Eric, Mitch and I went to the inaugural Spokane Oktoberfest in River Front Park. Sponsored by the Washington Beer Commission, 20 beers from our wonderful state (second only to Colorado) communed for times of stein holding, yodeling, beer drinking, and, in my case, a nap on the lawn. Here are some of the highlights (and busts):

Diamond Knot Brewing—Mukilteo, WA: Vienna (ABV: 5.8%): “Vienna Style Ale. Our answer to an Oktoberfest! Reddish amber in color, the ale has a bright, crisp flavor with a malty finish,” says the program. A red beer with a bit more kick than Mac & Jack’s African Amber, it’s a cross between an angry amber and a light Spaten Optimator.

Elliott Bay Brewing—Burien, WA: Organic Washington Pumpkin Ale (ABV: 7.6%): Tastes strongly of nutmeg.

Elysian Brewing—Seattle, WA: Night Owl Our Original Pumpkin Ale (ABV: 5.9%): Boasts that they brew seven pounds of pumpkin per barrel. Eric had this one and the Elliott Bay Pumpkin, and he prefers Elysian’s. “Pumpkin, pumpkin pie!” He says.

Fremont Brewing—Seattle, WA: Mystere du Rayon (ABV: ?): A harvest ale that tasted like a cross between an amber and a cider. Maybe they just mixed some together.

Laht Neppur Brewing—Waitsburg, WA: Oatmeal Porter (ABV: 6%): The program says it has “strong coffee and chocolate flavors,” but we’ll never know because Eric knocked his over.

Iron Horse Brewery—Ellensburg, WA: Malt Bomb: a dark beer that tastes like a toasty thick milkshake.

Northern Ales—Northport, WA: Smoked North Porter (ABV: 6%): Keep an eye out for this little brewery as it’s expanding to Kettle Falls. The man wearing the Viking hat told me that they’re looking to distribute to Spokane in the next year. It took me twenty minutes to get through six ounces of the Smoked North Porter. A charming motor oil color, I’d like to take that beer camping with me. It smells like my apartment and tastes like a fire pit.

Paradise Creek Brewery—Pullman, WA: Dirty Blonde (ABV: 5.2%): Mitch refused to try any beers from Pullman. This not-spicy blonde didn’t taste like much. The sign said that the ladies liked it too... not my kind of ladies.

And now for the Best o’ the Westovs:

3rd—Elliott Bay Brewing: Hop Von Boorian (ABV: 5.5%): Don’t let the low alcohol content and the light color fool you. This Belgian-inspired IPA is a kick in the face.

2nd—Georgetown Brewing—Seattle, WA: Lucille IPA (7.2%): “Anything that tastes that good has to be named Lucille.” It’s everything you want an IPA to be, a field of flowers in a glass. Aromatic, crisp, complex. Really well done.

1st—Laht Neppur Brewing: Autumn Warmer (ABV: 8%): The highest in alcohol content, I tried it first—the love child of a pumpkin ale and an IPA. Burnt umber in color. Sweet, smooth, spicy. It’ll hold your hand and keep you warm, the best counselor for October.


wine and lamps and schools in africa.

I'm in a book club with 30 to 40 year old women who bitch and drink wine and laugh and bitch some more.

We read A Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart. The novel was in the 'fad' section of Barnes and Noble. After two or so weeks of the release date it was anointed with a 20% discount sticker on the upper right hand corner because they overstocked. It's a sloppy, not all that interesting satire of what is to come with technology and iphones and the impending doom of the United States government and economy. It had moments of witty and cleverness, but over all it's drenched in badly written social drama scenes. And it's super raunchy.

The majority of our discussion was not about the book, (to my relief, it doesn't merit much discussion except that you should think about the decisions you make and that China is eventually going to kick our red, white, and blue inflated ass)

no, we talked about a lamp purchase.

Michelle and I walked into Andrea's house together. She's back into the social scene. She had a baby six weeks ago and can once again enjoy drinking wine and having sex with her husband. Apparently you have to wait six weeks after giving birth to have sex. (I'm taking notes, folks.)

"Just out of curiosity ladies, how much would you spend on two accent lamps?" Michelle brings up as we all pull out our books from our purses.

I feel a bit out of place. I am wearing Toms shoes, I have no idea what an accent lamp is, and I'm drinking free wine. I'm going to sit out for this discussion.

Andrea speaks up. "Well, what kind of accent lamps are these? Is this the only lighting you have in the room?"

"Mmhmm." Michelle snickers confidently. She's already anticipating the conversation is going in her desired direction.

"I'd spend $250 each." Jade responds.

"If this is a purchase that could make or break the feel of the room, I say $500. each."

I choke on my wine. No one notices, thankfully.

Michelle, now clearly content, decides to tell us the point of her question. "Mike and I got in a fight. Mike's mom gave us $500.00 to spend on the house and we agreed to spend it on lamps for the entry room. I paid $300 for both lamps total. He said I hurt his feelings because I spent too much money."

"Oh my! You are shitting me!" says Linda.

"No, I'm not! He made me cry because he was being so mean, and you know Mike, he is never mean. I was like, what the fuck do you want me to do?" Michelle exclaims.

"Oh okay," Andrea shouts over all the other ladies exclamatory protests. "This is NOT about the lamps. This is about something else. What could it be?"

We spend the rest of the night discussing the alternative, ever so intricate and complicated psychological explanations for why Mike's feeling were hurt over $300.00 lamps.

The next morning I met a bus driver who is trying to raise $10 million dollars for children to go to school in Africa. I am taking pictures for Real Change, a weekly newspaper that the homeless of Seattle sell on the streets. He was on page six. The reporter and I met him in west Seattle. I got there a little early. We had a quick, witty banter about schools and kids and looking for jobs.

"So what exactly are you doing?" I ask.

"I'm about to go around the country and ask every school bus driver, there are 129,000 of them, to give a one time $25 donation to the self-sustaining organization I'm creating for a school principal in Uganda. I'm scared shitless. I have one request as you take your pictures. None of my face, please. It's not about me. It's about the kids."

The man looks like a bus driver. Beer belly, a long pony tail, broken glasses, and a missing tooth. I take a few shots of his hands. The reporter comes and I prepare to leave.

As I walk out of the room he calls out to me.

"Goodbye artist."



There’s a woman named Vita who hangs out at the Y. She’s a member, 80 years old, and she spends most of her time in the lobby crocheting or falling asleep. She’s in a motorized chair—“I can’t find my cane,” she once told Melissu. “I put it on the back of my chair, and it must have fallen off. I hate this chair. I hate that they put me in this dang chair.” She talks waveringly, quietly, and a lot. When she sits over by the windows, we send someone every once in a while to check that she’s breathing.

Vita has two braids of thin gray hair, and today she showed me some pictures. She makes things for the fair. She showed me pictures of pillowcases, cushion cases, and Afghans. They were all in bright colors with patterns she designed herself. Then she showed me a picture of her two cases of ribbons. They were mostly blue, and she hung them sideways in rows and columns like a formation of airplanes.

“Are the blue ones first place and the red ones second?” I asked.

“The blue ones are the first place ribbons and the red ones are for second place.

“The first time I entered something at the fair I got a first and a second. I entered a cake and an Afghan. Guess which got the second.” She said.

“The Afghan,” I said.

“The cake! They said that it needed more spice. If it had more spice it would have gotten first. I don’t like the spice so I didn’t put as much in.

“Guess what fruit was in the cake. It was a fruitcake with only one type of fruit. Guess which fruit was in the cake.” She said.

“Apples,” I said.

I was leaning over the counter so I could hear her. She bent forward in her chair. Her face turned bright and mischievous.

“Raisins,” she said. “They call raisins a fruit.”


What Happened to Mr. Feeny?

Grab a cookie or a cup of coffee; this is a long one.

Everyday I become more baffled, humbled, angered, and inspired by the education system in the United States.

Right now I am untainted and naive in regards to the day to day life of making lessons plans, dealing with dealing or not dealing with parents, the administrative and political systems etc. With a fresh and idealist eyes, I want to explore why I want to teach.

I could rush into a great teaching program, get my master's degree, and then find myself wondering why I did this in the first place.

Yesterday over wine and beer and pizza Brea told me that her initial reasons of why she wanted to be a nurse have changed after one year of being a RN. But she still wants to be a nurse. She deeply cares about the medical field and infectious diseases. Just get her a book on tapeworm or malaria and she'll be a happy camper.

Why do I want to subject myself to the school system in the US?
What is education?
How does my desire to teach seek the truth of the gospel?

Something to consider:

The US is ranked 5th in the world for cumulative K-12 education spending per student in 2006.
That same year, the US was ranked 21st in science literacy and 25th in math literacy.

23% of new teachers in the United States come from the top third of their college classes.

47% of new teachers in the US come from the bottom third.

In countries such as Finland, Singapore, and South Korea 100% of educators come from the top third of their graduating class, first-year teaching positions are regarded the way Americans see first-year medical residencies-- the beginning of an elite career.*

Airplane small talk:

"So what do you want to do with French, teach?"
"Yes I do. I want to teach high school or middle school."
"Wow, good luck. You are brave. I would never want to do that."

I guess there is prestige in teaching in the United States. (Especially if you do Teach for America. You are doing the country a great two year voluntary service and then you can go and find yourself a real job. But for those of you who want do this as a career, you are f-ing crazy.)

The concept of education that I want to exemplify is this:

Education has little to do with how talented or intelligent a person is, but more to do about how a person wants and desires to impact the community around them.

As a teacher I hope to:
-Genuinely Love what I teach, but love my students exactly where they are more. (and to embrace the fact that they may not give a shit about what I have to say.)

-Show that I am a human being. Kids are conditioned to pay attention for 30 minutes with interspersed interruptions. Teachers are protrayed on Cartoon Network as ugly, stupid, mean, and clueless to what life is actually like. (I nannied all summer, I've watched the shows.) Our generation loved and respected Boy Meets World's Mr. Feeny. Where did he go?

-Promote and acknowledge the value of reading. And reading well.

-Provide opprountities for students to see that the books we are reading or the topics we are discussing in class can have concrete connections to their daily life. I don't want to teach trivial bullshit.

-Construct my methods as best I can to keep students from "playing school". I spent so much time in high school trying to figure out how I could manipulate the syllabus to get the grade I needed with the least amount of effort. More often than not, that process took a significant amount of effort. Interesting.

-Promote personal and social awareness. Many of the decisions and choices we make in reference to other people are based upon our previous experiences. This can be very dangerous. You cannot rely on personal history and overlook facts to assume whatever makes sense in your mind is the truth. (I now recommend reading or watching 12 Angry Men.)

-To take life seriously enough to play in it. (Hence the Forest Gump poster I want in my classroom.)

-Show that education has significant implications to one's life. By knowing, you are responsible. Jonathan Safran Foer's book Eating Animals, along with many other publications buzzing around are revealing the cruelty and dangers of factory farming in the United States. Education can suck. I love eating salmon.

Alex Nelson told me yesterday something his professor said (I am taking liberties with the phrasing):
"We are supposed to love each other. We love each other or we die. But we don't love each other. We choose not to. So we mask love with education. Instead we try to understand each other."

I hope to point towards the fact that education can open the way for love, not cripple it.

I may feel as if I'm defending Tom Robinson from Bob Ewell every year I am alive or a teacher, or however my convictions morph themselves in my life, but I'll still do it.

Because, "I aint got a original thought in my head. If it aint got the lingerin scent of divinity to it then I aint interested." (Read the Sunset Limited.)

Because at the end of the day I am accountable to Christ. That is what ultimately matters.

*Stats and other information come from Time Magazine's article, "A Call to Action for Public Schools" by Amanda Ripley. Sources also come from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development; National Center for Educational Statistics.


On Being 23

I think a lot about what it means to be a 23-year-old. Growing up I always had this vague feeling that I was going to die at 18, that there would be nothing after high school. In my family, going to college was, like high school (and dying), another automatic thing you did. So I’m fascinated with the reality of surviving my teenage years and living, for the first time, when my life isn’t scripted for me.

I’ve noticed that there isn’t a lot of cultural input for our age group. I think this is because we have no money, generally. There aren’t many financial benefits making us the target audience for commercials. So there’s no pressure in what our living spaces should look like, what deodorants we should wear, how to feed our kids, etc. And those of us who are graduated or conscientious undergraduate objectors don’t have homework or class to tell us how to use our time.

Sometimes I feel happy for no other reason than my age. I mean, look at us 23-year-olds. We’re beautiful. With nice skin and taught bottoms.

It feels a little scandalous that I can function in society like this. I mean, I make enough money to live on by working part-time at the Y. And when I’m not working I spend my time buying food, doing laundry, riding my bike, drinking beer, and hanging out with friends. It seems too good to be allowed in a competitive capitalistic country. (This was going somewhere, but I’m a dogfish head 90-minute IPA in and losing my focus.)

I feel somewhere in between brushing my teeth with a bottle of Jack and a dish soap commercial, which leaves a lot of wiggle room. Which is excellent.



Today, I looked out my window to see a man picking through the garbage across the street. He frequents Riverside, walking up and down. He has a thick gray and brown beard and wears a hood over his head. I’ve seen him sitting on the benches in the tree groves on the medians.
He has a Mexican blanket. It’s brightly colored in blues, yellows and greens. There are vertical stripes around a sun pattern in the middle. He was wearing it over his shoulders like a robe. I asked him what he was looking for, and he said, “I am seeking my brothers. Tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.”

I told art professor, Gordon Wilson, about what I had seen. He said he’s been interested in what we throw away. Once he had so much stuff to take to the dump that he had to borrow his friend’s truck. When he got there he stood in the bed and looked through a stack of paintings to be discarded. The oldest one was on the top, and as he went through each one he could remember when each had some promise. One canvas after another he threw like a Frisbee. They went pretty far. When he got to the end he borrowed a shovel from the man dumping trash next to him to get the rest of the debris out of the truck.
“I was considering some spiritual things,” he said “because of how I had borrowed my friend’s truck and how the man next to me had lent me his shovel and how those paintings were flying.”
He said that he saw a man laboring under a rotary clothesline, carrying it over his shoulder, as he walked through the rubble.

They saw him from afar, and before he came near to them they aspired against him to kill him. They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer.”


He kindly stopped for me --

I smashed a spider on my wall and left it there for years. Guts smeared onto a picture I had taped up of Lindsay holding someone’s baby. I had learned about the crosses on the roadsides into Rome, how they hung criminals there and left them.

Kris asked how old people were when they first got scared of spiders. He said that babies didn’t care. They play with mud on their arms. I answered with something I’d heard that wasn’t half as interesting.

In Annie's and my bathroom, spiders came out to die. Whenever we saw one alive, we knew that in a day or two it’d be on its back legs in a bundle. As if they wanted our company.

And when I died in the room with the tubes and white walls, the spiders held mass. They forgave me for my times of persecution, when I washed their cousins down the shower drain with hot water. They remembered me as a baby, playing with rolly-pollies on the driveway and putting ants in my hair. They folded their legs and bowed their cephalothoraxes in silence. Then the spiders started a solemn march, and they crawled up my nose.

It's odd that humans don't have exoskeletons

odd that they leave corpses instead of husks. It makes sense, of course, physiologically; at their size, humans’ legs would snap beneath the weight of their shells.

They might have come from insects. They smile without expression. Curl into wafers. Fly into bikers’ mouths.

But of course they didn’t. Insects are biologically perfect.

For every person there is an Olympic-sized pool of bugs. Invertebrates are the masters of the planet.

Except for lobsters. They don’t seem to have it so good.


Writing and Living, I guess.

I am now finally settled from the settling. I moved to Seattle. Most people ask me for an explanation, (especially because I don't have a job), and I can't give them one that would satisfy a reasonable, practical response. Sorry.

My unreasonable and impractical response is that I get to live with friends. My dear friend Erin Cooley is going to marry med school next year (she will have a life, but it could be in Seattle, Boston, the Bronx) and I have always wanted to spend a significant amount of time with her.

We eat and sleep and shower in a cave on Ravenna St. Apparently it's in a "yuppie" part of town. I have to rely on map quest to go four feet in any given direction, so I'm just going to trust that that is true.

Die Bierstube is becoming quite the hang out. (I still miss the Bigfoot) Good people and good times to be had for sure. Maybe they are hiring.

I live with another kid named Nick who I met the day I signed the lease. He likes good music, he fixes things like our water purifier, and helped me research my property law rights. I'm a fan. Again, I just trusted that Erin found a stellar third mate. (I was actually the 3rd one to jump on board, but just work with me here.)

Despite the fact that I'm unemployed I always find myself doing things. That is great. I need to be entertained. Just ask Leslie Dugas, Amy Brown or Jon Fox.

I also realized something. A challenge for myself I guess. One of my main goals was, and still is, to find the silliest things to do so I can write about them and share them with you. That will happen simply by default. I can't seem to help getting myself into some sort of trouble. That goal is great, but I think the need to seek silliness derives from some weird fear, I guess. I am afraid that if I'm not doing anything interesting, I have nothing interesting to write about. Fiction is scary to me. I would rather fiddle around with a pre-made template than rely on my own imagination. Maybe I'm not giving myself enough credit. Or maybe I am subconsciously self-aware that my writing skills remain within the delight confinements of non-fiction observation. I guess we'll see.

Or maybe I'll be riding the bus one day and come up with a kick ass wizard who has an owl, an invisible cloak, takes on the most evil character who's name can't even be spoken aloud and become richer than the queen of england.

It could happen.


Why Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is a Better Movie than Inception

So Rotten Tomatoes gave Inception an 87% on the Tomatometer while it gave Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen a 20%. (But it only gave Sex and the City 2 a 16% so how accurate can it be?) I have also become the first of my facebook friends to “Like” TRF. Thanks to RT I thought of like literally like “Like”ing it.

TRF is a better movie than Inception because it better satisfies its intended audience. Transformers: RF is cinematically the most possibly realized dream of a twelve-year-old while Inception is an under-realized movie about dreaming.

When I was a kid I played by myself a lot—Legos, Littlest Pet Shop, Barbies, blocks, dolls, this castle thing that my grandma insisted belonged to my brothers. I’d lie on the floor in my room and imagine different scenes for my toys. I could do that all afternoon. TRF is Amy-as-a-kid’s kind of movie: rapid cuts from scene to scene for the ADD inclined, stunning visuals, a plot fit to the machinations of a fourteen-year-old, and maximum wish fulfillment for the kids who spend time playing on their bellies. It doesn’t fly so well with adults out of their floor-playing prime: critics who want to be surprised or moved or for whom sci-fi aesthetics carry little weight. It’s fine, they’re great people, just not the targeted audience.

Inception is more entertaining than TRF, although it lacks TRF’s aesthetic supreme awesomeness. Inception was also disappointing; it had the potential to do more than entertain. It could have pointed to something outside of itself, stuck with people made them think, reached the level of art. But it ended cheaply, with a gimmick. The movie itself was too sloppy to warrant careful observation (If Leo wanted his kids so bad, why didn’t he just have them come to France?), and the question it finally asked—the idea for the audience to incept—was a boring one. Is this world real? You can think about it for 20 minutes before deciding that there is no way to know and that it ultimately affects your life not at all.

When I was watching the previews for Inception in the theater. Eureka! this idea struck me: what I want most out of life is to be entertained. It depressed me as I went to get popcorn. But at one point—when I spent my time with small plastic animals and toy cars turned into robots—I wanted most to populate my world with characters, with ideas, with friends, and entertainment was more of the by-product than the goal.


I've noticed something unfortunate.

When I was a kid in Sunday school or regular school or at camp, people were rewarded for good behavior and punished for bad. Child rearing was pretty deterministic in its use of positive and negative reinforcement. Kids who were listening quietly would be called on first or would be picked for special things. Kids who were noisy would be glared at, ignored, sent to the hall, or given a good talking to. It set up this precedent that good things came to good, or at least well-behaved, people.

The other day at the Y, a child in the day camp lost a shoe. On his way out he asked the front desk, “Have you seen a shoe that looks like this?” pointing to his one shoe-clad foot. Later his mother came back to the Y. She was livid. Said that the Y owed her a new pair of shoes. She threatened to call the police (?). And started walking all over the building, where as a non-member she was not supposed to be. Two managers, a custodian, and two camp counselors were searching everywhere for the shoe. Everybody just wanted to appease her so she would go away and not further muck up their day.

If she were a child she would be sent to the hall. She would be taught how sometimes children lose things. It’s just what they do, and throwing a fit won’t make it any better. I’d tell her how looking for her son’s shoe is not worth five people’s time.

But because she is an adult, telling her all this would just make her angrier, make the fiasco last longer. She was given special treatment because she was behaving badly.

And that’s how things seem to work in business. If a patron complains about her food (and especially if she starts going berserk) she’s given a free meal. Companies bend rules and give out free things to appease angry people. Adults are rewarded for bad behavior, and good things come to those who are pushy.