Saturday, May 31, 2008

Getting Medieval

If there is one subject about which I know little, it is Medieval history. For some reason, those of us who were lucky enough to have Fr. Boudreaux for Latin at Jesuit didn't have to take Western Civilization sophomore year. I suppose the thinking was that Latin was enough "civilization" for one year.

In an effort to understand more about the "Middle Ages," I have tried several tactics to prepare.

I went to the public library to check out some books. It turns out they don't have a book on Medieval history, per se. I did get a book called Europe: Century by Century; it's ok, but it assumes I know much more than I do.

I contacted some publishing houses to order some sample textbooks. I ordered on from Houghton-Mifflin and one from Pearson. They are designed for middle school kids, but there are a lot of gaps where even I have questions. Hopefully, these books will reveal a vast repository of books in their bibliographies. Hopefully.

I also ordered a few books online from I haven't looked at them since they appear to be college textbooks, and college textbooks intimidate me. One is a sourcebook and the other is something like "The History of the Middle Ages" translated from the French.

Many of the girls and women I know are fascinated by this time period and read books all about Elizabethan court and intrigues in Medieval palaces. Much of my knowledge on this subject comes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Here is my take on Medieval history (names and such are beyond me at this point):

Trade Routes
Byantium (Justinian and Theodora)
The Rise of the Church and Eastern vs. Western
Charlemagne (Holy Roman Empire?)
Huns and Goths and Visigoths (oh my) and Vandals
Rise of Islam (Mohammed, Mecca, five pillars)
Feudalism (Lords, Counts, Dukes, barons and baronesses(whoo!) and kings and queens galore. Oh yeah, and serfs.)
Vikings again!!
Turks (but not Caicos:))
Vikings (Surprise!)
Franks and Normans (I tend to like people with these names. Is that a coincidence?)

I of course leave out Persia, India, China, Japan, the Americas, and Africa. Apparently, nothing of interest was occurring in these places. (This is highly sarcastic.)

So that's that. I think I am ready to get teaching!

Update: So I have been waking up at night with the odd feeling that I had forgotten something here. I did. The Crusades. How could I mention Islam and the Church and not mention that. Oh well.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Funniest Comedian Ever

Years ago, just around the time my father had passed awayl, I stayed home one Saturday night. I opened a beer and started watching a comedy show on HBO. The comedian was Jake Johannsen, and his show was called "This'll Take About An Hour." I laughed for the entire hour as my beer got warm. I had one sip and spit it out I was laughing so hard.

I recorded the show on VHS to show my college roommate, Derek. He never really laughed at TV shows or comedians. However, when he returned from winter break and watched the Jake video, he nearly suffocated from laughing so hard. It really is that funny. We would go out drinking, return home, and watch until we couldn't breathe.

I misplaced that tape somewhere along the way. And I even found Jake's website and wrote him an email asking to send me a copy. He wrote me back, but I was too broke to send him a check or a blank tape. I never stopped looking though. I really think it's in a box in my attic somewhere. I just haven't fast forwarded all of them far enough.

In any case, I still use quotes from this show in my regular daily life as a teacher. Some things are just that good. Like the aliens living and working among us bit or "The laws of physics would still apply."

Then, miracle of miracles, came into being. And here is that show that all those years ago made me cry from laughter, when I really needed it.

Honestly, if you have 5 minutes to spare, you won't regret it. I don't know why he isn't more famous. Watch Jake do his thing:

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Must be a Myth-take

Unfortunately, it's not. Robert Asprin, one of my favorite science fiction writers, passed away this last week. I honestly had no idea that he was a resident of New Orleans.

I fondly remember reading his Myth books (with Skeeve and Aahz) and laughing gently at all the wonderful puns. If you ever get the chance to read one of his books you will smile, too. My favorite part was the misattributed quotes at the beginning of each chapter. He was obviously a clever man with a great sense of humor (he was reading a Terry Pratchett book when he died).

I suppose now I will go back and read the ones I have and purchase the ones I don't. I wish I could attend his memorial pub-crawl at Fahy's.

God Speed, Mr. Asprin.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

This is why

I am going to return to my old school - Yesterday they had a baby shower for baby George. And I don't even work there. The other place I worked did not even mention such a thing. People from all divisions and offices of the school attended we got all kinds of great gifts for our little boy.

Thanks to all the wonderful folks at RPS. It was great to see them all.

On another note, I may be becoming Medieval History Teacher instead of LatinTeacher. A long time ago, I realized that what I teach is irrelevant. I teach children.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Musical Roots

My neighbor is going to Bonnaroo with his family this year. And I just read that they will have an entire stage set up for music from New Orleans. It's not JazzFest, but I would love to go see the sets on this stage. Looks like a lot of quality music!

SIDE NOTE - I love listening to Anders Osborne, but I was so upset with his performance at JazzFest that I will never plan a trip in order to see him (he was part of the reason I went to the first week of the fest.

Friday, May 16, 2008


Despite having a five week old, we have been tempting fate by going out to eat dinner while on vacation on Virginia Beach. Obviously, it's a coastal community and seafood abounds in the area. Being from a place that knows how to cook and eat (especially seafood), I am a harsh critic of the places where I eat. And I have been watching my new favorite show - Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares on BBC America (best channel on TV, IMHO) which gives me a whole new kind of vocabulary and reference point for criticism.

So here is my problem:

Is it so much to ask that I get a good food prepared correctly when I go out to eat? Isn't that at least part of the the purpose of going out - paying someone else to use their expensive kitchen and tools and knowledge to do something better than I can at home?

I had wahoo that was overcooked, a seafood au gratin that was swimming in sauce and had sandy scallops (which I don't like anyway), and softshell crab that was bland and tasteless. I was afraid to eat shrimp, flounder, or crabs (especially as they do them the "Maryland style" where all the seasoning is added on the outside of the shell?) for fear of being disappointed.

I am starting to get to the point where I don't want to eat out anymore. It's sad at best. Do other people in the world not know what good food tastes like?

I just don't get it.

Places to avoid in the Virginia Beach area:

Baja - Seafood Au Gratin was awful, the scallops were sandy.
The Anchor Inn - wahoo with lynnhaven sauce - the fish was cooked to death.
Margie and Rays - all in all this was the best restaurant we went to. I had softshell crabs, and they were good. Just not great.

I am sure there are good restaurants around here, but these are not they.

Links of the day



Love for New Orleans

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Thank you!

Whoever sent us this and this and this and this, thank you!!!*

They are soooooo cool! Can't wait till George gets old enough to wear them and post pictures.

* Let me know who you are so I can send you a real, written thank you. Your name did not appear on the gift receipt and there was no note.

Good Counsel

I remember several years ago I used to go church infrequently. When I did go to mass, it was either the Jesuit Church downtown or my neighborhood church, Our Lady of Good Counsel. It was a beautiful little church. Now the archidiocese of New Orleans is threatening to shutter it. The current parishioners would be asked to move to St. Stephens on Napoleon, a mere 12 blocks away. I know there has been lots of local press and a grassroots effort to keep the church open.

I don't know how it works in the rest of the country, but in New Orleans a church is a definable characteristic of a neighborhood - the university section of town has Holy Name, but there is also Mater Dolorosa, St. Stephen, St. Francis, St. Rita's. There's St. Pius, St. Anthony of Padua, and too many churches to name, all of which exist to serve the neighborhoods and some go beyond parish boundaries.

Our Lady of Good Counsel did not flood. I don't have financial info (though I bet I could ask my mom since she works at the associated Catholic Charities of New Orleans...), but I think this is one of the churches that should stay open for the simple reason that it's base is growing. Give this church a chance. It doesn't have the size of a St. Stephen or the grandeur of Holy Name, but it has members who care and are willing to mobilize for its stability.

I hope the voices of those sparking the protest are heard. According to the article in USA Today, if the appeal reaches the Vatican, it will have to be written in Latin. I know someone willing to offer his services for free.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Wheels of Justice

This makes me really mad.

70 years ago, they couldn't get Capone on racketeering. But they could get him on tax evasion. Even if David Bonds can't be convicted for some of the crimes he is supposed to have committed, I bet they could get him on parking tickets or something. Didn't anyone in the DA's office see The Firm? Geez. Mail fraud, tax evasion, jaywalking. Something's gotta stick.

And isn't the witness who refused to testify somewhat guilty now too?

Outpricing Locals?

One of the things that I tend to do is out-think myself. I often give people the benefit of the doubt, believing their motives to be pure. And so I have been thinking a lot about the price of JazzFest and the rapid rise of the ticket prices.
I hadn't thought of the up side - if the ticket prices go up, the local musicians can command more money. Of course, we will have to endure the large name stars who have little, if anything, to do with New Orleans (Bruce, Billy Joel) so that we can enjoy and pay Big Sam and Monk Boudreaux and the Hot 8. The other benefit is that those people who set up in front of stages early in the day have to expose themselves to local muse, as well. You wanna see Jimmy Buffet? You gotta listen to the subdudes first. Wanna see Stevie Wonder? Watch Art Neville. It's a sacrifice, but the crowds seemed to prove that it's workable.

I really like the way the final Sunday was scheduled. You wanna see the Nevilles? You have to watch Santana first. You wanna listen to the Radiators? Raconteurs are on stage before them.

The other unintended (is it?) benefit is that if everyone is going to be stationed out listening to Billy Joel, I get to hear Paul Sanchez play in an intimate setting with 100 of my fellow Paul fans.

Yes, the prices are steep. But the talent is deep and worth it.

Things I wish I had seen this weekend -

Terance Blanchard's A Tale of God's Will
The Wild Magnolias
Joe Krown
Papa Grows Funk
Trombone Shorty
PBR, Bonerama
Kirk Joseph's Backyard Groove

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Links for the day

I cursorily glanced at these, but I am interested in the book a great deal.

  1. The suits against the ACoE may be able to move forward a little bit sort of.
  2. Here is a great playlist of New Orleans music from Amsterdam
  3. WWOZ has a great deal of cool merch on sale. I daresay some of it is better than the JazzFest stuff.
  4. A book about the world that made New Orleans. I hope it's as good as it sounds.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Why JazzFest is important

Grammy-winning Ozomatli came to New Orleans for JazzFest and went to jam with a local band.

Which local band?

The Marching 100.

If you are a high school kid, how awesome is that?