Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Kids say the darndest things . . .

Here are some reasons why I keep teaching, despite the political nonsense that oozes out of Washington, D. C.

Last Thursday, during a lecture on California artists, I mentioned that one particular artist was based in Oakland and studied at Cal. A soon-to-graduate-in-June senior piped up and asked why this person was considered a California artist if he was from the city of Oakland! Once I caught my breath, I assured her that, last time I checked, the city of Oakland was indeed within the boundaries of the state of California. She still wasn’t convinced.

Yesterday, fresh from a four-day holiday, I was confronted with these gems.

In my ceramics class, the kids pay for the clay used in their projects if they want them fired in the kiln. The clay costs fifteen cents per pound. The students weigh their projects and calculate the cost. A modest proposal. Jennifer (not her real name) weighed her beautiful creation. It came in at a whopping 1.5 pounds. She stared at me blankly. I knew immediately what the problem was. She was another soon-to-graduate-in-June senior who still, despite passing the Exit Exam, could not solve the simplest of math problems. Luckily for her, a classmate helped her with the calculation. I mentioned to her that she might need to know this stuff in the real world. She posited that she would not! The reason she is getting out of high school is because she “won’t have to do this kind of stuff again.” I hope to god I’m there the day she figures it all out!

And then, a brief English literature lesson. The book, Beowulf, was resting on a table. One student picked it up and wondered aloud what came first, the movie or the book! He was certain the movie came first. The book was basically the screenplay. It was at this moment that I reconsidered eliminating my nightly dose(s) of Zinfandel from my diet.

Friday, February 15, 2008

New Book for the CN Library

We are pleased to announced our library's latest acquisition, 21 Days to Baghdad, by the editors of Time Magazine. Subtitled The Inside Story of How America Won the War Against Iraq, this fascinating book tells the story of how the United States struck back at Iraq for attacking us on September the Eleventh. As our president said, "the terrorists brought the war to us, and now we're taking it back to them." On page 10 of the book we discover that "21 days after it began, the war is over." Wow, incredible. We won! we won! And it only took 21 days! Donald Rumsfeld was a military genius! This book also tells the story of how we helped the Iraqi people who we didn't hate for flying planes into the WTC and the Pentagon, and all the wonderful thing we did for them, especially bringing them democracy. A truly fascinating read. I wonder when victory will come to this other Iraq war we keep hearing about in the news. Curious.

In other Camp Nickleby news, love was in the air this week. Thursday all of the kids celebrated Valentine's Day, with balloons and fun games. On Wednesday, as a prelude to V-day, it was 'pajama day', when hormonally-charged high school students are allowed to wear the PJs to school. This usually breaks down into a teenage quasi-breeding ritual in a matter of minutes after the first bell rings. The day headed quickly downhill from there. Not sure who thought this was a good idea.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Let the good times roll!

It was quite a Super Tuesday at the camp, somewhat like a three-ring circus. We were an official polling place for the California primary, exit exam testing was taking place for our sophomores and seniors who still needed to pass to get their diplomas in June, and our annual Mardi Gras celebration was happening! Our cup of beads runneth over!

Testing took place in Spellings Hall. Students took the English portion of the test Tuesday and the math portion on Wednesday. Armed with their No. 2 pencils, they attacked the beast head-on. Most of the kids felt they did fairly well, but some were actually seen crying as they left the testing area, especially many of the seniors! How this doesn’t constitute child abuse, I’ll never know. Luckily our NCLB-mandated on-campus military recruiter was there with clipboard in hand, attempting to get kids to sign up for the Army as they exited the testing site. Much to his chagrin, Sergeant Jefferson had no takers.

The voting also went quite smoothly, although many voters did not like the electronic voting machines! Many complained that when they picked Ron Paul, for example, their vote registered as a vote for Mitt Romney! Unfortunately, these machines do not supply a paper record, so no one will ever know whom they actually voted for. Curious!

Voting for some proved to be quite arduous this year. Many former Giuliani supporters were also seen crying as the left the polling place. Luckily, Sergeant Jefferson was still at the camp. Five crying Giuliani voters decided to enlist and fight the war on terror(ism)!

Our Mardi Gras parade proved to be quite a success. The kids created wonderful floats out of discarded auto parts lying around the camp. They worked on their costumes all last week, getting ready for this big day. Folks living near the camp came to watch. Two people who really got into the spirit were the Thibodauxs, Maurice and Charmaine. They came to work at the camp last year, after losing everything they had during Hurricane Katrina. They were prevented from returning to their home by some spooky-looking paramilitary types with what looked like a bear claw logo on their uniforms. When Maurice asked one of these guys why he wasn’t allowed back into his own home, the guy in charge yelled, “That’s what you get for living below sea level, @#&hole! Where do you think you are, the @#&*ing Netherlands?”

They lived in a FEMA trailer for a while, but could never get used to the fragrance of formaldehyde. Maurice works as our maintenance man, but insists on being referred to as our ‘Viceroy of Camp Operations’. Charmaine works as our cook in the cafeteria. She constantly mentions that she used to work in the ‘film industry’, but never mentions any titles that we’ve heard of. But wow, did Charmaine enjoy Mardi Gras! The Thibodauxs were crowned our king and queen this year. As their float made it around the camp, and kids were throwing beads, Charmaine really enjoyed showing everybody what she did with the money she won last year on Wheel of Fortune. Actually, it became quite obvious to everyone that Charmaine would do just about anything for a handful of multi-colored beads! Truly a day to remember. Bons temp roulet!

As I write this, the news that Mitt Romney has left the race for president has hit the airwaves. We are all saddened, especially our Young Republicans group, also known as Mutts for Mitt. Now they have to choose between McCain and Huckleberry. They do face a dilemma. Mr. Thibodaux, however, is quite pleased. He kept raving about there being, “LSD in the Whitehouse? I don’t want no LSD in the Whitehouse! I did enough of that in the 60s!” We didn’t know what the hell he was talking about until our camp nurse, Rondeesha, reminded all of us that Maurice suffers from a rare learning disability known as acronymnial dyslexia! It all made perfect sense.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, February 4, 2008

The New Camp T-shirts Have Arrived

We are pleased to announce our new camp shirts are here! Three new designs are now available. These designs were created by our campers! All are 100% cotton, nonflammable and made in either Honduras or Ecuador. I can't remember which. Anyway, we got them real cheap! The kids can't wait to wear them!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Tehnical difficulties at C.N.

It’s been quite a few days at Camp Nickleby. Our computer server has been down since last Thursday. Geoffrey, one of our campers and, dare I say it, quite a computer wiz, checked it out and figured out what the problem was. Apparently thousands and thousands of emails were rerouted to our system! We’re really not sure where things emails came from, but they seem to be from a person using the name Darth Vader. Most of the emails are to another person described as ‘Turd Blossom’. From what we can tell, most of these emails concern another person named ‘Plame’, and how Vader and Turd Blossom were out to get the husband of this ‘Plame’ person. All very strange. Being a very cautious young lad, Geoffrey decided to place all of these emails on several CDs and sent them to the Department of Homeland Security! I hope they know what to do with them. Who knows, it might be another Islamfascist plot.

Ironically, this was not the only weird thing we received this past week. On Monday, we received a FedEx package in the mail from a PO box in San Clemente, California. In the package, we found a TEAC reel-to-reel tape. Real old school! We don’t have a reel-to-reel machine here at old C.N. so we have no idea what’s on it. The only thing we do know, from the markings on the metal reel, is that the tape is approximately 18 minutes long. We can’t wait to find out what is on it.

On the lighter side, teaching can be such a rewarding experience! Last Friday was Art History Day in my art class. We studied the works of the Surrealists: Dali, Magritte, Miro, etc. I instructed my students that the surrealists were interested in what goes on in the human subconscious, and the work of psychiatrist Sigmund Freud. I asked them if they knew who Sigmund Freud was. Most of them looked at me with a blank stare, but one brave soul volunteered, “Aren’t they those tiger tamers in Las Vegas.” As the other students gleefully agreed with him, I almost hit my head on the edge of my desk as I fell to the floor.