On The Road to Kiawah

Click great arrow for sound

 

Pick pocketed, mon

lot by lot,

field by field.

 

Pappy dirt gone forever, now,

sold for

dat ready cash, you know,

back in the day,

cash dat dwindle away

bit by bit,

drop by drop,

dollar by dollar

 

disappearing

like water from a leaky

bucket

 

a-plunk

plunk

plunk

 

No, not a drop left, now, no.

So dat is dat,

De bucket dry,

Me pockets empty

here in the shade of a shed

across from a field of condo

on the road to Kiawah.

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Shakespeare-on-Speed: Titus Andronicus

Hello, college student. I can’t believe that slave-driver of a professor of yours has assigned Titus Andronicus. Smart move coming here. Believe me, after reading this summary of the plot, you’ll be praising Jesus you didn’t give the text a try. In fact, the plot is so conjunkificated with murder and mayhem, you might not even get through this easy-to-read amped up version.

Note, I’ve modernized and shortened the names of the characters. Before taking a test or writing a paper, you gotta check out Wikipedia for the real deal on what these fools actually went by back in the day.

Okay, let’s get this over with.

Protagonist Titus sacrifices the eldest son of Tammy, Queen of the Goths, to avenge the deaths of his own sons killed during a 10-year campaign against her people. Titus turns down offer of becoming emperor (bad, if not tragic mistake) and supports the previous emperor’s son Satch’s claim to the throne, much to Satch’s younger brother’s Bass’s chagrin. Satch promises to marry Titus’s daughter, Lavinia, even though she’s engaged to aforementioned younger brother Bass.

You following? Bass done been double-dissed.

Titus’s surviving (but not for long) sons Quinn, Martin and Matt point out to stubborn daddy that Roman Law sez Bass gots first dibs on Lavina, but Titus don’t dig backtalk from offspring and accuses the boys of treason. In the subsequent ensuing scuffle, Titus slays his own boy Matt, which prompts Satch to denounce the crazy-ass Andronicus clan.  So he marries Tammy, whose lover, the moor Aaron makes Iago look like Al Roper in evil comparison.

12-titus-andronicus-lavinia-mutilated-shakespeares-gloves-titus-andronicus-2006-dir-lucy-baileyAnyway, Tammy talks new hubby-to-be to pardon little brother Bass and the entire Andronicus family.  You’ll see why shortly.

Next day, on a royal hunt Aaron convinces Tammy’s sons Demmy and Ron to kill Bass so they can rape Lavinia. “Sho nuff,” they say, do the deed, dump poor Bass’s body in a pit, drag Lavinia into the woods, rape her, then lop off her tongue and hands so she can’t squeal orally or in writing. Aaron then forges a letter that frames two-thirds of Titus’s surviving sons, Martin and Quinn, for Bass’s murder, so of course, Satch arrests their asses.

Got it?

Okay, Titus’s brother Marcus finds mutilated Lavinia and takes her to Titus, who’s still reeling from the accusations leveled at Martin and Quinn. Enter Aaron the Moor with an alleged message from Satch saying that he’ll spare M & Q if Titus or brother Marcus or remaining son Luke cuts of one of their hands and sends it to Satch. Titus volunteers and lets Aaron hack off his left hand.

What was he thinking? Who knows?

Aaron hacking off Titus's hand

Aaron hacking off Titus’s hand

Is this making sense? You see, it’s all about vengeance.

Guess what?  Aaron double crosses Titus. A messenger delivers to Titus the severed heads of his sons Martin and Quinn along with his own severed left hand.

Finally, Titus has had enough, time for revenge. He sends last son Luke off to raise and army among their previous enemies the Goths.

Resourceful Lavinia picks up a stick with her mouth and using that orifice and her two stumps writes the names of assailants Demmy and Ron in the dirt.

Tammy (who seems as adept as Sarah Palin in hiding pregnancies) gives birth to a bi-racial child. Aaron kills the midwife and nurse (after all, cutting off tongues and hands is no guarantee of silence) and flees with his baby, only to get nabbed by Luke with his Goth army in tow.  Luke threatens to hang the baby unless Aaron sings, which he does, like a canary magpie, tells all of the above in blank verse.

Aaron and his newborn baby

Aaron and his newborn baby

Meanwhile, back in the Imperial City, Titus pulls a Hamlet and feigns insanity, sort of.

Thinking Titus is insane and might buy a staged visitation of spirits, Tammy, Ron, and Demmy dress up like allegorical manifestations of Revenge, Murder, and Rape and tell Titus they’ll grant him revenge if he talks son Luke out of attacking Rome. Tammy splits, but Titus talks Demmy and Ron into hanging around.

Bad move, boys.

He slits their throats, grinds their bones, and bakes their heads into a cake.

Okay, ready?

Next day Titus throws a feast and asks Satch if a father should kill her daughter if she has been raped. “Of course,” Satch says, so Titus kills what’s left of Lavinia.

When Satch calls for Ron and Demmy, Titus informs him that they’re in the cake mother Tammy’s munching on.

Titus kills Tammy, Satch kills Titus, Luke kills Satch, is crowned emperor, orders Tammy’s body to be thrown to the wild beasts that hang out outside Rome’s city limits, and sentences unrepentant Aaron to be buried up to chest to starve and/or die of thirst.

Aaron rues not being able to live longer because he feels as if he hasn’t done enough evil in his life.

Theme:  bad karma breeds bad karma/violence sells.

Serving Tammy sons baked in a soufflé

Serving Tammy sons baked in a soufflé

4.5 Rules for English Teachers Seeking Interviews in Today’s Ridiculously Overcrowded Market

I don’t know if you’ve ever paid attention to films that feature English teachers, but in the movies, English teachers tend to be charismatic intellectuals. Through their Hollywood good looks, dedication, and eloquence, they mesmerize intellectually engaged students who actually enjoy the poetry of Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson.

In the movies, English teachers never divide classes into pairs for group work, nor do we get to see them destroying their eyesight trying to disentangle Bennington’s Arabic-looking scrawl, as they visually transliterate groups of words to see if sentences are complete, syntactically clear, correctly punctuated, and on topic.

Parents of students in the movies tend to be worse than in real life. Generally, soulless egotists, they drive their progeny to suicide by demanding they adhere to the parents’ Waspish ways. Never do I see the more typical parent, overbearing, yes, but bearing down on the teacher to make an exception for little Sam who deserves to be AP despite abysmal PSAT scores.

Oh, yeah. I’m forgetting the movie teachers who work at inner city schools, teachers cut from Anne Sullivan/Helen Keller mold, miracle workers who somehow burrow through acres of emotional scars to rescue and then resuscitate the golden child trapped within.

Perhaps movies share some of the blame for so many of our young people going off to college and majoring in English hoping one day to find themselves teaching in idealized English classrooms.

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It’s really hard getting a job as an English teacher at a prestigious school because, unlike science and math majors, who can make real money in the real world, English majors generally lack marketable skills and therefore are a dime a dozen (cliché not adjusted for inflation).

Where I teach, we get approximately 300 applications for every opening. Since one of my jobs as an English department chair is to screen resumes, I thought I’d offer some advice for English teachers seeking employment, especially given the success of my previous foray into self-help, Mining Insomnia for Gold. Click here for free copy.

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Who knows, these 4.5 simple rules might rescue your CV from trash icon and land it in the interview folder.

Rule 1: Break into the front of the line

Okay, if you want a job, especially if you’re seeking a local gig, you need to target certain schools and check their websites daily. Have your CV and cover letter ready to go with Xs marking the name of the school so you can edit the letter quickly for whatever opportunity arises.

Believe me, the first twenty applicants are going to get much more attention that the last 280.

Rule 2: Create a Good First Impression

Nowadays, emails bearing attachments are the first thing hirers see. At our school, they go to the Headmaster’s Assistant who shovels them my way. Although not a deal breaker by any means, it makes a better impression if you include the Headmaster’s name in the salutation (even though he or she won’t see it) than using the cold, vaguely 1984-ish “To whom it may concern.” Knowing the headmaster’s name demonstrates familiarity with the school.

Also, this communication bears the first impression of you as a writer. You want here efficient, active prose that briskly establishes your interest.

Bad: To whom to may concern: Need a job. Would love to work at your school. By the way, I can teach history as well.

Okay-ish: To whom it may concern: I saw on your website that there’s a job opening for a 6th grade teacher and am therefore applying. Please see my attached resume. I look forward to meeting with you to discuss in person my qualifications.

Much better: Hello, Dr. Grandgrind: I’m interested in the 6th grade position posted on your website. I’ve attached my CV and cover letter. Thanks for your consideration.

Now, although the English major reading these emails might not consciously notice the deft alliteration/assonance of the po-sounds in “position” and “posted” and even less likely to notice the medial consonance of the t sounds of that pairing, sonorous sentences might register unconsciously.

Rule 2.5: Cut the “look-forward-to-meeting-with-you-to-discuss-in-person-my-qualifications” pushy salesperson shit.

Rule 3.5: Compose a brilliant, well-honed yet soulful cover letter that incorporates the job qualifications of the posting with an engaging bio.

I actually read cover letters before I even look at CVs. Even if your candidate graduated summa cum laude from Stanford that doesn’t mean she knows how to write. Academic prose generally sucks.

Rule 4.5: Make your CV aesthetically attractive but not cutsey.

Make the goddamned thing easy to read.

So there you have it, wretched reader, and by the way, if you don’t get an interview, don’t feel discouraged, keep plugging away, and if you do get an interview and not the job, you should still feel proud of yourself – you’ve demonstrated you got the credentials. Generally, life is a crapshoot. All types of contingencies arise. It’s very likely you’re superior to whoever is interviewing you.

The irony is there’s no way I would hire me-back-then if I applied for a job at my school.

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