Monday, January 30, 2006

Where's the kaboom? There was supposed to be an earth-shattering kaboom!

Ah, that lovable Marvin the Martian.

I sit here awaiting the plumber. This is because the Washington Gas guy just left, having shut off all of our gas to the house. (Thankfully, it's nearly 60 degrees outside today.) Why did he shut it off? It turns out the gas pipe to our stove was close to the water pipe that goes to our kitchen... and apparently the pipes had some sort of chemical reaction being next to one another and the gas pipe lost: it's been corroded through and gas was leaking. The gas guy said we were lucky I called. (Hence, the kaboom line.)

Here's what irks me: we've been smelling gas off and on for, oh, two or three months now. Right up against the back door, i.e. right over the under-the-kitchen crawl space where we discovered that there was a lot of gas yesterday when Angela went to put her birthday bike away. (Yes, I got her a bike. Yippee!) It's not like we waited all this time, however: we've called three times before this and were assured that there was no problem, that the smell must have come from the neighbors or something. This is, however, the first time that someone has actually checked under the kitchen because, well, we told them to.

Three times.

This is not why I hate DC, but definitely why I hate Washington Gas.

(On the plus side, the plumber just got here. Got to go. Sigh.)

Sunday, January 29, 2006

¡Cumpleaños felíz!

No, Xan hasn't turned one yet. But his cousin Luciana, who was supposed to be born around his birthday, did just have her first birthday. (My cousin Mónica had a complication and had to have her child a little early, but as you can see, Luciana turned out just fine.

As for these crazy ladies accompanying her? Well, all I can say is that these genes have doomed you, querida. Although those hats are simply divine...

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

And to think that I actually dated four people named Alison

I am driving in the car with Angela D, my wife, en route to returning a baby backpack we borrowed from my friend, Angela L. I call on the cell phone.


"Hey, Ange, it's Jeff. Listen, we're almost to your place and Xan's asleep in the back, so can you or Peter come downstairs to pick up the backpack?"

"Sure, no problem."

"OK, see you in a few."



"You called her 'Ange.'"


"I'm Ange."


"I didn't know you called anyone else 'Ange.'"


The mind races: do I call everyone named Angela "Ange" now because I call my wife "Ange"? Do I call her "Ange" because I originally called Angela L "Ange" since I met her earlier? Uh oh, have I committed a hug personal faux pas? Back-pedal. Back-pedal! Aiiigh!

My wife sits next to me, grinning as I sqiurm.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Birth of a New Blog

This is primarily directed at all the old students who are still reading this blog, as well as all the folks who have been reading this for all the film stuff.

I have actually started a new blog with -- dare I say it? -- pedagogical purposes. (It's amazing how simple this is to set up -- I did it over Xan's nap!) The Critical Approach to the Cinema blog will be a more collabortaive blog where students (past and present) will be free to post about movies. I will now direct all of my posts about the movies over to that blog for the most part, which will leave this as simply a personal blog. (Maybe I'll leave some movie stuff on here, we'll see how crowded the other one gets...) Still, everyone is free to comment over there and see what my students are up to.

Old folks (that means you and you and all you lurkers), show the young whippersnappers what you know.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Eek! I've been tagged!

The first time I've been tagged by a meme! How quirky! Here goes nothing...

Meme: State the meme rule; specify who you're tagged by; list "5 weird habits of yours"; then tag 5 people to perform the same meme recursively.

I've been tagged by cardhead, who I even went to dinner with tonight, that dirty bastard! *grin* OK, five weird habits...
  1. I eat avocadoes by cutting a crosshatch into it with a sharp knife, then pouring salt on the avocado half before eating it with a spoon. Delicious.
  2. I also eat the citrus -- such as limes in margaritas -- once I finish my drink. (Not the rind. But I like the fruit.)
  3. Once I've begun reading a short story, I do not like being disturbed until I am finished. I really love getting immersed in the story and fear I will lose that feeling if I am interrupted. (The same goes for watching a film, actually.)
  4. I generally flip through an entire magazine when I first get it, then go back and read the stuff I'm interested in.
  5. In general, I will eat a plate of food in the order of least tasty to most tasty, usually also meaning from blandest to most flavorful. (Why do most of these habits involve food?)
Who to tag? Well, let's try this assortment of fellow bloggers: JJ, Rusty, Basey, Manasse, and LaLoca. (Sorry, Jen, I was going to leave you out of this one this time since I got you last time over email, but I ran out of blogs! Besides, you haven't posted for a while -- let this inspire!)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Professional development

In addition to my capabilities as a professor, scholar, teacher, advisor and mentor, I have now added an additional quality in my reperatory experience: a human pillow.

Xan seemed to be better when I took him to daycare yesterday morning; when Ange went to pick him up, however, he hadn't eaten most of the day and had just cried helplessly. (Our lack of experience with childhood illness hampered us here.) Luckily, today was my day home with him anyway, so the plan was to take his temperature regularly and see how he would do, ready to go to the doctor if necessary. When I took his temperature, however, he didn't have one. I thus gave him PediaCare most of the day with lots of formula.

The one thing he did today, however, was sleep. The poor, exhausted kid just passed out whenever possible, sleeping through most of what turned out to be a beautiful day. And after seeing the most pathetic image -- no, really -- of my lost, miserable child sitting up in his crib crying like a lost lamb, I scooped him up and decided I would hug him most of the day. This suited him fine, as he proceeded to sleep on me for nearly the whole day. I was worried slightly that this was a sign he was worse -- but then I remembered that my mom made sure I slept a lot when I had a cold, so that this would be fine. At one point today, I typed some emails with an outstretched left hand while Xan snored (baby snores are awesome) on my right shoulder, reminding me of the few months ago when I would do this at 3am.

The reward: by the end of the afternoon, he finally woke up for real and looked at me with those familiar bright (not glazed-over) eyes. I took off his socks to give him a bath and he tried to feed me his socks -- which made him laugh. And that laughter -- which I hadn't heard in a few days -- made me give him the biggest hug ever.

And then, as I brushed my teeth just a few minutes ago, I looked in the mirror and saw the aesthetic array of drool, snot and spit arranged on various points on my sweatshirt which, naturally, I wore when I went to the market tonight. Which just goes to prove, if there were any doubt: I really am a dad.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Ask and ye shall receive

I received an e-mail from loyal reader, Señor Pájaro...

"The most important thing I need to tell you is that you must BLOG THE OSCARS. It is your duty, and this is the perfect year for it, since you cannot throw the party. You must watch the Oscars somewhere where you can take notes (in hotel room, uncrowded bar, etc), take copious notes in diary format with onstage events interposed with your own digressive musings (e.g. "9:42 pm. Harrison Ford just had a stroke onstage, and the camera cut to a strangely laughing Carrie Fisher, and I was reminded of the way Xan sometimes throws up"), then use the plane ride home to edit these notes into a long, witty blog posting (what were you gonna do, spend the ride home working on your book?!), then post it as soon as you get home. This really needs to happen."

Well, I was planning on grading a little on the plane ride home -- but this sounds much more entertaining. And so, I shall do this. (I may ever try to gather some other random SCMSers to see if I can get them in on the fun.) I even picked a hotel that has free Internet service. And so, all of a sudden, the Oscars become exciting again!

Monday, January 16, 2006

Before anybody asks...

No, I did not watch the Golden Globes tonight, although I did catch Hugh Laruie's inspired speech and the always carefree Emma Thompson. (And thanks to the HFPA website, I know Brokeback did mighty fine, as expected.) Why didn't I watch them?
  • Xan is just getting over a cold and I had to minister to him at one point. (Side note: This is his first illness. A cold at 9 1/2 months. I know how lucky we are.)
  • Classes start tomorrow and I needed to update something.
  • I need to write.
  • And I need to go to bed early to get up an an ungodly hour to make it for my 8:30 class.
  • Most importantly, Fox counterprogrammed with 24 and dammit if I haven't already been sucked in again. Let the Chloe fan club reconvene!!! Woohoo!!!!
Fear not, however. I will spend part of the day tomorrow trawling the Internet for evening gowns since, after all, that's what's important. (No, really. It's for the class later on movie stars. No, seriously, it is.)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Not drowning

I have to say, it is a damned exciting time to be in the world of Xan. First, the big leap to two feet yesterday. Today, I had to go shopping for a variety of things at many supermarkets. I decided to do this, of course, toward the end of the day so that I could pick Angela up from work as well. I also decided to carry Xan around instead of put him in a cart since that would mean that (a) I couldn't be tempted to buy more stuff than I could carry along with a child, and (b) because of that I wouldn't spend too terribly long in any one store. (Plus, he's now heavy enough to function as an exercise weight. Got to work on those shoulders, finally.)

We met all sorts of folks today -- Kyla and her mom and the dad of a 3-week-old in Target, colleague Brett @ TJ's, a tween and her mom smiling at Xan being serenaded by his parents singing and dancing along to the Human League's "(Keep Feeling) Fascination" piped in at the Tenley Whole Foods -- but the stand-out for me is a man named Mamadou. He is a cashier at Trader Joe's in Silver Spring and I assume he is African (primarily because he spoke to another cashier in a language I didn't understand, and I can at least identify quite a few these days). He probably doesn't even realize what a momentous thing happened today, because what happened was so damn simple.

Xan and I got to the line and I put our purchases down on the counter. Mamadou smiled broadly. Xan looked up, saw Mamadou and smiled back. Mamadou laughed and held up his hand, extending all five fingers before wiggling them back and forth. A wave.

Xan then picked up his hand and extended his fingers, smiling broadly.

And I think, Oh, dear God. My son just waved back.

I was completely dumbfounded. I kissed him all on the head. I told Mamadou that I think this was the first time -- at least while I was around -- that he recognized that this was a salutation that, jeez, my son was actually communicating. I was floored. I mean, the kid can't even walk yet.

Then again, maybe it was a one-time fluke.

I paid. I got the bag. We started to leave. Mamadou waved again at Xan. Xan waved back. Again.


The heart really does keep expanding. Can't friggin' believe it. Can I please not go back to classes next week?

You might think it's funny, but it's...

In other news, Xan has developed his first cold. (I have one now as well, but it's not my first. Thank goodness we're doing this now instead of at the beginning of classes next week.) I think we're pretty lucky that it has taken him 9 1/2 months to get sick. Still, the main task today involves snot management. Mmmm.

Party poop

Since we lived in Michigan -- so going back at least seven years or so -- I have thrown a big party on Oscar night. This usually involves my Oscar Drinking Game (tm) which involves guessing who will win throughout the night before the ceremony begins. We then either drink for incorrect guesses oe earn points for correct guesses (which leads either to winning a prize, like a year's subscription to Premiere, or to much imbibement). There is also drinking involved for predetermined items, such as reference to topical issues throughout the broadcast, winners getting cut off by the orchestra, shots of Jack Nicholson's sunglasses, etc.

A good time is generally in order, although things can get rowdy. (Last year, Kat and I refused to give ground as to whether or not Charlize Theron should have called for a moment of silence for all the men Aileen Wuornos had killed. 'Talmost got ugly. Needless to say, I was two sheets to the wind by that point.) It's also the one time of the year I know I get to see Sherin, and last year I thought some guy had crashed the party in a big way until I realized that my Alpha Theta rush chair Ric -- who, the last time I had seen him years ago, sported his trademark very long hair -- had transformed in to clean-cut Dr. Softshell. (Likewise, he had not recognized me either, since I had very long hair. OK, granted, I was dressed like Jack Sparrow from PotC, but still. And no one calls him Dr. Softshell, but I'm trying to protect his identity from his students who might trawl the Internet since -- well, I'm not sure why.)

Since we now have a small child, I thought the hullabaloo of the evening would mean we'd have to cancel. I expressed this to Angela when she was still pregnant. "Nonsense," she replied. "Some kids stay up all night for New Year's and Santa Claus. Ours will stay up for the Oscars. It's a family thing." (This is why I love her.)

So I have been looking forward to this year's party. After all, we only throw two parties a year, basically (this and Peruvian Independence Day) and we tell everyone when we meet them: "Put on your calendar that we have a party for the Oscars every year!" This year, even Danny Boy, who has had some lame excuse every time for the last four years for missing the party, was thinking about coming since he'll be back in town.

And then.

While putting my syllabus together for the class on Stardom, I realized I needed to put the Oscars on the syllabus. (It's an assignment. No, really, it is.) I went to the Oscar website and looked up the date: Sunday, May March 5th. I put it on the syllabus... and then looked carefully.

That happens to be the one weekend this year that I will be at a conference. In Vancouver. Where I have to stay until Sunday afternoon. And from where my plane ticket-- already purchased, non-refundable -- has me coming back on Monday.

I will not be around for the Oscars this year.

Naturally, Angela said the she wasn't throwing the shebang without me. The irony of this is that the conference I'll be at is the Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference, so one would think that if there are any stragglers like me who are staying the extra day at the conference, we could find some bar to watch the ceremony at. Still, I'm a little bummed.

So for those of you who usually come to the Annual Event, know that there is no party this year. We'll be back next year. Sorry!

*boohoohoohoo* No really, I'm fine... *boohoohoo*

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Game over, man!

This morning (actually, about 15 minutes ago), Xan and I were playing in his room after breakfast, both of us wearing out matching Life is Good jammies (Camp Dog on Barn design, thank you very much -- and yes, we are huge geeks) that we got from Gammy for Christmas. I had flown him around a bit above my head and had him in my lap, but he was getting a little tired. I held my hands up and he grabbed onto them. I was about to grab him to pick him up for a kiss when --

Oh my God, he stood up.

By himself. Wobbly, and it unnerved him, and he really wasn't sure what was going on, and I was lightly holding him in place for a moment there. But he was up.

Simultaneously, my heart did a backflip with pride... and my mind say, "Dude, it is all downhill from here."

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


So, in addition to being the movie awards season and all, I discovered that it's also the nomination period for The Bloggies awards -- or rather, they were, since the nomination process closed last night. I ended up voting for a couple folks that will undoutedly get lotsa votes anyway (like The Dooce) and I didn't even bother telling people on here to OOOH!! PICK ME!! PICK ME!!!!! because I stopped doing that in 5th grade. (OK, I stopped because no one picked me anyway, even when I was begging them from afar. How I ever won that Student Body Government election for Secretary against a popular girl is still a mystery. Oh wait -- maybe it was the free candy I gave out. Thanks, campaign manager Ben!)

In any case, I decided that I would also vote for some of the, shall I say, "off-the-beaten-path" blogs which few people know about. (I voted for Jen, too, but other folks know about her.)

So, JJ and Rusty, if Time magazine starts calling asking why you are the, like, coolest places to go on the blogosphere and all -- I'll be expecting some props in your acceptance posting. Otherwise, no more viewings of my insanely adorbale son for either one of you. Nyah.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Thursday, January 05, 2006

On the first day of the Awards season...

The Movie Mom likes The LA Times' The Envelope, but I've been checking out Nathaniel R's Film Experience blog for awards hullabaloo and insight. (He has some interesting comments on why the top grossing films aren't the most critically revered these days.)

BUT -- that's not why I bring him up. Over the last couple weeks, he has been doing some BRILLIANT photo collages based on the 12 Days of Christmas. (One inspired choice for "12 drummers drumming" today: the mug shot of bong-o playing Matthew McConaughey.) I highly encourage checking them out.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Why I think I can live in this town

Overheard at the playground:

Dad: Sweetie, are you listening to me? Who am I talking to?
Daughter, about 6 or so: Nobody.
Dad: Nobody? Someone's been reading too much of The Odyssey.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Maybe I should have asked Santa for some more boxer briefs

Given my earlier post today, I am mildly amused -- and my student should be mildly concerned -- that this was the random e-resolution that came up when I accessed this website. (Thanks to Frooder for posting hers.)

In the year 2006 I resolve to:

Stop wearing pants again.

Get your resolution here

JM's Best of 2005

Some people read my blog for the baby stuff, some are interested in what I think of movies since, after all, that’s what I do for a living and all. Because of the former, however, the latter has very much been shortchanged this year. It’s a good thing that I wasn’t teaching Critical Approach to the Cinema this year – although I am about to head into a period where I will teach it for a full calendar year, which might be difficult to keep up with things.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t see some good movies this year. While I missed a ton – there are too many that I wanted to see that I can’t even count – here are five in particular that I found exquisite in many ways and which I hope to watch at least one more time or two.

5. Be with Me, directed by Eric Khoo. JJ maligned me because I fell in love with this one, but I fell in love with this Singaporean treat. Khoo weaves tales of three thwarted lovers – a broken older cook whose wife has recently died, a sad-sack security guard obsessed with an attractive businesswoman and a teenager whose lesbian crush turns out to only be a phase – with a fourth most unexpected persona: the real life of Theresa Chan, a stubborn, determined blind and deaf woman who learns to speak (out loud) English after her maladies have long since taken hold. With a camera held virtually still emphasizing some gorgeous frame compositions throughout the film, Khoo presents an interesting examination of simple complications of love. The film was recently disqualified for competition in the Oscar foreign film race for having “too much English” (despite the fact that English is an official Singaporean language), I’m sure from subtitling Chan’s silent narrative – which is a crying shame, since many of the other submissions seem rather weak.

4. Batman Begins, directed by Christopher Nolan – How odd, some may think, that jeff picks a huge mega-blockbuster! True, this isn’t really appearing on any other “Best of” lists that I know of, which surprises me a little given how much critics seemed to love it when it came out. (Then again, this was Katie Holmes immediately before Tom Jumped the Couch.) Katie is a non-entity, however; it’s Nolan who deserves great credit for telling a rollicking good story the old fashioned way, but with some great visuals and still a lot of fun pyrotechnic pizzazz. Christian Bale make a wonderfully brooding Batman and I really enjoyed the supporting villains (new It Boy Ciaran Hinds Cillian Murphy as the Scarecrow and Tom Wilkenson as the corrupt mafia boss) as much as head über-villain Liam Neeson. For a popcorn flick (though granted I see so few), I really enjoyed not having my intelligence insulted.

3. Brokeback Mountain, directed by Ang Lee. Speaking of old fashioned: I saw this at Telluride as the last movie of a very long day and thought it was generally a pretty good flick back then. As it has gained buzz, the movie has stuck in my mind and I admit that I’m pulling for it now that it is poised for certain Oscar nomination hullabaloo. Lee spins a lovely romantic yarn – yes, I’m a sap – and turns what has been maligned as “the gay western” into a sophisticated melodrama that just happens to have two men at the center of it. Heath Ledger really does turn in a bravura performance, both smoldering and simmering, and so does the cinematography of Rodrigo Prieto, whose wide open outdoor vistas reflect the distance between these two men. Kudos also that Gustavo Santaolalla’s score seems to be getting some attention as well.

2. La niña santa (The Holy Girl), directed by Lucretia Martel. When I walked out of this movie, I overheard a number of people say that they hated it; I, on the other hand, was shell-shocked and had to stay seated for a while. Along with her first film, La ciénaga, Argentine new young thing Martel seems to specialize in elaborately interwoven stories that are so disturbingly cringe-worthy that they border on horror films. Here, our teenaged titular character believes that she can save a married man who gets off on goosing girls on public. The film is extremely claustrophobic with its amazing use of almost exclusive close-ups with narrow lenses disturb us greatly as viewers not used to be so much in someone’s personal space. Martel also shocks us by winding up a plot so tightly – and then ending it before it has a chance to explode on screen for us. (No wonder Almodóvar produced this.) I felt wonderfully dirty after this film – and, given that it’s a screening that students will write about in class this semester, I will have perverse fun in sharing it with others.

And my favorite film for 2005…

1. A History of Violence, directed by David Cronenberg. This is another movie that people “didn’t seem to get,” perhaps expecting more glamorous shoot-em-up violence. Here, Cronenberg takes his signature corporeal gore and applies it instead to hyper-real violence when a small town hero’s past comes back to crash all around him. Subtle and mannered, the film featured incredible performances from the whole cast, bar none – with standouts by Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello and Jesse Eisenberg, with a glorious cameo by William Hurt. It’s one of the most disturbing treatises on screen- and actual violence that I’ve ever seen, far more so than all the horror flicks I watched for my genre class last year. That “A” in the title is pretty significant as well: this isn’t the be-all and end-all of violent imagery but damn if it won’t make you think real hard. I’m finishing up my class this coming semester with this one, perhaps because I fear it’s been lost in the year-end kudos mix and I want to make sure this one doesn’t get away from my students all that easily.

So what did you love? Or hated? And why? And/or what are you looking forward to in this new year?

Neither onesies nor sweaters are covered under the Geneva convention

For my first hare-brained idea of the year, I submit to you the notion that: nudists should advertise in the parenting magazines.

I mean, really, why do we need clothes? And why do our children need clothing? To keep warm, yes. But in summertime, I know many a two-year-old who love nothing better than to strip all the way down and frolic. Is there anything really wrong with this? Why not just let them live and let live and jump for joy at their own nakedness? And why can't we join them?

And can you tell that I just had to torture my son by making him endure a long period of unnecessary crying due to socks?