"Fire is motion / Work is repetition / This is my document / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all defenses."

- Cap'N Jazz, "Oh Messy Life," Analphabetapolothology

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

the last of 2008

i woke up this morning and lay in bed thinking about 2008...

i taught my first class(es) in 2008. i wrote my first thesis in 2008. i moved away from home and into my first apartment in 2008. i started my first job in 2008.

i met Grizzly Bear in 2008.
i built a bookpress and hand-bound books in 2008. this blog reached 20,000 readers in 2008!

i've learned to appreciate home and my family in new ways, and i learned what it's like to fall completely in love with someone in 2008.

...and now, in the dark, on the floor of my parents' living room in the house of my childhood, next to a dying fire, with the miserable tv on in the background, i'm thinking about 2008 again. it really has been a great year.

and 2009 is going to be even better, i know it.

with love,

post-script: my half-hearted and last-minute attempts to live twitter new year's eve. could have been fun if longer-lasting. alas, noted for next year!

Friday, December 26, 2008


i once had a friend ask me, "how does it feel to have yr birthday right after christmas? does it bother you that Jesus always takes the cake?"

my response?

"meh. i don't really like cake that much anyway."

but, it is nice to be reminded by those around you how much you mean to them. the trouble with having a birthday so close to Christmas is that any feeling of happiness or celebration gets sucked up and confounded by the residual effects and aftermath of christmas. instead of being happy with all the ppl i love, there's all this bitterness and tiredness from all the merry-making that precedes it.

like having eaten too much chocolate cake at once, so the next thing you want to reach for better be salty and something crunchy.

an aside: i am especially grateful to my best friends Chelsea and Ben this year. they've really been the best gifts of all and sometimes i hardly feel like i deserve them. i love you both, so much.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


i spent the day slowly wrapping gifts. my lethargic fingers were miserable negotiating pesky scissors and tape.

it doesn't feel like christmas this year, and i wonder if/fear that my increasing inability to experience holidays with the excitement and anticipation of the g/olden days means i am getting old/ losing my childhood ways.

but, i think it's because i'm more grateful to be home than any other year, and that makes these entire 3 weeks feel like a gift, rather than just the one day.

with love,

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

lonesome cowboy

On August 23, 1973, Jan Erik Olsson, on leave from prison, walked into Kreditbanken at Norrmalmstorg, central Stockholm and attempted to hold up the bank. Swedish police were called in immediately, two of them went inside, and Olsson opened fire, injuring one policeman.

The other was ordered to sit in a chair and "sing something."

He started singing "Lonesome Cowboy."


Olofsson was a repeat offender who had committed several armed robberies and acts of violence, the first committed at the age of 16.

He walked around in the vault singing Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly".

(from the Wikipedia article about the Norrmalmstorg robbery, which originated the theory on Stockholm Syndrome)

Monday, December 22, 2008

to do / to come

so you know, this is what i'm working on. expect something soon, before the holy daze kick in...

-video for Introduction, i thot it made a perfect bookend to my first semester as a teacher, as a grad student, as a child away from home for the first time, and those feelings that can only be expressed thru lyrics and free form dance (oh heck yes it will be exciting.)

-playing with new iMovie (which is far inferior to old iMovie. major downgrade! boo hiss!)

-fighting to get my health insurance back (those fuckers are fucking with me again, trying to bill me twice for zero annual physicals, or deny me any physicals at all. wtf?)

-reflections on past year? i dunno, i kinda lack the energy for this. 08 was kinda a major disappointment. then again, i'm not counting my blessings...


i am so tired and i don't know why. i thot the time change was supposed to make me stay up later, not go to bed before everyone else in my house.

the extreme cold here is making my legs cramp from tensing up so much. i need warmer shoes maybe. funny, and the only thing i asked my parents for for christmas was a new swimsuit.

got my dad a new camera for christmas. i'm really hoping he likes it. it took me 1.5 years to find the right one at the right price and i just hope he doesn't think his daughter is too poor to afford it.

to bed! (but some Orwell first...)

Friday, December 19, 2008

peace-ing out!

this is my look of contented relief.

final grad school project: DONE.

last classes of the day: TAUGHT AND WRAPPED UP.

traffic: BRAVED.

work out, laundry, packing: to be done, but i'm looking forward to it.

this semester's finished, folks, and it looks like i made it!

(...and, finally, i'm going hoooooooooome!!!!....)


Thursday, December 18, 2008

happy holidays

sometimes i think i teach the cutest group of 6th graders in all of Los Angeles. (or maybe just the cutest ones at my school...) and the other times, i think they're little terrors whose only goal in life is to make my life hell. but today, they were nice.

below, a Christmas card from one of my students, Victor:

and what it said inside:

and this is my personal development class, my 6th period, one of my favorite groups of characters:

even though they're sweet and cute, i'm still looking forward to this 3-week break from them. we need a little distance.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008


holy crap.

as i write this, this humble blog is only 5 clicks away from reaching 20,000 visitors since its inception in the late summer of 2006.

i am tremendously flattered and taken aback, amazed that you've stuck with me and my senseless and emotive ramblings long enough to celebrate this moment.

thank you, truly, for yr readership.

with love,

Monday, December 15, 2008

i hate L.A.

hm, so you know how just yesterday i said i might grow to love L.A.? yea, it's not happening.

that's b/c L.A. is a vindictive little bitch who just wants my money and my time and attention, but i can't get no respect!

this morning, i wake up. the raindrops that were so pleasant to fall asleep to had apparently continued throughout the night, flooding the carport where my car rests and where i had to wade through 5 inch-deep FREEZING water this morning. and, b/c my bitch landlord didn't install lights in my part of the garage, i couldn't see the standing water until i was, well, already standing in it. so, great morning. i have to run back up to my apartment, throw off my shoes and socks, and improvise: for lack of galoshes (oh how i miss my big funky rubber galoshes right now...) i had to put on a pair of flip flops, which felt miserably uncomfortable on my bitterly cold feet.

the entire 55-60 minutes in the car on the freeway to work (what usually takes 20-25 minutes) everyone was driving 35 mph to avoid fatal crashes – the radio informed us accidents were happening at the rate of one every 30 seconds (wtf!?), a police officer (i learn later) was RUN DOWN while trying to assist traffic – and i still had assholes trying to sideswipe me to squeeze into my lane.

i get to school half an hour late (and this is after i even wake up early to make myself a cup of tea to start the day right), frantically driving in circles trying to find parking (i eventually coax the principal into my car and he assists me in finding a spot to park my poor water-logged vehicle). my feet are cramping at this point, they are so cold and wet, and i'm shivering and completely stiff from the cold and from running in the rain. basically, i arrive at school looking like a mess, feeling like a kid, and not wanting to be here (at school, at work, in LA).

it was a long day. the only thing that prevented me from completely losing my mind and crying was that i didn't actually teach today, i was in training. and they provided food. one saving grace.

i come home after going to the gym for a quick workout, hoping that all the time i've been away has allowed the water around my car to drain away. NOPE! the pond still exists, there might even be homeless seagulls nesting, who the fuck knows. all i can say is that this meant me having to park my car 2 blocks away, on some dark alley where i couldn't even see the signs or the curb to see if i was in a tow-away zone. i just hope, pray, that someone doesn't run into my car, knock the side mirror off, or decide it'd be fun to tow it. so many things to keep me up at night, it was hardly worth the 2 minutes of pleasant rain while i was drifting off last night...

seriously. it reminds me of something i remember my boyfriend saying last winter when we were driving around one late oxford night on the edge of a snow storm. it was the time of night when everyone is supposed to be asleep, when the snow machines and salt trucks come out (i think if you grow up in the midwest like i did, you know there are 5 stages of night-time: twilight, dusk, 8-11pm, midnight, and salt truck time. this is the time other ppl in other parts of the world might also know as tooth fairy time, or santa claus time.) there was snow falling in large clumpy flakes, and we could see it in his headlights, in the street lamplight, like static filling up the screen of gray and black night. and Ben said that ppl in ohio overreact to snow, b/c in Illinois, where he grew up, this would be nothing, "Illinois ppl know how to drive in snow." and that made sense, and that's what i think of now when i think about LA and its rain:

LA denizens are so unaccustomed to rain that they don't know how to drive in it, or how to build an efficient drainage system for when the rain pours. don't they know, that when it rains, it pours? i bet you anything a stupid Angelino coined that phrase...


p.s. an afterthot: this is why you don't set up house in a desert. if there's no water so you have to steal it from yr neighbors to survive, and when the water finally comes you don't know what to do with it. ladies and gentlemen, Los Angeles! (a big fecking mess!)

Sunday, December 14, 2008


the peaceful quiet of an empty apartment and all the neighbors gone on holiday,

the coziness of the kitchen while making dinner and the comforting whir and warmth of my new space heater, and

the look of the sky as the day is ending, the clouds backlighting the palm treetops with raspberry and tangerine

and a playlist of songs about the left and leaving, and a living room to dance and jump in

and, for once, not dreading monday

and, knowing i'm going home in only a few more days

make me feel, finally, that i could grow to love LA.

Friday, December 12, 2008

stories from personal development

two of my girls come in early, giggling and gushing about something. Jasmin says, in a sing-song voice, "Ms. Lee, Niria has a boooooyfriiiiieeennd!"

i start to laugh, and ask about him ("is he cute? is he funny? is he smart? that's the most important thing...")

Niria buries her head in her sweatshirt, too shy to talk about it. Jasmin turns to me, puts her hand up to her face, whispers while making a grimace, "i don't like him!" i ask her why, she responds, very matter-of-factly, "he litters!"

i laugh. what a good answer! i tell her, "that's a good reason, too."

Jasmin responds that Niria doesn't care, "as long as he's hot."

kids. they're so cute.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


i joined Idealist.org about a year ago, when graduation was pending and "the future" we'd always talked about but never really pondered was looming, no, was here. i was terrified i would collect my diploma in May and then have nowhere to go and nothing to do. after 16 years comfortably riding out the formal education system and its strongly set paths, the idea of the track suddenly ending and launching me forward with no idea of what lay ahead was worrisome.

i think this fear of the unknown is dangerous; rather than explore the possibilities and potentials of the unknown and undecided, we are swept into fates we don't want b/c of fear of failure. i think this is particularly true among the freakishly driven and busy, those whose schedules drive them to the point of burnout and leave them with hardly any sense of what "free time" means. suddenly the idea of not having something to pour all yr energy and time into feels like failure. why?

the point of this post is this: i felt that after struggling with the process of writing my undergraduate thesis, i needed a break from higher ed, wanted to put off grad school, and avoid law school. i figured working a job in the meantime while i sorted out my feelings for formal ed was a good idea. and so i signed up for Idealist to look for jobs, something to fall back on in the next year.

that was a year ago, and i still get the emails. i can't bring myself to unsubscribe from their email list b/c, admittedly, i guess i'm still looking. i check their emails, every day, to see what alternate lives i could be living: lead filmmaker in Venice, community organizer in Chicago, youth media coordinator in NYC, and lament the disparity between my current job and the work i could be doing instead. every time i read about a new job, a different salary, a different locale, i imagine completely different lives and wish i had been more comfortable with uncertainty.


Sunday, December 07, 2008

whipped cream cheese

an epicure-ious observation of Los Angeles:

since i've moved here, the only thing i've seen Angelinos serve with their bagels is whipped cream cheese. i didn't find it particularly odd the first few times, i figured ppl living in LA are more sensitive to calories and somehow justify the indulgence of cream cheese by thinning it out and stirring air into it, but still... does no one in this crazy town like their cream cheese thick and rich, the way i do?

i've never found cream cheese, or any dairy product for that matter, particularly appetizing in its whipped and airy manifestations. i thought the idea of air in my dairy was ridiculous, unsatiating, and a little gross. i want more bang in my bite, you know?

nevertheless, that's all i see being served up in LA, and this weekend, without realizing the symbolic significance, i opted for a tub of whipped honey nut cream cheese at the grocery store. i ate it this morning, spread thick on a piece of toast with sliced bananas.

i wonder if slowly all these little changes will make me a (reluctant) Angelino after all.


Saturday, December 06, 2008


saturdays in LA have been devoted to sleeping in, waking up on my own at 6:20 despite turning the alarm off, and going back to bed to have feverish and jarring dreams. this week's sampling:

my friend's boyfriend, who i've just met and who my friend is very pleased with, turns out to be stalking me. i find his fan page on the internet, a photoessay in which he posted pictures of me at a party in the park, my mom, aunt, and grandma (all the ladies in my family) lined up in front of a stage where a band is playing, and we are dancing. the boyfriend analyzes my expressions, my hair, my muscle tone and writes this justification for his fascination:

"she has the body of a man but exudes the allure of feminine sexuality, which proves she is the birthmother"

in this context, "birthmother" means that i am the mother of the earth.

in a conjoining dream, i pick the lids off of two garbage cans and strap them to my arms and flap my way to the sky. i am flying between steeples and hovering by the windows of tall buildings, landing on rafters of coffee shops and spying on bad guys plotting to hurt people. i'm still in LA, but it's a New England version of LA, and there are tall old trees which i like to perch in, since i can fly and all.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

new lows

i am sitting on a towel on the floor of my bathroom, a pile of folders and papers and books beside me, trying to keep warm with a laptop in my lap and sitting as close as i can to the only heater in the entire apartment, a Thermodor built into the wall (i suspect my current use for it fails to meet its intended purpose – my guess being to eliminate bathroom odors? i dunno, that's based solely on the name and what i've heard about ppl lighting matches after taking shits: i was told the flame "burns the bad air" so you can't smell it any more, but i always thought that didn't make sense and was bad household science. anyway...)

i'm 2.5 weeks away from a blissful retreat to my home state, and only a few grad school projects away from the end of this forsaken semester, but this lump of (forgive me) shit before me is too huge to surmount, it seems. i am teetering on incompletes for 2 of the 3 grad classes and it is so fucking cold in my apartment right now, i can't get anything done. it's either crawl into bed, or sit on the floor of the bathroom next to the heater. and so it goes...

i'm fighting nausea and panic and utter depression and lack of excitement, and all from the floor 2 feet away from a fucking toilet. thank cheeses i'm the only one who uses it and i just cleaned it the other day, or this would be a really long miserable night indeed.

to the future!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

observations on education

i don't know if it's that i'm so busy i don't have time for intellectual stimulation... or if it's b/c i'm constantly in school so my intellectual ideas run out much more quickly, but lately i've noticed i'm not quite the innovative intellectual i used to be. even my writing is leaving something to be desired. my grammar is getting on my nerves: the overuse of nondescript "very"s and "really"s and "is" phrases and hanging prepositions, the lack of innovative word play or complex sentence structures. i wonder if my writing has gotten simpler and duller as a result of constantly being around (special ed) 6th graders and administrators, or if it's really true what they say, that middle school teachers are a subset of failed intellectual, stuck teaching the same standards and boring lesson plans year after year b/c they lack the intellectual daring to succeed in academia.

of course i don't believe this at all, since from experience i can say that teaching is one of the most demanding and difficult jobs anyone can ever attempt. but i can't help remembering my own criticisms of education classes in undergrad and grad programs: that it seemed to me most education classes weren't that educative in and of themselves, that their practicality diminished the excitement of the learning process, diluting inquiry and exploration to formula rather than potential. and so it continues in my experience as a teacher, no different on this end of the spectrum, and in fact worse, as i have become a cog in this indestructible machine of an education system i so strongly detest and contest on a moral and philosophical ground. even if i were a pipe bomb i would only take out one of its arms...

what i mean to say is that i'm really scared that when i'm done with my 2 year commitment, i'm going to leave and not know where i belong any more. i know for sure this is not what i want to spend the rest of my life doing. in the first 3 months i am already fitfully worn out on this routine. 2 years is enough, thanks. and i don't think i can commit to education reform as i had planned. these months have shown me an even uglier side of our American education system than i had ever wanted to see, understanding now that even the strongest and most determined of teachers can enter this system and come out washed up, burnt out, and ready to do the least revolutionary and radical thing if it means keeping a job, keeping administrators at bay, and getting only good enough results so as not to draw more attention to oneself than necessary. i understand now the desire to do the bare minimum if it means less friction stopping yr acceleration to the end of the year. i'm giving up ed reform; this system is broken.

i could say more on this, i had a list – the defeating false determinism in lesson-planning, my desire to remove myself from formal ed as much as possible, being mired in my own education (what am i getting this degree for?), wondering what this means for my future studies, research and career paths, esp. now that these things matter to someone other than myself – but sadly i have reports and projects for a graduate class to write and i'm listening to music which is making it difficult to find my own words. it's senseless work, but i have to finish it before i can return home in 3 glorious weeks (i just hope these days will pass smoothly and with as little trouble as possible, please!)


Friday, November 28, 2008

sometimes i think i'm too fuckin sensitive for my own good. i take things so personally sometimes that i can't focus on anything else. i read so much into little in/actions, and it takes a lot of persuasion and patience to coax me out of my dark moods. i think the ppl i love most are the ones who understand that, and who are able to rescue me from myself, but i worry that even those ppl will eventually tire of doing so; it must be near impossible to be with me, to be around me.

i have this lingering fear that i will eventually drive all the ppl in my life away from me. i act in ways sometimes that makes me think that i must desire to be alone, to hurt myself and others, and i act in ways sometimes with a sick knowing that's what i'm doing.

i wish i could just say what i want, what is wrong, be able to place my frustration, my anger, my fear, and my sadness, rather than waiting foolishly for someone else to rescue me and figure it out. i don't like expecting others to know me and having to be so disappointed. (but i think the trouble is that despite my moods and my behaviors, i really, desperately, foolishly, need and want someone to depend on, b/c i want to be able to trust in others and the world, and not feel so alone and adrift.)

i wish i could just get over it and move on and ugh, i don't know why i'm writing this any more.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

happy thanksgiving!

this year, i am especially grateful for my beautiful family and friends, the incredible love i feel so lucky to have experienced, my job (yes, warts and all), and my (relatively speaking) good health.

it is my first thanksgiving away from my family and my home, and i miss my mom and her wonderful cooking, and the warmth that exudes throughout the whole house from our kitchen. i called her last night and could hear her clanging pots and pans in preparation for today, and it made me smile and want to hug her, and then i felt very alone. i imagine my family sitting around the table to have dinner together, and want so much to be there, heaping comfort foods onto my plate and laughing thru mouthfuls of sweet potato casserole at my mom's mannerisms, or my dad's talkshow radio jokes.

i miss the look of my home and my hometown at this time of year. California experiences the winter holidays very differently. somehow, walking around LMU's campus and seeing the sudden appearance of Christmas decorations – illuminated yard ornaments, the huge Christmas bow they tied onto the chapel steeple, the ball ornaments hanging on the magnolia trees – made me feel surprisingly upset, like they were mocking my homesickness with exaggerated props, trying to compensate for not being home by engaging in tasteless caricature. i thought of the way Christmas lights look when you're driving home at night over rolling hills and through howling winter wind and snow. or the way uptown looked in Oxford when you'd be walking to the coffee shop and seeing the snow fall lightly through lamplight.

today is very bittersweet, because while i am sad to be missing these things, i am so happy and grateful to have them in my life at all, and to know that i grew up with such wonderful ppl and experiences, and that i have such wonderful memories of my life.

and so, happy thanksgiving. i am coming home soon...


Wednesday, November 26, 2008


i love the frame within the frame, and the effect it has of turning our attn even farther outward,

like two negatives side by side making a positive.

i miss studying film. i want to return to something fun and less heady when i go back to grad school. something media- or art-based. i really wish i could design my own field: "spectacular studies."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

forgotten sounds

sitting on the floor in my room, brewing tea, i hear a sudden and strange sound. i can't identify its location, it seems to be coming from all around me. a weird hissing, crackling sound. at first like tv static, but it gets louder and moves around the walls.

and then it sounded like fire, burning. i looked up, to my side, where is the fire coming from??

and then i heard the tapping on the window.

i heard the gentle tapping, splattering, splashing on the glass, and then realized what i heard before was rain on my rooftop.

and i was sad because i'd apparently forgotten the sound rain makes.

and sadder still: in the time it took me to write this, the rain has stopped.



i just have to blow some steam before it explodes me. pardon the venting.

whoever designed the university intern program for credentialing new teachers needs a fucking shoe up their ass. it is the most fucking miserable experience for the teacher candidates, and should not be considered anything less than a disservice to their students and the educational system immediately surrounding them, as they are completely deprived of any resources or support and drained and stretched to the point of being completely ineffective and incoherent. furthermore, it turns off new teachers to wanting to seriously remain in the educational system, or to give them the opportunity to try new and exciting pedagogies, which runs counter to what we should be encouraging in our educational system, b/c if the new teachers aren't going to be a source of innovation and exploration, who is?

there is absolutely no practicality or reason to this system. and it makes for some really fucking poor practice. i'm not even talking revolutionary pedagogy here, i'm just talking basic standards-based ordinary teaching. take this: my supervisor is supposed to get 4 formal observations done in the semester. i met with her to determine what days she would come in. but, b/c of surprise teacher training academies, district meetings, science lab trainings, etc. i had to cancel some observations, and she cancelled some observations, and now we're down to the last 3 weeks of the semester and she's threatening to give me an incomplete. she wants to come in tomorrow, a day i had planned as a test day, to observe me teach a lesson. what the fuck am i going to teach them, it doesn't even fit well into the calendar and the flow of the units.

so dig: this week is weird, b/c it's thanksgiving, and so monday is a full day, and tuesday and wednesday are half days. i need more than half a period to give a unit test, or to introduce a new topic, so i was going to do it like this: monday was going to be review, tuesday tests, wednesday a party/intro to new unit day. but, monday was taken out b/c of an emergency district meeting, so things got pushed back. tuesday became a review day (which sucked b/c i had to take two half periods to do a thorough review) and wednesday was going to be two periods of testing. but, b/c of my fucking supervisor and her demand that i teach a lesson, i'm now struggling to figure out what to do. i told my kids they were going to get a test tomorrow, so i can't just be like "haha, just kidding..." b/c then they would lose trust and never take me seriously again, esp. after all the emphasis i put on them studying tonight, and bringing their notes tomorrow to turn in for extra credit. so, no matter what, i am still going to give them the test. but, i wonder if squeezing in a lesson is going to be too little time to do either very well. and it doesn't make much sense, to me or the students, to have them test for a period, then come back and immediately start a new unit. it doesn't flow, and it gives them no sense of closure or release. they're not going to feel like things make sense, they're going to act up b/c i'm not giving them time to celebrate completion of a unit (which really, they should be allowed to do) and they're not going to retain anything from my new lesson, b/c their behavior is going to be absolutely bat shit crazy.

fuck shit cunt damn piss ass grunt kick fist.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

first snow

i meant to post this a week ago.

while my friends and family in other climes were celebrating the first snows of the winter season (making me dreadfully homesick and nostalgic), winter manifested itself quite differently here in torrid LA, where last week, the temperatures reached 94 degrees.

and, as many of you are aware by now, while most places build a fire to keep warm from the cold, LA couldn't stop its fires from growing, as Santa Ana winds swept raging fires across southern California. while blissful, serene snowflakes fell on the rooftops in my hometown, i noticed a peculiar parallel on the streets of LA.

my parents (visiting me from KY) and i were walking around last weekend, and we kept noticing white specks floating down from the sky. i thought at first that it was pollen, the trees confused by the (even by LA standards) unseasonable warmth. but, the particles were too large to be pollen, and i noticed that when you touched it (or sat in it, as my mother did when she took a break to recline on a bench), it would appear white and cloudy on yr skin and clothes. and then, we started noticing it was in the air wherever we went, that it was collecting on the tree leaves, in the cracks of sidewalk, on our clothes, on the hoods of cars.

it was vaguely reminiscent of snow, but, horrified, i realized it was quite the opposite: what we were observing was, in fact, ashes blowing in from the fires on the mountains.

it was unsettling, to say the least. and as news coverage continued throughout the last week, with many more homes being lost and no sign of ceasing, it made me miss home all the more.

Friday, November 21, 2008

fever dream: John McCain hunts people

it is time for me to share a fever dream: i was wandering around in some post-apocalyptic cowboy/western town, and trying to find a way home/ a ride/ a sidewalk, when suddenly my friend Mikey emerged from the woods. there were these 3 emo kids sitting on a bench taking pictures and somehow he materialized. he ran over and gave me a hug, told me not to be scared, and then disappeared.

in the rest of the dream, John McCain was a flesh-hungry vampire who could jump buildings and see in the dark and was terrorizing our little post-Depression town. not kidding. the one thing i kept asking over and over (in my dream) was "is John McCain out hunting ppl today??"

weird, i know. i don't know how my mind comes up with this stuff.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

"we pledge allegiance to rock and roll..."

i want to write a thesis on this!

In his 1987 culture war manifesto The Closing of the American Mind, Allan Bloom [...] sees music as a generational obsession with no historical equivalent. It is "society's greatest madness." Literature, film, technology, career choice...nothing defines the young identity as thoroughly as musical affiliation. We pledge allegiance to rock and roll, the lowbrow howlings of cosmetic revolutionaries and pelvic ministers. The beat of rock music is the beat of sex, and the fandom of twelve year-olds is their premature induction into sexual maturity; Bloom's nightmare is young children singing "Brown sugar, how come you taste so good?" They cannot authentically be erotic, so they just gyrate and masturbate and spoil all their potential. It's not the loss of innocence or lack of family values he laments, but that the soul under these conditions becomes really boring. All the erotic tension that used to keep us tight like a bow, hungry with a desire that motivates us to transcend the mundane, is dissipated by premature ejaculation, so to speak. Eros used to fill kids with wonder and longing. Now it is all wasted like so many dribblings of ejaculate on the sheets.

the awesome part? this is the introduction to an album review for Britney Spears' recent attempt to reintroduce herself into the realm of pop cultural relevance.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

ho hum

today is one of those days where nothing in particular is wrong, but it all seems wrong anyway. i feel prickly and abrasive, but there's nothing specific to gripe about.

i sit at my computer, and shuffle around my apartment, trying to find things to do, feeling i should have things, urgent things, to be doing. but they don't get done, and i'm not even effectively wasting my time.

dunno if i should shower, or cook something, or go to bed. i don't feel dirty, i don't feel hungry, and i'm not tired.

i'm just


Saturday, November 08, 2008


last week, while i was stuck in my room with its one window that faces a wall and a tree, talking to my boyfriend, i didn't notice the clouds moving and stirring, until finally they burst into rain.

and the result flooded me with memories of home, catapulted me back in time, through all the 21 years of fall and winter rain that came before this. and even though it was cold as i stood on the deck, a blanket wrapped around my neck like a scarf, i felt warm and joyous, like a child experiencing rain for the first time. indeed, it was my first storm since i've been here, since June.

it's funny that the movies always portray rain so gloomily, when i think human beings and all animals understand it instinctively as a form of relief. or maybe it's b/c the movies take on a very Eastern/Mid-Western perspective, where rain is much more common and not appreciated in the way i do now. here in LA, the long months of sun and heat, drought and dust, were making me forget the pleasure of variance and surprise in the weather. the dust and monotony were washed away, and i could remember what it felt like to know the summer had ended, and i'd be coming home soon.

my first LA rain from stephan!e lee on Vimeo.

one thing i wish i could have captured: the smell of rain. i'm sure there's some scientific way to explain it (electron charges, changing air pressure) but i'm going to say it's the smell of comfort, of connectedness – rain splashing everything, knowing that even though i'm a whole stretch of America away from my friends and family, this is the same way they'd be experiencing a storm at home, that though i'm grown up and far from home and working my first job and living on my own for the first time in my life, i can feel like a kid again, at the drop of a splash of rain.


Thursday, November 06, 2008

baby carrot!

a gif(t):


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

boogie down!


(for those wondering why this looks so familiar and why this is so unusually funny, it's b/c the base image is from this scene in Zoolander. go figure.)


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

a reflection on home and the symbolism of voting

long title. this post became more than i intended it to be when i began.

continuing with my voter anxiety: i have a horrible confession to make: i hadn't planned on casting a vote today. i know! shame! hypocrisy! hisssss!!! i had many reasons, the biggest being that i recently moved and felt confused about my sense of home, and how that translated into bureaucratic paperwork concerning change of address declarations. even tho the DMV and my place of emploi instructed me to change my official home address to my current LA spot, i was still stubbornly inclined to retain my sense of belonging in the midwest. i thought of my last 2 elections and the idea of having a swing vote in Ohio sounded too good to pass up for what seemed like a throw-away vote in CA. my place of residence may be official on paper, but in my heart, i could feel myself torn between three states: my latest voter registration was done in Ohio, but under a dorm room address which hasn't technically been my residence for 3 years now. and my "permanent home address" which is in Lexington, KY – eventhough i went away for school and now for work, i still return from time to time and it is still, indelibly, home. and then my current residence in LA County, CA, which eventhough it's the address on all my bills, my employment papers, and my new (and involuntary!) CA driver's license, is still just a transitional place to stay in my mind, a layover between destinations. i just couldn't figure it out. with a mind like mine, the address line is just too vague and nondescript to account for such arguments regarding identity. and the harsh words at the bottom of all my voter registration papers, warning against felony, perjury, and fraud for inaccurate information didn't exactly inspire confidence in me, nor encourage a speedy decision.

so the time flitted away. every day i would look at the two forms i had printed out (i found differing forms on the internet, one much shorter than the other, both very hard to read and understand, both containing the frustrating address line, neither very helpful or voter-friendly) and literally sweat as i tried to figure out what to do. perhaps i could have sought help, perhaps i could have just done what made sense and registered in my current state of "residence." i dunno, it's hard to explain why i couldn't make a decision. but i will tell you that what should have been a simple task was becoming an existential dilemma and one that was paralyzing me from action. (haha, to which i implore you to imagine how i was at the actual polls! i bet a lot of you might be thinking that maybe ppl like me (that is: indecisive ppl) are best left out of the voting process. and to that i would say, "perhaps you are right.")

anyway, so the time passed and still i could not figure out what to do, until eventually the decision made itself. i missed the window for registering absentee in KY, and then OH, and then CA's window quickly approached and i still wasn't sure what to do. i got someone else's mail-in-ballot in my mailbox and opened it, ready to cast her vote for her, thinking "if her ballot's here, where is mine?" and wondering pseudo-philosophically "if a vote is mailed but never cast, does it still count?" sadly, the law and fear of FELONY on my permanent record prevented me from doing anything, again (do you kinda see what i'm getting at? clearly there's a problem if even an educated and civic-minded person such as myself feels paralyzed from exercising her basic civic duty.)

so eventually, i resigned to not voting. too much stress, too much paperwork, my mind felt twisted and confused and i couldn't figure out what i was supposed to do and how to go about doing it. i gave up on trying to figure out the complications of the system, telling myself it didn't matter anyway, KY would surely go red and i was sure Obama would be pocketing CA (later, i spoke to my parents on the phone and my mom talked about the McCain-Palin signs on the lawn surrounding our house, and KY going republican. "ridiculous!" she said. i love her.) i wished i could vote from ohio, but i had been following polls and was getting more and more sure that it would tip toward Obama in the final days. so i didn't really feel too bad for a while. i pretended i voted already, that no matter where i cast my vote, it wouldn't have mattered anyway. i wasn't realizing the empowering (and potentially disempowering) symbolism of my decision.

when it got closer and closer to the election, i began to resent myself for it. i hadn't given thought to Prop 8 (ban on same-sex marriage – vote no!) and the abortion amendment, and my representatives in the House, or even to the fact that i could vote for Nader if i wanted (which i promised i would, and did! read on...) whenever any one of my students asked me if i voted i of course lied so as not to create in their minds a sense of political apathy or powerlessness. and with all their fervor and excitement, i didn't want to be a buzzkill. of course i was excited too, but i just felt so miserable for regretting my decision and inability to join in.

and so this kept building up until finally today, at the end of my school day, i was talking to Ben. and from across the world in Turkey, he's been following the election coverage, eagerly awaiting the results, and he happened to ask me, very casually, if i voted. "i want to know what is happening with the election. did you vote?" and i had to be honest and try to explain why "no, i did not vote" and why i didn't vote in CA, nor OH, nor even KY. and the more we talked, and the more i tried to explain it, the more ridiculous i felt. and even after i explained it to Ben, it still didn't make sense to me and probably didn't make sense to him either. and for the 2 hours after that, i kept thinking about it, feeling worse and worse, more guilty, more regretful, more hypocritical. i couldn't think about anything else during my professional development meetings after school because i felt like a liar and a hypocrite. the entire time i was supposed to be in department meetings unit-planning, i was trying to forget about my overwhelming sense of guilt. on my drive home, every crowded block i passed, i craned my neck and risked taking my eyes off the road for the brief moment it took to eye the lines at the polls, to observe crowds of ppl waiting to cast their votes, and fill with a sense of excitement and reminiscience for a memory i have of walking the streets in Over-the-Rhine in Cincinnatti, Ohio in 2004, and the electricity of anticipation and solidarity between all the ppl i met in the street, everyone joining together in exercising civic rights and responsibilities. and then i called home trying to reach my dad, who has been known to occasionally skip voting in elections, much to my mom's and my annoyance. after talking to Ben, i thought i would at least call and try to urge my dad to the polls, in case he didn't remember or had made a decision similar to mine. and so he picked up the phone and i asked him, "did you vote?" and he said, very easily and matter-of-factly, that he did, that my mom went in at 8:30 and he went at 9 am before work, and even though it was a 40-minute wait in line, he was happy to do it. and then he asked me, and when i had to explain it to him, i felt horrible. i was born in the states in the '80s and never had to earn my citizenship or fight for my suffrage, but thinking about the opportunity i had to vote, and how i let it go to waste so easily, made me physically ill and uncomfortable. i couldn't live with that.

as soon as i came home, i explained to my roommate that i had resolved, during my drive home, to attempt a provisional ballot, even if it's merely palliative. so we packed into the Prius and drove to our precinct polling location and i went thru all the bells and whistles and waited in all the various lines, told my story over and over to the polling officials (by now, i've gotten good at explaining my confusion) and finally, they handed me a provisional ballot and an hour later, lo and behold:


i relished reading every single amendment and proposition in detail, using my little pen to punch in my decisions, and enjoying a sense of solidarity with everyone in that room.

oh, and since i'd already decided my presidential vote wouldn't matter to Obama, i cast it very proudly for Nader. :-)

such a relief and happy resolution to a tense couple of months.

watching the celebrations all over the nation reminds me of new year's eve. it feels like a new age is dawning.


p.s. i like comparing this to my last elections/voting post, here. gotta love the images.

Monday, November 03, 2008

a change is gonna come

i am so nervous and excited about tomorrow's election results that i am having trouble doing anything but reminiscing and imagining the future. for the whole of my political and social consciousness, i've only known a world of disappointing Bush policies and political farce. i can almost hardly imagine living in an america i am proud of, where i trust and believe in my government and my president. but, i am ready for a change.

it's been hard for me in the past months to watch all the election coverage and read the news about the grassroots efforts to support Obama and have to remain removed from it. hard for me to feel like teaching my little classes of 6th graders california math and science standards was a better use of my time and energy than campaigning to ensure fair elections. it was hard for me to understand how best to take part in achieving the ideal of america i wanted to see. admittedly, i was never really a huge fan of Obama, but i like the energy and enthusiasm he's breathed into the political process (eventhough i think his stances on policies are kinda lackluster and stale). i think Obama's significance is his function as a symbol of hope, change, and youthful energy, and that is sadly all i'm looking for right now from my political system. the thought of his possible loss is just too tragic to imagine. i get sick to my stomach thinking of the possible repurcussions. i think that if Obama loses this election, millions of young ppl will be forever removed and distrustful of the political process, will lose their belief in that great dream called Democracy.

so here i am: a middle school teacher in south central LA, close enough to one of the few remaining battleground states (Nevada) that skipping work to do political work has been tempting, discussing the main issues (abortion, gun control, same-sex marriage, immigration) with my 6th graders and hoping they take my political excitement home to their parents, incapable of planning a math lesson tonight b/c i keep thinkingabout tomorrow and how our lives might change, and the futures of my 6th graders could change, starting Wednesday, but wondering if, wishing, i could have done more.

it's funny: in the past four years, i think i always imagined things differently. as a freshman in college, having organized and canvassed for Election 04 ("anything but Bush") in ohio and being devastated and heartbroken by the results of those efforts, i was disenchanted and confused and vowed that wherever i was in 08, i'd be working even harder for election and campaign efforts. i imagined myself as a grad student, going door-to-door, leafletting, helping voters with registrations and absentee ballots, educating citizens about the issues and getting ppl excited. basically, insert a slightly more grown-up me onto a generic college campus doing almost the same thing i was doing in undergrad. it's just so funny to think back on that and see where i actually ended up, and how laidback and immobile the actual future-me ended up being.

and now, with only about 24 hours before the results of the election will be revealed, i'm remembering the same feeling i felt four years ago: the terrific electricity of knowing that possibly, in the space of a few hours, a new president will be in office, and potentially great things could begin to happen again. this moment is bringing back memories of me as a freshman in college, of waiting in the writing center late at night watching the results slowly coming in, tired from a day's hard work at the polls in the pouring rain. everyone abuzz with energy and excitement as we held on to our hopes that our work had paid off, replaced by negativity and disbelief when the results eventually revealed a Bush win. i'm hoping and praying to the cosmos that i don't see a tragic repeat of that 2004 election day, because my lack of action this time around will have me even more devastated and angry at myself for the loss.

so, for the sake of memories and posterity, a song for change, and a flashback (a blog post written November 3, 2004 – the eve of election night):

"A Change Is Gonna Come" by Sam Cooke [mp3]


Sunday, November 02, 2008

campaign strategies from a maverick

i gotta hand it to him, John McCain has pretty good delivery. i think my favorite is "the Forrest Gump."


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

it must be fall...

back to showering in the late afternoon with the lights off, taking early evening naps with the music on, eating dinner alone in my room, shirking work to daydream constantly, and being helplessly and incurably nostalgic.

even with it being endless summer here, i can still feel my vestigial fall depression. like an invisible cord tying me back to the heartland. oh my old kentucky home...

[at the beginning of college, i couldn't stop listening to this song.
somehow, it's come to be connected to my first fall away from home.
listen: "Sparks" by Coldplay]

during my evening nap, the way i was lying on my stomach, the way my face pressed against the matress, the way i curled my arm under my head, the way i could distantly smell home, made me think, "this is what i must have felt as a baby." i could remember, somehow, lying in my crib at home, remember the softness of yellow fabric against my cheek, could imagine my now 22-year-old body as a 22-month-old baby, and felt saddened by the thought of all those years in-between. i have an image in my head now of how the movies depict the passing of time thru environmental changes – the furniture moving, the paint on the walls fading and cracking, the movement of cars and pedestrians outside, the leaves changing color and falling, growing green and spruce again – while the person of focus stands in the middle of a room, still, looking straight ahead and head on, changing only a little. i find this interesting. i'd like to measure my life in the movements my furniture makes.


that reminded me of a moment maybe two years ago. i was having dinner with a group of friends in the dining hall at school, and we'd been there for an hour, at least, a usual "family dinner" kind of affair. we'd all finished eating, but were just sitting there, enjoying one another's company. for some reason, i had pulled away from the conversation for a moment just to reflect. the weather outside was nice, it was just beginning to get warm out, and the sun was beginning to set. i was watching people walking to classes or returning to the dorms for the night. i was watching my friend Newman throw back his hair as he tried to eat a piece of toast with jelly. for some reason, something about the gesture – the look of unfettered glee on his face, his booming laughter, his awkward fumbling and negotiation of all that mess and hair – made me think that this was probably exactly how my friend looked as a kid, that this was someone's baby boy, that this was someone who had a mother who probably loved him very much, and probably loved to fix him peanut butter and jelly when he was a boy, would cut off the crusts and cut the sandwich diagonally, because he liked the shape of triangles better than rectangles. and now this boy, grown up and away at college, was eating that same favorite snack he loved as a kid, but probably thinking that it just wasn't the same as the one his mom would make him growing up. and i dunno why, but this brief moment, this smallest and most mundane of events made life seem very precious, and suddenly cruel. it reminded me that we were all kids once, and now, through great luck and perseverance, were growing up quite quickly into adults. i thought about the remaining year i had in college, and how terrified i was. i looked around the table at all my friends, and i imagined (or remembered) all of us as kids, imagined us small, helpless, scared, alone. and the idea both tickled and depressed me.

anyway, just things i'm remembering now that i feel fall is in my heart.


UPDATE 10-22:

Monday, October 20, 2008

rhetorical questions

today, while watching the Daily Show, a number of things occurred to me. (pardon my inertia if these are really duh, but they were pretty a-ha to me about a minute ago.)

1) why is it that conservatives champion the "joe six packs," but refuse to pay them living wages? seems like one doesn't follow the other...

2) Trojan Brand Condoms is imploring Americans to "Join the movement to help America evolve. Use a condom every time." i thought that was interesting marketing, because the first thing that came to mind was "wow, i bet the creationists are going to have a problem with that." and then i remembered that creationists are probably also the same bunch teaching abstinence-only sex ed and not using birth control.

i thought the use of the word "evolve" was an interesting choice as well, considering the implications of "the smart choice," the non-ape-ish thing to do. but there's also the idea of "survival of the fittest" – thinning the gene pool and leaving only those best able to survive current conditions. and i thought that maybe in our current state of environmental, political, economic, financial, existential and spiritual duress, how maybe what we need is less "ignorant" people. and i thought of how maybe the "smart" thing to do would be less human reproduction. but then, isn't Trojan missing the demographic that needs birth control the most? hmm... ?

also, i found this segment from the Daily Show on undecided voters particularly on point:

"[McCain and Obama] are totally different! why can't you decide??!!"

my thoughts exactly, Sam Bee.

-stef lee

p.s. whilst organizing and editing tags today, i discovered that "rhetoric" is pretty much a greatest hits of free rad!cal writings. who knew? not me.

p.p.s. scary what-if: Palin as President. just try opening the windows and doors in that office. creeepy!

Sunday, October 19, 2008


i realized that my blog has been somewhat of a downer lately (like, the last 4 months...), so, i thought i'd post something different for a change:

aaaaawww... furry faces!!


p.s. i like to think that new visitors might see the hot pink, the confetti, and the puppies and come to the conclusion that i am a 12 year old girl, not realizing that just below this are posts struggling with teaching, authority, identity, grad school, etc. it's a great moment for my online persona, don't you think?

Friday, October 17, 2008

moment of doubt #103

why are fridays always the worst days of the week? why can't i get thru a week without having one really shitty day? why do i feel grateful now that it was only one really shitty day this week and not every day? is that a sign i'm improving, or just getting used to it?

today, tears. my lunch and my conference turned into one long, uncontrollable bawl-fest. the tasty sandwich i made was ruined with the taste of salty tears and frustration.

within 15 minutes during my lunch break: behavior incident report/reflection, parent phone call (to tell a concerned mother that her son skipped detention with me 2 days in a row, he now needs to come after school on Monday for tutoring with me b/c he is failing my class), a meeting with the science coach that devolved into tears and an unintentional commitment to 2 additional observations in the next week. = STRESS.

what didn't happen (that i really needed most in order to forget about my massive fails and so i could go into 6th period with a clear head): phone call to boyfriend. music. baby carrots.

but, i guess it's a sign of my growing callousness* to the situation that i didn't think about quitting. i just lamented the fact that this isn't getting any easier, and i'm not sure it ever will. (*i use the word callousness not to mean that i am not caring, that is certainly far from the truth. i mean it in the way that i think of callouses or blisters from breaking in shoes: it hurts at first, but then you grow this thick skin around it so you can't feel it any more and you can deal with it, keep walking. functional non-feeling.)

anyway, to give you a glimpse into my life, below is the behavior incident report/reflection i wrote before breaking down into tears. i keep a log of every incident, and it is now becoming apparent that the notebook i am using may be too small. i write in it almost every day. this is ostensibly ridiculous.


friday oct 17

i spoke with my student marvin after school and let him know that i wanted to talk about something. i told him that all i want for my kids, what i think about most, is their happiness and their well-being. i want to know that my kids will be happy and live good lives. that's why i'm a teacher. i come to school every day and want to see that my kids are succeeding and doing well in school, because those are the ones i know will be safe and happy when they are older.

i told Marvin that i think he's smart. he can do the work when he really tries and works hard at it, and that makes me happy because it lets me know that he has a chance at a good life. but, he can throw that all away, he can lose that if he doesn't do his work. he and matthew are both really smart and can do the work, but sometimes when they sit together they start acting like fools. they both need to learn to be in a class together and not lose focus on their work.

i asked Marvin why he was suspended on monday. he said someone was trying to start fights with him so he "socked em." i told him he needs to get his anger in check because if he doesn't now, he's going to have more trouble later in life. i told him that people who can't learn to control their anger go to prison, i asked him if he knew what that was like. he said he didn't. i told him that prison is a lonely place, you sleep on concrete, you don't get enough food, and people usu. die in prison. i don't want that for any of my kids, and i don't want that for him. i told him that doing well in school is his ticket out of that life, that it's his chance to make something better for himself.

i almost started crying when i told him that i want all of my students to have the best life possible. i want to make sure that they have all the opportunities they can, that they have choices. they might not realize it now, and they might even hate being in class, but they need to understand that i'm doing this so that they can enjoy their lives later. but i need them to work hard at it, because i need their help, i can't do it alone.


Matthew - wouldn't do his work, Ms. Cue came to me after break and said that Marvin and Matt. were sitting on the stair banister and she told them to get down for their own safety. she said they looked at her and just crossed their arms, acting dumb or like they didn't hear or understand her. Matthew pretended he couldn't hear her (that he was deaf). when i told him to sit down, he defied my authority. i got super-pissed, and told him once, told him again. then i told him to "sit his ass down." he didn't. i told him to grab his things and come with me to the office. i took his folder, and marched him down to the dean. we sat with Dean Dixon, and Dixon talked to Matthew about how this behavior needs to change. he is down there 2-3 times a week. if he can't get this under control now, he's going to have a ton of trouble down the road. Dixon and i explained to matthew that we are here to try to HELP him and he is taking it for granted, seeing our concern as weakness and trying to get away with stuff. we told him that if he chooses to take it for granted now, he would only suffer more when ppl don't care to help him later. we told him if he wants to avoid being homeless, he needs to work hard now and ensure his future.

i asked Dixon what happens next with M, what is the next step? clearly suspension is not a good route, he enjoys being out of class. i wonder now if he acts out on purpose just to get out of class. i asked what kinds of interventions we can take to help Matthew and get this problem under control. Dixon said he had called home before and would call again (matthew's father is ill and dean dixon talked to him about being "a man" and helping his mom take care of the family, why would he want to cause them extra grief?) and Dixon asked if i wanted him suspended from class or school. i said i'd like to avoid suspension if possible, but would like to refer him to a program, possibly anger management and work habits, Boyz to Men was mentioned too. Dean Dixon said he would try those things. i also told him to call the mom for me and tell her that if this happens again, i would like her to come in and sit with him IN CLASS until he can self-manage his behavior.

Dean came back to my room with Matthew after a few minutes and i was back in the room. dixon asked to speak to me to the side. he said he called matthew's mother, and all he could hear was the TV turned up really loud, she couldn't really even hear or understand him and he felt he wasn't getting thru to her. but he informed her of what would happen if matthew misbehaved again and he said he would follow up with her.

when he turned around, matthew was not doing his work again. Dixon asked him to get to work. Matthew said i cussed at him, told him to sit his ass down. Dean Dixon said he should have heeded my advice.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

maple leaves

"oh please God bring relief
even if it's only brief

she says that we were just make-believe

but I thought she said maple leaves...
... and when she talked about the fall

I thought she talked about the season

I never understood at all.

- Maple Leaves [mp3] by Jens Lekman.

that's me three years ago, enjoying a wallow in the leaves with friends.
this became an annual tradition for me and a few friends, oh i miss it so!
[photo credit Se4n.]

i got an email from my friend Sara tonight. she gave me an update on the goings-on back home, the activisms i've left behind, and she spoke of the leaves in the Fall and how spectacular they are. i can hardly believe it: one season spent away from home and i've already forgotten what it means to have an autumn, to feel the weather change and to trade in flip flops for boots, to bundle up and enjoy a walk with crisp leaves underfoot, the smell of summer leaving the leaves, the smell of air pressure changing and the way the woods get damper and colder and the smell of the rocks on the trails.

i miss all those things. i was just thinking about the last week of school last year. i remember one night walking out to my car, it must've been close to midnight, and the stars were out and the moon was brilliant and casting crisp light onto the treetops, and the wind was perfect, just chilly enough to justify wearing my jacket, my hands grateful for the large pockets. it was hushed and peaceful that night, unusually calm, i think finals were winding down and everyone had worn themselves out from studying or partying, or had moved home early. i remember pausing in the middle of the parking lot, craning my neck to stare at the sky, trying to remember what the immensity of that moment felt like. it was perfect. i wanted to live in that moment forever.

i miss the way weather affects my mood. in LA, i don't have good days just because of the way the sun is shining differently (because it never varies) and i don't get to appreciate the way the wind feels extra comforting one day over the rest. i miss those fall days when the weather is such a seductive companion, stealing you away from your work, abandoning work that always remains, always accumulates, to enjoy fleeting moments of sunshine and breeze.

her email made me homesick. i miss the feeling of fall. here, it gets cold enough to make me enjoy my bed's warmth, to make it harder to get up in the mornings, but when i get off from work, it's still 90 degrees out and smoggy. i want to live in a place where the seasons change.


p.s. i wrote this post with the hope that some of you could send me photos of the changing leaves. it would help me to remember home. send to free [dot] radical [dot] lee [at] gmail [dot] com. thx!

Monday, October 13, 2008

if this feeling were a food, i could sustain myself on it for weeks

i don't know what i've done to deserve it, but these last few days have been unusually wonderful. so easily wonderful that i'm beginning to fear that something horrible is soon going to come and take its place.

friday at school was relatively stress-free and calm. my students took their tests and the scores were pretty good; they weren't dreadful. all but two of my students have B-'s in the class or above (the other two have an F and a D). and Ms. Lee's not such an easy grader either!

friday was so unprecedentedly easy to get thru, that i was dreading monday. i thought to myself, surely, surely all that's going to be forgotten on monday. they will come in from a weekend of going wild and run me down with their uncontrollable behavior. they will scream and yell. they will throw things. they will refuse to work. the good momentum will be lost, only friction will remain.

but, then came monday, and the class went smoothly. students were quiet and attentive, they got to work immediately, they were excited about seeing their test scores, they were excited to get homework (?!) and didn't want to leave class. i even got to talk about democracy! something must've happened over the weekend. were they drugged? brainwashed? confused? was i?

this was the confidence boost i needed. i was beginning to feel myself sink. this has bouyed my spirits tremendously. today, i planned an Edgar Allan Poe lesson for my homeroom and personal development classes, and went swimming after school (nothing has been more rewarding or therapeutic than an hour of lap-swimming every other day. i wonder if it's the lack of resistance that accompanies submersion in water, the feeling of weightlessness, the smoothness of movements and the regulation of breath?)

and, this weekend, i went thrifting and found 2 sweaters for the colder weather. i watched a movie. i cooked, i ate. i got paid. i cried, but mostly because i was happy.

and tonight, i heard from an old high school friend. she's getting married to her sweetheart and our mutual friend, and she asked me, just now, to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. i have never in my life been to a wedding, and the idea of being a bridesmaid in one of my oldest friend's wedding days... well, i am delighted, honored, thrilled, can't stop thinking about how happy i am.

i'm feeling good right now, even traffic can't phase me. and in a city like LA, that's saying a lot.

with immensity,

p.s. my twitter did a pretty good job of documenting the events as they were unfolding...




Friday, October 10, 2008

you ain't a beauty but hey you're alright

i think i change my mind too quickly about things. any little thing sets me off or rubs me the wrong way and i'm too quick to turn my back on it, i think.

i'm trying to learn to be more patient with people and circumstances, to realize that not everyone is crazy like me and thinks so much about what they say. even i have moments of semantic relapse, so i should be forgiving of others for theirs too.

i need to remember the ppl who need me, but try to remember my own needs as well.

[just a little note to self.]


in other news: i'm listening to music again. Morrisey's "everyday is like sunday" came on the radio earlier this week while i was driving to the grocery store, against the flow of traffic, and it was probably the most wonderful 4 minutes of driving i've ever experienced in this horrible town. driving with the windows down, singing in sync to lyrics you know ("come, come, nuclear bomb!"), what could be a simpler pleasure?

and i rediscovered my unadulterated love for Grizzly Bear. i'm listening to them as i write this, watching the Santa Ana winds lift the branches of the trees outside my window. it's getting dark out and finally, it's beginning to feel like the year is coming to a close. "colorado, colorado, col-oh-raaa-ah-ah-ah-doooh..." oh i could listen to this all day. bliss.

and surprise: as i was distracting myself from studying for my grad school midterms by reading The Fix's live-tweeting of Tuesday's debate, i rediscovered Bruce Springsteen. this video for "thunder road" (hot damn! i can't get enough of that opening harmonica. and possibly the greatest Boss line ever: "you ain't a beauty but hey you're alright." = epic.) made me hunt down 2 of The Boss's albums, and surprise!: Magic [2008] is pretty good!

that's all from me for now. it's friday. go out, enjoy yr freedom from work and celebrate a lack of commitments and obligations! i'm gonna crank my music and burn thru these 6th grade unit tests.

love and stuff,

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


this came in the mail today:

look at that crazy mise en abyme! i was even wearing the same shirt i wore when i went into the DMV (i had to put on the headband and make the face to achieve the effect tho). psh, i so carazy!

i was sad to let go of my KY license. i was holding onto it as a vestige of home, a concrete way of saying "i don't belong here." since i don't have a sweet southern accent to throw around (except for the occasional "y'all", i guess), it was my last living proof for calling KY home.

now i'm just another Angelino. :-(


Monday, October 06, 2008

writing personas

i got a wonderful email from my friend Kathee today. i don't get a lot of friendly correspondence lately. i can't even remember the last time i got an actual letter in the mail (i think it was in 7th grade when i still had a pen pal... oh blissful youth!) all i get now are bills, paperwork and forms to be signed and mailed back with checks attached. even my email is being overrun by work-related things: grad school assignments, work-related meetings or conferences, reminders about bill payments and obligations. i like that technology enables me to be so easily and rapidly connected to ppl, but i hate the immediacy and omipresence it gives to my work, too. no one just sits down to write a friendly letter any more, to ask "how are you?" and share a story. i wonder if email will soon become the same?

i have self-identified three writing voices, and sometimes they overlap and/or take over each other:
1) my academic self – the tone and word choice i use when writing an academic paper. this has recently been subsumed under 2) my personal reflective/critical-reflective voice – the perspective i often assume when i'm actually writing, when i'm trying to be creative, when i'm thinking of language in a careful way, when i often have something to say and i'm being deliberate. that is, my "blog" persona. and then there's 3) casual/conversational – when i write the way i would probably speak if you were sitting with me face-to-face, if we were sipping cups of coffee (i'll be drinking tea) and we've been friends since childhood, or had just reunited after our returns from long adventures and were just sitting down together again to share our experiences. these voices, i've noticed, have come to blur and bleed together over time, which is a good sign, i think. lessening of the Cartesian dualism, onward toward symmetry. i'd like to think of my blog as an endless conversation (tho regrettably one-directional and monologic) between old friends about recent adventures.

which is what brings me to today's post. as i was writing a response to Kathee's wonderful email, i could see myself steadily switching my voice toward writing a blog post, too. it's not that the email i sent her wasn't meant as personal correspondence, but it generated an honesty that i thought deserved a wider audience.

and so, i give you updates on my life in L.A.:

I've been having a hard time adjusting to being a teacher, but I think about you from time to time and wonder how you'd handle similar situations and it makes me feel sane again. I'm a pretty shitty middle school teacher because I let the kids run amok and I get frustrated when I have to explain the most meta- things (over the summer, it was context clues. This fall, it's place values and times tables. I've been trying to shy away from the "it's this way because that's the way it is, so memorize it," but with math basics, it sometimes takes too much mental energy to explain everything. And the kids just get more confused when I try to tell them that multiplication is just like addition, but faster. So, onward...)

I know it's bad to have favorites too, but I definitely do. I hope it doesn't show in the classroom, but I can imagine it does. There are kids who are so cute and smart that even when they do something wrong, I just laugh and smile, and then another kid will continuously get something wrong and I'll get upset. It's hard not to, but I know it's HORRIBLE practice. I try to be fair, and I try to be consistent, but I'm not very good at remembering.

L.A. is sunny and warm. It got cold last night and I was worried that maybe it was finally going to start getting colder and I didn't have enough sweaters to wear to school yet, but sure enough, it was back up to 85 in the afternoon when I left work, and I felt silly for wearing my only sweater in that morning. It's weird to live in a place where the weather never really changes. It's actually extremely aggravating, because I can't feel time passing any more, and I want so desperately to feel the seasons change, so I can understand bodily that I will be going home soon.

I'm making friends. Mostly with people in my grad classes. Beyond work, that's the only way I meet people. My colleagues at school are pretty great, our science department is young, hip and friendly, the math department doesn't know I exist, and the special ed department is the crowd that really means business. But they're all great people, and I'm pretty happy with where I work. Whether intentionally or not, I've managed to successfully distance myself from most of the TFA crowd. I don't think we really get along. I kept hoping I'd find at least one really cool person who shares my views on education and activism, empowerment and the need for education reform, but I've yet to find those kinds of people. It's been really difficult for me to be so removed from that kind of community. I hadn't realized how much of a comfort it can be. It's funny, now that I think about it, because I guess at Miami I really came to depend on that intimate and distinct crowd of people who I knew I could have an intelligent conversation with, and we more or less had similar views and critical perspectives, or would at least be knowledgable enough to challenge each other. There were so few liberals and progressives on the Miami campus, that we could really build a sense of community and connection thru political interests and delight in being politically different. I don't know if it's because most people in CA are liberal-minded, or if because there's more diversity they take it for granted, but everything here seems so dull and uninspired. There's no fire, no energy, which surprised me for a while but then it made sense. I don't even think I'm going to vote this election because my vote won't swing anything. I can't find anyone to talk about politics with because they all feel indifferent. If I'm not talking to someone about work or state standards, the conversations turn to traffic, neighborhoods, or getting drinks (we can't even talk about the weather because it never changes!)

Anyway, I've made a few good friends in my grad classes, people who keep it real and let me vent to them about our work and our grad program. It's nice, but I desperately miss Western. I find myself missing it most at meal times, or when I have moments outside to walk around and I long for a bike ride and think of you and Will and Susan, and how we had some good bike rides last year and wonder if we'll ever be together to ride around Southern Ohio again. It makes me sad, I think I underappreciated that space when I was actually there. I imagine coming back sometimes, but I know it's different now, and the ways in which it's changed sound awful. It makes me sad to know there's no returning to that place.

... Sometimes I really wish I had gone straight to grad school instead of teaching, I imagine it will be hard to go back to being a critical student of spectacularization after even two years of the "real world." It's such a crushing place...