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"This is the most exciting day of my life...and I was pulled on stage once to dance at a Bruce Springsteen concert."
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Friday, April 29, 2005

The Show Must Go On

I don't know if I ever mentioned this before, but my school is very much into school spirit. So much so that we all gather in the cafeteria, in the morning, every morning to sing the school song, do the pledge and hear the morning announcements. It's a tedious task, but in a weird way I've grown to like it because this school has a sense of community like no other I've worked at or been to.

So, it should come as no surprise that my principal also really likes school assemblies put on by the actual students. We have chorus concerts, drama shows and miscellaneous talent shows. All of these are on a volunteer, extra curricular basis. But then there's the one that everyone must do, also known as the grade level show.

My school is grades K-4. There are roughly 8 classes in every grade. Every class collectively puts on a grade level show with each individual class getting a turn to strut their stuff. Way in the beginning of the year each grade puts dibs on when they want to go. Some grades scramble to get a holiday like Halloween or Christmas because those have built in themes, while others go the route of putting it off to the last minute.

Guess which camp the third grade fell into.

Now that all of the big tests (and let's face it, much of the learning) is out of the way, we have our school show coming up in June. When I first heard we put on a grade level show, I panicked. I'm not a music director. I'm not a choreographer. If I was, I would be teaching music or dance, not third grade, which, the last time I checked, is what I signed up for.

So the other, more seasoned third grade teachers, pulled a theme out of their asses back in September just to get it out of the way. They chose summer. June, summer, that makes sense. But then a few weeks ago, they decided that summer had a been there, done that vibe, so instead they opted for Disney songs.

I was a bit surprised they decided to go with Disney because I thought that by third grade, some kids are starting to think Disney is a little bit babyish, but I was a good little first year teacher and went along with the program. And then it hit me.

What the hell am I going to do with these kids and perhaps more importantly, when am I going to find the time to do it?!

Things went from bad to worse when I started hearing, through the grapevine, that teachers have a way of pairing up so that they combine a few classes. Sure, let all the tenured teachers pair up and leave the new kid to fend for herself. That makes sense.

Regardless, I reluctantly just started my search for the perfect song for my kids when I came across the underrated gem, "I Just Can't Wait To Be King" from The Lion King. Suddenly it was like I went fron ordinary teacher to Bob Fosse in 60 seconds. In my mind, I could picture what they would do. And ya gotta love a song title that has a double meaning. I thought the kids could hold a big banner at the end "I Just Can't Wait To Be King" (or queen) of the school, considering they are going to be the "senior class" so to speak as they are going into fourth grade. Well, most of them are anyway.

Of course, seeing it come to life in my mind and actually making it come to life for a group of 17 third graders are two entirely different matters completely.

So what do y'all think? Is it a hit or a miss?

And is there something much simpler I could do that I'm just completely missing?
Thursday, April 28, 2005

I Fought The Law And The Law Sorta Won

Some of you may recall my brush with the law from a few months ago. In short, I was caught speeding on a speed traperific road one quiet Sunday morning in February. I was on my way to a wake. Report cards were due that week. But all I could think of to say was, "I'm sorry, I had to pee and I'm not from the area." I know, smooth right?

Now this my friends, is not to be confused with my other car related mishap that occured one icy Wednesday morning in March. I swear, I never in my life have had such bad car related luck. Seriously. In fact, for years I was actually paralyzed with fear at the thought of driving and so in light of this all, it's amazing I've gotten back behind the wheel. Just ask anyone who knows me. Of course, you'll just have to take my word on this one.

But back to the ticket at hand. The cop was one of those, "no nonsense, look at me when I'm talking to you boy" kinda cops. The kind of cop actors like Bill Paxton were born to play. Needless to say not only did he give me a ticket, he gave me a 4 point ticket. So hi ho, hi ho, it was off to court I go.

Originally, if I had taken my medicine and plead guilty, my case would have been heard way back in February. But since I called to plead not guilty, I got a new court date, sometime in March. Then a week or so later, the court rescheduled me for the end of April. This was both good and bad news. Good because I could put of the inevitable, but bad because I was putting off the inevitable.

Finally judgment day came. My dad came with me for moral support. He had high hopes of my talking the ticket down from a 4 pointer to a 2 pointer, while I had even higher hopes of getting a no point ticket. I figured it pays to dream big every once and awhile.

We got there early because the town I got pulled over in is like 30 miles from my home. We didn't want to risk being late, which is virtually impossible because us Branagan's are hands down, the most punctual people you will ever meet.

Immediately I was struck by the fact that the courthouse looked like something out of Little House On The Prairie and the people waiting outside looked like extras from a John Cougar Mellencamp video. I had the most teeth, for sure. I figured I was a shoo in on that alone. In fact, there was one couple that came each bearing their own indivdual summons to appear before the court. Talk about giving a whole new meaning to the term, quality time.

After checking in, we sat in the shoebox sized courtroom and waited for the prosecutor to come out and hear our cases. Then the prosecutor came out and said the oddest thing, "Ok, I'm going to hear the non-guilty pleas now. Just so you know, if you are looking for a no point ticket, you're looking at around 400 dollars. That doesn't come from me, it comes from the state. So don't blame me, k?" Umm, ok.

I was called early on and before I said anything he said, "I can get this down to two points." Suddenly I felt like a contestant on Let's Make A Deal. I went to ask about getting a no point ticket but my dad interjected with the exact same thing I was going to say "it's her first offense. Plus it was a speed trap asshole and she wasn't going that fast and even if she was, where are all the dicks who usually pass her on that road? Huh? Huh?!"

Ok, maybe not that last part.

So it was out there. He knew I wanted no points. He knew we knew the cost that was involved. But we knew that he knew that we knew that the costs would be even worse if my insurance got raised. So he said ok. Just like that. As long as a cop didn't protest that is.

Luck for me, the alphabet was on my side and I was called first. Of course, being called first before a judge when you are so nervous you might pee your pants is never a good thing. Actually, when you think about it "pee" is what kind got me there to begin with, but I digress. So the judge read my charge. He asked me how I plea. I said guilty, as instructed although I don't understand the whole judicial system because you have to go to plead not guilty only to turn around and plead guilty, but whatever.

I thought I was over. I said my line, exit stage left. But then he started asking me questions.

Him: Have you ever done this before?
Me: No.
Him: Are you sure?

At this point I am outwardly shaking head, inside I'm saying what the hell, people actually lie at this point? And even if they do, who's dumb enough to go and spill the beans right then and there?

Then he asks the mysterious, "Do you have anything else to add?" At this point I'm confused. I felt like I was part of the class Barry Gibb talk show skit on SNL. Add to what? Did he talk to the prosecutor? Does he want to know about the time I was five and stole gum from a supermarket because I thought it was ok to just take those things? What?! What does he want?!!!

So I said, "No, I already talked about my case with the prosecutor." So he said, "Well, I'm not the prosecutor, I don't know what you talked about." At this point I looked at the prosecutor, pleading to be rescued. He valiantly stepped in saying, "She said she was sorry."

She said she was sorry?! That's all you got? And you call yourself a prosecutor!

Amazingly though, it worked! He read off my sentence, I mumbled a thank you and stumbled out of the courtroom. Then I confusingly turned to my dad and said, "so wait, did I get the points or not?" As it turns out, neither one of us knew.

In the end, I didn't get the points, but I did have to pay the hefty fine of $414.00 thank you very much.

The moral of the story is simple. If you should get a traffic violation you have nothing to fear but fear itself. Grab the bull by the horns. Go for the gusto.

Whatever you do, don't quote Sammy Hagar's "I Can't Drive 55", cause something tells me that won't go over too well.
Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Beating A Dead Horse

Ok, I'm going to get right down to it because quite frankly, even I'm sick of hearing myself talk about this.

In the past I wrote about a possible, real-life blogger get together. Just in case you are too lazy to click on the hyperlink, my intentions were to get bloggers from the NJ/NY/Conneticut area together for an informal shindig. It also goes without saying everyone else is invited too, but then again, I just went ahead and said it anyway, now didn't I?

So after getting some positive feedback here, I, along with my semi co-conspiators, Judy and Kate picked a date (June 25th) and a place (Atlantic City, NJ).

But before long, the complaints started piling up. The date wasn't good for some, the place not good for others. Then even others, who were interested initially, have seemingly fallen off the face of the Earth. Where have all the cowboys gone anyway? So when all is said and done, the definitely interested list has dwindled drastically.

On one hand, I understood the concerns of those who couldn't make the date or the place. Some also thought that AC might be too expensive which is totally understandable. The only reason we thought AC might work was because it would give out of towners the opportunity to make a mini-vacation out of it, and give all bloggers more than one activity to do. Still, this idea is easily nixable as to not alienate any bloggers that would come otherwise.

But I had a hard time with bloggers who told me this or that didn't work for them, but offered no input on what did. Remember, this blogger meet-up was thought up with the intention of getting as many people as possible, so neither the date NOR the place was etched in stone. At one point, Kate even mentioned renting a hall as they did for another Jersey blogmeet, but I didn't want to have that resposnsibility hanging over my head. But if you do then by all means, I'll come to your blogmeet with bells on.

Now I know y'all are busy. How do I know? Well shoot, I know cause I'm busy too and because I read your blogs, of course!

So this is my final offer, take it or leave it. I realize no date is going to be perfect for everyone, but honestly, only movie theaters show the movie regardless of the size of the audience.

So, if you are still interested, comment here or email me at with your specific thoughts. Please, no more, "Sounds cool!" like comments. We need to move past that stage at some point people. Only interested parties need apply.

Think summer. Nice weather. A good time to travel.

If interested, include what days/places are good/not good for you and any other input you may have. Your 2 cents are always appreciated. Hell, I'll even take a dollar.
Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Tell It To Me Tuesday: "I Coulda Been A Contender"

Let's face it. Hollywood is literally overflowing with talentless hacks that get waaay too much credit and money. For instance, Meg Ryan, Sandra Bullock and Julia Roberts are likable, but that's because they play the same role time after time. Then there's the opposite extreme. The Vin Diesel's. The Keanu Reeves's. This simply cannot be explained.

But this post is about the "little actors" the ones that go unnoticed to many, but not to you. No, YOU are simply too smart for that.

So I ask:

1. What actor/actress do YOU think is overrated?

2. What actor/actress should get more credit than they do and why?


3. What actor/actress, in your opinion, is going to make it big so that we can be sick of them too one day?
Monday, April 25, 2005

Neatness Counts?

Recently I indirectly wrote a post about how horrible my handwriting is. Unfortunately, I don't have bad handwriting of doctoresque proportions and so that, my friends, is why I don't make the big bucks teaching.

This is also why I think it's laughable that now, after all these years, I am supposed to teach the children of our future how to write legibly. Not only am I expected to teach them how to write, but I'm also expected to expose them to the wonders of cursive writing. Like I didn't already feel like enough of a fraud trying to muck my way through the metric system and now this?

Just for fun, let's create an analogy. If my handwriting in print is like Paula Abdul's singing career, my handwriting in cursive is like Paula Abdul's career as a judge on American Idol. In short, they both are examples of vicious downward spirals.

Let me just say, for the record, that my handwriting is admittedly atrocious. I am one of those right handed writers who can start out really neat say every other day, but 20 minutes into writing my hand takes on a mind of it's own. There's also the bit about how I hold my pencil. In a nutshell, I hold it wrong. But when I hold it the "right" way, I write even worse. It's a no win situation really.

In my defense, I will say that my chalkboard handwriting has improved greatly over this past year. My letters are almost always the same size and they are no longer seeping into the chalkboard as they mysteriously so during the first few weeks of school. So there.

And kids, God bless 'em, praise their teachers whether they deserve it or not. So if I draw a picture, that any way you slice it, is simply super awful, or if I write particularly messy, they'll call me out on it, but they'll find a way to butter me up in the process.

In the meantime, I'm stuck with crappy handwriting and 17 children who are looking to me to show them the way. So I throw in a handwriting lesson here or there and hope the kids have the natural ability that I never did. Either that or that they will invest in some kick ass typing skills like I did as a teen.

Then my principal drops the bombshell that we should all be teaching handwriting at least once a week now that the big test is over and done with. Not only that, but that our kids should be writing their assignments in cursive and we should be writing in cursive right along with them. She acknowledges that the teaching of handwriting could very well become obselete in the next few years, but until then, D'Nealian the hell out of them.

So the sham that I am, scribbles on student's papers "Redo! I can't read this!" all the while knowing they quite possibly read my writing. However, this is not for lack of trying. But unlike playing the keyboard or riding a bike, I don't think handwriting is something you can sincerely improve upon as an adult. Unless of course you have amnesia and have to relearn everything as if it were new again. Sure that would suck, but I might get great penmanship out of the deal. Whatever. It's a sacrifice.
Friday, April 22, 2005

Keep Your Feet On The Ground And Keep Reaching For The Stars

Did anyone else hear the news about Ryan Seacrest getting his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame? So like, what, are they just giving those things away now? Cause I remember a time, not so long ago, when you had to work for it. Years and years would virtually go by and then you'd finally earn your place in the sun. But now all it apparently takes is a catch phrase and a pretty face.

At first when I heard the news I figured I must have heard it wrong and that they really were announcing news about former AI contestant, Ryan Starr. No such luck. It's not like I have anything against Seacrest, per se (except for that annoying Seacrest, out! thing that he does) I just don't understand the hierarchy.

On the radio this morning I heard that you can apparently buy your own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I don't know if this is true or not, but if it is, wouldn't that like totally suck? To buy your own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame? I mean who would do that? Besides Corey Feldman that is. Unless of course, that's just the system and you nominate yourself. If that's the case, I'd love to read some of the "ooh, pick me! pick me!" essays written over the years.

At the very least, you will be happy to know that Casey Kasem already has his star.

Carson Daly, however, I believe is not as fortunate.

As a result, I predict Colonel Carson Daly will off Seacrest with the wrench in the study.
Thursday, April 21, 2005

I Will Be Your Father Figure

So the world has a new pope. At last, we can now all sleep soundly at night knowing there's a pope in power doing...well whatever a pope does. Which reminds me, what exactly does the pope do again? I mean I know he's all about peace, but not in a hippy, grow your hair out and don't wash kinda way. I also know he shakes a lot of hands and kisses a lot of babies, just like United States presidents do. But unlike presidents, popes aren't allowed to have any sex in the champagne room. NONE.

I don't know about you, but I was shocked to find out all that I did about Pope John Paul II after he died. I mean really, shame on me. For starters, I had no idea the man wrote Off-Broadway plays. I wonder, could he have had a prequel in mind for Jesus Christ Superstar? I also didn't know that the popes got to pick their own names once they got into power. Silly me just thought his name was John all along. It's actually kinda rockstar of them isn't it? When all is said and done, popes make people like Prince and Sting proud.

Sadly, all I ever really saw the pope as was this cute old man who looked like what I imagine God would look a lot like. I don't know if this is because he's the only pope I've ever known and thus the most holy man I'd known or I just have a poor imagination.

But now we have a new pope, Cardinal Ratzinger from Germany, not to be confused with John Ratzenberger from Cheers. In fact, in order to avoid such confusion, the cardinal changed his name to Benedict XVI.

I have one question about popes though; why do they have to be so old? I mean I know the worlds "old and wise" go together like peanut butter and jelly, but can't you be kinda old and wise at the same time? Ratzinger/Benedict just turned 78. According to a Yahoo article, "His age clearly was a factor among cardinals who favored a "transitional" pope who could skillfully lead the church as it absorbs John Paul II's legacy, rather than a younger cardinal who could wind up with another long pontificate." Translation, the new pope is old, deal with it.

But there are instances where age is not just a number. Most people nowadays retire at 65. But, no not popes. They start kicking it into high gear around their mid '70s. But unless you're Sean Connery, the ability to lead the world is not a quality that gets better with age. If you don't believe me, just ask anyone who remembers Ronald Reagan.

"Transitional" pope or not, why would we go through this long, white/black smoke process of picking a new pope only to pick another pope, most likely within the next ten years? Come on now! This ain't American Idol! Why can't we just pick a guy and get it over with? At least if we had a 60 year old we'd have a better chance of getting someone for the longhaul vs. recruiting someone who is closer to lying down then leading anybody, anywhere.

Which I guess brings my post full circle. What does the pope do? Perhaps it's all a smoke and mirrors position. As far as I can see, as long as he's holy, celibate, knows his commandments and likes to travel he's a gift from God.

Actually, when you think about it, John Ratzenberger might not have been such an awful choice after all.
Wednesday, April 20, 2005

All Stuffed Up With No Place To Go


I hate getting colds.

I know what you're thinking. Duh...Who likes getting colds? But I hate getting colds times infinity which means I really, really hate getting colds.

One downside of working in elementary education is the amount of germs you are exposed to on a daily basis. In fact, if you are OCD about germs I'd suggest staying away from the little ones. Did you hear me, Howie Mandell?

Luckily, the longer you work in education, the more of an immunity they say you build up. So this year I was sick around October and that was it...until now.

Having a cold in the springtime is just plain weird. Think about it. A cold in spring. Now that ain't right at all. Unlike when you get a cold in the winter, in the spring you feel even more stuffed up especially on humid days, like today. Sure every other week has been unseasonably cool but no, not this week. This is the week that it's supposed to get into the 80's. Hip freakin' hooray.

My hatred for colds does not come without reason. Sure YOU may hate getting a cold, but I can prove why it sucks even more when I get a cold. For one thing, once my cold is gone, I'm usually still sick. (Disclaimer: semi-gross stuff to immediately follow) See, after the snotty stuff moves from most folks noses, the cold is also, effectively removed. Not with me. No, the snotty stuff usually migrates to my throat, causing me to have a hacking cough which makes me suddenly sound like I'm a 3 pack a day smoker sans the Harvey Fierstein voice.

But the fun doesn't end there. While the whole throat thing is going on, apparently the mucus is multiplying and now heads towards my ears. Just like the big bad wolf, I'll blow and I'll blow till the snot comes out, but I swear I must have Mario and Luigi in there, tinkering away with the Dunkin Donuts man at the helm saying..."it's time to make the phlegm!"

Of course, over the counter drugs rarely work, so all of this usually requires a trip to the doctor. This is nothing new as it's been going on my whole life. I've actually had tubes in my ears twice and my adnoids taken out, along with my tonsils. In this respect, it could be much, much worse. There are adults that still have bad ear/nose and throat problems and require tubes. I'm, fortunately, not one of those people.

However, the first 20 or so years of my life I had this kick ass pediatrician. He had a great bedside manner that you simply don't come by anymore and he also got to know his patients as individuals which is a great quality in a doctor, not to mention a kid's doctor. He knew how to fix me before I said anything. It was great.

Then I had to go and grow up. I've regretted this decision ever since.

When I go to new doctors I am glaringly aware of the fact that they are not my pediatrician and that they never will be, no matter how many Dum Dum pops they supply. When I try to explain my unique situation, usually I get a "doctor knows best" mixed with a bit of "say what?" reactions. But the doctors rarely know best when I have a cold. I know what they're thinking. They think I'm just another hypochondriac patient who hates being sick. So because of this, timing is everything. If I go to soon they say let it run its course, but if I let it go too long, it's too late. I must. get. drained.

Yes, sometimes the remnants of a cold back me up so much that no pill alone can remedy it. Instead, they have to pull out the big guns, the ear drainer. I call it the ear drainer because honestly, I have no idea what the technical name for it is. The ear draining device is filled with liquid and inserted into the ear, the pressure the water creates is the method used to flush out the ear of any excess wax or other cruddy stuff.

When done properly, this is a relatively painless, but definitively awkward procedure. You feel immense pressure followed by a tickling sensation and then, usually everything gets really, really loud as your hearing is suddenly the best it's been since well, the last time you had your ear drained. For this reason alone I don't understand why this procedure isn't more commonplace. I mean cars get their oil changed every 3,000 miles so it only seems fair.

However, when this procedure is done wrong, it is definitely not a pleasant experience. So how do you know if it's being done wrong? Well, for starters, if the doctor has to do it more than once, usually that means something's amiss. This ain't target practice. Hit me with your best shot. Once, not twice. You also know something's off if you suddenly yell "oww!" in the middle of the procedure. Yeah that whole business about the inner ear canal being a delicate place? That ain't no lie.

Unfortunately, I've been on the receiving end of both types of these procedures.

So this is why I stock up on orange juice and Cold-Eeze at the first sign of a sore throat like it's going out of style. Most of the time this method works. I mean I'm down with my immune system overall. But even lovers need a holiday from each other. Peter Cetera taught me that. I just wish it wasn't such a long drawn out process.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Tell It To Me Tuesday: "Baby, Come Back"

If you're anything like me, you dread this time of year for one reason and one reason only. This is the time when inevitably, great shows get cancelled, never to be heard from again. Well unless of course, they get reissued, resurrected and subsequently, posthumously revered in the wonderful world of DVD. Still it doesn't really count because even watching the same, frozen in time, twenty episodes gets stale after awhile.

This year I have a few favorite shows that are on the line. Newer ones include the poignant WB show, Jack and Bobby and the My So-Called Lifesque (another great cancelled get of yesteryear) ABC show Life As We Know It. But perhaps the biggest blow to my television ego is the very probable demise of NBC's American Dreams. Meanwhile crap like The Simple Life is alive and ticking. The world, as they say, just isn't fair.

So what I want to know is what show, old or new, do you miss terribly and why? And if you could bring it back tomorrow, where would you begin?
Sunday, April 17, 2005

They Don't Write 'Em Like That Anymore

I started to respond to the comments I got on my last post, but then I realized that I had more to say on the matter. So here, my friends, are my thoughts on the late, great angst ridden art of afterschool specials.

Long before the days of shows like Felicity, Dawson's Creek and One Tree Hill, teens and preteens flocked to their television sets to watch afterschool specials as often as Michael Jackson ran to his plastic surgeon. For those of you who are too (gasp!) young to remember or simply were living under a rock, afterschool specials were these Lifetime moviesque, hour long programs that used to air of all times, after school. They involved a teen or teens and tackled everything from drug abuse to anorexia to everything in between. In a nutshell, afterschool specials were all about exposing the downward spirals that VH1's Behind the Music were to make so well known years later.

There were so many great things about afterschool specials, so I've taken the liberty of compiling a top 5 list:

1. Cheesy melodrama

Afterschool specials, for lack of a better word, specializied in taking everyday problems and making them meaningful. My personal favorite was an episode entitled, When We First Met about a guy who ended up dating the daughter of the woman who killed his sister in a car accident years prior. It starred the other girl from Square Pegs and it was just simply melodramatic sap at its finest. Technically, this was not a true "afterschool special" (I believe it aired on HBO) but if you will recall, at the time, there was an "everybody's doing it" vibe about ASS and so everyone and their mother had their hands up in it, if you know what I mean.

2. Lessons learned

When afterschool specials were in their heyday, I was just a kid. This, however, made me a prime target for the "scared straight" approach they utilizied. While older kids were able to laugh at the overdramatic depiction of a girl storing her upchuck in jars and keeping them in her closet (see: HBO's Lifestories Families In Crisis circa 1992, The Secret Life of Mary Margaret: Portrait of a Bulimic), I, on the other hand, was traumatizied. Now I can look back at such a program and all I see is the irony as Calista Flockhart played the lead role.

3. Glorious guest stars

This brings me to my next point, the before they were stars factor. Anyone who was anyone in the late '70s, '80s and early '90s showed up in an afterschool special or two. It was quite simply, the thing to do at the time. Then, 5 or 10 years later when said actor made it big, some interviewer somewhere had the extreme pleasure of reintroducing the world to their early years. At this point the actor either fell into one of two camps: willing to go along and make fun of themselves, or two, getting pissed that anyone would bring up such crap in light of their newfound craft. Either way, there was a whole biting the hand that feeds you feel about it. The Actor's Studio with James Lipton it was not. But was it enjoyable? You bet Helen Hunt's career it was!

4. Satisfaction Guaranteed

Afterschool specials took hard hitting issues and packed them tightly into an hour of fun. But they also served as great all purpose entertainment. Sometimes they were a treat for the whole family. Other times you could watch them while doing your homework. Hell, even the health teacher could pop one in whenever he had a hangover.

5. Buy the book tactics

Most of the afterschool specials were like the ingredients to an easy bake oven cake. Simply take a teen novel written by the likes of Norma Fox Mazer or Francine Pascal, add water and voila!, you were good to go. But unlike the movie makers of today, afterschool special makers really did capture the glory of these teenage novels pretty accurately for only having, at the most, 55 minutes worth of time. Take that, Great Expectations.

So why did they stop making afterschool specials you might ask? For awhile there, I think it was because they simply ran out of things to say. I knew the end of an era was punctuated with 1990's episode called Stood Up all about a girl who was stood up by a guy. With this episode, and a few others, they started entering the, "if you don't have anything to say, don't say anything at all" phase of programming and thus, the curtain was drawn soon after.

But that's why now, more than ever, afterschool specials need to make their comeback. For one thing, yesterday is soooo today. In other words, retro is where it's at. Don't believe me? Just check out these reissues of afterschool specials, complete with Trapper Keeper-like packaging.

And then there's the matter of teenage issues. Think about it. Teenagers have invented zillions of new ways to get messed up over the last fifteen years! They could do an afterschool special on the hazards of doing ecstasy or a young girl who is cutting. We could even give the goth movement their day in the sun since they've been shortchanged for ages. The kids from the likes of Summerland, Seventh Heaven and 8 Simple Rules are simply waiting for YOU to make it happen.

Last but not least, there's the leftovers factor. You know how some foods just seem better when they're nuked the second time around? Well, the same holds true of entertainment. Think about all the kids who have no clue what an afterschool special is. How sad is that? This is why I propose an afterschool special network, devoted to airing ASS and all of it's offshoot comrades in the process. If they could create entire networks devoted to soaps and shopping, they could pull this off as well.

So there you have it, my feelings on the afterschool special programming. A revolution that should be televised.

The following has been brought to you by Always Maxi Pads with Wings and Bonnie Bell lip gloss.
Friday, April 15, 2005

To Keri Russell and Crew, With Love

Did you ever rediscover a long lost love? Perhaps it's a hobby you used to do all the time or an album you used to play until it was all worn out. If you have, you might understand my excitement over my recent rediscovery of the angst ridden college classic, Felicity.

Every once and awhile I get on a syndication kick. I've had cyclical fascinations with everything from those kooky dating shows like Love At First Sight and Shipmates to VH1's Pop Up Video. But while my senior year days in college were filled watching TLC's Wedding, Dating and Baby Story lineup, my nights were chockful of Felicity's curls. At the time, we got a kick out of Felicity's on going "save your drama for your mama" and a lot of it rung true considering my roommates and I were going through many of the same things ourselves.

But the best part of repeat heaven is when you get a sort've selective amnesia. I mean I remember Felicity, hell it only ended three years ago, but I don't remember remember it, if you know what I mean. I can tell you how it began and how it ended, but it's the 3 and a half years in the middle that are all muddled to me.

Suddenly, through the magic of Women's Entertainment television, I can relive the wonderful sweater-filled, bad haircut, unrealistically sized dorm room world of Felicity as if everything old was new again. Once again I can contemplate Ben or Noel? Noel or Ben? with perhaps more fervor than our current president had when contemplating whether or not to go to war. No waiting till summer's over to see the answer to the latest cliffhanger. It's all right there for the taking, Monday through Friday, 2 hours, back to back. Yes my friends, 10,000 Maniacs sure knew what they were talking about when they spoke the words, "these are the days to remember."

Now, if only someone would create a network devoted to afterschool specials, I'd be good to go.
Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Not All Child Stars Become Bargain Bin Casualties

I've always prided myself on being a huge musical whore which thankfully, is the only kind've whore I want to be. When I say whore, I say it with the utmost respect. In this case, I'm referring to my incessant need to seek out new music. It's always been with me, and God willing, it always will.

That being said, I don't know why I haven't used this blog for musical recommendations that much. You couldn't possibly know this, but usually I'm like the Fiddler On The Roof of musical matchmakings and yes, just like a traditional matchmaker, I "meddle" whether you want me to or not. Just ask me to see the album reviews section of my life.

So without further adieu, I bring you Rilo Kiley. I got into Rilo Kiley about a year or so ago and I've been meaning to write a post about them ever since. But it was never the right time and so I never did. Until now, that is.

For me, the most intiguing thing about finding a band like Rilo Kiley would normally be all the great music I've found in the process. But the only thing that could top that is the where are they now? component that Rilo Kiley brings to the table as their lead singer is former child actress, Jenny Lewis.

Now, you might not think you know Jenny Lewis. Hell, you really might not know her. Chances are if you aren't my age and grew up when Jenny grew up and/or didn't have kids growing up at the time it is possible. I don't know what it is about the process some child stars go through in the wacky world of show business, but I've always been obsessed with child stars and puberty. I mean we all go through it. But they get to go through it in public and their ultimate transformation is usually such a big deal. If you don't believe me, just ask Macauley Culkin. He's still waiting for his to happen.

I didn't even know Jenny could sing, though the triple threat Jon Benet type deal is usually par for the course in Hollywood. I for one would also love to know how that grew into this. I could write a thesis on the evolution or devolution as the case may be, of child stars, I swear. My Rick Schroeder theory alone is already an in depth study and alas, a post for another time.

Anyway, if you like taking musical advice from nearly complete strangers, then, by all means,Rilo Kiley is most definitely worth checking out. My personal faves include: It's A Hit, The Absence of God, More Adventurous, It Just Is, Teenage Love Song, A Better Son/Daughter and the incomparable, Does He Love You? I would say I know you will like it, but frankly, I don't know you so I can't make that guarantee.

Oh and while you're at it, I highly recommend renting the softer side of Jenny in Big Girls Don't Cry...They Get Even. Simply watch and listen. You can thank me later.
Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Tell It To Me Tuesday: "There Are Places I Remember"

Many of us have been fortunate enough to have traveled to various places. Others have us have only vicariously visited those places through the likes of shows like The Love Boat. That being said, this is a two-part question:

1. What was the favorite place you've been to and why?
2. If money was not an object, where would you like to go?
Monday, April 11, 2005

I'm A Poet And You Didn't Even Know It

When I was growing up, I used to spend a lot of time daydreaming and writing poetry. In the past ten years or so though I find that I've written less and less poetry. I don't really have an explanation as to why this is.

One time I submitted a poem to one of those anthology series where you pay for the book and you get to have your poem printed for all the world, or at least all the people who bought the book, to see. At the time, I thought this was was a big deal. I didn't take into account everybody and their mother could probably submit something. This was back in 1993, long before blogging made it possible to probably reach more people, and for free.

So here, without further adieu, is a sample poem from my teenage years or "the old days". This is not the poem that was featured in the book, but maybe, if you're good, I'll post that one day too.

Trip to Nowhere

Somewhere a bus travels down a road,
On it takes both the young and the old.

It accepts new passengers with an open hand,
Leaving behind loved ones who don't understand.

The chosen few whose time has come,
They take their place behind the sun.

They sit around and tell their tales,
Some with dentures, some with ponytails.

All sharing that one common bond,
The journey to the great beyond.

If a legacy of lies was left in their name,
Their souls are content to give up the shame.

Cause not all of us comprehend what we hold so dear,
It's comforting to think there's a place so near.
Where all of who've come to terms with their time,
Know they have to leave this world behind.

And whether we die before we wake,
Is something this soul cannot take.

Cause if you live your life in fear,
You can't enjoy what you have here.

You can't sense the presence of that white light,
Yet there's gonna be a lot of people on that bus tonight.
Friday, April 08, 2005

Making The Grade

Since I devote so much time on this blog talking about the performance and dedication (or lackthereof) of my third grade students, I thought it might be fun to take a trip down memory lane. So I drudged up my old report cards, comments and all, to share with you. Below you will find highlights of verbatim feedback I received from my teachers over the years. Pay careful attention to the wording and see if you too can catch the subtle changes and/or contradictions over the years. Also take note of the teachers who only include negative comments, now a big no, no in the world of education. I've also taken the liberty of highlighting those statements which still hold some truth today. Join me as I recap the highlights of my formative years, won't you?


"Although Janet has only been in our class a short while, it is evident she is inclined to rely on others to do things she should be able to do herself (such as buttoning her coat, putting on her hat, etc.) Janet enjoys interacting with her classmates, and is beginning to learn how to compromise and problem solve in a social situation. She enjoys participating in group discussions, and expresses herself easily and well. Janet is a capable child, who generally takes pride in herself and her work. She is learning to accept the responsibility for her share of cleaning up as well. She seems to have a sound base of general knowledge, and good basic skill growth. Her fine and gross motor coordination are appropriate for her age. She seems to be happy at school and enjoys a variety of games and activities. Among her favorites are dramatic play in the house area, where she expresses many of her creative ideas. She listens well, and is gradually becoming more flexible and more willing to accept direction."

First Grade

"Janet tries very hard to do her best. She is, however, having a problem with her handwriting. She must try harder to formulate the letters and numbers so that they are not so spread out and slanted. We will continue to work on this. I know she will be able to do it."

Second Grade

"Janet continues to do very well in all academic areas. As I have recently said to you, moving Janet from the middle to the top reading group was a wise decision. Her recent reading unit test substantiates my feelings. Janet's math is also good. Her talking in class, however, has increased to the point where I have had to move Janet's seat several times recently to try to find a spot where Janet and those near her can work quietly."

Third Grade

"Janet has made continuous progress attaining third grade skills and work habits. She displays a healthy attitude toward school and appears to be very motivated. Janet shows a particular interest in the area of reading. Her love of reading is evident and enhances her school work. Janet's handwriting would be more legible if she would concentrate on using the connecting strokes. I have discussed this with her and she is striving to improve. Keep up the good work, Janet!"

"Janet has consistently applied herself to learn new skills and concepts. She takes school very seriously. She does get a bit flustered if she does not understand a concept. Janet has many friends in the class. She has been polite and displays nice manners."

Fourth Grade

"Janet is a sweet young lady and a very good student. She continued to maintain good work and study habits in the last semester. I would like to see Janet participate more in class discussions and group activities. She has so much to offer but Janet is hiding it! I wish Janet the very best in fifth grade. Remember, KEEP SMILING!"

Fifth Grade

"Janet's work has continued to be satisfactory this marking period. I believe her math grade would improve if she would follow all the steps and use the aids I have devised to help the children remember to put place holders, etc. I would also like her to proofread all her work more carefully before turning it in- looking for mispelled words, etc."

"Janet's glossary and work with general skills requiring rote learning are good. Her difficulty continues to be in comprehension skills. She is especially poor when decoding words and must memorize the meanings of prefixes, suffixes and roots. She should contine to read recreationally and concentrate on main ideas."

"Janet has been successful in most of the reading tasks this year. She has applied herself to her assignments and scored well on written tests."

Sixth Grade

Comments switched over to standard numbers. Repeatedly from all of my instructors I received an 18, "Needs to improve class participation."

"Have a wonderful summer and good luck at the middle school. Don't forget to smile. You have such a pretty smile."

Seventh & Eighth Grade

More letters, same impersonal tone. Case in point:

"Janice's grade on her repord card in French should be 75. Apparently my calculator went a little haywire. It will be changed next marking period."

High school is even more impersonal, if you can believe that, so I'll spare you the details.

So there you have it. I thought about including my standardizied test scores as well, but I didn't want to deliver too much excitment all at once.:)
Thursday, April 07, 2005

Color Me There

The other day, B2 over at Toner Mishap posted the bestest news I've heard in...well, a long time.

Apparently, there is a strong possibility that a Pretty In Pink 2 is in the works. He heard it from a friend who, heard from a friend who, heard it from another the brat pack just might be back in town.

In efforts not to get prematurely ga ga, I tried to confirm this with the online bible of media,Internet Movie Database. Unfortunately, nothing is listed on there as of yet. :( So until it, is, all I can chalk this up to is speculation.

But, IF indeed, there is a Pretty In Pink reunion with most, if not all the cast members and director John Hughes on board, I am there like white on rice.

I don't care if it's been twenty years.
I don't care if this is probably even more bittersweet for the actors then it is for me.
I don't give a damn that I have NO IDEA what the plot will be.

I'm just psyched, in theory, so let me have this moment.

Now, I don't know about you, but Pretty In Pink 2 just isn't cutting it for me. So, what do you think the title should be?

And, if you're a fan, pitch me a plot line while you're at it...
Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Bored Minds Create Great Bulletin Boards

Blogger Meet-Up Going once, going twice...

At the beginning of the month, I proposed another one of my infamous contests. This one was bred out of sheer laziness and/or time restrictions. Still, I wanted help with my bulletin board and many of you came to the rescue with some pretty nifty ideas. Here are the highlights of a few of my faves:

Nat said: "This might be cheesy, but how about "Swing Into Spring"? You could do a tree with a large branch and a swing hanging from it. The "leaves" on the tree could be the kids' work."

Kerrie said: "Ask each kid to draw a picture of a spring flower with their face in the middle. Then, you can plant all the flowers on a big green hill with a big blue sky. Your part? Sky, grass, sun, and maybe some catchy little title that I'm not clever enough to come up with myself."

Gigem also had some cute Cinco De Mayo ideas, but he OR she remains the mystery blogger, so I can't really hook 'em up with a link.

In fact, many of you had great ideas, but there were words thrown around like "migration" and "research" and those people, unfortunately, had no idea of the capabilities of the group I am working with.:(

Ultimately though, I went with something along the lines of what La Nina suggested: "April is National Poetry Month. Perhaps the kids can write their own poems to put on the board? Then you could pick one of your own favorites and design the board artistically around that..."

So here you have it:

The Banner Says: "Spring Is...In Like A Lion And Out Like A Lamb!"

I had the children brainstorm a list of things that reminded them of spring. Then I had them narrow down the list to their five favorite things. I modeled what a sample poem might look like. Most of them handled the assignment surprisingly well. I did find it a bit ironic that some were stuck in writing full sentences mode when they didn't necessarily have to. It figures the one time I don't need them to, it finally catches on.

Here is a sample of one of my faves. She's such a talented writer, she didn't need any help from me:

"God first gave us spring.
I watch flowers grow.
I see butterflies on flowers and I try to catch them.
Outside it smells good, fresh, relaxing and calm.
Bees are on the flowers and it is hard to ignore them."

And without further adieu, a brief tribute to La Nina over at Difficult By Design.

The obvious must be stated first. La Nina is another Jersey blogger, just like yours truly. Of course, this immediately ups her coolness factor. In La Nina's own words:
"I'm a Jersey girl without the big hair or the accent (well, most of the time anyway), but with all of the bad driving and the penchant for weekly manicures.Oh, and I'm an interior design student. That's how all of the weird terminology comes into play."

La Nina is relatively new to the blogging world, Difficult By Design starting circa September 16, 2004. In her first, very informative post, she tells us how the blog (and herself) got their names. In short, she wanted a blog name that paid homage to who she was, but that wasn't being used already. Thus, Difficult By Design was born.

As for the La Nina name, there are a few different contributing factors:

a. My parents, both East Coast WASPs by birth, met in Spain and would call me "La Nina" once every few years as I was growing up, particularly when I was little and they wanted to talk about me in my presence.

b. Nina from 24 is my favorite character on television.

c. My boyfriend, Ryan McGee, has referred to me as "The Girl" on his blog. I am the Dark Lady of the Web, it seems.

d. I like the idea of my name having possible weather effects. Okay, maybe it's due to global warming but I accept power in all forms.

In my own words, La Nina's blog is a blog after my own heart. Sometimes she writes about work, sometimes she writes about Mad Libs. Basically, her blog is a hodge podge of random things. This teacher thinks she fits in with the AOGB crew very nicely and has made some very useful contributions in class.

So to the rest of you, don't feel so bad. I mean, did you really expect a person with the word DESIGN in their blog title to come up with anything short of greatness in a contest such as this?:)
Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Tell It To Me Tuesday: "The Butcher, The Baker, The Candlestick Maker"

Now that we are all grown-ups, we have our chosen careers. Some of us are just beginning while others of us have been tooling around for years. There are even those folks that have been around the block a few times and dabbled in a few different professions.

But what I want you to do right here is go back. Waayyy back. Back into time. Remember what it was like when you were a kid. What did you want to be when you grew up? I'm talking if you could be anything. If money, practicality hell even reality were not factors.

What would you be and why?
Sunday, April 03, 2005

Wouldn't You Like To Meet A Blogger Too?: Update

Back in February, I put out feelers for a possible blog meet. Then I mentioned it again, here.

The good news is the blog meet is still a very real possibility. The bad news is that Haloscan seemingly ate all of the comments left by interested parties.:( (By the way, is there somebody out there who can tell me why AND how to fix this for the future?)

Here's the info we do have as of now:

Tentative When: Saturday, June 25th
Location: Atlantic City, NJ

I have been talking to both Judy and Kate about this for a few weeks now. In fact, Kate is just coming off of another very successful Jersey Blogmeet so it's good to have someone who knows what the hell they are doing on board.

What I need to hear from you is:

1. How does that date sound to you?
2. We can work out specifics for AC, but really, we picked that location becaue we meet up virtually wherever and there is the possibility to turn it into a mini vacation for the people who are coming from out of town.
3. Any ideas/input/questions you may have.
4. A 500 word or less essay on why you want to attend.
5. Just kidding about #4, unless of course, you want to do that.

Ok, since Haloscan "ate my homework" last time, I suggest all who are still interested (or even those who are interested for the first time) to email me directly at

Oh and if you are interested, and would like to post something about the meet up on your site, that would be neato. As they say, the more the merrier!

P.S.- I forgot that I backup my files each month. Don't ask me how I forgot this. Anyway, I do have the old comments after all. Still, it's always good to take a recount.:)
Saturday, April 02, 2005

A King's Ransom

To Whom It May Concern:

Listen. We reinstated "The King" just like you asked. Now can we please have our Hootie back?


The Ruckus Family
Friday, April 01, 2005

We Finally Got A Piece Of The Pie

In a post long ago and far, far away (well, not really, but it sounded catchy) I asked for fresh blog meat and many of you delivered. Blogs you suggested were to meet your stamp of approval. You wanted them to be included in the AOGB stable of artists and you were willing to go to the mat for them. In some cases, "them" was actually YOU as you wrote comments recommending, yourself. This took ingenuity and creativity and did not go unnoticed by the motley crew over here at AOGB. And by "crew" yes I mean me. But I am a Gemini so I feel I can freely refer to myself as multiple people when I so desire.

While all of the blogs were interesting and diverse, one new blogger caught my eye. This is Ms. Catherine Ryan over at The Fountain Pen. Catherine has an interesting, thought provoking blog with an equally fitting title. When you visit her, don't get discouraged by the design. Catherine had a kickass template, but had some technical difficulties that she addressed via a post, which I find is always a nice quality in a blogger. After all, hiccups are to be expected, but it's those "here today, gone tomorrow" bloggers that really irk me. Luckily Catherine isn't one of those bloggers.

The Fountain Pen is a good blog because the writer is flexible, and doesn't write on one single topic. It's great if you blog about one subject particularly well, but personally I find it even better if I click on your link with no idea of what I'll find on the other side. A little suspense, even in the blogosphere, never hurt anybody.

There was another reason I chose to add Catherine to the bunch. This was because she too took an interest in this site. While this is by NO MEANS a prerequisite to be blogrolled, it helps to know the blogger I'm trying to find out more about in turn, is interested in knowing more about me. To me that's the stuff great blogging relationships are built upon, not unlike great cities being built upon rock and roll like Starship, or Jefferson Starship or whatever those guys were going by in those days said.

Which brings me to the blogger who brought Catherine to me. This is the one, the only Tommy over at Striving For Average. Don't let the name fool you, Tommy is far from your average blogger. Sure he likes to revel in mediocrity, but his blog is really head and shoulders above the rest. Recently having gone through a redesign, Striving For Average is a fun, always "out there" read. And no, Tommy won't be offended by the fact that I referred to his blog as "out there". In fact, if you are, you probably don't belong with AOGB because here, different= good. Another reason Tommy is a great blogger is because he takes the time to visit your blog. Well maybe not YOURS, but he would, if you asked. He also goes that extra step, personally responding to comments left on his blog. In fact, I don't think there's been a comment I left yet that's gone unaddressed. Sure, it's somewhat creepy that Tommy is seemingly always there, but, it's also, in a way, oddly comforting. He's a regular here at the AOGB diner and his ship, I'm happy to say his ship has finally come in.

Finally, a note to the rest of you. Don't feel discouraged if I didn't pick your blog to blogroll. In fact, I enjoyed this "contest" so much, I'll probably do it again in a few months. New blogs, like developments, are cropping up all the time. I love finding new places to visit, even if they're only new to me. And it's only fair to let the New Kids On The Block get their turn in the sun every so often. If you don't believe me, just ask Joey Mcintyre.



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