Friday, July 24, 2009

In High Cuss (Dungeon and Dudgeon)

I am angry with myself. I've been exceedingly dumb.

Because I knew and didn't go in. I vacillated. I hemmed, hawed, and poled down the longest stretch of inland water, that mighty, rolling African river.

Fred has great pictures of Lake Tana, where the Blue Nile begins.

Ethiopia Travel hawks its ware: "1 lake, 37 Islands, 14th century Monasterys and the blue Nile Falls!"

"1 lake, 37 Islands, 14th century Monasterys and the blue Nile Falls!"

"1 lake, 37 Islands, 14th century Monasterys and the blue Nile Falls!"

We just got back from the first post op visit chez ShoulderMan. The first visit is with his Physician's Assistant, and usually consists of two views of the shoulder in x-ray, and having the nurse remove either the staples or the stitches. Having been through this six times now, it is usually a ho-hum deal, with the exciting pay-off of finally being able to take a shower!

Last night there was a minor explosion from the suture line. (Sorry, I don't intend to gross you out. Really.) I was changing the dressing and lightly touched on an area that was red and well, hmmm, there was, as I said, an explosion.

The PA said to be ready to go back in. That he was calling the surgeon. That likely they'd have to go in and do a wash, maybe remove the prosthesis, go back to the freaking spacer. I know he was just trying to prepare me for any eventuality. He also opined that maybe I could use a little more time with the Zyvox. (I vigorously supported that thought.)

The pain is worse, and I have lost all the range of motion gained early after the last surgery.

Fred --in shock, I think -- drove us home in high cuss. "High cuss" is my attempt to graft something new off of "high dudgeon," about which Michael Quinion of World Wide Words fields this query:

[Q] From L Crary Myers: I have seen others attempt to answer this, but apparently maddeningly little is known. You always seem to manage to find something interesting, however — so, here is the question: from whence the phrase in high dudgeon? Thank you, and I am an avid fan of your site.

[A] “Maddeningly little is known” is unfortunately a fair summary. I’ll try to add a little more, but it is one of a distressingly large group of words for which we have no idea of their origins. The group includes a couple of others also ending in -udgeon: bludgeon and curmudgeon.

Dudgeon means a state of anger, resentment, or offence and often turns up as in dudgeon or in high dudgeon The Oxford English Dictionary can’t give its source, though it’s sure it’s not from the Welsh word dygen, meaning malice or resentment, which has been suggested in the past. It does point to endugine, a word recorded just once, in 1638, with the same sense, which might have given us a clue, but doesn’t help at all.

It also records another sense of the word, itself mysterious, for a kind of wood used by turners, especially the handles of knives or daggers. It has been suggested it was another name for boxwood. It appears in Shakespeare’s Macbeth: “I see thee still, / And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood, / Which was not so before.” Later the word was used for a dagger whose handle was made of this wood.

It just might be that a state of anger or resentment could have led to the grabbing of a dudgeon knife with intent to redress a slight, but there’s no evidence whatever of the connection.

It's embarrassing to admit, but I am one of those who have said "high dungeon," when, of course, "high dudgeon" was what I meant. Or would have meant, if I had known better.

Better to author a new phrase than mangle an old one, so "high cuss," it is.

On the bright side, given that Bob didn't tell me to stay NPO, surgery cannot happen tomorrow.
There's that, at least.

We're going to brew some coffee, start the day over. We bought a bag of $3 coffee at the local ALbrecht DIscount which, go figure, brews something almost divine, it is so straightforward, pure. The coffee, not ALbrecht DIscount.
Ah, some good news from the fantastically tall and exceedingly kind Bob the PA! He phoned the surgeon who wants to watch and wait, wait and see.

***Now Friday (saw Bob on Tuesday): Sadly, we have achieved pus, that purulent exudate, itself. Very localised pain, and a sitting-behind-the-eyes steady fever.

I'm cleaning up the evidence, wrapping gauze hither and yon, taping tape-to-tape, swabbing, dabbing, daubing, staunching. I'm possibly going nuts. I just might grab my dudgeon knife in a vain attempt to redress this slight.

To all medicos in the Monday-to-Friday world: Don't leave people hanging over the weekend. Not when they're leaking purulent exudate!

Bob pretty much said surgery is the only answer... unless the Zyvox kicks in.
So pray that the Zyvox kicks in.

Joy to the World

By now, Everyone and Everyone's sister has seen this YouTube video of the awesome dancing wedding party -- but it was new to me this morning when it was aired on the Today Show.

It was the bride's idea -- she values dance, is a dancer. There was only one rehersal that lasted about an hour and a half. A good portion of the choreography was freestyle, spirit-led.

It's a great way to start the day -- a wonderful way to start a marriage!

(Word to my friends over at the big bald guy's place -- about marriage and relationships, and the dance involved --Remember the Church Lady? Well, she strikes again! Fred started fussing and talking to himself yesterday afternoon, slipping into his go-to-town clothes, leaving me alone out in the hot Tête de Hergé sun, cleaning and scraping the sides of our Murky Moat -- yes, the annual algae attack -- this time? Atomic Tangerine, a very rare strain. Anyway, it seems that the Church Lady has gone out of town and has engaged Fred to visit her house daily -- to feed her TURTLES. Good God.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mostly in America

From the police report:

On Thursday July 16, 2009, Henry Gates, Jr. was placed under arrest after being observed exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior, in a public place, directed at a uniformed police officer who was present investigating a report of a crime in progress. These actions on the behalf of Gates served no legitimate purpose and caused citizens passing by this location to stop and take notice while appearing surprised and alarmed.
I thought Fred was trying to pull a fast one when he told me that Henry Louis Gates, Jr. had been arrested in Cambridge last week. A more perfectly framed story could not have been invented. It sounds like something that could easily have been a stunt from Punk'd. Ashton Kutcher and Henry Louis Gates -- a natural pairing.

I mean, really. After I laughed myself silly, I felt like crying. Pithy things kept rolling across my digital mental marquee: only in America, stranger than fiction and other such insights. If Professor Gates is not the preeminent scholar of African American Studies in the United States, as director of Harvard's WEB Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, he is on a very short list.

Of all people to racially profile, on his own turf, in his own home (which no doubt visually testified his identity), a home situated in his own community of scholars.

I'm betting he doesn't feel so much at home these days, and is probably redefining the term at its most basic application.

He has asked for an apology from Sgt. James Crowley, the officer being labeled the author of the incident. Sgt. Crowley might be at the epicenter of what happened, but -- scarily -- from out of the woodwork crawl the creepy people who will always, always be involved, but never named or held responsible. People such as Tom, who left the following comment on the matter over at The Root (where Gates serves as editor-in-chief):

Mr. Gate, if you are half the scholor you claim to be you should separate yourself from the J. Jackson's and Rev Sharpton's. These are the gentlemen that KNOW nothing about racism or the common good of the people, one is a cheat to his family the other is a fraud to the government. You as an educator of ALL should separate and rise above the standards of these gentlmen that try and ride your coat tails. You have been put in a bad situation, just like hundreds of thousands of other PEOPLE of all races and creeds. Learn from your mistakes and dont make a mochary of the situation, both are wrong, question is weather you are man enough to admit it publicly without making a mochary of it. Remember you are an Educator first, set the stand, don't creat a problem by getting the JJ's, Sharpton's involved. You should want to separate yourself from the level they claim to be at and are acutally on. Speak the truth and admit when you are at fault first and you will prosper longer than the others. Thank you Sir

[Please take the time to read the rest of the comments; It's scary.] Were I to elevate Sir Gentleman Please-'n-Thank-You Tom to the level of the serious (and I think, sadly, that we have to), I might start humming The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll, with emphasis on "*now* is the time for your tears." Overkill? what-ev-errr. I'm just sayin'. Sir Gentleman Please-'n-Thank-You Tom cannot, and should not, be ignored or discounted as an oddity.

Yesterday, the charge of disorderly conduct was dropped, and the impression given that the whole event was a casual misunderstanding. That speaks to me of Prof. Gates as a perhaps overly forgiving and polite individual but I'm sure that's not the end of it. This will be used as an object lesson by many, and probably for a long time.

Charles Ogletree, Professor Gates' attorney, issued the following statement:

On July 16, 2009, Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., 58, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor of Harvard University, was headed from Logan airport to his home [in] Cambridge after spending a week in China, where he was filming his new PBS documentary entitled “Faces of America.” Professor Gates was driven to his home by a driver for a local car company. Professor Gates attempted to enter his front door, but the door was damaged. Professor Gates then entered his rear door with his key, turned off his alarm, and again attempted to open the front door. With the help of his driver they were able to force the front door open, and then the driver carried Professor Gates’ luggage into his home.

Professor Gates immediately called the Harvard Real Estate office to report the damage to his door and requested that it be repaired immediately. As he was talking to the Harvard Real Estate office on his portable phone in his house, he observed a uniformed officer on his front porch. When Professor Gates opened the door, the officer immediately asked him to step outside. Professor Gates remained inside his home and asked the officer why he was there. The officer indicated that he was responding to a 911 call about a breaking and entering in progress at this address. Professor Gates informed the officer that he lived there and was a faculty member at Harvard University. The officer then asked Professor Gates whether he could prove that he lived there and taught at Harvard. Professor Gates said that he could, and turned to walk into his kitchen, where he had left his wallet. The officer followed him. Professor Gates handed both his Harvard University identification and his valid Massachusetts driver’s license to the officer. Both include Professor Gates’ photograph, and the license includes his address.

Professor Gates then asked the police officer if he would give him his name and his badge number. He made this request several times. The officer did not produce any identification nor did he respond to Professor Gates’ request for this information. After an additional request by Professor Gates for the officer’s name and badge number, the officer then turned and left the kitchen of Professor Gates’ home without ever acknowledging who he was or if there were charges against Professor Gates. As Professor Gates followed the officer to his own front door, he was astonished to see several police officers gathered on his front porch. Professor Gates asked the officer’s colleagues for his name and badge number. As Professor Gates stepped onto his front porch, the officer who had been inside and who had examined his identification, said to him, “Thank you for accommodating my earlier request,” and then placed Professor Gates under arrest. He was handcuffed on his own front porch.

Professor Gates was taken to the Cambridge Police Station where he remained for approximately 4 hours before being released that evening. Professor Gates’ counsel has been cooperating with the Middlesex District Attorneys Office, and the City of Cambridge, and is hopeful that this matter will be resolved promptly. Professor Gates will not be making any other statements concerning this matter at this time.

Here is a link to the .pdf file of the police report* filed by Sgt. Crowley.
*My favorite line from the police report? Upon being invited to exit his home and talk to Crowley on the porch, Gates is said to have replied: "Ya, I'll speak with your mama outside..."

Yes, indeed-y, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the original Mr. Priss, is going to make a "your Mama" joke, and in this circumstance, too.
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A terribly sad story came on the television as I sat here typing, safe in my home -- not in America, but secure in the insular Tête de Hergé.

A mother called for police assistance because her adult daughter was threatening to commit suicide. Unfortunately, the presence of the police proved more of an aggravation than anything else. The mother informed the police that her daughter hoped to force a "suicide by cop" situation. Just then, the daughter descended the stairs, gun in hand. The mother moved to shield her child.

Mom was shot to death. Daughter is in a bad way at the hospital. The police spent the night "investigating."

It's tough being a cop. It's tough relying on cops. It's just plain tough, these days.

Monday, July 20, 2009

LINDSEY J. BAUM, missing and in danger

Around 9:15 pm on June 26, Lindsey J. Baum, an 11-year old from the tiny town of McCleary, Washington, disappeared while walking from a friend's house to her home, only four short blocks away.

She just had an argument with her brother, but most everyone notes that she wasn't storming off mad. She didn't have the accoutrements you'd think of when thinking of a runaway -- no money, no cell phone, no change of clothes.

Some friends set out with her, so she was accompanied for a while before they peeled off to go to their own homes for dinner, or homework, a bath or shower, whatever.

Two of those four blocks are reported to be somewhat industrial -- though we are talking *rural* small town. One block away is access to a major highway.

As any child would be, Lindsey was troubled by her parents' recent divorce. Her father lives in Tennessee. This detail is the one I have to shrug off -- in my family, similar circumstances played a role in my eldest brother's decision to run away. But he was a savvy teenager, a world traveler; Lindsey just turned 11 (a grand birthday celebration surely awaits her), and only knows McCleary.

1-800-843-5678 (1-800-THE-LOST)
McCleary Police Department (Washington) 1-360-533-8765
Family Website with many useful links: LindseyBaum

I learned about her over at Dr. SecretWave101's blog. He notes what many of us have seen in our own communities: How legwork and media savvy are manditory to keep the faces and stories of our stolen children front and center in the public's view.

He notes other stuff, too -- having to do with the privilege of stereotype and the insidious mechanisms by which missing and exploited children receive airplay.

Research Lindsey's story and retell it on your own blog -- or where you will. You're likely more creative than I am -- the point is to disseminate, remind, encourage. Yes, and annoy, I suppose, if that should become necessary. (It's de rigueur here at Marlinspike Hall, deep, deep in the Tête de Hergé!)
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Here is a snapshot of additional information about Lindsey Baum's disappearance, obtained at Scared Monkey's Missing Persons Site:

4-foot 9-inches tall
80 pounds
brown hair
brown eyes

She was last seen wearing a grey pullover hoodie with blue jeans and black shoes.

Melissa Baum, the girl's mother, said Lindsey wasn’t angry [that] Friday night, and left without money, a change of clothes or her cellphone. Police have searched for the girl in the homes of her friends, in case she had been “hiding out.”

“She wouldn’t have run away,” Baum said, her voice hoarse. “If she had been hiding she would have come out by now. She can’t hide that long, she loves to talk.”

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NAB News recently added this information:

Lindsey Baum just celebrated her 11th birthday but she is still missing, and the investigation is taking a turn for the worst. Gray’s Harbor County cannot afford to continue the search... at the level of investigation it was at when Lindsey first went missing...

Scott Baum, father of Lindsey who flew to Gray’s Harbour last week from Tennessee, where he lives, pleaded on Monday with the public to help bring his little girl home. Scott can only be in Gray’s Harbour for a short time to help in finding Lindsey; scheduled for deployment to Iraq next week, he may be facing the fight to gain peace in Iraq while he suffers no peace in his heart knowing his daughter is missing without a trace back home in the U.S.

The police believe Lindsey’s abduction is from someone she may have known over a stranger just passing by.

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The Seattle Times 7/21/2009:
$6,000 reward for info on missing McCleary girl
Investigators hope a $6,000 reward will prompt someone to come forward with information about the disappearance of an 11-year-old McCleary girl last month.Undersheriff Rick Scott of the Grays Harbor County Sheriff's Office says the money is being offered by Crimestoppers and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. [Reward total now is $10,000, Oct. 2009; now $20,000, April, 2010]
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Police: Is Tumwater luring linked to McCleary case?

TUMWATER, Wash. - Police are investigating whether the attempted abduction of a girl in Tumwater on Wednesday is linked to last month's highly publicized disappearance of 11-year-old Lindsey Baum in McCleary.

Officials say three men tried to kidnap the 14-year-old girl in broad daylight on Wednesday as she was walking along a busy street, but the girl was able to escape by running away.

The close call left the girl very shaken, and now detectives are comparing the similarities between her experience and Lindsey Baum's unexplained disappearance June 26 in McCleary, about 22 miles away.

"We investigate because child lurings aren't as common as most crimes, and when you have two communities that are so close together and the circumstances where obviously it occurred in public areas. And the girls are approximately the same age," says Detective Jen Kolb of the Tumwater Police Department.

The Tumwater girl, whose name is being withheld, says she was walking along Capitol Boulevard to her mother's place of work when the three men jumped out of a black pickup.

They were yelling, "Hey, pretty lady, how are you?" then came after her, she says.

The girl started running, and the men chased after her. But soon after they gave up the chase, ran back to the pickup and drove off.

The experience left the girl scared, alone and distraught. So she ran to her mother's place of work and breathlessly told her what had happened.

"She was very scared, shaken - didn't know what to think or what to do," says her mother.

The girl now says she believes the men wanted to hurt her.

"In a way, yeah. ... Just the way they were talking to me and trying to come to me," she says.

Kolb said she finds the case "very disturbing" and is struck by the parallels to the disappearance of Lindsey Baum.

Investigators want anyone with information to call the Tumwater Police Department at (360) 754-4200.

-- 7/17/2009

to read all posts relating to lindsey baum, click here. unfortunately, there are few facts to amplify what was written here, back in july 2009.

Only A Teacher: Frank McCourt

They're dropping like flies. Or maybe I am just more attentive, having my own mortality too much in mind.

My family has gravitated inexorably toward the teaching profession. Any and all attempts to do something else, something equally noble and worthwhile, that maybe paid better, had decent hours and great benefits, have failed or been allocated to the "volunteer" section of our compartmentalized existences.

There is not a day goes by that I don't remember a student or a colleague, and am blessed by the various lessons each taught me.

Teacher Frank McCourt has died. He was also quite the writer. I've not read his Teacher Man: A Memoir, but it's on the list.

Here is the [entire, gulp] transcript of a PBS interview he did, titled "Only A Teacher..."

Frank McCourt, the author of Angela's Ashes and 'Tis, is a retired English teacher. He lives in New York City.

Q: What do you see as some of the major obstacles to improving public schools in our country?

We don't like our kids. This is a country, this is a nation of people who don't like their kids. Therefore, the teachers are baby sitters. We don't look at teachers as scholars the way they do in Europe. In Spain you're called a professor if you're a high school teacher, and they pay teachers, they pay teachers in Europe. We don't here. We resent if, we resent giving them pay raises. If they rise up and say we need a cost of living adjustment, [we say], "Oh, what do you mean you need a cost of living adjustment? Look at all the time you've got off. You're finished at 3 o'clock, never mind that you go home with a bag of papers to correct, and then you have the summers off. These teachers with their summers off! Oh my, I wish I were a teacher." Well, there's nobody stopping you from becoming a teacher! Go and become a teacher, dammit! All these so called professionals, investment bankers and lawyers, [they say], "Oh these teachers have their summers off." You know what most teachers do? They go out and get a job to subsidize their miserable pittance they get from most community boards and boards of education.

Q: Why did you become a teacher?

When I got out of the army I had the GI Bill. Since I had no high school education or anything like that, I came to NYU and they took a chance on me and let me in. I suppose I was what you might call a mature student of 22. And, I thought, I'd like, at one time I thought I'd like to become a journalist, but because I had no education, and because I'd come from this horrible background of poverty and so on, no education, no self esteem, so I didn't see myself mingling with two-fisted, hard-bitten journalists. I would dream of going up to the New York Times and asking them if I could please be a copy boy or let me scrub the toilets or something like that. But I couldn't rise to those heights. So the two things I liked most of all were books and children. I used to see American movies where the teacher is there in the classroom and all the kids file in -- it was usually a movie about Nebraska or something like that where everybody's white and blue eyed, and there's Doug the quarterback and Susan the beauty queen, and they sit there with their pens poised while you discourse most eloquently on John Donne, and they'd all sit there and they would love me to death and I would be the hero of the community. Well, it didn't turn out like that. I became a teacher all right. I wanted to become a teacher because I had a misconception about it. I didn't know that I'd be going into, when I first became a high school teacher in New York, that I'd be going into a battle zone, and no one prepared me for that. They're all natural enemies, teenagers are all natural enemies, they're really animals, but I love them, I love animals, and the average teenager should be sent to some remote place like Australia, till he's 20. But I like the teaching because it keeps you on your toes all the time. You can't back off, and some teachers say, "Oh, give them busy work." Well, when you're with bright kids you can't give them busy work, keeps you... in a sense it's like Hemingway talking about grace under pressure. You're facing the bull, and that moment that the bull's horn comes close to you is the moment at which you could die. That's what it's like going into the classroom -- you could die in there.

Q: How did you learn to be a successful teacher?

There was what you would call a turning point in my life. I was ill-prepared and insecure -- because I had never been in a high school in my life -- in this first job. I knew nothing about American kids and their strange tribal ways, and it seemed to me that they were throbbing with sexuality, which you wouldn't find in Ireland, because they'd knock it out of you. But here, there's boys and girls in the class, and I didn't know what to do; and the only models I had for teaching were Irish school masters, and that was all threat, sticks, straps, and physical beatings. So, of course I wasn't gonna, there was gonna be no physical beating...there were kids in those classes who were on the football team, and would've broken me in two. But I would become frustrated and I would yell at them, I'd say to them, "You better keep up now, you're not doing the work, you're not bringing in your textbooks," and so on, and I'd rant and rave. 'Til one day there was a little African-American girl sitting in the front row -- Sylvia -- and she was beautiful and always impeccably dressed. And one day she said, "Mr. McCourt!" "What?" "Mr. McCourt." "What?" "Chill Out!" So, that was the first time I ever heard that expression, but I knew what it meant, so I chilled. What that meant was I became more and more of a human being. I dropped the Irish schoolmaster mask. It didn't work anymore. What I learned then was the main device, if you want to call it that for a successful teacher, was honesty. I said look, we're in this together, I'm learning, I would say that, I'm learning. This is what I discovered years and years and years later, I was the big learner out of this teaching experience.

Q: Tell us about your first teaching experience.

When I got my first teaching job, which was on Staten Island in 1958, I took over in midterm spring of '58 for an old lady named Ms. Mudd, m-u-d-d. And she was just, she just, the kids were driving her crazy. And she said to me, "They're driving me crazy," she says to me, "You look out this window," and the school overlooked New York Harbor. She said, "You look out this window in a week, and you'll see this ship passing by, and you'll see me waving from this cruise ship, and the two things I never want to see again is Staten Island and teenagers!"

She left me with mounds, piles of old papers and books, and I went rummaging through the old papers, and I didn't know what to do with the kids, so I had them reading these old papers, and some of them went back to the Second World War. And they were compositions written by young Staten Island students at that time, who later went off to war, off to the Second World War. And some of the kids in my class discovered these papers, and they were overcome: "This was my father, this was my uncle, this was my cousin Vinny," and so on. And it was so exciting, and I said to them, "This composition paper is crumbling," and they would copy them, and they were taking them home to their families, "Look what Uncle Vinny..." And this was a tremendous moment. It was my bridge to the kids. There was such a feeling of community, and emotion, because sometimes the kids, girls and boys, would come across some item from the Second World War from somebody in their family who had been a student at McKee. And, they would be overcome and have to run out of the room. That was one, I think that was my first bridge to them.

Q: How did you balance the emotional needs of students with their intellectual ones?

These girls would come from, I had one class of 35 girls come in these white dresses, uniforms or whatever they are, with hair, hairdos, these beehive hairdos, where you could raise a sparrow in each family. They came into my class and they sat, this first day they sat down, and they took out little boxes, and they started doing their nails and plucking their eyebrows, and fixing their eyelids and so on, eyelashes, and I said what -- this was a vocational high school -- I said, "What shop is this?" "Cosmetology." I said, "What's cosmetology?" "Beauty culture." And then they'd comment on me, they'd say, "Yo teach, your hair is a mess, your nails need work. Why don't you come up to beauty culture and we'll do you?" That was an invitation I declined.

But all of this was human stuff and it had nothing to do with the curriculum. In the meantime, I'm finding my way, because nobody was there to help me. I'm finding my way through this education minefield. I'd go up to the teacher's cafeteria at lunchtime. On one side of the cafeteria the old timers were gathered -- they're giving me advice, and they're saying, traditional and conservative and they've been through it, and they say you know, "You're the boss in that classroom, you tell them what to do, don't ever tell them anything about yourself, nothing private." Then I'd go to the other side of the cafeteria, and there are the younger teachers who were progressive, you know, students of John Dewey, and they'd say, "Well, you know, these kids are people. These are real people and we have to meet their felt needs." I didn't know what a felt need was, but I guess I tried to meet their felt needs. It was a long, slow process, because there's no, there's no method or technique by which you can become a successful teacher overnight. It takes years. And it's like writing I suppose, or like any art, or any human endeavor -- you have to find your own way. You have to find your own style, techniques and style. So, I found my own style after a while, and sometimes I would imitate other teachers who had certain ways of dealing with classes. Didn't work, never worked. It's like being a writer. You imitate Faulkner, you imitate Hemingway, you imitate Scott Fitzgerald, but in the end you find your own voice, and your own style, and that's what I had to do as a teacher.

Q: Describe a typical day of teaching as you remember it.

Most teachers would have, first period on the second floor, then it's up to the sixth floor for the second period, down to third floor for the third period, and in between, in between the second and third period you had what they call homeroom, official class. You had this group of kids, and you had to take their attendance, give them bus passes and food vouchers and whatever, and get excuses for the previous day's absence. You had to keep all these records. You were like a big clerk, a bookkeeper. And then you go to your next class. So there were five classes, so you'd have lunch, and then you'd have what they call, somewhere along the line, a building assignment. And my building assignment most the time was to supervise the student cafeteria. And you'd go in there and you'd hear them feeding, swilling, and whining and moaning about the food and you see kids throwing food away and you think of your own childhood when we would have eaten the stuff out of the garbage can, and I was convinced, they'd say, "Oh, this is terrible, this hot dog." I was convinced that most of these kids were gourmets. They went home to bouillabaisse every night or fine wines. Then, if you're an English teacher, if you've been foolish enough to give them an assignment, they hand it in. And you take it home in a bag. You go home and your heart is heavy because you have 170 kids. Now if you give them an assignment 250 words, multiply 170 by 250, and that's like reading the Encyclopedia Britannica. And there's another book you'd like to read or a movie you'd like to see, or you'd like to talk to your wife once in a while, but you have all these papers. Sunday night comes. That's the worst night of the week for any teacher in the country because they know this stuff is piled up and they're in such a state of despair. And you try to do it, and like any kid who has homework to do, "I'll get up in the morning and do it." Well you know you're not going to do 170 papers, so you do what you can, and try to get it back to them, but the load never lightened.

Q: Why are teachers important in our society?

What's the most precious material we have in the country: children. If we don't give them the best keepers and mentors and teachers, we're destroying them. We're destroying the country. They are the future, and the teachers are there everyday with the future. And we're so careless about that. We underpay teachers, we hire poorly prepared teachers, and we don't help them. We don't go into the schools and help them, "What can I do?" We don't participate. It's a matter of taking care of the children. If you have a child who's ill, you want the best doctor. You want the best surgeon, "I want the best surgeon for my child." But do we say that about teachers? No, we don't. We know that surgeons are well paid, they better be well paid, they don't want to have worries at home. It should be the same way with teachers. They're the single most important professsion in the country because they're shaping the future. And some of them are misshaping the future or they're not being helped by us. And as I said before, we don't like our children. Because the proof of it is how we treat our teachers. That's the one fine and significant proof: how you treat your teachers. And they're treated badly.

Q: What can we do to help improve our nation's schools?

One of the reasons the schools are in such a state is no one consults the teachers. I used to watch some of these programs on television and you'd have somebody from some corporation, and you'd see some jerk from the think tank, and then you'd have a union official, and I'd call... One time I called Channel 13 in New York, they had one of these discussions about schools, and I said -- they were inviting us, calls from the outside -- and the lady said, "Well what would your question be?"

And I said, "Why don't you have a teacher on this panel?"

"Oh, that's a very interesting question..."

I said, "It's about schools, isn't it?"


But I never got through. One never gets through.


This teacher's "last" kids, from the last class, on the last day --each and every one a marvel, a phenomenon:

Oh, No, You Don't, You ScuzBags, You!

When I shake open the NYT of a morning, delighting in the fresh creases, scanning what's above the line, and what's below, it's doggone rare for me to start the day by reading the business section.

Good thing that I read the free, online version -- where this alluring headline jumped off the computer screen and down my throat. I *despise* these people with a passion, apparently. Who knew? Which people, exactly? Well, I have tended to cast the net wide.

Okay, so it took pastoral counseling and several exorcisms for me to be able to wish well all the folks who took out ridiculous, unaffordable mortgages, thinking... thinking? Thinking what? I've never gotten a good handle on what these people were thinking, if they were thinking at all.
The Fredster is more open than I am in laying the primary blame at the feet of The Scuzbags who brokered all those fraudulent mortgages. I mean, if they hadn't come along, we never would have found out about the various lacunae threatening to bring down our entire economy, as well as negatively impacting global financial health. Right?
I have fond memories of my investment account...


Still, after having my head do a few 360s, and spewing what might have been creamed peas, I came to accept that good people do stupid things, and I managed to be truly glad that they were being assisted in keeping their homes and reestablishing their credit. (Yes, even as we struggle to make the payments on Our Manor, Marlinspike Hall, deep, deep in the Tête de Hergé -- not that we claim ownership, no -- we simply have lost touch with Captain Haddock, last seen at Bongi's place). The Captain mortgaged The Manor to fund his latest swashbuckling adventures on the High Seas, and to keep him in his cups. We're positive that he'll be sending us some money very soon.
Back to the lesson of gladness. I don't mean to beat you over the head with it, I mean to beat myself over the head with it! Because I have a hard time, sadly, being glad that someone else is being helped, when I am not. That's an embarrassing admission. The first thing to realize? It's not about you, it's about someone else, and this someone else is in need.
Still, I had hoped that this would be game over and lesson learned, and that we'd not see such financial irresponsibility again, at least not on such a scale.

Cashing In, Again, on Risky Mortgages

Published: July 19, 2009

LOS ANGELES — From the ninth floor of a downtown office building on Wilshire Boulevard, Jack Soussana delivered staggering numbers of mortgages to homeowners during the real estate boom, amassing a fortune.

By Mr. Soussana’s own account, his customers fared less happily. He specialized in the exotic mortgages that have proved most prone to sliding into foreclosure, leaving many now scrambling to save their homes.

Yet the dangers assailing Mr. Soussana’s clients have yielded fresh business for him: Late last year, he and his team — ensconced in the same office where they used to broker mortgages — began working for a loan modification company. For fees reaching $3,495, with most of the money collected upfront, they promised to negotiate with lenders to lower payments on the now-delinquent mortgages they and their counterparts had sprinkled liberally across Southern California.

“We just changed the script and changed the product we were selling,” said Mr. Soussana, who ran the Los Angeles sales office of Federal Loan Modification Law Center. The new script: You got a raw deal, and “Now, we’re able to help you out because we understand your lender.”

Mr. Soussana’s partners at FedMod, as the company is known, were also products of the formerly lucrative world of high-risk lending. The managing partner, Nabile Anz, known as Bill, previously co-owned Mortgage Link, a California subprime lender, now defunct, that once sold $30 million worth of loans a month.

Jeffrey Broughton, one of FedMod’s initial partners, served as director of business development at Pacific First Mortgage, a lender that extended so-called Alt-A mortgages for borrowers with tarnished credit for Countrywide Financial, which lost billions of dollars on bad mortgages before being rescued in an acquisition.

FedMod is but one example of how many of the same people who dispensed risky mortgages during the real estate bubble have reconstituted themselves into a new industry focused on selling loan modifications.

Despite making promises of relief to homeowners desperate to keep their homes, FedMod and other profit making loan modification firms often fail to deliver, according to a New York Times investigation based on interviews with scores of former employees and customers, more than 650 complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau, and documents filed by the Federal Trade Commission in a lawsuit against the company...

Read the rest here. I think there will be more to come.