Somehow I’ve spent more than half my working life in a labor union. For 11 years I’ve been in the teaching union, and before that I was a member of the Writers Guild of America, even if I only earned briefly my living from that. Most of my time in Hollywood was sub-union, so only the two weeks where my television scripts were being produced did I qualify as being in the union. And now that I think about it, the second script is what got me into the union, so I never actually worked even one day after joining the union. I just collected residual checks and end-of-year award screener DVDs (manna). Eventually when they noticed I hadn’t written a script in ten years, I left my first union.
But teaching bought me a new one! I love my local district union, and not just because the president is a fellow Dan who ran on the platform Dan’s Got Plans, a phrase now added to my personal lexicon. We’re currently negotiating a new contract, and I’ll spare you the gory details, but updates show me that I agree with the union positions. I love that my job is protected, and my salary is the same as anyone who’s taught as long with as much schooling. I love that we only have to attend a certain number of hours of after-school meetings, which means if it ends at 4, nobody is there at 4:01. I love that the union prevents me from having to doing unfair things. I love my union.
Of course, you can see how the existence of a union and its protections can lead to abuse. After three years, teachers get Professional Status, which is essentially tenure. Which means that without documented proof of your failings, or repeated awful behavior, it’s hard to get fired. My school as currently constituted happens to have no classroom teachers who are Full On Duds. There’s of course a range of quality, but one hundred percent are average or better, and that’s super unusual. I’ve seen my share of duds over the. years.
As in I’ve smelled booze on a teacher’s breath before 10am. Waiting For Superman talked about The Dance of the Lemons, and some of these tenured lemons have found their way into my classroom. Retirements and improved hiring helps, but plenty of schools are stocked with duds that can’t be removed. A principal can only change a school so much if they’re stuck with chaff. But most teachers are far from lemons, to mix metaphors. They just need support and funding and love. Also gift cards.
So I’ll be at the union rally this week, wearing Red for Ed, advocating for a fair contract. I trust my union, and I’m there to support.
The Urban Blah
Back in 2009-11 I collaborated with the brilliant Vee to make a webcomic that failed to become syndicated across the globe. I am pro-recycling.
I continue to play Darth Vader to my coffee pot’s Palpatine, although now I’m a year round ice coffee drinker. Which means my relation to the coffee pot is mostly to get it ready for the wife, then I collect her unused coffee into a jug in the fridge. I even make coffee ice cubes so it never gets weaker throughout the day. Haven’t I discussed this before? I can never just say I drink coffee, I often run my whole coffee-ice-cube spiel, and unless I’m offering you coffee at the moment, who cares? Or is that slippery slope that could cancel the whole substack? Scratch all that: I continue to play Darth Vader to my coffee pot’s Palpatine, and all continues to be right with the world. You know, short of climate change and threats to democracy, etc.
Also, Vee has a substack, you should subscribe!
Jam of the Week
I’ve been listening to a monster mix I’m calling Proven Winners, which has all albums I know are great. Then I shuffle it all and it’s always going to give me something great. Just like back in the day, I’d shuffle through everything on my iPhone, which was careuflly curated to give me gigantic personalized radio station. One rediscovered friend in this: Ben Folds Five’s 1995 eponymous first album. I’m no fan of piano-based song-writing; I had a professor who said Billy Joel would be waiting for him in hell, and I’m samesies. But BFF at least for the first two albums really speaks to my soul in a way that hasn’t faded over the years, and without even thinking about it I found myself singing along at top volume to “Best Imitation of Myself” and, well, every song. A fun 46m in the 119+ hours of Proven Winners.
My Back Pages
My first job after college was Listings Coordinator for The Boston Phoenix alternative newspaper, essentially data entry but part of the vaunted Arts Department and right inside the newsroom to easily pitch anyone at the paper. Three there later won Pulitzer Prizes, whereas I was out of journalism in 18 months. A few weeks after being hired, I chatted with the cute receptionist and decided to woo her via “funny” email. My attempt from August 8, 1997 was entitled “tra la la”:
life at the listings desk. perhaps i’ll develop a feature film on the subject. for instance: the phoenix office is attacked by bears -- or maybe ninjas -- and in order to save them, the listings guy writes a filemaker script that distracts the bears/ninjas while he leads a counteroffensive utilizing letter openers, paper clips, and the ocassional [sic] deadly press release. the day is saved and our hero gets a staggaring [sic] raise bringing him up to $7/hr minus taxes, benefits, social security, and the cost of the ruined letter openers. the end.
I left the spelling errors to show what an idiot I was, that I thought failing to spell-check might land me. ahoney. And this was the content I was using to try to score! Also yes, I was hired for $13k a year, supplemented with articles that got accepted, eventually tipping me over the $20k Mendoza line. Ridiculous “dues,” even more ridiculous seduction technique.
i think this has legs. with computer-generated bears -- or ninjas -- or bears who ARE ninjas (oooh, i can almost smell the oscra [sic] nominations) -- we could have a serious cash cow on our hands. and of course i’d need you to choreograph the karate sequences, and perhaps star as the leader, sort of an alan richtman [sic] from die hard but with fur and a taste for honey.
what do you say?
-dan (now i suppose i more than just mildly scare you)
I don’t know if I knew she was a Die Hard fan, or if she even was then. These days she probably watches is a couple times a year, but maybe I just guessed right back then. “Ninja bears” is now the Awesome Wife’s buzz-word for telling me my original pitch was flawed. But it eventually parlayed into a successful marriage, so isn’t some of that on her? All the warning signs were there and she still fell for it. Ninja bears for the win.
Yes, I can’t think of a single word that rhymes with Vee
And I'm struck with envy all over again that people have names that can be sloganized.