23 October 2006

Things I Worry About

1. Zeke. One day he will die, and maybe I won't be able to work for a while after that. Yesterday I read a book where the cat dies, and I couldn't help but cry. Sometimes I cry just thinking about that fucking book "The 10th Good Thing About Barney" because my mom bought it for me when our golden retriever Gretchen died (ON, as it turns out, my tenth birthday), and I just think it's so sad when a family has to try to comfort one another about their dog dying. I could never be an Owens, because they had like twelve dogs die in under a decade. Like the one we saw who got hit by the horse-carcass truck, and the guy got out, looked around, and threw the dog into the back with the dead horses. And we kids were all hiding somewhere, playing either "Russian Spies" or "Steal the Neighbors' Blue Garden Ball" or "The Neighbors, who are Russian Spies, have Stolen our Blue Garden Ball and we Must Steal It Back." All three games involved hiding in the bushes and peeking down at the road. Where people hit your dogs and throw them in the horse truck.

2. The cultural purity of Tibet. China just built this super train to Lhasa, and I seriously spend a ridiculous amount of time worrying that Tibetans are now watching American Idol. It kills me.

3. The Constitution. In the words of Ali Brown, "I believe in the constitution more than in the bible!" Yes, and watching it get dismantled troubles me.

4. My hair. Why can't it always be as cute as it is in that one picture?

5. Having kids. This one could actually support its own sub-categories:

a. when I have kids I will talk to them all the time, like I talk to my dogs, only it will be worse because I will believe that they might actually understand me, which will warrant further conversation and eventually I will forget how to talk to adults.

b. what if they are crazy. Genetically, it's extremely likely.

c. what happens when the family dog dies, and suddenly I'm the one who has to buy them a copy of "The Tenth Good Thing About Barney" even though I can't stop thinking about how cute and sweet our perfect family dog was and crying about it. God.

d. I bet I'll be WAY more worried about them dying than I am about Zeke, and I literally think about Zeke dying at least once a day. The only good thing about this is that children generally have life spans of more than thirteen years. (BUT WHAT IF MINE DON'T???)

e. How can you afford to feed and clothe kids? They're so freaking expensive. We're living hand-to-mouth here just trying to feed ourselves and the dogs.

6. What if Studio 60 gets cancelled? I will be sad.

7. One day I might wake up and find that I've become totally mediocre. I've been worrying about it since I was about 14. Luckily, my sheer degree of neurosis may serve to keep me from becoming totally mediocre. On the other hand, I may end up being just another mediocre-ly neurotic person. Can't a person get a break??

8. Driving in winter. So scary, especially in New Mexico. Driving in any kind of weather, really. I swear I didn't used to be like this, but if you go off the road in Iowa, you'll just land in a fluffy, soft cornfield of safety and love. If you go off the road here, you'll probably die.

9. Global warming. I mean, what the hell can we do about it?? I did my part in the 80s, cut back on the Aqua-net, and it didn't help at all. The polar bears have less and less ice to live on every year.

10. Sam: I'm probably not crazy, because if you think you're crazy, then you're probably not, right?
Max: No.... you ARE.

21 October 2006

Adventures in Dogtown, Pt. 2

Always, when I walk through the door, the first question on my mind is: what did the dog eat/pee on/destroy while I was gone?

I turn the light on, stand in the doorway with arms crossed, and survey the damage.


1: Candle, chewed on

2: Monkey, flung

3: Table, toppled

4: Wisconsin cheese curd lid, licked

5: Glass (formerly of coke), licked

And then, passed out, arms akimbo, snoring, Zeke.

Looking at him, lying in the middle of all this, I realize this all feels very familiar to me. I come from crazy, self-destructive, addictive personality folk. And here I am, once again, cleaning up after a self-destructive binge. Instead of overflowing ash trays and too many empty vodka bottles, it's cheese lids and monkeys, but still. That old adage about dogs looking like their owners? Not even close. This dog looks like his owner's soul.

I'm silent for a moment. Zeke snores and twitches a leg. I sigh, and begin to clean up his mess. It's like living with John Belushi, I tell Rory. And how can you not love him?

19 October 2006

So Long, Farewell....

On Tuesday, Bush signed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 into law, suspending habeas corpus for anyone determined to be an enemy combatant.

This deeply concerns me.

In fact, I've been a little freaked out about it ever since it went zipping through congress on September 28 and 29.

Habeas corpus is a nice little law that says you have the right to know exactly why you're being locked up. And that you have the right to tell someone you didn't do that thing that you are being locked up for, and even maybe the chance to get out of prison for this thing that you didn't do. Without it, you can be grabbed off the street (or more likely, out of the airport, as in the case of Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen INNOCENT OF ANY CRIME who was abducted by the United States Government, taken to a secret prison in Syria where he was held for 10 months and 10 days, beaten, tortured, forced to make a false confession -- and eventually RELEASED WITHOUT CHARGE) and "disappeared" without any indication of why you're being taken away.

Disappeared.... desaparacidos....that's right, we learned about that one in my "Radical Movements in 20th Century Latin America" class. Also in high school Spanish, when we watched the movie "La Historia Oficial" (every year - it was the "Stand and Deliver" of Spanish Class), about the disappeared in Argentina in the 70s and 80s, the dissidents who were forced to jump out of planes over the ocean, thus ensuring that their bodies would never be found -- the desaparacidos. The disappeared.

In the United States, we call it "extraordinary rendition."

You know what else is interesting (by which I mean terrifying) about the Military Commissions Act of 2006? There's this tricky little line in it that basically says that if the government -- aka Bush & Rumsfeld -- say you're an enemy combatant..... you ARE.

(Which reminds me of a note I once picked up off an elementary schoolyard. In the tiny, precise writing of a child, it said, "If you read this, you eat poop!" I thought, that's so clever. You can't deny eating poop, since in order to know what the allegation about you says, you must in fact admit that you did just read the note. As the note says, "IF you READ this, you eat poop," it clearly states that the only evidence needed to condemn you as a poop-eater is the mere incidence of your reading, something which once done, you cannot undo. To this day, that note remains in my mind the perfect example of cold conviction logic.)

If they say you are an enemy combatant, you ARE.

A few years ago, Bush's then-Secretary of Education announced that the largest teacher's union was a terrorist organization. According to the Military Commissions Act, the law would now say that once accused of being a terrorist organization, they ARE. Right?

Also, the MCA says that if you give monetary support to a group the president deems to be a terrorist organization, you can be considered to be an enemy combatant yourself. I wonder, in a country where the president can suspend habeas corpus without anyone blinking an eye, where the president can actively defend torture practices such as water boarding -- for which the United States prosecuted people after WWII, treating it as a war crime! -- where a group of teachers fighting for better dental plans can be called a terrorist organization -- I wonder if I shouldn't be worried about that donation I sent to KUNM earlier today. What if the president declares his personal war on the free media next? What if NPR is the next identified terrorist cell?

In the words of Keith Olbermann, "the only thing keeping you, I, or the viewer out of Gitmo is the sanity and honesty of the president of the United States."

Good luck.

17 October 2006


All the time I spend trying to teach the standards and raise my students' test scores seems completely irrelevant when we have to spend an afternoon evacuating our school and comforting scared, crying kids.

Yesterday it was TWO lockdowns for us, one lasting two hours (luckily we were watching an old Twilight Zone episode & could just hang out watching the rest of the episodes on the DVD), one where the secretary, who -- we have learned -- is not very good under pressure -- ran into my room crying and whispering loudly about a lockdown in a panicky voice, and THEN twenty minutes after the second lockdown ended, a slightly panicked-sounding principal came on the overhead telling everyone to EVACUATE THE SCHOOL IMMEDIATELY -- TAKE EVERYTHING -- GO AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE TO THE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL (1/3 mile away) -- and as we're all booking it out of the school we see, across the street, that the high school is completely crawling with flashing lights, officers, dogs, cars, & even a helicopter.

What's going on, America?

Jean and Kara never mentioned the days we'd literally fear for our lives.


13 October 2006

Hopscotch and Hate Speech


Me: Hi, Taylor! What are you doing?
Tiny neighbor girl: I'm drawing a hopscotch, but I don't know how to make a five.
Me: Do you want help with that?
TNG: Yes, please. (she hands me the chalk)
Me: (kneeling down, drawing) First you have a straight line across, then a straight line down, and then a half-circle here. Can you do that?
TNG: I think so!
Rory's car: honk honk!
Me: Oh, I have to run! Have fun with your games!
TNG: (waving) Thank you! Thank you!!
Rory: Where were you?
Me: Sorry, I had to make a five.
Rory: ...
Me: What?
Rory: You are SUCH a teacher!


Arturo: Ms. Backes, me and my dad call each other homos all the time. That's okay, right?
Me: Um... no. I mean, it's still hate language.
Arturo: But why? It's not like we're hurting any queers or anything.


Today, diagramming sentences:

Directions: Write and diagram a sentence with a predicate noun.
Coal: (talking as he writes) You.... are... a fag. Ha ha!
Me: No. No! Do NOT use that word in my class! You should know that by now, Coal!!
Coal: Whoa, sorry. It's not that big of a deal, Ms. Backes.
Emma: Coal, she has gay friends or something. She doesn't like it.
Me: Would you think it was okay if I wrote, "You are a nigger"??
Entire Class: GASP! (suddenly silent)
Coal: Um, no.....
Me: To me, those words are the same. To me, "fag" is JUST as offensive as "nigger."
Class: ...
Me: That's why I never want to hear anyone in this class use that word, EVER.
Class: ...!

(Bell rings -- class stumbles out)

Let's hope I don't get fired over that one...... SIGH.

08 October 2006

Adventures in Dogtown

Poor Zeke. He is known for many things, one of which is his ability/desire to eat everything in the universe. Some of the more notorious examples of this include:

-- a gallon bag full of oatmeal cookies

-- a pizza box - and then pepto bismol (proving that not only is he a garbage dump, he's also a genius!)

-- an inhaler (resulting in a trip to the emergency vet; goodbye, summer school paycheck)

-- everything in the garbage can -- and what doesn't get eaten gets spread across the floor. Wonderful.

-- cough drops (he's a fiend for them. they're like truffles to his little nose)

-- and so much more......

Today while we were at the grocery store, Zeke managed to get into the art room and devour a whole big box of ding-dongs leftover from 24-hour comic day. He ate all the chocolate ding-dongs (chocolate is very bad for dogs; however, Zeke's eaten six Baby Ruth candy bars in one day with no noticable effects), and the wrappers, and the box.

Around dinner time, we noticed that he's bloated up like a balloon or like the annoying girl in the chocolate factory. He's huge! R. gave him some doggy-pepto bismol, but it doesn't seem to be helping much. What does seem to be helping are the epic farts he's been sending out into the atmosphere. No lie: I was working in my office and I suddenly smelled the deadliest dog fart ever -- and Zeke was three rooms away, on the other side of the house, lying peacefully on the bed. Unbelievable. We're talking Ripley's Believe It Or Not, people.

I'm sure he'll be fine -- the time he ate all the oatmeal cookies it was like he didn't even notice. Now he's lying at R's feet, moaning and pooting. R's heart is far less black than my own, because he makes nice little sympathy noises and petting Zeke, whereas I just yell, "WAS THAT ZEKE? GROSS!"

But seriously, this is probably the first time in my life I've ever hoped that the dog farts more tonight. The more he toots, the better he feels......