Archive for February, 2011

Wheeeee, err I mean Wii

February 26, 2011 By: nooccar Category: Claire, Leisure

Donna got a Wii for graduation. The primary person who plays it is Claire who knows she better not even ask on a school night. Usually Claire’s MO on a Friday is get home from school pop in a movie, check her DVR list from the week or boot up the Wii. Tonight it was Wii. She began with some of the basic Wii generic games like Frisbee.

I hesitated for years about getting a gaming system in my own home. I remember college, high school and younger when we’d get into a game and play until the sun came up (literally). I finally acquiesced and knew I’d stay away. Well, Donna came home and we were enjoying watching Claire play so we decided to play a game with her. We picked Super Mario Bros because a) we only had to of the extra little pack thingies that go on the remote and b) cause, it’s totally Old Skool (I killed it on Nintendo 64).

It was 7pm. We started playing. We had such a great time, yelling at the tv, spilling over our beer (me, not Claire), having Donna video record us jumping around, etc… At ten til 9pm we made Claire go to bed, saved the game, and turned off the console before we played well into the night.

This was truly the very best night we three had together in a long time. Awesome awesome.

Like father like daughter. Night light reading

February 22, 2011 By: nooccar Category: Books, Claire, dadbloggers, Parenthood

At 7:30pm tonight Claire was tucked into bed. I remember when I was young I would hide a book in bed and read. So when Claire started to want to take a book to bed, I could not be hypocritical. With that said, Donna went down the hall at 8pm and her door was open; she was reading. Donna closed the door so we could watch “adult tv” (i.e. cable shows not meant for little ones). At 8:31 I had to reset the server (in Claire’s closet). Guess who was still reading??? I asked her what was happening to check her reading comp. She proceeded to summarize last large section of the book before reading the current page to me, smoothly with a single error in the last sentence when she got to the word “attractive”. I asked if she’d begun the book tonight, and she said yes. She was on page 22 of a Junie B Jones book.

After rebooting the server, I kissed her, closed the door, shook my head and went back to the living room.

Times are a’ changing

February 17, 2011 By: nooccar Category: Claire, Parenthood

Friday night was another first for me. My little girl, the baby I cradled in my arms, the toddler I drove to school daily, my little girl, Claire, had her first school dance. Yes, folks, a school dance. Yes, she’s in kindergarten. But remember, she goes to a K-6 school and I guess older kids like to dance and enjoy their friends outside of school.

I’ve always wanted to be a big part of my daughter’s life, and as an educator I understand the importance of Parent Teacher Organizations. As an active member, I offered my photography skills and equipment to the PTO for the dance. We charged a few dollars to cover the printing of the photos and I set up a studio backdrop in the corner.

I wasn’t sure how Claire would react to this dance but I’m usually not to concerned. She’s very social, but it’s funny because occasionally she gets very shy over the oddest things. I currently teach in a school that did not open with upperclass (i.e. we did not have seniors), so school dances were odd that first year because there were no seniors to model. This wasn’t an issue with Claire and her friends because five grade levels of girls (and some boys) showed them what to do. Claire latched onto her friend M___ quickly, bought a glow necklace with four quarters I gave her (I spent a few minutes convincing her that four quarters really was a dollar), and then they were off.

The dance was in their multipurpose room (read: gym, theatre, cafeteria, meeting room, etc…), there was a single door (I blocked the other with my setup), there were security guards, teachers, and the principal. I wasn’t too worried when she ran out of view from time to time. She fluctuated from jumping around with M____ and a young boy she knew to being shy and hanging from me as I did my job (she’s pushing 4′ tall so that’s harder than it use to be).

I’ve been to hundreds of school dances but this was really odd for me. Not so much because my child was a participant, but more so because everyone was so small and they were dancing innocently. They were dancing for fun and going home with mum or dad. This was refreshingly fun. The music was different, too. No more “clean versions” of this or that song. No more songs that cause the entire room to chant out things that make every adult in the room uncomfortable. What I did hear was the students chanting out Sponge Bob Square Pants (no I did not know that show has its own song); in our day we chanted added to lines to Mony Mony. Remember that? Most of the songs I didn’t recognize and I bet some of them I wish I never had to hear. I am sure Justin Bieber (or Beaver as some of the fifth graders will say) sang a tune or two. Miley Cyrus (god curse her soul) probably crooned another one or two. Probably many of the people who won a Grammy two days after this dance were played by a pretty good DJ, and, as my wife pointed out, half of the kids sang along to Katy Perry’s Fireworks (probably a bit too mature for many of the kids but this song has a positive G-rated message).

After the weekend between being a bit (honestly) freaked out by my daughter’s first school dance and watching the Grammy’s nominees most of whom I did not recognize, I came to a few frank realizations. I need to be more open-minded about contemporary sugar pop culture because no matter how much I try to indoctrinate Claire in bands like Linkin Park and Pink Floyd and keep her from the youth culture propaganda of companies like Disney, I can’t. I can love my daughter, I can educate her, I can teacher her how to read media literacies, and I can have discussions with her about m choices and her choices. Yes, I have my opinions and they are usually quite strong, but between you and me times are a’changing.

Claire and me at the dance

127 Hours: The Little Film that could

February 13, 2011 By: nooccar Category: Movies, Reviews

When James Franco first came onto the scene, I didn’t think much of him. I remember when he was Peter Parker’s love/hate BFF, and then later he impressed me as Harvey Milk’s lover in Milk. Living in the Southwest, when I heard of the true story of Aron Ralston, the canyoneer who cut his own arm off to save his life in Utah’s Bluejohn Canyon, I didn’t think much of it. People are canoyneering and climbing all over the Southwest everyday; a person close to me even lost a family member who fell from local rocks. I’d been curious to see this one, especially with my wife heading on a canyon adventure soon.

In the opening credits when i saw Danny Boyle directed, I knew I’d see something special. The opening sequences with the highly saturated film appealed to me, and the attention to the details of what Ralston actually wore was done well. When Franco went out into the Utah desert he met up with the only two characters two are actually significant in the film (if you can call it that since most of the film is just him alone). I was pleasantly surprised to see Amber Tamblyn as one of the lost women he comes upon and spends a few hours enjoying a canyon dip with. All offer characters, including an older looking Treat Williams, as his father, are seen in hallucinations and flashbacks.

The flashbacks were done well and the balance between Franco’s plight and his memories were done well. Moreover, the angles Boyle uses, such as when Ralston takes inventory of his gear on top of the boulder. The only time the hallucinations bothered me was right before he cut off his arm and he sees everyone he knows on the couch watching him.

Boyle’s interpretation of Ralston’s isolationism bothered me because the purpose behind his lonesome adventures weren’t well explained. His past relationship with the blonde was fine but what caused her to leave him? Because he enjoyed being alone? Even in the stadium in his flashback, he felt alone. But it was never explained.

His cutting off his arm and fun discussion of getting a real tool (Leatherman, anyone?) rather than a cheap knock off headed the audience towards the natural conclusion. I would be surprised by the audience who wasn’t aware than he lives, and this film didn’t watch as if anyone was waiting to see what would but happen but more of HOW it happens in the film.

The angles, makeup and acting of Ralston breaking and subsequent sawing off of his arm were so realistic that I’ve heard of people who became sick in the theatres.

While the whole loner psyche and boulder metaphor, for me, worked very well, I was still bothered by the hopelessness of his situation (even after he escaped out of the canyon into a ranger helicopter), but Boyle wrapped everything into a neat bow for me with his epilogue that included a real life Ralston, his current wife and newborn, and footage of him continuing a journey of adventure — just this time with people definitely knowing where he was going.

The editing award could go to this little film, but it’s a little film. I’d be surprised if the Academy gave the nod to 127 Hours for Best Actor or Best Picture, As for score, it’s up in the air often but with Reznor and Zimmer on track to fight it out, Rahman’s nominee in that category may be his award. Same with Best Song, Rhaman’s up against Randy Newman. Good luck with that. As for me, Firth has the Best Actor tied up but Franco deserves all the accolades for this fantastic little film.

CC image posted by Digital Trends.

Here it comes

February 04, 2011 By: nooccar Category: Claire, Parenthood

Well, I guess I should tell you a little about myself. There are things in our pop culture world that bug the hell out of me. Some of these things include celebrity teen girls getting pregnant, High School Musical actors posing naked online, everything about Miley Cyrus, and Britney Spears psychosis. With that said, here’s a recent conversation with my 5year old on the way home from Kindergarten.

Claire: “Dad, we had an argument today.” She said this as if I knew who “we” are. I assumed it was the few kids she ALWAYS talked about after school each.

“Oh, yeah?” I asked innocently. “What happened?” Kindergarteners can really blow things out of hand.

“Well, J______ said it’s Justin Beiber. But I know his name is Justin Beaver.”

I gulp audibly. Oh know. “Um…. well, Claire, who is that?”

“He’s a singer, Daddy. J_____ loves his songs. She and O______ said his name is Justin Beaver.” She presses.

“Well, have you ever heard his music?” I ask, almost fearing the response. I suddenly could see the music posters and pop idol posters she’d want for her room. I remembered my own Simon LeBon photos on the ceiling above my bed, and the zipper jacket I just had to have.

“No, but J____ has.”

“Oh.” I just keep driving quietly and Claire seems to drop the conversation. I head up the road wondering how I can raise a child outside of the pop culture, sugar pop garbage that permeates our lives. I seriously know that I can’t. I can share information about the media, I can teach her Media Literacy like I do in my classes every day, I can love my daughter, teach her my values, and I can trust her.

After a few miles of silence, “Claire? His name is Justin Beiber.”

History's Little Witness
Posted by Jeff Glagowski on Flickr.

Oscar Review: The Fighter

February 03, 2011 By: nooccar Category: Movies, Reviews

The Fighter is a supposedly classic boxer film in the vein of Rocky or Cinderella Man, set as so many films have been in the past decade in the outskirts of Boston, MA. Dicky Ecklund’s, as a has been boxer, (played by Christian Bale), only claim to fame is fighting Sugar Ray Leonard and then dropping out of the sport and into a life of drugs and crime, while his younger half-brother, Wahlberg’s “Irish” Micky Ward, hopes to become the next welterweight champion of the world. Trained by Bale, Wahlberg loses bout after bout through the family’s negativity towards him. His mother Alice, played by Melissa Leo, and his plethora of high-haired, poured into jeans sisters focus on Wahlberg’s downfalls rather than praising him when he does well. Half of the time Bale doesn’t even show up to spar with Wahlberg because he’s off in a crack house getting high with a forgettable ruffian group. His career’s on the skids, and frankly, I don’t see Wahlberg’s character caring enough about that.

The Fighter

The shift occurs when he meets Charlene, a bar maid played well by Amy Adams, and asks for a date. Leo, his manager, immediately becomes jealous as another woman steps into her son’s life –not so much because he’s her pride and joy, but because Charlene shows Micky that he can be great if he can get out from under the shadow of his has been boxer brother and overpowering manager mother. Adams realizes his career is on the rocks and his own family calls him a “stepping stone” boxer, or one that other boxers use and knock out, to better their own records on the way to fame. She immediately butts heads with Leo and tries to help Wahlberg find his true potential.

While ultimately he does find that potential and does win the championship, Wahlberg’s Ward doesn’t seem to really care. There’s no high emotion scene between him, Leo, and Bale, nor does he have a major falling out with Adams. (There’s a minor bout between them when Wahlberg reneges on his agreement to stop training with Bale, but he doesn’t convince the audience that he cares to win her back.)

What makes this a great film isn’t about overcoming adversity or even Bale’s Ecklund’s fight to get clean (it’s less of a challenge to get clean while incarcerated than on the streets of Massachusetts), and while a non-fiction bio pic won’t necessarily have grandiose unrealistic scenes, this film does have a great supporting cast. Adams perfectly plays the lost-in-the-city, never escaped through education, bar maid who falls in love. Leo’s Alice comes off as the over protective mother who ultimately loves her sons too much, and Bale. Well, Bale dropped weight for the role, and literally became Dicky Ecklund. Having already won the Globe and SAG Award, I wouldn’t want to be up against him for the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor this award’s season. Leo and Adams are boxing it out right up there, too, with their nominations for The Fighter’s Best Supporting Actress award.

This film will take home acting awards and maybe a few others albeit there are other films in the running who are more apt for Best Picture (from the safe Kings Speech to the critical favorite of Black Swan or the lovely The Kids Are All Right).

The Fighter’s title is a misnomer in that general audiences may consider this a boxing movie in which the star wins some, loses some, overcomes adversity, and then makes it big. But this film isn’t about that, nor do I think Wahlberg, playing Micky Ward, is even the title character in the film. In some ways all the major players are The Fighter.

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