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...yet.

But just in case, I'm going to DC for the Women's March tomorrow.

I want the Republicans in Washington to look out across that sea of faces and see that their strategy of depending on the support of middle-aged white guys may just turn around and bite them on the ass in 2018.

Or so I hope.

E pluribus unum, everyone. Resistance is not futile and dissent is patriotic.

Or, as Jimmy Buffett might have put it, "I've got my pink pussy hat/ I guess I wasn't cut out for Trump's in-au-gu-ral."

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10:27 PM
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So Long, Farewell...


...auf wedersehn, goodbye, adios, aloha, get the hell OUT of here, 2016.

No, it hasn't been an especially cheerful year, particularly since November 8th. I'm spending these last hours trying to draw strength and calm from a re-reading of a favorite book, Ursula K. Le Guin's Very Far Away from Anywhere Else, and looking forward to a dinner of black beans and yellow rice, a meal Kelly hasn't made in a while.

But I'm also trying hard to think about the good things that 2016 offered me. I got to visit Washington & Oregon, meet new friends, reconnect with old ones, and see scads of new birds. We adopted a new dog, who has given us joy in great quantities. My son got engaged to a simply delightful young woman who makes Kelly and me almost as happy as she makes him. I was able to get back to full-time employment, with the attendant boost in compensation. I bought (and have been enjoying learning to play) a Washburn AB10 acoustic bass guitar. My family gathered at Emerald Isle for a wonderful Thanksgiving and celebration of my father's 80th birthday. And I've been able to get a semi-regular gig writing for Audubon.org.

None of that will disappear in the orange-colored fog that prepares to descend upon it. But it may be harder to see.

In the meantime, everyone have a safe and happy new year. We've got a lot of work to do.

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7:16 PM
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Another piece at Audubon is up, this one concerning the intersection between birds and superheroes and why it's not the most upscale intersection.

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If nothing else, this image should help explain why they changed Sam's uniform.


9:14 PM
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Spades


Well, then.

Taking the last month off from blogging was not my original goal, but every time I started trying to type words on the screen, it was only a few keystrokes before I began a full-on George Carlin litany: "The thing about Trump is that he'll almost certaiSHIT PISS FUCK CUNT COCKSUCKER MOTHERFUCKER AND TITS."

I mean, I've been disappointed in my fellow Americans before. I've been ANGRY at them before. Heck, in 2004, I found out a relative had voted for Bush, figuring we shouldn't change leadership in the middle of a war. After the steam finished pouring from my ears, I simply pointed out that this was a war of choice that Bush had STARTED, and that by this logic, every President should start a war during his first term to guarantee his re-election.

But this, I think, is the first time I've actually been ashamed of my fellow Americans. 

Ashamed and slightly afraid.

The two are linked because the decision to cast a ballot for Donald Trump requires that one of two things be true.

First, a Trump voter may not understand what he's voting for. He may not have followed Trump's career over the past thirty-odd years. He may not understand that the one consistency in Trump's character is his naked, unyielding self-interest. His purpose in running for President was not to do anything on behalf of his country, his party, or his voters; his purpose was to enrich himself, either monetarily or in terms of ego gratification. His conduct over the last month--dabbling in conflicts of interest that would have disqualified any other candidate, upsetting international relations with casual phone calls, setting a murderer's row of foxes in charge of our nation's henhouses--makes no sense for anyone who puts his own interests second to principle, pragmatism, or humanity. The Trump administration shows every sign of making kleptocracy an art form, and the deepest recesses of our pockets have been opened up for his predation.

Making all this worse--and more ironic, if you're capable of achieving that much distance from the situation--is that the same people who voted Trump under the impression that their votes would flush Washington clean of the offal that has clogged it for years also voted to keep that same offal in office; the House and Senate remain in the hands of the same Republicans (with only a handful of exceptions) who've been clogging our national pipes. Instead of getting a new plumber or even a new plunger, they've supplied us with a shiny new toilet seat and are content to leave everything else alone. The expectation that said offal is going to work to rein Trump in is simply laughable; what has EVER served to rein him in? His fellow GOP candidates couldn't do it; the media couldn't do it; and the voters have shown no interest in doing so themselves. Mitch McConnell may have plenty of spine when it comes to obstructing a black Democrat, but he's a total invertebrate when it comes to dealing with Republicans in power. Hell, he's already refusing to recuse himself from the confirmation debate when his own wife comes up for a Trump cabinet post--THAT is exactly how much principle he has.

In short, the Trump voter may only now be starting to see the writing on the wall, despite the fact that it's been written in gigantic letters of flame reading MENE, MENE, YOU CANNOT BE FUCKING SERIOUS since the 1980s. That's a feat of ignorance that requires careful preparation over many years, and I am frankly ashamed that so many of my countrymen have been so diligent.

But there's a second possibility: they did this on purpose.

And that's the part that scares me. Because that means they knew about the misogyny, the bigotry, the cozying up to actual self-identified Nazis, the cronyism, the admiration for the very regime that hacked into the American political process for its own purposes, the obfuscation of finances and taxes and interests... they knew about all that.

And they voted Trump anyway.

Look, I'm a white, straight, married male citizen with a steady job and no immediately visible traits that would make me a target of abuse in Trump's America. And if I'm scared of what could happen, I can only imagine what nonwhite, queer, female, naturalized, impoverished, or disabled Americans are feeling right now. Whether this presidency was obtained through the actions of fools, or knaves, or both, it promises to be one that does real and potentially permanent damage to our nation, its reputation, and the planet on which it lies.

I'm not urging you to panic. I'm not urging you to be complacent, either. I'm urging you to be ready to pick up your spade and get to work. Organize. Speak out. When you can, vote. Protect the vulnerable. Disturb the powerful. Heed the words written a few years back by a great American--Lin-Manuel Miranda, a Hispanic American with colleagues of every gender, sexuality, and ethnicity:

"We're in the shit now. Somebody's got to shovel it."


3:18 PM
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Election Day 2016


Here's my Tweetstorm from last night.  


1 As a straight, white, married, middle-aged Southern male, I'm presumably right in the middle of Trump's target zone. Why am I voting HRC?


2 Well, for one thing, I'm pretty liberal on social issues. I have no love whatsoever for the religious right.


3 For another, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool feminist, so Trump's personal misogyny is disqualifying even if I liked his policies


4 But at the core, I just don't feel the terror some old white dudes seem to feel about demographic changes in the US.


5 It's kind of like the Copernican Revolution. The math is telling us a truth: we're not the center of the universe.

6 We never WERE the center of the universe. But we built our system to tell us that comforting lie for as long as possible.

7 But now the lie is no longer tenable. We can either cling to it uselessly, lashing out at those who speak the truth...


8 ...or consider the marvels contained by a universe where we're not the center--and therefore not alone.


9 To be the center is to be the lone pivot, with nothing and no one beside you. Isolated. Distant. Untouched.


10 How much better to be part of something--one of many planets orbiting many stars, making up a fantastic universe.


11 There's a reason our national motto is E PLURIBUS UNUM. No person, no group alone can make something greater than itself.


12 If you want to transcend yourself, you need others. You need more than just yourself. You need partners.


13 So that's what I want: to be a partner to those who aren't just like me. To make America greater than I can make it alone


14 I don't want to make America great again; it's great without me. But even if it's less white, less male, less straight...


15 ...I believe it can be greater than a straight white male America ever was. And I welcome those who'll help make it so.


16 Thanks. Let's get to the polls, y'all.

And I mean all y'all. /end




8:18 AM
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Thagomized


Things are still pretty busy, but here's my latest piece for Audubon, in which Thag Simmons meets the Ring-necked Duck.

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4:24 PM
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Lord of the Wings


It's been a busy fall so far, not least because I've been working on some pieces for Audubon.org, one of which went live today.

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If you've read this blog before, you'll know that Tolkien, birds, and Tolkien-related birds make up a significant portion of its contents. Here's hoping this latest commentary on those topics meets with your approval.


5:29 PM
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We Don't Need Another Hero


A few days ago, I was discussing what books my students could use for their independent reading journal assignments, and one kid raised his hand to ask if graphic novels were allowed. I said I saw no problem with them, and he expressed surprise: "You look like you wouldn't like them."

I blinked and said, "My first professional writing sale was a review of a comic book."

I suppose I could have said something else like, "I could name every member of the Legion of Super-Heroes before I was in 5th grade," or "I owned the issue of The Incredible Hulk where Wolverine first appeared," or "I was a member of F.O.O.M., for god's sake," but I doubt it would have made any more sense to a 6th-grader than what I actually said.

My point, however, is that whatever my appearance may suggest, I'm a fanboy. Can't deny it. That's why I'm so excited about the new Luke Cage series on Netflix (I started reading Hero for Hire when I was in 5th grade; I missed the debut, but started with issue #3 and was immediately hooked.) When I heard about Marvel's various superhero TV series, I was pleased to find out that Daredevil would get his own show, and I have to say that Jessica Jones was just a terrific series all around, but Luke is the guy I've really been waiting to see, and as played by Mike Colton, he's just about perfect. Mind you, I've seen exactly one episode so far...

But my fanboy status also inclines me to view the world through a certain lens, and that lens can sometimes be very helpful when I'm trying to wrestle with a complex question. For example, one complex subject I enjoy wrestling with is politics. I read a lot about it, and I try to stay active when I can; for example, I did a couple hours of canvassing this morning because I want Democratic voters to come out in big numbers this year. I also write about it reasonably often, sometimes because I'm uncertain about what I'm thinking, and other times because I know exactly what I think but want to express it in a way that might help other people understand what they're thinking. In 2008, I wrote a piece about the GOP's attempts to find Obama's kryptonite, and as I look at the 2016 election, I am once again moved to consider how comics might explain our situation.

Basically, the thing I haven't been able to figure out is why Trump is getting so much support. Not only has he been demonstrating obvious disqualifying personality traits, plus committing gaffes that boggle the mind, but he has also been caught repeatedly in situations that call his ethics, intelligence, and preparation into question. And given that his policies seem to have no consistency, it's really hard to figure out exactly what his supporters expect him to do if he manages to reach the Oval Office. All I could see is that they really, really like him and don't seem terribly interested in critically examining either his history or his current conduct.

But this morning, something clicked, and I realized just what Trump fans are. They're fans.

The superhero genre depends one thing: the adolescent power fantasy. Basically, when you're a young kid, especially a young nerd, you begin to understand that you have no power. Oh, you may have brains, or amazing ideas, or superb talents, but you don't have any way to exploit them; your decisions don't matter to anyone else, and you can't bend parents or teachers or even your friends to your will. What you dream of is the ability to have your way--the power to make things happen the way you want them to. And that's what makes superheroes so appealing: they DO have that power.

Better still, most superheroes have that power, but it's hidden. Superman's might is undeniable, but those around him are too ignorant to see it when it lies behind Clark Kent's glasses; the frivolous behavior of Bruce Wayne keeps the public from recognizing the skill and prowess of Batman; and who would guess that a loser like Peter Parker would have the proportionate speed and strength of a spider? In other words, the comics fan not only gets to see his heroes demonstrate what it's like having great power, but also what it's like being unappreciated. 

It's the latter that really makes the power fantasy work. You may not have the power to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but you don't have to have it, so long as you can imagine having it--and when the guy who really does have it is having girl troubles, or struggling with money, or feeling guilty about people he's let down, you begin to think Hey, he's not that different from me. He just has more power to change things. Sure, he's from another planet, or he got bitten by a radioactive spider, or has millions of dollars given to him by his real-estate mogul father, but he's basically just like me. And that means I'm just like him. Ha ha! You fools! You may laugh at my haircut or my awkward behavior around girls, but in reality I'm special! And someday, when I come into my own, you will look at my awesomeness and regret your insolence!

This, in sum, is the Donald Trump voter. He (or in too many cases, she) sees things about the current state of the world and wishes they were otherwise; that's not in and of itself a problem, because EVERY person thinks that. But the Trump voter doesn't approach the situation by thinking, Okay, how can we determine the causes of this complex problem and what can I do to help fix it? The Trump supporter instead focuses on how cool it would be if someone would just come solve the problem by throwing it into the sun, or maybe by using some fantastic gadget to reverse scientific law, or maybe by pulling off somebody's mask and revealing the bad guy underneath. Or, y'know, building a wall and making Mexico pay for it through pure will power.

Yes. Yes, it would be cool. If we lived in Gotham City.

But systemic racism cannot be thrown into the sun, and there is no single terrorist whose unmasking would end the evils of terrorism forever. Climate change cannot be fixed with something out of a utility belt. 

And Donald Trump is not the hero you imagine. He is not a hero at all. And when you look up past the brim of your MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN cap and shout "Save us!" he won't even bother to whisper, "No."


4:41 PM
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Back in 2005, I assembled a couple of lists for Woodberry's New Music Club: my lists of my favorite albums from the 80s and 90s. Having been recently reminded of this, I realized that I never managed to assemble the next list in the sequence, PC's Favorite Albums of the 2000s. I hope the list below will redress this long-overdue dereliction of my duties as a performer, critic, educator, and music snob. In chronological order, then, from 2000-2009:

Cake/ Comfort Eagle (2001): Not everyone enjoys the interplay of the band's funk-rock rhythm section, the flourishes of trumpet, or John McRea's seemingly arrhythmic vocal delivery, but I can't ignore any of them, let alone McRea's deadpan lyrical observation. There's no good reason for "Opera Singer" or "Meanwhile Rick James" of "Shadow Stabbing" to stick in your head, I suppose, but just try to get it out once it's in there. This album is probably the band's most consistent start-to-finish set of songs, highlighted by the fantasia of "Short Skirt/Long Jacket," the pulsing title track, and the relentlessly danceable "Love You Madly." If it appeals this powerfully to my love of words, my love of melody, and my love of rhythm, how could I not put it on this list?

Aimee Mann/ Lost in Space (2002): She's not the cheeriest songwriter out there, no, but Mann has a gift for framing emotional stress in unexpected ways, not to mention a voice that can shift from a pool of clear water to an irresistible current in only a few bars. The standout track is the hard-hitting "Pavlov's Bell," which makes a simple story of air travel into something far darker and more uncertain, but there are gems aplenty: the gorgeous "This Is How It Goes," a halting list of steps the narrator expects to follow as her partner spirals downward; the warm, dark metaphor of "The Moth"; and the haunting finale, "It's Not."

Sigur Ros/ Sigur Ros (a/k/a Black Cheetos) (2002): If pressed to pick the most original album on this list, I think I'd have to go with the one composed and performed by the Icelandic quartet, consisting of eight untitled tracks sung entirely in a nonsensical language. The surprise is that something so far out on a limb could be so effective. Thanks to their collective powers of melody and arrangement, plus a fantastic sense of dynamics, the band takes us on a series of journeys through landscapes we can't quite picture. Take a ride.

Coldplay/ A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002): By contrast, this is probably the most mainstream record on the list, and oddly, it's here for some of the same reasons. Chris Martin's confessional streak is front and center, but what makes these songs work is the combination of strong melodies and careful attention to dynamics: they build to something, or sometimes collapse into something, rather than just standing there. It's basically the standard rock quartet (drums/bass/guitar/piano) enhanced with strings here and there, but the careful interplay of the instruments on tunes like "Warning Sign" and "The Scientist" makes them sound far more varied. It's not a complicated record; but it is a rich one.

Fountains of Wayne/ Welcome Interstate Managers (2003): This was the album with their only real hit, the sniggering, insanely catchy Cars homage "Stacy's Mom," but that's hardly the best reason to buy it. Better reasons might include the beautiful and evocative "Valley Winter Song," the fuzzy power-pop nonsense of "Mexican Wine," the manic twentysomething anthem "Bright Future in Sales," and what's probably the only song I know about a quarterback dropping back to pass, "All Kinds of Time." These guys are simply geniuses in the realm of pop tunesmithing, and if you're not convinced by the time you reach "Supercollider," the lines "Gather round the gas tower: don't it kinda look like a bong? I heard it backward, hidden in a Pink Floyd song" should persuade you.

The Mountain Goats/ The Sunset Tree (2005): This was, for me, kind of the Mountain Goats' decade, and I went back and forth over which of their albums deserved inclusion here, but in the end, I had to go with this one. A loosely-structured concept album about singer/writer John Darnielle's memories of his years in the house with his abusive stepfather, it's a lyrical tour de force. Some images seem mythological and/or Biblical, such as "Lion's Teeth," but the sharpness of the more mundane litanies ("I spread out my supplies on the counter by the sink, looked myself right in the eyes: St. Joseph's Baby Aspirin, Bartles & Jaymes, and you..." in "You or Your Memory") is equally striking. It's hard to imagine a more haunting song than "Love Love Love" or a more anthemic chorus than that of "This Year" ("I am gonna make it through this year if it kills me"), but once you've given this album a listen, you'll find it just as hard not to think about the innocent denial of abuse in "Dance Music" or the defiant finale of "Hast Thou Considered the Tetrapod?" ("Held under these smothering waves by your strong and thick-veined hand/ But one of these days, I'm gonna wriggle up on dry land"). A fantastic recording.

Regina Spektor/ Begin to Hope (2006): "Anti-folk" pianist/vocalist Spektor's hit single "Fidelity" gives you some idea of her sound, but not of her wildly creative composing. There's a touch of Kate Bush audible in her willingness to use her voice as an instrument, one capable not only of delighting but unsettling her audience, and her lyrical ideas ("Hey, remember that time I tried to save a pigeon with a broken wing?/ A street cat got him by morning and I had to bury pieces of his body in our building's playground"-- "That Time") are not always Top Forty material. She can throw out a big hook (just try not to sing along with "Better"), but she can also paint a miniature ("Samson") or work up an anthem ("Apres Moi," which Peter Gabriel would later cover on his Scratch My Back album). There's a lot going on here, and Spektor is just the gal to show it to you.
 
Richard Thompson/ 1000 Years of Popular Music (2006): If there's one musician capable of examining a millennium's worth of material, it's Thompson, whose status as a folk interpreter, songwriter, and guitar god leaves him equally comfortable interpreting British murder ballads ("Bonnie St. Johnstone"), Gilbert and Sullivan ("There Is Beauty in the Bellow of the Blast"), or New Wave pop tunes (Squeeze's "Tempted"). Ably assisted by percussionist/vocalist Debra Dobkin and vocalist/keyboardist Judith Owen, Thompson serves up a stripped-down suite of music from across the centuries, and every selection offers a new kind of delight. Trust me, you've GOT to hear his cover of Britney Spears' "Oops! I Did It Again," if only to find out how much it resembles the music of the Italian Renaissance.

Cloud Cult/ The Meaning of 8 (2007): This loose collaboration of musicians and artists from the Twin Cities is for me the most recent discovery on this list, but I've certainly come to appreciate them thoroughly. Varying wildly in instrumentation and style, these songs share an emotional rawness that stems from the death of singer/songwriter Craig Minowa's young son. You might reasonably expect them to wallow in grief, but Minowa is instead moved to examine the larger questions of how death fits into the pattern of life. As a result, there are thumping, energetic songs such as "Please Remain Calm" and "Take Your Medicine," a pensive mixture of electronic percussion and organic strings and winds ("Chain Reaction"), and the gorgeous, uplifting "Chemicals Collide," which is on the short list of songs I want played at my funeral.

The New Pornographers/ Challengers (2007): Canada's indie-rock supergroup realized its enormous potential on this record, combining the voices of Carl Newman and Neko Case in a suite of songs that manage to be lyrically opaque without sacrificing singability. "My Rights vs Yours" opens softly and builds to an unstoppable force within four minutes. Case is featured on the stripped-down title track, as well as the vibrating "Failsafe" and the triumphant "Go Places," while Newman gets the lion's share of the vocals on "All the Old Showstoppers," but the best tunes blend their voices: "Myriad Harbour" is a rhythmic guitar exercise with back-and-forth chatter between the two, while the beautiful "Adventures in Solitude" makes a perfect finale--if only they'd finished the album there, rather than tacking on the comparatively lackluster "The Spirit of Giving" at the end.


HONORABLE MENTION:

Robyn Hitchcock/ A Star for Bram (2000): You knew Robyn couldn't miss this list entirely, didn't you? These songs are supposedly out-takes from the Jewels for Sophia sessions, but "Daisy Bomb," "I Saw Nick Drake," and the psychedelic nostalgia-wagon "1974" are at least as strong as anything on that album.

Wilco/ Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002): Jeff Tweedy takes the band to the outer limits of alt-country and finds it to be an unsettling but often gorgeous place.

The White Stripes/ Elephant (2003): The fact that "Seven Nation Army" has become a staple at sporting events shouldn't be allowed to diminish our appreciation for its potency. This is an album full of earnest emotions, snarling guitars, and rock scholarship that should be enjoyed on its own merits, which are many.

Foo Fighters/ Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace (2007): Song for song, this is the best thing the FF have put together, with hooks the size of marlinspikes and guitar power to burn.

Avett Brothers/ I and Love and You (2009): If you're looking for earnest examinations of love, you're not going to find anything more plainspoken than "January Wedding" or "I and Love and You," and "Laundry Room" is just plain gorgeous. See where the boys from Ramseur, NC, will take you.


SPECIAL JUDGE'S AWARD FOR INTERPRETATION:

The Oughts were a rich period for a particular kind of album, one where an established artist takes on material from other sources to see what he/she can do with them. I don't think these are entirely comparable to the other records on this list, but I can't deny that they are worthy of mention:

Johnny Cash/ American III: Solitary Man (2000) and American IV: The Man Comes Around (2002): Either of these could arguably be included at the top of this list on the strength of Cash's originals (the title track from the latter album in particular). Still, these albums are primarily reworkings of others' songs, such as U2's "One" and Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus," and Cash's last big hit was his stunning treatment of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt." Let's put them here and enjoy them.

Nouvelle Vague/ Nouvelle Vague (2004): Realizing that "bossa nova" is Portuguese for "new wave," this French combo reasoned that Eighties new wave hits would make dandy bossa nova tunes. Not just a novelty record, this album gives new life to everything from the Dead Kennedys to Joy Division to the Specials.

Patti Smith/ Twelve (2007): You won't be surprised that Smith can make "White Rabbit" her own; you may be surprised to hear her do the same with "Smells Like Teen Spirit," Pastime Paradise," or her fantastic reworking of George Harrison's "Within You Without You."

Glen Campbell/ Meet Glen Campbell (2008): There's painful irony in this release, which was intended to introduce Campbell to a new audience but wound up being something of a last hurrah before Alzheimer's sent him into retirement. Still, his takes on songs by Jackson Browne, U2, Travis, and John Lennon are fitting additions to his legacy.


9:31 AM
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Working Class Hero


If I'm a little tired this weekend--and I am--there's a good reason for it: I'm back at work.

That's not an entirely accurate statement. As most teachers will attest, we do not spend the summer months avoiding work. Some of us pick up different jobs--leading tour groups, or serving at summer camps, or doing volunteer work at libraries, or waiting tables--and some of us merely take on new tasks at home. I myself have spent the summer at work on the latest draft of my novel A Raven for Doves. I finished the draft late on the 25th of August, or possibly early on the 26th, and after my in-house copy editor was done with her pass over it, I made the last corrections on Labor Day. It's now sitting on an agent's desk, which of course means I'm now checking my email with a completely unreasonable frequency.

So yeah, I've been working. 115,000 words' worth of work.

But for the last two weeks, I've been working differently: first, I spent a week attending faculty meetings, and after Labor Day we plunged straight into Camp Week, the opening orientation and organization activities for new and returning students. Camp Week is a lot of fun, but since it puts me in direct supervision of students through four straight days of outdoor fun and indoor competition and exposure to heat indexes well over 100 degrees, it's a little draining. And on Monday, I go back to class. But again, with a difference.

Last year I worked four days a week at Seven Hills and spent my Wednesdays either writing, running errands, catching up on grading, or occasionally having a bit of fun. Not this year. This year I'm full-time; though my schedule gives me at least a bit of planning time every day, I'm not going to have the luxury of sleeping in on Wednesdays in order to recover from my labors on Monday and Tuesday. Still, though I'm teaching four sections, my preps have dropped from three to two--8th grade language arts and 6th grade US history--and I have my own classroom again. Better still, my new classroom has a dropped ceiling, which means I stand a decent chance of being able to hear what all my students are saying.

I'm hopeful that the lessons I've learned about middle-school teaching can be applied with relative ease, and that the preparations I made last year can be reused this year. It'll be sad to lose that extra day to get things done, but the 35% raise kinda makes up for it.

And as I think about it, Kelly and I did have one other project this summer: finishing our binge-watch of Parks and Recreation on Netflix. We watched the DVD of Season One a few years back and were not much impressed, but Ian & Adriana insisted that we needed to push ahead, that things would get better, that the arrival of Ben and Chris (whoever they were) would turn the show into something special. And by gum, they were right. No matter how improbable the show's events were, there was an endearing and unrelenting positivity in it--a refusal to accept cynicism as a philosophy. Sure, things went wrong, even badly wrong, for many of the characters, but defeat was never defining to anyone--it was merely one element in their various histories. And partly because of those histories Parks & Rec soon became one of our favorite shows ever.

Parks & Rec was, at its core, that familiar entity, the workplace sitcom, but it was not an ordinary workplace; it was a workplace where the work mattered. It didn't always matter all that much, but it mattered: "small, incremental change every day." That was Leslie Knope's philosophy of public service. And that philosophy made the people doing it feel as though they mattered as well.

In the finale, Leslie quotes Teddy Roosevelt: "Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is a chance to work hard at work worth doing." One of the best things about teaching is that you know the work is worth doing. People remember their teachers, good or bad, because teaching is, ultimately, important to the people being taught. Society may not celebrate you, or offer you gobs of cash for your efforts, but for any particular student, in any particular year, what you do is of great importance. And that's something I'll do my best to keep in mind as I dive back into the classroom.

So. Let's go to work.

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11:55 AM
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