odds and ends: panera top teachers of SW ohio, michael ian black

I wanted to take a moment this morning to sincerely thank all of you who took a couple of minutes out of your day this past week to vote for me in Panera’s Top Teachers of Southwest Ohio contest.

Voting ends in 16 hours and it looks like my entry will come in second overall as far as votes.

How that factors into the overall contest, I have NO earthly idea. A lot about this thing is vague to me; at first, it looked like there were many prizes to be awarded… now when I read the rules, it seems like there will only be three. Originally it looked like voting was to end on Wednesday; that was instead extended to yesterday evening. Even the overall judging is a mystery… although the rules do say individual votes count, they also make it clear a panel of judges are going to be making the ultimate decision.

That’s OK. I’m not sure I really expect to win, although it would be fantastic if I did. I’m proud that my students cared enough about my work to nominate me… and I’ll tell you what I’m really proud of, if you want to take a look over at the final tally of contestants. The entry about me received 22 comments, almost all from my students. Some of them said a couple of sentences… and some of them just wrote “I voted!” Either way, those kids made this whole process worth it. This might sound bad, but I rarely think about what opinion my students have of me. I give ’em the best I have, I try to make sure they leave my class smarter than they were when they came in. If they like me or dislike me… that’s not my primary concern.

That being said, what a great bunch of students I have to hop on and say the nice things that they did about my classes. If any of you all are reading this, you’re truly the best and I love working with you all. To the readers of this comic who took time to vote, I also give you my thanks. I know I’ve been a pretty annoying flea in your collective ears’ these past few days, but you came through in fine style. I truly appreciate it. If you’d like to vote one last time, please do!

If I hear anything more about the contest, you’ll all be the first to know.

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I have a huge prejudice against books written by comedians; this unnatural distrust is born entirely out of the mini-boom of the mid to late 1990’s. Top funny men like Jerry Seinfeld, Tim Allen, and Dennis Miller were given fat book deals and used them to churn out unoriginal, repetitive garbage. Most seem contented to simply regurgitate their stand up routines in print form. I suppose there was (and still is) an audience for that kind of exercise, but I remember buying those books and feeling distinctly cheated by their content.

I’m going to have to get over that impulse, because in the past month, I’ve read two excellent books by comedians; these offerings go above and beyond simply representing jokes and monologues in print. I’ll likely talk about the second book next week but for today I wanted to mention how very much I enjoyed Michael Ian Black‘s You’re Not Doing It Right: Tales of Marrage, Sex, Death and other Embarrassments.

Black’s well-known to my generation as one of the players from MTV’s much-beloved sketch show The State and has gone on to a career in Hollywood, often appearing on television and in commercials. He’s carved out a distinct niche for himself as a snarky know-it-all and I’ve enjoyed much of his work post-State… but I wasn’t chomping at the bit to read his book. I decided to give it a shot and I am ridiculously glad I did.

You’re Not Doing It Right is quite simply, the most accurate book I’ve ever read about what it’s like to be a husband and father in the 21st century. There’s depth to this book I did not anticipate. Black’s observations are shrewd and often biting… but they’re never inaccurate. The bald-faced way Black lays out his feelings is sometimes shocking; at various points he details the times where he has flat-out hated both his wife and children in a manner which defies the traditional “happy home and family” image most of us carry.

If that was all the book did, You’re Not Doing It Right would be funny but morally bankrupt. I could easily see another comedian taking the short way around and simply presenting that concept, but Black doesn’t do that. What most impressed me about the book was not the laughs (and there are many) but the heart and sentimentality. Black starts from a comedic situation (I hate my wife and kids) and works backwards and forwards to reveal the truth behind being a mate and a parent today. You will occasionally have moments where you despise your kids… but you despise yourself more for being a person who would feel that way, and that motivates you to be better then you thought you ever could be. I can’t say I’ve ever called my wife a c*** (the word Black uses I can’t even bring myself to type) but I’ve experienced many of the same emotions and frustrations detailed here. That marriage is HARD is not a new concept. What is slightly new in our society is that it’s so easy for many to just quit trying. Simply having that option is part of Black’s default view of matrimony; what becomes admirable is the way he combats that view.

It’s a wonderful book which comes with about as high a recommendation as I can give.

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2 Responses to “odds and ends: panera top teachers of SW ohio, michael ian black”

  1. I just finished this book and I found his chapter on marriage and therapy to be completely spot on!

  2. Emma English Says:

    Thanks Pearce. It was very fun being in your class, and it was great to have you as a teacher. Your projects were also so much fun! I will deffinatly look in to being in your journalism class when I’m a senior! Have a good summer, and thanks for being an awesome teacher!
    P.s. Thanks for recomending ‘Smile’ to me. I really did like it!

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