Friday, December 29, 2006

Now THAT'S a wake-up call

While in Philadelphia for MLA, I'm staying at the Alexander Inn in a room on the 6th floor at the south end of the building. It also happens to have a bay window.

Which, because I left the window shades open last night, meant that I had the most amazing, unobstructed view of a sunrise this morning.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Why we don't have cable television at home

In alphabetical order, these are the movies (parts of, or complete) we've seen on TCM (which featured a day of Irene Dunne flicks and an evening of Stanley Donan flicks) in the very few days we've been at my parents' place in Ann Arbor:
You've got to admit, not a bad way to spend a few days. And tonight: The Shop Around the Corner. Yippee!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Joyeux Christmakwanzukkah!!

Indeed, 'tis the holiday season all around. And if the frantic paper-grading and hyperventilating prospects at going to MLA next week weren't enough to get me in the mood, we had a evy of activities to make sure we're in the holiday spirit.

On Friday, we braved a rush-hour endless litany of "mama, mama, mama, mama, mama, mama, mama" in the backseat to experience Brookside Gardens at its brightest, with its annual holiday light show. We met up with Xan's most amazingest special friend Jolie and family -- and, truth be told, KC not only has the pictures, but gets the description down right, because I too felt like I was inside the world's largest Lite Brite.

Yesterday, after Xan and I delivered some cookies and Angela went to a dress rehearsal, we actually drove up to New York City for the Fields family Channukah tradition known as Latkethon. We've been invited for years but damn if the holiday just comes at the wrong time of the semester. By a stroke of sheer luck, however, my exams were separated by a week, leaving this weekend pretty clear -- so we piled everyone in the car and drove up to experience more potato pancakes, brisket and good red wine than I have had in a while. (OK, so Xan was only really interested in the applesauce and tri-color cake-like cookies. Still.) This also allowed us some face time with the whole Dadak clan before Christmas (see below).

And then today we braved the New Jersey Turnpike to come home in time for Angela's orchestra's carol sing. Given that we didn't get tickets ahead of time, we were a little tuckered out and, ahem, our last experience with the orchestra, Xan and I sat this one out. But after tomorrow's exam (and a frantic period of grading), we all head up to Ann Arbor for Christmas with my parents, which is the first time we've done that in a few years (and clearly the first time with Xan). With snow on the horizon, it should be a great holiday -- complete (and they don't know this) with Peruvian D'Onofrio panetón for my parents.

This probably means I won't get to blog too much until just after Christmas, when we descend on Philadelphia for MLA, but you can be sure there will be stories and photos upon the return. Until then (and maybe even before then, have a wonderful holiday!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Hopped up on morphine

I don't watch Scrubs anymore, not because I don't like it, but because of the many time changes it has suffered (and, also, desire to get work done). But I just found this and thought it was hilarious.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I think Portishead said it best

"Nobody loves me, it's true..."
(from "Sour Times," their biggest hit)

Don't get me wrong: Angela and I are doing wonderfully. (The love is still there -- and she received that erotic romance novel writing guide, which I'm checking to see if it requires home research.) No, I'm talking about my little darling boy who, as I hinted a bit yesterday, has been for the past week or so... there's no other way to say it...

...a mama's boy.

This weekend, when I wake up to an already stirring Angela and Xan and say a jovial, "Hello!" my son looks up, then goes back to playing with a car without even acknowledging my presence.

A few minutes later, he brings a book to Angela: "Read! Read!"

"I'm making breakfast, Xan. But Dada can read to you."

A scowl. "MAMA read!"


Perhaps this can be traced back to the now-infamous Concert Situation just over a week ago, already chronicled by KC. To offer my perspective, some background is necessary: Angela's orchestra holds a great kids' concert every year, complete with an Instrument Petting Zoo before the show. The concert itself usually has its fair share of antsy kids running around, drawing on programs or commenting to each other loudly about what-not. This year, the orchestra held the concert in their new location, the Atlas Theatre on H Street NE. Because A Raisin in the Sun was performing in another theatre in the complex that afternoon, orchestra members were encouraged to come early; that meant that our whole family showed up early. Xan proved to be quite a trooper early on, becoming the plaything of two nine-year-olds who were also there early and generally having a fine time exploring and politely running around the lobby. When the petting zoo started, Angela brought us to the third row on the left side where we could see her well, and then we went to check out all the instruments (Of note, other than the drum and mama's violin, his favorite instrument was... the bass! Which he has not stopped talking about to this day. We have since learned that some guy named Yo-Yo Ma picked up the cello because he was too little to handle the bass. I could live with that, you know.) The lights then dimmed and we went to our seats.

Which turned out to be a huge mistake.

If we had thought about it, we would have never picked those seats, precisely for the reason we chose them: because we could see Mama. Indeed, the concert was set to begin and Xan got off my lap and made a beeline for the stage, saying "Mama, up!" And, of course, she couldn't. Indeed, she had to ignore him as I tried to pry his little hands from the stage.

Thus begins my most tense experience with music ever, whereupon my child suddenly turns from being the sweet, well-disposed marvel that he is into That Child.

The howling was such that I immediately made way for the exit (from the third row, mind you), where I tried to calm him down in the lobby. Nothing. It is at this point that I notice that Jolie and her parents have just arrived -- late, thank God. (Jolie, it should be mentioned, is probably Xan's 2nd best friend after his tiger.) I find this to be some miracle of God and put him down, whereupon he is mesmerized to find that, indeed, Jolie is here, too. He calms down, we go inside. We find that three of the only free seats in the theatre happen to be in front of where my coat is, in the front row. (Wait, wasn't I in the third row? Someone moved me! As you will soon see, this didn't matter.) JP, Kathy and Jolie head down to the seats (while the orchestra is finishing their first number, and I head down with Xan, thinking things will be OK.

The howling was such that I immediately made way (again) for the exit, having thwarted him from getting on stage. The usher and I try to calm him down between the doors, to no avail. Kathy brings Joles out, and this makes it somewhat better. Joles and Xan then go back inside and Jolie wants to go down the steps to her Dada, JP, who is still in the front row. Xan, of course, wants to follow Jolie. Kathy and I duckwalk down the stairs in pursuit, all the while the orchestra is continuing. At some point around here, I realize that all the other kids in the theatre are actually being attentive, polite and quiet. To my horror, it is only my child who is causing any sort of commotion.

The kids then spent the rest of the concert racing back and forth in the front row from one side of the theater to the other, bouncing seats up and down and trying to talk to the aforementioned bass. Kathy, JP and I served as stopping posts between them, catching both of them briefly before they would escape from our arms, as we then positioned ourselves cramped in front of the stage by the floor. I have not been more thankful that the front row was empty, nor when the concert finally ended. "How was it?" a musician asked after it was over and Xan was finally reunited with his mother. "I have absolutely no idea," I said.

(That day, I turned with sincerity to JP and Kathy and said, "I don't think I will ever thank you enough for just being here today." Kathy, JP: I don't think I will ever thank you enough.)

Since then, chopped liver has been more popular than me among the under-ten set in the household. I'm used to this kind of treatment from our cat, but I hadn't expected her to have taught our son so quickly that Mama was the Better Human. For almost a week now, Mama could barely get a break of any sort from the obsessed boy and I could barely keep his attention -- even on the two days last week when I had him the whole day. Consciously, I knew this as cliche: boys have a special thing with their mothers, and the trade-off of having a boy is the knowledge that I would always be second fiddle to Mama. I get this. It doesn't make me love him any less. Rejection, nonetheless, still smarts.

Usually, I have him one full day, but his day-care provider had a dentist's appointment on Tuesday and her son's graduation on Friday, meaning I had him on both of my days off last week. The trade-off was to start today, when I would have lots of free time to get some good, quality writing done. I even finished grading the exams that I administered yesterday before I went to bed, just so that I could get up, get Xan out the door and get crackin'. I was really looking forward to this -- and besides, he hasn't really wanted to spend any time with me anyway.

And then Xan woke up this morning a little earlier than usual. I went over, half groggy, and picked him up.

At which point he threw up on me. (This has never happened before.)

After which he collapsed on me in a huge hug.

It's rare that I've had such conflicting feelings of eeewww and oh my gosh! he really does love me! And even though this meant that I stayed home today, losing one of my very precious writing days to make sure he was OK, that spew-covered hug just sent me over the moon. And today, I got plenty of hugs. Around noontime, he even asked me for a hug. From me. Twice.

With that, all is well in the world.

"Nobody loves me, it's true --
not like you do."

Monday, December 11, 2006

Like deer in the headlights

I type this as I sit in front of 44 students all dilligently completing their final exam. We're just over an hour in and there is relatively minimal trepidation at this point, although the panic was definitely there when we started: fear, even, mixed with a trace of cockiness. Perhaps it has also dissispated somewhat because I showed them a short film called A Ninja Pays Half My Rent, the comedy being a change of pace from what I have normally shown at this point.

Since I have a moment, I'll point out that, indeed, this blog has moved over the "blogger beta," which I used to subtly tweak some visual elements from the old incarnation. I have also added labels for all the previous postings, which was a thankless job that I decided to undertake when I didn't have anything else better to do (commercial breaks, between advising students, etc.). Not so suprisingly, I have posted about Xan more than anything else. Perhaps more surprising are the five (now six) posts to date on Dave Kaiser, Associate Professor of History of Science at MIT. Shockingly, his profile doesn't have pictures of his adorable twins who, I imagine, are almost one and therefore should be just about old enough to start plotting his doom. (Not yours, Tracy, because they would never do that to their mother. They never do anything against the mother. Believe me, I'll blog about how I have suddenly turned into chopped liver any day now.)

And that was just long enough for the first exam to be turned in.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

'Tis the season...

...for sharing with your best friend. And for cookie dough. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Not quite stranger than...

At dinner, Angela mentioned that one of the few blogs she reads was having a contest. The blog is written by an author who writes in several genres (under different names for all of them) and has some fun musings on writing. She also often gives away books to her readers, usually chosen at random from those who leave a comment responding to a particular question. In the spirit of the 12 days of Christmas, she is giving away a different assortment of books per day. Angela mentioned that this time she was giving away a writer's guide. "In fact," she mused, "I almost didn't enter because the guide is for erotic romance. But hey, I wanted the other book, so I entered. Who knows -- if I win, maybe I should take it as a sign."

Long story short: she won!

Look! A sign!

Maybe we'll have a race to publication? Now that would be fun.

(A couple other random notes: Very soon, I will have a moment to detail last Sunday's events -- although KC's done a wonderful job already. And looky: blogger finally moved my blog over to beta! Yippee! Labels!)

Saturday, December 02, 2006

No, really, I love my son.

It's just that he did two things this week that I, well, didn't approve.

One, he gave me his cold that he had last weekend. Very inconsiderate of him. It made me less than stellar this week as a teacher, particularly on Wednesday when I almost didn't make it through a block class on Salvador Plascencia's super-fabulous The People of Paper (which you should all read right now).

Two, he knocked my computer over. I should clarify that in my weakened mental state (due to congestion and slight fever from abovementioned issue), I left the computer on the sofa arm, which is well within his reach. And he knocked it over.

Which fried the hard drive.

Completely. As in, I couldn't get the computer to even acknowledge that a hard drive existed ever. Brand new computer, I had it for three months.

Happily, this was a work computer. So work covered a replacement, which is what I am typing on now.

Unhappily, said fried hard dirve meant I lost everything I was working on for the past month-and-a-half. All my new courses, the new chapter of my book, a few paper ideas, the notes I had taken on job candidate portfolios, photographs of Xan from Halloween, all gone. (Fortunately, I had backed things up at the beginning of October, so I didn't lose absolutely everything. And the couple choice Halloween pics I happened to have posted on here have survived. Still, it smarts.)

And yes, I know: this is only the beginning.

Anyhow, I'm back. Just in time for finals.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Thank you, LOC!!!

This is wonderful news -- now all I need is the time to actually make the clip discs...

From the Associated Press (via the Hollywood Reporter) --

NEW YORK -- The U.S. Copyright Office has rejected an exemption that would have allowed owners of DVDs to legally copy movies for use on Apple Computer Inc.'s iPod and other music players.

But film professors now have the right to copy snippets from DVDs for educational compilations, the Copyright Office said Wednesday...

The exemption granted to film professors authorizes the breaking of the CSS copy-protection technology found in most DVDs. Programs to do so circulate widely on the Internet, though it has been illegal to use or distribute them.

The professors said they need the ability to create compilations of DVD snippets to teach their classes -- for example, taking portions of old and new cartoons to study how animation has evolved. Such compilations are generally permitted under "fair use" provisions of copyright law, but breaking the locks to make the compilations has been illegal.

Hollywood studios have argued that educators could turn to videotapes and other versions without the copy protections, but the professors argued that DVDs are of higher quality and may preserve the original colors or dimensions that videotapes lack.

"The record did not reveal any alternative means to meet the pedagogical needs of the professors," Billington wrote.

Next donation: bone marrow

We have already given money to our local NPR station. This year, we also donated our old car, thinking that we weren't going to get any money for it if we tried to sell it (and at auction, as it turns out, it went for three times what we thought we would get for it! woohoo! tax deduction!). I am now beginning to believe that NPR is just wants more and more from me than, quite frankly, is even legal.

This morning, you see, I realized that NPR has secretly been going through my CD collection for relatively obscure music selections to play as outtros for the news reports.

I mean, really, I was tickled that they selected the beginning of The Cure's "The Kiss" for "appropriate music" for reflection on the deteriorating situation in the Middle East. (I'm glad they didn't go for "Killing an A-rab"...) But who else has heard of St. Germain's "So Flute," a peppy little quasi-techno piece?

I suppose I should just wait a few years until I am no longer the perfect demographic for NPR. Or perhaps a better security system may be in order. My cat is clearly not doing a good enough job of keeping the NPR music director trolls out of my stash in the middle of the night.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Why this household buys Kleenex at Costco

The bad news is that the Middents-Dadak household is heading down the path again of the interminable cold. Mom and Dad have been staving things off with Tylenol Cold and Sinus formula (mmm, goooood drugs...) while Xan is, alas, still relegated to infant formula drops. This also means that, rather than going to the zoo on this most gloriously warm of November Saturdays, Xan spent most of the afternoon asleep and feverish on Dada's chest, with both Middents boys still pajama'd at 4PM.

The good news? Xan's flexing of new-found vocabulary skills may have finally come in handy. Cries of "Wipe! Wipe! Wipe! Nooooose" have been heard throughout the house as he chases after us, instead of us chasing after him to make sure snot doesn't go everywhere. He still hasn't quite figured out that he can, of course, wipe his own nose with the blanket he has in his hand, but we can work on that.

On a similar note, Xan's cold really must have started last night, since he was still babbling away at close to 11:30PM, almost 4 1/2 hours after he had been put to bed. He usually babbles at who-knows-what for about half an hour or so before nodding off, but this was ridiculous. I finally thought I should tell him to go to sleep and walked into his room with a stern expression (akin to Willow Rosenberg's "resolve face"). But then, all of a sudden, a little face with wide eyes turned to me and very clearly said, "Helloooooo!" It was all I could to do not to crack up right then and there. (This, by the way, was repeated only 20 minutes later with Angela, except then he cheerily said, "Hi!") Even with snot, the kid cracks me up.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Daddy's budding metrosexual

Particularly at this time of year, Xan's (and my) skin gets a little dry, so we've been trying to be better about rubbing lotion on him before he goes to bed. About a week ago, I noticed that after I squeeze some lotion into my hand, Xan has insisted on getting a dab onto a finger, then immediately puts it into his hair. I have found this more amusing than frustrating.

The other night, Angela saw this happen. I said, "I don't know why he does that." And she replied, "Oh, simple. He's seen you squeeze hair gel into your hand and rub it in your own hair. He thinks it's hair gel."

Just wait until I get to teach him about facial moisturizers!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I needed you, Robert Altman

I was driving this afternoon by Ward Circle, having listened to Terry Gross' great interview with Parker Posey and on my way in to pick up my stack of papers to grade. It promises to be a cinematic weekend indeed, what with fifty mini-tomes on González Iñárritu's Babel. But then Terry Gross announced, "Coming up next, we take a look back at the life of Robert Altman, who died last night at the age of 81" and I cried out, almost stopping the car in the middle of the circle.

One thing is to appreciate a director and his work and, as a film scholar, I dutifully venerate Altman as the auteur he is. If nothing else, I use his films every semester to teach how sound can be used to focus attention on the screen instead of the camera, a technique he basically pioneered.

Perhaps more than any other contemporary director, however, Altman's work has connected with me on a personal level for quite a long time. One of my best students during my current tenure at AU wrote a fantastic piece in my course on the musical extolling the virtues of Nashville, brilliant enough that I was convinced to include it the next time I taught the course. My own interest in genre (and indeed of higher film study in general) started largely because of a paper I wrote in graduate school on the fascinating anti-Western McCabe and Mrs. Miller, a movie that still takes my breath away. I remember wrapping up an evening of chatting about pedagogy with my very first mentor, Julie Kalish (who laid the foundation for everything I know about teaching), by our going to see Short Cuts, still one of my favorite films. (The closing credits started to roll and, after three hours, Julie and I were mystified that there wasn't more movie to watch.) M*A*S*H; Three Women; Gosford Park; The Long Goodbye; Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean: the list goes on and even when Altman failed (such as in the steaming pile that is Pret-a-Porter), he failed impressively.

It is even arguable that I would not be where I am today without Altman. As a senior in college, I wrote a paper bringing together reactions of Willa Cather's A Lost Lady and Altman's just-released ransom note to Hollywood, The Player. I was intrigued that both texts garnered the same responses from my peers: thrill for most of it, only to be met with disappointment at the end when the anti-hero triumphed instead of receiving a come-uppance. In clearing my paper topic, Professor Jahner (who I later realized I wanted to emulate when I would become a professor) laughed and said, "I don't know what you're talking about, but you seem more than fascinated by this movie. Go for it and see what happens." I was so proud of this paper that I submitted it as my writing sample to get into graduate school -- and sure enough, it got me into Michigan.

But my relation to Altman goes even further than that.

You see, my first memory of having a cinematic experience involves an Altman film.

Surely, I had been to the movies before 1980; I have a vague recollection of having seen Star Wars like everyone else on its release in 1977, and Grease and Xanadu came out before then as well, fueling my obsession with Olivia Newton-John. But the first visceral joy of going to the movies? That belongs to 1980's Popeye.

I didn't get to go to the movies too often as I was growing up. We really didn't have the money to spend on anything in those days, so I spent most of my time in the backyard. (This is fine for a kid, by the way. My own son is growing up like this.) Going to the movies, like going out to eat, was therefore a big deal. I distinctly remember one day my parents were fighting about something and Mom got really angry. She grabbed my hand, marched me to the car and started driving. "Come on," she said, "we're going to the movies." "We are?!" I said, incredulous and thrilled. I don't even think I knew what we were seeing, but I was 8 and any movie would be fine by me. And, truth be told, I loved this movie. I watched the Popeye cartoons all the time before school, and the funny guy with the puffy forearms (some guy named Robin Williams) was just great. There was a certain joy in seeing the lunacy of the cartoon come to life, not to mention that Shelley Duvall looked exactly like Olive Oyl. (Eerie.) I remember watching the movie at the Baldwin Twin Cinema on Grand Avenue with a bag of popcorn, aware of my mother steaming in the seat next to me, but calming down and eventually laughing through her tears. By the end of the movie, everything was OK, we went home -- and, in my 8-year-old way, I learned that the movies have a curious and magical power.

Popeye is today considered one of Altman's worst films: a commercial flop and the last straw that sent him careening away from Hollywood forever. Years later, when I discovered who "Altman!" was, a name to be venerated in hushed tones amongst fellow film snobs, I was tickled to find that he had directed this. I haven't seen it since back then (except the ending, which I caught once as the movie was finishing on cable) and I wonder if, like Xanadu, the film will age so badly that I will now find it laughable. I doubt it. Even so, the memory of that first truly cinematic experience will remain -- and for that alone, Robert Altman, I thank you more than I can possibly express.

Shelley Duvall, needing Robert.
If you're looking for more tributes, check out this rather comprehensive list at GreenCine.

I am so fab...

...that I can change my son's diaper without his waking up. Score!

This may have something to do with the fact that we arrived hom from the airport just before 10 and he was still somewhat awake (if only to say "Bed!" but with a gigantic smile), so he was probabl knackered from the flight. (That, and apparently he made a friend in the Providence airport who he then proceeded to chase around a SmartCart station at least two dozen times.)

Or, I'm just fab.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Pondering the pigskin

Oge (who I just noticed is now a Texan!) will not necessarily be happy with this, but he won't be surprised by this admission either: I'm not really a football fan.

This may in part be due to my upbringing. My dad was not really a football fan and I went to high school in Peru where fútbol is something else entirely. That changed slightly when I went to college when, in order to be a freshman in relatively good standing, one went to football games. I therefore became a fairly ardent fan of the Big Green, even if we are currently 2-7. I didn't really understand the game all that well even then. This changed when, of all things, I joined the marching band my senior year (I switched to cymbals after playing the videocamera for a season) and I wanted to know when -- and more importantly why -- we had to start playing. (I also learned for the aforementioned Oge, the 'shmen on my hallway who played. And who derived great pleasure from tackling me in the hallway when I went to brush my teeth. Shall I describe what it's like having an offensive tackle doing something called the "turkey trot" on your chest while the rest of my 'shmen are looking on? I digress...) My dear wife played with the DCMB for five years and still can't really tell you what is happening on the field, but I finally picked up a cursory understanding.

This was not enough to turn my into a football fan, however. I don't really follow the NFL, nor do I really follow college football. After all, I teach at a school which happily doesn't have a football team (I've talked to the athletic director and she used the word "happy"). This also comes after having gone to graduate school at a place where football (along with basketball and hockey) was somewhat sacred: I shamfacedly confess that I never attended a game while I was there.

All this is meant to preface the peculiar things I'm feeling today, when NPR, colleagues at work and even my neighbors are asking me how I feel about the Michigan-OSU Game-to-End-All-Games this afternoon. (No, I didn't know they were both undefeated, although somehow i knew that Rutgers was.) And to be honest, with Angela and Xan out this weekend on Cape Cod and me here trying to get some serious writing done, I will reluctantly have to refrain from watching The Game.

But today?

Today, I feel like a Wolverine. Go Blue.

(UPDATE: So I lied, slightly. I have to make an appetizer for a birthday dinner tonight and I just turned on the game, where I discover it's 7-7. More perplexingly, however, I heard for the first time the opening strains of "O Fortuna" (from Orff's Carmina Burana) done by a marching band as fight music. I'm impressed -- and slightly disturbed. [Actually, I am more disturbed by this. Apparently, this is a common marching band thing?] But hey, Xan can actually sing that. I'm not kidding: he heard it on the radio the other day and has been happily screaming what sounds like "O Fortuna" all the time, appropriately fortissimo.)

Friday, November 10, 2006

As much as I wanted to be Satine...

Which NICOLE KIDMAN Character Are You?

"Grace Mulligan" in DOGVILLE

Whoa! No matter where you go, small town or large, we both know you'll be the center of things. So fill the empty places with mercy rather than judgment next time around, won't you?

(Take this quiz!)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Movie memedom

I was tickled to discover that I had been tagged by Nathaniel of The Film Experience for a particular movie meme -- particularly since it seems to be originating with him. I've therefore taken some time with these amusing, yet kinda thought-provoking questions.
  1. Popcorn or candy? If forced to choose, definitely popcorn, with slight butter. But I came into movie geekdom thanks to the Dartmouth Film Society, whose twice-weekly screenings at the Hopkins Center were in a theater that did not allow food. As such, I am now happy and content to make it through a three-hour long flick without the need for sustenance. (Also, I only buy popcorn at independent theaters that desperately need my concession cash.)
  2. Name a movie you've been meaning to see forever. I am almost embarrassed to say I have a PhD and I have still yet to see Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. I have seen the other nuclear-bomb film from 1964, Fail-Safe, which still freaks me out, but I really need to see Strangelove soon, or else my students will legitimately have reason to not respect me.
  3. You are given the power to recall one Oscar: Who loses theirs and to whom? For years, I have been telling my students that the ever-fabulous Anna Paquin should have lost to the even more fabulous Rosie Perez, whose performance in Peter Weir's Fearless is outstanding. That said, Paquin's 12-year-old self does fine, nuanced work in The Piano, so she can still keep the statuette. Instead, I would take it away from Geoffrey Rush for Shine. I liked the movie at first, but then over time realized how much I despised it. Rush gets by and wins the award for the tired-and-true "I'm afflicted!" performance that is ultimately uninspiring. Not to mention the fact that the actor that does the real work in Shine is clearly the unheralded Noah Taylor. In 1997, I would have almost been happy with anyone else nominated that year when the indies took over the Oscars -- Ralph Fiennes for The English Patient, Woody Harrelson for The People vs. Larry Flynt, Billy Bob Thornton for Sling Blade. My choice, however, is a surprising one for me, given how happy I was at the indie revolution: I really wanted Tom Cruise to win for Jerry Maguire. I felt that the role stood out as being very old Hollywood in a very new way, that Cruise embodied the likes of Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart, but with a 90s spin. Cruise will never get a role like that again (and, quite frankly, I have soured on him as an actor considerably since), but I still think that was his year
  4. Steal one costume from a movie for your wardrobe. Which will it be? If I'm allowed to cross-dress, I would chose almost anything from Carmen Miranda, who I have been threatening to go as for Halloween for years now, just because she is outrageous fun. But there's a bigger single costume item that I'd prefer more than anything: James Dean's iconic red windbreaker from Rebel without a Cause. It's classic, it's simple, and it's the coolest thing on film ever.
  5. Your favorite film franchise is... the "Before Sun" movies by Richard Linklater, i.e. Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, both with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. I am eagerly awaiting Before the Noontime Sun and Before the Solar Eclipse, though I hope they have fewer car chase sequences than the other two. (Wait, this isn't a franchise?)
  6. Invite five movie people over for dinner. Who are they? Why'd you invite them? What do you feed them? I'd probably have two dinner parties. Alfonso Cuarón, Billy Wilder, Atom Egoyan, Pedro Almodóvar and Francois Truffaut would probably produce some wonderful conversations between guys who really love the art of the movies; we'd have to have some wonderful seared duck, risotto and some good red wine. But I'd also love a gaggle of fun, spirited women who are icons in their own ways: Mae West, Katherine Hepburn, Emily Watson, Ingrid Bergman and Rita Moreno (with Kate Winslet also crashing the party) would make for lots of great stories, particularly after some good sauvignon blanc and lots of yummy hors d'oeuvres made with puff pastry and sauce.
  7. What is the appropriate punishment for people who answer cell phones in the movie theater? Decapitation. That way, they can't talk or hear. As ringmaster at Telluride this year, I threatened patrons with immediate deportation to the (fictional) Central South Dakota Film Festival.
  8. Choose a female bodyguard: Ripley from Aliens. Mystique from X-Men. Sarah Connor from Terminator 2. The Bride from Kill Bill. Mace from Strange Days. This is really simple: Mace from Strange Days. I would trust Angela Bassett with my life any day anyway, but the character is also the most even-headed of this group, and the only one proven to defend a grown man. (The fact that I actually have an article out there on Strange Days, the first one I ever got published, also helps.)
  9. What's the scariest thing you've ever seen in a movie? How about the scariest thing I didn't see? I ran from the theater in college at the meathook sequence in the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, because I couldn't stand the sight of the girl getting hacked to bits with a chainsaw on a meathook. It took me three additional attempts at watching the movie before I finally discovered you don't see anything there, that my mind had filled things in just a wee bit much.
  10. Your favorite genre (excluding comedy and drama) is? I confess to having a soft spot for two of the most unrealistic (and related) movie genres out there: the musical and the melodrama. That's why I really love Mexican cabaret melodramas (cabareteras) from the 1940s, since they combine the two genres so beautifully. You've never really lived until you've seen Aventurera when the exquisite Ninón Sevilla, fallen on bad times, sings and dances defiantly, only to discover that the mother of her rich, new lover is actually... the madam of the brothel that forced her into prostitution in the first place!! I also got to spend a 1-1/2 hour van ride with Ms Sevilla who turned out to be more than gracious and, in her 70s when I met her, still with the verve and spirit that she had in the movies years before.
  11. You are given the power to greenlight movies at a major studio for one year. How do you wield this power? I would bring directors from outside the United States to see what they could do with a larger budget in English, perhaps in the hopes that they could become the next Billy Wilder who invigorates American cinema. Tops on my list: Lucretia Martel from Argentina, Christoffer Boe from Denmark, Wong Kar-Wai from Hong Kong (who is actually getting this chance), Alvaro Velarde from Peru.
  12. Bonnie or Clyde? Bonnie. She is doomed, doomed, doomed and by the end when she asks him what he would change and he answers "nothing," she knows it -- and she sticks by him anyway. She's a class act.
  13. Who are you tagging to answer this survey? (Three or more) Dan (aka JJ), who I am surprised didn't get tagged by Nat for this the first time around; Nell, because the world needs to know what the Movie Mom really thinks; Jenny, because she always has great responses to memes whenever I tag her; and Kathy, because I have a sneaking suspicion (as the medical doctor, shoe-happy, not-even-remotely-film-oriented person that she is) that she may have some fun answers to this meme.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


This will be a decidedly shorter post, despite the fact that I'm home about two hours before I was the last time. The reason for that is because, unlike last time, things went swimmingly at elections today. Our precinct (hooray for Woodmoor in Four Corners, even if I don't live there) had an unusually high turnout, with over 1400 people voting in an area that only has about 1100 households. We were consistantly busy almost all day, meaning I got no work done and I got to eat at 7:55PM. (We closed at 8.) I view this as an amazingly good thing: it means that people cared and cared hard. Perhaps it was because, for the first time in a long while, Maryland was actually in play this time around. Our two students, having gone through an exciting election last time, were almost disappointed that they got to do normal stuff this time around. At least one won't be back as a student volunteer... because she'll be 18 then and said she wants to now be a regular volunteer. Woohoo! Hooray for civic responsibility!

(Even better: as I type this, it appears that the good people of Pennsylvania have decided to finally clean the santorum off the Senate sheets.)

All this is not to say that things weren't exciting at out polling place. We did have the homeless man (living up to stereotypes, alas, for being drunk and crazy) who voted at around noon, then came back right before the after-work rush, claiming he hadn't actually voted. Some of my colleagues who lived in the area and knew he was (a) homeless and (b) that the house that was on the pollbooks had been sold to someone else a while ago wanted us to not let him vote; I, who processed him, felt that if he was on the pollbooks, he should be able to vote -- and so he did, the first time. The second time he came in, however, he claimed that he hadn't voted in one of the races and wanted to revote. When it was calmly explained to him that he had already voted, he became massively belligerent. Later, one of my colleagues explained to me that my usual method of dealing with angry people (smiling, reasoning, discovering how to assuage their fears) worked completely against me because my methods, alas, implies knowledge of logic. (I'm not kidding when I say that man was crazy.) We called 911 as we were trying to get him to vote provisionally which this time we knew would not count since he had already voted, but thought that it would get him to quiet down. His tirades at the entire polling staff were actually disenfranchising voters who were legitimately afraid to go in (not to mentione scaring the bejesus out of me and the other pollworkers, particularly when I realized that he wouldn't respond to normal methods). The police came quickly, however, and he was taken away in handcuffs, poor guy. Even as I was shaking afterwards, I still felt badly for him.

The best part? Our 12-year-old (male) helper arrived during all of this. (The custodian -- named Sonja, who is the best person ever -- had already gathered all the children from the hallways immediately upon finding out what was going on. "That's a code red," she later told me. "I don't care if school's in session or not. I just care about those kids not getting hurt." Can Xan go to the school this woman is at? Please?) I asked his mother to keep him outside for a while until things blew over (even though by this point the police had arrived); the boy, sensing excitement, insisted that they stay. Just like a 12-year-old.

Thankfully, the media stopped by long before this happen. (See, Priscilla? You missed out. WBAL got us on tape instead. I wonder if I came across as insightful or insipid...)

Oh yeah, and Marcy: The count was 22, almost all because of people who moved into the area and forgot to change addresses.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Ready, set...

Let's see. Alarm set for 5:00AM? Check.

Grading materials and copy of E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime for Wednesday's class, to be completed during downtime (haha)? Check.

Pear-almond-chocolate chip muffins for morning yummies baked? Check.

Last-minute chief election judge materials read? Hmmm... I knew I had to do something still...

Good luck to everyone for tomorrow, until the next hurrah!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Mmmmm... Electronic ballots...

(The above is meant to be read in Homer Simpson's voice.)

We're almost at that time again: Election Day. This will prove to be interesting, what with tight races for both Senator and Governor in Maryland. As Chief Judge, all I care about right now is that we don't have a repeat of the hell of last time.

Then, I bought a whole bunch of stuff and made a crazily yummy curried lentil dip. This time around, I'm bringing different things:
  • Pear-almond-chocolate chip muffins for brekfast
  • Artichoke-green olive tapenade and spicy bean dip with crackers for snacks
  • Maybe some flowers for the amazing school janitor who gets there at 4:00AM and doesn't leae until after we do at around midnight
Here's hoping things are better organized this time around. Hey, at least this time the BOE sent us a kit equivalent to Opening Procedures for Dummies. Marcy, I plan to count all the provisional ballots this time. And Priscilla, am I going to have to dress up nicely for Polish television?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

"No, I don't want it."

Angela said she heard this yesterday, said (as it turns out) almost right after the cupcake shot shown below. I was skeptical, particularly since I was right there and hadn't heard it.

This morning, I heard him say it quite clearly. Spoken calmly, not even shouted.


A sentence.

With a comma, even.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Picking up chicks

Well, I had to pick this chick up several times while trick-or-treating. And damn if the boy isn't getting heavier by the minute.

Folks, if you're wondering why people ever have children, one of the reasons is that on one day of the year, you can dress 'em up in silly-looking clothing and have them go out and beg for candy. Not for him, mind you, because he's not allowed to eat that much. I, however, currently have the carcasses of four mini-candy bars within reach. (Thanks to the Costco Hershey's bag, I had a Butterfinger, a Reese's peanut butter cup, an Almond Joy, and a Kit Kat, which is melting in my mouth as I type this.) If I were nice, I would bring some candy to class, but I'm forcing one class to watch Babel, so you can determine for yourself whether I'm nice or not.

Today was my day with Xan, so I brought him to campus in costume. The costume would have been perfect had it been a normal Octobery day; at 70 degrees, however, this suit was a little hot. (I bought this, by the way, on clearance at Old Navy -- a store I never even walk into -- last year for a grand total of five bucks, well spent.) The result was that the voices of nearly every person who walked by us went up by at least three registers upon seeing him in this suit. (This includes the I'm-too-cool-for-school frat boys who sit outside the student center all day to smoke.) Admittedly, I laughed for a full five minutes when I tried the costume on him for the first time the other day, perhaps because my rather un-American (read: not obese) child doesn't normally have a body shaped like this, which I found reminiscent of the main characters in the animated film Chicken Run.

The best part about these pictures, however, is not merely that they capture how adorably cute he really is: it's the fact that we'll have enough material from today alone to fully embarass him about 15 years from now. Mark my words.

Myself, I had a lot of plastic costumes growing up -- and my "homemade" costumes of later youth were not always terribly inventive. (I was a hobo for several years, I think, in junior high.) In graduate school, the creative juices started to flow more and for a couple years I went as Luka, which I thought was amusing, yet topical... until I discovered that people thought my masterful makeup job indicated actual bruises. (Shockingly, Angela refused to go as my mother one year.) I also managed to win a costume party contest as Speed Racer -- a natural for me since (a) my hair naturally creates that curl in the middle of my forehead if I don't use hair product, and (b) I managed to find a pair of white bellbottoms that gave me the perfect Speed silhouette. (Actually, those pants were a little tight. No, a lot tight. In the right spot. Let's just say I had to walk carefully for fear of hurting myself. I know, too much information...)

In my attempt to get everything done today, I didn't put too much effort into this year's costume for trick-or-treating, instead choosing to spike up my hair, wear all black and call myself first a Robert Smith wannabe (which became impossible when I remembered I only recently threw out all my old goth makeup, which had gone bad) and then merely a behind-the-scenes techie. Besides, I didn't actually have to teach today and I didn't want to distract from Xan's impact on his first outing on Halloween. I have threatened for several years now, however, to do something much more daring -- and wouldn't you know that next year the holiday falls on a Wednesday and I'm teaching Cinemas of Latin America again?

In any case, happy halloween. If anyone still wants some candy tomorrow, I still have plenty. (You still only get it if you come in costume, however.)

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Drácula sounds much better with an accent (Vampire Blog-a-Thon)

Those eyes: terrible, desperate, yet exhilerating. They are haunted, haunting. And yet you can see how those eyes can hold you in their power, in their venerable thrall. The eyes of Dracula.

Well, not quite. They are, rather, the eyes of Drácula. Don't forget that accent; in Spanish, that would be a spelling mistake.

The coming of sound caused many problems for Hollywood in the late 1920s, but one of the biggest involved all those movie-goers south of the border: the exceptionally large Latin American market. Starting in 1930, Universal attempted to reach out to these patrons by filming many of their established hits with the same scripts now acted out by Spanish-speaking actors. (Indeed, the "Mexican spitfire" Lupe Vélez largely became a star through her lead roles in both the English and Spanish versions of 1930's East Is West and 1931's Resurrection.)

Only a handful of these films were made before 1931, but the most famous -- and certainly the only one of these films that is widely available -- is the curious case of Drácula. The Spanish version is largely the result of a cost-cutting measure executed by producer Carl Laemmle, Jr. to literally make two films at once: the English version, directed by Freaks auteur Tod Browning, would film in the daytime while the Spanish version, directed by George Melford (The Shiek), would film using the same script and sets that night. The Browning version catapulted star Bela Lugosi to international fame and is today considered a classic on its own terms.

Don't get me wrong: Lugosi's singular stare is the stuff made of legends and the man's debonaire interpretation of the Vampire-to-end-all-vampires is brilliant. As a movie, however, Drácula is far better.

I just finished watching both films at the same time, one on my television and the other on my computer and while both feature relatively similar scripts, the two are strikingly different. Lupita Tovar -- who plays "Eva" (not "Mina") and provides an introduction for the film for the recently produced multi-disc package done by Universal -- indicates that the actors even had the same blocking marks at night as the daytime English cast, but that means little when the camera is set up in a different place or is doing something very different. For example, one of the iconic shots of Lugosi comes early in the film when the camera slowly tracks into a close-up of Dracula's face, eyes highlighted by a band of very bright light. This happens to be the first time that we see him and it's a very effective shot. The Spanish version introduces Carlos Villarías simikarly but with no moving camerañ Melford saves it instead for an extremely impressive shot on the staircase when Renfield (played frenetically by Pablo Álvarez Rubio) sees him for the first time. Browning creeps us out with his magnificent moving shot -- but Melford puts us into Renfield's shoes in a far more effective manner by giving us a far more dynamic shot (shown here) when the narrative deserves it, not just because we should ooh and aah. In many ways, Drácula is also far more human than Dracula. Oddly enough, this is partially due to Villarías' hands, which are significantly smaller than the craws that Lugosi bends into shape. Mostly, however, the effect seems to come from how Melford frames Drácula and Renfield together as they interact rather than isolating them in individual (and isolating) shots.

But what about Eva? Ahh, here is where the real difference lies in the two pictures: the treatment of the woman. For all that she does in the English version, Helen Chandler plays Mina as cold and aristocratic, like most female roles of the time. In Stoker's novel, however, Dracula is far more sexual and the fact that mostly women fall under his thrall implies a certain explicit sexuality which is only implied in Browning's film.

Not so Melford's version. Freed from the binds of the fledgling Production Code, Melford was able to show much more of what Drácula does to Eva and, even if he doesn't show all-out sex, the evidence is far clearer. For one thing, the Melford version actually shows the bite marks as evidence to the viewer, something denied in the Browning version. And please: look at these images here. First, Eva is drawn to Drácula in the night. Helen Chandler would not be wearing the shapely, sheer dress with which Lupita Tovar saunters saucily onto the screen. Even from far away, we can see why Drácula wants her, not to mention what he wants her for. Of course, the implication here is that Eva wants it, too. This shot culminates, by the way, in Drácula lifting his cape and Eva coming under his wing, which he clearly brings down in order to "kiss" her on the neck. Yes, there is a lot of Eva-kissing in this film -- on the hand, on the neck, kiss-kiss everywhere. (Poor Mina never gets to have any fun in Browning's film.)

And just look at her after Drácula has finally had his way with her! Yowza. Doesn't she look like she's about to start singing "I Feel Pretty"? That's because she got some Drác blood in her! Tovar plays Eva in a far more carefree manner than Chandler throughout the film, but the looser attitude really comes across here with the plunging neckline, the loose devil-may-(literally)-care hair and a stance that says "I'm a WOMAN now!!" Her fiancé, Juan, says, "I can hardly believe it! You're a different woman now!" Guess what, bucko: she is. Maybe you should have gotten to her first. By showing us some of these scenes, Melford's version of the Stoker tale not only stays faithful to the novel with its implied sexual tension, but also simply makes much more sense. Give me Lupita Tovar any day... but only if she bites.

This posting is part of the 2006 Vampire Blog-a-Thon, featuring over 40 other blogs all talking about vampire movies. Thanks to Nathaniel at The Film Experience for putting forth the idea! Check this page for information on all the other blogs, although I particularly like these:
Oh yeah -- and Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 27, 2006

I *swear* I didn't say "if"...

It's like that feeling you get finding a song on the radio that you have a copy of in your CD collection -- say, Depeche Mode's "Dreaming of Me," which I caught the other day. You could listen to it any time you want, but there's a certain joy in finding it unexpected.

So it is that tonight I turned on the TV and discovered It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. All the old Peanuts specials make me feel this way, particularly the Christmas one. (Not so much the likes of It's Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown.) I don't plan on it, I just happen upon it and it makes me smile. Even if I would get a bag full of rocks.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Because there's just not enough blood in the world

Tune in on the 30th. I was tempted to do another riff on Buffy but, considering I've already done that (and professionally, even), I'm aiming for something more classic. (Or, more appropriately, más clásico.)

And no, Xan is not going trick-or-treating as a vampire. There is a costume, which we will try out this weekend, I think. And we have pumpkin. And we have a Costco-sized bag o' candy (because if you have it, they won't come, and if you don't have it, they will...with eggs...). Now we just need him to beg for more candy for us.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Will Hunting would have enjoyed our outing today.

Will Hunting: Do you like apples?
Clark, the obnoxious grad student: Yeah.

Will: Well, I got her number.
How do you like them apples?

I came back into town just in time for the end of a glorious, crisp, sunny weekend -- perfect for the annual apple-picking trip to Homestead Farm in Poolesville. We had been introduced to this by our biologist friend (and brother of the guy I lived across the hall from freshman year -- strange how these things work...) Steve; he was supposed to join us, but somehow didn't show up in time. Luckily, we weren't quite alone, having also invited JP, Kathy and Jolie for the apple-y adventure.

Angela's idea for this particular trip involved the kids running around a lot, fascinated equally by the small coterie of farm animals and the rows and rows of apples. She even envisioned the kids running between the rows, getting lost and freaking us out minorly. All this, however, would have the effect of tiring them out immensely.

As you can see, the kids were not entirely down with Angela's idea that should be the ones running about. Put into the cart as such, they happily were carted about, all the way down to the rows. At one point, Xan did get out of the cart and insisted on pulling Jolie in the giant cart as best as he could; clearly, she has him trained and, even more impressively, he remembered his training well from previous sessions. (All prospective arranged marriage proposals from other women who would like a well-trained, blue-eyed guy may be directed to the comments section of this website.)
As for losing various people between rows of apple trees, the only person who accomplished this was, miraculously, JP. We immediately jumped to the conclusion that he had been eaten by the Evil Apples That Bite. Considering that, of the six of us, he was the Naval Academy graduate, the rest of us naturally feared for our lives. Luckily for us, both Jolie and Xan have learned how to Take a Bite Out of Crime, or at least criminal apples that may have threatened to eat one of their Dadas, and are sweet and tasty besides.

Luckily, JP was found and we were able to pick a sizeable amount of apples. We had gotten waaaaay too many the first time around, then not enough last year. This year, we got about 24 pounds of apples. This means that, as I am typing, there already has been made apple sauce and apple crisp. In the near future, there may even possible be apple butter and surely apple pie. I'm even contributing to the whole shenanigans by finding a couple recipes that involve apples in different contexts. Here, I'm providing a few recipes that at least look interesting -- but the catch is that we probably need more. Do you have a favorite? Would you mind typing in the recipe for us? We're serious: we need even more apple recipes than this to use our stash.

Puffy Pancake (from Moosewood New Classics)

for batter: 3 eggs * 3/4 c milk *1 T. melted butter * 1 T. sugar * 1/2 tsp. vanilla * 3/4 flour * 1/4 tsp cinnamon * 1/4 tsp salt * optional pinch nutmeg -- for topping: 1 T. butter * 2 c sliced apples * 2 T. brown sugar, packed * 1/2 c optional fresh or frozen blueberries or raspberries -- for apple syrup: 2 c apple cider * 3-in. cinnamon stick

- Whisk together eggs, milk, butter, sugar and vanilla in large bowl. Sift in dry ingredients.
Stir to combine and set aside.
- Melt butter in skillet. Add apple slices and sauté for 2-3 mins. Stir in sugar and cinnamon. Add berries, if using, and cook for another 1-2 mins until sugar has melted and apples are hot. Remove from heat.
- Butter a 10-in oven-proof skillet. Evenly pour in batter and top with fruit. Bake for 30 mins in
425-degree oven, until puffed and golden around the outside and firm in the middle.
- Meanwhile, bring cider and cinnamon stick to a boil in heavy saucepan. Cook until liquid has reduced to about 1/4 cup, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and strain. Serve pancake immediately, straight from pan, topped with syrup. Serves 4.

French-Style Sandwich (also from Moosewood New Classics)

1 c sliced tart apples * 1/2 c. thinly sliced onions * 1 c. thickly sliced mushrooms * 1 T melted butter * 1 T. mayonnaise * 1 T. choped fresh dill * 20-in. baguette * 1 c arugula * 1/2 c packed grated Gruyere cheese

- Toss apples, onions and 'shrooms with melted butter and place them on lightly oiled 7"x10" baking dish. Roast for 15 mins, until apples and vegs are tender and have released some of their juices.

- Meanwhile, combine mayo and dill in small bowl. When the vegs are roasted, slice baguette in half lengthwise. Cover one half of baguette with arugula, spoon on roasted mixture, and top with cheese. Spread dilled mayo on other half and put baguette together. Slice to make 3 sandwiches.

Upside-Down French Toast with Apple and Banana (from Nicole Ruthier's Fruit Cookbook)

2 tart apples * 2 1/2 T. lemon juice * 3 large ripe bananas * 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon * 1/2 tsp ground ginger * 1/4 tsp ground cloves * 1/4 tsp nutmeg * 3 T. unsalted butter * 1/2 c. light brown sugar * 1 T. maple syrup * 2 large eggs * 1/2 c milk * 1/2 tsp vanilla * 4-5 slices challah

- Peel, core and cut apples into 3/4" wedges. Toss with lemon juice. Peel and slice bananas to 3/4" and add to apples. Toss to
coat evenly with lemon. Add spices and toss well again.
- Melt 2 T. butter over medium-high heat. Add fruit, sauté until tender, about 30 seconds. Add sugar and syrup and cook until sugar is dissolved, 30 seconds longer. Remove from heat.
- Pour contents into lightly buttered baking pan. In a bowl, beat eggs, then add milk and vanilla. Dip bread slices into egg mixture to just moisten both sides, then place them over fruit in single layer in pan, making sure to cover fruit entirely. Pour any leftover egg mixture over bread. Dot bread with remaining butter. Let mixture sit for 10 mins. (Can also be prepared up to here and refrigerated overnight.)
- Bake uncovered at 375 until top is golden, 30-35 minutes. Cool
for 5 minutes. Place serving tray over pan and carefully turn over to unmold French toast. Spoon any syrup or fruit from pan over bread and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Old Dutch Apple Strudel (from Old Fashioned Apple Recipes, picked up at the farm a couple years ago -- put online for JP)

2 cups apples, sliced * ½ cup honey * 2 tsp cinnamon * 1 tsp lemon juice * 1 Tbsp butter *1 cup flour, sifted * 1 cup sugar * 1 tsp baking powder * ½ tsp baking soda *½ tsp salt *1 egg beaten

Arrange apples in a buttered baking dish. Drizzle honey over apples and sprinkle with cinnamon and lemon juice. In large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Stir in beaten egg until mixture is crumbly. Spoon mixture evenly over apples. Bake in 350F oven for 30-40 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

¡No me jod...!

I was in Oakland for a conference this weekend which I wasn't so excited about -- and therefore went better than expected. One of the good things about it was that the conference site happened to be a block and a half away from Chinatown, so I got some very yummy dim sum while I was there.

On the plane ride back, I was grading papers and, with the middle seat free and me in the aisle, I had set up my computer to look at the scenes from Jezebel that I was looking up to check against assignments. The person in the seat in front, however, then leaned his seat back... and smooshed my screen slightly so that it was stuck between the top of the pull-down tray cache and the tray itself. I tapped the person on the shoulder. "Excuse me, sir, can you pull your chair back forward just a moment?"

He looked at me, made a motion that he couldn't hear.

I spoke louder: "I'm sorry, sir, but would you mind moving your seat forward for a moment? The movement back crushed my computer screen and it's stuck. I just need you to move forward for a second to get it out."

He smiled broadly at me. "No English," he said. "Spanish." He gave me a look which said I don't really care to understand you, so fuck off and nestled himself back down.

So I tapped him again. He turned back, annoyed.

And as sweetly as I possibly could, with a very kind smile, I said: "Disculpame, señor, pero su asiento atracó a mi computadora. ¿Se puede mover su asiento por delante por un ratito para que yo pueda sacarla?"

As he slowly turned back to move his seat forward, I laughed. On the inside. Naturalmente.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Walking down that street

With the sun shining and a cool breeze, the Takoma Park Street Fair was today, complete with such wonderful things as air-bounce thins (which we didn't take part of this year) and funnel cake (which we did). Above, Xan actually walks over from Mama, fascinated by the awesome Klezmer band playing on the stage next to Dada. Plus, as part of the collective garage sale that this fest also becomes, Dada picked up DVD copies of Angels with Dirty Faces (Bogie! Cagney! "I'm not yella!") and The Band Wagon (which I've not seen, but features Cyd Charisse's legs) and a used CD of Just Say Yo!, worth the $1 if only for the "Route 66 Remix" of Depeche Mode's "Behind the Wheel" which I used to play in my DJ days in college.

The event as a whole, however, was a little tiring for some people.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Voila! The fourth-year review is submitted!

From the introductory narrative piece --

Cinema is rife with elements that come in threes. We talk constantly about classic Hollywood movies operating under a “three-part structure,” we venerate epic trilogies like Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings or Krysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colors films, and several notable films from the 1990s to the present play with the narrative structure of the triptych, as in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, Milko Manchevski’s Before the Rain or Alejandro Gonález Iñárritu’s Amores perros. In all of these cinematic situations, however, the crucial section is the middle. With the dazzling theatrics characteristic of an opening and the climactic finale still to come, the “middle” section in each of these permutations of three seems to hold the danger of lagging, making the piece as a whole uninteresting or, worse, irrelevant. In the examples I list above, however, the second section is often the most interesting section when held under closer scrutiny, providing convincing information to propel the narrative forward, even when the viewer knows the film is not yet complete. I view my progress toward tenure in the light of these cinematic examples and hope this portfolio, the second of an anticipated three, provides evidence of the continued rapid momentum of my teaching, scholarship and service.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Watching "Heroes," as little as possible

Last night, NBC decided to re-air the premiere of a new show called Heroes, which I had originally pooh-poohed from the ads as X-Men Lite, incorrect spelling intentional. The show got rave reviews, however, on Monday, so I decided to give it a chance. I now consider NBC's strategy of re-airing premieres genius, as I now claim to be hooked (at least until 24 begins whenever it begins). Some comments:

First, great storytelling. There is nothing really new being done here, but it's done really well. For example, I didn't see the end coming at all.

Second, it's good to see Adrian Pasdar working again. I have said this before (I think) that he starred in Profit, one of the best series about a deliciously bad person that got kicked off the schedule after only four episodes. (Damn you, Fox!... But wait, it's on DVD now! Hooray!!...) Even though he's not nearly as good here, it's good to see him working. Likewise, it's very unusual to see otherwise eye-candy Ali Larter actually demonstrating that she can act, after Final Destination and Legally Blonde. Not to mention that I still don't understand exactly what power she has, but I'm scared of it.

Third, I looooove Masi Oka, who may be the most endearingly hilarious character on television after the entire cast of My Name Is Earl. Along with the upcoming movie Babel, I think that Japanese may be the newly hip nationality of choice, replacing Korean and Icelandic.

Finally, and the real reason I'm blogging about this at all, is Milo Ventimiglia. He looks different here that he did when he played the bad boy in Gilmore Girls, but that's OK. Angela and I were watching the show and almost immediately, she turned to me and said, "Doesn't that look like Dan?"

Ah, Dan. My former teaching assistant now does as little as possible, has been keeping his cars lately in our driveway and, ever since he was my teaching assistant, has been confused with other brooding actors with dark hair and intensely bright eyes. This started when he screened Psycho for my class and, as he opened discussion, found that people were freaked out because they thought he looked like Anthony Perkins. Oddly enough, they were right. (We then played this up by having me race through the classroom dressed as Mother and pretend to stab him at the front of the classroom as a Halloween prank.) Lately, he's been confused for Jake Gyllenhaal. The funny/scary thing about this confusion is that Ventomiglia's character on this show actually seems to also carry himself somewhat like Dan does, if Dan insisted to his older brother that he could fly. Which makes me wonder if Hollywood execs are atually stalking Dan's apartment or something. Which could be a television series in itself, come to think of it. Dan, what do you think?

Friday, September 22, 2006

No more snakes on a plane (or Virgin Mary statues, for that matter...)

While waiting for Angela to pick me up from work yesterday, I stumbled upon a shockwave game called Airport Security. This should be played, if for no other reason that to see the ever-changing, absurd instructions that pop up at the bottom of the screen: "Due to enhanced security measures, passengers will not be permitted to wear PANTS through the security chackpoint" -- which means you then have to remove all passengers' pants, along with the hemarrhoid suppositories, MP3 players, shampoo and shoes which had been previously declared as dangerous. (Add to this the fact that it's actually not the easiest of games, particularly since you lose points not only for letting bad things through the checkpoint but also for violating passenger rights by not keeping ahead of the latest security measures!)

Perfect for those of us who, um, ran into problems at the airport...

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Which is more fabulous?

Please choose one of the following:
(a) The fact that Xan is developing an appreciation for yardwork at an early age;
(b) The fact that his rake and mine match colors; or
(c) The fact that I'm doing yardwork wearing my purple Doc Martens, purchased en route to a Machines of Loving Grace/My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult concert in Boston circa 1992? Posted by Picasa

Mmmmm... Wellness...

At this very moment, I am savoring the deliciously sweet, crispy yet doughy wonder that is funnel cake.

Which I picked up at the AU Wellness Fair, where many people are trying to show how people can be healthier.

I would discuss the incongruities here, but I am too busy dusting the powdered sugar off my jeans and basking in the wonderful feeling of my arteries hardening exponentially due to deep-fried dough.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

No, it's not Dr. Seuss

I've been tagged by Cathy of Where's My Cape? for this particular meme:

The rules:
-Grab the book closest to you
-Open to page 123
-Scroll down to the 5th sentence
-Post the text of the next 3 sentences on your blog
-Name of the book and the author
-Tag 3 people

As it happens, I have a small stack of books by my bed which comprise (in the manner of Italo Calvino's stroll through the bookstore in If on a winter's night a traveler, which we read for class today) the Books I Will Someday Read When I Have Time. I thought the one on top was Alex McLennan's The Zookeeper (which is a great read and is also by an AU MFA alum), but as it turns out, a different book happened to be on top, probably put there by one little boy with damp fingers.

As it turns out, the result is rather amusing.

The quote:
"HUMPF! I'll try it again. HUMPF!"

No, really, that's it. And it's taken from Life of Pi by Canadian author Yann Martel. It won the Booker Prize in 2002 and is due to be made into a film directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet this coming year.

Tagged, because I'm curious what books are lying around them:
  • nephew Joel, living in blue shift;
  • friend Jenny, living in Baggage Carousel 4 (that is, when she's not in coffeehouses telling my current students certain nicknames, ahem!!!); and
  • newly rediscovered former student Dan and/or his lovely wife Linzey, who are both Buono da Mangiare down in the bayou.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

God bless Kentucky

With my pre-tenure review materials due in less than two weeks, enough colleagues (at last night's departmental party) and students (last week during class) asking me about two texts that I will now be forced to read/view them (the former asking about the film Little Miss Sunshine, the latter about Mark Danielewski's novel House of Leaves), and a son that is literally climbing hand-over-fist over everything, I should hardly have time for reality television. (Thank goodness I don't have cable, or we'd be all over Project Runway given the two episodes I saw over the summer.) I won't even comment about Survivor, whose ratings-baiting race division turned out to be a relative non-event on the actual show.

But I must point out something from tonight's episode of The Amazing Race, back to form as it jettisons the boring families-go-across-America version from last year and returns to the two-person team format it does so well. Part of me was sorry that the first two teams eliminated happened to be the Muslims and the Hindus, who all seemed charming and personable. No Survivor-type conspiracy manipulation here, I'm certain: just bad luck as both teams got bad drivers to get them to their locations in China.

Here's what warmed my heart: in China, virtually all the contestants were shown speaking English to everyone, including their drivers. The first person shown to say "thank you" in Chinese, however, (indicating the forethought to be culturally sensitive and learn some of the language) was Mary, the 31-year-old Kentucky coalminer's wife who had only once been on a plane before this experience. Given the current world political climate where we Americans seem to revel in our backwards attitudes toward the rest of the world, this one fleeting moment of a silly reality show genuinely made me smile and think that maybe there is some hope for us after all.