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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, September 29, 2006

Grease Is The Word

There's a funny little trend going around in fast food establishments across the country. While fast food has been all about trying to remain super fast, it also has been trying to factor in an element of substance.

Wendy's. McDonalds. Burger King. These aren't the greasy spoon establishments we once grew to know and love. Oh sure they still serve up heart attacks via things like the quadruple bypass cheeseburger and the cholesterol kickin' chicken, but taking their places right beside to these caloric nightmares are healthier options such as savory salads and low fat pitas. It's enough to make Mr. Roy Rogers himself turn over in his grave.

Fast food places aren't creating options like these because they suddenly care about your and your health, they're doing it because they have to. If they can fool you in to coming in to buy the Happy Meal for little Jenny and manage to wrangle you into getting a veggie burger for you too, it's all good to them.

But for most people, entering a fast food restaurant and choosing the healthy option is easier said than done. It's like a diabetic walking in to a candy store and knowing there are sugar free candies, but the diabetic still wants their good, old-fashioned mallomars. Sometimes having options only further complicates matters. Before you knew what you should have been eating, but it wasn't there to eat it, so you didn't feel as guilty picking up something bad for you in a pinch. Suddenly, fast food restaurants are trying to meet you halfway. Now in a slow, torturous chain of events you can watch your child savor his thick vanilla shake and whopper while you munch on your apple slices, wishing they were fries.

And then there are the fast food places that are pathetically throwing us a bone. Take Kentucky Fried Chicken for example. With all of the fast food restaurants trying so hard to pander to health conscious eaters, KFC might as well stand for Kan't F**cking Care. Oh sure, they can throw you a fried chicken salad, but it's still FRIED CHICKEN PEOPLE! Adding all the greens in the world isn't going to change that!

I always wondered about semi-health conscious people who literally eat up these new menu options. If you are really so health conscious, why are you eating fast food anyway? It's like the diet cokers who eat everything else unhealthy- as if the calories of your massive roast beef sandwhich will get washed away by that wonderful, magic elixir.

It reminds me of the mom of a good friend I had growing up who, like most people, wanted to lose weight without really having to work for it. Luckily (or unluckily depending on how you look at it) everyone, including the children, could have stood to lose a few pounds. So she went out and bought a bunch of those Slim Fast shakes that were all the rage in the eighties. Only thing is she'd serve up Slim Fast shakes with a slew of non slimming options. My favorite was lunchtime. Cheese filled hot dogs with a slide of Slim Fast. Nothing says null and void better than nacho cheese.

Now me, I'm a bit of an enigma. This is because I've never been too tempted by fast food restaurants. I don't really crave Burger King and could live my life content in the knowledge I'd never have to set foot into a Checkers or a White Castle ever again. So when I do go to places like these, I actually want to order a healthier option, not because I'm particularly watching my weight, but because I actually enjoy it. So I might go to McDonalds and order their new grilled chicken salad, but more than likely I'll also add an order of too good to be true french fries. Doing anything else is is just downright sacrilege.

So if you're a fast food lover who is trying to maintain a healthy diet, but is living off of fried food fumes, please take a step back and realize just what it is you're doing. You wouldn't go to Disney World not to see Mickey, would you?!

Stop the madness order your cheeseburger, or take my advice- get out of paradise.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006

This Woman's Work

Since teachers are in the business of learning, it makes sense that they understand the importance of continuing to learn, too. This is why all teachers in the state of New Jersey are required to accrue 100 professional hours of teacher development.

The hours can be attained through a variety of ways. If you have a professional day that your school provides, usually those hours go to the total. Throughout the year you might also do committee work or be assigned specific workshops to attend that are tailored to what you teach. You also can sign up for and submit for workshops on your own that are being taught at neighboring Holiday Inn's or higher institutions of learning. Since they know that all teachers have to fulfill this requirement, most of the time requests are granted.

So to review, unless you work for some God awful district that has no funding or you've been using "the dog ate my homework" like excuses to get out of going to the workshops provided for you, reaching that goal of 100 hours in five years is really not that hard at all.

Instead the hard part can be attending the workshops themselves.

For one thing, it's a hassle for any teacher to be absent, ever, so much so that sometimes when you're sick you'll do what you tell the kids not to do and go in, just to avoid creating more work for yourself by being out. Because when you are absent, no matter what the reason, you are responsible for keeping the classroom running on automatic pilot. The first workshop I was signed up for this year was a mere six days into the school year. There is no automatic pilot switch by the sixth day. There are no responsible students to turn to in a pinch. Everyone is on page one. Handing over any power at this point is doable, but pointless.

But there's another, bigger reason why attending these workshops is so frustrating. This is because everytime I attend one I walk in feeling confident, but I walk out feeling incompetent.

Chances are no matter what your line of work, if you've attended one workshop, you've attended them all so I won't bore you with the details here. But as I'm sure you know, no matter how interesting the workshop it's usually a lot of sitting. You sit, sit and sit some more. And the seats are always only second to being the most uncomfortable chairs you've ever sat in. First place goes to those nasty seating arrangements you have to withstand during jury duty.

Suddenly your day is built around 10 minute breaks and the bagels, juice and coffee they generously provide you with at the beginning of the seminar. By the way, a word of advice about the complimentary breakfast. If your company is nice enough to provide you with some nourishment during your journey, take it and savor it. For no longer does that bagel become about nourishment, nor the juice about replinishment. They become a tool for survival, tried and true distractions in your hour of need which believe me, you will need.

The only other saving grace at workshops like these is if you are lucky enough to attend one with a coworker or two, preferably ones you like and aren't seperated from because of some stupid ice breaker game the instructor wants you to play. Going on a slight tangent here for a second so indulge me. What is up with those games anyway? They're all fine and good up until the age of 18, but breaking ice with strangers I'm never going to see again as an adult seems silly. Not to mention the fact (but I am anyway) that if you're a teacher and you still don't know how to talk to new people in a professional setting, something we do every day, chances are teaching was never the right profession for you.

But back to being lucky enough to know someone. This is always good. Last year I attended a day long workshop with a few co-workers of mine. While we were all on good terms, I was happy to have gotten the chance to sit next to my one co-worker for the day. I was happy it was her because she was receptive to the techniques used to "stay alive" in situations like these. It's like church. Things that are only rather amusing in everyday life become downright hysterical when you're confined to small spaces for long periods of time. Note taking is another great coping mechanism. In between the notes you should be taking, you can also swap notes back and forth about those notes. It's horrible but true, very rarely will I look back on any professional notes taken at meetings like these, but I will remember the running joke we had about the guy who had donut on his cheek and somehow, months later, that will still make me chuckle.

Of course teachers everywhere who utilize such techniques realize the irony in doing so. As most teachers will tell you, as adult students, we are living, breathing examples of what we want our very own students not to do while we're teaching. Random note passing? Talking while the teacher is talking? Daydreaming? All this and more is cause for public scolding by elementary teachers everywhere and yet many of them, when the tables are turned, are far from being shining examples as students. In fact, one of the few good reasons to attend workshops like these is to remind ourselves how bored some of the eight year olds who stare up at us must really be in the middle of learning what energy is. Those reminders keep us humble although amazingly they won't keep us from yelling "What are you doing?!" when some kid starts doodling SpongeBob in his math notebook.

From a teaching perspective, the content of most of these workshops is pretty self explanatory stuff. In teaching day to day, there is no reinventing the wheel. Sure trends come and go, but in the end, you close your classroom door and teach what works for you. Any teacher who has moved past the point of experimentation or tweaking lessons has burned out. The way kids learn is evolving and you have to evolve with it but for the most part, you don't need someone who more than likely ISN'T in the classroom on a daily basis tell you how to go about doing it.

Instructors of workshops are well intentioned men and women, but they always provide you with "best case scenario" situations. The videos they come armed with always feature the most well behaved class, and the techniques taught are built around classes like these or around the premise that there is help in every teacher's classroom who is in attendance that day.

But the reality is usually far different. Most teachers don't have classes that are full of Stepford kids who do everything they are told. Many teachers are juggling many things at any one time and the videos and testimonials never speak to that. So everything they tell you have to take with a grain of salt, otherwise you'll end up beating yourself up for how horrible a teacher you are like I used to do before I knew any better.

The basics in teaching don't change. There will always be reading, writing and arithmetic. But the way we teach it changes, and that's what these workshops are all about. And everytime at these workshops, without fail, I look over at a co-worker as I realize we are not doing what they are teaching us to do or we do it completely the opposite way. The beauty is no one is right or wrong, but when you're stuck in a room with little or no windows for 5 to 6 hours, and the bagel is dwindling and the jokes have run dry, you have nothing to do but see how your teaching methods rackup against those of your colleagues.

It's like a slow, Chinese water torture. Within a few short hours you go from laughing and rolling your eyes about being taught how to do exactly what you are already doing, to walking out questioning everything you've ever done. This is when I begin to think the attendance of these well-intentioned workshops are evil. It isn't until we are back in our safety zone at school and having a follow up conversation about the workshop that reality kicks in. Everybody feels that way and slowly confidence reemerges.

In the end, it's all about taking the information handed to you at any type of workshop with a grain of salt. Preferably the salt will come on an everything bagel and a coffee with two sugars and milk.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Tell It To Me Tuesday "The Sweet Smell of..."

I hope you'll join me in welcoming my (say it with me) new renter for the week, Sparks and Butterflies. No matter when I accept a new renter, I don't do a write up about them until the next time I update. It's just what I do, or don't do as the case may be. So I found it wonderfully fitting that Sparks and Butterflies should get her write up on a Tell It To Me Tuesday since she is a frequent player. So fly on over to her place when you get the chance!

Before we get in to this week's TITMT, first please read and respond to a quick note from our sponsors on guest posting status here at AOGB...I didn't get strong feedback either way on how people felt about making Thursdays a guest post day. So I went ahead and took matters into my own hands. The remainder of the guest posts I currently have will be featured as guest posts for the month of October. If throughout the month of October people seem to like this feature, I will continue it into November. But for now, new posts (with the exception of Thursday) will resume.

As humans we are lucky enough to have senses; five glorious ones to be exact. Today though I want to hear all about the wonderful sense of smell.

What are some of your favorite smells and is there a reason attached to why you like them so much? And in a two parter, what smells can't you stand and why? (try not to pick the obvious ones we all can agree upon here, k?)

1. Answer this question ON YOUR BLOG and THEN link back to it via the box below.
2. Leave a comment letting me know you played along.
3. If you are interested in adding the box to your site, please visit Mister Linky.
4. If you have any questions or you're confused just ASK!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Write Back Weekend "Stop Me If You Think That You've Heard This One Before"

Let me start off by saying that this week's TITMT proved to be uniquely challenging. This is because there was a bit of a grey area in terms of the question I asked. For me, the most underrated albums didn't necessarily have to come from underrated artists. In fact, in my mind, underrated artists are almost a separate category altogether.

Obviously I stress out over the small things entirely too much.

For instance, there are many great artists out there that are known for their "one great album", while other equally, if not better albums, might be floating around out there. And then there are what I like to call the "monkey in the middle" type artists who most people know of, but don't know an entire album by them.

Still, for better or worse, here is the list I came up with...

1. Jude Cole- A View From 3rd Street- I am always thrilled when I hear other people equally appreciate the albums or artists that I think no one has heard of. Case in point with this question. Ms. Cornelius also posted a Jude album to her list, too. She chose Start The Car, the album released after this one, which was another great choice. Really anything by Jude didn't get the credit it deserved. Both albums are great from start to finish so really, you can't go wrong with either one.

2. Jellyfish- Bellybutton- Jellyfish was a band from the nineties, that dressed like it was the seventies. With only two albums under their belt in their short-lived career, (this and Spilt Milk) Jellyfish's music managed to leave such a lasting impression that I haven't found a band nearly as inspiring in the 15 or so years since. They took everything great about the pop sensibility of bands like The Beach Boys and Badfinger and made it into a blend that they called their own. I hear that the lead singer, Andy Sturmer, is producing bands in Japan now which unfortunately, is of no use to me. To say they were underrated and went out before their time is really underestimating what they were all about.

3. Melissa Lefton- self-titled premiere album This album above all others deserves to make a list like this because in reality, you couldn't have heard it, because I don't think it was ever really released. At the time it was supposed to come out though I was writing a slew of album reviews for online sites. This is how I received an advance copy of the album that was never meant to be. I instantly fell in love with Lefton's sugary pop with purpose. On the surface her songs seemed non sensical, but they actually were a lot deeper than most pop music out there. Lefton cheerfully sang of topics like joining a cult and producing that one hit song for the masses. If only other people could have heard them, too.

4. The Party- Self Titled- In the late eighties I was really bummed because I didn't get the Disney Channel. See at the time, you had to pay extra to watch Disney and my parents didn't want to do that. So I had to do without getting my fix of shows like Kids Incorporated and Mickey Mouse Club unless I was over a friend's house.

The next best thing to being at a friend's house was the free, 4 day weekends they would offer in an attempt to entice you to subscribe to the Disney Channel. This is when I'd get a taste of what I was missing and ultimately, how I discovered The Party. The Party was a group of good looking, talented teens taken from the money making factory known as the new Mickey Mouse Club. These teens were "spunoff" into an entity all their own called The Party. They only had one real radio "hit" called Summer Vacation, but the albums they made were surprisingly catchy and enjoyable. While I enjoyed all of their albums (I think they released four in total), the first one always holds the most special place in my heart as being the best.

5. Danielle Brisebois- Arrive All Over You- Although Danielle Brisebois never quite made it to household name status, she had a whole other life as child actress on All In The Family before she took a stab at being a pop princess in the mid nineties. Her album and image had echoes of post Martika or pre Alanis. It was full of emotionally titled songs like Welcome to Love (Now Go Home) and the tune Just Missed The Train, rerecorded by Kelly Clarkson some years later. Danielle attempted to rise from obscurity by teaming up with our next artist, but if they're also on the list, we all know how that story goes.

7. New Radicals- Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too- The New Radicals, not unlike the Gallagher brothers from Oasis, were legends in their own minds. Actually, if we're being technical, there were really no New Radicals, just one guy, Gregg Alexander, and some background singing courtesy of Danielle Brisebois. Why he chose to take a name that signified their being a band when really he ran the whole show is just another indication of the larger than life persona he gave off. Unlike many of the albums on this list, you probably know New Radicals because they played their song Get What You Give into the ground. But Alexander had a reputation for having a big mouth and a big ego and the rest of the album never really got off the ground. It's a beautiful collection though of songs that are unique in both style and lyrical content. Unfortunately, if you only know the song Get What You Give you really are missing out on what the New Radicals were all about.

8. Michael Morales- Thump- Throughout my youth, I was notorious for hearing a song I semi-liked once and buying the whole album the next day. Sometimes I'd even browse the bargain bins and purchase cheap artists I've never heard of before, just because. At the time the local radio station was playing a song by Morales called I Don't Wanna See You that I loved. So I went out and bought the album and released I loved the whole damn thing. Of course I have no idea what happened to Morales since then. It's a bit cheesy at spots, sorta like the album Donnie Osmond never released during his Soldier of Love comeback, but it's enjoyable from start to finish. Now how many albums can you say that about, really?

9. Letters To Cleo- Wholesale Meats and Fish- The story behind this album is a unique one. This is because I purchased the album after hearing and loving the song Awake but the album itself I didn't really get into all that much. But then a few years later I went to college and Letters To Cleo was the band that was coming to our campus. So I dusted off my copy of Wholesale Meats and purchased their other releases, and realized how much I was missing. For a few years there I had misguided dreams of being a cute rocker chick. Though I knew nothing about singing, I still attibuted the kind of rock girl I wanted to be to my love affair with all things Letters To Cleo. I was thrilled to see them show up in one of my favorite movies from the nineties, Ten Things I Hate About You. I suppose you could say they "peaked" there, but for me, the beat goes on forever.

10. Athenaeum- Radiance- In my opinion, the nineties were riddled with a lot of great smaller artists that never got their fair shake. While opportunities for more artists to make it were expanding, the aveues to get your music out there were not quite on the same page yet. The download age was yet to be in full swing and the My Space revolution had yet to be information superhighwayed. This is how bands like Athenaeum got lost in the shuffle. The song that did it for me was What I Didn't Know. It was the song that was meant to be played out in every college bar across the country, but it never quite reached that status, as the album also never got the credit it deserved.

11. Expose- What You Don't Know- The inclusion of this choice was just as much for nostalgia purposes as it was for it being a great album. I was "down the shore" as we say in Jersey when I first discovered this album. What You Don't Know (not to be confused with Athenaeum's What I Didn't Know) was a hit on the radio at the time and Expose, a band that had a reputation already. But the album itself was much more than just What I Didn't Know. Most noteably for me was the beautifully sad Your Baby Never Looked Good In Blue, among others. If you've never heard the tune, you don't know what you're missing.

12. Lauren Christy- Breed- The story of how I discovered this album is not all that different from the story of how I discoved Melissa Lefton. I received this album to review, but was surprised when I gave it a listen. This was because prior to this album, Lauren Christy seemed to be going the adult contemporary route, while this album was a marked departure into alternata rock chick territory. Since she didn't really have any sort of reputation to uphold, the transformation was probably not noticed by many. Yet despite where loyalties lied, Christy never made it in either venue, which is really a shame. Breed is a great pop song along the lines of Meredith Brooks Bitch, but my favorite tune is the anthemic I Want What I Want.

13. Peter Cetera- World Falling Down- I'm bound to get hell for at least one of the choices on this list, so why not just go ahead and call myself out on it before you guys can? Say what you will about Chicago and Peter Cetera, but if you like a sappy love song every once awhile, he's one of the best. World Falling Down is a great album, but it was a quiet release from a man who spent years in the forefront.

14. Greenberry Woods- Rapple Dapple-- I first discovered The Greenberry Woods when they opened up for the one and only time I got to see Jellyfish. Looking back on it now I had no idea what a great concert I would remember that as. I remember being blown away by the short set of consistently good songs. After a second release a few years later entitled Big Money Item and a few featured songs in angst ridden moments on shows like Party of Five, Greenberry Woods eventually disappeared into the forest. At some point some or all of the boys reemerged as a new band called Splitsville, but that project didn't have the same spark as Greenberry Woods did for me.

15. Collapsis- Dirty Wake- This album will always hold a special place in my heart. This is because it is one of the last albums I can actually remember buying before I switched over to the wonderful world of downloading. I don't remember how I found them, probably from their song Automatic, but they fall into the group I was talking about earlier with Atheanaeum of great alt rock bands from the nineties that never got a fair chance.

So there you have it. Fifteen great albums from fifteen great artists, some of whom you may have once known, others you may have never known if it hadn't of been for this post. I can say with completely certainty that this list is just touching the surface of all the great, unsung musical albums of our time. For the most part, they were like the musical James Dean of their time--gone all too soon.
Friday, September 22, 2006

Guest Post: Getting Lost Never Felt So Good

As the guest posts begin to wind down, I have an important question for AOGB readers. At first I thought I was going to have to extend guest posting into October because the feature got such positive feedback. But then some early birds as I like to call them seemed to bite off more than they could chew and now it looks like that may not have to happen.

Which brings me to my question. At the time I was thinking about making Thursdays in October "Guest Post Thursdays" considering I rarely post something new on Thursdays anyhow. What I want to know from you is how you feel about it. Depending on the feedback I get here or via email (, I'll see if it's a good idea or not. If you want to guest post and haven't gotten the chance to yet, this feature would be a great way to do just that.

While I wait to hear how you feel about future guest posting prospects, let's get back to the reason why you're all here- the guest post that's here now. Today's post comes to us courtesy of David over at The Musings of David Amulet. I love to read David's blog because he takes quirky news stories and puts an interesting spin on them. You never know what you're gonna get on any given day when you visit David. I dig that.

I must say that the ideas expressed in this post do not necessarily express those here at AOGB.:) I also intentionally held off on posting this guest post from David for awhile now. In a minute, you'll too see why.

One Wednesday night sometime in Fall 2004, I discovered a new show simply called "Lost." And for the first time in a long time, I was hooked. And I'm looking forward to the new season more than a man should.

No, the program did not rekindle a Party of Five fetish-although, for the record, I would rather be stranded on the island with Jennifer Love Hewitt than Matthew Fox.

Nor am I so enamored with the physical form of the show's female lead character, Kate, that I suffered withdrawal symptoms when I missed my weekly cleavage-cam of the island's most eligible bachelorette-although, for the record, I would rather be stranded on the island with Evangeline Lilly than Matthew Fox.

Actually, I would rather be stranded on an island with Jennifer Love Hewitt and Evangeline Lilly than writing this right now.

(End daydream. And...we're back.)

Something rare draws me to "Lost," something a show has not done in years.

Quite simply, it challenges the viewer. It makes you THINK.

The success of the show, frankly, shocked me. After all, insultingly undemanding programs have dumbed us down to the point that we do not expect our multimedia entertainment to spur us to ponder. To question. To think.

Take, as one example (that I'm sure I'll get flak for), "Friends." Millions enjoyed it;; it was feel-good TV--if shallow, vain, two-dimensional creatures make you happy.

For two years now, "Lost" has been different. Despite some trite moments, the writers seem to care about the thinking audience. They put clues in strange places: Hurley's reappearing Lotto numbers, for example. And the mysterious maps and materials in "the hatch."

The writers are actually letting the characters evolve and devolve: witness Jack's up-and-down leadership and Sawyer's one-step-forward, two-steps-back "growth."

And best of all? The Question. It has been on everyone's brain since the crash, and It remains stuck there like a dryer sheet to a sock:

What IS this island?

I have heard some theories-each of them intriguing.

The island is purgatory. The island is Jack's bad dream. The island is a government experiment. Interesting answers, all. Each makes you actually THINK, and each makes you discuss possibilities with friends, family, coworkers, or even convenient nearby

But each of these suppositions are, in turn, wrong, wrong, and wrong.

The way I see it, the island represents the American television viewers' collective brain. And the creators, cast, and crew of "Lost" have crashed smack-ass in the middle of it.

All the demons, all the ghosts, and all the illusions of the island are simply the monsters left over in our heads from the televised crap we have subjected ourselves to for decades.

And it's working. "Lost" has switched our minds on, and we are all the better for it. Which is why I will carry the burden and volunteer to star in the show's first spinoff.

Go ahead, strand me on a remote tropical island with Jennifer Love Hewitt and Evangeline Lilly.

I'll make that sacrifice.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Guest Post: (Classic Peter) Clap!

Since I have so many great bloggers who decided to help a teacher in her hour of need, the guests shall continue for a bit. Today we have a post courtesy of Peter of Peter The minute I stated reading Peter's site I was interested. He writes about a little bit of everything and a hell of a lot about Lauren Graham. Yesterday he wrote all about how he felt about the new fall season. Even though we disagreed at parts, I forgave him. So I hope you go and visit him after reading this, too.

Cut to post...

(aka "Being bossed around by my 8 year old cousin")

So, I'm getting ready to wash the lunch dishes, when she asks me what I had. I try to explain the concoction I made, without really listening she says, "Yes, very clever. So, would you like to come outside and see my hip hop routine from my class?"

She seems excited about showing me, so I agree.

We go outside to the side lawn. She kicks off her shoes and begins to warm up. I take a seat.

When she is ready, she says, "You introduce me."

So, I introduce her.

During my introduction, she decides that her actual name displeases her in some way. I sit for 2 minutes or so until she decides on her new name. ("Katie Martell" for some reason.)

We try again a few times, while I mess up the name on purpose. (I'm like that.)

Then she decides that she wants to run in from the side "like a star."

(I couldn't make this up if I tried.)

So, finally I get the name right and she saunters out to the middle of the lawn -- mouthing "Clap!" to me as she goes.

The routine begins. And it is kind of cute. She dances around for probably 4 minutes and then does a jumpy thing. So, I assume this is the end and begin applauding.

"I'm not done!"

I sit on my hands and the dance continues.

I nearly plotzed at the first of four appearances of jazz hands!

At around the seven minute mark she pauses. I ask, "Are you done?"

A terse "No" leads into more dancing.

At about the ten minute mark, I am smelling a rat.

"You are making this up!"

"Nuh uh!"

"This is from your class?"

"Yuh huh!"

"It's too long! You'd never remember all this."

She does two quick moves and then another jumpy thing.

"There, that's the end!" she says defiantly.

I clap and tell her it was lovely. I try to return to my dishes, but she isn't having any of it.

"Can I show you something?"

"No," I reply.

"I'm going to show you anyway."

So, she runs up to the other end of the lawn. Then she starts running and doing somersaults all over the place. However, she decides to turn it up a notch.

"Peter, you are going to be the judge."


"AND you are going to have invisible judges on either side of you. You'll whisper with them when I am done."

I roll my eyes.

She returns to the far end of the lawn. Then she begins running and does another somersault. When she gets up, she looks at me for the score. I start to speak, but she cuts me off.

"Ask them!!"

So, I actually mime talking to the other judges.

She says, "Well?"

I point to my left and say, "Well, this guy thinks you suck."

She nodded seriously. Absorbing the feedback. Then she says, "And what about the other guy?"

We three judges have to score a number of different moves.

She and I even argue about what you get when you add 9.2 and 8.3 together.

And I quote, "No... No... NO... NO!!!! Oh wait, yes you are right."

Apparently tired of the competing, she walks up to me and says, "I need a beauty break. Super stars need beauty breaks, Peter." And she starts towards the back door. She stops when she gets there and turns back, "And I'm going to use the bathroom too."
Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Tell It To Me Tuesday "You Should Hear How They Talk About You"

I can't believe I almost forgot to pimp my new renter! That's what happens when you accept a bid on a Sunday afternoon and don't publish again until Tuesday morning!

I want to say that it was another tough week because every bid I had was from someone who has bid previously, but has yet to rent here. They are a determined bunch of tenants I tell ya and tenacity will get you everywhere! After some careful deliberation, please welcome The Foo Logs to the AOGB family. There's a little something for everyone over at Foo's place and this is why I chose his, or her, blog. Unfortunately Foo isn't exactly the sort of name that lends itself to gender specificity so I'll leave that to you, or Foo, to decide.

So if you're a visitor, please give it a click for old time's sake. I notice my renters typically get a lot of exposure, but very little actual clicks. Come on! Most of us have rented to others or had others rent from us. So have a heart, give a click.

On to the question...

The name of the game last week was obscure actors. It worked so well I thought why not keep the same theme, but extend it to music? So today's TITMT question is this...

What are the best albums you believe most people have never heard?

I think most players here now are regulars, but here are the directions in case, just in case there are new, confused visitors:

1. Answer this question ON YOUR BLOG and THEN link back to it via the box below.
2. Leave a comment letting me know you played along.
3. If you are interested in adding the box to your site, please visit Mister Linky.
4. If you have any questions or you're confused just ASK!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Write Back Weekend "Don't I Know You From Somewhere?"

When I first thought of this week's TITMT I thought I'd give a shout out or two to our cinematic underdogs. But then I thought about it for a little bit longer. Character actors, though largely unnoticed in terms of recognition, just might be the luckiest actors working in the business. Think about it. They produce quality work on a steady basis and no one is filming them coming out of Starbucks at 8am in the morning.

Plus most of them also look like everyday people, thus why they make such great character actors to begin with. There are no embarrassing cellulite or makeup free pictures of them floating around the internet. With these guys (or gals) what you see is what you get. In order to make my list, I thought of actors and actresses that most people know, but don't know they know. The name might not ring any bells, but once you see them you realize whatever it is you are watching just went up two or three notches.

Of course the goal of most great character actors is not to revel in obscurity forever. Just look at people like Parker Posey, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeremy Piven or the current reigning champ of underrated character actors to make the cross over, Paul Giamatti who replaced David Paymer as the King of Whatshisfaces.

Without any further deliberation, here are my nominees:

1. Jane Lynch- Jane Lynch has carved out a niche for herself in the comedic category. Namely was at her most awesome in Best In Show a movie that is actually overflowing with great character actors and is currently cultivating a new following with Lifetime's quirky, Lovespring International. But if you look at her resume, she spent quite a few years playing more serious bit parts on shows like Dawson's Creek, Felicity and Party of Five. Most of the time she played mothers or doctors, or both. Regardless of what she is doing, it's usually fantastic.

2. Larry Miller- Larry Miller has made a great career out of fast talking, nervous Nelly type characters. He's perfect as the sleazy insurance man who deep down feels pathetic. He's also perfect as the smarmy guy you get stuck on an elevator with who just. won't. shut. up. My favorite role of his though is probably the time he played the overprotective dad in Ten Things I Hate About You. For once he lost the smarminess, but kept the kookiness. Regardless he's excellent in all that he does.

3. Lili Taylor- While Lili Taylor has been working steadily as an actress in the business for several years now, in large part she still goes rather unnoticed. This makes me mad. For when they write Taylor's obit one day, I feel like her career is going to be a string of near miss successes. She is the perfect example of a character actress who is *this* close to breaking out of the mold. The first time I saw her was in Mystic Pizza playing opposite the recent great character actor breakout, Vincent D'Onofrio. Shortly after that I watched Say Anything and laughed and cried as a result of her tortured performance as Corey who wrote a zillion songs about her ex just to prove how "over" him she really was. And in the trifecta that sealed the deal for me, she starred opposite the late, great River Phoenix in Dogfight, a movie where she was unafraid to shed any conventional definitions of beauty to tell a wonderful story. There were rumors swirling for years that she was going to play Janis Joplin in the biopic that has still yet to be made. Not making it with her I think is one of the biggest cinematic mistakes, ever.

4. Christopher McDonald- There was at least a good ten year stretch in the nineties where you were hard pressed to watch a movie that Christopher McDonald wasn't in.The first movie I ever saw him in, however, didn't exactly have "one to watch" written all over his performance. This movie was Grease 2 and McDonald played one of the T-Birds. He did other movies and tv shows in the eighties, but he didn't really hit his stride till some years later when he found himself playing one evil dude after another. He was the dad with bad intentions in Dutch, the mean executive in Happy Gilmore and the sadistic fraternity alum in The Skulls among many, many other things. His last name isn't McDonald for nothing. Just like the fast food restaurant, this guy is everywhere.

5. Liev Schreiber- If character actors were a complex algorithim, Liev Schreiber would be equal to Lili Taylor in the fields of talent, range and underestimation. Every single time I see Liev he has reinvented himself. In the early years of his career he did a lot of great indie work. Then he got his "big" break as the Cotton Weary in Scream. Since then he's gone on to do everything from Hamlet to horror and everything in between. Amazingly this character actor has been nominated for an Emmy and still revels in relative obscurity. It might just be a matter of time though, at least I hope so.

6. David Straithairn- Speaking of nominated actors who still are under the radar, David Straithairn is the best example of this. Not only is Straithairn one of my favorite character actors, he is one of my favorite actors, ever. The first time I remember seeing his work was as a blind man in Sneakers. Within a few years I watched him morph from a good intentioned dad in Big Girls Don't Cry...They Get Even, to a creepy villian in A Dangerous Woman and a wimpy victim in The River Wild. In recent years his string of high profile appearances has intensified, culminating in a lead actor nomination for his performance as Edward R. Murrow in Good Night, and Good Luck. Some might argue he does not belong on a list after being noticed by the Academy, but I beg to differ. Despite the well deserved nomination, I still don't the world has seen Straithairn for the great actor that is he is.

7. Edie McClurg- I actually debated about adding this one to the list because it's been awhile since her heyday, but in the end I realized I had to give credit where credit was due. In the last few years, McClurg has made the transition to voicework, but prior to that, she made a living out of being the annoying next door neighbor and the annoyingly perky secretary . In other words, she made annoying endearing and she's probably laughing--all the way to the bank.

8. Ian Gomez- For awhile there, Ian Gomez was probably most famous for marrying someone who had sudden fame, Nia "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" Vardalos, but before this Gomez was an obscure star in his own right, probably most famous for his role as Javier on Felicity (yes, two, count 'em, two Felicity mentions in one post!). On Felicity, he provided just the right amount of comic relief. When I saw him appear on other things like the late, great Norm Show I was initially surprised to see he didn't have an accent. Incidentally, I think character actors who do accents really well should be a subcategory in itself.

9. David Rasche- David Rasche is a great comedic character actor, the type of guy you just have to look at in order to laugh. In the eighties he got his chance at stardom when he fronted the short-lived sitcom, Sledgehammer! In the vein of the Naked Gun movies, Rasche is great as the guy in charge who has no idea what he is doing. Recently I watched him in an older episode of Monk where he played a dim witted gym teacher. His out there one liner, "Expect me when you least expect me!" reminded of what was so great about the Rasche man all over again.

10. Clint Howard- How anyone can create a list of individuals who've made a living out of blending into the woodwork and not include Clint Howard is beyond me. In the early days of his career, Clint Howard was so bad, he was good. He was in everything, even if it was only for a second. Of course having a famous brother didn't hurt matters much. But as the years progressed something strange happened; Howard became a bonafide obscure star in his own right, more or less reaching a cult like status. He's what every B movie actor of an A lister sibling dreams to be. If you don't believe me, just ask Don Swayze or Jim Hanks.

Honorable mentions go to: Adrienne Shelly, Peter Weller, Vincent Schiavelli, Jim Haynie, Taylor Negron, Robin Tunney, Cole Hauser and Larry Hankin. In traditional great character actor fashion, they just missed getting into the top 10 here.

If you haven't had your fill of great character actors here, check out this site.
Friday, September 15, 2006

Guest Post: Plutonian Mnemonics

I'm happy to report that as of this typing, my random internet outages seem to be restored. I called the cable company and received a robotic voice that was going to attempt to talk me through the restoration. At the same time, we started plugging and unplugging and setting and resetting things out of frustration. Suddenly, the sites returned. So thankfully all systems seem to be go. How they got that way though, I have no freakin' idea.

So now I will be able to visit all of you this weekend without fear I'm missing someone since I was communicating via emailed comments only. So if you hold the line, I promise someone will be with you shortly.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy my latest guest post, courtesy of Dan from Scenes From A Wasted Life (whose site may or may not be down all of a sudden). Incidentally, Dan could also be found as the guest poster yesterday at Courting Destiny where you might recall I guest starred the day before. Damn this blogging thing can get quite incestuous!

Kings play chess on fine-grained sand.

Kingdom. Phylum. Class. Order. Family. Genus. Species.

A mnemonic is a memory aid, often verbal, used to help a person remember something, particularly lists. One common mnemonic for remembering lists consists of an easily remembered word, phrase, or rhyme whose first letters are associated with the list items.

Do you remember learning any of these while you were in school? {Bonus Points if you actually remember what any of these stands for...}

Charlie Tuna Loves Small Cans
Every Good Boy Does Fine
Roy G. Biv
Stala-G-mites versus Stala-C-tites
How I wish I Could recollect Pi Easily Today
Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally
My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas

Oh, wait a second. Hold on. Scratch that last one. Can't use it anymore.

P isn't a planet.

Over the last 70 years, think of the evolution of this mnemonic as this ridiculous argument has waged. My Very Educated Mother Can't Just Serve Us Nine Pizzas with Chovies X-cluded (Including Charon, Pluto's large satellite and UB313, Called Xena by it's discoverer while they were under consideration to be called planets).

A curious characteristic of many memory systems is that mnemonics work despite being (or possibly because of being) illogical, arbitrary, and artistically flawed. "Roy" is a legitimate first name, but there is no actual surname "Biv" and of course the middle initial "G" is arbitrary. Why is "Roy G. Biv" easy to remember? Any two of the three months ending in -ember would fit just as euphoniously as September and November in "Thirty days hath...", yet most people can remember the rhyme correctly for a lifetime after having heard it once, and are never troubled by doubts as to which two of the -ember months have thirty days. A bizarre arbitrary association may stick in the mind better than a logical one. Mnemonics are adjuncts to learning.

One reason for the effectiveness of seemingly arbitrary mnemonics is the grouping of information provided by the mnemonic. Just as US phone numbers group 10 digits into three groups, the name "Roy G. Biv" groups seven colors into two short names and an initial. Various studies have shown that the human brain is capable of remembering only a limited number of arbitrary items. Grouping these items into chunks permits the brain to hold more of them in memory.

So, if for some reason, our brains are conditioned and trained to remember necessary information in arbitrary ways how does applying a logical definition to an illogical term like planet affect our children's ability to remember how our solar system is constucted and give them a relative sense of place in the universe?

What place does the collective culture of our generation have in that

What will our Evil, Educated, or Eager mothers serve us now? Noodles?

I'd rather have had the nine pizzas thank you very much.
Thursday, September 14, 2006

Guest Post: Kids And Funny Accidents

Today's guest post comes to us courtesy of man about town, interviewer extraordinaire, Michael Manning. Hopefully the link will work for you because it is one of the few in the Russian roulette style casualties of my internet connection this week. But back to Manning. (that sounds like a great title for an eighties sitcom, doesn't it?) If you like this story he's got a ton more where that came from...oh and he's a Rick Springfield fan, too. If that doesn't sell you, I don't know what will.

Don't get me wrong. There's nothing funny about an accident. But when a funny mishap occurs where a child cries but is not injured, it's amazing to hear what parents or siblings say in response.

For example, a small kid falls down in their driveway and cries. The parent says: "See? That's what happens when you don't listen!" Oh, how comforting, right? Or worse: "That's what you get when you act stupid. Get over
Well, I have some memories that are actually FUNNY!

Here's one: A little kid on the street I grew up on had a mini-collision with some other small kid as the result of trying to share the sidewalk side-by-side with two bicycles. One fell down onto some soft lawn and other kept riding away for about ten feet before he stopped and came back to help. They were about 5 years old.

Cast of Characters:
1.) Kid who fell down
2.) Kid who yells that his friend fell down
3.) Hurt kid's oldest sister who comes to the rescue
4.) Me coming up on this scene as a kid on my bike.

Hurt Kid: (crying) "Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!"
Kid #2: "Christy! Over here!! Danny just fell off his bike. Hurry!!!"
Sister: (arrives quickly smling to interview brother) "Are you okay?"
Hurt Kid: (shakes his head to indicate "No") "Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!"
Sister: (Calm) "What happened?"
Kid #2: (Eager to submit report): "Um, Danny tried to pass me on the sidewalk right here and our bikes got tangled".
Sister: (to brother) "Is that what happened?"
Hurt kid: (Tears mixed with runny nose): "The handlebar hit me here." (points to his stomach).
Sister: (examines site of injury by lifting T-shirt; it looks okay): "I'll bet that hurt".
Hurt Kid: (calmer now just tears).
Sister: "Did you puncture your intestines?"
Hurt Kid: (Nods head to indicate "Yes", now drying tears; all's well/ends well)
Sister: (Helps him up and we clear the accident scene).

I had a used jalopy bike with a 26 inch frame. As a small kid I could barely reach the pedals. Eager to make it look like a "chopper" I removed the front fender. The bike clanged and made noise with loose parts hitting the fender when I rode over bumps. It was dusk and I had the perfect opportunity to show off to a porch full of neighbors across the street. My father had this great idea of using trash can lids as forms to pour in concrete, let it dry then flip over the concrete circles and line them up along the left side of our house to the sidewalk as a cool modern-looking walkway. It had just rained. Enter Evel Knievel (ME with my ring-a-ding-ding bicycle tooling down 'the path less traveled'). My objective was to throw my handlebars to
the right and skid with the back wheel locked up to come to a cool stop.

Unfortunately, things didn't quite work out that way. The bike slid out from under me when I reached the sidewalk and the result was the sound of metal parts hitting the concrete and this little kid going down on an over-sized bike (Oh, God I wish I had a VHS of this filmed from across the street). I scraped up my right leg after the crash while the porch filled with my neighbors were roaring with laughter. I was in tears hobbling madly into my house for critical care. I think I was too embarrassed to go back and retrieve my bicycle. (Isn't it a scream that I abandoned it there?). The sight of that abandoned crashed bike still cracks me up! I believe my father went out and walked it around the back of the house into the garage.
Last one (I promise). To redeem myself, I challenged the kid across the street whose family was roaring with laughter to a "drag race" along 8 houses. Since he and his pal were using a slick looking three speed bike, I called in a "ringer". My best friend Alan who had the strongest legs and was the fastest runner on the street would drive for me. Without my knowledge, our competitors took one of their father's wrenches and loosened both bolts on my bike that held the front wheel on the forks (are you reading this Paul, Sr. of "American Chopper"?) then thumb tightened them thinking it would be funny if the wheel came off. We met at the house that would become our "Starting Line". I yelled out "Amber, Amber, Amber, Amber, GREEN!" (since we didn't have real dragway lights) and off they were, the slick Raleigh 3 speed and my clunker driven by "Big Al". Midway down the street, the front wheel shifted dangerously left but Al stood up and pumped those pedals harder than ever and we beat them across the "Finish Line". YAY! Idiots. They were upset about losing, but seemed delighted that the front wheel almost came off. Al was spirited, but upset that he could have been badly injured. Our Idiot pals produced the wrench and we tightened the wheel and centered it. VICTORY FOR THE UNDERDOGS!
Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Guest Post: Sam's Summer

As my plight as the blogging world's answer to Stevie Wonder continues, let me attempt to introduce yet another wonderful guest blogger, Courting Destiny. When asked to pitch in, she did so without hesitance, eventhough she was on the verge of taking a blogging break herself. So we cut a deal. She guest blogged for me, I'd guest blog for her. In fact, we even coordinated it. If all systems are go, you should be able to click the link above and view my guest post on the very. same. day. You know those kids who would call each other the night before school and plan their outfits to match? We'll we're the blogging equivalent to that. So go visit her, I mean me, I mean know what I mean...NOW!

This is from the Courting archives I wrote it last February and plan to completely edit it. The story is based on a too true incident. For years people would ring my doorbell expecting me to be the madam who had lived in my apartment. On the rare occasions that they saw me, they would think that I was one of her girls.

If you're one of the three people who have actually read the archives and have a favorite please let me know; when I was in California I was too busy seeing things and photographing everything that I never actually got to sit on a beach. have a hankering to do that now. Also want to photograph Riverside Park in summer, and many other things--all involve not being next to a computer.

"Who are you?" I asked the older man who had been waiting outside my apartment door when I came home from night classes at The New School. My long brown hair was up in a ponytail; I wore a thin cotton summer dress, not too revealing which wasn't usual for me, and brown platform sandals. That summer of Sam, no girl wanted to stand out or look anything like a potential victim. It was hot; it had been hot for weeks and my apartment lacked air conditioning. But I was young and didn't feel heat like most people did.

No matter how fast I walked and I walked like I was dodging bullets because maybe I was, I never sweat. The man's suit jacket was off as was his tie. His thin white shirt glistened from sweat. "Let me in," he said. I looked at him, confused. "Why?" "You're one of Reba's girls. I can tell. You have that sweet school girl look." "Oh, her. She retired down to Florida last year. Sorry, don't know anything about her. I live here now." I wasn't sure if I should say that last part but didn't know what else to say.

Nobody had schooled me in the art of telling men that I wasn't what they thought I was, in this particular situation or others. "Sure you are. I can always tell who Reba's girls are."I was getting angry. I wanted to go in; it had been a long day. I worked in a store in Queens, prime Sam country and the temperature had hit 90 long before noon. My nose was stuffed; I needed a shower. He put on his glasses and examined me from head to toe."Even if you're not one of Reba's girls; you must have sublet the apartment from her. She'd never give it up. Reba's too smart to give up a rent controlled Fifth Avenue apartment." "Look, sir," I said, emphasizing the sir—a title I would never use in real life. "This isn't quite Fifth Avenue, just off it, and the apartment's no longer rent controlled. It's stabilized and my husband and I live here now."

I was wearing a wedding ring though I wasn't married anymore. Anything to make me look unavailable; anything to ward off the evil that ran through New York that hotter than hell summer. I waved the ring in his face. "My husband should be home any minute and he's the jealous type." Lying didn't come naturally to me, but lying about men was something that did come easily that summer. I had put on my street face; the one that could turn men into stone, and he looked at me with a little less arrogance. Nobody lived in the apartment right next to mine then, and a crazy psychiatrist with hair that stuck out all over his body and a look that could frighten Sam and frightened me lived in the other apartment on the first floor. The man who lived above me walked into the building.

"Oh honey, you're home," I screamed to my perplexed, older WASP neighbor. He had recently been listed as one of Manhattan's ten most eligible bachelors. Frankly I thought he was gay because he was always smiling when he saw me and was usually with another man that I thought was his lover and the reason for the smile. Boys and men and anything in between had been smiling at me since I was sixteen. There was something about his smile that almost engaged me.

It was more real; more something, than most male's. But I did think that he was gay, and I wasn't the short haired male with Docksider shoes on, type. My neighbor, Roger, began to understand, stopped heading for the stairs, and came over. He kissed me, a wet passionate icky one that I forced myself to endure. "Honey, this man thinks that I'm one of Reba's girls. You know the madam that lived here before us." Roger was a bit tipsy. He put his arm around me, and said in his lazy WASPY voice so different than my fast somewhere in the North East one; "honey, I keep telling you we should put a sign on the door, 'Reba doesn't live here anymore.'"

"Oh Roger, I keep telling you that's so classless. People will learn eventually." I unlocked my door; Roger followed me in. As I closed the door, the man said; "I don't believe you. Reba would never give up this apartment. You two don't look like you belong together. Is he your appointment?" I almost lost it. "I'm not one of Reba's girls. We've been living here for a year and seven months almost to the day. And Roger and I are very happy. Aren't we sweetie?" I knew that was overkill but couldn't stop myself.

The man handed me his card. "If you ever change your mind." He was a vice president of an oil company. Years later he would become world famous in some now forgotten scandal. "Okay Roger," I said, "you deserve a drink for saving me. God, just thank god it was you and not, the shrink, or Al or that useless cab driver." Al smoked cigars and looked almost old enough to be Roger's father.

The cab driver had been born in the building; well, in a hospital I assumed, but close enough. He lived in an apartment two floors over Roger's, and was famous for bringing in garbage to the building. Stacks and stacks of garbage: Newspapers; magazines; empty boxes; half-filled ones; anything metal. Once I passed his apartment when the door was open, and went into shock. I'm not the neatest person in America but his apartment defined the word Colliyer Brothers.

I had lived in tenements in The East Village with my boyfriend, and had never seen one that sickening. They had all been very clean. Unless I lived in them; I wasn't exactly a natural housekeeper. Though I aspired to be.

I passed the cab driver's apartment while on my way to sleep with a local TV talk show host who lived in the larger apartment next door. He would talk about me to his shrink on the show. My ex-husband, who wasn't working would call and tell me all about the show. It was kind of flattering as he never said anything bad about me. Quite the opposite actually.

Megan lived above Roger. Periodically she would turn the gas on and try to end her life. She always managed to try just before a delivery was scheduled, and just after the piano player she liked to think was her boyfriend dumped her. She was really in love with Roger, and whenever there was a break-in, in the building or a New York Times was missing from an apartment door, she would tell the super that I had done it.

He would laugh as he knew I had separation ideation problems over The New York Times. I was clueless when it came to housekeeping but I liked having company over so it would always look good.

Roger accepted the drink. When I had moved in my father, the almost tea toler, took me to a liquor store and insisted that he buy me a full bar worth of liquor. It was the proper thing to do in 1976 when most people drank hard liquor and smoked.

My family, except for me was perfect. Fun, sociable and never smoked nor drank. I poured Roger a glass of Stoli from a bottle in my ancient almost ice box freezer. It was gross and had to be defrosted every three months with tons of boiling water.

After that summer, I bought a new refrigerator. That would have been sad had it not been so necessary, because I had to take out the wooden Pullman doors. When you walked into my apartment, you walked straight into the kitchen and saw the refrigerator, sink, and ancient stove with an oven that seemed not to have been cleaned since Reba had first moved in. I bought a new convection oven, and never used the real one.

Roger asked where I got the Hunter Ceiling Fans as he had never seen them in the city before. "The Bowery, near where I got the butcher block table and chairs. Hey, do you mind if I…" I walked through the kitchen, past the huge archway into the giant studio, and went to a silver case on the coffee table filled with joints.

Years before, while seeing Jane Fonda in Klute, coming home from work, (yes like Reba's girls), going to sit at the kitchen table with her legs up, and smoking a joint, I thought a woman who could offer people joints and who seemed so satisfied with her own life was the height of feminist sex appeal.

Though Roger was in his late 40's, he'd occasionally buy drugs from the super, who was the building dealer. It was much cleaner that way, and you never felt like you were doing anything illegal. The Rockefeller laws had gone into effect the year before but it didn't affect people like us. The Rockefeller's lived across the street, but I never saw them. I must have passed famous people each day but I could have bumped into Woody Allen in a phone booth and not noticed.

They were my streets and the only place I could get lost in thought was while walking, so I walked everywhere, in all seasons. That summer I had promised my parents I wouldn't walk much by myself at night, and would take cabs everywhere.

All my girlfriends had long brunette hair, and we all felt vulnerable. While we sat at my kitchen table, Roger asked me what if felt like to be a young, brunette girl in the city. "I'm not going to stop going out. I have to wear my hair up; it's too hot not to. No girl's been killed in Manhattan and I work in one of my parents stores in Queens, and they won't let me work past six. It's just a summer job. I'm going to visit my college roommate in Geneva for six weeks in late summer, and fall…."

Roger and I talked through the night and then didn't socialize again for twelve more years. Just before I left for Europe there was a black out with much looting. My sister lived on West 72nd, and it was very rowdy. People threw beer cans at the apartments all night, and I spent the night on the phone talking to her. The next day my best friend Shelby and I hit the Second Avenue Upper East Side bars about noon. They were afraid of food going bad, and both food and drink were on the house. It felt like a snow day in the summer; we didn't think about the neighborhoods that had been looted; we didn't think about much but ourselves and the boys we were dating.

We forgot to feel scared about Sam that day. Like most people we staggered home somewhere around midnight Al's next door neighbor, Mrs. Herrick, passed out in the tiny elevator. She did that often.

While I was in Bern, Sam was captured, and Elvis died. I couldn't really care about that old fat man, but Son of Sam. My god, he looked familiar. He wasn't; just had a look.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Tell It To Me Tuesday "What'shisface"

Ok, so do you want the good news first or the bad news?

I think I'll give you the good news.

The good news is that TITMT is being posted, bright and early. The bad news is that I still can't see this site or a few other usual suspects. My boyfriend says it is a "DNS Server" that is down somewhere. It may come back by itself, it may need to be forced. We even tried flushing the DNS Server. I know, I didn't know you could do that either.

Of course if anyone has any ideas, by all means, pass them along.

But today's TITMT question is the following...

The acting world is full of household names. Harrison Ford. Tom Cruise. Meryl Streep. But today's post isn't about them. Today I want to hear about the actors who are your favorite little known gems. You know, the type that you love to see in a movie, but from time to time even you have to look up their names?

These people are the great character actors and actresses of our time and deserve credit where credit is due-- if only people knew who they were giving credit to.

So go ahead and give me your most wanted. The more obscure the better. Links to pictures are optional. Internet searches for research purposes are to be expected. And I even have a built in motivator to encourage you to comment. If you don't comment, I don't know that you were here. (I can't access the site or the Mister Linky box, remember?) If that doesn't get lurkers out of the woodwork, I don't know what will.

Here are the directions again if you wish to participate on your blog:

1. Answer this question ON YOUR BLOG and THEN link back to it via the box below.
2. Leave a comment letting me know you played along.
3. If you are interested in adding the box to your site, please visit Mister Linky.
4. If you have any questions or you're confused just ASK!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Write Back Weekend "A Touch of Class"

Just an update to let y'all know I still can't access the site. Some of you could apparently access it today. Then Lyndon told me he could get to the site, but couldn't leave a comment. I have no idea what's going on. I never heard of being able to get to certain websites, and not to others. Stay tuned....

This week's I felt really bad charging a lot to rent this space. This is because the renter would be staying at AOGB with a bunch of other guests. It just didn't feel right hosting someone and charging a lot while the host is away. Plus I didn't really want any crazy parties to go down while I was gone or anything like that. But because I made the bid dirt cheap, I got plenty of 'em. This actually served the opposite of my purpose of conserving time. After a long, hard deliberation I chose The Opiate of the Masses. I'd like to tell you more about Poppy, but right now her site isn't loading right on my computer so I'll have to come back and edit this later. Come to think of it, neither is mine so I don't know when you'll see this post. Leave me a message if you do, k?

Part of my somewhat blurry, back to school bulletin board

Going in to the upcoming school year, the only thing I knew to expect was the unexpected.

Your first year teaching you are nervous and overwhelmed. In hindsight, you often realize you have no idea what the hell you were doing. In fact, a lot of teachers say that they feel sorry for the students of a first year teacher because they aren't going to learn much that year. It's not their fault, it's just that first year teachers are for the most part, still learning how to teach. It isn't until your second year that you start to adjust what worked and didn't work in the first. You begin to gain more confidence and start to look forward to really getting it right your third year, also known as the year everything falls in to place.

Well here I am, embarking on my third year teaching third grade and I'm here to tell you that the jitters have not gone away, if anything they've intensified, but in a different way. This is because somewhere near the end of August it occurred to me- the third year is also known as the "no excuses" year. You have two years under your belt. The "I'm new, I didn't know any better" cuteness is beginning to wear off. There are new people coming in asking YOU how YOU do it. This is when the power begins to shift and you enter what I like to call the "oh s**t" phase of your teaching career.

Don't get me wrong. There are certain things I do now in the classroom that I feel I do very well. Having two classes from hell back to back has also made classroom management a survival skill well honed. But the personality type of many teachers is that they are perfectionists, if not overachievers. Because of this, "The Art of Getting By" doesn't bode well for someone like myself in a classroom setting. I feel the weight of these children's futures is resting on my shoulders and I watch their faces every year looking at me, ME expectantly--anticipating my wisdom and guidance will pull them through. These poor, poor misguided souls. Over the next ten months most of these students will come to see me as their teacher, others will even see me as their mother, some might even view me as a friend. They all have one thing in common though--they all blindly believe I know what I am doing.

You wanna talk about pressure.

If children of teachers only knew--their teachers, no matter how new or seasoned, are often more nervous than they are on the first day. The children are nervous because they have a new person to get to know, but they don't realize they have the advantage- often knowing each other. It's the teacher who is the outsider, the one who has to earn the trust and respect of twenty something students and establishing who the boss is early on is crucial.

This year though things are actually a little different because for this is the first time I have a full time asssistant in my room. Usually assistants, or paraprofessionals, are distributed based on need. Therefore the people with the largest classes get the most help. But in my school, that hasn't always been the case. A lot of times the help has been based on seniority. So for the first two years I've had next to no help while other teachers have had more than their fair share. It's a system that hasn't gone unnoticed to the staff, parents or even the students. You try explaining to the children why the teacher across the hall has half the students you have and two adults.

Having an assistant is both a blessing and a curse. Suddenly all of the things I had to juggle by myself no longer need juggling. Copying? Done. Administrative paperwork? Completed. Homework? Checked. But having a helper in the room also means you need to establish a working relationship with that person, too. For one thing, if you have another adult, this most often means you will have a larger class, because they can justify it. So going in to this year I was prepared to have my largest class ever- currently 25 students, a number which will no doubt, fluctuate over the next few weeks. For instance, 23 showed up the first few days and a new one was added on Friday. If the other two were on vacation and just show up late (which is very common) I will then have, all together now, 26. But having been a para for a year myself I understand the importance of this individual and treat them as such. I want them to feel like an equal in the room. It's also important you do this for the sake of the class. The children should see your assistant as another teacher to respect since they will also be working with her, walking with her and no doubt, fighting with her as well.

Every year I start the first few days the same. Some teachers choose to take name tags and tape them to child's desks, assigning them where to sit. I don't do this. Instead I use what I like to call "reverse psychology democracy". First, I take the names of the children and attach little pieces of magnets to the backs of their names. I do this instead of the tape because it's much easier to move a name on magnets around vs a name with tape. The tape is cumbersome to get off at the end of the year, while the magnet way, if still intact, can just be taken home with the child, something children, incidentally love to do. After all, I'm never going to use a worn name tag with the name "Manuela Rivera" again, right?

I place all of the names on a table in the back of the classroom. When the children come in, I tell them to find their name, take it and then sit whereever they want to. At this point, they think I am like, the coolest teacher ever. A teacher who is letting me sit next to my best friend who I always get in to trouble with? Awesome! But here's where the reverse psychology bit comes in. They sit down and I make a deal with them. Now I know where you want to sit. Don't give me any trouble, and you get sit there. Fool around and you can't. So when they fool around, and they almost always do, you can call them on it. You ruined it for yourself, not me. In turn you also get to know who is really allies with who. When you redo the seating by the end of the week, which has already been done, you easily know who can't sit next to each other without having to second guess.

Then we play a little icebreaker game. I put two pieces of each color construction paper, ripped up, in a can and have children choose a piece. The two children who choose red get together, blue and so. Then they interview each other. After a few minutes they introduce their partner to the group. It's a fun way of getting to know the students.

But before I get to know them, I ask them what they want to know about me. My first year the children knew I was new to the school, so the line of questioning was different. Last year though I noticed something that I hadn't really thought about- children really do talk about their teachers. A lot of kids asked me questions last year that proved they knew things about the room coming in. So that's when I tweaked it to be, What have you heard about me or third grade? This is how you find out what's important to them. A lot of kids reveal their priorities in this line of questioning. Whether they bring up the fact that they "heard" I give out candy every day, or that they want to learn how to multiply. Either way, it shows me how their minds work. This year the feedback was rather weak but I find children always want to learn about three things in third grade: multiplication, the planets and cursive handwriting.

From here, we work on the class rules. I take out chart paper, a staple of any elementary school teacher, and we brainstorm things that are important to a good classroom. This is where teaching a grade like third is so great. The kids are old enough to provide input, but young enough to still believe all of that input matters. So "together" we create a list of five class rules. They are coming up with the ideas, but I am heavily guiding them since I have already written the rules down on a paper that will go home with them to have their parents sign that night. Anything they can say can virtually be molded into the five rules anyhow. The five rules are as follows:

1. Follow directions at all times.
2. Raise your hand before asking a question or sharing a thought.
3. Treat others the way you want to be treated, with respect.
4. Keep hands, feet and all objects where they belong, to yourself.
5. Try to achieve my personal best each and every day.

Of course we also go over classroom procedures that I won't bore you with here. We go to lunch. We go to special. We do very little, actual work. Before you know it, it's the end of the day. This is when I go over all the papers that have to be brought back to school (and there are always a lot). The children copy down their own homework, a responsibility I feel is important to bestow upon them from the get go in third grade. Then they get their own mail, something they are eager to do because having your own mailbox makes you feel special. In their mailbox on the first day I give them Back To School Survival Kit goodie bags. Inside there is a poem that we read together and little items to symbolize what's in the bag.

Only three days in and I have to say so far I am impressed with the bunch I got this year. They are chatty, but they aren't downright disrespectful as my classes have been in the past. Basically, they come across as real kids. There's a fear of authority and getting in trouble and they still get excited about kid oriented activities. There isn't as much emotional baggage as there was last year either, it seems.

Of course I know it's early and I could be eating my words. But by the end of the week the anxiety started to dissipate a bit and in its place I started looking at year three as quite possibly being the charmed one.
Friday, September 08, 2006

Guest Post: The Day I Met Greg F***in' Brady

While Searching for Oz is scoping out her very own yellow brick road, she made time to submit a guest post here. So, tap your heels and say it with me. There's no place like Oz. There's no place like Oz...

It was Spring 1995, and I was a junior at Texas Christian University. One of my extra-curricular activities was involvement in the Programming Council that organized, planned and executed the various events on campus ( i.e. Homecoming, Parents Weekend, concerts, etc.).

My then-boyfriend, David, was in charge of speakers and booked Barry Williams, more known as Greg Brady, to come talk about being involved in an icon of American TV, The Brady Bunch (entertaining speakers had a greater student draw than thought-provoking ones, such as Alan Dershowitz). We all helped each with each other's events, and David needed asked me if I'd help out with "Greg" (b/c none of you will remember his real name's Barry anyway).

One of Greg's requirements is to have a wireless mic for his speech, but unfortunately, during the test backstage, the mic wouldn't work. To the astonishment of the rest of us, he barked out "don't you have any fucking batteries?" It took a couple of seconds for David to close his mouth and regain composure to answer "no."

Don't get me wrong, we all swore, but it was the fact that it came out of who we only knew as "golly gee Greg" is what bewildered us. Suddenly, the fact that a Brady uttered the word "fuck" caused us to briefly wonder if the world was, indeed, tipped on its axis.

After the performance, Greg and his manager had already agreed to go out "on the town" with the group of us. David asked me and a friend of ours, Robert, (whom I'd nicknamed "Little Shit") to ride with our guests to ensure they didn't get lost driving to downtown Fort Worth.

I sat next to Greg's manager the entire night and we talked about Hollywood, movies, Broadway, etc. and somehow it slipped out that I thought Florence Henderson had so much plastic surgery that she looked like her skin would snap if someone touched her. The manager laughed so hard and said, "Oh, I've got to tell Greg." I almost shat at the thought of insulting his Oedipal crush, but Greg laughed his ass off, though I never was quite sure if it was really funny or the bourbon.

The gathering comes to an end and we've all realized that Greg is, well, plastered. I decided to repay Little Shit for all the grief he caused me and "let" him ride back with the guys to their hotel. Thankfully, the sober manager drove, so Little Shit was safe but we still laugh at the idea – 10 years later – how I abandoned him to ride home with a drunk Greg Brady.

Now, if it had been Peter, then I definitely would've volunteered. He was hot.
Thursday, September 07, 2006

Guest Post: How To Give A Gift

Thursday is normally a day of rest here at AOGB. But since I have other bloggers blogging for me, today I can bring you a brand, spankin' new post! Without further adieu, please welcome Marty from...The Life of Marty.

Not having ever been engaged, married or given birth, I have been giving many more gifts than I've received. I've actually considered announcing my engagement (with a cooperative female) just so I can sort of get even.

In the last couple of years, I've modified my gift giving strategy. Most people give gifts with the intention to impress the recipient. So, they will go out and spend a lot of money for a Tiffany box or Godiva chocolates. Then they gift wrap it and attach a card to the outside.

I no longer try to impress. People should be happy they are getting any sort of gift from me whatsoever. If it's truly the thought that counts, then no doubt they will have me in mind when they get my gift. I don't shop in Bloomingdales, Tiffany's or Macy's. Uh Uh, I shop in Jack's 99 cent store, Webers, and Odd Job (before it's untimely demise). I can generally get anything I need in these stores or the equivalent off-price retailer. I also am not into the status of a Tiffany box, if I buy it in Jack's 99 cent store that's the bag that you get it in. I don't believe in gift wrapping either. You're only going to rip it apart when you open it anyways. I just tie a knot on the top of the inscribed plastic bag that they give me. I don't believe in cards either. Your happy birthday, new baby, engagement wishes are personally written out by me on the back of the receipt from the store. This way you know exactly how much I spent on you and you have the receipt to return the gift and get the munificent sum I spent on you.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Guest Post: What Bridget Jones's MIL Might Be Like

As promised, today is full of a few firsts. It's my first real day of school and thus, the first in a great series of generous guest posts. But every great headliner needs an opening act, right? So, for your viewing and listening pleasure, please check out the LIVE performance of Ok Go's amazing treadmill dance routine to "Here It Goes Again".

Today's guest post needs no introduction. This isn't because she's famous or anything, she just went and did the introduction for me. Just kidding. Please welcome the wonderfully hip mommy, Mrs. Mogul..

Hello everyone, this is Mrs. Mogul. Janet asked me to guest post and at first I wasn't sure what I would write. But then while stewing courgette and sweet potato cubes, I thought about the post I always wanted to write but couldn't on my own blog.

I live in London with my English husband and six month baby boy. Sort of like the reverse Bridget Jones but better. Very shortly we will be moving to Florida as my husband got a job there. My husband's parents live in the south of England, about a two hour drive away. They are very sweet and we get along immensely. However, lately my mother-in-law has been annoying me. I feel bad because I know she means well but I can't help the way I'm feeling.

These two things annoy me the most.

1.) She makes us call her as soon as we get home from their house. I have no idea why this bothers me but it does. I am an independent person and my parents never make me do this back in NYC. Like, "HELLO? We're going to make it home okay, we're not going to die!"

How many people have to call their parents like this?

2.) She tells me what to do with the baby. For example she likes to feed him at every meal when we're at her house. I usually give in to be polite. Sometimes when I hand her the bottle and something like a bowl of pureed rice and pear, she'll ask, "Is it okay? Did you check it?"


I'm so happy that Janet has given me a chance to release these emotions. Like the English would say, Bloody Hell.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Tell It To Me Tuesday "School Ties"

I'm fully aware that this week's TITMT is being posted on Monday. But considering I go back to school tomorrow, most upcoming TITMT's might be posted earlier rather than later. Just consider it my little contribution to time travel.

So, "today", while you're all at work like you have been doing rather steadily for the last two and a half months, I will be returning to school. The kids don't arrive till tomorrow but the headaches, no doubt, will still manage to kick in today.

This inspired my TITMT question for this week:

What is a memorable first day of school story of yours?

To clarify, it can be when you were in fifth grade or first or even college. If you are a teacher like me, you can even talk about a first day from the teaching perspective. If you are a parent you may choose to write about the first time your child(ren) went to school. In other words, the only thing you have to write about is school. Simple enough, right?

In exchange I will write about my first day of school from this year this weekend. Remember if you are participating to:

1. Answer this question ON YOUR BLOG and THEN link back to it via the box below.
2. Leave a comment letting me know you played along.
3. If you are interested in adding the box to your site, please visit Mister Linky.
4. If you have any questions or you're confused just ASK!

Oh, and don't forget to tune in tomorrow for the first in a calvalcade of wonderful guest posts!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Write Back Weekend "I Want You To Want Me"

Once again, it's "welcome new renter" time here at AOGB. This week's renter is a young girl full of promise named Katie. Of course I don't really know what it means to be full of promise, but it always sounded good and it somehow seemed fitting here. Her site is called Kat Scratch Fever. Right now is a great time to visit her because she's doing all the "getting to know you" stuff by devoting individual posts to fun and random facts about herself. Pimping Katie's blog also gives me the opportunity to turn a phrase I don't often get to. I've got a fever and the only prescription is more Kat Scratch Fever! So what are you waiting for? Go fill yours, won't you?

And speaking of what you're waiting's Write Back Weekend.

There are a lot of things in this world that serve to seperate us. Man versus woman. Black versus white. Miracle Whip versus Mayonnaise. You catch my drift.

But one commonality that manages to unite both the popular and the wallflower, is that we all had an unrequited crush at one time or another. Maybe we went for it, maybe we didn't. Perhaps we created grand gestures like melancholy mix tapes or even ate paste all in the names of impressing him or her. Ahh, the things we do for love.

This is where I'm not unlike many of you. This past Tuesday, when I asked you to tell me about your first crushes, I received a variety of responses. Some of you said you couldn't remember that far back, while others chose not to share because they remembered all too well. Then there was Nat who was kind enough to literally take us back, pictures and all.

Those of you who chose not to share proved a point without even knowing it. This point can be best described by a line from the timeless classic, Sixteen Candles:

Sam's Dad: "That's why they call them crushes, if they were easy they'd call 'em something else."

As I sat down to write this post I quickly realized I backed myself into a technical loophole. I can't unequivocally say who my first crush was or when it occurred. I also can't say that my first crush didn't involve somebody famous because knowing me, it most definitely did. So I'm backtracking a bit and stating, for the record, that my story is probably not my first crush, ever, but it's the most crushing of my crushes and thus the story I chose to tell.

The year was probably 1990, maybe 1991. I was in seventh grade at the time. I don't know about all of you, but there always seems to be a year that manages to definitively stand out amongst the rest as the worst year in your adolescent life. For me, seventh grade was definitely that year. I was overweight, I had horrible hair and I went to a school that was a lot like the popular show at the time, Beverly Hills, 90210. You do the math.

No matter where you go to school, the middle school years seem to be the time that cruelty reaches its peak. My school saw this transition and raised the awkward factor, tenfold. I had my group of friends, but while others were beginning their random rites of passage into courting, I was content to sit out the next few years, give or take a decade.

At the time I also should say that most of my girl friends were beginning to enter the boy crazy phase of their lives. I had one friend in particular who used to call me, knowing my way with the written word, and ask me to write poems in her latest obsession's honor. I obliged because it was fun to live vicariously through the lives of others.

I suppose some of the boys at my school were cute, but to be honest, I had a hard time seeing past the bully exterior. I know they say the meaner a guy is to a girl the more she tends to fall for him, but this adage just didn't apply to me. So while some of the guys might have had the girls swooning, their behavior is what really caught my attention, not how they looked in their Z. Cavaricci's.

This is how I first came to notice JP. I was in seventh grade English class, sitting next to one of the more popular girls, a gift bestowed upon me by my fairweather friend, the alphabet. JP liked this girl and so he wanted to come over and visit her which meant sitting next to her for a minute or two. Now in my school there were many ways that a boy would attempt to do this and most of them were just plain mean. But JP caught my eye because he came over and asked me if he could sit there. He not only asked, he did so with kindness, a virtue very rarely found in boys his age. And not only did he ask, he asked me and he smiled.

And one smile was all it took.

From then on I was smitten with the idea of JP. Finally I understood the crushes the girls around me were having, only I had convinced myself mine was different, that mine ran deeper, and in some ways, it did. But although I knew what it finally felt like to like a real, live boy, I had no desire to broadcast who my crush was to to the rest of the world, also known as Marlboro Middle School. This is where things got complicated. Sleepovers served to be awkward because this is when the girls would gather around and discuss who their latest crush was. Where it used to be awkward because I didn't have one, it suddenly grew more awkward because I did. I didn't want to reveal my crush out of fear of being outed to him, not that he really knew who I was, nor would he care. No, somehow I believed my crush only had real value if I kept it all to myself.

Ultimately I did decide to confide in a few close friends. Most of them agreed with me that he seemed like a nice boy, but mostly they didn't understand why I chose him out of all the boys in the school. He was tall and scrawny, and at the time I didn't know that would ultimately be my "type" for years to come. He was popular, but not overly popular- he was just- there. Plus I didn't really know anything about him besides what I overheard and imagined in my mind. But explaining to someone why you like somebody else, especially at that age, is a feat often easier said than done.

Now although I've used some finite details to gain your attention, I suppose you could say my crush story is not all that different from anyone else's. But again, this is where you'd be wrong. For seventh grade came and went. And during that time I wrote many a poems for my friend who went through crushing on boys like she was drinking water. Sometimes my girlfriends even got the guy, or a guy. Meanwhile time for me, had stopped, because I was still crushing on JP. This is one reason why I'm pretty sure I was a dog in a previous life. I take loyalty to a new level.

Now I'm not talking the following year or even the year after that. I'm saying I "fell" for JP in seventh grade and liked him all the way up...until we graduated. Don't talk to me about devotion. I own devotion. I even tried noticing other boys and sometimes I did. Like the one time I was eating at Chili's and saw a cute boy from across the room...only to realize it WAS, I kid you not, JP. Nope, I couldn't get away from that boy, not even when I tried. Not only did I still like JP, I had never had a class with him since that seventh grade English class.

Not until, that is, my second semester, senior year.

Being in love with the idea of being in love I felt it was fate. I was no longer awkward or at least as awkward. Deep down I believed that maybe all of this pining was not in vain, that it could be a great story we'd tell our grandkids one day. It didn't matter that he was half of one of the "super couples" of our high school at the time. He smiled at me once, and many times since, making me think that I must have looked as transparent as I felt.

Adding insult to injury a few of my friends added fuel to the fire, saying they could honestly see JP and I working as a couple. They weren't mocking me, they were actually serious. I even went through the whole classic, "call and hang up scenario" once. How was I to know I was actually calling his grandparents house?

One day I remember entering class in a good mood from something else, and he saw this. And believe it or not, HE started a conversation with ME. You would think I would have memorized the details of this conversation, but I think I was just in shock that it happened at all. It was something lame and something, no doubt, he gave no thought to, yet it was ---something.

Unfortunately, just being in a class with him five years later did not make someone like him dream of dating someone like me. Sure, sometimes he would seemingly knowingly smile my way, and I would be certain I blushed, but the story ended rather anti-climactically. We graduated and went our seperate ways. No Google searches or My Space scavenger hunts have turned up any new leads. But maybe that's a good thing.

Knowing my track record, if we hadn't "lost touch" I'd probably still be crushing on him now.
Friday, September 01, 2006

Never Gonna Give You Up

Update to update- The problem for IE users (those who care anyway) *seems* to be stemming from the Flooble drop down boxes. The only problem is when I get rid of them, I don't know how to change the font so that it matches the rest of the site. It's showing up red instead of grey. The alignment is also weird on both the main page and the archived post. The main page you can't see right now since I took it down, but you can see what I'm talking about in the archives if you check out this link. Of course I have to write about it here because someone out there might be able to help me solve this. If not, please proceed to the post.

Before I dive into today's post, I want to ask all of you to consider voting for my friend's baby in the Baby You're A Star, Evenflo Modeling Contest. If he wins, he gets a $10,000 scholarship and a modeling contract with Evenflo. The picture of her son, Andrew can be found here. The winner will be determined by whomever has the most votes. Voting went live today and you can vote once a day for two weeks. Considering y'all don't know him though, throwing him one vote is one vote more than he had. After all, ya gotta belive the children are our future. Thanks!

Oddly enough this announcement actually is a great companion piece for today's actual post. I swear this was not planned at all.

If you've ever gone to college, paid for someone to go to college, or even watched a movie about going to college, you'll agree with me on one simple fact.

Going to college costs a lot of money.

I don't care if you went to a community college, a state school or a private institution. It takes big bucks to make...big bucks. So families get loans and second mortgages and pawn their second youngest child who, to be honest, was never going to amount to much anyway.

In the end, four, seven, or even ten years later you finally have your degree in hand. If you're from my generation you probably quickly realized one degree was not enough. So sometimes you save up only to go back. Going college is a lot like what I would imagine it would be like working with the mob. Everytime you think you're getting out, they pull ya back in.

One day you wake up. You're in your late twenties, early thirties, mid fifties...whatever. Anyway it is on this day that you suddenly realize. Your college loans are finally paid off. You are no longer in debt to the money sucking machine, the golddigger of higher learning, so to speak. It is on this day that you rejoice over your newfound freedom and find new means of money suckage like Plasma screen tvs and satellite radio. But you're making progress. Kinda.

And then it happens. The phone calls begin. They begin slowly at first, like the first cautious call you may get from that guy you met at the bar last week. He wants to hang out again, but you've been there, done that and you're ready to move on. He's not so ready to let go though. So he calls. And he calls some more. He tries the clever tactic of calling at different times. Sometimes he even writes notes and mails them or emails them. He is relentless.

Now in real life this is when you might figure you have a stalker on your hands. If it continues, you'd contact authorities and eliminate the fruitcake from your life. But the only problem is the guy in this scenario isn't really your ex-boyfriend, he's your

After college it's cool to don our gay alumni apparel and perhaps attend a homecoming game or two. But the relationship is meant to be casual. You've served your time and paid your dime. But colleges everywhere don't see it that way. They somehow think you are really interested in contributing to the greater good. And so they are hoping that you will donate money to keep their college running. Perhaps your donation will go to the fountain out in the quad or it may end up in the hands of frat boy's toga fund. No one really knows.

Oh sure they don't say they are looking for donations and this is where the initial frustration begins. They call up under the guise of wanting to "update their databases". They want to see if they still have the right address, find out if you got married, moved etc, etc. But here's the thing. If I wanted YOU to know any of that, I know YOU haven't moved. In fact, I know exactly where to find YOU should something pressing occur in my life that I feel the thousands of people I didn't know when I graduated in the first place should need to be updated on.

Not to mention the pressure that is involved in this line of questioning. If you can still reach me at the same address, phone number and maiden name, that should tell you enough about what's going on in my life. Asking someone to update the obvious is like kicking them when they're down.

From there, however, the line of questioning quickly shifts. Suddenly they want to know if you want a super exclusive, alumni credit card that they only offer to everyone who has ever graduated from their college, ever. In fact, these are the same people who use to try and accost you to apply for your very first credit card when trying to get into the dining hall all those years ago. Funny how things come full circle like that.

A few years ago I was getting a lot of phone calls asking me if I wanted to get an alumni, Glassboro State credit card. I politely declined telling the person on the other end of the line that I never attended Glassboro State. There was an uncomfortable pause. It was then that I told them I went to Rowan University. Sure it used to be called Glassboro State, but not the four years while I was there. The girl got snippy that I got so technical, but I mean really. If you're gonna try to sell someone something, these are the kinds of details you might want to iron out ahead of time.

So now the phone calls keep coming only it's not really my problem, it's become the problem of my parents. That's because they only have my parents phone number, not mine. And I've trained them well. They now say I'm washing my hair, not at home or out of the country. Unfortunately, I can't get them to tell them to stop calling altogether. They're just too nice to break it off completely like that.

You may very well find the School of Communications is named after them one day.



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