Tuesday, May 26, 2009


I did double duty today. First, I did "Army training, sir!" for most of the day, and then finished out the afternoon and evening with last-minute work at Buttress.

I had my military ID renewed today at the base. The young lady at DEERS looked over at my uniform, and back at her screen, and said, "It says here, 'E6'." I assured here I was NOT an E6, but was just working in an E6 slot.

"Well, I have to put in what it says."

"I'm okay with that."

My ID says E6. Now, if they would just give me E6 pay...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Sweet 'N Sour

Paul Blart: Mall Cop is very like Dickens, in some ways. You sympathize with the main character, sweet, bumbling security guard Paul Blart (Kevin James), while cringing at the many indignities and misfortunes he encounters. Like Dickens' novels, the viewer is certain that eventually good things will happen, but if you have some empathy, it's really painful getting to that point.

Blart is a mall cop whose mall is invaded by what are obviously X Games athletes. The familiar bumbler-beats-expert criminals routine follows. Kevin James is an extremely agile actor, and is well suited to the role. Whether the role is worth watching...that's a different story. 2.5/5 stars.

Monsters vs. Aliens is an almost unalloyed joy. It's big, it's fun, and it's written so that both adults and children can find reasons to laugh at the same time. The exceptionally funny Seth Rogen lends his vocal talents, as does movie cutie (and longtime crush of mine) Reese Witherspoon. If you had to make any human 50 feet tall, Reese Witherspoon, who can't seem to help embodying sweetness and light, would be the only real choice. I may be underselling this one at 3.5/5 stars.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Mini Blogmeet

I had the pleasure of getting together with Old NFO and Snigs and her family for an early lunch at the Cracker Barrel. I found Snig's children to be a delightful change from the amateur criminals I have been most recently dealing with, and I think a good time was had by all.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Parting Shots

Yesterday was my last day teaching high school, perhaps ever. I will miss a few students, especially those that came to the book club because they enjoyed books. I will miss the moments when I felt I created an excellent learning opportunity.

I will not miss seeing those opportunities squandered.

20 May 2009. 3rd period.

"What are you going to do after this?"

Me: "Shoot targets for the Army and think of you."

I leave you with a list of names third period, especially, called me.

Names that left me livid: Brittney, Shirls, Casper.

Names that were disrespectful but I still found flattering: John Cena, jarhead, Goldberg, UFC.

Hasta la bye-bye, students. I'll see you in the Crime Blotter. You may count yourselves very fortunate.


William Blake - Auguries of Innocence

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

A robin redbreast in a cage
Puts all heaven in a rage.

A dove-house fill'd with doves and pigeons
Shudders hell thro' all its regions.
A dog starv'd at his master's gate
Predicts the ruin of the state.

A horse misused upon the road
Calls to heaven for human blood.
Each outcry of the hunted hare
A fibre from the brain does tear.

A skylark wounded in the wing,
A cherubim does cease to sing.
The game-cock clipt and arm'd for fight
Does the rising sun affright.

Every wolf's and lion's howl
Raises from hell a human soul.

The wild deer, wand'ring here and there,
Keeps the human soul from care.
The lamb misus'd breeds public strife,
And yet forgives the butcher's knife.

The bat that flits at close of eve
Has left the brain that won't believe.
The owl that calls upon the night
Speaks the unbeliever's fright.

He who shall hurt the little wren
Shall never be belov'd by men.
He who the ox to wrath has mov'd
Shall never be by woman lov'd.

The wanton boy that kills the fly
Shall feel the spider's enmity.
He who torments the chafer's sprite
Weaves a bower in endless night.

The caterpillar on the leaf
Repeats to thee thy mother's grief.
Kill not the moth nor butterfly,
For the last judgement draweth nigh.

He who shall train the horse to war
Shall never pass the polar bar.
The beggar's dog and widow's cat,
Feed them and thou wilt grow fat.

The gnat that sings his summer's song
Poison gets from slander's tongue.
The poison of the snake and newt
Is the sweat of envy's foot.

The poison of the honey bee
Is the artist's jealousy.

The prince's robes and beggar's rags
Are toadstools on the miser's bags.
A truth that's told with bad intent
Beats all the lies you can invent.

It is right it should be so;
Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro' the world we safely go.

Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine.
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.

The babe is more than swaddling bands;
Every farmer understands.
Every tear from every eye
Becomes a babe in eternity;

This is caught by females bright,
And return'd to its own delight.
The bleat, the bark, bellow, and roar,
Are waves that beat on heaven's shore.

The babe that weeps the rod beneath
Writes revenge in realms of death.
The beggar's rags, fluttering in air,
Does to rags the heavens tear.

The soldier, arm'd with sword and gun,
Palsied strikes the summer's sun.
The poor man's farthing is worth more
Than all the gold on Afric's shore.

One mite wrung from the lab'rer's hands
Shall buy and sell the miser's lands;
Or, if protected from on high,
Does that whole nation sell and buy.

He who mocks the infant's faith
Shall be mock'd in age and death.
He who shall teach the child to doubt
The rotting grave shall ne'er get out.

He who respects the infant's faith
Triumphs over hell and death.
The child's toys and the old man's reasons
Are the fruits of the two seasons.

The questioner, who sits so sly,
Shall never know how to reply.
He who replies to words of doubt
Doth put the light of knowledge out.

The strongest poison ever known
Came from Caesar's laurel crown.
Nought can deform the human race
Like to the armour's iron brace.

When gold and gems adorn the plow,
To peaceful arts shall envy bow.
A riddle, or the cricket's cry,
Is to doubt a fit reply.

The emmet's inch and eagle's mile
Make lame philosophy to smile.
He who doubts from what he sees
Will ne'er believe, do what you please.

If the sun and moon should doubt,
They'd immediately go out.
To be in a passion you good may do,
But no good if a passion is in you.

The whore and gambler, by the state
Licensed, build that nation's fate.
The harlot's cry from street to street
Shall weave old England's winding-sheet.

The winner's shout, the loser's curse,
Dance before dead England's hearse.

Every night and every morn
Some to misery are born,
Every morn and every night
Some are born to sweet delight.

Some are born to sweet delight,
Some are born to endless night.

We are led to believe a lie
When we see not thro' the eye,
Which was born in a night to perish in a night,
When the soul slept in beams of light.

God appears, and God is light,
To those poor souls who dwell in night;
But does a human form display
To those who dwell in realms of day.

It's poetry. Everything is NOT everything. A rat is not a pig, is not a dog, and not a boy. BUT- there is a way to be, and we all should find it.

A Note to my friends

There seems to be some concern, in some parts. Let me point out that a realistic assessment of the near-term prospects is considerably different than being caught in a funk.

Last night, I had dinner with Davis and some friends. I spent a pleasant couple of hours, and excused myself. I was in bed quite early, especially for a Friday night.

This morning, I arose at a reasonable hour, and walked five miles with a friend.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Thunder, Thunder, Thunderheart!

I might have had a drink or three more than was prudent after a stressful day with my worst class. Buttress is going through finals week, which means my day was divided between only two classes today. Fortunately, I spotted my absolute worst student hanging out in the hall before the class started, and advised an assistant principal. (This student is suspended after screaming at me to "Shut up!" several times Monday, and then walking away when I was finally able to get him out of the classroom. I'm not sure why he was at school, considering I called his mother Monday afternoon and told her he would have to take the final next week.)

Anyway, I tossed some marinated drumsticks, some light hot dogs, and a pound of bacon on the grill, chopped some jalapenos and 3/4 of a bell pepper into the crockpot, along with various spices and some diced tomatoes and beans, and grabbed my student work. I put on Thunderheart (free On-Demand!), the 1992 Val Kilmer-discovers-his-NDN-roots crime drama.

At the end of the movie, an old medicine man laughs. And I suddenly missed my Grandpa very much.

Interesting fact: a Shirley is currently president of an Indian Nation. Though I'm not aware of having any Navajo blood.

So Sad it's Funny

If a student only shows up perhaps 1/3 of the time, and is usually late on those days- and isn't a very good student to start out with- their test results can be "interesting". Observe.

GA Standards 22-25 Test

1.President Roe v. Wade integrated the U.S. military and the federal government.
2. Jimmy Carter was the award-winning first black baseball player to play on one of the previous all-white U.S. professional baseball teams.
3. Gerald Ford was the Supreme Court decision that forced schools to racially integrate.
4. Martin Luther King, Jr wrote “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” & made a speech called “I have a dream".
5. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were attempts to restore freedoms lost by Watergate.
6. The 1966 Cesar Chavez required arresting police officers to read citizens their rights.
7. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963.
8. Lyndon Johnson was vice president until 1963. His social program was called the Freedom rides(9.). popular support (10.)was established while he was in office.
11. In 1968 politician Bakke decision, a presidential hopeful, as well as civil rights great Robert Kennedy (12.) were assassinated.
13. Some of the tactics of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) included EPA(a), and _________________ (b).
14. The NOW was created to help women achieve equal rights with men.
15. Lack of African Americans for the Vietnam War was the most important reason the U.S. withdrew troops.
16. Bill Clinton led the United Farm Workers’ movement.
17. Marin biologist Rachel Carson’s fight against pesticides helped lead to the creation of the Richard M. Nixon, and the modern environmentalist movement.
18. The rise of the conservative movement can be seen in the presidential candidacy of Harry Truman in 1964 and the election of Brown v. Board of Education (19.) in 1968.
20. President Clinton opened relations with China, but was forced to resign due to the Miranda decision (21.) scandal. He was pardoned by his former vice president, Barry Goldwater(22.).
23. The 1973 Supreme Court decision Jackie Robinson protected a woman’s right to abort.
24. The 1978 Martin Luther King, Jr. protected white applicants for positions from discrimination.
25. President Robert Kennedy faced the 1979 Iranian Revolution, and the Iranian hostage crisis.
26. President presidential election was very influential; during his two terms, he faced the Iran-contra scandal, and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
27. President Medicare was impeached but acquitted.
28. The 2000 Ronald Reagan was extremely close, and caused many Americans to reconsider the electoral college.
29. The attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, led to the “war against terrorism”, and the subsequent American interventions in Afghanistan (30.) and Iraq.

Essay (31-33.): write what you consider to be the most important event of the 20th Century (1900s), and why it was so important! (not attempted)

I'm not sure whether to laugh through the tears, or cry through the laughter. One week, and it's bye-bye, Buttress!

Monday, May 18, 2009

In the Time of the Rain

Yet another phase of my life is drawing to a close.

I've had some very stressful times during this past year. Teaching at an extremely tough high school, combined with the dissolution of my marriage, has not been a joyride. At the same time, for the past couple of months, I've lived in an extremely nice townhouse, with a jillion cable channels, and- best of all- a screened-in back porch.
I've greatly enjoyed being able to spend some relaxing hours out there, with Byron or Davis and sometimes other friends, smoking cigars and enjoying the night air and good music or the soft whisper of the rain. I have to laugh at myself, but I like to light candles to provide some gentle atmospheric lighting. I switched out one of the kitchen lights with an amber LED, so I can leave a light on so things can be found in the kitchen, without a lot of harsh light bleeding out onto the porch. But change is coming.

Soon I'll be moving again. I don't know which Shirley will emerge, but it may be time yet again for the ascetic warrior, the driven John Shirley who spends hours every week training his body and mind. The guy who needs almost nothing material, sits on the floor, and readily sleeps there, too. I have become soft, too soft and self-indulgent, and despite my sometimes fervent yearning for certain things- a hearth and home, a soft and willowy-strong partner, a little brood to love fervently and protect fiercely- it may not be time for these things.

I just don't know what time it is. But there have been bright and lovely moments in these nights.

I call it "karma"

Friday, 15 May: Room 134, Buttress High School, 4th period.

"Mr. Shirley, do you ever go to Wal-Mart?"

"Well, not that often, Ms. Purcell. Why do you ask?"

"Petey says if he sees you, you better watch out."

"Oh- does he?"

Despronte' "Petey" Blinkey was shot in the leg this weekend at a local Econo Lodge. Another student was not so lucky. He was shot in the head.

Friday, May 15, 2009


I don't care how energetically you yell, or if you struggle enough while I'm holding you back to knock over desks- if you wait until the other party has been removed from the classroom, and they are in secure custody to decide you're ready to throw down, you will lose "street cred" with me.

I may also think you're an idiot, too. Just sayin'.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Mother's Day came and went, and I didn't know what to say.

Shades of Me

Dr. Nugget had an adorable cartoon of herself on Facebook. She advised it came from Be Funky. Unfortunately, it seems this program doesn't cartoon me well. What does look cool are sunbursts and ink blots. Huh.

Scenes From an Italian Restaurant

The classic William Martin Joel song, paired with scenes from the horrible Phantom of the Opera movie by some deranged fan.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Slightly Mixed Feelings

Sigh. You know, I've heard people say, "If you can only reach one, it's worth it."

Unfortunately, that's just not true. I've had several people tell me that it's just the particular school I'm in that's the problem, and to not let it discourage me. Too late. It's just not worth dealing with the 10 apathetic and the 3 outright demonic students I have for every decent student. I'm sorry for the few good students I have, and I really feel for the (mostly) great students that show up for the book club, but I don't think I'll ever teach again below the college level.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Twisted Truths and Let Freedom Ring

I know there are subjects that are serious, and I am at least as likely as anyone else to be serious about them...but I really laughed over this.

Not funny, from the same individual:

Funny again: oh, those silly Brits!

And one more, and then I'll video y'all no more for quite a while. Let me state my firm belief that we must be first to laugh out ourselves. This is perhaps the most alarming trait of the politicians that seem most powerful in these United States these days. Lighten up, Francis!

The Stranger

After listening to this song for over twenty years, I'm still not sure exactly what it means, or if it's even meant to be anything more than a statement about the impenetrability of the human condition.

If the latter, I disagree, but it's a good song.


I like the Model of 1917 rifle. A lot. One common question posted by those with too much time on internet gun boards is, "If you could only have one rifle for..."

Now, sometimes it's a specific set of circumstances, such as "in Zimbabwe during the wet season", or "in Los Angeles on August 13, 1965". More commonly, the question is something like "If you could only have one rifle, what would it be?"

Well, if I could only have one rifle for hunting, defense against human predators, and protection from large dangerous game, a U.S. Model of 1917 rifle should be a great choice. Incredibly tough, very fast for a bolt-action, with good sights and not prone to malfunctions caused by grit and mud, the 1917 was the rifle that most U.S. troops carried into WWI. Its .30-06 cartridge is ideal for most deer-sized game, and sufficient to take almost anything, with practice and care, while recoiling gently enough that almost any healthy adult can handle it.

Here is an ideal example for most folks, in a handy carbine version. While we are living in a golden age of firearms development, some things aren't significantly improving over time.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Rise of the Nanny State

Proposed bill H.R. 1966 would make it a Federal crime to be Not Nice on the 'Net, with offensive speech described so broadly as to totally abrogate our First Amendment rights.

It's 1984 all over again.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Tipping Point

Submitted yesterday:


J.R. Shirley
Evans GA

Mr. George Thomas, Principal

Buttress High School

Dear Mr. Thomas:

I have appreciated the chance to work with the History Department here at Butress. I have learned many invaluable lessons, for which I am thankful. However, I have decided to continue my education by pursuing a Ph.D. in History. Conscious of the many demands upon a teacher’s time, I know I will be unable to dedicate myself to my Ph.D. program and also give enough to my students. I must therefore regretfully inform you that I am hereby tendering my resignation effective May 28, 2009.

Best Regards,

J.R. Shirley

Monday, May 4, 2009

Attack of the Bs

I feel that Keanu Reeves and Nicholas Cage share a certain wooden delivery. The difference, career-wise, between the two seems to be that Reeves usually manages to pick a vehicle in which appearing to be brain-damaged or "disconnected" just seems to fit. The remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still and Bangkok Dangerous are no exceptions to the tendencies of the two actors.

In Day, Reeves plays an alien. Pretty well, since he doesn't seem wholly human. The FX are pretty good, and Jennifer Connelly does her usual fine job, soulful eyes and all. What was tiresome in 50s and 60s monster films, however, is still tiresome today. And whining about how horrible-but-beautiful mankind is really seems rather- well, stupid. You know? 2.5/5 stars.

Bangkok Dangerous
shows some signs of promise. It begins almost properly moody, for a film of this type, but it stars someone who can't act, doing things that are not admirable, and ends badly. 1.5/5 stars.

Babylon A.D. Vin Diesel is usually entertaining, so even though this looked like it might be a B movie, it was entertaining. Despite occasional clinched elements of apocalyptic flicks, it gets 3/5 stars.

Bedtime Stories. Wow. This one had a few minutes of outright hilarity (usually provided by outre' Russell Brand), but when it wasn't good, it was horrible. Stories is not one of the "smart" movies for kids that adults can also enjoy. I like Adam Sandler in general, but this movie illustrates everything potentially wrong with a Sandler movie. Even giving half a star for the presence of beautiful Teresa Palmer in a bikini only gives this 1.5/5 stars. I watched this with a couple of 7-year-olds, and they liked it, but I was glad I didn't pay full price.

Lakeview Terrace stars Samuel L. Jackson as a sometimes well-meaning but ultimately sociopathic police officer. He disagrees with the relationship of his new mixed-race neighbors and goes to every length to get them out of the neighborhood. While I was happy to see a brief appearance by Ron Glass, there's really not much to recommend this film. It's predictable and silly at the same time. 2/5 stars.

The Love Guru. I didn't have high hopes for this one, and I was right. Justin Timberlake (as an amazingly endowed Canadian) is practically the only funny thing in the movie. Myers seems stuck on midget jokes he's already worn out using Vern Troyer in the Austin Powers flicks. It does have humorous moments, but even awarding an extra half-star for Jessica Alba, and cameos by Mariska Hargitay and beautiful Indian dancers only nets it 1.5/5 stars.

Punisher: War Zone looked like it probably would be pretty bad, but that's an understatement. The story itself was adapted pretty closely from some of the Punisher comics, but the script, at times, was abysmal. Ray Stevenson actually played a good, and sometimes great, Frank Castle, but no-one alive could be good enough to balance out Dominic West and Doug Hutchison playing deranged brothers. These two make Nick Cage look like Oscar material. If you want explosions, this movie has them, but otherwise, don't waste your time. 1 of 5 stars.

The Spirit. I was pretty sure this would be horrible. I was right. Head villain Samuel L. Jackson loses respect from me for agreeing to be in this turkey. The title character is a complete cad, with a physiology that allows him no physical consequences for his promiscuity, and the women in his life shake their heads in mild reproof or laugh at his philandering. Director Frank Miller seemingly couldn't decide whether he wanted to make a comedy or a drama, so he tried to both, and failed at each. He even squanders the talents of funnyman Louis Lombardi. I'm giving this failure 1/5 stars for beautiful and tasteful partial nudity from Eva Mendes. And that's it. I would almost pay to not see this movie.

, for Once

Most eloquent use of vulgarity I think I've seen. Seriously.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Perfect Rum and Coke

There are many kinds of perfect. Here is just one. It's a good choice if you want a light flavor without overpowering rum or alcohol flavors. Pyrat is a high-end rum made by Patron. It's not cheap, but if used as a flavoring, will last longer than one might expect.

6 oz Coke
3/4 oz Pyrat XO Reserve Rum
3/4 oz Bacardi 151

Pour ice into cup. Fill a shot glass with half Pyrat and half Bacardi 151. Pour about 2 oz of Coke into cup. Follow with half of shot glass contents. Pour another 2 oz Coke, and empty shot glass. Add last 2 oz of Coke. Stir and garnish with cherry or lime slice, if desired.

A historical note on the bottle decoration: Karl Greenberg describes the buddha ("Hoti") on the bottle as being a "fictive patron saint". This is not accurate, since Happy Hotei is indeed the Laughing Buddha. He could well be described as the patron saint of bartenders (as well as restaurateurs and fortune tellers). Do your homework, Mr. Greenberg!

A perfect cup

Some good ways to go.

4 parts strong coffee
1 part Irish cream
1/2 part rum or whiskey
Top with whipped cream and sprinkled cinnamon or chocolate syrup, if desired.

4 parts strong coffee
1 part cream or milk
1 1/2 part Amaretto*
Dash whiskey

Powerful Virgin
6 oz skim milk, heated to just below boiling
4 oz extremely strong coffee (about 3x normal strength)
1 spoonful Hershey's Cocoa Powder
1 packet Splenda (or Equal or 1 spoonful sugar, if preferred)

*I prefer Lazzaroni Amaretto for value and quality.

Hello, hello?

Ring, ring.

Well, I don't recognize the number, but it's local.


(Woman speaks.)

"Hey, how are you?"

"I'm good. How are you?"

"I'm good. I'm running a little behind. I'm still putting on my makeup, but if you want to head on over-"

"I'm sorry to interrupt. I think you have the wrong number."

"OH! I'm sorry!"

"No, I'm sorry. You sound very nice and pleasant."

"Thank you."

"No problem. You called 399-1234."

"Thanks, have a nice day."

"You, too."