Drooling on the Pillow

Friday, March 10, 2006

Why Not? 

I think I was in the ninth grade when I bet a friend I could write one hundred pages about opening a door. I don't know why I did that or what would have been demonstrated by winning my bet, but I gave up after, I think, twenty-two pages. Of course the fool never set a time limit so that five bucks is still out there waiting for me.

I've been watching the first season of The Wire recently and came upon a scene I'm almost certain is the result of a bar bet. It's where Jimmy McNulty and his partner Bunk are reinvestigating a crime scene that may enable them to connect a murder weapon to Avon Barksdale. The way I see it, David Simon bet Ed Burns he could write a scene with extensive dialogue in which every single word is f**k or a version of the word f**k.

He succeeded brilliantly. It's a great scene, though the gag does kind of get in the way. It's funny, then you get it and it's even funnier, then you start counting the variations on the word and you lose track of the scene, which, from an action point of view, is really terrific.

For the ultimate in trick writing, here's a link at which you can read the whole book, Gadsby, a novel of 50,000 words that does not once use the letter "e". In the Introduction, the author, Ernest Vincent Wright, amusingly relates the problems his task presented and the sometimes hostile reactions he has received, but never discusses what most people would like to know.


3 Days, 300 Acres, 3000 Men 

If you haven't been following the story of the Great Outdoor Fight over at Achewood, you need to get caught up on that.

The best way is to go back to the January 16th strip which is the segue between the "Chatsack" storyline and the GOF storyline. Proceed forward to today's glorious triple size panel in which Beef tells Ray:
You didn't fugue, you were berserk. That's like
comparin' a lunatic with a pissed off man with goals.
You're probably going to want the T-shirt, too.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Just Because It's Too Good To Be True Doesn't Mean It Isn't True 

Elisson reports (by way of Little Green Footballs) that the supporters of Rachel Corrie are holding an event to honor the memory of the excitable young woman who served the cause of peace in the middle east by teaching the little tots how to burn American Flags and by interposing her slender body between Palestinian gun smugglers and Israeli interdiction.

For her efforts she was flattened by a bulldozer.

The event?

A pancake breakfast.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Kid 

Opinions are iffy things these days as they imply a judgment and judgments become profiling and prejudice according to who or what is in the crosshairs. Not that people don't have opinions; like they say, they're just like noses, everybody but Michael Jackson has one. But you do have to be more careful these days unless you enjoy getting caught up in the multiculti mulcher.

Even if it's your own daughter.

These thoughts were aroused by a Professor Reynolds link to the Carnival of Education:
Last month, as I averaged the second-quarter grades
for my senior English classes at T.C. Williams High
School in Alexandria, Va., the same familiar pattern
leapt out at me.

Kids who had emigrated from foreign countries
such as Shewit Giovanni from Ethiopia, Farah Ali from
Guyana and Edgar Awumey from Ghana often aced
every test, while many of their U.S.-born classmates
from upper-class homes with highly educated parents
had a string of C's and D's.

As one would expect, the middle-class American kids
usually had higher SAT verbal scores than did their
immigrant classmates, many of whom had only been
speaking English for a few years.

What many of the American kids I taught did not have
was the motivation, self-discipline or work ethic of the
foreign-born kids.
As most of you know, my daughter Grace is Chinese. We adopted her when she was just under a year old, so everything she has learned about life and how it works, she learned in the U.S. of A. Increasingly, of course, this education comes from her peers as the 'where the hell did that come from?' moments have become daily events. Things fly out of her that were patently not installed at home. Mostly good things.

In most ways she's a prototypical American kid. She's a stone tomboy, sports-mad and addicted to cartoons. She pretends to hate reading, but once you pry the remote from her hands and turn off the TV, she'll find a book. She sees no real purpose in any food other than macaroni and cheese. Her understanding of the complex social structure of the playground is Jesuitical. Everything -- every single thing -- is an opera, but she bounces back almost instantly from every tragic event. She's a happy kid, still, at nine, open-hearted, affectionate, with a sense of entitlement Hillary Clinton would envy. Occasional dark forebodings of her teen years will erupt, but for now, she talks all day long and loves to be tickled.

Here's the alien part.

She had a week off recently and got a ton of homework to do over the break. She came home and, without being asked, sat at the kitchen table, opened her books and did it. All of it. Then she practiced her piano and then turned on the TV. She always does her homework as soon as gets home. She becomes anxious if she's not convinced one of her answers is correct. If I look at it and assure her she's right, she'll usually accept my word. She has, to quote the link above, 'the motivation, self-discipline or work ethic of the foreign-born kids'.

Let me assure you, she didn't get this from me.

There's also this; she will grouse and argue and very occasionally fly into a temper over a perceived intergenerational injustice or an onerous request. But she has never once in eight years that I can think of, defied me or her mother.

What's up with that?

Are we simply the luckiest parents in America or does this (careful, now) stereotypically immigrant and even (whoa, Nellie) Chinese behavior, mean something? We have had plenty of opportunity to observe immigrant Chinese families up close and there is a submission from the kids to their parents that is startling in comparison to typical American-born families. And that "self-discipline and work ethic" stuff is very evident among Chinese-American kids. Just check out the MIT year-book.

This nature/nurture stuff was a snake pit even before the subject of ethnicity became so sensitive. Older people, like her grandmothers have no problem figuring out Grace. She's the way she is because she's Chinese. Younger people insist the credit belongs to the Goddess and me, which I blushingly refute by saying, truthfully, she came this way. The most I'll admit to is that I haven't completely wrecked her. Yet.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Kirby Puckett 

I was having a conversation with an old friend the other night about, among other things, what jerks actors can be. My position is that there are jerks in every walk of life, but truly, acting and sports produce borderline sociopaths far out of proportion to their numbers in the population. And it's easy to understand why.

An actor who becomes hot young is a 20 year old who is surrounded all day every day by fawning, adoring, sycophantic crowds who compete for his attention and approval. Most kids in that situation probably understand, at least for awhile, that they're really not as wonderful as everyone in his world says they are. But day after day, week after week, month after month, he receives the evaluation of the world. Every guy wants to be his pal, every girl wants to sleep with him, every producer, agent, writer and director says he's a genius. Most people, eventually, will become convinced. It takes rather a lot of character to grow up in that environment with any kind of perspective on yourself.

Similarly, a sports hero has always been the best athlete in his town, his county, and often his state. He's a legend by the time he's fifteen. And it starts earlier than that.

Grace is the best athlete in her class. She plays in the Roberto Clemente league which means that girls have to go to softball once they're eight years old. Last year she was scouted by two or three of the softball teams. They actually approached me to find out what her plans were. Now, she's a very good athlete, probably not a great one. But, for chrissakes, she's eight years old.

Great athletes are noticed early and celebrated from that point on. They get help with their grades, they get help with any little scrapes they get into. And they get the cheerleaders. Any fifteen year old who has adults constantly competing for his attention and favors and grows up with anything like a realistic understanding of his value in the big world is a very special kid.

I am truly saddened by the death of Kirby Puckett. I'm getting used to ball players of my youth passing on, but they've reached their seventies now. It's just wrong for an athlete more than a decade younger than you to die.

He was one of the best players of his era and one of the best guys of any era. He played at a level of grace, passion, intensity, skill and sportsmanship that was unique. He got a bad break when his career was cut short with glaucoma, but his retirement announcement was typical. Everyone was blubbering but Kirby. He was smiling.

He knew who he was. He didn't sell himself short. He was just a nice guy who was grateful for finishing first.

Scott Johnson of Powerline quoted A.E. Houseman's To An athlete, Dying Young:
THE time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.

To-day, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

Monday, March 06, 2006

English? Who needs that, I'm never going to England! 

Radley Balko links to this English live-action version of The Simpsons opening montage.

Some of it is lame, some of it is eerily wonderful, but they did go off the rails in the casting of Marge. What's up with her hair? Is there a British version I don't know about?

Best Oscar Live Blogging Cracks 

6:27 pm: The presentation of Crash's Best Original
Song nominee, complete with burning cars and
multiculti couples dancing among the flames (of
racism, we assume), is roughly 300% more subtle
than the movie itself.

Is the director trying to say something by cutting
to Mickey Rooney when the Academy president
talks about how nothing beats the in-the-theater experience? They cut to him just as I was mumbling "Yeah, yeah, grandpa."
Captain Spaulding

That was kind of creepy. The Mickster looked like a Jabba The Hut action figure.
Remember the G.I. Joe with "realistic" hair? I don't know
why John Travolta made me think of that.
Jim Treacher

8:11. Lauren Bacall walks out stiffly. She's wearing a black
pantsuit, and she seems short of breath. She's blabbing
about film noir. Montage. "I feel all dead inside. I'm
backed up in a dark corner."
If you saw it, it was a dodgy moment. Ms. Bacall lost her way several times and you were dreading someone having to come on stage to drag her off.
All the guys who didn't win the Best Visual Effects award
are probably relieved they didn't have to share a stage
with Ben "Putting the 'Tard' in 'Unitard'" Stiller.
Jim Treacher

[line through] Jim Henson's Creature Shop really does amazing work. [/line through] Hey, Dolly looks great!
Jim Treacher

Now that the Manolo thinks about it, the last movie
that had the equally baloney-phoney regional
American accent was also the Mountain movie...
Cold Mountain, which featured two of the worst
accents the Manolo has ever heard: the Jude Law and
the Nicole Kidman attempting to sound like they were
from the North Carolina, but sounding like the
Khazak touring company of the "Tabacco Road."
The Manolo at PajamasMedia

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