Wednesday, October 31, 2007

September 2007

Books Read:
The Enlightened Bracketologist Ed: Mark Reiter & Richard Sandomir
*The Sopratos By: Stephan Pastis
Over Sea, Under Stone By: Susan Cooper
The Dark Is Rising By: Susan Cooper

Movies Viewed for the First Time:
Wedding Crashers
Friday Night Lights
3:10 to Yuma (2007 version)
Wild Hogs
**Our Time Is Up
**The Runaway
**The Last Farm
**Six Shooter
**The Moon and the Sun: An Imagined Conversation
**The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello
**The Fan and the Flower
Delta Farce

*A collection of comic strips
**A short film

Both book reading and film watching was rather light for me in September. I don't know why, but in the fall it always seems I do less of both anyway.

The Sopratos is a collection of "Pearls Before Swine" comic strips. I highly recommend it because "Pearls" is the best comic currently being published in newspapers around the country. I had read both of the Susan Cooper books when I was in high school, but wanted to re-read them since the movie The Seeker, loosely based upon The Dark Is Rising was coming out in theatres in October. The Dark Is Rising is the richer of the two I read last month, but both are worth reading (there are five books in the series altogether).

As for films, I tried catching up on a few films I hear people talk about and quote from all the time, but hadn't had the opportunity to watch all the way through myself: Wedding Crasher & Friday Night Lights. Of the short films I watched, I'd only recommend Our Time Is Up, The Runaway, The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello, and The Fan and the Flower for casual movie goers. I also saw one of the best pictures I've seen all year in September, 3:10 to Yuma--why do people think the Western is dead?

Paycheck to Paycheck.

How is it that I earned just as much if not more money subbing than I am now that I'm teaching full time?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Alone and In the Dark.

I just got back from seeing the movie 30 DAYS OF NIGHT. It's a vampire flick set in Barrow, Alaska where for 30 days out of the year the town never sees the sun. It was pretty much what I expected (except I figured the vampires would be speaking in English) and there were some really interesting visual effects. The movie got me thinking.

Take away the vampires, and I feel like some of those people in Alaska. Right now, I feel like I'm in a murky haze I'm stumbling through with no sense of direction. I can't seem to think clearly. The direction that I thought my life was supposed to be headed according to the compass I was following isn't picking up any readings and I can't figure out which way to go. Granted it has been an incredibly busy two weeks for me and I am physically and mentally exhausted. Things will lighten up some, but with AMADEUS coming up, there won't be much slack until just before Thanksgiving. Anyway, at this moment I feel very confused and alone. I know that I'm not, but that's the way it feels.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Teaching Briefs.

I survived my first two weeks of full time teaching. The teaching I'm enjoying, but it's all the other stuff that comes with it (piles of paperwork that has to be read, but not graded; meetings; etc.) that I'm really having a difficult time dealing with right now.

Parent Teacher conferences were last night and this morning. I wasn't nervous about those at all. I was told ahead of time that I would probably get a lot of work done because not many parents show up at high school parent teacher conferences. That wasn't the case. I saw about 25 sets of parents which might not seem like a lot, but is about 20% of the parents of my students compared to the average of around 5-10% that most people at the school see.

Yesterday a dog wandered into my classroom. Students have to go outside to the ag building and this little grey and black dog got through the door and was wandering around the hall until he found his way to my classroom. That is one of the more unusual things I've seen in all my experiences in education so far. Later in the day more dogs showed up as the school went into lock down mode when the police showed up with the drug-sniffing canines.

American Citizens Turning On Each Other & Illegal Chinese Reincarnation

Listening to the radio today at the top of the hour I learned that in some Chicago suburb, the police have given radar guns to some citizens. In exchange, these citizens are clocking cars that go by and writing down their license plate numbers and submitting them to police so that the police can send them a ticket. I find that rather frightening. I'm all for citizens taking power back from the government, but that's not what this is. It has some very strong overtones of fascism, McCarthyism, and the Salem witchcraft trials. Big Brother is becoming far too big of a bully.
In other news, the Chinese government recently issued Order #5 which makes it illegal for any Buddhist monk to return from the dead by means of reincarnation without government approval. Are the Communists worried that the Buddhists are going to secretly overthrow the government in their next life? I just don't get it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Have a Great Life.

Last weekend I attended two separate weddings for three dear friends of mine. The weddings were on different, but consecutive days and one of them I was a groomsman in. It was a very hetic week for me (especially with the added pressure of having just started the new teaching job), but one that was also a huge blessing. I got to hang out for a short time with some old friends that I don’t see very often, I made some new friends, and I just basked in the joy and happiness around me. Yet, (and with me there almost always is a yet—I must be addicted to melancholy), the experiences were tainted with a twinge of sadness. I know that I will stay in contact with and probably see on occasion my friends who were married, but for many of my other friends that I saw, these weddings were probably the last time I will ever see them again on this Earth. I wish it wasn’t the case, but experience has taught me otherwise. Life moves at a rapid pace and many times old friends fade into memory and become little more than forgotten acquaintances. I know it’s just another result of the fallen world in which we live and it makes me long for the Great Reunion to come. Still, it doesn’t wash away the sadness of the bittersweet feelings rushing through one’s body. So, have a great life.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Take Me Back to Manhattan Or Have I Sold Out?

Some good news is that last week I was offered a high school English job teaching almost all of the English classes at a small, rural high school. I took the position. I was in shock for two whole days. Having had nineteen other teaching interviews, I had assumed that the interview I had for this job would end up with the usual result of rejection. But, it didn’t. I’ll be teaching all the freshmen, sophomore, and senior English classes at the school as well as a writing composition elective. I’m very excited and am looking forward to it.

A couple days ago, I was running all over the place doing all sorts of errands. I was at a Borders bookstore looking around for some possible teaching aids I might need in the coming weeks when I saw something that caused me to stop and stare. There in front of me was a table filled with things about New York City: books, maps, a couple of games, and a few trinkets. I just froze for a few moments looking at the items and found myself filled with self-doubt.

As a result of some experiences this past spring and summer, I had decided that I would be moving to New York City, hopefully as early as March ’08, to pursue a career in the production side of the film industry. I was also planning on taking a trip to New York State to visit a couple close friends of mine this January. Because of the new job, both the vacation and my planned move will have to be postponed.

Please don’t get the wrong impression. I’m very happy and excited about the job I’m starting. I’m very much looking forward to finally having a classroom of my own and foster an appreciation of the English language upon young minds. This is something I felt led to do six years ago and I’m eager to see what teaching will actually be like.

Yet, I really want to go to New York. I’ve wanted to make movies since I was a kid. I love the entire filmmaking process and I would wager that film is one of the, if not The most persuasive and powerful art known. It appeals to several senses at once and can leave inerasable imprints upon one’s mind and memory. The hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life was when about six years ago I gave up my opportunity to go to California and attend film school. I wrestled with God for months over that. In the end, I knew what he was asking of me and at the time I wanted it, too. I knew I was supposed to go back and teach. And so I did and though I went through a ton of chaos, I felt totally at peace about it. It’s something I very much want to do. And, yet I still want to make movies.

At the end of this summer, I thought things were starting to make a little sense in my life. Even though I wasn’t teaching, yet, I knew I wanted to go to New York and make movies. I started applying for film related positions in the St. Louis area, including non-paying gigs, in the hopes of getting experience. Apparently, though, no one was interested in bringing me on.

Not only that, but searching for work doesn’t earn any money. I’m in debt and have bills to pay. Moving costs money and at minimum I needed enough cash saved up to pay my bills for a couple of months while in transition. That didn’t happen. I applied for one job after another. I tried temp work and part time. However, other than some sporadic substitute teaching and a one-week stint stuffing boxes full of bags of air (literally), I couldn’t find any work. To have enough cash just to get by I signed up for and participated in a week-long sleep study. I was looking at some medical studies to raise enough money for next month. The pressure was starting to drive me batty. Then I got the job and things seemed much better.

Except, they aren’t because as much as I want to teach, something tells me that I’ve sold out. This something tells me that the only reason I took the job was for the money and now I won’t be able to visit my friends in New York in January and I won’t be moving there this March. I tell myself that’s not really true, but there is a grain of truth there. I really needed cash and the job will help with that for the time being. Like I said earlier, it costs money to travel and move and even though I won’t be earning gobs of money, I should be able to save some so that I can eventually do those things. But that’s not the main reason I took the job. I spent two and a half extra years in college just to get a teaching certificate and almost two years of consecutive substitute teaching. I’m ready to teach.

Yet, I want to go back to Manhattan and I kind of feel like I’ve sold out. Have I?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

A Postscript.

The storm has passed and for now peace is here.


"You gave me the desire to praise You--which most do not feel--then made me mute. Grazie tanti! You put into me perception of the Incomparable--which most men never know!--then ensured that I would know myself forever mediocre. Why! What is my fault? Until this day I have pursued virtue with rigour. I have laboured long hours to relieve my fellow men. I have worked and worked the talent You allowed me. You know how hard I've worked!--solely that in the end, in the practice of the art which alone makes the world comprehensible to me, I might hear Your Voice!"-- Salieri in AMADEUS, Act I, p. 43 by: Peter Shaffer
At my core, I don't agree with the sentiments of Salieri in this scene, but I can relate. It is the voice of of the older brother in parable of the prodigal son. At my core, I know these feelings aren't healthy. They lead to bitterness, jealousy, envy, rage and such, but I've felt them before in my life and to be honest I kind of feel that way right now.