Signing Off and Test Patterns and Peacocks

This is a test pattern.

Mamacita says:  Most of you have never seen this picture before. Most of you have never known a time when television wasn’t a 24-hour marathon of programming.  This is a test pattern.  If you turned on your television after midnight, this is all you saw.

The fact is, things used to have down time. Stores closed. Television and radio stations “signed off,” and each station often had its own unique signoff ritual. After midnight, people went to bed; they didn’t stay up for hours and watch because there was nothing to watch. When people said, “There’s nothing on TV,” it wasn’t just an expression.  Radio stations signed off, too.

Sometimes I think it was better the old way. After midnight, people generally went to bed. People didn’t watch show after show just because something was on, because something WASN’T on. Just blackness, static, or a test pattern.

I can remember turning on the TV on Saturday morning, seeing nothing but the test pattern, and waiting patiently until 6:00 a.m. or so for the station to “sign on.”

When my cousin C and I were kids, and would stay at our grandmother’s house every weekend we could manage it, the sign-off for Indianapolis’ WTTV channel 4 was a few minutes of Mahalia Jackson singing.  I can’t remember what she sang, specifically, because C and I usually watched our grandmother when Mahalia sang.  It was one of the few times we saw Mamaw laugh out loud.  Mahalia’s kind of singing just wasn’t heard much in southern Indiana, and the shock value of it set Mamaw off every Saturday night.

Most sign-off rituals were religious in nature, and patriotic as well.  A local clergyman would speak a few words, the National Anthem would play, and the sign-off words were spoken, along with a promise to sign-on again in the morning.  It was kind of cool.  It was also a signal that everybody still up ought to go to bed, as well.

Maybe that’s one reason people stay up so late these days.  They’re glued to the TV, and there’s nobody now to tell them it’s time to sign off and go to bed.  As long as there’s SOMETHING on TV, some people will watch it.  I’ve never understood the mentality.

The next program you see will be in color.

This picture, now, is the NBC peacock, telling us that the next program would be in living color. Those of you who thought In Living Color was nothing but a funny television show have a lesson to learn here. And now you know why the title of that show was funny in more ways than one!

Seeing that NBC peacock flexing its tailfeathers was the signal that Bonanza was about to start. A lot of the old 50’s sitcoms had been filmed in color but never seen in color, and eventually those started to be shown as was intended, too.  I am not a fan of colorized film, but if something was originally filmed in color, I’d like to see it in color; it’s all about the lighting.

Here’s your laugh of the day. I didn’t know The Wizard of Oz was partly in color until I was in my teens. It made the expression “a horse of a different color” understandable, for the first time.

I’m not really QUITE that old, but my family just waited that long to get a color TV.

It’s All Poop

Poop. It’s all about poop.


Mamacita says:  It’s all poop.  All of it.  Poop.

See this cartoon?

I was forced to do stuff like this for over twenty years and I hated every second of it.

Do you hear me? Every. second. of. it.  I know that there are kazillions of teachers who live for vicarious participation in athletics, but I was not one of those.  They made me do it anyway.

I stood outside in the pouring rain and the falling snow and the freezing toe-numbing cold and the blistering heat, taking tickets and selling popcorn and saying things like “Go!” and “Jump!” and “ Oh shit golly whillikers, was I supposed to start the clock before they started doing that?” I was given a score sheet with no instructions. I was given chalk with no instructions. I was given measuring tapes but I wasn’t told what to measure. I was given large sheets of paper and big magic markers with no instructions. I was given a stopwatch; what was it for? I was given remote controls that had something to do with big electric neon things with numbers that made the crowd yell at me, with no instructions. I was put in charge of outdoor things involving stupid costumes uniforms and weird shoes and rules that I didn’t know. I was put in CHARGE of these things.

I wasn’t asked to help out. I was ordered to be there. I had no choice.

Nobody told me how these little games were played. Nobody told me where to stand, or what to write down, or who’s on first. I only knew about “I don’t know.” And I wasn’t sure where third base was.

Something I do know is that a lot of teachers quit the profession because of this kind of thing.

Funny, isn’t it, that we were all required to ‘do our part’ in areas such as this, but if a teacher asked for some help at a concert or play or dance, that teacher got a lot of blank stares and no office backup whatsoever. Sometimes, people laughed.

During those last few years at the public school, teachers were no longer required to do all the athletic gruntwork; what a reeee-leeef.

Did I mention that I hated every microsecond of it? Did I mention that I’m still bitter? Did I mention that the very thought of some of those ‘coaches’ and parents makes me want to scream and yell and throw things?

I will admit that I was forced to run the clock at a basketball game only once. I was so terrible at it, after fifteen minutes NOBODY knew what the score was. We narrowly avoided a riot, in fact.

It would have helped if I’d known the rules, and what all those strange noises and gestures meant. I mean, what did they expect? I avoided gymnasiums like the plague, normally. I don’t even like the way they smell.

So yeah, I messed that game up, royally.  But I didn’t know the rules.  I didn’t know how to do it.  They made me do it anyway.  Oh, I know I’m probably the only person in the world who didn’t know how these things were done, but I knew how to do a lot of other things; why couldn’t they let me do those and let sportsy people work scoreboards and measure jumps and stuff?

On the bright side – it was shiny bright, as far as I was concerned – they never made me work a basketball scoreboard again.  What a break for me.  I suspect it was a break for everybody concerned.

If I’d only known that was how to get out of it, I wouldn’t have tried so hard at all the other sports things they forced me to help out at, because I did try.  I tried really hard.  I just wasn’t interested.  I resented being required to do these things.

I didn’t go to university for a million years just to stand outside in the cold and sell M&M’s, or to measure how far a kid jumped in sand that had been pooped in by every cat in the county.

Let their parents do that. They’re the ones who cared about it, anyway. I didn’t. Let them yell at each other, instead of me.  I had terrible earaches and colds from standing out there trying to do something I was not prepared to do.  I was sunburned and blistered.  And they still made me do it, even after I begged to be let off because I did not know how to do these things.  I am not knowledgeable about sportsing.

All of my heart and soul and attention and life was directed at those same kids; it was just aimed elsewhere.

But you know, I wouldn’t have minded as much if the joy had been equitable. As in, “You help me with this concert, and I’ll help you with your little outdoor game.”

Since it wasn’t set up that way, I agree with the cats: poop on it all.

September 11, 2001 – September 11, 2017

9/11 tribute Mamacita says: I’m guessing that many most bloggers will be posting tributes today, and telling the blogosphere ‘where we were’ when the planes hit the World Trade Center. Here is mine. This is actually the fifteenth time I’ve posted this on 9/11, so if it seems familiar, you’re not crazy. Well, not on this issue, anyway.


The morning began like any other; we stood for the Pledge of Allegiance, and sat back down to watch Channel One News, which had been taped at 3:00 that morning in the school library, thanks to the timer. But Channel One News didn’t come on.

Channel One News, a news program aimed at teens, did not come on that day.

Instead, the secretary’s voice, over the intercom, told the teachers to “please check your email immediately.” We did. And we found out what had happened.

I scrolled down the monitor and read the end of the message. The superintendent had ordered all teachers to be absolutely mum all day about the tragedy. We were not to answer any questions from students, and we were especially not to offer any information to them.

The day went by in a blur. Many parents drove to the school, took their kids out, and brought them home. Between classes, frightened groups of students gathered in front of their lockers and whispered, gossiped, and cried, and begged us for information. By that time, the superintendent’s order had been seconded by the principals, and we were unable to give these terrified kids any information. In the computer labs, the MSN screens told the 8th graders the truth, but they, too, were instructed NOT to talk about it to the other students. Right, like THAT happened. The story was being repeated by 8th graders, and it was being told we’re-all-going-to-die style.

At noon, many of the students were picked up by parents and taken home or out for lunch. Those few who returned had a big tale to tell. The problem was, the tale was being told by children, and few if any of the facts were straight. The atmosphere in the building got more and more strained. We are only a few miles away from an immensely large Navy base, where ammunition and bombs are made, and we’ve always known it was a prime target, which means, of course, that we are, too. Many of my children’s parents worked there. The base was locked down and those parents did not come home that night.

frightened children

Administrative stupidity did this.

Reasonable questions were answered with silence, or the statement: “You’ll find out when you get home.”  This, to children who weren’t even sure they still had a home to get to.  A rumor mill can be a horrible thing.

This, added to all the rumors and gossip spread by children, turned my little sixth graders into terrified toddlers.

As teachers, we were furious and disgusted with the superintendent’s edict. We wanted to call all the students into the gym and calmly tell them the truth in words and ways that would be age-appropriate. We wanted to hug them and assure them that it was far away and they were safe. We asked for permission to do this, and it was denied. Our orders were ‘silence.’ We hadn’t been allowed to hug them for years, of course, but there are times and places when hugs ARE appropriate. No matter, the superintendent stood firm: no information whatsoever.  Other administrators in other school systems were doing it right – calling assemblies and explaining calmly to their terrified children exactly what had happened, and assuring the children that they were safe

Not our administrators.  “Tell them NOTHING” was their edict, and we had to follow it or face the consequences, and the consequences for insubordination in this school system are devastating.

The day went by, more slowly than ever a day before. The students grew more and more pale and frightened. We asked again, and again he stood firm that no information whatsoever was to be given out.

By the end of the day, the children were as brittle as Jolly Rancher Watermelon Stix.

Jolly Rancher Watermelon Stix. Brittle as a traumatized child.

Jolly Rancher Watermelon Stix. Brittle as a traumatized child.

A few minutes before the bell rang to send them home, a little girl raised her hand and in a trembling voice that I will never forget, asked me a question. “Please, is it true that our parents are dead and our houses are burned down?”

That was it. I gathered my students close and in a calm voice explained to them exactly what had happened. I told them their parents were alive and safe, and that they all still had homes to go to.

The relief was incredible. I could feel it cascading all through the room.

I was, of course, written up for insubordination the next day, but I didn’t care. My phone had rung off the hook that night with parents thanking me for being honest with their children. That was far more important than a piece of paper that said I’d defied a stupid inappropriate order meted out by a man who belonged in the office of a used car lot, not in a position of power over children’s lives.

I'm the superintendent and I am stupid. Very, very stupid.

I’m the superintendent and I am stupid. Very, very stupid.

The next day at school, in my room, we listened to some of the music that had been ‘specially made about the tragedy. I still have those cd’s and I’ve shared them with many people over the past few years. It is true that kids cried again, but it was good to cry. It was an appropriate time to cry. We didn’t do spelling or grammar that day. There are times when the “business as usual” mindset simply is not appropriate.

I wish administrators would realize that kids are a lot tougher than we might think. Kids are also a lot more sensitive that we might realize. It’s an odd combination, and we as educators must try our best to bring the two ends of the emotional spectrum together and help these kids learn to deal with horrible happenings and still manage to get through the day as well as possible.

9/11 tribute torch

We will always overcome.

Ignoring an issue will not help. Morbidly focusing on an issue will not help. Our children are not stupid, and to treat them as such is not something that builds trust. Our children deserve answers to their questions.

How can we expect our children to learn to find a happy medium if we don’t show them, ourselves, when opportunities arise?

I’m still so very sorry, children, that I was forced to participate in that dreadful conspiracy of silence when just a few spoken words might have eased your minds.

September 11, 2001 – September 11, 2017. God bless us, every one.

Your Ancestors Were Immigrants; Live Up To Them!

Mamacita says: Oh please, society, let us learn from the past, just a little bit?  Because those in charge of those in charge of the education of our children are doing it all wrong.  Real education has nothing to do with money, and everything to do with honor.  Your immigrant ancestors understood this.  Why don’t you?

“Francie thought it was the most beautiful church in Brooklyn. It was made of old gray stone and had twin spires that rose cleanly into the sky, high above the tallest tenements. Inside, the high vaulted ceilings, narrow deepset stained-glass windows and elaborately carved altars made it a miniature cathedral.”

Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1943) p 390.

This is Most Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn. Betty Smith used it in her novel and had her heroine, Francie Nolan, in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, love to look at it, and love knowing that her grandfather had carved the altar as part of his tithe. He had no money, so he donated his considerable talent. Francie’s grandfather was a horrible abusive man, but he honored his commitment to God.

Francie’s grandmother and all but two of her daughters were illiterate, but revered literacy. The grandmother did not at first understand that education was free to all in America, so her two older daughters didn’t go to school. Her two younger daughters, however, were sent to school and kept there as long as possible, until family circumstances required them to go to work. Such was life, back then. Formal education was honored above most other things, but it was also one of the first things to go when times got harder.

Two of my favorite books are A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith, and Everything But Money, by Sam Levinson. They are a great deal alike in that they are both about immigrant parents, the value of education, the great love of learning that is the source of pride to secure parents, and the sacrifices that good parents make so their children can have better lives.

Our immigrant ancestors came to this country pretty much knowing that there was no chance of them, personally, fulfilling very many of their own dreams and aspirations: all of their hopes and dreams and aspirations were for their children.

Our immigrant ancestors didn’t really move to this country for themselves; they were adults, and the time was long past for them to develop and use their talents in any official or professional capacity, especially in a new land that had customs and language that were both unfamiliar in every possible way . There were exceptions, of course, but the truth is, most of our immigrant ancestors put their own hopes and dreams and ambitions on the back burner so they could concentrate on the hopes and dreams and ambitions they held for their children.

Tenement houses were filled with mothers, grandmothers, maiden aunts, and shirttail relatives, singing in the kitchen that their children might some day sing in Carnegie Hall. Factories and stores were filled with fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and more shirttail relatives, singing at the assembly lines and behind the counters and down in the mines that their children might some day sing in synogogues and cathedrals. People with artistic talent displayed their art with beautiful pies, cakes that were a picture, carved altars in the church, rich embroidery on simple pillow slips, and tailoring that was a work of art. Ancestors who, today, might have organized businesses and found success on the stock market used their skills to make something out of nothing, that their children might have something to make something more out of when it was their turn.

Their children were being educated, and that was enough. Our ancestors looked ahead to the future; they had no time or energy or money to do much for themselves. It was all for the children, and for the future.

Parents too weary from sweatshops and never-ending domestic drudgery didn’t have much time to “play” any more. These parents loved their children far too much to stop and indulge themselves; every nap meant pennies not earned. Parents were there for discipline and meals and clothing and love that was demonstrated by the laying aside of their own desires to focus entirely on the future of their children. NOW was never as important as TOMORROW. This forced their children to be inventive, creative, organized, resourceful, problem-solving, appreciative of things that today’s kids throw away, and hungry enough every night to eat whatever Mother put on the table. A child who asked for something else would have been laughed at.

Adults gave each other blessings that relied on the behavior of the children. “May your children bring you happiness,” “May your children make you proud,” “May your find joy in your children,” etc. Children who misbehaved in school or in public or right there in the house brought shame to their parents and disgrace to the family name. His siblings recoiled from a misbehaving kid, and his mother cried. Families used “shame” to help shape a character that knew what it meant and therefore stayed as far away from it as possible.

Adults have changed. A large percentage of adults put their own desires and urges and feelings and wants before the needs and wants of their children. Kids today don’t care if they bring shame and disgrace to their parents. It’s never their fault anyway; it’s that heartless teacher who doesn’t understand Buddy or Muffy and doesn’t appreciate the cute way he stomps his foot when he’s mad or the adorable way she twists and chews her hair when she’s deciding who to invite to her latest party. Adults get home from work far earlier (usually) than their great-grandparents did, yet adults today are too tired to go to PTA meetings or choir concerts or spelling bees, things their ancestors viewed with such honor (they were not available to peasants in the old country) that they wept and trembled with emotion as they bathed and put on their best clothing in order to show respect to the school and the teacher, and to watch their children represent the family in a scholarly event. (Surprisingly, many adults are not too tired to go to an athletic event.)

Many immigrants came here in the first place so their children could take advantage of the free public education. Illiterate parents pointed with pride to the row of schoolbooks on the kitchen shelf, and boasted that their children could READ THEM! They weren’t worried about new ideas; they encouraged the learning of new things. They did not worry that the new ideas would usurp the old ideas; they just honored all learning and assumed their kids were wise enough to blend the old and the new together and come out with a new “new.” Sam Levinson writes most eloquently and beautifully about his father’s pride in his many sons’ books and accomplishments, even those the old man knew nothing about and knew he never would.

A poorly behaved child brought great sadness and shame to his parents; usually, the sight of his father and mother’s grief, brought on by the child’s poor choices, was enough to straighten the kid out. If not, our ancestors weren’t afraid to use other means to demonstrate to a child that certain behaviors brought certain consequences. Shockingly, this didn’t result in a child quivering with sadness and with no ego or esteem left in his system; it usually resulted in a child who knew better than to try THAT again, by golly.

Modern parents are often so worried about causing their children emotional pain that they ignore or neglect all kinds of opportunities to demonstrate to their children that nice people are a lot more welcome in society than people who feel they have a right to do their own thing regardless of where they are or what the mean old rules might be. A child who is taught in no uncertain terms that one sits quietly at the table, be it at home or elsewhere, eats whatever might be on his plate – or at least tries to eat it – without complaining, and who knows, because he was taught, that one does not get up from the table without permission, and that “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me” really are magic words. . . well, let us be euphemistic, even though I loathe euphemisms, and just say that nice people of all ages are more welcome and appreciated than are people whose manners and whose tolerance for poor manners need some adjustment. Think of the mall. Think of restaurants.

Our ancestors would be appalled at some of the attitudes and behaviors of their descendants. I know I am.

In many households, the kids are running the show, and the parental helicopter is hovering even over universities and workplaces, lest some “right” is denied and a kid’s self esteem is dealt a blow, deserved or not.

Self esteem.  You really don’t want to get me started.

P.S. Self esteem must be EARNED. It’s not a given. Nobody has a RIGHT to it. We’re not born with it. It can’t be presented as a gift. And kids know the difference even if some adults don’t. We have to deserve it. Otherwise, it’s all just a big joke, and the joke’s on the adults.

P.P.S.  I guess I got started on it.

Donald Trump and the Kaiser

Mamacita says:  Some people still believe the Kaiser was even more evil than Hitler, and some people believe that Donald Trump is more evil than the Kaiser.  Lucy Maud Montgomery’s “Rilla of Ingleside” takes place during World War I. I learned more about that war by reading this book than I ever learned in school.. Those of you who loved “Anne of Green Gables” do know that there are several books in that series, and that Montgomery takes Anne clear up to old age, don’t you? Well, you know now. Go to the library this instant!

The youngest of Anne and Gilbert’s seven children, Rilla grows into maturity during World War One.

In this book, Anne and Gilbert watch helplessly as their sons join the military and leave Canada to fight in Europe. The Kaiser is completely villified by all the adults throughout the book, of couse, because how could he NOT be, but it is this statement by an innocent little child that really got to me.

“Do you know, Mrs. Blythe”­ Bruce dropped to a “whispery” tone, edging a little nearer to Anne, ­”what I would like to do to the Kaiser if I could?”

“What would you like to do, laddie?”

“Norman Reese said in school to-day that he would like to tie the Kaiser to a tree and set cross dogs to worrying him,” said Bruce gravely. “And Emily Flagg said she would like to put him in a cage and poke sharp things into him. And they all said things like that. But Mrs. Blythe”­ Bruce took a little square paw out of his pocket and put it earnestly on Anne’s knee. ­”I would like to turn the Kaiser into a good man, ­a very good man, ­all at once if I could. That is what I would do. Don’t you think, Mrs. Blythe, that would be the very worstest punishment of all?”

“Bless the child,” said Susan, “how do you make out that would be any kind of a punishment for that wicked fiend?”

“Don’t you see,” said Bruce, looking levelly at Susan, out of his blackly blue eyes, “if he was turned into a good man he would understand how dreadful the things he has done are, and he would feel so terrible about it that he would be more unhappy and miserable than he could ever be in any other way. He would feel just awful­ and he would go on feeling like that forever. Yes,”­ Bruce clenched his hands and nodded his head emphatically, “yes, I would make the Kaiser a good man­, that is what I would do­; it would serve him ‘zackly right.”


It’s too bad we can’t do this with Donald Trump.

The Glass Castle: Opinion. Just An Opinion.

Mamacita says: I read “The Glass Castle” several years ago, and I can fully appreciate the excellent writing; the author is really good. That she survived her childhood in one piece, physically and mentally, is a miracle. There are interviews with these people on YouTube that are also good; I recommended them to my students that one year we were required to teach the novel. However, I loathed the parents in this autobiography so deeply and thoroughly that there is not enough money in the mint to pay me to see the film version. Just thinking about those parents makes my blood pressure rise. They were despicable. They were repulsive. They were unforgivably selfish, childish, ignorant, needy, and grasping. I could not deal with seeing them brought to life on the screen. There was nothing positive about them.

The innocence of our children is too precious to profit by. . . .

The film version is coming out this summer, but I won’t be going. I can’t go. I understand that film is art, and there are all kinds of art. I love art. I just don’t want to re-experience the author’s parents. Actually, it’s more like I can’t re-experience her parents.

All those years in the public schools, experiencing all kinds of children with all kinds of parents. . . . some of those parents were as horrific if not more so than the parents in this autobiography. I loathed these people then. I loathe them now. Sure, even horrific people are still people, and maybe they’re horrific because they have severe mental issues of some kind, but the fact remains that how a person treats children says a lot more about them than they prefer the world to know. No matter what kind of childhood someone might have had, there is never an excuse for mistreating a child. Never, ever. Ever.

I am on the side of the children. So, no, I won’t be seeing the new movie. “The Glass Castle” is a work of art. It’s well-written, and no doubt well-acted. I’m sure the author found writing it all out quite cathartic. But I can’t watch it. I love children too much to pay money to watch dysfunctional people torture, starve, and otherwise misuse innocent children.

You go. I hope you enjoy it. But I won’t be going. I have to deal with people like this on a daily basis. Most of the time, I am helpless. These people always seem to have more rights than do their innocent victims.

There are never enough resources for everyone. Children should be at the head of the line. Those who abuse them, no matter what the reason, belong at the back of the line.