Thursday, December 31, 2009

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Repost

Merry Christmas Y'all. Enjoy all the presents, food and guilt that comes with the holiday. I'm spending the day with the family and some friends, so if you're bored and have 16 minutes to spare, here's a repost of a short film I mentioned a while ago.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Almost time

Yay! Tomorrow's Christmas. Don't forget why we celebrate it or God will pop a cap in you. That's how he rolls.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


I have returned from the sunny climes of California. All went about as reasonably well as could be expected. The memorial service was well done, including the ukulele player. A fitting tribute to Faye. My grandfather was very depressed for the first few days, but on our last day there, he perked up considerably. I guess the finality of the service allowed him to take the next step forward.

Now that I'm home, my sister is arriving with her brood in about 2 hours. Then it's Christmas, New Years and back to work. Nothing like having the next few weeks all planned out.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I flew out of sight.....

Time to pack up to leave for California for the memorial service tomorrow. It will be a sad weekend, though I won't mind the 73 degree temperature that is forecast for most of my stay. I'll be back home on the 21st, just in time to receive all the cards and presents everybody sent me, or not.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Dispatch from the Front

My God, they're getting brazen. Conducting training exercises out in the open in a public park. I fear they may be getting ready to mobilize before Christmas. The holidays this year may be colored gray and vicious.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Their plot begins

Surreptitiously photographed, here is proof of what I've been suspecting for years. National Underground Troops of Squirrels have finally gathered enough materials to begin their assault on the human race. I will try to keep abreast of further developments.

Review- The Lovely Bones

Continuing my attempts at bettering my review writing, here is the next one. Sadly, it's another misfire.

A plethora of seamless CGI effects and period details cannot save Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones from being a complete bore to sit through. Narrated by young, murdered Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) from the “in-between”, the film charts the after-effects of her murder while Susie…well, just kind of waits around for….something to happen.

The trouble here is the fetishistic attention to detail. Set in 1973, the film gets all the period trappings correct. The “in-between” that Susie inhabits is filled with constantly shifting landscapes and amazing visuals. All this detail attention leaves less time to tell a gripping story. The movie flips back and forth between Susie observing the grieving of her family, her murderer’s (a decently creepy Stanley Tucci) follow-up moves and her own adventures in this “in-between”, which, given the visuals, is a cross between What Dreams May Come and Disney’s Afterlifeland; yet none of it registers emotionally enough to capture an audience. Susie just walks around doing not much of anything. Given the fact that the audience is told who the killer is early on, it takes an inordinate amount of time for the family to catch up. This leaves a second act that just sits on the screen so people can check their watches. Even a decent chase through the killer’s house, as Stanley Tucci goes after Susie’s younger sister who was looking for clues, leads nowhere. The film just slowly peters out.

Saoirse Ronan does manage to pull out a good performance, investing her character with the proper amount of wonder and angst given her situation. After Atonement and this film, she is one to watch for the future. Mark Wahlberg, as Susie’s father, grieves well enough as first, but then turns into the crusader and interest drops. Susan Sarandon, as Susie’s grandmother, blows in looking like Jacqueline Susann, performs a comedy routine, then is given nothing else to do.

The book of The Lovely Bones is supposed to be a searing and emotional read (I have not read it). As pretty as the film’s visuals are to look at, poring over pages with your imagination would be a much better expenditure of time than sitting through these 122 minutes.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

We're Not Successful

This is one of the more unsuccessful PSA's in my opinion. Those ragamuffins are so adorable, if I ever saw an open bottle with bluish pills peeking out, I'd gobble them up and wait for them to sing in my tummy.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Invictus Review

As my first real attempt at movie reviewing outside of my class, here is my dissection of Clint Eastwood's new film Invictus.

Well-meaning but ultimately too heavy-handed, Clint Eastwood’s Invictus gets lost in the scrum. Nelson Mandela and the South African Springbok’s 1995 Rugby World Cup victory may be an inspiring story, but the constant need to show how inspiring it all was makes the film dramatically inert.

It all starts to falter when the movie presents Mandela’s (Morgan Freeman) vision of uniting white and black through the victory of the World Cup as the ultimate answer to South Africa’s woes. The thought that a sporting victory would somehow heal the wounds of the past few decades is laughable. Invictus though, treats Mandela and the idea with utmost seriousness. A bodyguard says of him: “He’s not a saint, he’s a man;” though that concept is certainly not conveyed as any hint that Mandela or his ideas might be less than perfect is not to be seen. Senses are gradually deadened as every scene turns into another opportunity for a speech about inspiration or the need to adapt to change. Mandela recruits Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon), the captain of the Springbok’s, as the person to inspire the team to victory. Since the team starts off the movie as a joke, a little explanation as to how the Springboks turned it around should be warranted, but none is offered. I guess when you have star power like Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon on your side, great things just happen.

In an attempt to create tension, a sizable amount of screen time is devoted to Mandela’s security detail and their worries over a possible assassination attempt. After returning to these worries over and over, the final payoff involving a jumbo jet is so ludicrous, it plays as a parody of Black Sunday.

The true hero of the film turns out to be Eastwood’s D.P., Tom Stern, who manages to make the Rugby matches exciting to watch, especially since no attempt is made at explaining how Rugby works. Nor is there ever any dramatic obstacle to overcome; the movie’s theme runs roughshod over the Springbok’s opponents, so the outcome of every match is never in doubt.

Invictus is a Latin word that translates as “unconquerable”. The film, however, makes one want to wave the white flag, as two hours of being fed unbridled piety and inspiration feels like being beaned in the head by a rugby ball.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I've Done Stuff! The Class

Since a teaching job has not been forthcoming (the past three years), I've decided to attempt something different involving my other love, movies! To that end, I enrolled in a class offered by NYU's Continuing Education School. It's called "Becoming a Film Critic" and is taught by a critic from Time Out New York Magazine, Joshua Rothkopf.

It has been a really kicking experience. I've always fancied myself a decent writer to begin with (ever since I won a short play writing contest in 5th grade), and the class has helped me focus on how to write a more publishable review than I usually do. The teacher is very entertaining to listen to (and thankfully is also quite attractive), and gets right to the heart of how to go about trying to make a go of this as a career; so I feel as if I've come away with valuable information. It's not easy breaking into media, but the course and the feedback I've received gives me the confidence that I have a decent shot at doing so, even though it still might take quite a few attempts. Confidence has always been my issue, so it's pleasant to finish a class feeling it. I've still got 1 more session to go and have a final paper to write for it, but I'm not too worried. This might be the most enjoyable final paper I've had to write, definitely more fun than a 24 page English final.

After it's over and the holidays wrap up, it will be time to see if I can put what I've learned into practice. Maybe an article on filling out my ballot for the Independent Spirit Awards or something.....

Best of all, I hope to take another class taught by Josh over the summer in horror film (if it's offered, have to wait for the catalog). Spending summer watching my favorite genre? What's not to love?

So the past few posts hopefully explain my absence over the last month. It's been hectic, and December will remain hectic, but I have a bit more free time coming my way than in November, so I probably won't disappear again.

I've Done Stuff! The Deaths

Oof, I got hit with a double whammy just before Thanksgiving. I got home from driving the taxi early Monday morning to discover that something was eating all the available hard drive space on drive. I was up until 4AM trying to fix it but no luck. So off to bed.

8:30AM the phone rings. It's California. My grandfather's wife passed away a few hours earlier. This would be my Grammy Faye. Not technically my grandmother, but my grandfather was married to her for 24 years, so de facto, she was. This throws everyone for a loop. My grandfather has been essentially wheelchair bound with 24 hour care for the past few years. Grammy Faye saw to every aspect of the household, including his care. Everybody thought he would go before her. Unfortunately, she developed congestive heart failure over the summer, and while she had been doing ok, it appears that that shortly after November started, everything went downhill fast. Still though, she had 93 great years on the planet, and I am very happy I've had the time to get to know her. My twice yearly visits to Pasadena to spend time with her and my grandfather were always highlights.

While phone calls were being traded between the coasts, I was talking to a computer expert who finally got my computer up and running. Just an incompatible program with Windows 7 that had to be uninstalled and reinstalled. Once the computer was up, I checked email to discover that the wife of my father's best friend (who I've known all my life), passed away early Sunday morning. This was more expected, as we had received word that she had been given only weeks to live. Again, you couldn't ask to know a nicer person.

So after word of 2 deaths in 5 hours, I'm sort of glad no other bad news has come down the pipeline. I'll be heading to California from the 16th-21st of this month for Grammy Faye's memorial service and to spend some time with my grandfather. I've put a moratorium on further deaths until after the holidays.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I've Done Stuff! The Job

Tutoring has been slow this year. Only 2 students that have lasted beyond a week. One showed up only periodically, and now is finished. The other cancelled the last few weeks due to being in a late term pregnancy and just had the child, so I doubt I'll see her for the next few weeks.

That leaves just one new student. A less than beloved school district I know decided that a student under its care needed a special education tutor since the teacher he's had for the past 5 years isn't certified. The child is profoundly mentally retarded. This is not the type of population I usually work with or really want to work with. I declined the job but was asked to attend an update meeting at the district since his regular teacher couldn't make it. This I agreed to. At the meeting, the district pulled a bait and switch. The meeting wasn't about any update, it was a meeting about conducting the NYS Alternate Assessment Test for the child. Since I was there on behalf of the student, I'm now the one who has to conduct this test. (The test assesses a student's ability to process information on their grade level when they are too cognitively deficient to take the regular NYS Assessment Tests.) My issue with this is that I was told the student must pass the test. I'm not allowed to hand in anything that implies that student cannot pass. However, the student does not have an eye-gaze (not blind, but he can't focus on anything), he does not have the ability to speak or understand written or oral language, nor does he have voluntary control of his movements, so no ability to write or point or gesture. His mental development is that of a one-month old baby. How do I assess this? Essentially, I was told that when he performes one of his involuntary twitches, I'm to say that he moved in response to my questioning and he understood me. How is that ethical? I'm still hoping I'm able to pass this off to someone else. I just feel very wary about putting my name to something like this.

Ok, long ranty paragraph over. I'll update this later this week after I make some calls.

I've Done Stuff! The Cold

So the past few weeks have been both busy and frustrating for me. It started with a cold I caught about a month ago that turned into a cough I'm still trying to get rid of. It's that type of cold where you just kind of sit and stare straight ahead with no ambition to do anything. Many a night I sat before a blank page for a new post and just had no thoughts running through my mind. Then I'd realize I was looking at the computer screen for 20 minutes and go eat some cookies. Copious amounts of Dayquil, Tylenol and doctor recommended xithmyergkfovklin also added to the empty feeling. Hopefully the cough is gone in another day or two, then I'll be back good to rights.

White Diamonds

So I caught the annual airing of this commercial today. How old is this thing? I feel like I've been seeing this ad since I was 3. And the lighting? My goodness, I know its been a few years since National Velvet, but Ms. Taylor couldn't have looked that bad when it was shot. I'm going to hedge a bet that this will still be airing 60 years from now. Anyone take me up on it?