Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Leaves of Grass is an autobiography/biography

Whitman Unit 8

Matt Butcher

What sort genre (“type” or “kind”) of work is Leaves of Grass? Is it an epic, doctrine, biography and autobiography, or philosophy—or a combination of all of these and, perhaps, more? Let us begin with the idea of an “epic.” If we adhere to the classical definition of “genre,” then the kind of genre to which a work is assigned is determined by the central character or hero. For example, a detective story is about a detective, an adventure story about an adventurer, a romance about a lover, and an epic about a warrior. What are the most famous epics and who are they about? Who is Leaves of Grass about? Ordinarily, poems about the writer (first-person poems that are about the “I” who is telling the story) are considered in the genre called the lyric. Generally, these are short poems. How does Whitman fit into this category—if he does?
Is Leaves of Grass an extended lyric, an autobiography, or an epic? If it is all of these, then what role does each genre contribute to the whole? Why in literary studies is it important to designate genres and there use? How is this important to the understanding of Whitman’s poetry?
Is Leaves of Grass really a work of philosophy? Does the title tell us the content or give us the overall and underlying transcendental philosophy? How so? What is the meaning of Whitman’s use of “leaf” or “leaves” mean today? How is this important? Again, refer back to Units 2 and 3 and our discussion of transcendentalism and naturalism. Discuss how Whitman’s philosophy developed in a consistent fashion from the 1855 Edition to the Deathbed Edition.

After all my recent research into Whitman, I am going to say that Leaves of Grass is an autobiography/biography. “The messages of great poets to each man and woman are, Come to us on equal terms, Only then can you understand us, We are no better than you, What we enclose you enclose, What we enjoy you may enjoy” (from the introduction to the 1855 edition). These are his images and his meanderings. Somehow, somehow he understands that the future will think highly of him. He truly feels that he is a man ahead of his time. “The proof of a poet is that his country absorbs him as affectionately as he has absorbed it” (1855 edition).

There are so many instances where he is simply talking about himself—the entire poem “Song of Myself.” In “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” he begins to love the area that he is gazing upon yet starts to see the people of the future and how they will perceive things—and it is the same way that he perceives things. This is an extraordinary revelation for a man who brags in the introduction to the first flimsy little 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass, “An individual is as superb as a nation when he has the qualities which make a superb nation.” He is saying that his experiences typify the nation. How bold. What would a multicultural teacher think of this, I wonder?

I guess it could be an epic if you apply a definition of the character standing for greater-than-life qualities. However, I believe an epic hero is not looking for approval. Whitman is, in one way or another, even if it is just a head nod from a reader. He kept republishing it after Emerson wrote him that letter. To be honest, I had thought that Whitman’s title Leaves of Grass referred to the pages in the book. It is about the leaves of grass that is under all our feet in this great country. We are all free, yet walk a similar path.

Works cited

Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass (1855 edition). Available online 20 September 2005 http://www.whitmanarchive.org/archive1/works/leaves/1855/text/frameset.html.

The same era can yield completely different results

Matt Butcher

Unit 3

The same era can yield completely different results. I believe that though Wordsworth was believing he was creating back down to the roots of a rustic life, he somehow thought humanity was past all of that. It must be the Victorian English era that makes him hoity-toity. Whitman on the other hand praises that which we really are at the core: a “low and rustic life,” to use Wordsworth’s terms.

Whitman can believe and show that democracy shouts out that there is no line of difference among the “American elite,” any named individual of a supposedly higher class, and the common man. We are all common. We are all animalistic creatures. Wordsworth’s world id delineated by the fact of royalty. Apparently some are born higher than others. Whitman could not disagree more. Therefore, Wordsworth thinks of “rustic” as living without that which society and technology have given us, much like people today thinking of how they ever lived without a cell phone or a computer. I don’t have a cell phone and people have questioned me strangely as if I was not part of their world. I have actually been asked if I were Amish when it was discovered I had no cell phone. “Rustic” to Whitman is more basic matters, as in animalistic urges and needs, especially sexual. There is nothing appalling in sex or in relating to it. For instance, in “Spontaneous Me,” Whitman constantly talks of our base sexual desires running parts of our lives.

“The boy’s longings, the glow and pressure as he confides to me what he was dreaming,
The dead leaf whirling its spiral whirl, and falling still and content to the ground,”

This clearly identifies with the fact that man needs these desires (even realizing that solo night desires must be there for maturation) to procreate, to litter our ground with the leaves that will sustain us. The prudish upper class can deny these poems at the time they were written but didn’t they fall to these desires? They must have or the species would die out. They don’t want to admit them, as parents feel uncomfortable in talking about sex with their children. Whitman’s character is full of joy because he has embraced these realities and not hidden from them. He therefore has no ego because he realizes the truth: it simply is and he is no better than the rest.

Wordsworth in “Tintern Abbey” shares much of the ideals of Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry.” In “Tintern Abbey,” Wordsworth shares the perspective anew through his sister’s eyes. In effect, he is then gaining a new experience and not a true repeating of his original adventure there. Whitman in “Crossing” wonders about time and these visions. Fifty years before him, these same islands he sees did not have these marvelous boats. Fifty years from now, something new would come and it did, however, the islands were still there. The same space is differentiated by time with new visions, even though the same space is there. This makes his self and experience wonderful, but my experience today would also be wonderful, just a tad different. Therefore, he truly feels democratic about it, the fact that everyone will share the wealth as it were even though the wealth changes slightly.

Science fiction story

I wrote a story a couple of months ago. I had an idea and managed to get it down onto paper. I always have plenty of ideas but then never get the bug to just write. So I did it.

The Logic of the Time Travel

by Matt Butcher

The calculations were all done. The vectors in the fourth dimension caused all of the main headaches. Once you factored in gravity, however, they seemed to just fall into place. It had nothing to do with the multi-planes of string theory geometry. The early theorists got that all wrong. No, time travel was simply a mathematical construct of one dimension.

Ever since he read H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, he knew it would be a simple endeavor. It was so logical. We move in space all the time across three dimensions. Why can't we move on just one more axis of the fourth dimension of time? We can, and he had the mathematics to prove it.

He even created his machine to look exactly like the chair in the 1953 movie version of The Time Machine. Grand and elegant, it was exactly the way the new king of the fourth dimension should travel. Gear shifts elegantly adjusted the engine and propulsion. There was even a panel that showed the changes in time, much like a car's odometer. He even figured out how to adjust for daylight savings time! He had covered all the angles and took all necessary precautions.

Beautifully, the machine, once powered up, created a sort of forcebubbl around the contraption. The math said you could move a point across time and the point was either infinitely small or infinitely big. The only limitation was the power source and fuel. The force bubble protected the point in space and didn't affect the space outside of it. It would protect him during transit as long as the fuel lasted. Plutonium was at least renewable, which was why he chose to start by travelling into the future.

Just a week. Just long enough to log onto the internet, check the stats and scores for next week's ball games, then go back in high style. His predictions would be marvelous proof of his machine.

He climbed into the chair. The luxurious cushions were definitely the right choice. Everything was perfect and ready. He even had the back-up plutonium stored in the cargo box.

He felt he should say something. Armstrong had that perfect quote as he stepped upon the moon. Even Archimedes exclaimed, "Eureka!" when he figured out volume. As he sat there, all he could think of was "It's about time." It only proved to himself that he should stick with the math.

He pressed the ignition. There was a hum of working parts. The force bubble shimmered into place around him. The opalescence of the bubble was still see-through and translucent. It was working! The force bubble was proof! Now all he had to do was adjust the time indicator. Just one week. Simply adjust the day of the month by "seven."

The machine throbbed with a new intensity. There was the feeling of motion but it wasn't extreme. It was more like the motion felt at cruising speed aboard a jet liner. As the time indicator slowly crept forward, like watching the odometer change while driving two miles an hour, he could see the earth fading away from the force bubble.

The earth shrank away, faster now. He and the machine were unzooming away from the earth at a tremendous rate now. The earth pulled away from him at an alarming rate.

The panic set in. The force bubble was not supposed to move in space. He saw the earth spin away at a frightening pace, nothing but a globe in the blackness of space now.

He realized, too late, that his calculations were still fine. He was moving only through the fourth dimension of time and not moving through space. As the earth revolved on its axis, as the earth revolved around the sun, as the sun revolved around the center of the Milky Way on its galactic arm, as the galaxy revolved around whatever groups of galaxies revolve around, he forgot that e moved in space all the time. He forgot the grade school lesson of even non-moving objects technically spinning on the surface of the earth at a rate of thousands of miles per hour.

The time indicator stopped. He was now one week in the future. He was now occupying the space one week in the future of where his lab would be, if the earth were not revolving around the sun.

But he felt more motion. The force bubble tumbled and twirled and he sensed a movement like free-fall. He had read enough to know that this was the feeling of a space walk. He was caught in the gravity of the sun, a new celestial body. He was a new comet, if you will.

He had most probably traveled miles already. Spinning helplessly, he could not stop the movement of the machine. Cold reality set in. Even if he could calmly adjust the time indicator back a week, he had moved so far out of position that he would not wind up back on earth.

He had done all the calculations correctly. However, he didn't see that the fourth dimension still moved across the Z-axis in space. There were more dimensions that he dreamed.

He tried to conceive a mathematical equation that could possibly encompass the multiple dimensions. It was too difficult as the spinning of the force bubble increased. He wondered how long the machine would last before he suffocated.

He hoped he would at least be visible as a comet or streak of light in the nighttime sky.


They talked me into it. A cat. We went to the humane society on Sunday and picked him up last night. Elmer. That's what he was already called.

The girls really wanted a cat. Amy really wanted a cat. This one won their little hearts right away.


Amy named my truck "Darth." And not just because of its black color. When we test drove Darth, it made a noise out of the brakes, a sort of air release, that we swear sounded like "Haaa-pa," the Darth Vader breath. That cinched it. (The car's brakes were thoroughly checked before we brought it home and they're fine...no more noise.)

Chuck's BBQ

Chuck is a teacher! Thank goodness for the whole family, especially a guy like Chuck who deserves it. He is going to be a good one. We drove to his congratulations BBQ that Heather put on.

Morgan got a big kick out of driving Hannah's little motorized car.
There was plenty of food to go around.
Here is a picture of an elusive black squirrel that is apparently very prominent and very mischieviously crazy. I have never seen one before.
Alex behind the wheel of my truck.
This is the church across the street from my sister's house.


I dropped Amy off at work this morning. The Thornton's gas station on Center Street in Bloomington was only $2.69 a gallon for regular unleaded. I shrieked in excitement, as the Mobil by our apartment was $2.77. And I needed a fill up.

I've been watching gas go down in price lately. When we drove to Heather and Chuck's on Saturday, I think I spent $2.85, and thought it was a bargain. Prices in Central Illinois are cheaper than up north. Must be taxes. My dad said he spent over $3 for gas for work that day.

I just can't believe I am thinking that $2.69 is a bargain. As a sixteen-year-old, driving the Ark, my 1979 Pontiac Bonneville, I remember paying 89 cents a gallon. As prices crept toward a dollar, I remember driving to other gas stations looking for 99 cents or less, refusing to pay over a dollar for a gallon of gas. This was also when I was making less than $4 an hour at Art's. I also remember paying almost $5 a gallon just this year up in Alaska.

Have prices really gone up that much?

eBay boy finds £44,000 in games console

I tell ya, I wouldn't have said anything to anybody.

According to the article, the boy bought a video game console and two games were supposed to come with it. There was a load of cash instead. The parents called the police. The kid may get to keep the money if the "owner" is not found.

Would I have kept the money? £44,000 is nothing to sneer at. No, I think after the initial shock of finding the money and spending it in your head, you'd realize that someone knows where this money was delivered to. They have your address. They may come looking for the money. That's probably why it was stashed in there.

Scary, actually. This could make one hell of a good book, a thriller. Maybe this is the catalyst that I need...

Another old Intellivision commercial

Boy, I wish I knew how to rip and burn these to a DVD.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Some stuff I will miss about Nome

There really are some things that we will miss about Nome, Alaska. It was part of us for two years. It is such a nice small town that little things seem more personally attached. And really, of all the people in the world right now, how many can say they have ever even been to Nome, let alone lived there for two years?

I think that the ice cream truck with the reindeer made out of garland on the roof is one in a billion.
How many stores do you know that have antlers hung outside?
And Anvil Mountain holds a certain mystique to me. The last time I climbed it in May, the wild musk ox and their new offspring were up there.

Mario Kart

One of my favorite video games of all time simply has to be Mario Kart: Double Dash on the Nintendo Gamecube.

It is devious in its cartoon mayhem, like you're in one of the old Tom and Jerry cartoons. It's one of those games that is replayable. As you proceed to get better and win, there are prizes. One of the prizes, on what is really quite a difficult level of 150cc (there are probably Nintendo gamers out there that would scoff at this still being difficult but I've never completed it perfectly so it is apparently at just the right skill level for me to be a challenge yet still winnable--off topic, I once had this generic basketball game on the regular old Nintendo and I got so good at it, that I would have to beat the computer team by 100 points for it to be a challenge, so what fun is that? But I digress...), the prize is a "mirror" world where the courses are the mirror image of what you memorized already. So the game really does become "new" again without anything really new.

Plus, as Morgan has grown up, she now gives me a run for my money. Hence, that is a new challenge. It will be new again when Madison gets older, as she can barely keep the A button down right now.

The cartoon madness makes it a lot more fun than a regular racing game to me. Every course is different by definition because new obstacles and turtle shells are thrown at you all the time.

It's different. It's just plain fun. That is the sign of a really good video game to me in this day and age, just being plain fun.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Mother in the garden

Mother in her garden.


I never had a chance to put these pictures up. Right off our new balcony here in Normal, we got a bird's eye view of the Fourth of July fireworks. I used my fireworks feature on my digital camera for the first time.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Cheat codes for DOOM and DOOM II

Years ago, I became completely hooked on a video game named DOOM. Actually, I first fell in love with its predecessor Wolfenstein 3D. Instead of being a side scroller, you actually felt you were in the game, holding the gun. And to be able to move forward, backward, sideways, diagonally, was just so innovative. I remember staying up til the wee hours of the morning trying an extra level or two of DOOM and DOOM II.

I just want to remember these cheat codes for future reference...I learned the hard way on these games not to use cheat codes because they ruined the game. However, there were times, on some very difficult boards, that I simply had to use them. I remember once completing a level with 1% life. The next level started out as a fight so fast there was no possible way of not taking any damage. I had to restore my health just to move on. Plus, some of the secrets you simply cannot find without the codes.


IDDT (while looking at map)
1st time: Show entire map, 2nd time: Show enemies
All keys and weapons
All weapons
Berserk pack
Display Location
Get a chainsaw
God Mode
Kills all monsters in the level, excepting Lost Souls and the Icon of Sin. Note: This code will only work in Doom 95
Light Amplification Goggles
Monsters do not notice players unless they are hurt or hear a shot Note: This code will only work in Doom 95
Plays music from Episode #, Mission #
Radiation Suit
Temp. Invisibility
Temp. Invulnerability
Walk through walls (No Clipping Mode)
Warp to Episode #, Level #


All Weapons/Ammo
All Weapons/Ammo/Keys
Beserk Pack
Bonus Level
IDMUSxx (xx being a number)
Choose Game BGM
Computer Area Map
Destroys all enemies except Lost Souls
Entire Map
God Mode
Invisible to Enemies Until You Attack
IDCLEV xx (Where xx is the level number, like 05)
Level Warp
Light Amp Goggles
Makes you completely invisible to all enemies until you shoot
No Clipping Mode
Radiation Suit
Replace fists with Chainsaw
Show Position in Code
Wolfenstein 3D Level

All weapons, max ammo, 200% armor (no keys)
All weapons, max ammo, all keys, 200% armor
Change music. XX is the level number (ex: IDMUS04)
IDDT (entered in Automap)
Enter it once for full map, twice for object indicators, again to normal Automap
Free Chainsaw
Full Automap (no object indicators)
Invincibility (time limit)
Light Amplification Visor
Radiation Suit
Shows your position on map
Walk through walls
Warp to level. XX is the level number (ex: IDCLEV31)
PART 1: Standard Cheats for PC/MAC/LINUX/NEXT/QNX/SGI/SUN Systems
Cheat codes are activated by typing a sequence of keys at the keyboard at any time during normal play, although some cheats won't do anything unless you're in a particular situation, eg. viewing the map or participating in a multiplayer game. An incorrectly or incompletely typed cheat code will have no effect. For most cheats, there is no need to hold down a key such as Alt, or Control (the exception being the multiplater/map cheat), and there is no need to press Return. The only cheats that work in Nightmare mode are iddt and idclev (see below for what they do). In any other skill level, all the cheats work; however, the following is effectively the same as Nightmare mode with cheats, where ## is the level number: doom -fast -respawn -skill 4 -warp ##

Filling out forms

When you fill out an online form and have to put your birth date (which I guess is a way to make sure you're old enough but everybody that would be younger would lie wouldn't they?),

why does the birth years include, like, 2007? Do many one-year-olds fill out these forms?

San Diego Comicon 2007

No, I'm not going. I'd love to one year, but I'm not going. One year. So this year, as the geek that I am, I will be glued to my television set watching the channel G4's live coverage of San Diego Comicon 2007.

I have been to several little conventions in the Chicago and Seattle areas. I've met and shook hands with two of my favorites, Karl Kesel and Jim Lee. Met Green Lantern early penciler Mart Nodell. Other people too. Haven't been in such a long time. I might be able to go to the Chicago Comicon, now known as Wizardworld Chicago, in early August. I'll keep my fingers crossed, but even though Amy said she'd go with me, I don't know if the kids would want to go.

I'm a geek. I admit it. Granted, I am not so much of a geek that I would dress up as Wolverine or a Klingon or anything, but I am still a geek. I have always liked imaginative fiction. Science fiction, fantasy, and especially superhero fiction. Comics have always been the best place to get that kind of stuff. And I especially love the storytelling ability that a comic book can have--the pleasure or reading with the ultimate in visual storytelling. Just like I learned in one of my masters courses, visuals, like movies and comics, take away tedious description.

And with all of the new technology and movie tech recently, comic books can finally be made into movies. They could never have done Transformers, Spider-Man, Hulk, X-Men, Batman Begins, Superman Returns, Sin City, Fantastic Four, and tons, tons more, without the current tech. In a way, with the complete success of these movies, it justifies my geeky obsessions for the past 25 years. Now I seem to be the expert and knew way back then what everybody tries to know now. I was reading these comics years before it became a blockbuster movie.

I am a geek, and proud of it.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

I'd like to draw...

You'd think with my 25+ year obsession with comics and animation of all kinds that I would be able to draw.

Not a lick. Even my stick figures look disfigured.

I have tried to draw on my white boards at school for reference for stuff and gotten laughed at horribly. You should have seen me once try to draw a quick horse to illustrate what the bit was (in reference to a story that we were reading). It looked like some kind of deranged sausage.

So when I see ads like this, I keep thinking, "Man, if only I could draw. I might have been able to do stories better. I might have written more comics because I would be in more control."

So my hat is off to the artists out there. I am truly amazed at what some people can do. When I am doing my comics reviews and I mention that the art is good, or bad, it is because I truly look at it and appreciate it. I know how hard it flipping is because I have tried it myself.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Read the Fine Print

Ever notice that the laws that govern TV commercials about fine print never actually govern the size or time of the fine print?

It's so small that you struggle with getting used to the size and then it's never up there long enough to read unless you're using freeze frame. So what's the point?

Is it just to tell us that there is fine print involved? It could be saying "fine print fine print fine print gobbledygook fine print" for all we know.

Now, I understand fine print, especially in print ads. I think that TV commercials should be made to use a minimum legible font size. And if it's anything larger than a single sentence, then it should simply state, in even bigger letters, "Please check for all fine print details."

This just chaps my hide, that's all. How are you actually supposed to read it and make an informed decision? Look at a car ad on TV and actually try to read it next time and you'll see that something needs to be done about it.

(On a related subject, has anybody noticed how TV shows have started scrunching the ending credits to either nothingness or flashing them so fast that you can't read them? When I watch Law & Order on TNT, they overlap the credits onto the start of the next show, reducing the ending credits to almost nothingness. Why do they bother then? I remember when I was a kid watching Woody Woodpecker and Tom & Jerry cartoons that they never showed the credits at all.)

The fog of Seattle

While we were visiting Seattle in June, we took the ferry boat across the Puget Sound and ino Seattle. I have to say that this ferry experience is one of my best memories of living there. I would take the boat to date Amy. One time, I took the wrong ferry! She still came to pick me up.

Seeing the city's outline from the boat is phenomenal. It wasn't clear on this day, which we spent at the Science Center at the Seattle City Center under the Space Needle, but it was...Seattle. See, it was drizzly and wet, but not the downpour that we got here in Illinois the other week. When one sees "rainy" on the weather map for Seattle, it is usually just a drizzly, misty day. You can still do stuff. My dad has remarked that it is a lot like English weather, which makes sense to me with both west coasts being familiar.
I love this picture of Morgan that I took, sitting, staring out the window at the Sound. My lens was even a bit foggy from the condensation. That's Seattle, baby.

Interview up at Independent Propaganda

I actually got to do a quick email interview with the creators of LIGHT CHILDREN.

It's up now at Independent Propaganda, of which I am the editor now!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Wheaties ad from a World War II comic

From Leading Comics #9:

Ace quarterback for the Chicago Bears endorses Wheaties

From a 1952 comic book, Out of the Night. I had never even heard of this guy before...

No Roads Lead FROM Nome Either

Remind me to never barge a car anywhere in the world again.

It didn't make it onto the barge. They are flat out lying to us now, as the people that dropped it off never said, "Don't." Why would they say, "Don't"? That makes no sense. But that is the excuse they are giving us.

Fortunately, I have been promised it will be on the next barge. Unfortunately, that's not for another 18 days or so. Or so, because you can't guarantee anything like times or dates here.

Thank goodness Amy got that job in downtown Bloomington at that financial company. Bus passes are only $22 for the month. And with Midland starting up August 16, we won't have two cars yet (but did I tell you about my cool new pick 'em up truck? Amy took it for a wash and wax today!). We still have to figure out where Madison will go for daycare or preschool. That's my assignment for tomorrow, I guess.

And I found actual comic books, single issues, at the Normal Public Library. Cool.

Monday, July 23, 2007


We had a fun past few days here in Illinois.

Thursday night, we went up to my mom's to spend the night to wake up early to go to Brookfield Zoo. Heather, Hannah, and Alex also went with us. It was a lot of fun, all being together, although I feel like a doofus for forgetting my camera.

Brookfield was crowded on Friday! The weather was decent--not too hot--so everyone and their mother was out. The funny part is that the drive wasn't too bad--we had to take two cars to fit everyone--but the last twenty minutes or so was spent less than a mile from the bloody zoo. I can't believe their parking system. We were waiting to turn in that long. Arduous, tedious, and moronic. However, the zoo was a ton of fun. It is so much fun to see it through the eyes of your kids.

We got home on Saturday afternoon, after shopping up in Oswego with my mom, and our Insight phone and internet were out. After finding a pay phone to call the 800#, twice, to schedule somebody to come out, a tech finally did on Sunday evening about six. Good news is that it's fixed. The weird thing is that he said we had a bad modem, which is something the installers were talking about the first day. They had to call in to the main office twice to see if it was on, and I remember the guy saying something along the lines of "bad modem." So did they leave us with a modem that was bad, waiting for it to crap out and have somebody sent out? Sounds like it.

All is normal in Normal. Amy has an interview right now. She is also waiting to hear from another place she temped at last week, so keep your fingers crossed.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


Just felt like showing some pictures from this summer.

I managed to catch the hummingbird in the back yard at my mother-in-law's in Bremerton. The musk ox above is protecting its young on Anvil Mountain in Nome. And I had to take a picture of Livy, our old cat that now lives with the mother-in-law. She is an awesome cat and we hated to lose her, but we had to give her a good home before moving to Nome, and now we couldn't bear taking her away.


I forgot to post here, what with the move and all, but I was cited in an online article of Anchorage Daily News.

A blogger – apparently a teacher in Nome—writes about his decision to leave Alaska before he finds himself staying year after year just for the retirement benefits:

“Another year in Nome would have made it three years in Alaska. Three years would turn into twenty, just like that …” writes Matt Butcher on a blog called
“The Butcher Shop.”

“I'm an English teacher and there’s not a single bookstore to wander through. There are no drive-thru fast food joints. There are no roads to take us to different towns. I didn’t grow up here, so I miss these things from the Lower 48,” he says.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

HSGQE Results

I never had a chance to share these results on the HSGQE for 2007 in Nome, Alaska. I was the sophomore English teacher, responsible for reading and writing and preparing the tenth graders for this test, of which they must pass all three secions to graduate. These results are almost a direct correlation of my direct influence in the classroom this last year. These are good. These are phenomenal. If anything, these all went up, up, up!

While I do not have student results to hand out to students, I do have a summary sheet of the HSGQE and the 10th grade SBA results (no other grades are in yet). There is much good news!

Reading - last year 49% of the sophomores passed on the first try. This year 93% of the sophomores passed (statewide, 91% passed)!! As many of you know, the passing score for reading was lowered this year to more accurately reflect the HSGQE's expectation of measuring minimum competency. That was an action on the part of the state of Alaska and it affects all students in the state. However, I did look through the stats and if the passing score would have stayed where it was last year 70 % of the 10th graders were proficient/advanced, this year 82% of the 10th graders were proficient/advanced! (statewide, 85%)
Writing - last year 58% of the 10th graders were proficient/advanced, this year 73% of the 10th graders were proficient/advanced! (statewide, 79%)
Math - last year 42% of the 10th graders were proficient/advanced, this year 54% of the 10th graders were proficient/advanced! (statewide, 69%)

10th Grade SBA -

Reading - last year 70% of the 10th graders were proficient/advanced, this year 82% of the 10th graders were proficient/advanced!(statewide, 85%)Writing - last year 58% of the 10th graders were proficient/advanced, this year 73% of the 10th graders were proficient/advanced!(statewide, 79%)Math - last year 42% of the 10th graders were proficient/advanced, thisyear 54% of the 10th graders were proficient/advanced!(statewide, 69%)

I will save this information! And it is nice to know that test scores back up what I am accomplishing in the classroom. Since I was the sophomore English teacher, I take these numbers to heart.

Sith picture

I found a scan on the net of that Darth Vader "Dark Lord of the Sith" trading card I mentioned the other day:

Gosh, I remember all of these like it was yesterday!

Sith picture

I found a scan on the net of that Darth Vader "Dark Lord of the Sith" trading card I mentioned the other day:

*&%$#@ iTunes!!

Six months ago, I was praising iTunes. Now I am flipping mad again and am wondering about music rights.

That computer crashed again in May. Would not boot, whatever. We had to fix it using the restore disks. Unfortunately, I knew that this would erase all of our stuff on the hard drive. What I was specifically worried about is that it would erase all of the music and .mp3 fileswe had on there. Morgan's stuff. My stuff. Amy's stuff. Not a drastic amount of music, but enough that I didn't want to have to buy tracks again. Imagine right now if your computer wouldn't boot up and the songs you would lose. You want to swear.

Back in late December, I asked iTunes for an exception and that was granted. Yippee! I had my music back. We had to re-download it all and that took flipping forever on the connection that we had up in Nome, Alaska. Weeks went by and it wasn't done yet (of course, we paused the downloading when we were using the computer for other things or other browsing).

I meant to back it all up. I really did. But we were in Nome, Alaska, and a set of CD-Rs cost an arm and a leg at the local AC Grocery, the only place to buy them. I kept meaning to order some but we weren't putting in any order with companies that really sold those. So I was biding my time.

Then my computer went out again in May.

I was told:

Dear Matt,

I am very sorry to hear that your computer was not backed up and you lost your purchases you made from iTunes.

After researching your request, I found that on 12/23/06 you were allowed to redownload the purchases you had made with the account "mjb0123@yahoo.com." This was an exception to the iTunes Store Terms of Sale. I'm sorry, but the iTunes Store can't make another exception for you.

Apple encourages customers to back up their hard disks regularly. If the disk needs to be replaced, you can restore your purchases and other data from the backup and avoid the need to purchase replacement copies of your collection.

So I am out of my music. And I am left with wondering if this is fair.

I know the agreement states that I am only allowed to download the tunes once. If I want to download again, I have to pay again. And it is completely my responsibility to back it up. However, I still think it is unfair.

Am I buying a download or a song? That is the sticky wicket. According to all that I've read on the site, I am really buying a one-time download. Then it is my obligation, much like a CD, to keep it safe. If my house burns up, my insurance would cover the cost of the CD and my stuff. If my computer crashes, there is no insurance and I am shit out of luck.

It's my own fault, I realize that and I agreed to it all. That's why I have started emailing my stuff to another Yahoo account I set up. They don't have a storage limit any more, and as long as the file is 10 MB and under, it can stay there.

I just think that I have a new computer. I reinstalled iTunes. My account at iTunes clearly remembers and lists what tracks I have bought there. So why can't I just download them again. It's my account, a personal account, that will not get used anywhere else. I don't even share the music.

The hardest part is that Morgan's music, with quite a few iTunes gift cards that she has gotten over the last couple of years, have been wiped out. That's my fault and I am sorry for her, kind of like someone else throwing away your stuff.

I've bought music multiple times and I'm sick of it. My very first cassette tape was U2's The Joshua Tree. I re-bought it again on CD. I one time had to re-buy it again on account of losing it. I've lost it again, somewhere, either I lent it to someone or it walked off, whatever. I love that album, but I'll be damned if I'm buying it again. Because, if I buy it on iTunes, I have to back it up, and I am sure, after paying for a back-up disc, I will eventually lose that one too. Or technology will change, like my 5 1/4" floppy disks, where my CD-Rs won't be readable anymore. Will I have to do another back-up of my back-up? As it stands right now, yeah.

That's why I think that a database as large as iTunes, who already has my complete download history, could just *&%$#@ let me download my paltry amount of songs again. I should be able to do it ad infinitum, on any machine that I own in the future. I personally think that I bought my usage of a song, and not a one-time download, whatever contract I agreed to with a single click.

[As a footnote, remember three things: 1) They do not make singles anymore, or if they do they are very hard to find so iTunes is truly one of the only ways to buy one song. 2) I lived in Nome, Alaska, without a music store of any kind. and 3) I know there are subscription sites out there but I realy don't think paying monthly is an option for my listening habits.]

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

How to Dominate the Fantasy Football this year


The above is an article highlighting today's indictment of Michael Vick in possible dogfighting activities.

I think the funny part is this little snippet at the end of the article, probably put there at any mention of the NFL:

"Use what you learned in this article to dominate at Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Football '07"

Reading Machine

I have been reading like a madman, lately. Ever since we found the Normal Public Library, I have been devouring books.

Just today I read and finished Robert Cormier's The Rag and Bone Shop. This one is a nifty little read about a kid being interrogated for the murder of a little girl. Will justice win out? Fast-paced and exciting read, especially since I like courtroom dramas so much. It's the interrogator versus the suspect, an innocent suspect at that. Great stuff. Now I have another fantastic Cormier book to recommend, on top of The Chocolate War and I Am the Cheese.

Then I read an utterly fantastic graphic novel called It's a Bird...
written by Steven T. Seagle and drawn by Teddy Kristiansen. What a realistic and emotional portrayal of a writer connecting with his subject. This is by far one of the best comic reads I ever had the pleasure of reading. It made me feel emotionally involved with the character. I found it genuinely real, especially with the literary background on how modern day people perceive their lives. Fantastic. I would write it up fully as a review over on Independent Propaganda, but it's DC and, hence, not independent by my definition, even though it is a Vertigo title.

By the way, I have pretty much taken over the editorial duties over on IP. I will be putting up press releases from independents and trying to get around to writing more reviews.

But after reading that Star Wars book about the rise of Darth Vader, I was psyched that I was reading so fast. I am not usually a fast reader at all. I don't know whether it was standardized tests as a kid, making me read all those selections carefully so I wouldn't have to re-read them multiple times for a picky little question, but that's my hunch right now. In school, we were always doing that SRA reading program, and testing over our comprehension abilities. I am so used to concentrating and reading in my head as if I were reading aloud to an audience. I tried, this time on the Darth Vader book, to just read. Let it get into my head, but move along at a good clip. I did not have to ingest the entire meanings behind every single little word. I got what was going on and moved on. And I think I could honestly answer almost any comprehension question about the book. Nothing picky, but all major plotlines and factors are fair game.

What book is next? I still have a few graphic novels from the library to read. They actually have single issue comics there too. We may make another trip to the library this week. It's a great family trip because the girls can get whatever they want and I don't have to worry about paying for it. We'd go today but Amy has the truck. She is working today! One of the staffing places has her trying out an office. She still has some interviews too, but this is money in the hand!

Then I have a debatable question for myself: is it still considered reading the book if you listen to it on audiobook? I found several sites on the net where I can download whole classic audiobooks, http://www.freeclassicaudiobooks.com/ is just one of them. Since I will have 40 minutes in the car each way to and from work, I will be able to go through these lickety-split. But is it still considered reading the book? Amy says no, it's not the same.

More Fred Hembeck DC comics

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Lord of the Sith

I am currently reading a Star Wars novel, Star Wars: Dark Lord--The Rise of Darth Vader by James Luceno (who is, oddly enough, the real name of Jack McKinney, the dude who wrote the Robotech novels--I did not know this). Anyway, I am reading it super fast. We picked it up at the library yesterday and I am already on page 200, even with my snail-pace reading ability. There's not much per page and reads really fast.

I am really interested in all this talk about the SITH. This was a thing of legend to us original trilogy geeks. All we knew is that it was some kind of title. It was mentioned in passing in descriptions of Vader in whatever we read. It was especially noticeable in one particular Topps trading card from The Empire Strikes Back, which simply had a picture of Darth Vader with lightsaber standing over the carbonite freezing chamber, and the card was entitled "Dark Lord of the Sith." We didn't know what it was. I would actually like to trace it back to when it got started and defined.

Anyway, Darth Vader's rise in this book actually helps make sense of the little discrepancies between the prequels and the classic trilogy, at least to me. Vader can't now dance and jump around lke the Jedi in the prequels because of his new cyborg suit. That made sense. All sorts of little things, especially the relationship between Palpatine and Vader come to play.

One of the big questions I have now is if Luke or Leia is the answer to the Great Prophecy that Anakin was supposed to be the answer to?

So I am just speculating here. Lots of Vader thoughts recently. Amy actually found me a bunch of original 1977 Star Wars figures at a garage sale recently. Vader was in the mix and it is just so cool. (The other 1977 loose figures I got in that stash were R5-D4, Stormtrooper, C-3PO, and a Death Star soldier with that cool black bowl on his head.)

Friday, July 13, 2007


Madison hula dancing in Washington last month.

Ohhh, Summer

Summer's here and the time is right for a teacher to do...nothing.

They don't keep this summer vacation from some antiquated notion of kids farming. They keep summer vacation around for us teachers to recharge our batteries and hit the new year head on.

I just couldn't imagine if there wasn't a cycle like this. If, for instance, one year finished and another school session began a week later. Burnout would happen. But with summer vacation comes remembrance of the wonderful profession that teaching is.

So the summer is spent, for the majority, doing MY thing. I've done lots of reading. I've read COLLISION COURSE by Robert Silverberg, a sci-fi novel about first contact that humbles. I've read DARKNESS & LIGHT, a Dragonlance novel that was really weird and had the knight and the gnomes land on one of the moons, for Pete's sake. I kept reading anyway, wondering what the heck was going on. As you can see, I have not really read any deeper fiction, joyfully. I now am reading CYBERNETIC SAMURAI by Victor Milan about a scientist creating artificial intelligence and then teaching it to live by the bushido code, similar to European chivalry. Cool concepts, and reminds me a lot about early episodes of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION where they all tried to prove how alive Data was.

I also rented a really cool DVD movie from that Red Box when we were in Washington. It stars Timothy Hutton as a writer and is called THE KOVAK BOX and I really enjoyed it. I think it would have been a wonderfully suspenseful thriller of a novel as well. It was extremely Hitchcockian in that the clues were just enough to make you keep watching, wide-eyed, as each new scenario presented itself. Excellent flick.

I also took over the reins of editing Independent Propaganda. I highlight independent comics and do a lot of reviewing, which is extremely fun. Reminds me a lot of that comics newsletter Jim Watson and I wrote together in middle school, B & W Comics Corner. My aunt actually saved copies of that little fanzine. My reviews have been quoted on several books and promotional materials. It is just fun. If there is a niche here that I can fill, I will gladly accept it. I am able to truly review stuff with my English education background. The site does not focus on Marvel or DC--there are plenty of other sites that do. It's sort of like underground music. I try to find and promote the small guy in hopes that they become the big guy. And if I get a good read along the way, that's my bonus.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I Meant To...

My high school English teacher Mrs. Lehman retired this June. I had a big plan at the end of this school year to send her a flower assortment of only three flowers with a card that simply said, "You made a difference."

The move got in the way, so I was never able to make the proper arrangements. I'm sorry about that. I meant to...

Mrs. Lehman was a great inspiration to me. She introduced me to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the wonders of English and literature. She awarded me "Most Valuable Staffer" for our journalism class and paper. I still remember more real facts from Honors U.S. History from her class than from others (like the fact that 342 cases of tea were destroyed during the Boston Tea Party). I ended up changing my major in my first horrible year at college at NIU from business administration to English because I wanted to get back to what I really enjoyed and my English classes were all I cared about.

She made a difference in my life. Even if I was the only one, which I'm sure I wasn't, I wanted her to know that.

Why a flower arrangement with only three flowers? She actually gave me a graduation card, which I still have in my yearbook, that stated, "Considering that the first time I ever talked to you, it was to give you a detention, I'd say things improved between us." (More on that story another time.) Inside the card was three single dollar bills. Others probably thought it was a little amount. I knew it as a teacher that didn't have to give cards or money, and the fact that she gave me three dollars for each of our three classes together. Like all she taught me in English, I understood the deeper meaning.

And I owe it all to her. She made a difference. If I can be half the teacher she was, then I will be satisfied.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Quoted again

I received an email from a comic creator. Tell me this isn't cool:


I'm publishing a book on the first years' strip from
wire-heads.com. If you don't mind, I'd love to use some
of your review that you wrote at Independent Propaganda on
the back cover. I'll credit you:
- Matt Butcher

Okay with you? Let me know.
- Jim "Jimbo" Hillin

The original review is here.

Monday, July 09, 2007


Our car will finally be on the barge this week. Finally. It is due into Seattle a month from now. There was a bit of a hold up, so it got onto the third barge, and that is leaving asap. Whew!

Because today we finally return our rental mini-van from Hertz. We were supposed to return it to Midway, but the Aurora location will take it back for no additional fees. Too bad the Bloomington Hertz won't take it back without an additional $320 one-way fee! So we will have to drive it the 110 miles back to Aurora. Oh, well, I like driving. We lived for two years without any real ability to just get in a car and drive somewhere. Our "mall" was the AC Grocery store. At least we don't have to return it to Midway Airport!

So coming back will be a nice haul in MY NEW CAR! A truck, actually. I picked up a 2004 Dodge Dakota at Prescott Brothers in Sandwich, Illinois. It's awesome, and I have always wanted a truck. It's got a crew cab so the four of us fit just fine. Amy has taken to calling it "Darth" because it is black with black interior, and when we first test drove it, there was a release of air out of the brake that we swear sounded like Darth Vader's breathing under that helmet.

We needed the truck to help us get all the new furniture down to Normal that Amy bought. She did really well though, managing to get a household worth of furniture for about $200. At the Goodwill in Batavia, we got an old armoir and dresser for only $140 for the set, and a couch for only $40. Graciously, my mother gave us a few things, like Morgan's and our bed frame, a coffee table and end table. We picked up a nice little 27" TV at the Wal-Mart for only $189 and now that cable and internet through Insight have been hooked up, we are good to go.

Amy is on another job interview right now and then we will take the drive to Aurora and back. The kids look happier in this picture above, taken at Amy's grandmother's house in Bremerton, Washington. I seriously missed that green color, the color of life.

Friday, July 06, 2007


I can't get into Yahoo! to save my life today...

One Crazy Summer

It has been a long, arduous trip to get this far. But finally, we are all settled in our new apartment. We were even able to see Normal's fireworks display on the Fourth right off our own balcony.

We were even cut off from the world for quite a while. We finally got our phone, internet, and cable installed yesterday.

It is just good to be done! Moving can be such a headache and then think of moving well over 3000 miles!

We are all settled and Madison and Morgan each have their own rooms. Amy is crazy-looking for a job. Thank goodness I had one before we came out, or I think she would be a complete wreck, worrying about money. Now I get to play for a little while, thanks to the wonders of being a teacher with summers off! I actually have to go in one day next week to talk about curriculum for the upcoming year. I am so happy about talking about the upcoming year.