Magic Jewball

all signs point to no


Blogoversary 5!

Filed under : Meta/Blognews
On March 27, 2011
At 10:30 pm
Comments : 8

Well, it was actually last week, but I didn’t have the energy to write it up. And with that sentence, I sum up this year in blogging on JBall. Sad but true. In the past I’ve used statistics to review the year or linked to my favorite posts. Those were good times.

Instead, this year, I’d like to use this comment which I found in my spam bin:

Indeed. See, even if I hadn’t found it there, I’d have known that couldn’t be real. Unless it was from me, telling myself I needed better content. Or at least more of it. But I know you, my three faithful readers, will understand that it’s been a busy year. Still, I couldn’t have imagined when I started blogging five years ago that the blog would take the turns it has, because so many unexpected things have happened since then. Here’s another thing I hadn’t predicted: five year olds must have really outgrown Sesame Street, as look at the lame candle they have for five up there. The other four were way nicer. I may have to come up with a new motif should I make it to six.

I gave a guest lecture last week (well, two, but it was the same lecture, just two different sections) in my friend Seaspray’s class which consisted of teachers from around the country. I got to talk about one of my favorite subjects, technology, and what is now pretty much my life’s work: getting kids engaged in the classroom through the use of it. I talked a little about blogs and one of the things I wanted to touch on (I’m not sure that I did; it was all a blur) was how kids can find their voices through blogging. Later, for another purpose, I read back through some old posts on this site and I realized that it’s taken me a while to find mine. In the beginning, I used what I call my “game show host” voice, which I also try to channel a bit when I’m teaching, but it’s a performance and not real. I mean, it’s part of me for sure, but it’s not totally authentic. These days, I think I’ve hit a voice that would make you think if you met me, “yeah, that’s the girl from the blog.” Or maybe I’ve just become more of a game show host. Who knows. The other thing I tell teachers is that you can trace a student’s progress by the quality of their writing in a linear system like a blog. I can’t speak about quality, but I am delighted to have my blog stand in as a journal to tell me how I was thinking at any given time and what was going on. It was enormous fun looking back and remembering my life through the posts on this site. Even the bad times sounded great, but that may just be the game show filter.

Anyway, I wanted more than any year before to thank you, my readers, linkers, and commenters. Without you checking back to see if I’d written something, I might not actually have written anything these past months. If you are wondering why I read back, it wasn’t sentimentality, it was to add a new category and then I had to go back and find all the posts that matched. But I really love doing that and especially seeing all the comments – you people are smart and funny and it’s an honor to have you stick around for that one post an eon. I don’t know if I’ll be able to blog for a decade or if blogging will still exist then, even, but making it halfway there has been an awesome journey and I’m glad you were here with me.

In conclusion, while I was sitting on this post (I got distracted by some good movies on TCM), I got yet another comment in my spam bin and its imperfect English seemed to be a good statement about how I feel about all my posts once they’re written.

Me too, spambot, me too.

Spoon – Take The Fifth


Running through my head secretly

Filed under : Depeche Mode,Music
On March 18, 2011
At 12:30 pm
Comments : 4

I tweeted about this already but just to flesh out the story and to tell you what was actually the funniest part, I was in Starbucks with my cooperating teacher today (although I will probably post this not today) in the middle of telling some story, I think, about The Killing Fields, when a lady remake of The Cure’s Love Song came on. If you know me, you know I am terrible about this, just terrible. I will interrupt you, your friend, your mother, or even myself when a song I can identify comes on the speaker in a store or restaurant. I did this a few weeks ago to Alex the Intern (Alex is no longer an intern, I am an intern, but whatever) about eight times while we were at Joe, the Art of Coffee, because they like to play a lot of music I can identify. Poor Alex. And it’s worst when I am interrupting myself because I speak a little like I post, that is, kind of rambly with lots of parenthetical asides, and it’s hard enough to follow without me interjecting out of nowhere, “I think this is Animal Collective!”

But I am glad I did this because it led my CT to interrupt me (burn!) with a story about how he had had Dave Gahan’s stepson as a student and the phone calls Dave would make to him. He’d had some live encounters as well, but I think I had already fallen out of my chair by that time and my mind couldn’t handle any further revelations after the “It’s Jimmy’s Dad, what happened to Jimmy’s computer?” story. (Another interjection, after doing some Googling, I now see that Dave adopted his stepson, but he was still officially a stepson at the time.) Isn’t it great to hear that Dave Gahan, after whom I named several of my own computers (shut up), is such an involved parent?

But in hindsight, the freakiest part of this story is that at first my CT made the mistake of thinking Robert Smith had called him (thus, the Love Song connection) and I was able to prove through a truly stalkery collection of facts in my possession that this couldn’t be the case and that it had been, rather, Dave Gahan. Because, at least twenty years after my prime fan years, I know that Robert Smith has no stepson, that his wife could not ever have been in a previous relationship because they got together at 14 and never broke up, that he has no children at all, that he lives in the UK, that Dave Gahan lives in New York, that he has been married/partnered several times and has several children from those relationships, and that his wife has also been previously partnered in a committed fashion. My CT had to check his set of facts on iPhone Wikipedia, whereas with me, there is an ever present and actively edited wiki in my brain where 80’s artists still live, and it contains a repository of knowledge on their current personal lives. I found myself saying with utter naturalness, “yes, Dave Gahan lives on the Upper West Side and I keep hoping to run into him at Fairway.” Also, I am a mature adult woman.

In conclusion, I may have to reconsider this whole “working at a private school” thing.

Title comes from:
Depeche Mode – Ice Machine

By the way, if you are a scholar of Depeche Mode, you will be as excited as I was to learn that early, pre-signing DM demos are available – they’re real and they’re spectacular. You can find all three in the stream of this YouTube user under Composition of Sound, their original name. Ice Machine is one of them.

This song always felt like a hidden treasure to me because it was a B-side to a single I didn’t own and so when I found it years later, it was like discovering a secret panel in a familiar room. Nowadays, we just find any track by Googling on our iPhones at Starbucks. Back then it was different.

This is the demo version of Ice Machine and Dave Gahan would have been about 17 or 18 years old when it was recorded – and kind of sounds it. It’s a bit different from the final version I linked to above and it’s insanely, unbelievably great.

Relatedly, and also tweeted by me this week, the first mention of Depeche Mode 30 years ago in the legendary UK music magazine, Smash Hits, has been posted on Flickr. The blurb ended by announcing the release of their first single, Dreaming of Me, backed with, of course, Ice Machine.

Finally in This Week in Depeche Mode, Thursday marked the 25th anniversary of the release of Black Celebration, still my favorite DM album and sounding just as good to me now as it did then. 1986 was one of the best years of my life and the majority of that was personal events and such but another part was the great, great music. I saw Depeche Mode for the first time that year, at Radio City Music Hall, almost missing the meet up with my friends (I was at my sister’s wedding, and, well, we didn’t have those handy cell phones they have now) but finally making it to an amazing show. I went with The White Whale and a couple of other people… maybe this will be the year I find her again.


The last night of the fair

Filed under : Student Life
On March 16, 2011
At 12:10 am
Comments : 6

When I was in college, I didn’t really know what career I wanted. I liked marketing because I read Brother1’s marketing textbooks while he was in Business School (that made me about 12) and found them fascinating. I thought about teaching, because it seemed the thing to do with a History degree. But you know, I didn’t go to any career fairs and I honestly don’t remember any. Does Johns Hopkins have no career fairs? Or was I just too depressed to notice any? Maybe I considered Sam Goody a fine career in itself (always possible!). So I went to my first one last week. Actually, first two. All I can say is, it’s just like speed dating, except you hope to see everyone again.

I played the job fairs like I learned to play Monopoly with my friend around the corner every Saturday as a child: buy everything you land on. That is, I stopped at every booth that had no line, then swung back around to hit the tables I had missed the first time (some still had lines, others were better), and I gave my resume to anyone who would take it. The only places I didn’t talk to were cities I absolutely, positively would never live in, like Houston or Mumbai (no offense to my readers in Houston and Mumbai). But I went as far north as Albany and as far south as Northern VA. The thing is, with my specialization, it’s hit or miss as it is. If you’re an English teacher, people either need you or they don’t. They don’t say things like, “wait, so what exactly is it that you do?” or “we just started last year and right now we’re K-2. We will definitely think about adding that in five or six years.” Uh, fab, but who is going to pay my mortgage now? But the people who get tech really get it and so I talked to them wherever they were. And walking around selling yourself, you get your elevator pitch together pretty fast so that by the last person, you’re blurting it out like the homeless guys do on the subway. I am not a drug addict I am sick and lost my job and home could you please spare some change so I can eat today thank you god bless you all.

Sadly for me (and society), most of these people who understood and believed in what I do represented well off sorts of places like private schools and expensive suburban districts. That’s not exactly why I left the music business, to help the children of the executives amongst whom I used to work. So I’m a bit conflicted. Today I had two interviews with two night-and-day different schools. The interviews were by phone and back to back. The first was with a fancy Manhattan private school of which you may have heard. The second was with an inner city charter school in Washington, DC of which I’m sure you haven’t heard. The positions were both great and challenging and the schools both had philosophies which I support. But that was pretty much where the similarities ended. Certainly one reason I’d be more inclined towards the private school is that I wouldn’t have to move (as much as I’d like to be back in Baltimore, I’d still rather stay here) but the other school is really more appealing to my original mission Now, the private school would be a dream job, for sure, and I would be delighted to have it. But I’d still feel I was betraying something. Of course, there’s a good chance that neither job will be offered to me, but I can see it’s a decision I may have to face down the line. Unless I get no job, in which case it’ll be easy-peasy!

And luckily I have my homeless gal speech all ready to go.

Title comes from:
The Smiths – Rusholme Ruffians


Overdue update

Filed under : Student Life
On March 7, 2011
At 12:30 am
Comments : 5

Subtitled: Everything’s good in the world tonight.

Just to let my faithful readers (both of you) know, I am actually alive! But I have seldom been so busy in all my life. But that’s not really why I haven’t posted… well, not directly. See, I tend to write when the mood strikes me and unfortunately, those moments have seldom coincided with times I actually have time to write. And then the thought/idea dissipates and I’m left with that, “that was supposed to be a post?” feeling. So, herewith, a group of facts:

1. I am busy proving to NY State that I should be certified to teach, which means special online courses, lots of forms, and more exams.
2. I am searching for a job, which involves resume writing, job fairs, online research, essays, obtaining of transcripts, and more.
3. I am way behind on every single item of work for the classes I’m taking. I mean, seriously behind.
4. I went to LA last weekend and those three days away set me even further behind than I already was. And I hate LA, I really do. But I went because it was the right thing to do and even though almost everything that could go wrong did, leaving me alone and stranded in the dark and rain one night with no way to get to my destination, I’m glad I went.
5. I am teaching, yes, actually teaching a class for eight weeks. Possibly more. It involves not only preparing for each class but freaking out before each class and not sleeping at all the night before each class. Luckily, they are only once a week. I’ve been thinking of changing the name of Tuesday night to “Ambienight.”

I wanted most to write about #5. I had so much to say: about how I can’t remember the names of my students, how they are beginning to accept me, how happy I was when I came into my “teacher’s voice,” how I have stopped being afraid to get mad at them when they aren’t paying attention, how scary it is when they ask me a question I can’t answer (even though I know that’s OK), how I mentioned one of our rappers the first day just to seem a bit cool but how I no longer care, how the first time I really got going was when I was teaching blogging (go figure!), how I feel like a performer feeding off the energy of the crowd (and have a hard time coming down after… just like my favorite bands always say in their interviews), how I am never more in the moment than in class (I don’t even think of e-mail or Facebook or Twitter), and how I can’t teach without a big cup of juice because my throat gets so dry. Most of all, I wanted to say how much I love all the kids I’ve worked with in all the classes I’ve been in and how sure I am that I want to be with kids like them forever.

Maybe I haven’t written about any of this because every week is better than the last, so I keep delaying. Or maybe it’s because I made a deal with my cooperating teacher that at the end of my stint at my placement school, I would tell him the address of my blog. So then it becomes hard to say anything, even though that was the purpose of keeping it private until then. But every time I wanted to post about the experience, I’d wonder if I should. So here we are, six weeks in with nary a word. But I will say that he’s made the whole experience worthwhile and that I’ve pretty much learned as much in my time at this school as the rest of my education combined. And that I will be very, very sad to leave. But hey, I bought a souvenir mug from the fundraising closet.

Here’s a story I never told here, but you might have heard it from me in private conversation. I always assumed it would be hard to leave The Record Label. I assumed I’d cry as I pushed the big glass door of the building for the last time. But it wasn’t like that and that’s because my boss at the time handled things so poorly that it was like a gift… it convinced me I had 100% made the right decision. I felt just great walking out the door. But the folks I’ve worked with at this school are so incredibly awesome that I feel quite sure that there will be a much larger lump in my throat when I walk out for the last time. Every single day has been great.

So about the sub-title. On the day my CT told me I had gotten my teachers’ voice, I just felt so amazing. I mean, I knew the class had gone well, you just know it, just as you know when it hasn’t. And I had the head of my program there observing me so, hey, even better. After school, I went to Trader Joe’s and they were playing (they have a great soundtrack at this TJ’s, I must say), “When Smokey Sings” by ABC, which has that line. But you know, I felt great even before I heard it. If I’d written this post then, rather than at midnight at the end of a weekend where I got only a fraction of the work done that I needed to, it might even have been the title.

ABC – When Smokey Sings