Sunday, October 29, 2006


Today was the first time in a VERY long time that i actually got to chill out with a piano and "rock out" as the melanin-deficient say. I miss the leisure of life at Wash U where i was able to go play and sing anywhere at anytime. Because of UPenn's intense dorm security and my own hectic schedule, i never get much time to unwind like that. Aside from that, teaching--really yelling at kids all day--is ruining my voice. Still, it was refreshing to tickle the ivories and harmonize--or try to--with me, myself, my mp3 player, and a piano. Hopefully, the future will allow me some time to get back to my 1st love (and maybe make some money on the side). I do weddings, reunions, anniversaries, and bar and bat mitzvahs (mazeltov!). My "Hava Nagila" is vicious!

And can you people (you know who are) stop with the "Leave a memory about me..." on Facebook? It's very annoying. U want a memory? How bout that time u put a useless note on the facebook asking ur friends to talk about their memories with u?

ugh... I'm restless.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Music: my first love

I guess Hov read my rant about my disappointment in him for "Show Me What You Got" and those lines from "Kingdom Come". But (almost) all is forgiven Jigga. "Lost Ones" leaked last week and it's real real talk from the greatest alive. It's full of jewels. A standout:
"...And iunt even know how it came to this/except that fame is/ the worst drug known to man/It's stronger than heroin,/ when you can look in the mirror like 'Here I am'/ And still not see what you've become/ I know I'm guilty of it too, but not like them/ You lost one."

Why has Futuresex/Lovesound been on constant repeat all week? I downloaded it a while back, listened to it once, and ignored everything except "Losing My Way," undoubtedly due to my affinity for all things melancholy and depressing. But for the past 1-2 weeks, i been cranking tha whole joint nonstop. It still makes me mad that a white boy can make better black music than 99% of black artists.

Now, I think most ppl can agree that Jim Jones is a joke. And I'm willing to bet that he is being funded by the US government to infiltrate young black american minds and dumb us down. (Let's face it, Bush is in office, and he does not care about black people. Jimmy Capo = CB4.)

Still I have the most randomly unexpected remix: "Walk it Out" featuring Jim Jones AND Andre 3000. Talk about running both sides of the continuum of rap genius to incompetence. And in true rap fashion, 3000 kills it: "Your white tee, well to me, look like a night gown/ Make ya momma proud, take that thing 2 sizes down." (Far from the best line, but a witty zinger.)

Unk (whoever the crap he is) gives a forgettable effort on the mic. And finally Jimmy! (yesssssss!) Besides the fact that he seems like he's struggling to keep on beat, i realize that Jimmy sounds like a fat man when he raps. but not just any fat man, he sounds like a fat man who had to run up 10 flights of steps right before he got in the booth. And the actually lyrics? They sound like he wrote them while he was running up those 10 flights:

"I'm blowing purple smoke, i cough it out/ Ball it up and ball it out/tap the bottle, pour it out/ BAAAALLLIIIIIIIIINNN'!!!"

I love it!! Jim Jones is one of the greatest worst rappers of all time. The man who, in his own words, brought New York back. Where's this man's Source Award!!!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

real talk...

"Jesus teaches us to measure our lives by losses rather than gains, by sacrifices rather than self-preservation, by time spent for others rather than time lavished upon ourselves, by love poured out rather than love poured in"

-caught me off guard.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Summer Soft...

Seems like summer was such a long time ago. Today was the coldest day yet since i've been in philly. It wasnt freezing, wasn't even that cold, just colder than it has been. But winter's on its way. And after tomorrow, it's just 2 months till Christmas! (and Christmas break!!!!)

Some of the funny things that happened today:
  • During her after school tutoring session, Chantelle told her teacher (and my fellow 6th grade TFA compatriot), Ms Lyon, about all the things that the other kids had been stealing out of her classroom. It was a very long list. It was sad but funny.
  • Afterward, we found a pile of mouse droppings in a corner of her room (we'll refrain from the details)
  • I had to call the father of my African boy who barely speaks English but is constantly misbehaving and the mother of one of my other, more problematic students. Listening to parents chew out their kids with me on the other end is always interesting, sometimes entertaining.
  • Prolly the worstest moment came when Ms. Powell, the "Math Curriculum Coordinator" or whatever the heck u call it came by my room and asked what lesson I was on in Math. I looked quickly at her grid and noticed that my lead teacher had told Ms Powell that her class was on Chapter 3 Lesson 1. I told Ms Powell that my class was on Chapter 1 Lesson 5... Ms. Powell looked at me, nodded her head slowly and said "Ok... so what happened?" What she really meant was "What the bloodclot have you been doing for the past 2 months?!" The first response that came to me was "i spend the entire time trying to get them to shut up and sit down" but all i said was something about remediating and blah blah blah. the funny thing is, i know that my lead teacher lied to ms powell cuz her class wass just finishing chapter one last thursday. i guess i was supposed to lie but oh well, nobody briefed me beforehand.
  • Shirena's excuse for not doing her homework: "I came home late and had to go to bed early." Even funnier was Kadiatu's response: "How you gonna come home late but go to bed early? That don't make no sense!" Kadiatu: 1 Shirena: 0, for zingers and for homework.

And while we're being materialistic...

Hilarious! but at $125 a pop, they'll stay on the shelves. I'll make one my durned self, ya dig.

Reasons I am broke

Green Apple Tree Hoodies and Tees:

10 deep hoodies:

raw selvage denim:

and of course:

the swoosh!

-young black male, addicted to retail

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Never put off procrastination

It's early sunday evening and i'm about to get ready to plan for next week (only 3.5 days of teaching this week! YESSSSSS!!!) but i figured i'd take the opportunity to procrastinate and add to the blog. I did dishes today, which isn't much of an accomplishment in and of itself, but i hadnt done dishes for at least 2 weeks. let's just say, i'll prolly rewash all the dishes again before i actually eat off them again. but i'm happy to say that i don't have dirty dishes. I definitely shoulda gotten an apartment with a dishwasher though. :-/

i put a video of somebody doing the wu-tang so u can get an idea of how its sposed to look and then imagine my version of it (lol). enjoy.

all in all, it was a pretty good weekend. Scorcese is a G for real. The Departed = Classic. Finally a good movie worth my $11, even though i snuck in to see it. (yeah, it's $11 to watch a movie here...not BALLIN!!!)

speaking of the least talented rapper in DipSet (that's almost like saying "the person with the worst sight in a school for the blind"), can we all agree that Ballin' is the most ignorant song, with one of the most ignorant videos (push ups with a yungin on ur back? who r u? a Balrog/Bishop Don Juan hybrid?)...i digress. Can we all agree that although Jimmy's latest airwave assault is as ignorant as an episode of Maury Povich paternity tests, it is as catchy as AIDS in a 1970's San Francisco bath house (is that comment considered homophobic? ...oh well. no homo!) i can't get that hook out my head! Neither can the kids at Tilden. BALLIN'

yo, i'm so glad i went to wash u. the black ppl at upenn are "joe" as the kids say in philly. especially the dudes. self-absorbed, self-involved, "i'm an african-american at an ivy league institution. and you are?" go eat a turnip, u pretentious gobstopper. (i'm tryna keep this safe for the kids.) but sweeping generalizations aside, i've ran into a few too many black brothers (i sound like an old man saying that) who i feel like my 6th grade girls could rob and beat up if they were ever in the same place at the same time. not cool.

And since we're talking about UPenn, how about UPenn alumnus John Legend's new CD? that joint is hot fiya! real grown up and the writing is impeccable! Listen to Another Again and i'm going crazy cuz 1) the song by itself is hot, 2) the lyrics carry the song (as opposed to the beat), and 3) the rhyme pattern and meter (let's just call it the flow) is so hip hop. the perfect confluence of hip hop soul. please don't call it neo soul.

and lastly, hip hop and jay-z. let's discuss. so far, i've heard (as we all have, thanks to hype and payola) jigga's "show me what you got" and i also have the title track "kingdom come" from jay's return from "retirement".

Zzzz.... anybody who knows me knows that i am a fanatic for all things jiggaman, but all i can say is, "u came outta retirement for this?" the beauty pageant wave has GOT to go. and the most annoying line thus far is from "Kingdom Come":

"...F--- Cristal, so they ask me what we drinkin/I thought dude's
remark was rude, ok?/So I moved on to Dom Cuvee Rose/ and it's much bigger
issues in the world, i know/ but i first had to take care of the world i know!/
i'm from the bottom/ so i still feel i'm from the bottom/ underdog, pull my
cape, still couldn't stop him..."

now i have nothing to say about the flow. it's ridiculous. and ending each verse with the superhero allusions has dashes--just dashes--of genius in it. but c'mon, hov. (for those who want a brief background, the owners have Cristal said something a while back about how they didn't like rappers glorifying their champagne basically cuz it cheapens their brand...they said this AFTER they profited from the effects of rappers screaming "cristal" in all their songs and making the overpriced grape juice a household name. basically, rappers oversaturated the market with their references to a drink they probably never tasted, if they even knew what the bottle looked like. Jay took offense, so he figured he'd champion Dom Perignon's Cuvee Rose Champagne, another overpriced bottle of grape juice, instead to spite the makers of Cristal. I guess he thought their feelings would be hurt.)

Call me an idiot, but if that happened to me, i would realize that in a couple years, Dom P is gonna be on the same tip as Cristal, "too many niggers know about us and are buying our top-shelf liquor" and kick homeboy to the curb. will Jay ever stop the endless quest of self-promotion and product placement and realize that though he can buy his way into the world of the white elite, his money cannot and will not keep them from kicking him to the curb whenever they feel it necessary? Since u realize that "there are much bigger issues in the world," how bout u use ur talent to address those, especially if ur "from the bottom"? Shouldn't that be "the world i know" instead of the decadent baller extravaganza of a video with Danica Patrick and Dale Earnhardt in Monaco? I mean, really, when's the last time u seen either of them--or a 40 ft yacht--in the 'hood (the real hood, not the rap hood)?

i just remembered that i have a paper to write that was due last tuesday... grr.

-Mr Garr
kris WU TANG

For those who want to see the wu-tang

Friday, October 20, 2006

"make time to live a little" -John Legend

Today was prolly one of the funnest days I've had teaching thus far. It's not like my kids were on their P's and Q's all day. I had one boy suspended before he even crossed the threshold into my classroom, the same kid and another student pushed each other's desks over and kicked them across the floor, there was constant cussing, arguments over who liked who and "I want my money" (what that was all about, i still don't know). Still, I had a great day.

Why? you ask.


For those not familiar with the Philadelphia phenomenon, the Wu-tang is not the 9 member clan of Staten Island emcees whose 36 chambers helped to revolutionize rap and bring hip-hop back to New York City. No. In Philly, the Wu-tang is a dance. It's a dance done to house music (or club music or Baltimore club music, whatever the phreak u wanna call it, it's all the same). It's raw, high energy and is hard to describe and even harder to demonstrate. That said, kids do the Wu-tang all the time here. While it's not so bad at Tilden as i've heard it is at other schools (where whole classes of students battle each other in the halls in lieu of actually going to class), you'd still be hard pressed to go through a day without seeing a kid doing the Wu-tang down the hall or even from their desk.

Anyway, I can do a little bit of the Wu-tang. Granted, I'm not from philly and i'm a dork, i could prolly hold my own with a group of 20-somethings (even though watching a 20somethings do the wu-tang is about as equally ridiculous as watching a 20something do the chicken noodle soup dance--which, in case u didn't realize, is ludricrously ridiculous). So today during reading, while my kids were working on personification, i snuck in little bits of the Wu-tang as i walked around the classroom looking for things in the pig sty known as room 401. Sy-yah was the first to notice and whisper to her table "Yo, i just seen mr garr doing the wu-tang!" as word spread in the classroom and as class neared a close, my kids begged me to do the wu-tang for them. i had already decided that i was doing the Wu-tang during math for my regular class (my reading class is different from my regular class--they're smart). I figured it would keep my regular class' attention and at least shut them up so the 7 to 8 kids who actually try to pay attention could learn something. but i actually like my reading class. i also do things with them that i would never do with my regular class for fun cuz it makes my regular class mad.

so as my reading class packed up to get ready to go back to their regular teachers, they crowded around me, wide-eyed with their hands up and their knees bent as though they were waiting to battle me at the wu-tang. admittedly, i was nervous. i'm always nervous when i'm put on the spot to do something. but i was like, who cares? they're 11 and 12 year olds. So i did it. was it good? heck nah! was it decent tho? yeah man! and my kids laughed at me and i laughed, and as my regular, clinically insane class filed back into my classroom, all they could say was "Mr garr u did the wu-tang?!" "why u always do fun stuff with ur reading class?!" "Mr. garr, u joe!" ("Joe" - adjective meaning "lame" especially when putting on a front).

Now, how could all of 7 seconds doing the wu-tang make my day great?
I smiled.

sadly, for the month and some change that i've been teaching, i don't smile when i wake up, i don't smile when i get on the trolley, and definitely not when i get off at 66th and Elmwood. Each morning it takes me hours to get out the bed (literally). I've become a bitter cynic. My laughter is always sardonic, never jolly. Life as a teacher in the "Belly of the Beast" has not brought joy in my life. its filled with the most depressing and bleakest images everyday to a point that makes quitting the smartest decision.

But today I looked at my kids and saw children. I saw smiles. I saw people. not the "monsters" as Mr. Brown called them the day before school started when it was just me and him on the elevator. When he called the kids "monsters," i thought "these r the teachers u hear about. this is why i joined TFA." that was when i was ignorant, arrogant, and naive. Quickly, i learned why, and quickly i looked at my students as monsters too. They wouldn't listen, they destroyed anything they could get their hands on, they tried to get their hands on everything, and, as far as they were concerned, they could care less about "learning". They were crazy.

Did a simple dance change that outlook? Heck nah. My kids are monsters. They do the same things they did before. My Wu-tang did not make them want to learn any more than anything i had ever done before. But my kids are lovable monsters. They're human monsters, if that's possible. I guess, what I'm saying is, they're as normal as they can be, which, really, is pretty normal. (I write with far too many subjunctive clauses and interjectory statements).

So when math started and I started to sneak in the wu-tang when students stopped paying attention, i got to laugh and so did my kids who were paying attention. We actually covered two parts of one section of estimation with decimals in the midst of yelling, toppling desks, paper balls, 5 second boxing matches, laps around the room, and overall chaos. I think some kids learned. I was able to begin to differentiate for my super-smart girl Vernisha. Rugeiatu didn't throw nearly as many temper tantrums. Kids had their math books open and most were actually attempting the problems. It was still noisy, the room was an absolute mess and I still had to hold the class for a brief detention, but i smiled at the end of the day. Derrick, my cracked-out student who went home one night and made paper guns and paper fingers to sell at school the next day--and kids actually paid him for them--had his book open. He tried a couple problems, he wasnt breaking pens open and using the ink to draw on his desk. He even stood politely to take a picture before he left. It was surreal.

It's weird to think i learned all this from doing the Wu-tang. and really, i know it was a culmination of a number of different things that resulted in this epiphany, but today i came closer to being the teacher that commanded respect rather than one who demands respect.

And that's not purely semantics; we'll leave it at that. 8-)

Sunday, October 01, 2006

"These kids are a different breed. I've worked all through Philly. Spent time in North Philly, but they're nothing compared to this. Up there you could at least talk to a kid."

-The fat black man that works at the visitor/tardy desk in Tilden.
Its been about a month since I've started teaching, and I can honestly say that Institute--our so-called "5-week intensive training"--was a bust. Standing in front of 6 4th graders for 45 minutes a day does not compare to the craziness of 7 hours at Tilden Middle School. For one, something demonic happens to children between 4th and 6th grade. Those who check my facebook profile have seen only a mere fraction of my experience. In a month of school, we have yet to even open our Social Studies book, we have stalled at the 3rd lesson in chapter 1 in Math; Reading equals naptime for many; and Science? What science?; In the words of my comrade, Ms. Lyon, "Do you ever feel like you're the achievement gap?"

Yes, Ms. Lyon. Everyday.