Monday, August 1, 2011

how following a fad saved me money

Popular comedian Jerry Seinfeld once said that you can always tell the best year of your father's life because he takes that clothing style and sticks with it for the rest of his life.  Being raised by two women, I applied that to my grandmother and concluded that the 70's must have been totally awesome for her!

I became a teenager in 1992, despite that, I have a strange affinity for 1980's teen melodrama, the movies written by late-great film writer John Hughes.  At any rate, 1992 was the year that Nirvana came out, categorized largely by the suicide of lead singer Kurt Cobain at the height of the band's popularity.  At any rate, it was the influence of Nirvana and similar alt-rock bands that made it cool to shop at thrift shops.  They were all about rebelling against brand-names, corporate ownership of art and other things, so most of their most devoted followers thought it was cool to wear things that were not the latest fashion.  Yes, fashion designers caught on to this and tried to imitate the style of these rebellious bands and make it high-fashion against it's will, but to this day, I have no problem getting my clothes at thrift shops.  True, I am 31 now and try to avoid 'going punk', but I never cared about brand names and fashion designers, which is why I identified with Nirvana and Green Day and all those bands and this has saved me money to this day.  It has helped me pioneering (as saving money always does) and given me 'freeness of speech' when it comes to mocking guys who wear the name of another man on their T-shirt (not all fashion designers are gay, but it's still gay to wear their name on your shirt...and even gayer if they ARE gay).

confessions of a former 'rock kid'

When I was a kid, the music that you listened to was very much associated with your identity...the 'rock kids' dressed different from the 'rap kids' (and all hung out together)...guys would even 'convert' to a different kind of music if their new girlfriend was into it (like people sometimes do with religions)...and even the weird group of artsy kids who prided themselves on being individuals all listened to the same kind of music.  It was older, less-popular music, which is why they were the weird artsy kids, but it was still associated with your identity.

Now that I am 31, I am WAY past the phase where your choices in music define you (as well I should be), so as a result, I (often with tumultuous enthusiasm) listen to the corniest muisc that I can get my hands on.  Yes, it is quite sad to see a 31 year old man cranking up a Miley Cyrus song when it comes on the radio in my car or singing along to either a boy band song or a solo song from a former boy band member (Nick Lachey etc.), but this is the sad effect of years of repression.  The fear of being made fun of if you liked Vanilla Ice or New Kids on the Block instead of Nirvana or Dr. Dre (back in 1992).  It's like the old metaphor about pushing the spring down too hard.  Once you let it go, it bounces all over the place...out of the point where you are singing 'Barbie Girl' by Aqua...trying to do both voices, the male and the the middle of a busy intersection with your windows up in the summertime.  Yes, I have air conditioning, but I prefer to let my 'inner-Whitney' out.

Of course, this lack of 'identity-association' with music has resulted in me discovering an appreciation for other forms of music, broadening my horizons into country, classical and different kinds of Latin music.  True, I look alot sillier trying to dance merengue than I did trying to mosh when I was a 'rock kid', but...small price to pay for the broadening of one's horizons.

Lahkhon, mi amigo

Well, it's been a few weeks since I officially quit studying Lao.  A month since I decided to back off of it so I could work on the volunteer building project that is now entering its final stage of completion.  I was planning to use that time to think about the matter.  I have been teetering back and forth between Lao and Spanish for some time.  I started with Lao because of all the Lao people I was meeting in the area in which I live.  I was studying with a group of people with a similar interest and I realized early on that most of them had studied easier languages prior to this...languages that use the same letters as we do, have spaces between the words and in which the vowels don't orbit the consonants like moons.  Yes, I made the mistake of comparing my progress to other people, which is Rule #1 of what NOT to do when you are learning ANYTHING...and that was what made me want to pick up Spanish.  I picked up a book on the subject and only got as far as the words that are similar in both languages (pastor, artista, democratico, romantico, erotico) before I decided to go back to Lao.  I saw the whole thing as a challenge and got a big kick out of the reaction we got from the local Lao community, who are not used to seeing white people speak their language.  Somewhere between starting to learn Lao and now, I suffered an injury that required eye surgery, but when I was fully recovered, I picked it up again.

I guess the big thing was, when I was hurt, I decided that I wanted to do some traveling.  I developed this desire during the time that I was hurt because that was what afforded me the time to do alot of reflection and realize what a sheltered life I had led up to that point.  I had no desire to travel when I was younger, but I do now (metal rod in my leg and bad right eye and all).  Between that and the example of friends of mine who have benefited from traveling abroad to Guyana, the Dominican Republic and Southeast Asia, I want to do some traveling and am currently researching and praying about how to do that.  Now, while the prospect of learning an obscure language that is spoken in the local community appealed to me at first, I have read alot about how actually moving to another country requires that you embrace, not only the language, but the culture as well.  My admittedly limited experience with both cultures locally has given me a fondness for one and an increasing discomfort with the other.  I met a Spanish speaking man at the aforementioned volunteer construction project and we were talking about learning other languages and he said something about how you have to "like speaking the langauge" if you are going to reach out like that.  Meaning that learning a few words and helping out locally is nice, but for bigger goals, you really have to embrace it.  The things that I have been learning about both cultures has drawn me away from one and towards the other.  Before, when I was complaining that Lao "wasn't clicking", I decided to stick with it, because I felt that was doing some good, but now I feel that it is incompatible with my current goals and have decided to focus on my desire to travel.  Spanish is spoken in more places.  I can watch most of the movies that I own in Spanish and I plan to do that with movies that I know by heart.  ("No!  Soy mi tu padre"---Darth Vader)  The appeal of studying an obscure language that is more useful in the real world than Klingon or Elvish has melted away and the practicality of my brain's limitations have led me to focus my efforts in another direction.  I applaud anyone who can pick it up and do well with it...and that is why I have tossed my YOU!!!


I just saw 'Toy Story 3' for the second time yesterday and I gotta tell you that Pixar is 12-for-12.  They always knock the ball out of the park as far as making movies that are incredibly imaginative, timeless and something that both the young and the older (but not too narrow-minded to dismiss the notion that all cartoons are for kids) can enjoy.  The one exception to this was 'A Bug's Life', which I thought was a little more aimed at younger kids than 'Finding Nemo' and 'The Incredibles', but the scene at the end with the bird was just GREAT!  So...11 and a half for 12.  When I say 'timeless', I am referring to alot of kids movies that come out these days in which the characters spout slang that will incredibly 'date' the movie five or ten years from now.  Saw a preview for an animated film one time in which the talking cows were talking like rappers.  One cow was even 'busting' saggy jeans in which 'his' (yes, HIS, it was a male) udder could be shown (instead of boxer shorts).  Pixar never does stuff like that, which is why their films will last...and why I don't remember the name of that other movie.  Ha ha.  Oh and for those of you who DO think that all cartoons are for kids, just consider all of the cartoons out there that have R-rated content (South Park, Aqua Teen Hunger Force).  Not recommending any of those, but are ALL cartoons just for kids?  Clearly not.  Anyway, on with my review.

'Toy Story 3' has the wonderful combination of imagination and 'adult' (not vulgar, but might go over the kids' heads) humor of Pixar at their best.  (Watch for a scene in which Barbie disguises herself as Ken.)  Andy is going off to college and the toys are exploring their options of where they would be better off, the attic, Sunnyside Day Care or a third option that presents itself.  I LOVED the fact that the main bad guy was essentially a Care Bear.  They should have put a symbol on his chest.  Yes, I grew up in the 80's.  ha ha.  I LOVED Chuckles and the cymbal monkey and hope they are not overlooked in the tie-in merchandise in favor of this film's cuter characters.  I loved the fact that each character was given a decent part.  Yes, this was largely because Andy is 17 and got rid of Wheezy and Bo Peep (likely so he wouldn't get beaten up at school) so there were fewer characters than '2', but I did feel that Mrs. Potato Head was only in 'Toy Story 2' because she was a joke at the end of the first.  In '3', she has an important part.  There were so many incredibly imaginative things in this movie that it really draws you in to the emotion, so that when the thrilling climax comes around, there is one point where you are actually worried than inanimate objects will die.  :(  Great film for everyone.  I give it 6-out of 5.  Yes, you heard me!  6-out of 5!!!  It's MY blog!!!

Superman: Flawed

Has anybody noticed that they have NEVER made a live-action 'Superman' film that does both the character and the universe surrounding him justice? People will applaud the original 1978 Christopher Reeves version as being the best of the lot (which it is) but that version completely dropped the ball by trying (and failing) to make Lex Luthor funny and giving him a moronic sidekick named Otis. Watch the 'making of' documentary on the DVD and they will tell you that the reason that he is not bald in this movie was because Gene Hackman didn't want to shave his head and that the scene at the end when he pulls off his wig was a compromise with the producers. (And the scene where Lex Luthor figures out that Kryptonite will kill Superman is just ridiculous. He just pulls the explanation STRAIGHT out of his butt.) 'Superman II' dropped the ball by firing the director of the original (Richard Donner) and firing Marlon Brando because his fee would have been too much to reprise his role as 'Jor-El'. Both Superman I and II nailed the characters of Lois and Clark/Superman with brilliant performances by both Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder. Their scenes together are great. 'Superman II' gave Superman characters to fight that he could actually duke it out with ("Kneel before Zod!") and that scene only suffered from bad special effects. 'II' also had a great story where Clark was debating whether or not to give up his powwers. A scene where Superman fights with someone strong could have only improved 2006's 'Superman Returns', a movie with a number of great scenes that really felt like Superman (flying up the elevator shaft ditching his clothes, catching the plane and landing it in a baseball field, throwing a Kryptonite island into space) in a BORING movie!!! And we are not going to talk about 'Superman III and IV' and just hope that they will go away. (Lex Luthor couldn't kill Superman, but Richard Pryor can kill him at the box office!!!)

Yes, Superman has been done ALOT better on television...and not JUST animation either. Yes, 'Superman: the animated series' from the mid-90's was the most perfect version of (the adult) Superman that has ever been filmed and the 1940's Max Fleischer cartoons (simple as they were) added much to the iconic character ("This looks like a job...for Superman!") , but the popular TV series 'Smallville' nailed not only the character, but the universe that he inhabits as well, better than any of the movies (villians that he can actually fight, a cold, evil, wealthy Lex Luthor). Yes, we are going to ignore Teri Hatcher's 'Lois and Clark: the new adventures of Superman' and hope it will go away.

No, I have not forgotten 'Superman: Doomsday', the only Superman feature film that actually did nail both the character and the universe perfectly. However, the fact that it was a direct-to-video cartoon will allow mainstream moviegoers to dismiss the film as childish, despite a PG-13 rating, Superman getting beaten to "death" (blood shown) and two scenes where Lois and Clark wake up in each others places. Plus, I would like to see a 'perfect' Superman movie that tackles his origin story and/or life...not the supporting characters' reaction to his death (as interesting a twist as that is)

At any rate, if they ever come up with a perfect 'Superman' movie, the way that 'Batman Begins' and 'Dark Knight' were PERFECT Batman movies, I think this would be a great song for a scene where Superman is flying around sad about something...