Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Mr. B's Class - Day Eight

"War! Huh, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing...." Edwin Starr.

"There was never a good war or a bad peace." Ben Franklin.

That said, the idea of war in 2017 shows how far we haven't come. We are all passengers on the spaceship Earth, and, yes, some people are horrible. But why so many? Are there people I would like to see eradicated? Of course, but unfortunately, it is what it is. All some of us can do is try to make a positive difference and make the world a better place. 

The following Thomas Hardy poem written in 1902 sums up the ridiculousness of it all. I can write until I am blue in the face, but minds will not be changed, so I will just offer the poem and hope:

The Man He Killed

"Had he and I but met 
            By some old ancient inn, 
We should have sat us down to wet 
            Right many a nipperkin! 

            "But ranged as infantry, 
            And staring face to face, 
I shot at him as he at me, 
            And killed him in his place. 

            "I shot him dead because — 
            Because he was my foe, 
Just so: my foe of course he was; 
            That's clear enough; although 

            "He thought he'd 'list, perhaps, 
            Off-hand like — just as I — 
Was out of work — had sold his traps — 
            No other reason why. 

            "Yes; quaint and curious war is! 
            You shoot a fellow down 
You'd treat if met where any bar is, 
            Or help to half-a-crown." 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Mr. B's Class - Day Seven

R-E-S-P-E-C-T Find out what it means to me....

When I taught, most students learned a quote of mine that, for many, made a real difference. "You don't have to like everybody, but you have to get along."

I am getting older. As a matter of fact, just scrolling Facebook and watching or reading the news had made me realize I could have 30 seconds or 30 years left - obviously, I don't know, but I am thankful for each new day. Every day is what I call an icing day, icing on the cake. A good day is when nothing gets worse - the status quo is fine.

Whether times have indeed changed or communication has exposed us to news and events much more quickly (and incessantly), the world isn't what I once thought it was. The concepts of good manners, respect, shame, and class are missing. Everyone has a voice now, and most aren't afraid to use it. While people have differences of opinion, the rudeness and name calling has gone over the top. I think because I was raised to be polite and have manners, I expect others to be the same. They're not.

That said (and it barely scratches the surface), most people, animals, property and ideas deserve respect. The following poem shows what happens when someone realizes it, understands, and acts accordingly. 

The Fish - Poem by Elizabeth Bishop

I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.
He didn't fight.
He hadn't fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely. Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
shapes like full-blown roses
stained and lost through age.
He was speckled with barnacles,
fine rosettes of lime,
and infested
with tiny white sea-lice,
and underneath two or three
rags of green weed hung down.
While his gills were breathing in
the terrible oxygen
- the frightening gills,
fresh and crisp with blood,
that can cut so badly- 
I thought of the coarse white flesh
packed in like feathers,
the big bones and the little bones,
the dramatic reds and blacks
of his shiny entrails,
and the pink swim-bladder
like a big peony.
I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.
They shifted a little, but not
to return my stare.
- It was more like the tipping
of an object toward the light.
I admired his sullen face,
the mechanism of his jaw,
and then I saw
that from his lower lip
- if you could call it a lip
grim, wet, and weaponlike,
hung five old pieces of fish-line,
or four and a wire leader
with the swivel still attached,
with all their five big hooks
grown firmly in his mouth.
A green line, frayed at the end
where he broke it, two heavier lines,
and a fine black thread
still crimped from the strain and snap
when it broke and he got away.
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.
I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oarlocks on their strings,
the gunnels- until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow! 
And I let the fish go. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Mr. B's Class - Day Six

I have had many pets through the years. Probably the worst part of pet ownership is saying 'Goodbye.' Through it all, I had managed to never be in the room during euthanization... until now. There was always someone else, or a couple of times, I just passed the pet off; I couldn't go into the room, for which I now beat myself up.

When my wife's email came while I was at work, it basically said we need "a plan" for our Domino. I looked at it, and a literal jolt shot through my being - I knew what it meant. Domi was a large 29-year-old  horse whose leg wasn't getting better; I will spare you the details. The short of it was in our heads, euthanization was definitely the right decision - no question there, but in our hearts....

I made the arrangements; we picked a day and time. I have a friend who dug a large hole and had a vet come to the house. Leading up to the moment, I prayed for strength because
I knew I had to be there for my wife and for Domi.

I didn't see my first dead human body until I was in my 40s. It was everything I thought it would be (good and bad), but I had never been present at the time of passing. This time would change that.

It was the right thing and time. I stayed for the whole thing and, in a way, am proud of myself. Again, it was everything I thought it would be (good and bad).

Treasure what time you have. We are all heading down different roads to the same destination.

RIP, Domi. Run free.

Reuben Bright

Because he was a butcher and thereby 
Did earn an honest living (and did right), 
I would not have you think that Reuben Bright 
Was any more a brute than you or I; 
For when they told him that his wife must die, 
He stared at them, and shook with grief and fright, 
And cried like a great baby half that night, 
And made the women cry to see him cry. 

And after she was dead, and he had paid 
The singers and the sexton and the rest, 
He packed a lot of things that she had made 
Most mournfully away in an old chest 
Of hers, and put some chopped-up cedar boughs 
In with them, and tore down the slaughter-house. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Mr. B's Class - Day Five

     Today I am okay, or as I like to  say, at my age, every day day above ground is a good day. As of this writing, I have made it into my 71st year on earth. I have either been lucky, careful, or blessed (or a combination), but here I am until I am not.
     This whole life thing can be summed up as We aren't; we are; we aren't. As my father's passing taught me, enjoy the journey 'cuz the destination ain't so hot. Society tells us there is an average life span, but that's just an average. To over-simplify, for every person who lives to 100, someone has to die way younger to get the average (sort of - it's more complicated than that).
     Anyhow, the following poem (besides being great for literary devices) tries to make sense of the suddenness of one's passing in an accident suggesting that many ways of passing on have some sense to them.

Karl Shapiro

Its quick soft silver bell beating, beating
And down the dark one ruby flare
Pulsing out red light like an artery,
The ambulance at top speed floating down
Past beacons and illuminated clocks
Wings in a heavy curve, dips down,
And brakes speed, entering the crowd.
The doors leap open, emptying light;
Stretchers are laid out, the mangled lifted
And stowed into the little hospital.
Then the bell, breaking the hush, tolls once,
And the ambulance with its terrible cargo
Rocking, slightly rocking, moves away,
As the doors, an afterthought, are closed.
We are deranged, walking among the cops
Who sweep glass and are large and composed.
One is still making notes under the light.
One with a bucket douches ponds of blood
Into the street and gutter.
One hangs lanterns on the wrecks that cling,
Empty husks of locusts, to iron poles.
Our throats were tight as tourniquets,
Our feet were bound with splints, but now,
Like convalescents intimate and gauche,
We speak through sickly smiles and warn
With the stubborn saw of common sense,
The grim joke and the banal resolution.
The traffic moves around with care,
But we remain, touching a wound
That opens to our richest horror.
Already old, the question, Who shall die?
Becomes unspoken, Who is innocent?
For death in war is done by hands;
Suicide has cause and stillbirth, logic;
And cancer, simple as a flower, blooms.
But this invites the occult mind,
Cancels our physics with a sneer,
And spatters all we knew of dénouement
Across the expedient and wicked stones.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Mr. B's Class - Day Four

     I spend way too much time on Facebook, but part of the reason is selfish. When I do post, I believe someone needs to see whatever it is I am posting. Aside from humorous posts, I would call most of what I posts worthy - the best of the best, but I also post as a reminder to myself.

     That said, one of my favorite sayings is, "It's never too late until it is." I get so sad looking at people who are wasting their precious time on earth. I see young people who hang around with other young people who are going nowhere.

     The following poem describes a tragic reality about the future some people face.

We Real Cool

                   THE POOL PLAYERS. 
                   SEVEN AT THE GOLDEN SHOVEL.

We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.
     It doesn't have to be this way, but for so many it is. They never learned another way,

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mr. B's Class - Day Three

     So, you came back for Day Three; that's a good sign.

     Today, I am going to offer two things for your consideration. First, if you ever had me in actual class (especially in my mid to later years), you would be able to finish if not quote a crucial quote I passed along to my students. The quote: "You don't have to like everyone, but you have to get along." The words summarize relationships whether with families, friends, fellow students, bosses, customers, etc. Several students through the years said how much sense the quote made and helped them in everyday dealings. 

     I do try my hardest to get along with everyone whether I like them or not. I was lucky enough to be raised by a solidly middle-class family in which good manners were de rigueur. As a matter of fact, I was described as "The man with impeccable manners" by a person who kicked me off their property for four words I spoke (but that's a story for another time). Generally, I get along with everyone whether I like them or not.

     In today's impolite society, we have reached the point where people feel empowered to say whatever's on their mind - pretty much literally. Insults, name-calling, and nastiness are becoming the rule rather than the exception, and while some people take pride in their words, people from another upbringing see it for what it is ( depending on who you are and what you have been taught, you will know exactly what I mean [or not]).

     That said, the following poem by Countee Cullen shows the power of words and how we don't need sticks and stones to hurt.

"Once riding in old Baltimore,
Heart-filled, head-filled with glee,
I saw a Baltimorean
Keep looking straight at me.

Now I was eight and very small,
And he was no whit bigger,
And so I smiled, but he poked out
His tongue, and called me, 'Nigger.'

I saw the whole of Baltimore
From May until December;
Of all the things that happened there
That's all that I remember."

 Read it a few times until it sinks in.

That's it for now. 

See you next time.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Mr. B's Class - Day Two

This lesson originally appeared on March 1, 2011. It contains so much wisdom and truth! At this point, I will let it stand on its own. Read it, and read it again.

It Wasn't Bill Gates!

Worth a read (or reread).

Usually the email states: "Bill Gates (or another person of note) recently gave a speech at a high school about 11 things they did not and will not learn in school. He talks about how feel-good, politically correct teachings created a generation of kids with no concept of reality and how this concept sets them up for failure in the real world." The statements below, in fact, come from Charles J. Sykes and were printed in the San Diego Union Tribune on September 19, 1996 and in a number of other publications since then. Sykes is the author of "Dumbing Down Our Kids", "50 Rules Kids Won't Learn in School", and several other books.

Sharp readers will note that the supposed list of 11 things below contains 14 statements (or so). It is possible that every time the list passed through someone else, a tweak occurred.

These days, as I scan through the posts of my FFF's on Facebook which have appeared since the last time I checked, I remember thinking about the kids I had in class who knew they knew everything showing how little they truly knew. I would think to myself, "Your future will be your punishment." Based on the oh, so screwed up lives they are still living, I was right. The drama exudes from their posts, and these kids (still children but in large bodies) are in the same place they were when in high school. Karma? Payback? Either way, they didn't learn then, and they still haven't. Too bad, so sad... except we are paying for it on many levels.

Some rules kids won't learn in school
Text By Charles J. Sykes
Unfortunately, there are some things that children should be learning in school, but don't. Not all of them have to do with academics. As a modest back-to-school offering, here are some basic rules that may not have found their way into the standard curriculum.
Rule No. 1: Life is not fair. Get used to it. The average teen-ager uses the phrase, "It's not fair" 8.6 times a day. You got it from your parents, who said it so often you decided they must be the most idealistic generation ever. When they started hearing it from their own kids, they realized Rule No. 1.
Rule No. 2: The real world won't care as much about your self-esteem as much as your school does. It'll expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself. This may come as a shock. Usually, when inflated self-esteem meets reality, kids complain it's not fair. (See Rule No. 1)
Rule No. 3: Sorry, you won't make $40,000 a year right out of high school. And you won't be a vice president or have a car phone either. You may even have to wear a uniform that doesn't have a Gap label.
Rule No. 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait 'til you get a boss. He doesn't have tenure, so he tends to be a bit edgier. When you screw up, he's not going to ask you how you feel about it.
Rule No. 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grand-parents had a different word of burger flipping. They called it opportunity. They weren't embarrassed making minimum wage either. They would have been embarrassed to sit around talking about Kurt Cobain all weekend.
Rule No. 6: It's not your parents' fault. If you screw up, you are responsible. This is the flip side of "It's my life," and "You're not the boss of me," and other eloquent proclamations of your generation. When you turn 18, it's on your dime. Don't whine about it, or you'll sound like a baby boomer.
Rule No. 7: Before you were born your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way paying your bills, cleaning up your room and listening to you tell them how idealistic you are. And by the way, before you save the rain forest from the blood-sucking parasites of your parents' generation, try delousing the closet in your bedroom.
Rule No. 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers. Life hasn't. In some schools, they'll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. Failing grades have been abolished and class valedictorians scrapped, lest anyone's feelings be hurt. Effort is as important as results. This, of course, bears not the slightest resemblance to anything in real life. (See Rule No. 1, Rule No. 2 and Rule No. 4)
Rule No. 9: Life is not divided into semesters, and you don't get summers off. Not even Easter break. They expect you to show up every day. For eight hours. And you don't get a new life every 10 weeks. It just goes on and on. While we're at it, very few jobs are interesting in fostering your self-expression or helping you find yourself. Fewer still lead to self-realization. (See Rule No. 1 and Rule No. 2.)
Rule No. 10: Television is not real life. Your life is not a sitcom. Your problems will not all be solved in 30 minutes, minus time for commercials. In real life, people actually have to leave the coffee shop to go to jobs. Your friends will not be as perky or pliable as Jennifer Aniston.
Rule No. 11: Be nice to nerds. You may end up working for them. We all could.
Rule No. 12: Smoking does not make you look cool. It makes you look moronic. Next time you're out cruising, watch an 11-year-old with a butt in his mouth. That's what you look like to anyone over 20. Ditto for "expressing yourself" with purple hair and/or pierced body parts.
Rule No. 13: You are not immortal. (See Rule No. 12.) If you are under the impression that living fast, dying young and leaving a beautiful corpse is romantic, you obviously haven't seen one of your peers at room temperature lately.
Rule No. 14: Enjoy this while you can. Sure parents are a pain, school's a bother, and life is depressing. But someday you'll realize how wonderful it was to be a kid. Maybe you should start now.
Rule No. 15: You don't get stupid in high school. (Added by yours truly)