Thursday, June 30, 2005

Seeking a marketing plan...

You know what I have a lot of?


That's right, baby. You want drool? I got it. Lots of it. My son generates enough that I could bottle it. I can satisfy your drool fix right now.

So -- how could I market this? Today on the Mall at the FolkFest, someone suggested using it on poorly written papers to indicate the level of maturity it takes to write such drivel. I like that one, and may try it in the future.

But how else can we use drool, if bottled? Ideas?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

On Greek numerals

This morning's weather was humid, but cooler than usual. And since Xan and I were awake, I decided we should go for a nice long walk in Sligo Creek Park. (Also, Ange had had a particularly bad evening, so this would get us out of her hair so that she could sleep more. Little did I realize that by continuing my walk, I was actually preventing Xan from getting a proper nap -- and therefore contributing to the problem. Oops. I have since read the solemn text known as Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and have thus converted. But I digress...)

Since there must be an ordinance somewhere against me walking out of the house without some semblance of clothing on, I decided in a moment of whimsy to wear my Alpha This eta pledge shirt. Perhaps this was because I wanted to see how the prim and proper Takoma Park jogger/dogwalker/etc. would react to what to the naked eye would appear to be a slightly-less-than-middle-age frat-boy (baseball cap included) with a baby stroller. Perhaps this was because it was a bright red shirt which, in addition to showing up brightly in the gray morning air, would also match Xan's bright red onesie he was wearing. (Aside: A red shirt? And my house was known for its Star Trek obsession? Did we have a suicidal death wish or what??!!) Perhaps I'm just a 33-year-old guy thinkin' I'm still 19.

Anyway, here's my gripe with my older sibs, now that I'm big enough to believe I can complain. (Kristy, I'm sure you'll weigh in here on my whining.) The problem with my jock shirt is that the number on it doesn't match the meaning of the name printed on it.

An explanation for the unintiated (literally): my shirt on the front has the greek letters, but on the back reads "BOB FOSSE" and then the number 6. Why? you may ask. Well, my name has a couple pretty cool stories attached to it, in my opinion. Thanks to the whimsy of our (probably drunk) pledge chairs, each person in my entire pledge class (which was relatively large that semester) got a name that had the name "Bob" in it (ex. Bobcat, Bobstreperous, Bob Smith of the Cure, etc.). During one house meeting, our pledge chairs yelled at us "Pledge Sound Off!!" and, having never had to do that before, we all looked at one another and spontaneously yelled, "One!" to much laughter. After this, we had to all yell "One!" at virtually all house meetings -- and at one of these (perhaps inspired by some imbibing), I got up and continued with the Chorus Line tune: "-singular sensation, every little step she takes!" This was naturally complete with a make-shift one-man kickline around the room. Hence: Bob Fosse, Broadway and Hollywood choreographer, dancer and director.

As such, I have always believed that the number on my shirt should have been "1." Why "6"? Well, as it turned out, three of us who lived in the same room all pledged that quarter: my roommate Rich Yeung ("Bob Smith") and Caroline Kanegson, who I think meant to just visit with Rich for a few days and ended up living on our common room floor (earning her the name "Bobonthefloor," if I remember correctly). And we all lived in 6 Hinman.

I wouldn't be so bugged about having the number "6" on the shirt if a picture survived of the three of us standing together with our backs to the camera displaying the number "666." I personally think that Rich and Caroline should come to the next reunion with their shirts so we can create this picture for my own personal benefit. Come on, whadaya say??

And do I need help or what? Poor Xan, he has a complete wacko for a dad. Oh well.

Monday, June 27, 2005


Not that I should expect any of you to know this, but something finally happened which I have been waiting several years for.

As an academic, of course, I write. And occasionally, I try to publish some things. Up until recently, the only things I've had published have been book reviews (for Dispositio/n and Worldview). This coming year will be a minor banner year, since I have two articles coming out in book collections -- a piece on documentary aesthetics in Patricio Guzmán's Chile, memoria obstinada for a collection memorializing the thirtieth anniversary of the fall of the Allende government; and a piece excerpted from my own book on Peruvian film for a collection on "rural cinema" -- and one for the online journal for Buffy the Vampire Slayer on the musical episode.

However, one piece has been on my curriculum vitae now since 2001. I wrote the piece originally in 1995, I think, and first tried to get it published in Michigan Feminist Studies. They refused it -- not because it was bad quality, but because (so I was told by a horrified friend who was on staff there) they couldn't get past the fact that I saw the film Strange Days in a relatively positive light. Miffed, I sent the piece to a call for papers for a journal called FEMSPEC, a small journal which specialized in feminist takes on science fiction and fantasy. IT was accepted for the special issue, just in time for my being hired as a sabbatical placement when I first got to AU.

And then I waited.

And waited.

At some point, I assumed the journal folded and we were all lost in the shuffle. Needing to update my c.v. for my upcoming review this fall, I finally felt so embarrassed that this ancient piece was still in my "forthcoming" list that I thought perhaps I should take it off the c.v. I wrote to the editor one last time to ask if and when the issue would ever come out.

And then, I got this reply: "the issue came out months ago! i am so sorry that i didn't let you know, but other contributors had received an exam copy, so i assumed you did as well!"

Now, finally receiving my copy of FEMSPEC 5.1 (2004), I find my article "'This Is Not Film': Ef/Facing the Screen in Kathryn Bigelow's Strange Days" in print. At last, I am a published academic. (I would like to the journal's website but this issue is apparently the only one they don't yet have online, alas, so you will all just have to take my word for it.)

Nest step: New York Times best-seller.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Ooo ooooo oooo ooooo... graaaa!!

Basically, that's my son's speech right now. If he can't seem to muster up consonants, well, then he sounds exactly like what a baby pterodactyl would sound like, complete with the relish in the eyes just before devouring. Seriously, though, major cute points. As I wrote to DZ a little earlier today, he appears to be weighing in on the current debate on Social Security reform. Or talking about Mom's boobs. Definitely one of the two.

Also on the plus side, though not necessarily as cute: his ability to get back to sleep after crying without pacification. Sure, we let him cry a bit but, in general, he figures out what's wrong and that's that.

Late night canoodling

So the other night in Cape Cod, Xan actually slept through the night, it seems. Unfortunately, Angela didn't. Why? Not because she was necessarily worried that Xan stopped breathing in the middle of the night. No, it was because I was snoring. (Yes, occasionally an issue, though I believe not necessarily chronic. It was after a night of massive amounts of take-out Chinese.)

Anyway, the following conversation was held as we were snuggling down to sleep the following night. The entire conversation was held in the same hushed tones.

Me: I'm so sorry about waking you up last night with my snoring. I will try not to do so tonight.
She: It's OK. I still love you.
Me: Still, I'm sorry.
She: Also, I will kick you.

For some reason, this immediately sent me into a hysterical laughing fit for about five minutes (no exaggeration on timing), tears and all.

Random thought on creative facial hair

People I'd like to see with a soul patch:

  1. MIT history of science professor David I. Kaiser

Actually, that's about it. I'll quit while I'm ahead.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Father's Day #1

Yes, we are all aware that these sweatshirts are meant to be for the parents of the students. And yet, doesn't it seem more appropriate for me? Personally, I love it.

Father's Day 2005 Posted by Hello

Saturday, June 18, 2005

OK then...

Chez Middents-Dadak has currently moved temporarily to Cape Cawd for the next week so updates will be really sporadi. On the umpteen-hour ride up from DC, however, I managed to finally listen to Radiohead's OK Computer. I know, it came out and was the big sensation years ago, and Matt Osborn was telling me all about it. Wow, but it really is a really neat album. About time I catch up with the world, eh? At this rate, in three years I'll finally figure out what the whole Coldplay thing is all about...

Monday, June 13, 2005

Good things

Today was a good day. Here are some reasons why:
  1. 8:00 AM is a perfectly reasonable time to wake up. For those of you not in the know, Angela has rewarded my taking care of Xan full-time over the last month by taking him up to Cape Cod when her parents returned so I could get some work done. This was actually not my idea; when Ange suggested it, I said, "Oh no, I couldn't do that........or can I?" It's an amazingly generous offer and I love her all the more for it. (I will join them on Wednesday.) Of course, on Sunday, unprompted by any crying whatsoever, I was awake at 6:30. Very distressing. Today, however, my own circadian rhythms allowed me to come back to 8. How nice!
  2. I will soon be a Buffy scholar for real. Also in the news: my article on race and the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer has been picked up by Slayage, the on-line academic journal for Buffy studies. You can stop laughing now, but I'm thrilled. Plus, it's legit: as a refereed academic journal, it actually counts as a "real" publication for my tenure file. I was supposed to finish revising it today, but I'll have to really finish it tomorrow when I go to UDC to look up a source.
  3. Ellen is da bomb. Our favorite short-story writer offered to help paint the newly refurbished walls of our laundry room. In addition to helping me purchase the gallons of Saffron Thread and Artisian Blue paint (it's gonna look like a freakin' cabana!! I'm so happy!!), this also offered us the opportunity to check out Udupi Palace's fine spread of South Indian buffet. I tried all sorts of stuff I've never had before. We filled ourselves silly. Really, it was scary how full we were. Happy, though.
  4. MJ has been acquitted. This is not necessarily a good thing, although it did have the hot dog vendor outside the Foggy Bottom metro stop amusingly say to people as they came out of the subway, "He's cleared of all charges! Watch your children everybody!" The good thing is that now that he's acquitted, he can go home. Where I hope he stays to leave the rest of us alone. Preferrably if he brings along Brit, K-Fed and their inevitably trailer-trash brat, too.
  5. I do not have a trailer-trash brat. Nope, my baby is amazingly cute and wonderful. I was carting around pictures in the book I was reading so I stared at him (along with one picture with my wife in it) lots on the metro rides today.
  6. Free food is good. I joined my buddy for dinner on his birthday, offering to pick up the tab as long as we went somewhere where drinks were involved. He suggested Bangkok Bistro, a Thai place in Georgetown. Not only was there fine food, but then we discovered that you get a free entree on your birthday! Done!
  7. Sometimes, it's better when the movie Begins. Another reason why I love Dave: he got us passes to a preview screening of Batman Begins. Did you know it's 141 minutes? I, for one, didn't even notice. And that, my friends, is always a very good sign. In a few words: probably the best storytelling we've seen this year. Definitely worth the price of a ticket, at least in my opinion.
  8. I got to embarass a woman. At the end of the film, there is a shot of a stethoscope. The idiot woman behind me says loudly to her companion, "Look, the stethoscope." I whipped around to face this ignorant dumb-ass bitch who clearly thinks she is watching a video in her living room instead of being a movie theater!!!! and say to her rather loudly, with a look of mock expression on my face, "No! Really? A stethoscope?!" And then stared at her until she turned away abashedly. I have been wanting to do that for a very. Long. Time. Because people need to be educated about how to watch movies and, dammit, that's what I do. And honey, I know you're proud of me.
  9. Said ignoramus was not the Movie Mom. It's always good to see Nell, if for no other reason than she's a really bright person to watch a movie with. I'm curious to see her take on the film since we didn't chat afterwards. She's a superstar because she remembered it was Dave's birthday, too. (That, and the hip jeans-and-t-shirt outfit that she was working. Never let it be said that the Movie Mom isn't both comfortable and fashionably inclined.)
  10. My cat likes me. Which is a step up from tolerating me. Actually, she was in my lap purring when I started typing this. Maybe that's because I turned the air conditioner on, though. Or maybe she needs food. I'll take the fuzzy love when I can get it.
  11. Chocolate chip cookies. Homemade. Mmmm.

I think that's enough for today.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

English is broken here

To put it delicately, I got into a heated conversation today with someone who thought that the counterpeople at the Starbucks in Langley Park should have been able to speak English better. (For those of you that don't know the area, Langley Park is just north of Takoma and right up the road from us. Most of the residents are immigrants, mostly Latin American or African.) I was a little surprised to hear these statements come from this person, and they ended with a statement that they wouldn't patronize that Starbucks again because people who come to this country should learn the language. I was then asked my opinion.


Let's just say that I knew I wasn't going to change anybody's mind. I pointed out that English is not the national language of the United States and, more to the point, that this person was, in fact, not the clientele that any Langley Park business actually caters to -- indeed, if the counterworker only spoke English, the capitalistic wheel would not spin there. (Although, granted, it's questionable who does go to buy a $5 latte there then.) And that, actually, most of this countries' ancestors at some point came in not knowing the language -- except they looked white and spoke Polish, Italian and Irish. Not so very different.

Later, however, I was driving by myself and thought, "You know, it's this kind of isolationist mentality that gets us in trouble. And it is precisely the reason why I wanted to live somewhere where not everything was lily-white and, well, safe. I kinda knew that it was one thing to say, 'I'm not a racist' and another to live next door to someone who is not like you. I like that we live in an area where things can be complicated and where the black family that lives across the street and the lesbians who live next door maybe -- just maybe -- will keep Xan from so surely believing that 'we' are so very separate from 'them.' I want this for me and my family. I'm proud of this."

Am I wrong for thinking this way, that this cornucopia of languages (including multiple Englishes) and cultures is a damn good thing and that Americans in general are fool-hardy to reject this so readily? Or do I think this is all OK because, quite frankly, I can get by largely in that shopping center because I happen to speak Spanish? Note that I don't feel conflicted about this -- but I'm curious what some of you who read this think (knowing full well that some of you will side with the other person here...).

Monday, June 06, 2005

Things that go boom!

Washington had a fantastic thunderstorm last night right around dusk. Unfortunately, in the Dadak-Middents house, it was just bedtime. And a particularly loud thunderclap woke a little someone up. His first storm, poor little guy. Mom, who was on the phone with Grumpy, all of a sudden had to run and play the role of comforter.

I missed it. I was at Ikea. Oh well. I guess you can't be around for everything.

Friday, June 03, 2005

These are a few of my favorite things

Nell started me thinking about the whole top ten film list thing last week. And then Dan brought it up again. So I decided to say, what the heck, and offer my own list. So here goes: a list of my favorite movies...
  1. Rebel without a Cause (Nicholas Ray, 1955)
  2. Casablanca (Michel Curtiz, 1942)
  3. Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen/Gene Kelly, 1952)
  4. Short Cuts (Robert Altman, 1993)
  5. Heavenly Creatures (New Zealand, Peter Jackson, 1994)
  6. Airplane! (Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker, 1980)
  7. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Les parapluies de Cherbourg, France, Jacques Demy, 1964)
  8. American Beauty (Sam Mendes, 1999)
  9. Aventurera (Mexico, Alberto Gout, 1950)
  10. Talk to Her (Hable con ella, Spain, Pedro Almodóvar, 2002)
  11. Metropolitan (Whit Stillman, 1990)
  12. Speaking Parts (Canada, Atom Egoyan, 1989)
  13. Ashes from Paradise (Cenizas del paraíso, Argentina, Marcelo Piñeyro, 1997)
  14. The Freshman (Harold Lloyd, 1925)
  15. 8 ½ (Italy, Federico Fellini, 1963)
  16. Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954)
  17. When the Cat’s Away (Chacun cherche son chat…, France, Cédric Klapisch, 1996)
  18. Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959)
  19. The Young and the Damned (Los olvidados, Mexico, Luis Buñuel, 1950)
  20. Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955)
  21. Gabbeh (Iran, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, 1996)
  22. The Hand in the Trap (La mano en la trampa, Argentina, Leopoldo Torre Nilsson, 1961)
  23. Night of the Living Dead (George Romero, 1968)
  24. The Iron Giant (Brad Bird, 1999)
  25. Red River (Howard Hawks, 1948)

I wouldn't hold me to this list; I'm undoubtedly forgetting a whole bunch. And note that these are favorites, for whatever reason, not necessarily the best. My list tomorrow might be very different. (I've done this very quickly.)

For what it's worth, I've always found that, like creative non-fiction, these lists tell more about the writers themselves than anything else. Personally, I'm a bit surprised that there are as many humorous flicks on here as there are weepies since I tend to think I like dramas more than comedies. And Nell's right -- stopping at a certain number is hard. (Dan wanted 10, I think, and I couldn't stop.)

So what do you think? What does this list tell you about me that you didn't know, or what does it confirm for you? And would you like to offer a list up yourself, so I can see what yours says about you?

Thursday, June 02, 2005

On "La niña santa (The Holy Girl)"

As you may know, my cinematic pleasures have been a little limited of late. Seeing that I'm Xan's plaything these days, I've been limited to the crybaby screening offerings that the Majestic has been ponying up. Despite their finally getting up to date by screening The Longest Yard and Madagascar, I had read enough middling-to-bad reviews that I wasn't sure if I wanted to waste my money on either one. I decided to go food shopping instead (stocking up on frozen food at Trader Joe's, mmmm) and asked Angela if I could have a night out on my own to see a movie that would never have a crybaby screening and that I knew might only run for a week in DC. And while the hot art-film du jour is definitely Crash (which I would still love to see and am thoroughly pleased that it's getting some business), I knew that the one film in theaters now that I very desperately wanted to see was Lucretia Martel's The Holy Girl.

A bit of background as to why I was interested in this. Martel directed a fascinating debut called La ciénaga (The Swamp) a few years ago which I thankfully managed to catch at a SCMS Conference. That film alone brought her considerable notoriety among us Latin American film geeks. It was moody and slow but built with such fiery steam, I was really caught unawares. Her newest film -- which has gotten more press, perhaps because it was exec-produced by Pedro Almodóvar -- is very similar and had similarly chilling results for me.

One more thing: look at the poster for a moment. You'll notice the titular character (played by Maria Alche), while in close-up, is very much obscured. I'm reminded of the famous scene from Polanski's Rosemary's Baby, where an old woman goes to another room to answer the phone and we see her through the doorway to the other room -- except we only see her body because she is leaning beyond the frame of the door, obscuring her head and muffling her words. Apparently, many audience members in 1968 spontaneously craned their heads to try to see around the doorframe in this scene (forgetting, of course, that film is a two-dimensional medium, heh).

To a large extent, La niña santa is very much an entire movie of being forced to crane your head in the hopes of finding more. By simultaneously obscuring and emphasizing what she wants you to pay attention to, Martel demands your attention to the very details that build the story. The plot involves a mother and daughter who live in a hotel where a medical convention is taking place. The daughter, just awakening sexually, is also part of a charasmatic Catholic youth group trying to find her spiritual way in the world; when she is goosed in a crowd by a seemingly harmless man, she begins to obsessively pursue him, believing God has shown her a sign of sorts. (FYI: This is not in the same religious vein as von Trier's Breaking the Waves. If it reminds me of any other movie, it's Egoyan's Speaking Parts, but perhaps that is because both are set behind the scenes in hotels.)

All the characters, even the minor ones, have secrets that are being deliberately shielded from everyone else for a variety of reasons that we are slowly able to piece together. The film therefore may be very much a "slow burn," but one where mood and atmosphere intersect with the plot to build a crushing inevitability. At first, I had a little trouble figuring out what was going on before I decided to just let everything wash over me -- but by the end, I was shocked to find I was actually fearful with how events would end.

I won't give away how the movie ends, except to say that some people in the theater were really unhappy with it; I, however, found it to be exquisitely delicious and I left the theater almost giddy. I realize now that La niña santa is a fine example of simply good storytelling, if one realizes that not everything is action, that plot can occur as a tapestry. I happen to be reading Assia Djebar's A Sister to Sheherazade right now, which unspools its story in a similar manner. Two stories told by women. And, as I write this, I realize that several of the stories that I enjoy being told this way are in fact done by women: on film, for example, Sophia Coppola's The Virgin Suicides, María Novaro's Danzón or my favorite segment from the omnibus film 11'09"01 directed by Iranian Samira Makhmalbaf; in fiction, I'm thinking of Toni Morrison's Jazz and Beloved, Clarice Lispector's The Hour of the Star and (in an odd, loopy way) Fannie Flagg's Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. All good storytelling, but accompolished through layering (tightly weaving?) atmosphere and mood with each respective plot. I may have to dwell on this some more, but (in typing this out) I may have stumbled onto my own way of approaching "feminine writing" from a very positive spin. Hrm.