Thursday, July 31, 2008

Just Once...

“A little movie called Once gave me enough inspiration to last the rest of the year,” said Steven Spielberg.

Perhaps if Steven Spielberg recognizes your film, mass audience acceptance becomes a bit less important. Clay and I have been debating this very issue over at Meet Me In Montauk (Miami Blues post). Regardless, I encourage anyone who hasn't yet seen Once to do so. And those of you who have seen it, go ahead and see it again :-) The moment captured below comes early in the film, so it won't serve as a spoiler if you haven't gotten around to renting this gem yet (really - what are you waiting for?) It more forcefully and eloquently expresses why I love this film than I ever could, so just go ahead and watch it.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sophia Swims

After an evening of Enchanted, popcorn and stories, the cousins had a sleepover (or at least a share the bedroom over, as some slept more than others ;-) Today they hung out, ordered McDonalds for lunch (where Sophia requested, "Can you tell them I'm a boy?" as she correctly resents the superior toys the fast food empire provides boys in their Happy Meals. Happy if you're a boy maybe!)

When afternoon storms threatened, they opted to watch Monsters, Inc. instead of going to the theater to see Space Chimps or choosing Clay's beloved Ratatouille :-) Finally, the skies cleared, and the kids hit the pool. Sophia showed us how she can swim underwater like a pro. With some coaxing, she also worked on swimming above water, by assuming the role of Purdy, the dalmation, while Maddie opted to be a golden retriever and Daniel a bull dog. Lots of dog paddling ensued. Check out the video below and photos above for all the action.

Things are gonna get easier...

After reading Malagueta and Meet Me in Montauk's "song of the day" posts, I've been reflecting on why we gravitate toward the music we love. Yesterday I read a blog entry on the joys of watching films that was posted nearly two years ago ( that caused me to do some further reflecting. Finally, this morning I decided to poke around the web for some song lists and came across this one: , which I vaguely remember reading (or reading about) when it first came out several years ago but which is newly controversial any time you start judging the songs that appear against the ones that don't.

I tell you all of this to provide the genesis of this blog entry (whether you want it or not!) When I got to #392 on the Rolling Stone list, "O-o-h Child" by The Five Stairsteps, I started thinking about Meet Me in Montauk's definition of hip. How would children born in a later era know about many of these "greatest songs of all time"? Either their parents (or other older friends or family members) had introduced them to these gems or, as often has happened to me over the years, they "discovered" them through a film. The above video has already revealed to you where I first heard "O-o-o Child," though I don't know if I ever knew it was performed by a group called The Five Stairsteps before perusing the list this morning. I'll never forget sitting in the theater, hearing that song, and watching the images on the screen. I became an instant (and lifelong) fan of Laurence ("don't call me Larry") Fishburne, Cuba ("I'll never make another good movie") Gooding and John ("I'll never make as good a movie") Singleton. More than those impressions, however, was the impression the song made. I have never been able to hear a bar of it without thinking of Boyz N the Hood.

This is also true for Dusty Springield's "Son of a Preacher Man" (#240 and forever associated with Pulp Fiction and Uma Thurman), "You've Lost that Lovin Feelin" (#34 and forever associated with "Top Gun" Tom Cruise serenading Kelly McGillis), and "You Can't Always Get What You Want" (#100 and forever associated with the opening scene of The Big Chill). Now, I know some of you will be incredulous that I heard these songs for the first time in the context of the films I just mentioned. Sue me. I'm sure some of you were introduced to songs through films. And I'm not talking about songs that were written for films; that's another blog entry entirely (for instance, I didn't know until years later that "Moon River" was written for Breakfast at Tiffany's, though I'll always choose to picture Big and Carrie dancing to it in an empty NY apt.)

If you choose to watch the Sex and the City clip, you can consider it a preview to future postings I may do on "best male tv characters of all time," "best tv couples of all time," and "Funniest supporting characters [Samantha "Why would anyone leave NY" Jones and Miranda "No" Hobbes] of all time."

In the meantime, I'd love to learn about your strongest film/song associations. Please share. :-)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Grooming our own Design Star

Warming to the task at hand, Heather has reimagined the look of this post and sent me an updated photo of herself. What design sense :-) Get voting, folks. We have work to do.

Okay, I know I'm a sap. We all know I'm a sap. Still, Design Star's finale just about did me in. Matt and Jennifer, my two favorite contestants all season long, had to design and execute a kitchen/dining room/living room remodel for two families left in shambles after Hurricane Katrina. The father of the first family is a police officer; the father of the second family is a firefighter. Lots of good design, quick construction, and hugs of appreciation. It was all more than I could take.

Meanwhile, I want to encourage you to go over to hgtv and vote for one of these deserving contestants. As I said, I love them both, so I'm voting for Matt in the hopes that Heather will have a better shot of winning when she competes next year ;-) You know, the whole girl/boy/girl pattern that tends to be established in these kinds of reality shows. A woman won last year. My thinking: If Matt wins this year, voters will be more likely to think it's a "girl's turn" next year.

So here is our mission:
One - vote Matt the Design Star of 2008.

Two - convince Heather to apply to be the Design Star of 2009.

Three - once Heather is a contestant on next season's show, contact everyone you know to VOTE for her :-)

Easy as pie, right? Meanwhile, if you want to have a good cry, watch some of the HGTV highlights from this past season and especially last night's finale (which is the recap of episode 8. You can find it the box to the side of the voting area). It's more effective than Terms of Endearment.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

One of the Unexpected Joys of Teaching


is hearing from former students, even years later, with messages, good wishes, questions, and, sometimes, silly videos. The clip above is courtesy of David, the youngest of three siblings (the older two are Adam and Alyson) I had the pleasure to teach. As you can tell from his Dancing Queen rendition, he is a riot. Smart, talented, and fearless. I hope I am lucky enough to have another couple dozen like him in my career. He certainly made the school day fly and taught me as much as I taught him. He's also a huge fan of The Princess Bride, so what more could you want from a student? :-)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Blog Borrowing

If you spend any leisure time on the computer, eventually you will encounter a blog. What, I've come to wonder, is blog etiquette? If you "lurk" without commenting are you a trespasser? If you comment on a stranger's blog, are you a stalker? If you are inspired by a fellow blogger's idea and decide to incorporate it into your own, are you a thief? Or a plagiarizer?
Malagueta (whose icon is the Tab can above) has provided most of my test cases for these questions, as she commented on my original blog before I knew who she was and I have since come to admire much about her various blogsites (see my virtual library, as well as Clay's "song a day" experiment). In fact, I'm thinking of incorporating Shelfari (the website that hosts the bookshelf widgit) into my English class, so I can thank Malagueta for more than just a fun addition to my blog. It might provide a fun addition to my class. I'll let you know if I do it, and if I do, how it works.

As I don't want to borrow Meet Me in Montauk's platform of writing about movies, I would like to direct you to check out that blog. There you will find my comments on some of the latest films (Batman: The Dark Knight - yuck, Kung Fu Panda - pretty darn good), as well as some insightful, witty and sometimes correct commentary by the blogger himself.

So... I'm off to troll more blogs to see what else is worth borrowing (would George Carlin be incensed by that word?) for my own.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Joyeux Anniversaire

We've just returned from a delightful week in Vermont and Montreal, where we helped Dad and Mom celebrate their birthdays (7/14 and 7/18 respectively). Their Middlebury home is lovely; the flowers are blooming, the weather is cool, and the pool is warm (enough). What more could you ask for.

The first full day of our vacation, we headed to Fort Ticonderoga. We took the ferry (where we watched our children) from Vermont to New York, which amazed the kids (and impressed their Mom, too). The Fort itself was fun and interesting (despite the bees), as was the little town where we had lunch, bought Ticonderoga pencils and drove to the top of a mountain, from which we could ostensibly see seven states.

Unfortunately, there was no clear delineation as to where one state ended and the other began. Nevertheless, the view was beautiful.

On Friday, we headed to Montreal. Where I proceeded to annoy everyone with my tres mal French accent. Still, it was fun to attempt to order in French, and Maddie, who has a very successful first year of French under her belt, enjoyed hearing it all around her. We hit all of the Montreal highlights - Vieux Montreal (Old Town), the Port, the Biodome (which housed four distinct ecosystems), the Underground city.

Mom and Dad went to the Museum of Contemporary Art, but they should get to share that story themselves. Suffice it to say that they didn't pick up anything in the museum gift store for their Vermont home.

Monday was Dad's big day; we greeted him with a morning celebration of balloons, presents, and a hand painted banner (courtesy of Maddie), then we got an early start back home (which, we figured, was the perfect way to honor Dad).
We stopped at Shelburne Museum on the way back, where the kids got to ride an antique carousel, sit in the desks of a one-room schoolhouse, and run around the Ticonderoga ferry. It was a great way to reacquaint ourselves with American ways ;-)

Our final day was spent enjoying Middlebury - the town, the house, the pool. Maddie and Dad played a Backgammon tournament (Maddie took the series by a hair) and Daniel started to wield a cue stick without instilling quite so much fear in those around him. We had our final creamee (at least I think that's how those wacky Vermonters spell it) and relaxed.

Of course, Daniel didn't want to leave "for another seven weeks."
Can you blame him?

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Fun on the 4th

Fiona relaxes in the pool, Daniel and Sophia have water wars, and we attempt to get a record number of people into the hot tub. After tons of fun, we had an indoor picnic of burgers, hot dogs, watermelon and the like. The rain held off until the evening, but the kids still got to light up sparklers after the storm. All in all, a fine Fourth of July. Except for the fact that I left my camera outside during the storm, a fact I didn't realize until I went to find it this morning to take a photo of the four cousins sleeping peacefully together. The last photo, therefore, is a cautionary tale -- make sure your camera is the first item to be brought inside if you live in Florida in the summer.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Birthday, America

We were on a cruise in Canada on July 4, 2007. We went to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty this past May.

We just completed our America the Beautiful tour a couple of weeks before this year's Independence Day. And this is the last July 4th that George Bush will be President.

So... I'm feeling particularly patriotic.

Happy July 4th!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Another new Gallup smile :-)

Daniel lost his second upper tooth today. The last one came out about 8 days ago. Two visits from the tooth fairy within two weeks - not bad. He's eager to try squirting water through his newly created gap, so if you're lucky enough to be within his squirting radius in the near future, hit the decks.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Maddie Got Braces!!

And she was so brave. I, on the other hand, need to be removed from the corner where I have balled up in a fetal position. Her grace and good humor amaze me. As you may be able to tell from the photo, we went with the clear brackets (?) in the front, so her smile is as lovely as ever. Needless to say, she is getting Cold Stone Creamery for dinner :-)