Sunday, November 7, 2010

New England Webcomics Weekend


On Saturday I went to New England Webcomics Weekend in Easthampton, MA, which is not quite a two hour drive.

Eastworks, the converted factory it took place in made me drool. Western Mass has a great knack for creatively reusing old factory buildings and adorning them with giant steel Futura letters. I could really love to live in an old factory.

There were a few different reasons I wanted to go to NEWW. Let's start out with that it was cheap and close. $6 for a day pass was not bad. I also wanted to get a chance to meet and buy crap from some of my favorite comics, i.e. Lucy Knisley and Erika Moen. These reasons are all pretty obvious. I also really liked the different panels being offered on Saturday, and then there is the part where I've never really gone to a con of sorts before. I'd like to go to MOCCAfest in the spring, and I had it in my head that I could get a table... but now based on the amount of work I have and the amount of people who might want to get a table with me, this seems unreasonable. At CCS this summer, Alec talked a bit about cons and trading, and sort of made it seem like standard good practice. I've bartered with people before when I've sold things at craft fairs (why yes you CAN have that mix tape for this book on the car-free lifestyle), but I knew it was going to take a bit to work up my courage to do it.

As I was standing by a table waiting to ask a girl who had a spread of 6 page, laser printed 24lb minicomics if she wanted to trade, a girl at the table next to her (with a septum ring and whose nametag said Spike) turned to me and said "which Emily are you? There are so many Emilys. What do you do?"

Clearly, Spike has never heard of Someday I Won't Suck. She isn't a twitter follower or facebook friend of mine, and I know it doesn't get a ton of traffic from outside of those sources.

I sort of stammer out about the blog I keep and I hand her the copy of Some Of Us one I've been waiting to try and trade with the other girl. She comments on my blog name, and after asking me my age she tells me she often thought that at 25 too. She flips through my minicomic, stops on the strip Red Plates, asks me if I use a brush and compliments me on my inking. She flips through the rest of it and then makes a sad face and says something about there not being many pages. I'm aware of the thinness of this. I probably made a total of three comics before I took that class in August, and when I was offered the opportunity to sell some stuff at Troy Night Out at the end of the summer, I decided to pull together what I had so I could actually get my name / work out there a little bit. I've been selling these minicomics for $1.50 because that covers the cost of making the copies and gives me back a little more. (Which will eventually cover the cost of the brush, t square, long arm stapler, etc). The first girl that I asked to trade seemed a little offended and then decided to, admitting that she'd never been asked that before. We lost our trading v card together. It was slightly awkward. After that I decided to undersell myself and think of my comics as worth $1, and offer to trade with other people selling comics for $1... and then I started offering a mix of cash and trade, which is the only way I can make up for my tiny tiny comic and still get the things I want AND get my comics into more hands. After the first awkward interaction, all my other offers to trade were well received.

I went to a few panels which were different combinations of hilarious and educating. I really appreciate NEWW because it is certainly more my scene than a DC / Marvel -centric comiccon. I mean, these were really the only people cosplaying.

During Tweet Me Harder, I really regretted not being able to tweet from my phone, but then I realized I didn't really have any idea what was going on anyhow.

Somehow we ended up discussing rhubarb and kale (how am I the only one familiar with these vegetables?) accordions, and the difference between Helvetica and Arial. All obscure subjects near and dear to my heart.

The inventor of the accordion? "It was somebody who was frustrated the piano was not a wind instrument."

Less ridiculous nuggets I jotted down:

Why do we still ink? Could just put your pencils up. It was a style born of necessity.

"Knowing how to use a brush makes me a better digital inker and a more versatile artist," - Meredith Gran

Spend as little money as you can to start. Once you develop your skill... THEN you'll understand why the expensive tools are worth it. Before that they're just toys.

Did you see the diary comic I made about it?

I took some footage. I'll throw it up on ChateauOfADeuce eventually.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Watch These In Order

First:

Next:

Last:


I love all these guys so much.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Maybe your attitude is the problem.

Maybe 30 minutes ago I found myself standing in line at the Breugger's in Troy. Breugger's is a regional chain of bagel shops, and there was a one-day-only no-strings-attached coupon for 6 free bagels. Some other people in line made mention of the people trying to get in, and I realized the door was locked because this specific Breugger's closes at 5. One of the other people in line, a girl I've had in class when I substitute, mentioned that she doesn't blame them, as she wouldn't want to have a shop open any later at this location.

The Troy Breugger's is around the corner from a major bus stop, the library, the court, and an all-girls college. This is NOT the epitome of unsafe in Troy.

Her comment sparked a big and semi heated discussion between myself and several other women in line, about feeling safe in Troy, businesses staying open later than 5 or 6, things for teenagers to do, and drugs and violence. One very outspoken woman had the opinion that businesses in Troy SHOULDN'T stay open late, that no one SHOULD be out after dark, and that it is entirely the kids' and their families' fault that they don't end up participating in the athletic activities provided for them. Seriously, every activity she mentioned had to do with sports. What if the kids don't LIKE sports? I never did, but I was PLENTY involved as a young person.

And what about the kids who don't want to participate? Isn't that what keeping eateries and the like open late is for? Some place to go and sit and flirt? Sure, maybe they'll fight, but that's when they get kicked out. "Take it outside."

I really wanted to say something to this woman about considering where they're going wrong with trying to reach kids. Maybe your approach is the problem. If you are really so ready to just throw up your hands and say 'oh well,' I really think you need to find a different organization to align yourself with.

I really think what we have here is a terrible case of fear mongering. These people were talking about where I live now, and also where I used to live in Albany, saying how these places are scary. I lived in Albany for 3 years; I'm going on my fourth year living in Troy. I have never once felt my life was in danger. ONCE I had a run in with a neighbor about my chickens. ONCE my house was egged.

I think that the desire to flee and the attitude of fear are a huge part of the problem here. I believe in the broken window theory, and I think that keeping businesses open can only help to make the streets feel safer.....and I already don't think they feel altogether unsafe.

Just last night I was recording a video about how if you aren't part of the solution, you're part of the problem. I think these ladies are part of the problem, and I find it rather disheartening.

-------

Last night I had a dream that there was a movie theater open in downtown Troy. While this is yet to be a reality, I am psyched about the Co-op that just opened! Read more here.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Ira Glass on Storytelling

This is SUCH good advice it is blowing my mind. Even more so that this advice is free and on the internet. I love and respect Ira Glass so highly and This American Life definitely has an influence on my storytelling.







Monday, October 4, 2010

Beard Math (Things that are mutually exclusive)

[Your polygon being] Squares and triangles.
[Your non-layered attire being] Skirts and dresses.
[Your facial hair being] Beards and Goatees.

Last night I was schooled by Bobby (and probably Eric and Cody too) about the proper use of the term beard. I previously had believed it to include any substantial chin-covering facial hair, but now I know the truth. Apparently, if there's no real cheek coverage, then there is no real beard. Forgive my errors of ignorance over these past 10+ years. I really thought it worked out that bushy goatees were beards, but beards weren't necessarily bushy goatees. Much like how a square is a rectangle but a rectangle isn't necessarily a square. I feel like my ignorance in this area is due to my lack of testosterone, much like a lack of estrogen has led many men to confuse skirts and dresses.
goatee does not equal beard



Thanks 1 & 2 for supplying the fodder for this mashup.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Detroit Lives

I've thought for quite some time that Detroit was just Troy on a larger scale. If I move anywhere, it will probably be there. Check out this documentary featuring Johnny Knoxville behaving himself.

Ba dum CHT.

If you've ever seen me hit a table with each hand and then my elbow, you'll understand why I love this so much.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

What are these recipes?

1 Large Green Cuke
1 Med Sized Ripe Avocado
Fresh Mint!
3-4 Stalks of Lemongrass infused in 200ml H2O & Chilled
200 ml LF yogurt
3-4 Sprigs of spring onion
salt

Puree

Mango Pudding

1/2C Cottage Cheese
1 Whole Ripe Mango
1/2 C Whole Milk
Sugar

Things written on a piece of paper.....thaaat I want to toss.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Can I Buy You A Drink?

When you're out at a bar, you get chatted up, and perhaps someone will offer to buy you a drink. This happens much more in movies than it does in my life, but it does happen every now and then. Just now, however, I got chatted up on the street, on my way to the store, and had a fellow attempt to pay for my half gallon of milk. What an odd thing.

I'm walking to the store because I think I don't get enough physical activity, and I'm trying to incorporate it more in my transportation. I could ride my bike but I'm in no hurry, and I think walking will provide more exercise. Also, not driving is sooo good for the earth and society and etcetera.

So I do this thing where if I cross someone on the street at night, I try to make eye contact and say hello. The reasons behind this are twofold: friendliness/community and also, it makes me a less appealing target if I can pick someone out of a lineup.

So as I'm walking to the store to get some milk just now, a short exchange of "hello"s and "how are you"s led to asking my name and walking with me the rest of the way to the store. Over the course of our walk, he asked me what I do for fun. I told him that I make videos on the internet, that I'm an artist, that I'm a creative type. He told me he raps. I asked him if he freestyles. He said he did and proved his worth by throwing down some rhymes that were about me but would really work for any girl he was chatting up.

When we got to the store he waited by the register and tried to pay for my milk. I, of course, wouldn't let him. I mean, what? It was just too weird a situation to accept a......drink.

As we left I told him that I was headed home and as nice as he was, I wasn't ready for him to know where I lived. He seemed to understand and asked if he could have my number or give me his. I asked if that, too, could wait until we ran into each other again.

As I walked home I wondered: would I have given that guy my number if he was wearing a plaid shirt and horn-rimmed glasses instead of a flat-brimmed baseball cap with his hair in braids? Is it terrible to favor someone of my own culture / subculture?

Maybe.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

RE: Body Image / Health

Before you read further, please read this blogpost by the lovely Becky, and watch this video by the fabulous Paige.

I am trying to reconcile these two things, because I can sort of see and agree with both.

I think the difference is that Paige is talking about people mentioning weight issues out of a concern for someone's health, and Becky is talking about people discussing weight issues as a matter of aesthetics.

I really can't fathom Western society changing to the point where it is anything less than rude to state something about someone's weight matter-of-factly, but I think it would be beneficial to pay attention to someone to the point where we understand if they are healthy or not.

A few summers ago I spent some time in what is essentially but not actually an orphanage in Mexico. My friend I traveled with and I noticed things that seemed alarming in the eating habits of one girl (she mostly threw the bulk of her meals away), but it wasn't until I found her gagging herself with her toothbrush that I raised our concerns to the house madre. It wasn't that I thought she was too thin, it was that I thought her actions were unhealthy. See, this works both ways.

If someone expresses disdain for their own body image, instead of throwing them a "you're not fat," how about offering to participate in some physical activity together? My friend Luke did this for my friend Beth and me, and though I resisted at first, soon I was jogging several times a week with them, and that fall I ran my first 5K.

People noticed, too. I got people telling me I looked thinner and asking me about it.

This was a couple years ago and those friends have moved away and I hardly run anymore. During #818 I noticed I was much more physically active, and I think that it is because a lot of my time is spent sitting. Oh, internet. You can't really remotely be physically active with someone.

I went for a jog the other night and got that terrible itchy leg/ itchy belly thing. This time I decided to google it.

The first result was slightly embarrassing, but probably dead-on:

It usually occurs during exercise performed after a long period of inactivity. The itching is not on the skin, it’s inside the actual limbs. There are millions of tiny capillaries and arteries inside our muscles which expand rapidly due to the demand for more blood that is brought on by exercise. When fit, these capillaries remain open allowing maximum blood passage, but when unfit and inactive they tend to collapse, allowing only minimal blood passage (which is sufficient for a sedentary person however). The rapid expansion of these vessels causes adjacent nerves to send impulses back to the brain which are interpreted as an itch. That’s why after a few sessions the sensation tends to go away. Just another indication of increasing fitness levels.

So probably, I need to move around more. Also, it's completely ridiculous the standard of body weight that is prized by society. It isn't that people were loads skinnier years ago, it's just that the fashions didn't make you look ridiculous if you weren't extraordinarily thin. Check out this picture of my Grandma:



She's the one on the right. It's not that she was entirely lacking the sort of belly that I loathe on myself (moreso because kids ask me if I'm pregnant), it's just that her shorts rise above it. I hated high waist pants as a child, but now I totally understand the benefit.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Someday I won't suck.

I made a public comics blog for your enjoyment.

The goal is that if I just keep making things and throwing them up on the internet, I will someday not suck.

Oh! And don't forget that I'm really poor and you should buy some stuff from me so I can afford to pay my rent!!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

818 Wrap-Up

On Wednesday, August 18th occurred the first (to my knowledge) Albany YouTube gathering (organized by yours truly). While it wasn't a success by local gig standards (all of the local acts backed out), I'd say it was a huge success in terms of the number of people who traveled from out of town to be there. Over the past week or so, I've seen a lot of things posted about it, and it seemed appropriate that I sort of gather them here for you.

Here's a blogpost.

And some pictures:
WaterfallLizzie 818 Poster @ Valentine's

Ben Mike
Ben Amanda Karen Caitlin Lizzie Emily Erica Andy

A few vlogs:








And, of course, performance footage:










Thursday, August 12, 2010

Things I've been told to check out

From papers I'd like to toss:

The Race for Theory - Barbara Christian

language as currency (up the ante, more currency)

Michel Foucoult -- Discipline & Punish -- now people are trained to be workers in the structure of a system

comic book? :( Martin Heiddeger

Jill Dolan
utopia in performance ... joy through performance

Amiri Baraka (Leroi Jones) -------> Black Arts

Controversial Black Mountain College

bell hooks (accessible?)

changing feminism

Men, Masculinity & Love

bertolt brecht

Ain't I A Woman?

Social Justice Conv & Performance

Peter Brooks Theater

Susan Sontag
the art of seeing

Bryant Gumball "For Those Who Don't Do Nuance" oversimplifying

My aim is true - Elvis Costello

Bootleg [10000 (Screaming) fans can't be wrong]

Handmade's Tale (book & movie) Vanessa Redgrave's daughter Natasha

New Teacher Project

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

SOS

Sometimes you wake up and realize there is only $10 in your checking account and you, as a substitute teacher, cannot expect to see any paychecks until at least October, based on the previous years' experience. And by "sometimes you", I of course mean, "this is what has happened to me".

I had decided that I would be working on my comic with Alec Longstreth intensity, attempting to ink and pencil a page a day for the rest of the month until my comic (projected 30 pages) is finished and ready to be mailed. Annnnd then I penciled in all of those receipts sitting in my wallet and had to face the cold, hard truth.

I really don't want to have to ask anyone to borrow money, and I had some paychecks and cash lying around that made up a portion of the rent that will come due at the end of this month, but next month...well, I need to earn the entirety of that between now and October 1st.

Don't get me wrong, it isn't as though I've been NOT doing anything. I had been scheduled to teach a summer camp at the local arts center, but that got canceled due to low sign ups. I also did some work for a local paper, and I've yet to see any green, or even hear anything back from them, now that I've spent hours upon hours doing what I didn't consider volunteer work.

So, faithful blog reader, here is the part where I span the gap from secure to feeling sleazy.

I realize that, as a printmaker, I have a TON of prints, some of them considered rather beautiful, just sitting in a giant portfolio in my house, not being viewed by anyone, taking up space. "WHAT IF," I thought to myself, "WHAT IF I sold these at prices drastically reduced from what I would normally ask?"

So I'm doing just that. For instance, I'd usually sell this print for $85.

I'm even offering to sell my only remaining print (I believe there were only 8 to begin with, and only 4 on paper) of The Birth of the TV Dinner, a local favorite, for 75% off what I had previously said was my absolutely lowest price. It's still $500, and you have to pick it up, but if you are willing to pay $500, which would cover all the money I'm trying to raise, then I am totally willing to part with it. (Desperate times - desperate measures, etc.)

I'll probably be relisting some earrings and other things on there as well. If you are at all interested in buying something, or sharing my stuff with others, that would be MUCH appreciated.

If you live in my area, I think I'll be having a print sale at my apartment, bargain-basement style, to hopefully sell some of the larger pieces that wouldn't easily ship, or some of the things I happen to have framed.

Oh! And to bring it full circle, you can also preorder my comic which will hopefully get me back on track.


FULL DISCLOSURE: also inspired by Alec Longstreth, and maybe a little by Tom, I've been learning to type using the Dvorak keyboard layout. I've been increasing the places I use it, and it's been getting easier and easier for me, but I decided I'd type this blog entry in qwerty for efficiency....and I keep looking at my Dvorak keychart and typing jibberish :o

Monday, August 2, 2010

Red Plates

So on my way to the White River Junction to take a class at the fabulous Center for Cartoon Studies, I stop to get some gas. After filling up my tank, I start accelerating. For much of the past few miles I got caught behind a truck in a no pass zone. I'm clearly glad to be rid of him and having the chance to.... stretch my wings, say. This relief didn't last long as I soon found myself on the tail of a large Blazer going painfully slow.

Though it wasn't my intent to be right on his tail, I figure that it will probably send "hurry up" signals, and as I'm trying to figure out why this guy has red plates in a state where all the rest are green, he puts on his directional.

Yes! He's letting me pass!

Only as I went to pass him I read "POLICE" on the side of his vehicle and promptly pulled over as he switched on his lights.

The painful thing is, I remember thinking earlier in the journey that I ought not to get pulled over in this 'other state' as I'd yet to replace the one I left on the airplane on my way home from LA.

As I hand this pignosed, moonfaced man my passport and registration, I offer: "I've misplaced my license."

He's incredulous: "You've MISPLACED your LICENSE?!?"

"Yeah, I need to get a new one. I'm sorry, I'm sorry."

As he scolds me and looks over the documentation I've given him, I continue to respond with "I'm sorry." What else do you do in this situation? I was clearly in the wrong, and I'm sure that letting him know that I didn't realize he was a cop isn't going to help me any.

"I don't care that you're sorry! I still feel like writing you a ticket!!"

"I can still say I'm sorry." Sheesh!

"Are you in a hurry?"

I wasn't, but I figure that can't be a good thing to tell him now, so I just say: "Sort of."

"Well I don't care about your hurry!"

He takes my stuff and heads back to his vehicle. I think about how this being in another state will just be a fine, and although that sucks, it's better than points on my license.

He comes back 5 minutes later and hands me my stuff back. "Apology accepted."

I sit confused for a moment and he starts in: "Now I don't care how you drive in New York, here in Vermont we're nice to each other! Your unsafe! It's NOT NICE!"

I feel like a preschooler. Is he REALLY yelling at me with these words? Whatever, it seems he wasn't able to write me a ticket.

"It's NOT NICE!"

and then before turning away, as if to spit in my face, he adds (with mild disdain): "Your earrings are weird."

Duh.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Feet in the Canal.


Attractive policeman: "Hey hun, where you going?"

Me: "Uh.... to try to cool down?"

A.P.: "Anyone else with you?"

Me: "No.....is it ok that I put my feet in the water?"


A.P. "............................yeah."


I love where I live.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

ModBook

Today I got really excited because someone showed me that there IS an Apple Tablet computer. It's Wacom-Tablet-esque and everything, and even comes with a stylus for DRAWING IN PHOTOSHOP (no one on the internet seems to understand my desire for this. It's just that I want to combine a wacom tablet with an ipad with a regular computer, but noooo, all the fanboys and girls FLIP OUT everytime I comment anywhere about wanting this. They think I'm trolling. It's really more about me hoping that if I express my desire in enough places, the message will get back to apple and they'll design my dream product). ANYHOW. I was informed of a product made NOT BY APPLE but by a different company using macs.




I'm not sure if it is touch sensitive because everything they show uses the stylus....I haven't seen what sort of keyboard setup it has, and....well....there is the price.

$899?! I need it!

And then I looked a little more carefully: that is the price with a CUSTOMER-SUPPLIED base computer. Damn. A little under 2 grand for them to build you one with a computer that you DON'T have to purchase. So much for that. I like that it exists, but for that price, I think I'll just keep waiting and see if Apple puts out the exact product I'm hoping for. I mean, after all, I held out for a product like the iPhone...but then it turned out I'd have to change carriers, and ....let's just say I'm still holding out.

The whole reason I started looking into this today was because of some stupid app that someone tweeted about this Flipboard App, which really seems like a beautiful program, but it's only available on the iPad ....sooo getting this modded computer wouldn't make me any more able to use it than I currently am.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Assumptions








This happened to me last summer. Like, seriously, dude? Why would you buy me a drink if you thought that? Whatever, thanks anyway. It doesn't matter my hair length or anything either. I've had people ask me these same three questions with really long hair and with really short hair, with very different styles of dress. Oh well.


[repost]

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Copying Steve.

My friend Steve has been blogging about his self improvement projects. Well, to be fair, he has been blogging about a lot of things, blogging is one of the things he has been doing as a self-improvement project. I realize that there are many things that I should be doing also, things to keep myself from wasting away during the summer months, and things that kind of align with what he's doing. Steve is doing an out-and-out blog-every-day report-on-his-progress, but I'm not quite sure I'm ready for that. Instead, I'm just going to identify the things I'm working on and maybe you'll hear about them again, and maybe you won't. But if you want to ask me about them, that'd be fine.

Steve is learning German. I want to learn French. Coincidentally, I borrowed a book for doing just that from a different friend also named Steve. And maybe last year I had planned on doing 15 minutes of a lesson every day. I should get on doing something similar.

Steve plays the clarinet. I play the bass. Well, I play a lot of things, poorly. (Steve plays a lot of things well. Music is just sort of his thing.) I've owned an electric bass for some years now, and my friend Mike showed me some things on it about a year ago. I diddled around with it but kind of gave up because I can't do the slap-pop thing. That was foolish. I've picked it back up recently with a little more seriousness because I figured out how to play Hey by the Pixies in about 2 minutes. I've been trying to convince my friend Lizzie to cover it with me.

Steve is exercising. A few years ago....2008 to be exact, I started jogging with my friend Beth. We went about three times a week, jogging maybe 2 miles. We would finish it off with a heaping dose of Six Feet Under, and our jogs were filled with conversation to the point where it wouldn't even be at the forefront of my mind that we were exercising. People complimented me and asked me if I was losing weight. I really hate my gut and since Beth has moved away, I've really not been jogging....hardly at all. I need to get back into this. I've gone about once a month since the snow melted. Here's hoping that speaking openly about it will convince me to go more.

Steve is reading. I read a fair amount as it is, but I don't want to give that up. Right now I'm reading Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy as well as You Are Not A Gadget. But you've seen my goodreads, so this isn't news to you.

Steve is blogging and sleeping. I've been blogging a little more now that the weather is nice for some reason, but my other thing is less related to copying Steve....and more related to copying Lucy Knisley, Jess Fink, Liz Prince, Erica Moen, et. al. I want to start drawing comics. I've discussed this with Corinne and Caroline, and they've done things that I drool over. I know that I just need to start drawing and struggle my way through the crap. I made a separate blog to post these, but I'm not sure that I want to open it up to a wide audience yet, so I'll just repost things here as I see fit. Here's a preview. My friend Travis has me reading Questionable Content, and I feel very mixed about it. I decided to start at the beginning, because that's what I do, and it's really interesting to see how his drawing style has progressed. But that is the one thing that bothers me about the comic -- the drawing style. It's very computer based, and it FEELS that way. I'm much more interested in comics that are hand drawn and beautiful. I had this conversation with Luke ...probably in 2008. I said that if a graphic novel was beautifully drawn, it didn't matter if the story was crap. He felt the opposite way. He also said "geeze, hire yourself a writer!"
So Questionable Content falls more on Luke's side of the argument, and maybe that's why I've read the first 82 strips in the past few days...because it's well written. Oh well, I hope my comics will document my progress as well...and, oh, did I mention the summer course I'm taking? Yeah.

I'll also be traveling a bit and working some this summer, but that's less about copying Steve.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Image This Caption

I often see people presenting awkward pictures and asking others to "caption this image," the goal typically to be to find the most humorous tagline. I think it'd be interested to work this the other way around, this asking you to be creative in a different way. The parameters, if you choose to accept them, are to find or create an image, either by drawing, painting, photographing, googleimaging, scanning something, whatever, that best depicts the caption given. I guess this is like an opposite of exploding dog. sort of.

Your caption:
I hope this makes you happy. It's making me happy.

Thanks to my unsuspecting muse.

Email me your images, I'll feature my favorite in an edit: chateauofadoubt@gmail.com

Monday, June 21, 2010

Synecdoche, New York: Some Thoughts


Warning: may contain mild spoilers. Not that there were any big reveals anyhow.

I have wanted to see the movie Synechdoche, New York for some time, but this was mostly because a portion of the movie was set in Schenectady, New York where both of my parents grew up, and where I work some days. I was reminded of the movie whilst in Schenectady, actually, substituting and watching Akeelah and the Bee (a movie I'm going to need to watch all the way through sometime soon). Of course, the Bee referred to in this title is a spelling bee, and one of the words given was Synecdoche. They even defined it for you:





I went to the library to look for some other movies my friend says I need to see. Though I was unsuccessful at finding most of those, I did stumble across Synecdoche, New York on the recently returned cart.

Along with Beeswax and Dead Poet's Society, I brought Synecdoche, New York to my parent's camp on Saturday to try and watch with them. Though none of them really seem like films my mom would be into, she said she was interested in watching Synechdoche, New York as well....essentially for the same reasons I was.

The movie started out like many movies that have film festival seals on the case. This is not an indication of anything. I've seen this type of movie and fallen in love, I've seen this type of movie and have felt robbed of my time.

As the film progresses, you begin to get the sense that Philip Seymour Hoffman's character, Caden, is a little crazy and/or neurotic. The first impression that I got from him is that he is a hypochondriac, but this is not really supported by his visits to the doctor, as each doctor he visits recommends he see an entirely different sort of specialist, making ridiculous suggestions with the utmost sincerity. Things really begin to get bizarre when his therapist sells him a book (one that she wrote, one that she charges him forty dollars for). As he begins to skim through it, the information within seems stream-of-consciousness and almost nonsensical. As he reads on, reality becomes dictated by the book. As Caden reads, it is narrated by the voice of his therapist. He sits on an airplane and reads: "There is only the now, and I am always with you. For example, look to your left." When he does so, his therapist is sitting across the aisle from him. In a tone indicating complete sincerity, she says: "Hi. When you canceled, it freed me up, so I'm traveling too." It is at this point that I'm reminded of the movie Fight Club as well as A Beautiful Mind. I start to wonder how and why Caden is crazy, and when we will find out the parameters of this. Caden never seems to question his dream-like reality, and when scenes don't include Caden, the other characters don't seem to question it either. Perhaps the most bizarre scene in the entire film was when Hazel was looking to buy a house, a house which was currently on fire. It's worth watching. I'd have cut this clip a tiny bit shorter, but I'm sure it's not even supposed to be on the internet, so I won't complain:



Caden, who works in theater in Schenectady (if it weren't for the cellphones and newspaper dates reading 2006, I would believe it could have been set in the sixties) receives a large grant to work on a project that he plans to make brutual, true and honest. Time passes and locations change, but these facts are not pointed out and must instead be gathered. The way that these things change, almost unnoticed, I feel gives the film a quality that truly IS lifelike. It's like that Talking Heads song. You know the one. Caden starts his theater project in a large warehouse in New York City, attempting to depict reality. Things begin to get really complicated as he casts people to play the people doing the casting, and then goes on to cast people to play the people that were cast to play the people doing the casting. There is also a warehouse built inside the warehouse with the entire set built inside this. The layers keep piling up and the work for the piece never seems to be done. No one ever really comes to see the piece, but that does not seem to negate its relevance as art. This very much fits into my own personal definition of art, and I thought of recommending the film to my friend who defines art by saying: "I know it when I see it." If you are never able to see it, is it not art? I decided not to specifically recommend the film to him, as I am beyond done having the definition-of-art discussion with him, and I think this film poses more questions than it answers.

The viewer never finds out whether Caden is crazy or dreaming or what, and before you know it, nearly forty or more years have passed. When the film ended I was neither disappointed not extraordinarily fulfilled, but I don't feel that this was a problem. The film was so incredibly layered and textured that even though I have stated many plot details, I don't feel I have spoiled the film at all. It is a movie that I could easily watch several times for a new experience each time and probably one that I should own. Throughout the movie, Caden keeps coming up with new titles for his piece, each of them seemingly obtuse. He keeps stating the importance of the title, and how much is contained within. The word synecdoche, to my knowledge, is never mentioned within the film, and I can't help but consider the title as an important element to this movie. A part that represents the whole, or a whole the represents the part. Well, certainly Caden's warehouse world is a part that represents the larger world, and each smaller part representing the larger, and on and on. Each character playing another character is acting a part that represents the whole of the character the actor is playing, and I think that the whole work represents its part: Caden, the creator. I'm sure if I contemplated this further I could find deeper significance for the title of the film. For now, however, I'll just say: make sure you see it. It's one of those films that sits with you.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Your FACE is boring.

I'm not sure what is worse: Art-0n-a-cart or Music-In-The-Gym.

One of the districts I sub in has recently converted a lot of old catholic schools into public elementary schools, and these schools are really not adequate. Today I subbed in a school for a music teacher, and I was directed to his "area," a corner of the gym. I mean, he had a chalk board, a TV/DVD player, 25 folding chairs (which I had to set up), a small table and red tape on the floor indicating his "classroom." In his plans he left instructions that the students are to come in and stand on a line until they are all quiet. The first class that comes in has a few students that just can't keep it together. Everytime I think that the class is going to quiet down enough for me to invite them to sit in chairs a few kids freak out. Instead of wasting the whole class's time, I decide to separate the kids who are giving a lot of trouble. I put one little girl on the stage (this is a gym auditorium sort of deal) and I left another little girl sitting in the center of the gym. The rest of the class begins a sort of mum-ball game that involves listening to drum patterns and responding accordingly (as dictated by pre-established game rules). I grant the little girl in the middle of the floor permission to join the circle, and I go up and sit next to the little girl on the stage, who has a lot of forehead, who still keeps yelling and calling out. I quietly and calmly tell her that I'm just waiting for her to stop so she can join her classmates. As I talk to her I notice that the reason her forehead appears so large is that her braids couldn't possibly start any further down. And for that matter, she couldn't really have many more of them, as hair doesn't seem to grow evenly all over her head. I wondered what sort of thing causes a little girl to go bald in patches. Does alopecia effect children? Stress?

When I asked her what the problem was, she responded: "This game is boring!"
To which I automatically responded: "Your face is boring." And then immediately retracted: "Your face is not boring, I was just kidding."

The game is boring? I mean, does she seriously expect me to believe that THAT is her reason? She couldn't calm down before the kids even knew what they were doing in music class.

I went back to monitoring the game, and I had gone up to double check the game rules on the plan sheets when I accidentally knocked my copy of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy on the floor. At least half of the class started to laugh, mock, and point, which seemed so cliche and ridiculous to me. "Grow up," I told them. No one is in the mood for any nonsense at this point of the year. I am no exception.

At some point the little girl on the stage relocates herself to the other side of the gym. Her moving reminds me that she is there and that I probably should let her join the game, as she has been quiet. I say some words to her but she doesn't respond, and I walk over to talk to her directly. She is crying, but the tears aren't really coming. It really seems more for show. When I ask her what's wrong, she tells me that she is crying because I said her face was boring and I told her to grow up.

Granted, I did say these things, but if they weren't worth crying about immediately, there is no sense decontextualizing them and crying about them later. At some point she ran out of the gym and my attempts at calling down to the office to let them know I had a runner were thwarted by the fact that neither of the two phones sitting on the stage were working.

When the teacher came to pick the class up, I explained about the missing student. Immediately several other students jumped up and started giving the missing girl's excuses for why she was upset.

"She was just mad because the substitute--"

The classroom teacher cut them off saying that it doesn't matter because I am the adult and she is the student.

I really appreciate when there is solidarity. For the longest time after she ran out of the gym, I kept picturing having a meeting with the school administration in which they reprimanded me for joking with a child. I should probably work on not responding to everything with "Your FACE is ______." or "YOU are ______." Just maybe.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Cynicism

I recently found myself watching a video talking about how when you are younger you imagine yourself as a different adult than what you actually become, because your perception of what constitutes adulthood changes as you move into the age where larger society considers you an adult. While I understood the point made (my mom always says things about still not feeling like an adult) I found that this was not at all my experience. Thinking about how I've always envisioned myself, I realize that what I'd thought I'd be like is really not that far off from the truth. It's sort of ridiculous, but I always thought of myself as some sort of single independent woman, bohemian and all, living in an apartment with brick walls and an exposed beam ceiling, and green glass bottles against a window. This is a big part of the reason that I tried to be a vegetarian in 7th grade. Not because I had some huge guilt or political agenda about eating animals, but because it fit into the type of person I wanted to be. I'm not sure just how shallow this is. Probably a little bit shallow.

Over the past four years or so, I've become fairly comfortable in my single living stance. Not that I want to be single forever, but in the "God if I'm going to be single forever, that's completely OK, you know, just as long as I know" way. I also have become pretty comfortable living in Troy, and I can't imagine being willing to move somewhere for someone. That someone would have to mean quite a bit to me. I would have to love him more than Troy. It could happen, I suppose. I mean..... it isn't an impossibility.

For a hot second I allowed myself to get swept up and lose my callousness. No more.

Someone posted a twitpic of Daria on DVD. I've been searching for this show on DVD since TV on DVD was first a popular thing. I love Daria. I decided to look up some old episodes on the internet. They weren't too hard to track down.

Ever since I was young I looked up to snarky, cynical, sarcastic women. My favorite Christmas song was always Christmas Wrapping by the Waitresses. Ladies like Daria, Margarate Cho and Janeane Garafalo inspired me in the nineties. More recently we've got the sass of Jenny Lewis, and the dry deadpan wit of Zooey Deschanel. I've always been one of those ladies who get along with guys better than with other ladies, but this kind of lady really appeals to me.

I think this has to do with a lot of factors. I'm sure my family dynamic had something to do with it. Though my dad might have been the breadwinner, my mom certainly wore the pants. When I picture myself in my ideal job, I think of my favorite art class in high school and replace my favorite art teacher with myself. My favorite art teacher, of course, being a guy. I knew plenty of female art teachers, but I never envision myself doing things like they do them. I don't know that I picture myself as a guy, but rather, that I see myself as genderless in those situations.

When I pictured myself, I never really imagined what sort of career I'd pursue or what sort of education I'd have, but allow me to be conceited for a moment and say that with finishing up my Master's degree, I feel that the type of articulate discussion I am able to have, the cutting way in which I am able to defend my point, the depth with which I am familiar with my interests, this fits in very well with who I had hoped to be. Sarcastic women are smart women are strong women.

My mom always encouraged me to be the type of person I want to be, but at some point she started worrying out loud that my outward appearance might scare off boys. My stance has always been that if they wouldn't want to date me because I have short hair, I probably wouldn't want to date them either. It's like a douchebag filter.

I start to worry that having such a jaded personality will be more of a wall than a filter, but if other people have gotten past it to break it down in the past, I suppose I shouldn't be worried that such things won't happen in the future.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lame Duck

Sunday, May 16, 2010

With A Tree / The Idea of Me.

Sometimes, 25 feels almost like 30.

I don't cry for you, I cry for me.

Remember when I used to blog personal things privately in a coded way?

Oh, livejournal.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Mob Boss

I don't usually accept jobs subbing for kindergarten or pre-k if I know that's what I'd be getting into. I'm sure I've mentioned this before.

I did not realize that such-and-such a teacher was a Kindergarten teacher, so I accepted this job. Overall, it wasn't too terrible. I do hate tying shoes and fielding absurd remarks, but for kindergarten, they were pretty good kids.

That alone is not worth mentioning. What is, however, is Santino.

Santino is a little boy with big eyes and a long dark ponytail who somehow has the respect and devotion of every other kid in the class.

Santino says things like: "Oh snap!" and "You're not the boss of me!"

I take it that this latter remark is because he is the boss of everyone else. It was absolutely ridiculous to see the other kids pandering to him. "Santino, watch this!" "Santino, do you like my drawing?" Instead of looking to me for what to do, the kids would ask Santino.

Near the end of the day when the kids were in their special, Santino came into the classroom just as I was leaving to pick the class up. He held a bathroom pass in his hand. "Do you have permission to be here?" I asked. He said he did and I told him to just stay. When I went to pick the class up, the special area teacher told me that kindergartners are usually not allowed to go to the bathroom because they do crazy things like walk all the way to the other side of the building to use the bathroom in their classroom. Apparently Santino had been convincing about his maturity. The special area teacher seemed concerned when I confirmed that I had left him in the classroom alone. In retrospect, it seems like the wrong choice, but I was confused and didn't want to be late to pick up the class, or have a student pee in his pants.

When we returned to the classroom, Santino was nowhere to be found. The other students immediately started freaking out. "I CAN'T BELIEVE THAT SANTINO IS GONE!"

I panicked a little too, but luckily before I could even call anyone, he returned. He had gone to give back the bathroom pass.

I couldn't help but think of Scarface School Play all day, and I only felt a little bad about this when Santino came and gave me a big hug before he left for the day.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spelling Errors.

I subbed for a first grade class today. One of the tasks of a first grader at this particular school is to complete a few pages of a handwriting book everyday. This mostly consists of them copying letters.

One unfortunate / awesome mistake I caught today:

I like my toy trani.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Chatroulette / Merton / Ben

Have you seen this?





What about this?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Jumper

I keep seeing all these comments from British girls about jumpers. From the looks of what they're commenting on, it seems to be just a shirt. I was just about to embarrass myself via twitter polling the Brits that follow me when I looked up the word jumper on my computer dictionary.

Oh.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

What'cha doin, huh? Who's a hungry chicken?

When I was a bit younger, I used to think my dad was crazy for the way he spoke to animals. It is like, he has this mantra. It doesn't really matter what he says, but it is funny to think about it like it does matter.

"What'cha doin', huh? Huh? Huh? What'cha doin', huh?"

Wow, typed that looks even crazier.

Well, anyway, I just realized that I'm probably just as crazy as him, which might be just as crazy as you, if you ever speak to animals. This probably means I'm growing up. When you realize you're just as crazy as your parents, you've matured-- right?

My mantras change depending on the animal. It goes like this:

"Who's [a / my / a hungry] (kitty cat / guinea pig / chicken / puppy dog)? Awww, you're [ " "]. You're (a/my) [animal type] baby."

Something like that.

Judge away.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

a review of Tom Milsom's Explorers 1, or: You're a beautiful person, Tom Milsom.




















Tom Milsom's 5 song EP Explorers 1 is a mix of many things. It is filled with emotion, both giddy and melancholy. Pin/South explores the continuum between sound and music, and the album as a whole explores the continuum between music and art. As a huge Alan Kaprow fan, it forces me to reexamine my perceptions of art and music, and why I only know one John Cage piece (4'33"). It forces me to question why I only listen to the more "palatable" songs by Deerhoof and Animal Collective, yet will sit listening to whatever in a gallery for 45 minutes.

And furthermore, why do I consider Miranda July's The Binet-Simon Test and 10 Million Hours a Mile art while I merely think of No One Belongs Here More Than You as simply 'short stories'?

All that said, I think you'll find Flags of Every Color and Super Sunshine to your liking if you are already a fan of Porphyrophobia and Summersong.

Have a listen.

And Tom, I don't typically review music....but I do critique art. And I didn't want to let you down.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Attn: Video Editors

How can I get this effect? (Using Final Cut Express)

Omegle (EXPLICIT)

Hey, Emily...what are your thoughts on Omegle?

Um, I think this sums it up quite nicely:

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Venting blog 25Million: Copyright

I am so frustrated right now.

The other night we all went down to the music building and jammed. We do this many nights. It's what we do. I even jammed; I brought my ukulele.

At some point, I handed my Flip camera to this woman who was hanging out. I asked her to take some video once we got playing, and she happily agreed to.

At the end of the night, as we all packed up our instruments and started heading back to our rooms, one guy, let's call him Rajesh, stopped me.

"You got some video?" he sounded excited.

"Oh, yea, I asked her to film some."

"Well can I see it?" still sounding excited.

"Of course. I'll put it on the internet --- that is, of course, unless you'd rather I didn't. I know some people are funny about that."

"Right. I'm one of those people. I'm funny about that. I'll need to see it before it goes on the internet."

Admittedly, I've thought myself into a box here in terms of video sharing. "But in order for you to see it, it will have to be on the internet."

"Can't you play it from that right there?"

I took out my camera and played him the last clip. Rajesh held it up to his ear and commented that it sounds great, and to put it on the internet. This was Sunday.

No one stayed out Monday because of the late Saturday and Sunday nights, so I stayed in and finished editing my Travel Vlog. I thought about uploading the stuff from the music building, but I didn't get around to it. Just not high on my priorities.

Today (Tuesday) at dinner, he comes and sits next to me. Not sitting next to me to eat dinner with me, but sitting next to me with his jacket on and nothing in his hands, like he wants to tell me something. I assume he's going to say something about bringing some instrument to the music building tonight, something like that.

"Oh, hey. Did you put those videos on the internet yet?"

"No, I haven't had a chance."

"OK, because I'm going to need to see them before you do."

At this point, something inside me snaps. Interacting with this guy is usually pretty awkward, as he sometimes takes things too literally. I'm going to do that annoying thing and say that I think he's on the spectrum.

Little tiny fencers start jabbing the insides of my brains. I want to smack this guy.

I stare at him in disbelief.

"I'm sorry, the other night you told me to go ahead and put them up."

"Yeah, but now I'm thinking about it, and that was a bad idea."

"I don't know how you are going to see them large format without me putting them on the internet."

Now he's frustrated with me. "You just have to go get a cord and plug your camera into a computer. This place is like, computer-central."

"Fine."

He sits there staring at me, not sure if my 'Fine' was a consent. I start to tear little pieces off my buttered roll and shove them into my mouth.

"So...are you going to?"

"Yeah, but right now I'm going to finish my dinner. And to be honest, I'm really frustrated because you gave me your yes the other day. What if I had put it on the internet already?"

"But you haven't, so it's OK."

"Whatever."

"It might be whatever to you, but it matters to me."

"Yeah, but what if I had already put it up?"

"Well, then, maybe I'd ask you to take it down."

For another five minutes he sort of stared at me while I ate, repeatedly asking me in different ways whether or not I was going to be posting this without his approval. I asserted that indeed, I'd show him on the computer after I was done with my dinner. Finally, he went away. I wanted to scream, but all I was afforded was raised eyebrows at someone else sitting with us.

After I put my dinner things away I began heading toward the computer lounge, and I ran into him right outside of the dining hall. It took a lot of energy to formulate a nice way to speak to him.

"Um, if you have a minute, I can show you this on the computer. I've got some time now."

He was standing with another one of the people we play music with. Let's call this other guy Carlos. "OK" and to Carlos: "let's go watch this."

The three of us make our way into the computer lab, and to be quite honest, I have no hope for these videos actually playing. Yes my camera plugs into a USB port, but I had tried to watch some videos on YouTube earlier in the residency, and while the sound was fairly consistent, the picture was extraordinarily jumpy.

As the computer recognized my camera and I opened the first file, he said "Alright Carlos, let's check this out."

Not "let's check this out" like when I say: "hey, check this out! This is awesome!" No, more like when an overfed pasty policeman spots a young black male duck into an alleyway. There was something faux-authoritarian and accusatory in his statement that really grated on me.

I tried to play the video files straight off my camera, but the sound cut in and out and the picture was jumpy, even worse than the YT videos I had tried to play earlier. I tried to copy the files to the desktop, and as the time for them to copy was about 9 minutes, Rajesh decided to check his e-mail at another computer.

I started to explain to Carlos my two YouTube accounts, and how I would be uploading this to my second account, where there are only 9 subscribers, and I upload whatever crap I want. Rajesh looked over and said, "let's just try to figure this out right now." As though, somehow, my killing the 9 minutes was wasted time, but him checking his e-mail was completely acceptable.

The pinwheel of death indicated to me that I should 'Force Quit' Finder, and then I found myself trying to explain to Rajesh that it wasn't that there was a problem with my video, but that this computer just didn't seem to be able to handle playing them.

I finally copied one of the files to the desktop and opened it with little hope for it to play smoothly. My expectations were met. It played just slightly better than when I attempted to play it straight off the camera. I internally cringed a bit because the woman who filmed this for me had used the zoom, which makes the poor-quality footage (a side effect of low lighting) even worse. Rajesh asked me to just let the video play, and I tried to explain that I was, that the computer was making it jumpy. Frustrated at not being able to hear it all the way through, Rajesh said, "why don't we just say 'don't'? It is amateurish anyway."

The quality of the video was such that his likeness was barely recognizable, and he was one of maybe 7 musicians contributing to the sound, one of two musicians playing his particular instrument.

I couldn't help it. I had to pry.

"Is it because you don't want your likeness on there? Because you can hardly see you anyhow."

"This is how I make my living and I can't have anything like this out there."

"I wasn't going to attach your name with it anyhow."

"Either way, I don't want it on there."

"OK, that's fine, but you should know, I may use a clip that just shows me playing."

"No, because that still has me on there. You can't put that on there without my consent."

"I don't understand. It won't have your name attached, no one will be able to see your face, no one will know it is you playing. It could be anyone playing."

"Just because you bought a $100 camera does not give you the right to post videos of my art on the internet! What gives you the right to say it could be just anyone? It is my creation and you do not have the right to put it on there."

"I'm not trying to argue property laws with you. I just don't get why you don't want me to put it on there. I don't understand how it would be detrimental to your career if your face and name are not associated with it."

"It's just that I want a say at what things I create do and do not get put on the internet. I've had to ask people to take things down before."

The anger started to become audible in my response. "Fine. Then I'll put the footage of me playing with the sound removed. Your face won't be in it. Your playing won't be in it. Nothing of you!"

He stared at me. Just stared like he was doing at dinner. Stared like he didn't believe me. Stared like he thought I was just telling him what he wanted to hear and that I was going to go do what I wanted.

I returned his stare with an exasperated, pained expression. "I DON'T BULLSH%T!"

This seemed to satisfy him. Not only that, but it also seemed to put him in a cheery mood. "Thanks!" As he walked out of the computer lab, I looked at some other student trying to convey in my glance that my head was about to explode. Rajesh stopped in the doorway and looked at me before walking away.

I usually don't ask permission when I record. I try to not record anything I think people would be upset about, and I would of course comply if someone asked me to remove something. The thing is, my scope isn't really large enough for people to get upset. I understand that Rajesh has the right to say whether or not his stuff goes on the internet, but his reasons were bullisht. It isn't going to ruin your career if NO ONE COULD KNOW THAT IT WAS YOU. I don't even know his last name. I would understand if he was singing, but he was merely contributing a small amount of the instrumentation. NO ONE WOULD KNOW.

What else is ridiculous? So many people are desperate for their video to reach many people, and this guy is upset about the probably-less-than-9 views this video, uploaded on my second channel, would receive.

I made this angry music playlist for times like this.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Proverbs

"People who set traps for others get caught themselves. People who start landslides get crushed. You have to hate someone to want to hurt him with lies. Insincere talk brings nothing but ruin." - Proverbs 26:27-28

Monday, January 25, 2010

Other Substitutes

As a substitute teacher, it isn't always easy to identify the other substitutes. Perhaps when I walk in a room they will assume I am the teacher who I am covering for, or maybe they will in some other way exude the doubt and confusion inherent with the position. Sometimes I will run into them in the office, signing in in the morning, and once I've worked at a school long enough, I begin to know which teachers belong in which classrooms, and I know a sub the way all the other teachers know me.

A lot of the time, I hate working with other subs, because they have their own way of doing things, I have my own way of doing things, and neither of us are inherently right. It becomes somewhat of a power struggle, with the winner being the person who assumes they sub in that building most.

Sometime last week, I was asked to cover a period in this room I've subbed in a lot before. They said there was only a TA in this room, so they wanted to have a teacher in there as well. I had no problem going there, as I knew this particular TA; he's a really nice guy and the students respect him. Unfortunately, when I arrived, he wasn't there. In his place was some other guy, presumably a sub, sporting a black tie with a pattern of neon splashes. We quickly identified that we were both substitutes, and then discussed briefly the need to fill out a time sheet when covering for a TA. I don't do it. I subbed for a TA once, and never got paid for it. When I called and found out why, they sent me a time sheet, and I just never filled it in. A lot of people owe me $40. I'm just too awkward to bug them for it.

So me and splashy tie, it turns out, are both in the same position in grad school. Apparently, he subbed in this district last year too.

"I just felt so honored when they sent me that letter over the summer asking me to come back," he said. I suppose if it was your first time subbing and this was the only district you're in, then maybe you would take too much compliment from such a form letter. Or maybe he is just quite the character. Either way, every school district you substitute in will send you a letter seeing if you're coming back. It isn't because they think you've done a nice job; it's because it is easier to keep the same subs than to go looking for new ones.

Seriously?! Should I have bragged about the fourteen letters that I received?

Friday I subbed in a school I sub in a lot, and there were a bunch of teachers out. A man of such an age that it seemed he might be actually employed rather then subbing was in the room next to mine, chatting with a teacher I've seen many times before. During my lunch period, I walked over to my door to shut it and shut off the lights. That teacher was walking out of his door too and took the opportunity to walk into my room and chat with me. We spoke of school, and employment (noticing a trend here?) and he shared how he usually works in the high school, but figured he'd give the middle school a shot, just to test it out. He said he had been too lax with his morning classes, and he was going to try to be stricter with the afternoon ones, anticipating the crazy that would surely erupt once kids had had a few subs for all of their classes. "Do you know Chris and Keith?" he asked.

"Um...Chris is a really generic name," I said.

"Oh, you'd know! They're a duo; they're quite something," he said. Then he offered to help me out if I needed it, as he had apparently earned the students' respect, specifically one individual student who liked him.

After lunch, my classes were pretty small. When there are only three students in the room, and the office sends you another sub, it is pretty easy to keep the kids on task. I had a studyhall and sent a few of the kids to the library and then threatened the rest of the class with referrals if they talked. Needless to say, they stayed pretty quiet. The other afternoon classes weren't silent, but their talking was mostly about the assignment at hand, and I kept the door open for the whole afternoon. The other sub's classes were quite loud, as he had predicted, and he stopped in at the end of the day to say how quiet my classes were.

I think people make assumptions about me, perhaps based on my appearance. This guy had never seen me before, as I had never seen him. He doesn't know my relationship with that school, and with the students. He doesn't know my style of classroom management, and from the way he offered assistance, it seemed he thought I couldn't handle it. But look who couldn't handle it in the end!

Sometimes when I talk to other subs, I learn things that I need to know, such as the fact that long term or building sub positions don't come with such benefits as health insurance, or perhaps that you can collect unemployment during the summer. Sometimes another sub will have just the right words to soften my heart about something.

So I guess other subs can be OK, if their advice is warranted and given with respect. They can be OK if they aren't wasting my time trying to convince me to buy their drink supplements. Other subs are best interacted with outside of a class we're responsible for.

I always draw the back of people.




If you draw strangers, I'll bet you do the same.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Milk / Timing

Just now I drove to the Farmers' Market. I go pretty much every week, if nothing else, to get milk. As I drove, I listened to WAMC. When I parked my car, a story came on about a Hudson Valley dairy farmer. I thought I'd sit and listen.

I couldn't find the audio, but this site had it text-based:
A dairy farmer in this Columbia County town shot and killed 51 cows in a barn on his property and then committed suicide, state police said on Friday.

Troopers responding to a 911 call about 1 p.m. Thursday found the dead cows and the body of Dean E. Pearson, 59, inside a barn on the farmer’s property at 121 Weed Mine Road, police said.

They said Pearson appeared to have died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Troopers were called to the farm after a visitor found a note on the barn door that said not to come in and to notify police.

Police said their investigation revealed Pearson had been despondent about recent personal issues.

Local farmers buried the cows outside the barn on Friday.

An autopsy on Pearson was to be performed Friday at Albany Medical Center.

The timing was eerie. The topic is really sad. Some of the comments on this post are really cruel, but someone left a really articulate defense of that farmer. I'd encourage you to go read it.

Friday, January 22, 2010

No help at all.

Yesterday I subbed for an art teacher in an urban district. This is not particularly distinct from my typical gig. The only thing was that I had never worked in this school before. And I've only really said this once before (well, only about one school), but I doubt I will again.

The kids were pretty out of contol, and while I'd be tempted to say that these were bad kids, I know they are not. Whenever another teacher stepped in the room, the class would instantly fall quiet. It is these sort of situations that really drive me nuts, because as I try to get the class to quite down, the 'good kids' come up to me, one by one, pat me on the arm and tell me something that I might try to do which gets them to settle down. "You could push that talk button over there to get someone to come to the room;" five minutes into my first class? Riiiight. "You could...you could say they won't have Fun Friday." "You could clap your hands." It becomes as much of a task to get the "helpful" ones to sit down and be quiet as the chatty disruptive kids. During my second to last class, a room of first graders (who were filled with the typical contaigious-need to go to the bathroom and "I can't do it"s and the gamut of issues little kids typically have) a little girl came in, probably about 3rd or 4th grade. She told me she was the art helper, and as much as I wanted to just send her on her way, I figured she might be of some use shushing the first graders, so I let her stay.

The unfortunate thing about substitute teaching is that many kids rely heavily on routine, and if the teacher has not indicated something on the sub plans, it will not be part of the routine. All day the kids had been asking for these little slips of paper (a lot of elementary schools are doing this lately - a 'caught being good' reward system in which the papers can be traded in for school store items or perhaps can be placed in a drawing for a bigger prize). I don't award these things when students ask for them, and I especially don't award these things when I haven't been able to stop yelling. This little girl, my art helper, starts insisting that we hand out these little peices of paper. My first instinct is to fight her on it, and then I just let her go. As that class leaves, I inform the teacher of who was good, who was terribly misbehaved (they're going to lose recess for an entire week) and who had a million crisises (uncontrollable itching followed by crying because she can't draw a square concluded with a papercut which might as well have been the loss of a digit from the way she whined). I thank the little girl in a manner in which I hoped would imply, "thank you...your work here is done" but she told me that the regular teacher usually lets her stay for two classes, and she wanted to stay. So I said she could, and immediately regretted my decision as the next class of fifth graders came in. She, as kids had earlier, suggested I call someone to come in and yell at the kids (right at the beginning of class). As I explained about how they were supposed to draw things and why, she started pointing to the teacher sample on the board (as if I needed any more to encourage the kids to say "that doesn't look like that one!!") and just generally mimicked me, which some people might find cute, but I really didn't appreciate it. As the students got to work, she decided to continue her role as task master, and went around yelling at the other kids in the class. Kids who are bigger than her. Kids who are older than her.

And if you think they respected her authority, you haven't hung around kids much. Not only did they freak out about her telling them what to do (even if I said that I had asked her to do so --- a little fib to support her), they threw things at her and one boy even asked her if she was pregnant (admittedly, she has a potbelly, but nearly half of all little girls do. Plus, I have a potbelly and I'm not pregnant...nor do I ever appreciate that question). Soon, I was fielding more complaints from her about the abuse she was suffering from the older kids than I was from any of the students in the room about the abuse they've suffered from each other. She asked for a piece of paper, so she could try the assignment also. "Great," I thought, "maybe this will keep her busy and out of their (and my) hair." Within 5 minutes she had finished the assignment and hung it up on the board. Several minutes later she was complaining that kids were picking on her. "Why'd you hang your work up?" I asked. "You allow people to share their opinions with you when you put yourself out there, and their opinions aren't always nice."

Sometimes those opinions are downright cruel. Sometimes those opinions are riddled with typos.

After this class left, one little girl stayed around. It almost seemed like she was putting up the chairs for me, except that they were already up, and she was just sort of flipping them over, and back over again. I needed to vent about what just happened, so I explained to her about the little art helper and why I thought her classmates hadn't respected that little girl's, ehem, authority. This girl, the one flipping the chairs, started telling me about her brother in the middle school. I'm sure I've met him. She told me all about how he beat someone up, punched him until his eye was almost falling out. He beat this kid up because that kid had hit his girlfriend. I guess I understand. "Well, I certainly wouldn't mess with *you*!" I told this little girl teasingly, "your brother would totally beat me up!"

"Nah, I'd do it myself," she responded. She then proceeded to tell me about the fights that she had been in. This bright-eyed little girl with french braided pigtails and a warm smile. My goodness. "I grew up in the Bronx." You did? I mean, you're like....what, nine? You grew up there?

I tried to explain to her why fighting is a really bad idea in school, and on the street you've gotta do what you've gotta do.

But then I remembered that you still have to answer to an authority figure on the street, and told her to avoid doing that because she doesn't want to be put in custody, or in jail when she's old enough. "My mom has been in jail three times."

Sometimes it's really sad when you find the answer to your questions.