Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Superman Returns From the Video Store

Spoiler Alert: Many things to be said about the new Superman movie.

Ah Bryan Singer, your Muse has departed you. I was excited for this one and it disappointed me in many ways--not all ways--but many. I'd give the entire film a "C" and it's one I won't be seeing again. As bad as it was, Fantastic Four might be worth another look just to see Alba and the Thing in a cool suit. But this film goes back on the shelf.

Here's why:

1. The plot: Most of the film we've seen before (in Superman I and II) and it was done better the first time. We've already seen Supes get shnookered by Lex Luthor weilding green kryptonite, and we've seen Lex try to build himself sea-side real estate. We've also see Supes and Lois do their fly-through-the-sky-oh-my-god-isn't-this-romantic thing. Better the first time.

2. The tile: Superman returns? Who cares? The film's treatment of Superman's journey to his home-planet (it took him FIVE YEARS) can be summed up in Lois' attitude to Clark about his "trip" to other parts of the world: "I want to hear all about it sometime." She clearly doesn't care where he's been, and neither does the movie. It feels like Superman was at the video store returning a movie...maybe Superman III? The scene in which Superman "reappears" by saving a plane in the middle of a baseball field is cool; everybody applauds. But we NEVER get any exploration about the impact of Superman's absence...what an amazing missed opportunity. Nor do we get ANY exploration about how Superman's journey has impacted him. In fact, the film relies solely on narration from Brando (from Superman I) to give us any sort of idea/feeling about this journey.

3. The pacing: Remember seeing Jurassic Park for the first time and thinking "COMO ON! GET TO THE FRIGGIN DINOSAURS!" We wanted so bad to see one. Speilberg played us, so by the time we finally saw the dinosaur 1) we already related to the characters and 2) we smiled, cheered or said "Wow! Cool effects!" In Singer's film, we get the title and then we get Superman found in a field. We should have been tantalized! We should have seen a world reeling from the absence of our moral giant! We should have wanted SO BAD to see Superman that we wanted to die!

4. Lois Lane: Her notes must have been 1) don't show any positive feelings towards the world, your job or living creatures 2) except for your husband who you will kiss a lot like he was your brother 3) except for your freaky Children-of-the-Corn son who you will say nice things to and then immediately ignore--also, you will take your son into any situation which might be incredibly dangerous.

5. The friggin music: I love the Theme from Superman march. It makes me feel like I can fly. You like it too...and you'd better. Because you will hear it FORTY-SEVEN TIMES. It plays for the opening credits. It plays while Superman saves a plane. It plays while Superman walks home from the video store. It plays while Lex Luthor is taking a shower.

6. Stupid Characters: 1) Lois Lane takes her son to interview Lex Luthor. She sneaks aboard his yacht. She decides she wants to leave. Lex catches her and she acts as if she's just been kidnapped. What about the interview, stupid? 2) Lois' hubby: he flies a plane out of almost certain destruction until Lois says "We've got to go back!" cuz she has silently put together that Supes has kryptonite in him. He says "What? We can't!" She says "Please!" and he says "Okay." Jackass!!

7. Stupid plot-twist: Superman has a son! He looks like the kid in Sixth-Sense but can't act beyond wide-eyed stares. When he opens his mouth all you can see is the Omen. Look out Mom! There is NO WAY Lois Lane has Supes' son. It is physcially impossible. More on that in a later post.

Okay, there were some fun bits. Posy Parker doing her Posy Parker thing was fun. I liked seeing one fluffy dog cannibalize another fluffy dog, and I liked Spacey doing his crazy Lex routine (you saw it in the previews). Sadly, that Lex wasn't present throughout the rest of the film; we get instead the bored evil genius.

Alas, the evil genius of Bryan Singer where are you?

Monday, June 26, 2006


In All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque has his narrator tell us "terror can be endured so long as a man simply ducks;--but it kills if a man thinks about it."

I think he's probably right. Working with at risk-students, I had a kid take a swing at me. I remember thinking (as he pushed me and then reared back ready to throw a punch at my head) "Hey...he's going to hit me!" I was pretty amazed and a little frustrated because I didn't want to get hit in the face. So I ducked. Then I ran. Perhaps it was more of a brisk walk...outside so another staff member could intervene. It wasn't until about an hour later that the fear BEGAN. And it stayed with me for a long time. The fear didn't really have a focus; it was just this feeling, this emotional image of that moment of rage aimed at me...ME...a nice guy who likes comic books and playing burping games. The thinking about it just fed the feeling. It would have been far easier to stay in that moment and just DUCK. The thinking about it afterwards just about killed me.

I suppose I live there most of the time, thinking and not-ducking. I don't-duck when I get notified that I owe a crap load of money in back-taxes. I don't-duck when I hear a noise in the house, in the middle of the night, and my wife and my dog look at me (from either side of the bed) as if to say "It's your job to check, man...we ain't doing a damn thing." Well, in that latter case, I guess sometimes I duck under the covers, but usually I end up going through all the scenarios in which an intruder is about to dissect us.

Maybe the world would be better if we just all started ducking more.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth?

Or just a political film?

I saw Al Gore's "documentary" of the above title. Gore gives a lecture using the latest in Apple technology (his laptop may get an Academy nomination for best supporting actor) about the realities of global warming...the realities being global warming is here, it is having major effects on the environment and, if not addressed immediately, the effects will be catastrophic environmentally and economically. The film is not great; interspersed throughout the "lecture" are personal anecdotes, tidbits of traumas and challenges in Gore's life which are attempts to show why Gore is so invested in these environmental concerns. Probably they are meant to give the audience a break, to keep the "class" awake. I found these parts mostly hokey and off-focus; I found the "lecture" much more interesting.

Gore's claims (from the movie and from the film's web-site:

The 14 hottest days in recorded history happened within the last 20 years. The hottest was 2005. The cause, Gore says, is global warming--which is caused by human beings.
The number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes has almost doubled in the last 30 years.
If the warming continues, we can expect catastrophic consequences:
Deaths from global warming will double in just 25 years -- to 300,000 people a year.
Global sea levels could rise by more than 20 feet with the loss of shelf ice in Greenland and Antarctica, devastating coastal areas worldwide.
The Arctic Ocean could be ice free in summer by 2050.
More than a million species worldwide could be driven to extinction by 2050.

The bit about sea levels rising is pretty crazy; he shows how that could happen by explaining that if Greeland's ice OR a piece of Antarctica slides into the sea it would be like dumping a piece of ice into a glass of water--which would rise. His nifty Powerbook shows us what that would look like: Florida almost disappears; my house would probably be under water in the San Francisco Bay Area, India, Japan, Africa...and many more regions would sea their coast-lines completely transformed.

Even crazier is when he demonstrates what would happen if melting glacier water from Greenland fell into the Atlantic; basically, it would disrupt and then completely stop the oceanic current which cycles warm and cold water through the ocean. The ocean would cool, the surrounding land would cool and Europe would be throw into an Ice Age.

Is this sciene or science fiction? I don't have all the facts so I can't comment. If it is all true then I would agree with Gore that we have a moral responsibility to act because many people would suffer, become homeless and die in the next 50 years or so.

Now I don't hear Gore saying we have to "save the earth" which is nice because then I would have to bring up George Carlin's bit about how the earth doesn't need to be saved, that maybe the earth just needed plastic bags and created humans to make plastic bags and now that there are enough plastic bags the earth can get rid of humans. It's funny cuz that, too, is an inconvenient truth: we are expendable (and probably recyclable).

Thursday, June 15, 2006

DNA is cool

Stumbled upon this report about a DNA database which will help reunite families which have been separated because of wars like the one in El Salvador. It's pretty amazing to think that an adopted child, now an adult might be able to find a lost sibling or possibly even a parent.

I think of the evening I stopped by work to pick up some essays only to find one of the custodians (I'll call him Al) watching a movie on the television in my classroom. He was watching a film depicting young Central American youths marching through the rain in a rainforest. Al was crying, and he at first seemed taken aback that I had come upon him. But he soon told me to watch with him.

"That was me," he said, pointing to the children.

He is Salvadorian. He had been one of the children brutalized by the conflict. He had been on the children forced to brutalize others...or face death.

How amazing that somebody with a mind of numbers and symbols--a scientist--saw the potential of the double-helix, to see a tool not to cure disease or solve a crime but to unite two people. Maybe not as earth-shattering as curing cancer. Just to know that the man or woman sitting with you, watching a film, pointing at the screen, telling you everything...just to know that he's your brother.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Patriot Ass

So it only took a spamming jackass to get me blogging again.  
First the e-mail (an alleged anti-political correctness
tirade by Andy Rooney) then my reply.

Andy Rooney said on "60 Minutes" a few weeks back:

I don't think being a minority makes you a victim of
anything except numbers. The only things I can think
of that are truly discriminatory are things like the
United Negro College Fund, Jet Magazine, Black
Entertainment Television, and Miss Black America. Try
to have things like the UnitedCaucasianCollege Fund,
Cloud Magazine, White Entertainment Television, or
Miss White America; and see what happens...Jesse
Jackson will be knocking down your door.

Guns do not make you a killer. I think killing makes
you a killer. You can kill someone with a baseball bat
or a car, but no one is trying to ban you from driving
to the ball game.

I believe they are called the Boy Scouts for a reason,
that is why there are no girls allowed. Girls belong

I think that if you feel homosexuality is wrong, it is
not a phobia, it is an opinion.

I have the right "NOT" to be tolerant of others
because they are different, weird, or tick me off.

When 70% of the people who get arrested are black, in
cities where 70% of the population is black, that is
not racial profiling, it is the Law of Probability.

I believe that if you are selling me a milkshake, a
pack of cigarettes, a newspaper or a hotel room, you
must do it in English! As a matter of fact, if you
want to be an American citizen, you should have to
speak English!

My father and grandfather didn't die in vain so you
can leave the countries you were born in to come over
and disrespect ours.

I think the police should have every right to shoot
your sorry ass if you threaten them after they tell
you to stop. If you can't understand the word "freeze"
or "stop" in English, see the above lines.

I don't think just because you were not born in this
country, you are qualified for any special loan
programs, government sponsored bank loans or tax
breaks, etc., so you can open a hotel, coffee shop,
trinket store, or any other business.

We did not go to the aid of certain foreign countries
and risk our lives in wars to defend their freedoms,
so that decades later they could come over here and
tell us our constitution is a living document; and
open to their interpretations.

I don't hate the rich I don't pity the poor.

I know pro wrestling is fake, but so are movies and
television. That doesn't stop you from watching them.

I think Bill Gates has every right to keep every penny
he made and continue to make more. If it ticks you
off, go and invent the next operating system that's
better, and put your name on the building.

It doesn't take a whole village to raise a child
right, but it does take a parent to stand up to the
kid; and smack their little behinds when necessary,
and say "NO!"

I think tattoos and piercing are fine if you want
them, but please don't pretend they are a political
statement. And, please, stay home until that new lip
ring heals. I don't want to look at your ugly infected
mouth as you serve me French fries!

I am sick of "Political Correctness." I know a lot of
black people, and not a single one of them was born in
Africa; so how can they be "African-Americans"?
Besides, Africa is a continent. I don't go around
saying I am a European-American because my great,
great, great, great, great, great grandfather was from
Europe. I am proud to be from America and nowhere else

And if you don't like my point of view, tough...


I was asked to send this on if I agree or delete if I
don't. It is said that 86% of Americans believe in
God. Therefore I have a very hard time understanding
why there is such a problem in having "In God We
Trust" on our money and having "God" in the Pledge of
Allegiance. Why don't we just tell the 14% to Shut Up
,lay down and BE QUIET!!!

If you agree, pass this on, if not delete. .

And here's my reply:

We already have White Entertainment Television. It's
called ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX TV.

True, believing homosexuality is wrong is an opinion.
It's just a stupid opinion.

I also have the right to NOT be tolerant of whoever
wrote this e-mail. That doesn't mean I get to put
him/her in jail or even pull his car over simply
because I don't like the way he looks.

The Law of Probability? If 70% of city-dwellers are
black then why aren't 70% of mayors, city officials,
police officers, CEOs and teachers black? If
California is quickly becoming a white-minority state,
shouldn't this "Law" mean that English speakers be
expected to order cigarettes, porn and copies of
"Jackass Monthly" in Spanish?

By "giving aid" to other foreign countires, which
bombing are you referring to?

Bill Gates is choosing NOT to keep every penny he made
and is pumping money into education and fighting
disease in other countires (including Africa by the

I doubt that 86% of Americans believe in God, but if
they do I am sure many would say that God, if he
exists, would say this e-mail writer is kind of
missing some major "themes" in the Old and New
Testament...say, like, tolerance...loving thy
neighbor...having faith...building a better know, little things like that.