Saturday, September 22, 2007

Not Since Chaplin

This week I crossed off two things that I've wanted to do for a while.

Thursday night I started the first of four fencing classes. I was quite nervous, which translated into a more-than-healthy concern over what to wear to a fencing class (I went with capris, a t-shirt, and my bright green tennis shoes). As with most things in life, it was far less scary once it began.

There were ten of us there, two college freshmen girls who were rather clingy and giggly, two girls who seemed closer to my age, two women older than me - one dressed in a coordinating workout suit and one who is the kind who gets chatty when she's nervous, two guys who are probably a little younger than me and are friends, and one more guy who clung to the wall, avoiding us, while we waited for the teacher to come. They all seem rather nice. I really did not know what to expect of people who sign up for fencing class. At least I was not the least bit surprised when the teacher showed up with long hair. I was getting worried at the distinct lack of D&D-ness. I mean, it's fencing for crying out loud!

My nervousness, aside from the potenial geekiness, also stemmed from the whole gym-class associations. It turned out okay, though. My favorite moment was when we were lined up across the gym floor, practicing the "parry 4" movement over and over again with invisible swords. The lady next to me (coordinating outfit) turned to me and said "This is so embarrassing, isn't it? I just feel silly," and I realized that I wasn't feeling the least bit silly. I really think it's because of teaching - sometime in the last four years, I just stopped caring about looking silly while doing stuff like that. Not that I'm immune to the worries of the judgementals, but rather I was so focused on practicing, that I never stopped to care about the oddity of practicing a movement over and over again with an invisible sword. Yay me!

After a brief introduction to the types of swords by the instructor (which was cutely interrupted by a man who asked if we would mind if his daughter had her picture taken in the gym. The class is taught at the school where they filmed "High School Musical", and apparently the major basketball stuff in the movie was filmed right where we were learning to fence. Our teacher waved him in, and he led in a cute little girl who went wide-eyed as she looked at the red-and-white banners hung in a gy she apparently knew well.) We warmed up by kicking around some balls, then stretched, then learned some basic footwork (advancing, thrust, retreat) and that "parry 4". At that point, the teacher said that we should do what we probably all came for - suit up and poke at each other with swords. We sorted through the equipment and each donned half of a 3/4 sleeved shirt, a plastic breastplate (well, that was just the girls who had to wear those), a leotard-type thing, a glove, and the helmet/facemask thing. We each took a sword, too (I got a saber), and then paired off and started attempting to fence.

I will say this - my mother would hate it. There was constant metal-on-metal scraping for the next 20 minutes or so, which turned a bit musical once in a while when someone would hit the bellguard of one of the swords just right and it would "ding" like, well, a bell. It wasn't long before we were all rather sweaty. Mostly due to the facemasks and the outfits, rather than the actual workout. Bangs are very uncomfortable when squished against the forehead in those helmets, I found.

I learned some things, though, and I'm trying something new. I'm looking forward to the next lesson, actually. I'll be a bit late, thanks to parent-teacher conferences this week, but I'll be there to get my geek on.

The second new thing I've done is attend an event that I've always thought "Oh, I should go to that!" when I hear about it on the radio. One of my favorite NPR shows, Radio West, did a live broadcast last night, followed by screenings of two Charlie Chaplin films. One of the films, Easy Street, was even accompanied by a live organist. I met Heidi and Brent there, and we enjoyed watching the people who attended in period costume (the best was a fellow in tails, top hat, white gloves and scarf - very charming!). Admission was only a quarter, and I was happy to see both a full house and such a diverse group age-wise.

It was interesting to watch these films, since I hadn't ever seen a Chaplin movie in it's entirety. I can't say that I found them particularly funny. I certainly appreciated his talent - his grace, timing, expressions, and ability to make it look effortless really are remarkable. Still, it's just not my kind of humor. I think, though, that the best way to watch a Chaplin movie is in a crowded theater. It made such a difference to be surrounded by people laughing and reacting with such child-like joy. There were kids in the audience who laughed loudly, but there were some grown-ups who laughed even louder. It really was remarkable to hear so many people enjoying something so simple as a fellow accidentally eating a ribbon that uncoiled into his pasta. I'm glad I finally saw "City Lights", but I'm even happier that I saw it how I did.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

When I Go Out Walking With My Baby

Well, it's actually Janelle's baby. But he's cute, isn't he?

I took this one while we were visiting the goats at the state fair last week. This is right before the goats tried to eat his stroller. Strange creatures.

By the way, it is just too perfect to discover that there is a song titled "When I Go Out Walking With My Baby" in the show "State Fair"!

Okay, one more. Here's Donovan with Dallas, totally captivated with the screaming and flahsing rides:

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

With So Little To Be Sure Of

School has rapidly settled in for the year. I am still enjoying my classes, although I am detesting the politics at my school right now. I'm trying to fly under the radar, but that's proving to be difficult. Fun for Manda!

I've been trying to enjoy pre-show craziness. I've gone to the movies ("The King of Kong" was the best of the bunch, the others were more "eh"), read a lot, been to the state fair and the farmer's market, and I've been taking advantage of having energy in the afternoon to use my handy-dandy elliptical each day. I'm hoping the habit sticks even when things get busier.

My classroom is gradually getting cooler - my hair isn't damp with sweat most days now, although I still have fans going. I'm looking forward to winter so I can hear my students - they're by and large too quite to hear over the fans.

Speaking of my students, we had auditions for the Advanced Drama play ("The Somewhat True Tale of Robin Hood"). This show will be interesting - since I have two sections of the class this year, I'll be doing the show twice. I'm trying hard to keep it as separate as possible. They'll share sets (as it were), props, some costumes, and probably a lot of the same blocking; but I'm trying hard to keep from making any sort of verbal comparisons between the groups.

So I held two auditions, two call-backs, posted two cast lists, and did two read-throughs. I'm happy with the casts, and I am eager for the musical since my suspicions that we have strong character actors this year are confirmed.

We spent the last period playing status in anticipation of blocking the big tournament scene. Interestingly, the students kept tying meanness in with taking status. When we moved into playing status in character, Prince John bumped off about half of his subjects for not giving enough status to him. Then again, Robin "killed" everyone except Maid Marian, so maybe it's just that the power goes to their heads.

So, yeah. Things are... going. I just need to start exploring the options for next year with more surety.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Sir, You Are Sad

One of my long-time favorite authors, Madeline L'Engle, has died.

As a book fan, you have to be okay with dead authors. It's not like there's been a time when I eagerly awaited the next Bronte release. But I loved L'Engle's books, and I always held out hope for one more. Even though she was 88 - her writing was magical realism before movies found that world, and to me, there was always the chance of another story finding a way out.

I was first introduced to her when Mrs. Peaceman read "A Wrinkle in Time" aloud to our fourth-grade class. It wasn't long before I had worked my way through all of her books, over and over again. I think "A Ring of Endless Light" is the most beautiful, but "The Small Rain" made the deepest impression. It reads like winter - a chilled, very real beauty.

“I think that fantasy must possess the author and simply use him. I know that is true of ‘A Wrinkle in Time.’ I cannot possibly tell you how I came to write it. It was simply a book I had to write. I had no choice. It was only after it was written that I realized what some of it meant.”

- From a 1983 Horn Book magazine interview

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Hot Hot Hot

Week one - done!

And what a sweaty, sticky week it was.

My school, aside from the main office and a few computer lab, is sans air conditioning. With no air circulation either, the kids were glazed over, glassy-eyed and my hair was damp with sweat by 9:00am. The heat was so bad, I couldn't get done what I wanted to after school - I would just aim a fan at me to get done what I needed to, then escape in my air conditioned car to my air conditioned home ASAP.

The good news is, I think I've got good kids this year. They seem engaged, enthusiastic, and I'm finding teaching is getting smoother each year. The kids are as anxious as ever to find out what the musical is (we announce on Thursday), and I'm getting used to having my favorite class every day, instead of every other day. Advanced Drama is filled with kids who are just ecstatic to be there. In fact, we're diving right into things - tomorrow they start auditioning for "Robin Hood" (our fall play). Unbeknownst to them, I actually started auditioning them last week with some drama "games", but tomorrow they're doing monologues. From what I've seen, it will be hard to pick out leads. There's a lot of talent in the group.

Speaking of weather, my lights are flickering as I type this. A storm's a-brewing, and I have my fingers crossed that it'll thrust the temperatures lower for tomorrow.

This weekend I spent in sunny California, visiting family in San Diego. With a dehydrated day at Sea World (BELIEVE! Shamu orders you, with no further directions, to BELIEVE! Otherwise the world will end and it'll be your fault because you didn't BELIEVE! So BELIEVE! - now add hyped-up music and videos of cute, white children and the ocean and you've can't help but BELIEVE!), a glorious day playing in the ocean (6 foot waves trying to toss us out, dolphins jumping nearby), and much admiration of "the grandchild" (i.e. Sadie, who is unabashedly cute) and you've got a relaxing, rejuvenating weekend. And a sunburn. But it was worth it.

For reasons I can't figure out, the school board made this a four-day weekend. I got up early today and met Janelle for a temple session. We picked up some lunch after that and wound up hanging out most of the day at her house. I didn't get much (well, anything) accomplished, but it was pleasant. And I only have to get through three days this week before another weekend!

By the way, here's a picture of the bouquet of fresh flowers I got for my desk for the first day of school. 24 hours in my room, and they were hanging their heads, giving up in the heat. Poor plants. I don't think they even had a chance to suffer the wrath of my toxic green thumbs.