Sidereal ramblings

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Handmaid

I've read six novels in the last week and a half for my World Novels class; I swear that this class has taken up nearly every waking moment I've had since last Sunday. Cal (see previous post) was my favorite of the novels we read. Several of them I didn't really care much for. My second favorite was The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. I think I've read this novel before, but it's not on any of my yearly lists of books I've read (yes, I'm that big a nerd), which go back to '87, and the book was published in '85, I believe. I thought I had a copy of it in my old bedroom closet at Mom and Dad's, which is full of boxes and shelves of books. I looked through that closet twice and couldn't find it. When I returned home, I did find my copy of it on a bookcase here at the house in my office -- which would seem to indicate that I hadn't read it.

So, anyway, while reading it, I was pretty sure I'd read it before long ago; it was that familiar to me. I know I'd seen the movie, which I rented again and watched Sunday night. But there's a lot in the book (which was familiar to me) that wasn't in the movie, of course. Speaking of the movie version, I wouldn't recommend it. The book's great; the movie, not so much. With a script by Harold Pinter, and performances by the great Robert Duvall and one of my all-time favorite actresses, Elizabeth McGovern (those eyes!), I'd think it would be much better than it is.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Love -- Unrequited and/or Obsessive

A few years ago I read a novel called Cal by Bernard MacLaverty. Really liked it. Last weekend I read it again as part of the World Novel class I'm currently taking. It's a great little book, barely over 150 pages, but packed full. With the background of the "troubles" in Northern Ireland, the book tells the story of Cal, a 19-year-old Irish lad, who falls in love with an older woman, a widow by the name of Marcella. The twist is that Cal, under the influence of some mates who are members of the I.R.A., drove the getaway car when his friends murdered Marcella's husband. Cal manages to worm himself into Marcella's life, they develop a bit of a friendship, but he desperately wants more. Of course, he suffers from incredible guilt over his participation in her husband's murder. He thinks he wants to tell her, but, of course, can't. This is a doomed relationship, one that in no way can ever succeed, and yet Cal can't get himself away from it. He wants to be near her, even though his love for, obsessive as it is, is also unrequited. There's a scene where he's alone in her house, waiting for her to come home, and he goes into her room, goes through her stuff, and smells her clothes. I'm sure many people would find this scene incredibly creepy and stalker-ish. I totally relate to Cal.

In fact, I had a bit more trouble with the book this time than I did last time I read it. It struck a little too close to home for me, I think. I know as much about unrequited love as anyone. And sadly, obsessive love, too. Cal is in love with someone, has the opportunity to be near her and spend time with her, wants so much more, and yet knows that there is absolutely no possibility that this relationship will ever work. Man, I can relate.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Like Father, Like Son?

I don't regularly watch Letterman anymore (too late for me on school nights), but I happened to catch it last night. Jordan Zevon, Warren's son, was on, and did one of his father's old songs. While it wasn't an uncanny resemblence, there were certain times, with certain phrasings, that if you weren't looking at the TV screen, you could almost have sworn it was Warren himself. It was pretty cool. I wonder if the kid writes his own songs.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

School's out for summer!

And now a rousing chorus of Alice Cooper, everyone.

Today was our last day with kids. Tomorrow we've got a half-day workshop in the morning to wrap things up: finish grades, clean up the room, check out. Although given my week -- with the seniors gone, I only had two classes a day instead of five -- I've pretty much gotten all that done already. Indeed, what I've got to do tomorrow won't take me the four hours I've got scheduled to be there. I could do what I need yet to do in about ten minutes. Of course, I've got to be there for four hours, so I'll spend some time hobnobbing with my colleagues, maybe reading a bit, checking out comic book websites on the computer. And just maybe roaming the halls singing Alice Cooper.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


After yesterday, I managed to accomplish a couple of tasks. I talked to the prof for the class I'm planning to take in two weeks; he agreed to let me register for the class, although it's technically full. However, he didn't call me back with the info or set my registration up yet. And the clinic called me back with the results from my blood tests. Good news; my cholesterol level has gone down considerably since the last time I had it checked (two years ago).

Monday, June 04, 2007

No satisfaction

I'm just a little frustrated. Coming home from school today, I had two important phone calls to make -- one to the local clinic, wondering why the blood work I had done six weeks ago never yielded any results that I heard of; and one to Minnesota State University - Mankato to see if I could get in touch with the professor who's teaching the lit class I want to take in two weeks (he needs to set up permission for me so I can register). Though I made two calls to both places, I didn't get any satisfactory response. The clinic took down some information and were going to check things out and get back to me. At MSUM, I reached the answering machines after office hours (which end at 4:00).

I saw a bunch of people on cell phones when I went grocery shopping tonight. You know how it is; no matter where you go, someone's on a cell phone. I got to thinking that people are too well-connected nowadays, but that they're only superficially connected.

Sunday, June 03, 2007


Today was graduation at the high school. It was a pretty typical ceremony, perhaps a bit shorter than some; it's a small class this year, about 3/4 the normal size. The speeches were much like always, though good. The one thing that really marred the ceremony, in my opinion, were the number of crying infants in the crowd. I know I've written about this (or similar) topic before, but is it really necessary to bring a small child to such an event? There were at least four or five babies who were crying at different times and had to be taken out into the hallway. (And this is a 45-minute ceremony.)

Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Chelsey Effect

It's graduation time, which means lots of parties. Since I teach all the seniors (and am a pretty cool guy besides), I tend to get a lot of invitations. Today, for example, I graced no less than 10 separate grad parties with my presence -- between 10 and 45 minutes each, depending on how my schedule was going. The most memorable thing today happened at a party for a girl I'll call Chelsey. She and I always got along well, but never talked much beyond what we needed to in class for assignments and such. I never thought of her as one of my "star" pupils, or one I was particularly close to. In fact, I was a little surprised that she invited me to her graduation party -- although every year I get invitations that surprise me, and don't get ones from some kids I expect them from. I met Chelsey's parents for the first time (I think) and her mom said that she had heard a lot about me from Chelsey. I was kind of taken aback by that. In talking with Chelsey today, I found out that she plans to go to college to become a teacher at the elementary level. I told her I respected that and couldn't personally deal with young kids in that setting. She told me that she didn't think she could deal with older (high school) kids, and complemented me on how good I was at it, and how much she was going to miss me next year.

My purpose in writing this all out is not to blow my own horn (well, maybe a little), but it just really struck me that given the position I'm in, I can really have a huge effect on kids -- and sometimes not even know it. It seems like every year, I get this same kind of phenomenon: kids will tell me how much they liked my class, and/or parents will say how much their son or daughter has liked my class/me and how they talk about it a lot. It's pretty humbling.