"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

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."