Sunday, March 30, 2008

Movie Reviews- Chalk/Brick

The past two weekends I have two different films that both are set in high schools. First, Chalk is a mockumentary about four different teachers in a high school. All three are shown as humans warts and all. We see the struggles these three teachers go through and we see the successes they expereince. One of the teachers is a brand new teacher who has just come from the business field in a midlife career change. he struggles with adjusting to teaching in a school and connecting with the kids. The next one is in his third or so year of teaching and is working on trying to get teacher of the year. He sees this as a validation of his work and how hard he works with the kids. He is obsessed with this desire and even lets it interfere with teaching. The third teacher is a phys. ed. teacher who seems to have been teaching for a while and seems to care for the students she is working with, but also is a stickler for the rules and so comes into conflict with other teachers at the administration over her wanting to have everyone obey the rules exactly as they are written. The fourth educator is a women who was the chorus director and has now been promoted to an assistant principal. She struggles with balanacing the administrative work with her personal life and being split between having been a teacher and established relationship with the faculty that now have to change since she is now in the administration. Overall, the film was really well written and acted. Both of the writers for the film had been educators so they did a great job of showing what the typical year looks like for most high school teachers. As we tend to see in the media how much our eduction is failing our children and how it seems to be the teachers fault, this film shows us that teachers are humans too and they have to struggle to educate our children. The extras are also hilarious, especially the PSA announcements.

Brick is a noir film set in a modern high school. Although, I have not seen that many noir films except Chinatown and the occasional snippet from movies on AMC that I have seen with my grandparents, Brick seems to have all of the elements. It has interesting background music that sets the mood, the detective who is neither entirely good nor entirely bad, underworld characters and the femme fatale. The film surround the murder of a girl who was the ex-girlfriend of the detective. In this case the detective is played by a high school student who wants to know what happened to his ex-girlfriend. As we watch him try to figure out who is who in this complicated web of the underworld of high school, we are given many false leads and dead ends. Although, if you understand the typical plot for a noir film, it is not hard to figure out what happened, it is interesting to see who did what and to take the ride to figure out why the murder took place. This film takes an old genre of film and renews it. The noir film genre is given new life by Brick which now makes me want to go bck and watch the old noir films of the 1930s and 1940s.

I recommend both of these films but for different reasons. Chalk gives a great insight into the field of teaching and what teachers have to go through on a daily and yearly basis. Brick is a great noir film with new twists on this old genre.

Friday, March 28, 2008

YouTube Fridays

I love this speech by Joss Whedon from the Equality Now convention. I am sure most of you have seen it and I have seen it several times. But this is one of those things that I need to see every once in a while to help me remember a)why I love Joss Whedon and his characters and b)why we need to continue to fight for equality for all.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Peeps for Passover

The Gourmet Goddess sent me this great link for Peeps for passover. It was very funny so now I am linking to it here. Go check it out!!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Back to being a British colony for us

I found this great post that Angry Ballerina had found on facebook. I guess we are being reclaimed by the British empire.

h/t Phydeaux

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Sustainable food

I have talked about the issue of sustainable food before in this post and other posts before it, but this one was the one that I liked the most of my early posts. Sustainable agriculture is something that is often on my mind or at least comes springing back to the front of my mind every once in a while. This seems to occur as I try and move toward a more vegetarian lifestyle, I am not sure I will ever give up sea animals, but I am working on fowl and have recently kind of regressed on the whole not eating pig thing. I am not sure how much of a stickler I will become in the end toward not eating fowl and pig, but I am trying to really cut down on how much I eat them. This is a long and involved story and not one that I am going to go into on this post, but know that this process has been going on for over ten years now. So I think about where my food comes from and I love going to farmers markets and was happy to find a good fish market and even milk from a local dairy that is sold in my local grocery store. I am not totally trying to eat only local foods, although that would be interesting and something I might try at some point, but I am trying to find foods that I can be more sure of do not have added chemicals and are fresh. Case in point I got salmon this weekend and when I asked the man at the fish store about the salmon, he brought out the whole tail end of the fish and then asked how big of salmon steaks I wanted and how many. I am not sure it could have been much fresher for this area and I sure could taste the difference. The price was really good too, which helps.

I had seen an interview on the book channel, I am not sure what it is called, but I think it is CSPAN and most of the times it is talking about books, press conferences from books are what I usually catch on it and most of the time it is interesting for me to hear about new books. Michael Pollan was on talking about his new book, In Defense of Food: An eater's manifesto, which sounded interesting, but as i looked it up, I decided to read one of his other books first, The Omnivore's Dilemma. After placing this on my wish list for, it sat for a while and then this weekend I remembered it again and decided to try and get it from the county library system. Well this seems like a great idea except I am sitting in line at the 64th position. Yes that is right there are 63 people in front of me that want to get this book from the library first and there are 131 people that want to read In Defense of food. This is a great thing and I am glad that so many people want to read these two books, but it is a bit frustrating to just have to wait in line for books that you want to read. I am thinking of buying them, but am unsure about that. (If anyone has a copy that they would be willing to lend me of either of these books, email me and let me know. I promise to return them to you, I just want to read them before I commit to buying them.)

So anyway, sustainable food was back on my mind again and then I read a Dvar Tzedek on this weeks parshat. To translate that, Dvar means the word, if I remember my Hebrew correctly, and in this instance refers to a writing or discussion of the weekly Torah portion or parshat. I get these discussions from a wonderful organization, American Jewish World Services, who does a lot of good social justice things around the world and whose commentaries on the parshat always focus on social justice issues. So this weeks parshat is in reference to the laws of kashrut and why these laws seem to be random and why no scholar has ever really figured out why some animals are banned while other animals are not banned. There are a lot of different explanations that scholars have come up with, but none that really seems to totally answer why this is so. Anyway, so the commentary discusses how at times boundaries are good and freeing for individuals. I am going to just cut and paste the end excerpt from this commentary here as this is the relevant part to my point here.

Parshat Shemini 5768
By Rabbi Elliot Rose Kukla
March 29, 2008

In Parshat Shemini, we are taught to avoid eating many animals, including crawling insects, shrimp, hares, swine,
bustards, storks, herons of every variety, hoopoes and bats.1 We are told that sea creatures must have fins and
scales, land animals must chew their cud and have true hoofs. No explanation for these apparently random biblical
dietary laws is given. Throughout Jewish history, our sages have puzzled over this mysterious parshah looking for
underlying principles. Maimonides, the 12th century philosopher and physician, suggests that this mystifying list of
forbidden foods is based on principles of nutrition and reflects an awareness of the importance of the health and
vigor of the human body as a sacred vessel.2 Other classical medieval commentators, such as Sforno and
Nachmanides, theorize that the point of these restrictions is to protect the spiritual (as opposed to physical) health
of the people of Israel, to separate us from the other nations and to teach us gentleness toward creation.3

What all these commentaries have in common is an acknowledgement that, whatever the rationale might be behind
the laws of kashrut, what we eat has an impact on how we live and reflects our values. Creating boundaries in our
eating teaches us to eat mindfully and to carefully weigh the impact of our food on our bodies, our communities and
the world.

In the contemporary global village, the Torah’s message to limit what we eat can and should include consideration of
the impacts of our food choices on global social justice. The commercial coffee industry, for example, chronically
underpays and mistreats workers in the Global South, and the low labor standards of the industry as a whole impact
the well-being of entire economies in the world’s poorest countries. Purchasing non-fair trade coffee and other
forms of produce picked by underpaid workers conflicts with this parshah’s message to choose foods mindfully.

This portion challenges us to express our most intimate and deeply held values with every mouthful. It asks us to
speak out against the exploitation of farmers and laborers in the Global South and to insist upon foods and drinks
for our homes, our synagogues and our workplaces that are traded fairly and that promote the values of the Torah
– compassion and justice for all living creatures.

As my patient John taught me, limits are not always limiting. Limits create space for both individual and world
healing. Boundaries around how we live and what we eat help to create a world where there is room for that
within each of us that is truly limitless to safely unfold – our human dignity and our capacity for true freedom.

1 Leviticus 11:14-19
2 Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed, 3:48
3 Nachmanides and Sforno on Leviticus 11:13

Rabbi Elliot Rose Kukla is a Chaplain Resident at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF)
Medical Center and Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute. He is also an activist, writer, organizer and educator.
He has lectured and led workshops on gender and sexual diversity in Judaism throughout Israel, Canada and
the U.S. Before moving to San Francisco, Elliot served as the rabbi of the Danforth Jewish Circle, Toronto's
social justice-oriented synagogue. Elliot was ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion
in 2006.

To read the entire commentary, it is here, and click on the one for Shemini.

So again sustainable agriculture reared its head and reminded me that not only am I doing good things for myself by focusing on more local produce and by cutting down on the amount of corporate food I am eating, but also I am aiding the entire world. I am helping farmers who grow coffee by making sure that I try and only get fair trade coffee. I am aiding the local small farmers by buying their milk or beans or fruit. I am helping the local bakeries when I buy their bread, if I don't make it myself, and finally I help a world economy that is struggling because of corporate greed to find ways of healing. One final note, there are several articles that I have seen, this is the only one I could find right now and it is about Horizon organic milk, that have pointed out that organic food is a big buzz word right now and so just because it is organic does not make it better and in fact local food is the best.

Friday, March 21, 2008

YouTube Fridays

In honor of Easter, two clips about the Easter Bunny.



Ok, so they are fucked up Easter bunny clips, but I didn't say they were nice to the Easter bunny.

Thank you

I want to say thank you to all of you for your love and support after my big announcement. It really does mean a lot to me that my online friends/family gave me this support as have my blood family too. So again thank you, it means the world to me.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

News from my personal life

I rarely talk about my personal life on here. Sure, sometimes I talk about my dog or my interest or even my job, but my personal life is just not something I think most people would be all that interested in as I have not really had one. And some of you may have been wondering why I went to Chicago. Well, I didn't really go to Chicago, I went about an hour or so north to meet someone. I went to meet a fellow blogger that I have been communicating with online for the past six months or so, if I am wrong about this just correct this in comments. We started out innocently enough, I found a comment she posted on Shakesville to be really good and really interesting. It was so interesting that I wanted to go check out her blog, what that comment was, I now have no idea. So I checked out her blog and thought it was interesting, this was part of a time where I was really building up my blogroll and she seemed really interesting and liked to cook, and I love to eat and cook myself so I thought I should read her on a more regular basis. Well after a while of basically lurking there, she seemed to be going through a rough patch and so I emailed her when i mistakenly thought she had told me to in comments, it was really her best friend telling her to email her friend, but anyway. So we started emailing and it was only maybe once or twice a week and most of the time it was get to know you kinds of things, like those stupid quizzes that get passed around by email about get to know your friends kind of things. So we got to know each other through these quizzes, not sure this was the most accurate way to get to know either of us to a certain extent, but it seemed to work. We kept talking by email and finally we admitted to each of us being "interested" in the other one. We then decided or stumbled into, I am not sure really which, regular IM conversations because by this time we were emailing almost everyday. So now we were IMing nightly and pretty soon we had conversations about moving in together, our wedding, and even kids names. But doing a total long distance online relationship is hard at times and talking about moving together is kind of weird when you have never even met the person, so we decided to meet. I bought a plane ticket and flew up to see her Thursday.

We had a great weekend together. Friday was a good day of just lounging, reading cookbooks and talking since we just can't seem to stop talking to each other. Saturday, she gave me a tour of the area from her home to Chicago and we had some really good Ethiopian food, or at least I thought it was good even though this was my first time having Ethiopian food. Then Sunday I had to come back here so that I could be at work on Monday, boooo. So it was a great weekend and it seems to have cemented the fact that come this summer when my lease runs out on my apartment, I will be moving up to be with her. So who is this wonderful woman who turned this single Boxer into someone looking for a larger pack? Well, it is none other than the Gourmet Goddess. I know some of you read here and some of you don't, but as I think of many of you as friends, I wanted to share this happy news. Oh and it didn't hurt that one of her cats fell in love with me.

Now back to your regularly schedule fluff pieces with the occasional more serious post from me.

UPDATE: Heather has now posted her side of things with some additional information to mine, like our first conversation here.

The wisdom of Danae, pt. 2

This is one of my favorite comics and this one is almost as good as the one I posted a few days ago (I am too lazy to find it as it is not so long ago, just scroll down a bit or look for danae).

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Professional sports vs. college graduation rates

This article on discusses the discrepancy between those teams who are the top seeds in the upcoming NCAA basketball tournament and the graduation rates of these basketball programs. According to this article, of the teams who are seeded #1 only the University of North Carolina (Go Heels!!!!) had a graduation rate above 50%, it was at 86%, all of the other teams were lower than 50%. These rates are from freshman classes that begin between 1997-1998 to 2000-2001 and measured how many of the freshman graduated within six years. Some schools are arguing that new standards and new efforts toward raising the graduation rates are not shown in this study and so this is not a reflection of the current rates of graduation.

Irregardless if these numbers go up or not, these numbers are still quite low. Shouldn't college be a means to an end, namely the pursuit of a career and academic knowledge? Shouldn't it? Well, as I thought about this, I came to some interesting conclusions. To the point about academic knowledge, I was not in school so long ago and most freshman do not go to college to gain knowledge. they go because their parents tell them they should go or as a means to an end, a career or means to be financially secure. So not only athletes are not going to college for the knowledge, but I would say that most students when they first enter college are not going for knowledge. So then what about a career or a means to become financially stable? If these athletes leave school to pursue the professional leagues, than aren't they doing what is best for them in terms of a career? If their best attribute is that they can throw a ball in a hoop or they can run fast or even they can tackle really well, than isn't it in their best interest to pursue the avenue that will allow them to follow this goal best. Shouldn't they do what will allow them to make money and become financially stable in the best way possible? Sure they could wait the extra three or four years to get a degree and then go to the pros, but what if they get hurt and then cannot go on to the pros. Yes, they now have gained knowledge and can enter another field, but I cannot think of another field that would allow you to not even graduate college or right out of a four year degree make several hundred thousand dollars or more. Why should they sacrifice this chance? Here is a scenario to illustrate my point. As a blogger we often talk about how nice it would be if someone would pay us to blog. So what if someone did, what if someone said, "I will give you $100,000 just to blog everyday." Would you not take this chance? Or as a teacher, I know that what I make is not reflective of the value I posses to society so if someone offered me the opportunity to make much more money teaching, even if they said upfront this is only a five year commitment, which is probably about average for most athletes. There are also aditional factors that need to be considered here too. For some of these kids, they are living in poverty and so athletics is the only way they can break the cycle of poverty not only for themselves, but for their whole families. Sure going to college is nice, but when you cn get enough money to move your family out of the "projects", get them a car and give them the opportunity to live a better life, why should they not do this? Even as I think about myself, I grow up solidly middle class, if not upper middle class. We did not struggle as many do, eating government cheese or hunting to squirrels or whatever we could find because there isn't anything else to eat. But still if while I was in college someone had come to me and said, we have a way for you to make money to support yourself and your family, it is not illegal and it is something that you really like doing, my response would be where do I sign up? Why would I not want to have the money to help my family when the helped to support me as I grew up? So I cannot blame the athletes for not graduating college, they are doing what they feel is in the best interest of themselves and their situations.

So then back to who we should blame for these low graduation rates? I think I have shown that I don't blame the kids. I could blame the colleges, but why? They are not trying to have kids not graduate. Many colleges do not think, lets get a kid to come here with the plan that we will be rid of him in a few years. Now a coach may think this, but not a college entity. Also, as a college they can only provide so many enticements for kids to stay in school. They cannot pay these kids, they cannot help with family situations and they cannot make these kids better students. The other issues is that at times, large group of teams will leave for the pros. A few years back, seven University of North Carolina (Go Heels!!) players left all in the same year and mot of them were not graduating. It is difficult for a college to then have a graduation rate that is all that high when several athletes leave all at once. And for some of the larger schools, there always seems to be one or two that are leaving for the pros any given year. This study only looked at basketball teams and in looking at three different schools, UNC, University of Texas and University of California- LA, they average around 15 players on their roster for each year, so it doesn't take much for a school to have it's graduation rate fall. So I am not sure I can blame the colleges, there are plenty of coaches that could be blamed I am sure and so when the graduation rates are high the coaches should get much of the credit and many of them do, but even they cannot control one of the players, only give them the advice and help them to stay in school.

So who is to blame? I would say the blame needs to be thrust upon the shoulders of society. The reason these players leaves is for money and the reason that the colleges cannot keep these kids in school is money. As a society, we value money and wealth over knowledge and so why wouldn't these kids only view college as a means to an end of going on to the professional leagues. They are told this constantly by society. We see pictures and movies and hear all about how much our athletes make in their sports. We are inundated with the fact that we need stuff, from big houses to fancy cars to diamonds and jewels. We are told that if you have enough stuff, nothing else matters. So who is to blame in this issue, it is us? We are to blame for allowing society to tell us that money is more important than knowledge and for allowing people to think that college is expendable, but the professional leagues are necessary. We all share in the blame and we all need to share in finding a solution to how we can encourage athletes to stay in college and to find ways to value knowlege and education more highly than we do.

NOTE: This post was written by a huge sports fan. I love all sports. I am totally jacked up for the NCAA college basketball tournament. I love watching football on Saturdays and Sundays. I love watching hockey and college basketball and most any other sport I can find most weekends, so this is not a condemnation of sports or the money that is paid to athletes because as with most anything else in this country, the market sets the prices that we will bear, and the exorbitant salaries of athletes are just another side of sports and commerce. This is a condemnation of the lack of value we place on education and knowledge.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The wisdom of Danae

This is such a great cartoon. See stinky boys are not the only ones who should be inventors, Danae says so.

Friday, March 14, 2008

YouTube Friday

Yeah, I know this YouTube Friday is really early and shit, but I really wanted to do this one and I am not sure how much I will actually be on my computer this weekend.

This YouTube Friday is because of Sir Robin. In his movie quote meme, he had quotes from two movies that I love, love, love, but I never remember and it seemed no one knew so I am here to give you a glimpse at two really great movies or just remind you about how great they both are if you already know either or both of them.

First, Scotland, PA. This movie is Macbeth set in 1970s small town in America. Maura Tierny is incredible in this film as is Christopher Walken and the small part played by Andy Dick is so great.

And then there is Rosencrantz and and Guildenstern are Dead which is based upon Hamlet. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are minor parts in Hamlet appearing in I believe one or two scenes. Tom Stoppard then created a play around these two characters in which several scenes are recreated in Hamlet from their perspective with many more scenes just these two characters talking among other things. The two main characters are played by Tim Roth and Gary Oldman, both of which are really good.

This scene is actually the one in which the quote that Sir Robin chose appears and Richard Dreyfuss also makes an appearance.

This is possibly my favorite scene in the whole movie.

If you like Shakespearean plays and who doesn't, then I highly recommend both of these films.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Travelin' Pt. 2

Here is my second post about the Windy City since I will be travelin' there this weekend. The same song by two all-time great blues guitarists.

Sweet Home Chicago- Buddy Guy

And now the original.

Sweet Home Chicago- Robert Johnson

Monday, March 10, 2008

Travelin' Pt.1

Since I am travelin' this weekend and am excited about this. I will probably have at least one post a day about my destination, well maybe one a day. I know I have at least two posts, not sure what will happen after those two. So here goes.

This was my team when I was younger from the mid-1980s till when I graduated from high school. After that, I just gave up on the NBA.

This is the team of players and introduction I remember, it even kind of gives me goose bumps still to hear these players' names.

Chicago Bulls 1992 introduction

And the introduction from the year I graduated high school.

Chicago Bulls 1997 introduction

I had to just look that up, but the first one is from the second championship run and the last one is from the fifth championship run. Now those were the years, for me, and the NBA, I have not been able to really get into it since that team was dismantled by Jerry Krause and yes I still harbor animosity toward Krause for getting rid of the Phil Jackson and for dismantling that team.

Movie Meme Updated

I have updated the movie quote meme that I had done with the answers for the few that were left if you are interested.

Do they have more fun?

As I was pulling into the parking lot at my apartment complex, I saw a women with obviously dyed platinum blond hair and I wondered why she had done that? I am not sure I understand why people dye their hair blond, now dyeing it I have no issue with and for a long time I was dying my hair red. I understand if you are trying to cover gray hair or if you just want a change, but I have never really understood blond as a choice to dye your hair. I wonder if this is somehow tied back into that whole notion of beauty especially female beauty of having blond hair and blue eyes or if blond hair just seems more fun to some people. I guess I will never understand, but there are so many more stupid things that people do to make themselves potentially attractive to others such as breast implants, tummy tucks, liposuction, and other cosmetic surgery that dying your hair blond seems pretty minor, I guess.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Quick political post

I seem to be waffling back and forth on this whole democratic primary. I think I am coming to support Obama, but I still wish that Edwards was in this campaign, even as a VP candidate, especially Obama's VP candidate. This would help me feel better about voting for him in many ways. But I think that he is probably the better candidate. This was sparked by a great post by Dr. Monkey that says why I support Obama in many ways better than I can say it, so just go over to his site and read this. DCup also inspired me toward this position with this great post as I think that Obama has been less negative than Clinton.

This being said, I will not take my Edwards '08 banner from my site as this is still who I want for the next election.

Six Word Meme

Mathman tagged me to do a six word memoir. So here is my best effort.

Here are the rules:
1. Write your own six word memoir.
2. Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you’d like.
3. Link to the person that tagged you in your post.
4. Tag five more blogs with links.
5. And don’t forget to leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play!

Not a jar, do not label.

This was much harder than I thought it would be. I have been thinking about this all day and this is pretty much the best I could do. Since I struggled so mightily with this one, I am not going to officially tag anyone, but I would encourage anyone who wants to do this, to please do it and then let me know in comments that you did so. That way I can see what other people came up with.

Friday, March 7, 2008

YouTube Friday

I started to think about penguins for some odd reason yesterday so I found some clips from my favorite movie that has penguins in it. Yes, I have a favorite penguin movie, The Farce of the Penguins.

I don't usually like Gilbert Gottfried, but this scene I really like.

See global warming is bad for all of us.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Movie Meme

Seeing as how y'all know I love movies, I decided I needed to do this meme that I saw over at Harp and Sword, which if you aren't reading you need to start to read.

Instructions: Look up 15 of your favorite films on IMDb and take a quote from each. List them below. When someone guesses the quote correctly, cross it off the list. Leave a comment with your answers. And NO CHEATING.

UPDATED: The answers.

1. Dear Buddha, please bring me a pony and a plastic rocket... (Serenity, from Robin)
2. This comet came crashing into the earth. BAM! Total devastation. No celebrities, no cable TV, *no water*! It hasn't rained in 11 years. Now, 20 people gotta squeeze into the same bathtub. So it ain't all bad. (Tank Girl, from Gourmet Goddess)
3. If the people we love are stolen from us, the way to have them live on is to never stop loving them. Buildings burn, people die, but real love is forever. (The Crow, from Gourmet Goddess)
4. No, "Through the Looking Glass". That poem, "The Walrus and the Carpenter" that's an indictment of organized religion. The walrus, with his girth and his good nature, he obviously represents either Buddha, or... or with his tusk, the Hindu elephant god, Lord Ganesha. That takes care of your Eastern religions. Now the carpenter, which is an obvious reference to Jesus Christ, who was raised a carpenter's son, he represents the Western religions. Now in the poem, what do they do... what do they do? They... They dupe all these oysters into following them and then proceed to shuck and devour the helpless creatures en masse. I don't know what that says to you, but to me it says that following these faiths based on mythological figures ensure the destruction of one's inner-being. Organized religion destroys who we are by inhibiting our actions... by inhibiting our decisions, out of... out of fear of some... some intangible parent figure who... who shakes a finger at us from thousands of years ago and says... and says, "Do it - Do it and I'll fuckin' spank you." (Dogma, from Brave Sir Robin)

Garden State
5. You'll see when you move out it just sort of happens one day one day and it's just gone. And you can never get it back. It's like you get homesick for a place that doesn't exist. I mean it's like this rite of passage, you know. You won't have this feeling again until you create a new idea of home for yourself, you know, for your kids, for the family you start, it's like a cycle or something. I miss the idea of it. Maybe that's all family really is. A group of people who miss the same imaginary place.

6. I'm a mog: half man, half dog. I'm my own best friend! (Spaceballs, from Brave Sir Robin)
7. You be careful. People in masks cannot be trusted. (Princess Bride, from Thunderbird)

8. I don't know about what happened... because once you start writing, it ALL becomes fiction.

9. McManus came to us with the job, Fenster got the vans, Hockney supplied the hardware, I came through with how to do it so no one got killed, but Keaton... Keaton put on the finishing touch. A little 'fuck you' from the five of us to the NYPD. (Usual Suspects, Thunderbird)

10. Memory can change the shape of a room; it can change the color of a car. And memories can be distorted. They're just an interpretation, they're not a record, and they're irrelevant if you have the facts.

Batman Begins
11. When a forest grows too wild, a purging fire is inevitable and natural.

12. I know *exactly* what you mean. Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life, that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I'm talking about?(The Matrix, from DCap)

13. Hey, how come Andrew gets to get up? If he gets up, we'll all get up, it'll be anarchy. (Breakfast Club, from DCup)

14. It is clear that I must find my other half. But is it a he or a she? What does this person look like? Identical to me? Or somehow complimentary? Does my other half have what I don't? Did he get the looks? The luck? The love? Were we really separated forceably or did he just run off with the good stuff? Or did I? Will this person embarrass me? What about sex? Is that how we put ourselves back together again? Or can two people actually become one again? (Hedwig and the Angry Inch, from Gourmet Goddess)
15. Wow. How about this: I work for you; in exchange, you teach me how to clean. Hmmm? What do you think? I'll clean your place, I'll do the shopping, I'll even wash your clothes. Is it a deal? (The professional, from Thunderbird)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Are Practical (and Affordable) Preschools Better?

I found this article over at Mathman's blog and knew that I had to read it since I am a preschool teacher. It is a quick perspective of one women who lives in Sweden and her discussion of the Swedish early childcare system. The first thing that struck me is that according to Swedish law, parental leave is 18 months. This means that parents are able to stay home with their children to help them to gain the experiences and knowledge they need for the first year and a half of their life. I know in many US childcare settings children start at closer to three months of age. I know this is obvious, but that is a difference of fifteen months. That amount of time is huge in the development of children. The first year of a child's life there is more brain growth and development than in any other time in their lives. So the ability of the family to be able to help the child to gain these experiences and not have to put them in childcare is to a great advantage to the family and specifically the child. This also allows the parents to bond with the child and create important attachments between parent and child that will last well into adulthood according to the theories of Bowlby and Ainsworth.

Second, the fees for Swedish childcare are determined according to the household income with a maximum set at about $200/month per child. Now I don't know if you have ever looked for childcare for a child, but according to this site childcare will cost you from $100 to $400 per week per child, which sounds about right to me. So that means you will spend at least $400/month on childcare alone and for a higher quality childcare you are looking at $1600/month. So obviously Sweden's childcare which is all high quality as it is government run or at least it is all of a similar quality is a quarter of what we pay here for what I am guessing is similar care. In addition, the Swedish government provides a monthly allowance for each child that almost totally covers the entire cost of the early childcare.

Third and finally, this point may be a bit more theoretical and not make total sense to you if you are thinking about your own early childcare, but the Swedish childcare curriculum focuses more on the needed social skills and the needed abilities to work as a community in the classroom over more academic skills such as reading and math. Now I know some of you may say that we need to force kids to learn to read and do math as they will not know how to do it when they go to kindergarten or into elementary school, thus setting themselves up for failure when they have to take the mandated testing in third grade for No Child Left Behind. Well, first, the NCLB crap is just that, it is crap. Standardized testing does nothing more that reward a teacher who can teach to a test and students who can take a standardized test. So as a student, if you are not a good test taker you are screwed, no matter if you know the material or not. And if you are not a white, middle class child, most research shows that you are at a disadvantage anyway when you take the standardized test as they are written for and by white, middle class people.

I could, of course, go on about NCLB, but I will stop there to show the other fallacy in the whole idea that children need to be taught to read and do math in preschool prior to going to kindergarten. That is simply that if a child does not have the skills to function in a classroom, their academic skills become almost void. I have had and still do have children who know their ABCs and can count, in fact I have one now who at three could say all of his ABCs and could count to 100, but he is disruptive to the rest of the class, he does not know how to sit still and he does not know how to listen to the teachers. So his knowledge does him no good as he is not able to learn new information because he lacks the skills to function in a classroom. Most kindergarten teachers will tell you that they would prefer to have a child who only knows a few letters, but can sit and listen in the academic setting than one who knows all of his letters and can count, but cannot sit still for more than five minutes. This information comes both anecdotally from friends of mine who are kindergarten teachers and from articles I have read from a variety of different sources from Newsweek to more academic and carefully researched journals. So, if the Swedish curriculum focuses on children being ready for school socially and emotionally, they will become more ready academically.

As Americans we wonder why our education system is lacking when compared to most any other nation (18th out of 24 nations worldwide according to a study by UNICEF in this article). We force parents to put our children into day care at too young an age, only the most wealthy can afford high quality childcare and we do not teach children how to function in a formal education setting. As was said by my mom when I emailed her this article, "I am sure there are advantages to the American education system, I am just not sure what they are."

Monday, March 3, 2008

Obama on education

I am not sure I support him on all of his issues and I don't really think that he is the best candidate, although I don't really like Clinton either, but this video on Obama and education, I really like. It is very inspiring, but I am not sure he gives a lot of specifics on what he would do to change some of the problems we have with education, but he does want to raise the salary of teachers and I am all in favor of that, being a teacher myself.

h/t to Comrade Kevin

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Movie Review- Heavenly Creatures

Heavenly Creatures is the story of two girls in New Zealand between the years of 1953-1954 and the friendship and ultimately tragedy that surrounds this friendship. Pauline and Juliete become friends at a girls school in Christchurch, New Zealand where they bond over a fantasy story they create together in their minds. This fantasy story becomes very real to them so much so that they begin to call each other by the names of characters in their "novel". We also see scenes where they imagine their world exists with them in it. These scenes are amazing as they are a combination of the two actresses and these clay figurines that they have made that are now life size. Both of the girls are trying to use this story as a means to escape their own lives and the tragedy that they see their lives becoming. The girls become very attached and this attachment leads to tragedy and murder as they try to continue their relationship even after both sets of parents are trying to separate the girls. The movie is based upon a true story and the characters and diary entries of Pauline.

Heavenly creatures is directed by Peter Jackson who later went on to do the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and again the backdrop of New Zealand is used superbly. Juliete is played by Kate Winslet in what seems to be her first motion picture film. She is incredible as a young women who seems to be cheerful and imaginative and yet is trying to cover her disappointment and frustration with her parents. Melanie Lynskey plays Pauline incredibly as well especially considering that this was her first acting role anywhere. This is an incredible film and so very scary and interesting cause the whole movie is true.

I have to end this review with possibly my favorite exchange in the whole movie and one of my favorite of any movie.

Pauline Parker: Oh, I wish James Mason would do a religious picture! He'd be perfect as Jesus!
Juliet Hulme: Daddy says the Bible's a load of bunkum!
Pauline Parker: But we're all going to heaven?
Juliet Hulme: I'M not! I'M going to The Fourth World... it's sort of like heaven. Only better, because there aren't any Christians!