you’re a jerk.

today i was in the school again for the first time. we didn’t do anything thrilling but i did talk to my most difficult student from last year– the muse of many a weekday drinking binge– who was sitting on the front steps a little away from other people, like a grumpy buddha. i congratulated her on her senior year and noted that she seemed pretty calm. she said, “yeah, i’m changing my old ways. time to grow up.” can you believe that shit? kids really do say stuff like that outside of inspirational films about teaching starring michelle pfeiffer. yes, in this metaphor, i am michelle pfeiffer. it’s not up for debate.

i have a bunch of ameristuff* to do (*sometimes we make puns out of the word “americorps.” we are really funny), the first day of school is next wednesday, and on the 14th, i’m in there for good, back “in the trenches,” as my supervisor calls it (that’s meant as a compliment; it’s not in the trenches as in, “oh my god, you teach remedial reading? aren’t those kids really, like…. difficult?” “difficult” being used strategically to cover up a number of less politically correct terms which are nevertheless implied with all the subtlety of an elbow in the rib cage. it’s in the trenches as in, we’re doing hard work with kids who often get thrown into trenches, so to speak, and not many people want to hang out there with them and do the shit that needs to get done. many, many teachers at the school where i teach enjoy sitting beside the trenches in a lounge chair with a glass of lemonade, gazing up at the sky and pretending the trench isn’t there. okay, i know, enough with the trench.) anyway, in honor of my second year of pfeifferdom, i submit to you my students’ favorite song/video/dance craze/thing to yell at me and each other all day. at least it was three months ago. i’m probably a loser for even remembering it.

p.s. this site got over a thousand hits today. why? because of this picture:

Harry_Potter_-_Ron,_Hermione

so thank you, nerds and perverts, and whatever unthinkable hybrid lies at their intersection. you’re gonna make me a star.

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now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

thank god.

this is one of my favorite things on the internet. i just spent like forty-five minutes looking for it.

tragedy averted.

sometimes, i am political.

now for something completely different. this post contains no references to gregory house or the weasley twins. it’s political, y’all.

1. a shoutout from a most unexpected place! apparently, the anti-atlantic yards website nolandgrab.org is interested in what i had to say about mr. h to the izzo. check it out. um, yeah, that’s me under the huffington post. that’s right, the huffington post.

2. this is an amazon review i wrote of a horrible book called you’re teaching my child what?: a physician exposes the lies of sex ed and how they harm your child that i found at barnes & noble the other day. stupid ideas about sex education and homophobia are two of my buttons, so it seemed pretty worth my time to spend a couple hours on this. hopefully it will end up on amazon, but it might be too long, so thank god it will remain here, at least, for posterity. enjoy.

I found this dangerously popular book prominently displayed on a front table at my local Barnes & Noble and flipped through it– Grossman, a true propagandist, has successfully mastered the art of a sensationalist title that will grab a reader’s attention; I have to give her that. Beyond her New York Post-like ability to scare a reader into listening to what she has to say, there is nothing useful about this expose, an ideological rant by someone who is woefully uninformed.

Grossman advocates abstinence-only education, a methodology which has been proved time and time again to be ineffective. Grossman is too busy lamenting the high frequency of STIs among American youth to take a moment to consider that when young people are simply taught that sex is bad and scary and wrong, and, further, that condoms are ineffective and that there’s no point in learning about safe sex practices or, God forbid, being given access to safe sex resources, they then engage in unsafe sex at much higher rates than if they’re provided with education that promotes good decision-making. The philosophy behind organizations like Planned Parenthood, a name which Grossman throws around as if she were referring to some kind of secret police, is to ensure that young people stay as safe as possible, no matter what choices they make. I agree with Grossman that the high rate of STIs among young people is disturbing– imagine how many of those cases could have been prevented if those young people were made aware of the safe sex options that existed for them, instead of being taught in Grossman’s ideal sex ed classroom, in which such information is shunned in favor of scare tactics, and at the end of the day, educators must simply cross their fingers and hope that no student will ignore the advice and go ahead and have sex anyway, without the condom that they’ve just been informed won’t work. Good thing teenagers don’t tend to be rebellious, so there’s no way that would happen.

But wait, there’s more, and it gets worse. According to Grossman, the sex ed programs in this country are remiss for not informing students that STIs are for more prevalent among homosexuals and other people who engage in sexual “fringe behaviors,” an extremely dubious claim and an overused convenient excuse for blatant homophobia. Grossman chides educators for being opposed to referring “experimenting” students– that is, those questioning their sexuality and beginning to identify as gay, lesbian or queer– to conversion therapists, who work with queer youth to convert them back into heterosexuals. She’s a big fan of the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality, and recounts her own experiences as a (so-called) educator referring students to NARTH’s website, which, I was happy to read, were met with such outrage “you’d think I had announced my membership in the Nazi party.” It’s bad enough that Grossman is spreading misinformation about the benefits of abstinence-only education, then we learn that she has a homophobic axe to grind, basing her bigotry on ridiculous so-called “scientific” facts about homosexuality, and has sadly not learned what more and more Americans are now growing to understand, that sexuality is not a decision, not something that can be turned off or scared away. It saddens me to think that someone who’s managed to get as far as a medical degree still doesn’t understand this painfully obvious fact.

Lastly, Grossman brings her gift of ignorant rabble-rousing to the subject of transgender issues in a chapter called Genderland, basically a manifesto to the fact that she doesn’t understand anything about the transgendered community, and, like early humans convinced that a solar eclipse signified the apocalypse, chooses to yell and mock and stamp her foot in response to this potentially challenging subject rather than take the time to learn anything about it. Grossman affects a condescending tone, asking her readers, “Did you know that apparently there’s a difference between gender and sexuality? Did you know that if you don’t like the sex you were assigned at birth, you can go ahead and change it? If you’re confused, so am I.” Grossman puts educating students about gender identification on the same level as encouraging them to have unprotected sex, or showing pornographic movies in class. Transgendered youth in America face an uphill battle against bigotry and ignorance, and as long as they continue to be mocked and dismissed by the likes of Miriam Grossman (a “physician”!), this environment of intolerance will continue.

I am angry with Grossman and others who share her views, who continue to insist that homosexuality is wrong and dangerous, that transgenderism is fake or illegitimate or perverse, and that the best way to educate youth is by rapping them across the knuckles and insisting that sex is wrong and knowing about safe sex options is irrelevant. But more than that, I’m appalled by the accolades of the other reader reviews and on the back of Grossman’s book, from grateful parents who are shocked to learn these Orwellian “truths.” I fear for such an easily brainwashed populace. I fear for these parents’ children, and the amount of hatred and misinformation that is apparently, in 2009, still alive and well. I am a firm believer in the first amendment, and in Ms. Grossman’s right to say whatever she wants and to have her opinions heard. I only hope that more people can see this book for what it really is, a glorified pamphlet of ignorant and uninformed ideology.

i feel funny

i’m back in new york for a month. all sorts of kind of interesting personal stuff is going on with your favorite protagonist, but since this is not a livejournal from when i was sixteen, or, you know, this blog three years ago, i’ll omit all of it in favor of telling you that i ate chicken kiev on the brighton beach boardwalk. culinary adventures! you can’t shake a stick in new york without tripping over a culinary adventure, or something along those lines.

also, if i did standup somewhere, like some really depressing open mic somewhere in seattle, would anyone go see me? joyce carol oates says that writers should go running to generate ideas, and me, when i go running, i think of standup material. some of it seems funny when i think of it a couple hours later.

third (this evening, my thoughts are in even less order than usual): let’s talk about jay-z.

this song is amazing. even beyond my obvious bias. this isn’t the official video, i’m pretty sure, but i love it. all of that said, jay-z is a little bit of a dick. just a little. now, my family and i are nets fans, despite the fact that they are in a miserable state of affairs these days and their pending stadium in brooklyn, while sentimentally gratifying, would be a terrible thing to happen to brooklyn and bruce ratner is darth vader and all that. but dude: your “bringing the nets” does NOT make you the black branch rickey. sorry. branch rickey, along with jackie, broke the color barrier in baseball, at great risk to his career, a courageous display of civil rights in action. you are a very rich man moving a basketball team to a nearby city at great risk to no one, a kind of cute display of brooklyn pride and people spending a lot of money. chill out.

this song by the avett brothers also concerns brooklyn, and is wonderful:

speaking of music videos, last week i was in montreal, city of beauty and dreams and happiness, and their modern art museum has this room in the basement where they just screen cool (more artful than normal, maybe) music videos, which i found surprisingly soothing and addictive, despite my early exposure to music videos when i was grade school age and would stumble upon mtv while waiting for full house to come on and find them insufferably boring and confusing. my, how i’ve grown. here are my two favorites, by city and colour and wild beasts, respectively:

lastly, i have this long short story/novella i wrote that’s my baby, that i love, and i’m thinking of posting it in installments. we’ll see (that’s a reminder to myself to do it, if i decide to).

ciao bella.

p.s. happy anniversary

holy social anxiety, i’ve been blogging for four motherfucking years. that is something. if you’re bored as can be sometime, read back over the stuff i wrote in the beginning. i used to write about some real shit, albeit in a slightly less sexy and hilarious way (believe it or not, there was a time when googling the words “sexy” and “hilarious” did not result in pictures of me), as opposed to my thoughts on the merits of the jerk vs. the stanky legg.

happy blogiversary, me.

p.s. the stanky legg. obviously.

revenge of the red lobster diaries

i was talking to tom [no relation to the guy in the story below] today about past jobs. then, like a heavy-handed hint at kismet in a movie, we wrote about a past job in my writing class tonight. when i was sixteen, i wrote the red lobster diaries, an angsty fight club-inspired thing about my dumb corporate job that i totally got under pressure from precisely no one because i was pissed off that i didn’t get a part in the school musical. because when i was sixteen i was a pissy little tool. anyway, tonight i was given occasion to write about it again. i’m still sixteen, a little, apparently. but aren’t we all?

Another Glimpse at Red Lobster (As it Fades into the Distance)

On a Sunday afternoon, the back is filling up but the lobby is empty. The lobby is my domain, and I think of that dark wood podium, standing so brazenly in the middle of the floor, as mine. I am ordered to be on my feet for the entirety of my shift, so leaning becomes appealing, but then they took that away from me— only two-feet-on-the-floor straightbacked upright is acceptable here.

They’ve taken away everything tolerable, piece by piece, from my otherwise regulation black pants with embroidery to my bandana to my rings. I’m a part of the Red Lobster family.

Sunday mornings bring old gentiles whom I imagine can smell my fear as they breeze past me like I’m not there, announcing that they’re headed for their usual table like teenagers borrowing the car.

I like order— I like the color-coded flip book that tells me which section to seat and the ritual of picking up menus on the wayand they’re destroying that ritual, because they’ve been Red Lobster customers since 1994, its inaugural year in Kingston, back when I thought of it as a palace and a treat, when the children’s menu was more than a way to get crayon on my hands, when the music was inocuous noise and I didn’t hear some country music lady’s version of a Cat Stevens song I used to love in the moments before I fell asleep, when Cheddar Bay biscuits were like little heaven pillows, instead of dense balls of butter and sawdust baking under a heat lamp nineteen hours a day.

The only good thing about this couple is that I don’t have to recite the shpiel for them because they already know what they want (a crab legs special that ended two weeks ago), and at sixteen, I don’t like saying the phrase “happy hour” because I think it sounds dirty.

It’s not a problem that there’s someone already sitting at their regular table, and of course the chef is happy to create any crab dish these valued reliable customers might have in mind. I’m informed of all of this by ratfaced Brenda, who dresses in what look like decorative lampshades and sounds like an oboe, and not that one-in-a-million oboe on a professional recording of a Mozart concerto, an oboe like the time I stuck that thick double reed in my mouth and blew and Celeste Newsome told me that our lessons were cancelled and I should stick with the flute. Brenda’s one of about seven managers apparently necessary to run a Red Lobster in the mid-Hudson valley. We are, after all, the better of the two, all the customer surveys say so— everyone knows that the one in Poughkeepsie is a total shithole, no matter how much bigger it is, completely outshined by the Olive Garden just a few yards down 9W. I hate Brenda and she hates me and though this is my first job I recognize that this is how it’s supposed to be, so it all makes a kind of sense.

If it were up to Tom, he would have pulled me aside gently and slipped a compliment into his managerial explanation of Red Lobster policy. At sixteen, I like this introduction to workplace sexual harrassment. I like that if it’s going to happen, it’s at least friendly, administered by an adult Little Rascal with a shaved head, terrible teeth and an aw-shucks smile. Tom treats me like we’re both five and both perpetually in a sandbox. He brings me candy wrappers as presents and lowers his voice when he talks to me, his weird honky voice like he’s doing an impression of someone or operating a dummy, and he makes a big deal over the fact that I’m leaving to go to school in New York City, which makes me feel like he gets it.

He gets that I think I’m better than everyone there, customers and employees alike. I make customers wait while I finish my page of Tess of the D’Urbervilles before I seat them, strictly forbidden, and totally get off on it, that feeling better than everyone is the only way I survive high school, and knowing that when my shift is over I’m not getting a ride with a friend to go across the street to the mall, but with my parents, to go home and watch a French movie.

chris brown is t.s. eliot

sucks that i can’t do this for my wedding now, because it would be way derivative. still:

more importantly, WHY IS THIS SONG SO GOOD. i really can’t stop listening to this. can’t stop. this long literally destroyed my plans today. i’m not exaggerating.

“forever” is pretty much “the love song of j. alfred prufrock.” hear me out. because since i teach at an inner-city high school, i have no choice but to know that chris brown is a douche who beats his girlfriend, and yet his song is earcrack to me and i’m playing it so much that it’s going to break my ipod, so i guess i have to put my fingers in my ears and go “la la la i’m not listening” to all that not-so-nice stuff and appreciate the art– such as it is– on its own terms.

much like “the love song of j. alfred prufrock,” or any poems in the oeuvre of t.s. eliot, who was an antisemitic sexual deviant. but you just gotta go with it, i guess. or something.

it’s late and this is one of those issues everybody already pretty much has figured out already. you probably stopped reading a few sentences ago.

i grow old… i grow old..

i shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

shall i part my hair behind? do i dare to eat a peach?

i shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.

i have heard the mermaids singing, each to each

i do not think that they will sing to me.

it’s gon’ be you me and the dance floor

cause we only got one night

double your pleasure, double your fun

and dance forever