Sidereal ramblings

Friday, October 28, 2005

Sci-fi Movies

Living alone, I don't often find myself laughing out loud at something, especially something I've read. I'm more inclined to a slight chuckle or a wry smile. But earlier today I was looking through the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly, and I started reading their review of the new movie, Doom, a movie I have absolutely zero interest in seeing. The first sentence of the review is: "It's pretty clear by now that characters in sci-fi movies have never seen a sci-fi movie." Kudos to reviewer Marc Bernardin for making me laugh.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Triple Feature

On February 4, 1995, my friend and one-time housemate K and I went to the Mall of America and watched five movies. Mostly just to see if we could. Later talk about making this an annual event never translated to reality. (K: Bonus points if you can name all five films we saw that day.) On March 15, 1997, my brother Dean (otherwise known as Bro) and I went to all three of the special edition re-releases of the Star Wars films (the original trilogy -- you know, the good ones). Other than those ocassions, I don't think I've seen more than two movies in a single day. Until yesterday, that is.

I took the day off yesterday from homework and everything else and drove up to the Cities with the intention of seeing four movies. I wimped out and skipped the last one, so I only saw three. First up was Mirrormask, the Neil Gaiman-written, Dave McKean-directed fantasy. The comic book fans out there might be familiar with McKean's work, mostly with Gaiman. He's a visual artist who combined drawing, photography, model-making, and other media to create unique covers for the Sandman series and some other comics, as well as working on Gaiman's two children's books. This is his first directing effort on a major release, and I have to say, I've never seen a movie anything like Mirrormask before. The story, though uniquely Gaimanesque, is pretty standard fantasy, but the visual look of the film is astounding. It combines live action, CGI animation, pencil-and-ink drawings, and the other weird stuff that McKean used in his art. I've never been a big fan of McKean's comic book work, but the movie looks amazing. See it in a theatre; the DVD, even on a big-screen TV, is not going to do this film justice.

Secondly, I saw North Country, the much-hyped new film from director Niki Caro (Whale Rider) starring Charlize Theron. While it's extremely well done, the more I think about it, the more problems I see with the movie itself. I won't go into detail, though I would still recommend it. Dylan's on the soundtrack. Filmed in northern Minnesota where the story takes place, I'm sure it'll be big around the state.

Lastly, we saw Thumbsucker, a delightfully weird slice of coming-of-age indy filmmaking. Loads of fun, laughs, and great little moments. Haven't heard of it? Hey, both Keanu Reaves and Vince Vaughan are in it!

Thanks to my buddy Jeff, who met me at the Lagoon Theatre in Minneapolis and saw Mirrormask and Thumbsucker with me. I love going to movies by myself, but there's definitely something to be said for going with someone intelligent and knowledgeable so that the film can be discussed afterwards.

Friday, October 21, 2005

I Need a Vacation

That may seem an odd thing to say, considering that I'm in the second day of what is essentially a four-day weekend, but read on.

I have an old spiral-bound notebook that for years I have kept as a vacation journal. The only time I used it was to record thoughts, impressions, and a daily record of where I was, what I saw, and what I did while on vacation. Earlier this afternoon, I was thinking about airplanes (due to a recent spat of movies about airplanes and trauma/violence), and was wondering when the last time I actually flew on a plane was. (For the record, it was 1991 when I went to New Mexico. Those who know me well, know that for a variety of reasons, I'd much rather drive than fly somewhere.)

As a teacher, I get quite a number of days off, and I truly appreciate that. I don't work a lot during the summer months, and essentially take those weeks as vacation time. (Well deserved vacation time, mind you.) But long weekends, spring and winter breaks, and even summers I tend to spend pretty close to home. I might go to the Cities for a day, or home to Winona for a few days. And, of course, my comic book geek buddies and I have our annual trip to Chicago every summer, but even that is only four or five days in length.

When looking at my long-unused vacation journel, I realized that it's been since 1995 that I actually took what most people would consider a vacation-type trip. You know, getting in the car, driving a long ways, staying in motels (or maybe with friends or family), and looking at scenery, tourist attractions, etc. I don't mean to sound whiny, but ten years is a long time. In '95, I drove through Canada (stayed in Toronto and Ottawa) to upstate New York to attend and take part in my friend Stix's wedding. I'm counting that as my last vacation experience.

I've been feeling the itch to get out of town for awhile now. Next April, we've got a ten-day spring break (about twice as long as ones in recent years). I'm hoping now that I can take that time and visit my brother in Phoenix, Arizona. I'll be driving, of course.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Solo Flight

On something of a whim today, I decided to go see the movie "Flight Plan" with Jodie Foster. (Umm...the movie stars Jodie Foster; she didn't go to the movie with me.) I hadn't been to see a movie in about three weeks, a really long time for me. "Flight Plan" was fairly entertaining and kept my interest throughout, given that I was able to suspend a great deal of disbelief for the whole situation, and the outcome was pretty obvious. I went to a 3:25 matinee. Our local theatre shows matinees only when school's not in session: summers, weekends, and school breaks, like this weekend's MEA. I was the only person in the theatre for this movie. The only one. This is only the second or third time this has ever happened to me. It's quite a trip being the sole viewer in a movie theatre. I'd recommend it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Grammar geek

I don't teach specific grammar lessons in my English 12 class. That is, I don't have pre-established grammar things to teach them. What I do do is to look through their papers that they write, and pull out common problems and then address those in class with the whole group. I spent our class periods today doing just that. I talked about the correct use of "lie" and "lay"; why it's "1970s" or "'70s" instead of "1970's"; the difference between "everyday" and "every day"; when to capitalize "Dad" but not "my dad" and a few other choice topics. As I was doing this, and afterwards while thinking about how it had gone, I realized that, oddly enough, I really love this stuff. Grammar can be fun, gosh darn it!

Just another reason and another way my students can see me as a big geek.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


For no particular reason, I've been listening to a lot of my various artists CDs lately. In particular, the last two have been part of a series called D.I.Y. In the early '90s, Rhino put out a series (10 or 12 discs, I think) of punk/new wave/pop music from the late '70s and early '80s, really good (and often obscure stuff). The only two I have are "Shake it Up: American Power Pop II (1978-80)" and "Starry Eyes: UK Pop II (1978-79)." I really like these discs. They're full of 3-chord, 3-minute power pop tunes, mostly dealing with that ever-present pop song subject, love. It's not really too "punky." The only known act on the U.S. version is the Romantics ("What I Like About You") and the U.K. disc features Joe Jackson, Squeeze, and XTC. Definitely more pop than punk. I'm pretty sure these are out of print, unfortunately. I'd like to find the entire set of them, but I never see them in used CD bins (and believe me, I look frequently). It's a lot of music I missed at the time, and was really glad to get into later on.

We don't need no steenking practice

I had to cancel our play practice for the second time this week tonight. At this point, we can't really use our stage much yet, because the girls are still playing volleyball in the gym there (tonight's their last home game before playoffs), so I had scheduled several practices just to run through the songs in the high school's music room. This was all well and good, except our piano player/accompaniest wasn't able to make a couple of practices this week, nor was my musical director due to prior and other commitments. It doesn't do the kids much good with just me there, as I can't really tell them anything about the music, other than whether it sounds good to me or not. So I ended up cancelling practices Tuesday and again tonight. I'm not really too worried about it as we're still in the very early stages and we should have plenty of time to make up for lost time now.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Another week's gone by

I haven't posted anything new here in a week. I'm sure this is disappointing to my loyal reader(s). It's partly that I don't have much to say, and partly that I'm really busy at school now that rehearsals have begun for our fall production. There have been days when I leave the house at 7:30 in the morning and don't get home until 9:30 at night. Because of that, I've been contemplating eliminating the blog altogether, though I haven't made any decisions yet.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Poor kid

I see in today's paper that actor Nicolas Cage had a son, who he named Kal-El Coppola Cage. Just because he didn't get to play Superman in the movies like he wanted is no reason to take it out on the poor kid.

Monday, October 03, 2005

A last gasp (hopefully) of summer

So I got home tonight at about 10:30 (I love 14-hour days; and, except for taking about 40 minutes off to have some supper, I was in the building for 14 hours straight today) and it's still 77 degrees out. And the dewpoint's gotta be high, 'cause the humidity ain't no picnic either. So it's the 3rd of October and I'm running the AC in my house tonight. What's wrong with this picture?

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Not-so-lost weekend

This weekend, the first one of October, felt more like a weekend in July with temps in the 80s both days. I took some time off this weekend. Spent Saturday in Mankato, where I'd gone to pick up my new glasses. I discovered when getting them fitted that I'd chosen the exact same frame for my new ones as I had for my previous ones. I guess if something ain't broke, don't fix it, right? After getting my glasses, I decided to check out the theatre in the mall to see what was playing, and to my pleasant surprise, Serenity, which I really wanted to see, was there. I had just missed the first show by ten minutes, but decided to hang around town for another three hours to catch the next showing. I ate some lunch, talked to my buddy Hybbert who was working at Game Stop, and killed some time in Barnes and Nobles. After the movie, I hung around the mall some more and ran into a woman who used to teach German at the high school I work at, but who left there a couple years ago. Got home about 9:00 that night, read some comics and watched the season premiere of Saturday Night Live.

Today, Sunday, I spent a lot of time, re-reading and listening to the music from the show I'm directing starting this week, and trying to put together a more comprehensive rehearsal schedule. All in all, it's been a pretty relaxing weekend, one I'm not sure will come again for awhile.