What I want you to know. Which is everything.

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.