Tag Archives: Education

Trumped


I was awakened, politically speaking, by the visage of Richard Nixon glowering at me from the big tv in the den in my parent’s house on the southwest side of Chicago. I hated him on sight-his venal corruption was so clear to see, even to a six-year-old, in 1967.

Started paying attention, as best a six-year-old can, to GREAT EVENTS. I understood about Nam and cottoned on to the divide between North and South, and to some of the reasons why.

I was horrified. Man’s inhumanity to man, and all that.

We were a Catholic family. My dad’s side was slavic, my mom’s Quebecois. We attended church, and I attended Sunday School. By the time the Nixon administration began, we were studying the sacrifice of Isaac, and that was causing a great upheaval inside me. Previously unthinkable thoughts began to bubble up in my brain.

I went to the Monsignor, who was frequently present on the church steps after mass, and queried him about my doubts. He was completely unable to quell my misgivings. He was in fact scornful, and I have never forgiven the man for that reaction.

It was as if I had no right to free thought, in his mind, because of my years. I turned away from the church. Subsequent visits to the inside of the place (and there were a great many of them) left me physically ill. I puked on the kneeler more than once. Faith had become indigestible.

At eight, I was at odds with both church and state, and couldn’t talk to anyone about it. I refused to be confirmed in the faith, and became at odds with my extended family as well. I was officially a weirdo.

In school, I was normally put out in the hall, because I was disruptive. They weren’t teaching me anything. I was barred from jumping grades because the faculty felt I was too immature (I was really tiny) and socially maladjusted to stand the change, and there were no other advanced programs, at Louis Pasteur school, that I could get into.

I read comics voraciously, after tearing through all of the study guides. I was allowed inside to take tests, which I finished long before anyone else and took to decorating. Spaceships and spies adorned those sheets, and the teachers used that as an excuse to lower my grades.

Comics and Star Trek led to science fiction and horror. The Archer branch of the Chicago Public Library had Arkham House and Dangerous Visions. And books by people like Gay Talese and Allen Drury, politically-oriented tomes that I also enjoyed hugely. I officially became atheist shortly after reading Lovecraft. How could I not? But I couldn’t tell anyone…not then, not there.

I got kicked out of that school that year, more or less because I completed an assignment to create a crossword puzzle by including only ‘four-letter’ words. I also stole my files from the principal’s office and gave them to my dad.

My reward was being placed in a Catholic school. Good old St. Turibius, at which place I was already a pariah. Not among the kids…yet. But among the personnel, except for Ms. Dino, the Filipino social studies teacher, under whose tutelage I discovered an admiration for the ‘American experiment’.

Spent most of my time in Mother Superior’s office, or in the hall, reading books. It took three years for me to get kicked out, for heaving a desk at Sister Celine Marie, who cracked me on the knuckles with a yardstick for questioning her wisdom, and for daily fist-fighting with Mark Lancaster, who was a vocal Nixon proponent…and almost a foot taller than I was. I was for McGovern, naturally.

Celine Marie also encouraged people to bully me. I should have followed up after the desk hit her. Mark and his friend Jeff Cannon caught me and kicked my ass good, the day the revelation about Eagleton surfaced. Broke my nose and probably a few ribs. When the janitor broke the thing up, I had just hit Jeff upside the head with the porcelain from the top of the toilet tank.

There was blood everywhere. It was great.

The only time I have been as happy as when I was walking home from that place in mid-May was when I left Signature Insurance behind forever in 1986. Both walks had that sense of freedom and having done the right thing, and turned out in much the same way.

Everyone was pissed at me.

We white-flighted out to the western ‘burbs when my asshole uncle, who had begun defaulting on his mortgage because of shifty deals he made in the lumber business, demanded his half of the money for the house we lived in.

My files arrived ahead of me. And the city was WAY different from the suburbs. I was still light-years ahead of anyone else intellectually, but I was four-foot something tall, with glasses, and had only recently outgrown orthopedic shoes.

I lived through two years of junior high somehow, with the experience being capped by getting kicked out again…I was allowed to graduate after taking a battery of intelligence and psychological tests that proved what I already knew. Grade school ended for me in March 1974. By mid-May, I was watching the Watergate hearings for entertainment, unable to tear myself away from the awful spectacle, afraid for what that all meant to the body politic…It was no surprise when Reagan happened. The things he and they did were no accident, amplifying as they did Conservative advances made by the Nixon administration, and we’ve never really recovered from those depradations, let alone the profound national anomie that has suffused this country in the wake of Watergate and VietNam.

Trump is no accident either. I can only hope that the rage he used to fuel his ascendancy is turned fully and properly against him and his cohort, and that they receive their just desserts and are discredited and deposed.

But I foresee violence.

 

Updates, January 23


Sorry. That resolution to blog every day, or even more frequently, didn’t go very far. Where were we? I dunno. So…this is what’s been happening. I wrote stuff, made some music. Here, try some Bowie cover:

intaI have a story in this book, a short entitled “Eddie”, based on a fragment I wrote fifteen years or so ago. Just a little bit of shock and awe. Really cool cover. Ran Cartwright does good work. I have a round robin piece that I’m puzzling over, and have launched into a piece that has more detail about what Brown Jenkin did while he had the Silver Key. Both are for book appearances (hopefully, anyway), as I move along the path from unknown to virtually unknown to little-known.

Little-known is not so bad, and I’m also working on the better-paid part. Because I have bills too. A grand a month, a little writing money and my babysitting money, that’s not so much to live on.

But I don’t want to be entirely mercenary…I’m still planning a series of shorts for shoggoth.net, and I will release some music gratis. But the days of just letting everything out there are probably over.
I’m older, and sick, and tired. I’m trying to work on less pieces and make them count instead of just spinning and spinning and spinning. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t be willing to slug toe-to-toe with anyone else working weird.  The same for guitar, composition, et cetera.

Handsome volumes of Duanestuff and plastic cd cases of modstuff are right around the corner. Before Crazytown will be back on sale at Amazon in February, with a print edition option (yay!) I’m not going to re-up with Amazon exclusive, though. Didn’t deliver as I had hoped. The book will move to Lulu next year, and will stay at Smashwords.

I’m investigating physical cd/download possibilities for a couple of things — the Brown Jenkins blues tune will be one, and discs of literary tributes, cover songs, and vocal versions of previously-released material are not far behind.
Been sitting on that stuff for a while.

And Cub Tracks seems to be going well. We’re undergoing a format change, and there are a few nay-nays, but the articles in general are well-received, with some getting tremendous readership numbers (at least the ones I can collect). I’d be interested to know what the sticky factors are. Maybe I should ask Al Yellon, who runs the site. He might know. He hasn’t said a peep to me about any pieces being substandard or anything like that — I’m allowed, even encouraged, to continue. So that’s a plus.

I enjoy crafting the articles. They’re aggregations of links, but they can be massaged into different media presentation styles, looked at with new eyes. I do quite a few with “themes”, essentially framing devices more or less related to some of the linked content. Mixed reviews, I’m afraid, but that’ll change as things gets more baseball-related. I’m still just drilling down into what works for the audience..heh, to the point that I just up and asked them what they wanted.

It turned out that they didn’t know.

So it goes back to what Al likes. He’s the boss, the editor. If my copy passes his desk, then things are good.

I have some ideas about form that I’ll use tomorrow. Have to cut down on the time it takes to do those articles. The last one took most of the day, since the girl was over. Like eight solid hours of mostly gruntwork, copying and pasting, then cutting and pasting. Structuring the whole document as a baseball game, with a lead-off man segment, ten innings, extras beyond that. Nobody said anything about that, and I’m operating on the principle that no news is good news there. Like when I used to slip my tape into the party music player, and nobody complained, I knew I was good. It was acceptable.

The girl. Ohhh boy. She’s been a problem since her parents called the other day and told her that he’s working again, and that they planned to visit. She has this fantasy built up, you see, where they turn out to be real human beings with competence and financial wherewithal, and take her home to live happily after. That this has been repeatedly proven to be abject nonsense doesn’t dissuade her, and consequently she turns into demon child when she speaks to them because she’s caught on the horns of the dilemma — give up the fantasy, grow up and deal, or be childish and believe in the Easter bunny.

I just want the drama over. There are papers that the parents need to sign for the custody to be permanent, and those need to be signed. And then the child needs to be removed from negative influences as much as possible, and go sit in a corner with her thoughts, and deal with those.

She’s afraid to. I understand. But she’s also eleven, too old to be playing “look at me, aren’t I cute” instead of doing her assigned work, far too old to be snuggling up to such forlorn possibilities. Time to put on the big girl panties, I tell her.

She was such a colossal pain in the ass today that I got a migraine. Defiant, selfish, willfully ignorant. She screwed up her English homework to get attention, took out her calculator and started doing her math homework with it (!) like I wasn’t three feet away. She played the food game. This is where she takes real little bites, and chews slowly, a hundred time each mouthful, and stares wall-eyed at the tv screen.

Fuck that. People have been letting her get away with it for years. It’s a waste of everyone’s time, and it’s over, at least under my roof. 1/2 hour, and the food gets thrown away, and she goes hungry. Her choice. She wasted so much time scewing up her homework that she didn’t get to go across to her house and feed the pets — so the small creatures had to wait until after dinner. Animals like the security of being fed at the same time every day. But she screws that up too, so she can get attention.

She refuses to go after positive attention, even though she claims to like it better — largely because it takes effort to do good things instead of being lazing about wallowing in one’s own ignorance.

Great model, as least character-wise, for Cassilda, who I’ve been writing up recently also.

Yeah, I’m mad at her, and mad at several other someones. It’s a GOOD thing that I don’t have the ability to wish people into cornfields or anything like that. All I can do is to have them die horribly and slowly in stories…

Wait. That gives me an idea.

’til next time.

We Have a Deal?


usI made the girl a deal today.
I’ve been stressing over the time it takes to watch her, since she can’t be trusted alone and refuses to toe the line enough to be allowed privileges. That means I can’t write or make music or anything else because she wants constant attention, like an oversized infant.
She’s never learned how to work for and achieve positive attention. We’ve tried–the lessons just don’t get absorbed.
And this has been my issue since she was introduced to our household, and I was deputized to take care of her (nobody told me she was coming), without my knowledge or approval. Continue reading

The Best I Ever Had…


usHad to knock off early to watch the child, and didn’t manage to finish the stuff I started.
We had a running conversation about “ownership” of tasks after she did a crap job of sweeping the front room, angling to go outside.
Nuh-uh.
I explained what we want if she runs into a roadblock (ask for help), since she claimed to be stymied by the bird crap and seeds that were stuck to the floor. She couldn’t SWEEP them up, you see, so the task became impossible.
Kids.
I watered the area a little (can’t use a cleanser cuz Dammit Bunny​ might lick it) and scraped the poo up with the poop scooper. It dried in a few seconds, and I used the hand broom to brush it into the dustpan.
So she saw how it could be done.
“You know,” I said. “This is where your OCD should kick in (she has a bad case of it). You’d get so much more done.”

She just looked at me blankly. She was not having a good time.

Wah.

We continued to talk some about owning her tasks, and this was parlayed into the writing of her chores on the daily calendar in the hall, so she knows what she is to do each given day, since she almost never has homework any more.

Her homework consists of reading a half hour daily. She insists that twenty minutes is the figure, because that’s what her teacher assigned, but I tacked on the extra ten long ago, because she desperately needs to acquire some kind of vocabulary.
She’s very hard to understand. She does not express herself well, and she habitually lapses into this little-baby-girl quiet voice, which one can’t hear over the constant noise of the parakeets.
I hate that. It makes me virtually foam at the mouth. That and the refusal to answer a direct question. Those are the pettiest of my peeves.
And the more I ask her, tell her, to speak up, please, the more she does it. Agh!

She was disobedient about a couple of things before that–everything was all about getting to play. I understand the urge, but she knows very well what the score is, and copping an attitude isn’t going to gain her any freedom.

She ended up with a time in the corner, to think things over. I went through and re-swept the front room, and did the hallway, the kitchen, and the bath, while I was at it.
Told her she had an hour after she started scuffing her feet and scratching, intending to give her fifteen minutes or so and then releasing her to blow it all off.
She was still in a mood later. So was everyone else. The floor was made of eggshells.
But it was mostly a positive afternoon. Something to build on if she can live up to her promises.
Go you.

Sometimes…


Sometimes I don’t want to wear the big boy pants. Especially when I’m not feeling so adult, or even competent.
I need to listen more, and to learn not to spread myself so thin. I get caught up in things, enthusiastic, and sometimes will go off without completely understanding what I’m trying to accomplish, or why.

There are times when I miss key details. Because I want to badly to DO GOOD. To be PART OF THINGS.
“Yeah,” you say, “don’t we all?”

Well, yeah. But I’ve been a certified “weird person” all of my life. Couldn’t help it. I’m still a misfit most places. Hell, everywhere. Continue reading

Money from Outside


GoFundMe campaign for Letters from Outside:

How Those Famous Guitar Players Got Really Good


Yesterday, “Brook” got her birthday present a week early-a 1/2 size hot pink acoustic guitar:Pink GuitarShe has been practicing. She now knows Em, E, D, Dm, and has made inroads toward making G and A ring. This morning I showed her the blues scale and a minor pentatonic scale, and we discussed how improvisation is done and how songs are put together. Once she has the G and A down, I’ll introduce C and F and we’ll start building a repertoire for her.
Purple Haze and Nights in White Satin will be the first ones. We’ll also work on composing our own material, augmented by the dozen or so percussive gizmos I have lying around.

The world’s newest guitarist will have plenty of additional time to practice. She’s grounded again. Can’t spend five minutes outside without forgetting about the simple ground rules. “Stay in earshot” “Don’t go over to the ghetto-ass kids’ house to play” “Stay out of the parking lot”.
I predict that, at this rate, she’ll be famous by the time she’s 11.
The ghetto-ass kids’ dad is next door working on the cabinetry in the recently-abandoned apartment there. I sincerely hope he heard my lecture.
The littlest one, age seven, who goes by the nickname Yaya, is a yeller. She likes to scream and shout to try to get her way. Faith goes outside and she is told “If you play with my sister, you can’t ride my scooter any more.”
Instead of turning around and saying “Li’l bitch, we gave you that scooter, and your sister is more fun anyway,” Faith gets upset and tears around the complex on a borrowed bike, therefore being out of earshot when I call for her.
Ten minutes later, she drags her scooter into the kitchen and bugs right back out again before I can say anything.
I look out, and she’s on the back of Chi-chi’s (the older sister, all of nine) bike, going around the corner of a building about fifty yards away, in the parking lot.
I slap a tank together and go out the other way, to head them off at the pass, but no. They double back and go back in the ghetto-ass apt.
Sitting on the patio, biding my time. I water the plants and look over the gate periodically.
Eventually herself sees me and comes over.
“Get inside,” I say. “We need to talk. And take that scooter gear (kneepads, elbow pads) off–you won’t need it anymore today.”

The ensuing conversation ended, unfortunately, like so many do, with grounding and a turn in the corner, facing the wall, butthurt. During the course of the dialogue, the phrase “I don’t know” was repeatedly used to justfiy actions taken, as was “I just like to play”. The latter is okay. Not so in-depth, but excusable, depending on the behavior it’s used to represent. But the first is one of the two things that are guaranteed to makes things take a bad turn (the other is to lie to my face and have me catch her).

The child knows this. She is apparently incapable of considering the results of her actions, despite repeated preaching, beseeching, reasoning, back-patting, and other conditioning methods used to reinforce a positive behavior pattern.

She doesn’t like thinking. It makes her head hurt.

It makes my head hurt to think of another ten years of this mindless impulse-following. I’m afraid sometimes her head will just collapse in on itself. Either that, or fill up with cats (who abhor a vacuum, you know).

I’m fairly strict. I expect a lot, I’m told. Too much–I expect literacy and some degree of self-awareness and self-knowledge. I want to see some intellectual curiosity and the ability to tell right from wrong and to act accordingly.

Very little of that going on. So I’m looking at music as the way to get that sort of patience and determination going.

Fingers, eyes, legs, toes crossed. Only can only hope.

Happy Hallowe’en


Samhain is upon us. Ghouls and ghosties and long-leggity beasties, and things that go bump in the night. The origin of the celebration of the Harvest is buried in the wanna-be-scared commercial-bonanza interpretation of the holiday.

Like everything else. It’s no surprise that corporations have taken over everything. It’s a running joke, and one muttered uncomfortably, lest THEY hear.

You know, the ones in charge, whoever they are. The ones behind it all.

Whoever they are. Everyone has a different interpretation. Some are more credible than others. But even the incredible beliefs are held with a deathgrip. Because people are like that.

I was reminded of that a little earlier, when someone accused me of being closed-minded because I like to throw darts at Christian beliefs. Generally I do this for a reason–because I am being preached at. I know preachers who don’t preach to me, but to their flock. I don’t have a problem with that–it’s consenting adults and their progeny. The progeny will have the chance to expose themselves to other belief systems in time.

There was comparison made to the condition of fibromyalgia (neuralgia previously), and community disbelief in what few experienced themselves, and to the “existence” of Jesus of Nazareth and the apostle Paul. I pooh-poohed this idea, based on the premise that what people were directly experiencing was not hearsay, was provable (as it seemingly has been). No independent sources exist that discuss Paul or Jesus. Quod erat demonstratum.

Some folks believe that other folks should behave as they do, and will go to great lengths to maintain this superiority.

Others still will believe nonsense, and will go to great lengths to maintain their fantasy. My grand-daughter stubbornly holds onto the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, and others, despite being well past the age where I had even given up on in invisible guiding hand in the sky.

The point of that is that such beliefs are childish. (imo)
I don’t believe we are going to advance as a species until we get over the idea of divinity.

The ideal is another thing. Bestowing benevolence is to be lauded in any case. People in need should be able to find some succor.

I’m disabled, on SSI. Five months after having another mouth come to live with me, my food stamps were cut down to 17.00/month. Thanks, Republicans. I would have died back in February 2010 if you had your way.

So I have some vested interest.

But that doesn’t negate the point. One doesn’t need faith to believe in charity, in hope. One just needs to have a sense of right and wrong.

 

where it’s at


Oops. Well, I forget to post here for a bit. There was way too much life happening. Some of it had to do with the increasingly wayward child, some of it had to do with deadlines (most of them self-imposed), some of it had to do with other folks. During the last month or so, we’ve had to relocate for two days so that the complex could spray for bugs (seems to have worked), I’ve finalized the cover and contents of my book. somehow finagled renewing most of my web properties despite not having enough  money to do so (I spent the money on eating out during the two days we were in the hotel), and cooked a semi-gourmet meal damn near every night.

Did see the new pulmonologist. He spewed some hope, saying that there had to be some reason why the scarring in my lungs isn’t healing, and they’re not returning to full capacity. The last guy said that to, and tried to put me on the Atkins diet to fix it.

Wrong answer. I distrust fad diets, and, though I’m sure he had his reasons for recommending that (mostly having to do with my weight), I have my own reasons not to do it. We’ll talk about willful disobedience later. though, and in another context.

Continue reading

the Association Principle


No, this isn’t about the sixties pop group. It’s about the ability of a human being to create new ideas by combining two old ones. It’s about understanding the interconnection of things, and about relationships.

As strange as it may seem to some, the ability to associate needs to be taught (at least in most cases that I’ve seen). Seldom does a child come up with an example on his or her own. They have to be taught that “this” associates with “that”.

Here’s an example, from this evening’s conversation with our young one, after she had left the room and my wife and I were unable to prevent the smallest cat from eating the peanuts out of her teeny bowl of trail mix.

My wife-“Bright Eyes ate the peanuts out of your bowl. And she licked the almonds.”

The child reaches into the bowl and prepares to put some in her mouth.

Me-“You really are DeeDeeDee, aren’t you? The cat had her tongue in that bowl. You know where that tongue’s been. Why would you eat that?”

The Look…that blankly hostile look, with the jaw thrust forward, the bottom lip pouting, and the eyes ready to roll.

Me-“You don’t understand, do you?”

Child (in really small voice). “no.”

Me-“You really need to speak up (The hesitant childishness is a behavior that must have earned her cute points or something in her previous life, but doesn’t operate under her new laws). If I can’t hear you, I’ll ignore you. (I know this seems cruel, but so many of her “things” are attention-getting mechanisms that are leftover from when she was two or three years old. Stated in these terms, this gets HER attention).”

The Look softens a little. I am ON Her Side, after all. I Mean Well.

The Mrs.-“Cats lick their ass with their tongue. That’s where that tongue has been.” Aside to me-“She doesn’t “get” germs.”

“I know. Brook, do you understand about germs?”

A slightly louder No.

“Okay. Germs are invisibly small critters. The thing that made me and your grandma sick is a germ.”

That she has successfully made this association is obvious. She “gets it”. Her eyes fill with wonder as a few of the chains of association that come with this small epiphany cross her mind.

“So when the cats lick their asses, those germs are on their tongue.”

Wife-“It’s why I don’t like dogs to lick my face.”

“You see,” I say, turning to the child. “You don’t really want to eat that, do you?” An emphatic nod-NO! “Good. Go throw that out.”

“Ew,” says the child, hastening on this errand.

Precious stuff. I want to give her the universe.

It’s true. We’re trying to get her to learn to want to read. She hasn’t yet gotten it into her head that this skill gives her the universe. She thinks tv and dvds do.

It gives me a sad. She really isn’t far advanced from where she was at four, when we last saw her, in terms of her skills and her interior life. She’s been surfeited with Dora the Explorer, who is several years too young for her, and similar pablum, and bought off with a constant supply of snack crackers and candy, with the occasional ice cream and soda pop.

Ghastly. We just tell her we’re not getting things anymore. I’ll tell her we’re just going to buy water, since she’ll slip off to Circle K any chance she can get and download a 44 oz. Code Red.

When she first arrived, she had a taste for coffee. Her version has three tablespoons of sugar, about 1/4 cup of high fructose-corn-syrup-laden nondairy creamer, and 1/2 a cup of milk. A liquid truffle, more or less.

The first thing I did was cut out the sugar, after seeing how she crashes off the stuff. Want a bitchy kid? Make her vibrate in place for 20 minutes after imbibing something like that, and then watch for the crash. As soon as she yawns, try to get her to do something.

Good luck with that. She learned all of this lunacy from her mother, who is her role model, gods forfend.

While we were at the bookstore, the child stopped me in my tracks by explaining that her mother used to read to her.

Selections from “Twilight Saga”.

My knees buckled. Here we are trying to work with Black Beauty, and My Friend Flicka, and this former victim of pedophilia has been subjected to that travesty, in both book and video form.

Woof to that warp. We got her those, and a handsomely illustrated sorta Cliff’s Notes version of the Secret Garden. And a couple of jigsaw puzzles.

My wife has even gone further. She is buying the child a Kindle. One, because she’s tired of giving up her laptop so the kid can watch idiocy on Netflix, and two, to help further her education. I know how to work the controls so that she gets so much reading time, so much video time, etc.

My part was in picking up a recorder, a set of small drumsticks, and a pitch-pipe. She wants a Hannah Montana guitar for her birthday. I’m going to try to change that to something that will last a bit longer and cost less, just in case she tires of it. I’m about 90% certain that it will, and then it’ll pass to me. I’d just as soon not have to refinish the thing.

I’ve begun playing things like Simon and Garfunkel, Neil Young video content for her, just adding them to her daily audiovisual diet, in the hopes that she’ll retain that association when we begin to try to find her musical horizon.

I know that she has excellent pitch from her happy-girl warbling, and I can work with that. She wants to learn guitar and piano…but she really doesn’t understand how hard it is to be good at playing a musical instrument.. She’s never had to work for or toward anything. So it’ll be a matter of not letting her frustration cancel out her talent.

She loves my song “Blutopia”. That one’s easy enough to teach her. I have lots of sheet music and tab books.

That’s the plan.

This weekend, I’m finally feeling well enough to maneuver the various boxes and instruments and equipment from one room to another, and she’ll have her own room by Monday night. Her and the bunnies.

Then I can get myself resettled and get back to work. It’s been a long time comin’-I can’t wait. My workday is cut down by an hour on each side, because of the child’s schedule. I’ll only be able to swing 3 hours writing/3 musical…but at least I have that, and can be productive under that arc.

A short story a week and a song every two is the aim. I’ll put them up here, at least temporarily, when they’re done. The first ones will be next weekend. I have three instrumental tracks and two short stories/articles justaboutthere.

Then, with any luck at all, I’ll have some things featuring the kid. I’m out looking for tambo, maracas, wood flutes, anything that’s cheap and will make noise, and I’ll drag out my acoustic instruments and usb drumkit. Perfect timing as the arthritis has been letting up and the pain in my shoulder isn’t as bad as it has been. I need practice at any rate.

And nothing teaches discipline and confidence like making music. I look forward to it. I hope we can get the Mrs. to play too.