31 May 2009

Sports Rant Sunday!!

Some days, writing a blog is really easy. you get out of bed and an idea jumps out and boots you in the junk and goes on it's merry way. and then there are days when you feel like you should write, but you can't imagine what in the world you would want to write about. for lack of a better description, those days suck. it's actually the root reason why I would never want to have a career attached to writing, as the idea of a lack of creativity being able to keep me from gainful employment would keep me up at night. But those days, unfortunately are more frequent than the days with great ideas (this should be obvious from the earlier statement), so i just have to just get it done...today, however, is not one of those days, and i still have the tingle from the steel toed boot to the junk...i even have a theme, which is Sports Rant Sunday...let's begin with...

...John Calipari. I'm not sure which is shadier, that Cal seemed to leave situations that he admittedly brought to new heights in NCAA scandalous rubble, or that Kentucky says they knew about the situation and hired him anyway. For those who need a little background, here's a snapshot. Cal was the coach at UMass when Marcus Camby was on the take from an agent, something he says he knew nothing about. Doubtful. Almost unbelievable. All you need to know about the end result is that when you look in the NCAA record books for the UMass run to the final 4 under Coach Cal, you'll notice it's absence- this is because when you get caught violating NCAA rules, they don't let you take credit for those wins and any championship banners you may have must be taken from the rafters. One NCAA final four, one vacated NCAA final four....let's jump ahead to 2008 and move down south, to where the BBQ is on point, the basketball is fanatical and where apparently, you don't have to take your own SAT to be admitted there (this is my time to hate...really?!? you have to cheat to get into the U of Memphis- don't they have open enrollment?)...The second vacated NCAA final four Calipari will have is beacuse of...

...Derrick Rose, another critical component to Calipari's success (as Camby was, I know some of you young bucks may not remember Marcus as a baller as opposed to the Mr. Glass character he's become in his NBA career) is right in the middle of a scandal that will, if proven true, will change the face of college basketball for quite some time. Derrick Rose has been accused of two things, either of which would be a devistating blow to Memphis Basketball as well as any marketability Rose may have had for himself...1) he and three other Simeon HS (Chicago, IL) basketball players are "allegedly" to have had their grades changed on their transcripts, Rose's from a "D" to a "C" (or, as i like to call it, from inelegible to elegible) for one month (long enough to reflect it on the transcript), and then changed back later (hopefully, and ineffectively, to avoid detection). This is the more reasonable of the charges, one that if it happened, he at least has some degree of plausible deniability. I can imagine a world where students may have never even seen their transcripts. However, this is not a legitimate response for, 2) Derrick Rose "allegedly" had another student take his SAT examination. Any of you all that have taken any College Board standardized test know they're a little anal about making sure you are who you say you are, by having to provide a student and a picture, and they're evaluated by someone whose sole purpose is to make sure the exact accusation Derrick Rose is being accused of, having a sit-in take your examination, can't happen. I believe DRose did have someone take his examination. I would tell you definitively, but since Rose is now speaking about this through his lawyers, I can't give you a clear answer. but this is one of those simple things- if you took the examination yourself, come out and say it yourself. There's no risk in being honest, and saying I took the examination myself. the fact that, three days after the story breaks, a search for Derrick Rose saying "I didn't do that," is not available, which speaks volumes to me, more than anything he may have said, or had his lawyers say...

LeBron James- If Nike wants to really be haters, they would keep the current LeBron-Kobe puppet show on the air, except they need to make sure the Kobe puppet makes some reference to the Magic and DHoward, and then have the DHoward puppet come on and push the LeBron puppet off the screen. But really, what more could this guy have done during the playoffs. He literally saved the two games they won, and were, across the board, outplayed- No answer for Howard, no real answer for the pick and roll, no answer for Rashad Lewis (he's grown up from having to watch him cry in the Green Room during his draft), Mikael Piertus, who Warrior fans may remember having never made a shot when it counted, outscored the entire bench of the Cleveland Cavaliers. In retrsopect, it's as if Nike knew all along- you may have noticed the theme of "I've got a ring, where's yours?" can easily be kept with a commercial with Kobe kicking LeBron out, saying only Conference Champions can live in the house, and bring in a DHoward puppet.

But i hate for hate's sake...


28 May 2009

The end of the semester...or...why students have "got it twisted"



I woke up this morning and saw it. i saw the light. most of you all don't get to see the light, as you have real jobs (or some of you all are living an Alaska, Aurora Borealis type experience, 24 hours of light, you unemployed fuckers). The light is what gets me through those rough November lectures on Shakespeare, knowing my freshman are wishing death for themselves or some sort of voodoo type curse on me that left me unable to speak. The light is what allows me to get through the months of February and March, when the convergence of school, testing, grading periods ending, and the mass of insanity that is debate in this block (Stanford, Berkeley, 3 State Quals and 2 NFL national qualifiers), when I spend about two weeks of the semester deathly ill, but unable to call in sick, because i can't afford to miss any more class, not because the administration won't allow me to be out, but because I can't afford to be gone that long, not if i expect the students to gain and retain the information I'm trying to teach them. The light is what makes the last few weeks of class, where people don't want to be there in the same way I can imagine that people are not looking forward to your first trip to the proctologist (and let me tell you, if you haven't been, it's gonna suck- this won't hurt a bit, well that's just not true). The light is the end of the school year, that thing we looked forward to more than anyone could imagine when you were six or nine or thirteen, and we imagined that there was nobody, no person in the world, could want the year to end more than i could have when i was a student in school.

Wrong. Your teachers wanted the year to end more than you ever did. I know it's hard to believe, but there were people that wanted summer more than you did...there are a couple of reasons why this is true...first of all, when students don't want to be there, a good teacher will do what is within their power to peak their interest and keep the educational train on schedule. when that doesn't work, they just want the students to be finished, and not in their classes any more. I know this applies to me. I was teaching a speech class a couple of days ago, when i started asking question of material i knew they were responsible for, it became apparent the students had not done the requisite preparation, which meant that some students that had done their due dilligence and were not able to fully enjoy the experience. when this happened, the clock for the end of the class couldn't have moved fast enough. Being a teacher is not like being a brain surgeon, but it is hard work, and it's even harder if the audience is not interested. when they don't care, it's really hard for me to care, so i just end up in a situation where i wish i had just dialed it in, as opposed to making sure i am prepared as much as i can be....

...the second reason i look forward to the summer is pretty simple, i get paid straight cash during the vacation. I get the same amount for not working in June and July as I do for working in November and March. It means i am allowed to have a vacation (although as i will explain in another post for another day), to attempt to recharge the battery of the American Nigga. But seriously, there are very few things better in life than

I remember sitting in a bar once (yeah, that's a more common theme than i thought it would be, but i digress) and a guy that had just been dumped by his teacher girlfriend (ironically, for not being open enough, and the reason I know this happens to be because he told me everything about his life, in what i could only see as the pinnacle of irony) tells me "The reason teachers get the vacation goes back to when kids took off the summer to help out on the farm, and since we've moved away from an agricultural community to the tech based society, we should have kids go to school for 12 months." I tried my best to stay calm, and i told him, in as nice a way as i could, that "The reason teachers get the summer off is because nobody would do the job if they didn't." But actually, i think it's probably more than that, as I know if i didn't get the summers off, I'd probably have to shoot up a grocery store. Most jobs are just a function of accomplishing similar tasks in repetition, so going to work and dialing it in is relatively easy- if you work at the Gap and you just want to dial it in, just stand in the back and refold pants (a job i've done). Teaching means you always have to be "on" and always have your "A" game. Well, that's not true, teachers dial that shit in all the time, and that's why so many of you have had bad teachers, and most of you hated those teachers. Fortunately, this is something i haven't (yet, knock on wood) had to deal with, as, for some strange reason, students tend to like me (it's probably the tons of self-deprication sprinkled over metric tons of insults to all students, bad and good alike, or it's the open candy bribes before evaluation days, but, once again, i digress). I love my job about 85% of the time, and the other 15% i fight through it, with a smile on my face (not really) and do my best Kool Moe D impression- I get the job done.

With all this free time, i need to figure out what i'm going to do with it all...i imagine the game of poker is involved. i think i'm going to try to play my way into the World Series of Poker Main Event, which is an admittedly lofty goal, but that's the point. If i meet that goal, then it will be an awesome summer, and if not, i'll play a bunch of poker, which isn't a bad alternative.

27 May 2009

Sometimes winning really ISN'T everything

I'm pretty competitive. Actually, that's a bit dishonest. I'm really competitive. But I have a different barometer of success than most people do. Most people really revel in the victory, and enjoy winning at the core of all things competitive. I don't really have that gene. Winning is nice, but the only reason, in my mind, that it's nice, is because the, alternative is losing. I can not think of anything in the world at all, I hate more than losing. I remember being a high school debater, and wanting to win so badly that it seemed that nothing else really mattered to me. It absolutely consumed me, and every decision I made for 3 years revolved around whether that decision would help me win more debates. I had a really good career, by the numbers, but remember being so disappointed with the results of my final national tournament that i essentially walked away from the activity, with no intent of returning (for those that understand how the NFL tournament functions, i lost the 13th round for my second loss)...

...it was not until years later, when i was enrolled at Diablo Valley College (some of you foolios are too young to remember, back in the day, you could defer your student loans with merely one unit, it was cheap to enroll in a single community college class, and i didn't have to worry about the grace period of my loan- clearly they saw through this sham later, and have since corrected this). I happened to take a public speaking class (figuring it would be an easy "A", and it was). They had a debate unit in the class, and somewhere during the unit, the teacher figured I may have debated, so he asked if i wanted to join the team. I turned him down, and told him why I hated the activity. he told me some words that convinced me to get back into debate, and to that i am thankful.

"you clearly love debate. but if you put all the value in wins and losses, you risk finding yourself debating not for love, but for wins. When that happens, quit. Wins stop when you quit, and if that's what gives you value, what happens when you stop debating?"

I took those words to heart and it fundamentally changed the way i value the activity, and it increased my quality of life across the board...it taught me to find the value in the quest, and to recognize that winning is awesome and cool and fun, but not the base of your value. it allows me to be really competitive, but to really enjoy a good battle, and although I don't like losing, the recognition that losing has value, even if the value is only how to avoid losing.

this is even a topic of discussion because i found myself playing the role of mentor again, with one of my debaters....let me provide some background information...We just returned from the National Catholic Forensics League Grand National Tournament. Out of the 125 teams at the tournament, this student placed in the top eight, losing in the quarterfinals to the eventual champion (a team that was the top seed, winning 15 of 15 ballots, and a quarterfinalist at the Tournament of Champions, so this team is no sloutch). He was also debating with someone he had not debated with all year (for those of you that play ANY two person sport, imagine replacing your normal partner and having to perform with no practice, this would be equally difficult). Nevertheless, he was unhappy with his performance, so much so he seemed to not be gaining any pleasure from the incredible accomplishment (if you doubt that, think of the last time you were in the top 8 in the nation, and then imagine being fully unsatisfied). Watching him brought me back to that time, when i was his age, and that was all I cared about. It also brought me back to all the bitterness I had for the activity, and how it bummed me out when I lost in late elimination rounds at tournaments, up to the point where i didn't even enjoy tournaments unless I won them (which I didn't do anywhere near enough to have been as bitter as I was about not winning them) and to the point where I just had to walk away and learn a new way to re-evaluate the way i looked at the activity. I had to pull my debater aside, and tell him my story. His response, which is pretty much everyone's response when i tell them this story was "you quit debate for almost 3 years?" most people that know me can't imagine me quitting debate. but when you tie everything to wins, and not just wins, but all the wins and the final win, when you fail to get that final win, you fail, period. i don't know anyone that would continue doing something that always has a negative result, as it is prone to if perfection is your standard (for example, I've debated at a tournament, won the tournament and was still not happy becasue i made fixable mistakes in all the debates).

I hope my words got through to him. It seems ludicrous someone could win 86% of their debates and not think of themselves as a winner, and that such a positive result could be frowned upon makes me sad.

21 May 2009

The California Mystique...or why Californians hate poor people (and gays)

"The irony of the law is the people that need it to change the most generally have the least access to the law."
- Me, unless you can tell me who actually said this. i couldn't have made this up...

Positional, locational knowledge necessary for a full understanding of my mindset...i am in route to Albany, NY for the Catholic National Tournament. We flew from the Bay Area, and I know there are many, many, many ways to efficiently travel from one city to the other. I will tell you our itenary is not proof of this. We fly from San Francisco to Las Vegas to Charlotte (which apparently has a skyline) and finally to Albany, where I'll get up at the crack of dawn (i had a friend whose motto

I haven't written in this thing for a few days, and it has been a struggle, as there have been a bevy, a virtual cornucopia of events to talk about...michael phelps, the poster boy for overachieving stoners everywhere...the NBA playoffs and the fucking sham they call the NBA "Lottery" (and really, if the lottery actually functioned the way the NBA lottery does, Bill Gates, Paul Allen and Alex Rodriguez would all win the jackpot, buying only one ticket. in any other world, we call that a fucking sham, but in the NBA, where traveling doesn't even exist and a sport that entertained the idea that Michael Oliawkandi was an athelete deserving of even a league minimum, we all just turn a blind eye, but i digress...The Governator suggesting that we legalize weed to solve the budget crisis...

...but the bottle spun stopped at California, the budget crisis and a couple of propositions on the ballot on the May 19th special election. i will preface this with one piece of relatively critical information. I am not a native Californian. I am from the midwest, a place with good, old fashion midwest values. We are ridiculed by the free thinking, ultra liberal Californians for our behind the times beliefs, and that we should join the world of progress that is California (can you tell now that I'm not a native, and that i have this dude on my shoulder, you might have met him, his name is Chip). I have lived in California for over 5 years on the second go-around, and I can say it is progressive, I mean you all have a medical marijuana policy to be rivaled only in places where it's actually legal (Amstradam is the name that pops in my head- if you ever happen to go, Barney's Breakfast Bar- best food in town, reasonable prices, friendly to Americans, etc.). But sometime during all that quasi-legal bong roasting, you all missed that you all have a $21.3 billion (LA Times 5-21-09) deficit, and there are going to be cuts. massive cuts. devistating cuts. There were two ballot measures on the May 19th special election, Proposition 1A and 1B, which were proositions to protect school funding (they're clearly more compliated that this, one measure held a temporary (sales, not income or property) tax increase for 2 more years, the second secured some budget line being used to prop up the already gutted public school system- this is also a generalization, but i fear the specifics and logistics will bore me into not completing this, and instead picking up this St. John Chrysostom's On Wealth and Poverty. But once again, I digress (I have been known to do this)...

...The implication of Californians indifference to the plight of their public schools (and not sure if you got the memo, but "public schools" do include the "cheap, high quality" colleges your state has been known for) is there will be $5 billion (yes, that's a 5, and yes, that a BILLION) cut from the education. After the devistation of the housing bubble burst (and for those not in the know, public schools are funded primarily by property taxes on homes- home value decreases mean a real loss of income for schools), the public school system is already on life support. This will lead to more layoffs, larger class sizes, school closures, and some districts risk going bankrupt. (LA Times 5-21-09) Hey Californians, didn't you hear your children are your future? Midwesterners may have to buy their chronic (are the kids still calling it that? Thanks, Dr. Dre for making me feel soulful) from some dude in a parking lot of a mall or on some street corner, but we don't smooth fuck our kids over. Minnesota (where I'm from) and Wisconsin (a place i hate, and hate on, but have to respect, in the same way i have to Respect The Rat, even though my day is improved by a full point by a Duke Basketball loss) are two of the top 5 (my numbers may be off on this, i am on a plane, so my research skill set is slightly limited, but definitely within the top 10) states academically. Is it because we're smarter than Californians? Irrelevent, in a world where both MN and WI make a concerted effort to give all kids access to the academic grid, something not done in California (and voting against the ballot measures is a symptom of this).

Voters don't see themselves in the kids and the parents of the public schools that are being devistated by these decisions, so they have no problem turning a blind eye to the plight of these children. But as i stated earlier, this is a symptom of a much larger problem, and that's how we view the underprivledged (which are the kids really hurt in this exchange- if you were going to a top tier public school, your school will still rock the house, just less than before. it reminds me of the Eddie Murphy skit where he's talking about divorce and taking half your shit. He uses Johnny Carson as an example how it sucks if you make $50 million and someone takes half, but if you make $30 thousand, and she takes half...well you see where this is going...the worst public schools, in the worst areas, with the most at risk students, are the ones that are getting jacked. I use jacked for a very specific reason- for a lot of kids at these at risk schools, the extra-curricular and/or co-curricular programs are the lifeline for a lot of these kids to improve their lot, and these are the first things placed on the chopping block. This is a major difference in the positioning of the issue and how the impact of these devistating implications will work itself out. The kid at the suburban high school gets some programs cut, but the impact of that is some discomfort, some unhappiness, but the long term implications to their lives and their ability to raise their lot in life has not been changed. The kid can't play chess at shcool anymore because the chess club lost it's funding, but that kid can still play chess at home, on his/her computer, and although their short term quality of life may be affected, they can still survive, dare I say, thrive. In the at risk school, that program being taken may be football, track and field, speech and debate, programs that can give kids the necessary tools for success, or at worst, a means to keep themselves out of nefarious situations by providing another area to focus on, something else to care about, to keep kids on the right track. How can something like this happen? How can we turn our backs on those in such dire need? The honest answer is one that won't make most of you all very happy- it's because you don't care. you may have some sort of empathy for these kids, but when it comes to putting your money where your mouth is, most people (definitely most voters, and if you didn't vote, you don't have shit to say, as you did it to yourself- didn't Florida 2000 teach you anything?!?) choose to vote to protect themselves, and not vote to help the less fortunate. But these same people will wonder why the crime rate is increasing, gang violence is spreading (i read a story in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on Cinco de Mayo talking about how gang violence is spreading out to even the suburbs and rural towns in Minnesota, and if you think there isn't causal evidence between shitty schools and school violence, you need to do a little reading- I would suggest Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol, a excellent mosaic on terrible inner-city, at risk schools, and compares them with their richer suburban counterparts- it's one of the more disturbing reads you'll encounter, but a must if you want a snapshot of what damning kids to a slipshod experience does to the kids, and inevitibly, to us....

...Lots of bitching, but not much in the way of solutions...well, i have some ideas, but it involves a word i don't get to use outside of debate formats, a paradigm shift. we need to change the way we evaluate the less fortunate. we need to stop trying to make the poor more like us, and look at the disadvantaged as just that- disadvantaged. Our framing of people in need of assistance is such that we don't help the disadvantaged not because they need our help to get out of being poor becasue that sucks, to a compassion of care, one that allows us to recognize us in the eyes of the disadvantaged, and when we get a chance to see our reflection in their eyes and through their experience, it allows us to helo the disadvantaged not because they need our help, but because we need to help them. William Stringfellow, a lawyer and theologian of sorts, illustrates this well in his book My People is the Enemy. This may simply be an oversimplification of the problems between the haves and the have nots, but it seems that we as people are trained, probably internally wired, to be more comfortable around those like ourselves. it's the reason when, in a world where you know nobody, people naturally gravitate to people like themselves. People are also more likely to put themselves at risk for someone that looks more like themselves (if you doubt this, name the war where the US went to protect people of color...keep thinking....keep thinking). even though it's something we don't think about, that does not mean we don't do it. Most voters like to vote for the status quo, and most revolutionaries want change. Generally, the people that want change the most are the people not getting as much from the system right now, and this is also a motivation for these people not voting, which means the system screws them so they don't vote so the system screws them and then they do vote, but the system screws them, etc. A catch-22 even Joseph Heller would be proud of...

...and while I'm just hating on California, let me just say you all hate gay people too, so the disadvantaged shouldn't feel like they're being picked on. Prop 8. Loses. Loses in all 58 California counties, which means it even loses in the Liberal Lovefest called San Francisco County. And there's a fight in the courts, saying the people don't have a right to vote away those rights. I wonder, if Prop 8 wins, do they make the same argument? It's always entertaining to see how people argue about topics passionately, as if the position they're in does not play in the equation. As if these same people would be making this empassioned argument if they had won. Reminds me of John Milton's Areopatgitica, where the Church, who was against licensing when it was their voice being excluded, but when they got control of the megaphone, wanted to control what comes out of the megaphone. Passion can't be manipulated, or true passion either can't or shouldn't be...

18 May 2009

A day in the life of an American Teacher...

Every day I teach, i put the days events in the mental rolodex, knowing full well most of the things that happen to me when i'm at school would not only be of no interest to the general public, it would be somewhat traumatic to have to relive some of these miserable experiences. Sometimes, something happens, a story so unique and/or entertaining, it bears repeating, and the story must live on...the names have obviously been either changed or removed to protect the innocent...

it's the last day of school and I'm heading in to teach the last class of the semester before the final, and there's an vibe of excitement and happiness in the air. Students have a hard time imagining this, but teachers look forward to the summer vacation as much as, if not even more than, students. this is for a couple of reasons, but the largest one, for me, is that i get paid "straight cash, baby" during the break, as if i was going to work everyday, but instead i get to sit at the spot, watch the tube, play video games and relax. it's a pretty good gig, if you can get it....anyway, the bell rings and it's time for students to come into the class. the first student to enter the class could be known to be a bit of a, for lack of a better word, jackass. just a couple of days earlier, he had been suspended from school for being caught playing the classic high school game, "Hey, mister." For those of you that don't know this high school game, i will explain. you stand in front of the store (liquor or grocery), wait for a person that looks like he won't rat you to the police if they object and ask the following.

"Hey, mister? Can you buy us some alcohol?"

What the game lacks in subtlety it more than makes up for in effectiveness. believe me, there are far more people out there than you think that are willing to pick the ever-so-popular in the joint "Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor" charge. However, as you can imagine, the game does have some modicum of a risk involved, and sometimes, the game has negative implications (why this student was suspended from school for this as opposed to arrested, booked and arraigned is beyond me, but i digress), and our hero was caught and suspended. the day of his return was the last day of classes, and apparently he came back because he's not the sharpest tool in the shed. So as he enters the room, an overwhelming smell envelops the room, and it's a smell i recognize immediately as marijuana. So, i make a relatively reasonable comment to the student, as we're the only people in the room.

"Hey, it smells like Indonesia in here."
"What are you talking about?" he asks.
"I need you to open your bag."
"What if i say no? I do have 4th amendment rights."
"You don't. You're a student. You're at a private school. You can open the bag, or i'll call the principal, who will call the police, and the drug dog, and you'll be taken out in handcuffs."

he hands me his backpack, and i open it. the moment it opens, the ENTIRE classroom is draped in the smell of what was labeled "Blue Lighting." I take it out of the bag and place it in the bottom drawer. i then proceed to turn off the air conditioner and open the windows in the room, to air the room out. the rest of the class shows up while all of this is going on, and one kid says, relatively naively, that the room smells like someone killed a skunk. the class spends the next hour and ga half studying for the final which will happen during the next class. after class, i make the student wait after class (which is after school, as well) and i make him follow me to the restroom, where he then watched me dump his "Blue Lighting" in the toilet, and flush it away.

On the way back to the class, I find myself dipping in unsafe waters. i have to ask a couple of questions. I needed to know why he felt the need to bring what was labeled an ounce of "Blue Lighting" to class. he explained to me his need to pick it up and the need to get it during lunch, and he had to leave campus (our campus is closed) during lunch (violation of rule), drive his vehicle to another high school (another rules violation), purchase illegal drugs (violation of rules and laws) and then bring them on campus, not to sell, but to show his friends. i then asked why he felt the need to write the type and amount on the bag. his answer: he wanted to remember the kind, and he wanted to make sure he remembered how much he was going to sell. i then asked him the final question, of why he felt the need to expose his cottage industry to me, to which he coolly responded, "i graduate in like 5 days, who are you gonna tell? and you already flushed the evidence. Touche, salesman...this kid ended up being expelled from school (yes expelled just days before graduation). seems he decided he was a fan of sex, and he and his girlfriend decided to "bust a fat juan" in the car. on the campus...i will preface this. the parking lot at the school i worked for had a really really large parking lot, and there were virtually 1000 spaces to have sex in where nobody could see you. however, outside the window of a portable classroom, directly in front of the window, is one of the places where it's pretty hard (no pun intended) to be unseen. the student was not caught by the more than plentiful security guards on the campus, but by one of the students taking a final. i can only imagine the scenario...

"excuse me, mr. longfellow, i think you should look out the window."
"why?"
"I'm pretty sure there's someone playing [Osama Bin Laden, Pussy Terrorist] in the car outside the classroom"

...don't worry America, he's probably still in some mid-tier college, skirting the law...

14 May 2009

The drive for excellence....

I'm a guy that likes a challenge. Not a physical challenge anymore, as being old and lazy has made those nowhere as much fun as they used to be, but the idea that something would be hard to do, something even I think is impossible to get done, and simply roll up my sleeves and get it done. Some would call it the midwesterner in me, the simple no-bones-about-it guy that, when the chips are down, you'll know that guy (or woman, lest i be accused of being more of a sexist than i probably accused of being currently) will do all they can, and that will ALWAYS be enough to get the job done. It's one of my best qualities, and the one that my therapist and every person i have ever cared about/cared about me has said it's also my greatest weakness. Since i don't believe in impossible, i sometimes bite off more than i can chew, and end up doing what i would call an insufficient job (for myself, many times my D- job is good enough to have others accept it as legitimate, which just means mad motherfuckers have low standards)....which leads me to why i haven't written on the blog in a few days...


...my assistant decided to not be involved with forensics next year. although this is devistating, it was 1) not unforseen, and 2) probably about time for her to step away. she's a wonderful woman, who's awesome with the kids, awesome in a way i could never be, as i am a lot of things, but nobody sober would ever use the word nurturer to describe me, for a variety of reasons , and i imagine they would all, every single one of them, would be correct. but she's in her late 50's (something i had never really considered until, at the TOC, she told me, realtively excitedly, that she gets the senior discount, which was the exact moment i realized she was probably not coming back, and simultaneously why it seemed to make sense). I'm absolutely sure that me being me (like Manny being Manny without the female hormones to create testosterone, or the millions upon millions upon millions of dollars that dude has). On an irrelevent tangent, how does this 50 game suspension fuck Manny? He gets 50 games off, has millions upon millions upon millions of dollars already, the Dodgers get to spend the money they saved paying him for 50 games to improve their pitching, and Dodger fans bought into a fraud. If I didn't hate hate, really fucking hate the Dodgers, this wouldn't bother me, but they even got over when Manny gives them the shocker....damn damn damn, like Florida Evans on Good Times. Back to the initial rant...


...My assistant leaving means there's a REAL possibility where I may be the only employee at my school doing speech and debate, a program with over 100 kids. every program on campus with this size has 4-10 teachers affliliated with the program. but since what i do is insane, and known at my place of employment to be insane, it means nobody wants to help (why would they, if you could moderate a group that meets once a month at lunch, or do what i do, which is essentially travel 20 weekends a year with high school kids ON TOP of moderating a group that meets four times a WEEK). it takes a special breed to do this, one that is probably insane. Check. Got that covered. The program is too big to run with one person. There's too much stuff, too many kids, and it can't be done. Really. Can't be done? Well, whether it can be done or not, it's going to GET done. I know that, beacuse when it's all said and done, I don't have the heart to tell someone that loves what i do that i can't give them what they need to succeed. And i know how to get the impossible done, and have been getting it done for years. That's my MO. I'm, in this random, crazy, bizarro world, the Magic Man, but only for my kids, and the random people in my life that have access to my devotion. I will go to the end of the earth for my kids, and that's why my kids love me. it's not because i have the ability to nurture, becuae if it was that, i'd be totally fucked. the reason my kids love me is the reason my school can kind of fuck me, because problems always get resolved, and it always works in their favor (ie: the kids succeed, the school gets positive run, and other than my being run ragged and having small bouts with pure sanity, everyone wins). Makes me feel unappreciated, and makes me want to leave. But they know I won't, because i love those kids....

Like i said, it's my strength and curse, simultaneously.


12 May 2009

The Hamburgler, or why winning the Copeland is nice....

Sometimes i think back upon occasions and i wonder if other people would find the situation as entertaining as i did...Let's see...

...The Tournament of Champions, as i have described earlier in other posts, is a debate tournament held Kentucky Derby weekend, where some of the best high school debaters in the country come together and reach for the stars. but, as most events where hard work happens and then there's time at the end to unwind, people lose their minds at the end of the TOC, where partying and having a good time are at a premium. Even thought the TOC had another full day of debates, there was no debates left for my team, and not having to be the responsible party, i decided to hang out with some friends and have an adult beverage (being of age and all). during the evening, it became apparent that one of my boys, let's just call him R to the MF H, was in hot pursuit of a young, attractive woman from the fine state of florida.
R to the MF H was feeling fine about himself, enjoying the fruits of labor from his work in the classroom, the debate house, and the gym. having had a great season, and feeling like he was a good looking guy, R to the MF H begins making his move, but to his surprise, she was not as responsive as he would have hoped...apparently a young stallion of a debater from the University of California was also in hot pursuit, and he was somewhat of a debate wonderkund, achieving the highest full season goal, the Copeland (no, women in bars really don't care that you've won the Copeland in general, but maybe that's different in the IC). as powerless as the Copeland leaves you out in the real world, in the debate world in general, and the TOC in particular, the gloss of a Copeland winner takes you far...apparently it took my boy R to the MF H's possible conquest from the "i can get this done!" catagory to the "where is she? doesn't she know who i am? i'm R to the MF H!!" apparently this was to no avail, as our protaginist (that's R to the MF H, in case you forgot) storms around the hotel, in a bit of a rage and is in a fighting mood. the best way to resolve issues of bitterness and anger in the world i live in is obviously copious amounts of alcohol. So R to the MF H, my boy Steve, and a couple of Lexington locals went to some bar in town i couldn't find again if the place was actually on fire. On a tangent, and probably in my "charmed life" post that hasn't happened yet, my boy Steve had the day before hit the trifecta at the
Kentucky Derby, winning over 18K before taxes, and at one point during the weekend, he had a backpack FULL of $50 and $100 bills, something you really have to see to beleive. So we're all out, having some beverages, all the while R to the MF H is steaming, virtually on tilt with anger about the issue. My boy Steve is a lot of things, loyal, generous, smart, funny, but he is, under all that, a hater. a true, diabolical hater, probably the most diabolical hater west of the mississippi. and he can't pass on this great opportunity to just needle our boy...
"it's gotta be killing you, knowing you're here, drinking with us, and [the freshman] is at the hotel, beating up your girl. beating the pussy up....beating it up 'til it looks like hamburger."

yes you read that right...beat it up 'til it looks like hamburger.

but wait, there's more..."i'm giving your boy a new nickname...the Hamburgler. He's at the hotel, burgleing your girl, and making the coochie look like shredded meat."

there may have been 1000 funny things said post this, but i wouldn't know, because for about 10 minutes, i laughed hysterically. i laughed so hard i couldn't be contained. i had to leave the scene, and find a restroom, lest i piss on myself. it was a legitimate concern.

but wait, there's more. duringh the evening, the conversation from all parties was for our guy to move on, wealixze there are many more fish in the sea, and try to enjoy the rest of the evening. so our guy, following the nearest donut rule, turns and hits on the first woman he sees, the waitress from the bar, and as you can imagine, a drunk, salty, bitter, just shunned dude does not usually make for the best "pick up"artist, which meant he had no chance to pick up someone that didn't already want to fuck him, so he was once againe shunned. my guy Steve, partially as a demonstration and partially as a hater, decided to show R to the MF H how "a real player does it" and proceeded to get the waitress' phone number. even while all of this is going on, i'm having a hard time concentrating, as all i can imagine is the girl my guy was rolling up on, at the hotel, with the freshman, in full Hamburgeler costume, just Osama-Bin-Laden pussy terrorizing...it STILL makes me laugh when i think about it...


09 May 2009

A different post...



My mother is dead. There. I said it, and now that's
out of the way. it probably does explain why i hate the day soooo much. Not very much fun to be reminded of the most important woman in my life insofar as making me the person that i am. as i sit here, it has occured to me that over the last few years, i have found myself in the doldrums on Mother's Day, as I seem to let the pomp and circumstance of the day get to me. But like the homosexual community has reclaimed the word "fag" (which the Brits call a cigarette, and even knowing that, the first time i heard it seemed strange nonetheless), i am going to take Mother's Day, and use it as a way to reflect on the life of my Mother, and to give you all a snapshot of the woman that gave me any of the positive aspects of my personality (any negative aspects i claim as my own, generated out of a little pocket i call "hate")...

my involvement in Speech and Debate has been the largest positive influence in my life. Period. It's given me a confidence i didn't have, in addition to a skill set as a speaker and researcher that has gotten me pretty far in life, including a means of gainful employment...and it wouldn't have happened without Ma Dukes (if you miss the reference, you need to listen to more rap music), for a couple of reasons, the first clearly obvious, and the second was much more subtle...

...i got into speech and debate by being bribed. yes, bribed. my parents (mom, dad was cool with me just playing sports and trying to achieve a
somewhat normal socialization process) wanted me to try Speech, and when asked initially, i laughed openly. I was a small, shy kid that did not enjoy the spotlight in any way, shape or form (not that different now, just replace shy with hate-filled). My mother seemed to believe public speaking would be something i would thrive in (she saw something i missed, apparently), and was willing to pay to make me give it a try...and Ma Dukes always paid cash. She offered me $1000, as Randy Moss would say, "straight cash, baby" to get me to join the team for my freshman year. Because I, like most Americans, had a price, and $1000 clearly fell in that price range (it's 1984-85), i joined the team, doing a little acting (an event called Humorous Interpretation) and a little quick thinking and speaking (an event called Impromptu Speaking), and even though I was not really enjoying it when i started, i realized the only way to access the money was to do it and not quit. Somewhere in the year, i began to really like doing speech, and was doing pretty decently. by the end of the year, i had moved up the food chain, guaranteeing myself the ability to enjoy all the perks and benefits of the speech and debate team (amazingly enough, we do travel more extensively than any other high school program). and i did get my thousand dollars, spent as foolishly as a 13 year old kid could do so (legally).



...but my freshman year, the loyola/redlands swing was the one tournament i really wanted to attend. I had been attending local tournaments for a few months, being at the time forced to give my "green pastures" HI for numerous weekend, and was getting OK, having moved up from novice to varsity, and having done relatively well in varsity. The Loyola/Redlands trip was a driving trip to Los Angeles to compete at Loyola Marymount University, and the for the debaters to drive to Redlands, CA to attend the University of Redlands high school debate tournament, while the rest of the kids went home. We had a ton of kids that wanted to go, and so did I. I also felt i deserved to go, having moved up the ranks quickly because of my hard work and a healthy dose of old fashion arrogance. when the list of kids going to Los Angeles was posted in the debate room, i was stunned to not find my name on the list. I was broken. But more importantly, i was spiteful, and if i couldn't go to a decent tournament, if i wasn't good enough to go to a place where i was going to spend my own money to go, then i wasn't worth the van space, and fuck them, and fuck this activity. i don't need $1000 badly enough to do this (hell, i'm 13, i live at home with literally no overhead, why do i need the money anyway? why did i let myself be bough?). well, when i got home, and told my mom how i felt (i'm sure i didn't pull punches, one of the things she made absolutely sure of was that i spoke what i needed to speak, and to leave nothing unsaid, as you never know). she told me to just relax, and to not worry about it. so i went back to doing my homework (yes, there was a time where that happened consistently, and it was long ago, so chill out, folks). the next morning, when i go to school, i find out there is an additional list for kids to go to Los Angeles, and that there's only one name on the list, and it's mine. well, i'll admit i thought it was pretty cool, i felt deserving (i did speak of my arrogance earlier, did i not) and so i just went about my merry way. it wasn't until i showed up at school the day we departed, bags in hand, did i find out what everyone else must have known, because in the driver seat of the van sat my mother...

mom really enjoyed some Gladys Knight and the Pips, so i will be interjecting a little now...




...the thing i do for a living could not make me happier, and i feel like it's a place where the things i love and the things i'm good at seem to align. i have a degree in Chemistry, and i can't imagine doing anything i would enjoy (maybe if life takes a bad turn, i'll make breaking bad into a documentary) anywhere near as much as i do this. when i told my mom i wanted to coach, she said, matter of factly, "i knew you'd end up being a teacher. just wanted to make sure you stayed open to lots of ideas, and that's what debate got you. it allowed you to find your space."

and you allowed me to find mine...thanks...i love you.

Where have you gone, Joe Dimaggio?

It's sucks being a sports fanatic these days. When I was growing up, I
only wanted to be a few things for a living, and one of them was
sports reporting in general, but radio talk show host in particular. I
loved listening to those talking heads, pontificate about their chosen
stories of the day. But more importantly, I loved sports for their
purity. I've had this illusion that the battlefield of sports was a
place where warriors, fucking warriors went to battle, using their God
given abilities to win the war. In short, I felt sports was the place
where cheating was frowned upon, and a place where the will and the
heart of a champion could outweigh any physical or skill set
discrepencies...apparently I was wrong, as wrong as I could have
imagined.

But as odd as this sounds, it's not that Man Ram, Barry, A-Rod,
Clemens, Giambi, etc. have all been directly busted, admitted, or has
been essentially blacklisted from baseball that depresses me. It's not
that the Olympics isthe pinnacle of cheating and ofuscation. It's not
even that . It's that the nature of the game, the bullshit they've
been spoonfeeding us, has become so common, so standard operating
procedure, that I have stopped caring. I found myself saying, to
someone talking about A-Rod and his steroid "admissions", I found
myself saying, to a receptive audience, that I don't care, and if he
was honest, nobody else would care. And it's true. It's some absolute
bullshit that it's true, but that doesn't make it any LESS true. The
fact that it has stopped mattering to me kills me inside. I want to
stop watching, stop paying attention to sports, and start thinking
about it like I think of Boxing (which isn't really a sport anymore,
as it's literally just to steal money from bettors in the most rigged
sporting event since the CCNY basketball program in 1950- sorry to
burst your bubble). The fact that I just shrug my shoulders when I
hear about Manny, that I feel nothing when I consider my guy, Kelvin
Sampson, is essentially banned from coaching and I think nothing of
it, even thinking he got done a little dirty (for cheating!!), that
the idea of dishonesty is something I should accept, like that being
pulled over for Driving While Black is acceptable or that I should
stay silent in the face of oppression. With the same vigilance I fight
those things, I need to fight for the purity in the things I love.

I just don't know how...

07 May 2009

musical post #2 or life's not a bitch, life's a beautiful woman...

...you only call her a bitch because she wouldn't let you get that pussy...
- Aesop Rock

A couple of observers and/or followers have indicated i didn't do the musical post as much justice as i should have, and even friends have indicated i left off some genres of music that are integral to the person i happen to be musically...




the psychedelic furs are one of my favorite alternative, early 80's bands. it's one of the guilty pleasures i had in my youth, and still have today. when i moved to east bay, i was a young and impressionable kid, with almost no access to any other forms of music other than the motown influenced music my parents enjoyed, or the country music, in all it's variant forms produced from living in rural, rural America (we have both types of music out here, country and western). So when i hit the bay, one of the first bands i heard was the psychedelic furs, and the music seemed to just fit right, soulful voices, synthesized music...just seemed to work well...

...that being said, sometimes i really do enjoy some country music. i'm not talking that dixie chicks-kenny chesney-travis tritt bullshit. it's instead the old veterans- waylon, the original hank williams, and of course, the original man in black, mr. johnny cash. there are a variety of songs i could have chosen here, but sometimes life is best in its simplicity. no need to go out and show the dephts of my love for the man in black,




lets not get it twisted, i enjoy a variety of genres of music, but as a backbone to it all, seems to be the motown sound my parents enjoyed on our long, long, long cross-country road trip. the old school soul genre has soooo many songs i feel just hold a solid place in my spirit, and have such an important role in my musical blueprint, it seems i will always be doing it some sort of injustice, always feeling like i'm leaving off something...but the wonderful thing is i can always just write another post about music i like...but sometimes i just like to make sure my voice is heard, and today, that voice says chaka khan needs to be represented. mary j. blige does an incredible remake of this song, and now the remake is old enough that some of the youth aren't giving credit where it's due, as Chaka Khan was putting out hits like Ike and Tina were, except nobody was beating Chaka's ass to make sure she stayed in line, thus no "what's got love got to do with it?" for ms. khan, although she did come out with a great dance diddy in the mid 80's with "I feel for you





we'll close this second musical blog with some underground hip-hop i also discovered one of those sweltering summers in Austin, Texas. it's amazing to sit around a room with people, from all over the country, for weeks at a time with full access to someone's musical library. we all know people that, as you hear more of their music, you realize there is something in all of this destined to be part of your musical blueprint, and mine wouldn't be the same without a little aesop rock



the line from the top of the post is one of my favorite hip-hop lines ever, and the line, by itself, that got me into aesop rock....and the album Labor Days is a underground classic, well worth the $14 some store may charge you, but if you live in a place with a solid used music store, you can probably pick it up for a few bucks (I got mine at Rasputin Records in Berkeley, and it cost me all of $4, and i know because the sticker is still on it). Some of the smartest lyrics i've heard, but the beats aren't very complex- which is a good thing- as it allows you to focus on what's being said...



06 May 2009

the first of many musical posts

we'll start off the first of my musical posts with a little Jedi Mind Tricks...a song i loved the first time i heard, and my first introduction to the lyrical gang-bang that is Mr. Lif...





the first time i was introduced to this song was a sweltering summer i spent in one of my favorite places, the city of Austin, Tejas. If you've never been to Austin never stopped in to Star Seeds Cafe at 3:45am, after a couple of Mexican Margarita's and some traversing of the 6th Street scene and catching a show at Stubb's BBQ, you are truly cheating yourself. It's a top tier town, a progressive town, a college town and a tech town simultaneously, and all the things each of these towns would offer alone, Austin offers in a package...and it's a short drive from the Salt Lick, and I'll go more indephtly on the Salt Lick when I do my "Get your eat on!" post. The song just resonates with the things I loved about Austin- an incredible music scene, where you can see soulful music of all genres on any given night (those with the time and the love for live music have just been living an incomplete life if you've never been to South by Southwest, a music festival held in Austin every year. simply incredible). The lyrics just remind me of that soulful beat that seems to pulse throughout the city, and it just makes me a happy camper. Thanks Stetson...

can't really have an introductory snapshot of my musical background without a little stevie wonder (as opposed to "little stevie wonder" from the "I was made to love her" time- which i also love, but in a different way, in the way you may love peanut butter cookies and Sunday afternoons differently)...



this was a hard choice for me, as there is so much stevie wonder that i really enjoy...as i mentioned earlier, one of my favorite songs is "little stevie wonder" in "I was made to love her," the deep bass and the sweeping beat in "Livin' for the city" also makes it a classic, and i can't even speak of the man if i don't "big up" my mom and dad's favorite stevie song, "As" from Songs in the Key of Life...but this can't just be a stevie wonder love fest, but i imagine that will happen some day as well...

...you never know where you'll hear good music and who will also have a love for the same music, someone that will be able to contribute your rantings about how awesome your find is...this is one of those finds...i was in a music store at the National Debate Tournament in Springfield, MO. Let's just say Springfield, while not exactly the Anti-Austin, at times and in place makes a great argument (although if you're looking for a club that caters to "gentlemen," Springfield is your spot- just don't have high expectations). i was just walking through the store, and this song came on...i walked over to the register to ask what it was, they didn't know, so they stopped the CD player to see and tell me. Best thing I did in Springfield all weekend...the NDT sucked, but that's another post (or maybe a previous one)...anyway, if you're not a jazz fan, or a live music fan, please just bypass this one...but if not as you listen to the guitar, think this is October 1971, about 3-4 years before the funk guitar really gets going...




we'll close it off with a some hip hop, and this is another of those CD's i didn't know what i was getting into when i put it on for the first time, this group came so correct in their first two songs on this album that i was sprung immediately, and now i want to share some of this, not a group anymore, but if you don't have the album, pick it up, it's tight....just picked this joint up the same way i pick up most of my recent hip-hop, burning it for Holland...good looking out....



back to grading Areopagitica papers now...FML...





05 May 2009

Some days just suck...

it's just been one of those days...started traveling three and a half hours before the crack of dawn will definitely put a wrinkle in your morning, and it'll take that thing called patience and piss all over it like Patience was the name of an R. Kelly dancer. it'll literally take the spring out of your step and make you wish for the whole thing to be over...and that makes the assumption everything goes perfectly....which it clearly didn't. currently, i am sitting in a fine watering hole establishment, waiting on a French Dip before i continue my journey, which at this point, started 14 hours ago, and i'm still two time zones from my house, and i'm hours away from departing. Don't get me wrong, i love Minnesota, and the Minnie Twinnie is literally one of my favorite towns in the world. That bring said, it's still not my current home, and usually, I have some advance notice I'll be coming, which allows me to coordinate with the few friends i have left in the Northern Tundra. This time, I was more or less stranded here, with my high school kids (and if you've ever hung out with someone , you know that the moment you're supposed to be home, any patience you may have had with regards to the people you're with, well that shit just flys out of the window. I know they're tired of being around me, and it was obviously mutual. So it ended up being a blessing in disguise that we were not able to all fly home together, as there were not six seats on any flight going back to the Bay Area, so i loaded them on a flight with five seats and had to figure out my own way home...horray me, bitches!! They never should have gave us niggas money!!


however, that does mean i'm still sitting in the airport, and will have heard the announcement...The Time is....5am. i will also get to hear the announcement....The Time is...5pm...which means i've been traveling too long...but if you're going to get stranded somewhere, the MSP International Airport is an awesome place to have that happen. Even if the MSP Airport wasn't a top tier airport for food, shopping and entertainment, it's only a $12-15 cab ride from the Mall of America. Yes, I said it, the Mall of America....

...i begin this preface with i hate malls. I mean, i really really hate malls. But malls are a quaint contradiction for me. I hate malls, and all that they entail. But I actually hate shopping more than i hate malls. and if you really hate shopping, then malls are a shitty, but necessary evil. All the shit i hate having to find is all in a centralized location at the mall. So, even if i don't like doing it, it always seems to work out pretty well. As I walked around the mall (another benefit, the copious amount of walking that has to take place at the MOA), i realized my phone was acting up, and so I went to the Apple Store, talked to a "genius" who figured out my phone was not working, and replaced my phone, which, as of now, seems to be working just fine, thank you. It also allowed me to get my girlfriend a gift, as today is our anniversery. Had a cool evening planned, but only part of it can happen because i'm still here in MN...

i guess it could be worse, i could have kids with me, and had them all day, complaining about how their day is inconvenienced by this airplane debacle...

04 May 2009

the Tournament of Champions or why I may be doing my kids a dis-service by chasing the white whale

I'm sitting here at the Tournament of Champions, and all in all, it's been a good day for Team Dennis. I have very good friends that are for the first time tasting the fruits of the outrounds of the TOC, and for them I am very happy. My girlfriend and her team WON their division of the Tournament of Champions, a feat any coach would love to achieve (like winning a WSOP bracelet, except they give away 40+ of those a year, and you can lose and enter another later, not really an option at the TOC), and so she is on cloud nine, and well she should be. But being here reminds me, in no uncertain terms, that our success on this field requires an above and beyond experience, and even with such, it's not a guarantee....

...
it's not that I want it to be easy, not at all. the experience of the TOC, or anything that really fucking matters, should be hard. it should be something that seems unattainable. the key word is seems. it needs to seem unattainable, but you actually need to have an access point. you need to be able to put in the work, and when you do, you need to have a legitimate chance at success, and most of the time at this tournament, i don't feel that chance exists. I evaluate the TOC as an experience not very different from the NCAA basketball tornament. it's a qualification process, which if you qualify at the given tournaments, you are allowed to go. This means that your big teams are always going to qualify, your Duke, your Kansas, your UCLA and there will always be a lagre group of teams that will qualify consistently but more sporatically, your Creightons, your George Masons, your Miami Ohios. Finally there are teams that qualify, but its rare for them, and they get to attend the tourmenent not because they're among the best, but because their qualification process was easier. these are your sam houston states, your moorhead states, your IUPUI's. as of right now, we're in the bottom catagory, where we should be happy to merely attend the tournament, and any success we have should be just gravy. I hate that. the program i took over had a almost uncomfortable phobia with winning when i was hired, and it seemed they were always afraid to put themselves out, for the fear of failure. It took years for the students to assume i had their best interest at heart, and to get them to fully buy in. the kids believe in what we're trying to do, and now they have expectations of success, and great degrees of success based on those expectations....

...and i should preface this discussion with this fact- i know what it takes to make a splash at the TOC, and it's a relatively simple formula. Debates. Lots and lots of debates. Getting these debates, even if you don't win those debates, is huge toward the success and growth of your program. It gives teams an opportunity to see you debate and figure out your strenghts and weaknesses. it gives your debaters a chance to compete against the best, to get to use the top of the activity as a measuring stick, and find out where they stand...at one point this weekend, i was talking to one of my students, who was in the doldrums (if you miss the reference, please read Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth, a wonderful kids books that kids probably miss the true point, like The Adventures of Alice and Wonderland) about her experience, and she even began questioning why she came and why she should continue...and i talked to her relatively extensively, but in retrospect, i feel like i was dishonest with her...

...not with the crux of what i talked about, that her love for the activity, and all that she's given to the activity, she should not allow, and i will not allow her, to let her worth as a person or as a debater should have nothing to do with the experience, that this is a really hard experience, and that she would be being dishonest with herself if she thought she'd have been happier if she had stayed home, having not qualified. i wanted her to remember the schools like James Logan, kids who if i could have afforded to just pay for them to go myself (and absent paying for a funeral, i really considered doing anyway) but were unable to go, based on monetary concerns. I wanted her to remember how she felt at Gonzaga, when they lost a bid debate and began having legitimate concerns for whether they would meet their goal of attending the TOC. and this is where i feel like i did my kids a dis-service...

...rather than being honest with them, and telling them we probably weren't good enough to go, and if we did go, not good enough to not take a beating, i looked at those kids, saw the want in their eyes, and decided, at that moment, i would get them to the TOC, even though i knew, knew, knew, we couldn't do well. Knew we were a year away from being ready. Knew my kids were in for a beating, and i did nothing to stop it, and invariably, sent them to fight the lions with meat products in their pockets. At the beginning of the year, when i make my yearly predictions and goals, the goal for the year was three TOC bids, as a team. I didn't imagine, in my heart of hearts, they would ever qualify...until i decided to have them qualify. It may sound arrogant, that i just decided to have them qualify and then they did, and for that arrogance, i apologize, but it does not change the facts. in retrospect, we would not have, could not have, qualified for the TOC without a decided effort to do so. At the time, i looked at the overall viability of the program, and recognized the overall benefit to the program....that everyone has to come and get that ass taken a little...that you have to see what measuring stick is and where it is to know what you have to do....that it's merely an honor to qualify and we should be happy just to go...forgetting that i was taking a senior, a senior that had given it ALL to the program. a kid who i know i should have protected, would have to be the person that carried the weight for this experience (the junior is a guy that has debated for me, thus his skin is thicker, but sometimes i forget he has feelings as well...note to self...). i did not consider her feelings at all. if i had, i probabaly would have taken a different course of action, even if it was only to truly inform them of the situation. at least then, she wouldn't have been surprised, and could have braced herself for it...it makes me re-evaluate why we do this...it seems to make us lose focus of the bigger things, and for me, that's the overall growth, mental, psychological and spiritual growth of my kids...and i feel i did my kid a dis-service bringing her here, even though she wanted to come, and it was her desire to come that motivated me to make sure they got to experience the TOC....

sorry, kid. i owe you.

02 May 2009

Lexington...white people anyone?

Being in Kentucky always brings back memories. This is the place that first took my pride as a debate person, the first place where I experienced true debate glee, the place that validated me as a debate coach, and where my boy won 12K betting on the Kentucky Derby, putting money on a D Wayne Lukas and Bob Baffart trifecta. But the thing I always forget about this place is it's white. Really white. Terrifyingly white. I sometimes wonder if it's string a nigga up white...now some of you all might be thinking, "this niggas just paranoid, just afraid of white people," and to some extent, you'd be right. But not really, actually, not at all. I'm FROM Minnesota, the place where I grew up, we were the only blacks in the county, and Minneapolis-Saint Paul not exactly the hotbed of diversity, if you remove the Hmong...

But I digress...I was talking about whiteness...everywhere I go in this town, I am surrounded by white, sometimes hostile, sometimes not, faces. But it's not just that everyone is white- it's the overall homogeny of the area- everyone seems to be the same kind of white. I will preface this with I have very little actual knowledge of the city of Lexington. It could have Kentucky's most extensive Chinatown, they may have an urban cultural center, or they may have an intense Latin American community just out of sight...but i seriously doubt it. and even if they did, it seems they don't want people to see these people, which would actually be worse than a world where there were just no minorities around.

but seriously, it just seems strange to me. i'm a little different. physically as well as by every other measure you would use to measure people. but one of the things i can say i truly treasure living in the bay area is the diversity of people...all kinds of people. it's really hard to go to any given location and just see a homogenous group of anything in the bay area (in public, i'm sure homogony exists in buckets at an ethnic church of any origin or things along those lines), and so i've just gotten used to being around tons of different people and it just seems natural and right. when i look around and i see no minorities, i kind of start thinking to myself "there are no minorities here, what do they know that i clearly should?" it's at this time when i decide to leave the scene, and relocate and do other things...not every place is blessed with diversity, with a world where you can grow and learn from a wealth of people and ideas, and if you are fortunate to live in one of these locations, you should just be happy about it, revel in it, and make sure to not take it for granted, because when you do, you'll find yourself encircled with people that are essentially mirror images of themselves.