Saturday, May 31, 2008

Mr. Cool Can Gargle My Balls

So, as long as I've been at this school making decisions about what to do with my kids, I've never once made a teacher or assistant look completely powerless over the students. And Mr. Cool did that to me on Wednesday.

Mr. Cool has taken over the fifth grade class I'm in at the end of the day (the regular teacher left to have surgery). He's got about 15 real troublemakers in there, and they're just doing everything they can to eat him alive. He's getting frustrated with it, too. On Wednesday I was walking into his class as he was walking out with three of the little assholes (and make no mistake, from fifth grade through tenth grade, 98% of kids aren't "difficult" or "under pressure" or "just trying to grow up," they're assholes and they're obnoxious). "Keep an eye on the class for a minute?" he asked. I agreed.

One kid, usually a troublemaker, had been told by Mr. Cool to write names on the board of people who were talking. "Is there anyone I should write down?" he asked. Of course, almost everyone was talking, but since they were watching a movie and the lights were off, I went by the voices I heard. I told him three kids who are the absolute worst of the crop, and he wrote their names down. When they finally noticed, they got pissed off, I got blamed, and they walked out in the hall to bargain their way out of it because that's what they do when they're in trouble (if they can't bargain their way out, they ignore it completely and do whatever the hell they want). They all come back in and erase their names. The kid supposedly in charge of taking names shrugs at me; apparently Mr. Cool had told him to let them erase their names. The message was pretty clear: I have no authority in Mr. Cool's room. I've dealt with this at jobs a million times in my life.

But what pissed me off is that one kid, the absolute worst kid in school, I'll call him Dirk, gave me this very smug look of triumph, which led me to blurt out "You think I care either way?" That actually shut him up; he seemed quite upset by that and, selfishly, I was happy about it. I hate that kid. I'd like to meet him outside of school sometime and show him the consequences of his foul, loathsome behavior.

It left a bad taste in my mouth, and it continues to do so. I don't help him keep that class in line at all now. Hey, if I have no authority, I have no authority. All of the kids hate him now because he's so strict. He's not Mr. Cool anymore. So I just joke with the kids I actually like, and they come to me to ask if they can get a drink, go to the bathroom, whatever, because they don't like Mr. Cool. It's petty but, you know what? I kind of like it. Fuck him for cutting me off at the knees with the students.

The last two weeks have been pretty much like that. It doesn't help matters that I've been pretty sick, with pounding headaches all day. Besides that, I keep getting talked to now about things I'm supposed to be doing that no one ever told me I was supposed to be doing in the first place. Half the staff of that school doesn't lower themselves to look at me for eight weeks, and now all of a sudden everyone has a problem with what I do. I'm just beyond giving a shit now.

The kids certainly don't care. They just want summer to start. Yesterday was supposed to be the last day of school, but we're going until 5 June to make up for three snow days and a flood day. They should've just wrapped up yesterday. Seriously, what is the four days going to help? Everyone's just doing time-wasters now. Between practicing for the spring chorale, practicing play readings, practicing for the fifth grade band concert, endless art classes and crafts projects for Mother's Day and Father's Day, field trips (the third grade has had four in the last three weeks alone), and getting to watch movies, besides the common practice of pulling recess out of nowhere when things get to overwhelming, it's not like the kids are missing a bunch of math and spelling they would've done normally. What to they need, exactly? Three and a half days of arts and crafts? Ooh, edifying.

Even the class I like, the first grade class, were total jerks this week. They had a sub on Thursday and really disappointed me with their classroom misbehavior. Last week they discovered I could draw, and they all want me to draw stuff for them, and now they're miffed that I won't because of the way they acted up.

And then there's this creepy kindergarten I'm supposed to be in now with this kid Muttley. I didn't know I was supposed to look after this kid because this kindergarten teacher had never actually looked at me or spoken to me until Thursday, even when I was in her classroom. The kid is creepy, too. I'm only with him for an hour, but it shakes me up each time. He's in the special ed program, he's repeating kindergarten, and he's there all day. He gives you this blank stare all the time, sometimes crossing his eyes, sometimes letting one eye just roll all over wherever. Spooky. And he has real developmental problems. I've had to remind him 19 times of my name (not exaggerating) and in the course of an hour you have to tell him to be quiet 647 times (slightly exaggerating). You tell him to be quiet, he'll nod like he understands, and then he'll start blathering away again. And I do mean blathering, because you can only understand about one of every twelve words he says. Look, I know that none of this is the poor kid's fault, but I'm not sure how exactly he's being helped by essentially being babysat by the school. There needs to be a much more rigorous special ed focus across the district, instead of just socializing and herding the kids around.

Not that the assistants care. And that's another thing I've come to hate about this school: the assistants don't care. About any of it. They're not interested in the kids or the work, they just sit there and watch and occasionally remind a kid they're supposed to be reading. There are some older assistants, women in their fifties, and they know what they're doing (and they're very nice), but the younger girls (and the one guy I refuse to think of as a male) are total bitches. There's only one I'm friendly with, and we're in the same classroom for an hour a day (and she didn't even start to talk to me until the student teachers were gone, so I'm kind of default anyway). Do you remember the snooty, elitist elephants in Dumbo who would gather in a tight huddle to keep Dumbo out? Those are the assistants at the school. I've actually been in conversation with people and had the assistants group around and start their own new conversation, which ends up with them turning their backs on me and shutting me out entirely. So I don't talk to the bitches. They just disappoint me with their lack of interest. We're outside monitoring the playground in the morning, and they just clump up in a group to socialize and talk about Facebook and The Office and bitch about their breaks or how they aren't making enough money.

I'm so over this place. The number of students I figured I'd miss keeps going down and down and down (although one of them did ask me if I would be at her school next year and told me I should be), and three and a half days just cannot float by quickly enough. For chrissakes, I'm having long, complex, detailed dreams about being at work now. For some reason, in one dream, icky space alien lovedoll corpse Posh Spice and started making love to me. And that's been the high point.

I need a vacation, and I need it now.

There Are Those Days

Friday, May 30, 2008

Throwdown 5/30

Random thoughts, questions, and observations for the week.

1. This week, a 70 year-old English man found a 2500 year-old gold cup that his grandfather had given him. It was lost under his bed for 60 years. I think there's a real story here: Man Doesn't Clean Up Room for 60 Years.

2. Also found this week was a "lost" Indian tribe in Brazil. Probably they're remnants of a larger tribe that has been pushed back by settlement and development. Brazil's Indian Protection Agency has pointed out that "in 508 years of history, out of the thousands of tribes that exist none have adapted well to society in Brazil." The Indian population, which numbered 5 million before Europeans came, is around 350,000 now. The photos are dramatic and exciting, and it is kind of thrilling to think that there are still people out there who don't have any contact with modern society. But, sadly, having been discovered this is probably the beginning of the end for them. That's just the sweep of history.

3. Dunkin' Donuts caved to right wing pressure and pulled an ad in which Rachael Ray is wearing a scarf that Michelle Malkin and other idiots want to be a keffiyeh, an Arab headdress. I can't tell you how many ways this is disturbing. The first is that we still have, I guess I'll be charitable and call them people, yowling that anything remotely Arab is somehow a symbol of terrorism. (Ironically, it's one of Rachael Ray's coffee ads; where do you think coffee comes from, idiots?) The second way this pisses me off is that I think women like Rachael Ray, if they even pick their own outfits, don't put a whole lot of thought into what their outfit says politically as opposed to how it looks, and to ascribe some kind of pro-terrorist connection to it is outrageously silly. And third, the thing that pisses me off the most, is this is another instance of allowing Michelle Malkin and her useless ilk to have any power over the media. Stop giving it to them and they'll stop acting like they have it. [Incidentally, Dr. Monkey calls for a Dunkin' Donuts boycott--I agree--and points out that John McCain's daughter has worn the same scarf. Laura Bush putting on the burqa was much more offensive.]

4. Damn you, Ryan Adams. I wanted to feel up Mandy Moore in the middle of a comic book store. It just sounds... really fun.

5. 111 countries signed an agreement to ban the use of cluster bombs. Not the United States, though. Our government is still okay with killing and maiming children who find unexploded cluster bombs.

6. The new Frank Sinatra stamp. I thought it was pretty neat.

7. Filming on the set of I Love You, Man. Nobody says fuck you to the Hulk. I don't know, it cracked me up.

8. Clay Aiken's going to be a father. You know, I thought it was strange that a woman would let this man impregnate him or that, frankly, he would even be interested, but then I read that he just contributed sperm to artificially inseminate his 40 year-old lesbian friend... well, that does make sense. It'd have to be something weird.

9. And then there are those images that just make me want to kill a whole lot of people. Keep those human sacrifices to Bush's monumental ego coming, military academies of America!

10. And finally, RIP Harvey Korman, 1927-2008. One of the funniest people on The Carol Burnett Show, another of my comedy influences.

80s Revisited: Indiana Jones

An occasional series in which I revisit movies from a long time ago.

As I've said a couple of times recently, I watched the first three Indiana Jones movies over the weekend. It's actually been almost a decade since I sat down and watched any of these movies in their entirety, something I used to do all the time as a kid and a teenager, so I figured I'd just write a reaction here.

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Directed by Steven Spielberg; screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan, story by George Lucas and Philip Kaufman; produced by Frank Marshall.

Here's the great thing about this movie: it's utterly ridiculous. And yet, it's utterly perfect. It's a great relic of a time period, between Star Wars at one end and the popularity of the independent films in the early nineties, when people could make movies that were utterly ridiculous. As long as they were fun, who really cared? It's only been in the last 15 or so years that people started demanding a sort of dull pretentiousness with their silly action/adventure/special effects movies, which is kind of a shame. I don't think for a second there's anyone that takes a movie like this completely seriously, and if there is, that's really a shame. It's not meant to be serious. It's meant to be a ridiculous, over-the-top adventure spectacle with big special effects, narrow escapes, improbable action, and cartoony characters. I mean, you can take it on its own terms. But it's not exactly The Best Years of Our Lives, is it?

Right away, I'm always struck by how good and believable Harrison Ford is as Indiana Jones. His mannerisms, his line delivery; he's not simply rehashing Han Solo. Which is nice. Ford, rather famously, wasn't the first choice to play Indy, but he feels like he was born for it. He inhabits the character believably, adding a human touch to a character who could've just been a superman. The supporting cast is also wonderful: John Rhys-Davies as Sallah, Denholm Elliott as Marcus Brody, Ronald Lacey as the slimy Nazi Toht. I think Paul Freeman turns Rene Belloq into a great villain simply because he's not really so villainous. He doesn't overplay a role that isn't necessarily written with subtlety. And then, of course, there's Karen Allen, absolutely wonderful as Marion Ravenwood, the best leading lady in all three of these movies.

What I noticed this time around is how self-assured the movie is. It's breezy and funny and winks at the audience. I think nowadays in movies like this there's a tendency to apologize to the audience for being so outlandish, but here Spielberg and Lucas just go for it. Like most early Spielberg movies, it's a textbook on framing shots. There are so many homages in here to other directors, from Michael Curtiz to John Huston to Orson Welles. I had forgotten how simple the score is; there's really only three major themes and they all get quite the workout, though Williams has some fun moments, too, like the pizzicato in the opening and the bouncy music during the basket chase. I had also forgotten how Indy has absolutely no reservations about just killing anyone he has to, which is a far cry from a lot of what I saw as a kid (everyone my eyes rolls their eyes remembering the parachutes in G.I. Joe).

It's justly a classic. In fact, the only thing that annoys me about this movie is the way the title's been changed on video to Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark for the sake of uniformity. Get over it, alright?

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
Directed by Steven Spielberg; screenplay by Willard Huyck & Gloria Katz, story by George Lucas; produced by Robert Watts.

This is the movie I never got to see in the theater; I was about to turn eight when it came out, and my mom wouldn't take me because she thought it was too violent. Really, she just thought it was too icky, I think. What, melting Nazis were okay for a five year old to see in the theater, but...?

Anyway, this has actually always been my favorite of the three movies. The first film was a B serial; this one is a B jungle adventure, and I like a good jungle adventure. Of course, Spielberg and Lucas get in their homages to the genre, as well as to James Bond and Busby Berkeley and Grant & Hepburn and etc. What I still don't get is why they decided to set the story a year earlier than Raiders and turn Indy into more of a cynical gloryhound in the process. This movie also has less in the way of an interesting supporting cast. The villains are stock, straight from central casting, leaving Kate Capshaw and Ke Huy Quan to pick up a lot of slack. For the most part, though, I think they're successful. I love Short Round, one of many steals from Sam Fuller that Spielberg has made in his career. Ke Huy Quan is still a fun sidekick for Indy, and it was a big deal for me as an eight year-old that Indy's best friend was a kid, too.

As for Kate Capshaw, I've never had a problem with her. I know a lot of people get annoyed with her performance as Willie Scott, and it's only more aggravating in comparison to how great a character Marion was, but I like that the girls in both movies are as different as night and day. Also, I'd forgotten how seriously beautiful Kate Capshaw was in this movie; she was never this glamorous again. I think she works for the style of the movie completely.

The real problem with this movie for me is my own fault: I've seen this movie so many times that I've practically got it memorized shot-by-shot. Also, the special effects in this one are kind of cheap (ironic, since they cost so much money). I've never hated matte shots more than when I see the climax of this movie. But it's so much fun I don't really care about how bad they are.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
Directed by Steven Spielberg; screenplay by Jeffrey Boam, story by George Lucas and Menno Meyjes; produced by Robert Watts.

Quick side note: if you watch the end credits, you see a lot of the same names in all three movies. I just think that's nice that so much of the same crew came back.

That said, I've always felt this was the weakest of the Indiana Jones movies. It's more of a James Bond movie, and like a lot of Bond movies, the formula is all too set in. Something disgusting happening to someone's body? Check. A quest for a religious artifact? Check, of course. Some kind of infestation of some animal? Check. Rats, this time. A lot of it does have a sense of "been there, seen that" to it, I hate to say.

I also don't like that Spielberg and Lucas responded to negative criticism of Temple of Doom by making this, in some ways, a retread of the first movie. So the Nazis are the villains again, Brody and Sallah are back, and we're in the desert. Even most of the scenes that take place at Indy's university are the exact same shots from Raiders. I really do think they did a disservice to a couple of the characters: they turned Sallah from a suave, capable British Navy man into a clownish buffoon, and you can actually see Brody getting dumber throughout the movie for comic effect. That's a little annoying.

I don't know, there are always parts of this movie that kind of wear on me. Even the improbable escapes seem a little overdone. For example, when Indy's hanging off the tank's side gun and the strap on his pouch is caught. First of all, it's obvious he could escape, since the top hangs a good two inches over his head. Second, it's even more obvious that, with the side gun split on the ends by an explosion, there is literally no way that Indy could have ended up in that situation. It's physically impossible. And third, when Indy does escape, he doesn't even take the time to free himself. He just leaps up and he's okay. Say what you will about Temple of Doom, but it (and Raiders) moved quickly enough that you didn't even question the physical reality of the stunts. And if you did, frankly, you laughed at the audacity of it. Here, many of them just seem labored.

The reason this film is liked best of the three (at least in my experience) is the chemistry between Harrison Ford and Sean Connery as son and father, respectively. And it's well-liked for a reason; they're very, very good together. It's the best part of the film. Sean Connery gives this little smirk when Indy realizes that they've both slept with the same woman that is just so priceless. They're the best part of a movie that seems a little by-the-numbers and a little lazy. Even the score is disinterested in a lot of the proceedings, going to the "Raiders March" very few times. I remember in the liner notes for the soundtrack, Spielberg said that people were familiar enough with Indy that they didn't need their excitement buttons pushed constantly by Indy's theme. They sure lean on that Grail theme a hell of a lot, though. (That said, I have always loved the sort of Jones family theme.)

Oh, and you have to remember River Phoenix as a young Indy in the beginning of the movie, leading to a very, very Jeffrey Boam sequence set on a circus train. Phoenix just had it down, all of Ford's mannerisms, his voice, his delivery, even the way he stood as Indy. Great, great stuff.

I know I've made it sound like I just flat out don't like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, but I actually enjoy it. It just feels like the enterprise is a little rote by that point. It's not on the same level for me as the first two films. But it makes for a satisfying day of watching movies to see all three of them in a row. I couldn't do it all the time, not anymore, but I enjoy the hell out of them and had a fun time revisiting. Spielberg used to have such a sense of humor.

Final aside: one thing I utterly love are the in-jokes between the films. In Temple of Doom, there's a scene where Indy faces two swordsmen. He plans to repeat the scene in Raiders where he just shoots the swordsman in the market, and when he nonchalantly reaches into his holster for his pistol, John Williams briefly repeats the same musical cue. I love that kind of thing, just as much as I love the fact that the repetition is subverted when Indy realizes that he doesn't actually have his gun. There's also a nifty moment in Last Crusade when Indy and Elsa Schneider, in the tombs below the Turkish library, when Indy passes a carving of the Ark of the Covenant ("Are you sure?" "Pretty sure.") which repeats the Ark theme from the first movie. Little touches like that just please me.

Next time: The Monster Squad. For reals this time.

Justice League: Really Old Version

I found this blog belonging to an Italian illustrator named Donald Soffritti. His art is pretty fun and full of character, and for some time he's been doing mostly very old versions of superheroes (there are some fun Marvel versions, too). Go over and take a look.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Colin Giles's Girls Is Now Available!

Colin Giles's art book Girls is now available! All the information you need on how to purchase it is here. You should consider buying a copy. I'm going to. I've been waiting for this book to come out! There are some more samples on this post and this post and, as you can see, right here:

I have to say, ADD Girl is my runaway favorite, but they're all so charming and funny, and everything I've seen so far is just delightful.

I'm so glad this book is finally published and ready for purchase.

The Muppets Take "Manhattan"


Found at The Sickness' Cinema.

1) Best transition from movies to TV (actor, actress, producer/director, movie/show)?

I used to work with a guy who said he lost all respect for movie actors who moved to television or did voiceovers in commercials. I never cut myself off from being entertained that way. I guess I'd have to say right now that certainly Christopher Eccleston heading to TV to star in Doctor Who was an excellent choice with fantastic results. But you knew I'd probably say that.

2) Living film director you're most missing seeing on the cultural landscape regularly?

That's a harder question, mostly because I find that the directors I like tend to get old and sucky rather than just disappear. For example, I used to love Brian De Palma, now he's old and sucky. And a lot of my favorite living directors, like Dario Argento and Werner Herzog and Woody Allen, are still working and making great, sometimes underrated movies. So, I don't have much of an answer, I guess.

3) Eugene Pallette or Charles Coburn?

Sentimental choice: Eugene Pallette. For The Adventures of Robin Hood alone.

4) Fill in the blank: “I pray that no one ever turns _____________ into a movie.”

I don't think there's any such thing as an unfilmable book, but then, I don't demand absolute fidelity to source material. That's a short-sighted sort of madness, and I don't purposely set out to be cranky and disappointed. So I don't have an answer for that one, either.

5) Jane Greer or Veronica Lake?

I don't care much for either, to be perfectly honest, but Veronica Lake photographs better.

6) What was the last movie you saw in a theater? On DVD? And why?

The last movie I saw in the theater was Iron Man because, come on, it looked frigging cool. I still very much want to get out to see Prince Caspian and Indiana Jones. The last movie I watched on DVD was actually three movies: I watched the first three Indiana Jones movies on my new TV to get in the mood for the new one.

7) Name an actor you think should be a star.

I wouldn't wish stardom on anyone. Stardom is, 90% of the time, the beginning of suckitude. I hate to see actors worrying about their careers instead of their jobs, if you get me.

8) Foxy Brown or Coffy

Well, Coffy is the color of your skin, and Coffy is the world we live in. Gotta go with Coffy.

9) Favorite TV show still without its own DVD box set.

So many of the ones I hoped for have finally hit DVD. I'd still like to see Parker Lewis Can't Lose again, though.

10) Jack Elam or Neville Brand

Definitely Jack Elam.

11) What movies would top your list of movies you need to revisit, for whatever reason?

I don't really know. I'm coming across very dull on this meme. I see so many movies, and when I feel the need to revisit I revisit, but I don't have anything that I very consciously want to go back to right now.

12) Zodiac or All the President’s Men

I thought Zodiac was a flawed but compelling movie; I'd like to see the director's cut. On the other hand, I saw All the President's Men many years ago and it bored the shit out of me (Alan J. Pakula tends to do that to me). I'd like to see it again because I barely have any memory of it except for being bored, and I felt that way about other movies (Serpico, big example) that I now love.

13) Using our best reviewer-speak, what is an “important” film comedy? And what is to you the most important film comedy of the last 35 years?

I must be long out of reviewer-speak mode, because I don't consider very many films "important" at all, even in the relative sense of being important to the medium or various genres. 35 years is a long, long time to say one comedy is better than all the others, but I have to say that I think National Lampoon's Animal House is the funniest in all that time. It's the one I laugh at the most without feeling stupid for doing so, and that cuts a lot of ice.

14) Describe the ideal environment for watching a movie.

I like to watch movies at home on my TV and stereo, but I'm old and cranky.

15) Michelle Williams or Eva Mendes?

I think Michelle Williams has a lot of promise to fulfill.

16) What’s the worst movie title of all time?

I think anything that ends in "movie" (Scary Movie, Date Movie, Epic Movie, Superhero Movie), in an exclamation point (Mafia!) or tells you to meet somebody (the Spartans, maybe, or the Parents) is indicative of the extremely low level of thought being put into those movies.

17) Best movie about teaching and/or learning?

I used to love School of Rock. Then I started teaching. Now I want to come to school with a rusty railyard spike. Now I have no favorite movie about teaching and/or learning. Those movies assume far too often that children secretly appreciate being taught. I guess I'll default to The Paper Chase.

18) Dracula (1931) or Horror of Dracula (1958)

Horror of Dracula. It's not boring.

19) Why do you blog? Or if you don’t, why do you read blogs?

I have no idea why I blog anymore. No life, maybe. Or to work out my frustrations or something.

20) Most memorable/disturbing death scene.

Well, I was five when I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark, so the melting faces has always been my comparison.

21) Jason Robards or Robert Shaw?

Jason Robards was very good, don't get me wrong, but Robert Shaw could be tremendously exciting. Based on A Man for All Seasons, it's got to be Shaw.

22) A good candidate for Most Blasphemous Movie Ever.

Who cares?

23) Rio Bravo or Red River?

Rio Bravo is the stronger movie.

24) Werner Herzog is remaking Bad Lieutenant with Nicolas Cage—that’s reality. Try to outdo reality by concocting a match-up of director and title for a really strange imaginary remake.

I liked Bad Lieutenant and don't really see the point of remaking it; Nicolas Cage will never be as good as Harvey Keitel was, but I don't think Herzog is a very strange choice to direct it. That seems right up his alley. Werner Herzog directing Wee Willie Winkie would be more of a surprise.

25) Bulle Ogier or Charlotte Rampling?

I just do not like Charlotte Rampling.

26) In the Realm of the Senses— yes or no?

Haven't seen it yet, but it's on my Netflix queue.

27) Name a movie you think of as your own.

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. I've shown it to very few people who've liked it, and most people I wanted to share it with wouldn't give me the time of day. That was disappointing. I'm the guy in the family who tries to recommend great movies to everyone else and gets ignored, so I don't really try to share movies with my family anymore.

28) Winged Migration or Microcosmos?

Both are wonderful.

29) Your favorite football game featured in a movie.

The one in Horse Feathers. Cracks me up every time.

30) Wendy Hiller or Deborah Kerr?

Deborah Karr.

31) Dirtiest secret you have that is related to the movies?

I don't know, I'm pretty open about my likes and dislikes, I don't know if I have a dirty secret. Dirty secrets and guilty pleasures are for people who put way too much stock in what their likes say "about" them.

32) Name a favorite film and describe how it is illuminated and is enriched by another favorite film.

Yeah, I've got nothing there.

33) It’s a Gift or Horsefeathers?

I love the Marx Brothers; Horse Feathers it is. That said, I love W.C. Fields, too, but I've not seen It's a Gift.

34) Your best story about seeing a movie at a drive-in?

I went to the drive-in a few times as a kid, but I don't have any great stories about it. I was 14.

35) Victor Mature or Tyrone Power?

I find Tyrone Power extremely boring. But I loved Victor Mature in My Darling Clementine.

36) What does film criticism mean to you? Where do you think it’s headed?

I can't even read film criticism anymore, really. There's not much out there anymore that's very smart and informative, and too many critics act the part of doing the audience's thinking for them. It seems like too many of the pros are just pulling out as much snark as they can and not really committing to their opinions. I don't see much that's genuine and not precious. That's why I just review what I've seen anymore. I used to get paid for criticism, man.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Early Start

We had the first-graders out at the university on Tuesday, practicing for their spring music recital (this is the kind of thing that takes way too much time away from, say, math and spelling), and because of delays, I had to sit in the auditorium with my class. The kids moved around from seat to seat way too much, wanting to sit in specific places, as each of them decided their seat numbers were terribly important.

BOO BOO: Mr. Frog! Mitty just hit me on the butt!

I call this kid Mitty because he looks like Danny Kaye at his most completely innocent.

ME: What?

BOO BOO: Mitty just hit me on the butt!

ME: Mitty, did you just hit Boo Boo on the butt?


ME: No?

MITTY: No. I spanked it.

Summer... Please Hurry

5 June is the last day of school. Then I can finally relax and enjoy myself a little bit. Every day passes with the speed and might of molasses, and I can't believe this week is barely over. I need to get out of this place for a while... go have some fun...

Film Week

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

John Huston directed this propaganda/recruitment short for the Army Air Force, which stars James Stewart. He gives a direct pitch to any young men watching about the benefits of joining up, while not even coming close to anything about, say, dying or killing. It was a different time. It's hard not to view this stuff cynically now. Still, it's certainly well-made, and I liked Stewart's description of the American military as "the biggest all-American team in history." But still... you know. *** stars.

Very dry but historically interesting look at the job being done by film professionals in the FMPU, including one piece of animation, though the animators are not identified (it looked a lot like Frank Thomas to me, very Disneyesque). I wish they'd taken the time to identify some of the people at work, but I get that the point was to emphasize the work being done instead. *** stars.

RECOUNT (2008)
An interesting look at how the Republicans whined, lied, disenfranchised blacks, and sued their way into office in 2000. I mean, if you're not afraid you're going to lose, why stop the recounts? Dramatically, it's a little dry, but as a docudrama, it's fascinating to look at. The standout actor is Laura Dern, who plays Katherine Harris as a woman in over her head, whose pathological need to be liked is surpassed wildly by a pathological need to be important. There's an excellent scene where it's explained exactly what dimpled and hanging chads are and why they're impossible to recount accurately in machines. The voting system in this country is in desperate need of an overhaul that it will never get. This is also a good movie to get you in the mood for the coming elections; when Florida and Ohio have "problems" in November, again, now you'll know why. ***1/2 stars.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Health Report, Year 2: Week 24

Oh my god, I feel like crap.

I've been sick since last Saturday. Over a week now. This really bad cold/light flu keeps moving all around my body no matter how much sleep I get and how much medicine I take. I'm still going to work during all of this, too, so I'm not sure if that is helping me (I get up and walk around during the day) or isn't helping me (I don't get enough rest and keep exposing myself to more germs). Either way, the last day of school is 5 June, so I'm not going to be able to really hibernate until then.

But right now my whole body just aaaaches. Last week I was feeding my illness constantly; I couldn't eat enough food, I just couldn't get full. This week, I barely want to even smell food. I threw up this morning after breakfast, dammit.

I just want to draw myself an extremely hot bath, crawl in, and sleep for a week.

Soon. Soon.

The good news: we bought our new TV. 32 inches, flat, widescreen, HD (for the future), and I love it. We spent Sunday watching the first three Indiana Jones movies in preparation for the fourth (assuming I get better soon, dammit), and they looked amazing. I do absolutely love those movies, and it was nice to sit and watch them all over again. So there was a break in the misery.

Back to the sofa, y'all. I've been sitting up too long and my head hurts like crazy.

TV Report: New Shows for Next Season

* Crusoe -- based on the Daniel Defoe novel, but I'm kind of assuming it must be modernized. Don't we already have enough shows about people stranded on islands? Robinson Crusoe spent 28 years on that island; I wonder how long they're planning on running this show. It's on Fridays, so it probably can't be that good, really. It doesn't do anything for me but make me think that I should read Robinson Crusoe again some time.

* Kath and Kim -- or as I like to call it, Gilmore Girls: The Sitcom. That's pretty much the exact pitch, only both women are a little older and more cynical. Molly Shannon and Selma Blair star, so I imagine it's as much fun as that sounds. Remake of an Australian comedy; Paul Feig is an executive producer, which could be good or bad, really.

* Kings -- I always love how stupidly written the press releases for these are; this one informs me that the show is "an inspiring exploration of the timeless David vs. Goliath struggle." Ouch, overselling it already. I can't tell if this is some kind of science fiction series or it's set in a war-torn something or other, and right away I don't think I care. Music video director Francis Lawrence is producing, whatever that tells you.

* Knight Rider -- it's kind of bold to go with this after that incredibly awful Bionic Woman remake, but this is NBC, not a network of good ideas. The Battlestar Galactica remake does well for Universal, so they're going to push every SF remake they can. I used to love Knight Rider, but I also used to be six. Something tells me I can skip this one.

* The Listener -- a telepathic paramedic in yet another variation on Quantum Leap, sounds like. This apparently takes six executive producers to herd.

* Merlin -- see, I love the King Arthur mythology so much that it's hard for me to be open-minded with this kind of thing. You tell me Merlin and Arthur are "ambitious young men looking for adventure, hoping to live up to their family's expectations, discovering love and finding their own true destiny, making mistakes along the way," and that's a run-on sentence that I just can't get behind. I mean, whose expectations is Merlin living up to? His demon father's or his nun mother's? And Camelot didn't exist until after Arthur was king. And Arthur was an orphan. You see my problem here. Ironically, I might end up giving this a chance (it doesn't come on until spring, and I'm more forgiving in the spring), but I'm not chomping at the bit to see it.

* My Own Worst Enemy -- Christian Slater finally accepts his fate and moves to TV. Apparently he has two personalities, one a schlub, and one a killer CIA operative. Why do I feel like I've seen this eighty times? Is it because I grew up on comic books and B science fiction? Is this where networks are stealing their ideas from these days? Extra bullshit points for the press release's assertion that the show "explores duality."

* The Office Spin-Off -- until I know what it is, I'm not that interested. Is it another show in the same style?

* The Philanthropist -- they lose me in the press release right away by telling me this is about "a rebel with a cause." Ouch. Really? It's about a "vigilante philanthropist." Like Batman? "A renegade billionaire who uses his wealth, connections and power to help people in need." Arguably, like Batman? Sounds self-righteous and smug. Oh, incidentally, this is one of many shows that will, it is claimed, inspire viewers. Quit overselling this stuff, okay? And people, if you're getting inspired by your TVs, please crack a book every once in a while.

So, really, for me it's the same shows I was already watching: 30 Rock and The Office. Not a single new show seems interesting to me. Well, some years are different from others...

* Life on Mars -- remake of a British series which just reminds me how much I'd like to see the original British series.

* The Goode Family -- Mike Judge's new animated series sounds like King of the Hill, only... on another network.

Big Shots got cancelled; maybe Charisma Carpenter can do a good show now. I might check out The Goode Family because I do still like King of the Hill, but otherwise they've just left me with Ugly Betty. So, again, we're maintaining the same level. Which, again, is perfectly fine.

* Eleventh Hour -- another frigging cop show. Actually, this one sounds like a bit of a rip from Wire in the Blood. Funnily enough, it's a remake of a different British show called... Eleventh Hour. With Patrick Stewart. The remake is produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, in case you were worried it wouldn't be crap. What is with America's obsession with forensics. Once again, I need to see the British original.

* The Ex-List -- so, there's this girl, and like every girl in chick lit, she's 30-something and mega successful, but of course she doesn't have a man so her life is incomplete. And a psychic tells her that she's already dated the man she will marry, and if she doesn't find him in the next year, she'll remain alone forever. I assume this is supposed to be a hilarious hourney of self-discovery and shit as she goes through all of her past boyfriends. Life-affirming and whatnot. Meh.

* Harper's Island -- murder mystery that takes place over a week. These shows sure do fail a lot.

* The Mentalist -- sounds like another rip-off of Wire in the Blood. I find both Simon Baker and Robin Tunney unpleasant. Still, Bruno Heller's producing, and I liked Rome an awful lot, so maybe...

* Project Gary -- another navel-gazing sitcom about finding yourself and blah blah blah. White people sure do think their personal problems are awfully important. It has Paula Marshall on it, so I expect it to be cancelled before the first commercial break.

* Worst Week -- this season's British remake that, for some reason, doesn't admit it's a British remake, based on the sitcom The Worst Week of My Life, which I truly hated.

Alright, so, The Mentalist is a big, big maybe. The only show I ever watch on CBS is Ghost Whisperer, and that's just to see Jennifer Love Hewitt in nightgowns, and that's only every so often. I'm not sure what CBS is for, really.

* The Cleveland Show -- Family Guy is so horrible and stupid that Fox decided it would be a great idea to have the third or fourth horrible, stupid show from Seth McFarlane. No, thanks.

* Dollhouse -- I hate Joss Whedon. Pass.

* Do Not Disturb -- a complete rip-off of Britain's Hotel Babylon with waste of space Jerry O'Connell.

* Fringe -- the names tell it all: sci-fi mystery drama with Pacey produced by J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci. Pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass.

* Sit Down, Shut Up -- so, does Kenan Thompson play a woman, or does the press release mistakenly list him as a woman? Still, the cast: Will Forte, Jason Bateman, Maria Bamford, Henry Winkler, and Will Arnett as teachers in an animated series created by Mitchell Hurwitz... that sounds like it might be worth watching. The press release is typically flowery (every show on TV is apparently a Homeric drama of humanity and self-realization), but this is one I definitely want to catch.

So, except for the inevitable new series of Hell's Kitchen and the overproduced, fakey American version of Kitchen Nightmares, the only thing Fox has to offer is Shut Up, Sit Down. Something I want to say at school 17 times a day...

The CW
* 90210 -- because the constant stream of 90210 rip-offs over the years wasn't enough? Dawson's Creek, One Tree Hill, Gossip Girl... ay yi yi.

* Surviving the Filthy Rich -- Pepper Dennis with a younger woman meets The Nanny Diaries but slighty different. I'm curious: is this already a chick lit bestseller, or was this just built out of pieces of all of the other chick lit bestsellers? This sounds like it could be Chick Lit's Greatest Hits. Unfortunately, though, it stars JoAnna Garcia, so I'm going to have to watch it at least once.

I can't believe Reaper isn't coming on until spring. Damn, I really, really, really came to enjoy that show, and I'd really like to see it come back. I wonder if it's up in the air or not...

Environmentally Friendly Bombs?

According to this article, scientists are developing a bomb that is "more powerful" than TNT but also "more enviornmentally friendly." Is this supposed to be a good thing? Are we supposed to be pleased that science has finally discovered a way to kill more people without destroying the land? I mean, that somehow seems even more horrible to me. Could we not use the word "friendly" and the word "bomb" in the same sentence, please?

We're moving in the wrong direction. We need to be finding ways not to use bombs at all instead of figuring out how to make them more powerful without destroying the environment. I don't want a weapon like that in the hands of a George W. Bush or a John McCain. McCain's already promising that, when he's president, he'll do everything he can to get more of our troops killed. Do we really think he needs a bomb capable of killing more people? This is basically scientists trying to figure out a way to make a nuclear bomb without killing the planet.

Chilling. I think it's chilling that we're still trying to find ways to point out that human life is worthless and killing can be more efficient.

Christopher Lee's Birthday

My favorite actor, 86 years old today.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Obvious Question

Is this made for hobos or out of hobos?

The Coming Darkness

For those of you, like me, following series 4, here's the mid-season trailer for Doctor Who that premiered this weekend. I got very excited, myself. Daleks! And more...

Color Wheel

The third-graders were making Sensory Books on Friday, in which they were supposed to write down sensory impressions of their favorite things.

THIRD GRADE GIRL: I don't think I can do the first one right now.

ME: Well, let's see. It's asking for your favorite food. What's your favorite food?


ME: Alright.

THIRD GRADE GIRL: But how am I supposed to talk about what it smells like or looks like if it's not in front of me?

ME: It's asking you to be creative. See, it's not asking literally how your pizza smells. It's asking for a creative impression. A connection to something else. [The idea of making connections between stories, facts, and everyday lives is very big at this school.]

THIRD GRADE GIRL: Well, how am I supposed to do that without the pizza in front of me?

ME: Well, why don't you move on to the second question? What's your favorite color?

THIRD GRADE GIRL: Umm, I have two. Can I use both or should I just pick one?

ME: Why don't you just pick one?

THIRD GRADE GIRL: But I can't decide...

ME: What are they?

THIRD GRADE GIRL: Hot pink and lime green.

ME: ... How oddly specific. I salute you on your choices.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Song of the Week: "I'm Not Lisa"

Jessi Colter, the lady Outlaw, is 65 years old today. She wrote and sang a lot of truly great songs, but this plaintive, strong piece of heartbreak is the best one. It's very cloudy here, overcast, and this is the perfect kind of day for this kind of song.

More Wall*E Posters

Say Goodnight, Dick

Dick Martin 1922-2008
My sense of humor was especially developed in one place: Nick at Nite. When I was about 10 or 11, Nick at Nite started and, in one glorious two-hour block, aired Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, The Best of Saturday Night Live (which only showcased the first four seasons, truly the best), SCTV and The Benny Hill Show. I loved them all. So, to honor one of the men who shaped my warped sense of humor, I think I'll throw some confetti in the air and dance around.