What I want you to know. Which is everything.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Chappell and Angelou **

Last night there was an episode of Iconoclasts on the Sundance Channel with Dave Chappell and Maya Angelou. If you've never seen Iconoclasts they film a visit of one famous person with another. Usually the two people have something in common but they are typically from different areas of the entertainment industry or public eye. What I love about the show is that the two people are taped in a comfortable location, usually one of their homes, and they get real, discussing current events, their respective careers, the whole idea of fame and celebrity.

Not every episode is enlightening or fascinating, but last night Chappell visited with Angelou at her home, which was laden with African American art and photos of famous people she has known from the Civil Rights Era. It was amazing to see Chappell, who is quoted on a daily basis by my high school students pitted up Angelou, whom I admire immensely. And the truth is, I admire Dave Chappell, also, in a different way. Not only is he funny but his comedy is smart. I'm always amazed at people who are not only making witty commentary on our society but also tap into to the tastes of a larger, more fickle public's sense of longevity and are subsequently made in to icons. Chappell's comedy about race was sometimes criticized for being racist and afro-centric, but the truth is that black comedians can say things that Whites can't get away with and that rubs some people wrong. Frankly, I'm glad that all things can be said, even if not by me. Chappell made no qualms about saying these things. Saying them infused him and phrases like, "I'm rich, bitch!" and "I'm Rick James!" into our cultural lexicon. That, of course, is enough of a feat, but to do so and then walk away from it all takes a different sort of resolve. Dave Chappell isn't crazy or depressed or on a quest or anything one might think of someone who walked away from 50 million dollars. He simply didn't like what mega-ultra-uber-fame was doing to his act. That's it. He said that he left his show on Comedy Central because he couldn't perform at his stand up shows the way he had before. Every time he walked out on stage some dufus in the back was yelling out "I'm Rick James, bitch!" and oohing and awing at his celebrity. He didn't say as much, but I expect that he would say that his shows used to feel like a conversation. He had a repoir with his audience and he connected with them as individuals. Maya Angelou, as they were discussing this matter talked of the dangers of youth looking up to celebrities as anything other than ordinary people. She said something so profound: she said that when we look at celebrities and their accomplishments as super-human, as we are prone to do, young people especially start thinking that level of excellence is unattainable. When we worship celebrity and riches and people in general, how can we ourselves ever aspire to greatness. There has to be that little thing inside us that always says, "I could do better."

Obviously, Angelou is the more broad character to study. She is classic, intelligent, loving, and so gifted. And giving. That is what struck me most about their conversation. While my interests lie with Chappell, it is through Angelou that we are able to see his vulnerabilities and openness. Not that Dave Chappell isn't open in his act or in his comedy. I think most talented comedians are only funnier than the next guy because they are honest. But, with Angelou's questions and advise and strength of character, Dave opens up on a very real level and you see that he is learning, right before our eyes, what he was really doing when he walked away from the money and the show. He knew what was going on but through Angelou he had a respected mother figure affirming his decision and reassuring his goals. You could really tell that Dave was just enamored to be in Maya Angelou's home and experiencing her knowledge. One could see him just soaking it in at times.

During one of the most fascinating parts we see where their two generations clash the most. The older black lady from the civil rights era and the young, wealthy black comedian, raised as the outset of the hip-hop age. The big issue that Angelou took was with the N-word. She wouldn't even say it. Unlike many of my students, who throw the word around like "buddy," or "like," Maya Angelou sees the word as poison. She gave the example of a bottle of poison, marked poison. If the poison is taken out of the bottle, the poison still exists, and is still represented by the marking on the bottle. The N-word is similar, having had the harmful history. The history still exists even though the word is now owned by those who used to be hurt by the word. Chappell explained his usage of the word as this: it used to be a word used to exclude blacks from white society. Now, blacks use it as an exclusive word, too, but to bring people closer together. It's a word that only the chosen can say. It's probably the only word that I literally hate hearing come from the mouth of a white person, but it doesn't bother me to hear a black person say it. Most white people don't understand this. I wrote a kid up earlier this year for saying it, when he protested that blacks say it all the time, I thought, "This isn't a isolated complaint with white people." We feel a sense of entitlement. "Whites say, if they can do it, so can I." This runs in steep contrast to the way I hear black kids talk. From them I hear, "That's something white kids do." Of course, as a teacher my job is to teach against this mindset. It is also to teach the white kids humility and respect. Respect people's history and assume that you can't assume anything about the person you are speaking to. A very good friend of mine, who is black,always made me very comfortable about speaking on racial issues. It was a topic of conversation that we had, often, probably because he was the best black friend I'd ever had, and I was curious. One day, in jest, I uttered the n-word to him, and he got dead serious. I can't say that word. Regardless of the context or relationship to the person hearing. It's not my word. It never was. It was created by my ancestors to bring down his ancestors and now that is the pittance I'm paying. I'll accept it.

So, I've gotten off track. Anyway, the episode of Iconoclast was very enlightening. I encourage you to watch it if you have the Sundance Channel. It will probably replay, again.

**Alternate title "I'll Rise, Bitch!" foregone to draw in our more conservative readers.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Return to Blogging Haiku

There's been so much on my mind lately and so much time to write that I've been doing the right thing and spending that time with my lovely wife.

But, the neglect of my blog is no small issue in my mind. On the contrary, it has been bothering me. The reason that I started to write a blog was because I wanted an outlet to express my opinions and feelings about things that were happening to me and around me. I figured that I would never keep a journal of this kind if I were to just write it in a private journal. Either the awaiting public or the naive belief in one is the primary reason that I've been able to keep it up this long. I'm convinced of this.

So without further ado, my next installment of Haiku Blogging:

So long without blogs.
My laziness is not new.
So much left unsaid.

Dallas was calling
From friends and family, too.
We all ate fart cheese.

The set for Forum
Is not finished but I've had
Greater miracles.

Don't try and tell Doc.
He won't hear future events
And lighting will strike.

Time curcuits on, now.
Flux copacitor, fluxing.
Doc ain't ready yet!

When you hit eight-eight
Be sure the cables are set
And the movie's done.

Students will have fun
If you take them to Corpus.
Make sure you stay sane.

Thanksgiving is great.
It is a week to take off.
Oh, yeah. And give thanks.

Taking a week off.
Is not nearly good enough.
It's like a teaser.

There it is. I hope you enjoyed the little Back to the Future sidetracking. Later.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Geek Moment: The American Bison

I've decided that periodically I will post a "Geek Moment," i.e., I show my interest and/or enthusiam for something that would have the potential to alienate me from the discussion at any social gathering. This is the first.

I find this totally facsinating. It's the featured picture on the Wikipedia homepage:

Here's the caption that went with it:

Photograph from the mid-1870s of a pile of American Bison skulls waiting to be ground for fertilizer. Bison were hunted almost to extinction in the 19th century and were reduced to a few hundred head by the mid-1880s, from which all the present day's managed herds are descended. The commercial take arguably was anywhere from 2,000 to 100,000 animals per day, though there are no statistics available.

Read more here

I've always heard that the American Bison was hunted practically to extinction and I've always accepted it as fact, but I've never really gotten how a whole species could, within the course of only a handful of decades, be almost completely wiped out. This picture made it a little clearer for me.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Thursday, November 02, 2006

My Week in Blog Form

Things that happened this week:

Finished The Laramie Project at San Jacinto College. Overall it was a great experience, but we're glad it's over. I'm a little less consumed with things now. Everyone who saw it said they liked it, so that's a good thing. If you saw it, thanks. If not, well, you will have to rent it or something.

My friend H.R. is in town and he saw the Sunday afternoon, final performace. It was great to see him and to talk to him. He's been having a really exciting life the last few years, living in Scotland and writing musicals and just being an artist. Yeah, for old friends. This is a picture of him in front of the Lockness lake with a local fisherman who claimed that he actually caught Nessy's older brother Fressy. Said Fressy was "the week one." That's not true, at all.

We took our students to see Much Ado About Nothing at The Alley Theater in Houston. It was possibly the best performance of Shakespeare I've ever seen. It was creative, inspiring, unique, relavant..... All the things that Shakespeare should be. The sets, lights, costumes were beautiful and the actors were wonderful. It made me miss being involved in professional theatre. I've never really missed it before. When I was there before, I wasn't too happy.

Amanda and I saw The Prestige. It was really cool. I'd give it a solid 4/5 bulls. Maybe even a half more.

Played basketball with my friend Neal. I am still out of shape and it was hard, especially since it was full court, but, the last time I played I was about 30 lbs. heavier. Last time it was not fun. This time, it was still hard, but it was fun. I love playing basketball, or any sport and being active. That's going to be my new thing.

I voted. But you knew that already.

Finally, John Kerry screwed up a joke and pissed off a lot of people. He didn't want to applogize, for whatever reason, and that pissed people off even more. It sometimes amazes me what people who are scrutinized over as much as politicians are, still think they can get away with saying. Sure, what John Kerry said isn't what he meant, but I couldn't understand his initial refusal to appologize. He didn't have to appologize for what he meant to say, but geez, he could have soothed things over a lot better.

And this has been my favorite video on YouTube this week:

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"He's Not Kinky..."

I voted today. I voted for Kinky for Governor. Maybe you're asking why. I'm pretty much a Democrat, for all intents and purposes, and sure, sometimes Friedman seems disingenuous and completely under qualified.

At first I'd decided that I was going to vote for him because of his bumper stickers. Mostly, they were humorous, but they had a major point. "Why the hell not?" Really! Why the hell not? Think about it. If you know anything about me I don't have to tell you why I'm not going to vote for Rick Perry. Chris Bell, the Democrat, seems qualified to be a decent governor, a solid democrat who could also appeal to the more conservative side of Texas by not being too far left. In other words, a centrist. However, the more I got to thinking about it, did I just want to vote for the guy because of him being the "lesser of two evils." Not that I think Bell would be a terrible choice, but he's basically a pretty run of the mill Democrat and with all of the disorganization that has plagued the party since the Clinton Administration, did I really want to support more of the same? Plus, from what I've gathered, no one is that thrilled with Perry, including Republicans in the state, but they consider him the "lesser..." Bell's chances of winning the Miss Bangkok Pageant are looking like more of a possibility than him winning the Texas Governorship.

Carol Keeton Strayhorn has my utter respect. She is a true conservative in a culture of this Neo-con bullcrap that I truly believe cares deeply about education and the betterment of the state. Her views are much more rightwing than mine, but I respect her courage and knowledge. At the end of the day, though, she doesn't have a real chance of winning. Most people won't really see her for what she is and will only see her as a typical upstart independent with lofty goals and little reality.

Part of Kinky's appeal is that, at least at first, he didn't really think that he could win, either. Probably. I'm only guessing. As a former shock-country personality he most likely saw himself as, if nothing else, a wake up call to the state. Someone to bring about a change in ideology, even if he didn't actually win. People need an option other than the big two, or in Texas, the big one and it's little brother. Kinky is that option. Maybe he's not as qualified, knowledgeable or informed. I think that he knows that and has not made any attempt to hide it. Of all of the candidates he, in my opinion, is the most likely to listen. Not just to those who think like him or in opposition to a rival, but to everyone, regardless of political affiliation or ideology. He's incredibly open-minded, which I love, and he's brazen, blunt, and has no allegiances, except to the state of Texas. This is something we only see in politicians with nothing to lose. We see it in presidents in their final term to an extent, but especially in retired politicians. I never liked any ex-presidential candidate as much as I did Bob Dole. I never would have voted for him, but as a personality in the public eye, he is likeable, lovable, blunt and relaxed. Both Bill Clinton and Al Gore speak their mind without fear of political retribution. It's refreshing and I wish it were something we heard from more politicians IN office. But they can't be frank for fear of losing a demographic. Friedman is frank. He is blunt and--not always right, or rather, in agreement with myself--but I respect that. That's the kind of leader that I can live with. Scratch that. That's the kind of leader that I crave.

To top it all off (and here's the real kicker) I think he might actually have a shot at winning. Call me crazy, I think he's got a shot. No, seriously. If you take all of the normally Democratic voters who are straying from the party, who are many, then add in the fed up members of the Republican party who feel completely betrayed by their party and you've got enough voters to give Perry a decent run. Then if you take all of the disinfranchised voters who don't feel like any party is there to serve them and typically vote independently and all of the people who are just "fed up with the system," and I think we've got ourselves a good ole' fashion contender.

Rock on, Kinky!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Liberals Love Their Talk Radio

I don't know why I do it. It happens whenever I'm riding in my car and NPR is playing classical music instead of news, the local college radio station is playing their wierdest mix of monotonous, noisy, cat-wailing and white noise, and the corporate music station...well, the Clear Channels of the world continuously suck without fail. I've given up on them almost entirely. When I can't find anything else worth listening to on the radio, which is most of the time, I can usually count on A.M. talk radio to keep my interest. I should go ahead and listen to the classical music, but if I'm trying not to fall asleep at the wheel classical isn't my best option. Talk radio is sometime about all I can handle. Plus, I think there is a tiny streak of masacism in me somewhere that allows me to actually enjoy the Rushes and Hannitys of the world. Luckily for me, Jim Rome takes care of my lunch hour so I'm much less likely to turn it to the Limbaugh Liberal Bashing Hour. If you've never heard Jim Rome, he's a lot like political radio talk show host except his subject is sports, so if you're getting offended you are taking subject way to seriously. Plus, he make remarks like like this: "Want a Sling-Box (a prize he gives away to callers who make comments that he agrees with)? I'm giving Sling-Boxes away left and right, today. I'm easy, today. Today, I'm the Paris Hilton of Sling-Boxes!" That one made me laugh for a long time.

But, other times there is no respite of quality journalism, as heard on NPR, or humorous and inconsequential off-colored humor, as heard from Rome. Sometimes the only non-musical radio I can get is the ultra-conservative mudslingers that pepper the A.M. dial. Houston doesn't have the luxery of having Air America, and so I find myself yelling at the radio words that are typically reserved for 90 year old geriatrics stopped on the entrance ramp of the freeway.

So, why do I do it? Why do I listen to people with whom I know that I'm going to disagree? Nay, not just disagree, but vehemently refute, 100%? Why put myself through that. I think that there are a number of reasons. It starts with the realization that I don't think I would listen to Air America as much even if it were available. Furthermore, I think that it also goes along with why liberal talk radio doesn't do as well as conservative talk radio.

Okay, I'm about to make a blanket generalization that is only based in honest observation and how I personally feel and by ideological trends. I think, therefore that it is a generalization, but a fair one.

Conservatives want to hear people telling them that they are right while liberals like to be challenged and confrontational. Thus, conservative talk radio is listened to by both liberals and conservatives alike, because it gives everyone their "fix."

Here is how I came about this: First of all, Liberal talk radio isn't nearly as popular. NPR is what conservatives consider "liberal" which really isn't at all, as far as what is covered. Sure, it's supported by public funds in some part, which is considered a "liberal" ideal, and even if there were some liberal slant (which if that is true, carries a quite logical explanation)there is no one on NPR talking how the conservatives are ruining America, like you will hear on conservative talk shows. There is no corolation between the two since they are completely different forms of radio.

Liberals get bored hearing people who are just saying things that they agree with. I can only speak from speculation and how I personally feel, but if I'm talking to someone and there is no disagreement the conversation isn't going to last very long. If you are agreeing about a shared complaint, then all you are doing is complaining about something and reinforcing the same viewpoint. No one's is seeing things from the other side of things, which I believe is really important.

Another reason for my belief is that, as Michael Savage/Sean Hannity/etc. say, "Liberals blame America first." As a liberal I totally agree with that. Of course, to me it make total sense to blame America first, because that is the responsible thing. We try to teach our students to worry about themselves before placing the blame somewhere else. In the same way I think that it's important to look inward before bombing another country. This is why I am much more likely to see what the U.S. has done to fuel anti-Americanism than just cast off those attitudes as jealousy, or hating freedom. That way too easy and isn't going to solve any problems. I think that it is liberals' willingness and desire to look inward that decreases our desire to listen to a talking head just spouting off ideas with which we already agree. That's why our most popular liberal spokespeople are actors and comedians. If you're going to talk to us about stuff we already believe, you'd better entertain us in the process or we're going to get bored and go yell at our radio.

Maybe I'm speaking more from the point of view of a ADD kid than a liberal, but that's just an observation I had last night as I was listening to Michael "Makes Rush Limbaugh Seem Like Al Franken" Savage.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Republicans Are Mean, but Democrats are Stupid

Today I saw this picture of Collin Powell holding up the infamous vile of anthrax from his U.N. Speech 3.5 years ago. The caption said that he considered this his lowest point and that he regrets acting on behalf of the Bush Administration.

I like people who admit they are wrong. I like it when people ask for forgiveness and are contrite. People who have the ability to humble themselves really get on my good side, quick. This is why I have such a problem with Bush. He's never came out and said, "I'm sorry." I'll bet the Republicans could clear this whole mess up that they're in if they would just come out and say, "Hey, guys. Listen. We screwed up. We screwed up on everything. Iraq, the economy, Hurricane Katrina, and we take full responsibility. A good half of the Republicans in office are corrupt and only work in the interest of big oil and big buisiness, and we have done a really bad job of serving everyone below the upper tax bracket. We're sorry. We're going to try better, from now on." If they did this the Democrats wouldn't have a chance because I think most people want to like the Republicans. Afterall, the gays and terrorists and aethists are Democrats!

All I'm Saying

All I'm saying is that we, as western, capitalist, selfish, wealthy Americans have our priorities completely skewed. What we fail to realize sometimes is that most things in life aren't nearly as important as we think it is. We go through life feeling like we have to do this, or we have to do that. The old saying goes, "You don't have to do anything except pay taxes and die." I would argue that you don't even have to pay taxes. Sure, you might be arrested. Or perhaps not. If you choose to live life without money you don't have to pay taxes. If you choose to be a drifter with no steady work and only doing odd jobs here and there to earn enough to eat then I'm sure that you can skirt by without any legal action. The only responsibilities we have are the ones that we choose to take on. For this reason we shouldn't complain when we are adled with business and stresses that take up our time and energy. If we didn't want the pressure we could just as easily not have taken them on. I realize that this is easier said than done. We are taught from an early age that we are only worth as much as we give back to society. Bums are lazy and rich people worked the hardest. That's the American way. I think that we all know how ridiculous and unfair that stereotype is. Anyone who is willing to stop and think for a few seconds about it, at least. And, who complains the most? Not the "bums." Not the homeless. The biggest complainers are the hard workers. Granted, it seems that the middle class (who, by the way, are still among the world's wealthiest human beings, if they live in the U.S.) are the biggest complainers. I don't really hear much complaining done by the wealthiest of the wealthy, per se, of course that may be because they don't have to complain. The world is set up to serve and cater to them. If they have to complain to get something done it falls more in line with legality than an obstacle. Generally, the more money one has, the less a request is seen as a complaint and more of a necessary change. The middle class are the one's who cannot content themselves with their riches. Because they aren't as rich as the family next door. I shouldn't pretend to know what happens in the upper tiers of economic society, but it seems that the wealthy simply don't complain, they demand. It's the difference between child asking for breakfast, which is expected, or asking for chocolate, which is a treat. When the wealthy ask for something, they are asking for breakfast. The middle-class are constantly asking for chocolate; sometimes extending great lengths to recieve the treat.

We should stop complaining about what kinds of chocolate we are recieving and the wealthy should realize that their breakfast is chocolate to most Americans and completely unattainable to the poor of the world. What we should be focused on is providing breakfast for the people in the world who cannot provide it for themselves. These people are so selfless that they don't usually even ask it for themselves. And I'm not talking about the guys on the side of the road with signs or the crack addicts that ask for "gas" money at the filling station. I'm talking about the people in Latin America or Africa or right in your own town who sleep in dirt or their cars or dirty run down ghetos. These people should be our number one priority, and yet we still have people complaining that their steak was overcooked or that a movie was bad or that someone offended them by showing their breast at a football game. There's nothing wrong with living in a comfortable society, but what's wrong when when we concern ourselves with all sorts of utterly pointless things when the basic needs of other human beings are not being met.

That's all I'm saying.

Monday, October 16, 2006

"...or the orphanage will close!"

My brothers and I quoted this countless times during the teen years while The State was on. It's grainy but truly a classic. For those who don't know, The State was a sketch comedy show during the mid 90s that started the careers of most of the current cast of Reno 911.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Go Shop at the Gap

Read this:


Okay, yeah, I saw this on Oprah. But, Bono was with her, so it's cool. I think this is a fabulous idea. Okay, I just said "fabulous." Let's focus here, people.

A number of companies are working to fight AIDS in Africa. While here in America having the AIDS virus will no longer be a nail in the coffin, in Africa, the drugs needed to save the lives of the millions infected with the virus are scarce and unaffordable.

We, as the richest nation in the world, can help these people by doing what we already do so well.

Spending, charging, shopping, living beyond our means!

Yes, this can save lives.

In Africa the AIDS virus infects millions and is only spreading. Education efforts are underway, and helping, but the widespread ignorance about the disease keeps the epidemic alive. Mothers give birth to entire families that are infected, they can't afford the medicine and so these families are doomed.

The (Product) Red people have set up certains brands who will donate a portion of their profits to buy anti-retroviral medicine to keep those in Africa alive. Without these kinds of medicines, people with AIDS die. As it states on the (Product) Red website, "We don't want them to die. We want to give them pills. And we can. And you can. And it's easy."

Another wonderful scheme drempt up by our man Bono.

This their website. Go there.www.joinred.com

Monday, October 09, 2006

"Thank you, sir! May I have another?"

Yet, another bit of fun that I got from our dear friend Dan.

This seems like a really bad idea, but I've never really been a good judge of stuff that was good for me before. Why start now?

Click here and follow the instructions.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Gentlemen: Adhere!

It's ten minutes, but it's worth it. Please. It may safe the world.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Checkin in

I'm going to smell like brisket this weekend.


How 'bout them Astros, huh. Holy freakin' unbelievable. 1/2 Game back. Unbelievable.


A photo from R & J:

Monday, September 25, 2006

Well, It's Been a While...

Here's what you missed:

Imagine owning a shovel for your entire life and only using maybe one to 4 times a year. Everytime you use the shovel it is the most important tool you have and it is vital to the success of your career that your shovel is used those few times a year. You have always had your shovel and probably take it for granted.

Imagine that the most important digging you will do all year needs to be completed yesterday and you know that you and your shovel can dig the hole in one night and all will be well. The hole must be dug by that next evening. You have others to help dig, but your shovel is the strongest and largest and the others may not dig correctly or fast enough. Then imagine that without warning your shovel breaks. You cannot get another shovel because the shovel store is closed for two weeks, but you can't wait that long. Imagine the despair. So, you do what you can without the shovel, and must take the next day off in order to try and repair your own shovel. You leave instructions with others to dig, but are resigned to the fact that it probably won't be dug correctly. Then, to your surprise, you arrive at the dig site the next day and the hole is dug. Everyone who you underestimated pulled together and the hole was completed in less time than you could have dug the hole yourself.

Well, this "hole" might have brought me to tears had I had time to cry. There were still small tunnels to dig and lights to hang, but the vast hole that was the greatest burden, was complete.

Romeo and Juliet performed to decent crowd this last weekend. The kids were great. Not everything was perfect, but pretty dang good considering all that was standing in the way. I was immensely greatful to the students and their hard work, and I hope they know that. This has been a wonderful experience.


Emergency rooms are strange. When you arrive there you feel like everyone else has been there so much longer than you have. And they probably have. But, when I walked into the ER last Tuesday night I was limping pretty bad and yet I felt like everyone else felt right at home, while I felt like a stranger. Going to the ER is one of those things that seems completely odd and foreign when you actually have to do it, and yet, everyone has to do it at some point. You feel special and unique and yet, no one else cares because their buddy or sister or teacher or kid had to go just last week.

That's not entirely true. Lots of people keep asking how I'm doing and showed genuine concern. Thanks to all of you. Romeo and Juliet is over and so I might actually get to rest the foot for a while and let it heal.

Tonight was a good night on TV.

"Last week at the table read I got a laugh when I asked for the butter. At the rehearsal I didn't get a laugh when I asked for the butter...Why didn't I get a laugh at the rehearsal."

"Because you asked for a laugh."

"Why did I get a laugh at the table read."

"Because you asked for the butter."

That's pretty awsome.


Astros are at .500. I have a theory: The worse the Astros are in the regular season and later they wait to make a comeback to make the playoffs, the better they will be in the postseason. Based on this reasoning the Astros will not only win the World Series this year, but will win the Superbowl, Stanley Cup, NBA Finals, Gold Medal in Curling, and the Miss Universe Pageant. Look out Neptune Zorbdleblort Champs from the city-state Prarnon in the providence of Junikeri 6. Astros are coming for you next!


This actually applies to both Democrats and Republicans. I love politicians so much more when they have nothing to lose. I certainly believe that there is a time and a place to become worked up. I imagine Clinton's critics will say he was "out of control," or "on a tirade." I personally thought that he was pretty calm, given his obvious anger at the question. Should he have been so angry? I imagine that I might be too. Did he handle it as well as he should have? Probably not. But, I love that he called Fox out for their clear right wing agenda. Watch it:

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

I Sprained My Show

We are openning Romeo and Juliet on Thursday. The set is NOT ready. I stayed after rehearsal to finish the set with a few students when I did something stupid. I was walking down some steps in the auditorium and I thought I was at the last step, but I had a couple more to go. The result was a pretty bad sprain. I made the kids do the walking and climbing and moving around while I sat behind the light consol and programed light cues. I thought I'd be fine if I could walk it off for awhile. Not so much. The result is that I now am on cruches and am not supposed to walk on it for a week. The doc at the ER said that while it's not broken to treat it as if it were.

I repeat. We open on Thursday! That is, less than two days! I've got a whole side of a set not covered and not painted! AAAHHHH!!!

The thing is, yes, I do have students who can help and work. The bad thing is: THEY ARE SLOW! I am fast! Was fast. This would have been fine on Friday. Bad, bad, bad, bad timing.

More on the experience of being in an ER later. It was weird. It's the kind of thing that happens all of the time, just never to me, so it was wierd. Anyway. Come see R and J. It will be good, whether the walls are complete or not.

THursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7:30 pm at Sterling.

Monday, September 11, 2006


This is something I wrote right after the World Trade Center Buildings fell. Keep this in mind: I was really scared for the country.

Sat up in my bed.
Safe within these walls.
I still think I’ve got it bad.
I must have heard it wrong
The first time she said it.
I still wonder what’s for breakfast.

Every time I hear that we’ve been attacked
I stop to say that I’m filled grief.
But that’s not close to the truth.
I always feel nothing inside me.
I stand to defend the defenseless, first.
Always against the oncoming crowd.
The stream flows strong but I’m turned around.
I reach and I struggle for answers elsewhere.

If the mine lies in the east,
Then the hundred who cover those grounds
Will be sure to trip the earth.
But, here, it is in the west, where no one looked.
It’s disarmed now and cannot hurt anyone.

P.S. I'm still pretty scared.

P.P.S. I'm not afraid of terrorists.

"Look, don't get sloppy on me. I might just slug you one."

Today is one of those days. You know, Mondays. You know, one of those days where getting up early is especially difficult. Let me tell you how much more I would like my job if it started at 10 am and went until 6pm:

A lot. Why? I usually end up staying until 6 anyway, or later. No matter how early I go to bed I don't really wake up until around 10. Breakfast helps. I'm trying to always have some sort of breakfast item in my classroom so that I don't have to worry about at home. I'm usually in too big of a hurry.

Anyway. It's one of those days.

Romeo and Juliet goes up in a week and the set is NOT ready. It will be.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Holla, Y'all

You Are a Liberal for Life

You've got a bleeding heart - and you're proud of it.

For you, liberal means being compassionate, pro-government, and anti-business.

You believe in equality for every person, and you consider yourself universally empathetic.

Helping others is not just political for you ... it's very personal too.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Laramie at San Jac

I'm going to be in the Laramie Project at San Jacinto College. I'll be working with Jeff Sensat, the artistic director of the Slightly Off-Center Players in Deer Park. He's guest directing for the school. I've been wanting to work with him since I saw his group do All in the Timing a couple of years ago. He's a really talented guy.

Anyway, it will be in October and I'll expect everyone of you to come see it. If you want to know what the play is about, here is a link

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Peace That Passes Understanding

I heard a guy say this tonight: It is my right to not know.

I agree with this. I also think that we have the right not to try to figure out things that we cannot understand. He also said that we tend to diefy or demonize things that we don't understand in order to make sense of them. I had to agree whole heartedly with this statement, but it isn't something that negates or challenges my faith. My faith in God is a choice not based on mathematics or science and I like it that way. I don't think that I would like to have God or Christianity or the Bible proven to me. I think nothing wouldd destroy my passion for it more. I believe in the Gospel because I choose to believe because it brings me comfort and happiness and makes sense out of a non-sensical world. Hope is a word that Christians bandy about a lot, but then they speak of truth as if it's fact. I don't have hope in facts. If I stab myself, I know that I will bleed. I don't hope it doesn't or does happen because know it will.

I hope in things that I haven't seen. It is a choice that I make. I could easily choose otherwise and sometimes I want to, but I don't. This is what I choose to believe. But, I reserve the right to not know.

I've spent the last two nights auditioning for "The Laramie Project", a play about the killing of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student, supposedly killed because of his sexual orientation. The auditions were conducted in a very unique fashion. Instead of simply having people read from script or memorize monologues the director had groups of three sit down and interview each other with the rest of the auditioners looking on. This was to represent the interviews that the actors did with Laramie, Wyoming residents, which make up the bulk of the play. Most of the discussion was about the righteous or un-righteousness of homosexuality and how each person felt about it. I verbalized, tonight, something I've felt for sometime in a way I hadn't before.

I don't understand homosexuality. I don't understand why men want to be with other men and not women. It doesn't make any sense to me. It doesn't work.

I don't understand calculous. I don't understand what it is or why it is used or how. I doesn't make sense to me.

But, if a mathamatician told me that something was proven through calculous I wouldn't say, "No, that doesn't make sense and therefore it's wrong." I would take his word for it because it is something he understands but I do not. I don't have the right to make judgement calls on math that I don't understand.

You don't have to understand in order to accept.

"Peanuuuut, Peanut butter! *and jelly*"

This makes me want to go to the Great Wall of China so maybe this will happen to me, too. ~

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Can't Sleep. Try My House.

I woke up with a headache this morning after spending the entire dang night at some friends'. (Amanda is out of town.) I was awoke by one friend after crashing at 3 ish in the morning, with a request: "Hey, sing "When Wilt Thou Save the People," A song I sang in Godspell a couple years back, which he was also in. In my groggy state I could barely make out what was being asked of me, but I was finally able to figure it out. First I was a little annoyed that he woke me up. Another friend of mine said behind him, "Kyle won't do it. He's too mature to do that. Let him sleep."

"What are doing? Having a contest to see if you could get me to sing it?"

"No." She laughed. "Go back to sleep." But, how the heck was I supposed to sleep now? I had to remember that stupid song.

After a few moments it finally came to me. It didn't come out of me sounding so great, but I got the basic tune right. My friend laughed.

When I realised that I wasn't going back to sleep and I really just wanted to go home and sleep in my own bed anyway and that the sun was up and my weirdo friends were still talking and hanging out with the same momentum they had been when I fell asleep, I had to get up and check out the situation. Sure enough it was 6:30ish and they were still on a roll. "They were all singing the song so I joined them and basked in the true oddity of watching the glow of morning on a Saturday, after having sang Kareoke and then playing Geusstures just hours earlier.

This experience is actually just a strange throughback to a time that doesn't seem that far away. College. This kind of thing was fairly normal back then. In fact, I'm reminded of a particularly interesting night of all night hanging at my college house.

The house I lived at during my junior and senior years at ACU was not quite a party house. We didn't have parties. That was a frat thing and we were theatre majors. We weren't the least bit interested in keg stands or make out parties or having DJs or anything like that. We drank imported and microbrewed beers and mixed cocktails and drank inexpensive (not cheap) wine. This was until everyone was happy enough not to care and then the Keystones and Natty Lights were broke out. At this point, my house could become a very fun place to be. My roomates and I lived in the default hang out house, a badge which I wore with honor and pride. I enjoyed having everyone over on weekends and knowing that my crashing pad was my own. Depending on your perspective, the house could be a very obnoxious place to be. Since my roomates and I liked having the "hang-out-house" we also took with it the inevidable inconveniences. Cleaning up in the morning, disposing of empty bottles and providing extra sleeping accomadations should a patron be unable to drive themselves home. This came with the territory. The most inconvenient of these inconveniences, however was if you had to wake up early on a Saturday morning.

One fine weekend, I decided that I was going to do something that I'd never done before. At least in college. I was going to wake up early even though I didn't have to. The reason I was going wake up was because our school was hosting a local Special Olympics event on campus and they had asked students to come volunteer. I was ready to accept the chanllenge and decided to make it an early(er) night in order to make the 8 am call.

My friends had other plans for me. I don't remember what had been going on that night. Usually it was a rehearsal or performance, but I don't think it was that, at this time. I believe it was a rare free night. Regardless, my house was once again full on this night and I knew that my loving wonderful friends would be in their rarest form, so I decided to hang out for a little bit and then sneak undetected to my bedroom to go to sleep. My early morning plans were unbekownst to them. So there I am, lying in bed. I'm probably not sleepy, but I'm determined to sleep. If you know me well enough, you know that this is a big deal for me. I could hear the others having fun and talking in the other room, and I've always been the kind of person that if I know someone else is up having fun, I can't sleep. Perhaps I listened to some music to help me relax and drown out the noise. I dare not tell them to be quiet because, as much as my friends love me they would do whatever necessary to not let me sleep if they knew I was trying to sleep. This was the kind of wonderful people whom I still consider some of my closest friends.

Just as I began to enter into a sort of half sleep I was woken by a strange noise that seemed very out of place at 12 or 1 in the morning. I realized that the vacuum cleaner was running. Not only was it running but it was running right outside my room. Not only was it right outside my room but it was being knocked against my door. Soon, my door, which did not have a lock on it, was being opened and the vacuum was entering. Soon the lights were being turned on. My friends, in their kindness, were vacuuming my floor for me. In my sleepy haze, I failed to see the thing they were doing as helpful and, as you would expect, asked what the hell they were doing and kicked them out, all to their protests that they only wanted to do a good deed. I used some choice words to let them know where they could put their good deed and shut the door and turned off the light.

But, the game had begun and my relentless friends had found their target. Only moments later they found another reason to come barging in and then another and another, but just couldn't understand why each entrance was met with a hostile eviction. Finally, I made a sneaky move of my own. My roomate's room was only next door, so when they weren't looking I slipped in and shut the door. There was a lock on his door, and I employed it. By now it was closer to 2:30 or 3 in the morning, but any sleep I was feeling had been taken care of by the earlier cat nap. It was no longer a fight to sleep, as that was not happening, but it was a battle of wills. Would I cave and go hang out with them, or would they give up and leave me alone?

Not able to open the door to my roomate's room without breaking it (which probably would have happend had my roomate not been one of them) they continued to bang on it and yell at me to get out. This was peppered with all kinds of requests and taunts meant to keep me from sleeping. Finally they went outside and tried to open the window and climb in. In my superior forethought I'd already locked the window. They eventually did stop for awhile. If I remember correctly, I was able to catch some Zs for awhile before the banging and yelling began again. This time I could tell they were wearing down. In an attempt to really throw them off I unlocked the window and climbed out. I got into the garage and into my car and, with doors locked, fell asleep in the back. As the sun was coming up I noticed the perpetrators standing over me looking into the car. I thought, "Great, they're never going to give up." But, to my surprise, they turned and didn't even make the attempt. They accepted defeat and returned into the house. Around 8 am, the time I was supposed to be at the Special Olympics, I went back into the house to see my last nights annoyances, crashed all around. I proceded to the kitchen where I quietly openned up the cabinets and carefully pulled out a pot and a pan. I walked to the middle of the living room, where all four night owls where fast asleep. Right there in the living room I did my best pot and pan rendition of "Rise and Shine! (And give God the Glory, Glory!)" After being reprimanded by a few hung over and angry friends of mine I walked into my room, shut the door and slept right through the Special Olympics.

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Star Wars Inside Reference That No One Get's Blog

Ryan (yes, the Ryan) has been writing some stories of his own about the college experience. One such story including yours truly in a moment of stupidity. Have fun.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Bunker Down For a Whoopin'!

It's really hard to think of any stories that would not embarass or implement someone who reads this blogs or someone who knows someone who reads this blog. Not that my friends or I got into trouble, but some of my better stories include instances that would better be told to the public by the person who would stand to be the most embarassed.

One story, however, that I like tell is about a friend of mine, named Ryan. I've told this story plenty of times and so I know he won't mind. If you do mind, Ryan, sorry.

Ryan was dating a friend of mine during the fall of our sophomore year. They seemed to really like each other, but the understanding was that it wasn't serious because he was going to go to Oxford, England for the next semester. One night she and he had a serious talk before he turned in for the night. Apperantly, the talk frustrated Ryan, because upon meeting him in the dorm lobby he didn't seem too happy. I walked with him up to my hallway. We were going to talk in my room. As we approached my room, another friend of ours, Chris, decided that it would be funny to jump out from behind a large trash can and scare us.

This turned out to be a dire mistake on the part of Chris. This abrupt shock sent Ryan into a fit of rage. Ryan proceded to beat on Chris with the mercy of a hungry puma. I pulled Ryan off of the shocked Chris. Ryan wasn't a huge guy, but he was certainly a bigger guy than Chris, who is prime candidate for a beanpole. Or, at least, was at the time.

Chris was understandably furious. "What's your problem?!" he yelled, as Ryan hurled warnings of ever surprising him like that again. Ryan is usually a very docile, friendly guy, and has told me that he currently has this other, darker side of himself in check. But, at the time, you could certainly catch Ryan in a bad mood and soon be in a new mood of your own if you did the wrong thing.

I tried to calm Ryan as a friend of Chris's pull him from the ground. Chris then made the his second mistake of the evening. He had dropped his glasses on the ground and turned to pick them up, lifting his rear into the air. The look on Ryan's face told me what his next move was before he had budged an inch. Before I could stop him, Ryan gave what he was hoping would be a swift and painful boot in the pants. Chris, however, dropped to the ground once again, holding his gut and midsection. The curses and pleas were of a different sort this time.

One sometimes forgets when one sees a butt aloft that depending on the angle and spread of the legs a kick to the buttocks region can also include an item, or set of items, traditionally thought of as the front. Such was the case here. I urged Ryan to escape to my room where Ryan finally started to settle down.

Ryan is one of my best friends and here is why. He is one of those few people who will admit wrong doing and give heartfelt, sincere appologies freely and without excuse. According to Ryan he can sometimes go into "seeing red" mode where everything that he does is only a fuzzy memory at best. Ryan has never been to war, but the amount of time he spends smoking out Charlie would have one thinking differently. Maybe it's all the video games. But, he realized very soon that what he'd done was mean and within an hour or so Chris and he were friends again and all was well. But, I'll never forget that moment when my friend Ryan thought Chris was a special ops assassin sent to destroy him by jumnping out from behind a trash can. One thing I can say: if that ever did happen to Ryan he'd be prepared.

Monday, August 28, 2006

"I'm a zit. Get it?"

When I first started teaching my students accused me of talking about college a lot. My students said that all I ever did was talk about how much I loved college and all these stories about the theater department there, etc. I also have a bunch of non theater related stories that I probably have told at one point or another. Some I don't find that entertaining or perhaps they implement someone who knows someone who might be reading this, so I don't exactly feel right about telling all here in a blog.

But, I realized that I don't talk about college much on this blog. I talk a lot about high school, probably because I teach at one, but one of the best times of my life, my college years, has been all but ignored in this forum.

I really did enjoy my college years. I often think about them and speak of them fondly, if not longingly. So much happened to me then. I learned more about theatre than anyone could imagine, I learned so much about myself and what I valued and most importantly, I met the people, I feel, are going to be my friends for life. The greatest of these is my wife, Amanda, whom I met my sophomore year.

So, the next few posts will be stories and antidotes about my college experience. Hopes that all enjoy.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Rachel's Challenge or The Sobby Theater Teacher

Yesterday and today we had a visitor to our school that, I hope, has made a unique impact on our school. From what I can tell so far the students have responded in a positive way, as has the faculty. The visitor was Craig Scott who was present at the Columbine High School shootings in Littleton, Colorado. When Dylan and Erick entered the Library he and two of his friends were sitting under a table, trying to hide or protect themselves from gunfire. There is a 911 voice recording you've probably heard of a teacher yelling at kids to get under the table. He was one of the kids. Right there in the library Craig saw 10 of his fellow students shot dead including his two friends sitting with him underneath the table. For some reason he was spared.

The reason he was there to speak to us wasn't simply to give the students a history lesson or to teach them a little lesson about bullying. It was much more than that. Craig's sister, Rachel, was the first student shot and killed in the tragedy. She was sitting outside on the lawn eating lunch as the shooters entered the school. Rachel's story prior to the shootings, though, are really the focal point of Craig's speech. The program is called Rachel's Challenge

Rachel wasn't a popular girl or a cheerleader or anything like that. In fact, if I know high school kids, the popular crowd probably didn't pay her much attention. But, according to her story, she wasn't one to be bothered by something like this. Rachel was the type of person who sought out friends in other areas. She was a person who made it a point to make friends with those who needed a friend. Numerous stories were told about her welcoming a lonely new student, or standing up to big football players who were bullying a handicapped kid, or anything like that. Her friends called her "idealistic" and said she lived in a "fantasy world" because she had the crazy notion in high school that being nice to people would eventually make everyone nice. She was exactly the kind of person that Dylan and Erick needed to meet during their time at Columbine, but, unfortunately, they did not.

Just months before her death Rachel wrote an essay titled "My Ethics, My Codes of Life." If you know high school students then you know that a student who would even title a school paper like this is out of the norm. The paper went on to say that people have the capacity to start "chain reactions" simply by showing compassion for people and "looking for the best and beauty in everyone."

The assembly, led by her brother, showed clips of Rachel, photos, as well as news footage from that day and recreated scenes from different times in Rachels life. The assembly took Rachel's essay and formed it into a challenge to students and teachers to treat others as Rachel had: with respect, compassion, and honesty. The message was certainly powerful and it was evidenced by how many students were affected by the time. Since every student was required to see the presentation I was lucky enough, today and yesterday, to have some great conversations with my students about the message being presented.

Now it's not easy for a big, tough high school boy to tell anyone that they have been emotionally moved by something. But, I could not believe the amount of outpouring that happened at our school. Everyone was comparing their "cry" story. Some people wept. Others just kind of teared up, or got choked up. One of my students asked me, "Mr. Martin, did you cry?"

Now, as of July 20, 2002 I have cried a total of 4 times. That's roughly once a year. That beats out the previous 8 years by 3. So the last 4 years have seen a much softer, emotional Kyle. If you don't know, July 20, 2002 was the day I got married to Amanda. An event I attribute to my conversion to the moist side.

I have also come to the conclusion that I have allowed myself to be open to crying if the need arises. I feel, as laughing, that crying is simply an expression of emotion. We have no problem laughing when we want, so why should we resist crying? With that said I sat through the "Rachel's Challenge" assembly fighting back getting choked up and wiping a couple of tears from my eyes occasionally. However, nearing the end of the assembly the video played "Hands" by Jewel, a singer that, while possibly pretentious and melodramatic, sure, if placed within a certain context can be that special ingredient that makes something jump from "tear-jerker" to "sob-fest." To say that I cried would have been an understatement. It caught me totally by surprise, but I was certainly thankful for it.

I was not surprised to be the only one who cried, but, after outing myself as a sobber to my students, I was astonished at the rate the admissions flowed in after that. "Me too, Mr. Martin. I couldn't help it." and things like that. Most important, kids were opening up in a way I had never seen outside of church camp. Kids want and need to share this stuff, but it's too hard, because at the same time they are constantly being judged, so as soon as one kid realized that the area was safe, all bets were off. I really couldn't believe it.

I'm not sure if this was something happening all over campus or just in my class because I made them write one hundred words about a time someone was kind to them and the impact it made on them, but the sense in the school over the last two days has gone from self-conscious students back from the summer sporting their new trendy clothes to a happy, open, and friendly campus. That's something that just doesn't exist in a culture where the number one worry in a kids head is who is going to make them feel ostracized today for doing the wrong thing or saying something stupid or having the wrong accessory.

All I can say is thank you to the Scott family for sharing the life of your beautiful sister/daughter/friend's life with the world. Thank you to our administration for essentially throwing away two whole days of instruction to focus on the happiness and spirit of our school rather than worry about TAKS scores. That may be the greatest accomplishment of them all. Our principal pushed so hard for this because he realizes that the emotional well-being of our kids is more important than the freaking TAKS test and two days of instruction. He's talked about it for two years now and this isn't the first time I felt he more than proved his stance. So, thanks to Trey Kraemer.

Finally, thank you to Rachel Scott for having so much strength and courage. I remember high school and without my knowledge and will, teaching at the same high school that I attended, I remember very vividly how tough it can be to go against the grain. I remember how cruel kids could be and how isolated someone could feel. I was one of the lucky ones, I suppose, because I had friends, but I certainly remember thinking about how difficult it would be to just decide to make friends with someone who might be considered an outcast. You make me a little ashamed of myself for not doing more and for caring too much about what others might think instead of doing what I knew was right. Old and young alike can learn from you, and I'm glad to have heard your challenge. I'll accept it.

Rachel kept a journal about her goals and dreams. She felt like it was important to proclaim her goals loudly and unabashed as a reminder what she was here for. She made no qualms about the fact that she believed that she would die young and that her life would touch the hearts of millions. I'm not a firm believer in premonitions or anything, but she called this one right. I also think that she wanted to remember what life was like "back then."

I suppose that's one reason I blog, now. And, while I never really bound them up, per se, I've always kept kind of a journal in the form of poems and stories and letters. That's why I've never been able to throw them away, despite having left behind much of those thoughts and feelings. They represent what I've been through and are, in a sense, still part of who I am now. Or at least, I am the evolution of those letter and poems and stories. It seems pathetic to dwell on a time of your life when people were petty and ignorant and immature, but we certainly don't forget that they existed so why should we pretend that they didn't.

I hope that our students really do take Rachel up on her challenge. I hope they don't just see this as a "good cry" or "that time we all had a nice, warm, fuzzy." I hope that our students do start journaling, caring, and treating each other better. I think that if anything can move us along to that end, this program can. The weeks following Columbine for me were a personal low of depression and a feeling that the world was hateful and pointlessly doomed. About the same time I heard that a boy I'd grown up with committed suicide. An epidemic like this one is certainly one of those instances where God truly seems to bring out of the ashes a much stronger cause. I sometimes worry about the generation that I'm teaching, which can easily be lumped in with my own. Maybe, though, they just need the example. May we all strive to continue that example.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Just thought I'd bring something up again. Enjoy.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Likes and the Like

I like waffles

I like pancakes

But I like waffles more than pancakes


I like eggs

I thought I liked Eggbeaters

I was wrong


I like films made by artist

I dislike movies made by entrepreneurs

Some times that's not true, but it's more of an idealistic thing.


I like wearing socks with sandals

I hate when my socks get wet

You will never see me in socks with flip-flops


I like cuddling

I like kissing

Kissing and cuddling simultaneously is the best


I like order

I like a little disorder

I dislike it when someone else imposes their version of order on me


I like the month of May

My birthday is in May

There might be a correlation, but I think I would like May regardless


I like hard workers

I'm annoyed with defeatists

I dislike hard workers who think that everyone else should act and believe as they do


I like people

I like nice people the best

I like mean people but more in the way that some people like dinosaurs or sharks, or single celled organisms.


I like money, I think it's pretty and it smells nice

I don't like what money does to a society

I've got enough of it


I hope you like these

I want you to like these

If you don't I'm not going to be hurt

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Little Miss Sunshine

Everyone has that movie, or genre of movie. The type of movie that just really hits home for some reason and resonates with you as an individual down to your very being. The type of movie that can sum up for you everything that you've been wanting to explain to the world about yourself and your view of the world. It can be a single movie, but for me it really boils down to a certain style of movie that connects with me like no other. After a while I start to worry that they aren't making movies like that anymore and I'll be forced to relive the Rushmores and The Royal Tenenbaums, or the Fargos and Eternal Sunshines. Not that I mind reliving these films at all. On the contrary, these are my favorite films and I could watch them all ad nauseam. I don't buy many movies because I don't really care to watch even the good ones multiple times. But these films I own on DVD. Some of these films have more in common than others. Certainly the works of the Cohen Brothers are going to have a familiar bend, as well as those of Wes Anderson or Charlie Kaufman. But, sometimes when I begin listing my favorite films of all time I find myself repeating the works of only 2 or 3 filmmakers, scattered with a Francis Ford Coppola here, or a P.T. Anderson there. Inevitably, these hardworking folk cannot maintain the same level of excellence and quirkiness that reeled me in originally and are bound to have some stinkers here and there. Or at least, as is the case with The Life Aquatic, the quirky, hip film director/writer ends up making a movie that is trying to hard to recapture the previous creativity and ends up making a decent film that almost parodies his/her previous successes. Making good movies is hard, after all. So, it's always refreshing when a new creative team emerges to pick up some of the slack and make themselves known in their own right. It's even more exciting when that little niche they are carving for themselves somehow fits into the little groove that I've created for movies that especially move me, personally.

Now, I don't know if Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris (directors), Michael Arndt (writer), or someone else is the creative force behind the new dark comedy Little Miss Sunshine. Sometimes it's the directors, and other times it is the writers or producers. This particular movie feels very writer driven. (The fact that two directors are listed makes me think that there might have been some problems leading to the firing of one and hiring of the other...Okay, I just looked it up. They are a husband-wife team.) But, I digress. Whomever is responsible it seems that we have (a) new filmmaker(s) that has(ve) tapped into that rare piece of dark humor and disturbing family dysfunction that makes me just as giddy as a Star Wars Nerd at a Billy Dee Williams booksigning. (I could have also gone with "Premiere of the lost film that's better than Empire", "Chained to the leg of George Lucus," or "Woke up to find him/herself in the actual planet of Dagobah confirming what they suspected all along.") This is the best thing to come around since perhaps Tenenbaums and certainly since Eternal Sunshine. The script just about perfects the dark family comedy genre and the directing and acting are so real and onpoint that this is sure to be a top contender for Oscar nods. I never say stuff like that because I'm almost always wrong, but if this doesn't get lots of recognition from awards I just give up.

Speaking of giving up, I've hit on one of the most important themes of the movie. Sunshine finds the dysfunctional Hoover family as each one is going through one crisis or another. The only family member that seems to have a truly positive outlook is little Olive, played by Abigail Breslin in the vain of Christian Bale in Empire of the Sun, that is to say, one of the best child performances I've ever seen. Olive has a healthy and somewhat idealistic view of beauty pageants and wins her local "Little Miss Sunshine Pageant" when the winner is unable to go on to the national level. The family, caught in a bind created by the suicidal Uncle Frank (played by the wonderful Steve Carrell), must all make the long trek to California for the pageant. They are on a time crunch, and so of course they cut it as close as deli meat, running into every roadblock imaginable, and many that you or I would never have thought up. But, this is certainly no cut and paste road trip flick. The relationships the audience is allowed to witness and the way they develop and interact is humorous and real and sad all at the same time. Each individual on the bus (an old VW mini-bus that, among other things, must be pushed to start and cannot go below 2nd gear) is fighting a different and equally frightening demon that plagues them throughout the movie. They all seem to have an ideal way of viewing life and then seeing that they are not living that ideal, have a plan to realize that perfect life without the suffering. One by one each character has their "ideal" ripped away from them and they find themselves fighting tooth and nail to not let the same happen to little Olive. The giving up theme is very important because of Kinnear's character's patriarchal stance that only losers give up. This seems to be the overwhelming drive for each of the family members whether it be to satisfy their father or get away from him.

I don't like saying that this is one of the best movies ever, or any so broad a proclamation as that, but the way I felt leaving the theater last night was that it was definitely the best movie I've seen this year and perhaps could be propelled into my top 10 favorite movies ever. It will take time for it to sink in, but I think it's safe to say that this movie will live on in my memory for a long time. Little Miss Sunshine accomplishes the incredibly difficult feat of being a truly dark and sad story that makes you laugh as hard as it will make you cry and then leave you feeling, in the end that you can conquer the world. But even if you don't, give em hell on the way out.

5/5 bulls

Friday, August 11, 2006

Mirror, Mirror, Mirror, Mirror....

October I will go to my 5 year college reunion. Sure, it's not much, but it seems strange that I've been out of college long enough to have a reunion. Time has certainly flown by. Monday I start my fourth year as a teacher and my third year at my present job. the last two years teaching in Baytown kind of blend together now. I can't remember whether somethings were last year or two years ago. As I was cleaning out my room and the set shop, getting ready for new faces as well as the kids continuing with theatre, I kept running across things that that reminded me of something or someone. Sometimes it was a set peice or peice of a set peice that later got mangled into a different set peice and I'm reminded of a particular instance. It might take me a moment to remember whether it was last year or the one before. This last year flew by so fast that they mush together. I'm sure that this intensifies as you continue teaching, and pretty soon it's retirement age and you felt like it was just your first year. I'll bet it slows down near the end, depending on whether you like what you do or not. If you're ready to retire, I'll bet it could feel like molassas sliding off a roof in a snow storm...(I'll let that image sit with you for awhile...).

Since I began teaching at my alma mater, I've kept my eye out for signs that I was there. A prop I used or set piece I remember. Nothing stuck out as much as the little item I had to deal with today. The first year at my school I was cleaning out a room at the side of the stage and at the back of that room, standing in the corner were 4 or 5 tall flats with mirrors attached. The mirrors also had these little felt stickers attached in a strange little floral patern that bordered the mirrors. I remembered these as the mirrors that had been used when the high school performed The Chorus Line when I was in 7th grade. My older brother, Jason, was in the show, and had a pretty good part for a freshman as I recall. The theatre teacher at the time, and who eventually became my theatre teacher, and eventually ran us all off before having the audacity to retire the year after I graduated, had directed the musical for the second time in just a few years because I'm sure she just loved the fact that the only set it took were a bunch of mirrors across the back of the stage.

Well, over the last two years those stupid mirrors have gotten on my ever last nerve. What do you do with 9 ft. mirrors? I could throw them away, but I would almost certainly have to brake them into pieces to fit them into the dumpster. Plus, the frames that held the mirrors were good and could be used. So I decided to pop the mirror off the frames and keep the frames. Easier said than done. These things ended up being permenantly fixed to pieces of particle board that had been glued and nailed to the frame. I started this project last year in class and soon discovered I did not want to undertake this potentially shardzy task with students. So today I did one. It took me forever. It was not fun. So, long story short, a lady whom I wasn't too fond of in the first place made me mad again today.

My how time flies, but eventually it will catch up with you and put shards of glass in your arms and legs.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Bonker's Messes

I am often, if not always on the look for better ways to clean up after my cats. For instance, Bonkers sheds a lot. I've never known a cat to shed like this and I've had cats all my life. If I hold Bonkers for even a moment my cloths are covered with thick, grey cat hair. When we have people spend the night at our apartment we have to clean the futon so they can sleep there. Bonkers doesn't spend much time there anymore because I started spraying him with water everytime he'd get up there, but I would spend at least an hour with a combo tape roller thing and vacuum cleaning that thing off. I would usually go through an entire roll of that stuff.

I'm always trying to find ways to get him to not shed as much. A couple of years ago we bought this brush. It's rubber and is supposed to have some kind of static cling power to attract as much hair as possible and then you just pull the hair off. The brush worked really well. It would pull loose hair off that cat until the cows came home. If I'm sitting at my computer Bonkers will generally let me pet and hold him as long as I want, so I would sit here with Bonkers in my lap brushing him for extended periods of time. Before long I would have handfuls of thick, grey cat hair. Typically, there would be enough that, without squishing it down, would fill a coffee. And the hair kept coming. And coming. And coming. Finally I realized that the damn cat was growing hair faster than I could pull it off of him. It didn't stop. I would wonder why the cat wasn't bald, I could pull off so much hair. It was quite remarkable actually. "Bonkers! The cat with unlimited amounts of hair!"

After a while I stopped trying. He wasn't sitting on the futon anymore, and while the papazon chair the crevices within are a jungle of fur and hair with which one could probably weave a sweater for a small boy, we never sit there and just kind of let him take it over as his throne. I still brush him to remove the excess at times, but generally it's like one of those dreams where you're climbing a staircase that leads nowhere. What's the point. Just turn around and sit on one of the steps and wait til it's all over.

The only other problem we have with Bonkers are his rogue turd nuggets. Bonkers, if you didn't already know this, is without a tale, but he does have a little tuft of fur back on his butt. Sometimes when he goes #2 a perfectly round little poop ball will follow him out of the litter box only to drop on the floor somewhere along the way. So, when we arrive home from anywhere it's not uncommon for us to find a little present lying on the floor in any number of places. It's my theory, as Bonkers is keen toward batting around little things that roll on the ground, that he probably utilizes his feces as a little self made toy.

We've yet to come up with a solution to this little issue, short of shaving his butt. Now that I think of it, that's not a bad idea. I wonder if Amanda would be mad at me. Hmmm.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

R&J Costumes

Here are some drawings of costumes for Romeo and Juliet from the Shakespeare play of the same name. I'm borrowing heavily from the Godfather movies, particularly the first one. I need to stop working on those, however so that I can finish the schedule. We start this week. I'm kind of excited, I must say.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Ask a Ninja

Some Ninja action for your enjoyment.

Monday, July 31, 2006

ZZZZZzzzzzzzzz....... Psych.

I'm not sure how sleep works, in particular how it works with me. I've always been curious about the mystery of sleep. When I was a kid I always tried to pinpoint the moment that I fell asleep. To this day I am, of yet, unsuccessful. I once successfully, or at least believe that I successfully affected my dreams. One night as a youth I dreamed an amazing dream about only God knows and woke up in the middle of it frustrated that it hadn't continued. I guess I had to use the restroom or something. Well, as I lay back down I was determined to affect my dreams so that I started the same dream again. I'm not remembering if it started where it left off or if I had to start from the beginning, but by concentrating deeply on the dream and what it was about I was able to create the conditions of my dream again.

By the way, while I'm thinking of it, if you are interested in dreams and the subconcious mind, do yourself a favor and watch Waking Life by Richard Linklater. He directed School of Rock and Dazed and Confused but he also has some lesser known (lesser by big market standards, I mean, most people who really like indie film have seen it, but it could concievably be off most people's radar) movies. Waking Life is chronoscoping animation, much like his current film A Scanner Darkly, in which the actors are filmed but then the movie is animated using the original footage. It makes for a kind of mind trippy looking film.

Anyway, Waking Life takes a guy trying to wake from a dream from place to place in his dream, unable to wake up, and he just keeps meeting these different people who pontificate on the oddities of sleep and dreaming, and how it compares with life awake, and so on... If your only qualification for a movie is a compelling story then you might not like Waking Life but if you listen to NPR you'd probably like it.

This is all to say that I can't get to sleep and I'm confused as to how my body decided this. I've really confused my sleep clock this time.

For the last several nights I've been going to sleep late. Really late. So late it's early late. One morning Amanda woke up to go to a workshop at 8 am and I was still up, cleaning out the computer room. I was tired, but I was more interested in pictures I was finding that I hadn't looked through in awhile. And, let's face it, I wasn't that tired. I'd been sleeping late enough and couple that with the fact that I'm a night person anyway and I could stay up a long time. Saturday night it all kind of hit the fan because we had to wake up to go to church at 9 the next morning. With a new computer to play with, sure enough I had little interest in sleep until I forced my retirement at 6 am. With a 8:30 wake up and a very disappointing Astros game to look forward to I wasn't really looking forward to the next day, and even contemplated just staying up. But, I gave in and with 2+ hours of sleep went to church with bags under my eyes. Church was fine. I zoned out some, but was a lot more alert than I thought I'd be. A nail biting Astros game at Minute Maid Park kept my attention for the next few hours, but by the time the game was over I was ready to hit the hay. Amanda and I got home around 4:30 and I immediately went for the bedroom and got comfy. I wasn't ready to sleep yet, but instead watched a movie with Amanda. By the time 8 was rolling around I was ready to call it a night. I fell asleep around 8:30.

3 and a half hours later I wake up thinking that it's morning but I'm confused as to why it was so dark outside. I figured that it might be raining. I also notice Amanda's watching "Shark Week" on the Discovery Channel and not The Today show and ask "What time is it?"

"11:30 at night." She says, "you've been asleep for 3 hours." I thought it had been one of the best night's sleep I'd had in a long time.

So now after practically no sleep a three hour nap was all I needed and I'm wide the freak awake again! Why can I go to bed at midnight and sleep til noon, but if I try to go to sleep at 8:30, even after a full day, I sleep for three hours? Makes no sense.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Part 4: This one is called "Flashing...Eyes!"

As I sat buckled into my muddy grave I was left to think about my life. I went back mentally to the face of my dear mother and her sympathetic looks as my stepfather berated me with accusations of thievery and insubordination. All the while I took the abuse. Whenever I pleaded with my stepfather that it wasn't I who took his cigarettes the side of my face met headlong with his high school state championship ring. Heaven forbid that I point out to him that in his drunken stupor he had tossed the carton behind the refrigerator, and all he need would be to enlist the help of a coat hanger or such tool with which he could reach behind and retrieve the cigarettes. Surely that would have been a dire mistake. My only recourse was to accept the punish that came my way and hope that he tired himself quickly. After the tyrant was out of physical steam he resorted to the verbal before retiring to his Laz-E-Boy. "Pansy!" This was just one of many feminine epithet to which I was attributed. Would stare up blankly at my mother who would shrug, struggling to fight back tears and rage. But it wasn't sympathy that I required of the woman who bore me. As I studied the plains animals in Africa for my middle school ecology class I was envious of the lion cubs and even the prehatched snakes. The natural instinct of their mothers was to put themselves in danger for the sake of their young. A mother cheetah, when faced with a pack of hyennas would not run, as they would certainly be able to outrun the lot, but would stand her post in a show of power amid a powerful foe.

I would rise and trod past my maternal life giver, giving close attention to give eye contact. If I neglected to force my glance I would not be able to look her in the eye. With a tight clenched jaw upon my upper lip I slunk into my bedroom, resigned to face this scenario again before the week was through.

As I made my way into the upper levels of my education I slowly became all but a recluse. My routine consisted of a bus ride to school where I buried myself in the backs of classrooms wearing subdued colors as to not draw attention to myself. Not a word spoken for fear that someone might hear me and want to respond. I was on constant alert for anything that might act as the key that would unlock my chest of sorrow. In adolescence the most feared thing for a typical student is vulnerability, but for me vulnerability was more than just fears and self-doubt. It was inherit self-loathing. I was convinced that it was not so much I who was condemned to live a life of pain and anguish, but yet my entire lineage was cursed and doomed to a life of subversive meekness and low status and abilities. Generations upon generations of my family could amount to nothing and this is what had been passed on to me and I will to my children pass on even greater woe and suffering.

Just when I had convinced myself, however, that I would never know happiness she entered the classroom in which I slouched. She was wearing black clothes and did not paint her face the way that other girls did, but she had a pale face that shown through her jet black hair like a single burst of sunlight, piercing through a crack in my cell of isolation. She did not smile or look up as the teacher read from her schedule card. "We have a new student, her name is Jasmine." Jasmine! Oh, appropriate names, have thee no finer specimen! "There is a seat next to this....gentleman. I assure you, you will not be bothered here." As the others snickered at Mrs. Frank's accidental jab I sank into a new kind of despair. I was immediately smitten with Jasmine, but Mrs. Frank's inability to recall my name highlighted a major setback if I were to ever attempt to pursue her: I've never said a word in front of any of these people and before I can make the leap at courting a lady I must first speak. Such a drastic turn of events would surely cause pause in a group of misfits whom I had successfully staved off for the better part of 10 years. As we all know as soon as young man or woman notices anything out of the ordinary he or she finds that it is his or her inherit right and duty to point it out for all to see. This is customarily followed by ridicule and scoffing of said perpetrator of the unusual act. This may be a consequence that I was willing to take.

Coming soon: Part 2 of Part 4.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Romeo and Juliet Set

I don't know when I'm going to finish that story I was writing. I feel like I should even though I'm not sure it was going anywhere. Maybe someone out there (Rozie) would like to finish it for me. What happened to the fire guy? all that jazz.

The last few days I've been working on a set design for Romeo and Juliet which I'm directing in Aug.-Sept. at school. The show is already cast and we begin on August 7. So if any cast members are reading this, 3 o'clock in my room, kay?

Here's what the set is looking like so far:

Floor plan: I'm limited to some extent because I can't build anything stationary below the act curtain because the school has an open house in the auditorium early in the year with the orchestra needing to be onstage. They don't want to see my set. (Yeah, like it would just offend the eyes of the parents, or something.) Anyway, the big round thing to the right rotates so that Juliet has her balcony and then it turns around to reveal her bedroom.

This is the first drawing I did of what the front should look like. The round balcony on the right is too big and there are some other issues with the back wall, but this is basically what it will look like. I've also been thinking that I might have the whole left wall swing in using the rotating platforms fulcrum.

This is a more to scale drawing, although it's obviously not as fleshed out. I eventually plan to get this one colored and such.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Snoop Took Over Ya Blizog, Cracka!

Yo! Step up, playaz. Take a lizzook at T- to the H to the is

Part 3: "Burning Hate" (still)

After what seemed like a dream but was reality in it's most gruesome and horrific tangible authenticity, I had pseudo-unintentionally destroyed our suburban flat, and could hear the screams of horror from neighbors, whose adjoining apartments were suffering similar fates. My body covered in cracking, lapping whips of flare and flame I was struck with the sudden realization of what was happen, although I was still not entirely sure how it had happened. I was suddenly aware, however, that, whatever had happened, I was at fault and that I needed to vacate the premises with hast and without leaving my unfaithful, now deceased spouse and her deceased lover at the scene. With the sound of sirens from the impending authorities in my ears, I fled with two charred and unrecognizable corpses flung over a shoulder to my automobile. I sped away in my Geo hatchback as fast as I could to as remote an area of the country I knew of and tried desperately to make sense of what had happened.

The sensation all over my body was warm enough to make me sweat but was simultaneously causing the air from the open windows of my hatchback to chill my skin all over. It felt like the most comfortable fever I'd ever experienced. One would think that the smell from the dead, burnt bodies in the back of the car would over-power the stint's of the singed hair that once covered my own body, yet, my newly bare form was keenly apparent to me from what was the unmistakable smell of my own burnt body hair. Oddly enough, not even a sunburn or pink patch of skin could be found. Rather, my pale and tender complexion was as it had always been. Only hairless and warm. Such immunity to fire could not be said of my wife or her companion crackling in the back seat, losing more of their earthly coil with every bump and curve in the long, isolated road.

Had I really just set fire to myself, and, in doing so, to my wife and to our apartment? Was the betrayal of my only love so desperately vile to me that, in a fit of rage I had ended her life, and the life of the man who perpetrated the act along with her? I tried to recall my adolescent years, taking physical science classes, and fire safety videos in chemistry, all cataloging what was required to make a fire. One would need fuel, a spark, and oxygen to create a fire. To my knowledge my body was lacking, if not two main components, then certainly one. And why was my own flesh impervious to the heat and flame even when my hair was not? All of these questions raced inside of me, all the while gradually allowing hate to creep in to justify my actions as retribution for my lost love's transgressions. As I concentrated on my wife's callow dishonesty, and my father's absence, and my mother's weakness I felt my pores begin to whistle softly and my skin became warm and my eyes pressurize, burning as if every blood vessel was ready to burst out, crying for fresh air. Peering down as I drove, a shallow, blue wave of light cover my right hand as I allowed myself to dwell on the hate I was feeling for those that had wronged me. My mind snapped to as I violently shook my hand before the flame could spread to my upper-arm. Wavering from the road, my eyes failed to see the dark canyon of trees through which I traveled curve slightly to the left. I lost control and my vehicle careened into a large ditch, swallowing it whole and trapping my victims and me inside as both doors and open windows were blocked on either side by earth, grass and mud. My solitary wish was that the high, narrow walls of the trench would hinder the incidental passer-by from noticing my little toy car, not to be rescued until I had met the same fate of my rear passengers.

To be continued. (it might not be called "Side Show" after all)

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Electric Car

Taking a break from my weird "Top Hat Guy" story, take a look at this. I know that the idea of an electric car universe wouldn't be a popular concept in Baytown, of all places, but think about it. We gotta do something and I can't understand what the problem is. I'm looking forward to seeing this movie and any information anyone else has on this. Why did they stop making these, seemingly, great vehicles?