Waterfall City, from James Gurney’s Dinotopia
TTWA Assignment: Briefly but convincingly, state why world peace is better than indoor plumbing.
Imagine you are one of the last man or woman on Earth. Mother Nature has finally conquered mankind, our cities, our roads, our airports, and our ice cream parlors. Despite the loss of internet and ice cream, the planet has ascended into a new Eden: wars died out with much of the human population, parasitic organisms and their resulting diseases died with the world’s population of Homo sapiens, fruit and the few remaining livestock provide ample food, and land is plentiful. In fact, humans — those that still remain — choose to live wherever they feel at ease — that is as far from one another as possible. In such a world, where competition and infighting no longer exists, where the multitudes of the human population can no longer pollute the planet, indoor plumbing is no longer a neccessity.
TTWA Assignment: Part 1) You are a coach who has just cut an 11-year-old girl from the team. Write an email to her parents, explaining why. Part ) Now you are the school principal. Write an email to the coach who cut the girl from the team, explaining why he is being fired.
Emailing parents is a necessary but irksome job for teachers. The risk to upsetting someone is rather high. I once used the word ‘generosity’ to describe a bumping a deserving student from a C+ to a B-. The parent then replied a day later that her child ‘worked hard’ and did not need any of my ‘generosity.’ Sometimes you learn the hard way.
TTWA Assignment: A friend of yours at the NSA calls. She says that for just one hour, she will let you listen to the conversations of any two people in the world. You accept. Whose conversations do you listen to and what do they say? Transcribe the conversation.
Okay, I’m going to get my inner geek on and say George Lucas and Peter Jackson. Ironically enough, both created epic sci-fi and fantasy trilogies, beloved the world over, and both followed up these wonderful movies with prequels that heavily relied upon CGI instead of old-school props and set-design. These secondary trilogies are relatively less beloved.
I often wonder if the two men every phoned one another and compared notes.
PJ: CGI gophers, man? Seriously? Didn’t you learn anything from Jar Jar?
GL: Your one to talk. The Five Armies was basically one long Pixar film, man. Where’s the models? The orc costumes? Hell, I’d settle for a real horse.
Honestly, this next post was devolving into a tirade about parents and report cards until I realized that its summer and frankly I just don’t want to go there. Everything is electronic and online nowadays so parents and students can track the student’s progress weeks before they receive their report cards by mail. Not all parents are comfortable with the program or forgo checking until June. As such, I’m still receiving emails from parents asking how their daughter received this grade instead of that grade in this subject. Some even request meetings, which can erode into the parent venting their frustration at the teacher. I received one such email on Tuesday, and dread crept a little into my heart. Conferences like these are part of the job, sure, but once summer commences, even one additional second worrying about grades or fretting over angry parents becomes an intrusion, like a car alarm in the middle of the night.
In order to recall my missing mojo, Kevin, Bree and I decided that yesterday we would have an adventure. Thus, the next day, we drove to Northern Virginia to spend the day at Kings Dominion, one of Virginia’s premier theme parks and roller coaster factory. Most theme parks choose two paths when attempting to draw in summer crowds. The first involves creating a ‘world’ or an ‘adventure.’ Disney does this rather well, creating a traditional thrill ride but attaching a story or theme to heighten the emotional experience. Hollywood Studios’ Twighlight Zone Tower of Terror is a good example. By linking the idea of the Twighlight Zone and ghosts to a simple freefall ride, you create suspense as guests become part of the story. They relish the thrill, and as such buy more T-shirts.
TTWA Assignment: Imagine you are on Yelp. Write a review of the restaurant everyone is talking about. In the fourth paragraph, admit you’ve never eaten at the restaurant, but argue why your misinformed opinion is still more important than the other reviews on the site.
I based this story on a girl I once worked with at the National Institutes of Health. Most of the story is true to a point. She was my first real ‘love’ I guess you could say. As is the way with these things, you tend to romanticize the past a bit, an error I’ve tried to remedy by mixing in a little farce.
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True adventurers have never been plentiful. They who are set down in
print as such have been mostly business men with newly invented
methods. They have been out after the things they wanted–golden
fleeces, holy grails, lady loves, treasure, crowns and fame. The
true adventurer goes forth aimless and uncalculating to meet and
greet unknown fate. A fine example was the Prodigal Son–when he
started back home. — O. Henry, “The Green Door.”
Jumping into the car on the last day of school terrifies me. For teachers, summer vacation can prove a daunting enterprise particularly if you happen to be single. “Balderdash!” you may shout in a Victorian accent. “I have a 9 to 5 job throughout the entire year. You teachers have it lucky what with this summer vacation nonsense. Pip pip cheerio. Fish and chips.”
Well, let’s field that common misconception first. Imagine you have trained your entire life as a scientist or a writer. After graduating with your Masters degree, you find jobs in short supply due to . . . let us say because of a ‘recession.’ You take a job as a teacher in a high school, which slowly consumes your entire life. You teach all day, and on nights and weekends, you plan new lessons, create tests or grade grade grade until your fingertips are permantly stained red with misplaced commas and imbalanced chemical equations. This is your life. These kids, their needs and their dreams, become your life. Tunnel-vision within a textbook.
TTWA Assignment: Imagine you have moved to North Dakota in the midst of winter. Write a postcard that will make Californians jealous.
This task is quite easy. I’ve always had a strong opinion about the value of winter. Christmas in my humble opinion while certainly a religious holiday exists as a winter festival, a celebration of warm food, white lights and warm fires. December and its holidays exist to chase away the fears and despair that accompanies the season. Temperatures fall far below freezing; snow and ice coat the roads; the trees extend from the ground like the living dead. Living things abandon the outside world; we hide in our homes and avoid any reminders that the planet has tilted away from the sun for the next four months.
Christmas for my family chases all that despair away. The smell of baked goods intermingle with pine wreathes. Cranberries and cinnamon pepper our food. As a family we draw close together before the oven and fireplace; lights dance across the treetops; children giggle beneath Christmas trees.
How far that little candle throws its beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world. — Shakespeare
I cannot imagine Christmas in Florida or California. Sure, the holiday exists, but it has no meaning, no significance. You can drink hot chocolate in San Diego but without the bite of winter, how good does that chocolate taste? How can you revel in bonding with family when you are free to move outside? Some of the greatest myths and stories exist because families and friends would sit around a fire and talk to one another. In some respects, this may prove boring, but boredom often spurs creativity.
Yes, winter is not pleasant. Anyone living around the East Coast this year can tell you that, but all the good things associated with Christmas and the holidays are born of the cold and snow. I imagine North Dakota would prove a similar experience. Except for the bears. With that respect you’re on your own.