June 03, 2006
A little while ago, I picked up a new digital camera. A year or two ago, when our friend Adrien came to visit, she brought along a camera and took some pictures that were just phenomenal. While having a skilled photographer and good lighting and a cooperative subject all come into play, having the right tool does help to get the job done. So, I eventually picked up a better camera, and the result has been that my occasional good shots are now better than they used to be.
When I get those really good quality shots, though, I hate to dumb them down by saving them in "economy mode" just so that my web page will load faster. So, thanks to my vanity of wanting to share these photos and my belief that increasingly, y'all are getting faster connections to the internet, I've decided to allow myself to post photos that run higher than 40K.
Well, okay. The one above is substantially more than 40K. I hope you'll forgive me.
I was taking care of the kids this past Thursday morning before heading into work, and Alex picked out the clothes he wanted to wear. Alex is into "matching" these days -- pointing out when the color of his socks match the color of his shirt, or of Nolan's shirt. or of my clothing, etc.
We make it easy on him, of course, by sticking pretty much to standard color themes. His shirts tend to be reds or blues, with a couple of outliers available for good measure. His pants and shorts are either blue or khaki. Socks similarly fall within a narrow color band, so it would be hard for him to pick clothes that clash.
But all that said, he does like to point out when things match. There is one shirt -- a blue "fish" hawaiian -- that we have in both his and in Nolan's sizes. On this particular Thursday, since Alex picked the shirt, I went ahead and put Nolan into a matching outfit. And then I felt like taking pictures.
The brothers remain good buddies. Nolan is a little bit crabby lately, as he copes with four molars coming in at once, but otherwise, we remain blessed with two beautiful, happy, healthy boys.
In my next post -- our first family movie outing since "Finding Nemo":
June 05, 2006
A couple of summers ago or so, we decided to give drive-in movies a try, because we figured that would allow us to see a flick with Alexander and not worry about bugging other movie-goers. The experiment was more of a success than not, and I'm sure we will try it again.
The double-feature we saw on that occasion was Finding Nemo and Pirates of the Caribbean. However, they showed Pirates *before* Nemo, which seemed odd to me. Wouldn't you start off with the movie that's geared for the tots, since they are likely to fall asleep before the second movie starts? (Which, by the way, is exactly what happened in our case).
At that particular time, I thought that Pirates was rather entertaining, and Nemo was okay. We later picked up the DVD of Finding Nemo, and upon repeated viewings I've come to the conclusion that it is effing brilliant. We missed a lot of the nuances (and even some of the bigger points) at the drive-in. Get all romantic if you like for drive-in picture shows, but there's a lot to be said for watching a clear picture and listening to state-of-the-art speakers -- two things that the drive-ins sadly do not offer.
In the intervening months/years, Paulette has taken the opportunity to bring Alex and Nolan to the occasional movie theater showing that is intended for toddler outings. Movies like the recent Curious George. These showings tend to happen on weekdays, so I tend to be at work when they occur.
But this past weekend, we found ourselves treated to free passes to catch the local premiere of the latest Pixar flick: Cars.
As with last year's excellent Pixar offering, The Incredibles, the new movie seemed more appropriate for kids just a wee bit older than Alex. And yet, Alex stayed riveted in his seat. (Er... so to speak.) I say that it seemed more appropriate for an older age simply because it contains a lot of concepts that strike me as just a little bit more complex than a three-year-old is likely to digest. Finding Nemo works on a number of levels, but the basic premise of little kid gets separated from over-protective father resonates with the very young.
The basic premise of Cars involves a rude rookie racecar getting sidetracked as it tries to participate in (and win) The Big Race. Easy to digest, but maybe just a wee bit advanced for three-going-on-four-year-olds.
Still, Alex watched the whole thing and seemed to enjoy it. I enjoyed it immensely. In addition to simply excellent animation, there were a number of subtle and not-so-subtle visual puns, musical gags, and timeless and timely pop-culture references. The story has many layers and subtexts (as do all of the Pixar offerings), and their handling of thematic elements is very well done. The story flows well, and even though the basic story elements are entirely predictable, the film makers often went with "the third alternative" in ways that I found very enjoyable.
For example: given that this is a movie ostensibly for kids, and given the basic premise, you figure that the little car overcomes the roadblocks (har, har) thrown in its path, becomes a better pers-- no, becomes a better car, makes its way to The Big Race, and wins, right?
I like the message of the movie. I'll be getting this on DVD when it comes out. It's the kind of movie I expect that I'll be able to still appreciate even after several viewings (as mandated by the kids). More to the point, it has some themes that I'd like for my kids to consider. Harry Potter may, thematically, present a more accurate take on life as we know it (for example: in Harry's world, as in ours, the ends often justify the means, regardless of what we might prefer to be the case), but there's still something to be said for pointing out that there are competing values that we use to define our own success.
Heady stuff? Not really. Check it out. This particular movie gets approval both from child and parent.
PS: Paulette didn't get to see much of it, because Nolan wasn't willing to sit still. Those back molars coming in are still bothering him, and Paulette volunteered to calm him down. Wasn't that nice of her to let me sit with Alex for a bit and enjoy a movie together?
June 20, 2006
Subtitle: Do People Change? Part I
It's that time of year again. The time of year often referred to as "Dads and Grads" -- when Father's Day and Graduation Day collide. What better time of year for me to trot out the Worst Valedictorian Speech Ever?
There are a number of reasons that this should come up right now; several different conversations between and among colleagues of mine, past and present, converged upon my recent discovery of a copy of the Bennett High School (Buffalo, NY) valedictorian speech for 1986. It is a crude document, and I don't even know if this copy is a first draft or the piece as it was delivered. I do know that starting the following year, Bennett's valedictorians had to run their speeches by the principal before they were to be delivered.
By way of background, I'll tell you how my thinking led up to this particular speech. [I'd considered posting this speech anonymously, but I'll cop to it. I wrote it. I'm embarrassed by it now, but I wrote it.]
Valedictorian addresses tend to be 1) long, 2) boring, 3) filled with homilies about how "we are the future" and all that nonsense, and 4) otherwise devoid of a point. I therefore set out to write a speech that was: 1) short, 2) not boring, and 3) offered no pat epigraphs nor advice for the future and 4) made a point.
That said, I could have gone the comedy/humor route and accomplished those goals, but I since the point I wanted to make was not funny, I ended up going down the crabby route instead.
Also by way of background: the teachers and the administration were actively and openly fighting each other during my last two years at the school, which had some very direct and very personal consequences for a few of my classmates.
I am not proud at all of this speech or my choices in making it. But it is what it is, and I was who I was at the time. I can be every bit as crabby these days as I was back then (although, to be fair, I'm not *always* crabby), but I'd like to think that I have a more delicate touch these days, when I choose to use it.
Allow me to set the scene: it's 1986. Summer in Buffalo. Hot. Sticky. The graduating class of 300 or so adolescents is rowdy. Each grad having been allowed up to four guests (and many finding a way to sneak in more than that), the auditorium is packed. I took the stage. I waited for everyone to quiet down. After I stood there for a few moments, they did quiet down. Silence. Then I read a short note that went something like this:
So ends four years of high school.
What can I say? There are many things I'd like to say, but I don't know where to begin. Some people have said they think my speech should be positive while others think I should talk about the negative side of Bennett. The fact is that there are both positive and negative aspects that we should consider . . . about Bennett, and about leaving Bennett.
When I decided to come to Bennett, I though that high school would be a place where administrators and teachers worked together to raise the level of education of the students . . . an institution where creative thought was fostered and intellectual and athletic pursuits were encouraged. Well, I didn't find quite that here at Bennett, but I did find several experiences which will serve me well in my future endeavors. None of us are leaving Bennett without an education, although much of that education was received outside the classroom. In fact, most of the knowledge we have gained here is based upon our experiences with the politics of a high school culture. It has become clear to me that the students who pursued knowledge were able to find it. Keep in mind that even though we are graduating, we should still pursue an education.
To my fellow graduating students, I wish you farewell. There is no warning I can give you that you haven't already heard; no advice that hasn't already been offered; no profound thought that would make a difference at this time. I have come to know some of you and found friendship with a few of you.
And so, here I am, with a great opportunity to say all of the things I've been wanting to say, but I'm leaving most of it unsaid. I am concerned about too many things. If I told you everything that bothered me, nothing positive would be accomplished and it would give you an inaccurate view of my opinions of Bennett. If I talked about Peace, Love, and Kindness, it would no doubt make you throw up in those silly little hats they make us wear at these ceremonies. Yes, I'm leaving a lot of things unsaid.
So ends four years of high school.
When I finished, you could hear a pin drop in the auditorium. I don't recall there being any applause. A teacher later mentioned to me that after I left the stage, she leaned over to a colleague and said, "If I ever hold a parade, remind me to invite Allan over to rain on it." Or words to that effect.
Did I really say "throw up in those silly little hats they make us wear?" I shudder to think that I may have.
But if I was bitter at the time, I will note that history vindicated my displeasure. At the time I entered BHS, it had only recently been the spawning grounds of the City Honors school. After a few years under the reign of Principal W., it became one of the worst rated schools academically in the state of New York -- a dubious distinction that it continues to maintain, despite the departure of the aforementioned principal a couple of years ago.
BTW, I like Ms. W. as a person. She was kind and supportive of me, and certainly presented a laudable attitude toward the school. I just thought at the time (and still think) that her priorities for running the school were contrary to providing a sound education.
As another side-note, I will also mention that my dearest friend and academic rival from my high school class has offered a credible claim that a math error in calculating our class standings falsely reversed her (salutatorian) and my positions within the ranks. In other words, she has a compelling case that she deserved the valedictorian position and I the salutatorian. [Our respective GPAs, adjusted for giving honors classes a stronger weight, were a statistical tie, with naught but a sliver of a sliver of a percentage point separating us. It could easily have gone either way. The official results gave me the edge. My friend's contention is that the official results are based upon an ever-so-slight math error in the calculation of her adjusted GPA.]
If her argument is true (and I suspect that it is), it throws my acceptance into Cornell (and later, UPenn for grad school) into doubt, not to mention any subsequent edge I may have enjoyed in employment opportunities because of my degree(s), cascading into a domino effect that could mean that I *should* be a very different person today than I am. [How do you like that lead-in to my "Do people change?" subtitle?]
I am certain that my high school rival's speech, had she the opportunity to have written one, would have been far more eloquent than mine. BUT... would she have had the guts to rain quite so hard on our graduation parade?
Look for more thoughts on these and other questions in an upcoming post...
June 29, 2006
Now available in bookstores... in fact, it's already on the shelves in the major chains:
Hags, Sirens, and Other Bad Girls of Fantasy
Edited by Denise Little
My story is the one about the Sirens ("Band of Sisters"). It isn't high art, by any means, but I nonetheless hope you find it entertaining.
Copyright (c)1998 - 2010 by Allan Rousselle. All rights reserved, all wrongs reversed, all reservations righted, all right, already.
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