28 December 2010

Thoughts on "The Boys of Summer"

I'm entrenched in Roger Kahn's The Boys of Summer right now and something he said rang true with regards to my work this past semester on the state of American higher education.

"All the NYU Bronx campus lacked was a balanced curriculum, an intellectual climate and girls. IT was not a college, but an anticollege. It was not a place of learning but a theater of memorization. It was an institution where students regarded Lear's catastrophe as insignificant unless it was worth eight points on an exam." (47-48)

Sounds familiar...

"'What do you want to do?'"

I paused. Dr. Jones looked like someone to trust. 'Well, sir, I believe I'd like to be a writer.'

'A writer!' Dr. Jones spoke so loudly that I blushed. 'Then what on earth are you doing at a place like this?'" (48)

Kahn, Roger. The Boys of Summer. New York: Perennial Library, 1987. Print.
----------------
Now playing: Muse - MK Ultra
via FoxyTunes

25 December 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!

Blah blah blah Dodgers blah blah blah no left fielder blah blah Ned sucks blah blah Eugenio Velez... really? blah blah blah.

23 December 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo



Stieg Larsson's Millenium trilogy, the current flavor of the week among popular literature, is everywhere. While the three books have already been adapted into hit Swedish movies, Hollywood has already drafted David Fincher of The Social Network and Fight Club fame to direct red-blooded American adaptations.

As for the book, it was certainly a satisfying read. It's paced very methodically and Larsson reveals the story's dark secrets like an onion - layer by layer by layer. I was disappointed that thematically it wasn't deeper and that one of our main protagonists, Mikael Blomkvist, doesn't develop more of a character in the 400-ish pages we spend with him.

But although we're lacking in the meat department, Dragon Tatoo's skeleton is as sturdy as any other. You get those great moments where your neck tingles and you can't put the thing down. You can tell why the book is as famous as it is - it's got a riveting story that blows the Dan Browns and Michael Crichtons of the world out of the water. It's not a difficult read and the public loves accessibility.

I'll follow the trilogy and pick up the next book soon. It's a worthwhile read, but it's certainly not a breakthrough or anything like that.

I give it 6 Vonneguts out of 10.


16 December 2010

Teaching Philosophy

This was an assignment I just turned in as part of my portfolio for my Theory of Teaching Writing and Reading course. I'm always pleased to have an opportunity to use the word Pedagogy. I wrote a 13-page paper on my strategies for fixing higher education. I'll spare you that, but I turned it in with an ailing fear that I may be a Fascist.

Robert Montenegro
English 565
Teaching Philosophy


I believe the freshman composition class, often the first academic experience to which new students are exposed, sets a tone for what the University will expect of them over the next four years. It is my duty as teacher to establish that tone and make sure students acquire the mental ammunition necessary to succeed as academics. That this hefty responsibility is frequently placed on the shoulders of inexperienced educators can be disconcerting, but I believe with the right mindset and approach this goal is well within reach.

The first thing I or any other English 110 teacher must do is descend from the academic Ivory Tower and lock myself out. My job is to welcome the students into the University community, not to hang over them in an air of superiority. My role is of guide, not god. I view teaching as a privilege where trust is bestowed on me to serve as facilitator for a budding group of scholars. Ego and hubris must be checked at the door if I am to succeed. In their place, enthusiasm and anticipation of learning must exist. As a Teaching Fellow, I am as much a student as anyone in the class, one of my goals being to learn as much from them as they from me. My attitude must always be positive and engaging. Fervor is contagious and students will react more ardently to a teacher they feel has their heart in the subject than one who comes across as either proud or glum.

Part of that enthusiasm needs to be channeled into accessibility. Writing, in its most basic form, is a tool of communication, its fundamental purpose being the transfer of ideas, stories, and information from one mind to another. It makes sense then for I as the writing teacher to be an adept communicator and to make myself available beyond the realm of class time and office hours. Students are encouraged to e-mail me regularly about any concern or question they have about my class, any other class, or anything at all related to college. Building trust and an amicable veteran-rookie relationship is important to me. Students are invited to join me out of class to partake in writing and reading groups, honing these skills for those who possess further interest.

It is imperative that this chummy atmosphere does not lead students to believe they can walk all over me and float through the class with ease. Assigned work will be heavily critiqued at mandatory one-on-one meetings. Good grades will only be handed out to work that is truly excellent. I find the professors I work the hardest for are the ones who want and expect the most out of me. A professor who approaches a student to discuss their writing commands more respect than one who simply passes back papers drenched in red ink. If I establish that I have an earnest interest in their success, the students will give their best effort to not let me down. The goal is to be a respected role model and not a pushover, demonstrating that the enthusiastic pursuit of success should be the status quo during a college career.


In my classroom, lecturing is discarded in favor of a more communicative, group-oriented class format. Desks are arranged in a circle to establish a sense of community conversation as opposed to a classroom simply focused on me. We use class discussion and the intellectual exploration of various topics to determine our own definition of good writing. Through this form of almost Socratic dialogue, students will ideally abandon the notion that there is always a correct answer they must reach in order to make the grade. Too often are students’ learning strategies impeded by an assumption that success comes from “working the system” or figuring out what the professor wants and then feeding it to him. This is an unfortunate trend that must be snuffed early in order to preserve the importance of academic self-exploration and the merit of thinking for oneself. For my students, the right answer is the one that they are able to defend and present the strongest. The content of their writing won’t be as important to me as their ability to effectively communicate. Remember - communication is the basic point here.

My main goal as an English 110 teacher is to establish a precedent for how students should conduct themselves throughout college. Although my demeanor and approach will be as welcoming and motivating as possible, there is a sense of gatekeeping inherent in the course’s difficulty. There will be those who do not reciprocate the same passion I promote during class or those who struggle with their ability to write. I will take a tough love approach to these students, offering them ample amounts of my own time and energy to try and help them as much as possible, but if they exhibit apathy or cannot manage to produce college level work by the end of the course, I will not grant them a pity pass. Intellectual apathy is an epidemic in our society and I hope to serve as part of the coalition that will bring us back down to Earth. We must raise the standards by which we define academic excellence and expunge the collegiate lethargy that has grown in the wake of setting the bar of success so low that students without an avid interest in learning are able to waltz away with a University degree.

The best strategy to accomplish this, and a place where I believe many fail, is to establish oneself as the amiable facilitator I have described. Just because I’ve evacuated the academic Ivory Tower does not mean I also evacuate intellectualism. I just make the conscious decision not be a jerk about it. To continue to be supercilious will only distance us further from a society that has outgrown stuck-up tweed coat intellectuals and requires a new breed of academic leaders who can maintain an affable educational environment while still challenging students to do their best. We must not be afraid of turning away those who do not exhibit the qualities of excellent collegiate thinkers, for to allow the undeserving to advance only debases the value of a college diploma and hurts society by trusting the keys to the Thunderbird in the hands of people who simply cannot drive. My teaching philosophy is to get the best out of my students by intensely challenging them in an atmosphere that is both comfortable and mentally stimulating, adequately preparing them for a successful and rewarding academic career.

13 December 2010

Difference between contender and pretender

While Ned Colletti is parading his 6-man rotation of Kershaw, Billingsley, Lilly, Kuroda, Garland, and Padilla as if it's the hottest thing on the block, the Phillies now have Halladay, Lee, Hamels, and Oswalt.

Yup.

30 November 2010

Not sure I had put these up yet or not...

"Portraits"

"Vespa"
Vespa was a natural born thief. She pulled off her first successful heist in 1994 as a 7 year old in the great raid of Mother's jewelry box, a masterful success if she did say so herself. She felt no remorse, held no guilt for her wandering morality. It was the thrill of swiping the banana from the fruit car that built her high as a Tibetan peak. When other preteens dreamed of dancing with a movie star or being a plastic pop darling, Vespa had her eyes on the big time con life.
Some kids know from the beginning their destiny will be laced with greatness - find the cure for cancer or win a Nobel Prize or something like that. Vespa was no different, though her definition of greatness likely clashes with those of our most moral and guiding fathers. Our priests who squeak in the confessionals. Our politicians wedged deep in pants pockets.
Vespa had an affair with crime, or rather, she has this affair. It never leaves in the morning. To elevate it to "relationship" would imply love. I'm not sure love is anywhere there. It's just sex. Just stimulation. Vespa's justice is dying to get into crime's pants and it is always wary to try and screw her. But in the morning they are together, intact, and Vespa ponders how to steal a John Deere hat atop a plaster mannequin, one of the Northridge mall's most eligible bachelors. She would steal a raccoon stuffed, in a shelter, or roadkill outside the Szechwan Palace.
It should come as no surprise that Vespa is unfaithful.

"Tito"
For about seventeen years, Tito had a seat at the end of the bar close to the jukebox. He arrived each day, coming from God knows where, before it got dark. The vampires arrived after dark. He wore a Dick Dastardly handlebar mustache, painting him as the tie-your-niece-to-the-train-tracks character of the bar, but perhaps more in a tongue in cheek, vaudeville, kiss from the past kind of way. The image was not ironic. Just of itself, it was it.
The opening riot takes stage as the sun disappears, the masks coming out one by one, a dystopian orchestra of gnarls and skids storming in from the wet confusion of our imperfect atmosphere. The office lunatics have changed their ties out for disguises, a masquerade of styles and fashions flooding in, the palm reader and the astrologer share a moment over Jack Daniels. Tito observes, a spy to their conversation, a stranger to their banal forms of contemplation, merit, and value, philosophical in the least, dependent on an opinion on a controversial Chinese diet. He taps his foot to Tom Petty, a staple of his jukebox repertoire. An L.A. legend. Nickels clang like cymbals in his shirt pocket, meeting to the beat of life's performance.
Tito drowns a Pabst Blue Ribbon, a favorite of Frank Booth and a squadron of Echo Park hipsters. Fife the barkeep follows the script and grants him another as a stray torpedo reaches the jukebox outside Tito's vision. The coin intake swallows Thomas Jeffersons like bullets retreating back into the gun barrel. A hack melody rings true in ten minutes time and the vampires dance and Tito drinks and the curtain tumbles down.
Tito is dying. He's been dying every single day of his life.

"Claudia"
Randy Newman sings a song about how two different kinds of people can live on the same street in L.A. yet be polar opposites in every imaginable way. Wealthy Malibu movie stars share Sunset Blvd. with bums in the gutters outside Echo Park. This is, of course, before it becomes Cesar E. Chavez Blvd. and shuts its eyes and bites its lips and wanders into East L.A. Fancy Victorian mansions in the west give way to cardboard villas in the east. Dumb dolls in fabulous penthouses to drunken neighbors kicking a Vietnamese liquor store owner in the back of his skull. I think they sing this song after each victory at Dodgers games.
She was a librarian, this Claudia Fuerte. She could tame the most vicious delinquent, silence the thoughtless joker, spring the chronic underachiever toward a higher spectrum of being. She once got a White Fence gang member to read "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie." He liked it.
That windy Thursday evening there were no heroes on the 3600 block of E. Olympic Blvd who could save her, lying like a bum in a gutter, thrice shot, twice rolled, her golden hair stained with a mixture of fresh asphalt residue and fresher blood. The crimson flows out and never stops, four men's worth of blood from this tiny little woman. Her killer never knew her. She never knew him. He had the choice between the scythe and the machete. A garden or a gun.
She was walking home from the market, fresh tortillas and fresher salsa mixing with her blood. A mixture of elements, a marriage of being. She remained, Claudia Fuerte did, in that gutter for an hour, as a 7 year old boy 17.5 miles west blew out his candles before saying goodnight.

------

"to Anywhere"
The small Mexican woman had come to pick a ticket, passage on a train to anywhere, wrapped in her shawl so that her shining green eyes pierced through like the light of a supernova. So bright. So lifeless. There was no future for these twin supernovas. Dust invaded and she shut her eyes with a cringe.
She remembered the events of the past week, She had narrowly avoided the horrific fates of her sisters. Esmeralda was kicked by a donkey and lay in bed, her mind incapable of clarity, her thoughts awash with the sterility of light gray and off-whites. Her sister Gloria was the victim of assault, the assailant - a complete mental collapse - robbing her blind of any sense of reason or feeling. The sight of her dearest elder sister as a vegetable with nary a cultivator. It was too much. It had been too much for far longer before then. Clara, the youngest, managed to choke on a grape, perhaps focusing all her attention on her unfortunate sisters and none whatsoever on her own unsteady matriculation. Her funeral was Friday.
Now it was Monday, and a slender sugarcane body leaned on a column for support. With Clara gone, Gloria without her mind, and Esmeralda simply a shell of her former self, the small woman was completely overwhelmed. She had nothing left at home. She had no home. The night before she had dreamed of a white hunger, lean but rigid, meeting her on a train and promising her a red bicycle on a southern California ranch with oranges and grapefruit and six chickens. She awoke in a sweat, her hair still a mess, her dress stained with the pea soup from the previous night's dinner, a meal she couldn't force into Gloria's mouth. The ghost of Clara was in the house, she knew, perhaps hiding behind a column of concrete. She packed her bags and began walking. Clara would want her to escape.
Poor Marielle needed liberation. The harbinger of freedom arrived at 2:43 p.m. that day in the form of an orange steam locomotive. It faced west.

"Balcony"
My balcony looks out upon the plaza. The flash of sunbeams beckons me and I step out. Just for a moment, I tell myself. Just for a moment.
Twilight is nigh and soon the boys playing ball on the grass below will have to retreat home, defeated by nature's dark streak, a cruelty atoned only by the smooth softness of morning - a softness too many of us miss out on, I think.
A behemoth of a youth, a simply massive kid who would give Babe Ruth a run for his money in a hot dog eating contest, lets out a mighty swing and sends a small comet toward my building. I can count the rotations of the little white sphere as it grows toward me, growing and growing like a beanstalk aiming for the clouds, pushed by magical forces underneath. A small boy takes chase.
The ball begins to lose steam, slowing and slowing in its advance as its apex comes nigh above my eye-line. It falls. And falls. And falls still. I hear the clicking of the boy's cleats below followed by a massive thud - his shoulder stopped in its motion by the building's brick façade. I hear as he cripples down into a pile, whimpering, but trying to keep from tearing up. I cannot see his face but I can hear his crumble. He is fighting the urge to run the water works. The infielders call him a faker. They tell him to get up and throw in the ball. The massive kid is also massively slow and only now rounds second base. The young outfielder struggles, my ears sensing the red-mud image burnt into his retinas - the last thing to pop into his peripheral vision before the collision.
I choose not to see how the play ends. I turn and re-enter my apartment. I reach for a bottle of alcoholic cider for an alcoholic and collapse on my futon, legs upon my coffee table. I don't drink coffee. The remote control calls my name and I turn on the Food Network. Then the Travel Channel Then ESPN. A magazine begs me to come home to Scotland. I've never been to Scotland. I'm too young to go to Scotland. Scotland is my drink coaster.
I stand gingerly, the creaks in this old body popping in the sterile air. I walk to the kitchen to prepare a TV Dinner.

24 November 2010

Streetwrite- I dreamed poem

I dreamed of lava red bulldozers in a crowded room
I dreamed of a red sensation in tune with your mind
I dreamed of time moving through a swampy soup
I dreamed of my own red desires and deemed them to be true
I dreamed of red crimson and red maroon
I dreamed of pastel reds on Easter egg heads
I dreamed a crimson met a maroon and shook hands and said my dear sir, how do you do
I dreamed crimson killed maroon, and said, "Not so good now, do you?"
I dreamed of red past midnight and into the day
I dreamed of King Crimson and the red that got away

21 November 2010

11/21

I started keeping a fiction journal.

For close to 17 years Tito had a seat at the end of the bar close to the jukebox. He arrived each day before it got dark and the vampires came in. He wore a Dick Dastardly handlebar mustache, painting him as the tie-your-niece-to-the-train-tracks character of the bar, but perhaps more in a tongue in cheek vaudeville kiss from the past kind of way. The image was not ironic, just of itself, it was it.

The opening riot takes stage as the sun disappears, the masks coming out one by one, a dystopian orchestra of gnarls and skids storming in from the wet confusion of our imperfect atmosphere. The office lunatics have changed their ties out for disguises, a masquerade of styles and fashions flooding in, the palm reader and the astrologer share a moment over Jack Daniels. Tito observes, a spy to their conversation, a stranger to their banal forms of contemplation, merit, and value, philosophical in the least, dependent on an opinion on a controversial Chinese diet. He taps his foot to Tom Petty, a staple of his jukebox repertoire. Nickels clang like cymbals in his shirt pocket, meeting to the beat of life's performance.

Tito drowns a Pabst Blue Ribbon, a favorite of Frank Booth and a squadron of Echo Park hipsters. Fife follows the script and grants him another as a stray torpedo reaches the jukebox outside Tito's vision. The coin intake swallows Thomas Jeffersons like bullets retreating back into the gun barrel. A hack melody rings true in ten minutes time and the vampires dance and Tito drinks and the curtain tumbles down.

19 November 2010

Mehr

magical conception
admirable lady
political minimum
hypersensitive
farseeing throng
abuzz
parallel hiatus
without photographs
bating pretense
into anesthetic

All those zealots who promised you some sort of magical conception of afterlife were lying through their teeth.

Death isn't that bad. It's not too different from falling into anesthetic sleep. You end up not all that sure where life ceased and death began. It's inaccurate to say death begins though, because death, or at least the act of being dead, doesn't really begin or end or have any sort of middle. That's how I see it anyway and I should know, since I see everything.

When you die the happenings of the world go on permanent parallel hiatus, societies that had been lively and abuzz stand silent and frozen like photographs without photographs, an entire civilization stuck in a moment waiting for a flash.

You can wait. Wait for it all to start up again. Wait with bating pretense. It's not moving.

The farseeing throng of Earth's intellectuals couldn't foresee this. I imagined heaven or hell or reincarnation or a basement card game with my great-grandfathers. I got loneliness. I got the privilege to be privy to the personal split-seconds of six billion people. A sleeping policeman parked outside a convenience store. The brilliant geophysicist in his study reading Archie comics. An admirable lady hitting the bong.

When you die your senses disappear. You don't need them anymore. What you're left with is the ability to move throughout the world, perceiving things as a movie camera would, able to travel up and down and all around the Earth. I tried to go to space once but I guess there is an end of the universe and it's only miles above us. The Mariana Trench is far too dark to navigate.

Your body remains in hiatus. The first thing you see when you're dead is you. Dead. The final breath dancing above your head, ready to disperse into a vibrant world. That breath has been dancing above my former head for quite some time now in Room 345 of Glendon-Krantz Memorial Hospoital. It's never going to disperse.

I was never hypersensitive to the actions of others, but I have to admit that it kind of smarts that my brother was partying in Vegas when I died. And that my sister was on the beach in Santa Monica applying an extra layer of suntan lotion to her already burnt skin. My ex-wife was too busy fucking her boyfriend to ring me and see how I was doing.

I had hoped maybe I'd see Mom and Pop when I got here. Instead I'm just stuck with all the people I had already been sharing space with for 34 years. What's another eternity between friends?

It was interesting for a while to explore snapshots of the lives of top Hollywood celebrities or sports superstars or senators who all appear to be doing the political minimum up in Washington D.C. That feels like eons ago. It might just be, though who knows how long an eon is. I'd check but the books are all frozen in time. I can't measure my time here in days because days depend on the rotation of the Earth and this ball hasn't spun in ages.

It's been forever.

17 November 2010

11/17

capacity for self-reliance
mannish woman
light-heartedness
dangerous skies
puzzle-solver
became a spot
kink and curl
conjures
but gently,
city intensely

The god of hate conjures dangerous skies above anything he sees as good, as joyous, as beautiful or satisfying in any way whatsoever. These are to be detested, for the god of hate knows only rejection, only discrimination, only the painful power of turning away. Only time, miserable truths.

The land under these dangerous skies became a spot on the map of relevance for the first time, for this was White Bird, Idaho, population of 106, a town that referred to itself as a city, and a city intensely focused on the pursuit of anonymity. It needed not be a speck, let alone a spot of any sort on any sort of map.

The mayor of White Bird, Idaho was Karla Gross, a mannish woman of forty-six, mother of five of White Bird's 106, broad-shouldered and intrinsically blessed with the capacity for self-reliance, as well as the ability to entertain the hopes of reliance of 120 other White Birdians. A light-hearted woman by nature, she became a titan in the face of danger, a general in the face of atack, a puzzle-solver in the presence of quandary. The only thing not mannish about Karla Gross, aside from her breasts, was the kink and curl of her tumbling blonde hair, cascading down from her head as a painter would construct a family of shooting stars fighting off gravity.

Karla Gross sat on her porch every evening between the hours of 4:30 and 6 p.m. and watched her children float on tire swings and construct palaces from tree branches. She smoked a pipe, as any self-respecting mannish woman from White Bird, Idaho, population of 106, would. But gently, carefully, softly did she smoke that pipe. Meticulous in the creation of her smoke, shapely and pregnant clouds of grey rising to meet was was quickly becoming a dangerous sky.

Where the greys of the dangerous sky met the face of the barren land, a specter upon a horse bolted into view, peeling away with no stop in sight, as if stop were a figment of life's imagination.

Karla Gross squinted to the horizon as the god of hate laughed to himself.

16 November 2010

Reflecting on "Are We Not There Yet"

I'm currently enrolled in what the LMU English Department calls StreetWrite, which sounds like some sort of far-out urban scribe class but really just happens to be a student teaching program. Interestingly enough, next semester I'll take RoadWrite, which just so happens to be some sort of far-out urban scribe class.

The fellow who teaches the StreetWrite class is Chuck Rosenthal, a rather respected author who has written several books and has his own Wikipedia entry, though he has to compete with some district attorney from Texas on the disambiguation page. He's a cool guy, which is more than just an offhand compliment from this California kid.

My first impression of Chuck came during the first class meeting in August when his 6'1'' frame lurched into class, his silver hair a medium length on the cusp of where you could describe him as "long-haired." He wears a broad goatee that covers his weathered face, a weathering that reveals much more experience than age. I think he resembles a drunken, haggard pirate, but in a good way. I think he's 50-something.

Our class meetings only lasted a month, the time spent working on poetry exercises we would eventually take out into the community and teach ourselves. Since then another student and I have been trekking to Port of Los Angeles High School in San Pedro Tuesday mornings and teaching poetry. I emulate Chuck's approach as well as I can, encouraging creativity over substance, fun over desire, silly phrases over brooding truths. One of the poems calls for the writer to experiment with metaphors. Chuck loves the ones that don't make sense. His favorite of mine was "I am a daft lunchbox." I think it's much more interesting than "I am a silent wind" or something like that. The best we came up with as a class was "obdurate lemon."

Chuck (it feels weird calling him that but I feel he's much too amiable to want to be called Dr. Rosenthal) recently had a book published about his travels with an LMU study abroad program (he was in charge but not in control, as he says) for four months in the Himalayas. I came across it in the library (one of the benefits of working behind the desk is you become very familiar with authors and titles) and decided to give it a read. I have to admit part of it was "this guy's my professor and it might impress him if I read his book." Another big part is my interest in travel memoirs, one of which is sitting in raw form on my nightstand back in Castaic.

Ever since reading Gregory David Roberts' Shantaram, India has fascinated me. Traveling India is to find yourself, to be on an adventure, to explore the great unknown. It's romantic and courageous and eye-opening. My buddy Trevor and I dream of taking in an afternoon cocktail at Leopold's in Mumbai, inhaling the essence of the other. I want to experience as many "others" as I can in my time on this Earth. India is near the top of that list.

I just finished the book and what I liked most about it was the perspective Chuck took in telling his story. He's skim on the exposition - we know he's there with the study abroad program and he gives a basic layout of where he's traveled, but most of the nitty gritty about his characters and the nature of his stay are unimportant in the long run. What is important is the experience itself, the knowledge and understanding that goes along with being, whether it be being in West Bengal.

I recommend the book - there are plenty of little quirks and insights similar to the Roberts book, although tweaked in a very real and human essence. It makes me want to really pursue publishing my journal from Europe, though there are probably some chapters I'll want to leave out.

14 November 2010

Im Jahr 2020

Im Jahr 2020 werde ich 31 Jahren alt sein.
Im Jahr 2020 werde ich wohl verheiratet.
Im Jahr 2020 werde ich perfektes Deutsch sprechen.
Im Jahr 2020 werde ich einen Magister Artium haben.
Im Jahr 2020 werde ich wohl nicht in Los Angeles Leben.
Im Jahr 2020 werde ich vielleicht einem Sohn oder eine Tochter haben.
Im Jahr 2020 werde ich ein guter Koch sein.
Im Jahr 2020 werde ich in einer netten Wohnung leben.
Im Jahr 2020 werde ich einen guten Job haben.
Im Jahr 2020 werde ich noch die Dodgers lieben (auch wenn sie immer noch nicht die World Series in meinem Leben gewonnen haben).

Nietzche was one angry mother______

According to Nietzsche, Christians are vermin whose religion brought about the fall of the Roman Empire, inhibits man's abilities to pursue true value and good, and serves vampire priests who suck on society like leeches. Martin Luther killed the Renaissance, sin was invented to control the masses, and Muslims have every right to hate Christians because Christianity was responsible from keeping the wonderful Islamic culture form blooming and showering the world with intellectual gifts.

My opinions on the arguments of The Anti-Christ vary, but I'd be a liar if I saw Nietzsche didn't make it entertaining. To borrow a phrase from Duke Nukem, he basically rips off the heads and shits down the necks of those he despises.

I think it was the publisher who ultimately decided on the title of the book. He probably felt the original title was too harsh: The Comedy Central Roast of Christianity.

I'm thinking of making my final paper for Rhetoric of Religion be about the shock and awe type of rhetoric you see from characters like our boy Friedrich and modern nuts like Glenn Beck.

23 October 2010

Melt Into Me

Melt Into Me is a song I wrote 3 or 4 years ago that I could never figure out lyrics to. They came to me in the shower today.

Like drips from a faucet
my soul you can't stop it.
Metal and iron just can't hold me in.

Your hand in my palm
I will take you along
and we'll ride on sunshine until we begin.

I've traveled all lands
over sea and through sands
the world is an easel and I am Van Gogh

I'll fill you with color
if you'll be my lover
and they'll hang us in the Louvre next to each other.

I melt into you
and you'll melt into me too.
I melt into you
and you melt into me too.



I'll find a way to upload it so you can hear it.

I have a bunch of other stuff to post but I haven't had the time.

EDIT - you can hear it here.

13 October 2010

Writing Exercise - 10/13

Tim Wallach is getting around a lot - interviews with seemingly half the teams with managing vacancies. Fingers crossed that he and Logan White won't leave.

Playing ball on the grass
faker
cider
the flash
red-mud
clicking
cripples
underneath
shoulder
twilight

My balcony looks out upon the plaza. The flash of sunbeams beckons me and I step out. Twilight is night and soon the boys playing ball on the grass below will have to go home, defeated by nature's dark streak. A massive youth sends a fly ball toward my building. I can count the rotations of the little white sphere as it grows toward me like an extension of Jack's beanstalk, pushed by forces underneath. A small boy runs after it. The orb begins to fall, losing gas at its apex above me. I wave to it as it dives beneath. I hear the clicking of the boy's cleats below me followed by a massive thud - his shoulder stopped in its motion by the building's brick facade. I hear as he cripples down into a pile, whimpering but trying to keep from tearing up. He is below me and I cannot see his face but I know he is fighting the urge to run the water works. The infielders call him a faker and tell him to get up and throw the ball in. The massive kid is also massively slow, and only now rounds second base. The young outfielder struggles, his eyes probably have the image of red-mud bricks burnt into his retina - the last thing to pop into his peripheral vision before the collision.

I choose not to see how the play ends. I turn and re-enter my flat. I reach for a bottle of alcoholic cider and collapse on my futon, legs resting upon the coffee table, the remote calling my name to turn on the Food Network, Travel Channel, or ESPN. A magazine begging me to come to Scotland hides beneath my bottle.

I stand and walk to the kitchen to prepare a TV dinner.

Fulbright

Just finishing my application for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Norway.

Destressing tomorrow.

12 October 2010

Writing Exercise - 10/12

Amazement
Muscle-Flexing
Twitch
Stuffed in the Garbage
Against the Waves
Shadows
Bulletin Board
Squawking Birds
Bruised
Mindless Organism

I look out upon at the ground 45,000 feet alone with amazement.

Here goes nothing.

A slight twitch in my leg and I'm suddenly free-falling toward Earth, accelerating at 9.8 meters per second, screaming my voice into extinction. The gravity force pushes my body, I feel like I've been stuffed int the garbage compactor of heaven. At the same time I'm free to fly like so many squawking birds. In a second I'm liberated from all obligations, all limitations of the structured real world. I'm a mindless organism swimming in the the primordial jelly of all time. I am the hurricane winds performing the tango against the waves of the mighty seas. My heart is bruised. The waves cannot, or will not, match my dance. Suddenly the primordial jelly has become a weight-lifting competition in the upper realm of Latvia. Muscle-flexing Baltic flesh statues stand high above me like the forgotten Colossus of Rhodes and his distant cousins from the far north. I open my left eye and clouds float by. My right is in the shadows behind a 1980's Vietnamese take-out restaurant in Biloxi. The bulletin board inside offers the community a chance to learn about Indo-Chinese culture. The restaurant is empty.

My chute won't release.

11 October 2010

I must admit

I must admit I've been a hypocrite.

Before the semester I harped on and on about the laziness and conniving nature of college students who dodge work to play the system.

I feel like I must have cursed myself.

Here I am and I must have read about half of what I was assigned. It's another case of me biting off more than I can chew. With the Fulbright (Norway 2011 vennligst), DAAD (Münster 2011 bitte), ADG (I'm secretary and VP Finance), along with the basic work of everyday life, I find myself overwhelmed. And I'm ashamed.

I get such fulfillment when I actually do my assigned work and learn. But I am so distracted. I am addicted to the internet; my time on Sporcle outweighs my time with Sören Kierkegaard.

I let my distractions overcome me. I manage my time poorly. I'll end up with a high GPA but will get my report card having learned far less than I could have.

And that's a bummer.

--

Meanwhile, the Giants beat the Braves. As Molly Knight says, we Dodger fans went 3 for 3 in the Wheel of Misfortune. The Yanks, Phils, and Giants all advanced to their respective league championship series. And here I am, forced to root for Philadelphia.

Goddammit.

Worst Case Scenario

I don't know what I'll do if the Giants win the World Series.

Writing Exercise - 10/11

First, check out MSTI's Offseason Dodgers plan. Interesting read - can't say it's realistic or that I agree with everything, but interesting it most definitely is...

Independently
Statements
Contrary
Flag
For The Record
Auctioning it off
Coordination
Toronto
Two Halves
Siblings

"For the record, he hit me first."

"There is no record here, Dale. This is not a court of law. My justice system works independently. You do not have the right to remain silent, nor does anything 'for the record' matter to me. What matters is that you and Clark here created a scene. This was not just a squabble between two siblings. This is a true incident, and I'm not your parents so we're not dealing with it that way either. On the contrary, we're going to do this by the book, bringing the two halves together to assess the situation. I've heard your statements over and over again. It's time to lay down the punishments. By my honor under this great flag, in this great country, justice will be served. You are not free to just do what you like. You cannot just hit each other in my school. If you want to be a rule-breaking anarchist you can move up to Toronto. But as long as we're here at Buffalo Public High School #118 and I have the job of assistant principal, I will administer the coordination and execution of justice. I'm taking your silliness and auctioning it off. We mean business here, gentlemen. Time to act like it. You'll both get week's detention during lunch, spent in my office. And your parents will be asked to handle this mess too. This extends home. Now what do you have to say to that?"

"Yeah, but for the record, he hit me first."

10 October 2010

Writing Exercise - 10/10

I'll try to these one a day for as long as I can.

Depot
55 Minutes
Demonstrate
Fuchsia
Cold Comfort
Courage and Tenacity
Custody
Lump
Diploma
Disguise

We've been backed up near this rail depot or three days. The situation has allowed us to demonstrate levels of courage and tenacity even we didn't know we were capable of. The way things are going, neither will the world.

The Ukrainian winter is miserable. There is no love in this frozen wasteland. Perhaps the only cold comfort allotted by this terrible region is the fuchsia and gold of the dawn, beautiful colors that rain down from the heavens on this otherwise miserable place. This lasts for 5 minutes. The other 55 minutes of the 5am hour consists of me praying I don't end up with a mortar shell as a hat.

Our white fatigues are hardly a disguise worth having. Those bastards out there just shell the hell out of this whole place. They figure we're a small lump out there in the white blanket - they'll flatten us yet.

Clark is whimpering in his sleep. A nightmare has taken custody of his mind. It's a shame his drams have to reflect our real life. He is reliving his high school graduation, a high school graduation he never attended, receiving a diploma he doesn't have. He whispers his mother's name. Tears in his slumber freeze on his cheek. The long winter is only longer until we're dead. The other option is rescue. We are dead.

09 October 2010

Writing Exercise - 10/9

Shawl
Pick a ticket
Cultivator
Clarity
Pillar
A white hunter
Donkey
Mental collapse
Pea Soup
Choke

The small Mexican woman had come to pick a ticket for passage on a train to anywhere, wrapped in her shawl so that her shining green eyes pierced through, like the light of a supernova, so bright yet so lifeless. Those eyes had no future.

She remembered the events of the past week, the horrific fates of her sisters she had narrowly avoided. Esmeralda was kicked by a donkey on Monday and lay in a bed, her mind incapable of clarity of thought. Her sister Gloria was assaulted by a complete mental collapse, the sight of her dearest elder sister as a vegetable with nary a cultivator was just too much. Clara, the youngest sister, managed to choke on a grape, perhaps her mind set on her two unfortunate sisters and not her own mastication. With Clara gone, Gloria without her mind, and Esmeralda simply a shell of herself, the young woman was overwhelmed.

She had a dream where a white hunter, lean but rigid, met her on a train and promised to take her with him to the Amazon to hunt jaguars. She woke up in a sweat, her hair still a mess, her dress stained with the pea soup from the previous night's dinner that she couldn't force into Gloria's mouth. The ghost of Clara was in the house, she knew it, perhaps hiding behind a pillar or shelf. Clara would want her to get out.

Poor Marielle needed liberation.

08 October 2010

Writing Exercise - 10/8

As I can no longer watch the Reds choke away game 2 in Philadelphia, I felt I'd share a writing exercise I learned my freshman year from the Teaching Fellow I had for English 110.

Typically this is done in a small group, though it works alone as well. First you find a random text, anything from a Tolstoy masterpiece to whatever magazine is currently serving as this month's bathroom meeting. I chose Sören Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling, the 2008 version from Wilder Publications and A & D Publishings. I opened in to a random page (64-65) and started picking out words I liked.

When you do this with a group you can all peruse your texts and pick three words (or phrases) each. Since I'm alone I just went ahead and chose ten. Once the group has their words everyone pools them together...

Bridal
Envious
Blissful
Foretold
Pleasure
Catastrophe
Enemies
Ancients
Solitary
Insulted

Those are my ten.

Now I set my phone timer to ten minutes and write as much as I can (by hand - no typing) until time is up. The topic is open. The only rules being the necessary inclusion of the ten (or however many the group has) words or phrases. It's a great exercise because it forces you to think on your feet and write off the top of your head, spontaneously. Your writing won't be your best and errors are okay. It's interesting to see where the creative mind will run with ten words and how others will fly off in different directions with their pieces.

As soon as ten minutes have passed, each member of the group shares. Here's what I wrote, no revisions:

The venue for such a clash of enemies was perfect. A battleground strewn with the littered souls of pink ribbons and those balloons that didn't quite make it. If this conflict had been foretold by the ancients on the side of a Grecian Urn or in a massive epic poem, we would have laughed. No one could be that cruel - so inhumane. There isn't a single solitary soul on this planet who could be as vile and abhorrent, capable of creating catastrophe and destroying lives, like those our ancestors predicted, those they warned us about.

There is no laughing now. Just repressed hatred.

The Jeanene Karen Vilchus bridal shower is the setting of our story - an awful story with pure rancor and a detestable soul beneath such as blissful outer skin. The bridesmaids are envious. The future Mrs. Richard Kenyon Clark has on her hands quite the catch, a young entrepreneur, handsome, about to become very wealthy, and the apple of Tanya Diana Klebold's and Victoria Ellen Rosenbloom's and Carrisa Tina Guayamar's eyes, not to mention the bane of Cyndie Josephine Cya's and Chelsea Hannah Broom's existences. The bridesmaids from Hell. All insulted by Jeanene's audacity in marrying Richard, all fueled by want, all bitter, all taking pleasure in their loathing passive-aggressiveness against their ugly, no-good, fat-assed, cellulite-infected, chicken-footed, cankled, fake haired BFF Jeanene. Ugh....

Like I said - lots of fun, not my best writing, but it's practice. The most important thing for a writer to do is simply write.

29 September 2010

Excerpt from my short story in progress

He is devilishly handsome.

"Let us not be so remiss as to disregard the wisdom of the great Roman poet Horace," sermonizes the beautiful man, cheekbones carved by Michelangelo himself. "’For the sins of the fathers you, though guiltless, must suffer.’”

The stone cellar walls play stage to shadow gyrations, the soft staccatos of the torches conducting a ballet of illuminated shapes. His arms dance with bold sensation, every syllable pushing feeling. And the blackest darkness of the room, the limb long slender specters, performs a wicked tango upon the stone. Haunting. Sinful. Intoxicating. This fellow is charisma incarnate. And while the conductor of this hypnotizing production may be the flame, one has to ask who, or what, it may be that conducts the fire.

His listeners, a congregation of stiff black-cloaked figures, watch each and every move of those godly cheekbones as they, in a mutual endeavor, serve as the gatekeepers of his rhetoric, opening and closing his majestic jaw and unleashing the message, its meaning less important than the manner of its reveal. He could ask the men to climb to the highest tower of Heidelberger Schloss and emulate the ravens. They would oblige. Anything Herr Schwarzenherz requests, Herr Schwarzenherz sees done. This is what makes my employer fearful.

Horace could not be more correct if he were a book of balanced equations. Our German state is in crisis following the Great War, a war built upon the idiocies of our parents and all the other patriarchs of Europe. And with defeat, we who are left must suffer. The Weimar Republic is weak, the Communists are leading massacres in die Ruhrgebiet to the north, and there are dangerous men like Schwarzenherz, who always seem to come out of the woodwork when weak and defeated men need a crazed maniac to follow.
I am personally relieved the war is all done. Even in crisis there is still always hope for a safe tomorrow. The suffering now is nowhere near the suffering of a few years past, when black smoke and bombs blanketed the entirety of eye’s vision. Charred grass. Forever gray sky. At the very least, there is color now. And perhaps the war was inevitable and we were destined to lose. At least it is done. I have seen a lot of regrettable things. I have done a lot more. At least it is done.

I am not paid to think. It is a dreadful habit of mine.


Copyright 2010 - Robert M. Montenegro

23 September 2010

Ich bin so müde

The semester is in full gear and I've got 15 units, two jobs, and a dozen textbooks that I should be paid overtime for reading.

Safe to say I'm tired.

14 September 2010

Why I dig Chris Christie

Since I guess all I've posted recently are communist manifestos and diatribes detailing my vast anti-American hate (Praise Allah!), let me take some time to highlight Chris Christie, a guy who I hope to God doesn't turn to the dark side and affiliate himself with nutjobs like Palin or the Tea Party wing of the Republican party.

Watch as he destroys this know-it-all teacher, first by chiding her for her childish behavior and then defending himself against her attacks point by point. There's some fuzzy math (what's $100 million between friends?), but I like his bluntness. Whether its just the way he is or simply a show to set him apart - it works.

Good for you, Chris Christie. The phattest governor in the land.

11 September 2010

I am 9/11!

Two can play it at this game, Greg.

The Curse of the Piazza would like to welcome loyal contributor Glenn Beck to the site.

Greetings Fellow God-Fearing Patriots!

It has come to my attention that there are those who have the audacity to call themselves AMERICANS who dare to challenge the sanctity of America's most terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day! I don't know what kind of glue these terrorist lovers have been sniffing, and who they think they are trying to make 9/11 an issue to be responded to as opposed to what it rightfully is - NOTHING BUT A TRAGEDY. GOD CRIED FOR AMERICA THAT DAY.

Who in their right (or in this case, left - like Trotsky-left) mind would dare suggest that 9/11 should be anything but a day to talk about how awesome America is and mope around about how the Muslims hate us so much?!?

I don't know about you
, but I don't want anyone trying to turn such an emotional and sacred topic as 9/11 into a medium for "progressive" blabber. Oh, I hate hate hate that world so much. You know who else were progressive? The Nazis. They called the Holocaust progress. And Jews died on 9/11 too! 9/11 was just like the Holocaust! Don't you see?!?

Only someone like Hitler would try and pick you up off your 9-year crying shoulder and force you to think outside of your comfort zone. Not in my country. I don't want anyone forcing me to do anything. Not in my country.

Do you think Abraham Lincoln, a glorious American hero and republican treasure, would be so inconsiderate at a time like this?!? It's not like his Gettysburg Address urged Americans to look forward past the horrors four months past and keep our eyes on more broad, universal goals. No way would he be such a wuss. The way I remembered it, he called out Jefferson Davis and damned the Confederacy to the depths of fiery hell. Good for him. God loved Abraham Lincoln.

These villains want America to be weakened. They want you to completely forget 9/11 happened. And if they're successful, 9/11's influence on everything will completely disappear, because this is exactly how all this works!

But let's get back to me. I'm like 9/11. I've been attacked by the terrorists - terrorists of the progressive left. They've progressed to strip God away from my country. They've progressed to strip away my rights and take my taxes to pay for Islamic Terrorist Training Centers at Ground Zero. They are trying to knock over my twin towers - for my love of freedom and God are just that, two large spiritual structures. I wouldn't want people forgetting me if these Dumbocrat terrorists were to succeed.

And how dare they speak ill of America anyway? Don't they know that this country could never succeed if there are citizens questioning the values and actions of society? Who's ever heard of a nation getting better when its citizens refuse to accept dogmatic patriotic doctrine as holy and sacred truth? I think these communists are trying to destroy America from within, much like the entire religion of Islam destroyed the Twin Towers (and not like how the entire religion of Christianity destroyed the Middle East multiple times in the Middle Ages - that was different, much different).

No, Patriots. I won't stand for this. I won't let any of those dope smoking, Lady Gaga worshiping, America hating hippies turn 9/11 into a political issue. That's why I want all of you to think of 9/11 when you join a tea party and harass Mexicans and berate Muslims and vote for Sarah Palin in 2012.

That is how we will re-establish faith and honor in our country - through dogmatic closed-mindedness. We have freedom in America, but not the freedom to doubt America. We have no faults. America has never acted wrongly. America is awesome, like Jack Bauer, whose show 24 didn't suck and wasn't absolutely retarded.

Farewell, Patriots. And to all you nay-saying "Americans" who shed tears of joy whenever an American flag is burned by those Arabs in Afghanistan you love so much... I say this: I hate you, for a man and his opinions are inseparable. And God hates your opinions. And I hate your opinions. And God hates you.

Nazi.

-Glenn

9 years later, still a big hole in the ground - that's progress

Nine years and this is all we have to show for it.

We've had nine years of compassion and sympathy, of remembrance and reflection. Nine years of feeling so damn bad for ourselves about 9/11.

Ask a second grader what they know about 9/11 and you probably won't get much, considering none of them were alive in 2001. They'll give you the basic gist their parents have talked about - the U.S. was attacked by terrorists who knocked down these two big buildings and it was very sad.

It was sad. The symbolic meaning of 9/11 is undeniable. The self-proclaimed "Greatest Country in the World" was shown to be very, very susceptible to the right kind of attack. Despite our vast economic, political, and militaristic wealth, a small group of extremists was able to destroy the tallest buildings in America. This was a wake-up call for everyone.

But now here we are, nine years later, and this nation is still groggy from that wake-up call.

The United States is a far worse country since 9/11. We've seen civil liberties stripped from citizens in the name of "national security." Our ludicrous federal government bureaucracy has swollen to an unfathomable (and incredibly inefficient) size. Patriotism has quickly transformed into a laughable political tool.

And the one building in downtown New York that anyone seems to care about is an Islamic community center.

As a country, we're too focused on the Islamic influence on 9/11. The United States is Islamophobic, and I'm not just talking about Koran-burning preachers or Michael Savage.

When I look back and think of the overall effects of 9/11, I can't hold much more contempt for those who acted out the attacks than I do for Professor Plum for his actions in the conservatory with the candlestick. The perpetrator is just another part of the overall equation. Instead of thinking about 9/11 in a universal sense, too many folks just like to focus on the Muslim part. While we couldn't just let those responsible get away with it (catching Professor Plum is part of the game after all), we shouldn't have neglected the many other swirling details and effects of the event.

How is our overall understanding of 9/11 any different from that of the aforementioned 2nd grader? Don't most of us just see 9/11 that way? Shouldn't we have advanced further as a country in 9 years to see see 9/11 as more than just Muslim terrorists who made us sad?

Part of our over-emphasis on the "bad guy," our perpetual preoccupation with Islam, is the comfort we get from our sense of victimization. It makes us feel better about ourselves and all that we do if we continue to believe that somebody had wronged us so much, and continues to pose the threat of wronging us again.

We need to stop feeling so fucking bad for ourselves all the time about 9/11. That sense of "woe is me" has led to nothing good. There are a lot more dead U.S. soldiers from wandering around a desert somewhere than the 3,000-ish civilians who died in the 9/11 attacks. The symbolic meaning of the day cannot be denied, but Hiroshima/Nagasaki this was not.

There's nothing wrong with remembering, but to have every September 11 just be a day where we commemorate the event and cry and feel sorry for our poor selves while there is still a huge hole in the ground means we've missed the point.

04 September 2010

Rethinking purpose

It's funny. My initial purpose for starting this blog was primarily because I really dig Dodger blogs and I thought it'd be fun to get in on the action. The fact that I could practice my writing (since I legitimately felt I had become worse at it the past few years) was a bonus. The ability for me to drop some knowledge every once in a while was merely a secondary goal.

Well last week my roommates and I canceled our cable because we don't watch anything enough to warrant paying as much as TimeWarner charges us for such miserable television service. The Dodgers aren't even interesting to follow anymore, as their ineptitude on the field is only matched in pure awfulness by the farce that is the McCourt trial. The season is almost over, Vin Scully is coming back next season, and I'm apathetic.

And school is back in session. That alone is going to take up a lot of my time. This is mostly because, for the first time, I legitimately feel like a university student. This stems from an array of different things I picked up while abroad - philosophies and opinions, ideas and realizations - that caused be the rethink my role as a scholar. I feel like, after 3 years of running in place, I've finally found my purpose. I'm ready to realize it.

I'm taking German II, Theory of Teaching Writing and Reading, Rhetoric of Religion, StreetWrite (student teaching), and American Lit II. I'm passionate about each class and I'm ready to pulverize the status quo and truly be - wait for it, wait for it, wait for it - intellectual.

For isn't that what a liberal arts college is about in the first place? A place for intellects to come together and learn from each other, a place where knowledge is the ultimate goal.

But in America, knowledge has ceased to be the goal of education. Where and when we lost our way, I'm not quite sure. But the aim of so many college students is no longer to be scholars and intellectuals. The aim is to make the grade. The grade. The grade is the goal of education for America's students.

It stems from our system being so test-based. It stems from the fact that schools have become so competitive. It stems from a bachelor's degree being the standard minimum requirement for a successful career.

But never mind the reasons why - we must focus on the unfortunate truth that education is becoming (if it hasn't already reached this sad point) a sham. People from all age groups - from elementary school to college - have been bred in a way where the ultimate goal is to sustain a solid GPA. That's it. If you graduate high school with a 4.0, you're set.

But how many kids graduate high school with a solid GPA and don't know squat? How surprised would you be if I told you it was quite a few?

It's not enough that the standards we hold students to have become laughably low. Remember when getting an A-grade meant you were truly an exceptional student? Remember when "exceptional" meant what it literally means - an exception to the norm? But when you see how many A-grades are given out, it makes it hard to distinguish between those students who were truly exceptional and those who were simply there every day. We're grouping the prodigies together with the posers.

Our colleges are full of a bunch of idiot who have mastered playing the system. Any idiot can cram the night before and get an A on a test. Any jackass can turn in an extra credit assignment. Most classes have review sessions that are less "let's go over basic ideas" and more "here's the test a day early." I remember in German last semester a specific review session for a midterm or final where my classmates were able to get the format of the test, the contents of each section, and even the exact verbs we would need to be conjugating.

Our purpose for taking the class was to learn basic German so we could function better abroad. The idea of testing us was to assess our progress in understanding basic concepts of the language. Yet come the big day, it was our ability to take a test that was truly being tested. Those of us who took good notes on the test format were guaranteed a good grade. Our actual knowledge or progress up to that point really didn't matter.

I've been developing what I call The Template Theory. My research is nowhere near extensive enough yet to publish my thoughts, but here at the outset I feel like I can explain the basic tenants of my ideas.

So much of the things students are comfortable with in our education system come in template form. The syllabus, class structure, grading scale, etc. etc. etc. - it's all a sort of checklist for success. Many students have been bred to think of education (and life, for that matter) as one big fill-in-the-blank. Students like following directions and meeting expectations. They like order and detailed, definitive lesson plans. This is, after all, the easiest way to memorize and regurgitate information. Our students are excellent at this.

But let's take a look at a hypothetical situation and test this dependence on order. A teacher stands up in front of a class and says, "your one assignment this semester will be to write a research paper expanding on a theme you've learned in my course. It'll be due on my desk the last day of class. Any questions?"

What happens? Naturally, the questions erupt like automatic gunfire. This kind of assignment description would not fly at LMU.

Student 1: "How long does it have to be?"
Trying to assess the professor's expectations.
Professor: "However long it needs to be."
Student 2: "But what's the minimum?"
Coming back to the fact that you need to live up to a professor's expectations.

Professor: "If you think you can write a good research paper in 2 pages - more power to you. It's not quantity that counts, it's quality."
Student 1: "Wait, you're saying it can be 2 pages and I can get an A?"
Professor: "It's not likely, but not necessarily impossible."
Student 2: "Wait. So it has to be more than that? We need to know what you want here."
Failure to realize that this isn't something that ought to be explained further.

Student 3: "What are some possible topics? Will you provide a list?"
Trying to get the prof. to feed you a topic

Professor: "Anything you want. No list."
Student 4: "Well how will we know if our topic is okay?"
Playing to expectations again.

Professor: "Your topic will be okay. It's anything you want."
Student 3: "Do we need citations?"
Asking what should be an obvious question.

Professor: "Of course, this is a research paper."
Student 4: How many do we need?
Professor: "However many you need."
It's safe to say this kind of thing wouldn't fly at LMU.



We're excellent at developing problem solvers. The students all asked questions based on answering their own question: "how am I going to succeed here?"

But we're awful at developing people who think outside the box. My qualm with problem solvers is that they're not idea people. They just absorb information and regurgitate it back out. A ton of my papers for classes in the past 3 years have been based entirely on things said by my professors. I got A's on those papers, encouraging the idea that all I had to do to be successful is just regurgitate the information learned. Rarely have I been challenged to think for myself and write a paper based on something I wasn't just force-fed by Dr. Whatshisface.

So, to make a long story short, I've finally realized my purpose is not to be a drone. I'm going to read all my assignments, I'm going to try and set myself apart.

I want to be exceptional and I know that I don't need someone else's template to get there.

30 August 2010

The Battle of Los Angeles

What a photo.

Today is the first day of Jamie v. Frank..., or is it Frank v. Jamie? For the sake of consistency, I'm going to call it Shithead v. Shithead.

For all your Shithead v. Shithead coverage, make sure you follow www.DodgerDivorce.com. The site's author, Joshua Fisher, has a background in law and has been covering the story for months now on his blog. He's appeared on ESPN Radio, among other places, to discuss the trial. He's also talked to me on Twitter before. Because I'm awesome. Or as awesome as a Twitterer can be...

Regardless - Manny's gone, season's over, and the team looks flat once again after an glimmer of life in Milwaukee.

Aside from Shithead v. Shithead, the other big matchup to look forward to is Mattingly vs. Wallach - as Donnie Baseball and Tim Wallach both appear to be in solid positions to jump into the captain's seat next season.

Be it here resolved that Curse of the Piazza officially endorses Tim Wallach for manager.

And Donnie Baseball for bat boy.

And Jonathan Broxton for Taiwan.

29 August 2010

Loaves and Fishes

Here's something different.

My fraternity volunteered at the Loaves and Fishes Soup Kitchen in Santa Ana yesterday. It was a wonderful time and I hope we go back again soon. We did crafts and played games with the dozens of kids there. I must admit that I expected a sort of two-bit operation (it's run out of an Elementary School), but the whole thing was a gigantic event run by a lot of very motivated people dedicated to feeding hundreds of underprivileged families.

I was proud to be a part of it. Here's a link to the photos I took. Check them out.

28 August 2010

The Left Field Pavilion: Beard leads the way

The Left Field Pavilion: Beard leads the way

M.Brown says all there needs to be said.

This was the first game I've watched in a while - partly because I've decided against making myself sick, partly because I no longer have cable in my apartment (really - I don't watch enough to pay that much per month).

But the Dodgers have put together a nice little string of wins and gained ground in the race.

I'm calling it now - a false hope rally to trump all false hope rallies.

23 August 2010

Ain't seen nothing Yhency


Here's some news on a guy I figured would simply remain a staple of DodgerBlues.com's "Random Dodger" array of stiffs... from MLB Trade Rumors:

The Mets signed former big league reliever Yhency Brazoban out of the Mexican League, according to Matt Eddy of Baseball America. The 30-year-old right-hander enjoyed some success out of the Dodgers' 'pen in 2004-05, but hasn't pitched in the majors since 2008.

Only Omar Minaya.

22 August 2010

Vin Scully to Return in 2011!

Vin Scully:
“I’m just honored and humbled to continue my association with the Dodgers, which has been a major part of my life."


He's coming back!

Wonderful news. He's going to do all home games and NL West road games - same deal as this year and year before.

Awesome. Just Awesome.

Here's to Year 62 in the booth, Vin!



----

The Dodgers, in their efforts to dampen this great announcement, claimed fatboy Rod Barajas today from the Mets. He's not good. At all. But he's better than Ellis and Ausmus at this point.

Vin Scully to Make Decision on Future Today

Make sure you tune in before the game today, as Vin Scully intends to make an announcement regarding his future, according to the Times' T.J. Simers.

"I know what I am going to do and I would imagine the Dodgers will arrange things so an announcement can be made before [Sunday's] game," said Scully, who will be 83 before the start of next season. "I'd like to do that so everyone hears it at the same time. It's the proper way to do it."


The way the situation is handled leads me to believe that, after over 60 years, this is it.

If it is - thank you, Vin.

21 August 2010

Slow Week


My apathy for that miserable ballclub has made this a rather slow week around Curse of the Piazza headquarters. Last night they lost another game where they scored only one run... on a squeeze no less. As much as I love hearing Vin, I can't subject myself to such agony. There's only one word that can adequately describe the 2010 LA Dodgers season.



Seriously - two straight years of being only 3 games away from the World Series and this is the 2010 Dodgers? You can call me "fairweather" or what you will, but there's one thing I'm not and that's a chump. And you'd have to be a chump to continue lapping up this rotten milk.

So instead of lamenting this abortion of a season, find something else to do. I've been active trying to set up some new organizational changes for my fraternity. I've also been listening to a lot of Righteous Brothers... take that as you will.

I can think of at least two dozen terrible things I'd rather do that go to the Ravine, where the level of my game enjoyment, already dwindling year to year, has freefalled in 2010.

Miserable parking.
Miserable concessions.
Miserable stupid fans.
Miserable scoreboard antics.
Miserable singers butchering God Bless America when all I really want to do is stretch.
Miserable, miserable Dodgers.

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My sister, as some of you know, is a hell of a singer.
Check out these two videos:
Meghan Montenegro sings "I Ain't Got You"
Meghan Montenegro sings "Hurt"

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I built a new website for my chapter of ADG. It is here: ADGLambda.com

17 August 2010

Final Thoughts on KC

I was pleasantly surprised with Kansas City as a town - there's a lot more to it than barbecue (though that's not to say the barbecue isn't to die for, because it most certainly is).

KC is cheap, the people are friendly, and the nightlife is kickin'. There is plenty to do and see when it comes to sports, museums, and bars. My biggest regret was missing the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (despite the fact I repeatedly posted here that I was heading to see it on any number of days). I did, though, catch the National World War I Memorial and Museum and the Nelson-Atkins Museum, both with some amazing displays and atmospheres.

Despite the sweltering heat, I managed to get in a 5K run, Ultimate Frisbee competition, and my own little jog to Kansas the state, the border between it and Missouri located only a mile and a half west of the hotel. I think that's the only time I've ever crossed state line on foot, though the border between California and Nevada in Primm might go through the outlet mall there and could have been my real first. It's too close to call though.

The hotel was probably one of the best I've ever stayed at - a fact reinforced by its high-profile guests during my time there: The New York Yankees. When they weren't pounding the Royals, the Bronx Bombers were attracting hordes of fans, shutting down the elevators, and plain moseying around the lobby with a 7-ft behemoth of a security guard keeping watchful eye.

Throughout the week I spotted Joe Girardi, Mariano Rivera (and his 11 kids), Jorge Posada, and Andy Pettitte in one form or another. The hotel was very strict about its "no privacy invasions" policy so I never offered more than a nice polite smile. The entire week there were tons of Yankee fans, often in father and son combos, itching for a stray photo or autograph. I never saw anyone fortunate enough to come away with anything.

Overall, despite the fact I sweat enough to fill the Missouri River basin, I really enjoyed Kansas City. It's the closest to the South I've ever spent an extended period of time and I definitely felt the trickles of the famous Southern Hospitality wherever I was. The fellows at ADG Zeta chapter did a great job at making us all feel at home and I look forward to going back and seeing all I didn't get to see the first time.

Photos

National World War I Museum




Freak T-Storm amidst 103 degree weather


Kansas City - City of Fountains


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The Dodgers did the unthinkable yesterday. Yes - they did implode in the 9th again but that's come to be expected. The unthinkable thing is that they signed their previously unsignable first-rounder, Zach Lee. His picture below shows him doing what most people figured he'd be doing this fall - throwing the football.


Lee spurned LSU at the last minute and agreed to his contract shortly before the deadline yesterday evening. The Dodgers shelling out $5 million for a draft pick seems completely absurd considering their recent tight-pocketed antics. Naturally, the $5 million is spread out over five years, a signature McCourt move - why pay now when you can try and pay later? This is the guy who bought the team on credit and has since lost most of his collateral.

Still, the Lee signing serves as a small glimmer of hope for Dodger fans, who were treated to another bullpen implosion last night against the Braves, this time thanks to Hong-Chih Kuo (first time I've had to use his name negatively in a long while) and Octavio Dotel. The biggest mistake was by Joe Torre, trying to stretch his new closer to get a two-inning save. The man is completely inept at the helm of this team.

Meanwhile James McDonald pitched 6 innings of 1-run ball. There has been talk around the Pirates organization that they cannot believe what the Dodgers staff were making McDonald do in his development. Considering the fact that the Torre/Little/Honeycutt era of on-field management has only been able to develop two starters - Billingsley and Kershaw - while completely whiffing on guys like McDonald, Elbert, and Ely - reinforces so many common criticisms.

The biggest problem I have is that young pitchers are completely shelved at the first sign of trouble. Ely had a miraculous run earlier this year and, instead of giving him the chance to make adjustments when the league began to figure him out, Colletti shipped him back to the hell hole in Albuquerque.

Their treatment of young talent is stupefying, especially since they've been willing to keep players with "veteran presence" on the roster for days, weeks, and sometimes months longer than they should have.

This season has been a laugher - and as TheLFP.com perfectly puts it, the Zach Lee signing is just like putting sprinkles on a giant turd.

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Meanwhile, the Dodgers have been paying themselves a ridiculous amount of rent to play in the stadium they own.

Deadspin and Dodger Divorce address this issue - just another in a long line of McCourt douchebaggery.

16 August 2010

Kauffman Stadium Review

I got back yesterday from the ADG Convention in Kansas City. There are plenty of photos of beautiful Kauffman Stadium at the end of this post.

I was completely struck at how different Kauffman is compared to every other Major League ballpark I've ever visited. Perhaps the Royals play like a Triple-A team not because they are the Royals, but because everything about the Kansas City baseball experience bleeds minor leagues. The fans at Kauffman (which was about 70% Yankees fans - not a hyperbole) make up the whitest, most comatose crowd of fans in all of baseball. They make the Orange County metrosexuals behind the Angels dugout look like the Bleacher Creatures of Yankee Stadium.

The place is definitely built upon the foundation of Mid-Western family values. One of the guys in my large group was threatened by an usher for using the word "sucks." Jumbotron shenanigans included the Hi-Five Cam, the Jump Cam, and the John Deere tractor race.

They had a Garth Brooks sing-a-long in the 5th inning. Garth fucking Brooks.

And while the Dodgers were blowing an 8-run 8th inning lead in Philadelphia, I was sweating balls in the 100 degree Missouri humidor.

This is not to say that Kauffman Stadium is not a wonderful venue. Fresh off a $250 million renovation a couple years ago, the place is a beautiful and unique ballpark. The famous fountain works in the outfield are now accessible to fans (and lit up during the night, a nice touch). Fountain seats are available where the mist from the between-inning water shows keeps fans cool in the scorching sun. Since the Royals are absolute garbage, I was able to sit in these seats for an inning and must say it is a definite recommendation for an August game.

The stadium seems small and, compared to behemoths like Miller Park and Dodger Stadium, it is. Still it seats 39,000 (less than before the renovation), many of those seats near the field of play. You can walk all the way around the lower concourse behind the fountains, allowing for some interesting sight lines and good photo opportunities. From up above, the highway beyond the outfield is a huge eyesore (not to mention signs for Denny's and Taco Bell in the distance).

While the atmosphere seems minor league, I was surprised to see the concessions and prices were all very, very major league. It seems insulting that the Royals can charge $20 for a seat in the left field upper deck to see the likes of Jason Kendall and Willie Bloomquist. Beer is no cheaper than $7 for a small. Food, while the selection is impressive, is priced just about as heinously as Dodger Stadium. My soft-serve ice cream in a mini KC helmet cost me $6.

Still, despite its flaws (the biggest being the Royals), Kauffman Stadium was a fun experience. Tailgating before the game is a definite (something I wish we could do in LA). Buy a cheap ticket and then sit wherever you like. Even when the Yanks were in town, the stadium was half-empty.

Kauffman Stadium as it looked before the renovation:

Now:


Photos
Arrowhead Stadium right next door.


Kauffman


First Base Gate


View from Concourse


View from empty first base line seats










Behind Right Field






My Buddy Jim and the famous KC Fountain


George Brett


Loving the mist


Behind scoreboard


Left field










Upper Concourse









Garth




Concourse