Some Good Friday Reading

Today, owing to the fact that it is Good Friday and to the fact that I am on vacation, I sat down and read the gospel according to Mark in one sitting. This isn't all that hard to do, as it is the shortest of the four gospels in the Bible, and I did it in about two and half hours. I only stopped a few times to read a foot note or two, to look up a word in the glossary, and to check the maps in the back of the Bible for a geographical reference. Instead, I focused on the text, the story being told. I've never done that. I've never really tried to read one of the gospels as a narrative. Usually if I read out of the gospels it is to follow along in church, or to look up a specific passage. I've never just sat down and read the gospels; not in twelve years of Catholic school or as a teacher in one now.

I was pleasantly surprised at how engaged I was. Normally I have the attention span of a duck, but I had no problems staying focused. Of course, I know the story well, so I suspect that helped, but I enjoyed reading the story. Mark's gospel was also a good choice too as it is told in vivid detail and at a fast pace. Despite it's short length though, it has detail that the other gospels don't and I liked that as well.

I think the thing that most pleased me about my morning read though, was that there were a few passages that I really related to, that really struck a chord with me. I think that if I added up all the passages from Mark that I have read in my life before today, they would include much of the book, and yet never before have I gotten as much out of it as I did today. How cool is that? After years of schooling and being exposed to the Bible, I still sat down today and made connections that I've never made before.

So here's a Good Friday suggestion. If you are in the mood for some reading and a new experience, get yourself a Bible and have a whack at the gospel of Mark. I'm sure if I got something out of it, you will to. The Bible I am reading is the New American Bible translation, which is not very poetic, but an easy and accessible read. It happens to be the official translation for Catholics in the United States, but you can read any translation you want. Specifically though (in case you're interested), I am using The Catholic Bible: Personal Study Edition, published by Oxford University Press. The explanatory foot notes and study tools are awesome, and I enjoy learning about the authors of the books as well as facts about the text. The full color maps in the back are great, especially when reading Mark because he gives many geographical references. Most of all though, make sure the first time you read something out of it, just read it as it is told. Don't load your mind with a bunch of theological questions or expectations. Just read. I bet you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Over-protective Parents

Today I ran across this article, which was based on a poll of the nation's teachers. Among the many interesting findings, most of which correlate with my own teaching experience, was this: "76% of teachers say that special education students who misbehave are often treated too lightly, even when their misbehavior has nothing to do with their disability." This is so true in my experience, most likely more so in my school because we have no specialist or special-ed teacher.

Another finding, also very true in my experience was: "Nearly 8 in 10 teachers (78%) said students are quick to remind them that they have rights or that their parents can sue." I always find it amusing when a student says this, because 10 times out of 10 they don't know what they're talking about. Nevertheless, it is clearly a symptom of our changing culture where everyone must feel good about themselves all the time, and if they don't mommy and daddy are going to sue. Of course, the student usually picks all this up at home, which suggests that the parents are to blame.

Now don't get me wrong. There are poor teachers, and there are teachers who are unfair. In fact, most teachers are unfair at one time or another purely on accident. Teachers are human. The bottom line is that even if a student is punished unfairly by a teacher, or even if a disciplinary action is more severe than the crime warrants, life will go on. The student will survive and it won't make one lick of difference in the long run. If anything the student will learn the lesson that life isn't fair and teachers no exception. The fact is that the vast majority of teachers are just trying to the best they can in a culture where children are increasingly difficult to teach and where teachers are expected, more and more, to teach the values and habits that really should be taught by parents. Yes, there are bad teachers, and yes we should look out for them, but when you can't control your learning environment because the students are holding all the cards, it's time for a change. Parents need to learn that despite the fact that teachers occaisionally make mistakes, most of us a professionals who know a good bit more about running a classroom and teaching their child than they do.

Nothing Stings As Much...

For a teacher, a misdeed doesn't sting nearly as much as a lie about it from a once trusted student.

A Google Operating System?

I saw this short morsel today. How cool would a Google OS be? I mean odds are it would work, be fairly streamlined, and efficient. And even if it did crash occaisionally, they could have a "pretty and colorful screen of death."

Wow. We Are Still In America, Right?

Today I saw an article on Rolling Stone's web site.

Here's the link.

This scares me. I mean, don't you think there are a few more pressing matters facing our nation and world right now other than Howerd Stern and Bono? This is the perfect example of a bunch of ex-student council presidents thinking they know what's best for us.

3/3/05 Update: How come none of you fascist mother f*%kers has commented on this? How can you not be as outraged and disgusted as I am? You fucking sheep! Just follow along, do whatever the FCC wants you to do. Pretty soon you'll be fined for thinking something obscene.

For those of you too lazy to follow the link, the editorial is about how the FCC wants to impose fines that are comparable to those levied for serious crimes for the utterance of a single word or two that may be deemed as obscene or inappropriate. Now go read the editorial, do some research, and get pissed!

Knockin' On Heaven's Door

The song "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" by the legendary Bob Dylan is most likely one of the best known songs in the history of rock or folk. It is also probably the most covered song ever. Hundreds of bands, from professionals to garage bands have this song in their encore arsenal. I'd be willing to bet every guitar player in the US can whip off that famous sound, or at least wants to.

For me the song has always been a favorite, although Bob Dylan's version was not the first version I'd ever heard. The song is easily in my "Top Five Songs of All Time List." I first heard it on a shitty, rediculously over-priced bootleg tape of a Guns N' Roses concert. (I was actually ripped off, since the concert had been shown numerous times on cable - the famous live show at the CBGB). On that tape was the live version GNR did, before they put it on Use Your Illusion (was it I or II?) . I was blown away. The deep well of despair in the voice of Mr. Rose, the soaring heights of what is, in my opinion, one of the best guitar solos of all time, the simple yet hypnotic rythm of the song - all transported my fourteen year old mind to a place I'd never thought music could take me. Man, what a great song.

Now, I've been a wanna' be guitarist for about twenty years, forever trapped in that transitional stage between ultra-beginner and it's-now-getting-a-little-challenging beginner. The one song I've wanted to know how to play, since the day I first heard it, was "Knockin' On Heaven's Door." But being blessed with zero natural musical ability, I need someone to show me everything. Today someone did. My friend and colleague Rodger showed me in just a few minutes the rythm pattern I had not been able to discern for myself since I was a freshman in high school. I can't put the guitar down. I am again caught in the simple but soulful embrace of the song, once again imagining my rock and roll fantasies, this time with real sound. I am Bob Dylan.

Rodger also had a cool idea. See, since I am such a fan of the song, I have acquired numerous covers of the tune. How cool would it be to put together a compilation CD? Of course, it would be a legal nightmare given all the copyright stuff, but it would still be worth it. I bet someone's already done it. I haven't checked. Anyway, I'm off to rock out to Mr. Dylan's song. "Mama take this badge from me. I can't use it anymore. ..."

Just look...

Just look what a Henry Rollins spoken word event can get started.

I love a good discussion. It's what this country is all about.

Hunter Thompson Dies a Sad But Unsurprising Death

Upon learning this morning of the apparent suicide of the legendary American writer Hunter S. Thompson, I was struck with one over- powering thought: I'm not surprised. Here is a man famous for blazing new, often controversial trails in the world of journalism. Here is a man who clearly lived life by his own terms, putting out into the public view habits and behaviors usually kept secret. Here is a guy who owned a compound stocked with peacocks and firearms. I recall watching an interview with Mr. Thompson one evening years ago (I believe it was 60 Minutes) where, just so the reporter would have some good footage, he spent some time shooting gasoline filled conatiners to see how big of an explosion he could create. I don't know if he ever attempted to blow up the peacocks.

While learning of the death of anyone who has died by their own hand is sad and unfortunate, I can't think of any other way Hunter S. Thompson would go. I suppose lung cancer or liver failure could also be considered possibilites, but those are just too mundane for Hunter Thompson. No, in the end, while the timing may be surprising, the method isn't. And while the world may never know the reasons for his suicide, what despair may have driven him, it is my guess that his suicide was Mr. Thompson's way of giving everyone the proverbial finger one last time. Perhaps he did it because it was the last great rush yet to experience. Perhaps he did it because all the other vices and chemicals couldn't give him peace. Maybe he did it because death is the last great untold story, and who better to cover the underbelly of the afterlife than Mr. Thompson? Even now he is probably at a typewriter hammering out the first draft of Fear and Loathing at the Pearly Gates. Well Mr. Thompson, no matter why you did it, I hope you rest in peace.

An Age Old Debate Renewed...

Which is better - to read the book(s) first or to see the movie?

Hootie Update

Last Friday my lovely wife and I took the dog to an oncologist. We wanted to explore treatment options for her now that her seven pound tumor has been removed and she's as energetic as I have ever seen her. I went in thinking that dog chemotherapy would be a touch pricey, and so I was prepared for a somewhat high figure. Man, was I under the mark.

The doctor showed us two estimates for chemo to treat osteosarcoma, one less expensive and one more so. The more expensive option had one less treatment and was less stressful on old Hootie's kidneys. One estiamte was for about $400 and one was for about $900. 'Okay,' I think to myself. 'This isn't too bad. I can swing $400 to buy our dog an extra eight months of life.' Then I realize that the $400 is per treament. Not each. So that's $400 times five. Two grand for eight months of life.

I knew right away that there was just no way. My wife took only a day or so longer to come to grips with it. We'd already cashed out on the mega-expensive sugery, so chemo is out. What did all the money for surgery buy us? An extra four months of Hootie time. I'm not complaining. It was worth it. At least now we have some time to prepare for the loss of our dog, and we can have a little more control over when and how she goes. This way we can enjoy the dog for one more spring and hopefully summer. That is totally worth it. I just wish we had a magic wand to fix it all, but we don't. We do have our Hootie though, at least for a while.

Man, I should have been a vet.

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