Saturday, December 31, 2005

As the clock ticks...

...why not consider some resolutions?
  • To write more. Got to get that book done, so preferably nightly. Don't call between 10pm and midnight.
  • To see more movies. Not sure how to do that between Xan and kicking up on writing but I can hope.
  • To get the front lawn in a halfway decent shape, considering how much I wrecked it this year.
  • To be a conscientious advisor for my independent study, capstone project and thesis students.
  • To use the word "frell" instead of the more socially unacceptable word it usually replaces on Farscape to get through the censors, thereby ensuring that my son learns the geekier word first. (This may lead to more social outcastness. However, given that both of his parents survived that, we will chalk this up to something that is "good for him.")
  • To get in frelling shape. (see? why not start now?!)
  • To get the darn blinky Christmas lights up outside the house with plenty of time before Christmas. Or, even, get them up at all, which I failed to do this year.
  • To call my parents more.
  • To have even more fun with Xan, if that's possible.
That's it. I think. Happy New Year -- see you in '06!

Friday, December 30, 2005

Time really stops in the blogosphere

And I say that because I just checked several of the regular blogs that I read and we all stopped blogging a few days before the holidays really kicked in full force. (Well, not La Loca but then again she's over in Korea with her snoogums. And, well, she's loca.)

As for me, I had plenty to blog about but was hampered by a very slow connection in Cape Cod, an obviously changed toll-free dialup number for the University (darn you!), and all that free time that I used to have over the holiday break that was now swallowed up by such activities as, oh, keeping little boy hands from touching the hot wood-burning stove. (FYI: no injuries.)

But we're back -- bushed beyond belief, but back. And maybe some day soon we'll also see our living room floor again.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Be afraid of geeks bearing gifts

I am always wary of getting gifts from students, particularly around finals time. So I was particularly concerned when S stopped me on the way out of class last week and said, "I have a gift to give to you. But I want to make sure that it won't affect my grade."

"OK," I said. "Why do you say that?"

"Well, this gift might affect it... negatively."

Wow, well, one should really be concerned about thsoe kind of gifts.

At the final exam today, S gave me a bag and a a box and said, "Merry Christmas. These are to be used together."

In the bag was a letterboxed VHS-version of Pearl Harbor, the wonderful Ben Affleck-Josh Hartnett love story that I stated on record in class as one of the biggest wastes of celluloid in recent history.

In the box -- were matches.

What a great gift!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Christmastime is here

We interrupt this grading session to report that...


I realize I'm old-fashioned in this day and age of TiVo and everything-televised-on-DVD, but there's something special about catching this on television. It's just so neat.

If he weren't asleep, I would be waking up the boy. Then again, I still have to wait a few years until he can learn the Snoopy Dance. (And then, he can be like that other Xander. Not to mention me, since I do a mean Snoopy Dance.)

Speaking of this Christmas special, I discovered just now that Jody Watley has a version of the tune from this special that makes it sound very... well, let's just say it's a version that makes you want to snuggle at the fireplace.

(Hee hee, Lucy just said the "big Eastern syndicate" line, a metafictional dig at the world of comic strips. Have I mentioned I love the Vince Guaraldi Trio? Yay.)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

If I don't come back... *cough sputter*

The first finals came in today, so I really have to hunker down. So I'll be disappearing for a while.

And if you can't find me, look in the bushes for the guy drowned in green ink. Yep, that'll be me.

(Darn it, my grading helper is asleep, too. You'd think I'm not, you know, providing him food and shelter and what-not.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Back to what's important in life...

Movie awards, of course!

Thanks to NPR, I managed to remember to catch the Golden Globe nominations this morning while I was trying to feed Xan some food. (Emphasis on the "try" here, since this morning he preferred to use mush as a skin cream.)

So without further ado:

Why I Will Be Watching the Golden Globe Ceremony
  • 7 noms for Brokeback Mountain (pic dram, actor Ledger, supp actr Williams, dir Lee, song, screenplay, score Santaolalla) because it is that good
  • 3 noms for The Constant Gardener (pic dram, supp actr Weisz, dir Mireilles) because it's directed by a Latin American
  • 3 noms for The Squid and the Whale (pic com, actor com Daniels, actr com Linney) because now I've become really interested in this flick
  • 2 noms for A History of Violence (pic dram, actr dram Bello) although as the clear best picture of the year so far, it deserves more
  • 3 noms for Match Point (pic dram, supp actr Johansen, dir Allen, screenplay) because the mere fact that Woody is nominated in the drama category makes me go hmm
  • 2 noms for Felicity Huffman (film drama actr Transamerica, tv com actr Despearte Housewives) because she's so fab
  • 3 noms for George Clooney (supp act Syriana, dir and scr Good Night and Good Luck) because he's so fat... I mean, it's just so interesting
  • nom for Paul Giamatti, because -- yay!
  • nom for Terence Howard for Hustle and Flow because that man seems to really deserve this
  • only 2 noms for Munich (dir Spielberg, scr Kushner) and only 1 nom for King Kong (dir Jackson) because that makes me laugh
  • only 2 noms for Memoirs of a Geisha (dram actr Zhang, score Williams) because, although I love all these Chinese actresses, I hear the film is a beautiful travesty
  • random foreign film noms for Kung Fu Hustle and Paradise Now
  • TV noms for My Name is Earl, Weeds, Eva Longoria (so people can shut up), Sandra Oh, Kyra Sedgwick and S. Epatha Merkerson
Why I Will Throw Things at the TV during the Golden Globes
  • Shirley Maclaine for In Her Shoes, because there had to have been better supporting actress nominees (hello? Gong Li??) and because if anyone deserves something for this movie, it's Collette
  • 2 noms for North Country (despite the fact that they are for actresses I respect, Theron and MacDormand) because the pic is supposed to be piffle
  • no director nod for David Cronenberg, because that makes the sense that is not
  • no nom for the French Caché -- because the HFP could do whatever they want with this and didn't
  • no TV noms for Gilmore Girls or Arrested Development (!!!!)

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Today is sponsored by the letter "B"... in "ba," "babababa," "bwabwbwaba," "boooo" and "Bob."

(Who the heck is Bob? And why does Xan get his name before mine? Sigh.)

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Ho oh no

I had to stop looking at these pictures because (a) I should be grading and (b) attempting to contain my laughter in order to not wake up the rest of the house was starting to get painful.

Suffice to say that this is yet another reason why we are going nowhere near Santa's Magic Kingdom at the mall anytime soon.

Thanks to the posters at my nephew Joel's blog for finding this.

European Cultural Heritage Smackdown 2006

I know I've probably spelled that incorrectly (sorry, Becca!) but I discovered to my glee last night that the Final Draw was made for World Cup 2006 in Germany.

Soccer, people. Jeez.

Yes, believe it or not, Jeff turns into a sports fan once every four years and will actually wake up in the middle of the night to catch some games. (I'm not quite as fanatic as my colleague Matt, who may use all of his stored-up vacation time to actually go to Germany, but I still get all excited.) In my world, this compares to the morning that the Oscar nominations are announced -- which, come to think of it, are also fast-approaching! *pant pant pant*

It does appear that there will be some fantastic soccer being played next year. Though this doesn't sound all that exciting, there appear to be two "groups of death," where there are at least three strong teams in a group where only two will survive. One is Group E, featuring (with world standings in parentheses): the Czech Republic (2), the United States (8), Italy (12) and Ghana (50). The big one, however, seems unexpected: the Netherlands (3), Argentina (4), Cote d'Ivoire (41) and Serbia/Montenegro (47). Considered the weaker no-brainers: Group A - Germany (16), Costa Rica (21), Poland (23), Ecuador (37); Group G - France (5), Korea (29), Switzerland (36), Togo (56); and Group H - Spain (6), Tunisia (28), Saudi Arabia (32), Ukraine (40).

Who am I rooting for? Peru, of course! VIVA PER- oh wait, surprise surprise, Peru didn't make it. In fact, thank goodness for Bolivia, otherwise Peru would have come in last place for South America. I could root for Poland for Angela's sake, but they're going to get sacked early by Germany. Then I usually go for the Latin Americans and/or the US... but I also believe that a couple random strong upsets from Cote d'Ivoire and newcomer Portugal will also knock out all the Latins save Costa Rica and Brazil. (The draw was unfortuante for the Latin Americans, alas.)

I'm much more reliable for Oscar predictions. So here are wildly misinformed (but fun!) predictions for FIFA World Cup 2006 -- winners of each match in capitals:

Round of 16:
GERMANY d. Paraguay
CZECH REEP d. Croatia
FRANCE d. Tunisia
ENGLAND d. Costa Rica
SPAIN d. Switzerland

ENGLAND d. Cote d'Ivoire
SPAIN d. Brazil

Final: SPAIN d Netherlands*

Here's the fun part: that final game is more than possible, should #6 Spain upset #1 Brazil and #3 Netherlands tackle #2 Czech Republic. Such a meeting, however, would provide a certain ethnic conflict in me since, as it turns out, my mother's side of the family largely descends from Spain (with some Italian, English and Quechua thrown in for good measure) and my father's side is almost exclusively Dutch (with, ironically, a tinge of Spanish). Given that I have Spain coming from both sides, I'll be pulling for España all the way. ¡VIVA ESPAÑA!

OK, back to my regular life now. Except I wonder if there are World Cup onesies...

Friday, December 09, 2005

Decisions, decisions

As I await the snow and am grading, I just found out that this week's "crybaby" screening offers a choice of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe in Georgetown or Syriana in Tyson's Corner.

Eek. Which one to choose?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Oh, look! A bandwagon!

Everyone else seems to be writing about Brokeback Mountain, so I might as well join in on all the fuss since movies are, you know, my business.

Is the hype for this movie justified? Yes. As I mentioned before when I saw the film at Telluride, this is really a beautiful film which does the utterly beautiful short story by Annie Proulx incredible justice. The movie aches with subtle majesty between the grandeur of the scenery and the quiet moments where Gyllenhall and especially Ledger do their best work. The movie justifiably should do well come Oscar-time; while I hope it does well at the box-office, I will be happy if the movie does even modestly well. It's really a quieter film than what the media is hyping it up to be.

Is it sexy? Yes -- but not in the way that you might think. There is only a moment of all-out SEX and you don't really see all that much... but the implication is more than you need, believe me. The urgent violence of the story is, I think, depicted well.

Is it a gay western? This actually gets my goat and is why I'm posting this at all. It is a movie that features cowboys, but it is not by any stretch of the imagination, a western. Cowboys alone do not make a western. (Watch High Noon, a tense thriller with all sorts of cowboys in the Wild West, but not a western.) No, this is a melodrama in a big way, which means Kleenex should be provided when you purchase a ticket. If you place the movie in technicolor suburbia, the movie would fit in a lovely manner back in the Sirkian 50s, in some ways better than Haynes' Far from Heaven.

As for its status as a "gay film"? Well, some films deserve to be ghettoized into that section of the video store and, generally, I find this to be a particularly ineffective marketing tool. There is something around the notion that "gay folks will watch anything as long as it has a gay character in it. Then there are films that happen to have a gay-themed storyline but are good movies without necessarily taking that into consideration. (I'm thinking of movies like The Deep End or Bound here.) So enough of this calling it a "gay film." It's a good film, period.

And does it deserve your dollar? Yes. Don't go expecting the greatest thing since sliced bread, because it's not. But it's a darn good story, told well. Good moviemaking is not usually hyped this much -- this time, I would suggest rewarding it.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Why my son is doomed - DOOMED, I tell you!

Xan and I were happily listening to NPR's Fresh Air this afternoon, merrily listening to John McCain talking seriously about the world we live in and how he isn't still smarting about what happened in South Carolina and how we should still stay in Iraq and the like. We both felt rather up to date and I was multitasking by making dinner, getting informed and watching the baby, all at once.

And then, they had to go and review Madonna's new album, Confessions on a Dance Floor. And they played a snippet of her new single, "Hung Up," which re-envisions the hook from ABBA's "Gimme Gimme Gimme" even better than Erasure.

That switch that was triggered at an early age by watching too much Solid Gold was suddenly flipped.

The next thing you know, I run downstairs to find the CD of dance music purchased long ago at the New Orleans Virgin Megastore. (The CD was sold to raise money for AIDS research and features remixes of Erasure's "Oh L'Amour," Depeche Mode's "Everything Counts," Bedrock's "Heaven Scent" and a really cranked up version of Yaz's "Separation." Thank God for gay men.) I pop it in the kitchen CD player, turn the Christmas tree lights blinker setting from "slow fade" to "supa-dupa disco funkay!!" and grab my son. We then proceed to dance, dance, dance all over the house, much to his utter joy. Baby screams of laughter and delight. For almost an hour.

Naturally, this is how my wife found us when she got home.

Friday, December 02, 2005

A few good men (played by movie semi-stars)

The trailer for the new movie Annapolis features the deep-voiced guy saying the following: "In the toughest military academy in the nation... if you want to become a leader... you have to get through one man..."

And immediately, I imagine my friend Ric, who just got tenure at the Naval Academy but who in another life was my rush chair in my fraternity. One of his favorite stories is that the main negative comment on his student evaluations one year were the complaints from the cadets thathe cut off his long hair. What I want to know is if he can make his students drop and give him 20. Because if I could do that, man, what a class I would have. ("I'm sorry, I haven't done the reading, nor do I have the paper due today. Can I have an exten-" "Drop down, student and count it out loud!!" Bwahahahaha.)

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

A literary diversion

(Found in a discarded literary text outside my office by a former teaching assistant -- I am putting it here so that I don't lose the flimsy page that it is on, since it's so amusing and, besides, has some choice words about poetry. Thanks to Grant.)

A Letter to Miss Georgiana Shipley, in memory of her pet squirrel

Dear Miss,

I lament with you most sincerely the unfortunate end of poor MUNGO. Few squirrels were better accomplished; for he had had a good education, had traveled far, and seen much of the world. As he had the honour of being, for his virtues, your favourite, he should not go, like common skuggs [squirrels], without an elegy or an epitaph. Let us give him one in the monumental style and measure, which, being neither prose nor verse, is perhaps the properest for grief; since to use common language would look as if we were not affected, and to makes rhymes would seem trifling in sorrow.


Alas! poor MUNGO!
Happy thou wert, hadst thou known
Thy own felicity.
Remote from the fierce bald eagle,
Tyrant of thy native woods,
Thou hadst nought to fear from his piercing talons,
Nor from the murdering gun
Of the thoughtless sportsman.
Safe in thy wirey castle,
GRIMALKIN [a cat] never could annoy thee.
Daily wert thou fed with the choicest viands,
By the fair hand of an indulgent mistress;
But, discontented,
Thou wouldst have more freedom.
Too soon, alas! didst thou obtain it;
And wandering,
Thou art fallen by the fangs of wanton, cruel RANGER!

Learn hence,
Ye who blindly seek more liberty,
Whether subjects, sons, squirrels or daughters,
That apparent restraint may be real protection;
Yielding peace and plenty
With security.

You see, my dear Miss, how much more decent and proper this broken style is, than if we were to say, by way of epitaph,

Lies snug,
As a bug
In a rug.

and yet, perhaps, there are people in the world of so little feeling as to think that this would be an epitaph for poor Mungo.

If you wish it, I shall procure another to succeed him; but perhaps you will now choose some other amusement.

Remember me affectionately to all the good family, and believe me ever,

Your affectionate friend,

B. FRANKLIN [dated 1772]

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Finally, some help with my grading!

For quite a while now, I've been hoping to get someone to help me with my grading. I have even thought of hiring migrant workers from down the street on New Hampshire Avenue.

Luckily, I've managed to train someone to help me. It seems like he's enjoying this new task immensely.

As you can see, I think he's doing a spectacular job. I had been planning to give this paper a B+, but Xan convinced me otherwise. Sage advice, that kid has. Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 25, 2005

Shh! The children are listening!!

Egad. According to my course's Blackboard site, my current students have discovered this blog. This is perhaps not surprising, since my sister-in-law has appropriated the domain name that matches my name and linked it to this site, therefore merely googling my name would probably allow access to this. (Other professors' names will link to books on Amazon; mine gets you this. Greeeeat.) They've probably been reading it the whole time and I've only just found out. Which means they already know too much, alas.

But perhaps not enough! And while I can control my classroom (or pretend to), I can not control the Internet. Therefore: former students, friends from high school and college, family members (with pierced nipples or without), and miscellaneous riff-raff -- feel free to dish out the dirt on me that you will. (Believe it or not, they indirectly know the passing-out-on-the-laundry-bags-at-work story -- yes, that was real -- so I'm not sure how much worse it can get.) I'm sure much of this information could be passed around quicker than you can hit the "Ctrl" and the "C" keys together. Determining fact from fiction might be fun as well; remember, class, don't believe everything you read on the Internet.

To the current students, however, I warn you now that should any of this information come up during a classroom discussion (particularly if it is an attempt to derail the class, and particularly if it succeeds), this would constitute the section in the syllabus known as "bad attitude" and you should officially consider your participation grade toast. *insert evil grin/cackling here*

Let the madness begin. (Gulp.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Happy tofurkey day!

Really, we're not having tofurkey -- especially after last year's tofurkey debacle. (It wasn't even a debacle. I think it's just that Angela has a problem with the whole notion of processed pseudo-meat.) We're sticking around here this year, with the Birdtowers coming over tomorrow. And what with the massive accident on I-95 this morning and the mountain of papers I have to grade, all I have to say is It's so good to stay home!!

But here's the real news: my parents have actually jumped back into the world of the Internet! It even appears that the Ann Arbor senior community they live in has a high-speed internet connection. (Those rascals!) So if you want to drop them a line, go at it!

And have some wonderful cranberries on us!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Can't win for losing

My class that had papers due today thinks that I am evil because they had to finish their papers before Thanksgiving, causing major stress.

My class that has paper due next Monday thinks that I am evil because they have to finish their papers over Thanksgiving, causing major stress while attempting to fend off the effects of tryptophan.


To counter the effects of all of this, Xan will join fellow Alexander (son of a different Angela) in seeing the crybaby screening of Harry Potter. (For those of you worried about the effects of my son attending a PG-13 film, know that his first cinematic experience at 3 weeks was Kung Fu Hustle, rated R. Yes, I know, I should be shot because I exposed my child to subtitles at such a young age.)

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Crazy dad dresses boy in silly hat

...and then takes a self-picture of it. My son's expression is priceless here. Who knew that he could already communicate the phrase, "Oh, shit!"

Your dad's a freak and he dresses you goofy. Deal with it.

Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 18, 2005

And they didn't even see the panda cub!

First time to the zoo. So exciting. And a moo-cow sweater. Can it get any better than this?

"Look, ma! A tiger! A tree! Scaffolding! A garbage can! WOW!"

Xan, groovin' on DC's panda mania

My son plans to eat up all of my time

It appears, however, that he will start with a light appetizer of Grandpa Mackey's old pocket watch. It sure does take a lickin' and keeps on tickin'...

(If you haven't guessed by all these pictures, I finally downloaded a bunch of photographs from my camera.)
Posted by Picasa

What if we told the college students about this?

"Say, Rusty -- I hear there's a kegger at the zoo. Only guess who's hosting?"

"Paws off my Yeungling!"

Posted by Picasa

The (Halloween) Wedding Photograph

Kate Taylor and Jared Davis traditionally have a blow-out Halloween party. As they mentioned at this year's party, the fact that they were getting married didn't mean we couldn't come in costume. Hence, a costume wedding.

As requested then:

For some reason, Angela resisted my idea of a temporary tattoo that said "Eat Me." But isn't this hat the coolest? Kudos to Heather, my sis-in-law. (Oh yeah, Marc, too -- after all, I just borrowed it from them.)

Since I already bought Xan's costume for next year, we're already planning the family costume. If anyone knows a good place to find plastic horn-rimmed glasses or an adult-sized amoeba costume, let me know. (This will make sense a year from now. Stay tuned.) Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 17, 2005

If there ain't no Arrested Development...

I forgot to mention in my TV-philic post the other day that I also watch My Name Is Earl. Which is odd, because Angela and I have been quoting some parts of this week's episode to each other, leading to giggle fits. My favorite line from this week's wedding episode? Joy: "I already got the DJ. I gave him a $25 gift certificate to Patty the Daytime Hooker."

Love it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

It's not inappropriate to blog about this if the person isn't my student

The high drama that resulted today began with the following email, which I am publishing verbatim sans the student's (not the referenced professor's) name, to protect their identities:

Professor Middents,
I know your new class Movie Star is full, but I need to be in that class. I heard there are other people trying to blue card in the class too. You can just tell me to talk to the registar because let me guess "There's a fire code" blah blah blah... but you can't let them do that. I am always getting shut out of classes I want to take. You should fight for more people to get into this class. Don't you want people in your class you enjoy being there? There are always people who dont show up for classes and dont go to the screenings. If you knew me better you would want me in your class. Ask Professor [M]. He gave me a 100 in participation... I know you're impressed, not. But you have to let me in this class. I really watch all the films and participate in class. I am super fun and [M] can back that up.
Thank you for reading my rambling.


OK, then.

My reaction to this was one of bafflement. Not at the request to let someone into my class: this happens every semester in the upper-level film classes and, while I like to tell my ego it's because I'm so super-cool, I know it's because we have a number of Cinema Studies minors who need to take my courses in order to graduate. This semester, the beginning number was set exceptionally low in order to control the number of students in the course. I was surprised, in fact, that my course had clsoed with 18 students, until I found this out. Many students had already emailed me asking (begging!) to be let it. After discussing the situation with several people, I happily decided to let seven people into the class, bringing the total up to 25 with no more. (I can't really go under that amount and expect people to be happy; I also would prefer not to go over that amount to make my own life easier, plus it's a good size group for this kind of class.

No, the key here is that I don't know this person. At all. I had heard her name from a student who five minutes before had dropped by my office for help from a paper, but I did not know her. If I had been familiar with this person, it might have been different. If someone like, say, former student Rusty had written this to me, I would have probably laughed before sending back a curt reply -- but that's because he's a lush from Cape Cod who used to sell me fish. (Doesn't that sound like there should be some kind of double entendre? And there isn't!)

(Tangent: I was shooting the breeze with recent alum C and current student M in my office hours on Monday, trading drunken idiot stories. M said, "Well, when I was a freshman, this drunk guy came into my room, got undressed and though I was his girlfriend, and I kept saying, 'No, no, Russell, you're in the wrong room!'" And C and I said at the same time, "Which Russell are you talking about?!" and then laughed because we knew we were both referring to good old Rusty. Alas, this was not who M was referring to, so I can still safely pretend that Rusty is a wholesome boy -- at least I could do this if I didn't keep reading his blog regularly. But I digress.)

I find this kind of email completely inappropriate on many levels, bordering on rude. Most students thankfully don't send email like this -- and if they do, they know me and (hopefully) know how to hit the return key to write more than a single block paragraph. To a stranger, however, such flippant tone turns into brazen and unearned arrogance. The same problem often occurs with sarcasm in email, which can become dangrous offensive. I showed her email to a few other professors in the department, who all agreed that this was really uncalled for.

Here is my reply:

[X] --

Let me start with a reprimand: you should really be careful about the note of your email messages for people that you don't know. Yes, [A] just stopped in and told me you were interested in the class; the cavalier and, quite frankly, unusually aggresive tone of your email may not be intentional, but that is the way it comes across. It does not work for me and actually strengthens my reserve to keep my policy the way it is.

It is true that the class is now full and I am no longer issuing bluecards. The reason for the current cap has nothing to do with firecodes and everything to do with the quality of the class. This will be a work-intensive class with a lot of class interaction and the larger the class is, the more diffuse the energy will be. 25 students is the maximum that I believe the course will work at and that is what I am sticking with for now. Had you emailed me yesterday, you would have been guaranteed a spot. Seven people got ahead of you, however, and so now you will have to wait.

You are currently #2 on the waiting list -- someone else just emailed me right before you -- and I will let you know if someone drops the class for you to swoop in and grab their spot. If you see a space open, grab it without telling me and you're in. Stay vigilant and hopeful and you will probably be rewarded.

And next time, read over your rambling and consider how a stranger might react to your email. I'm sure you're a wonderful student, which makes it a shame that we have started off this way.

Assuming that current student A had called X the minute after she left my class, I also brought a copy to today's screening and said, "You might want to tell your friend to phrase her email a little more appropriately." A said that in fact she had not said anything to X. I thought this would be a good lesson.

Silly me to think that this was over.

When I walked out of my office, packed up and ready to head home for bathing duty, I found outside my door a crumbled, weeping woman with another professor from my department in front of my door. I assumed this woman was in the other professor's class or something, or that she was being kind at what I assumed was the result of a break-up or something.

"Are you OK?" I asked them both.

Weeping woman could not speak, she was hyperventilating. My colleague looked at me, somewhat dumbfounded.

"Are you waiting for me?" I asked, thinking that I really needed to go home.

"I think she is," said the professor.

"But I don't know who she is, she's not one of my-"


Sure enough, this was the person who had emailed me earlier, having now received my email and a phone call from her friend A, who said I was clearly pissed. (I was.)

Not one to leave a weeping student that I am the cause of in the hallway, I invited her into my office, where she eventually calmed down and, hopefully, finally udnerstood that email should not be so quickly or thoughtlessly sent.

I'm curious to know if you think I was completely out of line here. I really don't think I was, but I'm open to criticism.

Oh yes, the final question: did I bluecard her into the class? No. As stated in my email, I am full and she is now #2 on my waiting list. Tears did not change that.

Here endeth today's netiquette lesson.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Those students have no idea how fortunate they are...

...because I only decided to check my email and other blogs after I finished grading their midterms.

Because thanks to JJ, I just found out that Arrested Development has been cancelled.


On the (only) plus side, now I can watch less television. All I need is for Lost and L&O:SVU to get cancelled and then I can officially take out the bunny-ears and only use it to play DVDs.

I am actually going to try to participate in this try-to-save-it campaign. I recommend.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Not quite like the film with Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon

Yesterday, I spent all day (and by that I mean from 6:00am to midnight) working the Takoma Park municipal elections. I had worked the presidential election last year for Montgomery County because they desperately needed Spanish-speaking election judges and, in the process, I caught the civic duty bug. This time, however, I actually got to work in Takoma Park. (Last time, I just shunted off to Silver Spring. As such, I met a very surprised Chris Lewis from AU Library's Media Services.) And one of the side benefits of the venture this time about was that four of the 25 of us workers happened to live on my very own street! So now I know more neighbors. I was also lucky enough that the people who I got to work with were really a lot of fun, as we started getting punchy about a half-hour into the day. Of note to you politicos out there: Takoma Park adopted a resolution where they would not use touchscreen technology for municipal elections, so we were back to good old-fashioned paper ballots yesterday. They took forever to count, but it made the count exciting -- and people commented all day about how much they loved the paper trail.

My ward actually had a contested race which was a squeaker, and the incumbent mayor won by a good though not large margin. More fascinatingly, a write-in candidate in another ward got about a third of the votes of the officially uncontested winner of that race -- who apparently won his seat last time around as a write-in candidate. It is the write-in candidate thing that I wanted to blog about, however, because people write in the damnedest things. My favorite mayoral votes tallied last night include:
  • Mickey Mouse,
  • Vladimir Lenin,
  • Dick Cheney,
  • and, my top choice, Mai Dog.

The most amusing thing about this is that apparenly at the official results notice this evening, the poor City Clerk has to read all the names of everyone that was voted for. And naturally, this is being broadcast live on the Takoma Park city local cable channel. Tune in for what promises to be a scintillating reading.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Trick r' treat!

What I learned this Halloween:

  • There are "live" streets where families go all out, have lots of candy and tons of kids frolic everywhere. And these kdis are not just neighborhood kids, but gangs of kids either interloping or being trucked in from other parts of town. Woodland Avenue, where we first tried to buy a house and where our friends the Dusseres live, is a "live" street.
  • Likewise, there are "dead" streets where virtually no one will show up. Because it is a main road, as of now at 8:40pm, I officially believe that I live on a "dead" street. Which is OK, because we can just go over to the Dusseres.
  • It is also a good thing because one must be certain to always buy enough candy. The Dusseres were running out so I rushed to our place to bring half of our Wonka cache and all the Take 5s and chocolate chip granola bars (for the granola parents).
  • Kids love Wonka. But I already knew this, because last year my Peruvian nieces and nephews only asked for bags of Wonka candy and I brought each of them a five-pound bag I had hoarded since Halloween the year before. They still talk about it. Also still talking about it are my cousins who are still upset at me -- not that I brought their kids the candy, but that I didn't bring them (my cousins, the kids' parents) any candy.
  • Kids also love Heath bars. This genuinely surprised me, since I always considered them "adult candy bars."
  • Kids do not like coconut. The Dusseres were getting passed over since all they had left were Mounds. Luckily, I love Mounds.
  • Students have a hard time taking their professor seriously if said professor is wearing bunny ears or (more distracting) a cottontail. (Pictures to come.) The gravitas partially returns, however, when you give them a quiz. On the day that their midterms are due. Yes, I am evil.
  • The Supreme Court can get tricky.

Darn you, U.S. government!!

There are many reasons why I am shaking my fist like Homer Simpson this morning at the U.S. Government. (Say, for example, the new Supreme Coast Justice nominee.) But my beef this morning is far more mundane: I'm railing against Daylight Savings Time.

Why? you ask. After all, did you not get the extra hour of sleep/fun this weekend? Oh sure, I would have. Except someone forgot to tell my baby! Having no clue what daylight ssavings time (or, for that matter, time in general) is, he woke up at his normal time for the day this morning... which now is around 5:30am. Thr itony is that now (at 7:00am) he's napping, while I'm awke.

So, because I love my son, I blame the government.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

My child ate your homework

Xan and I love to go food shopping. OK, maybe Xan doesn't really care for it (at least until I give him a can to play with), but it's a lot of fun for me. Not only do I get stopped all the time and people tell me how cute he is, but it's also something to do to amuse him and get something useful done at the same time.

Today we went to Trader Joe's first, as usual. At the checkout, I gave him the shopping list. He quite happily was using it to bang himself and everything around him and I was loathe to take it away. Since he wasn't putting it in his mouth, I left it with him while we drove back to the Shopper's Food Warehouse by our home.

When I opened the back door of the car, this is what I found being held by an extremely happy little boy:

Luckily, I could still read everything on here. I figure at least he's getting some fiber.

This happens immedaitely before I am to receive the first major stacks of papers from students this semester -- and, indeed, for the first time since becoming a dad. Suddenly, I am imagining the state I may have to return some papers in as he gets a little older. "By any chance, does anyone recognize this paper before the name was chewed off?" Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 28, 2005

Evidence that improving Sino-American relations are perhaps not a good thing

Ange showed me this and, while we wonder what exactly our colleague Kelly was googling when he found this instead, I assure you that this is possibly the most compelling three minutes of video you will see in a long time.

It don't mean a thing if you ain't got that...

My adoring blog-readers, your clamoring has been heard. I have been very lax at updating the blog of late and I apologize. (This, right after I told my cousin Mónica to keep checking it.) Things have been busy, busy, busy -- and won't get any better on Monday, when I will receive the papers from both classes that I idiotically assigned to be due on the same day. This weekend, with the nuptuals of one Katie Taylor happening (and Angela and I in full costume at the wedding), doesn't stand to be much less busy.

Hence, this is a perfect time for my son to discover that there is possibly no greater therapy than a swing. Somehow, I think he understands.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Squish! Squash!

Angela actually used these words today when exposing Xan to the mysteries of Squash-o-Lanterns. (Tune in later to see pics of these in action! Meanwhile, guess what's for dinner!) Posted by Picasa

This one's for Julie Donahue, for obvious reasons

My nephew (the lucky bastard) got Lloyd Dobler. And I haven't seen this one. Still...

Which John Cusack Are You?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Not to mention I was wearing my sweatshirt that reads "American University DAD"

I took Xan this morning to go see In Her Shoes at the Georgetown Loews cry-baby screening, where I was one of two people with a Y chormosone in a packed theater over the age of five. (Though not nearly as accomplished as A History of Violence, which I saw last night with Cuozzo, I found it far more entertaining than I thought it would be. Not up to director Curtis Hanson's other work, but still fun.)

The priceless moment came before the screening. As I purchased my ticket, a woman came up with her baby behind me and said, "Oh, how cute. Are you a manny?"

Ah, Washington.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

ZZ: Tops

Is this cute? It makes a professor's heart go pitter-pat.

My former TA, Dan Zak, now writes movie reviews for The Buffalo News; my other former TA, Emily Zemler, now works for Entertainment Weekly, doing something she hasn't quite told me yet. Though it seems she would be perfect for the "Going Five Rounds [of Drinks] with [Insert Rock Band with Cute Male Singer Here]" for the Listen2It section, I can only assume -- since she won't tell me -- that she gets coffee or something... and apparently, occasionally posts to the EW blog, PopWatch.

Nearly five years after having collided in my Critical Approach to the Cinema class and sparring every since (Quoting EZ, minutes before I was going to ask her to be my new TA: "I'm so angry that you chose Dan as your TA and not me!"), they collide once again as PopWatch lists Dan's review of Serenity in their humorous summary of review titles riffing on the movie title. OK, so Emily didn't write it -- still, it warms the cockles of my heart. Way to go, guys!

But then, what to do with the gilblet gravy?

I just read an ad in the CityPaper for a nightclub which will feature a Thanksgiving Day attraction of mashed potato wrestling.

The scarier part? Upon googling "mashed potato wrestling," I find that it is a sport practiced in many places, particularly Clark, South Dakota, the mashed potato capital of the world.

Pretty much speechless now.

Friday, September 30, 2005

9/30/55 at 50

It's appropriate (for me) that I'm putting together what textbooks I'd like to teach for my upcoming class on movie stars because it's 50 years today that James Dean etched his permanent place among the Hollywood firmament by crashing his Porsche Spyder and dying. Not necessarily a great actor nor one with a tremendous range, Dean was only in three features: East of Eden, Rebel without a Cause and Giant. The 50th anniversary of the release of Rebel, his most iconic film (and, hokey as it is today, one of my very favorites -- the image above features him and the also-doomed-in-real-life Natalie Wood), will be in three days. Dean's beyond-intense acting style, paired with a man-boy look (and an ambiguously sexual sensuality) that epitomized unsure adolescence (a concept just emerging in the 50s), changed (along with Brando and Clift) what it meant not only to be a leading man in the movies -- but what it meant to be an American man to begin with. It was OK for boys to cry and to still become men (as I assured my son this morning, when he got his third and final quadruple vaccine). Indeed, we can credit Dean partially for "sensitive new-age kinda guys" like myself. Dean's death was mourned by millions of confused adolescents and the date was etched in desktops and put on t-shirts by the thousands.

(The irony here? I am utterly fascinated by Dean and his star image -- and be that as it may, I think I'm actually going to forego him for the class and screen Red River so I can get the two-fer of man's man John Wayne and girly-man Montgomery Clift.)

Anyway, we miss ya, Jimmy -- even guys like me who are too young to have ever been directly affected by you, even if your death assured that you wouldn't become the old, sad, obese caricature that your contemporary pioneer Brando has become.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

I think that I shall never see/A billboard as lovely as a tree

(Ogden Nash)

As I mentioned the other day, a very large tree branch fell off the other day, injuring a student. Somehow, it didn't dawn on me that the entire tree would be taken down -- a gorgeous old shade tree under which it was very nice to have lunch or read. Indeed, we took a family picture of sorts (with me in my robes) at the last AU graduation under the tree. Of course, if the branches are snapping off in such a willy-nilly fashion, it probably had to go. Still, there is something that makes me sad when I walk into work and see a big tree like that cut down, reminscent of either The Giving Tree or The Virgin Suicides. It makes me wistful, nostalgic.

(Then again, the ensuing stump will probably make a great platform from which to speak at today's student protest concerning the presidential follies set to happen today.)

Little Boy Blue

"These shoes sure are yummy!" Posted by Picasa
Gosh, but doesn't he look like a little boy here? Angela and I keep marveling at how less like a baby he looks and how more like a little guy he's becoming. Of course, this first attempt at both pants and shoes helps a bit, not that he can walk quite yet or anything. But the attempts at crawling are progressing: he can now both lift his head up with his hands and lift his butt up with his feet. All he has to figure out is how to do that at the same time. And then I should probably teach him how to shave and all.
Believe me, I don't want him to walk quite yet. Because rather than that being a godsend because he can totter after me, I know quite well that this will only mean that I will have to run after him -- and that once I get him, I'll still have to carry him. (My father is undoubtedly cackling in revenge now, since I faked being asleep in the car so that he would carry me out until I was almost 12.)

Monday, September 26, 2005

Fasten your seat belts, boys, it's gonna be a bumpy ride

So here's what happened on campus this afternoon, in about the space of two hours:

  1. Walking out of my 2:10 class, my TA Nora and I notice that there are a huge bunch of people on the Quad. I say to Nora, "What's going on? Is there a demonstration?" (See #2 for why I might have thought this.) Another student who was going by in the other direction overheard me and said, "Tree branch." Indeed, the very large tree in front of my office building had a very large branch toward the top fall right off. And, since it was during the changeover between classes, someone was hit. Taken away in an ambulance, but thank goodness it was only one person.
  2. At 4:00, the entire AU faculty met to discuss the current situation concerning AU President Ben Ladner, blown open earlier this week in a Washington Post story (emailed to me by two alumni within five minutes of each other). I would rather not comment in this kind of public forum concerning my personal response to the issue -- but I will say that I agree with my colleagues at the College of Arts and Sciences and the decision we have all come to. (You AU folk who read my blog are welcome to email me if you'd like to know my opinion -- off the record, natch, for you journalists...) UPDATE: It appears the story is already out at the Post, so now you know what I think. :)
  3. Leaving the front of the building with my colleague Eric, we passed the remnants of the fallen tree. We then saw a a fire truck out on Nebraska Avenue. I joked to Eric, "Did your car spontaneously combust again?" He said, "You know, it's possible!" I assumed it had something to do with the tree or something -- and then we saw the blown-out windows of a Reston limousine bus, which had indeed burned up and blown apart. I still have no idea whether said bus was, in fact, heading toward DHS (which is only a block away) but all of Nebraska Avenue got shut down right during rush hour.

All sorts of craziness. At least it finally rained after a month of dryness!

(Tomorrow: More Xan's pics!)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

"Rita, are you decent?"

"Who, me?" Posted by Picasa

I mean, what more do you want from me? I talked about you extensively in class the other day, even showing a selection from Gilda. I'm even considering adopting a textbook in order to do a whole unit on you next semester. And yet, you still choose to threaten the Texan coast, threatening poor Houston where the other Middents academic (and all of his family, including my closely listening blogging nephew) had been before they fled to College Station today.

Enough is enough, Rita. You once said, "My problem is that men have always gone to bed with Gilda and woken up to me." Well, Rita, how about this time you leave quickly and quietly in the middle of the night instead?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

My Little 50 (Per) Cent

It's September 20th, which marks my late abuelita Susana's birthday. More to the point, however, my little boy is six months old!

Happy 1/2-Birthday, Alexander!!!

In case you're wondering, we celebrated by introducing sweet potatoes into the diet today, following the successful introduction over the last two weeks of butternut squash and papilla. (Mmm, papilla.) We're trying to decide if to follow this with peas, carrots...or actually take a dive into uncharted fruit terrain with apples or bananas.

We also celebrated by supplementing his favorite afternoon activity: watching traffic. Today, someone must have known that Xan wanted something exciting, because a nasty three-car accident happened kitty-corner to our house (!). No one was hurt, but our street was closed for over two hours during rush hour, with the cops taking lots of pictures and dusting for prints, so methinks that perhaps there was more to this crash than we thought. Nonetheless, the police cars, policemen, police dogs and halted traffic (until they closed the street down) provided much excitement for a little six-month-old brain.

My kid is half a year old! Where did the time go?

Thursday, September 15, 2005

MmmBop til you drop (some change)

Just a few days ago, my nephew posted on his blog some musings about Hanson, the band that gave the world "MmmBop." ("My thoughts are as follows: Yep, Still gay. Gay and out of tune, at that.")

How amusing then to find that the very same song was in the news, at least in the DC rag Express, being used as a torture device in induce high school students to give money for Katrina relief efforts.

Joel, I think you may have found a new punishment mechanism for your daughter, waaaay more effective than any old time-out.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Today's lesson: Some food is a little too solid

Mmmm... plastic... Posted by Picasa
As you can see here, X-Man has entered the realm of solid food. He does not yet seem to understand, however, that hard plastic is not exactly solid food. While it is solid, it is not food. The same goes for my shoulder and the plastic part of the backpack contraption. Clearly, he has misunderstood me and has now learned, and I'm sure tomorrow he won't try to ingest my entire hand or anything else that comes remotely near his mouth.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Toto, I don't think we're in N'awlins anymore...

I’ve been to New Orleans three times. The last time was for the MLA conference in 2002, where I had some fun with friends from grad school and had two interviews for jobs that eventually didn’t call me back. A good time with great food because Nirmala had lived in NOLA, but that’s not how I remember the town.

No, the way I remember the city is from my first trip, which was a doozy. The Dartmouth College Glee Club goes every year on tour somewhere in the United States, drumming up alumni support and basically having a good time. Tour is one of the reasons I stayed in the group (mainly because I usually didn’t have any better plans for spring break), so when I graduated in 1993 and discovered that our director, Louis, wasn’t planning a new tour, I was outraged. “How do you expect to keep the freshmen in this group? We need to build the camaraderie, and tour does that!” I told him. “Well,” he said to me, “who’s going to be tour manager – you?”

And so it was that I became tour manager for the 1994 DCGC Spring Break tour through the southeastern United States, where we went to Georgia, Mississippi and Texas. And in the process, we went through Louisiana, even stopping in Monroe, the hometown of our bus driver, for a picnic lunch. We had a free day in New Orleans, however. This gave me some trepidation because (a) I was in charge of everyone, (b) we had a large number of freshmen, and (c) the drinking age in NOLA is 18. Recipe for disaster, I thought. I remember thinking, You know what? I don’t want to babysit these kids, I’m going to have fun by myself. I ended up pairing off with Rick Owen (who apparently is now a conductor himself now) and Itir Sayin and Itir and I made it our mission to find a good place to dance.

After strolling up and down Bourbon Street for a while, we eventually found this great place called Oz. There was no cover and the music was great. We both went in, hit the dance floor for a little while and had a great time. I told Itir, “We need to tell the rest of the group and come here!”

We were to meet the rest of the Glee Club for beignets at the-place-where-you-get-beignets (I can’t remember right now the name), and immediately upon arrival told the rest of the group about the great place we found. Not everyone wanted to dance, but a large group did, so Itir and I happily led this group of about 20-25 college kids down the street to Oz, perhaps even humming “We’re Off to See the Wizard.”

Upon arrival, we discover two things:

  1. There is now a guy at the door charging an entrance fee; and,
  2. There is a sign that reads, in capital letters, THIS IS A GAY BAR.

“I swear, that wasn’t there before,” I say to the somewhat shocked group. Not-that-there's-anything-wrong-with-this, but this is after all the Dartmouth College Glee Club, which would hardly admit the fact that there were any gay members until at least three months after graduation.

“Was that there before?” someone said, pointing to the dancers on the bar wearing nothing but thongs with dollar bills sticking out.

“No,” I say, unconvincingly.

Undeterred, Itir and I go in anyway and have a great time.

Interestingly enough, this experience helped me for the only other time I went to New Orleans, for the first academic conference I ever went to, a Latin American film conference at Tulane. My first presentation was embarrassingly bad on many levels, but I remember getting adopted for a while by this group of gay Latin American film scholars who were looking for something to do one night. (They thought my Peruvian Spanish was cute as I would spoke it on the streetcar. Oddly enough, I was young and clueless and had no idea that they were gay, nor that two of them were hitting on me.) We ended up going to Lucky Chang’s, notable for its fusion of Cajun and Chinese cuisine… and its waitstaff consisting entirely of drag queens. (I remember watching a waiter stroking an older gentleman’s hand while reciting the desserts, with the gentleman’s wife attempting to refrain from laughing at the fact that her husband had no idea that a man was stroking his hand.) After dinner, they were looking for something to do and I remembered Oz was down the street. I had a great time dancing with Carmelo, the one guy who wasn’t desperately trying to get me into bed and the only one of the three whose name I still even remember. (And no, you dirty-minded people, Carmelo and I didn’t hook up either; both of us were taken at the time and respected the other’s relationship. I think this is why I’m still friends with him.)

So there you go. Some of my best memories of Nawlins revolve around a gay discotheque. Which I saw on TV the other day, if I'm not mistaken, shown as an example of a place that had been looted.

Friday, September 09, 2005

And the best part is that you have to spray it on yourself

Yes, I'm posting this during the telethon for Katrina victims, serious enough that we're watching it on PBS.

And yet, I find in Entertainment Weekly mention of a new male fragrance I just have to find out about. Indeed, apparently there will soon be an entire beauty care line, so that all us guys can share in the experience of Cumming all over our bodies.

(I can't wait to read your comments on this. Please. Indulge me. Especially Russell, whose own blog never fails to entertain.)

Thursday, September 08, 2005

TFF, Day 4+: Closing Conversations

It's late and I've been up since 3:30am MST in transit, but I did want to get notice about one more movie in. We managed to stick around just long enough for the first night of the After-the-Fest Fest. I almost stayed for Fateless, a stylish meditation on the Holocaust, but decided that perhaps I wanted my Festival experience to end on a high note. Unexpectedly, Conversations with Other Women turned out to be a fun and breezy, yet contemplative way to end the festival. Starring Aaron Eckhart and Helena Bonham Carter as two late-thirtysomethings who meet at a wedding, the movie is witty and light until after it has already taken a couple of interesting turns and then it's way too late: you're sucked in. It's also done enitrely with a split screen. When I heard about this, I thought, "Egad, what a tired gimmick," but it turned out to be very effective, particularly when the image would momentarily shift from what the character was doing to what s/he was thinking. A fascinating flick, and a great way to end.

Back to everyday life and my adorable, sweet little kid with the beginnings of a tooth sticking out. Amazing, that kid is.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

TFF, Days 3 & 4: Festival of the Bs (and, When the Parents Are Away...)

The festival is officially over, although we'll get to watch two more films at the After-the-Fest fest tonight. As you may be able to tell from a lack of entry yesterday, things were pretty hectic ovr the past couple days. In full, my favorite film remains the Singaporean film Be with Me. That said, there were still plenty of fun thigns to see. Here's a recap of what I saw, in the order that I saw them:
  • I saw another of the Eugene Green films, but my second experience wasn't as good as the first. Green's style, which I liked for the highly entertaining modern-day fairy tale Le monde vivant I found far less effective with his most recent film, Le pont des arts. I wondered after seeing the first film whether his style would work with a more urban setting and a more "realistic" narrative; ironically, I found it less effective than the parable. Then again, I could be wrong: many other people I respected loved it.
  • Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain (snarkily called by some passholders Bareback Mounting)was a really beautiful adaptation of Annie Proulx's short story, although I found it a bit long. Then again, Proulx's economy of words is hard to dictate in film. Gorgeously shot by Rodrigo Prieto, the film is a love story between two cowboys and the Alberta mountainside that stands in for Wyoming. (If you're a South Park fan, you may be amused if I tell you that everyone here was saying, "But there was no pudding!") I could never really get over the fact that Jake Gyllenhal looked like the budding movie-star that he is; Heath Ledger, however, is completely unrecognizable in the role and deserves some recognition for it. And oh yeah: the sex is violent, just like in the story.
  • My good friend Pam Chandran told us we had to see Spirit of the Beehive yesterday morning, an allegorical film by Spanish director Victor Erice from the 60s. My manager asked me to tell her what it meant afterward. I said, "You know, I think this is the 4th Spanish civil-war oriented allegorical film that I've seen and I always think they're so beautiful and so deeply allegorical that I never get it." We may think twice now about taking Pam's advice, even if she was my rush chair.
  • Labor Day Picnic followed. Mmmmm, steak. Mmmmm, ice cream.
  • But I didn't stay long because I was running up for a gondola ride to the Chuck Jones Theatre to see two films in a row. The first was the other silent film at the festival Anthony Asquith's A Cottage on Dartmoor. An interesting little thriller that involved an attempted murder a la Sweeney Todd (sans meat pies), the real stunner was the amazing piano accompaniment by Stephen Horne (who occasionally accompanied his own piano with flute and/or plucking the inside of the piano). Really, a great experience.
  • Contributing to my "festival of the bees," I stayed up at the Chuck for Bee Season, the new film by Scott McGehee and David Siegel, the guys behind Suture and The Deep End. Some of my students may know that I loooooove The Deep End, so I was really excited to see this. I liked it, but I'll have to sit on it for a while. It was not as tightly structured as their other films, but perhaps this is because it's an adaptation. The acting is really quite good, though, particularly Flora Cross as the young girl. I have no idea how they're going to market this one, though; hopefully it'll still find an audience.
  • I ran down to see the Palestinean film Paradise Now, though I only was able to catch the last half hour or so. I will have to check this out when it gets released (which it apparently will). It seemed both powerful (as you would expect a film about suicide bombers to be) and gorgeously shot.
  • Finally, our theater closed with a documentary called Sisters in Law, about Muslim women in Cameroon fighting for their own justice. It's always fun to see a doc sans voice-over, in my opinion, and most people really enjoyed it. Must remember to tell Pat Aufderheide about this one for the Center for Social Media.
Missed at the festival, though I wanted to see them: Everything Is Illuminated, Hidden, Capote, Three Times, Live and Become, all the Mickey Rooney films and (ironically, the only Latin American oriented feature) The Lost City. Nonetheless, a good year.

The trend through most of the films I did see, however, was "the word." In many of these films, the main argument revolved around the use and power of the word: Bee Season, Sisters in Law, Be with Me, both of the Green films, and even A Cottage on Dartmoor, where a missed note provides a misunderstanding that nearly leads to murder, all had this in common.

Up tonight: Conversations with Other Women and Fateless, though we may only see one of these.

The more amazing thing, however: we called Linda this morning to see how she and Xan were doing and discovered that, in the few days we've been away, our little boy has hit a milestone: his first tooth, which emerged yesterday with little fanfare and a lot of drool. We can't wait to see it... although let's just say that Angela is looking to the first meal back with just a little trepidation.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

TFF, Day 2.5: On Chang and Theresa Chan

This is the first chance I've gotten since yesterday morning and there's been a bunch of film watching going on. First, the stuff that didn't thrill me at all. I had to work two films -- The President's Last Bang, about the last hours before the Korean president was assassinated in the 70s, and Lemming, a French thriller-romance-oddity starring festival tributee Charlotte Rampling -- both of which underwhelmed me at best, made me think why some art films are useless at worst. That said, I've had an amazing other experience withfour other films I've seen.

First up, my Kong festival continued with a double feature of Chang and I Am King Kong. The first was a silent film dramatizing the life of a family in Siam, directed by the same pair that directed King Kong. Seeing this earlier film, the character of Carl Denham was obviously close to home for director Mairen Cooper. All the scenes of natives shooting the tigers (and the conspicuous absence of an ASPCA statement saying "no animals were harmed in the making ofthis picture) made me a little queasy; that said, the movie featured some extraordinary filmmaking with wild close-ups of both an elephant stampede and a growling tiger. Plus, it was accompanied by the always amazing Alloy Orchestra, which is why I went in the first place. The rain kept me inside, however, to see the documentary on Cooper that followed and wow, what a lifethat man had. It turns out that indeed Denham's character is all about Cooper, who was Indiana Jones with a camera before there was Indiana Jones. If nothing else, the audio interviews with Cooper provided the most colorful uses of the word "goddamn" (and the most frequent usage) that I've heard since my dad used to hit his head on our low basement when I was a kid. It will accompany the November DVD release of King Kong, so check it out.

This morning, I saw two interesting films. The first was Le monde vivant, part of a three-film retrospective of French director Eugene Green that the festival is putting on. It's very stylized and yet features some simple filmmaking related closely to innocence and myth. I think some of the audience found it silly, but I found it utterly charming. I just got out of an Iranian film called The Iron Island, clearly a parable about hopelessness among the unprivileged in Iran where a rusting ship stands in for the country as a whole. The ending left me a little unsatisfied, but thinking.

Finally -- and this will disappoint Jen Lien, although I'm hoping she will comment on what she knows -- my favorite film of the festival so far was the Singaporean Be with Me that I was hoping to get into when I wrote yesterday. Mesmerizing: so much so that I traded shifts with Angela to ensure that she could see it this morning. With very little dialogue and an almost still camera, the film is a lovely slow boil that becomes totally engrossing when we start putting everything together. It features an amazing performance from Theresa Chan, a blind and deaf woman who nonetheless learned how to speak (speak! audially articulate!) English even after both disabilities developed. It's a heartbreaker -- and you'll be surprised if I say that none of the sad parts involve her, but rather the other three characters that are revolving around one another. Interesting uses of language and just gorgeous cinematography. In my mind, it ranks up in festival fare with 2000's Yi Yi (by Edward Yang) which became a festival favorite by word of mouth. Indeed, I haven't talked to a single person who has seenthe film who didn't totally love it.

On the parental front: yes, I am being a bad father in that I hadthe cell phone all day yesterday and by the time I realized I should call, it was way too late. We called Linda this mroning, however, and the little boy is having the time of his life. We keep seeing lots of babies around here though, which makes us think we should have brought him. We'll see what happens next year.

Up for possibility this afternoon is Brokeback Mountain which, surprisingly, was announced to show in our theater this evening.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

TFF: Day 1 - The 800 lb. gorilla

There are a whole bunch of iMacs around the festival, thanks to Apple's sponsorship this year, so I'm actually able to offer a quick update. (This is also because I just found out that the movie I wanted to see, Andy Garcia's directorial debut The Lost City was sold out. I expected this, so no big deal, although I hope to catch it during the festival. It is an adaptation of Guillermo Cabrera Infante's Three Trapped Tigers and therefore might be appropriate should I teach my course on the Boom again. Right now, my attempt to see it justifies the price of my ticket as a legitimate tax write-off, so there we go.) We've also connected up immediately with the Dartmouth/Alpha Theta crew, which is fab.

There is not much to say right now, other than we are slowly remembering that we are over a mile above sea level and that running up stairs is a bad idea. The weather is pretty good though: typical Telluride with a mix of sun and clouds and the chance of thunderstorms all day. Thankfully, no snow this year (yet). Angela and I both now seem to be no longer considered newbies at our theater, which is a good feeling too.

There are some big-name films at the festival (Everything Is Illuminated, Brokeback Mountain, etc.) but one quickly learns at this festival to avoid the big box films, at least right away, and head for more esoteric fare. The theater that we work at is perfect for this: the Mason's Hall is small, intimate and clearly has the most eclectic program.

So far, we've only seen one film, but it was a beaut: King Kong. No, not the new one by Peter Jackson. This was the old one, with Fay Wray and the special effects that inspired Harryhausen. I hadn't seen the whole thing before, and certainly not from such a beautiful 35mm print, so I was thrilled. Poor Kong: he fights off all sorts of beasts (dinosaurs, snakes, pterodactyls, racially stereotyped natives, Hollywood producers) and the girl is totally unappreciative in the end. I mean, really, what's a guy gotta do?

Next attempt: a Singaporean flick called Be with Me. Not sure if I'll get into that, but we'll see.

Thursday, September 01, 2005


Sorry for the lack of updates of late -- beginning of semester business already draggin' me down. And now, I'm heading out of town with Angela to Telluride for FilmFest. Update perhaps throughout, definitely when we get back.

Feel free to guess the ratio between film watching enjoyment and baby missing blues.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Reminiscing on Sunday, listening to the Sundays...

It's that little souvenir of a colorful year
That makes me smile inside
So I cynically, cynically say the world is that way
Surprise, surprise, surprise, surprise...

First summer of being a dad. Quite the experience. The 4th of July parade, running after politicians, then quietly painting in the backyward while listening to classical music. Long trips to Cape Cod and the North Carolina beach, where you slept for long periods of time, being the best little boy possible until it was just unreasonable for you to be strapped into that chair for so long. Days inside the house, because it was just too hot to go for a walk -- and lots of days where Mom brought you out to dip your feet in Sligo Creek, or your whole body in the little inflatable pool left over from our grad school days in Michigan. Painting and rearranging the laundry room, which lead to an unfortunate avoidance of the weed-haven of the front lawn. Mom dilligently pulling those weeds, hoping it would eventually work out. The wondrously tall stalks of flowers by the fence, taller than even Mom or Dad. Meeting Oma and Opa for the first time, watching their faces light up with your smiles.

You turning over, even if you won't turn back yet. You, laughing your butt off for no apparent reason whatsoever. You, making two hours of crying disappear with a single smile. You, with the most adorable wheezy cry ever. You, being born, becoming you.

Thank you for letting me be here for almost all of it, for having a sabbatical where I got to be more a part of your life than probably any other dad these days. It has been utterly amazing.

Tomorrow, classes begin again.

Here's where the story ends,
Ooooh, here's where the story ends.

Time to turn the page. New chapter begins. Let's go at it together, what do you say?

Friday, August 26, 2005

Who needs to go out on Friday nights? Or watch stupid comedies on ABC?

Let us take this moment away from baby talk for a moment to drool slightly over PBS's recent Friday night lineup which, because I am now an old lefty academic, I find a little... well, hot.

On the left, we have David Brancaccio. When he was the voice of NPR's Marketplace, I thought he was very intelligent and had a great radio voice. I have been disappointed with seeing what some of my favorite radio personalities actually look like. (Then again, I'm such a fan of Daniel Schorr that I would wear his old mug on a t-shirt any old time. Eric Martinsen, I know you would, too.) Nonetheless, Mr. Brancaccio left radio to work PBS' Now, the embattled current emblem of Everything Wrong with Public Television According to the Republican Party. (For the record, I also think Bill Moyers is tres cool and a fairly courageous personality in this day and age. Yeah, boy howdy, I'm a liberal, ain't I?) In any case, it turns out that Mr. Brancaccio does not have a face for radio. He's so earnest-looking, yet wise. Like an assistant professor who is trying very hard to get you to understand a concept. (The fact that I not only know assistant professors but am one is entirely irrelevant to this analogy.) I mean, isn't he dreamy? Don't you just want to go into his office hours and have him explain public policy to you?

Or maybe you'd prefer to be locked up. In which case, we have Sharon Small on the right. Not exactly the starlet but hey, I'll take her over Lindsey Lohan any day. She has had a couple of good roles in films, most prominently in Dear Frankie, but I think she's best known here for playing Barbara Havers on the PBS Mystery! series The Inspector Lynley Mysteries. Characterized as smart and scrappy (if lower-class and therefore, since this is a British series, doomed), Havers is the best personality on the show. I have been informed by my Dean (through Angela) that in the books, she is supposed to be highly unattractive; Sharon Small is far from that. Not that she'll make magazine covers, perhaps, but wouldn't you also want to talk over a good pint about a case with her?

Yes, when I become the right demographic for PBS, you know there's too much So You Think You Can Dance? on network television. (Then again -- mmmm, David Brancaccio... mmmm, Sharon Small.... mmmm, Daniel Schorr... wait, no, that takes it too far.)

Given that I just blogged about David Brancaccio, it should not surprise me that I am a...

Pure Nerd
56 % Nerd, 30% Geek, 34% Dork

For The Record: A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia. A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one. A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions. You scored better than half in Nerd, earning you the title of: Pure Nerd.

The times, they are a-changing. It used to be that being exceptionally smart led to being unpopular, which would ultimately lead to picking up all of the traits and tendences associated with the "dork." No-longer. Being smart isn't as socially crippling as it once was, and even more so as you get older: eventually being a Pure Nerd will likely be replaced with the following label: Purely Successful.


Link: The Nerd? Geek? or Dork? Test written by donathos on Ok Cupid

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Xan Middents: Celebrity Spokesmodel

Given that we finally had decent weather in which to take an afternoon walk, Xan and I went out to fabulous downtown Takoma Park. I thought that perhaps we didn't have enough new pictures of the cutest little guy on the planet to send to the grandparents, so I whipped the camera out and took a couple of pictures, including this one:

Xan Middents, with bug Posted by Picasa

Personally, I was pretty impressed with this one: it hasn't been retouched at all. We then went to CVS to print the pictures. The person at the counter told us it would only take about 10-15 minutes, so I decided to wander around the store.

When I got back, he handed me the pictures and then said, "Would you mind if I used one of your pictures as a sample photograph?"


"As one of the sample photographs."

"Oh! Which one?"

But I already knew which one he was talking about. And so, my son is now, at the ripe age of five months, shilling for CVS as Mr. 5x7 at the Takoma Park CVS. Isn't that hysterical? For our troubles, I got a free 5x7 enlargement of my own with a frame to match. Naturally, that will appear on my desk when I go in tomorrow.

Of course, Vega and I are both a little ticked off that he didn't choose this one. What an ego-deflator. (Despite what Russell says, "Hot" I am not.)

Jeff and the animal worth only five points Posted by Picasa

Friday, August 19, 2005

This reminds me of when I have to tell someone that I am PROFESSOR Middents to get something done

The second half of Roger Ebert's hilarious, take-no-prisoners-unless-you-beat-theirs-stumps-with-their-own-arms review of Deuce Bigelow:European Gigalo, proving that the most entertaining reviews are always the ones for the worst movies --

The movie created a spot of controversy last February. According to a story by Larry Carroll of MTV News, Rob Schneider took offense when Patrick Goldstein of the Los Angeles Times listed this year's Best Picture Nominees and wrote that they were "ignored, unloved and turned down flat by most of the same studios that ... bankroll hundreds of sequels, including a follow-up to 'Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo,' a film that was sadly overlooked at Oscar time because apparently nobody had the foresight to invent a category for Best Running Penis Joke Delivered by a Third-Rate Comic."

Schneider retaliated by attacking Goldstein in full-page ads in Daily Variety and the Hollywood Reporter. In an open letter to Goldstein, Schneider wrote: "Well, Mr. Goldstein, I decided to do some research to find out what awards you have won. I went online and found that you have won nothing. Absolutely nothing. No journalistic awards of any kind ... Maybe you didn't win a Pulitzer Prize because they haven't invented a category for Best Third-Rate, Unfunny Pompous Reporter Who's Never Been Acknowledged by His Peers."

Reading this, I was about to observe that Schneider can dish it out but he can't take it. Then I found he's not so good at dishing it out, either. I went online and found that Patrick Goldstein has won a National Headliner Award, a Los Angeles Press Club Award, a award, and the Publicists' Guild award for lifetime achievement.Schneider was nominated for a 2000 Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actor, but lost to Jar-Jar Binks.

But Schneider is correct, and Patrick Goldstein has not yet won a Pulitzer Prize. Therefore, Goldstein is not qualified to complain that Columbia financed "
Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo" while passing on the opportunity to participate in "Million Dollar Baby," "Ray," "The Aviator," "Sideways" and "Finding Neverland." As chance would have it, I have won the Pulitzer Prize, and so I am qualified. Speaking in my official capacity as a Pulitzer Prize winner, Mr. Schneider, your movie sucks.

(Thanks to Defective Yeti for highlighting this. How come J.J. didn't get to it first?)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

That rocket you're waiting for? Want to suck on its exhaust?

(This reaction will no doubt please the folks over at Baggage Carousel 4 while causing those who listen closely as well as the newly outed DCLush to, at the very least, roll their eyes at me...)

I occassionally listen to the pop radio that is marketed to my demographic. In the Metro rag Express (a.k.a. Post lite), I read yesterday that Jazon Mraz publicly stated that smoking makes him happy.

And you know what? The moment I read that, I actually felt myself starting to really dislike his music grow. And this grew exponentially as time went on. Now, I'm actually looking forward to turning to a new station when I hear "Curbside Prophet" come on the radio again -- and I kinda sorta liked the ditty at one point (the first 28 times I heard it in a single car ride).

Somehow, New Order's constant, unabashed use of heroin and Rufus Wainwright's confession of rampant drug use don't bother me. But Mraz's public joy he's felt he needs to express for his cancer sticks? That annoys me.

Or perhaps makes me realize just how annoying he really is.

Funny, eh?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Walk like an Egyptian, but waddle like an emperor

Xan and I went to see March of the Penguins today which, I thought, could be summed up as an exceptionally well-photographed National Geographic special. (Which, as it turns out, is what it is, since one of the production companies was National Geographic Feature Films.) I am in fact not entirely sure why this has become the Second Coming of the Documentary – it’s done well and it’s entertaining and all, but there are better docs out there.

That said, considering that the movie moved fairly slowly and therefore meant that if Xan distracted me I didn’t really lose the plot (“wait, are those the females marching now or what??”), it was an ideal film to attend with an infant. I went with some friends who also have an infant, 7-month-old Ruby. Angela met mom Sarah at her Mom’s Group; I met Adam when they came over for Peruvian Independence Day. And I have to say that Xan was a total champ! He quietly nibbled the restraint in his carrier through the (gazillion) previews, then sat snuggled in my lap, fascinated by the movie for almost 45 minutes. Maybe this is because we haven’t been watching TV or movies with him at home at all? Who knows, it brought joy to my heart. Then, when he started getting antsy, I pointed him toward Ruby (who was being held by Adam) and the two of them hit it off wonderfully, smiling and talking to each other. Oddly enough, we had a seemingly gendered moment when Ruby’s very feminine, high-pitched sighs were met with Xan’s deep, gruff grunts. He also didn’t seem to mind at all that Ruby kept smacking him in the face. Better he learn now! The two of them had a grand old time. Adam, who also will have Tuesday mornings at home with Ruby, and I will definitely have to get together as the semester progresses.

Later, he turned into a movie critic by babbling constantly in the car, full of new-found consonants. Our son turns out to be a budding blabbermouth. This, I’m sure, surprises no one.