Saturday, January 31, 2009
Now, if Marvel ever really wants to do Thor up right, they'll take a page from DC's book and adapt the Walt Simonson Thor saga. I would pay big money to watch something like that!
Friday, January 30, 2009
You can see this and more here.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
I love my little town, but it's hard enough for Magi to live so far from her family now. This move would be another four hours away, but my solution would be to fly when we want to travel. Since last summer I have subscribed to Traverse Magazine, and reading the new issue every month makes me miss home. I know my experiences in high school were special, and my daughter deserves no less an opportunity to shine.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Jonny Quest is the 11-year old son of Dr. Benton Quest, a scientist who often works for the US government. Both Quests are accompanied by Roger T. "Race" Bannon, who serves as tutor, bodyguard, and pilot for the Jonny, as well as his Indian friend, Hadji, who joins the family in the second episode. As Dr. Quest travels the world working on various scientific projects, Jonny and Hadji learn at Race's side. He teaches them Judo, SCUBA diving, as well as academic subjects. They were often faced with international intrigue, as villains would try to steal Dr. Quest's technology or research.
From the opening electric guitar notes of the theme song, with its jazz beat and horn section, quick cuts, lasers and explosions, I was hooked. This show, obviously inspired by the James Bond movies, shows the hopeful optimism of the pre-Vietnam 1960s, when American know-how and might were thought to be unchallenged. The Quests had lasers, submersible vehicles, jet packs, hovercraft, portable telecommunication, you name it. It was like every Q gadget wrapped up in one cartoon. It's this early 1960s sensibility that you can easily see inspired Brad Bird's "The Incredibles." He even appears on the DVD set's special features, singing the show's praises.
I'm watching the first episode right now, "Mystery of the Lizard Men," and the McGuffin that the bad guys are after is a (finger quote) LASER (/finger quote). It's funny that something so futuristic in 1964 that they were afraid the technology would fall into enemy hands is sitting in my drawer upstairs where I use it as a toy for my dog to chase in the back yard.
Jonny Quest is also unique to cartoons in its violence and intensity. They shoot real guns that fire real bullets that kill real people in this show. Race throws a grenade into the lap of a thug in a Jeep and it blows up all four passengers.
An unfortunate side effect of the 1960s sensibilites are the racial stereotypes shown. Asians were very often the bad guys and they were colored a most unnatural yellow. Mexicans were shown to be swarthy and untrustworthy. Germans were more often than not former Nazis. Unless you were an American on this show, or a friend of the Americans, you were eeeevil.
Still, the show in its historical context is the best example I can think of, of an action show. It was the target of parents' groups in the late 60s and early 70s, and yet I somehow managed to grow up a non-violent person. I wish there were more shows like this now.
Monday, January 26, 2009
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Saturday, January 24, 2009
I teach all day long, but Sera wears me out. She is so active, and demands Daddy's attention. Even when she's watching a movie I can't so much as pull out a sketch book before she's all over me. She wants to do everything I'm doing. The interaction we have is unique to me. It's a closeness that I can't imagine having with a peer, like my wife or a friend. She watches everything I do, she follows my every move and learns like a sponge absorbs water.
I sure love being a father!
Friday, January 23, 2009
From a female student today: "Mr. McClain, what does ejaculate mean?"
Thank goodness for dictionaries.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
One of the fun things about my iPod is hooking it up to my computer speakers so that the kids can enjoy some of my music. When they ask me if I have any rap, I quickly jump to the Charlie Daniels Band's "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." They tell me that it's not rap, but I have to disagree. By definition, talking to music with a beat is most definitely rap. It's not hip-hop, but that's not what they asked for.
It's funny how many of the songs that my kids actually do know. Some are the children of metalheads and crave AC/DC, some are fans of Journey, and I never realized how many of these kids know "YMCA" from school dances. I point out to them that the song was released when I was their age, but they don't mind. It's hilarious to watch these kids attempt the "YMCA" dance. They almost always do the "C" backward. I have to show them that you make the "C" so that it's legible to the viewer, not to the people standing behind you. You're probably wondering what this has to do with math. Well, you see, it's all about horizontal symmetry. They do the "C" backward, beause it's not horizontally symmetrical. They can't do the other letters backward because they are horizontally symmetrical. "Y," "M,", and "A" all have lines that you can draw right down the middle of them that can act as a mirror. I know, what a way to introduce a concept, right?
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Monday, January 19, 2009
Eric, Rob, and I went to see "Gran Torino" last night, and it was great. Clint Eastwood didn't quite play Dirty Harry, but his Korean War veteran/Ford factory worker came pretty close, at least for a while. Using virtually every racial slur ever spoken (except one), Kowalski is a holdout in a Michigan community (looked like Detroit to me) where he is surrounded by Hmong and other minority neighbors. He reminded me a lot of my grandfather. He had a garage full of tools, a house full of memories, and no tolerance for youngsters and their collective lack of manners and respect. When Walt rescues the neighbor boy from some Hmong gangbangers, Kowalski finds himself an uncomfortable hero to the locals. Recently widowered, Kowalski starts to take a paternal interest in the kids next door. If it hadn't been for his constant, continued racial slurs he would have been a great grandpa for them. Walt quickly finds himself over his head, however, as the violence and threats against the kids escalates. He has no idea what he's going to do to get them out of the situation and give them a hopeful future.
I won't spoil the movie, but I give Eastwood credit for surprising me. He passed up opportunity after opportunity to hit cliches and left them behind. I love it when directors do that. As Rob said, I probably could have done with his singing over the end credits, though.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Those were the words that my 2 1/2-year old daughter uttered tonight when the lead news story mentioned the president-elect's train trip on the way to the inauguration. Magi did a double take and asked me if I heard it. I couldn't believe that she had said it, so I asked her what she said. She repeated and pointed at the screen, "Barack Obama." We have never talked about Obama in front of her, at least by using both of his names. They didn't mention his name on the news program tonight, either...until after she said his name. Sera has actually been paying attention to the news and recognized the president-elect on sight.
Friday, January 16, 2009
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Ala Harper's Index:
Number of web and print articles remembering Patrick McGoohan that are either entitled, or contain the phrase, "Be seeing you:" 44,321.
A funnier quote that might be more appropos here would be from his role as King Edward Longshanks in 1995's "Braveheart:"
"Arrows cost money. Use up the Irish. The dead cost nothing."
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
I guess it's been 20 years since I last saw "The Prisoner," but as soon as I saw the bouncing ball sentry, the thing roared with the same sound as the smoke monster from "Lost." But the thing that really got me was the pantry in #6's apartment. All of the food had Village Foods labels, just as in the hatch, the Dharma Initiative has their own food labels. Then when I started looking at it thematically, people trapped on an island where the storyline provides more questions than answers is basically what "The Prisoner" is about, too.
I guess it just goes to show you that there really are no original ideas left.
Be seeing you!
Monday, January 12, 2009
"His fifth success was No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the education reform
bill cosponsored by America's most prominent liberal Democratic senator Edward
Kennedy. The teachers' unions, school boards, the education establishment,
conservatives adamant about local control of schools--they all loathed the
measure and still do. It requires two things they ardently oppose, mandatory
testing and accountability.
Kennedy later turned against NCLB, saying Bush is shortchanging the
program. In truth, federal education spending is at record levels. Another
complaint is that it forces teachers to "teach to the test." The tests are on
math and reading. They are tests worth teaching to."
Uh, no. First of all, sir, how would you know that they are tests worth teaching to? Have you ever looked at one of them? Each state has their own tests, and there are tests for each grade level. So, fifty states times an average let's say of eight testing levels per state, with tests for both math and reading (or, as we like to call it in the educational field, language arts), that's 800 tests. I wonder how many you have even seen.
Secondly, federal spending is at record levels but the mandates placed on schools is greater than those levels. Where is that money coming from, sir? When you mandate programs that cost $34.3 billion in 2005, but fund it with $24.9 billion, where is the extra $9.4 billion coming from? Existing programs, which had to be cut.
It's not testing and accountability we teachers loathe. It's politicians and magazine reporters who can't subtract whole numbers and write out of complete and utter ignorance of their subject matter.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Things progress normally between the two until one day, baseball season starts. You see, Ben is a Red Sox fan. And when I use the word "fan," I mean it in its original sense: fanatic. Everything in his apartment relates to the Red Sox, including a wall decoration which is a replica of the Green Monster (the left field fence in Fenway Park), that is complete to the degree that the hand-operated scoreboard is set to a specific game. Lindsey is a little taken aback by the degree of Ben's enthusiasm, and the tension begins.
As the relationship deepens, Ben and Lindsey agree that while he dives in headfirst into his obsession, she will focus on her job and getting the big promotion she wants. If only it were that easy!
There are so many things that I love about this movie. It captures the spirit of baseball, the tradition, the superstition, the beauty of the game, and yes, the math. Ben explains the game and his team to Lindsey, and I wish I could be as eloquent as he is, bringing home the majesty of a great pastime to a relative n00b.
Like a typical Farrelly brothers movie, not only is it funny, but it's sweet as well. The emotional depths of the characters is well-written, and the way the two characters reflect on their relationship with their friends seems very authentic. Lindsey talks about everything with hers, and Ben doesn't. Well, with the exception of a rhetorical rant in front of one of his students. Yep, he's a man, all right!
The eventual heartbreak that comes seems very, very real. How it is presented and how they deal with the resolution seems right on the money.
The only thing I would change about this movie is that I would make it longer. When I watch the DVD, I always begin with the deleted scenes and watch scenes 1-13, which extends scenes dealing with Ben's childhood. Then I start the movie with the actual scene 3, which begins the part where Ben is grown up. The fleshed-out "young Ben" scenes do a lot to explain the importance of some of the things in his apartment, where if you don't watch them, they just seem like random memorabilia. But the meaning these deleted scenes give the items, deepens Ben's character appreciably. It's a shame they weren't included in the original release.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Friday, January 09, 2009
Every Wednesday night, my friends and I get together to play, but it's right about the time I would be putting Sera to bed. So when I told her this week that I was going downstairs to play with my friends, she said she wanted to come, too. We laughed about it, I told her good night, but promised to take her to play soon.
Well, today we went down to the basement and got busy. At first she watched me play one of my characters, and then I thought to myself that the character creation tool is basically multiple choice, so why shouldn't she make her own character?
She picked the hair, she picked the face, and she picked the colors and the costume parts. I chose to keep the parts simple, but she did the hard work.
I set up a macro to target the nearest enemy and fire her main attack, and I controlled her movement. She seemed to enjoy shooting lightning, so say hello to Super Sera!
Thursday, January 08, 2009
One of his only commercial failures, Jersey Girl was the victim of bad timing. At the height (or its opposite) of the Ben Affleck/J.Lo controversy along with their disaster Gigli, it was an unfortunate time to release a movie where Affleck and Jennifer Lopez play a married couple, even if it was only for ten minutes. What's really too bad about it is that as Lopez's character, Gertrude Trinke, dies in childbirth, the soul of the movie is born in little Gertie, whom Affleck's character, Ollie Trinke, names after his late wife. Stressed out over having to take care of his infant daughter, publicist Trinke goes ballistic at a press gathering, smearing his client, Will Smith. This move effectively ends his career as a flack.
Cut to seven years later, Ollie and Gertie are living in Highlands, New Jersey with Ollie's "Pops," played masterfully by George Carlin. Ollie works for the city, but is now a committed father, forgoing even the most casual relationship to concentrate on raising his daughter. While renting videos, Ollie meets Mia, played by Liv Tyler, a college student who is interested in Ollie's, let's say, interesting renting habits for a paper she's writing. When she discovers that Ollie hasn't been intimate with a woman in seven years, she offers to alleviate the situation, only to be caught by Gertie, who comes home early.
Ollie soon realizes that he misses his old life and tries very hard to get that life back, much to the chagrin of both Pops and Gertie. He works his way back, only to find that he's having trouble deciding which he wants more: his old life or his new one.
This movie has a real heart, and for a change is only rated PG-13. I watched this movie for the first time since Sera came home tonight, and I was brought to tears by the relationship that Ollie and Gertie share. I can only hope that Sera and I are that close when she's seven.
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
My stepfather would never allow me to play with action figures without merciless comments about how effeminate it was for a boy to play with dolls. Never mind that every kid in the neighborhood had multiple GI Joes and Mego superheroes. The same grandma bought me a Mego Superman for Christmas in 1973. It was funny because when the rest of my third grade classmates where playing with their 12" GI Joes in the classroom, I had my 8" Mego Superman. He naturally became Superboy because of the relative sizes. We had a two-shelf cross-section submarine in our classroom, which was the setting of many of our adventures. Superboy was the one figure who could get to the surface without a wetsuit.
Whenever we visited my grandmother, I knew I was safe from ridicule. My stepfather wouldn't dare say a word in front of her when she was the one who bought me the toys.
My grandma would have been 88 yesterday, and if she were here today, I would thank her all over again for some of my favorite toys.
Monday, January 05, 2009
Sunday, January 04, 2009
Saturday, January 03, 2009
Friday, January 02, 2009
Today we went to see Sesame Street Live at the Morris Civic Auditorium in South Bend. Magi got free tickets from one of her "Mom's Night Out" friends who was out of town for the weekend, so off we went! Sera excitedly talked about seeing Elmo most of the way there. Once inside, we found an overpriced souvenir kiosk set up, selling Sesame Street merchandise for at least 50% more than we would pay at a local store. I did end up buying Sera her own set of binoculars, though. I figured they would be useful not only watching the show, but when we are on trips. The binocs were a big hit. She used them throughout the show, which she LOVED!
I almost fell asleep at one point, despite the music that was far too loud. I know what they say...if the music's too loud, you're too old, and I will gladly admit that today. I was too old for Sesame Street Live, but then again I was not the target audience. And let me tell you, the target audience in our family loved every minute.
Thursday, January 01, 2009
Vacation has been interesting, to say the very least. Right before we left school, I had a few chest pains. I was scared, to say the least. My friend Barry Winston died two years ago today from a heart attack at age 36, and comic book artist Mike Wieringo died a year ago August at age 44, the same age I am now. I immediately scheduled, with my doctor's advice, a stress echocardiogram to check for artery blockages. Unfortunately, the earliest they could get me in was December 30. So there I sat, scared that every day was going to be my last with my family. If that doesn't get your priorities straight, I don't know what will. The test came out fine, by the way. Dr. Lee said, "Good, strong heart," and gave me a thumbs up before he left. I'm still being extra conscientious about sodium intake and my diet. Throw a little exercise in, which I was doing great with until snow started falling, and I'll be working to reverse any blockage that there may be. I want to be around to see my little girl grow up.
On Christmas Eve, as I (or rather, the Big Elf) was putting together Sera's toy kitchen, I developed a toothache in the broken tooth on which I had a root canal at the beginning of school. It was agonizing enough that I started taking my leftover painkillers and begged my dentist to see me when I called on the 26th. Unfortunately, his entire staff was out of town and my oral surgeon was on vacation as well. I couldn't get it taken care of until yesterday. This tooth was decayed because of my wisdom tooth being impacted against it, so this makes five teeth I've had to have pulled in the past 13 months through no fault of my own. I don't even have any cavities in my other teeth.
We've been completely broke for most of three weeks now. We took care of our families and friends, and that left less than nothing for ourselves until we get paid tomorrow. It's about now that I'm kicking myself for not getting my master's degree sooner so I could get paid more. But, I've had other priorities that, going back, I really wouldn't change. The difference in pay is $12,000 a year, so it's going to become a priority now that our family is complete.
I don't know if I mentioned this before, but I am writing a book. This isn't a pipe dream like you hear a lot of people talk about, but an actual book that is well on its way to completion. It's a math book for kids the age that I teach. It's also for teachers of those kids, because it includes activities that can be left as sub plans with their own easy-to-follow instructions. It could also serve to help parents who home-school their children,not that I support home-schooling. Everyone to whom I have shown the completed pages says that it's a sure thing. Let's hope they're right. My niece is doing the artwork for the book, and what I've seen so far really inspires me to get this thing done. My goal is to have it done by the end of summer and then to begin my master's degree program in the fall. I don't want to reveal anything specific about the book here in public. But if you email me privately and I know you already, I will be happy to show you some pages.
Here's hoping that this year brings health, joy and prosperity to all of our lives!