Saturday, April 26, 2008

Existential

In study hall with some fifth-graders.

MELODY (out of nowhere): What does it feel like being a boy?

ALEXANDRA (before I can get over the surprise of the question): Probably good! Boys don't get in trouble with the teachers as often as girls do!

MELODY: Yes they do!

ALEXANDRA: No they don't!

MELODY: Yeah, they get in trouble more than girls!

ALEXANDRA: Well, yeah, okay, I guess you're right.

MELODY (looking into my eyes, very earnest): Didn't you ever wish you were a girl?

ME: I sure do wish Melody would buckle down and do her Social Studies homework.

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus

Born today in the year 121, the last of the "Five Good Emperors" and a Stoic philosopher.

"Say to yourself in the early morning: I shall meet today inquisitive, ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, uncharitable men. All these things have come upon them through ignorance of real good and ill."

"You will find rest from vain fancies if you perform every act in life as though it were your last."

"The longest-lived and the shortest-lived man, when they come to die, lose one and the same thing."

"A man should be upright, not kept upright."

"Never esteem anything as of advantage to you that will make you break your word or lose your self-respect."

"The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it." (Variant: "The universe is flux, life is opinion.")

"If mind is common to us, then also the reason, whereby we are reasoning beings, is common. If this be so, then also the reason which enjoins what is to be done or left undone is common. If this be so, law also is common; if this be so, we are citizens; if this be so, we are partakers in one constitution; if this be so, the Universe is a kind of Commonwealth."

"How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy."

"Whatever is in any way beautiful hath its source of beauty in itself, and is complete in itself; praise forms no part of it. So it is none the worse nor the better for being praised."

"All that is harmony for you, my Universe, is in harmony with me as well. Nothing that comes at the right time for you is too early or too late for me. Everything is fruit to me that your seasons bring, Nature. All things come of you, have their being in you, and return to you."

"Remember this— that there is a proper dignity and proportion to be observed in the performance of every act of life."

"All is ephemeral - fame and the famous as well."

"Search men's governing principles, and consider the wise, what they shun and what they cleave to."

"Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away."

"Mark how fleeting and paltry is the estate of man - yesterday in embryo, tomorrow a mummy or ashes. So for the hairsbreadth of time assigned to thee, live rationally, and part with life cheerfully, as drops the ripe olive, extolling the season that bore it and the tree that matured it."

"Look beneath the surface; let not the several quality of a thing nor its worth escape thee."

"Do not think that what is hard for you to master is humanly impossible; but if a thing is humanly possible, consider it to be within your reach."

"Life is brief; there is but one harvest of earthly existence, a holy disposition and neighborly acts."

"What is not good for the swarm is not good for the bee."

"Very little is needed to make a happy life."

"A wrongdoer is often a man who has left something undone, not always one who has done something."

Friday, April 25, 2008

Classroom Birthday

One of the girls in third grade (not Pixie or Dixie, but a different girl) had her birthday yesterday. I knew it was coming because she told me about ten times Wednesday that Thursday was her birthday. For me, a birthday at the school means one thing: I get a cupcake. And I did. And it was chocolate. So, I was happy.

Anyway, as she was handing them out and everyone was having their "birthday break," I asked her: "How old are you now?" Because I have to be honest, I've been having a hard time pegging the exact ages of these kids. They're in a folder in my mind labeled "amorphously under 13."

"28," she said.

"Really?" I asked, playing along.

"Yeah, I got held back a lot."

"You'd have to have."

"Plus, I'm a midget, so there's that."

Then she broke into a gale of laughter.

I have to say, if I had a daughter, I'd want her to answer the question the exact same way. Stuff like that makes it easier to put up with the other kids--and I had to report five fifth-graders for their misbehavior yesterday. So much for being the cool sub.

Throwdown 4/25

Random thoughts, questions, and observations for the week.

1. Damn! Dita Von Teese’s mom is HOT!

2. Alright, so, Emma Watson had an upskirt this week. I read way too many people who were calling her a slut because she’s eighteen now and is flashing her pussy. Flashing her pussy? It’s not like she just lifted up her dress and said “I’m eighteen, look at this!” She was getting out of a car and someone took a picture. Have you ever seen any videos of a female celebrity under 30 getting out of or into a car? These paparazzi morons dive to an angle where they can get the pussy shot. I’ve seen ridiculous pictures of photographers trying to shove their cameras up under a woman’s skirt. Seriously, you think we should blame her for this? Get some perspective.

3. This one’s just for me: Yay, Hilary Duff’s body is really back! God, I hated it when she was so fucking skeletal. She’s too cute for that.

4. Wow, look at those pupils. I wonder what Miley Cyrus is doing these days and where she’s getting her supply from. It’s just heartening to know how many kids I see every day who want to be like her.

5. By now you’ve probably heard about the teenagers who kidnapped their classmate for talking smack on MySpace, then locked her in a room, posted sentries, and beat her into unconsciousness, videotaping the whole thing so they could post it on the internet. I haven’t talked about it because, well, it pisses me off too much to talk rationally about. But what broke the camel’s back was last week’s episode of Real Time, in which Bill Maher dismissed this entire enterprise as “kids being kids.” Kids being kids? Did you ever think the reason people grow up to be bullies is because their bullying is tolerated when they’re young?

6. Cindy Crawford’s daughter Kaia. That’s a lot of makeup for a six year-old, isn’t it?

7. Then again, how soon is too soon to start whoring up your kids?

8. A court in the UK ruled yesterday that fees for bouncing a check are unfair; they were charging the equivalent of $70 when the actual cost for bouncing a check was more like $2. This includes overdraft fees. Is this something we can do here? Because banks are overcharging you for everything you do. And don’t tell me that’s how banks make money, because the amount they’re charging is wildly inflated. Don’t charge me $35 for going overdrawn by 15 cents, that’s fucking ridiculous.

9. A quote for now: "I hope that we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country." – Thomas Jefferson. That’s right, America, the corporations have been ruling you since the very beginning.

10. Yesterday morning I ended up watching Rachael Ray. I know, I know, but it happened. Leah Remini was on the entire hour talking about her kids and I just sort of got sucked up into it (I notice that happens a lot with stuff about kids now that I work with them). Leah Remini was on talking about her crappy, inept, terrible, useless parenting, basically saying that she will shop around pediatricians and other child specialists until she finds one that doesn’t tell her she’s doing everything wrong, and all I could think was: she’s a scientologist. Have you seen the questions L. Ron Hubbard wrote to interview children between the ages of 6 and 12? Here’s some samples:

What has somebody told you not to tell?
Have you ever decided you did not like some member of your family?
Have you ever wanted something very much, but never told anybody about it?
Have you ever gotten yourself dirty on purpose?
Have you ever remembered something about yourself and not told anybody, because you thought they wouldn't believe you, or be angry at you?
Have you ever bullied a smaller child?
Have you ever been mean, or cruel, to an animal, bird or fish?
Do you have a secret?
Who have you made guilty?
Have you ever done something to your body that you shouldn't have?
Have you ever done anything to someone else's body that you shouldn't have?
Have you ever hurt a child?
Have you ever felt ashamed of your parents?
Have you ever decided "Someday, when I'm grown up, I'll get even"? If so, with whom?
Have you ever done anything wrong according to your own religion?
Have you ever spied on anyone?
Have you ever done something to someone that you'd hate to have done to you?
I don’t know what kind of mother willingly belongs to a cult that needs that kind of information out of a six year-old child, but I know she really isn’t a very good one, anyway.

11. So, did you hear that the Bush administration is planning on moving the research on foot-and-mouth disease onto the US mainland? Here, Dane of War has a post about it. Don’t worry, though, Homeland Security says it’s safe, and since they’re doing such a bang-up job preventing you from bringing your deadly shampoo onto the plane (provided your flight isn’t cancelled), I guess we have no reason to panic. I’m just wondering how exactly Bush is going to make money off of this, since that’s his motivation for everything.

12. I don’t know, Britney still looks fucking sexy to me. The things I want to do to her right there…

13. The Florida State Senate has become the first of three branches needed to pass the “Academic Freedom Act,” which will allow teachers to teach made-up ideas and magic alongside evolution. In the case against evolution, I’d say exhibit A is Florida.

14. The California State Senate, meanwhile, has finally decided it’s time to stop letting registered sex offenders have teachers’ licenses. I really have no comment for that one; it’s truly a mix of the thuddingly obvious and the stunningly stupid. Add to that the fact that many people who’ve been forced to register as sex offenders are women who’ve flashed in public or guys who took a public leak, and I’m not exactly sure what I’m supposed to feel here.

15. Texas polygamists: “We didn’t know it was illegal to marry someone under 18.” Oh, well, that makes everything fine, then. Because you don’t live in America, right?

16. Madonna wants to remind us that Tom Cruise is really a good person who should be allowed to worship whatever he likes. Hey, Maddie, no one said Tom Cruise couldn’t worship whatever he wanted. We just said that what he worshiped was really fucking stupid. Don’t worry, we still think Kabbalah is really fucking stupid, too. But if it’s really no one’s business what religion anyone worships, that works both ways; stop shoving it down our throats if you want us to ignore the crazy shit you worship. It’s also hilarious that even in defending a fellow worthless celebrity Madonna still calls attention to the plight of those people in Africa she stole that baby from because, you know, Madonna really cares about other people.

17. Not that you needed me to tell you, but George W. Bush now officially has the lowest approval rating and highest disapproval rating of a president in the 70 years of the Gallup Poll. So there’s that.

18. *Sigh…*

The Abstinence Debate: Basic Version

“We shouldn’t be promoting safe sex, because telling kids about sex just makes them want to have sex. We should be telling them not to have any sex ever, except when they’re married. Then it’s okay with God.”

“But it’s been proven, time and again, with hard data and statistics, that abstinence-only sex education doesn’t work, has never worked, and will never work.”

“I know, but, apart from that, they’re really good.”

I Hate Society, and Invitations, and Dinner, and All That Sort of Thing

Found at The Urban Recluse.



Which Wind in the Willows character are you?
this quiz was made by Auntie Krizu(:>)

Outlander

Dear Makers of Outlander,

I love Vikings. They're a fascinating part of history for me, and their myths, legends, epics and songs have a natural pull for me. I think it's great that you're making not only a Viking movie, but another take on Beowulf with a whole science fiction thing going on. It's the kind of thing that has "SCI FI Channel Original" written all over it, but also the kind of thing I secretly hope is good.

Here's the thing. I love The Vikings. I love The 13th Warrior. I don't really expect to see Viking movies that good ever again. But recently I've been getting kind of screwed on my love of Vikings in the movies. Pathfinder sounded awesome, but fell into the modern genre movie trap of being ploddingly dull and overly serious, when instead it could have been awesome. No... Awesome, with a capital A. It just sounded so cool. Vikings vs. Indians, and Clancy motherfucking Brown leading the big bad Vikings... oh, what a missed opportunity that was. I was disappointed, to say the least. And don't talk to me about Beowulf; after The Polar Express there's little incentive for me to willingly subject myself to another round of Robert Zemeckis pushing dead-eyed pixels around in a Satanic mockery of humanity. He's more concerned with rendering body hair than in creating emotional believability.

Your movie is about an alien fighting another alien among Vikings. But you know what? It could work. Because I'm not asking for anything great. I'm just asking for fun. I don't care if a movie is stupid as long as it's the kind of stupid that doesn't cripple the story or the enjoyment. Independence Day kind of stupid. I mean, that's a dumb movie, but it's also one of the most enjoyable movies I've ever seen. I love that movie. So it is possible to be dumb but fun. Don't get so serious and dull with it.

Just a fun movie about Vikings is all I ask.

Don't let me down,
SamuraiFrog

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Circular Reasoning

While waiting for the bell to go to the buses, my last fifth grade class gets to go out and wait on the playground. Two girls were on the swings and one asked what time it was.

ME: 3:25. You've got five minutes.

HER: What did you say?

ME (a little louder): 3:25. See?

I held up my watch for her to see. That day I was wearing my Mickey Mouse watch.

HER: You've got Mickey Mouse! (big smile)

OTHER GIRL: You like Mickey Mouse?

ME: I sure do.

OTHER GIRL: Why? I mean, what do you like about him?

ME: Well, he's Mickey Mouse, in't he?

30 Comic Book Trades You Should Own

I'm always interested in comic book libraries. Almost an entire bookcase in my library is taken up with graphic novels and trade paperback collections of comics, but comic book fandom is always in a sort of generational motion, and what one generation considers a great, important story is not always important to the people who come after it; or the people who came before. Over at Major Spoilers, they're having a poll dedicated to the Top 30 Trades You Should Own. You can go and vote on them.

As I so often do, I thought I'd comment on how I felt about the choices available. These are unranked and not in any particular order, so I won't number them.

Watchmen
Of course. No self-respecting serious comic book fan should be without Watchmen, one of the greatest achievements of the medium. Part of the joy of Watchmen is that it does get talked up a lot, so there may be a tendency to feel it's overrated, but it really isn't. It's endlessly readable and tells a story that's worth telling. Alan Moore once expressed surprise that his examination of the political and practical reality of science heroes didn't destroy the superhero comic altogether. But if anyone could have done it...

It's a little weird to see that only one other Alan Moore collection gets a name-check on this list, but a lot of what he's written is worth seeking out. V for Vendetta and From Hell, especially, but I'm also fond of Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?, the "final" Superman story, and everything in the collection The DC Universe Stories of Alan Moore. I think, though, my personal favorites are his ABC series, especially Tom Strong, which just takes everything I love about old pulp novels and makes them fun again.

The Dark Knight Returns
Indeed. The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen changed the critical perception of comic books in the 1980s, just as I was becoming a serious comic book fan. I remember walking into comic book stores in the 1980s; it was a lot different then, back when people actually played tabletop role-playing games and people seemed much more interested in the new Cerebus or Flaming Carrot or anything at all from Eclipse Comics than they were in what the X-Men were doing. It was a heady experience for me at age 9, finding out about all of these complex and satirical comics. I remember the shift in the early nineties, when the same comic book stores were suddenly filled with toys from the eighties and more and more shelves for the mainstream.

I recommend a lot of Frank Miller's work, although there seems to be a huge Miller backlash these days (a lot of it seems to stem from his work on All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, specifically his apparently offensive depiction of Wonder Woman; I thought the fan reaction was a little over-the-top, considering the All-Star series was set up so storytellers could work outside of continuity). Any of his Sin City books are excellent, as are Ronin, Hard Boiled, and Elektra: Assassin. Of course, his Daredevil comics are great, too.

Crisis on Infinite Earths
It's hard for me to recommend this title today; this is where the nightmare starts. DC Comics decided its continuity was too complicated for new readers, so they destroyed all of the old continuity and created a new one. Then, over the years, various writers undid bits of it, and every few years DC needed a new "event" to re-establish the continuity, and it finally lost me. I can't read monthly DC Comics anymore because of this attitude of having to adhere to a continuity. I just want to read entertaining and engaging stories. So, while I thought ultimately that Crisis on Infinite Earths was a good story, I did feel like it was a little bit pointless. Nothing against writer Marv Wolfman, but it just seemed like a fool's errand that, in the end, serves no real purpose.

My main question about Crisis has always been this (and this'll spoil it if you ain't read it): if the Flash sacrifices himself fighting the Anti-Monitor and the entire universe is re-ordered into a single continuity, then the entire Crisis never happened and the Flash never fought the Anti-Monitor and thusly didn't die. So why keep him dead? Because of a loud group of fans who think his death was "really, truly meaningful"? Why, when nothing else ever effects the continuity permanently, anyway?

52 collected trades
Absolutely not. This is what I meant when I said what's canon to one group isn't to another. This is just further continuity masturbation that I can't even bring myself to touch.

New Frontier (Absolute Edition)
I just read this recently and I loved it. The art is especially great, but I loved it as the story of the birth of the modern DC Universe (modern to me, at least; for me Barry Allen and Hal Jordan and their contemporaries will always be the real DC Universe).

Invincible (Omnibus Edition)
I've never read Invincible. I figure I will someday, but I have a hard time believing it's somehow essential. Is it really that good?

Sandman (Absolute Editions 1 and 2)
I don't know how much of the Sandman series is contained in these two editions, but I will say that I loved the series with the exceptions of only one or two storylines. It's one of the greatest series in comics history, partially because of Neil Gaiman's great writing (and I don't think he's ever quite written anything as good) and partially because it's finite. It didn't keep going for years and years and years, finally requiring a continuity overhaul and all that regular jazz. Comic book companies need to realize that some stories are meaningful because they end. The Sandman graphic novels are definitely on my shelf.

Kingdom Come
I really liked this series, but I think it's become a tad overrated. Doing sequels to it was just not a good idea. But the whole story, taken together, is pretty damn impressive. I'd say it's one of the modern essentials of the graphic novel.

The Golden Age
Also a very good story; in a way, New Frontier is sort of a sequel to this, which is about the birth of the DC Universe. I'm a bit biased, of course, because the Justice Society of America are still my absolute favorite superheroes of all time.

The Complete Bone
Indeed. I have the original nine graphic novels and I kind of prefer them that way, broken into chunks, but either way you can read Bone, read it. One of the greatest stories of the form, it's a sort of Lord of the Rings crossed with Walt Kelley's Pogo (I know I'm not the first one to make that comparison, but it's such a damn good one), with three cartoony Bone people winding up in an epic story of dragons, kingdoms, magic, lost princesses and destiny. Pure wonderful.

JLA: The Obsidian Age (volumes 1 and 2)
I wouldn't say you "must" own any of the recent JLA stories. There are some decent ones, but I can't even really remember this one, and I read that title for a long time. There are some great stories written by Mark Waid, but this one is just more continuity clean-up.

The Ultimates (volume 1)
Marvel's Ultimate line started off as a sort of alternative to the 40+ year soap opera of mainstream continuity. Titles were started over again with a modern spin. And while Ultimate Spider-Man was good for a while, the entire line was hampered by trying to cram in too many titles at once, with too many characters, and a fannish obsession with trying to shove every single mainstream character into the Ultimate Universe. In the end, it turned into a bunch of writers masturbating. The Ultimates was one of the more interesting series, re-imagining the Avengers as a modern answer to combating global terrorism and, of course, alien invasions. I did like the way some of the characters were modernized, and the art is great; I don't think it's essential, but it's a pretty good (albeit cynical) story.

Earth X
After Kingdom Come, painter Alex Ross sort of flew up his own asshole and started to believe the overhype. I haven't bothered to check in on anything he's done since then.

Runaways (volume 1)
I haven't looked at this, either. Do I need to?

Understanding Comics
Scott McCloud's scholarly look at the medium is still considered important reading, and I guess on some level it is. It's always been a tad too precious for me to take all that seriously, especially when McCloud is capable of doing great work like Zot! and The New Adventures of Abraham Lincoln. But I admit I do have it.

Age of Reptiles: Tribal Warfare
I'm amazed to see this here. I don't know if it's essential, but it's a neat little book that sort of came out of nowhere and, I thought, went back there. I tend to love dinosaur comics, and this one is pretty neat.

Essential X-Men
Notice there's no volume number; do they mean the whole thing? Uncanny X-Men was a great comic up to a point; I read Classic X-Men for years, which reprinted the series starting with the 1976 rebirth and going on. Still, I think all of the really classic X-Men stories were done with after that whole Asgard Saga. After that, it just gets to be writers trying to figure out what to do next. Seriously, anything after the Inferno story at the latest and I lose all interest. I wouldn't call this a "must" own, either, really. There are some really great X-Men stories, but...

Legion of Super-Heroes: The Great Darkness Saga
I haven't read it. I like the Legion in theory, but except for the Alan Davis story Superboy's Legion and the recent Mark Waid series, I've never really been that into them.

The Essential Defenders (volume 3)
I never thought I'd see the day when I was told I "must" own something involving the Defenders. Seriously? I liked the recent miniseries by Keith Giffen, that was hilarious, but otherwise I kind of want to call bullshit on this one.

New Teen Titans: The Judas Contract
I can't see that being true, either. But I always hated the New Teen Titans.

Sandman: World's End
I'd recommend getting all of Sandman. If I had to pick one or two collections in specific, I'm not sure this would be the one I'd go for. It's more of a short story collection, but I didn't find any of the stories on their own particularly memorable. Still, I think all of the volumes of Sandman together, as one library, belong on your shelf.

X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga
The best story ever involving the X-Men, and one of Marvel's high points. If you're going to read one X-Men story, this should be it.

Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD
I've never been that fond of Nick Fury, really, and I've never read this.

Spider-Man: Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut
So many great Spider-Man stories to choose from, like "The Death of Gwen Stacy" or "Kraven's Last Hunt" or the original Sinister Six storyline, and this is one they go for?

Hellblazer: Dangerous Habits
I've never been that into Hellblazer; the early stuff is alright, but I tend to think Alan Moore is the only one who really does the character well.

The Green Hornet
The one from Now Comics? What an odd, odd, interesting choice.

Marvels
Of course. And it's a bit of a no brainer, really, but it's actually very, very good. The birth of the Marvel Universe as seen through the eye of a reporter. This sort of cut the fat away and made me look at the Marvel Universe as a whole, and I loved what I saw. It didn't last, because the comics themselves are so tiring, but this was a wonderful story on its own. It's almost the great comic book story for people who don't want to read comic books.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Brilliant. I'd put the first two graphic novels together as bookends; some of the greatest comic storytelling I've ever read, bar none.

Daredevil (Omnibus)
Again, I'm not sure which parts of Daredevil are in here, but the Frank Miller stuff with Elektra and Bullseye is the best stuff.

Astro City: Life in the Big City
A classic that seems to have gotten pushed aside, what with Kurt Busiek slowing the output (a lot of fans still seem P.O.-ed about that one). This is the original Astro City miniseries, which kind of takes the Marvels concept (ordinary people observing superheroes as part of their daily life) and makes surviving everyday life in the face of catastrophe something heroic. The series afterward was brilliant, as well, but this is the best one to get.

The Escapists
I have no idea what this is.

This seems like rather a paltry list to me, but it seems to deal explicity with trade collections of series and miniseries, not specific graphic novels. I could probably add a bunch more to this list of things I think are better, but I don't really know how essential any of those are, either. And how about branching out a bit more? What about Groo the Wanderer or Cerebus or 300 or Hellboy or Usagi Yojimbo or Red Rocket 7 or Sock Monkey or The Plastic Man Archives or Planetary or Mouse Guard or Love and Rockets or Age of Bronze or The Mask or Torso or Ghost World or Concrete or...

You could just go on and on all day.

Iron Man vs. Iron Monger

Still so totally xazzed about this movie. Please, please, please be good.

Someone commented on this blog that, while they were optimistic, Iron Monger wouldn't have been their first choice for a villain. I was thinking about some of the classic Iron Man villains and it does almost seem a little bit of an odd choice to go with.

Personally, I'd love to see Fin Fang Foom and the Mandarin, but that just doesn't seem to be the kind of movie that anyone would make these days. Iron Man fans: what villain would you like to see in a movie?

I Love Those Almond Eyes

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

See, the Thing About That Is...


Once again, I'm transmundane!

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

GREGORY'S GIRL (1981)
I've never seen a film directed by Bill Forsyth before, but based on this one, I'd like to see them all. This is a charming movie about high school students in Scotland, particularly one, Gregory, a goofball who falls in love with his school's first female football player. This is one of the movies from an all-too-brief era between the art of the seventies and the commerce of the eighties when people made movies about people that were observational. There's no real plot, no real drive; the movies spends as much time with other characters as with Gregory, including his wannabe chef brother, his frustrated friend who thinks Caracas is the place to find girls, and the school's football coach. Although I hate this phrase, it really is a slice-of-life movie, descending on a bit of it and then taking us back it. But it's a wonderful visit. **** stars.

DELIVER US FROM EVIL (2006)
This stunning documentary is, I'd say, nigh impossible to see without being moved by. This focuses on a priest who, for decades, molested over 50 children (one of them a nine-month-old infant) under his care. Of course, the Diocese merely moved him around and around the same 300 mile or so radius, putting him again and again in a position of administration over children. Some of them were molested over and over again; as the father of one victim says in the film, it's not molestation, it's rape. Only a few of the now-adult victims appear on camera to talk about what happened to them, but the priest himself appears and is frighteningly disconnected about what he's done. He laughs about it at times, tries to apologize, is sure there will be an absolution for him. He doesn't even think he's done anything too harmful; he thinks he was showing misplaced affection (and one girl says a church representative told her that they didn't think it was molestation either; since she was a girl and not a boy, it was just "curiosity"). The ironic kicker is that the priest himself was molested as a child by a priest, and by his older brother, but doesn't consider that molestation, either. Instead, he blames the church for just moving him around and around instead of helping him. And that's the thing about this documentary; there are no easy answers here. What can be done with an organization that considers itself above earthly law and the hidden monsters within who are deemed too important to be brought under man's law? Powerful, powerful stuff. **** stars. The film also does point out that the current Pope was the man in charge of covering up such incidents (over 100,000 reported cases; experts say only 20% or childhood molestation victims ever come forward), and that our idiot President has granted clemency to the Pope, so he can never be brought up on charges.

THE WATER HORSE: LEGEND OF THE DEEP (2007)
I really like movies like this, about kids and animals and troubled times. It's basically the story of a boy and his dinosaur. A Scottish boy (the same boy from Millions) finds an egg and hatches a water horse, a creature that is basically a plesiosaur (and also the Loch Ness Monster). Meanwhile, World War II is on the doorstep, and a regiment of soldiers (led by David Morrissey, an actor I've come to like, although here he's kind of playing Liam Neeson playing Alec Guinness) is quartered on the family estate. The boy and his sister also become friends with a drifter handyman (Ben Chaplin) who helps them secretly raise this creature to become a huge sea beast. If you've ever seen one of these, you know where it's going, but I liked getting there. I liked how the water horse, Crusoe, is treated like a realistic animal, friendly and curious while young but eventually becoming wild and untamed. Movies like this have to work to keep their hearts in without becoming sappy or pretentious or merely stupid, and I think this one works in the same storybook vein as Babe (and both are based on books by Dick King-Smith). ***1/2 stars. Great score by James Newton Howard.

BECOMING JANE (2007)
Dear Annie Hathway,
I love you and you're so talented, but could you please not waste my time with this? And this is, in fact, the only movie you've made that I would consider a complete waste of time. It's more pretentious and dull than a 13 year-old girl's Jane Austen fan fiction. And can I talk to someone about not putting James MacAvoy in any more movies where he's supposed to be believably romantic? Because he's starting to become another Orlando Bloom--a fantasy figure for little girls and boys who are in love with the idea of tragic romance but terrified by the idea of real sexuality. Awful. Boring. Unwatchable. No stars; not even one for you, Annie.

MY BOY JACK (2007)
Ostensibly, this film is about Rudyard Kipling and his wife Caroline and their relationships with their 17 year-old son Jack as World War I opens. But it's really an examination of a family deeply affected by war. David Haig, who wrote the original play and teleplay, stars as Rudyard Kipling, one of the most popular authors and famous men in the world. Even before the onset of war, he's agitating for the fight, giving patriotic, jingoistic speeches to halls full of young men, whipping them into a frenzy of honor and nationalism. Daniel Radcliffe plays Jack, a bright young man who wants to get away from his suffocating family and the burden of having a famous father, wishing to prove himself as an officer despite the fact that his eyesight leaves him blind to anything more than five yards away. The relationship between the two is full of many unsaid things; Rudyard is proud of Jack, but doesn't know how to show it with any subtlety or tenderness. Jack loves his dad, but is muffled under layers of formality and duty. And Caroline, played surprisingly effectively by Kim Cattrall, tries to support them both and meet them halfway, also unable to say the things she wants but trying to soldier through. When Jack goes missing, she fiercely leads the search to discover what happened to their boy. It's a heartbreaking, very well acted, very well written drama. David Haig is excellent as Kipling, and Daniel Radcliffe brings his Harry Potter intensity to his role, but manages to shed the character completely and become someone else. I hope it's a harbinger of a real career. This movie took me by surprise. **** stars.

Hillary Saw Her Shadow in Pennsylvania

Six more weeks of tired, futile, desperate, lie-ridden, faux-macho-swagger campaigning.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Two Short Dahl Books

My time has been taken up by a long-term substitute teaching assignment, which is the dream of a sub, so I've had very little time for reading, sadly. I wanted to continue my exploration of Dahl, so I went to the library and grabbed two short books of his and read them both this morning.

The first book I read was Esio Trot, which is tortoise spelled backward. It's about Mr. Hoppy, a gardener in love with his downstairs neighbor, Mrs. Silver, a widow who wishes her turtle Alfie would grow larger (it's a sign of health). So Mr. Hoppy, thrilled to be of service to the object of his affection, writes her a nonsense incantation of backwords words and tells her to use it to make Alfie bigger. Of course, it doesn't work; he rushes to the pet store and buys larger turtles and replaces Alfie with them to make her believe the turtle is getting bigger. She's so satisfied with the results that Mr. Hoppy wins his true love.

I hate to say it, but I just didn't like this book. I found it a little distasteful, probably because I'm a pet owner. Poor little Alfie gets taken away from the loving home he's had for ten years and replaced with a larger model, and that bit of flash impresses Mrs. Silver enough to fall in love with Mr. Hoppy. So, love is a matter of lies and illusion? I mean, yes, there's a tacked-on ending explaining that Alfie was very happy with his new owners, but still, that just makes me feel worse. I adopted my pet rabbit, and I hate to think of him going back to the pet store. I don't know, the whole thing was unsatisfying. It's the first Dahl I just outright haven't liked.

The second book, The Enormous Crocodile, was much better. It tells the story of a simply enormous and nasty crocodile who journeys through the jungle to eat some children. Along the way, he meets some other animals and boasts of his plan. So when the crocodile reaches the children, the other animals do their part to foil him and save the kids from destruction. I liked the message and the characters much more in The Enormous Crocodile than in Esio Trot. The message here seemed to me that society has a duty to protect itself against the machinations of those who would do it harm (and the crocodile gets what he deserves in a spectacular finish). Hmmm... maybe it's a pro-death penalty book? I wonder how Dahl felt about that?

I also liked that the Roly Poly Bird and Muggle-wump the Monkey from The Twits were characters in this book. Which, I believe, came before The Twits. It made me smile. I heartily recommend The Enormous Crocodile. I would skip Esio Trot if you're oversensitive like I apparently am (a lifelong problem when it comes to animals, but one I'm happy to be afflicted with).

Originally posted on the Spring Reading Challenge (2008).

In Hillary Clinton's Own Words

Any Pennsylvania readers planning on voting for Hillary Clinton need to keep in mind three things today before heading out (all emphases are mine):

1. "We will let the Iranians know, that, yes, an attack on Israel would trigger massive retaliation, but so would an attack on those countries that are willing to go under the security umbrella and forswear their own nuclear ambitions." -- Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, 16 April 2008

2. "Their use of nuclear weapons against Israel would provoke a nuclear response from the United States." -- Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, 21 April 2008

3. "I want the Iranians to know that if I'm the president, we will attack Iran. In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them." -- Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, 22 April 2008

Pandering. Fear-mongering. Willing to end the lives of millions to destroy a government that many in Iran do not even support. Willing to open up the United States to nuclear retaliation in order to get the pro-Israel vote, the pro-military vote, and the pro-gun vote. First she makes you afraid of black people, now she makes you afraid of Iran. You bought it when she cried; don't buy it when she tells you that you have to be scared of the rest of the world when you should be scared of her. She doesn't respect you enough to be honest with you. Please, do not vote for this person.

For Earth Day

The Humphrey Hop

I hope my sister still reads this blog and still remembers this song.

The Health Report, Year 2: Week 19

If this economy gets worse, I'm going to become a 'bo and ride the rails. I need to save up to buy a laptop so I can blog about it. Kind of a mobile Grapes of Wrath, I guess.

Yeah, money was my big problem this week. I only get paid twice a month and it's hard when you don't always get a lot of work in a couple of weeks. All the work I did over the last couple of weeks doesn't translate into dollars until the end of this month. Some days, that seems like a long time...

About that sub job I was doing; I met with the school's principal on Wednesday, and we talked about me staying on longer (Thursday and Friday were conferences, so Wednesday would've been my last day). She talked to me right after I started and said that she was trying to get subs assigned just to her school, but was having no luck. I had hoped they'd be desperate for people and let me stay, and that's the way it's worked out. She asked if I could do it for two more weeks; I said I'd stay until the end of the year, and she was very pleasantly surprised by that. She put me in the system and I'm there until the last day of school, 30 May (or the week after; there were a couple of snow days, so it might be 4 June by the time they're actually released for the summer furlough. And I'm thrilled to be there; I love the job and I love the kids and the kids actually like me. In fact, one kid (it was Augie) found out I might be leaving and yelled "Noooooo!" on the playground. Kind of gratifying, I admit. I'm glad I'm getting along with most of them.

They also put me in the first grade for my first hour. I've been scheduled to come in at the time when the teacher I'm subbing for would normally be on break, so I had nothing to do for 50 minutes. Now I'm in one of the first grade class, and that's kind of interesting. One of the problem kids I'm with, Muttley, is a real troublemaker and something of a born liar; when I discovered he had something that had been taken from another student, he said "Someone must've put that there to make it look like I did it." And when I found something else he'd taken from the classroom, I asked him how he got it. "I just found it," he said. "Where did you find it?" I asked. "Around," he said. Ouch. First grade and he's already got his path; I'm being as firm as I can be and making sure he gives things back and apologizes. He's got an answer for everything, though, and he thinks he's really clever. So far it's been a matter of knowing he's done something and gently undermining his explanation of "finding" things. I hope by the end of next month he at least understands the difference between finding things and stealing them.

There's another girl, I'll call her Pebbles, who is practically following me around, which is both off-putting and adorable. We do something called Book in a Bag, where the students take home one of the books from the classroom (it makes me happy to see this overcrowded, under-resourced school has a ton of books in every classroom). They read the book, then bring it back and explain the plot to the teacher and read a few pages. I was doing Book in a Bag yesterday, and Pebbles read her whole book to me (it was exceedingly short), then went to check out her next one. She wanted to read it to me right then and there; I told her she'd have to wait because it was someone else's turn. "Will you be here tomorrow?" she asked. "Yes," I told her. "Will you be doing Book in a Bag tomorrow?" "Maybe," I answered. That made me feel good. A whole lifetime of people not wanting me around very much, and now a lot of the kids want me to work with them, give them attention, sit by them, etc. It's pretty cool.

Also, this experience is giving me a refresher course in first through third grade math. That's a nice side effect.

So, there's my health. Again, I'm doing the best I can with the eating and the walking. It's spring, so all of a sudden everything seems wonderful and beautiful, so that helps. A change in mood is very important. I've been thinking a little about the placebo effect (thank you, Dr. Tony Hill) and how a lot of my depression is brought on by me genuinely believing I'm not a worthwhile person. That I'll always be unsuccessful and in debt and overweight and in poor health and unhappy because, somehow, it's what's meant to be. Which is ironic, because I don't put any stock in "meant to be" or fate or any of that garbage. I'd much rather be happy, successful, and healthy than anything else. So I'm willing myself to look at the positive aspects as credits and everything else as something that can change instead of something negative. Is my health good? No. So I need to change it instead of dwelling on it. Action, not reflection.

Action, not reflection.

Action, not reflection.

I'm optimistic about it working. Hey, it's spring. Spring is my thing.

Besides, I'll need my strength and health if I'm going to survive being a 'bo.

Enviornmental Talk

Last Thursday, President George W. Bush unveiled a plan to cap greenhouse gases by 2025 at a 17-nation climate talk in Paris. Let's see what people are saying about it:

"The president gave a disappointing speech."
--German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel

"Gabriel criticizes Bush's Neanderthal speech. Losership, not Leadership."
--Newspaper headline in Berlin

"President Bush recognized the need for mandatory federal legislation to tackle climate change but what he proposed ... will not contribute to the effective tackling of climate change."
--European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas

"The American administration is starting to awake. It's a bit late."
--French climate change ambassador Brice Lalonde

"We are looking forward to whoever succeeds the present (U.S.) administration, because we believe we can probably only do better [...] There is no way whatever that we can agree to what the U.S. is proposing."
--South African Environmental Affairs Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk

"This is disappointing. But Bush will be leaving office soon. What he says doesn't matter so much any more."
--Unnamed but widely-quoted senior European official


85 Years of Bettie Page

Bettie Page made a huge difference in my life when I was 12, and she's continued to ever since. I won't go into detail, but I will say that my first, um, physical experience for a woman was because of Bettie. Today she turns 85. Happy Birthday, Ms. Page. You've made me happy for a long, long time and I'm sure you always will.

But I Prefer Old Jazz...

Spicy PJ started it.


Your Score: Fennel


You scored 50% intoxication, 25% hotness, 75% complexity, and 25% craziness!



You are Fennel! You're a cool cat. Crisp, clean, fresh, and extremely complicated. You're like quantum physics or modern jazz. Think Niels Bohr meets Ornette Coleman. You may look normal now, but once you sprout, you look kind of, uh, funny.

Link: The Which Spice Are You Test written by jodiesattva on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test
View My Profile(jodiesattva)

Occasional Links #5

* My favorite ever Rick Roll. Let there be Muppets!

* Speaking of Muppets, Becca has Star Wars-themed Muppet cards. She's also got Vida Guerra and sexy cars, Masuimi Max (and Dino!), a post on the movie Downfall, and some more great Tiki-themed drawings.

* Pajiba sings the praises of Farscape.

* Final Girl has Christopher Lee posters!

* Shuffleboil has a look at some of Will Eisner's books (read everything he did, now, you won't regret it).

* MWB celebrates 60 years of McDonald's and finds the best comics panel ever.

* Nine media myths which scared the nation. Reporters are retards.

* From The Consumerist: Confessions of an Apple Tech Support Supervisor, Confessions of a Sears Electronics Salesperson, and Confessions of a Debt Settlement Company Worker.

* Webster's Is My Bitch: the definition of fuckwit. I love the apropos description of Perez Hilton as "the Latino community's favorite genetic accident."

* Film School Rejects: Ten Skinny-Ass Ladies Who Used to Be Hot

* The Film Experience found some inappropriate cartoon hunks. I absolutely love it.

* It turns out that Rupert Grint is awesome.

* This review of Nick Cave's screenplay for Gladiator 2 sounds fantastic.

* Dr. Zaius uncovers the origin of the evangelical movement.

* The A.V. Club interviews the Kids in the Hall.

* Michael Sporn has a neat post on celebrity caricature in animation.

* Cartoon Brew finds a rare 1938 Looney Tunes book.

* Here's a couple of nice pieces of animation online: Yoshifumi Kondo's test animation for Little Nemo and Orgesticulanismus, which is wonderful.

* Distributorcap on that damn debate. Remember the campaigns? What happened to them?

* The Rubber Chicken hilariously dissects Britney Spears's "Piece of Me".

* The Deadbolt incorrectly lists 10 horror movies that should be remade. Fright Night does not need a remake. But I guess coming up with an original idea would be too radical.

* FranIAm has some neat pics of Berlin (including the zoo) and Barbara has some neat pics of San Diego (including the zoo). Can you sense a them of interest from me?

* Dane of War: Denmark passes a law I can get behind. Or in front of, really...

* I Watched This On Purpose: fucking Eragon, piece of shit.

* Manx: Decision 2008 with Critters.

* Dr. Monkey has a history lesson.

* Johnny Yen has some apparently controversial thoughts on Castro and celebrates Tom Lehrer.

* More on the "debate" and the "campaign": I share Distributorcap's thoughts, ponder what Obama might have said, and love Lance Mannion's description of McCain's vanity.

* And, of course, the Cracked stuff: the 10 Craziest Scientific Experiments Ever Conducted, 5 Things Hollywood Thinks Computers Can Do, the 5 Most Ridiculous Lies You Were Taught in History Class, 5 Historical Figures Who Died the Weirdest Deaths, and History's 7 Most Astounding Sexual Resumes.

Finally, he's an odd, beautiful, pointed film by Kenneth Anger: Mouse Heaven.

Monday, April 21, 2008

An Open Letter to Pennsylvania Voters

Back in January, I posted an open letter asking the voters of my birth state, Iowa, to vote for my candidate, John Edwards. Iowa voted Obama, and at the time I was not supporting Obama at all. Some of his more fanatical supporters helped me cement my dislike of Obama as the Democratic candidate. At the time, I said that, despite living in Illinois and having voted to put him in the Senate, I felt he was playing up to both sides, maintaining the status quo too much, taking money from Big Pharma and from corporations. John Edwards was, at the time, the only Democratic candidate with an accessible plan for nationalized health care, which is one of the most important issues facing us today, especially as our economy slides further and further into the toilet. I did not think, in good conscience, that I should vote against a real health care plan because, well, I need a health care plan.

Today, I'm asking the people who live in the Cradle of Liberty to vote for Barack Obama.

I know a lot of people who don't really care if Obama or Clinton wins, as long as it's a Democrat. I hate this attitude. It's not only thoughtless, it's also cynical. Plus, it assumes that the Democrats even have a chance of winning. I've bristled for the past two years as people have told me up and down "It's the Democrats' race to lose" and "All a Democrat has to do to win this year is show up" and especially "All a Dem has to do to win is not be Bush." Yeah, sell it somewhere else, because that's the same thing people were saying in 2004, when we got four more years of President Duh. If my life experience has shown me one thing, it's that the Democrats have a history of getting so cocky that they lose. Just by showing up.

I'm worried that this year's election will see the same thing happen. There's been so much name-calling and ad hominem attacking and lying and tiresome garbage, and that's just on the Democratic side. It's old. People are tired of it, so very tired of it. And they know that, after the convention finally decides the nominee, they're going to have to go through this again leading up to the November presidential election. A lot of Democrats feel Hillary Clinton should just drop out of the race, as though having an actual election--an important aspect of democracy--is going to ruin the party forever. That's silly, but I understand why people feel that way. The venom between Obama and Clinton is so poisonous you'd think they were members of opposing parties. But they aren't. They're on the same side.

Well, actually, it seems like Clinton is on her own side and Obama is on America's. That's the simplest way I can simplify it. Senator Clinton and her husband have proven that they will say and do anything in order to secure the nomination, and in their typical way, they're burning all of their own bridges to get it. Hillary Clinton's scorched-earth policy is polarizing so many people that there's no telling how all of this will end. She's going to have to be dragged away from the nomination by armed men with her teeth marks still in it. Even Captain Ahab thinks she's a little too obsessive.

The final straw for everyone involved should be the way she tried to throw Farrakhan's name out during the Wednesday "debate" (which I've since seen online--what a sad joke). Why doesn't she just come out in a white sheet and tell America we should be afraid of black people because they might mix with our women and get revenge for slavery? Because that's almost what she did. She knows that there are a lot of ignorant white people out there who are terrified by Farrakhan, who has absolutely nothing to do with the Obama campaign. Reverend Wright knows Farrakhan? Guess what, Hillary? Lots of people know people who know...other people! By that logic, people should be calling you on your connection to Penthouse because, you know, your husband slept with Paula Jones and then her pictures were in Penthouse so, *gasp!*, HILLARY CLINTON HAS A PORNOGRAPHY PAST! THINK OF THE CHILDREN!

But of course no one would say that because it would be fucking stupid. Just like trying to scare white people into voting against a black person in the year 2008 is fucking ignorant. All Senator Clinton has shown us in the past couple of months is that she's incapable of winning the majority of votes with her ideas, her political past, her personality, or her repeated lies (sniper fire, my ass, Senator). She can only do it by implying her campaign slogan is "No Nigger President," and that is disgusting. And she dares to compare herself to Martin Luther King Jr? She came across like a bigot in that "debate." A bigot on an old-fashioned smear campaign.

Hillary, you voted for the war. Repeatedly. And you didn't own up to it.

You lied. A lot.

There are a lot of people who are voting for Obama because of the movement. People are more swept up in the movement for change than they are in Obama himself. And you know what? Right now, I think that's a fine reason to vote for him. Because on the other side we've got McCain, who represents the old way (partially because he actually appears in the bible as one of Moses's right hand men). He's a stolid guardian of The Way Things Are. But The Way Things Are is not the way we need them to be. We need health care. We need a healthy economy. We need a fair wage. We need openness and courage and hard work and an end to this pointless war. We need to throw off the shackles of fear and corporations and being told that the entire world is out to get us because we're "too successful" and "too free." McCain is more interested in keeping things the way they are. That's Bush thinking. That's the rhetoric and the inattention that's led us towards destruction for the past seven and a half years.

Senator Clinton doesn't represent the future, either. She's the Beltway. She's Lieberman. She's a closet conservative who thinks it's alright to lie and cheat and steal her way to success. I know, I really do, that many in America would love to elect a woman president. I would too. But not this one. Let this one go back to the Senate and make it hard for kids to buy videogames and whatever the hell else she was doing while she was marking time before a presidential run. Actually, I'd say don't even vote her back into the Senate, but that's me.

Does Senator Obama represent change? Is he ready to be president? Is he tested enough?

Does any of that matter at this point? What's happening now is bigger than one candidate. It's become progress vs. tradition. We want progress, because tradition has kept us poor, kept us meek, kept us in fear, kept us from capturing the future, kept us in a cycle of servitude to creditors, politicians, and corporations. Clinton is tradition. She's a surface change and nothing more. And more than that, Obama has the support to win change. He's got millions behind him. And more than that, he urges us to listen to one another, to understand one another, and to help one another. When was the last time you heard anyone say that kind of thing? Bush has told us to fear one another, to go shopping, to ignore America as it went down in flames around us. He told us he was protecting us; instead, he spied on us and took our money and made the world hate us.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not letting my hope blind me. The Democrats haven't done anything we elected them to do in 2006. They haven't ended the war. They haven't stopped the ravenous Bush administration from doing whatever they want. And the Democrats are just another group of politicians, protecting themselves instead of representing the people. I think idealism can be very dangerous. But what hits the nail on the head for me is that Obama is a decent guy. When was the last time you could say that about a candidate? He never called Clinton on her lying. He never called her on the fact that when she and her husband were having marital difficulties over Monica Lewinsky, their spiritual counselor was Reverend Wright. The kind of decency you never see in a campaign anymore. Doesn't that at least signify something about him?

Pennsylvania, I know you have it in you to do the right thing. Don't worry about whether Obama can win in November; one battle at a time. This is your chance. Please, please, please think carefully about who you're voting for. Remember that it does matter who the Democratic candidate is.

Jessica Rabbit

Another Untooned creation from Pixeloo.

61 Today

Happy Birthday, Iggy Pop!