What I want you to know. Which is everything.

Friday, April 28, 2006


Those of you who don't know, my old college friend Daniel Carlson writes movie reviews for a website called Pajiba (Don't ask what it means. I don't even think they know.) Anyway, Dustin Rowles, another reviewer for the site, had an interesting opinion on American Dreamz, one of the movies I reviewed yesterday. I tended to agree with what he said, even though I found him (and usually find him) overly critical. Check it out.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Movie Reviews

These are some recent movie I've seen and my opinions of them.

American Dreamz,

As I was leaving the movie theater I heard a lady say, "We have to see another one to make up for this. This was the most ridiculous thing I ever saw!" I'm assuming that these women were on a "girl date" and they had seen the previews for American Dreamz thinking it was going to be a cute comedy poking fun at the president and American Idol. While it does do as advertised, it is much less cutsy than the trailers make it seem. What the comercials fail to imply is that the movie is dark and satirical. It reminded me a lot of Drop Dead Gorgeous in that the silliness and disturbing humor came as a surprise to me. It also kind of reminded me of Mars Attacks in the way that politics and the entertainment business come together to address a threat from a foreign entity.

Mandy Moore plays a contestant in the American Dreamz contest, an obvious knockoff of American Idol. Moore is in a good position to become the darling of dark comedy after American Dreamz and Saved from a few years back. Her performance in Dreamz as the souless teen queen hopeful who has to fain cute and bubbly for the camera is a very satisfying jab at her former self. Almost as much as her character in Saved is a self aware portrayal of the way that many people probably depicted her in her early years. Hugh Grant and the rest of the cast pull in decent performances. I'm convinced that Well-Meaning Stupid Guy is the only type of role Chris Klein is qualified to play. A few unbelievable plot points aside (doors haven't had keyholes that can be peered through since the turn of the century) American Dreamz is a pretty good yarn and if you like the ridiculous, like I do, you might enjoy it. However, if you want to see a crappy, cute movie, go watch something else.

3 bulls out of 5

The Squid and the Whale

This is the kind of movie that I'd like to own. The very fact that Wes Anderson is a producer and the writer/director is Noah Baumbach, co-writer of Anderson's A Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou seals that distinction for me alone. But, what this really means is that The Squid and the Whale is a movie that requires multiple viewings. I didn't quite "get it" the first time around. I understood the plot, the story arch, the character motivations, and all of that. That's not what I mean. I'm not even really sure what I mean, actually.

Have you ever seen a movie and you liked it, but you don't really know why? Have you ever left the theatre (or in this case the DVD) with a feeling of unsatisfaction. Not because the movie was bad but, beyond plot and character and motivation, you feel like you're missing something. That's how I felt with this movie. As much as I enjoyed the experience I needed more. I think that might frustrate some people, but I love it. Some people watch movies over and over again like The Lion King or Spiderman 2 or Steal Magnolias. I don't understand that. It's straightforward. These movies are good and fun and enjoyable, but once you've seen it, you've seen it. Story over, there's nothing more there that you are missing. To me, the best movies are like the best plays and the best books. Chalk full of content that couldn't possibly be explored in one viewing. Everytime I watch The Godfather II I discover something new to appreaciate about it. The same goes for a movie like Rushmore or Fargo or just about anything by Charlie Kaufman. The Squid and the Whale did that for me as well, and I can't wait to watch it again.

5 out of 5 bulls

Mrs. Henderson Presents

Historical films aren't my favorite genre of movie, but when it's done as well as Mrs. Henderson Presents they can be some of the most enjoyable movie watching experieces. I really appreciate when filmakers can take history and find the comedic spin that it put on a very dreary time. Some of the best examples of this come out of the World War 2 era. A League of Their Own and Life is Beautiful are notable examples of a film portraying, not only how the war affected everyday funny people that we forget lived during hard times as well, but how they coped with the war and helped others cope with it. These other movies probably recieved much more notoriety than Mrs. Henderson Presents, which is a shame, because I think this movie is equally as good and important.

Judy Dench and Bob Hoskins both turn out beautiful performances as the owner and manager, respectively, of a burlesque style review house in the West End of London during the end of World War 2 while the Germans were bombing the city on a daily basis. They are the first in England to do fully nude actors on stage and are met with criticism by the stuffy aristocrats of England, but with enthusiasm by the businessmen and soldiers. When defending the need for nudes in this time of struggle Dench gives one of the most convincing and surprisingly moving speaches on the subject I've ever heard. It may have been the only moving speech on nudes I'd ever heard.

4 bulls out of 5

Monday, April 24, 2006

Can I Get a Grip-ness?!

To the Good People at Tresme (ooh, la, la. Yeah, them):

Your huge bottle of shampoo is heavy and without any rubber grips. It's sleak aerodynamic design may be inexpensive to produce or perhaps it is a matter of style, but my toes request that you find some manner in which to better hold on to your product container while in a wet, slippery, soapy environment. An appeal has been made to my wife to buy different, easier to handle brands of shampoo, but she likes yours, for some reason. Sure I could go get my own, but, this notwithstanding, I believe that this is a reasonable request. If the BIC Company can put rubber grips on their pens I think that you can follow suit with an item that actually needs one.

Many thanks,
Kyle "Tender Toes" Martin

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Bunny Wars

Sometimes just putting bunny-ears on something makes it funny.

Monday, April 17, 2006

I Love Hamlet

I really do love Hamlet. I think it is one of the best plays ever written. I am currently in the process of watching Kenneth Branaugh's 1996 film version. I think that it is important to tell you that I am watching it as it is a freaking mammoth of a film at over 4 hours. While I like the movie, I must note that Hamlet, and most Shakespeare, for that matter, is almost never performed in it's entirety for a reason. It's too long. Many Shakespearean scholars explain this away with the patience level of Elizabethan audiences, and the fact that the theatre was a completely different experience back then. Supposedly, the actors spoke faster and the audience was able to mill around and come multiple times. Further, the audience expected to stay for awhile and make an afternoon of it. My personal theory is that the plays weren't actually performed in their entirety, even back then. It is well known that audience members would react with the players, and even sit on the stage and throw things at the villans. I don't care how fast you are speaking this is going to make it even more difficult to get through a play and therefore a four hour play that with fast talking actors might be 3 and a half is going to be 5 or six hours long with the groundlings throwing mutton at you.

For this reason I say to Mr. Branaugh. I appreciate your dedication to the Bard and that you wanted to be bold and make a full-text version of this masterpiece. But, not even diamond-sitters in 1600 London could handle speaches that take ten minutes to say that which could be said in one. I love the imagery as much as anyone, but we get the drift, man.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Jr. High Was Tough

Sticking with the theme of violent aggression I want to tell a couple of stories.

The Kickball Incident

When I was a kid my brothers and I would hold a lot of kickball games at our house. We had a big back yard, but for some reason we played kick ball in our front yard. I guess because that way we could kick the ball down the street instead of over fences. I normally would have preferred baseball, but it took more athleticism of which many in my neighborhood had little.

So, one day some people were in my front yard playing kickball. At least I assume that there were other peole there. For some reason I only remember this guy Nick from down the street and no one else being there. I don't know why it would just be the two of us unless we weren't playing kickball, like I think. Anyway, somehow Nicka and I get into an arguement. As you could imagine the fight resorted to name calling and onward to insulting my mom. I never really cared that much about stuff like that but I guess I was being particularly sensative this day. And he wasn't just saying things like "Your momma is so..." to be funny, he was actually being offensive. After telling him to stop a number of times and advancing on him threatening his safety he would not stop the taunting and so I hit him in the face. At this he fell to the ground and started crying. I immediately felt horrible. I had never hurt anyone so deliberatly before and suddenly I felt like I had just entered into a new stage in life where I was to be held responsible for my stregth and use of force. I felt a huge sense of power and knew right away that one could either abuse or control this power. I decided that I had done the wrong thing. On top of this I had been told all my life not to hid a guy with glasses and this guy had glasses. I helped him up and handed him his glasses. I reminded him that he had been warned but I appologized. I wasn't exactly the fighting type. Nick went home and I don't remember ever hanging out with him again. That is the only time I've ever hit a guy in the face.

The Football Incident

It's no wonder to me that both of these stories take place surrounding sports competitions. Not only can competition arouse anger and selfishness, it is physical and it is naturally penciant upon solving problems physically.

This story takes place when I was in 7th grade. I played football for my Jr. High and was on the B team. This means that I wasn't as good as the kids on the A team, but I was a starter for our team, so I wasn't horrible, either. That was the story of my sports career. Always quite middle of the road. While I wasn't a bad player and there were infact many good players on the team (we came in first place while the A team came in 4th) there was still an air of prestige associated with being on the A team. Being popular in jr. high was way too important and being on the A team was important to being popular. Those who were on the A team, even if they were the nicest guy in the world the year before, had a huge chip on their shoulder. They were inherently better and more important than the B. (The next year we switched to Orange and White with the idea that both teams were equal, but in practice the coaches cheated a little and it wasn't quite equal.)

When we practiced both teams wore plain white football jerseys and if you lost yours you had to wear a large white t-shirt. Not surprisingly I lost mine, but had no clue where it was. I was possitive that it had actually been stolen. My jersey had a tag on it that hung down from one corner and I was sure I would recognize it if I saw. Sure enough one day I noticed that Chris, who was on the A team was wearing a jersey with the tag hanging down in the corner. I'd known Chris since 4th grade where we were on the same Pee-Wee football team for two years in a row. I knew Chris had a major temper. In fact, later on he was convicted of murder, cutting short the high school football career of a very talented athelete.

I was never one to bow to pressure or be cowered by bigger kids. That's usually how I got into trouble, in fact. So I approached Chris, determined to get my jersey back. I first told him that I knew that he had my shirt and demanded it back. He denied taking my jersey and so I tried taking it. Chris was stronger than I even imagined him being. Before I knew it I had pushed him back to try and get the shirt and he decked me in jaw. I jumped back, stunned. Chris was bobbing up and down, fist up, in typical boxing stance.

"That's right, I hit you. Come on! You want some more?"

I couldn't believe he had hit me in the face. It was a really good hit, too. Solid, with perfect form and accuracy. I imagine that it looked like every round house punch that you see in the movies. Except I didn't fight back. I wasn't crying or yelling or anything. I just stood there and stared. I couldn't believe I'd just been hit! I asked him, "Why'd you hit me?"

"You pushed me, and I don't take that!" he told me.

That's right! I had pushed him. I didn't mean to push him, but I did. I don't remember if I said anything after that but I made a deliberate decision. I wouldn't try to continue this fight I turned my back on Chris. I was scared to death that he would pounce on me from behind and really beat me up, but I decided that I wanted to make sure he knew that I didn't respect him. When I reached the exit door, my old friend Joel was standing there picking up towels. I told him what happened and without any further prodding, I began to cry. Not out of pain, or even embarassment. I still am not quite sure why I cried but I want to think it was because of a realization that people were mean and I was going to have to deal with people just like this the rest of my life. At this point I was still quite sure that Chris had stolen my jersey. He may have even said something to the effect that even if it was my jersey I wasn't getting back. So far, I've been right. I know how to deal with people like this a little better now, but they're still around. Mean people. I remember seeing about 4 or 5 jerseys like the one I thought Chris had stolen from me over the next week and I felt like a jerk. I think I might have even tried to appologize to Chris. Who knows if Chris remembers this as he's sitting in his prison cell today.

I'm often curious about who might think of me and the good and bad experiences. Who did I hurt? Who is sorry they hurt me? Does anyone remember hurting me and are glad they did it? Or, who did I hurt in my life and thinks of me and what they would say to me if they had the chance?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

This is Neal. I'd Never Punch Him

When Do I Punch a Guy?

Lately I've been contemplating this question. Some instances where I've been met with this delima:

1. Guy hitting on my wife.

I'll be the first to admit that my wife is gorgeous on a completely different level of good-looking than I am. I don't have a self-esteem problem, but lets face the truth, I'm not gracing the cover of any magazines for Men's Health. Not just yet, anyway. Somehow, though, my charm won out.

This causes a problem, however, when you are out together. I have, since Amanda and I've been married, diverted more than a few gentlemen's intentions elsewhere, either by, again, my charm, or in one instance, a verbal...I wouldn't say threat, but more like harsh words. It is my nature to not be offended or jealous, because essentially these guys are saying,"your wife is hot." I agree, but can't these idiots see they are making her uncomfortable? So, when do I punch a guy? I've never felt like it got that far, because I usually buddy up with the guy and make Amanda and my relationship obvious. The guy either goes away or warms up to me. One time I did physically push a guy back, but it was in a somewhat friendly manner if it's possible, and he backed off.

But, when, if ever, does the guy deserve to be decked?

2. Guy is a racist/bigot and offending you on many levels

Occasionally, I get roped into a situation where I am engaged in conversation with someone who is intolerant of other races and or types of people. I'm not just talking about the occasional white guy saying to another white guy that he does, in fact, get nervous when he's in an all-black neighborhood at night, or that he hates rap music, or those who might subconsciously quip that blacks are "looting" while whites are "surviving." To me these things are subconscious and need to be dealt with, but I don't want to punch those people. I want to punch the people who said these things to me: "My daughter can't wait to move to [insert white-flight community here] where it's all white people" "What was wrong with the Nazis?" "Black's skulls are thicker and therefore have smaller brains." "Now, I don't think that we should go back to slavery, but..." Oh, aren't you benevolent!

The guy who commented on the brains of blacks haunted me for a long time. He was a nice looking older man that I struck up a conversation with in an airport one time while waiting for a flight. I can't remember how the conversation steered toward race, but this guy scared me. He said he was a college professor in upstate New York and knew all of these facts about blacks because of scientific evidence. I kept coming back to all the really intelligent black people that I know and he would find a way to refute it. I eventually just got disgusted and walked away.

The guy who mentioned his daughter also offended me, personally, when he told of an instance in New York when he was arrested for killing a wild deer. (To be fair the deer was already dying because of an accidental car encounter, he claims.) He claimed that he couldn't stand "liberal c**ks**kers" that lived up there. I just laughed at that, but his daughter's comment stuck with me. As an educator who deals with igorant students on a daily basis (note the "Nazi" statement), who break everything down into "white people do this, and Mexicans are this way" mentality I really wanted to punch the guy. Or, at least, strike up a debate. Based on the way that all of this guy's stories ended with "...then I beat his ass!" I assumed that he wouldn't really be up for a scholarly debate and it would soon resort to the physical.

I decided with both instances that the best thing to do is to not punch the person in question but deal with the situation diplomatically. I have more success with that anyway.

I decided that the guys hitting on my wife need to be punched out of principle, but was never really angry enough and it wouldn't do any good, anyway. As far as the bigots/racists/idiots of the world, they like to fight and use their fists instead of their brains and that's what makes them a good candidate for an interview with my fist to begin with. Violence perpetuates violence and an eye for an eye just leaves a room full of blind men.

Or at least men with black eyes.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Sordid Lives is Over

It's been memorable and a great run, everybody. Thanks to all who attended and all who participated.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Martins across the U.S.

This is very interesting. This map shows how any particular surname is distributed throughout the country between 1850 and 1990. I found this site courtesy of David Smith. It doesn't surprise me that Martins were very prevailent in Alabama in the mid 19th Century, but it surprises me, somewhat that we were big in New Mexico. Of course, pretty soon we moved out of the state completely. As you can see as the years progress Martins moved west and by the end of the 20th century we've pretty much taken over the country. You can call me Supreme Emperor Martin, now.

My Evaluation

Yesterday I was evaluated. To say that it went well would be a little bit presumptuous since I didn't feel like it went well, but then again, my previous evaluations have always been done in my best behaved classes. Unfortunately, this year all three of my theatre 1 classes have a penchant for mischief. I didn't want him to come evaluate my tech classes since I don't really teach them lessons, per se. We pretty much just do stuff in there. So, while I can't claim to have had a "great" evaluation, I think things went fairly well with all things considered. Plus, I've always been surprised at the understanding and flexability of our administration. As my evaluator was leaving he told me that I did a good job and that things went well, but of course he could have just been b.s.ing me until the official time of horse-whipping. But, I actually think it went alright. I just wish that some kids didn't feel it necessary to act worse when an evaluator is there. Just bad enough to get on my nerves without actually doing anything to get in trouble for. The truth is I might have dealt with the misbehaving kids quite differently if I wasn't being evaluated.

I'm just glad it's over. I'm tired. Recovering from weeks of doing too much at one time. But, that's my way. I'm like a cheetah. I can run really fast for short distances. I'm working on my long game. This must be why I'm always so much better on the front 9.