Monday, November 28, 2005

It is raining.

And it is raining hard and for the whole day. It isn't a nice rain either. It's a rain that is constant and very cold. I was half expecting to see snow today, what with how damn cold it was.

Mock Congress continued in College Prep today. We did a little discussion about gerrymandering, and then I had both parties choose a nominee for Speaker of the House. After a small speech in Zero period, neither candidate got the majority vote enough to be called Speaker. The frustrated Zero period has found out the hardships of partisanship very quickly. Fifth period votes on a Speaker tomorrow.
After some discussion about Black Friday (the busiest shopping day of the year), Intro classes did a quickwrite about the issue of having cameras on the streets of a city to provide protection. Credit CBS 5 out of San Francisco for running a story about the small town of Ripon in California (south of Stockton) and the new wireless, live camera network that police are using. The position paper was a good, interesting thing to come out of the break with.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

One of the nice things about this week.

I guess the rule is that once you get married, all semblance of a mellow "break" is gone. Thanksgiving was half her family, and then a few days with mine. The first plans for Christmas began to emerge, which involves an ungodly amount of driving and not enough staying home. Anyone else going through this? Hell, I might want kids so I can have an excuse to stay home. Wait, scratch that. Then they all would show up here. Bad idea.

I was approached by a variety of different students during the break, all of which were smiles, and four of which said that they really enjoyed my class, which was mentioned without me asking about it. That was a huge pick me up. One was at the game in Windsor on Wednesday, one was at Safeway on Saturday, and two were at a local eating establishment on Saturday night. Sometimes it is simply that alone which will keep me going for awhile.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Ukiah 64, El Molino 39

This game was fun to watch.

Again I was missed my two important post players, and again the team decided that they would win anyway. This game began much like the last, the full court man press letting us jump out to an 8 point lead. After a little back and forth, the bench came in and helped us to an 11 point half time lead. We really should have been up more, but our free throw shoot was horrid (again, missing two technical shots)and we gave up 15 fouls.

The second half was totally different. The starting group was struggling defensively, not pressuring the ball, forcing bad passes, look for officials for help. After about 4 minutes, I put in the bench, and all hell broke loose. We immediately went on a major run that had us up 21 and flying up and down the court. One really pleasant story was a post man that hadn't seen the floor very much coming in and scoring 5 points and grabbing 4 boards in his minutes. It was neat to see. Then others got into the act, as the point guards started running the offense to the point of a simple lay-up. In the end, we went back to the Hurricane to not run up the score, and almost everyone on the team scored. A very successful outing.

People that made many mistakes on Wednesday changed them tonight, making them right. For only the second game in, this is a very good sign. Next game isn't for a week, and we play El Molino again.

Ukiah 43, Windsor 36

This game was on Wednesday night, and I figured a recap was in order.

First of all, my team is complete. I have 13 guys, all very nice, some rather athletic, but only one or two that have the "court sense". Although we have size, it has yet to truly be tested, but we are very, very quick.

The game at Windsor was going to be without two of my better players, both post men. I figured that this might present a problem because our back-ups played limited roles in 8th grade, and were a tad slower than most posts. I decided to play three quick guards, a small forward as a post, and the quick of the couple of post men. We started in full court man and quickly jumped out to a 15-3 lead. I was pleasantly surprised at the way we ran the court. For the first game, they looked pretty good. In the second quarter we had a chance for a blow out, but blew it. They had two technicals called on them, and we missed all four free throws. Include the 6 missed lay-ups and I started to pull my hair out. But the bench kept us comfortable, and we went in at half with a 7 point lead.

The 3rd quarter was a disaster. Suddenly we would reach on defense, wouldn't move on offense, and Windsor made the game close. In the opening moments of the fourth quarter, they tied the game. One of the reasons of the turnaround was because Windsor decided to have their post man dribble up the court, and often to the hoop, against my slower and smaller post players. I wanted them to pull through it, but the footspeed was not there as it had been in the first half. Wanting to preserve the win, I went to my Hurricane match-up zone (something I learned from my old high school) and they immediately began to jack up terrible shots. We went on a small run at the end of the game, including a couple of nice offensive series, and when by 7.

Not bad for a first game. It would show that we could be a great team, or a disaster, depending on our effort.

Friday, November 25, 2005

She gets it.

Normally, I can't stand Anna Quindlen. I love Newsweek, so much that I'm considering letting my Time subscription run out. But Anna Quindlen gets into these left-wing rants that make me think that she is actually Al Franken in drag.

Except for this month.

As a teacher, you always wish someone would step into your shoes for a moment and see how hard your job actually is. Quindlen did that, and wrote about it.

Check out Anna Quindlen's Newsweek article "The Wages of Teaching".

By the time I get to Arizona, Part 2

It really isn't that warm in Arizona on a November morning. In fact, it feels a whole lot like California at 8 a.m. Of course, Saddlebrook is at 3000 feet, and this helps bring a chilly nip to the morning air. This was my thought on Sunday morning when I awoke to the hazy Catalina Mountains right outside my doorstep.

I could go day-by-day about my events in Arizona, but I can sum it up very quickly with fewer words:

Sunday: Watch football, 9 holes of golf, steak dinner, play Bunko with wife's family. Bunko is this game that every woman on the planet seems to love. My wife taught everyone how to play it and the whole family is now enthralled by it. I won Bunko on that night, but I don't really like it very much.

Monday: 18 holes of golf, read book, salmon dinner, play poker. I lost $5.

Tuesday: 18 holes of golf, go to the wedding of my wife's aunt (the whole reason why we were there), very good Chinese food, Scatagories.

Wednesday: Home.

Golf in the desert was not a fun experience for me. The course was very nice, the fairways firm, the rough tough, and the greens slick, if not a little untrue. The area was full of animals. Dozens of different birds flock around the course, led by hordes of quails and the occasional roadrunner, who were really tame and enjoyed watching you tee off. Mix in the groundhogs and cottontail rabbits, and you had a pleasant desert setting. The problem is that once the ball is "out of bounds", you might as well forget it. There are a million little planets in the desert that have thorns (besides cacti) and they all surround the golf course. Searching for the ball in shorts is like walking in a razor blade forest. Of course, you might say that hitting the ball out of bounds is a bad idea. That is correct if I could somehow manage to not hit a slice on every fucking driver shot that I took. It was getting so damn frustrating that I was trying to use my 4 Iron off the tee for the drives. This created a weekend of 115 for my score, about 10 strokes worse than usual. Arg!!!!!!!

Other than eating, playing games, and celebrating a very cool nuptial (it is one of those marriages that is good), not a whole lot happened.

My vacation ended at 3:30 in the morning on Wednesday. Yuck. We had to drive an hour to the airport for our 6 a.m. flight to Los Angeles, and then nail our connecting flight to San Francisco. With only 3 hours of sleep under our belts, my wife and I trudged to the airport and caught our little jet to Los Angeles. It would have been nice to sleep on the plane, except for the fact that it was very rough. Think about a combination of 4-wheeling and a roller coaster, and that was our flight. Then we caught a 757 from L.A. to S.F., a much smoother and more enjoyable flight. Then it was a quick drive home for the end of my Arizona trip.

Impressions of the trip:
-Fix my driver slice.
-Fly United more. The staff was excellent.
-Go direct. No more connections.
-Arizona was not that hot, but it was dry as hell. Not good on skin that likes moisture.
-Would I mind living there? I really isn't a bad area, but I like the coastal atmosphere. I love rain, and Tucson gets only about 11 inches a year (Ukiah gets about 33).

By the time I get to Arizona, Part One

"Sir, do you realize that your license has expired?"

When you go to the airport to take a trip, that is one of the things you don't want to hear in the security check line.

My trip to Arizona started out very mellow. I nice drive to San Francisco and peaceful parking job at Long Term. Since it was Saturday evening, we had little in terms of that massive holiday rush that usually starts on the weekend before Thanksgiving. My wife and I arrived at the United Airlines ticket counter and did the automatic check-in, a real convienent way to nail down your boarding pass. You simply entered your credit card, and a machine spits out all the boarding passes you need for the trip. Then you show a valid photo I.D. at the security point and off you go to the gate.

That is, unless your license has expired, like mine was. So I went back to the ticket counter where they gave me a special ticket that was considered "extra security" for the boys and girls doing bag checks. I was separated and placed in a machine that blew air on different parts of my body. I'm guessing it was to check for explosive residue. Then I was brought to a different section where they checked everything in both bags and swabbed everything, and I mean everything, for explosives. They asked me a few questions, took my Swiss Card (a credit card sized device that is like a Swiss Army Knife), and I was on my way. They whole ordeal was about 10 extra minutes. I had no problem with the extra security and I had no problem taking time out to have everything checked. The people were very polite, with me and my items, and the horror stories about security that I heard in the past never occurred.

The flight from San Francisco to Tucson was only about 2 hours, and the plane was a small regional jet that was more like a dart than an airplane. It was sleek, quick, and the ride was smooth and hassle free. It was also more expensive than transferring along the way, by the tune of nearly $150. In the end, it is worth it, as we would have to transfer on the way home. We landed in Tucson at about 9:30 at night at a nearly empty airport and a crisp chill in the air. Northern California was just as warm, if not warmer, than Arizona on this day. We were picked up by a relative of my wife, a very nice lady whose bubbly personality is very refreshing. We didn't stay in Tucson, but actually in a very nice retirement community called Saddlebrooke. The master planned community is specifically catered to retirees looking for a very active lifestyle, focused around golf primarily.

Saddlebrook is about an hour north of Tucson, even though it is still considered part of the city. First thing that was noticed about Saddlebrook is how dark it is. At 11 at night, there were no streetlights. Apparently, there is a massive amount of astronomy that is researched in the area, and street lights are prohibited by law to reduce light pollution. Interesting tidbit, but it makes trying to walk home at night a little tough. The second thing that I noticed upon my arrival at my rental was the howling of the coyotes in the distance. The community is surrounded by mountains which are the homes of plenty of mountain lions, coyotes, and something called havalina, some sort of wild desert pigs.

I have to say that I was a little less than active during this part of the trip, and most of the first two days. As a teacher, I find that I decompress during the first few days of the trip to recoup all the energy lost during the school year. I'm so "on" during school, that I just sort of shut down for awhile to rest. So I appreciated the fact that I was in a new and interesting place, but I wasn't terribly awake for it.

More later.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Live from Tucson, Arizona

Just a quick hit that I'm not in my home town currently. I'm in the beautiful desert Southwest, where it is currently cooler than in Ukiah.

Go figure.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Legalize would decrease drug associated violence.

Les Crane was the biggest proponent of legalization in Mendocino County. He ran a "Hemp Church" in Ukiah and a similar place in Laytonville (about an hour north of Ukiah).

As reported in the Ukiah Daily Journal, Les has proved that legalization has done nothing but continue to destory the social fabric of Mendocino County.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Brian Schaffer vs. Montgomery County Schools- The Verdict

In the continuing effort to keep my loyal audience up to date on the pertinent Supreme Court rulings, I give you the verdict of Schaffer vs. Montgomery County Schools, a case having to deal with Special Education and the concept of "burden of proof". Basically, the question that was being asked was "does the school need to prove that the modifications of an IEP are in place and working? Or is it the responsibility of the parents to prove that the modifications established in an IEP have not been implemented"? For better detail on the case, check out my 10/06/05 post on the beginning of this case.

As I expected, the Court ruled in favor of the Montgomery County Schools, 6-2. Sandra Day O'Connor made the simple explanation that "We hold that the burden lies, as it typically does, on the party seeking relief." Delving deeper into the case, O'Connor gives a very nice explanation of education based federalism, IEP's, and the need for the establishment of successful parent-educator relationships for IEP's to be successful. The importance of "the core statute...the the cooperative process it establishes between parents and the schools." The Court then explained the rights of parents, which most of us are well aware of (if you aren't, you are endangering yourself), and the responsibility of the school district in implementing an IEP. It would also seem that the Supreme Court has a very good handle on the stress that Special Education causes schools districts, especially financially. O'Connor mentions that if the burden were to lie with the school districts, then the education system would need to be appropriately funded for such an implementation. Further, she states that "moreover, there is reason to believe that a great deal is already spent on the administration of...IEP's", and she mentioned Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, which mentions, "parents and schools should be given expanded opportunities to resolve their disagreements in positive and constructive ways," and that "teachers, schools, local educational agencies, and States should be relieved of irrelevant and unnecessary paperwork burdens that don't lead to improved educational outcomes."

This could be considered a landmark ruling that will give a little breathing room to school districts. Special Education is such a nightmare to deal with in terms of the legality and liability, that teachers should probably be paid more than General Ed teachers because of the pressure that is put against them by the legal effect of IEP's. And while schools can breath that sigh of relief, they should get too comfortable. While Justice O'Connor made it known that she understands the pressure of the IEP, she also made plenty of references that if the burden of proof is shown in a case like this, it usually means that fraud is involved. Seems like the message was "Education needs room to work right, but not fulfilling the obligations of an IEP means that you are defrauding the parents of the child." An IEP is, after all, a legal document.

Congrats to all the Special Education teachers out there. You get a moments peace tonight :)

Objectionable material in the classroom

Ms. Cornelius has an interesting article regarding objectionable material in the classroom.

Ed Youngblood, a 37-year teaching veteran, said he was forced to quit or be fired last week after showing an R-rated movie in his British literature class.... He resigned last Wednesday after complaints over his screening of the 1998 movie "Elizabeth" prompted an investigation....

Youngblood did not follow procedure by using unapproved materials in a class without first gaining permission from the school. Two weeks ago he showed the movie, which carries an R-rating for violence and sexuality, to a class of seniors.... Monday, Gwinnett County Public Schools spokeswoman Sloan Roach said that Youngblood chose to resign when told that an investigation had begun. Youngblood says he was given five minutes to choose between resignation and dismissal.

He said he was told those were his options because a precedent had been set at the school. In 2002, two special education teachers were forced to resign for showing the comedy "History of the World Part I" in class.

... Support is gaining at the school for Youngblood, who retired at the end of the 2004-2005 school year and taught part-time this year.

History of the World? Someone really has no clue concept of what is and is not acceptable in the classroom. I'm a huge fan of Mel Brooks, but History of the World is super wrong for the classroom for oh so many reasons. As for Elizabeth, the movie has nudity in it, a complete no-no for the classroom, regardless of age. The question is then becomes the issue about the teacher resignation, which is (like Ms. Ms. Cornelius stated) sounds kind of fishy. History of the World is pretty blatant. Elizabeth's nudity is brief, and can be justified depending on the subject matter. I used a clip from the movie when the Queen was crowned, but that was only about 90 seconds.

Over at Ms. Cornelius' website (A Shrewdness of Apes) she gives the explanation that showing videos is not something that should be done in the classroom. Clarify that, showing whole movies should not be done in the classroom. In most instances I agree. However, I'm not about to remove the medium from my teaching practice. My college prep class has seen no movies this semester, but will watch Startup.Com, and Roger and Me during Economics. Those will be shown during the STAR testing, when Seniors don't participate and have massive 2 to 21/2 hour classes. Both these showings are massive hits with the students because they are relatively short, and both keep the interest. Plus, they are real, which is always more interesting.

I do think that a class based on simply videos is one being taught by a teacher who has given up. Films are full of drama and garbage that really put kids to sleep, unless they have a whole lot of garbage action that is meaningless. They have their place, but the place is only when you want to seriously impact some meaning on the kid. When I taught World History, I showed plenty of clips to introduce certain aspects of history, but the only movie that has the right impact is Schindler's List, which should be view by every student on the planet. Hell, every student should go to Auschwitz once in their life to experience the horrid side of the human soul.

Mellow Week.......except for the hoops

One of the odd things about this week is the fact that my classes have gone very smooth and mellow, while basketball has become a situation that is full of drama.

College Prep Government is in the midst of researching bills for passage in a mock House of Representatives. Both classes are doing a great job with the rules (they must address each other formally, and me as "Mr. President") and the ideas for bills. I'll post the bill subjects later this week.

Intro is doing propaganda. They are creating brochures using 4 different forms of propaganda to promote a candidate (anything from Spongebob to Super Mario to George Bush). They are very creative and are getting the gist of the project, but are still having trouble identifying the different forms of propaganda. Of course, not studying has something to do with that.

Basketball is another story. I know have 15 players, with final cuts coming today. Recently, I've had a group of kids that have missed most of tryouts show up because our numbers are low. Interesting concept. Miss most of tryouts and show up with the idea that a full roster is better than a hard working one. That isn't how I work. I have a couple of players that have been here the entire two weeks, runnin and gunnin with everyone. I think I'll probably keep them, simply because the chemistry on the team might be better.

The Carnival of Education is up and as classic as ever. Hit it up.

Sunday, November 13, 2005


At the very least, you have to look at Pat Robertson as a form of entertainment. Remember that not too long ago, Robertson decided to try and make foreign policy decisions, like a call to assassinate Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez.
Please don't tell me you took him seriously, he's just too big of an idiot to really listen to. I remember listening to the news when I heard about Robertson's comments and I almost had to pull over I was laughing so hard. Something about Patty boy calling for a rub out just seems way too damn good to be true.

Thankfully, Pat hasn't let us down with his sense of humor. As you might know, the citizens of Dover, Pennsylvania voted out a group of school board members who wanted to teach Intelligent Design, which is basically Creationism without saying the word God. Besides the Constitutional problems that Intelligent Design brings about, you also have this model from the Intelligent Design Museum that religious nut Kevin Ham is creating:

Yes, that's a Triceratops. Yes, that's a saddle. Welcome to Intelligent Design World.
Anyhow, after the more "intelligent" citizens of Dover voted out the board members, out came Pat Robertson with his message of hope and compassion:

"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city," Robertson said on his daily television show broadcast from Virginia, "The 700 Club."

"And don't wonder why He hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, don't ask for His help because he might not be there," he said."

In addition, I would be looking for Matt Damon and Ben Affleck look-a-likes with angelic wings tearing around Dover shooting anyone that has committed a sin (Dogma fans would get it).

Thanks Pat! After the stress of the election, I needed a good laugh. And to the citizens of Dover, thank you for following the Constitution, not some old fool.

It was quite beautiful

People don't seem to realize that California has some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. My morning trip to Ashland from Burney was simply so enjoyable that the 2 1/2 drive there, and then back, was really quick.

This is Mt. Shasta from Hwy. 89, coming from Burney towards the mountain. Now, it is from some motorcycle website ( and it is the summer in this pick. Instead, picture a lite covering of snow along the road and Mt. Shasta totally covered. This was my view for most of my journey.
Ashland, Oregon is a very quaint little town that is famous for the Shakespeare Festival that runs for much of the spring and summer. During the off-season, the Southern Oregon State becomes the focus, and the town becomes a very mellow mix of cutesy college town, and content retirement community. This is the home of my grandmother, who at 85 still has more energy than people half her age. She works at the Festival Tutor Guild, holds a drawing class, works for a local Foundation, and helps manage her church library. She's quite a woman. The visit was excellent, as it always is. My grandmother is a former high school teacher from Hayward, California, and understands all the fun trials and tribulations that I'm going through. In fact, I probably owe her for getting me interesting into teaching. While my parents divorced, I spent a whole lot of time with her. However, we rarely stayed home. We visited museums, the Exploratorium, the Lawrence Hall of Science, Washington D.C., Sacramento......all kinds of enriching experiences. It kept me interested. And again, the ride home was totally gorgeous.
So I'm back home here in Ukiah, after the 4 hour trip back from Burney. I've been trying to relax a little since my weekend has been on the road so much. Mock Congress is in the works for my college prep kids, and propaganda with my Intro kids.
Enjoy the week!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Live from Burney, California

Wow, there is snow on the ground in Burney! Simply the fact that there is snow here is odd, the fact that it is the middle of November makes it down right bizarre.

I can't believe how tired I was driving up from Ukaih today. I had major problems on Highway 5 maintaining some semblance of mindful driving. I don't think I have adjusted to the season just yet. It helped that there was a Starbucks in Corning, which is just so damn wrong that I almost cried. Seriously, Corning is this orchard and hick town in the middle of nowhere, where farmers and truckers flourish. But lo and behold, a Starbucks (a good sized one too) is firmly implanted in the town's outskirts, close to the freeway. A triple mocha later, I was on the road again. Speaking of the season, I had to make the first round of cuts today. Out of 9 that tried out, I kept 5. Then I had about 10 football players show up. Second round of cuts is next Thursday, and it won't be easy.

I'm off to Ashland tomorrow morning.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

It has been a crusher of a week

First of all, I loved the rain in the beginning of the week. It was a pleasant and totally enjoyable experience. However, the week ended up going really, really slow. That is not good when you have a 4 day week. These last two days have taken forever to get done. So what's been happening lately?

-The talk in both classes has centered around the Props, and general information about elections. The students were very into the elections and had a chance to vote on a sample ballot. The results were different from the election. Half the students voted for Prop 73, most all voted for Prop 75, and almost all voted for Prop 74. The rest went down fairly badly, while Measure U (the Measure to help modernize the high school) passed in 4 out of 5 classes with the required 2/3's vote. Bad news for Arnold, most young Republicans do not like him. Everyone hates the idea of changing the Constitution for him to run for President. Not going to happen.

-Basketball has been interesting. I now have 9 total tryouts for the team with football coming in tomorrow morning for their first workout. At first glance, I'm not as talented as last year, but I might have a group that will be faster up and down the floor. This could create a lot of problems for a couple of teams that we play that have trouble in transition. At the same time, we might not be running a whole lot of half court.

-My International Relations class goes before the District Curriculum Board on Monday. Wish me luck.

-If you look back in earlier posts, you will see posts made regarding Ukiah Daily Journal Editor K.C. Meadows. You remember her. She's the idiot that doesn't like funding schools, but would rather fund community based pot gardens. Unsuccessful as she was in derailing the effort to support the schools, she let it be known one last time in the paper that the school should not get the money to modernize, and that it should stay in the 1970's condition that it was built. I notice that this blog is hit alot in the K.C. Meadows Google search. Here is a little memo to that moron from the Daily Journal:
1. Shut your hole until you have a damn clue about what you are dealing with.
2. Research is good. If you had actually stepped on the campus once since you tried to worm your way into my classroom and suck up to honornable Congressman Thompson, you would realize that the school is in violation of various State and Federal guidelines including; The American's With Disabilities Act, Title IX (that's the number 9, Ms. Meadows), and the various air quality standards because of the antiquated ventilation system. Interesting that you are against students, the handicapped, and gender equality.
3. Building a new school would cost 3 times the price, take longer to create, take up more land, and establish another building on land when the building doesn't need to exist. Hmmmmmmm, Ms. Meadows anti-environment? Not very Mendocino County now, is it?
4. Over the last two years, I have seen nothing good come from that your columns regarding the schools. You are an ignorant soul that is looking for frivolous headlines by exploiting teachers, administrators and students. I intend to have more of the Congressman in my classroom, and I'll hopefully bring more prominent figures to this school to keep the students interested in Government. I'll gladly allow some of the excellent reporters from the Ukiah Daily Journal into my classroom. You, however, are banned. Stay the hell out. Your last visit had you trying to make yourself the highlight by pushing for a new school (thankfully ignored by Mr. Thompson) and then using the paper to push that the Congressman spoke economic "doom and gloom" to the students. You made it sound cheap, although I now realize that I should expect nothing less from you.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh, rant over. Sorry for it, I just feel protective of such a nice learning environment. Everyone works so hard there, to have some spoiled brat bashing the school is sick. No one points out that this idiot is just anti-school for the hell of it. Grow up.

Mock Congress next week.

I'm off to Ashland, Oregon in the morning, after tryouts at 8 a.m. I might just blog from there, or Burney, California, the home of my father.

Monday, November 07, 2005

A numbers game.

First Day Basketball Tryout Numbers:

2001- 31
2002- 35
2003- 28
2004- 26
2005- 7

Yep, you see the number right, seven players showed up for the first day of try-outs.

Ouch. I didn't realize that declining enrollment would hit up this hard.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

The weekend that was, and the week that will be.

Wow, Batman Begins is really good.

In fact, the movie gets to movie up into my elite comic book movie category right now. I know, who cares? Well, I'm a huge comic book fan, and an even bigger comic book movie fan. Good comic book movies are usually enormously popular and make tens of millions at the box office. I always find it interesting that people don't want to admit that they like comic books, but will shell out the cash for a good comic book flick. My top comic book movies, in no particular order:
Superman Returns
X-Men 2
Batman Begins
Spiderman 2
The Crow

Batman Begins is the new storyline from Christopher Nolan, who directed one of my favorites, Memento. Christian Bale plays an excellent Batman, once again a tormented soul that decides to fight the crime that is infesting Gotham City. Finally, they decide to go away from the conventional villains and bring out the Scarecrow (done excellent) and Ra's Al Ghul. Notice that the Scarecrow did not die (a major mistake in Batman), you only see him take off. The whole movie felt right from the beginning, and the payoff was excellent. I'm very interested in who will portray The Joker for the next film, as I think it will be next to impossible to top Jack Nicholson. The only problem I had with the movie is Batman showing his identity to his ex-girlfriend. You maintain the secrecy, not give it up so easily. However, I can easily see the next film dumping Katie Holmes and moving on. The movie was excellent, a solid 9.5 out of 10. Stop repressing your nerd side and see it now.

I also saw Sin City this week, an amazingly bloody and nasty film that does an excellent job portraying the comic books from Frank Miller. If you are really into Sin City, then you will probably really like the film. The colors play right out of the comic book and the actors play all the roles totally over the top, probably just like Frank Miller intended. I appreciate Miller's style (his Batman adaptation "Year One" and "Dark Knight Returns" were excellent), but I really don't like a lot about Sin City. I love film noir and I love the "Pulp Fiction" idea where stories interact. However, the movie doesn't click for me until too late into the film. On top of that, it is just too over the top for me to really get into. The Mickey Rourke storyline was too brutal and disgusting, with little in terms of idea that was new, besides the sheer nastiness of the villains. The Bruce Willis/Jessica Alba story was interesting but predictable. I did like the Clive Owen story of prostitutes that own the Old Town area of Basin City. The hookers had a peace with police officers and the Mob, thus allowing them to basically govern an entire piece of town. The scene with Owen, Alexis Bledel, and Benicio del Toro was sexy, smart, and entertaining. I wanted to know the outcome and I had no idea what was coming next. It was the lone example of interesting storytelling in the movie. Being this critical might be without merit however. Many say that Sin City might be the most accurate adaptation of a comic book, and I'm inclined to agree. However, it is a movie and it was ok, at best. The Clive Owen storyline was enough to keep me interested. 7.5 out of 10.

What does the week have upcoming? The California Special Election will have a lot to do with it, as both classes take serious looks at the ballot measures. Then Intro moves into Elections, and College Prep looks at campaign finance. Basketball starts tomorrow. I'm excited as always, even though my two best guards are being moved up to Junior Varsity. My opinion about moving players up is simple; if they start on the J.V. program, they should be there. If they don't start, then it does no good to play up. Regardless, I'm going to have a small tryout group for the first time in 5 years. Normal tryout numbers average about 25-35 players. I only have 18 on the sign-up roster, and over half play football, which means they will come next week. Could I not have enough to even scrimmage? We shall see.

What to do.......

Interesting scenario.....

A group of students decide to create a video for a propaganda project. They are promoting a candidate for President, against the instructor. The project is to apply 4 different techniques of propaganda, create a clear vision for their candidate, and employ creativity. The video, of course, is primarily mud-slinging against the instructor, but in a very satirical manner. The students are basically pulling off a Saturday Night Live style commentary on why you shouldn't vote for the teacher.

The problem is the content of the video. Some of the creativity is really "pushing the envelope" in terms of creative liberty. None of it was illegal, however the entire piece is beyond politically incorrect, and morally questionable. There is no profanity. A few students in my class found the video to be a bit offensive. I found one part to be offensive, although not enough to be more than annoyed. I honestly believe that the students were simply trying to make a funny and creative presentation, and used bad judgment therefore stepping over the line in terms of material. I don't think they were being really malicious at all, regardless of the objectionable content.

My quandary is that I don't want to make a huge deal about it, but I think that it needs to be addressed that they went too far.

My current solution is this. They will get full credit for completing the assignment and meeting all the criteria. They will get no extra credit (which occurs when students go "above and beyond" in work, like video presentations), and I will write a few comments about the material that I find objectionable.

Your thoughts?

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Rainy Season has started

And my gutters have leaves in them. Dammit, this means a trip up on the roof, something I have not had to deal with as a renter. This means that my first task of this weekend will be gutter cleaning. Yuck.

It has been a very good week. Students in Intro have been involved in a very detailed political values discussion, and most have been totally immersed in the conversation. College Prep has been looking at propaganda and the different techniques involved in creating good propaganda. They looked in awe at the 1964 Lydon Johnson daisy nuke commercial. It wasn't too hard to get the message, "Vote for Johnson or die in a nuclear fire."

The excellent news is that the International Relations class was passed by School Site Council. This means that it is a 95% positive for next year. I would really like any material or suggestions if you have some.

I'm just been very tired and cautious about blogging lately. I get back into the flow once things settle down.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Education Carnival ...........this time it is mobile!

The Education Carnival is up now, except that it is in traveling mode. This week, check out the midway at Get On The Bus. I've never been to the site, so I can't comment on it, except to say that Get on the Bus was not one of Spike Lee's better movies.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

We are family

With a little help from EdWonk, I came across the Blog Family Tree, a little project that The Politburo Diktat has put on to see where this crazy blog world all started.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I'm a part of the Tree. Looking from where you started is interesting in a really weird sort of way. I've always been looking to keep some kind of journal, especially about teaching, but this blog has become something more than that.

So who are my "Blog Parents"?

My blog mother is Wonkette, which is a blog that involves political satire, mainly from the Left attacking the Right. I first saw creator Ana Marie Cox on the Imus in the Morning Program a few years ago, and I read it ever since......until recently. Now the Wonkette is no longer produced by Ana Marie, she is instead the Editor. Whatever, all I know is that it isn't as funny as it used to be. Ana Marie Cox has a personal blog, but she is spotty on updates and doesn't have the good humor she once had.

My blog father is Education Wonks. On one rainy afternoon in February, I decided to find some blogs from teachers, I as was having my own frustrations teaching. Low and behold, I came across Se Hace Camino Al Andar, a blog from a woman teaching in New York City. At that time, she didn't post often (she is much more regular now, and a good read) so I skipped it and found my way to The Education Wonks. From there I realized that knowledge is power and reflection is a great teaching tool that I had forgotten.

I don't think that I have any "blog children" of my own. If I do, I would really like them let me know.