Sunday, November 30, 2003

I saw “Kill Bill” today. I’m going to wait for part two before deciding whether I like it or not, but there was one thing about it so far that makes me a little sad.

Tarantino’s other movies (including the ones, like “Natural Born Killers”, which he didn’t direct) have, as far as I’m concerned, one common piece of goodness: dialogue. There ain’t much talkin’ (so far) in “Kill Bill”, and that makes me a little sad.

The lack of dialogue, however, doesn’t get in the way of “Kill Bill” being pretty to look at.

By the way, last night I saw Mana (there should be an accent on the second “a”) in concert. It was the best concert I’ve seen in a long time. If you don’t know who they are, but you have that Santana album that was all the rage a few years ago, then you’ve heard them. They were with Santana on the song “Corazon Espinado”, and they are a good band.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Reading THIS article again is how I will celebrate Thursday.

I am thankful, by the way, to (not for) those history teachers and books which revealed the truth to me.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Scott just blogged about the stress college students face this time of year (and, in some cases, all year) and how he tries to deal with that as a teacher. He also talked about the student who, seemingly, had stress far beyond what most teachers expect to work around.

It has often crossed my mind that I need to work harder to understand the stress my students face (particularly now that I teach high school). I try to do that, but I wonder how well. When I think back to my own days as a student, I remember doing the long, long, long periods with little or no sleep (much of which I shared with Scott and Carlton). I remember flailing around for a handle on the course for which I was preparing. I remember (some) really hard work.

Once, while trying to write an essay at the last minute (the night before it was due), I found myself at an impasse. To break the monotony and to reshuffle my brain cards (and to get some free cigarettes: another thing college students should not refuse), I wrote a paper for a friend. This friend had a paper due in an upper level history course. I was not in the class. I didn't know the topic. She gave me the book she was using for the paper, told me a little bit about what she had hoped to say, told me the instructions, and left me to write it. I wrote it (she got an A for it) and went back to my own essay, which I completed just in time for class the next morning. Moral concerns aside, I don't think I'm capable of that sort of work now, but there were times in the past when I was a machine.

This sort of thing reminds me, however, of a problem I have when dealing with my students: I always found school to be pretty easy. It was challenging at times, but in a good way, and often boring, but (except for math) I never found myself sitting in front of my homework thinking "I don't know what I'm supposed to do with this." Many of my students have that experience sometimes. Some have it regularly. I genuinely don't know how to relate to them.

Before you write this off as arrogance, by the way, consider this: there are all sorts of non-school things I can't do. Just can't. I am, for example, a poor athlete. If I work hard and practice, I can just climb up to passable. And yet I really enjoy sports. The same goes for music: I am a very good listener, but I seem to have no aptitude for making music. I have tried. It ain't there. I am also at a loss when it comes to "making new friends". The friends I have are wonderful, but they are only mine because either they did something to make it happen or I got super lucky. Had it been left up to my efforts, I would be utterly alone.

As far as my role as teacher goes, furthermore, I usually teach history. I am not only particularly good at undertanding and remembering things related to history, but I also have a deep passion for it. The tactic I've most often used is to try to demonstrate how much I love the topic in the hopes that my students will latch onto that and think "well, HE digs it, so it must be at least a little digable. Maybe I can dig it, too." But of course, not everyone can dig everything. I've had math teachers try the same trick on me and it never worked.

When I taught at university, I had colleagues (including professors) who were quick to label students as lazy, stupid, or (at least) unsuited for college just because they weren't digging history. I sometimes asked those colleagues if they had ever been on campus late at night. Had they passed the chemistry building? Had they passed the engineering building? Had they seen the music building? Did they, perhaps, notice lights on in those buildings? Had they ever stopped to consider that students, THEIR students, were in those buildings working?

And then there is the wild card: many students feel unbelievable pressure from their families and friends. My parents have never been the sort to push me, but many students are working with fear hanging over their heads. Many (far too many) really believe (and are constantly told) that they carry the world on their shoulders. This sort of tension does not lend itself to a love of learning. It turns confusion into panic. It turns mistakes into crimes. It is the greatest enemy many students face, as it can lead to cheating, breakdowns, resignation, and self abuse. It can also lead to suicide.

My point? I don't have one.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Saturday morning I watched Star Trek "Nemesis" on video. I saw it at the theater not long after it came out, and thought the time was right for a rewatch.

From what I've read on the net, lots of Trek fans think it is one of the worst of the films in the series. I don't agree. I don't think it was one of the best, either.

On first viewing, there were a number of things which lept out at me as being problematic, mostly because I thought not enough was said. I thought, for example, that the Riker/Troi wedding was poorly handled. I understand that Wesley Crusher/Will Wheaton had some lines that got left on the cutting room floor (are they in the extended version?), but that didn't bug me so much. What really bugged me, as a loyal viewer, was that Worf didn't seem to have any problems with the wedding. The series ended with a hint that there was some sort of potential romance between him and Troi, and though that never panned out, I would have liked to have seen a bit of a reference. Not to mention the fact that his own wife, Jadzia Dax, was dead and none of his former crewmates came to the wedding or the funeral.

Which brings me to a problem that this film shares with "Insurrection" (its predecessor): WHAT IS WORF'S STATUS? He went to Deep Space Nine before "First Contact" (and he was in that movie because he was in command of the Defiant) and apparently left DS9 (at the end of the series) to become some sort of diplomat. Why he was in "Insurrection" was never stated (one sentence would have done it), and in this one not only is he at the wedding (fair enough) but he joins the crew of the Enterprise again! He's in a Starfleet uniform, which is also not explained (he shouldn't be, should he?).

Then there's the trip from Earth to Betazed (for the nekkid ceremony). Star Trek has always been a little fudgy on where everything is, but why should the trip take them close enough to the Turtlepeople planet (which is close to the Romulan border) for them to detect a faint positronic signature?

Then there's the Turtlepeople planet. Picard, Worf, and Data go down there KNOWING that a prewarp civilization might notice them, and yet they take no precautions. No one even fucking MENTIONS the Prime Directive. And then, on the planet, they don't have their scanners on the lookout for the possible approach of Turtlepeople. Whut?

So they find a Soong-type android. And immediately turn him on! And then put him together! And then download all of Data's knowledge into him! And then give him the run of the ship! All of this without even a passing mention of what happened the last time they did that (Lore). To give Geordi his props: he did at least express concern, but he should have jumped up and down and shouted LORE!

Then they get the call to go to Romulus. I liked the whole Romulan/Reman thing. Well, three problems, but I'll get back to them.

Turns out the badguy was using B4 (the android) for his sinister plan. Fine. How did Data and Picard figure it out? We are never told.

Later, in the big space battle, the Enterprise rams the Scimitar. Cool. But then the Scimitar backs up and pulls away from the Enterprise. Having never been in space, I can't be certain, but that seems impossible unless BOTH ships are backing up.

Also, Picard behaved rather oddly in general. He was very much the man of action. This could have been explained with him doing a log entry about how he felt different after the events in "Insurrection" and wanted to live his life differently. No explanation, however. Just him in a dune buggy. Ugh.

Now for the R/Rs. How did the Remans manage to build a HUGE and super high-tech starship in secret without the Tal Shi'ar noticing? Where was the Romulan Tasha Yar? She would have been good for explaining things. Why did they make a clone of Picard way back when he was captain of the Stargazer? How did they know he would become important?

I said 3 problems, but there is a fourth (maybe a fifth): young Picard had reddish blond hair. He wasn't bald. Would that have been so hard to get right? Also: at one point Picard says they had the same heart, but Picard got an artificial heart after he got stuck in a bar fight as a cadet. Again with the continuity.

Now for the good. When I first saw the movie, I was troubled by two things which no longer trouble me. 1) Why did the badguy want to destroy Earth? At first I thought this was silly, but I noticed Saturday that he figured that Earth was the key to the Federation. That's good enough for me. 2) Why did Riker (and not someone tougher, like Worf) duke it out with the viceroy? When I saw it in the theaters I thought it was just another lame excuse to make Riker out as the rebirth of Kirk, but now I understand that it was because the viceroy had mentally raped Troi. Fair enough.

I hope this really is the last NextGen movie. I could stand seeing some of the cast again in a different situation (say, for example, Capt. Riker and the Titan help out in something, or Admiral Picard orders something done).

There was at least one Star Trek movie I liked less than this one. That was #5 (where they go after God). So I guess I do, sortof, agree that "Nemesis" is among the worst after all. Oh well.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Years ago, when I was studying at the University of Southern Mississippi, I took a course on American Intellectual History. As I recall, we had to choose a figure from said history as the topic of a major essay. I chose Stokely Carmichael against the advice of my professor (who shall remain nameless: I don't want it to look as if I would criticize, even in a mild way, one of the most important influences I've ever had). Her argument was that he wasn't much of an intellectual. My argument was that not only was he, but he was, through his life and actions, a sort of microcosm of a broad sweep of intellectual history from the 50s to the 80s. I won. She let me write the paper.

I'm a much better writer now (although you can't tell from the blog), but I was on fire when I wrote that paper. I noted Carmichael's peculiar, Carribean-immigrant version of being a red diaper baby (early exposure to red politics), his early activism and swift rise in the Civil Rights Movement's nonviolence (he was, in some ways, the apple of King's eye for a moment or two), his shift to becoming a leader of the more radical Black Power! faction (a phrase he helped coin), and his (logical, to my mind) progression into actual African post-colonial politics (at which point he changed his name to Kwame Ture).

Now I see there's an autobiography out: Ready for Revolution. Man. It's what my paper should have turned into. I'm having a "road not taken" moment. Bear with me.

One reason I was so fired up about Kwame Ture is that I met him. He came to speak at USM (apparently he had a niece there) and I shook his hand and he signed a copy of one of his pamphlets (also called "Ready for Revolution"). He was a good looking man. He had really remarkable eyes and a really nice handshake (I swear I can still feel it: It was at once powerful and intimidating and soothing and warm). I thought, when I looked at him, "I'm looking at history!"

Stokely Carmichael/Kwame Ture may not be the most famous or influential figure to have emerged out of the 1960s movements, but if you would like to learn more about the era and the its intellectual crosscurrents, I reckon you could do a good deal worse than to check out his autobiography.

POSSIBLY FLAWED ANECDOTE #1: After Carmichael emerged from a Mississippi jail calling for "Black Power!", someone asked MLK,Jr. what he thought about the implied turn from nonviolence. King replied that a veteran like Stokely no doubt had good reasons to say what he said, and he may be right.

POSSIBLY FLAWED ANECDOTE #2: Carmichael helped start a new political movement in Lowndes County, Alabama. Their symbol was a black panther (this was before the Oakland Panthers, if I recall correctly). Reporters started calling the party "the Black Panthers" and Stokely didn't care for it. He noted that the symbol of the Alabama state Democratic Party was (and still is) a white chicken and asked if the reporters would feel comfortable referring to them as "the White Cocks".

Oh, and um, BULLFIGHTING HIGHLIGHTS are on TV now. That's one way I know for sure that I don't live in Nepal.

You know how, in the book “Return of the King”, Sam carries Frodo on his back to ensure that the mission is accomplished? Even though Sam doesn’t fully understand the mission? Even though, at that very moment, Sam’s beloved Shire is being ravaged (as he foresaw in Galadriel’s mirror) [Sam loved the Shire more than Frodo, of course. Frodo had too much Baggins in him.]

Tony Blair has been carrying Dubyah on his back (at least in international diplomatic terms) for a good while now. And his Shire is in need of a good scouring. Dubyah/Frodo, meanwhile, is too weak and distracted to take much action.

In other news: I guess I’ll have to wait a little longer for that Michael Jackson tour.

In other other news: I spent an uncomfortable Thursday morning in the US consulate. It crossed my mind that there were thousands of other, safer places I might be.

In other other other news: a hepatitis outbreak in Pennsylvania is being blamed on green onions from Mexico. I have only this to say about Mexican produce: put it in clean water with a little white vinegar for a few minutes before you use it. It will be fine.

I am watching “Charlie’s Angels” on the TV. Not nearly as bad as it might have been.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Oddly enough, Hamilton is probably my least favorite. I've always liked Franklin or Paine best.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Anyone who liked "the Royal Tennebaums" is a total pseud. That is one big ole fat pile of overhyped shit.

I have spoken.

I thought "Rushmore" sucked too, but not so bad. But now I've seen this and have decided to downgrade "Rushmore" to shitpile status out of spite.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Chris has a rather grumbly blog about Roy Moore. His is from the perspective of a Christian.

[By the way, all you denominations, Chris is a free agent and can probably still do a bit of catching for you, even though he's been out of the majors for some time.]

I have two cents more to add (see previous entry). Mine are from the perspective of an atheist (former right fielder and platoon 3rd baseman, currently playing in the Mexican league).

I have long found it interesting that those Christians, like Moore, who are quickest to find the most sanctimonious pose on any issue and strike it with all possible drama, tend to focus on the Old Testament. I guess they just like the rough parts. What's funny about that, to me, is that I would think that one's degree of Christianness is inversely proportional to the degree of emphasis you place on the teachings and philosophy of someone other than Christ.

Yes, yes, yes, Jeebus is recorded in the Bible as having gone to some pains to make it clear that he wasn't saying that folks should throw out all of the golden oldies, but he did preach a signficantly different sort of day to day religion. Had he said something along the lines of "make a big ole deal about things like the comandments given to Moses, in fact, pick ten of the ones you like best and have them etched on every piece of free space you can find" then I would think Moore had a LITTLE BIT of a case.

But no.

I said this before, I think, to someone, but if Moore had employed a slightly different sort of strategery, he might have gotten away with having his stone left in place as part of a shrine to several different oldish lawish things (Hammurabi and Justinian's contributions come to mind).

George Wallace, by the way, came to prominence in Alabama politics first as a judge.

I'm listening to the Roger Waters album "The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking". Don't you wish you had access to my ears?

Thursday, November 13, 2003

I see, in the Washington Post, that Roy Moore is now a former judge. He was removed from office by his peers.

Neil Young once wrote that Alabama has "the rest of the Union to help [it] adapt", but given the state of the rest of the Union right now, I fear that my home state is on its own.

Alabamians, I hope, have not yet forgotten the horrors of the Hunt or second James administrations. I fear we need to start thinking in terms of *Governor* Roy Moore.


I'll bet good money (or would, if I had any) that webmasters around the world are scrambling to add "Jessie Lynch nude", "Private Lynch naked", "Jessica Lynch topless", and other such phrases to their pages, in hopes of generating traffic. What sort of a moron would do such a thing?

Larry Flynt was right about Pvt Lynch (nude) being used by the Bushies, of course. She seems to realize it, as well. Bully for her! I promise, therefore, not to buy any magazine or other product which advertises "Private Lynch topless" or anything similar.

Flynt was, in my opinion, wrong to even hint that he had the pictures (of Jessie nude) however. I can understand his motivation for buying them (like, in case she were to have gone on the campaign tour for Bush's second term and needed a smear job done on her), but once he decided he wasn't going to use them, he should have said nothing.

It reminds me of a sketch on Saturday Night Live back in the day. Bob Saget was the host (bear with me) and he entered a video store staffed by the "Just Shoot Me" guy. The "JSM" guy noted that he had the credit card numbers and home addresses of numerous celebrity customers (like Saget) but he wasn't going to "do anything with 'em" (at least not yet, being the subtext).

I hear "X.Y.U." by Smashing Pumpkins. Before that I heard "Statesboro Blues" by the Allman Brothers, "Concrete" by Midnight Oil, and "No Rest" by New Model Army.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Chris praised my blog by way of welcoming me back to the information superhighway, so I shall endeavor to live up to the standard he seems to think I've set.

I like his blog a bunch, by the way. It has pictures, for one thing, and I've never managed to put any in my own blog.

So away I go . . .

Since last I blogged in any serious way, a few things have happened which I never expected. These include

* the Cubs made it to the playoffs
* the MARLINS made it to the playoffs (and won the whole thing, no less)
* my next-door neighbor fenced in his dogs properly
* Rush Limbaugh admitted to a drug addiction
* a Mexican cable channel showed a weekend-long Seinfeld marathon, which my landlord taped for me
* I rode a horse
* I managed to go days without seeing the news and didn't lose what was left of my mind
* The US women's soccer team failed to win the World Cup

Several other things happened which did not surprise me in the least. These include

* the occupation of Iraq has gone really rather badly for the US
* Arnold Schwartzeneggar became governor of California
* the Braves blew it
* the Cubs blew it
* public opinion has turned on the war (a bit)

I was thinking about what to write when I noticed
this commentary in the Guardian. The basic thrust of it is that it appears that both Saddam and the Taliban attempted to negotiate before they got crushed. George Monbiot, the author of the piece, rightly notes that this revelation is potentially very big. I was a bit surprised by the Iraq part of the story, but I wasn't surprised by the Afghanistan one.

I distinctly remember the Taliban's offer. I recall that as soon as the giant finger started wagging in their direction right after 11Sept they said, basically, "show us a bit of evidence and we may very well hand over any number of folks for trial in a third country to be named later". I actually deployed that nugget in arguments with a few people about the war. Since I'm just a humble news junkie, my knowledge of this must mean that it was pretty clear at the time and simply got chucked down the memory hole. I don't recall hearing about Iraq offering the sort of negotiations Monbiot mentions, but that may be because BushBlair jumped on it fast enough to keep it hush hush.

But who cares, right? All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.

I heard, as I blogged, "Monk Hangs Ten" by Andy Summers, "Hava Nagilla" by an unknown Israeli folk group, "Aria Con Variazioni" by Andres Segovia, "the Blue Danube Waltz", "Sabrosa" by the Beastie Boys, and "Answer Me, My Love" by Nat King Cole.

iTunes is being unusually random in its randomness tonight.

Monday, November 10, 2003

For those of you who have been waiting,


I'll mark my return by praising the last song I heard, "Love My Way" by the Psychedelic Furs, and the one I hear now, "Captain Jack" by Billy Joel.

Those are good songs.