Monday, September 25, 2006

How do you pose at Ground Zero?

One of the things I like doing while I'm in Manhattan is to take a trip to the Winter Garden, directly adjacent to the footprints of the World Trade Centers. It's a stark reminder to me of the evil that humanity is capable of. Often I sit on one of their benches and ponder what it takes for us to undertake a massive project such as rebuilding. Staring at them should be a moment of contemplation and an opportunity to reflect.

What I saw (for the first time visiting the site) is people taking pictures of themselves in front of the construstion site. One woman was affecting poses, one looking sad, one meditative while one of herself smiling. I found this tacky for many reasons.

A. In case you didn't realize, Ground Zero is still a site where over 3000 people lost their lives. How many people are eager to take pictures of themselves next to stranger's coffins?

B. Ground Zero is the site of a massive tragedy, not a tourist trap. It will hopefully be a tourist trap when the new building is erected, but for now please leave it alone.

C. There is no way to properly pose for the picture that's genuine. No one is happy to be there, yet blunt sadness isn't quite the right feeling either. Please don't even try because it just seems wrong.

I don't mind a picture of the actual site, but when you place yourself in it, it becomes all about you at the site. If you want a memory of the destruction for your own reflections, that's probably a better keepsake.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Conspiracies Involving Matzoh Balls

The following are Jewish conspiracies I am willing to reveal today because tonight it is a Jewish High Holy Day (Rosh Hashanah):

1. Insist the world isn't eating enough. Frequently refer to it as "skin and bones". Gradually increase the obesity epidemic until Jews (with our famously fast metabolisms) are the only ones under 300 pounds.

2. Take over Brooklyn and Long Island! Okay, we kind of already completed this one. Moving on...

3. Call everyone in the world and ask them when they are getting married. Insist that if they haven't already met a nice girl/boy, then they better get started. Whine a lot until they get married and when everyone is distracted, take over the world.

4. Buy all the cellphone companies. Leave messages on everyone's phone saying " Why haven't you called your mother? What is she, chopped liver? You're too much of a bigshot?" Profit.

5. Cook really delicious brunches on Sunday so people will stop attending churches. Casually remark how much easier it is to attend temple on Saturdays.

6. Store up tons of food while simultaneously complaining about how there aren't enough grandchildren. When the world's population explodes, control the food market, and by proxy, the world.

Finally, I've gotten these off of my chest and don't feel so guilty. I will be able to repent on Yom Kippur. Any other Jewish folks, feel free to add any Jewish conspiracies I missed. Please don't let this list get into the hands of anyone at Jew Watch.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

I've Gone Mad...

...and written THIS for my Joyce class journal. I told you people it would happen sooner rather than later:

I need to admit something rather private in my reading journal this week. It’s alright, trust me I’m a blogger. In fact, I’m not just a blogger, but as my (nasty word redacted) professor Colin McEnroe refers to me, “A rock star blogger who will someday die overdosing on an eightball from all of his fame.” I’m not that famous-not yet anyways. My point was rather that I’m used to admitting rather private things to strangers.
Anyways, my private admission is that I’m bored. It’s my tenth year of post high-school education and I’ve lost my fervor. I came to Trinity with a motivation to learn, and my first seven years went fairly well. The fire that went into my learning has burned me out. So I’m looking for new things other than reading journals to do each week. Don’t get me wrong, your assignment is great and I’m sure I will pass if I write them.
I suppose being bored isn’t all that private an admission. After all, lots of people are bored. Come to my class someday and you’ll see the very epitome of boredom from my students. I like to ramble when I’ve had too much coffee and high schools freely dispense coffee.
I’d like to add, in case you were feeling insecure, that it’s not you, it’s me. Your class seems great and exciting and I know I will do all the work with passion. Seriously, I know you’re wondering what you can do to spice up our teacher/other teacher but also a student relationship. Don’t worry about it. It has nothing to do with your class or you as a person.
The first time I read Portrait, I was scared so ridiculously that I put it down and forever swore that James Joyce was the devil. I was seventeen. At that age, any author who wrote in a complicated manner was the devil. Don’t even get me started on what I thought of Dickens or Steinbeck.
Rereading it, I know what it was and realize my teacher’s mistake. My teacher was older, with a thick gray beard and huge sunken eyes. I adored him because he told the most fascinating stories. Saying he made a mistake is tantamount to heresy for me. But upon reflection, he made huge mistakes in teaching Joyce.
I’m ruminating on this because I, as a teacher, often read through the lens of what I can teach. So I was thinking of how I would teach Portrait as a high school teacher. What kinds of changes would I make and such.
Here’s my problem with the way I was taught it. The professor told us to just read it. Guess what happened? Seriously, guess. Have you figured it out? Right, he told us to read the opening without telling us a single thing about Joyce or Ireland or what a bildungsroman is. Guess who didn’t read a single word of Portrait after reading the first page? Me being the sly young man I was at that age, I read the first page to my mother, who quickly endorsed my plan to not read it. She likes Danielle Steele books.
I’ve been considering what the best way is to introduce a seventeen or eighteen year old to the stream of consciousness in the beginning of the book. Personally, I would create a really cool PowerPoint that blends the text with images to clarify what is going on. Playing that PowerPoint many times would be paramount.
Here, I wrote an example of it:

Once upon a time…


Hairy Face dad/Baby Tucow

And so on…

Get the idea? It’s all about showing the imagery of stream of consciousness. I’m still working on the wetting the bed section. It’s going to be a little more complicated.
By the way, as a teacher, I know how boring it is to read many of the same paper, so I hope this at least made your reading experience a little more interesting. It sure made my writing experience a little more interesting. Check out my blog sometime:
Yes, I might as well accept my F now.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Bar Mitzvah

When I was younger, I was somehow convinced I would die on the day of my Bar Mitzvah. I couldn't ever possibly see a life after it. So when the day came, and I was alive, I was surprised.

I've always had this sort of tenuous relationship with my faith. Judaism has been complicated for me, especially considering the way in which my parents made me attend Hebrew School, but only seemed to give lip service to it. Since Hebrew School ended I have scarcely stepped into a temple. I've read from the Torah, I showed support for my heritage, and respected my family. For the time, I was finished with Judaism.

Which is why I was surprised at my fervor over this website. The crazy Jewish conspiracies have always made me laugh. I'm just so surprised this type of propaganda survives today.

I mean, upon the day of my Bar Mitzvah, they took me into a secret room and outlined all of the secret plans for us to take over the world.

First Step: Constantly self-depricate ourselves every chance we get into the media, so that the rest of the world things we are weak.
Second Step: Piss off Mel Gibson.
Third Step: Don't you wish you knew Jew Watch...

Sunday, September 17, 2006


Do people just not read literature or watch movies anymore?

I Have a Problem...

I'm an addict. Which is to say I was in Southern Connecticut yesterday, ate a huge dinner of fried seafood and remarked that I would never eat again. At the time I was serious. Returning home, I kept my decree and did not stop. Instead I drove straight home.

Around eight, while watching Iron Chef America, I finally began geting itchy. The chef make a wonderful looking tofu custard, which immediately activated my addiction. I shook, and commented I needed to go back on my promise. Then I promptly set off in search of a blizzard.

We were all sitting in the cold, sterile room. Most of us were shaking, in desperate need for our fix. My addiction hasn't beccome that bad, so I merely moved my fingers in my pocket. A woman in front of me had it so bad that she was literally dancing, twirling around and dancing about how excited she was to be getting her ice cream. She was simultaneously screaming at the employees for taking too long and planning what blizzard she was going to order next time. I checked several times to make sure she wasn't just a large child.

I've inherited this problem from my mother who, after a huge German buffet in Epcot, announced she wanted to go to Dairy Queen. We mostly sat around watching her eat a vanilla cone. I went looking for the bible which seems to reside in all southern Dairy Queens. Personally, I like my blizzard blended with a touch of scripture.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Why I'm the Way I Am

I'm a nice person. That isn't saying I don't have my moments of fury, or disappointment, but in general I find that when I wake up I want to be as nice to as many people as I can be. It's fun to watch people smile as I walk down the hall and address them by name. It's nice to be remembered and thought of.

Lately I've been wondering why. What compels me to want to be nice and helpful to people? Why do I find more interest in assisting others than assisting myself?

The answer came yesterday, when I stopped at Stop & Shop on the way home. I stepped out of my car to find two ladies that seem very frustrated. They had locked their keys in their trunk and were trying to wedge their arms into the car and open the lock.

I tried really hard to be nice. They wanted me to jam my arm in and trip the lock. My niceness was tested when I realized I couldn't do that. There was just no way I was sticking my hand in a stranger's car and risking the possibility of damaging the car or myself.

So I tried giving her several other options. I offered to call the police (she laughed and told me there was no way she was getting the police involved) or a tow truck or a locksmith. The only think she would allow me to do is stick my arm into her car.

I said no, and walked into the store.

When I came out, they were still there, searching for an answer. I smiled at them and asked if there was anything else I could do, but she said that I wasn't being helpful. So I began to enter my car to leave when she screamed at me that "this wouldn't have happened to me if I wasn't black!"

As I sped off, I was more confused than anything. I wanted to know what she meant. Was she accusing me of being unhelpful because she was black, or did she blame her race on the fact that she locked her keys in her trunk? How did her race have anything to do with it?

It jostled me a bit, and as I returned home I pondered why I felt so bad. I was wondering if I could have been nicer and helped her more. But most of all, I was angry at her for screaming at me when all I did was stop and talk to her.

That's why I am the way I am. I don't like being screamed at or made fun of or totally ignored. I want people to be nice to me, and the only way I can do that is to set a precedent. If the woman had not screamed at me, I would have done almost anything to help her. But instead I smiled curtly and drove away.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

No Seriously, I Can't Stand It

Is President Bush serious? Maybe it's just me, or I'm not the political analyst I thought I was. But using his speech last night as a very brief tribute to 9/11 victims and then launching into an extended oration about why we need to continue fighting in Iraq is just wrong. It really sums up the way in which his administration takes emotional issues in the country and exploits the hell out of them. I think I've taken the turn from a slow burn to an intense anger.

Monday, September 11, 2006

I Can't Stand It

My daily weekday routine includes waking up around 5:30 and relaxing on the couch in front of the news with a fresh cup of coffee. Watching the morning news usually is enough to spur me onward and out the door on time. On this day, five years after the terrorist attack on September 11th, I found I couldn't stomach the news. The overly dramatized tributes with the alarming amount of political messages was enough to make me flip to my second morning haven-Classroom on the History Channel.

On Classroom, I found a segment about the first six American presidents, which I found far more patriotic than any of the cheapened September 11th stuff. The struggles and pains they went to for our country far outweighed anything we go through today. I remembered where our country came from, and why we all should continue to love it so dearly.

Instead of telling us how we need to defend America, on September 11th show us reasons why to love it. The greatest thing on that day was that we were all reminded how much we care about our country. We don't need images of eagles accompanied by music with emotional crescendos. Instead, we should explore the history and roots of our country, and realize why it is worth living here. Do not turn this day into a reason for politicians to further their political agenda or have sacchrine and meaningless tributes. Turn it into a day which reminds us all why we are here.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The 9/11 Theme Store

I've been reading a lot about the controversy over the ABC movie depicting the "events" that led to 9/11 and I find them disheartening for many reasons. First, it seems to me that the events leading up to 9/11 were so dramatic that you don't need to make shit up. But for some reason the screenwriters felt they had to inject their own story in there to make the story more exciting and therefore completely devalue their film. The controversy swirling around the film currently is so great that there is no possibility it will have an emotional impact, except to make people angry towards ABC.

This whole thing reeks of a political ploy, and using 9/11 as a political device continues to enrage me. When the first two 9/11 movies came out, they were hailed as being incredibly non-political and accurate depictions. I agree with free speech, and the premise that everyone has a right to their opinion. But it's a little fishy to me that on the three months before a possible takeover of the senate by Democrats, a miniseries is coming out that is heavy political and suggests it could have been Clinton's fault.

Let's get one thing was the people's fault who flew the planes. Neither Bush nor Clinton planned or executed the attacks. We need to stop pointing fingers and use the day of 9/11 to remember the people who lost our lives and renew our commitment to America. There's nothing political about it.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Passion (Teaching Again )

Last night I had my first class on James Joyce. There were a lot of mixed thoughts going into the class, namely a massive amount of fear about the coursework. I was hoping (desperately) that the professor was going to look at Finnegan's Wake out of pure curiosity. Then I received the syllabus and nearly had a myocardial infarction.

Sorry... I nearly had a FUCKING HEART ATTACK.

Which is to say that the professor assigned one Joyce book a week plus supplementary reading and lots of writing. He had no bones about the fact that the course was going to be tough. It was a tough syllabus and I was ready to flee with mad rants about how some professors don't get students.

That's when the professor began speaking about Joyce. I once again learned a valuable lesson about teaching from a professor at Trinity. He spoke so genuinely, and with an honest fervor for the subject matter, that I was instantly drawn in. I liked this guy, and I realized no amount of work would keep me out of his class.

The lesson, I suppose, is that energy and passion can make all the difference in education. A student is not motivated by the course material alone. It's mainly about the commitment of the teacher.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Thank God

The Hammer is still striking for those mighty causes.

Stop It!

Dear Rachael Ray,

Stop the madness. Seriously, we like you for who you are. But it's maddening to watch your show and hear you shout your "cute" little catchphrases. They aren't cute, or funny, or endearing, they are the most vile sounds in the English language.

If I have to hear you say "yummo" one more time, I may find myself inadvertently throwing my own 30 minute meal at the TV.

Speaking of which, you need to figure out that there are other modalities of speech. Your version of yelling, which makes me want to drive my fingernails into my wrist, is simply ridiculous. You have a mic, on your shirt-use it.

My advice to you is that you should be yourself and not try and put on these homey airs that come off as disingenuous. For a good example, look at Alton Brown. He acts zany, silly and funny, but he always appears like he cares about what he is doing. I imagine if I met Alton Brown, he would largely be the same person I see on camera. That is not the same for you.

Spend some time off, take a sabbatical and find out who you truly are. Only then can you truly cook your 30 minute meals to perfection.

Best Regards,


P.S. Your Mahi-Mahi taco recipe was delicious.

Monday, September 04, 2006

My New Class and the Old Ones

I recently read about my new class on Joyce at Trinity. The list of Joyce books was monstrous, and led me to believe that the professor was either a) insane or b) a great practical joker. The reason I am positive of one of these two things is:

He included Finnegan's Wake on the syllabus, hereby known to me as Finnegan's What the Fuck. This bloviated manuscript is nearly unreadable in any language. As far as I can tell most literary people believe Joyce had either gone insane at this point in his life, or he found it extremely funny to release completely nonsensical drafts to the literary world. His brother is on record saying he was mad when he wrote it. I recently read the first page which includes such literary gems as:

"The fall (bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonner-
ronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthur-nuk!) of a once wallstrait oldparr is retaled early in bed and later on life down through all christian minstrelsy."

"Sir Tristram, violer d'amores, fr'over the short sea, had passen-core rearrived from North Armorica on this side the scraggy isthmus of Europe Minor to wielderfight his penisolate war: nor had topsawyer's rocks by the stream Oconee exaggerated themselse to Laurens County's gorgios while they went doublin their mumper all the time: nor avoice from afire bellowsed mishe mishe to tauftauf thuartpeatrick"

Once again, I will repeat... WHAT THE FUCK?

In other class news, I have yet to complete my spring class, which ended with a paper none of us were really sure how to write. The lack of specificity, or even a cohesive assignment is maddening. So, for now, I sit with a harsh I on my transcript. I'm stalled out on page 9 of a suggested 20 page paper. I'm thinking I might hit page 15 and turn it in as is. Oh the life of a graduate student.


"We believe that al-Qaida in Iraq suffers from a serious leadership crisis. Our troops have dealt fatal and painful blows to this organization."

Here's the problem- political rhetoric has become so hyperbolic that nobody is sure what to believe. It's dishreatening when our leaders are so disingenous that we, as a public, are paralyzed with indifference. How many times over the past three years has the number two leader in Iraq been captured or killed. Every time they announce that the war is in it's final act or the insurgency is in its "death throes". Nothing changes.

We've been promised massive changes, but in actuality all we get is new ways of speaking about the same old things. Orwell would have been so proud to see the way in which the government changes the ways history views the War on Iraq in order to suit their political needs. 1984 indeed.