What I want you to know. Which is everything.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Giuliani and Me

Amanda and I had an interesting morning. One of our favorite places to eat here in Houston is a place called Buffalo Grill. They would definitely be my pick for best breakfast food. We've never been for lunch or dinner, so we can't speak for anything but the pancakes, bacon, and stuff like that, but it's definitely the best we've been to in the city, so far.

But that's beside the point. While we breakfastéd there this morning (I had the #3A, Amanda a blueberry wheat pancake the size of a your face...if you have a really big face) we noticed that there were a couple young ladies and one ambitious looking young man in a navy suit handing out fliers with Rudolph Giuliani's face on it and stickers with a big "RUDY '08" on it. I thought, "Okay these people have come down to do a little canvasing whilst enjoying the best breakfast in the city."

But then I began seeing TV cameras and men with badges. Not police badges, but the important kind. The kind that says "press" and hang from the neck. And I knew they weren't just tourists with nice camera either because the microphones were fuzzy. No one has fuzzy microphones, unless there's after a scoop. Then I overheard one of the clean cut young blonds tell another breakfast goer that "he" would be here in 15 minutes. Soon, it was clear that Giuliani was actually going to be coming to the restaurant. Amanda and I were finishing up, but, to my surprise, Amanda wanted to get another cup of coffee and hang out and see if we see Rudy. Now, if you've ever been to the Buffalo Grill, particularly on a Sunday morning, you know that it's pretty busy and the line is regularly out the door. They don't let you save tables and they kind of discourage hanging around when there's a huge line. On this morning there was an even bigger crowd. So, Amanda and I felt a little bad about hogging a table, but it seemed, given the circumstance, it was appropriate. We felt a lot better when a bright eyed young couple asked if they could share our table. We were glad to do so. The guy told me that he received Giuliani email newsletters and knew about the appearance. I was really glad that he got to discover the best breakfast in town in the process.

Eventually, Rudy did show up around 10:15. You kind of had to think: 10:15 am on a Sunday morning in the West University area; this a fairly diverse mix of old school GOP and moderately liberal area of town and he was there at a time when the Republicans who dislike him would be in church. Seemed like a good strategy.

So, he walks in and, of course, the cameras and microphones swarmed around him. There was a reserved table right next to our table and he sat right there and began a chat with a little boy, who I find out from the AP later on, was named Charlie Pagan. I'm not making that up, his last name was "Pagan" and he and his Pagan family were the pre-screened exemplification of the ideal Rudy voter. Well, they weren't in church, after all.

The cool part was that he really was within spitting distance of us. Had I been so inclined I could have been kicked out of the restaurant by actually spitting. But, like I said, we love this place. Plus, why would I do that?

When Giuliani stood to pay his tab and make his rounds he walked by me and I decided that it was now or never. I stood and punched him in the face!

Just kidding. I shook his hand and asked if he'd had the pancakes. He said no, that he just had a cup of coffee. I felt this was a mistake, but I let it go.

The above picture I found it on this AP news site. So, yeah, I'm famous now. I also took some pretty crappy cell phone pics that I'll try to post maybe later.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

More Reunion Junk

So, the high school reunion is tonight. I've already expounded on the societal and personal implications that this night brings. I've always thought of the ten year reunion along the same lines as the Senior Prom. Not necessarily as huge as a wedding or a child birth, but still, it's a once in a lifetime kind of thing that is deeply infused into the fabric of our culture. If you doubt this then take a look at the movies that have used this overblown party as subject matter.

The previously linked blog above references a movie that is probably my favorite of these films. Grosse Pointe Blank is the story of a guy, Martin Blank played by John Cusak, who has to travel back to his home town of Grosse Pointe, Michigan on business. Unwittingly, he is there on the same weekend that his high school graduating class is having it's 10 year reunion. His caring and concerned secretary encourages him to go to the reunion, even though he really doesn't want to. It turns out that he took off the night of prom, leaving his high school sweetheart waiting to be picked up, never to be seen or heard from again. Martin is wary of going back to his reunion for the obvious awkwardness that could accompany his reunification with all his old friends, and most of all the girl.

As he is scoping out the old town and the changes that have taken place since he left, ("I'm standing where my, uh, living room was and it's not here because my house is gone and it's an Ultimart!") he happens by a shop window that houses a local radio station. The DJ at the mic is none other than his old girlfriend, played by Minnie Driver, in one of her cuter roles. He can't help himself and decides to listen into her show. As the curiosity gets the better of him he decides to make use of a commercial break and drop into the station. Driver's character then puts him on air to quiz him on his going AWOL in high school and sudden return, much to his humiliation.

Oh, and Martin's business is as a killer for hire. He's a hitman. The girl doesn't know that yet, but the audience knows this from the beginning. A very good and in demand one, at that.

What I love about this movie is that, despite his job as a professional killer, (he claims a military psychological profile quiz showed he had a certain "Moral flexibility") he is very concerned with the way people see him. Even when he's been hired to kill someone he seems genuinely hurt when the person he's about to kill thinks it's something personal. "It's not me!" he tells them, just before he puts a hole through the person's head.

Other than the killing thing, I see a lot of myself in Martin Blank. He is thoughtful, in the sense that he may over think a topic. He is very self-aware, knows how he feels and is able to verbalize his feelings, but also realizes and compares this to how he should be feeling. Like, on the one hand, he knows that going to his reunion, given the circumstances surrounding his departure, his return, and his career, would probably be a mistake. On the other hand, he knows that he's curious and a peek into his old life, when presented to him on a covered platter is more than he can handle. He must cave in.

Well, here I am with the covered platter only minutes from my home. Despite the $60 a pop price tag, it was just too difficult not to peek back into that world. Of course, it's not like I left in some weird way or that I'm expecting people to think it odd that I'm there, like Martin Blank, but, of the few people with whom I kept in contact after high school, I don't think that any of them are coming. I'm sure this would be enough to fend away most sensible people. But, once again, I over think things and can't resist an opportunity to put myself in an awkward situation. Then again, I might have a blast. Who knows.

By the way, what's with movies and TV shows always holding the reunions in the gym of the high school. You can't drink in a public high school, which is one of the greatest things about the high reunion to begin with. The last time I saw some of these people we were jumping the fence at a party where the cops showed up or sneaking around to pay off some homeless guy to buy us beer. How surreal and wonderful is that?

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Cast for the THS production of A Midsummer Night's Dream

Thank you for all who auditioned. The decisions were very difficult and I look forward to working with each of you.

The first rehearsal will be on

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 4, 2007, 3pm-5pm
in the Black Box Theater

Please be early!

If you can’t be there or at any future rehearsals please contact Aaron Hlavaty or Mr. Martin. You will receive a script and complete schedule at that time.

Carole-Marie Wiser will serve as Assistant Stage Manager with Aaron!

Mr. THESEUS David Novark
Mrs. EGEUS Zainab Elkadin
LYSANDER Emilio Campos
DEMETRIUS Erik Schorken
Mrs. PHILOSTRATE Haley Thurman
QUINCE Ryan Hadfield
SNUG Sammy Rice
BOTTOM Richard Gomez
FLUTE Zach Brady
SNOUT Polo Barfield
HIPPOLYTA (Mrs. Theseus) Reade Burke
HERMIA Sarah McCall
HELENA Jessica Ries
OBERON Daniel Colvin
TITANIA Adrienne Enderle
PUCK Josephine Tran
First FAIRY Daniela Silva
COBWEB Alessandra Suniaga
MOTH Anja Senn
MUSTARDSEED Brennen Blankenship
FAIRIES Aziza Lewally
Jaquelyne Mata
Jessica Sabillion
Marissa Sendejas
Terran Freeman
Victoria Rios
Towobola Jokodola
Attendants to OBERON Sitrutul Abedin
John Whitney
Chad Heller
David McGarrigle

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Liberal Media

If the media is so liberal, which I think is a lie fed to us by the conservative, and unabashedly so, talk radio media, then it is only because the very idea of media, in this case meaning news and information givers known as the press, is a liberal idea. Telling people what they need to know in order for them to better keep the government and those in power accountable is a very liberal concept, especially when put in context with the course of history that has progressed so far.

If education in the United States, where teachers are filling kids' heads with things about science and art and the unpatriotic concept that the U.S.A. has screwed up, a lot over the course of it's short history, shows a slight, or more than slight, liberal bias, which I think is another lie, it is because, once again, the idea of education is a liberal idea. Educating the masses so that everyone has access to the skills and knowledge to combat the powers that be is a very progressive and liberal idea.

The United States of America and the ideals that it was founded on are very liberal ideas thought up by some radically liberal men. These were men who wanted to eradicate slavery almost 100 years before anyone actually had the balls to actually do it. Pretty liberal. Not liberal enough, mind you, but certainly ahead of the curve.

It is because of these things that I am disturbed by the notion that has been bandied about the airwaves that the word liberal is a bad thing to be avoided. We should be proud of our liberal-ness, which one could also call LIBERTY and wear it as a badge of honor. I almost wrote pride, but I think that pride is actually a misleading feeling for people who want to feel superior, which is a feeling at odds with liberty and should be avoided. I prefer the word "honor" because it implies humility and inclusion. Inclusion and diversity being things that I feel are strongly associated with freedom and liberty.

So, is our media liberal? Maybe, but probably not enough seeing as how a sad percentage of what they show on the most respected of news channels is about the latest celebutant foibles and high profile "hot girl" killings, or sport star arrests. These footnotes take the place of information about what laws are being slipped under our noses that will deny us freedoms, and policies that are being implemented that oppose the ideas of liberty. Those who are keeping an eye on the people in charged are silenced or pushed to the daytime block of time so that Nancy "Condescending Bitch" Grace can tell us that murderers and rapists are scum during the prime time slots.

Is education biased toward liberal ideology. You would think that, since I am a teacher, I would be able to answer this question with some confidence. But, seeing as how I teach in Texas, my views are somewhat skewed on the topic. I teach in a school district that has a strict "Abstinence Only" sex ed policy, which means that students are not allowed to know about or how to use condoms. In the even they find themselves met with a temping situation, all students are expected to turn tail and run the other way, rather than engage in the sexual intercourse that awaits them. I, for one, find this to be a wonderful plan, and if carried out correctly will certainly prevent pregnancy and any number of STDs. There's a major flaw in the plan, however, and I don't think I have to spell it out. This is not a very liberal stance to take.

I won't go into how the "liberal" news media gave the Bush administration a free pass in the critical days after 9/11, or how they pander much more to big corporate business than to the people they are supposed to serve. I won't talk about how text books and teachers still gloss over the nasty parts of American history. The parts that would make students go, "We did that to the Mexicans?" all the while their parents are complaining that the restroom signs at the airports say "Banós" in tiny letters under the "Restroom" sign. I don't need to go into the whole thing in order to make a case for a lack of true liberal education or press. I don't think that I've said anything that was untrue or that many could refute. That's an overstatement and, in fact, I don't have any references to back up my claims and opinions. At least I'm not going to take the time to go look this up. But, I could, if I cared enough. If I ever write a book on the subject, I'm sure I'll have to back up my opinions in someway.

So, the next time you hear someone talk about the liberal media I would invite you to question him or her on their reasoning for saying so. You and I both know that just hearing it from Sean Hannity doesn't count. I don't think that most people would admit it even that was their only rationale. When they tell you this, and in the rare case when they are able to back it up with evidence, they will likely tell you that the media only tells us the parts they want us to hear. Let them know that, if this is in fact the truth and the press is withholding, they are being too conservative. The media needs to be more liberal. And, if they simply don't believe what they're hearing and seeing...well, then I really can't help them their. They've obviously been burned by the propagandist media before and need to help us to demand a more liberal news media.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

People of the World, (Re) Unite!

Everybody's coming back to take stock of their lives. You know what I say? Leave your livestock alone.

I'm standing where my, uh, living room was and it's not here because my house is gone and it's an Ultimart! You can never go home again, Oatman... but I guess you can shop there.

I consider myself to be a fairly confident person. When I meet someone I don't generally have a difficult time talking to them, even if I think that the person doesn't like me. I can talk to a person and feel completely at ease, without even considering the fact that I might be some annoying weirdo whom they are too polite to tell off or walk away from. Every now and then I'll realize this in retrospect, but even then, I don't really care. It's all about confidence and being assured of who I am and realizing that if a person doesn't like me then I shouldn't really care. On top of that, I make enough friends to believe that unless the person is an asshole, they'll probably like me, well enough.

So, why, when I think about my 10 year high school reunion do I want to go shrink down into a hole a hide?

You see, I haven't always been the confident person you see today. When I was in Jr. High (Middle School to some of you) I, like many people, was self-conscious about a number of things. I worried about how cool I was, what I was wearing: did I have cool shoes, pants, was I wearing the latest haircut? I worried about whether or not girls liked me. Oh, this was a biggie! I was very concerned with how I came across to girls. I remember having a crush on a girl and speaking to her, only to say something totally nerdy and cringing, pain shooting through my gut, as if I were going to puke. Of course, there was also gym class, where, in eighth grade, as many of the other boys were hitting puberty, I was, regrettably, only getting chunky and remaining hairless. One very tall eighth grade boy looked down on me from above and proclaimed, "Kyle, did you shrink?" I felt like I had shrunk.

Scenes like this one had a lasting impression on me into high school. While I eventually stopped trying to get into the popular crowd, I was still keenly aware of how I came off to people. Especially my sophomore year I wanted to make sure that I didn't seem to care too much, but I didn't want to be a loner either. Or maybe I did want to be a loner. Screw those other people! What do I care what they think. I'll be my own person and do my own thing. So, I sat in my room and learned guitar and wrote angsty, dramatically selfish songs set to three or four chords strummed out on my mom's acoustic guitar. I was also in theatre and band, where the other weird people were. But, they weren't that weird, because oddly enough I still felt like an outcast.

At the end of my sophomore year in high school one of my teachers sat me down and basically gave me a "stop feeling sorry for yourself" talk. At least that's how I ultimately interpreted it, and that's how it was used. I had a new outlook on life. I was to take matters into my own hands and decide my own future, instead of blaming people for my shortcomings. After that year my brother went off to college. I began to learn about college life and how things there are different. People were kinder, cared less about popularity and stupid things like this. They judged the person and not the clothes.

I entered my Junior year with a new attitude. While I made more and closer friends than I'd had in the past, there was still this itching feeling that I was disliked or disrespected. Those close to me liked me, but there were those who didn't want to get to know me. I always thought that it was because they knew the old me and had a preconceived idea of who I was. Even though I cared less what others thought of me, I still wanted them to like me! My new goal was to simply ride out high school and get to college. In college no one would be able to say "in jr. high Kyle was this," or "Kyle freshman year, he did that." I would be able to reinvent myself as someone everyone loved. The way it should be.

And, that's basically what I did. I was able to endear myself to a very tight group of people who became my best friends. Most of those people I am still close to, or at least keep in contact with. College was an excellent boost to my self-esteem. Even with people who didn't warm up to me, it was a non-issue, because I was loved and appreciated by my group. Even though I had friends in high school, some were even close, I was never part of a "group." The belonging made all the difference. I could finally begin a journey to truly be myself, and be happy with that person.

Fast forward to 2007. I have now been teaching high school for 4 years, now. I see, on a daily basis the exact kinds of things that I dealt with in high school. One might think that someone who didn't like high school wouldn't want to go back, even as a teacher. There's always the evil side of a person that makes them want to "seek revenge" or something like that. It's weird. I have actually found myself forming bonds with kids, as a teacher, that I probably would have thought hated me. And then, I came to a realization. In jr. high especially, but high school also, every other kid was just as preoccupied worrying about their own mini-dramas that they didn't put nearly the kind of thought into me as I thought they had.

With all of this new found confidence you'd think that I was prepared to stroll into the reunion and be totally at ease and cool. Why not? That's how I am in pretty much every other situation. Or, else I'd have the fortitude to say that I don't even want to go to the damn thing, and mean it, and then not go.

But, I want to go! But, why, when,whenever I think about these people I revert back to the scared guy who was so afraid of saying something stupid or not getting invited to the parties. What's wrong with me.

I think the answer comes back to the reason that people go to reunions in the first place. I have this underlying feeling that the people who are going back to this thing are one of a few types of people. One, they've got a great, tight group of friends who've all decided that they're going back. These people never really lost touch anyway, but they have people to go with. I know that I'm not in that group. Two, there are people who genuinely knew lots of people and had lots of friends and would like to see what everyone's up to, nowadays. I would like to think that this is my group, but I fear that I'm in group number three. Three is the guy, or girl, who feels that they have something to prove. That high school dealt them a raw deal and that since bettering themselves they want to prove to the classmates who shunned them, that they are no longer shunable. They are basically going to be disappointed because, as I already stated, those other kids didn't think of them that way. Furthermore, this ploy is totally transparent, and no one is going to react with awe and surprise and remorse because you've got that six pack abs that so eluded you back in the day. They don't remember being a tool to you in high school. They might still be a tool, who knows? I don't think that I'm in this group, or at least I hope I'm not. Surely, I can't be, seeing as how I created the group.

At the end of the day, I suppose that I'm in my own little fourth group. The group of people who over think the reasons for going just like they over thought their own cosmic significance during high school to begin with. Or, maybe I'm just like everyone else. Scared that I haven't changed enough, or that I've changed so much that shouldn't even go, even though I really want to for some unknown reason. Maybe everyone else gets that feeling like they are revisiting old wounds whenever they encounter high school junk, and I should get over it and go, be myself, and know that it's going to fine, because I'm always fine. Part of my changed person is that attained confidence and self-esteem and I should just use it.

I'd be remiss to leave out the amount of confidence I get from my wife. Amanda is the kind of person that I always hoped that I'd marry. When I'm with her I feel totally in control because she wouldn't love me if I weren't the person who I am. And she knows me for the person I truly am. I can't help but be myself with her with me, because she'd certainly call me on it. Plus, she's a smokin' hottie, and when she's with me how could I not feel like the man.

And one last quote from a great movie:

Okay, well, I'll see you at the "I've peaked and I'm kidding myself" party.

Saturday, July 07, 2007


It doesn't take much to dislike Michael Moore. Friends and relatives of mine have expressed their dislike for the man, some to the point of hatred. These aren't people whom I would consider to be ultra-conservative or right wing on many accounts, but they are probably right of center on many things, like gun control, gay rights, fiscal matters, abortion, or immigration. They are mostly very reasonable people who have reasonable opinions on these issues, even if they are different than my own. They all characterize Moore as divisive, crazy, a blow-hard, an idiot, and a liar. They also might make fun of his weight, but I can forgive this criticism, as he is a large man, however irrelevant this may be. I suppose that my friends and family feel that his movies, (as well as his books, though I doubt many of them have read them) point to a hypocrisy in him as someone who has profited immensely while at the same time pointing out the greed in the world. People say that Michael Moore misrepresents people and situations to serve his point and disregard details that would rebut or discredit that point. One problem that people have with Moore is the method with which he tends to corner and put people in situations that do not allow them to accurately and fairly defend themselves against criticism, as he did with Charlton Heston in Bowling for Columbine. Many people have also pointed out that there are some inconsistencies and half-truths with Moore's film Fahrenheit 9/11, that discredit him and his messages.

I'm not going to debate whether or not facts were misrepresented in Bowling for Columbine or if Moore had everything 100% accurate with Fahrenheit 9/11. The fact is that the underlying motives for making these movies, I believe, are noble, and he goes about making his points and opinions in the best way he knows how. Yes, he makes the movies emotionally charged, as most Americans won't sit through a to the point bore fest about "just the facts" (Although, people sat through an Inconvenient Truth, but the same people generally hate that also). Yes, he has an agenda he is pushing and is using the media that is at his disposal to get his point across. These points are certainly his opinions which he is entitled to and he is entitled to present them in the most convincing way that he can. Does he lie? I don't believe he does. Does he present the side of an issue that best supports his point of view? Absolutely, he does. On the flip-side I think he does as good as any, if not better, at presenting the opposing view point of his own. I'm sure there are some who would take me to task on this, but it's just my own opinion.

SiCKO is no different than his other films on many levels. It attacks the super power alliance that is the corpogovernment amalgam in U.S. Politics. Who can dispute that corporate entities' financial ties with our dearly elected leaders as thick as the walls of Michael Moore's arteries. One thing that Moore does is blow the whistle on Democrats and Republicans, alike, as his new movie serves to prove.

Also, like his other movies, Moore is mainly concentrated on the middle-class's woes at the hands of afore mentioned entities and the misconceptions that we feed and perpetuate ourselves in our culture. In SiCKO, Moore interviews and case studies multiple people who are suffering from various diseases or illnesses who's claims have been denied for whatever reason. These people are hardworking, middle-class people who most would believe to be in good shape because they DO have health insurance, but are systematically denied it because they can't prove that they are owed it. Many of the people that are interviewed are former Health Care workers who have left the business because of the corruption and greed therein. They speak on how the business side of the health care industry relies on the ability for these companies to deny claims. They even found a woman whose claim was denied retroactively and she was forced to pay back the money she had been given for her doctor's bills due to the fact that she had failed to indicate a previous illness. The previous illness in question? A yeast infection!

Basically, what you have is a system that is presumably set in place to help people when they need to pay for doctors bills and medicine. You pay into a pool from which you can draw when you need it. It sounds like a great plan, except the reality is that the health care companies actively work to deny the claim instead of giving what is deserved. It is as if you bought a car and after making all the payments you have it repossessed because you forgot to sign the last page of the sales agreement.

What strikes me the most, however is that even when the system works, it serves to deplete the person of their livelihood. At the beginning of the movie Moore followed a couple in their 50s who have to move in with their 20 something daughter's family because they couldn't afford to keep their house. The husband had two heart attacks and then the wife contracted cancer. After co-pays and deductibles they were forced to sell their house and move in with their daughter's cramped basement. Moore follows people with all levels of wealth in other Westernized countries such as Canada, the U.K., and France. (Oh, and Cuba, but that's another matter, completely.) What he finds in each of these countries is that something such as heart attacks and cancer, which, along with the understandable fear and painful physical toll, would also prove to be a major financial burden here in the U.S., are not going to make any difference to the sick or injured person's pocketbook. It is completely free. They will pay nothing for any medical services they receive.

The major problems that the U.S. are given for why we don't want to move to universal health care such as they have in Canada or the U.K. are pretty flimsy. They say that the quality of the care will diminish and that the conditions of the medical facilities will falter if universal health care is implemented in the U.S. They also imagine the lives of doctors must be taken down a notch because, without people paying out the nose, how can doctors still be paid as much as American doctors.

SiCKO addresses all of these problems. Going to the countries themselves, Moore interviews people who make decent wages, own property and would be considered well off, even, who take advantage of Government run medica facilities. As one Canadian woman accurately states, there is always something to complain about, but at the end of the day they never have to wait at the E.R. longer than an hour and walk out without paying a dime. In some cases there is a cashier, but his job is to reimburse those with lower incomes their transportation costs. *RUBS EYES* Whaaa?!

Contrast that to my own experiences with the emergency room.

Last September I was in the Sterling High School auditorium finishing up sets and lights for a production of Romeo and Juliet. I was walking down the steps from the stage to the house floor when, in total darkness and looking at my remote lighting controller, I took a step thinking I was at the bottom of the steps. I wasn't. I turned my right ankle pretty badly and found that I couldn't put any weight on it. I went to the emergency room at 10:30 that night thinking that I had insurance and wouldn't have to pay for much more than a co-pay. Maybe $100, tops. It turns out that this was a workers comp issue and I wouldn't have to pay anything at all. I just had to fill out some forms when I got back to work and everything would be taken care of. At the emergency room itself, I waited for a good three hours before being x-rayed and then another hour or so to see a doctor. I was finally wrapped up, given some crutches and told that I owed $400 dollars. I didn't have that on me or in my checking account, at the time, so I somehow convinced the ER to let me pay $40 and go. When I got to school I filled out the paperwork, and was told everything would be taken care of by workers comp. In the next month or so I received a letter in the mail saying that the workers comp company wouldn't cover my expenses for some reason. I have made multiple phone calls to district employees, Board of Education people, and collecting agents who have all told me things would be taken care of, and yet I'm still receiving notices that I owe 500 plus dollars. Now, if this were a deductible or something like that, no one has told me this. As far as I've been told I shouldn't owe anything.

That's the efficiency of this system we have.

It is with this experience that I approached SiCKO, by Michael Moore. I'm insured, I work, I own a car, pay my bills and yet I'm being screwed by this system that wouldn't even be an issue in any other civilized society.

Speaking of civilized societies, SiCKO spends about the last 30 minutes of the film on a segment in a country that most Americans would categorize as third world. It's not exactly Ethiopia but Cuba is certainly a poor country with very little to show for itself in terms of resources or political power. The U.S. won't do business with Cuba because of the atrocious way their leader treats his own people and work to oppress their human rights. In terms of quality of life, people here in the U.S. would be considered on the bottom rung of society if we lived like those with the median level of income in Cuba. A trip to Cuba to receive medical attention would seem to be a ridiculous down grade. But, that's just what Moore and some of the people from the movie who have been denied coverage in the U.S. do. First, along with the lady who moved into her daughter's basement, three people who contracted illnesses while volunteering at the World Trade Center ground zero were brought to Guantanamo Bay to the prison medical facility there. This is where Al Qaeda's "enemy combatants" are kept, without a trial, but with plenty of free, quality health care. When they are turned away (for obvious reasons) they decide to check out the island country of Cuba, itself. They quickly and easily find a pharmacy where one woman finds the exact medication she buys in the U.S. for $120 for 5 cents. One of the most poignant moments of the film for me was when they leave the pharmacy this woman breaks down weeping at the price of the drug in Cuba. "It's just insulting" she says, as she revels in how much she has to pay in America for something that cost less than a candy bar in Cuba.

From the Pharmacy the team goes to a hospital where each of them are treated for free by the hospital staff. It is here that I begin to loose my own cool, a bit. Mr. Moore has done this to me in each of his films. Call me a sucker or easily manipulated or just maybe too sensitive, whatever, I begin to feel the pangs of sympathy welling up in my eyes and throat as these people who volunteered their time, their energy, their money, their bodies and their health at the World Trade Center are finally getting their due. And, not because the country that they so loved wanted to give it to them, but because they went around the system to a country that we, as a nation, are supposed to despise.

This part of the film where Moore's crew goes to Cuba is what I've heard take the brunt of the criticism from those who oppose it. I'll be the first to admit that SiCKO paints a pretty picture of Cuba and makes Fidel Castro seem like little more than a harmless grandpa. Anyone with a mind and some knowledge on Cuba at all knows that this man isn't a saint and has kept that country in his grip of power, without allowing many of the human rights that we take for granted. But, doesn't it say something when Castro, with all that he denies his people, grants them better health care than the U.S. government grants us? Shouldn't it piss us off that to get the quality medical treatment that Cubans get for free under an oppressive regime, we have to be wealthy? The moment that it all came crumbling down for me was when the Cuban doctor comforted the American, middle-class, professional woman who was crying in a hospital bed because she couldn't believe how much care she was getting, and for nothing. We've been taught to fear and loath this government. I just kept thinking to myself, over and over, "What is wrong with us? What is wrong with us?" tears rolling down the faces of Amanda and myself.

So, what is the answer. SiCKO director Michael Moore's solution seems to be a cross between civil disobedience and revolt. Depending on one's opinion of Moore, a person could take the message to mean that we should start electing better leaders or that we should stop being polite. Some might even think that Moore wants the people to take up arms and storm congress. I don't think that's what he wants. I think he wants people to pay attention. People don't bother worrying about health care and how much it costs and the damage that the system does to our well-being until they are the one's dishing out thousands of dollars of their savings so that a loved one can stay alive. It's not until they are the one's burying their child because the nearest hospital wouldn't take their HMO that people are going to wake up and take notice.

Moore, as with all of his movies is trying with SiCKO to encourage the people to practice their rights as the sovereign of our nation and stop being squeezed by corporations who know that we have to behave or else we won't make money to pay back them so that we can have health care that may or may not work anyway. Moore may take liberties in order to tell stories but he tells them well, and he gets his point across. I hope that people will see this movie with an open mind and see it for what it is. It's not a self aggrandizing diatribe to make himself some money. It's not some communist plot to take over the nation. It is about taking care of each other and treating people how we would hope to be treated if we were in the same spot.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Mac or PC

Apparently I only post videos now. Oh, well.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Friday, June 08, 2007

My New Life

This has been an eventful month. It's been so long since I posted and that's mainly because I've been so busy. Another reason is because the things I really wanted to post about I wasn't ever 100% sure of and so I felt I should keep it to myself.

First of all, Amanda and I moved. We moved into Houston and are now nestled in the West University area, just off of 59. So far the move has presented itself with challenges as well as pleasures. For one thing, Amanda and I have, since the time we were married always lived in apartment complexes. When you live in an apartment complex they take of every problem that you might have. If you've got bad plumbing they will take care of that, right away. Garbage disposal, done. Here at this town-home there is no office on site. When we moved in we had a number difficulties that made life less than desirable, at least at first. The garbage disposal was broken and the air wouldn't turn on and there were a number of rods and hooks that would just slip right out of the sheet-rock. Luckily, the people got over here as soon as they could and now everything is taken care of. As of now, we like living here, a lot. The location is perfect and the place is bigger and a little more homey.

My next big move is yet to happen, but I've been offered a new job teaching theatre at a school in the Fort Bend school district in Houston. It's a shorter drive for me, for one, but it's also a very new school and I would be the head of the program there. There is paperwork and references to check and then I will get an official offer from the Human Resources department in the district, but barring one of my references telling them horrible things about me the job is mine. I'm just waiting on that next call.

If you haven't seen Wait Until Dark yet you need to see it. We were given a spot on a radio show on 1070 AM called Harbor Highlights It's a show about stuff to do in the Bay Area, spanning Galveston to Baytown. It wasn't a review or anything, but just came and saw the show, interviewed me and then said nice stuff about it. They seemed to really love Amanda's performance. Of course, who wouldn't.

If you don't know what I'm talking about I'm directing Wait Until Dark at the Baytown Little Theater. We have two more performances left. Friday and Saturday night, the 15 and 16 of June. Shows start at 8 pm. Well, I'll put the poster below.

Well, that's what's new with me. It's summer, so I'm sure I'll post more often. I hope everyone is doing well.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Real Colbert

For you Colbert fans here's a rare glimpse of the man.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


An assistant principal walks into a production of Equus and says, "Hey, you stop this horseplay right now!"

I just made that up. Just now.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Sir Ian McKellan Explains His Process

Ladies and Gentlemen: The following video illustrates all that you really need to know about acting. If only I could put it so plainly for my students.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Another Heartbreaking Symptom

Why are Americans so obsessed with the right to bare arms. The only answer that I've ever heard in regard to this question is that we need the right to defend ourselves. I don't argue that we should have the right to defend ourselves, but when was the last time you heard of a gun preventing violence or preventing a crime. I looked around for some statistics on how often people's guns save them, somehow, and just couldn't find anything. I found lots of evidence of people using guns to rob, assault, attack or otherwise harm another person. Guns are always used to cause violence, but the very few and far between incidents of them actually being used for what people say they are for doesn't seem to justify their reasoning. This is a story I found on this website that illustrates the absurdity that I've always seen in the "protection" argument. The story is by Kathleen Freeman.

Mary put the finishing touches on her make-up and brushed her hair back away from her face.

"I'm going shopping, dear," she said to her husband. "Is there anything you want me to get for you?"

"No, I don't need anything," he replied. "Just don't forget to take along a gun for protection."

"Of course, dear. I always do." She slipped a pearl- handled .22 into her handbag and snapped it shut. "Be back in a couple of hours." She took the elevator down to the garage. The basement was silent and empty. Her parking space was about fifty feet away, and she was almost there when suddenly someone grabbed her from behind and pressed a knife into her throat.

"Don't scream," a male voice snarled. "Do exactly as I say, and you won't get hurt." Mary was frightened. Nothing like this had ever happened to her before. Then she remembered the weapon in her purse. With the knife at her throat there was no way she could get to it, still, it had to be good for something.

"Listen, you can't rape me," she told her assailant. "I have a gun in my purse for protection."

"Gee, I'm sorry. I had no idea." The attacker dropped his knife and ran terrified into the street. Mary straightened her blouse and fished her car keys out of her purse.

"I'm certainly glad I had that gun for protection," she said to herself.

Mary always enjoyed her weekly grocery shopping trips. She cruised up and down the aisles, checking for specials, and marking off the items on her well-organized list. She knew the store layout well, and frequently gave directions to other shoppers. She chatted casually with the checkout clerk as she loaded the groceries into the cart and cheerfully paid the rather substantial bill. Her car was parked fairly close, so she didn't have far to walk. She loaded the bags into the trunk and had just opened the driver's side door when two armed men accosted her, one on either side.

"Just get in and drive," one of them said. "Do as you're told and you won't get hurt."

"You can't car-jack me, you fools," Mary retorted. "I have a gun in my purse for protection."

"Sorry, our mistake," the gunman said. "You have a nice day now, you hear?" And the two bandits took off across the parking lot. Mary shrugged and got into her car.

"Having a gun in your purse really does make you safer," she said to herself. She retouched her lipstick in the rearview mirror and smoothed her rumpled hair. She was a little short on cash, but there was an automatic teller machine just a few blocks away. She parked nearby and locked her car door. She always made a habit of that, even if she wasn't going far. She liked to be able to concentrate on what she was doing. She put her card in the machine and punched in the magic number. The money slid out into her hands, all nice and new and crisp. A voice behind her startled her.

"Just give me the money and you won't get hurt," it growled. Mary turned around. The man wore a stocking mask and had a gun pointed at her head. She shook her head.

"You can't rob me, you idiot," she laughed. "I have a gun in my purse for protection."

"Really," he replied. "In that case, I'd better not take any chances." And with that, he shot her, took her money and her gun, and left her lying dead on the sidewalk.

The End

I've never owned a gun. My parents never owned guns. My grandfather is the closest relative I have that owns a gun and it's an old hunting rifle that hasn't had ammo in it for over 30 years, according to him. It sits in a case in the back of a closet somewhere. Perhaps because of my upbringing, I've just never felt the need to own a gun for protection. I've never been that worried about it. I suppose that many people feel the opposite of me for the very same reason: they were raised to be afraid of what might one day happen.

In light of the tragedy this week in Virginia I've got to revisit this old thought that I've always had, which is why is the U.S. more than any other western country so entangled in this obsession with violence. I really can't discuss the issue any better than the film Bowling for Columbine, so if you would like to hear my take on it go watch the film, if you haven't already. Basically, the film does a very good job of asking questions without really putting blame on any one thing. In fact, what the film does, or at least it did for me, was that it brought to light that, in fact, as a country we have a problem with gun violence. We have substantially more gun violence than any other westernized country and there is no reason for it other than this odd obsession with firearms. Some people like to blame music and video games and movies and race relations. All of these arguments fall very flat. No, I don't like that my students are more interested in video games that glorify guns and violence, but kids in Canada and England and Japan play these same video games and aren't shooting up dorms and schools. Kids get picked on all over the world and people watch the same Hollywood shoot-'em-up flicks in Switzerland as they are here. But, there they separate the violence from the movies. They don't kill each other on the scale that we do.

And, it's also a fallacy to argue our race problems. I won't argue that they exist but the majority of killings in the U.S. are not race related. They are wives killing husbands or vice-versa and other people who know each other blowing up in anger at something and putting bullets through each other's head.

All this is in Bowling... so you should really check it out. It's pretty fascinating.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


I've found a brand new way to waste lots and lots of time.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

This American Life

I've recently become addicted to This American Life. If you don't know what this show is then I highly recommend it to you. It is a radio show that chooses a subject each week and tells stories about that subject. Usually there are 3 or 4 stories, but sometimes more or less. They've been known to dedicate an entire hour to one story and even once they told 20 Stories in 60 minutes.

When it comes to addictions I typically don't keep them for very long. I guess, in this way, they aren't really addictions, but temporary obsessions. My previous temporary obsessions include MySpace, GarageBand, writing plays, Wikipedia, the blog that you are currently reading, reading other blogs, and The Daily Show with John Stewart. Some of these are obviously more healthy than others.

This American Life is different, though, in that I really don't see myself tiring of it. It is so fascinating and so different, each episode is like a new obsession to be had. Obviously, not every episode is life changing, and there are some that are fairly forgetable. But, I've never been bored and I've never simply decided to turn the whole thing off, like I have with some of my favorite shows. I am, in fact, continually inspired by This American Life to write and to create and to tell my own stories. Recently, I went back and reviewed some of my better entries from Great Blogs of Fire and realized that some of my own personal stories would make for good entries for This American Life. This was a realization that made my day, because, since I've been listening to TAL I've been racking my brain for a story of my own that would fit the TAL mold. When I say "mold" I'm kind of referring to stories that they would consider worthy of putting on their show. There isn't exactly a set mold, in that a story must conform to a certain format. Basically, as noted on their website, they are looking for narratives that show the human, emotional side of a story. They want stories that involve a protagonist enduring an emotional arch of some kind. I think back on my stories from last year where I revisited Jr. High and discussed the various episodes of my decent into adolescence. I can literally pinpoint the moments when I decided some of the most important beliefs that I still hold today.

I think, if I'm not mistaken, that this is what TAL is looking for. So, do I want to get one of my stories on This American Life. Yes. It would be one of the coolest things to ever happen. Maybe it's my next obsession. Anything to help me procrastinate.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Baseball Season is Here!


I wish it could be springtime always.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

I posted a new entry on Run, Fat Man! Run! my fitness blog. Yes, I have a fitness blog.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Verdict or Bits About God

As many of you know I recently travelled to Austin to interview for spot in the Drama and Theatre for Youth, Master's degree program at the University of Texas at Austin. The program would last for three years and would award me an MFA, which is considered a terminal degree, meaning that there is no higher degree available in theatre. I was excited about the prospect, and knew that I would have to sacrifice my paycheck, but I was more than willing. Moving to Austin was certainly a plus since Amanda and I really like it there.

The time between Amanda calling me with news that I'd gotten a letter and the moment I actually arrived at home seemed like forever. I had about a million things going through my head. First of all, ever since I visited the campus in Austin I had began to develop a small, but significant tightening in my stomach. I think it stemmed from being on that enormous campus surrounded by real life students and professors and everything seeming so real. I had been raised to believe I would go to college and so when it actually came, it was exciting but, of no surprise. I think I always figured that I might get a Master's but it wasn't until I saw the benefit of a MFA that I really considered it, sometime after college. So, the reality of placing myself back into a full-time student environment, after becoming so comfortable in my current position, making a living, not worrying about bills or teachers or impressing people, all came at me at once and proved to be rather scary. In fact, when asked by my last interviewer, the newest member of the DTY faculty, how I was feeling about the whole experience, I answered her honestly. I told her it was scary. She asked why and I told her that I was making a good living and was comfortable. While being comfortable was never something that I ever valued much before, It's tough to leave a good situation so that in three years you'll have an even better situation. Going from home to college is easy, because you're gaining freedom. In grad school I'd have no more freedom than I ever had before, but with less...we'll call it "mobility" than I've had in the past.

Amanda's been great throughout this whole thing. She's been so supportive and encouraging toward me and the idea of supporting me while I pursue my Master's. It's not been lost on me, however, that this process would be tough on her, as well. We're both used to two paychecks, now. It wouldn't be easy to give that up so that I could get a peice of paper.

With all of these fears and anxieties, I still really wanted this opportunity. The chance to study theatre under some of the best artists in the world, with access to playwrights, actors, and directors who are nationally and world renowned was one that I couldn't pass up. So, I did something I do very rarely, nowadays. I prayed about it. I left it to a sign from God. I rarely do this, not because I don't value God's influence in my life, but because in recent years I've come to feel that we, as humans, as Christians, and as believers kind of abuse the privelage. Not that I think God doesn't care, but I don't really see the benefit in seeing the Big Man over the mundane aspects of life. Is my haircut going to make my face look fat? Pray to God. I can't find my keys. Pray to God. The Gap was out of my size in loose fitting jeans. Pray to God. Suddenly the haircut is great, you find your keys and they find a box of jeans in the stock room. It all seems so trite, as to diminish the need for prayer. I feel really close to God when I pray to him and I find great comfort in our relationship and my belief in his power, but if I allow myself to believe that God cares about and controls even the most minute details of my life then I think he ends up getting blamed for things that shouldn't be attributed to him, as well.

With all this said, my point is that I decided to leave this one in God's hands. Why? While most of the Evangelical Christian Tradition probably find the "why?" perplexing (just like it bothers them that I'm not capitalizing the pronoun forms of God) to me it's not so obvious. I went to God because I couldn't deal with the stress. I was being pulled in so many directions I was beginning to feel a little sick, even. My friends could tell. They would ask me, "What's wrong?" or tell me, "You don't seem like you're normal self." The truth was that the answer was coming. I knew that I was going to find out my destiny for the next year with the next couple of days. And, I was nervous. God brought me solice. It was nice. Lately, I've been pretty critical of Christians, particulary of the sect from which I was raised. My reluctance to be associated with those in the government or popular opinion with whom I disagree with so vehemently had inavertently had the adverse affect of making me forget about and neglect my relationship with God. So, I kind of had to laugh a little when I found that I naturally, in a time of confusion and great stress, give it straight up to the Big Man.

So, anyway, I just decided that it would all be left in his hands. Whatever will be, will be the best thing. Which brings us to the verdict:

I didn't get in.

And it's cool. After reading the last couple paragraphs you might think I am relieved. In a way, I am. But, it's still disappointing. I want my Master's degree and I would, ideally, like to get it in theatre as an MFA, which generally means a lot more time and effort and that I must do it fulltime. That's the hard part. I know I'll have more opportunities to apply again and would most likely have an even better shot at it next year. Seeing as I was a finalist this year gives me a pretty darn good chance, I think. But, for now I'm going to do my job the best I can and enjoy what I'm doing, now. Next year I'll worry about next year.

Saturday, March 03, 2007


Fox has come out with a new show that takes the news and puts it into a half hour of comedy, not unlike a Daily Show or Colbert Report type thing. It's called The Fox 1/2 Hour, News Hour, and the biggest difference between it and the Comedy Central shows, as you would imagine, is that they carry a more conservative bent, as a contrast to the other two's liberal leanings. I watched this segment that they have on their website, and I must admit, it was kind of funny. Given my theory that most shows take at least a whole year to reach its full potential, and usually longer, it's got a promising start. My guess is that for whatever reason the show won't last that long. I don't know why. I suppose it's my preconception about conservative viewers or inherit dangers of beginning a show as such an obvious reaction to an earlier, hugely funny and successful show. Not that I think conservative viewers wouldn't like a little funny in their diatribe, but it just seems that there isn't a big enough market for smart, political satir coming from the right POV. I know this may seem unfair, but satir just strikes me as a liberal thing. I guess because it's historically been used more often by progressives and liberals.

Mostly, the reason it bugged me was because I truly believe that most conservatives already like Stewart, and they'll be smart enough to see this show as pathetic knockoff, even if it is a truly funny show, it it's own right. Afterall, Stewart takes shots at all politicians, and welcomes both sides of the aisle on his show and is generally the most brutal to the media, which is, of course, the true enemy of the conservatives, anyway. The Limbaugh crowd and the folks who are always reacting to clever liberal satir by firing back with their own, weaker versions will like this, because it seems that they are the ones who created it. But, most people, conservative and liberals alike, will most likely pass it over with little more than chuckle and a pitiful head shake.

Finally, if Fox is going to keep their comedy show up, they really need to up their integrity factor to the level of The Daily Show. Granted, as John Stewart will say himself, The Daily Show shouldn't be considered the most reliable source for objective journalism, seeing as that most of what he says is false, but, let's face it: if you're adept at reading between the lines and taking a hint, The Daily Show is much better at cutting to the core of a news story than any of the other networks combined and looks at the news from the freshest angle possible: the honest one. The 1/2 Hour News Hour, while they didn't go into a rhelm of out and out lies, one segment was meant to take a jab at the ACLU, a bastion of liberalism if there ever was one. The clip was a fake comercial, showing a guy speaking to the camera about how he helped Neo-Nazis and hate group gain the right to protest and assemble and how he and these groups successfully sued the government for the right to hold rallies, etc. At the end he revealed that he was from the ACLU.

Now, everything that this comercial says was probably true, but what it implies is that hleping out the hate groups was an illeagal thing, or at least a bad thing. But, in true Fox form, they are expecting their viewing audience to be stupider than (let's hope) they are. To me, this validates and plays into the purpose of the ACLU and what they would admittedly do. THey ensure that laws are followed and that people's right's aren't infringed. This is done no matter how much they might disagree with the people who's rights are being protected. In a sense, Fox's faux commercial validates the ACLU more than it insults or discredits them.

I'm sure there are times that The Daily Show, and definitely the Colbert Report does the same thing on the other spectrum, but I haven't noticed. Maybe because of my own POV, I don't see it. But the show just seems doomed if they keep making simple mistakes like this.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Geek Moment: Google Maps

Lately, I've become a little bit addicted to Google Maps. The last few days I've spent way too much time examining the globe and all of the wonderful things that can be viewed from space. I've found my apartment, my parent's house, the house I grew up in, the location of the Globe Theatre, where Shakespeare performed many of his plays, the modern recreation of the Globe, and Anne Frank's house, among other things. I've also been brushing up on my Iraq War knowledge by finding the places in Iraq where things happened, where Saddam lived, the airport, and that sort of thing.

Based on the fact that the house that I grew up in has some foreign items in the backyard I'm assuming that the satellite photo is taken after the summer of 2003, when my parents moved into their current house, which is also when Amanda and I moved to Baytown from Fort Worth. But, based on the incomplete restaurant across the street from our apartment, the incomplete construction of the Toyota Center in Houston, and the fact that there are currently houses behind our apartment complex, but none show in the photo, this photo couldn't have been taken within the last year or two. It's my guess that it's a 2004 photo, sometime in February or March.

If I'm right then the U.S. was fully entrenched in the securing of democracy in Iraq, having completed the mission and all, so it was with some excitement and "holy-crap"ness that I scrolled across this portion of the Google Maps satellite photo in Iraq. I can only imagine, with violence at an all time high in Iraq, if the satellite were to take a photo now we would see more just like this. Anyway, I was pretty fascinated.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Sympathy? More like Empathy!

Last night I was hanging lights at the Baytown Little Theatre when I got a call from my brother. I hadn't heard my cell ring because my music was playing, but I soon noticed that my brother had called and I called him back. A very urgent Jason told me he'd broken his leg. He needed me to call our grandmother, who was coming to pick up his kids, and give her directions to the hospital. As he began to describe to me in great detail exactly what happened and all of the ways that his leg was flopping around and completely useless to him at the current time I began getting slightly unnerved and asked him to just give the directions, because hearing the details was making me physically hurt, myself.

It got me thinking about a couple of things. First off, I thought about how glad I was that I didn't go into the medical field. I am so squeemish I become ill just thinking of the visual aid Jason used to describe how his injury happened. Hint: it involved straws.

The second thing that has been on my mind after this event is the idea of empathy. Empathy runs heavy in my family. Everyone who heard about Jason's injury and how it happened said the same thing. "That hurts just to hear it!" And it does. I went and saw Jason in his hospital gown and leg contraption, hooked up to IVs and eating hospital food, and the whole time I was there I had a pain in my own leg. That sounds a little extreme, but it was true.

Empathy is a wierd emotion. It's not even as much of an emotion as it is a talent or ability. Or curse, depending on how you look at it. Empathy, for some of my high school students, is synonomous with "sympathy," which is an understandable misconception. Sympathy is largely a result of empathy, although it's very possible to experience one without the other.

I think true empathy is actually an accurance of feeling what someone else is feeling, even if you have never experienced that. It's knowing how a friend feels at the loss of a loved one, despite having never lost a loved one your self. I've never broken my leg, but I certainly can imagine the pain. I suppose that is what empathy is: imagination. But, imagination shouldn't be taken lightly. I believe that imagination can be as fullfilling, hurtful, dangerous, or awesome as reality in many ways and should be treated with care, just as we are cautious with our reality. How often have we heard of people getting too caught up in lies or an imaginary life to the point that affects their real life?

So, empathy, while a good quality to have can also be a curse of sorts. I guess I'm happy to have the ability to feel for my family when they are hurting, just so that they know I care and that I am understanding. With that said, I'm not looking forward to childbirth.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I Just Had a Thought

Imagine you are digging a hole. You have your reasons for digging this hole and you explained your reasoning to everyone who has partial ownership in the land where the hole is being dug. No one is quite sure why you started the hole, but at the time you started, everyone trusted that you had your reasons for digging the hole, and that these reasons were honorable.

Unfortunately, nothing that you told them that was down there was actually there. You dig and dig and nothing shows up. Before long everyone thinks you're searching in vain and tries to convince you to get out of the hole and stop digging while you are still close enough to the top to get out. You ignore them and continue to dig your hole. Eventually you're just the idiot still digging a hole that goes nowhere all the while depleating the land of valuable resources and beauty.

Your reason for continuing to dig and for getting even deaper into the hole?

You don't want the terrorists to win.

So just keep digging. We'll show them.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth

Amanda and I saw Pan's labyrinth yesterday. First of all, it was by far the most gruesome, violent movie I've seen in a long time, and certainly the most violent movie I wasn't expecting to be violent. With that said, it was also one of the most jarring and creative movies I've ever seen. Director, Guillermo del Toro mixes visual imagery and stunning camera work to take the viewer between World War 2 era Spain, who have just undergone a civil war, and the super-real world of Ofelia's mind. Ofelia is a little girl whose mother has remarried after losing her father. The mother is pregnant and Ofelia's stepfather, a Captain in the military, has insisted that they make a dangerous trek to where he is stationed to quell communist uprisings. On the way Ofelia's mom becomes sick and it is thought that she might lose the baby and even her own life.

While stopped to let her mother rest Ofelia spots a large bug looking object that she takes to be a fairy. An avid reader of fantasy stories, Ofelia has a vivid imagination and uses this imagination to escape and dream of fantastical lands that are unknown to the human world. We soon find out that her stepfather is a cruel and heartless fascist, who is obsessed with finding and killing a group of communist rebels. He's very Hitleresque in his approach, killing based on nothing but suspicion or disloyalty, with little regard for even his own wife. To him his wife is simply a carrier of his son, an heir to carry on his name and legacy. Much like his own father was, Captain Vidal is a brutal military man, with little to no patience for any opposition or insubordination. What I liked about this character was the depth of his villainy. He wasn't simply a man out for personal glory and use of his own goals as fuel for his sadism. Vidal is a Captain haunted by the memory and death of his father, like him a prideful authoritarian who believed that his family alone was destined and had rights to power, no matter the cost. Some of the most complex scenes take place with Vidal shaving in a mirror, contemplating suicide. In these moments where we get to witness his true demons we realize that he is simply a man more at war with himself than any communist rebels or dissidence.

Ofelia's fantasy world, in steep contrast to her reality, is a world where she is a princess, lost in the human world who is being drawn back to her true home in an underground kingdom where there is no pain or sadness. Del Toro takes us so seamlessly back and forth from the real world and Ofelia's that we begin to wonder if what Ofelia sees isn't, in fact, real. Her life in the underground world is introduced through the fairies who lead her to Pan, a Faun who looks more like a giant grasshopper than the half-human, half-goat creatures from the Narnia books. Pan sends on a number of quests to prove that she is the true princess of this underworld, and hasn't become too human in her time on earth.

Besides being beautifully filmed and extraordinarily acted (particularly by 12 year old Ivana Baquero), the story is as captivating as I've ever heard, and true down to the last moment of the film. You find yourself realizing that this film will actually go where most won't out of sheer obligation to honesty in story telling. Many will find that this isn't the typical fair because the bad guys are not necessarily going to get theirs while the good guys win. Pan's labyrinth is as sad, awesome and unbelievable a story as you will find in filmaking today.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Jabba the Snowman Imprisons Han in Substandard Carbonite Slush

Any time it gets really cold like this I think about different times in my childhood that it would freeze. It was about as close as we ever got to a "snow day" here in Southeast Texas. From my non-meteorological understanding, our humid state prevents it from snowing much, even when we do get a snap of cold pushed down from the North. So, in essence, what we end up having is beautiful, Spring-like weather that comes as naturally as a New England fall, followed by rain and a cold-front that freezes the rain. What you end up with is beautiful greenery encased in ice. Flowers that were tricked into believing that Spring was here, blossom only to be trapped by a thin sheet of glass. It's really pretty amazing and I imagine a circumstance that is unique to few parts of the world.

The unusually warm January days notwithstanding, as a child you see kids on TV playing in the snow, making snowmen and sledding down hills. Even if it does snow, we'd have no hill on which to sled, so that one's kind of a double whammy. You become a little jealous and even swear that you wouldn't mind having to shovel a little snow if it meant that you'd have the ability to make snowballs suitable for pelting your brother in the face.

But, on days like this one, when the temperature outside reaches the once a year low of 34 degrees, icicles hang from the eves of buildings like fruit, ready to be plucked from a tree. Only, very early on, I was warned by my mother that these seemingly tasty treats are actually filled with bird poo and should not be treated as nature's freezer pops. The puddles in front of the drive way would glaze over with ice the way that a pitcher of tea does in the refrigerator when it isn't drank soon enough and is stored near the back. Sometimes it would freeze long enough for these small patches of water to completely turn to ice and we would have ourselves our very own 2 by 5 foot ice rink in front of the drive way. Nevermind that we didn't own skates because tennis shoes were perfectly sufficient for sliding across a 5 foot plane of ice before halting abruptly on the cement, only to quickly regain your footing, lest you plummet head-first onto the pavement, or better yet, the next stretch of drain-water-ice.

The most fun, however, came when the ice would soften and a slushy-like substance could be formed. It was as close to snow as we ever experienced, and, despite it's sub-standard quality, it was all we needed. That brown, icey, substance, littered with bits of grass and gravel would become snowballs of mass detruction. Our battles turned to chemical warfare as snowballs laced with whatever diseases resided in the puddles and ditches of the neighborhood were tossed about, entangling in hair, wounds, clothes and any bodily oriface that would recieve them. It's a wonder none of us contracted some rare disease or unknown mutation.

Our snowmen were great, as well. The best that we were ever able to muster was, essentially a one foot tall mound of dirty slug with rocks for eyes that more resembled Jabba the Hut than Frosty. At this time in my life (I was probably in my later elementary years) I was constantly being made aware of the reality of life, and how real life almost never resembled the movies. Or, as is the case with our "Jabba the Snowman," I formed the impression that TV and movies presented only the most ideal of situations and that no one actually ever made the perfect snowman with the stereotypical tapered torsoe and perfectly round head. It seemed so unfathomable that any other place could actually get colder than it was, and that anywhere else in the world could actually make a better snowman. I was always one to believe that if someone else could do something, so could I. The later disappointment of realising that life is geographically unfair was akin to my mother telling me at the barber shop that my hair "just wouldn't do that." My mom broke this news as I pointed to the 50's greaser guy in the hair style book while waiting for a haircut. He was dressed in a leather jacket combing through a dark pompodore, looking very Fonziesque (I was a big Happy Days fan) and I figured that picking out a haircut was like skimming through a Sears catalogue. All I had to do was point to what I wanted and the stylist could deliver. Why couldn't I look like Fonzie with thin, straight, whispy blonde hair. It didn't make any sense to me.

And, it didn't make to me that kids in Ohio could build a proper snowman and I was burdened with an ice-turn-slush mixture that was as pliant as the bottom of a snowcone. The one time it did snow as a kid I remember being so disappointed because as soon as I'd gathered enough snow in my hand to form a decent snowball I'd hit the grass and was pulling up the green, green grass beneath. I'm sure it's odd to dig to the bottom of snow and find lush vegetation. Not that I'd know any different.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Pursuit of Happiness

It was a good movie. It inspired the title, and to a lesser extent the rant, itself. But the rant isn't about the Will Smith flick. It's about me.

Of course, no one is reading this blog anymore. And who can blame you? I don't read yours anymore and it's been almost a month since I've posted anything. The truth is that I've lost much of my previous interest in telling the world all about my life and what I think about various things, etc. I haven't abandoned my desire for attention, however, so I find myself conflicted. I also find myself without the time or the energy most of the time to write much about myself. I guess that's why lately if I have taken the time to blog it's been pretty superficial. Either that or it's an apology/explaination for the lack of writing. I realize that this means more to me than to the 3-4 people who actually read this, but the fact remains that I like to write. I'd like to say that I am committed to writing more often and about a plethora of important issues. I'm afraid, however that I just can't do that. Call me lazy, or perhaps I finally have my priorities straight, for once in my life, but when I spend the day teaching kids and after school teaching kids and the evenings directing and my time off with my wife, the old blogging has to take a back seat. And, those days during summer vacation when I would spend the entire day in my pajamas playing guitar, biking, cooking food and watching Curb Your Enthusiasm, you could make the arguement that I had the time to blog then. However, you forget that I was doing those things in leu of even MORE important things I should have been doing. See, if I'd had any discipline on days like that, it would have manifest itself in something actually worthwhile. What's sad, however, is that this used to be the thing I did so that I could put off other things. You know something has crossed over from being faddish obsession de jour to committed passtime/hobby, when for no rational reason you feel compelled to continue doing something that takes effort, and yet will still garner no substantial, tangeble gain. But, I still enjoy it, and I still believe it is good for me. I still believe that somewhere, someday, someone is going stumble onto this little blog and decide to give me a pilot. It's my own little "pursuit."