Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Free Range Flash Fiction

thirty short stories a thousand words or less

Available on Amazon
$5.99 + shipping

Available on Kindle
$3.00 at the Kindle Store

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

e pluribus haiku 2018

$6.00 + shipping on Amazon

$2.99 on Kindle

1000 original haiku from fifty states and the District of Columbia - written in an original 5-7-5 style. Haiku are colorful and physical and include a season word or hint. Because the USA is geographically spread out, geography clues are necessary too.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

screens part I

Jhai, D.N. (2018, April 11). Delhi: One in every 5 school students a ‘problematic’ internet user. The Times of India. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/one-in-every-5-school-students-a-problematic-internet-user/articleshow/63703507.cms.

The above article shows a little of what I'm dealing with; I don't think the US is that much better or worse than Delhi. It would be interesting, for comparison's sake, to compare huge cities like Delhi and New York, or LA, even to much smaller towns, like Alamogordo, where I teach, or Cloudcroft. But, numbers are probably similar in major ways. Almost 20% self-report that it's problematic; over a third admit that they use the internet to regulate their moods; they rely on it to feel better, in other words, or to calm down. Almost all have phones; almost all go online; almost all are going online almost constantly.

One thing I've noticed, as both an overloaded parent and an educator, is that parents tend to rely on the schools to balance out what they can see is an overload at home. In the schools, we can't afford to do that; school is for learning, so we try to keep the phones out of sight and get down to business (though I admit, I'm a sub, and their total addiction comes right back in, the minute anyone turns their back or allows it. I am with the school in their absolute prohibition of them, yet I give up fighting them very easily, as they are so squirrely without their phones that they're almost impossible to live with, and I just sometimes want them to zone out and leave me alone. As a parent, it's worse. You work all day, your kids have way too much energy, and if the phone will allow them to leave you alone (this goes for a movie, say, or even an online game), ok, go ahead. You didn't reckon with being faced with addiction.

Yet I'll agree with the above article. Addiction is what we're looking at. It's overwhelming, and it's pervasive.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

april rocks kindle promotion

details on my facebook author's page

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Public School Crisis

I got the chance to sub in an art class today, and it reminded me of my own youth; how, when an art teacher allowed kids to play music, they played horrible music (our version of metal), as loudly as they could; about how he wouldn't allow talking in class, but I thought that was ridiculous, and needed to talk to keep my mind off the music; how he made me write a 500-word essay on why I shouldn't talk in art class; and how I wrote it all in one sentence, as mad as I was. I'm sure he noticed and graded me accordingly, and, in fact, I wasn't all that great an artist, but, I never took another art class; my career in art was effectively over, my junior year in high school.

Nowadays we're wondering if any high school students will walk out in protest of the fact that we actually aren't safe in these schools anymore. I work in three different ones in a small town in New Mexico, two middle schools and the high school, and I can assure you, we aren't safe anymore. Arming the teachers is not the solution. Paying them just a little bit more to carry guns is an even worse solution. I wouldn't even call them solutions.

So I'm subbing in this art class, and I told them to draw the space station uplink, which was an event that we had in our town yesterday, where students went to the high school, packed into the gym, got to talk by wireless to this astronaut, and basically learned a little about what it was like in space. I encouraged them to draw space, or the space station, or the guy, or whatever they wanted, or, I gave them the option of drawing a physical drawing of the middle school itself. Instead some drew tigers, which is the mascot. I said, why not put the tigers in space? I tried to encourage them to think creatively. Some, on the wild side, were more interested in being Jackson Pollock, and throwing the brush at the picture in order to splatter it with stars. They had the excuse to go a little over the edge, and I was, after all, a sub.

So I got through that experience ok, and went immediately out to the streets of this neighborhood, where I had duty as a crossing guard. This is an interesting experience because you suddenly relate to the whole neighborhood in a quite practical way, although everyone is on our side, and nobody is really trying to run the kids over. We're talking 11-13 year olds, though, and anything can happen.

This is actually a very nice neighborhood, not nice in the sense of rich, but nice in the sense that it has a lot of New-Mexico-type character, and these huge dramatic mountains look down upon the entire scene; it's very pretty. At one point a truck stopped to pick up a kid, and he had an enormous dog, which jumped out of the truck and kind of terrorized some middle-school girl. The owner came running after the dog, sure enough, but it was a little uncomfortable.

As a sub I get so sick of resistance, refusal to learn or do anything, bad attitude, disrespect, and just general badness, that sometimes I don't have a whole lot of sympathy. Trouble is, the victims are not the same as what I experience as the perpetrators in any given class of sub-breaking young punks. They're all just kids, and they don't really know from anything. I don't know if these particular ones really feel that they aren't safe, as I feel. I know that, further up in the high school, there are lots of malcontents. And many, if not most of them, have access to far worse weapons than just apathy, or whatever they're using on a daily basis.

Oh but here's what I was going to tell you. In my "prep" hour (an ironic term, since subs have nothing to "prep"), I do research on my ancestors, and I do this partly because I'm grieving my dad, who died recently, but I also do this because reading old puritan accounts of life in Boston in the 1600's is fascinating. I had this one, whom I'm named after, who actually wrote the document starting the first public school in the US. This would be Boston Latin School, and I can't say it was his idea; he was merely the notetaker, but nevertheless, he was right there when it all started. And I can't prove absolutely that I'm related to him; that's a story of infinite intrigue involving slippery characters in late-1600's Boston, who kept mistaking Mary for Sarah, and couldn't spell Phoebe, not to mention Leverett. Leverett itself is often spelled Leverit, Leveret, Leveritt or even Leuerett; thus making googling kind of infinite as well as intense. But there's a remarkable explosion of things on the internet these days which means basically that I can find a lot of stuff without even moving from my chair. And that's what I do with my art class "prep" hour.

Back to my point: the public schools are worth saving. My sub experience, I can take it or leave it, but public schools are the main thing we have. Some folks are out there, ready to trash the whole thing, but I'm not. I still kind of like the place. I tell them to turn off the music, but talking's ok. They can talk all they want.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

thoughts & prayers

Enough with the thoughts and prayers, already. What's the world come to, that "thoughts and prayers" just make everyone angry?

I work at various high schools and middle schools in a small town in New Mexico. Traditionally, guns have always been everywhere, but people knew how to use them, and the kids in the picture weren't really at risk for this kind of thing. Nowadays, I don't feel safe. I feel like every school is a target, and every kid has access to as many guns as they want, and lots of them are mentally unstable. We could not put armed guards or metal detectors at every door. Even the kids, who generally spend as much time on their phones as they can, are a little nervous about this; it could happen to them too.

The question really is whether your right to have a gun includes the right to bring an arsenal or an assault weapon into any elementary school or venue. To me it doesn't. You can't bring a bomb either. If you are carrying something around to "protect yourself" why does it have to be something that kills so many people?

There is an undercurrent of arming for race war in this country. Trump and the shrill arm-yourself lobby have ensured that most folks are armed to the teeth, and they are hostile and suspicious of each other. For the mentally unstable, it's a minefield, and they, too, are armed to the teeth. Schools are as likely as any place. If you're angry at the world, it might have started in the school.

But the problem is, most of us had to go to school. The private "option" is only available to the people who can spare time off work, or who have the time to figure out what they're doing. Most of us still rely on the public schools and resent Trump's undercutting of the system and taking money away from people who need it most. But if we put armed guards and metal detectors at every door, that will really undercut the system. Nothing like a five-billion-dollar security project to ensure that we fight over who gets fed, who gets educated, and who gets health care for decades to come.

And all because we're unwilling to keep track of assault weapons? Or arsenals? We want to prevent our police from knowing who's got one, or who's taking it into the elementary school? I think the gun control lobby has eased up on the right to have a gun in one's home. I'm wondering how that translates into the right to bring an arsenal into any school.

OK I get it. Somebody's making big money from every shooting. More guns are sold, more members of the NRA, more dollars floating around. It's actually in people's interest that random violence makes everyone afraid. Somebody's very rich, and very happy, and not especially upset about random deaths.

In this case, making the good guys win means making it safe to go to school.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Old Beatniks, as archived

Archiving of Old Beatnik

I didn't quite know what to make of this when my friend told me about it. The University of Iowa Main Library Gallery featured my alternative newspaer, Old Beatnik, in its summer exhibit on alternative press in Iowa City. Look down the page: three out of the ten are Old Beatnik. Not that Old Beatnik was the best of alternative press in those days; it was more likely that it just looks more alternative, or clearly more rebellious.

This is a part of my life that I had conveniently forgotten, as it was associated with other wild stuff that I'd gotten in the habit of not mentioning. But it's there for everyone to see, and now I'm processing it. I thought I'd put my reaction to it on here, as well as everything else I know about it.

It's fair to say I was fascinated by alternative press at the time, determined to make my own, and more or less totally unequipped to do it successfully. I have no idea where I typed or drew anything, or how I printed and distributed. For part of this time I didn't really have a home, much less a copy machine or stapler. The Old Beatnik consisted of about five editions. For one, the one with the best art, if I recall correctly, people at the Co-op objected to something I said, and I ended up destroying all the editions in order to keep good relations with them. The details of this incident are hazy to me, but that's what I remember. As a result, some editions of the five are totally lost. There is only one or two that I saved (but I saved several of that edition) - and it is a different one from the one that the Museum Gallery managed to snag. So, altogether, we're talking four or five editions of a four-page (two, front-and-back) rag that had a very short lifespan. If we were to combine mine and theirs we would have a slightly bigger collection.

On the assumption that the university gallery will change its focus on Aug. 25, I'll recopy what they have saved here, so that I have access to it.
Cover of Oct. 1, 1975
Back page, same edition
page two, same edition

Nothing special. I hope they leave it there, as now, after moving to tens of places, I have lost many things, and I'm making a sincere effort not to lose any more. I may work with these folks, if I could possibly stay in touch, and send them what I still have. It's safer in their hands than in mine. But the Southern Illinois Museum has recently closed, so I'm not sure if anything is truly safe in the modern world. I do know that I've been kind of stuck in 70's documentation (reading a fascinating book about the back-to-the-land movement, We are as Gods), so, for me, now's the time.