Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Now is the Field Trip of our Discontent

Learning smells like diesel. That's the observation my teaching partner made to me as we watched about 36 middle school kids re-board a tour bus in the parking lot of the jelly belly factory. Of course, later on in the field trip, after telling everyone else on the bus that they were not to use the bathroom unless it was an emergency because it would make the entire bus smell, we returned to find the driver had taken a massive evacuation of fecal matter in there and we found out just how true that warning was. Then, we were wishing for the smell of diesel back. Actually, the smell of anything else. Seriously, I think my eyes are still watering, and my soul, my soul has not recovered.

But it was a good trip. Four days. Four colleges. A Sharks Game. The Exploratorium. A Fortune cookie factory. Jelly Belly (the factory, not the bus driver, because...ew). Marine World. Me. My teaching partner. Three parents. 26 kids. Pus a group from another school on our bus, but more on that later.

The biggest problem: telling one of my kids on the first day to clean up his potty mouth. I told him to remember that he was to act as if he was at school, then I remembered that he WAS acting like he was at school. But no big. I've been known to drop an f-bomb here and there. IN fact, told that was the bigeest problem, my wife, ever the suportive one, replied with "It was Chad, wasn't it." He was good once I talked to him, and so was I.

At the exploratorium, I showed one of my kids the exhibit where the sound waves are sent into water, making the water ripple and spike like a seismometer. I told him, "that's what's happening to your ear when you're listening to your ipod."
"But I see you listening to your ipod," he replied, to which I responded "huh?" and walked away. I didn't see his headphones on the rest of the trip. Sorry, Thomas. I was kidding. I think.

No one stole anything, no one snuck into anyone else's room for immoral purposes, no one fell off a balcony while trying to shout at the people in the parking lot, no one got left behind, no one got injured. So, that's a win. Except for the kid the parents paid me to lose, because, despite my best efforts, he somehow made it back. Yes, I'm keeping the money. What are they going to do?

The teacher from the other school that was on our bus was "interesting." An older lady, she wouldn't even let her boys and girls sit in mixed company on the bus and at breakfast. She completely ripped a strip off one of my girls because of something she misheard them talking about in a private conversation. She then threatened to write a letter to my school about how horrible my kids were, but I warned the administration that the Mt. Shasta fraternization nazi was firing off a missive, and they don't seem to care.

Speaking of which, while I was gone, the students left behind were actually good, my family seemed to actually miss me, and my principal disappeared. Seriously, completely, witness protection got me, witnessed a mob hit disappeared. The official story is "away on a family emergency" but the office is completely cleaned out, including the posters on the wall. Gone.

I swear I had nothing to do with it.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Random Acts of Blogness

Shut up, dial-up internet connection, which promises a blindingly fast 56.6 k but can only ever deliver 50.6 on a good day. And shut up all of you telling me I need broadband. I know I need broadband, god how I know. When we get the new house and are moved in, ok? We have a brilliant, kind, generous realtor working on the situation. But for now, stupid dial-up, poking along, like my father on the information superhighway, and the stupid "web site cannot be displayed" message when I try to read my own goddamned blog. It might as well say "Fuck You! You still have dial-up." So, shut up, dial-up!

And shut-up, brokeback cheerleader. Just stop it with the chipper and the sheering and the MOVING YOUR ARMS AND LEGS AS THEY TAKE YOU OFF THE COURT! God, as if cheerleaders weren't annoying enough. It's not AWESOME, It's not OK. IT IS PSYCHO! So, shut up, cheerleader. THat goes for all of you. Unless you're Eliza Dushku in Bring it On. You can say anything you want.

Shut up, noise in my car I cannot identify. You're scaring me, and drowning out my ipod. I think you might actually be some kind of new life-form spawmed by my kids' cast-off fast-food detritus and you're trying to communicate with me. If so? Stop it. I am not interested. I have enough life forms in my life that I have to commmunicate with already, and I suck at that, so this? Is too much pressure. Go find a bio-scientist or something. Shut up, noise in my car.

Shut up peopple trying to spoil last night's Amazing Race for me. I have not seen it yet. I have TiVo, and am not a slave to network schedules, and they moved it to ten o'clock, and we were tired. Shut up, spoiler people.

And shut up sore throat, which made me not go to the gym and run to work out this frustration and which is probably responsible for this bog entry. I know you're there, you can stop it with the going away for a while and then coming back to make my voice squeak like a pubescent 12-year-old when i'm talking to my students, making them laugh at me and causing me to yell, "oh yeah, have you heard how all of you sound?" And then having the principal come in to watch me for the rest of the day because I am apparently "unstable" whatever. Shut up, sore throat.

That is all.

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Random Avenger's Top 5 movies of 2005

First off, a disclaimer. I have not seen any of the best film nominees this year. I realize that makes me some kind of uncultured buffoon, but there it is. I plead small children. They’re just not that interested in seeing movies about Journalists investigating horrific murders of other small children, racist cops, state-aided vigilantes seeking revenge for Olympic-related murders, Heroic journalists standing up against Michael Savage (wait…, or Gay cowboys, so any movies we see in Theatres are usually the kid-friendly type or we wait for DVD. And then my wife doesn’t like really heavy movies, so… there you go.

We will probably eventually see both Munich and Good Night, and Good Luck. But no promises.

And for the purposes of this list I’m counting movies I saw either in the theatres or as a new release on DVD, so there may be some things that did not technically come out in 2005.

And so….The Random Avenger’s top five movies of 2005 (because I know everyone cares) are:

5. War of the Worlds

I am not a Tom Cruise fan. I am not particularly a Steven Speilberg fan either, but I loved this movie. I loved that it, like Signs, was the story of an alien invasion told from the viewpoint of the people who were not leading the fight against it, but were just trying to survive it. This movie presented the stark vision of a world in which every person has just gone batshit crazy with terror, and that was the scariest thing in the movie. That, and the aliens.
And the scene of the crowd running away from the great machines as they were reduced, one by one, to ash within their quickly collapsing clothing, was a moment of horrific beauty.

4. Fever Pitch

This is the one that, technically, did not come out this year. But I saw it this year, and it was a new release, so it counts. I like Jimmie Fallon. I even liked him in Taxi, and I hated that movie, so I was pretty sure I would like him in this. It couldn’t get any worse than that one, right. And Drew Barrymore seemed like a good fit with him. The fact that it was about baseball…meh, not a fan, but there have been some baseball themed movies I’ve enjoyed. (Not Field of Dreams. Dear God, not Field of Dreams) But this movie wasn’t about baseball. It was about fandom, of which I know more than I probably should about. (Seriously, Joss Whedon has taken out a restraining order) and even though I did not care about the subject of his passion, I related to the passion of Fallon’s character. And, as written, Barrymore’s character reminded me a lot of my wife, so there was that.
This movie might have ranked higher if not for the schmaltzy, tacked-on ending. Not the one with Barrymore and Fallon, but the one where the Red Sox actually won the World Series. I liked the story much better when the object of the quest remained out of reach. But reality intruded, so what could you do?

3. Batman Begins

Yes, this list is kind of geeky. Live with it. I have always loved the character opf Batman, but the movies were always kind of stupid. Miscast (I hated Keaton and Kilmer, and Clooney, please, just…no), they took themselves too seriously in the wrong places and not seriously enough in others. And Gotham City never felt like a real city. Some fantastic elements? Sure, but no observatories an top of statues holding globes, please. And no one has really understood the character of Bruce Wayne.
Until now.
It’s not perfect. The plot wandered in a few little places, but the right things felt real. Gotham felt real. And I loved the elevated train system that worked visually to separate the slums from the towers but also as a visual reminder of the legacy of Bruse’s father. And we met the father in this movies. We got to feel the loss which drove a privileged young man to dress up like a giant bat. Seriously, it actually makes sense, which is something none of the other movies have even tried to do. I like Christian Bale, I always have since he was a twelve-year-old getting slaughtered carrying a flag into battle on St. Crispin’s day in Branagh’s Henry V. He was absolutely the right choice for this role, not a little bit because he was a child actor, and carries with his the gravity of someone who grew up too fast. Like Bruce Wayne did.
What most people don’t like about this movie was the love interest, played by Katie Holmes. I agree that Holmes might have been a misstep, but I actually loved the character of Rachel. She is original to the movies, and I think has been the best attempt at giving Batman a love interest that matches him. Vicki Vale is too much of a Lois Lane clone. Selina Kyle/Catwoman is better, but then it’s a lot of chasing on rooftops and bondage gear. Rachel Dawes was a crusader in her own right, a match for Bruce, working in ways that he wasn’t able to. That’s what I think works about the character, and why she was necessary to the story. Not just as a damsel in distress.
So, I finally have my Batman movie. The same team is working on the next, but I would almost rather they not. Unless they could get it even more perfect than this one.

2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Suck it, Narnia!
Seriously, I have never understood why many Christians adore the LOTR and Narnia movies, with their magical elements, and continue to regard the Harry Potter books and movies as being the work of the devil. Is it because J.K. Rowling does not speak about being a devout Christian? Because she was once photographed holding a gargoyle? Because if you can show me another story series that demonstrated the power of sacrificial love and the importance of faith and friendship than this one does, I may just give you a cookie.
Sometimes I do not understand my people. That may be a good sign.
Anyway, Harry grows up in huge, tragic ways, as do his friends. The actors mature and actually seem to glow, somehow. The story is epic and beautifully filmed, and that gut-wrenching climax stays with you. This battle will have a cost, and with Harry you are just struck by the horror and the injustice of it all, because really, hasn’t he given enough. The movies accomplishes what the book does, it makes you want to know what’s going to happen next immediately. The world is preparing for war, and the worst is yet to come.

And The Random Avenger’s number one movie of 2005 is:


This will come as no surprise to anyone whose bothered to click on the profile button. And I must confess, this movie was already pre-sold to me. I was in at Firefly: the movie. And for the TV series, to be honest, I was in at “Space Cowboys” (actually I was in at Joss Whedon, but my lawyer advises me not to mention that).

Love that this presents a Science Fiction Universe where the enemy is truly us, that the bad guys are really well-intentioned, but still wrong, that the heroes are what most people would think of as the bad guys in any other story. The villains of this story come from two directions: a mannered, coldy calculating assassin fighting to create a better world he himself does not feel he deserves to belong to, and a race of savages so gone in blood-lust and madness that everything in their path is raped to death, eaten, and then used for parts, hopefully in that order. And when the two threats are found to be from the same place, and our lovable rogues take stop of themselves and know what they must do, it is a grand moment.

Plus, the best one-liners of any movie. My favorite: “To hell with this, I’m going to live!”

And then, “I am a leaf on the wind…..” sniff.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

A Situation Report from the Junior HIgh School Dance -- March 03, 2006

6:59 p.m. We have reconfigured our supply lines to avoid the catastrophe of the 1/19 Junior High Dance. Specifically, we have made sure we had more soda. I do not know if it will be enough, but I pray to God it will be. After the riot of last time, the administration has requested that we find some way to minimize civilian casualties.

7:10 p.m. Most of the locals have been passed through the checkpoint. My idea to separate lines into “vetted” and “not vetted” seems to have paid off, although I wonder about our security procedures, as the outside light has been going off and on, leaving me unable to check the list for those who do not have the appropriate security clearance.

7:59 p.m. Rival factions have met on the floor, flashed their secret signs, and begun to initiate combat procedures. It has, however, turned into a red/blue dance-off, which my partner and I have decided is a healthy way to work out hostilities. We watche for a while as it draws to a stalemate, and then leave it alone. We hope that this will be all of the hostile action we will see for tonight.

8:10 Several Junior high couples are so desperate to “initiate contact” (get their grope on?) that they are slow dancing to Green Day’s “Holiday.”

8:34 p.m. Our supply chief reports that we have just opened out last case of soda. This worries me, but I am informed that we still have plenty of bottled water. AT this point, we can only pray.

8:57 p.m. Whoever decided that twizzlers were a fine item to sell to Junior High students should be court-martialed. I have broken up several “red-whip” fights and peeled the mashed, tortured remains of the WLD’s (Weapons of Light Destruction) off the hardwood floors. I’m sure I’ll be explaining this to the custodian later.

9:10 Five minutes ago I sent my partner into the middle of a frantic gathering of fourteen-year-old girls fighting over a boy. He has not yet returned, and I grow more and more worried, especially as I’ve seen flashes of one girls waving his striped tie in the strobe-light. Have decided to wait another five minutes and send out a search team.

9:17 p.m. The soda gave out five minutes ago, but we still have water . No one wants it, and there have been some threats made, and one group has set fire to me in effigy, but there has been no outright violence, yet.

9:20 p.m. Just as parents started to arrive to pick up their children, our music specialist decided to play the “My hump, my hump, my lovely, lovely, lumps” song. A massive insurgency erupted and I write this from deep within the cafeteria kitchen, surrounded by the last five of my troops that are loyal. Fortunately, we still have plenty of bottled water.

9:32 p.m. We have left the kitchen and found the gymnasium empty, full of abandoned soda cans and mashed twizzler parts. The music specialist has demanded his payment and the custodian has recently arrived, and seems about to start his own rebel movement. There is still no sign of my partner and we have no word yet on civilian casualties.
10:04 p.m. Have counted the money and determined that the evening had a three-hundred dollar profit. It was worth it.