Archive for May, 2010
An unceremonious end to this year’s chalkboard drawings, sad to say. We ran right up into the end of the year in my classroom with classwork… and the last five days of school are final exam days, and I don’t draw on the boards for final exams in deference to how serious I take them.
Here are three of the last drawings though!
As a last lesson, we do a small two-day mini unit on haikus. This is born mostly out of the fact that I’m not a huge fan of how most English teachers teach the haiku. Almost all the emphasis is put on the 5/7/5 syllable structure, and there’s a heck of a lot more to them than just seventeen beats.
By the by, this drawing was totally ripped off from Stan Sakai.
I have never been a big fan of E.T. but naming my son Elliot has doomed me to countless questions about the origin of his name. I usually just tell them that I named them after Law & Order tough guy Elliot Stabler.
(Thrift Store Finds is a mostly-weekly “column” of sorts where I discuss some of the cool books I’ve happened upon in my neighborhood’s St. Vincent DePaul store. Please don’t mistake me for an expert on any of the things I am writing about… I’m just a fan of a bargain.)
As I’ve mentioned before, a lot of my initial experiences with characters from the Sunday funnies did not, in fact, come from the funnies themselves. Rather, the great licensing and marketing juggernauts that were begat from those Sunday comic strips is where I first learned of certain characters. I think I talked about Heathcliff in this respect. I have similar experiences with Dennis the Menace.
Hank Ketchum’s daily one panel gag strip featuring the trials and tribulations of the Mitchell family, focuses primarily on the titular Dennis. When I was a kid, I did not read the Dennis the Menace comic strip, although I was familiar with the charcter. There were two Dennis the Menace TV shows running concurrently when I was growing up: a surprisingly long-running animated series from the 1980’s was on weekday morings, and reruns of the live action program from the 1960’s aired daily on Nickelodeon.
I enjoyed both these TV shows as a kid, especially the black and white sit-com starring Jay North. It doesn’t seem like the type of thing a young kid in the Eighties would dig, but I’m guessing that Nickelodeon ended up kindling a love of classic TV in a lot of kids who grew up in that time, as they padded their lineup with old black & white reruns quite frequently. I honestly can’t imagine kids today sitting for half an hour to watch an old episode of Lassie, but I watched it every morning before I went to school.
Geez, where was I? Oh yeah, Dennis the Menace!
The one thing that really bothered me about Dennis the Menace was quite simply… he wasn’t menacing. Occasionally he was Dennis the Mildly Annoying, but more often he was Dennis the Cutesy. Dennis the Adorable. Very little menace about this kid, from what I could see.
Of course, the standards for menacing change with the seasons- at the same time I was gorging on old re-runs of Dennis the Menace, the media was all abuzz about how Bart Simpson was ruining a generation children by inspiring them to be underachievers, “and proud of it!” Nowadays, in the wake of South Park and Family Guy, that notion seems quaint. Hell, South Park did an entire episode pointing out how supremely evil and badass their Eric Cartman character is when you compare him with Bart.
Where was I, again? Oh yeah! Dennis the Menace.
My original point: Dennis the NOT Menace while being a total puss in his other-media incarnations is also a total puss in his daily newspaper comic. The Comics Curmudgeon, one of my favorite blogs on all things comics culture, points this out weekly. In its’ current version (probably drawn by the great-grand-nephew of Hank Ketchum, I’m not going to bother to check), Dennis spends most of his time lobbing gentle puns at adults who roll their eyes and look perplexed. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a comic strip like that, understand. It’s just… we were promised MENACE. I was told there would be MENACE.
– As of this Wednesday, the ’09/’10 school year is over for me! My school district starts quite a bit earlier than most others. It’s a bummer going back to school at the tail end of August, but it’s nice to be off from work while most other people are still sweating it out in the classroom.
– Various teacherly things I am doing this summer: I’m teaching a week-long prep class for students who want to take (or retake) their Ohio Graduation Tests in both Reading and Writing. I’m doing some work for my school’s flex credit program (more on this in a few weeks). I might be substitute teaching for summer school, although that’s tentative right now. I should also relax a little, I suppose.
– Ellen and I have been burning through the Netflix movies: we watched Sherlock Holmes and Fantastic Mr. Fox this week. I’m a big Holmes fan from when I was a kid, reading the short story collections in study hall. I can see why aspects of this movie pissed off hardcore fans, but I liked a lot of it. I was relieved by the ending, but the relentless build-up for the inevitable sequel kind of bugged me.. Fantastic Mr. Fox was really lovely. I can see why it made squat at the box office, but as a fan of the book, I can say I walked away pretty happy.
– I’ve been on a Saturday Night Live reading kick lately and I’ve finally gotten around to reading Wired: The Short Life & Fast Times of John Belushi by Bob Woodward. I’ve never been a huge fan of Belushi, although he’s undeniably talented as an actor and a comedian. I think one of the reasons I never dug him is that so many guys I know in real life have been unconsciously influenced by Belushi that I feel like I grew up with the actor embedded in some of my friends. Like, people act like Bluto from Animal House who have never even heard of Animal House. That’s not fair to Belushi, I suppose… but of the original Not Ready for Prime Time Players, I’ve always preferred Dan Aykroyd.
The book is lurid and somewhat annoying in the way that Woodward constantly stacks the dramatic deck with anecdotes that foreshadow Belushi’s death. I can see why so many people who knew the actor were angry when this was published.
– Since school’s ended, I’ve also had (to my great surprise) time to play video games! From our local public library, I rented Lego Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues for the Wii. These types of games are about as far as I go into playing video games… the more realistic stuff makes me uptight and nervous. The Lego games are always fun, although I have to admit, playing a standard type video game on the Nintendo Wii is a little annoying.
– I also took out that massive remastered boxed CD set from The Beatles, full of every single one of their albums. I have to say, I’m really enjoying the music, but I’m more enjoying the fact that I didn’t plop down $200 bucks for the set.
– Finally, I had a truly epic haul at the thrift store the other day… tons of vintage Family Circus, Hi & Lois, and a bunch of other collections of comics I had never heard of! Those always make for fun Thrift Store Finds columns. I also found a first edition of the first ever collection of Doonesbury comics! There will be a new Thrift Store Finds up tomorrow and then for (hopefully) the next few weeks. I let those slip a bit, not because they aren’t written… moreso that scanning all the pages for examples is time intensive.
This was sadly an across-the-board problem with my students. I think the problem is that they are so used to using the Internet to find information. This makes a lot of sense for the 21st century of course… but my issue lies in the fact that the websites they use are either completely unreliable or they just look at the Internet as a means to an end. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had a student print up a couple of paragraphs from Wikipedia and try to pass them off as their own.
The Coming Collapse of the Post Office is an actual book that is in my high school’s library. You can read about it over at one of my favorite websites, Awful Library Books.