Monthly Archives: June 2014

Don’t Give a Blue Moon in June

At the school where I work, the worst month of the year is June. It’s the month that when you reach it you go “Wow, I can’t believe it’s already June” and invoke cliches about time moving faster when you’re having fun and/or aging. A week later, though, you’re going “Man, I can’t believe it’s still June.”

There are a lot of reasons for this. The first is that June comes at the end of the Spring/Summer term, which starts in April. Although it’s not the longest term (autumn term is) it’s the only one where the weather is getting hotter as the Season in Which it Rains and Rainy Season slowly turn into Hell.

It’s also the one that my evolutionary clock, conditioned by decades of finishing school at the end of May/beginning of June rebels against. Evolution is telling me to go fishing and loaf (mostly it’s telling me to loaf) but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I loaf. The end of June marks the beginning of July exams, meaning we will soon be rotting our brains with bad writing and pondering if the phrase “My Mother is a Tractor” is worth more points than “He is like a soccer.”

Making matters worse is that, for reasons no one fully understands, June is one of the few months of the school year with no national holiday. Once June starts, you pretty much have to work as if you actually had a job. Even one day off in a long month gives you a chance to recharge (especially if it gives you a three day weekend.)

With a few exceptions, Japanese holidays tend to correspond to the birthdays of a handful of emperors. Greenery Day (April 29th), for example, used to be a wink wink nudge nudge acknowledgment of the Emperor Showa and his love of greenery and attacking Pearl Harbor (he’s known as Emperor Hirohito outside of Japan). Recently, the law was changed to allow more blatant celebration of emperors and Greenery Day was moved and April 29th became Showa Day.

My suggestion, therefore, is that June 18th become a holiday as it is the birthday of Emperor Ogimachi who presided over the end of the Warring States Era and, more or less, the start of the Tokugawa Shogunate, which is the era people think about when they think about Samurai. Ogimachi’s reign saw the stabilization of the royal family’s finances and influence and an increase in their power. It could be called Peace Day to mark the end of the Warring States Era.

Quite frankly, he could have eaten children and conditioned his skin with fat rendered from babies and I wouldn’t care; all that matters is the June birthday. I’m selfish that way.

Teenager Plus Coffee Equals Headphones for Daddy

I’ve written before about how I didn’t discover coffee until I was at university and, after a while, became an unapologetic addict. Part of my tardiness in discovering coffee was that the first coffee I remember trying was drowned in non-dairy creamer and artificial sweetener (think about the chemicals involved in that). It was horrid and I can still taste it as I’m thinking about it. Eventually, I tried coffee-plus-desert concoctions until a lack of cash led me to line up espresso doppios like tequila shots on a Saturday night.

The other day, though, I got a shock to the system. She Who Must Be Obeyed had just made a fresh pot of coffee and was pouring herself a cup and as I was walking up to liberate some from her tyrannical clutches (something like that) I saw her add cream and sugar to the cup. My immediate reaction was “The horror! She doesn’t love the coffee.” or that she was disguising the dregs of the morning pot to make them palatable–a step, for the record, I consider unnecessary. I asked her why she was ruining the coffee and she said it wasn’t for her, it was for our oldest.

The conversation then proceeded something like:

Me–Oh, yeah, that makes sense. (Pregnant pause) Why the hell are you giving caffeine to a thirteen year old girl? Don’t you know what can happen?
SWMBO–But she’s studying for her final exams.
Me–Oh, yeah, that makes sense. (Little bit pregnant pause) Why the hell are you giving coffee to a thirteen year old girl? Don’t you know what can happen?
SWMBO–Here’s your coffee.
Me–Oh thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you (long slurp of coffee) love you.

The results of this chemical experiment have been mixed. Yes, our oldest stays awake and “studies” in between YouTube videos on her pink Nintendo 3DS. However, sugar plus caffeine plus puberty equals hyper activity and frequent arguments over Nintendo 3DS use, fights over proper length of study time, frequent back talking and frequent eye rolling. Basically, two caffeine enhanced alpha females begin struggling over control of the house whilst daddy washes his hands and changes his name to Pontious Lively and puts on headphones and listens to “Pompeii” and “Radioactive” on endless loop because apocalypse.

I remember being shocked when I learned some of my Japanese friends’ children were drinking coffee in high school and, given my history, am amazed that my oldest even likes coffee.

She also crawls across the ceiling surprisingly well.

 

A Dash of This A Dash of That A Pinch of Evil

I’ve written before about my fascination with how tastes change over time. I’ve also written about how things that seemed strange before I came to Japan, are suddenly my favorite foods. However, the more tastes change, the more some things continue to taste like crap.

There are certain foods, such as sweet tea, that I’ve never liked and continue to dislike. In Japan I’ve never learned to like oshiruko (Red Bean Soup) which looks as if someone was eating a manju and then upchucked it into a bowl. I don’t know if it’s the texture or that my brain sees it as baked beans but that’s not how it tastes. A couple years ago, Mother of She Who Must Be Obeyed made a batch of oshiruko that I liked. It wasn’t as sweet as other versions, and I actually had seconds. Everyone else in the family, of course, hated it because it wasn’t sweet enough. Mother of She Who Must Be Obeyed kept apologizing for it and I kept saying “no, it’s great” and she kept looking at me as if everything she’d always suspected about my sanity was finally being proven true.

I also have never learned to like the sweetened omelets that get served as sushi. These remind me too much of the way friends of mine would stack bacon, eggs and pancakes (or waffles) and pour syrup over the entire concoction. I tried this but never liked it. It’s like taking your entire Thanksgiving dinner and stacking the turkey, stuffing, green beans, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce and then topping them with pecan pie and yams before pouring white wine and coffee over the entire mess. Separately those things are all great; together, well, they’re not so great. Usually, when I comment about the evils of mixing foods God never intended to be eaten as one dish, someone says “well it all comes out the same in the end doesn’t it? ha ha ha”. My response is usually something along the lines of “in that case just collect it straight out of the toilet and save yourself some cooking time.” (Remind me again: why don’t I get invited to parties?)

I’ve also never been able to eat (and, quite frankly, don’t understand) sweet pickles. When I was growing up, my Dad was partial to bread and butter pickles, which to this day I can’t stand. He also liked marinated cucumbers, which involved mixing sliced cucumbers, onions, vinegar, sugar and extract of pure evil in one bowl. The people who ate them lost their souls.

Here in Japan I’m partial to the salty pickles they make out of turnips, cucumbers, and eggplant, but I try to avoid any form of sweet takuan. I’m also not a big fan of gari the sweet ginger served along side sushi.

The funny part is, I like sweets, just not mixed with the rest of my meal.

 

 

Stick ‘Em Up Assume the Position and Happy Birthday

Although I’d have to wait until I was 27 for my second interrogation by the police, my first interrogation happened on my 21st birthday. This is remarkable because my 21st birthday took place on a Tuesday and, quite frankly, it’s hard to get into trouble on a Tuesday.

I don’t remember why I didn’t advertise my 21st birthday in my fraternity, but I suspect it had something to do with going out drinking being not that big of a deal at the time (I acquired a fake ID soon after I arrived at Kansas State) combined with my introversion and lack of interest in being on display combined with Tuesday. Also, age 20 had been quite a time (long story; let’s just say it involved alcohol and a particular woman) and I actually felt kind of tired.

As a result, I went out by myself and enjoyed a few free beers, although I was still pretty shy about announcing my birthday and reaping the rewards. I ended up at Kite’s, which at the time was one of the best bars in Aggieville, the three blocks of bars and restaurants near Kansas State’s campus. After a few free beers there, I decided to head home. That involved cutting down an alley and walking a few blocks through dark streets.

As I cut down the alley, the alcohol in my system reminded me that Kite’s had a back door that was often left open and often used to smuggle underage friends into the bar. I saw the door and, out of curiosity, pulled on it, but it was locked. Out of further curiosity, I pulled on the door next to it. Out of even further curiosity, I pulled on a third door. As I came out from testing that door, I saw a pair of police officers walking out of the alley across the street. The next door was too far out of my way, so I passed it by and started home.

As I reached the end of the alley, by what used to be, and may still be, the Espresso Royale coffee shop, the part of my brain that still maintained a vague sense of awareness, wondered what had happened to those two police officers. I glanced around and saw that they were closer, and had moved to opposite sides of the alley. I remember thinking that was kind of unusual, but the vague sense of awareness quickly clicked off. I crossed the street, and then right in front of what used to be known as Bushwackers, I heard the jangling of keys and handcuffs, and the cops came up on either side of me and asked me for my ID.

While Cop A was calling in my vitals, Cop B began interrogating me. The, um, conversation went something like:

Cop B–Why were you checking out those doors back there?
Me–Curiosity. (If you’ve been paying attention, that was a truthful answer not sarcasm.)
Cop B–(Unimpressed and angry) Well what would you have done if one had been open?
Me–Been surprised and gone on to the next one. (Again this was the truth.)
Cop B–(sensing sarcasm/not being able to handle the truth) Hands up. Spread your legs.

He then proceeded to frisk me with the only issue being a brief concern the fountain pen in my pocket might be a weapon (Yeah, I know. I know. That’s what she said. Now shut up, I’m being frisked.) At this point Cop A commented that it appeared as if they had a 21st birthday celebration on their hands. He also pointed out that they’d put several people in jail on their 21st birthdays. My mom’s curse about my mouth getting me in trouble reared it’s ugly, um, vocal cords and said “It wasn’t on my list of things to do.”

They both got angry and cautioned me about being a moron and then sent me on my way.

I laughed all the way home. And yes, that was the alcohol talking.

Tex Mex From Tubes and Speaking Nicely

I’ve mentioned before that after I left Albania I was looking for a job with the least amount of responsibility possible. I therefore took a job at Taco Tico, a regional Tex Mex fast food restaurant.

Unfortunately, because I was older and allegedly wiser, I was put on a fast track to shift manager. When I started, my uniform was a polo style shirt and a baseball cap and my job was to not muck up orders on the cash register, not mess up giving out change, clean stuff, and speak nicely to people. The people included fellow employees and customers. It turns out that neither was necessarily easy to speak nicely to.

Customers, especially, have this unreasonable expectation that things should be served promptly and that everything should be clean. However, you should not attempt to make things clean whilst any customers are present. I had a guy tell me he didn’t appreciate me slinging dirty water and a mop around the restaurant whilst he was eating, even though I’d been instructed to go out and clean up the ruins of the lunch rush. Oddly, I managed to say something along the lines of “Sorry, sir. I’ll do that later.” instead of pointing out that he was unreasonable git eating ground meat from a plastic tube that looked like a giant frozen turd and had been delivered by a truck driver which meant that some dirty water on the floor was probably the least of his worries.

I was made shift manager without having to take a test, much to the anger of a few employees who’d been trying to get promoted for quite a while. Basically the store manager was using the test–which involved memorizing the exact grams and ounces of each ingredient in each dish–to filter out the employees who worked hard but he didn’t think were particularly bright. As a result of my promotion, I got more money, a short sleeve button down Oxford shirt, a clip on tie and responsibility over money and napkins. Oh, and more resentment from fellow employees–especially when I told one he had to stop ringing up an extra 50 cents worth of sour cream and other toppings on orders in order to run up the bill on obnoxious customers in the drive-thru.

My only “Really? Are you serious? Really?” moment came when I had to teach one kid, whose dad was making him work to pay for the insurance and gasoline on his awesome car (an early 1970’s something or other muscle car), how to wash dishes and use both a broom and a push broom. (I remain shocked that anyone would not know how to do any of those, but he was a fast learner and a good employee.)

I also got a lot more scrutiny from my boss, who seemed intent on the idea of me eventually moving into proper management. I, of course, said, “No, damn you. I’m going to get a Ph.D. in literature. That’s where the real future is.” (That actually turned out to be a better decision than it sounds as that boss was eventually fired for messing about with the menu too much. More on why I don’t have a Ph.D. some other day.)

All in all, I was glad I worked fast food at least once. In fact, I believe every person should work fast food and/or retail jobs at least once in their lives. It teaches you a lot about people and yourself, It also teaches you to avoid ever working fast food again.

You Just Keep on Having Tantrums Over the Borderline

Right around Christmas of 1993, for reasons I don’t fully remember and still don’t fully understand, I traveled with a friend from Albania down to Athens, Greece. I remember that she was heading back the USA for a vacation but I don’t remember why I was tagging along. (Let’s just say there was some history there and a novel would be required to explain it.)

The first trouble occurred when we were crossing from Albania to Greece. We had to depart the bus and stand in line at a passport office. When it was my turn, the Greek border agent looked through my passport with contempt (remember, I was coming from Albania and no one in the Balkans likes their neighbors). He then found two visas from Macedonia (now the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) which I had visited earlier in the year. That’s when things got absurd.

The Greeks didn’t (and still don’t) recognize Macedonia, partly because they are convinced that naming it after a region in Greece implies ownership. The closest parallel I can give is if Mexico suddenly declared that Northern Mexico was now called Texas and that its natural capital was, and would some day be again, San Antonio. The Greek border guard then proceeded to have a temper tantrum in my passport. He crossed out with ball point pen all references to Macedonia in my passport and stamped the visas with “This Crappy Bullshit Fake Country Not Recognized by Super Awesome Greece” (something like that). He tossed the passport back at me and sent me on my way.

After my friend departed, I decided to visit Istanbul and caught a train to Thessalonika. The part of the city I was in was beautiful but because I was only there overnight I didn’t get much of a chance to explore. I did wander around the coast a bit and see the White Tower, but then, as I was wandering around, I found a cinema that was playing Sliver and I bought a ticket.

That’s right, boys and girls; I was in the area that received Paul’s epistles to the Thessalonians and I watched a crap Sharon Stone thriller because English.

The next morning, I took a train and a bus to the Greek/Turkish border. This one looked more like a gas station and I expect that some of the Greek signs actually said “Last Gas for 1000 kilometers”. The border guards came on the bus and collected our passports and then went back in the gas station. A few minutes later, a guard returned and asked me to step off the bus and led me into the gas station. I was then subjected to my second official interrogation by the police (the first happened on my 21st birthday.)

Now keep in mind that I was tired and cranky and that my mother has always cautioned/cursed me that my mouth would eventually get me in trouble and there I was at a gas station/border crossing facing a border agent who barely spoke English and his translator (a fellow passenger) who spoke only a little more. The cards, therefore, did not look to be stacked in my favor.

The agent first asked why I’d visited Skopje (Greece’s word for Macedonia). I explained that I’d lucked into a free ride there. (He looked at me as if I’d just explained why I’d killed his dog.) That was strike one. He then asked why I was in Albania. I explained I was working for the US Government. Those were strikes two and three. I explained about the Peace Corps, the whole time thinking “Do you know what Greece would be without my country? The shittiest part of Turkey.” Miracle of miracles, I didn’t actually say that, though, and the guard finally sent me on my way.

A few minutes later (with my passport back in hand) I was standing next to the bus when the guard came back to get me. I just waved him off and got back on the bus. He didn’t follow and I never went to jail. I eventually got across the border and into Istanbul.

I had a great time in Istanbul, even though I celebrated the ringing in of 1994 by myself. My hostel was halfway between Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque and every place I wanted to visit was within walking distance. (Ironically, given where I now live, I had no interest in crossing the Bosphorus into “Asia”.)

To get home, I climbed on board a bus to Albania and got ready to face the frightening legend of Turkish border police. Keeping my mother’s caution/curse in my head, I kept replaying the most brutal scenes from Midnight Express over and over in my head with a Giorgio Moroder soundtrack. I was convinced that something I’d bought would turn out to be an antique and I’d go to jail. And because I was thinking that, I’m pretty sure I looked guilty.

We had to take our bags off the bus, set them on the ground and open them up for the guard. When he got to me, I couldn’t help but tense up. He asked if that was my bag. I managed to say only “yes” instead of “Yes, and the two kilos of hash taped to my body are mine too!” He nodded and moved on and that was the end of my Turkish border guard encounter.

I still don’t know if I should be disappointed in that or not. I still kind of wish I’d tried to smuggle something out, though.

Neither Blood Nor Cannons Nor Something to Set Your Watch By

After I finished my first three years in Japan, various confusions and misunderstandings and regulations required me to leave and surrender my work visa and then come back to the USA and get a new work visa. Instead of going straight home, I decided to complete my trip around the world and go home by way of Europe.

Luckily, Eddie, an old Peace Corps Albania friend, was doing a Fulbright Fellowship in Slovenia so I stopped off to visit him and his wife (who may or may not have actually been his wife at the time. Long story and lack of long term memory). Ljubljana was great and a pair of young journalists introduced us, over cheap beer and plates of meat, to everything there was to know about both the band Phish and Northern Balkan Politics. Having been in Albania, we weren’t surprised to learn that Northern and Southern Balkan Politics were¬† identical:

1) Every country hates the country it shares a border with.
2) It’s always the other country’s fault.

While I was in Slovenia, I decided to take a day trip to Zagreb, Croatia. Zagreb had a lot more to do but wasn’t as picturesque as Ljubljana. Zagreb is a busy mall; Ljubljana is a quiet coffee shop.

I started wandering about aimlessly, taking pictures here and there and enjoying the old Gradec district and the surprisingly tacky St. Mark’s Church in St. Mark’s Square. Eventually I stumbled across Lotrscak Tower (which apparently means “Lacks Vowels” in Serbo-Croatian).

Every day at noon in Zagreb, as a way to scare the crap out of tourists and thus identify them for census purposes, a cannon is fired from LacksVowels Tower. The tourists jump and the locals use it as a version of a talking clock (At the KAPOW! WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?! the time will be twelve o’clock) and set their watches by it.

I remember reading about this cannon when I was in elementary school, and vaguely remember a line drawing of one person jumping and another checking his watch. When I realized what LacksVowels tower was I was actually kind of excited and went inside to see the cannon room. That was all cool but what wasn’t cool was that, for the first time in hundreds of years, the cannon would not be fired because the cannon man was on vacation. Basically, if the story I was told was true, one man had been firing the cannon for decades. The only time he’d taken a vacation, his replacement had somehow injured himself/lost a hand firing the cannon. As a result, he hadn’t taken a vacation in over 20 years. When I was there, he’d apparently agreed to take a vacation only if the cannon went unfired until his return.

I remember feeling kind of mad, and to this day I’m still disappointed. It’s the equivalent of going to London and not hearing Westminster Chimes or the ear splitting screech of taxi brakes.

 

Stinking After Three Days Rotten After Seven

I am, it turns out, not a particularly good house guest. I know this because I’ve spent a good portion of my life living with people who weren’t my family and the reactions have been mixed.

This all started when I was at Kansas State University. At the time, K-State had a summer program–the name of which escapes me–that was modeled after the US Peace Corps. We were assigned to various small towns in Kansas and took special courses that required us to work together as teams to learn about the town and who the key players in town were and what our town’s prospects were. We traveled to the town a couple times to do research and then we assembled all that information into a report that served as our final grade. We then spent the summer in the town living with locals who’d volunteered to host us and doing the work the town had brought us there to do.

My first town was Oskaloosa, Kansas and our team was responsible for helping promote the county as a retirement area for affluent retirees–or as I dubbed it: move here, build a house, spend a lot of money, die. (Yes, that’s exactly the spirit that makes me so loveable to have in your house.)

The problem with me living with other people, even if I follow all their rules, is that the introvert in me pretty much just wants to be left alone. With my first family, I thought that keeping to myself was the best thing to do. I’d stay out of their hair and just be part of the furniture. In retrospect, however, this made it seem as if I only joined them for meals which pretty much made it seem as if they were my servants. It didn’t help that at least one member of the couple had a grand vision of us all being very much like a family. This person never understood that this was pretty much how I behaved around my own family.

My next two hostings were nearly ideal. In Kansas City I was housed with Mary Ann Flunder and her family. She remains one of the most remarkable people I’ve ever met and her family was busy enough that I had a lot of time to myself. She did her best to get me to network with the some of the people she knew, but I wasn’t smart enough to recognize a good opportunity and how to exploit it. My last hosting was in Jetmore, Kansas. My host was a single man who was always away from home working. I think he was home barely five days the entire time I was there. Basically his casa was mi casa (that’s like modern Spanish or something) and I had a great time, even though our job was to help develop tourism around a reservoir that had no water in it. (I think it does now.)

What really woke me up was my host family in Albania. Once again, I tried to keep to myself and didn’t realize I was basically being rude. Eventually I was moved out of their place and, through an incredible comedy of errors, ended up homeless and housed in a hotel that had been nicknamed “the monkey house” when it housed visiting Chinese but had become known as the “hotel death” after someone had been killed there. (Yes, that’s right, the Peace Corps housed me in a place called “hotel death” which pretty much sums up our Country Director’s opinion of me.)

From there I ended up living with a US professor and his wife for a couple months whilst I found a permanent place to live. She was especially sympathetic because she’d been abandoned when she was young and felt a certain kinship with me. They remained friends long after I left Albania and I’ve always dubbed them “Mom and Dad Two”. Eventually I got a place of my own and became the proprietor of a rather grungy hostel.

I get along better with She Who Must Be Obeyed’s family, although I still rebel, sometimes without even realizing it, against Japan’s group orientation. The hardest part is convincing them that they don’t have to entertain me. I’m not actually bored, just boring.

 

Breaking Up is Harder to Do

If something’s hard to do, then it’s not worth doing! You just stick that guitar in the closet next to your short-wave radio, your karate outfit and your unicycle, and we’ll go inside and watch TV. –Homer Simpson (The Otto Show–Season 3, Episode 22)

The above quote pretty much sums up a good portion of my life and the fate of a good many things I’ve tried. Granted, there were some things I forced my way through that ended up not being worth doing–for example, reading all of Ullysses; all of Finnegan’s Wake; all of War and Peace; and getting good at Civilization II and Civilization: Call to Power (although those last two are debatable; also it’s debatable whether any one actually reads Finnegan’s Wake or simply experiences/survives it. As someone in the book says: bababadalgharagh
takamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoor
denenthur-nuk–and that’s a direct quote).

This is especially true with sports (and some artistic activities). I quickly reach the plateau where you have to start learning the hard stuff and practicing it again and again. I’m not one of those guys who gains motivation to do better from failure–interestingly, a lot of the guys who did didn’t mind failing in school, but if they failed on the football field they were driven to do better. I, on the other hand, start rationalizing reasons not to keep doing the sport–and I’m really good at coming up with those excuses. Pretty soon, the running shoes and track spikes have been put away next to the basketball shoes and the baseball glove and baseball bat (which are next to the art book and the calligraphy brushes and one or two woodcarving projects).

I remember early on forcing myself to go to calligraphy class on Tuesday and karate class on Friday. Eventually, after a series of cancellations by both me and my teacher, I stopped going to calligraphy and started going to karate on Tuesdays instead. After I moved to Tokyo, I delayed finding a new dojo, but after a year or so away, and some weight gain after my ski injury (another long post that I’ll save until winter) I had no problem getting back into karate–even after I re-injured my knee.

I still feel the urge not to go, especially right now when it’s hot and muggy and I’m performing with great crapness in my style (that’s a technical term). Today I was running through excuses–I’m sick; I have a migraine; a migraine is making me sick; I’m busy; I’m sick of being busy and it’s giving me a migraine (see, told you I was good at that) and instead decided to just go and slog through it. (I was good half the lesson and dreadful the second.) I’ve even learned to force myself to go to practice during exams because even if I do badly, the exercise helps relieve a lot of stress. As I may have said before, I never want to go, but I’m always glad I went. (Actually writing these daily entries can be a lot like that, too…)

This is the secret I never got when I was in junior and high school or college playing intramural soccer: sometimes just turning up is enough to make it all worth it, even if your lack of skill gives the coach hives and mild heart attack. At the very least, it gives you something to write about. Or as someone says in Finnegan’s Wake: Lord, heap miseries upon us yet entwine our arts with laughters low.

The Fine Art of Loafing and Leaving Well Enough Alone

Today I was so lazy I actually offended myself. I did a little writing, a little reading and studied a little but mostly I did a lot of loafing. Occasionally I stared at the list of things I’d hoped to accomplish today and basically went “Isn’t it pretty to think so?” and went back to loafing.

This is partly because Friday was one of my more hectic days at work. It was a testament to what happens when you make the mistake of trying to change things that worked well in the past and have been running more-or-less smoothly. It was also a testament to the dread that the changes will fall apart and everyone, including you, will blame you.

Several years ago we (the foreign English teaching staff at the school) got tired of the available textbooks for our second year (11th grade) high school classes and instead decided to make our own materials. Our original plan was to collaborate on materials but the pressures of work (we are each in charge of the curriculum for a grade) kept the rest of us busy and the materials more or less became the vision of whichever teacher happened to be in charge of the grade at the time. This kept a supply of fresh material but also required that we either recycle past materials or go absolutely nuts and make something new.

This year, since I’m in charge and we have three new teachers, I decided to go absolutely nuts (shut up–you know who you are–shut up). I jettisoned an entire term’s worth of my old material and moved second term to first term. This doesn’t seem particularly crazy except we decided to have the students make a two minute commercial for a new invention as their final project. That itself would be fine except we also decided to film the commercials and show them in class on the last day.

This means we’ve basically been experimenting on our students. We’ve been like “Here, take this green pill and the little pink one. Now fly.” (Something like that.) Friday was, after a couple delays to give the students more writing time, the first day of filming. I spent the morning running around securing cameras,; realizing we had three cameras but only two tripods; scratching my head and going “what have I done?“; securing rooms and threatening my own students with failure if they didn’t hurry up; and memorize their scripts. It’s no exaggeration that I was more nervous than the students because if something went wrong, it would effect all four of us and not just me.

Luckily, in my class, I was able to film several commercials over the first two periods of class. Third period I had a break but was still on too much adrenaline to relax completely. Other teachers also managed to film some commercials and the results have been pretty good. By lunch time I was finally able to relax. Unfortunately, I haven’t actually stopped relaxing.

Of course, there’s a still a lot that can go wrong. I have to edit all those together and deliver the edited files to my colleagues. Oh, and I need to make a completely new curriculum for next term. I’ll get right on that, some day. But first I have to loaf.