Tuesday, December 27, 2011

89 and 25

I went swimming this morning. It is the first time I've been to the gym since September. I did a little more than half a mile. I didn't die.

This fall has not been a good one for staying fit. I finished my last triathlon in late August (crossing the finish line as Hurricane Irene was ripping up the world around me-- it was epic), and that was the end of my season. School started the next day, soccer season kicked off and it was just non-stop from there. It's always non-stop from the start of school. I don't accomplish a lot in the way of fitness from September through December because of that. I was looking at my records from all the way back to 2006 and the latest into school I've ever kept up a training regimen was the third week of September. That's when I say, "&%#$ this!" and start looking for cookies. Or cake. Or fast food. Or anything that will stop long enough for me to eat it. Think Po from Kung Fu Panda.

I thought that if I added a race or something later in the fall, I'd be more motivated to keep training up into the fall, which would lead to winter workouts, which would mean I'd be fit and ready for something fun in the spring. Nope. I signed up for a ½ marathon, but didn't have it to do what I needed to, and the entry fee melted into the breeze. Lesson learned.

Two things -- stress and season -- seem to be at the heart of my problem. This year was especially frenetic, but even during a good year it's so crazy that, by the end of the average day, I'm so mentally and emotionally exhausted the thought of even watching tv is more than I can handle. I hate that! All the new shows are just coming out and my brain just can't process them, so I grab a cookie and go to bed. I've learned that if my brain is exhausted, my body goes into shutdown and the idea of physical exercise becomes as strenuous as the actual exercise.

And then there's the fact that autumn is in full swing. Autumn leads to the Dark Time, and it is the season when my body sends a near constant stream of commands to my hands telling them to keep putting food into my face. Clearly, I'm genetically tied to some species of human that, in prehistoric times, needed to hibernate for the winter. Some years, I'm able to resist (if not refrain from) gaining too much weight. This year was not a good year and the scale made that abundantly clear when I stepped on it this morning. It wasn't telling me something I didn't already know, though, based on the tightness of my heretofore loose-fitting jeans.

A week ago, I started to draw up the ganas to reverse the trend. I told myself it was time to get in the pool, on the bike, on the road, under the weights. It was time to put down the damn cookies! Today's trip to the pool marked the beginning of my yearly sojourn from sloth to fit, from fat to svelt (if still a little pudgy in places). I'm ready.

I'm very much a loner when it comes to training. I don't like to work out with people and I don't talk much about what I do, unless it's part of a teachable moment. I thought I'd share the journey publicly this year, though, because I want demonstrate that the process of realizing a goal is not magical. It does not follow a straight line and it is not without distractions, temptations, obstructions or doubt. It is a process of decisions, and it is as easy as making a choice. To be fair, there can be a lot that goes into making a choice well. There's a whole separate discussion to be had about all that goes into it, but that's a topic for another time.

In order to be ready for triathlon season, I first need to melt off the weight I've put on since September. Based on the scale's reading this morning, that's 25 lbs. My goal is to get rid of as much of that weight as I can in 90 days. I'm going to do it by doing the two things that are at the core of any effective weight loss program: Do more, eat less. Neither will be especially hard at first. It gets more challenging as it gets closer to tri season because there's a balancing act that must be played between eating properly for ever-increasing amounts and intensities of exercise and doing the kind of training that will continue to burn fat (as opposed to muscle). That's later, though. For now, I need to be concerned with rebuilding the routine of daily practice. My students know all about that.

So here we go! Day 1. 89 days and 25 pounds to go.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Quick Hit for Xmas

The kids were quieter than the cats this Xmas morning.  This was annoying until I discovered they'd found my missing earbud.  The cats, not the kids.  Both cats and kids are excited for favors, food and family today.  I'm perfectly content to just sit by the fireplace and soak it all in.
May every blessing of this special season be yours, and may the best wishes of Wayfarer House find you well and in good company.
Happy Holidays!

This serene winter image comes from the woodblock print "Pine Tree on a Fine Day After Snow" (1929) by Japanese artist Kawase Hasui. The actual print is part of the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Prodigal Mart?

Many of you are already aware of my longstanding boycott of W*%m&!t, but for those of you who don't, let me make clear that this boycott is not one of principle. That they may have used child labor, demeaned women and minorities or killed all the younglings at the Jedi temple has nothing to do with my refusal to do business with The Store That Must Not Be Named. Rather, my boycott is a practical one.

Simply put: They NEVER have what I go in there to buy.

When I say never, I mean never in a string of around two dozen times did Voldemart have what I went in there for. Some examples of the more mundane items I would have purchased include a tape measure, a sweatshirt in my size, wrapping paper and a best-selling movie title. The event that instigated the boycott involved the search for a pencil.

That's right. A pencil. And not an automatic pencil or a 205-B high polymer drafting pencil. A regular, run-of-the-mill, any-student-in-any-school-should-have-it, yellow, wooden pencil. I went into Sprawlmart, a retail outlet the size of a city block, looking for an item so ubiquitous I could have found one on the sidewalk, but there was not to be found a single one in the store. You should have seen the looks on the faces of the blue vested people when I asked them where they might be hiding their pencils. You would have thought them some form of mindless undead for the blank stare they gave me.

That was about 18 years ago.

Being the forgiving sort of guy that I am, I've gone in every so often since that time in an effort to see if the label of shame might be lifted, but to no avail. I even manufactured a completely unnecessary shopping trip to the Evil Empire some years ago just to see if they would have a combination lock. No such luck. Wifeness called them to see about a car seat, which was rumored to be on sale there. A clerk on the phone said the item was in stock and even purported to set one aside for her. When she arrived, she was told there were none. I'd resigned myself to the fact that Darth Wal would forever remain untouchable.

I have had reason to revisit their censure.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The [ ] Memorial Dollar

I was cleaning off my desk for the holiday (which mostly meant making different piles from pre-existing ones) and I came across a dollar bill. This is what it looked like:

Now you, the reader, probably don't see that this is an unusual dollar. It certainly doesn't look different from any other dollar, but trust me it is. This dollar is a lesson. This dollar is an honorific reminder to my students. It even has a name: The [ ] Memorial Dollar Bill. It joins the { } Memorial Chair Rule and the <> Memorial Mouth Guard. The [ ], {} and <> each refer to the students for whom these things are named (and whose names I will not use here, although within my school they and the things for which they're named are well known).

The [ ] Dollar Bill has its origins in a bet. During class one day a while ago, I wanted to do an activity that required a packet I had handed out a couple of days earlier. I asked the students to take this packet out while I prepped the rest of the activity. When I turned around, [ ]'s desk was still devoid of packetage. I raised my eyebrows (the class-recognized symbol for wtf) and she said, "You didn't give me one."

"Yes, I did."


"Yes-huh." (I can talk at that level, too).


We might have continued this highly literate lexical stalemate for some time (and on many days, I'm happy to go there), but I had a plan and time was running tight.

"Where's your binder?" (all my students are required to have a binder for the materials they receive).

Her binder, one of the 5-subject kinds, was full to bursting with papers from all her academic classes. She hefted it up onto her desk and folded her arms across her chest.

"It's not in there. I checked. Twice."

My internal dialog started off with a stream of "Oh, no you di'int" comments, but I decided this learning opportunity required a different approach.

"What do you want to bet that it's in there?"

She thought for a moment. "$10."

"You don't have $10."

"I have $1."

"You wanna put that $1 up against my $1 that I won't find your packet in this binder?"

"It's not there. You won't find it."

I opened her binder. It took exactly 17 seconds.

*rummage, rummage...* "Here it is."

I handed the packet to her, then went on to teach the class.

I found the dollar bill you see above sitting on my desk when I came back from lunch.

I'll keep the [ ] Dollar Bill in my desk. I'm sure it'll be useful the next time a student says, "You didn't give me one." And there will be a next time. Certain things are predictable like that.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Late Addition to My Xmas List...

It's a longshot, but if you don't ask...

[HERE] is the link to read about it.  It only costs $19.7 million!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Last School Week of the Year

This is the last week before the Xmas holiday break.  It is also the time for two other seasonal events:

It is the time when unexpected gifts arrive.  All week, random expressions of love and appreciation have been appearing in my classroom -- as often as not without notes to identify their bestowers.  Some are simple notes on the board, sticky notes on my laptop or pictures for my wall.  Some are gifts for Mbungo, my wooden classroom manikin.  Some is food laid almost venerationally at my desk.  It's very cool!  Today, I got a whole chocolate cake!  The student who brought it stayed and helped me eat it, and we sat and talked about family, holidays, religion.  It was one of those special moments that reinforce to me that I made a good choice in being a teacher.  It also served to remind me that I need to get back on the damn treadmill.

It is the time when the alumni come home to visit.  I'm blessed that I get to see my alumni throughout the year, but the ones away at university often take this week, their first back home, to come and visit.  I love it, and I'm always honored that they take the time to knock on my classroom door to visit!  I try to leave this week light in terms of teacherly stuff so I can spend time with them when they show up, but inevitably it's not enough time.  Today, Kestrel came by to say hello and all we had time for was a quick hug and a promise to figure out when to actually sit down with each other.  I'm sure she'll come to Wayfarer House to visit (the rest of my family adores her and wants to see her, too), but there are others who are only able to connect during these brief moments and I think it's important to make them last as long as I can. 

To all my students, those I see in class every day and those I don't, I love you very much!  My door is always open to you.   


Santa's Cinematic Gift

My inner geek rejoices, even though it's a year away... 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Wayfarer House Elves...

...have been quite busy today!  The dining room table is piled high with gifts in the making and the kitchen effuses the rich, heartwarming scents of delectables both sweet and savory.  The excitement of the holiday season is bubbling through the house and, though time is short, there is the sense that Santa will have time to enjoy his milk and cookies this year.

Of course, there is still a week to go and it could all go to hell in a handbasket, but let's just close our eyes and enjoy the fantasy, shall we?


Saturday, December 17, 2011

The (Unofficial) Holiday Photo

Can you tell who the (supposedly) normal one in the house is?

The very best of the season from Wayfarer House to you and yours!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Some (Timely) Wayfarer House Rules

Be kind, helpful, thoughtful and respectful of others -- in and out of the house.

Art supplies shall be used at the dining room or kitchen tables only (not in your bedroom).

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Quick Hit: Random Whiteboard Art

This came from Denver (my student, not the city) last year.  I just found it!

Now I just need a note from Ninja Girl.  Monica, are you reading this?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

10 Things Tuesday: Movies I'm Glad Were (re)Made

Last week, I wallowed in bitterness at the steaming pile of celluloid that passes for remade movies being released of late. This week, I look at the flip side and look at some of the best of the recycled.  I was surprised to actually come up with a full list of titles where I'd seen both (or at least two) versions, although I have to admit it did take some thinking. 

1.  3:10 to Yuma. I loved that the remake of this movie actually focused on relationships between the characters -- while at the same time bringing the gunfighting into the 21st century. I also loved that the ending so unexpected! I wish more westerns (remakes or originals) were as good!

2.  Ocean's 11. The reasons to like the remake of this story begin with the fact that there's no singing. The cast is wonderfully diverse and the acting keeps the same light and slightly smirky feel to the story that the original tried to portray. The ending in the Brad Pitt version is nothing like the original, but that's not a bad thing when all the rest of it is so entertaining.

3.  13 Assassins. Like its predecessor, it takes the time to honor the conventions of a good samurai film: It takes the time to introduce its characters, it is unapologetically violent, it brings a dash of witticism to contrast the sadistic villainy and the battles are truly epic. What makes this movie better are a few new twists and turns and cinematography that brings the movie into the right century.

4.  True Grit. When I heard the Coen brothers were remaking this movie, I cringed. It is a classic of Western films, after all, and made John Wayne a household name. When I saw in, though, I was very much impressed. It focused on the girl, which made the movie interesting from the point of view of the plot, and had a much better ending. It paid appropriate homage to the original, though, by keeping much of the same kind of language as the original film.

5.  Star Trek. This movie was like letting go of an old, yet very comfortable pair of shoes for me. I knew it needed to be done, but I mourned the fact that the old version was so used up, so well worn that nothing more could be gained from it. I hoped that, when it came out, it didn't destroy an innovative, engaging universe that had growing and maturing for some 40 years. I was relieved to see that it did not. In rebooting the franchise, J. J. Abrams breathed what I hope will give another 40 years to those of us who want to continue the mission to explore strange, new worlds and new civilizations.

6.  King Kong. The original film is very much a classic, and that should properly have put this remake on last week's list, but after watching it I changed my mind. The new version doesn't displace the original, but pays it appropriate respect by sticking with the same time period and storyline while taking advantage of the latest in visual effects (something the 1933 film was recognized for, as well).

7.  Casino Royale. James Bond was another franchise desperate for a reboot, and this one does a beautiful job of it! Daniel Craig makes a real (flawed, tortured) version of 007, supported by better (darker) writing and intense action sequences. I used to go see every new Bond film when it came out because it had become something of a tradition. I'm genuinely excited to see the series continue now in a way I haven't ever been, thanks to this film and its sequel, Quantum of Solace.

8.  Batman Begins. I was ruined on the story of Batman after Tim Burton's version (and the incessant mediocre sequels that followed), but this film restored my faith in Hollywood to do justice to comic book superheroes. Christian Bale gives Batman the dark, yet realistic flavor he's been needing and the plot actually did justice to Batman's origins, instead of going straightaway to his clashes with the Joker.  If the rest of the superhero universe would take some notes, please?

9.  I Am Legend. This is the third film to be based on Richard Matheson's book (1954). I've never seen the first one (The Last Man on Earth, made in 1964), and the second one, Omega Man (1971) was just not that engaging. The Will Smith version, however, scared me to death!  It was edgy, dark, suspenseful and every bit as unpredictable as I could stand without jumping out of my seat and spilling my popcorn.  The nightmares have faded over time.

10. M*A*S*H. The movie was forgettable, but not the TV series. The weekly ritual of watching this show provided some memorable moments from my childhood and the series finale easily ranks as one of my favorite episodes of any show, ever. I don't know if today's kids would find it as entertaining as I did, but I would hope that someone, somewhere would succeed in producing for every generation an ensemble show that is as funny, yet poignant, as this was in its time.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Monday Meme: Ghosts and Insipid Answers

Stolen from Sunday Stealing, who in turn stole it from bluelifememories:

Are you happy with the person you've become?  I think it's important to recognize that I'm still becoming (it is, as I see it, the nature of the human experience to evolve continually), but I like that I am learning to master some aspects of myself and that I still very much value active living over simply existing (although there are certainly times when that's good, too).

What's a sound you hate; sound you love?  Fingernails on chalkboards make me want to crawl out of my skin! There are other sounds like it, but that's the only one I can think of right now. On the flip side, the sounds of "happy" make me smile, as does the particular *whump* of a well-kicked soccer ball

What's your biggest "what if"? Hmmm... Conjecture allows for a whole lot of possible answers here, but I don't engage in second guessing much with any attachment so, just to put it out there, I'll go with this: "What if I'd gone to Hawai'i at 22 when I had the chance?"

Do you believe in ghosts? I've never seen one that I'm aware of, but that doesn't mean there aren't any. I haven't seen evidence to say that there can't be any, either. I accept the influence of "otherworldly forces" on the world, but I also accept that there is a great deal about this that I do not perceive or understand well. If I ever have an answer for this question that isn't insipid, I'll let you know.

How about aliens? My answer here is much the same as for the previous question, but the more I learn about the vastness of the universe, it seems less and less likely that we are alone out here. If they ever come to visit, I hope they treat us nicely -- and vice-versa.

What is the single best decision you have made in your life so far? To marry my wife. I was very nervous to make the leap, but it has affected my life wonderfully in so many ways. I sigh regularly with relief that I made the right choice.

What's the worst place you have ever been to? When I was about 8 years old, I lived in Jacksonville, FL for around 9 months. I wasn't there long enough to have any friends, but managed plenty of run ins with local bullies, thugs and even a sexual predator. My folks were big on the "go outside and play" thing, so I spent a lot of time riding around the (very small) neighborhood on my bike. I would ride around, doing my best to imagine myself doing something fun. It was a long 9 months.

Can insanity bring on more creativity? Sanity is the condition of behaving (and, thus, thinking) within societal norms. Since creativity necessarily involves working outside what is expected by social norms, insanity (the condition of behaving outside those norms) certainly fosters it. It's a source of great social tension in our culture that we must reject the one while appreciating the other.

Most attractive actor of your opposite gender? There are so MANY! My celebrity crush of the moment is Megyn Price but, with so many to choose from, I can flit about from one to the other like a butterfly in a field of daisies.

To you, what is the meaning of life? To experience it! We'll never get all of it in a lifetime, but that doesn't mean we don't enrich our lives incredibly for the attempt. Living life is how we learn, how we grow (see the first question) and how we give back -- for we must do this in some form or other -- to the forces of the universe that created us.

Define “Art”. Again, perhaps, I offer an insipid answer, but I like a valueless definition:  The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination. When people ask, "Is it art?" what they're really asking is, "Does this (creation) have any value or worth?" It's value and worth that are absolutely contextual (in the eye of the beholder, as it were), not the creation. 

Do you believe in luck? I roleplay, which means that I have experience with rolling dice as a means of deciding the fates and fortunes of imaginary characters. I've also lived in Las Vegas, which means that experience with rolling dice as a means of deciding the fates and fortunes of real people, too. What I've learned is that, whatever role randomness may play in the universe, it does not act entirely independent of the people around it. Just ask Kelly, who won every time she gave me money to gamble on her behalf (even though I, myself, never won more than $200 during the entire 6+ years I lived in Sin City), or Indigo Frostfoot who, almost every single time monsters would attack, would succumb to paralysis as a result of poor die rolls (no matter who rolled the dice).

In your opinion, what makes a great relationship? The great triumvirate of Communication, Trust and Compromise. All relationships are made greater (or lesser) by how much and how well these three qualities work together.

What's a song that always makes you happy when you hear it? To answer this question I decided to scroll through my Walkman's playlist until I found a song that made me smile. The first one to come up? "I'm Alright [the theme from Caddyshack]" by Kenny Loggins. The gopher gets me every time!

Where were you yesterday? I spent all day at Wayfarer House doing domestica and working on a couple of publications that need finishing (more on those later). The real news came the day before.  The girls and I walked downtown  -- and discovered that Myryah has come back! Myryah is an alumna from *ahem* years ago who is known for fading in and out of the Wayfarer House universe. I'm excited to sit down with her and find out all that's been happening to her since we saw her last!

What's the worst injury you've ever had? My gallbladder nearly killed me, but that's not an injury in the normal sense of the term. The spinal injury I received from when I was run over by a lime green Porsche while training outside of Las Vegas still gives me lingering pain almost every day, some 20 years later.

Do you have any obsessions right now? I seem to be all about the eating of food, but that's normal for this time of year.  Damn you, Wintertime!

Ever had a rumor spread about you? Oh, for sure! In fact, there are probably 3 spreading about me right now. It's the necessary consequence of working where I do, how I do, with the level of students I do. I wonder what the rumors are, though.  Would anyone care to share?

Do you believe in real magic? The only difference between magic and science is whether you know how it works. I enjoy the mental imagery of the mystical, and I'm perfectly comfortable with the idea that I don't know how it all works, but I try not to be afraid of what I don't know or understand.

Do you ever hold grudges against people who have done you wrong? Truly, no. Life's too short, for one thing. I've also found that doing so gets in the way of understanding an essential truth:  The vast majority of people are just trying to make their way in the world like I am. Although they may not make decisions I appreciate, it's much easier to anticipate and adapt than to attach negative emotion to them.

What's your favorite (non-pet) animal? I'm fascinated by all the big animals of foreign lands -- giraffes, jaguars, pandas, kangaroos. Oh, and moose. Moose are the most gangly, ungainly, ridiculous looking things, and yet they are among the most elegant creatures in our part of the world.

What is your secret weapon to get people to like you? Humor and approachable conversation work well for me. I strive to use these in other cultures as well, but must often settle for humility and embarrassment when it's discovered that I'm American.

Where is your best friend? Right now, she's at a PTO meeting, but she said she'd be back by the girls' bedtime.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Week in Quotes

“[It was] a rhetorical point...”  Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director of the Middle East and North Africa Divsion of Human Rights Watch, in response to criticism of her impromptu estimation of the population of Libya as double that of Bahrain (to make a point about the proportion of violence in the larger country). Detail-oriented viewers were quick to point out that it is, in fact, nearly nine times the size.

“Would you be willing to commit to it at 1:00? 2:43? 3:27?”  SiSi, after I told her I would not be willing to commit to a time to discuss time in front of the television in the afternoon.

“This isn’t getting less creepy over time.” Kai

“...with the puhstrophuphe.” Julia

“You can admire and respect tightrope walkers with no desire to be one yourself.”  Someone talking about being, “as traditional as Garrison Keillor” and feeling ok about it.

“Sorry, I couldn’t tell.  He had chick underwear on.” Jasmine, about a Where’s Waldo picture.

“Before, I had asked God to right the wrongs and comfort the suffering.  I now know--really know--that God entrusts those tasks to us.” Sister Helen Prejean, from the book Dead Man Walking.

“I’m confusing my algebraic function of time and my Latin ablative of time!”  Gabbie

“The most important part of any mental prosthetic (as calculators and all forms of finger math are) is that they support good mental models of mathematics rather than replacing them.” Indiana University professor Andy Harris, in his musings about Chisenbob, a Korean method of doing basic arithmetic using the fingers.

“I don’t have a wardrobe, I have a floor-drobe.”Kenna.

“When you find a top hat you are required to have a photo-shoot.”Monica.

“Hey!  Did you see a little naked man running around with a $100 bill?”  Eddie Murphy, in the movie The Golden Child.

“I've never seen anyone dance like that!”  NiNi, of her mother.

"Morgan Freeman is coming. Everybody look busy!" Maypaz.

Are you looking busy today?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Quick Hit: Saturday Morning

Scene: Papa sits in comfy chair, laptop in lap, typing away productively. Cat arrives, placing self on the small portion of Papa's lap not already occupied by technology.

Papa: "I'm just about to get up and get some coffee, you know."

Qita: *purrrrrrr*

Papa: "No, really. I'd like some coffee."

Qita settles down and gets comfortable. Papa sighs.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Quick Hit: Leisure Time

According to the Greek philosophers, men and women could only realize their potential during their leisure time. That is, only during the time not required for necessary things could we properly realize our human potential by devoting time to self development. That time, which the Greeks termed scholea, is the root for our English word “school”, which suggests that the best time for learning is leisure time, not “work” time.

What does this mean for you?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Technology and Educators

Today's seminar made clear to me two things about educators:

1.  This is where most of us are.

2.  This is what we need to be talking about.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Unpacking Diversity

Jinx posted this article [HERE] online today that led me to two others [HERE] and [HERE]. The general question posed throughout them all was this:

What is the effect of promoting a universal acceptance of diversity?

I would encourage you to read the articles because I'm not going to summarize them here (I've got too much to do). After you've read them, I'd welcome some respectful and thoughtful discussion on the points of the article.

A warning: This stuff is heavy on your brain (or it should be). Like any deep reading, take it in steps:

1. Read it, then let it sit.

2. Think on it for a while.

3. When you're ready, go back through it. Try to put the information in the readings in context with your thoughts. What makes sense? What doesn't? What do you agree with and, more importantly, what do you NOT agree with? Are there things in the readings that you're not sure about or have questions on? Are there points in the readings that seem unfounded or invalid?

4. Write your thoughts down, then let them sit.

5. Reread them after a bit. Ask the same questions you did of the reading.

6. If you're inclined, send your thoughts to me. I'd love to hear them! Please remember to be respectful in your use of language if you post them for others to see. Let's model good behavior, people!

I'm only on Step 2 just now, but it's been a busy day. I'm hoping to have time to post something more lengthy soon. Maybe for a Monday Meditation.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

10 Things Tuesday: Movies That Didn't Need To Be (re)Made

I am thoroughly dismayed by the number of films being produced lately that are nothing more than remakes or reboots of other, older (and sometimes not all that much older) movies. It smacks of a distinct lack of creativity or vision, and makes clear that Hollywood is simply afraid to take chances on something that might stray even a little from the well-worn rut of popular success. Here are 10 examples of films (actually, 9 films and a TV show) that illustrate this:

1.  Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The original film, a Scandinavian production released just 2 years ago (and released in the U.S. just last year), was an excellent adaptation of the gritty, gripping book by Stieg Larsson. It was wildly successful in Europe and critically acclaimed around the world, and is expected to see a couple of Oscar nominations this year. What possible reason did Hollywood have for stepping all over this work by putting out an American version? Is it that big a deal to read subtitles?

2.  Footloose. The original 1984 film starring Kevin Bacon was iconic because it dealt with one of the more touchy social issues of the time -- the tension between popular (rock) music and mainstream conservative Christian values. Although this topic is still timely in certain areas of the country, it is not at all as compelling as it was and most definitely not worthy of simply rehashing a melodramic teen drama of nearly 30 years ago.

3.  The Grinch. I have a particular distaste for live-action versions of perfectly charming animated films, especially if the original version continues to appeal to audiences. This movie is the prime exemplar of this most annoying categoriy of film remakes.

4.  Arthur. Even for those of us who remember when it came out, the original was just not that good. Who in their right mind thought said, "Dude! We should totally redo this movie! People will LOVE it!" Whoever you are, can I have some of what you took before making that statement?  Clearly, it's good stuff.

5.  Conan the Barbarian. The original 1982 production had better names than the remake, better acting (which is hard to believe, if you've watched it) and a lack of plot that no amount of 3D work will ever atone for.

6.  Psycho. Another classic film whose remake served no purpose whatsoever. It didn't advance the idea of the original. It didn't improve on the original. It was a near exact copy of the original. I'll give credit for the acting where it was due, but as a project, it's hard to see what the point was.

7.  Fame. Roger Ebert summed it up very well, so I'll quote him. "Why bother to remake 'Fame' if you don't have clue about why the 1980 movie was special? Why take a touching experience and make it into a shallow exercise? Why begin with a R-rated look at plausible kids with real problems and tame it into a PG-rated after-school special?"  Especially if you're going to do it with actors that looked like they were graduating college, not entering the 9th grade.

8.  Hawaii Five-0. This is the odd one out in this list because it's not a film. This show bugs me for two reasons. First, there's the name. If you're going to reboot a story, people, use the same name! It's Hawaii Five-O (that's right, the letter O). Second, if you're going to reboot a story, show some respect to the more than just the theme song and the phrase “Book him, Danno”. Most people don't remember the original show well, and this probably accounts for the new show's positive public opinion, even though it plays like a standard modern action show and nothing like the complex crime drama that ran for an impressive 12 seasons.

9.  The Last Airbender. M. Night Shyamalan might have taken an opportunity to revitalize his reputation for making a quality film. Instead, he made this. With acting that ranged in quality from mediocre to ridiculous and a painful ignorance of the subtlety of the original series, anyone who enjoyed the original animated series must have wanted to cry at the seeming active attempt to find new and creative ways to irk them. I certainly did.

10. The Departed. Martin Scorsese said that he didn't think this film was a remake. Are you kidding me? The script and most of the details of the film came straight from the Hong Kong movie Internal Affairs! And it may have won an Oscar, but Departed is not as good. Martin Scorsese, I shake my finger at you.

For next week, I'll see if I can find 10 remakes that were actually worth their weight in celluloid.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Monday Meme: Have you ever caught a fish?

The following questions come through Sunday Stealing from several blogs (which I'm sorry to say I haven't read)...

If you were an animal what would you be? Why?  I've considered that question for some time as it applies to martial arts fighting style and I haven't come to a firm conclusion.  I'm a Leo, so I suppose I portray some of the charactistics of a lion but I don't think that's quite right, either.  *shrug*  What do YOU think?

Hair color you like on someone you’re dating?  I'll admit I've always been a sucker for redheads but, as a colorblind guy who sees most hair as green, the color of the hair doesn't mean a lot.

If suffering an injury, would you rather be left blind or deaf?  Of the two, I think deafness would be easier to adapt to in my current lifestyle.  Although colorblindness gets in the way sometimes, it doesn't really affect my ability to do the things I really want to do (like get around and type on this blog).  Total blindness would certainly do that.

Do you have any special talents?  We refer to them as superpowers at Wayfarer House, and yes.  I can nap anywhere, anytime, and for exactly as long as I want.  OK, it's not exactly something to fight crime with, but a superpower's a superpower!

What do you do as soon as you walk in the house?  In this order:  Put keys in key basket, put gloves/hat in bin, hang up jacket, put laptop bag and briefcase into bedroom.  Simultaneously to this, I'll say hi to any and all who may be present.

Do you like horror or comedy?  Comedy.  I don't like being scared.

Are you missing anyone?  Ed MacMahon.  He seems to have taken a wrong turn on the way to deliver that Publisher's Clearinghouse sweepstakes check. 

Where do you want to live when you are old?  Someplace warm and quiet.  Wifeness wouldn't do it, but I'd be totally comfortable living in the desert Southwest.  I'd also take Hawai'i or the Carribbean (with a sailboat).

Who is the person you can count on the most?  My wife.  She is amazing in her consistent ability to follow through on whatever she takes on.

If you could date any celebrity past or present, who would it be?  I've had far too many celebrity crushes to answer this question well.  Currently, I'm enamored of Megyn Price but that'll change before too long.  Celebrity crushes are just not meant to last.

What did you dream last night? I have NO idea! It is rare that I remember my dreams the next morning. If I do at all, it's usually because they're reminding me that I haven't done something I'm supposed to.

What is your favorite sport to watch?  There are several types of sports that lend themselves well to the small screen.  American football is great if you have a bunch of people, decent weather and a tailgating experience, but the game itself is more more pleasant with a couch to nap on.  Also, sports like golf, marathon and cycling are much nicer to enjoy when you can see the entire event, not just the brief moment when the contest passes your location.

Are you named after anyone?  My middle name is my father's original last name (he adopted my current last name when my grandmother remarried). 

What is your favorite alcoholic drink?  I very much enjoy (though rarely partake of) a good wine at dinner, a good beer at the grill and a good piƱa colada for the coconut and pineapple.

Non alcoholic drink?  I drink a fair amount of selzer.  Sometimes I add a splash of kid friendly juice, but often I enjoy it just on its own.

Have you ever been in love?  "Ah, to be young again and feel loves keen sting!"  To be sure, I've been in love in a variety of forms in my life.  Every one, every time, has been wonderful.

Do you sing in the shower?  Every day, a different tune.  Sometimes it's an actual song, sometimes it's just some random improv, but I've learned that it's part of my subconscious' morning routine.

Have you ever been arrested?  Nope.  I've been ticketed, lectured, drawn on and patted down (not all at the same time), but never have I had cuffs applied and Miranda warnings issued.

What is your favorite holiday?  New Year's Eve/My Anniversary.  It carries great person significance to my wife and me, but it has taken on a life of its own from all the contributions of our chosen family -- and that means it's special to more than just us, and that's really great!

Would you ever get plastic surgery?  Not to be vain (please!  There's no amount of plastic surgery that can fix this).  If I needed cosmetic help to address some form of trauma, I would at least give it some thought.

Have you ever caught a fish?  Everything from perch to flounder, catfish to bass.  I love fish!  I'm less interested nowadays in catching them than eating them, but a good day out in a boat with nothing to do but watch the water certainly has its appeal.

Happy Monday! 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Breaking Wi... Dawn

The womenfolk are going to see the latest installment of the Twilight saga.  I am kidsitting and hanging out with Mahk and working on grades.  I have the better end of this bargain.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Quick Hit -- Because I'm Doing Grades

Ten thousand thank-yous to Sandi for passing along a digital copy of Wifeness' Jeopardy! episode!  You are so wonderful!  It looks great, and I'm totally excited to have something of such high quality to keep for posterity. 

In other news, we have kittens in the house.  This can be interpreted as either great or a headache in the making, depending upon whether or not you're me.  Details to follow.  And maybe pics. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

22 Minutes of Fame

Today was a celebration of my amazing wife's accomplishments as a contestant on the pinnacle of game shows.  Thanks to everyone who encouraged her, cheered her on and shared her special moment with us at Wayfarer House.  Your support of her meant so much! 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

This is (my wife on) Jeopardy!

My super smart, incredibly talented, amazingly creative, shamelessly unreserved (on camera) will be on national television tomorrow as a contestent on America's favorite quiz show! 

Check out the commercial for this week's shows!  Further down the page, as well, is her "Hometown Howdy".

Her show airs TOMORROW, and I'm looking for volunteers to record it digitally.  We have a VCR, but not a DVR and the show isn't available in any form online that I can find.  If you're able to help, I'd be happy to offer something delicious as compensation!

To make an appearance on this show was the realization of a dream for her.  Contenstants have to qualify (through two tests) to even get a chance to audition, and she went through the process TWICE!*  I went with her to L.A. for the taping of the show, and I'll tell you in was an incredible experience.  It is not possible to communicate just how much more intense it is to be watching the show live, and how much harder it is to keep your nerve -- and I wasn't even on playing the game!  I can't discuss specifics about the show until after it airs TOMORROW, but I can tell you that it was so exciting to be there to support my wife in making this happen.  Without any question, she deserved to be on that stage, and it was great to see her doing something she'd worked toward for several years. 

Jeopardy! is syndicated, so check your local listings to find you when/where the show airs in your world.  For us at Wayfarer House, it's at 7:30 on channel 5, and a whole bunch of us will be squeezed into the living room to watch it unfold.  We hope you'll join us (wherever/whenever), and I hope you'll talk to her about it afterward.  She's just bursting to talk about it!

People who qualify for the show are put in a contestant pool and are selected for the show at random.  You stay in the pool for 18 months and, if you're not selected during that time, you have to requalify.