Thursday, September 28, 2006

Updated Queue or "I finally updated my queue" or "too busy to create proper blog post"

In the spirit of long Netflix queues and children's films, here' my updated list for anyone (read no one) who is interested. I now have many kid films atop the list. Snow will have to come before I have time to watch my stuff.

Into the West I'm going with this one as Mega's favrite--lots of pressure on Mega
PG Children & Family Now

Lemony Snicket: Unfortunate Events
PG Children & Family Now

Monty Python and the Holy Grail
PG Comedy Now

Big Fat Liar
PG Children & Family Now

Matilda: Special Edition Just had a student present on Roald Dahl; a Brittish student with a fabulous accent. She did an amazing reading from 6 or so of his books
PG Children & Family Now

The Adventures of Milo and Otis
G Children & Family Now

When Dinosaurs Roamed America
NR Documentary Now

Pride and Prejudice The supposedly inaappropriate for kids one
PG Romance Now

The World's Fastest Indian
PG-13 Drama Now

Open Range What can I say? I'm on a Robert Duvall kick.
R Action & Adventure Now

My Bodyguard This film really got to me as a kid but I'm afraid it won't live up to expectations now
PG Drama Now

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
R Drama Now

Born Into Brothels
R Documentary Now

Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein
UR Comedy Available on Sep 30, 2006

Unknown White Male
PG-13 Documentary Now

R Foreign Now

Carol's Journey
NR Foreign Now

El Bola
NR Foreign Now

Dead Man Walking Why is this on my list? I've thought about it, picked it up, put on list so many times; it just never seems appealing in the moment
R Drama Now

The Magdalene Sisters
R Drama Now

Iron Jawed Angels
NR Drama Now

The Great Santini
PG Classics Now

Three Times
NR Foreign Now

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
PG-13 Action & Adventure Short Wait

An Inconvenient Truth I know this film will depress me but must see it
PG Documentary Nov 2006

A Scanner Darkly

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Defending the Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

We read Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. It was a tough, actually painful, evening for me at times. Some of the book club members thought Dillard was just rambling, filling the pages with a bunch of stuff so she could publish a book. It's not that I'm a huge Dillard fan, but the book has so much to offer, so many pearls:

"the microscope at my forehead is a kind of phylacter, a constant reminder of the facts of creation that I would just as soon forget"

"We little blobs of soft tissue crawling around on this one planet's skin are right, and the whole universe is wrong"

*The interwoven themes of shadow, spirit, nature, creation, beauty

*The amazing descriptions of giant waterbugs (who eats a whole frog--and, no, I don't care if she saw it or not), coots (those "singularly stupid birds"), spiders, trees, horsehair worms (who eat its prey from inside out)...

Ultimately I'm glad our book club is a diverse group (i.e. not just a bunch of English majors) but it's hard not to fall into the defending-literature-English-teacher mode. I certainly don't mind criticisms of Dillard and have some of my own; I just have to realize it's unfair to expect complete engagement from everyone: to be familiar with the tradition she invokes (Emerson, Thoreau); to be in the mindset it requires to meditate over her rambling insights; to understand that Dillard's not trying to write a biology textbook on bugs and animals...

Often I go to book club full of criticism but then I wind up defending the book because it seems many are suggesting there's nothing redeeming. It's interesting that English folks get tagged as being too critical (and this may be true at times)yet often the "English major" or the person who has read quite a bit can be a very forgiving reader, a reader seeking meaning, a reader more able to access that meaning maybe. I'm still not sure if this is mostly about training or disposition. Probably some of both but training must factor in.

Ultimately this speaks to the gulf between teachers and students. It speaks to helping students see that the act of criticism can be a gift, a way of appreciating pop culture and that the enjoyment of "texts" can be increased through knowledge of traditions, genres, conventions, language, and history. These things are accessible; it's not just for the elite; it's not about brilliance but about attention. Many of my students can quote the texts we read much more easily than I can (and I've often read them several times) but often they are unaware of which lines or themes require their attention.

Playing Skip-Bo

Our 5-year old son has a fascination with card games, first the classic Uno and now Skip-Bo. Playing with him is an odd experience:

"I discarded already!" (every time out of his mouth it surprises--just not in the register of 5-year old speech)

"One, two, free..." he says as he clears his hand, allowing him to draw five new cards

"Play from your pile first" he says to his older sister who either isn't as astute on Skip-Bo tactics or just doesn't really care

The other night I stayed home from a concert (rest of family went to concert and called home to let us listen over the cell phone) with the 5-year old ostensibly to get some work done: instead I played two rounds of Skip-Bo and one of Uno. How can one refuse the pleading face of 5-year old?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Answering my own question about films for children

Since no one helped me find films for kids (I guess y'all never were nor have had or been around children!!), I will post these lists I ran across on my children's lit listserv. It seems my email limit has been exceeded so I'm rushedly trying to read through my two listserv folders, deleting as I go.

If you spot a "must see" below, I'd love to hear why. The last list is of those "questionable" (i.e. crappy films) made for kids. I'd add Disney's Brother Bear to that list. I couldn't sit through it. Also, I've added a few bolded comments on the movies below.


An American in Paris

Babe loved this movie but enjoyed the sequel, Babe: Pig in the city, even more

Bedknobs and Broomsticks

The Black Stallion


Chitty Chitty Bang Bang


Dr. Doolittle (original version)

Duma Great film loosely based off a children's picture book

Fly Away Home

The Hobbit

Howl’s Moving Castle

The Incredibles

The Iron Giant

James and the Giant Peach

Kiki’s Delivery Service

Laputa: Castle in the Sky kids have seen at least 20 times


Lost in the Woods

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy(YA)


Milo and Otis

The Music Man

My Neighbor Totoro

Narnia (2005 version)Just now starting The lion, witch... with 5-year old--I don't think he'd listen if he hadn't seen the movie. Who said movies and tv couldn't encourage reading!

National Velvet

The Neverending Story

Old Yeller

The Parent Trap

Peter Pan (most recent version)

The Railway Children (both BBC versions)

The Red Balloon

The Sand Fairy (based on Nesbit’s Five Children and It)

Singing in the Rain

The Sandy Bottom Orchestra

Sarah, Plain and Tall (Hallmark Hall of Fame Production)

The Secret of Roan Inish

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Shirley Temple Movies I can't imagine sitting through one of these even though I have a clear memory of watching them on Sundays as a kid, my mother trying to get me to shut it off and up to Sunday dinner

Spirited Away Children's lit class is going to read the first graphic novel and watch the film
Star Wars (IV, V, VI)

Stranger in the Woods

The Trouble with Angels

Whale Rider

Where the Red Fern Grows (2003)

Whistle Down the Wind

The Witches

The Wizard of Oz


List of Top Ten Movies Every Child Should See Before Age Fourteen Survey of Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC) Listeners (2006)

1. My Neighbor Totoro

2. Fantasia Have never watched all the way through but can't figure out what all the fuss is about
3. The Princess Bride

4. Willow I'm going to add it to my already long Queue list on Netflix
5. The Dark Crystal

6. Peter Pan

7. The Adventures of Robin Hood

8. To Kill a Mockingbird

9. Cinema Paradiso

10. The Miracle Worker

Child_Lit List of Questionable Children’s Movies (with relevant listmember comments):

The Black Cauldron (good book though!)

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (both versions—too corny)

Daddy Long Legs (book was utterly betrayed by movie)

Ella Enchanted (movie doesn’t compare to book)

I Heard the Owl Call My Name (boring, reductive)

James and the Giant Peach (too weird)

Pollyanna (execrable, but friend’s 9yo daughter likes it)

The Witches (freaked child out)

Wizard of Earth Sea (worst-kid-movies-ever list)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Movies for kids, protecting my time

I was looking at my Netflix list and I'm seeing lots of films for me. Normally that's a good thing but right now it's a bad thing--too much to do with Victor Villanueva SLCC visit, Annie Dillard's Pilgrim Creek for Sept book club, and Doubt: a history (very thick) by Jennifer Hecht for teacher book group (I almost put club but it sounds too chummy and not academic enough). Therefore, I must find good movies for the kids which I can place in the queue, displacing my films (note I watch films not movies) which if they come I will watch, using time I do not have. I will still watch the films for my kids, but I can double count this time as movie/relaxation and family/kid time. Watching a movie with the kids is a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

We've already watched all of Miyazaki's anime films, most Pixar and Disney--actually a few I wish I hadn't seen, many documentaries (March of the P, Fast cheap and out of control, Winged migration, Rivers and Tides); also we've seen a few foreign films--Iranian: Color of Paradise and Children of Heaven, Japanese: Kikujuro, British: Bend it like Beckham, Tibetan: Cup. Old: The gold Rush, Three Stooges. There's got to be more good foreign films for kids; certainly a French film or two, right? And some success with films made for adults: Phantom of the Opera, Walk the line (My 9 year old daughter watched this about 25 times) and a few Hitchcock's.

Well collective mind, what you got for me? What else is out there?

In another vein, my 11 year old son is now able (i.e. we gave up trying to withhold) more adult films. This is a kick, something I hope we can enjoy for many years to come. This past week we watched Bourne Identity and Bourne Supremacy--I wouldn't have rented them again for myself but fun to re-experience the films with my son.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Why we fight doc

Just a quick note. Wife and I started this documentary last night. We've put it off as friends have warned it will depress us. So far I haven't learned a lot I didn't know from other sources but I do find the fleshed out historicl context beneficial. And the rhetoricl move to center the movie on Eisenhower's warning that "We must guard against military industrial complex" is brilliant. I also like the music but it seems a carbon copy of Errol Morris' style in Fog of War and Fast, Cheap and out of control. Favorite lines so far:

"I think numbers are almost distracting" Donald Rumsfield

"God bless the military contractors" some senator

Friends' warning was right on: it's quite depressing. AGAIN I wonder why I haven't more actively participated in the anti-war effort. A couple of years ago I met a Quaker war protestor; I've been on her email list for two years. She sends announcements to upcoming rallies every few weeks (she just sent some for the recent Bush visit to SLC). The answers to these simple questions tell it all: how many of her emails have I actually read? About 30% How many rallies have I attended? 0

I just do not understand myself; on the other hand I better understand why we are still in Iraq and why we We WE haven't done anything to put a stop to it.

Friday, September 01, 2006


Having spent much of my adulthood on college campuses, I’ve often been faced with the grassy moral imperative—to tread on or not to tread. At Methodist College in NC it wasn’t really a moral choice as the grass and trees were robust and never seemed to falter. At BYU the moral choice was quickly covered up and hidden away: If a path formed across the grass, the mighty facility crew would cover it up with a new sidewalk the next day, creating a crisscross of sidewalks alighting the most expeditious routes: “We have no sin, no alcohol, no sex and no grass-crossers.”

I looked askew at the grass-crossers at the Y. How could they ruin the unblemished grass, causing much work and chaos at our beautiful campus? How selfish to save a few minutes and ruin everyone else’s day. But that was years ago, a rough draft of beliefs revised thousands of times since. Recently I’ve taken it upon myself to cross as much grass as possible at SLCC. I like the soft impact and life of grass over concrete—whose natural self doesn’t? Certainly I realize our grass isn’t really natural as it requires gallons of water and is merely an adopted practice of the English, but it’s symbolic I suppose: a freshness, a mini-visceral experience as I cross the quad and put to rest for a moment my intellectual positions and pedagogies.

My grass-crossing does have rules. I do not cross where the grass has died out exposing dirt (though my rules do allow for jumping across said sections of dirt); if I’m already walking with someone, I suggest but do not pressure them into the forbidden crossing; when alone I always cross even if some big wig is coming down the sidewalk—it’s not a shifting moral context; I do not merely clip corners—my grass-crossing must be direct and bold.

I often imagine, maybe even hope, that someone, a fellow teacher or, even better, an administrator, will reprimand me for my grass crossing. I have a river of replies: “You know we live in a desert” or “I only walk where no one has ever walked before” or “I’m paying for this damn grass and water and I’m going to enjoy it” or “If the grass dies we can always xeriscape the whole of it and save millions.”

One might think grass-crossers do not respect life but this view accepts the topsy-turvy logic of the modern repressed world. To avoid is not to respect; to merely view with awe the nature, our nature, our animal selves from afar is to fear. Pre-packaged "foundational" selves offered at low prices from marketers, religions, and workplace institutions are held up on scaffoldings of rules, regulations, and prohibitions. To cross through the grass, to engage the sin and live, that IS our great moral imperative.