Posts tagged ‘literature’

January 20, 2014

Mysteries

by lisa st john

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all

true art and science. –Albert Einstein

The massage therapist has little hands coming out of the wall on which to hang clothes. There is a ceramic hand—palm up—on her desk where she keeps her business cards. There is a smoldering hand holding incense and a pair of hands holding up books. I am so grateful that urologists and gynecologists do not decorate their offices this way. I don’t know if I want to hang my bra on a penis or take a business card out of a vagina. Odd the things that make up functional art.

Mystery machine cartoon version

And are artful functions the same thing? How long did it take us to put wheels on coolers or cup holders on strollers? A mystery.

Art and science, fact and fiction, truth and belief. These dichotomies keep me up at night1.

Other functional mysteries raise the following questions: Why don’t all winter cars come with retractable plows? We use liquid helium (at a temperature of NEGATIVE 452.4 Fahrenheit) to cool the superconductivity of a magnetic field in order to see inside the brain, but we haven’t figured out how to see if I have cervical cancer other than a (frighteningly medieval) speculum?

Sad mysteries include the fact (yes, a mystery can also be a fact—hence my confused brain activity) that over 60% of African elephants were slaughtered from poaching between 2002 and 2011 and China accounts for nearly half of that population killed each year. Apparently, however, we need to strengthen our economic relations with them.

A true mystery is why even after all the scientific proof says that homeopathy is a scam, the United States alone spends 34 BILLION dollars on alternative medicine. Tim Minchin’s lovely, animated diatribe on this subject is certainly worth watching.

An exciting mystery is that both light and matter can be either (OR BOTH) waves or particles. WTF squared, that’s what I think about that.

Some Hollywood mysteries that never occur in real life (yet I am fond of) are listed below.

I want:
… an envelope delivered to my table at an outdoor cafe that has a ringing cell phone inside of it.
… to get stuck in an elevator for hours at a time alone with some hottie.

to jump through a large glass window and roll out onto the sidewalk.

to beat the shit out of someone trying to attack me (preferably kicking a weapon out of his hands in the process).

And finally, should we not leave the artistic mystery of the creative process alone and just let it (like the poem it produces) “not mean, but be?” More on ars poetica and sifting through the currently trendy quantification of artistic genius another time.

p.s.: Is it any wonder that Scooby-Doo was my favorite cartoon? It was always the guy in a mask–real monsters don’t exist.

1Not literally; I sleep like a rock thanks to the miracle of chemistry. These ideas do, however, keep my mind alive at inopportune times.

March 25, 2011

Good Pantyhose Can Work as a Fan Belt in a Toyota for at Least Three Days of City Driving

by lisa st john

I always thought the “Write about your Hero” was a lame essay topic. I do not have any heroes. Should I feel weird about that? I do now and then. Batman is pretty psycho when you think about it. He is a multi-billionaire who spends his split personality time playing vigilante. Forget Superman, who is really just an alien brainwashed by the square states mentality. Spiderman is infected…yuck. And the women? Afterthoughts of a feminist culture of guilt. Wonder Woman was my favorite; big boobs and balls to boot. But would any of us REALLY want a golden lasso of truth? Methinks not.

Shakespeare had it made. Elizabethans believed in villainy for its own sake. Sort of the post-modern view of humanity in a pseudo-technological society. Richard the Third? YIKES! He makes Bernie Madoff like look positively harmless. Titus Andronicus?  Hello, Jeffrey Dahmer.

If I had to pick a hero it would be a group—not an individual; it would be what I used to be, the working poor and middle class. The single parents, the people refusing to let go of the American dream. Okay, that sounds hokey. Let’s put it in a monologue and see if it makes more sense.

I go to put my pantyhose on and hobble out to the kitchen with one leg in and the other half in because I hear screaming and Jenna is hitting Sammy in the face with her cereal spoon yelling stop stealing my socks and the dog busts through the doggie door soaking wet with half of some bleeding animal in his mouth and all the kids start screaming then the phone rings and I wonder if the shirt Jimmy needs for today’s play is ready when I answer and it’s D___ from the diner asking if I can work a double today because the new girl called in sick and while I wonder if I can get Julie to pick up the kids from the bus on time I am also thinking that it’s Thursday and tips are great on Thursday dinner shift because of the weekly specials and Sammy comes in chasing Jenna with half a raccoon-looking creature in her hands and the dog barking behind them when I hear Jimmy yell Mom I need to get dressed like Abe Lincoln and I make it to the dryer where I slip on my work shoes and pull out a damp button-down white shirt and Jimmy is complaining that it’s wet and I drag him to the bathroom where I blow dry him with one hand and put my mascara on with the other and yell to the girls to get ready for the bus and did I call Julie? I check my watch. It’s 7:30 AM.

I guess I could choose the altruistic group like Mother Theresa and Gandhi, but I don’t believe in altruism either. Ayn Rand is an idiot. People do not do things because they make other people feel good. Logically, we would never do anything that didn’t also make US feel better.

Heroes. I choose (other than real people) Nurse Jackie and House. At least they are honest (to people other than themselves).

March 19, 2011

“Spring” and all its ridiculous connotations

by lisa st john

I dreamt of her again last night. With the intense gaze of Manet’s Olympia, luscious dark hair, and flawless iridescent skin, she lounges with a magnifying grip like a cold steel clamp.

Atwood was right, the cancer cell is beautiful. And that bitch almost stole my husband.

 

The brave crocuses strain upward, oblivious to the possibility of freezing. According to March’s bi-polar, chaotic nature a final and icy belch is not unheard of.

Spring rains tend to uncover things best left unseen. The black-grey carbon monoxide snow dregs and the scrawniness of tree limbs waving like discarded bones litter the yard. Storm scars.

A monochromatic quality seems appropriate as I venture through the frost heaved potholes of this all too recent memory.

There are many things I do not know, like how mothers with bald, cancer ridden children maintain any semblance of normalcy. Yet I see them. They exist.

The love of my life is well. He had a “complete response” to the chemotherapy and radiation. That’s a medical euphemism for “we do not see any more cancer but we are not allowed to say it until 4 ½ years from now.”

Words are involuntary cohorts in this meager explanation, and one thing I DO know is that I am not done talking about it yet.

 

March 15, 2011

I’m Not Afraid of Lightning! And I Get Summers Off!

by lisa st john

I’m Not Afraid of Lightning! And I Get Summers Off!

Yeah. I tend to forget about that fallacious perk when a kid comes in with bruises all over her arm because she “ran into a door.” For the eight weeks that we are not in the classroom with kids most teachers I know are working a second job to help pay the mortgage or taking graduate classes to keep their teaching certificates. But the point of this little tirade is this: Why is the field of education so inexplicable to anyone not in it or closely tied to it? What is so hard to understand?

Perhaps because we think in metaphor and analogy, and there really is no comparison to teaching. Plug the business analogy in. Do cubicle workers go home wondering if their clients are hungry? Or contemplating suicide? Do they wonder why J_____ wears the same clothes every day? Do they loan money to their “clients” who “forgot” their lunch AGAIN? Do they take into consideration that their “client’s” parents are either in rehab or jail or both and they are busy taking care of their siblings which is why they did not hand their paperwork (homework) in on time? Oh yeah. That analogy does not work because businesspeople are not also in loco parentis. That’s right.  We are not in a business, per se. I mean, is it reasonable to ask you, as an office worker, to track the progress of each and every client (while teaching them the beauty of mathematics), to find out why they are crying (since it probably does not have to do with differential equations), to hug them when they need it (for good news or bad), to answer their questions about sexuality or love or life in general when your masters degrees are in calculus?

Let’s try another popular analogy—that of the “professional” (like a doctor or lawyer apparently). Let’s pretend that educators have multiple degrees from academic institutions of higher learning like other professionals. OH WAIT! They DO! So. How often have you gone into your doctor’s office and demanded to know why she thinks your daughter has strep throat? How many times have you gone into a lawyer’s office without an appointment demanding to be seen? Have you ever asked for a meeting with your dentist just to question their judgment or demand that they take a pay cut? Why are their certificates more important than ours? Because everyone knows how to teach? Oh, that’s right. Because it’s so easy.

We go to graduations and weddings. But we also go to hospitals and funerals. We wake up early and work late so we can create meaningful lessons, assess the students’ work, and complete all the paperwork that any bureaucracy demands. We also spend evenings calling parents and going to concerts and games and meetings, and OH WAIT! I forgot. No we don’t. We all get out at 3:00. Oops. We don’t study and research and collaborate so we do what is best for kids—OH NO! We do that so we can show off the expensive cars and boats we get from getting paid extra for all of our time outside of 7AM – 3PM. Oh wait. We don’t get paid extra for that. Or for advising clubs or staying late to listen to a student heartbroken over … whatever teenagers are heartbroken over at that particular time because it is important to them. They are important to us. That’s why we do it.

During an interview, if a rookie ever answers the question, “Why do you want to teach?” with any response other than, “Because I love kids” they are out. I have no time for anyone who was not born into this profession—who has not found teaching as their Jungian calling. Teaching is not about giving students some information that you have and they don’t. That’s boring (at best). It’s indoctrination (at worst).  It’s about learning with them and sharing the joy of new perspectives, not showing them what they could learn all by themselves with a valid library card.

Content is just that. English, biology, calculus, algebra, studio art, drama, music, history, second languages, digital editing, consumer science, freaking basket weaving—we teach human beings how to be human beings. We don’t just teach content. We teach people. Make an analogy for that.

Talk to a teacher or someone close to a teacher.

Volunteer in a public school.

Shadow a teacher for a day.

I dare you.

March 3, 2011

Unicorns

by lisa st john

“Oh lord, wontcha buy me a Mercedes Benz, my friends all drive horses, I mu–”
Wait…. That’s not right.

There are so many things in the world that are not right. Scumbags tricking gullible people into psychic readings, psychos spreading the word about how the Holocaust never happened (or wasn’t as bad as all that); even mainstream chain pharmacies are selling homeopathic “drugs”! I’m mortified by a lack of intelligence—embarrassed by rampant credulity.

With brilliant minds like Michael Shermer and James Randi out there, why is the general public so ignorant?! Skeptic Magazine is easily accessible. Why don’t more people read it? Because we want to believe in stupid stuff, that’s why. We aren’t as smart as we think we are. Look how long it took us to invent wheels for coolers! Jeesh. Sometimes I think George Carlin was right when he said that, “We like to think we’ve evolved and advanced because we can build a computer, fly an airplane, travel underwater, we can write a sonnet, paint a painting, compose an opera. But you know something? We’re barely out of the jungle on this planet. Barely out of the fucking jungle. What we are, is semi-civilized beasts, with baseball caps and automatic weapons.”

Belief and faith and knowledge and truth are no more synonymous than beagles and toads. By the way, why are the words fur and hair synonymous? I pet my cat’s fur. I don’t pet his hair. That sounds weird. But I get cat hair on my clothes. I don’t get cat fur on my clothes. An article in Scientific American explains that there is no difference between fur and hair. Humph. Not satisfied. Oh, I know. I’ll Google fur versus hair and see what happens. There we go! A non-peer reviewed crap website that proves me right! Fur IS different than hair. Guess I will “believe” that one.

Go ahead and believe whatever you want. Just don’t go spewing it as knowledge. Interpret the world as you see fit, but don’t try and tell me that Matthew Arnold’s famous poem “Dover Beach” is about unicorns. IT’S NOT! And no. Poetry is not about “whatever you want it to be about.” While there is no sacred hidden meaning available only in the teacher’s edition of some archaic textbook, there are correct and incorrect interpretations. This post is turning into Part One. See you soon for Part Two.

March 1, 2011

Two Squared

by lisa st john

“Cleo found a sausage link.”
“What!? Where?”
“She must have found it under the stove.”
“She can’t fit under the stove; she’s a 15 pound cat. She’s too big.”
“Remember when she hid in the Holiday Inn hotel room for 3 days?
She’s a cat. She’s big but she can get small.”

I would rather watch House reruns than the Oscars, and I admit to adding lettuce to my croutons in order to make the dreaded salad. A really good cheeseburger tastes much better than a filet mignon and the only exercise I truly enjoy is sleeping (rapid eye MOVEMENT, hel-LO…). Extremes and contradictions. Where would we be without them?

I cannot make small talk to save my life (thank you technology for letting me pretend to text rather than meet a new person), but I love going to work where I talk with people (teenagers actually) all day long. I enjoy (can and have) wearing pajamas and not leaving my house for 72 hours straight. However, I also love traveling with my husband Kent and staying in hotels. Not making the bed is a favorite perk.

A recent jaunt to Beantown got me thinking about dualities. Blue collar dudes in Carhart are eating next to white collar Prada skirts everywhere you look. It’s a town of blending opposites.

A congruency does exist, however with the Museum of Fine Arts and the pattern of Boston streets in general. Circular, seemingly aimless and difficult to transverse, Boston’s MFA is also extraordinarily complex but well worth the passage. Their Modernist photography exhibit made me sigh with delight. Someone recently remarked that they didn’t know enough about art to enjoy it and I wonder if that is like my love of mathematics although, ironically, I don’t speak the language. I have a somewhat rational fear of Alzheimer’s, and I think that if I learn mathematics I may keep my brain awake and alive for a little longer.

The weird duality of my respect for math and my ignorance of it is confounding and annoying. I am fascinated by physics, and I know that I cannot truly understand it without speaking its number-y language but the task seems daunting. Maybe I’ll try learning Chinese instead. At least I am not afraid of numbers like ridiculously superstitious people. We stayed in room 1313 on the 13th floor of the Liberty Hotel in Boston and guess what horrible thing happened? NOTHING! I didn’t even need to sprinkle salt over my shoulder or spit on the floor. The proverbial black cat was crossing my path while I was under the ladder and I admit to regularly opening umbrellas indoors. But that is a thought for another post. Until then I will continue finding the closest parking spot to the gym entrance and ordering diet Coke with my french fries (side of mayo please).

February 27, 2011

Room of My Own

by lisa st john

He bought me a pen at the museum shop and made sure I had enough hot water and bath salts. He brought me morning coffee and smiles. After all these years I am finally walking through the door he has been building into a room of my own.

It wasn’t just the free ticket into the New York Times Travel Show that a stranger handed me because she “didn’t need it,” it was the smile she had when she registered my shocked “Thank you.” Little interactions like these in The City (as those of us lucky enough to live nearby call her) always propel me to write.

The Sunday morning light banging on the doors of a brownstone, the preponderance of dogs walking their humans in Hell’s Kitchen, the delicacy of a stranger returning a dropped glove to a passerby; these vignettes are New York. The line outside of Amy’s Bread on 9th Avenue reminds me that quality is as important as time. The discussions at Lolita’s on the Lower East Side take me back to a time when I actually liked talking face to face. I do not know how I found my niche in the world as an educator since I tend not to like most people (I have very few friends), but I guess it’s because teenagers are a different breed of human. A much more interesting one. Usually.

These contradictory thoughts are the impetus to my starting this blog. I want to explore them, and I think much better in words than I do out loud (in the traditional, verbal sense of the phrase). I like to see my words on the page. I like to ignore or challenge the little green squiggles from Microsoft Word (I’ll use that fragment if I want to!). I realize that I think in Times New Roman, and I despise silly fonts. Maybe that’s the academic in me or the purist, I do not know. I do know that I welcome the paradigm shift away from typewritten Courier. Staying at ink48 got these thoughts rattling also since their theme is the written word (and fonts in particular). They have a dog welcome station out front with snacks and water bowls. I like that. I don’t have a dog, but if I did I would want him to be welcomed at the hotel. It’s like being glad that there are “expectant mothers” and “handicapped” parking spots. I don’t use them, but I am glad they are there. Although…in my memory “expectant mother” is just a euphemism for “totally freaking terrified portal for another human being.” And the fact that there are drive-thru ATMs in Braille just plain makes me scared.

Anyway, ciao to The City for now. I left my husband Kent a present from the Little Pie Company in the room before I left. Monday comes earlier than other days for some reason. The same explanation why waiting ten minutes for a much needed bathroom stall is much longer than ten minutes of a massage I suppose. Wow. I think I just finished my first blog post.

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