Tuesday, April 29, 2008

students say the most interesting things

Since I sometimes mock the ludicrous fluff that my students use to meet the required 2/3/6/8/etc. pages in their papers, I've decided that in the interests of fairness and balance, I should give credit where credit is due. I collected narrative essays from Advanced Comp. last week, and there's some legitimately good stuff in this pile on my desk. So without further ado, context-free excerpts from Advanced Comp. narrative essays:

At the moment, I am unable to eat anything that requires the use of a spoon.

What George does know is that he currently has a general hatred toward the world and a fiery, passionate, "I hope you burn in hell" hatred toward three specific things: The Rotund One, Journey, and The Secret Weapon. George also knows that he has one more lap to go in the mile.

It was too late now because before we knew it the Rotary members were all dead.

Now here I am, looking out at my kids as they push me, shake me, try everything to wake me up. But they can't, and they won't. It's too late. I'm gone.

Mark and Hailey were stumbling to their car at dawn after one too many Amaretto Sours.

In my dream, my body magically appears thirty pounds lighter and there is no need to be anorexic anymore.

Manic Depressant lies on the ground, nowhere to sleep, and no one around.

Dinner was quiet and tasteless.

Whether I'm sitting on the bus or riding home with my own mother, there is someone glaring at me with that put-those-damn-things-outside look.

She assured me that she would be fine for the night, and I drove home with her makeup stains still prominent on my white shirt.

She told us to go back outside and play some soccer, which meant she was going to yell at dad.

Anna's tranquil apartment turned into a jungle of clothes, infomercial merchandise, and bonsais.

One step to kill the heartache, another to break the ties, and the headlights glistened vibrantly as the bullet whisked her off her feet.

He knew the Mexican mafia wouldn't be too happy to find out that their "mob prince" was a rat.

Paul introduced her to his revolutionary new diet that consisted of eating nothing but circus peanuts and drinking grape soda.

Flashbacks. Scenes of me stumbling out of the bar, grasping his hand. Numbness. The shape of his body hovering over mine--no love, no passion, no guilt.

Vandalism, theft, arson, and even murder were everyday occurrences among these beasts.

At lunch I eat alone. My existence isn't even acknowledged by the lunch ladies.

The disgust in her voice when he asked was enough to know that she didn't need him as much as he needed her.

I am a criminal, an alcoholic, a murderer...I am nobody. My father would be ashamed if he saw me now.

She feels the urge to put the bottle to her lips and taste her bitter defeat.

Pretty good, eh? Later gators.

Monday, April 28, 2008

teacher man mailbag 2

I'm teaching 2 sections of Advanced Comp. and a section of English 11 Lit.--the former handed in papers on Friday, and the latter will hand in papers tomorrow. I have a lot of grading to do. Therefore, sit back and enjoy another installment of the teacher man mailbag.

"i am pretty sure that i am the coolest person you know. i go to movies and bars all the time. and i think that you like me. and your son screamed UNCLE JOE the entire time that i was on the phone with mom this morning. which was REALLY cool." (Joe, "cool")
I think we're defining "cool" differently. In my opinion, "cool" has a negative connotation because it refers to the detestable subset of people who actively aspire to be cool. I do not like them. Anyone who knows Joe, however, knows that he makes no effort to be cool. And I think that's cool.

"You had me at randy "macho man" savage...Didn't you once see Jimmy Stewart walking his dog? That should rank like right up at the top..." (Kelly, "top 10 celebrity encounters")
First of all, "You had me at Randy "Macho Man" Savage" is a wonderful sentence, and one you won't find anywhere else on the web, I promise you. And second, I never saw Jimmy Stewart walking his dog. How do rumors like this get started? I suppose that's what I get for being in the public eye. Now I know how Lindsay Lohan feels.

"1. I agree with Stacy about the Qdoba/Chipotle hierarchy. 2. And also, that is hilarious about your keys and the basket of napkins. 3. 8. "He thinks that Hillary is probably the more qualified Democratic candidate right now, but he is going to vote for Obama. He's not sure why." Word up, CK. 4. It's quite awesome that you went to see Mr. Klosterman. I feel like if we could get him on a stage with, say, Sarah Vowell, Richard Russo, and Nick Hornby, my life would be complete." (Claire, "sex, drugs, & qdoba")
Lots of good stuff here. First, you are correct. The Authentic Mexican Grill Hierarchy goes like this: 1) Chipotle, 2) Panchero's, 3) Qdoba. (Still, I would rather eat at Qdoba that almost anywhere else.) Second, in an interesting coincidence, I once threw away my wallet after eating at the Chipotle in Crystal Lake because I put it in a bag and forgot about it. Third, since this post, I have also seen Sarah Vowell on stage (doing a reading in Elgin). Jealous?

"ok... i know i am a little late here. i read your blog about once a month and i have actually never left a comment before. i do however, have to take issue with the fact that you left out what had to be the coolest part of the day: coming to see me at MASH and meeting my students. i mean... come on." (Bryn, "act prep prep")
Thanks for ratting us out. If I get fired for this, I'm sleeping on your couch.

"I haven't looked at any of those clips, but I'm guessing I'm going to have the same reaction as the person who shares my DNA. I love the Cliff Clavin on Jeopardy episode of Cheers, though. Good times. (PS - My Jeopardy questions would all be totally nerdy. Or, about The Office. I rock at Office Jeopardy, right Alex?.)" (Stacy, "top 10 youtube clips")
First of all, my wife and I almost had a knock-down-drag-out the other day because she didn't know Cliff's response to the Final Jeopardy clue in this episode. The clue was: Archibald Leach, Bernard Schwartz, and Lucille LeSueur. And as you all know (right?), Cliff's response was, "Who are three people who have never been in my kitchen?" Classic. Now for the real question: What is my Jeopardy! dream board? Well, I've thought about it quite a lot, and here's what I've decided (keep in mind that the Jeopardy! people try to diversify the board, and so have I): Country Music of the 1990's, Baseball, 20th-Century American Literature, Grammar, Rhyme Time, and Simple Math. With the exception of the first one, these have all been actual Jeopardy! categories. I would own any of you with this board.

"I think Joe is my favorite Baker, too." (Sara, "the incomparable joe baker")
Yup--that's my wife. This reminds me of the episode of Everybody Loves Raymond when Ray wants Robert to ask Debra if they can go golfing because she likes him better. I am, however, disappointed on Charlie's behalf. I'm sure he's at least a close #2.

At least I'm all caught up now. Tomorrow you're going to get the anti-students say the darndest things. And that's what we call a "teaser."

Later gators.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

and the presidency goes to...

Found a great feature on the New York magazine web site the other day: The 2008 Electopedia. On the site, they describe it as "a guide to (almost) everything there is to know about presidential candidates John McCain, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton." They cover everything from Best Speech to Fashion Sense. Now, I'm leaning toward the Obaminator, but in the interests of keeping an open mind, I'm going to break it down and see if I'm making the right decision. I've chosen the 10 most important categories listed on the web site (click here for a complete list), and I'll rank all of the candidates, assigning 3 points to the winner down to 1 point for the loser. Then we'll really know who should be leading our country. So here we go...

How They Did In High School
3. McCain: Didn't Get Kicked Out! (1 pt.)
2. Obama: Great, for a Slacker (2 pts.)
1. Clinton: Nerdily Well (3 pts.)
Obviously I was going to include this one. The most interesting facts on this page: In high school, John McCain was known as "Punk" and "McNasty," and Barack Obama was known as "Barry." Really? President Barry?

Greatest Political Accomplishment
3. Clinton becomes Senator of a state she's never lived in with no political experience. (1)
2. McCain comes back from brink of defeat to win 2008 Republican nomination. (2)
1. Obama emerges as the most (only?) legitimate African-American Presidential candidate ever. (3)
Easy one. Hillary's "Listening Tour" is no match for Barry's "transcending race...[and] changing American politics."

Best Speech
3. McCain's 1996 Speech at the Republican National Convention (1)
2. Clinton's 1969 Wellesley Commencement Address (2)
1. Obama's "A More Perfect Union" Speech (3)
I read all of these, and they're all actually pretty awesome. McNasty's nomination speech made Bob Dole cry, which I support, and according to the web site, Hillary used her opportunity as the first student to ever speak at a Wellesley graduation ceremony to "tear [conservative Senator Edward Brooke of MA] a new one." But Barry's was the best. He's eloquent and honest at the same time.

Most Blatant Pop-Culture Pandering
3. Clinton: Going Gump (1)
2. Obama: When on Ellen Degeneres... (2)
1. McCain: Wedding Crash and Burn (3)
First of all, Hillary isn't funny, so when she tries to be, it always seems awkward to me. Second, for whatever reason, the web site thinks that McNasty's cameo in Wedding Crashers was "not the wisest of choices." I disagree. That movie was so good that it catapults him over Barry's dance on The Ellen Degeneres Show, which made my mom decide she was going to vote for him. But J-Mac wins for sure--anytime you do something that provokes the headline "Sen. McCain Stars in Boob Raunch Fest" (The Drudge Report), you've already won.

Best Debate Smackdown
3. Clinton: South Carolina, January 21, 2008 (1)
2. McCain: Friday, October 21, 2007 (2)
1. Obama: Iowa, December 13, 2007 (3)
Hillary gets last because her accusation that Obama once represented a Chicago slum lord turns out not to be true. The clear winner is Barry; a debate moderator asked how he was going to promote change with so many advisers from the Clinton administration (Hillary laughed mockingly), and he said, "Well, Hillary, I'm looking forward to you advising me as well." Still, if this ranking were open to Time magazine columnists, the winner would be Ana Marie Cox, who said of McNasty's knock on Mitt Romney ("You've spent the last year trying to fool people about your record—I don’t want you to start fooling them about mine"), "I believe the technical term for that is 'snap.' McCain isn't bringing it on, it has already been broughten." Nice.

Military (In)experience
3. Obama: Zip. Zero. Zilch. (1)
2. Clinton: Once Upon A Time, Long Ago... (2)
1. McCain: In The Navy... (3)
Just to show that I'm not a homer, we're going with a category where my guy has a clear disadvantage. I'm even giving Hillary the nod for "attempting" to enlist in the Marines (!). In this area, McNasty is pretty awesome. You know that already.

Never-Altered Core Position
3. McCain: Duty, Honor, Country, Etc. (1)
2. Obama: Making Nice With Others, Including Republicans (2)
1. Clinton: Kids Are Good (3)
It might seem somehow wrong to rank McNasty 3rd for his patriotism, but I have a feeling that that patriotism is going to keep us at war for a long time. You should check out the write-up on Hillary here--it's actually pretty impressive.

Favorite Hobby
3. McCain: "In This Corner..." (1)
2. Clinton: Alone Time (2)
1. Obama: I Wish I Was a Baller (3)
Evidently McNasty likes boxing. So what? I support Hillary's fondness for alone time, but I gave Charlie my vote on this one, and he said, "Basketball PLAYER!" So Barry it is.

Taste In Books
3. Clinton: Charter Member, Oprah's Book Club (1)
2. McCain: It Tolls For He (2)
1. Obama: Shakespeare and Doctorow (3)
I know, I know. Oprah's Book Club isn't exactly a joke--there's some quality stuff there. But I just picture her sitting with a bunch of Senators and Congresswomen, ostensibly to discuss The Joy Luck Club, but really just drinking wine and dishing on the cute new representative from Georgia. Am I sexist? I might be.

Most Amusing YouTube Video
3. Clinton: "Hillary4U&Me" (1)
2. McCain: "Raining McCain" (2)
1. Obama: "Vote Different" (3)
You really should check these out. The Hillary one is just bizarre. The McNasty one is bizarre but kind of funny. But here's what the article said about Barry's video: "extremely clever"; "“way too good to be produced by a campaign"; “the best example of a successful viral attack” that year; and "the emergence of a new era in political advertising." Sounds like a winner to me.

So let's add 'em up:

Hillary: 17.
McNasty: 18.
Barry: 25.

I'm glad. I would have had a slight crisis of political faith if that had turned out differently. Turns out that I'm making the right decision. (At least if you base your political decisions on things like YouTube videos and pick-up basketball games. Which I think you should.)

Later gators.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

the incomparable joe baker

Remember a while back when I told you how bad my memory was? The evidence I used at the time was that I forgot that Kelly Smith--a friend that went to grad school with Sara--was no longer Kelly Sanders, and I asked my parents if I could borrow the truck that they had traded in a few months before. I now have additional evidence:

Roughly 25 times yesterday, I thought to myself, You need to call Joe. It's his birthday. I'm not exaggerating. I thought it first thing in the morning. I thought it during all of my classes. I thought it during baseball practice. I thought it when I was playing church league volleyball last night. However, I did not call him. I had a million opportunities, and I thought of it a million times, but the opportunity and the thought never intersected. That alone makes me a bad person and proves that I'm absent-minded, but you haven't heard the worst part yet: I saw him yesterday. That's right. Joe was in town for the weekend, and he stopped by my classroom on the way out of town yesterday. I talked to him about his weekend, I told him it was good to see him, I gave him a hug, and he was gone. It wasn't until 6:15 this morning that it occurred to me that not once during that exchange did I make note of the fact that it was his birthday. Could I possibly be a worse brother?

So I'm fixing it with a blog. As Nicole Beckford said yesterday after Joe left, "So I definitely think Joe is my favorite Baker." Of course he is. He always is. Here are 20 reasons why:

1. He says, "It's fine," and he makes it funny.
2. He sings "Caro Mio Ben" so perfectly that I insisted he sing it at our wedding even though I'm pretty sure it's a song about death.
3. He paints. We have two of his paintings hanging in our house and I'm seriously considering paying him to decorate our new place with a bunch more.
4. He was an awesome George Gibbs in Our Town.
5. He has, for all intents and purposes, taught me how to dress myself properly.
6. He introduced me to edamame.
7. He says things like, "What's on the docket?"
8. He is part-owner of a Chihuahua named Mischa Barton. (I am not making this up.)
9. He is an excellent conversationalist.
10. He was an awesome Claude in Hair.
11. When we went to Chicago for my wife and sister-in-law's 30th birthday, he got up on stage at Second City for one of the sketches. If someone asked me, "Of all the people you know, who would be the best at getting on stage for a Second City sketch?" I would say, "Joe Baker."
12. 95% of the world calls him "Joe Baker." Not Joe. Joe Baker.
13. He watches Silence of the Lambs to help him fall asleep at night.
14. He loves his nieces and nephews. Mostly Charlie.
15. In his own words, he was an awesome "male prostitute addicted to crack who was obsessed with himself and Al Pacino movies" in a play in college, the name of which is not coming to me right now. Polaroid something. (I repeat, I am not making this up.)
16. He moved back to the Midwest because he wanted to be closer to his family.
17. He's been telling his co-workers that he's 25 for the last 3 years--now, it's finally true.
18. He thinks Charlie Baker is the "most interesting person [he knows]," and Charlie Baker thinks Uncle Joe is the most entertaining person he knows. (Charlie said so himself.)
19. He once taught Matt Greben how to pretend to ride a horse for our production of Story Theater, which led to nearly all of my actors prancing around the auditorium like miniature Joe Bakers, then falling down on the ground laughing.
20. No one--and I'm being literal--does not have more fun when Joe's around. And that's a fact.

So there. This blog emerged from my guilt for not having mentioned his birthday, but there's not a word of hyperbole in the whole thing. Joe Baker is just as awesome as awesome can be.

Later gators.

Monday, April 21, 2008

how much do your teachers hate you?

I am secure, and because I am secure I can admit the following: One of the most positive memories of my high school career involves a night that I spent with a few friends (mixed company--roughly half guys and half girls) taking tests from back issues of Cosmo/Teen/etc. Not only did we have a blast, but I learned just how big a flirt I really am.

At any rate, now I'm a teacher and I've decided to combine my two passions--teaching and teen magazine quizzes--into a blog entry titled "how much do your teachers hate you?" If you are interested in the answer to this question, just take the following quiz and add up your score (point values for each response are in parentheses at the end). Here goes...

1. How often do you ask your teacher if you can borrow a pencil?
a) Never. (10)
b) Usually once or twice a week. (1)
c) As far as I know, I don't own any pencils. (0)

2. How often do you leave class to go to the bathroom?
a) Never. I go between classes. (10)
b) Only in an emergency. (5)
c) Every time I get bored. Sometimes 2 or 3 times a day. (0)

3. When you work in groups, your group is most likely to be the one that...
a) calls the teacher over to ask whether the shift from 1st-person to 3rd-person point of view on page 61 is supposed to suggest that the narrator feels ostracized from the group. (10)
b) has to frequently be reminded that "you've got work to do." (1)
c) doesn't even know where to start. Am I supposed to have heard these names somewhere before? (0)

4. How often do you lie?
a) Never. (10)
b) When I think that the truth will negatively affect my grade. (1)
c) A lot. I enjoy lying. It keeps me from getting bored in class. (0)

5. How often do you ask your teacher if you can watch a movie in class?
a) I hate it when we watch movies. We're losing out on an opportunity to learn. (10)
b) Almost never, but if he/she wants to throw in The Breakfast Club, fine by me. (5)
c) Every day. I even brought in 300. God I hate school. (0)

6. Fill in the blank: I miss school _____.
a) only in emergencies. (10)
b) occasionally. (3)
c) at every possible opportunity. (0)

7. When your teacher hands you back a paper, what do you do?
a) Examine the comments and notes closely so as to avoid those mistakes in the future. (10)
b) Check the score. If it's not to my liking, I try to figure out how I can get him/her to change it. (1)
c) Drop it in the garbage on the way out. (0)

8. Fill in the blank: During a lecture, I typically _____.
a) listen, take notes, and ask questions when I have them. (10)
b) listen quietly with my notebook open. If he/she writes something on the board, I'll write it down. (5)
c) sleep. (0)

9. How often do you ask for an extension?
a) Never. That's why God invented due dates. (10)
b) I did it once because my grandma died. Seriously. (7)
c) Every time, and it almost always works too. Suckers. (0)

10. How often do you come late to class?
a) Never. That's why God invented passing periods. (10)
b) Once in a while, but I always have a pass. (3)
c) Constantly. I hate class. (0)

11. Fill in the blank: Class is over when _____.
a) The teacher dismisses us. (10)
b) The bell rings. (5)
c) I say it's over. (0)

12. When you see your teacher in the hallways outside of class, which of the following are you most likely to say?
a) "Hey, Mr. Smith. You see that Brewer game last night? Gallardo's coming along." (10)
b) "..." (head down, walking faster, hoping she won't see me...) (1)
c) "What are you lookin' at?" (0)

Okay, add 'em up.

81-120...Your teachers like you. You are basically a positive influence on the classroom climate, and that's all they are looking for. Now tell that jackass sitting next to you to sit up straight.

31-80...Your teachers tolerate you. You seem indifferent toward school, and that's irritating. You're probably not making the class any worse, but you're not making it any better either. Now sit up straight.

0-30...Your teachers hate you. They're just trying to do their jobs, and you're making it more difficult. Knock it off. Now go to the office.

Later gators.

Friday, April 18, 2008

10-minute fiction

You know how sometimes you go months without really getting into a book, then you read a good one and all of a sudden you go on a reading binge? Well, I'm finding that the same is true with writing. I'm in a mood to write right now, and yesterday Advanced Comp. afforded me the opportunity to do it. They're writing short short stories in there (for more on short short stories, check out this web site with a bunch by David Eggers), and yesterday we did a pre-writing activity. I gave them a sheet with a bunch of first lines from actual short stories, and they had to use one to begin their own narrative. They had 10 minutes. I did one too. The first line comes from a story called "Tall Tales from the Mekong Delta," by Kate Braverman. I'm calling my version "It Was Cancer, If You Were Curious."

It was in the 5th month of her sobriety that Martha was faced with a situation that demanded a drink. She was certain that no one would blame her for ordering a Captain and Diet Coke. Maybe a quick shot of SoCo and lime. A Corona, perhaps. After all, normal people could do things like that after a near-death experience. (Martha frequently had to remind herself not to identify herself as "abnormal.") How unfair that people who could live without it could have all they wanted while those who depended on it ("depended"--that was their word, not hers) had to go elsewhere for comfort. And that's what it was, right? This was a near-death experience in two very different but equally literal senses of the word. Standing before her brother's casket an hour earlier, she had death staring her down, daring her to look away. And when she finally did--when she couldn't bear one more stranger's embrace, one more false tear, one more "He was so young"--she had escaped through a side door to enjoy a cigarette, the addiction she still allowed herself to feed.

Martha had always despised those who didn't respect the sanctity of a funeral, so her first instinct when she saw the rusty pick-up speeding down Oak Street was to shout something nasty or at least give them the finger. But as they took that righthand turn a little too sharply, Martha stumbled off the sidewalk and fell on the well-manicured lawn of Barrett & Sons Funeral Home. The truck rolled up and down the curb where Oak met Lauderdale Lane as the young man sitting in the passenger's seat flicked a cigarette out the window. Martha broke down.

So here she sits at McMurphy's, thinking that no one would fault her for ordering just one to calm her nerves, right?

Later gators.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

and meow for something completely different

Alex Baker trivia: I have taught professionally at two high schools in my life: BFHS and _____.

If you guessed Neenah High School, you are correct. After student-teaching there for the first 9 weeks of the 2003-04 school year, they asked me to serve as a long-term sub when a member of the department took maternity leave. Now, NHS is on a trimester system, and conveniently for Mrs. Roblee, my first week was the week of 2nd-term parent-teacher conferences, and my final week was the week of 3rd-term conferences. That means that she taught twice as much as me and had to deal with half of the conferences. I bet giving birth is worse, but I bet it's closer than you think.

Anyway, conferences at NHS took place in the gymnasium with members of each department lined up at one long table. I was always placed between Mr. Smith and Mr. Funk, two youngish guys who were pretty fun to work with. And because we had to sit there from 4-8 p.m. on two consecutive nights, we sometimes sought ways to cure our boredom. One of those ways involved dollar bets.

dollar bets (DAH ler BETS) n.: one-dollar wagers in which the particpants "bet" each other that they can't perform some ridiculous task during their next conference

Here are some examples of dollar bets:

1. I bet you can't say "meow" three times during your next conference.
"Hi, Mrs. Hill. How are you? Glad to hear it. Meow, Brian currently has a C- in British Lit...

2. I bet you can't pretend to be left-handed...
"As you can see, Mr. Bennett, Katelyn didn't hand in her second persuasive essay (awkwardly circles the zero on the gradesheet)..."
NOTE: Mr. Smith once lost a dollar on this one because the parent asked him to write down his email address and he thought it would undermine his credibility as an educator if it looked like his 3-year-old daughter had written it.

3. I bet you can't use the word "addle-minded"...
"So Beth is failing sophomore English right now, but it's strictly a matter of effort. I think we all know that she could pass the class if it were important to her--I mean, it's not like she's addle-minded or something..."

4. I bet you can't steal this next parent's pen from her...
"Here, let me write down my office number--do you have a pen? Thanks. So you should feel free to call any time."
"Um, I think that's my pen."
"Right, right..."

5. I bet you won't start talking about the wrong student...
"Well, Martin is just a pleasure to have in class. I wish I had 23 more just like him..."
"Oh, I'm sorry. I'm Danny's mother."
"Oops. My mistake. So Danny isn't doing so well..."

6. I bet you can't do an entire conference without using the letter "t"...
"Jamie is doing a gre...a very good job. I...believe he has a solid und...comprehension of alm...pr...more or less ever...all our ma...books."

7. I bet you can't do this next conference with a British accent...
"Allo, gov'nor!"
NOTE: No one actually ever did this, but it would have been funny.

This is the kind of thing that we miss out on by conducting conferences in our classrooms here at BFHS. But maybe this is why we conduct conferences in our classrooms. Who knows?

Later gators.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

chapter 2

As I've mentioned before, I would like to write. (I don't mean on a blog, although this is fun and good practice.) I mean that I'd like to write a book. Short stories. Whatever. Anyway, sometimes I do. I have the first 30 or so pages of half a dozen books/plays/screenplays saved somewhere, but I typically find it hard to keep going. I'm a busy guy. Anyway, I thought I'd put up part of one of those books. I only have a couple of chapters of this one. Basically there are four characters that narrate the story on a rotating basis. There's Ben, the main character; Maggie, his fiancee; Max, his best friend; and Angela, a prostitute. Angela shows up because Ben is concerned about the fact that he is sexually inexperienced, but Maggie is not. With their wedding day approaching, his anxiety is increasing, so his trouble-maker friend Max hires a girl to answer some questions for him. In the first chapter, Angela shows up at Ben's room for the first time and they discuss Ben's problem. This is the second chapter (or part of it at least), and it takes place the following morning. Hope you like it.

Chapter 2

I woke to the Super Mario Brothers theme song--my ringtone--around 8 o’clock the next morning. It was Maggie.
“Did I wake you up?”
“Mmm hmmm.”
“I’ll be back in about fifteen minutes, so you should probably shower and get ready.”
Maggie’s sister had celebrated her 21st birthday in Madison the night before, so Maggie had spent the night there. I was surprised that she was up so early until I remembered that today was the day that we were registering at Target.
“Mmm hmmm,” I told her. Then I hung up and called Max.
“What the hell is the matter with you?”
“Get up and come to Target with me.”
“I'm going back to bed.”
“I’m serious.”
“Whatever. Fine. But let’s go after lunch.”
“Can’t. We’re registering for the wedding and Maggie’s gonna’ be here in like two minutes.”
“Goddamn it.”
“Two minutes.”

I got there ten minutes later and Mags still hadn’t shown up. Ben was brushing his teeth. He’s kind of a hard guy to read sometimes, so I tried not to make a big deal out of the whole sending-a-hooker-to-his-room-without-telling-him thing. I figured that if he wanted to talk about it, he’d talk about it.
“Mrgung,” he said, his mouth frothy with toothpaste.
He spit. “A hooker stopped by my room last night.”
So he wanted to talk about it.
“What did she look like?”
“Wud shluck luck?” Spit. “What did she look like? That’s all you’ve got to say?”
“It’s not all I’ve got to say, but it’s the first thing. I need a mental image.”
“She had a humpback and she was cross-eyed.”
“Nice ass?”
“Yeah. What the hell were you thinking?”
“Look, man,” I told him as he rinsed his brush. “You’re a thinker. You’re the smartest guy I know. Suma cum everything. But you’re not a doer. I’m a doer. So I figured that if I did this for you, it might save you some embarrassment down the line.”
“I’m not even going to argue with the logic that sending a hooker to my room would save me embarrassment.”
“That’s good.”
“First of all, just because you made a mess out of your first time doesn’t mean that I’m going to. And second of all . . .”
He paused for a second and looked down with this little grin on his face as he pulled on a sweatshirt that said Stanford Dad.
“Oh my God,” I said. “You nailed her.”
“No!” he said. “But we did talk, and you were probably right.” Hell yes.
“I want every detail. I want to know what she smelled like.”
“She smelled like the perfume counter at McCullough’s.”
“That’s hot.”
“Anyway--” He said it in the way that he always does when he’s tired of my bullshit. “She said I shouldn’t worry about it.”
“So did I, shit-for-brains.”
“Yeah, but you never worry about anything.”
“Yeah and you worry about everything. That’s why you need me. Whatever. What else did you talk about?”
“I don’t know. The Packers.”
If I have ever been capable of kicking Ben’s ass, that was the moment. Think back to when you were still a virgin. Imagine that you had a hot girl who had sex for money sitting in your room. Even if you were afraid to actually sleep with her, can you imagine a single scenario in which you would talk about the goddamn Green Bay Packers? Lucky for him, that’s when Mags walked in.

There are two reasons that I asked Max to come to Target with us. First, the stuff that had happened the night before made me nervous about being alone with Maggie. Second, registering seemed like an intensely boring thing to do, and I thought it might be more fun if Max were there. Needless to say, Maggie was not pleased with my decision.
“Oh, Max,” she said as she closed the door behind her. “How’s it going?”
“Awesome. How’s it going with you?”
“Pretty good. Is Max coming with us?”
“Yeah,” I told her. “I hope that’s okay.”
“I guess. We need to get going.”
We swung by Starbuck’s on the way so Max could get a caramel macchiato, Maggie could get some peppermint drink that they only have around Christmas, and I could get a hot chocolate. Interesting sidenote about me: I have never had a cup of coffee in my life. To me, coffee just looks like hot, dirty water.
“Okay, here’s the list of stuff that we’ve talked about,” Maggie said. Maggie, you should know, is a chronic maker of lists. There’s practically no part of her life that isn’t included on or organized by some sort of list. Part of me thinks that she wanted to get married because she realized the number of lists that could be generated during the planning process. One such list included stuff that we were going to register for.
“We need dishes,” she began. “I like the Summer Breeze pattern. Do you still like that?”
“More than ever,” I said.
“Then we need pots and pans, silverware, some little kitchen stuff like a lemon zester and a garlic press—”
“A what and a what?” Max said.
“A lemon zester and a garlic press.”
“And what do you do with those?”
“You zest lemons and press garlic,” I told him.
Maggie tried to ignore us. “Do you think we need a new coffee machine?”
“Well, neither one of us really drinks coffee, so I’d say no.”
“But don’t you think it would be good to have, just in case?”
“Sure,” I said. Clearly, the answer to her question was no. I didn’t and I do not think that it was or is a good idea to have a coffee machine around “just in case.” I’m not even sure what it’s “just in case” of. But it doesn’t matter because we were going to register for it anyway. You know how I could tell? She asked for my opinion, I gave it to her, then she re-asked in a different way. When that happens, it’s clear that she’s not really asking for my opinion. She’s asking for me to affirm her opinion. And when I couldn’t really care less, as in the coffee machine example, I do. Three minutes later, we were at the customer service counter at Target.
“Can we get two of those?” Max asks about the little scanner gun that the customer service lady has given me.
“Sure,” she says, but Maggie cuts her off and tells her that one will be plenty. Naturally, Max gives the lady a wink and takes a second gun as we leave.
“Where should we go first?” Maggie asks.
“Wherever,” I say. “Can we just start over here and go up and down each aisle?”
“Don’t you think that we should start with the stuff we’ve got on our list?”
We spend the next thirty minutes finding all of the stuff on that list. As I anticipated, Max is making this more fun. He’s doing Mission: Impossible rolls into the aisles and shouting things like, “I’m going in for the candles. Cover me!” Maggie seems unhappy.

Yes, I was unhappy. But not in the bitchy-girlfriend way. It’s not because Ben wasn’t taking this seriously, which was only mildly irritating. It was more because of Max. As I’ve said, I don’t like Max. To me, Max represents all of the assholes I wasted my time with before Ben. He is only interested in having fun, and I know how ridiculous a thing that is to criticize about someone, but when you have to deal with people who are only interested in having fun, it’s very hard for you to actually enjoy yourself. Use the registering example. If Max hadn’t been there, Ben would have been having fun with me. We would have talked about the wedding and he would have given me a hard time about my lists. He would have made me let him register for stuff like Old Milwaukee and Cinnamon Toast Crunch (which he did anyway, but it was less cute with Max throwing the cereal box in the air and Ben taking target practice with it). Once in a while, Ben would have given me a little kiss on the cheek. But when Max is there, he takes all of Ben’s attention. I probably felt the same way a three-year-old feels when her parents come home with a new baby.

“This is the worst part of my job,” Max said with a Southern drawl as he stood over the quesadilla maker that was lying on the ground. “He was a good hoss. Ma’am, you may want to avert your eyes.” And then he pulled the trigger on the registration gun and shuffled away, whistling “Home on the Range.”

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

stuff i don't like

In The Great Gatsby, Nick Carraway says that we all suspect ourselves of at least one of the cardinal virtues. He says that his is honesty, but a quick look at Wikipedia tells you that the cardinal virtues are prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice. But since Nick has set a precedent here, I'm going to go on my own and say that my cardinal virtue is tolerance. I put up with a lot--I do teach high school, you know--before I lose it. But there are some things that I simply cannot tolerate, and since I've spent the last week or so generating lists of stuff I like (not guilty pleasures, top 100 songs, etc.), I've decided that I need to vent a little bit. I absolutely, positively cannot tolerate...

...white hot chocolate. Roughly once a month, I stop by Dunkin' Donuts for a bagel and a hot chocolate, and they'll give me white hot chocolate instead. And since I like to wait until I get to school before I dip into my hot beverage, I never realize it until it's too late. And white hot chocolate is to regular hot chocolate as regular white chocolate is to regular chocolate. And everybody hates white chocolate. So there.

...Dress Barn. You could barely fill a thimble with my knowledge of women, but one thing I know is that if I were marketing clothing for them, I would steer clear of obvious comparisons to livestock. Whomever made the decision to call this place Dress Barn had better have lost his job immediately. What other gems did he unearth? The Coffee Trough? Horse Shoes? The Fat Women's Ice Cream Shoppe?

...people who host parties, order a veggie pizza, then eat my pepperoni. I need to make sure that the problem here is clear. I have no problem with someone ordering a veggie. If you like veggie--and especially if it's your party--you can get whatever garbage you want on your pizza. But the operative word here is your. If I head over to the table and find three empty boxes where there had formerly been normal pizzas (for the purposes of this discussion, "normal" means pepperoni, sausage, or cheese) but there are still 6 slices of the thing you got with pineapples on it, you will get an earful.

...kids that cry in the hallways. Learn to deal with your problems. I wish I could give kids detentions for this.

..."A Different World," by Bucky Covington. If you aren't familiar with this song (by an ex-American Idol contestant, by the by), count yourself among the lucky ones. It's this ludicrous song about how people are too concerned with things like making their kids safe and happy. (At least that's what it seems like to me.) It begins with this line: "We were born to mothers who smoked and drank. Our cribs were covered in lead-based paint. No childproof lids, no seatbelts in cars. Rode bikes with no helmets and still here we are." That's right, Bucky, except for those of us who died of lead poisoning or were paralyzed in car accidents because we weren't wearing seatbelts.

...when you aren't paying attention at breakfast, and you reach for your milk glass, but you grab the orange juice instead, and you don't realize it until it hits your tongue. I know that's kind of specific, but it happened to me the other day. Quite a shock.

...Romy & Michele's High School Reunion. Stupid movie.

...women who have a "birth plan" or insist on "natural childbirth." I am certain that this will offend part of my readership because surely someone has done this, but I just don't understand it. You know what your "birth plan" should be? Have a baby as safely and painlessly as possible. That's a good plan. And don't get me started on those who don't use drugs. (Incidentally, this doesn't apply to people who have babies under weird circumstances--only those who bring up the fact that they don't intend to use them at dinner parties and such.) They remind me of waiters who take your order without writing it down--that's another thing I won't tolerate. Do you somehow believe that I think less of waiters who write down my order and get it right? I'm here to tell you, I don't. I applaud them for doing their jobs well. Meanwhile, you're bringing me biscuits and gravy when I ordered a waffle, but hey, you didn't have to write it down! Bravo! Oh really? You had that baby without an epidural? Well, it looks the same to me. Sorry.

Thanks for listening. I feel much better.

Later gators.

Monday, April 14, 2008

top 100 songs (part 2)

A quick endorsement before we finish this thing:

Saw an awesome movie with an even more awesome soundtrack this weekend: Once. The movie is solid and I won't ruin it for you by sharing any more than that. But the very next day I went out and bought the soundtrack. The first song on it--"Falling Slowly" (which, incidentally, won the Oscar for Best Song)--is exactly the kind of thing that I would typically put right into the top 10 today. But I'm trying to be rational, so I'm leaving it out. If I revise this list in 5 years, however, I'm sure it's going to be up there. Anyway, check it out.

That having been said, let's commence with the top 50:

50. "My Stupid Mouth," by John Mayer
I could see she was offended. She said, "Well, anyway," just dying for a subject change.
Runner-Up: "Sucker"

49. "Nothing Fancy," by Dave Barnes
There's nothing fancy about the way I love you, but it sure is fancy how you love me.
Runner-Up: "Jackson"

48. "Regulators," by Warren G & Nate Dogg
I'm gettin' jacked, I'm breakin myself. I can't believe they're takin' Warren's wealth.
Runner-Up: N/A

47. "Come Monday," by Jimmy Buffett
We can go hiking on Tuesday. With you, I'd walk anywhere.
Runner-Up: "Margaritaville"

46. "Brown Eyes," by Andy Davis
She really didn't say much. She really didn't have to.
Runner-Up: "We Should Be In Love"

45. "Stand By Me," by Ben E. King
If the sky that we look upon should tumble and fall, and the mountains should crumble to the sea.
Runner-Up: "Save The Last Dance For Me" (with The Drifters)

44. "Hook," by Blues Traveler
It doesn't matter what I say as long as I sing with inflection.
Runner-Up: "Run-Around"

43. "Sunshine," by Jonathan Edwards
But he can't even run his own life. I'll be damned if he'll run mine.
Runner-Up: "Shanty"

42. "Son Of A Preacher Man," by Dusty Springfield
Bein' good isn't always easy, no matter how hard I try.
Runner-Up: "I Only Want To Be With You"

41. "House of the Rising Sun," by The Animals
It's been the ruin of many a poor boy, and God, I'm one.
Runner-Up: "We Gotta' Get Outta' This Place"

40. "Forever And Ever Amen," by Randy Travis
Honey, I don't care. I ain't in love with your hair, and if it all fell out, well I'd love you anyway.
Runner-Up: "Storms Of Life"

39. "Lightning Crashes," by Live
Oh, I feel it comin' back again like a rollin' thunder chasing the wind.
Runner-Up: "Iris"

38. "Daydream Believer," by The Monkees
But it rings and I rise, wipe the sleep out of my eyes. The shaving razor's cold and it stings.
Runner-Up: "I'm A Believer"

37. "The Joker," by Steve Miller Band
I really love your peaches, wanna' shake your tree.
Runner-Up: "Jet Airliner"

36. "Mr. Bojangles," by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
He said I dance now at every chance in honky tonks for drinks and tips.
Runner-Up: "Fishin' In The Dark"

35. "500 Miles," by The Proclaimers
And when the money comes in for the work I do I'll pass almost every penny on to you.
Runner-Up: "Letter From America"

34. "King Of The Road," by Roger Miller
I smoke old stogies I have found, short but not too big around.
Runner-Up: "Dang Me"

33. "Joy To The World," by Three Dog Night
Jeremiah was a bullfrog. He was a good friend of mine.
Runner-Up: "Try A Little Tenderness"

32. "Bohemian Rhapsody," by Queen
He's just a poor boy from a poor family. Spare him his life from this monstrosity.
Runner-Up: "We Are The Champions"

31. "Touch Of Grey," by The Grateful Dead
Cow is giving kerosene, kid can't read at seventeen, the words he knows are all obscene, but it's alright.
Runner-Up: "Uncle John's Band"

30. "He Stopped Loving Her Today," by George Jones
He had underlined in red every single "I love you."
Runner-Up: "Who's Gonna' Fill Their Shoes?"

29. "What A Wonderful World," by Louis Armstrong
I hear babies cry, I watch them grow. They'll learn much more than I'll ever know.
Runner-Up: "The Dummy Song"

28. "Maybe I'm Amazed," by Paul McCartney
Maybe I'm a lonely man who's in the middle of something he don't really understand.
Runner-Up: "Band On The Run" (with Wings)

27. "Down On The Corner," by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Poor Boy twangs the rhythm out on his kalamazoo. Willy goes into a dance and doubles on kazoo.
Runner-Up: "I Heard It Through The Grapevine"

26. "A Case Of You," by Joni Mitchell
On the back of a cartoon coaster, in the blue T.V. screen light, I drew a map of Canada.
Runner-Up: "All I Want"

25. "Wild Rose," by Sam Baker
Wild Rose changed her clothes and changed her outlook after glancing through the good book.
Runner-Up: "Do Good Then Walk Away"

24. "All Will Be Well," by The Gabe Dixon Band
All the children walking home past the factory see the light that's shining in my window as I write this song to you.
Runner-Up: "More Than It Would Seem"

23. "Satellite," by Dave Mathews Band
Winter cold spring erases, and the calm away by the storm is chasen.
Runner-Up: "Angel"

22. "Take It On The Run," by REO Speedwagon
Heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend who heard it from another you been messin’ around.
Runner-Up: "Can't Fight This Feeling"

21. "La Vie Boheme," from Rent
To hand-crafted beers made in local breweries. To yoga, to yogurt, to rice and beans and cheese.
Runner-Up: "One Song Glory"

20. "Come On Eileen," by Dexy's Midnight Runners
With you in that dress, my thoughts, I confess, verge on dirty.
Runner-Up: Yeah, right.

19. "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," by Hank Williams
The moon just went behind a cloud to hide his face and cry.
Runner-Up: "Cold, Cold Heart"

18. "Me And Julio," by Paul Simon
Mama Pajama rolled out of bed and ran to the police station.
Runner-Up: "Homeward Bound"

17. "Imagine," by John Lennon
You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.
Runner-Up: "Give Peace A Chance"

16. "Black Water," by The Doobie Brothers
I'd like to hear some funky Dixieland, pretty mama come and take me by the hand.
Runner-Up: "Takin' It To The Streets"

15. "Something In The Way She Moves," by James Taylor
I feel fine any time she’s around me now, and she’s around me now almost all the time.
Runner-Up: "Sweet Baby James"

14. "Crazy," by Willie Nelson
Why do I let myself worry, wondering what in the world did I do?
Runner-Up: "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain"

13. "Billie Jean," by Michael Jackson
People always told me, “Be careful what you do, and don’t go around breaking young girls’ hearts.”
Runner-Up: "Thriller"

12. "You Can't Always Get What You Want," by The Rolling Stones
We decided that we would have a soda--my favorite flavor, cherry red.
Runner-Up: "Satisfaction"

11. "I Would Do Anything For Love," by Meatloaf
Some days I just pray to the god of sex and drums and rock n’ roll.
Runner-Up: "Objects In The Rearview Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are"

And my real Top 10 Songs of All-Time are...

10. "Buckets Of Rain," by Bob Dylan
I like your smile and your fingertips. I like the way that you move your lips. I like the cool way you look at me.
Runner-Up: "Mr. Tambourine Man"

9. "Let It Be," by The Beatles
When the night is cloudy, there is still a light that shines on me.
Runner-Up: "With A Little Help From My Friends"

8. "Sweet Home Alabama," by Lynyrd Skynyrd
I hope Neil Young will remember, a southern man don’t need him around anyhow.
Runner-Up: "Free Bird"

7. "Into The Mystic," by Van Morrison
When that fog horn blows, I will be coming home.
Runner-Up: "Brown-Eyed Girl"

6. "Me And Bobby McGee," by Janis Joplin
Busted flat in Baton Rouge, waiting for a train. I was feelin’ near as faded as my jeans.
Runner-Up: "Mercedes Benz"

5. "Piano Man," by Billy Joel
The piano, it sounds like a carnival, and the microphone smells like a beer.
Runner-Up: "Captain Jack"

4. "Jack And Diane," by John Mellencamp
Suckin’ on chili dogs outside the Tastee Freeze.
Runner-Up: "Small Town"

3. "Sweet Caroline," by Neil Diamond
Sweet Caroline, good times never seemed so good.
Runner-Up: "Forever In Blue Jeans"

2. "Folsom Prison Blues," by Johnny Cash
I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.
Runner-Up: "Sunday Morning Coming Down"

1. "Tiny Dancer," by Elton John
Lookin’ on, she sing the songs. The words she knows, the tune she hums.
Runner-Up: "Rocket Man"

Sara, Stacy, Becky--the CD's will be in the mail tonight.

Later gators.

Friday, April 11, 2008

top 100 songs (part 1)

A while back, my friend Becky suggested that a bunch of us compile lists of our top 10 favorite songs, then burn CD's and send them to each other. Seemed like a good idea, so we did. And my top 10 CD was ripped apart by my wife and friends. They thought it was ludicrous for me to claim that my 10 favorite songs were:

"Rising Sun," by Rusted Root
"We Should Be In Love," by Andy Davis
"New Slang," by The Shins
"Sucker," by John Mayer
"Photograph," by Jamie Cullum
"Jackson," by Dave Barnes
"Carry This Picture," by Dashboard Confessional
"Pictures To Prove It," by Lily Duncan
"Runnin' With The Boys," by Sam Baker
"Buckets of Rain," by Bob Dylan

And you know what? They were right. I know that because I just finished compiling a list of my top 100 favorite songs, and only 3 of those were even on that list. I was sloppy. So I'm rectifying that mistake by presenting you with a much more comprehensive list. The only rule for the Top 100 Songs of All-Time is that no artist could appear twice. (As a result, most songs also include a "Runner-Up"--the next song in line by that artist.) Today, you'll get #100-51; once you've had the weekend to let that sink in, you'll get the top 50 on Monday. Got your IPods ready? Good. Without further ado...

100. "Champagne Supernova," by Oasis
But you and I will never die. The world's still spinning around, we don't know why.
Runner-Up: "Don't Look Back in Anger"

99. "Basketcase," by Greenday
I am one of those melodramatic fools, neurotic to the bone no doubt about it.
Runner-Up: "Wake Me Up When September Ends"

98. "99 Red Balloons," by Goldfinger
Worry, worry, super scurry. Call out the troops now in a hurry.
Runner-Up: Umm...

97. "Hey Jealousy," by Gin Blossoms
Tomorrow we can drive around this town, let the cops chase us around.
Runner-Up: "Follow You Down"

96. "Still The Night," by The Bodeans
I like the way you dance. I like the way you paint your lips.
Runner-Up: "Good Things"

95. "Rainbow Connection," by Kermit the Frog
Have you been half asleep, and have you heard voices? I've heard them call my name.
Runner-Up: "It's Not Easy Being Green"

94. "Time After Time," by Cyndi Lauper
Lying in my bed, I hear the clock tick and think of you.
Runner-Up: "She Bop"

93. "Sweet Child O' Mine," by Guns N' Roses
Her hair reminds me of a warm, safe place where as a child I'd hide.
Runner-Up: "Paradise City"

92. "Amazing," by Aerosmith
And I'm sayin' a prayer for the desperate hearts tonight.
Runner-Up: "Janie's Got A Gun"

91. "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," by The Band
Virgil Caine is my name, and I drove on the Danville train.
Runner-Up: "The Weight"

90. "No Rain," by Blind Melon
All I can say is that my life is pretty plain, and I like watchin' the puddles gather rain.
Runner-Up: "Soup"

89. "In My Room," by The Beach Boys
There's a world where I can go and tell my secrets to.
Runner-Up: "Little Deuce Coupe"

88. "Oh, Pretty Woman," by Roy Orbison
I don't believe you, you're not the truth. No one could look as good as you.
Runner-Up: "Blue Bayou"

87. "La Bamba," by Richie Valens
Yo no soy marinero. Soy capitan, soy capitan.
Runner-Up: "Donna"

86. "Space Oddity," by David Bowie
Commencing countdown, system's on. Check ignition, and may God's love be with you.
Runner-Up: "Ziggie Stardust"

85. "Bad Day," by Daniel Powter
You sing a sad song just to turn it around.
Runner-Up: "Jimmy Gets High"

84. "Like A Prayer," by Madonna
I hear you call my name, and it feels like home.
Runner-Up: "Like A Virgin"

83. "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone," by Bill Withers
Ain't no sunshine when she's gone, and she's always gone too long anytime she goes away.
Runner-Up: "Lean On Me"

82. "December 1963 (Oh, What A Night)," by The Four Seasons
You know I didn't even know her name, but I was never gonna' be the same.
Runner-Up: "Walk Like A Man"

81. "Fast Car," by Tracy Chapman
You've got a fast car, and I've got a plan to get us out of here.
Runner-Up: "For You"

80. "Around The Bend," by Tony Lucca
And it's one more night, another shot gonna' make things alright. I'll play one more song and I'll be feeling fine.
Runner-Up: "Death Of Me"

79. "Rising Sun," by Rusted Root
I got us some milkshakes. Now let's head off and see the show.
Runner-Up: "Magenta Radio"

78. "Stuck In The Middle With You," by Stealers Wheel
Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right. Here I am.
Runner-Up: "Star"

77. "Banana Pancakes," by Jack Johnson
We could close the curtain, pretend like there's no world outside.
Runner-Up: "Taylor"

76. "Buddy Holly," by Weezer
What's with these homies dissin' my girl? Why do they gotta' front?
Runner-Up: "Jamie"

75. "Meet Virginia," by Train
Daddy wrestles alligators. Mama works on carbeurators.
Runner-Up: "Drops Of Jupiter"

74. "Come Go With Me," by The Del Vikings
I need you darlin', so come go with me.
Runner-Up: "Cool Shake"

73. "Ode To Billie Joe," by Bobbie Gentry
And she and Billie Joe was throwin' somethin' off the Tallahatchie Bridge.
Runner-Up: "Let It Be Me"

72. "Don't Touch My Hat," by Lyle Lovett
I wear a seven, and you're out of order. I can tell from here you're a seven and a quarter.
Runner-Up: "If I Had A Boat"

71. "Good Morning Son," by Ben Folds
And everybody knows it sucks to grow up.
Runner-Up: "Kate"

70. "Glory Days," by Bruce Springsteen
I've got a friend, was a big baseball player back in high school.
Runner-Up: "Born To Run"

69. "General," by Dispatch
He grew a beard as soon as he could to cover the scars on his face and always urged his men on.
Runner-Up: "Out Loud"

68. "Ain't That A Kick In The Head," by Dean Martin
Like the sailor said, quote, "Ain't that a hole in the boat?"
Runner-Up: "Standing On The Corner"

67. "Mr. Jones," by Counting Crows
If I knew Picasso, I'd buy myself a gray guitar and play.
Runner-Up: "Rain King"

66. "Lose Yourself," by Eminem
There's vomit on my sweater already, mom's spaghetti.
Runner-Up: "Stan"

65. "Wish You Were Here," by Pink Floyd
We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl year after year.
Runner-Up: "Another Brick In The Wall"

64. "Johnny B. Goode," by Chuck Berry
He never ever learned to read or write so well, but he could play a guitar just like ringin' a bell.
Runner-Up: "You Never Can Tell"

63. "Funky Cold Medina," by Tone Loc
Like Mick Jagger said, I can't get no satisfaction.
Runner-Up: "Wild Thing"

62. "Mack The Knife," by Bobby Darin
You know when that shark bites with his teeth, dear, scarlet billows start to spread.
Runner-Up: "Beyond The Sea"

61. "Rhinestone Cowboy," by Glen Campbell
I've been walkin' these streets so long, singin' the same old song, I know every crack in these dirty sidewalks of Broadway.
Runner-Up: "Wichita Lineman"

60. "Tears In Heaven," by Eric Clapton
Beyond the door, there's peace I'm sure, and I know there'll be no more tears in heaven.
Runner-Up: "Wonderful Tonight"

59. "New Slang," by The Shins
Godspeed all the bakers at dawn. May they all cut their thumbs and bleed into their buns till they melt away.
Runner-Up: "Caring Is Creepy"

58. "Fly Me To The Moon," by Frank Sinatra
Let me see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars.
Runner-Up: "My Way"

57. "Georgia On My Mind," by Ray Charles
Georgia, a song of you comes as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines.
Runner-Up: "Hallelujah, I Love Her So"

56. "Hotel California," by The Eagles
On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair, warm smell of colitas rising up through the air.
Runner-Up: "Peaceful, Easy Feeling"

55. "That Was A Crazy Game of Poker," by O.A.R.
Johnny doubled-up with a royal flush. I've got three jacks and a pair of nines.
Runner-Up: "3 A.M."

54. "Redemption Song," by Bob Marley
Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds.
Runner-Up: "Three Little Birds"

53. "Don't Take The Girl," by Tim McGraw
I'll gladly take her place if you'll let me make this my last request: Take me out of this world, but please don't take the girl.
Runner-Up: "Red Ragtop"

52. "The Thunder Rolls," by Garth Brooks
Tonight will be the last time she'll wonder where he's been.
Runner-Up: "That Summer"

51. "Feels Like Home," by Chantal Kreviazuk
A window breaks down a long dark street, and a siren wails in the night.
Runner-Up: "Until We Die"

Tune in Monday for the top 50.

Later gators.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

top 10 (not) guilty pleasures

In Chuck IV, Chuck Klosterman includes a short essay about "guilty pleasures." His claim--one that I support--is that this is a condescending term. If we're talking about hiring Vietnamese prostitutes or snorting cocaine off of a fiberglass surfboard, fine. Those are things that some people might find pleasurable, and that they should certainly feel guilty about. But certainly Baywatch re-runs shouldn't be on that list, right? So I've compiled a list of what "society" would call my Top 10 Guilty Pleasures, but which I am calling my Top 10 (Not) Guilty Pleasures. Without further ado...

10. Playstation 2. Do you think this is a typo and I must mean Wii or XBox 360 or at least Playstation 3? Nope. I still have my old-school Playstation 2 from college, and when Sara goes to Oshkosh or Indiana or something, every once in a while I'll throw in Hardball 98 and take on Ken Griffey, Jr.'s Mariners with Fernando Vina (!) and the rest of my Brewers.

9. Mountain Dew. I think I would be hard-pressed to find a single person in the medical community that doesn't think soda is the worst thing in the world for you to put in your body. I'm starting to feel like Charlie's generation is going to look at soda-drinkers the way our generation looks at people who smoke cigarettes. And I'm like one of those guys from the 50's who says, "We didn't know how bad it was for you!" while he's dying of lung cancer. I will be, at least.

8. A Double-Decker Taco Supreme (no tomatoes). These are garbage and no one should ever put them in his or her body, but once a week or so, I do.

7. Those trick shot competitions on ESPN2. I'm flipping through the stations...nothing's on...starting to think about turning off the TV and reading a book...BAM! Trick shot competition. I'm set. Seriously, these things are addicting.

6. The Moment of Truth. We've mentioned this too many times on this blog to not include it. But we've also mentioned it too many times to spend much more time on it here.

5. Entertainment Weekly. Shouldn't I a) be reading something more substantial--Atlas Shrugged or something? and b) at least be wasting my time with something like Guns & Ammo or Field & Stream? Something a little more masculine? Actually, no. Remember, we're not here to judge.

4. "I Would Do Anything For Love," by Meatloaf. Remember a while back when somebody posted the video on the web of that Star Wars kid who was playing with a light saber by himself and it was really embarrassing? If a video like that is ever going to surface for me, it's going to be me in the car, by myself, when this song comes on. I'm banging on the steering wheel, singing at the top of my lungs, practically in tears when the girl's part comes on at the end. This is such a great song.

3. Love Actually. It's not just that I think this is entertaining for the kind of movie it is--the way I do with stuff like Sleepless in Seattle or Superbad. I think this is a genuinely great movie. The writing, the acting, the directing--how was this not nominated for Best Picture?

2. What Not To Wear. I used to sit in the room while my wife was watching and laugh at how lame it was. Then one day she was gone, and I landed on TLC, and I couldn't turn it off. I kept looking out the window to see if Sara was home yet so I could switch it to SportsCenter. I felt like I was watching a snuff film or something. Anyway, I think Stacy and Clinton are awesome, and I love this show. There, I said it.

1. teacher man. It's not that I feel guilty about it--again, I don't feel guilty about any of this stuff--but it's not like I'm saving the world here. Still, if I can make even one heterosexual male feel more comfortable about tearing up when that little boy runs through the airport after the little girl that sang "All I Want For Christmas Is You," then maybe, just maybe, it's all worth it.

Later gators.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

mlb predictions 08

I'm banging out 2 posts today (this and "who are these people?"), knowing that most of my readers will barely be interested in either one: they're about sports. Sorry folks.

Anyway, I wanted to get my predictions for the 2008 MLB season down before it goes any further. Here we go (wins in parentheses, *'s for playoff teams):

*Boston (101)
New York (90)
Tampa Bay (77)
Toronto (68)
Baltimore (64)

*Cleveland (103)
*Detroit (94)
Chicago (86)
Minnesota (66)
Kansas City (64)

*Seattle (91)
Los Angeles (90)
Texas (76)
Oakland (64)

*New York (98)
*Philadelphia (96)
Atlanta (89)
Washington (65)
Florida (60)

*Milwaukee (95)
Chicago (93)
Cincinatti (82)
St. Louis (79)
Houston (75)
Pittsburgh (65)

*Colorado (90)
Arizona (88)
Los Angeles (86)
San Diego (76)
San Francisco (59)

ALCS: Cleveland over Boston
NLCS: Philadelphia over Milwaukee

WORLD SERIES: Cleveland over Philadelphia

AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera
AL Cy Young: Erik Bedard
AL Rookie of the Year: Evan Longoria
AL Manager of the Year: Eric Wedge

NL MVP: Ryan Braun
NL Cy Young: Johan Santana
NL Rookie of the Year: Geovany Soto
NL Manager of the Year: Ned Yost

Later gators.

who are these people?

I just thought of another way that I'm closer to my Wii age than I am to my real age: I listen to sports talk radio. And this morning on Mike & Mike, they were talking about fan behavior. First, 3 true stories about reprehensible fan behavior:

1) Steve Phillips used to be the General Manager for the New York Mets. After a loss during a particularly bad season, he was walking from the stadium to his car, holding his infant child in his arms, when a drunk fan approached him and started berating him in the parking lot. According to Phillips, he told the guy, "Look, you can say whatever you want. Just let me put my kid in the car first."

2) Steve Kerr played basketball for the University of Arizona before enjoying a successful career as a professional player. During his freshman year at U of A, his father--Dr. Malcolm Kerr, the president of American University in Beirut--was murdered by Islamic terrorists. Soon after, during a game at Arizona State, the ASU student body began chanting, "P.L.O.! P.L.O.!" (P.L.O. refers to the Palestine Liberation Organization, the terrorist group believed to be responsible for Kerr's assassination.)

3) Kevin Love played center for UCLA this year; he is a native of Oregon. When UCLA went to Eugene to play the Ducks, fans that felt Love had betrayed them by not going to Oregon called and left death threats on his voice mail (one example: "We'll find your hotel room and blow your f---ing head off with a shotgun"). Not only that, but at the game, fans taunted Love's family--including his mother, his grandmother, and his 13-year-old sister--with what Love's father called "every filthy word you can think of."

So the question on Mike & Mike this morning was basically why the hell do people act this way? I mean, those are all insane examples, but I could give you a dozen more without really even thinking too hard about it. Mike, Mike, and all of their listeners had a lot of thoughts, but here are the three that occurred to me:

1) One emailer suggested that fans yelling at players is no different than a coach doing it. I think any rational person realizes that that's a ludicrous suggestion, but I think it really gets to the root of the problem: These people want to feel like they have some kind of impact on the game. They honestly don't believe they're any different from a coach. Kevin Love had a monster game and UCLA beat Oregon, but you can bet that if Oregon had pulled off the upset, those dopes in the stands would have gone home and had a beer to celebrate how they "got in his head" and helped their team to a victory. This brings me to #2...

2) As much as the people in the stands want to pretend that the game is about the fans and the players somehow owe the fans something, it ain't true. If every professional sports league in the world somehow dissolved today, the players would still get together on some asphalt basketball court or some open field somewhere and play. They wouldn't feel like it was somehow less meaningful because there was no one there to watch them. The game is about the players. (Or perhaps more accurately, the game is about the game.)

3) I obviously don't deal with this stuff on the same level that professional (or even college) athletes and coaches do, but whenever a parent calls or emails or approaches me after a game to let me know that I'm not doing my job as well as I could be, I remember my favorite Al McGuire quote. McGuire coached Marquette basketball to their only national championship back in 1977. Once, when asked about fans who got after him before, during, and after games, he said, "Every obnoxious fan has a wife at home who dominates him." That always makes me feel better.

Later gators.

Monday, April 7, 2008

the 2,000 year old man

I played baseball for Ripon College; I was a pitcher. And even though I didn't get a lot of what you would call "game action," Coach would occasionally put me out there. This typically happened when we were down by at least 10 runs. They called me "The White Flag." Anyway, I recall that when I pitched, I would usually wake up the next morning and feel some pain in my elbow and/or shoulder. This is typical for pitchers--it's why you see Major Leaguers wrapping half a dozen bags of ice around their arms after a start. Now, I am currently a baseball coach, and one of the requirements of that job is that I throw a lot of batting practice. These days, I never feel any pain. My arm, at this stage of my career, is for all intents and purposes made of rubber. I can throw 200 pitches one night and not feel a thing the next day. However, on Saturday night, I had my first experience with a Nintendo Wii. At a friend's daughter's birthday party, we broke it out and boxed and bowled, played tennis, baseball, and golf. Two days later, my arms still feels like it's hanging by a thread.

Now, some might suggest that it is the Wii experience that indicates that I'm getting old. It's not true. When you use muscles, they're supposed to get sore. The pain I feel from Saturday night reminds me of the pain I used to feel in college, which makes me feel like I'm still roughly college-age. It's the lack of pain after batting practice that makes me feel like my dad. And these kinds of paradoxes, which are becoming increasingly common, have me wondering how old I really am. I mean, my birth certificate says I'm 27, but I know a lot of 27-year-olds (some, at least), and I think I'm older than they are. Maybe I'm like the reverse one of those Cuban refugees who gets drafted into the Major Leagues but won't tell anyone his real age. I tell everyone I'm 27, but I'm wrong--I just don't know it.

According to the Kerstens' Wii, I'm 45, and that sounds much more accurate. Evidence:

1) I have had the same grown-up job for 5 years.
2) I have been married for almost 5 years.
3) I am in the process of selling a home and...
4) ...building a new home.
5) I have a 2-year-old.
6) TBA.
7) I complain about my knees and my back a lot.
8) I run like the guys I used to laugh at when I was in high school--sort of a hobble-jog.
9) I wear ties.
10) I have a tax-sheltered annuity.
11) I'm thinking about getting a physical, and it doesn't have anything to do with organized sports. I just want to make sure everything is doing what it's supposed to be doing.
12) I watch HGTV and the Food Network. A lot.
13) I teach Sunday School.
14) I went to a party on Saturday night, but it involved singing "Happy Birthday" and a playing with a Playskool basketball hoop. Plus my son ate half of my cheeseburger.

Does that sound like a 27-year-old to you? Should that list include things like "I buy my clothes at Urban Outfitters," or "I just got a sweet new plasma TV for my apartment"?

Still, with the possible exception of my knee problems (I think we're basically just talking about bone-on-bone down there) and my infuriating back (someday soon I don't think I'll be able to get out of the car without help), I wouldn't trade any of it. My kid, my wife, my job--they're all awesome. And Saturday night's party was way more fun than standing in some club screaming over the techno music. Heck, they even had cake. And not to sound like an old man, but real estate is always a good investment, and it's really a buyer's market.

Later gators.

Friday, April 4, 2008


Hey, hey! I'm back! And I've been tagged. My buddy Kelly Smith--you probably know her from The Ben Show--has tagged me, which means that I have to make a bunch of Top 5 lists, which you know I love.

First, the rules (and oddly, only two of them...why not five?):
1. Each player answers the questions about themselves.
2. At the end of the post, the player then tags five people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves a comment letting them know they've been tagged and to ask them to play along and to read your blog. (This may not happen--I'm not an avid reader of other blogs.)

what i was doing ten years ago...
1. Preparing to graduate from dear old Big Foot High. (I would also have accepted "dreading going to college.")
2. Skipping a spring break trip to NYC with our choir so I could stay home and play Palmyra-Eagle in a double-header.
3. Acing the writing portion of the AP English test.
4. Failing miserably on the macroeconomics portion of the AP Economics test.
5. Thinking that I was someday going to be a lawyer.

five things on my to-do list today...
NOTE: Kelly put "Gotta watch the American Idol results show." Are you kidding me? That's on your to-do list? Anyway...
1. Paint the basement floor is on there, but it's crossed off because I just did it. Nice work, Baker.
2. Touch up the paint on the outside windows.
3. Move a bunch of stuff to the storage unit.
4. Clean the bathroom.
5. Clean out the refrigerator.
NOTE: Now, that's what a to-do list looks like, Smith.

five snacks i enjoy...
1. Cookie Dough Concrete Malt (courtesy of Culver's).
2. Pita chips & hummus. (Next time you see me, ask me about a funny story about Charlie and hummus.)
3. Sahale snacks. (You must check these out.)
4. Almond Snickers.
5. Triscuits with cheddar cheese.

five things i would do if i was a billionaire...
1. I too would pay off debts. Student loans, mortgage, etc.
2. I also like Kelly's idea to start a college fund for all of the kids in our family. Excellent work. Were you inspired by Idol Gives Back? Good thing it was on your to-do list.
3. Write a book.
4. Finance the next phase in our church's building plan. (NOTE: I wouldn't demand it, but if they wanted to name it First Presbyterian Church of Alex Baker, I would be okay with that.)
5. Donate to all of the charities that Kelly mentioned because it sounds like she would be quite angry if I did not. (NOTE: For more on sending nets to Africa, read this article by Rick Reilly. Pretty interesting.)

five of my bad habits....
1. I watch The Moment of Truth. (Did you see the interview with the lady who thinks she's a bad person?! The show totally destroyed her marriage. Check it out.)
2. I'm impatient.
3. I like fast food too much. Specifically, Taco Bell.
4. I also spend too much time watching TV when I could be doing more productive things with my time. When Charlie goes down for the night, I can't motivate myself to do anything.
5. I have a hard time saying no, so sometimes I bite off more than I can chew.

five places i have lived....
1. Walworth, WI (born and raised).
2. Ripon, WI (in college).
3. Oshkosh, WI (with Rand and Vicki Erickson while I was student teaching).
4. Appleton, WI (in an apartment while I was long-term subbing at Neenah).
5. Woodstock, IL (now and for the last five years or so).

five jobs i've had....
1. Caddy, Big Foot Country Club. If I'd been older, this could have been a fun job, but I was too immature to be a part of the workforce.
2. Doer of random things, Heyer True Value Hardware. I cleaned things. I organized things. I stocked things. I put things together.
3. Produce department, Sentry. I hated this job. I had surgery on my back halfway through that summer, and I never went back.
4. Intern, Walworth Times. Probably the best non-teaching job I've had. Teri, my editor, was awesome. I think that if I wasn't a teacher, I'd write for a newspaper.
5. Writer, College Relations, Ripon College. I did this all through college. This was also a great job. Fun work and terrific people.

This is where I'm supposed to tag other blogs, but like I said, I don't read any other blogs except Kelly's. Who has the time? I guess I'll have to put it on my to-do list.

Later gators.