Saturday, 25 September 2004

Bezels and Barbarians

A bezel is, among other things, a thing that goes around the screen in an arcade cabinet so you can't see past it or behind it. I got a piece of black poster board (called Bristol Board in Canada and England, but not in America) spattered it with white paint for "stars", and double sided taped it to the TV with a square part in the middle cut out so the screen would be visible, and a tiny square so the remote control for the TV would still work. It makes a huge difference. I also got a Pole Position steering wheel from eBay this week. It's about 3/4 the size of your average car steering wheel, and has the Atari logo on it. Now I have to figure how to hook it up. This week I started teaching short fiction, and used videotaped TV shows to illustrate story structure. One class got "That 70's Show" and the other got "The Dukes of Hazzard" to do this with. The kids are grateful to have this stuff of the real world enter the sterile fastness of their high school. I'm also photocopying short stories I feel like teaching, to mix in with the milksop, moralistic pap that much of the textbook stuff seems to be. As the textbook has that sort of stuff, I'm going to throw in some pulp fiction short stories, for instance, the first "Conan the Barbarian" story. My only concern is that the ornate, faux-ancient language will be too hard for some students. "Know, oh prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars -- Nemedia, Ophir, Brythunia, Hyperborea, Zamora with its dark-haired women and towers of spider-haunted mystery, Zingara with its chivalry, Koth that bordered on the pastoral lands of Shem, Stygia with its shadow-guarded tombs, Hyrkania whose riders wore steel and silk and gold. But the proudest kingdom of the world was Aquilonia, reigning supreme in the dreaming west. Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandaled feet."

Tuesday, 21 September 2004

The Tea Party

Went to see my first show ever at Capital City Music Hall. Troy and friends were there. The Tea Party. They're always impressive musically, especially for three guys. Lots of alternately tuned guitars and Eastern musical instruments used by the ever-more-portly Jeff Martin, who was pretty drugged up, and sweaty and cheesy with the women of the audience, calling them "my sisters" in his poor-man's-Jim-Morrison way. Still, they blew the roof off.

Sunday, 19 September 2004

At Both Ends

After burning the candle at too many ends for my first week of school and getting sick (I'm told this is a common thing for all teachers in their first week back at school) I had to convalesce last weekend, with Tylenol, vodka with lemon juice and Dan Brown's "Angels and Demons", a fictional novel, based on facts about the Vatican and the Illuminati. This weekend, I wrote a summary and interpretation of the biblical Creation story in Genesis for the book I am writing, hung out with the cat, played with the new TV and gas pedal in my arcade cabinet and watched a M*A*S*H* Season Two DVD set I picked up at the pawn shop where I got the TV. I took two trips to that shop because the first TV I got (a 27") was only slightly too tall to go into my cabinet, so I had to return it and get a smaller one and make up the cost of the cheaper, smaller TV in merchandise. That was a heavy TV to carry up and down stairs! The 20" that is now in the cabinet is adequate. I suppose a 25" would be ideal. I would love to hang out and nap on the couch with the cat, but I promised to pick up people and bring stuff to band practice. I will have to cut practice short to get my school planning done before my newly-prompter bedtime.

Saturday, 11 September 2004

First TGIF

A teacher at my school had a TGIF party at his house on the lake. Canadian lake-country scenery by sunset, with beer and BBQ and stuff like that. A lot of people brought kids. That neighbourhood is REALLY nice, and I'm commuting really far each day, AND it turns out that renting a house on the water is amazingly cheap. Gotta check that out. I read a Scottish poem in a Scottish accent today, and got saucer-eyed (impressed) kids instead of the laughs I was sort of looking for. "Are you Scottish?" they asked, suspecting I'd been doing a fake Canadian accent all week. I got a lot of laughs generally today in other ways. As can be seen by my exhaustion-induced gnome-like appearance here (in front of the gym teacher's taut frame), the driving is taking a toll.  

Tuesday, 7 September 2004

My First Day Teaching High School English

I jetted in, driving faster than I'd wanted to, because I somehow managed as usual to start out getting up early and ended up leaving late. It takes me an hour and twenty minutes to drive from door-t0-door. My grade 9's were wide-eyed and eager to please, and the grade 10's were generally, by comparison, bored, sullen and begrudging each task or response asked of them. I have an idea for tomorrow that I like. In keeping with their "functional literacy" needs, I am going to do the following:
Put an "action" scene from a TV show (like a car chase or crime of some sort) on the VCR with the sound off, let them watch it (it would be a short scene) and then they have to make a written report as if to a police officer as to what they saw, describing the sequence of events and people and objects in as much detail as they can remember.
I include here a shot of me in the first week here, and also a shop teacher who has shaved his beard the day before this photo was taken.

New Job at RDHS

Tomorrow I start my new job. I'm the grade 9 and 10 English teacher at a little rural school. I will be in charge of molding young minds. (as an English teacher, I know the difference between "molding young minds" and "molding, young minds"). 
   There are any number of silly things I could on my first day. I don't think I will do most of them. I'm supposed to be both achieving trust, and also setting a precedent for how hard I'm going to be to "get past" for the whole semester when it comes to shirking work. 
    I'm starting with an introduction exercise where everyone needs to grab a partner they don't know and "interview" them to get an info page. Then they need to write up an introduction for the person, and present it to the class, thereby introducing that person, sharing their knowledge and showing their writing, speaking and summarizing abilities. I will collect their written summaries to have a sample of their writing ability the first day. 
    My first period class is an MSIP (kind of Canadian study hall) and my job is to make sure they do work they've been given by their other teachers each day. The first day, there will be no work. That's why I will need to occupy them for the whole period. My other two classes need me to assign them some MSIP work for tomorrow, so I will ask them to write for 15 minutes on what we're going to be studying first ("Heroes" in the one case, and "Artistic Writing" (speeches, lyrics, poetry) in the other.) That's the plan. Let's see what goes wrong.

Wednesday, 1 September 2004


With the arcade cabinet finished, I can tinker with the specifics of the games, but really, I need a new time-consuming activity. I'm doing a lot of recording work on my (and other people's) music, and I've started a set of three paintings. Looks like I'm going to need more colours of acrylic paint to do a good job. Starting with a black canvas and painting "light" into it. We'll see how that works. No artist I. All done for the sake of a girl.