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Thursday, April 17, 2014

46 For Skyhooks

File:Campo de l'Arsenal.jpg
The Arsenal

I thought I wasn't going to be able to write a poem for the Skyhooks meeting tonight, what with all the tax problems and school stress and I don't know what all.  But I sat down a half hour before the meeting and the muse whispered another poem about Venice into my waiting ear.  The metaphorical shipbuilding refers to an event in Venetian history in which a visiting ambassador was shown how the assembly-line work in the Arsenal could produce a grand, fierce, Venetian war galley in a single day, from boards to boat.


I once ruled my corner of the earth
showing ambassadors of larger powers
that I could build and furnish fighting ships
in less time than they took to write a letter home
and now I seek no greater later years than yours --
filled with tourists weak with admiration
at my ancient spirit, picturesque in ruin,
but still working, still living, still enjoying
every morsel even as I slip into the sea.

(c) Kake Huck 2014

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

47 All dead

Los Gatos High School


 Of course they are all dead now, the teachers I had crushes on in high school.

After writing yesterday's post I searched for my old Latin prof and found that he had accepted cancer's final invitation in 2012 at the age of 81.  The two other teachers I loved with my crazed high school passion, Mr. Ridgely and Mr. Glasner, are also gone.

Mr. Ridgely was an English teacher of no great good looks.  About fifty, balding and pot bellied, he was fierce, funny and demanding.  In a senior year English class he had us read and think about Camus' The Myth of Sisyphus.  One of our paper writing options was to compare it to the "tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow" speech from Macbeth.  I think about that now.  Why invite students into existentialist angst when they are seniors in high school?  Or did he think we were there already and that he was simply giving us tools for expressing our languors with greater creativity?  My crush on him developed in part because one day after class he showed me some of his own poetry.  I felt like he was interested in me personally.

I feel mildly embarrassed even now at how transparently needy I was then.  Perhaps that's why I've not been able to have close relationships with students.  It always seems so fraught.

That neediness also drove my crush on Mr. Glasner.  He directed the senior play and oversaw the drama department at Los Gatos High.  He was also well known as an actor in local theatrical circles.  I took an acting class from him and under his direction played Helena in the senior play, Midsummer Night's Dream.  He had a flamboyant personality at a time when such a vibrancy made what we now call "affectional preference" questionable.  He was married, of course, but with those he trusted his conversation carried hints to sparkle a Bay Area kid's suburban gaydar.  Heck, our senior year variety show contained numbers from Cabaret and Gypsy (including "You Gotta Get a Gimmick!")  And I certainly owe him for introducing me to grand opera.  One day as some of us theater kids were hanging out in the auditorium at lunch time, he played the drinking song and "Sempra Libera" from La Traviata.  I have loved opera ever since.

I met with all three men occasionally in the years after high school.  While I was happy to be gone from my parent's house, I missed my town and teachers for a long time after I left.  But I have seen none of them for over 30 years.  Mr. Ridgely died in 2011.  His obituary is still up at the Mercury News obit site.  As for Mr. Glasner -- I found only a "death record" for a Joseph Glasner in Sunnyvale in 2005 that was roughly the correct age.  But I was also told of rumors of his death back in 2011 at our 40th Reunion.

While googling these men, I made the sort of startling discovery once reserved for folks mucking about in library stacks.  I found out that I actually saw Mr. Glasner for the first time in 1963 when I was in fifth grade.  My folks took me to a performance of Comedy of Errors at the Lifeboat Theatre in Santa Clara.  A quick search for Joseph Glasner in showed me story from the Santa Cruz Sentinel noting that he was the Antipholous in that production!  So I first saw him when I saw my first full Shakespeare play!

And it was Mr. Glasner who cursed me with the words, spoken one day outside of our auditorium, "I promise you, you were born to be a teacher!"

And now he is gone, and Ridgely is gone, and most lately Mr. Barrans is gone.  All, all are gone, these men who were so important to my younger self. 

Professor Google allowed me to find a copy of one of the saddest short films ever made which suits my mood just fine.  This is  "Valse Triste" from Allegro Non Troppo.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

48 "Love is a kind of war . . .

. . . and no assignment for cowards." 

Thus is Ovid's opening of the Ars Amatoria translated in Solomon and Higgins The Philosophy of (Erotic) Love. in philosophy I talked about Publius Ovidius Naso and the context of love and marriage in early imperial Rome.  We also covered St. Paul's writings on marriage in First Corinthians, both the harsh and the beautiful. By harsh I mean his idea that people should be like him, celibate, and avoid any kind of sex (1 Corinthians 7).  By beautiful I mean first, his insistence that husbands and wives are equal in the giving and taking of sex (1 Corinthians 7).  And second, of course, I mean 1 Corinthians 13 which I can't read aloud without crying.  I said as much and a young man volunteered to finish the reading after I started to tear up.

Reading Ovid again made me think about my high school second and third year Latin teacher, Mr. Barrans.  I had such a huge crush on him, though as a youngster I did not perceive him as being a particularly good teacher.  He let people chatter in class and didn't keep us focused and task oriented.  I much preferred the tougher profs in those days.  But for some reason I became wild about him.  I can remember sitting next to him at an all school event in the gym and allowing the edge of my sandal to just barely touch the "waist" of his heavy black Oxford.  I became so turned on that I thought my head would explode.

Did he know I had a crush on him?  I don't remember whether or not I ever actually told him before I left school.  I do remember he gave me special assignments in translation.  He had me translating Catullus my junior year.  Did he say, "These might interest you?"  And that year he also occasionally let me have brief access to his classroom immediately after school so I could make-out with my senior class boyfriend for a few minutes in a "private" space.  During my own senior year, there was no actual fourth year Latin but I do remember taking a stab at both Ovid sexy poems and Virgil's Georgics and then finally giving up Latin.

Was it "right" for my Latin teacher to have me translating poems such as the one below?  As an old teacher now, I would say, "no."  But then I'm the kind of person who doesn't have personal relationships with students. Perhaps he thought he was reaching out to a trouble youth in the only "language" she knew.

Catullus 5

Vivamus mea Lesbia, atque amemus,
rumoresque senum severiorum
omnes unius aestimemus assis!
soles occidere et redire possunt:
nobis cum semel occidit brevis lux,
nox est perpetua una dormienda.
da mi basia mille, deinde centum,
dein mille altera, dein secunda centum,
deinde usque altera mille, deinde centum.
dein, cum milia multa fecerimus,
conturbabimus illa, ne sciamus,
aut ne quis malus inuidere possit,
cum tantum sciat esse basiorum.

Monday, April 14, 2014

49 The Acting President . . .

. . . will not be my candidate.  But I'm happy.   I think the Board chose well.  First, Middleton is staying on an extra month.  Then, according to a press release from Ron Paradis, "Second, Dr. Shirley Metcalf, COCC’s Dean of Extended Learning, will assume the position of Interim President on Sept. 15."  The KTVZ website published this story at 5:40 this afternoon.
Shirley (R), Jerry Shulz, Julia King Tamang (LERN)

I don't know Shirley well though I saw her occasionally last year when I taught a couple of times a week at the Redmond campus.   She always had a big smile for me and friendly greeting.  I enjoy her personableness and bright fashion style.  (I wonder if she'll choose to modify the colors once she's Acting-Prez?)

Bruce Abernethy is quoted in the KTVZ "article" as saying, “Dr. Metcalf has proven herself as a quality leader.  Both in terms of her experience prior to coming to COCC, in Hawaii and Washington, and in her roles here, we have seen her provide strong vision, leadership and caring for the comprehensive community college mission. She has experience in nearly all aspects of college leadership and that will be of great benefit as we continue to move forward.”

And I think having her at the helm will get people familiar with thinking of COCC with a woman as captain.   (Sorry the boat metaphor.)  I did a little googling before writing this column (because that's what I did with the original presidential candidates) and found only stories about meetings she's attended and other academic concerns.  Oh, sure, I got excited thinking for a moment that our Shirley had some other passion besides academic administration when I discovered  Shirley Metcalf, the fiber artist --  but it turns out she lives in the East.  (Where she is an Educational Assistant in the Fine Art Department of Northwestern Connecticut Community College, Winsted, Connecticut.)

The one discovery that seemed special was a "thank-you" in a doctoral dissertation completed in June, 2013 by one of COCC's  deans, Jennifer Newby.

Friday, April 11, 2014

50 The Cultural Insensitivity of Banner

Banner rules us, Banner runs us.   Banner doesn't care about human customs or concerns.  Hence, a stress point in my last quarter.

Banner (as managed by administrative assistants) does the scheduling.  The schedule made one year  rolls over into the next unless someone intervenes.  Combine that with the fact that my Public Speaking Bootcamp meets Friday, Saturday and Sunday and the fact that Easter is a moveable feast and you can guess the result.

I had some drops because we are meeting on Easter weekend.  But I also have some folks who wanted to keep the class but will miss all day Easter Sunday.  I've decided that I will gift the school three hours of my time and go in an extra day on Saturday, April 26, to give those students the Sunday April 20 lectures. 

As for myself,  I'm not all that comfortable working on Easter, not that I haven't done it before at home.  But even though I'm sanginolently cleansed, I'm also a Postmodern spiritual collagist.   So I'll be uncomfortable as I keep my contemporary commitment.

It's been an irritating week.

The schedule flapdoodle was combined with a miscommunication over the room.  I'd asked a Redmond admin back in January if I could have a room change for the class and she lost my email.  Then I reminded her again in February and she said our Admin could take care of it but our admin got the message a bit wrong so basically, I didn't have the room I wanted for the course until this afternoon.  Ack.  But, I got it. 

Add to this my non-school related irritation with St. Charles Health System double billing me (as they did my spouse AND a friend last year) so that I had to fax a copy of my cleared check to the Nebraska offices of their customer billing center and then make a follow up call. 

And add to this the fact of tax season, which reminds me of all the things I'm not happy paying for and also of all the people who don't pay their fair share (could I be talking about Caterpillar?)

But, at least I got my health, thanks to Loratadine and Fluticasone propionate

Thursday, April 10, 2014

LY #144 Just this . . .

LY #143 Update on the Patrick Lanning Thing

 This is an update on yesterday's "column."

I. A. Richards
I'll start off this morning by apologizing to my colleague Ron Paradis though I'm not sure as yet for what.  I just opened up three emails he sent to me after my 9:00 pm bedtime last night and in one of them he told me that some people thought that I had insulted him.  If I did, it was not my intent but I know (from a thousand years or so of teaching communication) that intent isn't meaning. 

"Meanings are in people, not in words" is a truism of my trade.  Usually this idea is attributed to I. A. Richards and his concept of "the Proper Meaning Superstition:  "the common belief . . . that a word has a meaning of its own (ideally, only one) independent of and controlling its use and the purpose for which it should be uttered. . . . . Stability in a word's meaning is not something to be assumed, but always something to be explained. "  (The Philosophy of Rhetoric, 1965, p. 32)

So.  I'm sorry if the words I used were insulting to Ron.

That being said, it turns out that my reading of the word "rushed" through it's semantic, syntactic, and pragmatic rules showed some stability (i.e. I held a meaning similar to that suggested by both the dictionary and its placement in the story).   I was right in guessing that the Board had found out about the "administrative leave" issue before their St. Patrick's Day turnaround.  I was also correct in following out the negative connotation of the term "administrative leave."  There is indeed, according to today's story in the Bulletin, an "investigation" happening at Chemeketa.  I doubt, however, that Tyler Leeds will be following up this story as it's no longer of import to local readers.  But I will look into it for my own curiosity's sake.  Supposedly Chemeketa has an "award winning" student paper, the Courier.  Maybe I should give someone there a call.

Thoughts about the changing trade:

When I posted the link to yesterday's blogpost on Facebook, one of my friends was flattering enough to suggest that I might want to write news and commentary.  What she doesn't know is that I did indeed start my worklife as a journalist and at one point after a year in radio (late '70s), was offered the opportunity to apprentice to the editorial staff of the San Jose Mercury News.  Sadly, that offer came at the time of my first full blown depressive incident and was accompanied by a strong inner turn against the work for which I trained through my undergraduate years and first year of paid labor.  I decided not to follow the path of journalism.  And these days the two things I hate most about the trade -- the need for speed 'cause when it bleeds it leads -- are cranked up a thousand fold from back in the day.

The turn away from journalism shook up my life plans, to the extent I had any.  I grew up with the expectation that I would become a newsman.  One of my Dad's most oft repeated stories was about being called away from the family one Christmas day (before I was born) to go to a hotel room where the body of a woman was sitting on a chair with a bullet hole in the middle of her forehead.  I thought that a life of such incidents and stories would be a great job.  Until I had the opportunity to do it.

So tomorrow this blog returns to its usual meandering memories and media analysis (Good-bye extra hundred page views!)  On Friday I'll start the "final fifty working days" count-down.