’s homework (in homeroom) and tests in class. Fitz can’t have been more than 3 feet from me busily copying all the answers, but he didn’t give a fuck. He knew I was sort of learning it, and sort of not, at my own pace. See that “individualized” bit? He really meant it. It’s how, presumably, he dreamt it up in the first place.

There’s a new book out on Highly Gifted/high achieving high schools – they’re a tiny minority in the country – Bronx Science, Stuyvesant, etc (as against private schools, which _offer_ similar programmes for those wealthy enough and smart enough to track into them). But, junior high? Walter Reed is fairly unusual on that front (Hopkins’ CTY being a nice companion program, really). Spending the community’s money on the best and brightest, rather than the most needy, has always been politically complicated. Ron Unz was there this evening, someone who lobbied to form North Hollywood High’s magnet program, the best the district managed as a local follow up to its otherwise terminal crown jewel.

It was OK to be precociously smart. It was OK to be a geek, 10-15 years before, culturally, geekness became an asset and an advantage. Fitz’s oversize glasses, the legacy of the 70s and an insouciant disregard for fashion before he married his 2nd wife shortly after I knew him – they’re hip, now. Fitz as hipster. Hipsters, who still suffer the impossible divide of our time – the admiration for success predicated upon talent plus work (sports, mostly, though some forms of entertainment) and the admiration for success predicated upon work, without regards to talent (everything else). For a few years, now, I’ve been wanting to write a piece on what should be the New Elitism: what the fuck ever happened to expertise. Reading a music-tech blog the other day, I saw a delightful takedown: summarized, “I post in my real name, I’ve worked in this industry for 30 years, I’ve written books on the subject, chill the fuck out.” The reply: “For all I know you might be a 12 year old,” says the otherwise anonymous, might as well be a 12 year old “my opinion is valid too.” Sure, you’re welcome to your opinion. It’s “valid”, inasmuch as that means anything. BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN IT’S AS GOOD, AS RIGHT, OR AS IMPORTANT AS MINE.

Get off my lawn? Maybe I’m just old. Or maybe my 7th and 8th grade math and physics teacher, who let me take his classes despite my being a bit borderline, and my never rewarding his respect by working to improve (that is to say, doing the fukcing homework) rather than merely working to stay afloat (the bare fucking minimum in the least amount of time…so I could? What the fuck did we do with all the time we had as teens?), was exceptional. Taught me something about why the exceptional mattered, and what to do with it, about it, for it. Had, and inculcated, civic-mindedness I wouldn’t understand for a decade. Made it OK to be different. Not bad for a man who snapped and clapped and shushed a classroom when writing on his overhead transparencies was obstructed.

I still don’t quite know why his death his hit me so. I passed the AP, and like to think I could pass his CP Snow test, that I can read and add, teach literature and (at one time, at least), solve differential equations and do some linear algebra. And got 5s on both the Mechanics and the Electro-Magnetism APs 3 and 4 years after I left his class – a lifetime gap in the short life of those years, damn near consecutive in hindsight from here. Individualized honors. Perhaps that, not just smart, but ourselves – that’s what he gave us permission to be.

On the evening before the time before the time before it’s really done but it is really done, really

If you know what I mean and I think you do? A list that gets ever stranger as the days pass, from checking for first citations to cautioning myself not to disagree with Ralph if I don’t have to bigger things, like those last, few, jewel-like sentences I hope to dash off and inscribe with great dignity at the end of the introduction. There will be not blood but changes still to come, more midnight oil to burn. But this is the bulk of it, I think – most everything will be mechanical, or will be reduced to the mechanical, from here. And thus, a sense of finality, tempered by the realization that, of course, it’s not really final, but also by the raw need for closure on this project.

A friend submitted just yesterday (though why I bother with anonymity when 1) no one reads this, and 2) if any one reads this, they know me, and each other, I don’t know). The strange techno-connection of skype, red bricks and green lawns and an impossible implausible summer day in late September Oxenford. Writing acknowledgements for publication is a strange endeavour. The heartfelt thank yous. The I met you at a conference once thank yous. The politically important, financially important thank yous. The thanking of family, who have everything and nothing to do with the work – (Thanks for fucking me up. All that anger really helped me get shit done over the years.). A bit of nostalgia, a bit of wonder, a strong desire for a wander, and mostly the simple tiredness of having gone to bed late and woken to early and talked for 4 hours with students in various degrees of interest and care. C’est la guerre. The milestones, they accrue, but also begin to resemble each other, to some extent. Only because there are more of them? Their scale, skewed by perspective? I suppose, after my fashion, my thanks are due to the Academy, for having a game to play that I’ve played well enough, so far. But, in the immortal words of the recently-submitted, “Fuck the boat. There is no boat.”

they walked
Saturday June 11th 2011, 11:56 pm
Filed under: damn,departure,exit pursued by a bear,leaving,memory,seasonal,teaching Tags:

I didn’t, not in the way that matters. And she gave birth to a healthy little girl (mazel tov), and I didn’t. All these passings and passages and rites thereof, speeches and words and photos and moments you’re supposed to remember. And I don’t, really. Or worse, I do, to the letter, but not the why, not the part that made you want to remember it in the first place. Significant for the process, the experience, not merely the symbolic. “What I am to you” says the music in the background. I’ve never known, but perhaps I thought I knew then. ….[update]. In Spite of Me the next track, all too apt in its all too aptness. Perhaps not far off what I feel for these not-really-kids. Another annual rite of passage, tomorrow, as my father sacrifices himself on the altar of his own mediocrity for another year, while Mark Sandman and I are hanging, late tonight, in my living room.

Regularly scheduled

Tonight’s regularly scheduled Nostalgia-Fest(tm) has been delayed due to eminently foreseeable circumstances. A contract offered, yesterday, an early morn and the closure of an exam today. One to London, one to New York, one here for a bit before heading to San Francisco, one to the Air Force and another back to his baby boy. They don’t tell you, not the places you’ll go, but the people you’ll say goodbye to as they go to those places. And so, flint (as is apparently the case with my Reading Abbey wall fill rubble) to the tinder, movies of promise and regret and loss before it’s lost to spark the few bits of fuel not already consumed.

…you stared at us
Thursday June 02nd 2011, 7:21 pm
Filed under: teaching Tags:

…like you were waiting for us to do something. Thus said a student in response to yet another awkward ending to a class. A year. For all of the ridiculously lofty (pompous), erudite (pretentious), dramatic (ridiculous) postures i strike throughout a quarter, I still haven’t figured out how to bring a class to a satisfying ending. So I quoted some devastating Wallace Stevens, and though I had originally planned on commenting on the poem instead just stopped, stared at them, and then wished them luck with next week’s final. They stared back, and quietly gathered their books and said muted goodbyes and shuffled out in silence. First quarter I haven’t been applauded, and I think I may have intentionally precluded it, yesterday by bribing my seminar with pizza and a Disney flick after an hour and a half of so of yammering. And today by a recitation of part of a poem that really doesn’t admit of rejoinder or response, only reaction. And so, again, I end, not for their applause, or even hoping they’ve learned what I’ve been teaching, bought what I’ve been selling, but that I can unbalance them one last time, send them out knowing that clarity can always be muddled and muddles made meaningful. That it’s their turn to teach themselves.

Effendi, he
That has lost the folly of the moon becomes
The prince of the proverbs of pure poverty.
To lose sensibility, to see what one sees,
As if sight had not its own miraculous thrift,
To hear only what one hears, one meaning alone,
As if the paradise of meaning ceased
To be paradise, it is this to be destitute.
This is the sky divested of its fountains.

i was looking back to see if you were looking back…

A forward looking time, a friend noted, and I myself said I wasn’t particularly nostalgic, which, obviously, prompted a large scale re-read of TPT from 2004 last night.  Bizarrely nudged, then, by an automated email for hosting and domain renewal waiting for me this morning, and fuck me if those domain squatters are gonna get their filthy hands on TPT again, no matter how inactive the site is.  So, take that, squatters.  And, take my money, hosters, for the preservation of ?children’s minds.

2004 seems so impossibly long ago, despite the fact I’m having dinner/drinks with the late-stage love-interest tomorrow.  11 days before en-ring-ing, which, as you might imagine, occupies more and more of my time.  Though I do have to finish this damn article first, but more on that second.    It feels as if there are gaps in TPT, oddly.  On the one hand, reading entries last night bringing memories, sometimes viscerally, madeleine taste or stumbling on a cobblestone style experientially, back.  Other times, however, the nagging feeling that something was missing, that there was more narrative, that the import/site-crossing shenanigans had somehow elided or erased something important, that something had _happened_ in between entries, and that I had, in fact, written about them.  For example, I think the PsychoChick narrative is missing most of its parts, which might suggest everything that wasn’t in the main category isn’t here.  But fuck it, I can check on that shit later.  When I’m not eye-ball deep in deadlines, for example.

Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful, because I wash and dry, just like you.  Don’t hate me, either, because I don’t teach again until September 2010, 18 months from now.  I find this thrilling and terrifying.  I find the upcoming part-tay thrilling, but not terrifying.  I find April daunting, as I try to subdivide 18 months into manageable segments.  I imagine tpt might start getting some more love as I give up this bullshit “you’re an adult now” schedule, and get back to my slacker/productive roots.  So there it is, bitches.  For now.