Saturday, May 10, 2008

What I Really Wanted to Say

One of the fifth grade teachers seems to think that I'm her afternoon teachers' assistant. I don't mind some of the work at all, but I really get annoyed when she takes her kids out to recess at the end of the day and leaves me inside with the troublemakers. It's generally the same five or six kids, too. The other day, I was inside with seven or eight of them who were not to go to recess until the last ten minutes of the day, and they argued with me almost the entire time, trying to tell me what they were allowed to do or otherwise being smartasses and, let's just put it in anthropological terms, displaying. I got tired of it fairly quickly and reminded the precious little assholes that I did have the power to keep them in class so they missed recess entirely.

But what I wanted to say... sadly, what I wanted to say is the kind of stuff that loses you your job because, apparently, it's more important for us to make everyone feel better than it is to set kids straight in life.

What I wanted to say to the entire group:

"Are you guys really proud of yourselves for the stupid way you act? Because I have to be honest, you kids are pretty appalling. Why wouldn't you do your work and do well in school? It's not like any of you are particularly stupid, you just don't want to do the work because you don't think it's important. You think you can coast by and life will just magically take care of itself, but you know what? It's not going to happen that way. If you want to get anywhere in life, you have to do it for yourself. You have to work hard. But you just won't do it.

"I don't know if you just have chips on your shoulder because of something happening at home, or if you're terrified of not being popular, or worried that people will think that you're a nerd, or you're just totally lazy. I know you can't be afraid that people will think you're dumb, because you know what? We already think you're dumb. You should hear the way teachers and assistants talk about you students behind closed doors. We think you're assholes. We know you act like this on purpose. I know you think you're outsmarting us and that we think you're clever and that we just don't know what to do with you because you're so quick and keep us on our toes. But the truth is that we just don't care. You're selfish little bitches that can't be saved. You are at the point in life where you're not going to meet many teachers who are willing to try and teach you anything, because you're obviously not interested in learning. You're passing so we can get you the hell out of our lives so someone else can put up with your bullshit. You're not outsmarting us; we're not making an issue out of it because we hate you and don't care if you pass or not. We have given up on you.

"I want to laugh when I hear you children talk about what you're going to do in college. Get this: you're not going. None of your parents can afford to send you, and you'll never get a scholarship with your shitty grades. Oh, and when you all talk about how you're going to be professional athletes and race car drivers, that's even funnier. I've seen you on the playground. You're not even interested in working on that. Ask Michael Jordan if he goofed off all through school. The guy had to work his ass off to be the best basketball player around. You don't have the dedication. You can't do any work, because you're all lazy tubs of goo who are so preoccupied with getting respect from people younger than you and acting tough and not doing your school work. You don't care. Who do you think you're kidding?

"I'd tell you to just go into the Army, but you kids can't hack the work. Give me a break. I want you all to go home and tell your mothers that they're raising the future ditchdiggers, truck drivers, and bowling pin monkeys of America. If they're lucky. Because their children don't think it's important to do any work. They can't buckle down and dedicate themselves to making their lives better. Have fun in the real world."

I don't know why we're not allowed to say that, frankly. Some kids need the reality check. It's not too late in fifth grade. But they just don't give a shit.

Implementing Education

ME (to the resource co-ordinator): I have an idea for a tool we should introduce: the learning cudgel.

RC: Uh huh. And how does that work?

ME: We get a cudgel and, when kids stop listening, we beat them in the side of the head with it. Smack that learning right inside.

RC (laughing): I think we'd go to jail for that one, Mr. Frog.

ME: We'll keep it a secret and say the kids are making it up.

She just kept laughing for a minute. It was a rough day.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Lack of Throwdown

So, I read this story yesterday about how a journalism study "proved" that there wasn't very much difference between The Daily Show and Bill O'Reilly. And I realized that, you know, there really wasn't any news this week that was remotely worth talking about. Other than the tragedy in Myanmar, what's the point? Who cares? I can't stand the campaign anymore, I can't stand any stories about stupid people or celebutards. I just don't care. I spent all week working with kids, getting run ragged, and I'm tired and my feet hurt and I just don't care about the rest of the world right now. It's going to hell whether I'm looking or not. So I'm taking this week off from the Throwdown.

I love this picture though. This RCA homage makes me very happy. And that's good enough for me. I'll be back tomorrow for the Lyrics Master.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Secret Identity

Conversation today with some third-graders.

FIRST GIRL: Mr. Frog, what's your real name?

ME: My real name?


ME: Kal-El.

FIRST GIRL (wide-eyed): Really?

ME: Yes. That was my name on Krypton. The planet failed when I was born, so my father Jor-El put me in a rocket and sent me to Earth so I could survive.


ME: It's Superman.

FIRST GIRL: Ooooohhh...

BOY: Are you saying you're Superman?

ME: Uh, only on alternating weekends.

FIRST GIRL: So, if you're Superman, who's your greatest enemy?

ME: Why, billionaire industrialist Lex Luthor, of course. That and costume chafing.

SECOND GIRL: So, you have a greatest enem... anen... men... anenemy?

ME: Well, I don't like having anenomies. I prefer to make a great deal of fronds.

SECOND GIRL (giggling): So, wait, your name's not Kal-El?

ME: No, Kal-El was Superman's name when he was a baby on Krypton.


BOY: How do you know that?

ME: Because I've read a lot of comic books.

BOY: You?

ME: Yeah...

BOY: Cool!



Math was always my worst subject. But, as a substitute teacher, I've found myself having to re-learn third and fifth grade level math in order to help my students learn. We're both, my students and I, going at about the same place, and sometimes I'm just not sure how I'm going to teach them when it comes to numbers.

Without a doubt, the sweetest fifth grade girl I have is Valerie. I'm not really sure why she's in resource, because she reads extremely well and does her homework and is the only one who always follows all of my directions. She's also the only one in the fifth grade who has never lied to me once.

Actually, I'm not sure why she's even in special education. The co-ordinator tells me that Val is a slow learner, but she seems to be learning fine. On Monday, the two of us were alone in study hall, because Josie was out sick, Alan was working with Mr. Cool, and I had to send Melody back to class for not following directions. However, Valerie didn't have anything to work on; she'd finished everything but didn't want to go back to class. In that situation, I'm supposed to give the kids math problems to work on, which Valerie did not want to do. She made it clear, but she's also obedient (she must have great parents) and will always follow directions, even if she doesn't want to. And she won't even complain about it except to lightly and sweetly say "Aw, man!" or something like that.

Anyway, I asked her what her big problem was in school, because she seems so good and ready at any subject. She said math was the worst, and that she didn't get it, but I'd seen her do math before, and she can get it pretty well. I asked her how she was doing with multiplication, and she said "I have a real problem with my fours. And my sixes. And sevens, eights, and nines." So I showed her how nines are easy, because the answer is always two numbers that equal nine (i.e. 9 * 8 = 72, 7 + 2 = 9) and the first digit is always going to be one less than the number nine is being multiplied by. She was mistified; did anyone else learn this stuff? Because the kids act like I've unlocked one of the secrets of the universe with this.

Valerie was excited by the exploration of 9, so we moved on to 6. I showed her how 6 * 4 is really 6 + 6 + 6 + 6. She did a math tree, converting it to 12 + 12, and getting 24. I guess no one had ever really showed her before that multiplication is really an addition shorthand; she really got into the idea and worked the rest out for herself. We went through the multiples of six; I just told her to add six every time: 12 + 6 = 18, 18 + 6 = 24, 24 + 6 = 30, and so on. It was one of the few times I've ever seen a kid get genuinely excited about learning. She suddenly realized she could do multiplication.

The next morning, she was practically begging for more math problems. She wanted problem after problem, more and more complex multiplication, and she would sit and work it out with astonishing speed.

She suddenly turns to me and asks: "Wait, when did I start to think math was fun?"

Wow. Being asked something like that... some days, it's all worth it.

Get Kraken

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Bright Spot

Last Tuesday, the entire school went to a baseball game for a field trip. Eight kids got left behind because they hadn't met the reading requirements to be allowed to go. I was there all day looking after the kids; it was essentially me, the school social worker, and Principal MILF left behind to handle them and do whatever.

One of the girls I worked with, I'll call her Judy Jetson, turned out to be the older sister of two kids I've worked with in the past. Today, during a particularly raucous lunch with the other assistants, I learned that she lives out here with her grandmother because her mother, who lives in Chicago, is a crack whore who can't take care of her children. Seriously. That's pretty disappointing; all three of those kids are in the special education program, and I'm beginning to see why. Unlike most of the kids I personally deal with, who have chips on their shoulders or are terrified of being dumb or do everything they can to get out of the work for another day, these three are very sweet and nice kids who just don't know. They're capable of grasping it, and they're getting there, but they're slow. And it's depressing as all hell that these three nice children aren't worth it for their mother to put down the crack pipe, move out to be with them, and start acting like a mom.

So, I passed Judy Jetson a couple of times today. She always gives me a quiet smile and a wave. While I was monitoring the lunch line, she and some of her classmates came up to the very end of it. She said hi to me again (I think we ran into each other three times earlier in the day), and I joked around with her.

"Didn't I see you driving a white Firebird down the main drag yesterday?"

"What?" she asked.

"Wasn't that you driving a white Firebird?"

She laughed. "No."

"You mean you can't drive?"

She giggled this time. "No!"

"Oh, man, I was way off! My eyes must be going!"

She laughed and then, a few minutes later, went into the lunch room to grab her milk and said "I wish you could be just my assistant. I like working with you."

Damn if I didn't want to cry.

More Movie Math

Borat - (brilliant satire * social observation) + yet more gay scare imagery = You Don't Mess with the Zohan.

Suggested tagline: "Adam Sandler in You Don't Mess with the Zohan. Because Borat respected your intelligence too much."

And It's Greatly to My Credit

Mr. Cool, the assistant that I found out today none of the other assistants (all women) like at all--I heard some stuff today, and he's a pretty nasty little twit and even Principal MILF told him not to come back next year--knows that I have a BA in English and defers all English questions in the fifth grade to me. Time for a language quip.

MR. COOL: Hey, Mr. Frog, you're an English man, right?

ME: An Englishman? No, I'm from Iowa.

Scarlett Johansson Is Engaged

And this is how she tells me? Announcing it to the world? If she wanted to move away from Mars, she could have talked to me first. Man, what does a frog do when they've been dumped? Should I use the Martian technology to clone her, or should I just find a new woman to love? Time will tell. For now, I need some time...


Theme: As you enter the fourth grade, what fears do you have about the school year?

Answer: Farst fere is going to the prensubls aftist. My scint fere is giting held back. And I hate homwreck.

How does a kid make it to fourth grade in this state? Let me tell you, he reads the same way he writes. I don't know what the answer is, just that this is the kind of thing that makes me sad. Do adults just gradually, one by one, give up on a kid like this? Do I have to believe that there are some kids that just can't be taught? Maybe we need to go back to the days of culling kids like this and putting them to work in the fields, or something. I don't know. I just do not know at all.

What do I do with this kid in the month I have left?

Live and Let Meme

How is it that I can fall out to here and be still floating? And never reach bottom and keep falling through, just relaxed and paying attention?

What Is...?
1. Your Fondest Memory Of This Year: So far? I guess working at the school I'm working at now, no matter how much some of the kids put me through annoyances.
2. Your Most Prized Possession: I don't know anymore.
3. The Thing That Makes You The Happiest: There's too much stuff in there to pick just one. Lots and lots of things make me happy.
4. Your Favorite Food For Breakfast: Eggs.
5. Your Favorite Food For Dinner: Burgers.
6. Your Favorite Slow Song: I couldn't pick just one. I love a lot of music. And people seem to have different ideas of what's considered slow.
7. Your Ideal BF/GF: "What" is my ideal boyfriend or girlfriend? I just want someone smart and funny who can put up with me and likes the same things I do. And I already have that.

What Do You Feel About…?
1. Bill Clinton: Used to love him. Now he comes across as kind of an imbecile.
2. Love at First Sight: It's not as common as Lust at First Sight, but I believe it happens. I've always been a Love at First Conversation sort of guy.
3. Abortion: It's a woman's choice and a woman's right.
4. Smoking: I used to smoke, I don't anymore, and I don't like being around it very much. I'm not a dick about it, but I don't want to be near it, either.
5. Death: Well, that's a part of life, innit?
6. Rap: It's alright. It's not a go-to for me, but I have a couple of Snoop Dogg, Outkast, and NERD albums. (If NERD counts; I think it's kind of a neo-funk, personally.)
7. Marilyn Manson: A sad Alice Cooper rip-off pathetically trying to shock people because he was unpopular in high school and embraced his differences in the most pretentious, self-gratifying, nakedly aggressive way possible. Just off the top of my head.
8. Premarital Sex: I'm a huge believer in it.
9. Suicide: It's the coward's way out. But I've been a coward a number of times.

Major Woody's

This is a real place. I just thought the logo was interestingly bizarre.

Film Week

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

TOPKAPI (1964)
I finally sat down to watch this caper film; I remember when the Encore channel first started airing and they used to show Topkapi, Ninotchka, The Poseidon Adventure and M*A*S*H repeatedly. Melina Mercouri and Maximillian Schell star as a somewhat freewheeling, sophisticated pair of lovers who plan to rob the Topkapi Museum in Turkey of a priceless dagger laden with flawless emeralds. As with many caper movies, the planning is lots of fun, but director Jules Dassin introduces a fun element through Peter Ustinov, a small time con man recruited to unknowingly smuggle arms into Turkey, and then recruited instead by the Turkish government to spy on his employers. There's a lot of character in this compelling movie, and the actual carrying out of the theft itself is exciting, using quiet instead of noise to grab attention. Incidentally, this seems to be where Brian DePalma stole the hanging-from-the-ceiling scene in Mission: Impossible. You see enough movies in life, and sooner or later you see where DePalma stole everything. **** stars. Robert Morley also co-stars; I just like him.

IRON MAN (2008)
As I said before, this is a fantastic superhero movie. What I liked the most about it was that director Jon Favreau (cementing his reputation as a fun genre director, after Zathura) and his screenwriters didn't get so caught up in that mythical, precious superhero legend-making bullshit that comic book movies need to steer clear of more often. It managed to be irreverant and genuinely funny but still maintain an emotional believability. Robert Downey Jr turns out to be inspired casting (jeez, remember when they were going to put Tom Cruise in it?), and it's nice to see a movie like this that stars an adult for a change. The rest of the supporting cast is very good; I always love to see Jeff Bridges in genre movies, and Gwyneth Paltrow does her bit nicely. Terence Howard I'm not such a big fan of, generally, but he does fine. The special effects, of course, are excellent, and the sort-of robot fight at the end goes right to my geek core. Loved it. Absolutely loved it from start to finish. **** stars.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Health Report, Year 2: Week 21

Well, I've never had cavities filled before, so that's a new one. They were very small, the first cavities I've ever had (minus a very small one in high school that got enameled over), and I was grateful not to be able to feel the drill. Hearing it was bad enough.

I finally did some laundry over the weekend. Becca cut my hair, and I feel a little better. Cleaner. But still heavy. At least, for a change, it's not this overwhelming sense of depression holding me back, which I now think was some kind of self-punishment. I'm no longer hung up on that crap, especially since I'm out in the world focusing on a job for a change instead of constantly navel-gazing and getting pissed off at myself. Now I'm just too damn tired to keep up with it.

I'm still trying hard to eat better. The exercise is on hold right now. I'm on my feet all day, and I hurt so damn much by the time I get home. And I'm at work so early now; I need to start waking up earlier so I can walk and exercise a bit in the morning; I find that starts me off and gets the blood flowing early and makes facing the day a little easier. I'm just so damn tired of being fat. I must do better. I will do better.

For some reason, the past two days have been like pulling teeth at school. I now have two fourth graders in the morning who are doing everything they can to get out of doing work, one of whom has a severe learning disorder. Let me tell you, I did not believe at all in ADHD and medicating children until the last few weeks. You take a kid who is being medicated for ADHD or some other kind of focus problem or chemical imbalance; the difference between the days he's on his meds and the days he's on is just staggering. It's night and day.

Melody's problem is that she has ADHD, but she's undiagnosed and her parents flatly refuse to get her diagnosed or put her on any sort of medication or program. They think she'll be able to rise above her difficulties, but they are absolutely wrong. Absolutely. Wrong. It's only going to get much, much worse. She'll be in middle school next year, competing with more kids for attention, and she's not going to get the help she needs, because she alienates everyone who wants to help her with her attitude. She will not follow directions. She can't pay attention to anything for very long. I've seen her take typing tests on the computer, and she never finishes them; she gets bored a quarter of the way through and moves on to something else.

And she hates being confronted at all. I confronted her twice yesterday; when I confronted her again today about why she wasn't following directions, she cried pretty badly. I felt awful, but I kept my voice steady and didn't touch her shoulder or anything and just talked to her like a person instead of talking down to her. She didn't answer me back verbally much at all. This time, there was no real breakthrough. It sucks all around; her antics bring down the other three kids in the group (to the mounting frustration of Alan, especially), and she requires much more direct attention than I can give her with three other kids to get to as well. I talked to the resource director about it after it happened, and she took me down to the fifth grade, pulled Melody out of class, and talked to both of us about what happened. Melody acts tough, but when she's confronted by authority she reverts to this helpless child, looking down and biting her fingernail and rocking back and forth, pretty obviously wanting to run away. I was uncomfortable and I felt bad for her, but I couldn't let it show at all. The resource director told Mel to apologize to me, and she did, very formally: "Mr. Frog, I'm sorry I wasn't following directions." I thanked her for apologizing.

Tomorrow the fifth grade is going on a field trip. I think a day away from her would probably be good for both of us. And the other fifth grade class is getting on my nerves, too, because they think they can take advantage of me. They're about to find out how wrong they are. I know one kid who's not going to be allowed to go because of the way he tried to fuck around with me today.

Kids suck sometimes.

The first grade, however, is glad I'm there, so that feels good. One girl, I'll call her Boo Boo, has become my companion. She takes me by the hand to lead me over to her desk when she needs help, and sits by me during story time. That's sweet, to know I'm appreciated. When I told her I had to leave to go to third grade, she was incredibly disappointed. "Why do you have to go?" she asked. "Because other students need my help, too," I explained. "No, they don't," she reasoned.

I'm looking forward to first grade tomorrow. With the fifth graders gone, I'll probably be spending most of my day in first grade, so that's not bad. Even with the problem cases in that class (including the kid who scratched his face because he was frustrated; that kid is a very hard one to deal with).

I kind of can't wait for this week to be over. Frankly, I kind of can't wait for this month to be over. It's tiring me out, and it's emotionally draining. But at least I'm getting paid for doing something.

Things to Come

There's nothing quite like seeing a bunch of first grade boys verbally tear down another first grade boy for daring to wear pink sneakers to make you certain that the future is not going to be a very different place from now.

Valentino 113

Born today in 1895.


One second-grader was worried about his cupcakes. It was his birthday yesterday and he wanted to hand out his cupcakes, so he asked another teacher if she would call his mom if they weren't here by a certain time. He was very concerned.

ME: So, how old are you?

SECOND GRADER: Well, I'm going to be eight when it's my birthday. Right now, I'm seven.

ME: Oh?

SECOND GRADER: Yeah. When I eat my cupcake, then I'll turn eight.

A Demon on Wheels

Monday, May 05, 2008

And Then There Are Other Days

1. I have a first grade kid who can barely even write his name. He writes several of his numbers backward. He just can't pay attention to anything for more than a few seconds. He's one of my "whatever" kids--the ones who say "whatever" when I try to correct them, as though meaning and clarity are unimportant. He goes around swinging his hands as far as he can and making fart noises with his mouth and trying to hit other kids with his ruler. He can't even sit at his desk for more than a few seconds; he's always in and out of his chair. When he's asked to color something he just scribbles a little bit or makes a quick mark. He won't listen to directions, then gets upset when he doesn't know what's going on and can't keep up with the class. He wore a shirt today that said "Mom said no. Dad said yes."

I don't think his parents are really interested in helping him, so he's headed into second grade with an unintelligible scribble for handwriting. I talked to the reading specialist, who sees him every day, and she said he's not dyslexic (I thought that was a possibility), but has severe ADHD. It goes a lot deeper than "just being a kid," which is an attitude I have come to despise. The kid can't even write his own four-letter name. He writes the numbers 3, 4, 7 and 9 backwards; anything with two digits or more, and it's a toss-up whether or not the numbers are going in the right order.

This is so the kind of kid that just gets lost in the system because the parents expect the school to do everything for them and "fix" their kid. I'm pretty sure he's not doing any schoolwork at home, because there is zero improvement in his writing (I saw the weekly journal he's been working in, and if anything, his handwriting has actually gotten worse over the school year). And as hard as I try, I can't get through to him at all. He crumbles instantly and cries if he's challenged by anyone on nearly anything. And the people who see him can only do so much in a day -- I'm only in his life for about 10 or so hours a week, and the reading specialist is about the same, and his teacher has something like 13 other kids in the class. He's going to get eaten alive out there. How do you tell parents that they're raising a future dock worker? It's sad to hear some of these kids talk about what they want to do for a living, when you know that some of them will be lucky if they can get a job making change.

Parents, please, take an interest in what your children are learning. They need the reinforcement at home sometimes to take it seriously.

2. Another first-grader actually scratched himself in the face today, deeply on both cheeks. I wasn't in the room when it happened, but I saw him in the afternoon and he had three scars forming on each side of his face from where he'd torn himself up. This kid won't do what the teacher tells him; he wants to do everything his way, except he doesn't know what he's doing a lot of the time. I had to help him do some simple equations today, and he's just lost. I try hard to explain the process, working them through it, making them do the work so they can find the patterns, but after a minute or two he gets annoyed that he even needs the help. He's like this with everyone. What makes a kid get so upset that he physically hurts himself? What do you do with that?

3. I spent 15 minutes working with one of my third-graders, Pixie, after which she helpfully told me: "My brother has pink eye."

A Sea Disaster, Why Not?

Dreams and Things

ME: I had this excruciatingly great dream about Gwyneth Paltrow last night after seeing Iron Man yesterday.

BECCA: Let me guess: having sex with Gwyneth Paltrow?

ME: Yes, but she had the most beautiful seven-inch dick. And the sex was incredible. Let me tell you, if Gwynnie had a big, gorgeous cock, she'd be utterly perfect. I'd love to have that.

BECCA: Well, I hope your dream comes true one day. Not like my dream, mine was scary and weird.

ME: Why, what happened?

BECCA: Well, I was Quantum Leaping from person to person, and I leaped into this old woman, and suddenly I was tied up and Sarah Jane Smith walked up to me and started cutting me with a razor.

ME: ... So... no more science fiction for you, then.

BECCA: Look who's talking.

Memes Are Forever

Found out there in the ether (code for: can't remember where I picked it up).

1. Name: SamuraiFrog
2. Nicknames: None
3. Feet size: 13 1/2
4. Do you have a crush: Sure, but Jessica Biel won't return my phone calls and John Barrowman's already married.
5. Girlfriend/Boyfriend: Yes, one of each, please.
6. Age you act: I have no idea; I've lost my ability to distinguish being funny from being obnoxious, so probably about 17.
7. Where Do You Live: DeKalb, IL, USA.
8. Where you want to live: I'm fine here, I think.
9. Birthplace: Des Moines
10. Favorite Salad Dressing: I'm not a fan of dressings. I like Caesar salads, though, but otherwise my salads are bare of vinegar-based liquids.
11. Ever gone skinny dipping? Sure.
12. What are you watching? The wheels go round and round. I just love to watch them roll, is all...
13. Last person you talked to: Becca.
14. Favorite movie: The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
15. Favorite Book: Probably Watership Down or The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
16. Favorite Type of music: Any, but probably Romantic Era Classical is my fave.
17. Favorite types of cars: Affordable.
18. Favorite Saying: I don't really have one. I like to keep it fresh, I guess.
19. Favorite Fast Food: Pizza. But I sure love cheeseburgers.
20. Favorite Ice Cream: Chocolate.
21. Favorite Alcoholic Drink: I don't like alcohol. Just doesn't taste good.
22. When Do You Go To Sleep: Usually around 11.
23. Most Embarrassing Moment: It's so hard to pick just one, sadly.
24. Stupidest Person you know: Where do I start?
25. Funniest Person you know: Becca's pretty hilarious.
27. Favorite Food: Pizza. Always pizza.
28. Favorite Song: "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me" by Mel Carter
29. Favorite Television Show: Doctor Who and Farscape. Also Quantum Leap.
30. Favorite Radio Station: Radio?
31. Favorite junk food: Pizza. It's really junk food, isn't it?
32. Favorite sappy love song: I like lots of sappy love songs. Really, I'm not sure what sappy is anymore.
33. Favorite Drink: I still like mineral water. Or grape soda.
34. Favorite article of clothing: I like to wear my hooded sweatshirts.
35. Favorite Animal: The mighty elephant.
36. School: Not anymore, thanks.
37. How Many Kids You Want: Well, there's JoJo and... oh, that's not what you meant. I'd still like that daughter I've been dreaming of for years, but I think that will probably never happen. Next life, I suppose.
38. What Kind Of Job: Substitute teacher.
39. Wedding song: I never thought about it, I guess. But something awesome.
40. Pets: My rabbit, Thumper.
41. 5 years from now? I don't even want to think about that right now. I kind of wish the school I'm at now would just hire me on.
42. 10 years from now? Fabulously wealthy and sleeping with JoJo, of course.

Have You Ever...?
1. Done Drugs: Si.
2. Run Away From Home: I tried to a couple of times.
3. Hit A Girl: Yes. I'm not proud of that.
4. Lied: Constantly.
5. Stolen Anything: Oh, yeah.
6. Broken A Bone: I broke my toe in sixth grade. Otherwise, no, unless you count how badly I sprained my ankle in high school. It was pretty bad.
7. Cheated On A Test: I'm sure I have.
8. Cheated On A girlfriend/boyfriend: Yep.
9. Gotten Drunk: I've never been drunk, but I've been pretty high.
10. Been With Two guys/girls At Once: Almost once, but I've never closed the deal, dammit.
11. Been In The Hospital: Yes, but never for more than a few hours.
12. Let a friend cry on your shoulder: Yes.
13. Fell asleep in the shower/bath: Ha, yeah. One time I was late to work (at the video store) because I fell asleep in the bath. Damn, I fell asleep in the bath on Saturday. I'm a fan of naps. Also, I've fallen asleep at school and at various jobs.
14. Gone to Church: Until I was 17. Never since, except for a wedding.
15. Never slept during a night: Oh, sure.
16. Ever been on a motorcycle or motorbike: No, and I don't really want to. I've been on a moped before; nearly killed myself on it a couple of times.
17. Been to a camp: Yes. I went to Boy Scout camp once.
18. Sat in a restaurant w/o ordering: Yep. Boy, do they hate that. Hey, water's free, baby.
19. Seen someone die: No. And I hope I never do, honestly.
20. Gone a week w/out shaving: All the time, when I'm not working. I kind of hate having to shave every day, but I want to be presentable on the job.
21. Didn’t wash your hair for a week: Sure. Especially when it's very short, like it is right now.
22. Broken something valuable: No, thankfully I'm one of those people who has the fortune to accidentally break objects of extreme sentimental value instead.
23. Thought you were in love: All the time. The worst is being in love with someone who will never, ever love you back. And who will never, ever do the things you hope they will to be with you. I'm glad I don't have to deal with that garbage anymore.
24. Streaked the streets: No. There's enough scariness out there without adding my naked ass to it.
25. Screamed at someone for no reason: Sadly, yes. I could say it was just because of being overtired and cranky and depressed or pissed about something else, but that's really not an excuse, I think.
26. Said I love you and meant it: I don't say it without meaning it.
27. Been hurt by a guy/girl you loved: Oh, yes.
28. Stayed up till 4 am on the phone: And longer. The first time I talked to Becca on the phone, we ended up talking all night long. Three nights in a row.
29. Pulled a prank: You should ask my sister that question; she's an easy mark. I love pranks a little to much.

Which Is Better...?
1. Coke Or Pepsi: I'm still a Pepsi man, but nothing beats Coca-Cola in a glass bottle.
2. Cats Or Dogs: I used to have a cat; I don't want another one after having him. I just couldn't ever replace him; he was special and he ended up getting taken away from me. I love my rabbit, but one day I'd love to have a dog. I just like animals.
3. DVDs or VHS: DVD, of course. 9 times out of 10, I'd rather watch a DVD than go to a movie.
4. Deaf Or Blind: Um, well, neither.
5. Pools Or Hot Tubs: Pools. I love to swim.
6. Television Or Radio: TV, I guess, if we're strictly talking radio. Radio sucks.
7. CDs Or mp3: Either one, just give me my music. I think mp3s are a little more flexible than CDs as far as transporting them and not being bound to buying entire crappy albums.
8. Apples or oranges: Apples.
9. Strawberries or Blueberries: Strawberries.
10. Gold or silver: Lapis Lazuli.
11. Vanilla or chocolate: Schockolade.
12. Video or Movie: DVD. No crowds, no kids.
13. Park or Beach: Park.
14. Hot or Cold weather: How about temperate? I like cold better than hot, but really I just like it kind of cool, between 55 and 75.
15. Sunset or Sunrise: Swiftly flow the years; one season following another, laden with happiness and tears.

When is the Last Time You...?
1. Took a shower: This morning before work.
2. Cried: I'm actually not sure... probably it was something I watched that did it, though.
3. Watched a Disney movie: Ha, last night. I'm working on another Evaluating Disney posts, and there are three features for 1953.
4. Given/gotten a hug: This morning as I was leaving for work.
5. Been to the movies: Yesterday, when we went to see Iron Man.
6. Danced: Yesterday; we were gathering our laundry and I had the mp3 player on. I danced around to "Sweet Lorraine." My favorite version, by R. Crumb and His Cheap Suit Serenaders.
7. Did a survey like this: My last meme was last week.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Song of the Week: "Iron Man"

C'mon, what else was it going to be? Besides, the song is a classic.

Marvel Superheroes

I went to see Iron Man today, and all I can say is FANTASTIC. I absolutely loved it. It's about as perfect a superhero movie as you can get. And I have to say this to any geek who hasn't gone and wants to have one of those great geek moments: STAY THROUGH THE END CREDITS. There's a scene after the credits are over that is just too damn cool. Trust me.

So, recently Lee posted a list of his top five comic book movies. Inspired by that, I'm going to try and comment on the movies based specifically on Marvel Comics. I don't know why, but sometimes comic book fans like to tally up what's going on with DC and Marvel, and I've got nothing better to write. So here's my own personal list of what I think are the best Marvel currently has to offer.

These lists are chronological.

Top of the Crop
* Blade II (2002)
The first Guillermo del Toro movie I saw, and I liked it so much better than the first Blade, which I thought was muddled. I loved the style, the look, and the vampire love story.
* Spider-Man (2002)
As perfect a comic book movie as I could ever have hoped for. The emotional depth and the integrity of the characters and the great special effects. Roger Ebert slammed this movie for because he found Spider-Man uninteresting compared to Peter Parker. I think he missed the point.
* Hulk (2003)
I loved this movie; what movie did everyone else see? I like the way the story was layered with a sort of serious meditation on the nature of anger and violence, which is something that spoke kind of personally to me. And I thought it was very interesting the way they turned his father into the Absorbing Man. I thought it was terrific.
* Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Like the first movie, only more perfect. What else can I say?
* Iron Man (2008)
I'll say more about it in my Film Week on Wednesday, but for now the best thing I can say about it is that it manages to be funny and irreverant--not caught up in the same precious mythologizing that many comic book movies fall into--while still having emotionally believable characters. A great, great movie.

Still Good, But Not Perfect
* X2: X-Men United (2003)
There are some really great special effects sequences, especially the opening. This one takes place on a much larger scale, but it also takes on too much by adding even more characters who require storylines so that no one really gets their due. And the ending really blows it for me. You're telling me Jean Grey needed to step out of the Blackbird to stop a frigging wall of water? Why? There was really no reason for it other than to kill her off and set up the Dark Phoenix story. It's too much like the comic: too many characters, not enough attention to each of them, and then jumping the rails for inorganic plot devices.
* Spider-Man 3 (2007)
The quality dipped a bit, especially in the writing, but I still enjoyed the hell out of it. I didn't think it was any more or less dorky and fun than the other two movies, it just got a little too precious for its own good. Still, I love the characters and I love their story.

Fun, But Not Great
* Howard the Duck (1986)
I never understood why this was so maligned. I actually really enjoy this silly movie for what it is. Not a spot on the brilliant comics, but it's fun and funny and I love Howard.
* Fantastic Four (1994)
Another movie that's pretty derided but that I actually enjoy. Unlike the Jessica Alba movie, it just gets the characters so right. It does what it can with a very, very limited budget.
* Blade (1998)
Very stylish to look out, but it suffers from some very silly plot points (vampires in sunscreen? lame) and an inconsistent character.
* X-Men (2000)
I enjoyed it, but I didn't really think it was very good. There are some neat moments, and I love some of the characterizations (particularly Wolverine, Magneto, Professor X, and Rogue), but it's just so muted and kind of underwhelming.
* X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
What I do appreciate is that Brett Ratner, of all people, stopped sucking up to the fans and just tried to make a movie. He killed off characters right and left, tried to widen the scale a little more, and just forged ahead with an action movie instead of trying to be precious about it. That said, he also fell into the trap of adding yet more underdeveloped characters, mostly because the fans wanted to see Angel, no matter how pointless it was to put him in the movie. The characterization of the Beast was especially lame.

* The Punisher (1991)
Come on, it stars Dolph Lundgren, how good could it have been?
* Captain America (1991)
Remember when Marvel was always willing to settle for awfulness?
* Daredevil (2003)
The first 20 minutes or so, the origin stuff, those were good. And I like Jon Favreau as Foggy Nelson. But I just can't buy Ben Affleck as Daredevil, and the rest of the casting kind of sucks (Colin Farrell's characterization of Bullseye is particularly annoying). It's somehow unwilling to commit to being a superhero movie, when it's not ripping off The Crow.
* Blade: Trinity (2004)
Another movie that tries too hard to widen the scope of its series and suffers as a result. I'm not sure whose performance is the most embarrassing; Parker Posey as some sort of vampire chanteuse or the fat-necked guy from Prison Break as Count freaking Dracula. Of course, I liked Jessica Biel and I liked the basic idea, but the execution was too stupid for words.
* Elektra (2005)
Just terrible. Terrible in a completely unmemorable way.
* Fantastic Four (2005)
This one hurt; I would've loved to see the FF done right, but instead I got smartasses, sex jokes, an idiotic portrayal of Doctor Doom, and a hollow storyline with underdone special effects. If you look, you can sometimes see Michael Chiklis's awful Thing costume indent when people touch it too hard. That about says it all.

Not Even Worth Mentioning
* Dr. Strange (1978)
* Captain America (1979)
* Captain America II: Death to Soon (1979)
* Generation X (1996)

Never Seen by Me
* Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD (1998)
* The Punisher (2004)
* Man-Thing (2005)
* Ghost Rider (2007)
* Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)

My opinions, anyways.