Saturday, May 14, 2005

Raise Your Hand If You'd Like to Stay After Class and Help Teacher Clean the Intel Pentium 4 Processor

I am now teaching a summer session at a university specializing in aeronautics, which is awesome, because… don't you sleep better at night knowing that I am at least partially responsible for the education of the person who in the next five years will be flying the 747 you'll be taking from Atlanta to Dallas?

This college is also a major artery into the armed forces, so expect to see the quality of the military decline immediately. We should be a fourth-world power by noon.

As previously discussed, I am a professional now, and have surpassed the childish first-day need to hide from my students in my car. This time, I hid in the bathroom, which I will never do again because I accidentally walked past one of my students, the same student, both going into and coming out of the bathroom, and let us just say that I took my time, hoisting pantyhose and fluffing hair and applying for a bank loan and basically everything men think we do in there that takes so damn long, and I think you'll agree that initial contact in an extended bathroom context is far, far worse than standing at the podium attempting to pretend that 27 people aren't out there staring and judging and pre-hating and all. Next semester I will try hiding in the copier.

They gave me an office, but I share it with maybe 47 other professors and they’re always in there, all the time. Office hours are assigned by seniority, so I get the room for thirty-eight seconds at 2:29 AM on Fridays in Lent. This is fine with me, as one of the other occupants has tacked up paintings of oranges and people on bicycles, and I don’t want people coming in there and thinking that I like to sit in rooms where this sort of thing goes on.

There are a lot of men at this university, terrifying in pointy hair and baseball caps and chin piercings. They spend a lot of time regarding me with very serious expressions, because I am the professor and I am in charge. Also, I have boobies.

And, apparently, the wisdom of many, many years. “I’m going to give you ten minutes for a writing exercise,” I told them. “Write two short paragraphs about where you were on New Year’s Eve at the turn of the millennium.”

They stared at me. “Do you need more time?” I said.

“What if we don’t remember?”

“Yeah. That was, like, five years ago.”

It is a high-tech sort of place, and there is no chalk, only gigantic wipe-off boards and the dashboard of the International Space Station installed at the podium. I have a laser pointer attached to the wall and a big flat monitor screen with a built-in DVD player. This is a slight contrast to my most recent teaching appointment, where we had one piece of chalk per floor and an Atari console in the faculty lounge.

They actually had to bring in somebody from IT to train me in use of my classroom, which took about five hours, because there is no end to the fascination provided by a laser pointer. (It makes a big red dot! Wherever you point it!) I started randomly pushing buttons on the panel, because if it were possible to attain hyperspace I wished to know this before the class started filing in, and the IT guy was all, “I can’t believe this equipment.”

“I knoooooooooooooow!” I was sweeping my right arm around in front of the deep blue projection screen, because if you took a lot of drugs and squinted really hard it looked like I was gesturing at jet streams on the Weather Channel.

“We’ve been needing to upgrade for eight whole months now.”

To a person who grew up in a German Catholic school system, where we watched filmstrips hosted by this dynamic new reporter named David Brinkley and formed an understanding of fine arts by constructing mosaics out of scraps of leftover construction paper, this is indeed an unfamiliar universe. I can’t believe I ever used Windows ME, like, four years ago.

pitfall! at:

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Sling up yo' monkeys!

Classes start for my summer session in approximately fifteen hours, and as I am a professional and a dedicated professor, I spent many hours in preparation doing: nothing.

Perhaps I fear becoming too involved, that at any moment the other wing tip will drop and stomp me directly back to the glamorous and fashionable world of temping. At this time last year, I was working at an Authorized Businesspeople Convention, and although it had something or other to do with sports it was still officially sanctioned by the Corporatespeak Bullcrap Society of America, as evidenced by the workshop entitled “Thinking Outside the Box”—-8:15 AM Monday, top of the schedule. These people were not messing around. They had more clich├ęs thrown into their Powerpoint presentations by 9 AM than most people saw all day.

In all, the suckage factor on this assignment was fairly low, if you excused the $74.50 Twix in the vending machines, but because my highly specialized skills were so desperately needed in the T-shirt distribution booth, I was unable to attend such fascinating conference sessions as the following:

“In this workshop, we will discuss proper construction of group activities concerning rules, officiating, and full participation, which will allow fun to occur.”


Then there was this one: “Exercise Programming for the Deconditioned Population.” Working Title: “Getting Up and Sitting Down For the Terminally Fatassed.”

But this was my favorite-- “The Role of Recreation and Youth Sports in an Era of War and Terrorism: Recreation and youth sports are an important instrument for peace. In this session, you’ll learn how to implement strategies for promoting world peace into your organization and identify existing youth sports organizations that are including strategies for world peace in their programs.”

That’s really tremendous, because there’s not enough pressure on kids in sports already. “DAMMIT, BOBBY, THROW IT TO THIRD!! THE PALISTINIAN-ISRAELI PEACE ACCORDS DEPEND ON IT!”

I also served a tour in the registration booth, where I met Larry the Horrible. All Larry wanted out of life was to know if every person he had ever met in life was in attendance at the conference, none of whom, for obvious reasons, were.

“Is Amy Cassleton here? No? What about Tim Rosdower? Well, he was here last year. Reggie Hamlin? Not him either, huh? Is Bob here? I don’t remember his last name, but he was definitely at the August meeting, and he is a wizard. Can you just read off all the Bobs you have on the screen there? What about the guy who X-rayed my bags at the airport, has he checked in yet?”

I remember that attendance at the convention was off thirty percent from the previous year, 29.999999% of which, I think, was directly attributable to Larry. Terrorists, gas prices, and four hurricanes in six weeks? Were nothing compared to the repelling power of Larry.

My very favorite registration moment came from the World’s Most Prim Asian Woman, who signed in with an email address of “FoxyThunder28,” closely followed by hearing a guest yell down the line, “Hey, look at that guy’s monkey!” And--indeed--there was some guy wandering around the lobby, primate slung around his neck like a high-tea accessory. Because, come on, what’s an athletic business supply conference without your monkey in tow?

Off to play T-ball for the starving children in Ecuador at:

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


You know a movie musical retrospective is going to be QUALITY when they bring in John Travolta to host it. Travota, who has apparently managed to tear himself away from deigning to set foot in the National Air and Space Museum Annex, was Our Guide during a TV special highlighting the American Film Institute's "Best 100 Movie Songs," or something like that, which clearly nobody can trust since every other song featured (genuflect here) Barbra Streisand in at least some capacity. Barbra as star! Barbra as director! Barbra, who waves her Yentl flag high and yet released a Christmas album! Barbra!

"I. Am in love. With Barbra Streisand," Celine Dion sniffled ("My Pan Flute Will Go On" was in the top ten, RANKED HIGHER THAN "I COULD HAVE DANCED ALL NIGHT," a further reflection of the top-notch sense of judgement of whoever slapped this list together, most likely on the back of a Days Inn cocktail napkin.) Bette Midler also appeared, but not Liza Minelli; instead, we got Lorna Luft, who is the poor man's Billy Carter, and we were thus denied a certifiable Diva Trifecta. Shame.

"Moon River" was in there, complete with Andy Williams appearing in yellow shades he stole off the back of Elton John's toilet. "I never get tired of singing it," Andy said, which means he was either totally lying or is now officially totally senile.

Also in the Top Ten? "Theme From Shaft." "THEME From SHAFT." So what you want to do, then, if you're attempting to write one of the greatest movie songs of all time, is really slather on the wokka-chikka.

Not listed at all was "Mum's Arse" from the finely-crafted Gigli. I demand a recount.

"Somewhere Over the Rainbow" was rated #1, at which point I tuned out. Judy Garland was what, 47 when they shot this? I may be the only former child in America to admit this, but The Wizard of Oz scared the holy hell out of me, it still does, the talking lion is creepy, and I prefer my midgets at the racetrack, thank you.

"Kyle's Mom's A..." at:

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