Rear Window Ethics Rear Window Ethics: July 2004

Saturday, July 31, 2004

White Trash

I'm at Jocelyn's today before we leave to drive up to Providence. She is originally from New Haven, but currently resides in the amazingly trashy town of East Haven. She and her roommate live in a nice little beach house about a ten minute walk to the water, but at the same time they are surrounded on every side by some spectacular white trash.

The children here set off fireworks at all hours of the day and night, from Spring to Fall. They have no regard for passing automobiles, and if you try to drive down the street they'll stand and talk to each other in the middle of the road and turn to give a belittling evil eye or two because you would like to use the street for driving. You also need to keep a sharp eye out, because it's not uncommon to see a two-year-old child walking down the street alone.

The kids wear bathing suits throughout the year--as an outer garment.

Their parents wash their cars on the street and then get into their own bathing suits to use their autos as some sort of crude waterslide. They then stand there with tattoos covering their bodies and smoke a pack of cigarettes in ten minutes.

They have large piles of bulk trash in their back yards, along with one or more inoperable hot rods rusting away.

If you listen long enough (about 15 minutes) you're guaranteed to hear someone yelling at someone else. Not just a yell, but a horrible, throaty, gurgling vociferation to either their spouse or child. Jocelyn was once at the beach and overheard a woman threatening to slap and then drown her child.

For you to appreciate how hilarious this is, you must consider Jocelyn and her roommate Terry in the midst of this madness. Two reserved, quiet and amiable young women fresh out of college, both second-year teachers. They're not immune to their surroundings, though. There's a lack of parking spaces on their street and they have no driveway, so they've taken to parking their cars on their lawn.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Waterfire

This weekend Jocelyn and I are going to Providence to see this:

It's a street festival in which 100 "braziers" along the canal are filled with wood and lit--creating a row of roaring fires that illuminate the streets and water for the entire night. Not to mention the weird music they play over the speaker system. Man, do I love weird music. Just don't tell Johnny Mac that I'm going, because last time I was there and didn't talk to him he was really hurt.

"Kid, Li'l Rhody and Blavis are like my two favorite things, dude."

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

SAT

My friend Vanessa has been living a similar life to mine over the past year: working on her own business, Osorio Designs, creating and selling clothing of her own making. To supplement her income from Osorio she has been teaching SAT prep courses for The Princeton Review, and she recommended that I investigate doing the same.

So, I don't want to tell people what I got on my SATs when I was applying to college. People don't like to talk about that kind of thing. Let's just say it rhymes with "zourteen-blenty." While I certainly realized that a great amount of time had passed since I last thought about SAT questions, I figured that I would do alright on an online practice test.

Nope.

I've never been good at math. I managed to get by in math when I was taking it every year in high school, but thanks to the freedom offered by liberal arts study, I felt very free to take as little as possible of it at Tufts. The results of my academic choices were starkly clear. As soon as I got past the good old analogies and vocabulary sections I literally felt my brain say, "Alright boys, let's pack it in because we sure as shit can't let him read and work on this stuff."

I could feel my brain spin down like a hard drive being turned off. (I'm a fucking nerd). I'm pretty sure that for about five minutes I was just staring at the screen of my computer, not reading, not thinking, barely even breathing. Luckily, my dog managed to hump my leg for a minute or two until I regained consciousness--sort of like an overly horny St. Bernard rescue.

Hello, my name is Travis, and I'm a mathophobe.

Obama-Rama


If you did not see this speech last night, the video is here and it's definitely worth seeing. I admit I only first heard of him in US News about a month ago, but after hearing him speak I was sold. If he doesn't win the junior Senate seat, I'll be very surprised.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Smell Well

Tomorrow I and the rest of the adults at our camp have been instructed to bring in our deodorants, antiperspirants, perfumes, febreezes and any other olfactory bamboozlers as props for a talk to our increasingly ripe 6th graders about the basics of personal hygiene.

Some of them really smell like ass.

I know that schools have programs for grades nearing puberty to talk about the changes that go on in our bodies--hair growth in surprising places, the maturation of reproductive systems, and general funkification--and I'm honestly surprised at some of the odors that are left in my classroom at the end of the day.

It's bad enough that my music room often smells, as Nicole so astutely observed, like a giant mouth. Thirty kids shuffle in at a time to talk and sing for an hour, most having "forgotten" to brush their teeth in the morning (or in some cases, at night as well). The humidity, the general lack of ventilation, the temperature reaching into the 80s and sometimes 90s, and of course the rampant halitosis make my classroom seem like one nasty oral cavity.

I can't let it become one giant armpit as well.

Willie

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Damn, he's still such a fine speaker.

Strength and wisdom are not conflicting values—they go hand in hand.





Monday, July 26, 2004

Fenced-In Area

I think I've heard that phrase about 30 times in the last day regarding the protesters that were supposed to be confined in such an area near the Fleet Center. They got a court order to allow them to take their protests outside of the fence, but let's be honest with ourselves: all I can think of when I hear those words is that SNL sketch with Billy Bob Thorton.

"I think there's something I need to make clear about my fenced-in area. You see... everybody in Gilbert County's got a damn fenced-in area that's cluttered with crap and brown weeds invading them like a cancer! Well, see, I'm better than that. I'm gonna make my fenced-in area an area that's neat and special, with a special purpose. And then all the nayayers will have to say, 'Dammit! He really did something with his fenced-in area, and now I feel inspired to clean up my own fenced-in area!' And others will see my fenced-in area, and inspiration will go on and on and on, from person to person, just like that! [ reflective pause ] I want my fenced-in area to be an inspiration. And... if y'all can't understand that... then I was born in the wrong world."

Not to mention...

I almost forgot this one. On Saturday morning our toilet was flushing rather slowly, but I, having things to do, decided to leave it and take a look when I came home later in the day. When I finally got back that afternoon I found an overflowing toilet with shitty water spilling out of the bowl and onto the bathroom floor. Little pieces of poop were scattered on the flooded tile.

After going to work with a crappy plunger for about thirty minutes, I decided I needed to go get some real tools and bought a professional plunger from Home Depot. After another half hour working on the toilet with no results except for a bowl of strangely sudsy poop water, we called a plumber.

Using his plumber's snake he was able to get rid of the blockage, which turned out to be a whole, new bar of soap. Somehow an entire bar of Irish Spring with Aloe had fallen into the toilet, been flushed, and then not been able to maneuver in the ensuing pipage. The plumber looked at Nish as if he would have an answer for all of this, but he of course did not. No one has confessed to knowing anything about this.

A bar of soap. Fucking weird.

Sox and the DNC

So this place is going crazy. It's virtually impossible to get anywhere in a car or via public transportation, so for once I'm pretty happy about being somewhat outside the fray up in Somerville.

Meanwhile, pols and celebrities alike are everywhere in caravans of SUVs followed by teams of SWAT snipers. Kerry was at the Sox game tonight, which was funny because the national ESPN broadcast had a camera that just sat on him at all times. When something would happen on the field, they would immediately cut to Kerry for his reaction, then to Ben Affleck (who ended an interview with a satellite reporter by blurting, "Ok. Thanks for talking to me."), then to Katie Couric who looked generally enthusiastic but clearly confused.

I'm pretty sure that those three celebrities were on air more than the actual game. The Sox won, though, so that's good for them, and for Johnny Mac who has a standing bet regarding the season series with New York:

If the Yankees win the season series, he has to buy his Yankee-fan female friend drinks all weekend. If the Sox win it, he gets to play with her boobs for the entire weekend. Go Sox.

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Saturday, July 24, 2004

Whores

Now, I wasn't planning on going into the city for the next week while the entire area shuts down for the DNC, but after reading this I might just reconsider.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Rash

Yesterday on the T, as Nish, BJ and I rode the ridiculously packed car to Fenway Park, the strangest thing I've ever experienced in Boston occurred. I was holding on for dear life to the bar that hung from the roof of our train car, which caused my t-shirt sleeve to slip toward my shoulder and thus exposed a bit of my upper arm. Being of Irish, Scottish, Welch and German ancestry, my upper arm's hair follicles are sometimes red, especially after being in the sun.

This short young woman--so short that I barely knew she was behind me--hits Nish with the back of her hand rather forcefully, and then points to my arm, blurting out "is that a rash?" Nish of course had no way of responding to this so he just stood there, staring blankly back at her. She then poked me with her bony little finger and asked the same question, "Excuse me, is that a rash?"

My first reaction was to explain my skin heritage, but right before I began to do so I realized that she was fucking crazy, so I managed to reply under my breath "umm...no..." and immediately turned away.

She seemed satisfied with my answer, as she didn't feel the need to jab Nish or myself to further the conversation.

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Nate

We have two package deals for Red Sox tickets, which means that we usually sit around the same people at games in a specific ticket package. Last night, for the second time this season, I hung out with my buddy Nate.

He's four years old, and his dad takes him to about eight games a year at Fenway Park. Nate is obsessive about his team. He knows what players wear what numbers, and he can pronounce even the toughest names almost perfectly. Nate's obsessiveness does not end with the Red Sox, however.

The first game we were at he managed to get a hand on one of the beach balls that was bouncing around in the outfield. From that point on, and and for the next six innings, all he could talk about was getting another beach ball, hitting a beach ball, and where the beach balls were right now.

He'll ignore the game completely and focus instead on the handful of beach balls circulating around the bleachers. When one gets anywhere close to us, he pretty much loses it and starts yelling about how much he hopes that we get one to hit. He'll sit there and point across the field, all the way to the third base line seats and talk about how there's a ball down there, and that MAYBE it will come all the way around the stadium to us.

When we finally got a ball or two, BJ or I held it up for him to hit--something he did so quickly that we were usually still in mid-sentence telling him to hit the ball by the time it was five rows away. He just couldn't wait.

When I told him that we had one more game in those seats, in September, and that my friends and I want to bring a bunch of beach balls to that game, his eyes opened wide and he leaned over to me, whispering "and you could bring one for ME?!"

Nate
Originally uploaded by travtufts.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Political props

Politicians have forever kissed babies, taken photo ops with hoards of children, and paraded their own progeny to cameras while on the campaign trail. The Bush daughters are working on their father's re-election team. John Edwards' children were shoved in front of so many cameras after he was named as Kerry's veep choice that I almost forgot there were actual candidates running.

This being an election year, a lot of the kids that come to camp are wearing stickers, t-shirts, and other paraphenalia endorsing one of the two major presidential candidates.

Looking back, I'm fairly certain that my parents made a choice not to force their political beliefs on me while I was young. They tried to explain issues and policies to me in a non-partisan manner, and in most situations I didn't even know who they voted for until I was in high school. The freedom they gave me from their own views on politics alowed me to form my own opinions on issues and candidates. When I was in 8th grade I signed up for Ross Perot mailings and actually held signs outside of our local polling place--something my parents chuckled at, but also supported me in.

When I see nine year-old kids espousing "facts" about political figures, or rather, regurgitating what usually ends up being the somewhat mangled opinions of their parents, I feel conflicted. Part of me feels that parents who drag their kids to political rallys and feed them full of "absolute" rights and wrongs in politics are doing these children a disservice. Everyone knows that person, now in college, who walks around with his parents' beliefs spewing from his own lips, with little or none of his own thought added to the mix.

At the same time, I believe that most anything people do together as a family will benefit their children. Whether it's going apple picking, going to the movies, or cooking dinner together, creating a close-knit family that spends time together helps children. It can't be wrong to introduce children to politics at an early age, because it involves them in their community, their country, and their family. It can't be wrong to give kids a sense of belonging to something bigger then they are.

However, I still can't shake the strange feelings that come over me when I hear a child, who isn't old enough to understand why he can't run on a slippery pool floor, explain to me the certainties of who is good and who is bad in the upcoming election.

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"...played until my fingers bled..."

...it was the summer of '69, or '04 rather. The point is, that after not playing guitar intensively for about a year, using it to teach and sing with in class for about 3 hours a day is beginning to take a toll on my fingers. By the end of my last class today I thought I might pass out from the pain in my left hand.

Uh oh, my melodramatic bitching alarm just went off. I'll stop now.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

"Hey, buddy..."

The guys that are apparently going to rent our place next year are complete yarfnorts. They're classic Somerville trash, with their fake tans and their sunglasses that rest atop their heads on even the cloudiest of days. They're here right now and I just had to hide this window while one of them came in and asked me for the 142nd time, "Hey, buddy, is there anything wrong with this place? Why ah you leavin'? It's alright, right, right?"

They keep complaining to me about how hard it's going to be to get their 53" television in here, and I have to forcibly keep my mouth shut so I don't blurt out, "You have a 53" television. I hate you. I don't care how you get the motherfucker in here."

Another just came in my room and snooped around while I was pretending to do other things. "Hey, buddy, you gottalot a books, huh?"

I think I won't mention to them the fact that the house is slowly falling apart, or that the dogs in the neighborhood bark for no reason for several hours a day. I'm DEFINITELY not telling them about my arch-nemesis, the ice cream truck that comes here every day between April and October, playing that same ungodly and incessant "Pop goes the weasel" ringer.

Last summer I got so fed up with it that I actually leaned out my window with a megaphone (the story behind why I would have such equipment in my possession is not for public consumption) and pleaded, "For the love of everything holy, please turn off that Goddamned song!" A few months ago I actually opened my windows and blared some Jovi back at them, Noriega-style.

Have fun here, gents. Or rather, have fun here, buddies...

Monday, July 19, 2004

Threat Network!

Hmm. Terrorist sleeper cells. Gay couples getting married. I wonder which is the bigger threat to our society? Apparently some people just aren't sure:

Senator Rick Santorum compared the thousands of gay couples already legally married in the U.S. to the threat coming from terrorists. "Isn't that the ultimate homeland security, standing up and defending marriage?" he argued. Senator Wayne Allard, the main sponsor of the amendment, continued, "There is a master plan out there from those who want to destroy the institution of marriage."

It sounds like gays are sitting down at their own Wannsee Conferences, hatching their plan for the downfall of Western Civilization.

Here for the rest of the Time magazine essay.

Manchurian Candidate

I watched the original version on PBS last night, and I remembered what an amazing film it is. I'm wary of what this summer's remake is going to do to the classic, though Jonathan Demme is a great director. I suppose as long as the new one attempts to emulate the original's detailed character development, can bring a modern perspective to the original idea, and doesn't include a blaring DMX soundtrack to thirty-minute motorcycle/hotrod chases, it'll be alright.

Ship

I started getting a wee bit sentimental about leaving Somerville, the town that has served me well for the past five years, for good. Then I went to visit my new digs, and remembered that they're cool, and where I live now is not. For example: I cannot look out my window at this moment and see Old Ironsides and Bunker Hill. I will, however, be able to do that next month. How nice.
Constitution
Originally uploaded by travtufts.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Gaffigan

Nish, Jocelyn and I went to go see this guy last night. He's one of my favorite comedians of the last five years. Fucking spectacular. If you have heard or seen him before, just know that his "inner-monologue" has gotten out of control, and it's amazing.

IM:
"he does a lot of jokes about food. he's weird. he's a dick. he's lazy, he can't even hold his own arm up. he's going to get in trouble with Kudos. Our Father, who art in Heaven, without the express written consent of Major Leauge Baseball..."

Why, car?

My sister is in San Fransisco for the summer, and she lent me her car while she's gone. At first, I have to say, I was very excited about the prospect of my own wheels. I hadn't had a car at my disposal since high school and with a number of weddings this summer I thought it would be quite convenient.

It's only July and I already know that I just can't handle having a car in Boston. Between trying to find parking, paying outrageous sums of money for garage parking, and never finding parking, it's just not as convenient as I had hoped. Not to mention the traffic, which at most times is exactly what I imagine Dante's fifth circle of hell to be like: a bunch of angry people sitting with their windows open, honking itermittently for no discernible reason, and punching their steering wheels to the beat of the speed metal blasting from their stereos.

But my biggest issue, the thing that really irks me to the extent that I occasionally join the legions of wheel-punchers out there, is this: when I'm backed up in traffic in a lane that isn't moving, while the lane to my right seems to be going just fine. I, as the person right behind the car that is turning left and causing the blockage, should clearly be the first one to go when the coast is clear, but oh no. Every car behind me thinks that they should jump ahead and pull out from behind me, driving bye with smug little smirks on their faces while I bloody my knuckles on my hapless steering column.

Ok. Good. It's out now. I can think about other things.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Fahrenheit B-

I finally saw Fahrenheit last night and I am sad to say that I was, once again, disappointed by Michael Moore. I feel like whenever I see a film of his, whether it's Roger and Me, or Bowling for Columbine, he raises a handful of really spectacular points that deserve discussion. Unfortunately, at the same time he scatters another thirty not-so-spectacular ideas in with the few worthy ones. I wish he had spent more of his times addressing some truly pressing issues, rather than lampooning people in a manner no more intellectual than Jay Leno.

I mean, I don't think anyone in this country actually believes that George W. Bush is a brilliant man. He's a poor speaker, a poor thinker, and he is in serious need of a good thesaurus. Let's just accept that fact and talk about real issues rather than showing funny clips of him looking like a jackass. The comedic overtone to the film really took away from its respectability and its message, and this was only exacerbated by the editing. Why, after tearing up while watching a mother of a soldier KIA in Iraq, would I want to again laugh at some quirky Bush mannerism?

Another solid thirty minutes of the movie that could have been dropped were dedicated to imagining what might be going on in people's minds, specifically the President's, at different periods in the last ten years. We'll never know. Until the Patriot Act crosses the boundaries of private thought, we'll never know. So why would it be important to hear what Michael Moore things someone else is thinking? It's not.

Lastly, I can't help but feel that Michael Moore has finally arrived at the level of Rush Limbaugh and Al Franken. He is partisan to sell a film, not to sell his beliefs. When the aforementioned mother of the KIA soldier visited Washington and literally broke down crying, convulsing on the sidewalk outside of The White House, why in God's name didn't Michael Moore, this champion of the people, this man who cares when no one else does, go to comfort her? Instead he leaves the camera on this grieving woman, simply because it's a more striking image with which to sell the film.

Rush, Al, Michael, Bill O'Reilly, and pretty much everyone else who makes their living off of twisting facts to suit their financial gain should just go on a Fox Network celebrity boxing show and just get it over with. They can all split the profits.

Meanwhile, let's actually spend more than thirty minutes of a "life-changing" film talking about the financial status of our men and women in uniform and our men and women in the classroom, or the ways in which the military specifically targets low-income youth to fight our wars, or even the startling popularity of distinctly partisan, and often erroneous media outlets.

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Kids...

I heard this in the car on the way home from work. Hard to believe, little girl, hard to believe.

Chop-chop

I've been thinking a lot recently about the period of life I've just completed. Socially, it's just one gigantic transition period. You spend your childhood growing up, friends come and go, but in general you are in the same place or at least same type situation. You go through high school, have the best friends in the world, and then after four years – CHOP – you all scatter to the corners of the earth. You see each other infrequently, your lives grow in different directions, and sooner or later you lose contact with all but the truest of friends.

You go to college. Well, if you and your family can pay for it, you go to college. There you start off fresh, not knowing anyone, but with everyone in a similar situation milling around, friendless, in this academic and social microcosm. Making friends comes rather easily in this environment. Then, after the fastest four years ever, CHOP, you all scatter to the corners of the earth.

Suddenly you're in a completely new place: the real world. You have a job (or in some places, don't, so you pretend to have a job and make one up that barely pays the bills...), you barely see your college friends, let alone those few solid ones from high school, and for the second time in five years you're left with another blank social slate. Except this time people aren't wandering around campus with glazed looks in their eyes, searching for someone – anyone – to latch on to. Now you have to work.

You work to meet new people. You work to keep your college friends close. You work to pay your rent, your bills, and your notables DVD Club subscription. Your cell phone's free long distance tries its best to keep you connected to everyone, but soon the long conversations turn to short ones, and then to emails, and then finally to the last thread of communication: the mass-email. No one has much money, so visits are few and far between.

There are no impending chops looming on the horizon. You're settling down and if you move it's a decision you make for your own reasons. You realize that you can form relationships with people that won't necessarily be cut or stretched prematurely, but part of you doesn't feel like you even want new friends. You want your old friends, and you want them with you.

Yeah. That's a lot to chew on.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Nerd Alert! Nerd Alert! Check THIS out! Zip Code madness.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Rachael Yamagata

I've been raving about this girl for the past week or so. Definitely check her out here . You can listen to her entire LP on the site to see if she's up your ally.

Oops.

It was one of those mornings where you wake up in your dark room, huddled underneath the covers because of how cold it is, and you hear the sound of trash being collected outside and realize that no one in your house remembered to take the trash out. Fuck.

Is it seriously July right now? It's barely 60 degrees outside and it's going to rain all week. Not that I'm complaining. Well, I suppose I AM complaining. But it sure beats those humid, 95 degree days where you can pretty much only bear to sit around watching flies meet their untimely demise on the long coils of fly paper dangling in front of your face.

Time to take the dog out.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Canolis

Today was the definition of "blah". It threatened to rain for most of the
morning, and then made good by the afternoon. On the bright side, my
usually sweltering classroom was inhabitable without the use of a fan,
so that was quite nice.

Last year one of the third grade girls I teach music to was talking to
me during lunch as she admired the remains of a cannoi she had just
finished shoving into her mouth. She remarked, "I love cannolis!
Travis, I wish you were just one big cannoli, so I could just suck the
stuff right out of you."

This kind of clueless, inadvertent innuendo continued last week when
the very same girl was standing behind me at the soft serve ice cream
machine. She noted that wafer cones are better than sugar cones when
it comes to soft serve, and I said "that's because they have a wider
mouth, they can catch more ice cream."

Her reply: "I have a wide mouth! You could just use me!"

I still can't get through telling those stories without laughing. I have her for another five weeks, so we'll see what other ridiculousness comes out the wrong way.

Cereal thoughts

I'm sitting here eating my Capt. Crunch, waiting for it to get a little soggy so the dry and inherently sharp pieces of cereal don't cut the crap out of my mouth. I really don't feel like teaching today. Looking outside at the rain it just makes me want to stay inside and watch movies while alternating between naps and mostly conscious states.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Well then...

So I decided to give this a shot and air my dirty laundry in public for a while. I'm not exactly sure what kind of ideas, brilliant or embarrassing, I'll write here, but my hope is that they will be as unadulterated as possible. Or perhaps I'll just focus on adulterating the shit out of them. Only time will tell.

It's official: I'm moving the hell out of Somerville, Massachusetts into the dreadfully stylish North End of Boston. That's a lot of capital letters for one sentence, at least for my tastes. I'm fairly sure that reading Eats Shoots and Leaves has ruined my life. So I'm abandoning my neighborhood of young hoodlums hanging outside CVS storefronts for a neighborhood of shirtless, seventy year old Italian men hanging outside expensive open-air cafés.

My amusement at the fact that Mase's new single is a cover of the theme to Welcome Back Kotter--to welcome himself back to the music business, no less--doesn't seem to be nearing an end any time soon. Oh, and who knew that Olivia from The Cosby Show is now a recording artist? Not me, that's for sure.