Saturday, November 14, 2009

The 21st century: Was-bands

I was not-really-on-purpose eavesdropping on a woman at Red E this morning, and I had to ask her: "Excuse me, but did you just say you're taking your wasband to the airport?"

She laughed. "Yeah. As in, was my husband. But not my ex-husband, he's not exed out of my life. He's my was-band."

She told me about how he's still so important in her life, they've been separated for about two years and are getting divorced, but they still have a joint checking account, they talk every day--and yeah, she's the one taking him to the airport. People who know her have warned her to be careful, he's her ex, she shouldn't talk to him, should just break it all off, he'll hurt her, she'll get hurt--but she said how it just isn't like that between them, it never has been and it's not going to be like that now. She said she loves him and he's a part of her, part of her life, and she wouldn't want it to be otherwise.

I said how I'd been curious because divorce is just such a part of our world now, it seems like we have to figure out other ways of relating to exes, especially when there are children involved. I know so many divorced or divorcing people with kids--friends, friends of friends, parents of students--and they're co-parenting, but the ground rules of their own relationship have changed, which affects everything. But I know at least one person with a sort of a was-band, a friend who recently went on vacation with her ex-husband and their son, plus my friend's girlfriend and the wasband's girlfriend. The woman with the was-band--whose name I never got--liked that story a lot.

She said, "Thank you for saying something, thank you for asking."

I told her I was glad I did.

Friday, November 13, 2009

After Tupac

I just finished Jacqueline Woodson's After Tupac and D Foster, and I loved it so much. I was too cool (or at least too "alternative") for 2Pac when he was alive, when I was in high school and then college. I don't remember hearing anything at all about his death--but he died less than two months after my father committed suicide, so it makes sense that it wouldn't have registered. Very little registered at that point.

As my music taste evolved, I did buy a Tupac compilation bootleg CD in downtown Brooklyn, and I've worn that thing out. But it's only got eighteen of his 393 songs (that's according to iTunes, and includes remixes and all that stuff--but he had a lot of songs) so after reading After Tupac and D Foster I especially had to go track down "Brenda's Got a Baby."

I didn't realize how intense a song this was while I was reading the book--I was assuming it was just coming across as so intense because the main characters in the book are twelve years old, and I thought "Father Figure" was intense when I was twelve. But--damn.

The main character talks a lot about how beautiful Tupac's eyes are: "He had the prettiest eyes of any rapper--they were all big and sad-looking and he had dark eyebrows that were so thick, they made you think about soft things." I can see what she means. She describes him singing in "Brenda's Got a Baby": "His eyes looked sad like he was really singing about the truth and somebody he knew real good."

"Dear Mama" is also really important in After Tupac and D Foster, and if I'd listened to it at twelve I would've probably loved it too--but coming to it in my 30's it feels sorta power ballad mushy. (This one was on my bootleg CD, so I knew it, but--yeah.) Of course, the video still made me cry watching it just now, right after reading After Tupac and D Foster. I knew it would.

I do love how much respect he shows to women in his music. This is probably my favorite Tupac song from my bootleg CD:

There's also a lot of talk about his trial in the book. The main character's mama says, "They say the judge didn't like the tattoo--didn't think it was something a person should have written on themselves. That's that boy's own body. ... It's not the judge's business. ... First Amendment says people got a right to freedom of expression without government interfering--everybody knows that. Judge doesn't like the way he looks, didn't like the way he was in the world, what he talks about, what's on his stomach...that's the crime here." The narrator says, "Mama wasn't a big Tupac fan, but she was a big fan of justice." ("The tattoo" was THUG LIFE--click on the image to see it bigger.)


Another girl in the book, D, says, "It's like he sees stuff, you know? And he knows stuff. And he be thinking stuff that only somebody who knows that kinda living deep and true could know and think."

Tupac was 25 when he died. That's eight years younger than I am right now.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


I am grading my students' projects that they completed after reading their independent reading books (of their own choice). One of their options was a vocabulary project: "Keep a list of words you don't know while you're reading your book. When you finish, pick 15 of these words. You must define them and use each in a sentence with context cues. Then create some kind of vocabulary activity that would help fellow students learn your words (a crossword puzzle, word find, fill in the blank using your sentences, etc.). Include an answer key."

I don't know how to grade these fairly, especially when the student's first language is not English, so that their only exposure to these words is probably through books.

GRIM: Harsh, forbidding.
"I'm so harsh with my brother, im grim all the time"

SACRILEGE: An act of disrespect or violence.
"Stop acting sacrilege to your brothe, so violent"

RIBALD: vulgar lewd humor.
"Your so funny, so ribald."

LITHE: easily bent or flexed.
"Metal can be very lithe while heated."

MANGY: affected with or resulting from mange. Example, chicken pox the holes from chicken pox.
"I have mangy skin due to the sun's rays."

I do know that I obviously need to point out that if they don't know the words in the definition for their vocabulary word, they have to look those up, or they aren't going to know what the word means! Also that they need to be careful about the spelling and punctuation of all the words they use, not just the vocabulary words. But beyond that, I'm at a bit of a loss. Suggestions?

I do really like this one, in spite of the "from" which I think is just a typo:
USURP (no definition given)
"I usurp my neighbor's land, to get back at him from using my lawn for a garage sale."