Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Uses for Year in Reviews

Look through any news site or blog today, and you will be presented with the same item: The Year in Review. The Washington Post has a visual twist on the theme (who doesn't like pictures?), offers us a Year in Business, and my own Naperville Sun--presumably without anything else to write about--presents no fewer than three Year in Reviews.

What is this fascination with looking back, with quantifying our experiences, victories, failures? Yes, you can quote Santayana to death with your those-who-don't-remember-the-past nonsense, but what I'm particularly interested in is the essence of nostalgia. In my late childhood I spent hours looking through my old notebooks and journals, and in my adolescence and early adulthood I have meticulously kept track of significant events (and sometimes insignificant ones). Was it because I thought that if I wrote it all down I would be able to use that knowledge later on in life? Did I think I could synthesize the sum of my existence in order to be a better person in the future?

Perhaps a small part of me held this view, but I never truly thought that keeping a catalogue of the past would accumulate into a better future self. I did not, and do not, think that the mere existence and remembrance of one's past experiences cause one to be a better person (though I do, of course, recognize that these make up who we all are in the present). But to think that keeping
the past in mind--being mindful of what one has been through--somehow causes one to be a better person is simply not true.

Why, then, do I keep records of the past? It's simple. Fear. Fear of losing what's already been lost. Fear that the future won't be quite as grand as the past. For if we remember, if we think back to the past, we are able to relive just for a moment our previous lives, our previous selves. We can say, I remember when that was me, I remember that a piece of that person resides in me now.

But there's the danger, isn't it? To think that the old self is somehow recoverable is fallacy, and this is the temptation practicers of nostalgia must resist. So when perusing all these Year in Reviews, sure, look at the pretty pictures and remember what used to be. But also remember that it won't ever be that way again.

And for many elements of 2008, that's not such a bad thing.

Monday, December 29, 2008

What You Should Do If Your Clothing Melts On You.

This article is funny, if just for the seriousness with which the question is answered. ("A disposable Santa costume is one of the worst disguises you could wear if you're plotting an act of arson.")

What Should You Do If Your Clothing Melts on You?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Tranquil English Teacher

I realize that you're probably not an English teacher. I realize that you probably have no interest in knowing what issues English teachers have to deal with. This post is not for you.

I'm starting a blog called The Tranquil English Teacher. It's intended to track my life-and-death struggle with grading essays, with imparting my boundless wisdom unto my students, and with hanging on to the last shred of sanity that belongs to me. Eventually, I hope it to be a resource, not just for other teachers out there who are struggling with the same issues, but for my future self. Teaching, you see, is not a profession where you learn effective pedagogical strategies; teaching is a profession where you relearn effective pedagogaical strategies--over and over again.

So if any of this interests you, even if you aren't an English teacher, feel free to head on over. It's still a work in progress (much like Vandelay Industries), but it's a site for which I have high hopes.

Under Construction!

You may start to see some drastic changes to the ol' Vandelay Industries in the next coming days. It's being retuned for the new year. Let me know if you like the changes, or if there's something else you'd like to see!

40 Inspirational Speeches from the Movies in Two Minutes


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Festivus!

"I've got a lot of problems with you people!"