Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Narcisstic googling (or, Why I am soooooo popular)

So one of my former students (who is currently "somewhere on K Street with my soul being taken away") sent me this message:

So after reading your latest blog—yes I admit it—I went into Google to find the commercial and watch it. I typed in “American Express Kate Winslet commercial” and not only did I eventually find it. But your blogspot turned up on THE FIRST PAGE OF GOOGLE. Therefore you’re a bonafide star now. You made the front page of Google, without even trying, and certainly and thankfully without paying for it. Haha.

Naturally, this led me to wonder what happens if you google my name directly. Looking at "Jeffrey Middents" naturally brings up some usual suspects, including various things at AU, some publications and news items and, of course, this blog (which, if you didn't know this, can also be accessed through www.jeffreymiddents.com, thanks to my sister-in-law). Indeed, the only amusing thing accessed using my full name is a letter to the editor of my college newspaper where I got on my high horse after someone wrote an editorial about how the gay right movement shouldn't be equated to the civil rights movement. (Said writer, about whose writing I wrote "provided great opportunity to show exactly how bad writing can confuse and anger your readers," apparently now works for The Nation. Oops.)

Putting "Jeff Middents" in, however, yields some more entertaining results. For one, the main things that come up are programs for The Sorcerer and Ruddigore, two shows I performed with The University of Michigan Gilbert and Sullivan Society. Thankfully, there are no pictures here, or at least not of me. I also appear in the script for the graduation halftime show of the Dartmouth College Marching Band (where I played cymbals), an announcement that I got married on my fraternity alumni page and (in a related vein) a picture from big sis Sara's wedding, featuring "all the Jeffs."

Googling just "middents" thankfully does not list me first. That honor goes to my brother Jonathan who, former students may be surprised, is also a professor. (He tried to talk me out of it. Silly man.)

Inputting my college fraternity nickname and my last name on pulls up one relevant result. Thankfully. In this way, my students won't find it out without looking very hard. No, I will not coddle you by giving you the nickname here.

What is amusing is how this has all changed, of course. There was a time when googling me would result in one photograph of me handing back student papers on the picket line when we had a work stoppage at Michigan. Given how fat and horrible I looked, I'm glad that appears to have disappeared.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Laughing my butt off I am

Angela found this linked from the website of one of her crap-science-fiction writers. In this blog,, Yoda lives with Mace Windu, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin. Because they are dysfunctional, they go on Doctor Phil. I am trying my darnedest not to wake my child up with my laughter. Oh, and check out Master Yoda's reaction to a certain movie that opened on Friday, May 20th. Inspired.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Becoming Brandon -- yay!

Ah, the memory of Brandon David Adams. It is highly unlikely that he will read this and, if he does, it will be a miracle and a half if he writes to me concerning it (although if anyone wishes to tell him about this, be my guest -- I would love to be proven wrong here). Brandon is one of my favorite people in the world: the guy who lived across the hall from me freshman year of college who we first heard about as "the guy who tap dances." At first, this unnerved my roommate and I, who were both thoroughly entranced by the likes of alternative music (although he tended toward the Pixies and Diamanda Galas and I tended toward Depeche Mode and Erasure, meaning that we met in the middle at the Sisters of Mercy). And yet Brandon and we became very good friends, not in the least because the three of us were in glee club together and we were all in awe of Julie Kulchuk (née Full Fare), who came down to us lowly folks in the River Cluster to talk about what college freshmen do until we all fell asleep. Brandon was known among us for many things, including spontaneous tapping (which I still occasionally do) and inventing patently ridiculous sing-songs, such as the immortal "Juuuuu-lie/Julie, Julie Full Fare/She likes to watch you eat -- yay!"

Note the "yay!" Indeed, this is a constant Brandonism, a word forever associated with him. Oftentimes, it precedes a distrubingly horrific concept so as to disarm it completely and make it seem light-hearted and carefree. For example: "Yay! Nuclear war!"; "Yay! We're going to be disemboweled by heathens!" and the ever-popular standard: "Yay! Death!" I was attached to post-teenage morbidity by way of Depeche Mode; Brandon with an exclamation. (Aside: Brandon's other refrain, also repeated by the aforementioned Ms. Full Fare, was -- spoken in a happy, sing-songy voice -- "Sadness! Sorrow! Doom! Despair!" The exclamation points here are not merely written punctuation either.)

Here's the issue: I find myself saying "Yay!!" a lot these days.

Granted, this is because I'm Xan's primary caretaker for now. And he's learned how to smile, which sends him (and me) into sensory overload with joy. He's also almost carrying on conversations with me via some mutlisyllabic cooing, which is also adorable. And so, when something funny happens, or he's done something cool, or he's just looking awfully cute, I've tened to respond with a heartfelt "Yay!!" Ever the linguist, Ange says that while Brandon uses the construction "Yay, object," I have tended to use "Object, yay." (In case you didn't know this, my wife did an analysis of the grammatical inconsistencies in Yoda-speak in graduate school.)

At least I haven't devolved into the baby-talk gobbledy-gook that I find somewhat idiotic. Nonetheless, I'm wondering how my actions this summer are going to haunt my everyday life, particularly when I go back to teach in the fall.

"So, class, how might we approach the rampant sexuality in Cuarón's Y tu mamá también?"
"Well, the raw use of the hand-held camera might expose the empty significance of the sexuality."
"Empty signifiance -- yay!! You did soooooo well, Emily! Yes, you did! You did really well!"
"But Professor Middents, I was going to say that! Why didn't you pick me?"
"Oooooh, Todd, I know you have a crush on Emily. I know you feel bad. Iiiiit's OK. Here, let me put you on my shoulder and pat your back so that I can get some of that gas out of you. Theeeere we go."
"Wait a minute, this is really kinda wei- urp!"
"Are you still talking? Here, try this pacifier. Thaaaaat's a gooooood boooooy, yes you are. Professor Middents is going to teach now, OK Todd? Good."

I'm telling you -- I think a clause concerning the use of pacifiers is going into the next set of syllabi, right next to the part where I inform them how I will break their cell phones if they go off during class. Pacifiers, yay!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Tonight's nostalgia is sponsored by American Express

Yeah, yeah, commercials are evil and the bane of all our existence, appearing everywhere now from the movies to the subway to the urinal.

Currently, however, I'm pleased by the American Express "My Life, My Card" campaign. The dancing Ellen spot amused me (much the way Ellen does) and the Laird Hamilton spot was appropriately thrilling. (The DeNiro spot smacked too much of cross-promotion for his filmfest, but I suppose that's not an entirely bad thing to be shilling.)

The new ad featuring Kate Winslet is very cool, to the extent that I wonder if it was directed by hubby Sam. I'm particularly pleased because the narration begins with "At 17, I was put in jail for murdet." Each quote references one of her films -- and indeed that one references her first, Heavenly Creatures. Anyone who has ever taken my Critical Approach to the Cinema class knows that this remains one of my favorite flicks (the poster is above my desk at work), as much for the amazing nature of the film as the way I first experienced it. The summer of 1994, I was working for the Telluride Film Festival in New Hampshire (don't ask why the dissonant locations). Festival director Bill Pence asked if I could come out to his place to watch a film that had been sent over. "What is it?" I asked.

"Something called Heavenly Creatures," he said.

I hadn't heard of it. "Anyone of interest in it?"

"Not really. From New Zealand. Directed by some guy named Peter Jackson."

I shrugged. Able to get a ride and having nothing else more promising to do that evening, I went over. I sat in Bill's comfy sofa with some popcorn as the lights dimmed and the camera started.

If you've seen the movie (all my students know this, since this is part of my lecture on openings), it opens with old-style documentary footage of Christchurch, New Zealand, looking washed out, overexposed, and very hokily 50s or early 60s. It's even smaller in the frame and, I later figured out, the sound of the tinny narrator comes across in mono. The segment starts to break up, however, as the surrond-sound quickly brings up the sound of screaming. And then, suddenly we are plunged in the full-color, widescreen horror of two girls running through the forest, gore splattered on their faces.

I remember being physically pushed into the sofa with the force of those images and never, ever being able to come back up again until the credits rolled. I don't think I touched my popcorn either. It is perhaps the closest I have ever seen a film in such an unadulterated form: no clue as to the storyline, no preconceptions due to star-laden knowledge about director or actors, just walking in with the title and nothing else. It's one of the best experiences I've had watching a movie and, given what I do, that's saying something.

Afterwards, we discussed it and most people thought it was "too much" -- as if "the kitchen sink were up on screen." (Ironically, people thought that this Winslet character was clearly much older than the 17-year-old she was playing. She was, in fact, 17.) I decided I needed to go to the mat for this one and passionately fought for its inclusion in the festival: that this was a major film that needed to be shown.

Ultimately, the point was moot. While it was ultimately accepted for the festival by the time I left for Colorado, Miramax (the US distributor, gaining large momentum after the success of The Crying Grame a year earlier) decided to pull it from Telluride and screen it at Venice, with the hope of winning a prize there. (They didn't.) It broke my heart that the film got pulled (and my poor boss got even more white hairs filling in a slot at pretty much the last minute, I think).

I've championed Heavenly Creatures since then -- an easier task now that Jackson became the Hobbit Master and Winslet became a star. But of the films referenced in the ad (Sense and Sensibility, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Iris and, of course, Titanic), it's one of the least-seen. Here's hoping the ad sends a couple folks to check out IMDB to see which film she's talking about and then order it on Netflix or something.

It's easier to find the film

Monday, May 23, 2005

Waaaaaaaay too much information...

I thought about not posting this because, well, it's TMI. Information you probably just don't need to know, or don't want to know. Especially if you're one of my students or something. So if you just don't want to know, stop reading now. Go to this website about singing nuns or something.

Go on now, shoo.

No really, go.

Last warning. I mean it. The nuns are calling you, telling you this will be less traumatic.

OK, then.

We have learned of late that it is possible to do things like, say, cook while watching after Xan by simply putting him into this fantastic vibrating chair that just whirrrrrrrrs like mad, making his whole body shake and making him very happy. He just sits there and stares and we can talk to him to explain exactly why chopping onions makes Momma cry, that it's not necessarily the story about Senate filibuster reform playing on NPR. That chair is one of the best inventions ever, really.

So the other day I'm at home and looking after Xan, as usual. In my life before parenthood, I basically couldn't even consider waking up without taking a shower, much less leave the house because (a) I have bad bed head, (b) I stink and (c) it's just the way I wake up. These days, however, certain small people have placed other priorities over my bathing and I have learned that sometimes getting a nap or food in my mouth is a better idea. Nevertheless, it is sometimes good to shower. I began to ponder how I might have one without it being 29 seconds long before I began to wonder if his crib was blowing up or something.

I remember the whirring chair. Great! I'll put it on the floor and take a shower, talking to him and looking out of the curtain all the time.

This actually works really well. He sits there quietly and I am able to get clean. Great. And no, this is not a tale of how I slipped and dropped him or anything. No physical damage to my child.

I step out of the shower. Dripping and naked, of course.

My son stares at me.

It is important to know that at this point, Xan probably can't see colors quite yet. He is instead drawn to stark contrasts, like my hairline. He would love a goth these days far more than a clown, for example.

Can you guess where Xan is staring? (For the record, let's just say I haven't quite gone in for the latest trends in body hair removal either.)


Well. Xan was entirely non-plussed. Me, I'm thinking one of us will need therapy for this someday.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

A note to Simon (and other cinematically inclined parents)

Angela told me she ran into you today at the Farmer's Market (and that you're reading this... oh boy, I'm thinking of writing a doozy of an entry later today, too...) and that you were heading out to see Star Wars: Return of the Sith to check it out ahead of time because your son reeeeeally wants to see it.

And so, here I offer a big plug for my good friend Nell, a.k.a. The Movie Mom. She happens to be a really insightful critic under any circumstances and for anyone, in my opinion, and she has been the critic I've been reading consistently since Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote that anyone who didn't find Gangs of New York to be the greatest thing since sliced bread (instead of the three hours of tedium that it was) didn't know anything about movies. That severed our relationship (although I occasionally run back to sneak a peek at what he thinks these days before realizing I'm better off without him, just like an ex) and I was alone and adrift until I met Nell.

Anyway, the plug, and why she's good for you, Simon: in addition to providing an assessment as to the quality of the film, she indicates all sorts of information for parents -- like possible questions to discuss with kids afterwards, issues and scenes that kids/parents of a certian age might find disturbing or objectionable, and other films that one might enjoy (or, in the case of a bad film, enjoy more). Although her kids are now in college (I've only met one, and only briefly), she tackles all sorts of movies kids might want to see (including all the horror flicks that teens love) along with some other gems she thinks people should see. (Her book, The Movie Mom's Guide to Family Movies, is also really insightful in terms of learning how to raise kids with movies as more than just "background entertainment.") She's also a fab person and much more attractive than Peter Travers anyway -- and I'm not just saying that because she also reads my site. (Hi, Nell!) I strongly suggest checking it out.

All that said, considering Xan's already been exposed to Kung Fu Hustle, we're going to see it on Wednesday at Georgetown for the Reel Parents' screening. Woohoo!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

This should come as no surprise to my 'shmen...

In honor of the premiere to finally end all premieres:

I could tell you that the first time I tried this, I actually ended up with Qui-Gon Jinn -- which is the truth -- but no one would believe me. Particularly my 'shmen. When I was an undergraduate advisor, we watched the original one night and slowly the realization hit all of us (myself included) that my actions as a UGA mimicked a certain droid.

Doomed I was.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Now I know what to tell my students

Randomly browsing through the online character profiles for 24, I just discovered that both Jack Bauer and Audrey Raines have B.A. degrees in English.

When my students ask, "But what else can I do with a Literature degree besides teach and write?" I now have another answer.

(In other Fox TV news, Arrested Development got picked up for another season. Ahn yong, hermano!)

Sunday, May 15, 2005

How evil has entered my son's life

Look out, Xan!!! Posted by Hello

Doesn't my son look perfectly adorable here? He looks so peaceful, with that perfectly harmless stuffed turtle on his chest.

This is exactly what the turtle wants you to think. That it's harmless.

It's not.

It's evil.

It's the Turtle of Doom!!

Why, you may ask, is the turtle evil? The short answer is, Why not?

Xan has quickly acquired a good sized collection of stuffed animals. This includes several from my childhood, including Floppy the red dog, known to this day by my cousins for our endless games ofStupid Doggy, when we tossed him at each other across the room. Newer additions include Grendel (given to us by a medievalist with the accompanying child's version of the text, this animal can actually ingest smaller items like other toys, cookies and my hand), Ossie (an ostrich actually purchased in South Africa but named for the late actor Ossie Davis, not just because he's an ostrich) and Mitzi (a kitten who is not quite the sex kitten that her name implies). Our menagerie also includes SuperBear, a perfectly normal small teddy bear who happens to have a hand-knit long scarf, knitted by my former TA Steve (who, like me, can knit, but only scarves). But said scarf is tied in the front, in the fashion of a cape. Hence, SuperBear was born.

All these animals started developing personalities when I realized that one of my responsibilities as "Dad" was to come up with perfectly ridiculous, yet entertaining, stories for my son. I decided to be inspired by the collection of stuffed animals, immediately coming upon SuperBear and Mitzi, the feline in distress. But every hero, even SuperBear, needs an archnemesis. Who to pick? Opus the penguin? A tiger? Maurice the crab from The Little Mermaid? Raggedy Ann?

And my eyes fell on an otherwise innocuous sea turtle.

Hence, Tod. The Turtle of Doom, born to inflict all sorts of evil plots and plans for SuperBear to rectify. So far, Tod has been responsible for such dastardly activities as making the frozen breast milk take a long time to defrost and warm up, convincing Mitzi to reject SuperBear's offer to go to the movies with him, and humidity (naturally). We all know that world domination is only a few steps away, however, and that al-Qa'eda has nothing on the Turtle of Doom.

I'm trying to figure out the later implications Tod's mere existence will have for our good friend Todd Kutyla, who has two adorbale boys but also unfortunately has the same name as my cold-blooded antagonist. Perhaps Todd the human is a minion of Tod the turtle? Or does the extra "d" in his name protect him from the evil influence? Only time, and the ongoing influence and adventures of SuperBear will tell!

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Well, whadaya know

You know how I just noted that I'm a liberal? Took this quiz from the Pew Center and found out I was right!

So now, of course, I'm curious where everyone else scores on this. If you dare, take the survey and post in the comments.

Not easy bring Green

(Sorry for this Dart-centric post. Please skip if you're more interested in Xan or movies, heh heh...)

I admit that when I entered Dartmouth, I was incredibly naive. I had no idea it was the inspiration for Animal House, nor did I realize its reputation for being a generally conservative school. Happily, I traipsed up to Hanover with only the notion that I was going to get a rock-solid, challenging education in at atmosphere that had a lot of green. The alumni support was an added bonus. (It shoud be said that, at this time, I was also planning on being a math and chemistry double major. And that I had a "Bush/Quayle '98" button. My, how things change.)

While at Dartmouth, I ran into my share of older alumni while working Commencement and Reunion, which I did for three out of the four years there. The large majority were wonderful, genteel men who had fascinating stories to tell of Dartmouth Hall, war and having to import women from Mount Holyoke. It always amazed me, however, when I ran into an alum who would mutter under his breath, "Dartmouth was better when the women weren't here." Personally, I'm thankful for the women. (I'd better -- heck, I married one.) Dartmouth could not remain an all-boys school and maintain its position as a top school. The world changed; it continues to change and institutions have the change with it.

I mention all of this because I am really upset by recent events caused by the otherwise apathetic attitude of some of my fellow alums. Dartmouth's alumni just elected two new trustees, Peter Robinson and Todd Zywicki, two candidates who were nominated by petition instead of by the College's nomination committee and who reflect rather reactionary values concerning the direction Dartmouth should go (not to mention higher education in general). In this Bush-tastic world, I should perhaps no longer be surprised by their election. I have come to realize that my way of thinking is far enough out of the mainstream that I can no longer call myself "left of center" as much as "left," even though I'm not yet wearing any hammer-and-sickle apparel.

The attitudes that Robinson and Zywicki seem to represent, however, reflect a very "old school" Dartmouth that promises to thwart any and all attempts to innovate the quality of the school's reputation. Though both are relatively young alums, they share the attitudes of the older alums from the 40s and 50s, not the overwhelming ideals (I think) of those like myself from the 90s. As a college educator, I now understand what Dartmouth's current administration is trying to do; nonetheless, I'm flabbergasted that the alums now stand poised to step it its way. In the most awful way, I'm glad I'm not teaching at a school where the alumni don't care enough to meddle in the school's current activities. I've always loved the fact that Dartmouth's alumni did care this much, but now I'm seeing a flaw in the system.

Enough is enough, I say. I can't be the only one sickened by this trend. Maybe the alums just aren't aware. Maybe they need to be smacked around enough to be made to care. (A snarkey note: "they" in this last sentence includes my own wife.) Or am I just a wistful liberal who should just quietly go the way of the current conventional trend? Am I ridiculous for having these feelings about my school? (Heck, AU would love if their alumni would feel this way.)

Here's a modest proposal to any of the Dartmouth alums who feel similarly: in the last two trustee elections, all the candidates who won were by petition. Can the same grass-roots efforts that brought these trustees in also work to our advantage? Why not try a petition candidate from our side?

Wow, look at me. I've become a crusty, bitter alum after all.

Friday, May 13, 2005

No one voted off the island

Which means that everyone survived today's experiment. Although he didn't want to nap today at all. This means that he's now been asleep for almost six hours. Still.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

But Arthur Dent said....

As the evening closes, a sense of mild panic has started to settle in with me. Angela goes back to work on Monday and I suggested that tomorrow be a dry run with Angela "going to work" in the basement for nine hours or so, leaving us to fend for ourselves upstairs. As we realized this evening that our regular sleep arrangements (where Ange sleeps 10pm-4am and I am bed-bound from 4am-10am) won't really work if she's supposed to be out the door at 7am, it started to dawn on me that, while I'm down with the whole stay-at-home dad thing for the summer (primo bonding time!!), I'm also a wee bit nervous. Can I handle it? Will I go insane? Will Xan survive? Who will be sucking on the binky more to remain calm?

Tune in tomorrow, where I hopefully will tell how it all went...

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Everybaby was kung-fu fighting

As previously advertised (and against the Movie Mom's better judgment), today we exposed our son to the theater for the first time by bringing Xan to the "crybaby" showing of Kung Fu Hustle at the Silver Spring Majestic 20. I, for one, was pleased that we weren't the only sick folks exposing our under-twos to the likes of an entertaining, cartoonishly violent R-rated movie. I was more pleased, however, that his first exposure to the cinema was not in English. IN perhaps a fearful sign of what is to come, he slept through the whole thing, with only one minor pause to tell Mom he was hungry. My question, of course, is whether there will be such a screening of Todd Solondz's Palindromes as well. That, my friends, would be ultimately perverse!

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Congrats to the Class of 2005! (And Mom...)

Today was Angela’s first Mother’s Day. Miraculously, I did not need to be reminded that I had a new holiday to remember! Part of this is due, of course, to that fact that poor Angela must every year (unless I don’t get tenure) cede at least part of the holiday to American University because, as it turns out, commencement traditionally falls every year on Mother’s Day. Whose brilliant idea this was, I have no idea. (Good feminist that I am, I say: probably some man. Good husband that I am, I’ll add the words “single” and “bitter” to that.) Angela, trooper that she is, not only brought spent the day at AU, but also brought Xan which made most of my colleagues, graduates and graduates’ parents just ooh and aah. Both Angela and I realized that, if we’re lucky, we’ll be on the other side of this equation in 22 years with the little guy.

As it was, I could have been exempt this year from attending the ceremony since I am still on sabbatical. (I wonder if my sabbatical is officially over since it’s now just plain summer. Hm.) I decided to go in, however, because this happens to also have been my fourth year at AU – which means that the first classes of freshmen I taught in Fall 2001 graduated today. I got very sentimental the other evening and, late the other night, I sent an e-mail to sixteen of them who had all both taken a course with me during that fateful first year and then proceeded to take at least one additional course with me following that. Sappy and wistful as it is, the note follows and applies to far more than the 16 I sent it to.

Dad, Momma and Xan, Graduation 2005Posted by Hello

It’s coming up to commencement and I thought I’d take a moment to do what everyone else is doing at this point and look back. I’m writing to the sixteen of you (two of whom have already graduated and gone) because, for some odd reason, you took one of the six courses I taught four years ago: Critical Approach to the Cinema, Literary Imagination, The Film Musical or (in one of its last incarnations) Remarkable Literary Journeys. (None of you took the first version of Cinemas of Latin American Cinema that fall; that class had only nine students, all seniors, something that seems will never happen again. But I digress.) That was a tough year: dare I remind you that the events of September 11, 2001 occurred during one of those 8:30AM Critical Approach classes – and that for some, that was also the first class that met when we all tried to get back to “normal.” It was your first exposure to AU and you stuck with it for four more years.

It was also, as you may recall, my first year at AU. I also erroneously believed it would be my last: that year, I was a sabbatical replacement on a one-year hire, told from the beginning that I would not be rehired the next year. I took that to heart and nonetheless just did what I came to do, which was to teach. Perhaps like you, I didn’t know what to expect from this place. To be perfectly frank now, I’m not sure I expected much.

You all are part of an amazing group that definitely changed my mind. I know AU doesn’t have too much of a sense of rah-rah school spirit or anything, but I have really grown to love this place for all it is worth – and, believe it or not, it’s primarily because of students like you. You all proved your mettle early on. I tried to set the bar relatively high: all of you made it, most of you soaring over each time. I’ve learned a lot from you as students as much as I’ve been able to teach you.

I also haven’t forgotten all the signatures on the petition some of you signed in fall 2001, asking for me to be reconsidered for a job. A student spearheaded that campaign and I didn’t expect it to go anywhere. I’m still not sure how much influence that petition really had. But, in what I still consider a minor miracle in this world of academia, I was offered a tenure-track job here by the end of that year. And the following spring, the dean introduced me to another professor at a get-together as “the only professor I remember who students petitioned to hire.” Again: not sure how much it helped, but it surely didn’t hurt.

I’m writing to you all because, for some reason or another, you decided to take my courses again. And, in some cases, again and again and again. I know that for a couple of you, this was probably because you were cinema studies minors who just needed to get through it all. That doesn’t explain you, Mr. McKeveny, or you, Mr. Turner, who both win the award for taking a whopping five courses with me – though Colm perhaps edges out John in variety by having taken pretty much every course I’ve taught, literary and cinematic, except for two. (There is one exception to this list, who only took one of my courses – not a film one – and then was my GEFAP when I taught it a second time. Perhaps she was wise to avoid more of me, since I just noticed she managed to maintain a 4.0. Nice going, Shelby.)

This was not my first teaching job, but this is the first job where I am now getting the chance to see the freshmen that I started with, finish. All of us started together – and now, I?ll get the joy of watching you leave.

You’ve all changed considerably over the last few years. If nothing else (and leave it for the professor to point this out), you’ve all become much more mature thinkers and writers. Go back and look at those first papers you wrote for me, if you think I’m kidding. I’ve changed too, of course. Most of you know that I’m not on campus this semester because I’m currently on sabbatical, which was meant for writing and research. On March 20th, all that changed when my little baby boy Alexander was born and suddenly, I became Dad. As I type this, Xan’s lying asleep in my lap while I’m on the “night shift,” waiting for him to tell me he’s hungry. As I’ve said to several people: all the students who have been holding your breath, waiting for me to utter the phrase, “I’m totally in love with this guy,” can finally exhale, heh heh.

Yes, I’m being wistful (and rather long-winded and tangential, I now see – a hallmark, perhaps of a Middents class discussion? yes, I do read my evals...), but I consider it a privilege and honor to have taught you over the last four years. With a little luck (and a lot more writing to finally get my book on Peruvian cinema finished and published), I’ll be here for many more years to come as well. And although my sabbatical means that I don’t have to show up, I would be remiss if I didn’t actually come to your graduation, even if the only one I’m allowed to attend is for CAS. (Sorry, all you Vis Med folks.) Despite the fact that my wife and I finally have a real reason to celebrate Mother’s Day, we’ll all be on campus on Sunday for the grand event. And if you’re there (I know some of you just can’t wait to get the hell out of Dodge, and could care less about the pomp and circumstance), I’ll be the guy in the maize-n-blue robes cheering for your accomplishments as you cross the stage. And feel free to say hi one more time at the TDR reception afterwards before you head off into the “real world.” (And if, heaven forbid, you actually want to keep track of what’s happening in my life? well, I’ll let you in on a little secret: I, too, now have a blog, at deepinyoureyes.blogspot.com. Now that you’re no longer my students, you can perhaps see what I’m really like, haha.)

Congratulations. It has been a real privilege to join you on this trip. I sincerely wish you the best as you continue your trajectories from here. (And if any of you happen to win an Oscar someday and don’t thank me, well, I may just have to go and retroactively change some grades. I'm just saying.)

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Everyone survived!

Angela and I escaped tonight to go see The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, marking the first time either of us have gone to a movie theater since I saw Sin City right before Xan was born. (Quickie review: I liked it a lot, laughed quite a bit. I've forgotten the books enough that I found the movie zany fun. The cast was inspired, with Mos Def particularly good as Ford Perfect and Alan Rickman and Helen Mirren deliciously cast as the respective voices of Marvin the uber-depressed robot and the super computer Deep Thought. I found the slightly non-sensical narrative structure to be right in line with the ludicrous nature of the story itself, and am now wondering what all the reviewers are bellyaching about. The movie opens with a musical number sung by dolphins, for Zaphod's sake!!)

You've probably figured out that this also means... we left Xan at home (!!!!).

Prompted by my mother-in-law's visit as she and Greg return via RV back to the Cape, we were all but forced out of our house to prove that yes, he will survive without us. And we will survive an evening out, just the two of us, without him. And he will still love us. And indeed, we happily watched the movie without having to call home, even stopping in Borders afterwards, just to browse. (Note to Borders: your non-functioning listening stations are why I'm going to buy the new NIN and New Order CDs from Amazon. Pthth.) And we had fun! Hooray! A revelation, indeed. On the ride back home (in the dark, which meant we couldn't even see the car seat base in the back seat of the car), Angela asked, "Do you feel like a parent?" "Right this second?" I asked. "Yes, with this night out," she replied. "Oddly enough," I laughed, "not really. Maybe because we enjoyed this without freaking out for a few hours and we were back to being ourselves." We both don't love him any less (we came home and were thrilled once in the door to take him back and he's in my lap, peaceful, as I type this), but it was cool to get out and remember we're still us.

Besides, we also found out that this week's Reel Mom showing at the Majestic in Silver Spring will be Kung Fu Hustle. Why not start him early on an appreciation of Hong Kong cinema? *grin* (A question to Nell: what do you make of these so-called "crybaby" screenings"?)

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Threat Level: Cloudy

If you weren't aware of this, Senator Rick Santorum (who, I must say, deserves everything that Dan Savage's appropriation of his name implies) has put forth a bill in the Senate to possibly do away with the National Weather Service's free dissemination of information that is otherwise also distributed by private services. Apparently, the NWS is only good for sending out information when weather disasters are to strike and, otherwise, we should be paying for the service of a five-day forecast to finance AccuWeather. (There is a fantastic weather blog for the DC region which has been discussing this.) This seems like the most ludicrous waste of congressional effort I've see... oh wait, no, this is par for the course, isn't it?

Anyway, I therefore wonder if NWS decided not to let anyone know about the general hamless nature of last week's issue of national security for our area. Yes, it's apparently true: the President and Veep were moved to their bunkers (yes, moved to their bunkers) because an imminent threat was approaching... in the form of a cloud. (As NPR's news quix Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me put it today, "In their defense, White House staffers did say that the cloud bore a remarkable resemblance to Ted Kennedy." God, I love that show. Not to mention I learn stupid things from it, like this bit of information.) Forget stealth bombers, terrorists and dirty bombs: next season, 24 needs to join forces with the Weatehr Channel. ("Chloe, can you get me the barometric reading for Los Angeles?" "Dammit, the AccuWeather sattelite is blocking the information, Jack! All I'm getting is smog." "Jeez, how else are we going to positively ID that this is all the work of....Mother Nature." Boop, beep, boop, beep...)

Here's another disturbing thought. If this was so much of a threatening issue that officials were moved to their bunkers (again, I'm flabbergasted at this -- I mean, didn't anybody just look outside??!), should I be concerned that no warning was issued to us ordinary citizens who live, oh, 20 minutes away? The President is stowed away and we hear nothing. Gee, I wonder what will happen if there's an actual threat.