Monday, April 14, 2008

Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away...

A couple of low-level Imperial gunners, in the midst of a space-battle of epic bloodshed and destruction, improbably decided not to shoot down an escape pod devoid of life-signs -- what, were they trying to save ammo? -- allowing two bumbling robots to make it to safety with the information key to saving the entire galaxy, and Star Wars, the Odyssey of the late 20th century began.

I was four, and I was enraptured. Have been ever since. Sleep-overs at my house included a required marathon of Episodes IV-VI. To this day, my best friend insists she's not sure how the saga ends, as she invariably fell asleep during the Jabba the Hutt scenes.

When the movies were re-tooled for re-release, I dutifully went to every one at the theater, then bought the box set. That box set is what Buddy watches now. We also have The Phantom Menace, but unfortunately I can't stomach Episodes II and III enough to justify purchasing them.

Spike TV ran the whole thing in HD over the past two weekends. I DVR'd, so I could give watching the Hayden Christensen episodes another go, but have already deleted them to make more room for our South Park collection. I STILL haven't made it through Revenge of the Sith in one sitting. I'm not even sure it's called "Revenge of the Sith." Is it? I can't even be bothered to go to IMDB to check...

But I'm saving the old ones. For one thing, my copy of The Empire Strikes Back was lost a few years ago in an... incident. Also, HD truly does do justice to the visuals. I didn't have time to sit through them fully over the weekend, when they were on live, but I called up Return of the Jedi this afternoon, mostly because I didn't feel like actually interacting with my children.

Can you BELIEVE it? Maybe you bought the full DVD box set a couple of years ago and they're like this, so you already knew... they've changed it AGAIN! It's a tiny little thing, at the very end of Jedi, where, ten years ago they redacted the perky "Yuppa Yuppa Ya" Ewok celebration song and added in shots of Bespin, Mos Eisley and Coruscant joining in the fun -- complete with a delightful shot of the Emporer's statue being pulled down in a Coruscant square.

Now they've added a shot from Naboo, which is cool, 'cause Naboo is pretty, but they put it in place of the Emporer's statue being pulled down. That irks me a bit, because I liked that shot, and I only like it more now that the Iraqis (consciously? unconsciously? I could probably look it up... nah) copied the move in Baghdad.

Also, I was gearing up to have to explain (again) to Buddy who the old guy was hanging out with Yoda and Obi-Wan in the final scene, but, oop! He wasn't there! It was Hayden Christensen! I was totally weirded out. I have to admit, it gave me a frisson, like, Oooh, the circle is complete, sort of thing, but at the same time, a girl's gotta ask: three times? Old George has gone and changed this movie now, THREE TIMES? How can that be okay? I mean, I'll be the first to say, it's George's movie, he can damn well do what he pleases with it, but... three times?

The truth of the matter is, and I think I've said this before, the thing that sucks for those of us who fell in love with Star Wars before puberty hit is that, no matter how much George tweaks it, we grew up, but the saga never did. I feel that way about The Neverending Story, too.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

It takes me awhile, but eventually I get it...

I saw the girl who stopped swimming in the window at Park Road Books and thought to myself, Hey, look! I didn't know Joshilyn had written another book. And then I felt a pang of guilt because I had never actually read Joshilyn's book that I did know about -- gods in Alabama. So I went to the library that afternoon, read it in as much as one sitting as I can manage in these small-child-infested days, and then saw the girl who stopped swimming yesterday at Costco, and just finished it about 10 minutes ago, acknowledgements and all.

I'm making it sound like I know Joshilyn personally, which I don't, but I'm closer to knowing her than any other proper author on the planet, and that's what makes the blogosphere so darned cool. I've always been intrigued by the structure of the network that joins one blogger to the next, so you'll have to bear with my while I play Six Degrees of Separation...

When I started up Mean Teacher, I managed to somehow catch the eye of Jay Allen, then author of The Zero Boss. Jay was a card-carrying blogosphere D-lister, and his periodic links to me brought Mean Teacher whatever tiny little fame it ever enjoyed. Through him I found a host of other friendly and interesting bloggers: Goldie, MIM, Robin, possibly Mande (I can't remember if I got to Mande through Jay)... the list continues. Anyway, Jay was a great one for keeping the sphere alive, spotlighting lesser-knowns, sparking wild conversations, and creating opportunities for all us repressed David Foster Wallaces to get our gab on.

One of his best notions was Blogging for Books, a competition in which he and a guest judge, who was a published author, would put out a topic and invite anyone and everyone to submit blog entries on that topic. The guest judge would determine winners and the prize would be one of their books.

Early on I earned an honorable mention with a musing about my ignorant mistreatment of one of my students. After that, I caught the bug good and participated in "B4B" as often as inspiration would allow. Ultimately real life caught up with Jay and he ran out of whatever steam was necessary for keeping B4B alive. Some point after that, though, Mir at Woulda Coulda Shoulda and Joshilyn Jackson took up the torch. I entered one last time -- resulting in a brief, not-particularly personal correspondence with Joshilyn, who hosted the contest at her site -- and actually got third prize. I made another friend on that foray with Deb Richardson, who did not frequent Jay's site but tried out B4B for the first time through Joshilyn.

All this is to say that it was really cool to read two wonderful novels and know that, in a vague and meandering way, I kind of have met the author and she's a very real person. And it was even cooler to think, when learning that the main character in the girl who stopped swimming made art quilts, Hey, I wonder if Joshilyn got that idea from Deb Richardson, who makes stunning art quilts. And it was even cooler to read the acknowledgements at the end of the novel and see Deb's name there, big as day.

I can't recommend both novels enough. I sucked them down like strawberry milkshakes, got very attached to the characters, and was very bummed when they ended. I will be on the hunt for Joshilyn's third novel, Between, Georgia (and full marks to her for capitalization on that title) probably tomorrow.

I'll also probably get around to reading the novel I won, Confessions of a Super Mom, by Melanie Lynne Hauser and to purchasing and reading Trina's books, because she's been a very nice blog buddy with whom I've had actual lovely conversations, and clearly I'm on a roll here.

Many, many of the blogs that were going strong when I joined the sphere are dead or atrophied now, mine included, but I do hope this wonderful, egalitarian world of the brain doesn't implode (as I tongue-in-cheekly predicted it would in my winning B4B essay) as these kinds of connections are the best of what the internet really has to offer.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

But I still don't believe in Mount Rushmore...

Greetings visitors from planet Diaperswappers! And I have no idea who gave me the props, but they are my new best friend.

Buddy's in the back yard setting up a leprechaun trap. The original notion of such a trap came from his kindergarten class (where a note I found stuffed in the bottom of his backpack two weeks after the fact informed me that he was not allowed to build a leprechaun trap as a result of having done something stupid with scissors).

leprechaun trap, however, is a pure-D Buddy Creation: it's a box with Lego guys set up inside to "look like they're having a fun party." The idea is that the leprechaun, unable to resist the temptations of such a rockin' affair, will be lured into the box, at which point Buddy will slam shut the door and... well... I haven't quite gotten him to think through the next part. I believe gold theft is part of the plan. My question is, what do you feed leprechauns? Whiskey? I don't think we have any...

I will admit that, one sunny afternoon when I wanted to watch Ghosthunters and didn't want to have to spend my next drive to school denying the existence of spectral dead people lining the road, I did tell Buddy that there were elves that lived under the cedar tree and maybe he should go look for them. Though he hasn't yet spotted any, he still seems to believe me.

I remember visiting my mom's Uncle Donald in his cabin in Colorado once. Another random young relative and I build a fort of some sort in the trees. The next day, we found the fort in tatters. Uncle Donald told me soberly that the Artesians had done the dirty deed by dark of night. I believed him and was rather frightened of Artesians (without ever really knowing what they were) from then on.

I also had myself convinced for quite awhile that I was secretly a unicorn.

Buddy's doomed, isn't he?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Aten't dead...

I just finished reading Elegy for Iris, a memoir by literary critic John Bayley about his marriage to novelist Iris Murdoch, and his thoughts on her journey into the neverwhere that is Alzheimer's.

I've never read any of Iris Murdoch's work, but one thing Bayley's rambling, whimsical narrative makes clear is that Iris' was a unique and powerful personality. Now that that personality is completely devoured by the memory-destroying disease, who is the person inside the body of his wife? And where or what is the woman he fell in love with fifty years ago?

It is, despite the light, loving and positive tone, a very disturbing book.

It must be a very good book, in it's odd little way, because it has obliged me to reflect on many things. My grandmother, who was the light of my early childhood, suffered from some form of senile dementia. When I met her for the last time, with a three-month-old Buddy in tow, she did not know me or understand that she was holding her first great-grandson. When she died a few months later, I took comfort in the conviction that, upon arrival to Heaven, God took mercy and restored her memories to her intact, including the ones formed in the end, and that she was rewarded with an understanding that I had come to see her one last time, and that she had met Buddy.

But that is a posthumous comfort, and not available to the friends and family of the living. I can only approach the puzzle of Iris in quick feints, because the whole of the question is terrifying. And also the whole of this question: what if it should happen to me?

Another author, one who's books I have read -- all of them, multiple times -- also has Alzheimer's. Iris Murdoch is an abstract puzzle to me, but Terry Pratchett is a blow much closer to home. Along with Douglas Adams (oh, well) and Neil Gaiman (get in line) he is one of the few authors I've ever wished to meet in person. I certainly have a complete imagined personality ascribed to him: a quite, thoughtful man, with a devilish streak and a secret lust for bad puns. His voice and his values pervade his work, and those books are reliable old friends that I turn to, when, more that anything in the world, I just need a bit of fun.

I imagine that he, like Iris, is very much loved by those who truly do know him. And that the spectre of his disappearance by inches... well, mustn't wallow. In a blog post on the topic, Mr. Pratchett himself quoted his greatest character, Granny Weatherwax, saying: I ATEN'T DEAD. And he would thank folks not to mourn him prematurely.

Meanwhile, in a style that fits my image of him to a tee, he has done something proactive and positive by donating nearly $1,000,000 to the Alzheimer's Research Trust. And a movement has come out to support him and his cause. Click and check out Match it for Pratchett.

I have zero money at the moment, but I can at least envision the purchase of a sharp tee-shirt in my near future. I think thirty bucks to help good people fight a disease that scares the living crap out of me is a smart investment.

While composing this post in my head, it even occurred to me that I could auction off a Feegle, provided anyone would be so louche as to purchase one. If you think that's a good idea, comment and I'll get to work on it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

My public needs me...

I know you're being quiet and reserved about it, and I respect your civility, but I can tell that teh innernet is once again crumbling without my participation. I don't actually have a story to tell or an annoying picture to post (what do you have to DO to actually get up on icanhascheezburger? Maui's lolcat wasn't exactly genius, but it could hold it's own, I felt.)

But that's okay, because House is coming back someday and in the meantime, New Amsterdam isn't half bad and I'm all about some American Idol. I just wish Simon and Ryan would have sex or shoot each other already and get it out of the way. The problem with that whole side-drama is that Ryan Seacrest has about three fewer IQ points than an empty Coke bottle and is standing around all smug like he just launched the Killer Zinger From Mars when in reality he was just being...

Lord, need to shut up about that.

Moved four-fifths of a truckload of wood chips this weekend. That's about 12 cubic yards. That's about a drivewayful. How long does that take? Exactly six hours, thank you very much. (He Who Looks Hot in Jeans was at work, he got the other three cubic yards moved today. ) Anyway, guess which body part hurt from this assault of unaccustomed physical activity? And guess who had to sit on said body part all day on Monday? Not pleasant.

Busier than a one-handed paperhanger, to tell the truth. But just wanted to let all my worried fans know:


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

i can has lolcat...

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

I'm not html literate enough to make this fit properly on the page, so click to see my clever caption!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Everything I need to know about life I learned from playing with my Legos...

Buddy's teacher has said, on multiple occasions, that he has a hard time following directions. Especially multi-step directions. I'm willing to believe this.

A few weeks ago, Buddy received several Star Wars Lego sets. One afternoon, he sat down and proceeded to put together a kit with 248 pieces and 29 pages of instructions. My assistance was in the department of "clicking" fiddly bits, not in the department of interpreting directions. He did that all by himself.

And I said to myself: This kid can follow directions.

How could I translate the Lego success to classroom success? I put forth a suggestion to his teacher: if Buddy had picture cards of each step of his directions, as visual cues, and also as elements of his own exercise of assembling the appropriate direction cards in the correct order, we might just have a strategy in place for improving this little deficiency.

She said it was a good idea. Several days later, she sent home a note with a list of directions he needs to work on.

This morning I made the cards, and brought them to school when I joined Buddy for lunch. She said they looked great and they'd give them a try.

This afternoon Buddy gets in the car and I check his backpack for homework and notes (S.O.P.). I find his direction cards in his folder with a note from the teacher saying she is barred, by law, from using the cards in the classroom without testing and documentation that he may use these modifications.

I'm flabbergasted. What's more, I'm a teacher. When I was in the classroom and had a kid who needed to go at it from a different direction, we worked on a strategy that would reach him or her. I know nothing about this law she's citing.

She's a first year teacher, and has all of my sympathy on that note. I'm sure she showed the cards to an experienced teacher, who rattled off this stupid notion, and she bought it hook, line and sinker. Part of my problem here is that I would never have done that, even in my first year. In fact, I was notorious for demanding, "Why the hell not?" Heh, still am.

She gets a little cringe-y around me, 'cause she can smell that I have a temper. What she very well may learn when I walk Bud into class tomorrow morning is that, up until now, I haven't unleashed it on her.