07 February 2015

Saturday Morning Speaks (and Links)

Saturday morning is upon us, unless you live somewhere where it's already afternoon or maybe tomorrow, or you're not reading this until tomorrow or even later than that. Anyway, right now, in Clinton, Anderson County, Tennessee, USA, it is Saturday morning, the sun is out, and it's not that cold. Did the Groundhog lie? He saw his shadow didn't he?

Let me tell you about my week:

It went by really fast. I continued to work on argumentative writing with my 7th graders, graded a bunch of papers, found myself embroiled in a light scandal involving a fake Instagram account made by a student (no biggie really, but weird), watched a couple movies, watched the latest in Jimmy Fallon being the best late night TV host of all-time (don't even try to argue), read some interesting news, and started a book that found some success in a way I had no idea about.

On Monday, Amanda, a Ph.D. student at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, about 30 minutes from our house, FaceTime'd me from campus on our laptop freaking out. Her phone was dead, she couldn't find her wallet, and her car was almost out of gas. I immediately transformed into HERO MODE. Within minutes, I was in the car on my way to save the day. I made it out there with the latest "This American Life" episode blaring. I was like an elitist hipster on a rescue mission through the Appalachian heartland. The episode was great, an hour produced by BBC Radio on Beat writer William S. Burroughs narrated by Iggy Pop. Anyway, I made it to the rescue. We both made it home safe. She promised I would have a present for going out of my way to take care of this situation. Matt Zoller Seitz's beautiful "Wes Anderson Collection" was my prize.

On Friday, I had to get a sub for my classes, so I could attend the third and final session on the new Tennessee State Standards (dubbed TNCore) and the new Writing Expectations. It was really good. As with most of these sorts of professional development deals, there are always activities for the teachers to complete and these videos of badass teachers that just make you feel like you just aren't quite there after six years of trying. I'll get there. Anyway, this one video focused on a "close reading" of the Shirley Jackson short story, "The Lottery." Man, that story is awesome, and I just wanted to be in this teacher's class. Later, we did a free writing activity dealing with the theme of decisions into a second free write about what the speaker in Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken" interacts with on his walk in the "wood." I loved it. Question: What's your favorite classic reading material from middle/high school?

Also, my hometown of Clinton, TN, is featured in this list from msn.com of The Best Antiquing Towns in the U.S. Check it out. And come to Clinton in October for the best antique festival in the land.

In Entertainment:

I failed to mention in last weekend's rant that, during my recent online "Top Chef" binge, there was one ad that ran at every single break...a "Fifty Shades of Grey" TV-spot. I must have watched it fifty times. That would be fitting. I kept saying to Amanda during every break, "I'm intrigued" and "That does seem steamy" and "What's the deal?" and "Is that what so many women really want? A billionaire Sado-Masochist fetishist with relationship issues and nice pecs and abs?" and "I think I wanna see it." One thing I kept hidden was how sexy that new version of "Crazy in Love" is. Question: What's the over/under on how much money this movie makes?

Several months ago, Amanda brought home this book for me, Jesse Andrews' "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl." I started it. It's hilarious. It's about a boy named Greg Gaines, a movie obsessed, invisible-by-choice, smart ass high school senior, with an even more foul best friend, and an old girlfriend from his youth, who has cancer. I stopped reading it. 

Then, last Sunday, I read a story on the Sundance winners this year. A movie adaptation of this novel penned by Andrews himself and directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon killed it, winning the U.S. Grand Jury Prize (Dramatic) and the Audience Award for U.S. Drama. The competition screening was given a standing ovation and a couple of quotes from critics here:  Indiwire gave the film a grade of A-, describing it as "a beautifully charming, captivating knock-out." Peter Debruge wrote for "Varitey" that the film "is destined not only to connect with young audiences in a big way, but also to endure as a touchstone for its generation." 

I started reading it again. It's wonderful. 

Jimmy Fallon is continually doing impressive things. The embracing of a demographic has never been done so well. "The Tonight Show" is young, it's fresh, it's nostalgic, it's genius. The best part: You don't have to stay up all hours of the night to see the best of it. This is due to the fact that Fallon and Co. have also embraced the future. They realize that the best way to get their content out there is to let it out there. I have never watched an episode of "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon" from start to finish. Not once. But all the great bits I have seen. This "Saved by the Bell" reunion bit, made for Fallon's week in L.A., is epic, silly and just plain fun.

I finally saw the Jenny Slate comedy/drama "Obvious Child" this week. I liked it. I remember wanting to get to it last summer. It was playing in Denver at a small theater called The Esquire when I was out there visiting my littler sister. It really is a sweet, funny movie, and Slate is a talent that I had only seen very briefly in small, but brilliant, guest spots on "Parks and Rec" and "Girls." She is magnificent. I love a short, sweet movie that manages to be profoundly real. More on this in a later post.

I also finally got around to seeing James Gunn's "Guardians of the Galaxy." It's pretty genius. The special effects are astounding, Chris Pratt continues to prove why he's the most likable guy in Hollywood, and the voiceover work from Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel is affecting. I wasn't totally head-over-heals for this thing, due to its weirdness (I'm just not that big on super-weird sci-fi superhero stuff), but I also applaud it in its weirdness. This movie seems like it could've easily missed, but it hit big. And that soundtrack though!

So, Danny Boyle has started shooting the movie "Steve Jobs," to be released on October 9th, and written by Aaron Sorkin, based on the biography by Walter Isaacson. I think it's gonna be great. Some details have been given about the plot to the tune of it's gonna focus on three major events in 30-mintue real time stretches. Plus, Michael Fassbender is playing Jobs with Seth Rogen as Wozniak. I'm pumped. To read the more on this, click here.

In the News:

President Obama is taking some heat for telling some hard truths about religion at the National Prayer Breakfast this week. Here's my take: you can't put all the religious hate on Islam alone. Christians are guilty of doing cruel and hiding it behind religion as well. Read this highly interesting New York Times column for more.


Irene breaks down some rare coming-of-age flicks on her Friday Fourteen.

Fisti brilliantly and personally reviews Birdman.

Wendell coaches us on the Greatest Football Plays in Movie History.

Brittani takes me back with her "Romantic Comedy" Thursday Movie Picks.

John breaks down some thoughts on porn and feminism in a superb essay. WARNING: One graphic image.


  1. Thanks for the link! I'm glad you liked Guardians and Obvious Child. Now I'm off to read that New York Times piece you link, because I absolutely agree with your statement.

    1. No problem. I really loved your picks. I was trying to be too cool with mine, I think. And I just added a video clip of Obama's speech at the Prayer Breakfast if you haven't seen it. It's probably on that NYT article as well though.

    2. Made a bunch of typos there -- I'll try again. I want to read the NYT article too, though -- with me -- it's preaching to the choir. I've never understood why so many people act as if the Muslim world has a monopoly on extremism. If I were a practicing Christian, I'd hate for the world to judge me based on Westboro Baptist.

  2. I really, really hope that Jobs movie is good. Fassbender is brilliant and I adore Seth Rogen, I'd hate for this to suck.

    1. Agreed. I think it's bound to be a winner. Fassbender, Rogen, Boyle, Sorkin. Good lineup right there.

  3. I love working on argumentative writing with students; it's one of my favorite part of being a middle- and high-school writing teacher. These kids do a great job of composing intelligent, respectful arguments and backing up their opinions with solid points. I suspect this puts them ahead of 90% of the adults in the U.S.

    I don't know what to say about Fifty Shades. I haven't read or seen it, but the trailer alone made me physically ill. Sweet naive girl, arrogant domineering jackass. Really? That's hot??

    And while I have nothing against the BDSM lifestyle -- to each his (or her) own, I've been told what is portrayed in Fifty Shades isn't really a representation of that lifestyle -- it's an abusive relationship with kinky sex. I find that depressing. I'm 100% in favor of creative naughtiness (again, to each her own), but the fact that women in 2015 are still willing to settle for less than a mutually respectful relationship between two equals is discouraging, to say the least.

    1. I agree about teaching argument. The kids love it. Here in TN, especially where I'm at, we have a pretty low literacy rate and some of these harder prompts we're rocking by way of Common Core these days are really weighing on some of mine, but we're working it.

      Fifty Shades is gonna make a shit ton of money, girl. I'm telling you. I just don't get it. I've heard that too. It's not really about that lifestyle but, to me, about a hot, rich, domineering creep.

  4. Steve Jobs can't be worse than Jobs starring Ashton Kutcher so I'm also looking forward to it. I've only seen the Fifty Shades trailer two or three times. I've avoided all the overkill. Love Guardians and really like Obvious Child. Thanks so much for the link!

    1. No problem man. I skip things when Ashton Kutcher is involved, so I can't compare.

  5. OMG, I am in love with these posts!

    I remember being really big into Poe in Middle School...it was required reading (at least some of it was) and I got really into it...poetry in general excited me back then.

    LOVE that you loved Guardians!

    I'm stoked for Jobs, even if I really wish Fincher was still in the helm. I'm all for Seth Rogen to be taken seriously. Oscar campaign?

    And thanks so much for the link!

    1. Thanks, buddy!

      I'm a Poe junkie. We read The Raven and The Black Cat back in October. Love it!

      Guardians was really a cool flick! Lots of fun.

      As for Steve Jobs, I really think it'll be a good one. And Boyle can pull it off. Fincher and Sorkin was a stellar combo back in '10, but I really believe this will work. And Rogen can do anything. About time he got a bit of a dramatic part. It's definitely his turn after Jonah Hill rocked Moneyball and Wolf of Wall Street.

      No problem, man! You've linked me up more than a few times. Glad to return the favor.