Letters to Holly

Friday, June 15

That's Much Better

Your Sis runs to the approaching weekend as if the school was on fire. And from an administrative perspective, it sorta is. More bad decisions and spotty communication have created a mess about the summer school and who is eligible. Efforts are made to find volunteer teachers after most of them have already packed up their rooms for the summer. She worries she'll be sucked into another obligation if she stays around too long.

I stopped by the art store yesterday to load up on convention gear:
1 pad tracing paper (great for learning technique)
1 small sketchpad (I needed a more portable one anyway)
3 2H pencils
1 two-tip Sharpie
2 mechanical pens

I also packed up my Silver Sharpie, rubber eraser, portfolio, notebook paper, and the business cards.

We assembled a pizza for a quick supper before watching [i]Kinsey[/i].

Motion Picture of the Day

Liam Neeson plays "Prok" Kinsey as he shifts his obsessive research discipline from gull wasps to human sexuality. While watching the film, I noticed we were seeing it as Kinsey might have directed it. That is, this film's version of Kinsey. It's a straight-forward film, at times falling into bio-pic cliche, but it doesn't play up sex for cheap thrills. In fact, sex is perceived as mechanical activity throughout. Kinsey, a product of this time, takes a workman's attitude to sex research and education, offering humanity in his famous interviews but not in his classroom. The first students gasp as Kinsey shows slides of human sex organs. I wonder how this played in the theatre; would the modern audiences chuckling over antiquated attitudes find themselves equally shocked?

It was a different time, a crushing morale and ignorant time not unlike how I blithely meandered through high school. A time when Kinsey realizes his marriage might never work unless he and his wife find an expert to tell them how sex is supposed to work. And they do. And he does. And everything changes. Kinsey realizes everyone has this problem because no one knows anything about sex. The first examples of normal, questioning folks display an almost charming lack of fundamental sex mechanics and recite the warnings of disease and insanity handed down from on high. And then, during the interviews, we see time and again as the subjects as Kinsey" Am I normal?" when what they really mean is "Is it wrong for me to enjoy what I do?"

And what Kinsey can't prepare for is the social reactions to his studies, either in the world media or among his inner circle of followers who can't quites escape the traditional morals even as they swap wives. Humans can choose to mimic the sex play of animals, but they aren't prepared to shed the human upbringing.

I like this cast a lot. Neeson is in virtually every scene, and he's good. Laura Linney is welcome on my TV screen anytime as are John Lithgow, Oliver Platt, and Tim Curry. It's a smart film, one that casts a clean light on events without romanticizing or eschewing the humor of foibles. I like it, and unlike the majority of porn I've seen, it doesn't erase the appetite for sex as it dissects it. Like Kinsey, the film reveals the trappings of humanity without diluting its joys.

Wednesday, June 13

The Day After

Your Sister sounded remarkably alert for someone running on fumes. She did nod off while at the dentist and as I rubbed her back before dinner. We had a fancy-schmancy dinner with teacher buddies, and the conversation did steer clear of school matters. We ate a great mix of food and shared bites of everything. We then showed them the new car and let them drive it around the block. They like it a lot, but the car payments worry them. Once we said good night and went home, Your Sis crashed hard. She was lightly snoring within a minute.

I checked out some CDs from the library in hopes of making a new mix CD for Your Sis while she's away.

Virgin Suicides soundtrack - Air
You asked me about Air when you were in Snazzyland, so I gave this a try. It's good. It sounds a lot like OK Computer mixed with the Alan Parsons Project.

The Best of Gladys Knight and the Pips
Gladys is in my top three female singers list with Annie Lennox and Barbara Streisand. But this is a mostly mid'1970s material, and the low-key, smooth R&B production is all the same. It does feature three live tracks that showcase the group's performing energy, and it's as if an LP were bumped from 33 RPM to 45. She sang the National Anthem at the Atlanta Olympics Opening Ceremony in a moment that made me grin like a child.

Sam Cooke Live
A great singer with an unfortunately small set. Sounds like about 30 people are in attendance at the Harlem Square Club, and that makes for a quieter experience that I was hoping for.

I don't think there's anything here she'd want to listen to.

Picture of the Day
The convention starts officially tomorrow, and, while it does compete with another con in Philadelphia, it will be the biggest show this month. I am jazzed, but accepting of the fact that what I have on display is not my best work. The next minicomics will be stronger. I now have 200 biz cards to take to the convention. I printed them at home to save money.


Your Sister just pulled an all-nighter. She called me at work yesterday to ask if I knew where to find two lost research papers, and I pleaded stupid. She eventually found them in the wrong place at school, but those papers hadn't been graded. When I got home, she was marking exams which of course were done in essay format. Now I understand that she teaches writing, and I clearly remember the brain-melting burden of writing pages upon pages in my English classes. But there has to be be a better way to set up exams so she doesn't face a pile of essays in a short grading window.

Then again, she may have had plenty of time originally were it not for utter incompetence in the administration in assigning teachers for remediation classes. It's a giant clusterfuck. There's no other way to say it. I think Your Sis could handle this if she had a breather between the AP preparation and research papers. But she's had her nose to the grindstone since Spring Break two months ago. Since that time, there has been a constant stream of "oh by the way" notices from the higher-ups and an insufficient pool of teachers available to carry the load.

She went back to the school around 9 last night, found the papers, returned home within the hour, and went back to the exams. I stayed up to offer my help, but she pulled rank and put me to bed around 12:45. She was afraid I wouldn't be able to drive to work. As it is, I'm quaffing a vente crackuccino today. But she stayed up all night, going back to school at 4 a.m. to input grades before today's deadline. She's detail-oriented, she's impossibly organized, and she wants to give the students as many chances to pass as possible. But she was handed a shitload of obligations at the last second, and there's no reason a teacher -- a teacher -- should pull an all-nighter. Her fatigue has subsumed her anger, and she's now just coasting along until she can crash tonight in the giant bed. We have a dinner date with a teacher couple tonight, and it's her light at the end of the tunnel. I offered to postpone it, but she won't hear of it.

She's a rock of professionalism, but she's also a sponge for responsibility. I continually advocate delegation and denial. I hope her new position shows her the need for saying "no" now and then. She can't keep up this level of work. I don't think anyone can. And I feel helpless. I don't know what I can do for her. She feels bad when I make the smallest gesture. Last night, she asked if I could cook the dinner she planned and felt guilty about it. I couldn't dissuade her anxiety which ran rampant because she doesn't have the energy to corral it. She doesn't have enough left to explode. She's going to ultimately ooze into a puddle. When she has the time.

Picture of the Day
I need to take her to an air show. She loves them. We attended one in Greenville when I worked there. It was a disaster of organization for everything except the flights. We saw the aircraft from a superb location as we worked a marketing booth. She was in glee. I was constantly planning where to run from exploding airplane parts.

Tuesday, June 12

Papers Down, Blood Pressure Up

The research papers are fini. Over. Closed for the summer. Your Sis wrapped them up with a marathon session on the couch. The end of classes means there's now a small window to get everything done before she leaves for the AP conference, and she is rattled. And angry. Much has been dropped in her lap with no advance notice from the bosses. Anxiety and stress are normal for this time of year, but she's in a new situation and has no callouses for these new grinds. It will get done. It always gets done. But she will need a temporary collapse sometime this week just to reboot. A planned dinner with another teacher couple may be just the thing. We're not sure if we're hosting them for a cookout or going to a local eatery. Either way, it will be cathartic if, and only if, I can get the other three to stop talking shop. Maybe I can thrill them with talk about the upcoming convention.

That's in just five days, by the way. I have to print out my business cards and buy some supplies. I don't have confirmation that I'll have any time at the booth potentially sketching for people. but I want to be prepared.

I may have sprained half my foot, and I'm switching to floor exercise before running again.

Monday, June 11

Horses, Puppies, and Tonys

Your Sis worked hard this weekend to finish all the grading. She was at work until about 10 p.m. Friday. I used the time to run at the college. Starting Saturday, she hunkered down on the couch and hit the research papers. We bought some produce at a local tailgate market before noticing a book sale at the library. I picked up a "West Wing" script book and a hardcover copy of Stephen King's Cell. I've wanted both for a long time. We watched about five hours of horse racing, and that's plenty to last me until next year. An outdoor dinner preceded some yard work. She weeded while I cleared away the ignored half of the garden. Then we assembled the tree pruner Your Dad gave us and took down some thick branches that kept me from mowing parts of the lawn. The back yard is in full glory at this time of year. The lush trees hide the surrounding trees, and it's become a private cylindrical garden.

I got up early and ran at the college Sunday. Unfortunately, I literally ran over a puppy. I was watching an oncoming car, and he ran up from behind me and under my feet. Suddenly, I was trampling. His owners were in the yard and saw the incident. They assured me he was just scared, not hurt, and would be OK. I felt awful. Another runner unwisely brought along her giant dog that hated strangers. She had to stop running to keep it from charging me. In better news, I did mange to cut two minutes from my pace time. Not because I was being chased by a giant stranger-hating dog.

Sunday night, we attended a graduation party for one of the transplanted Spanish students at her dad's restaurant. We couldn't follow the many Spanish conversations, but we did strike up a chat with an older couple. And they're retired illustrators for NASA. Is there any cooler job possible? (Answer: Uh, no.) The husband also collected his favorite comic strips from newspapers, and we got to talk comic artists. It was a startling series of conversations that lasted three hours. This just can't happen in Mayberry, not at a high-school graduation party.

Picture of the Day
We got home in time for me to watch the TiFauxed Tony Awards. It was a weak affair with too many "gosh, Broadway is great" numbers from high-profile productions like Mary Poppins. A new show called Spring Awakening took the majority of awards. It seems similar to Rent and seems to have just as rabid a following. That's them performing last night. The Coast of Utopia, a nine-hour trilogy play about European revolution, took the awards for that category.