Archive for May, 2010

8:14 (27)

Posted in eight fourteen on May 31, 2010 by darryl zero

I find myself wanting to think about or do something profound, but the sun outside just makes me want to go to sleep, or hide, or try not to think about anything. Nothingness is overwhelming when it’s all you feel; not knowing why is what makes it all so scary.

I’ve been told numerous times that my mental state is something that may or may not require medication; for all the good I’ve seen it do my father and some of my friends, I just can’t bring myself to even think of it as a possibility. I’d rather be miserable than be reliant upon something chemical to make me functional; I’d rather fuck up everything around me than be reliant upon something unnatural to make me acceptable.

Clearly.

I don’t know when I started being so strict with my chemical intake that it takes me needing to be profoundly functional to take a decongestant. I think it has something to do with how expensive medicine is. Actually, I know that’s part of it; I’ve become so bitter with the way health care functions in this country that I can’t help but deny myself certain things. Gods help me when I actually need something important to be able to survive. The emotional fallout of my having to capitulate could kill me faster than an untreated malady.

I am no real fan of holidays like Memorial Day. I pretend to be, but I’m so self-absorbed and stupid that I really can’t think outside the box of my own feelings and thoughts these days, and it makes me feel bad. I’m so shitty about abstracting death–I do it as some kind of defense mechanism, I know, somehow ignoring its permanence because it’s somehow a part of my inability to understand or wrap myself around the idea of being passionate about a commitment, but it’s really stupid and juvenile, and I really should snap out of it.

I really should snap out of a lot of things.

I don’t want to be anything right now. I’m in one of those states-of-being in which I want to cease to exist until I am capable of understanding what it is I need to do to be in a position where I can functionally exist.

Time’s up.

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8:14 (26)

Posted in eight fourteen, nerdiness on May 28, 2010 by darryl zero

One of the cooler things about my job is the kinds of Spanish I’ve been thrust into hearing (and speaking). While the lion’s share of Spanish-speaking folks whom I serve or with whom I work are from various parts of Mexico, I also regularly encounter people from Guatemala and Cuba, and spend a lot of time with a particularly interesting child whose mother is from Haiti and whose father must certainly be Dominican (as Spanish is his first language). Bouncing from rapid-fire Cuban Español to a slightly more-palatable Mexican, with bits and pieces of French from time to time, has been one of the more fun aspects of my job.

I can’t necessarily say my facility with Spanish has gotten too much better–I think I hear it a lot better, which is especially helpful considering that was my one low-confidence area with the language before, and I’m a bit more confident with communicating about more significant, abstract concepts than I’ve ever been before. But being able to experience a language in different contexts, with different accents, slang, and cultural inflections has been a delightfully enriching experience, one that makes me yearn to have a classroom of my own, for sure, and definitely one that makes me less-apprehensive about trying to communicate with people who don’t speak any English.

French is next on the agenda; I think that’s going to be my summer project, as I can’t sustain any inertia on it while I’m so busy. Seeing Stéfan and Verónique helped light that particular fire under my ass. I’m not one for getting too into Foucault, but language is definitely something, if not power.

Time’s up.

Sesame Street and pedagogical practices.

Posted in nerdiness on May 20, 2010 by darryl zero

One of my colleagues at the day job loaned me a Sesame Street DVD compilation lovingly marked "Old School." The disc begins with a disclaimer that the episodes (from the mid-1970's) are "intended for grown-ups, and may not meet the needs of today's preschool children;" cleverly enough, the warning is spoken by a cartoon computer which is promptly unplugged by a typewriter. Naturally, I was amused, but the idea that vintage Sesame Street, of all things, would not meet the needs of today's preschool children is as insulting as it is representative of a problem with modern pedagogy.

I’m not the kind of guy who worships the past. In fact, I’m usually bothered by people that refuse to acknowledge any cultural, academic, or artistic practice developed after 1980. As a liberal, I value innovation and constantly seek new knowledge to refine existing practices. However, as liberal and forward-thinking as I try to be, good, old-fashioned Midwestern logic always creeps in, particularly when it comes to children, and I’ve not seen anything to suggest modern pedagogical practices are more effective than their predecessors.

Having said that, I’ll admit to the advantages a more modern classroom approach has–acknowledgement of cultural and technological changes and the need to introduce children to them at a younger age–but I feel the failure of my fellow liberals has always been the emphasis on the “new” while ignoring the valuable lessons of the old. Like the old saying says, “everything I ever really needed to know I learned in kindergarten;” I’d add that some means of imparting that knowledge worked because they’re timeless.

Really, education shouldn’t be complicated. Part of the reason why Asian countries have moved so far ahead of the U.S. in terms of primary and secondary education is because they’re pretty consistent with their approach. I’m not advocating a pedagogical shift to match theirs–I’m merely pointing out that some things still work, and always will. I think much of what makes them work has less to do with the process and more to to with the people implementing it.

Which brings me back to Sesame Street. Part of what made the original Sesame Street so effective and entertaining was the fact that the original performers were so energetic and soulful, you could tell they were wholeheartedly invested in the point of the show and not the paycheck they got from it. I use “old school” Sesame Street material with the children I work with because it speaks to them in the same way it spoke to me when I was their age. The fact that I can get classes full of 3-to-5-year-old kids to pay attention and engage using an audio recording over 30 years old suggests that Sesame Street can and should always be relevant and helpful for preschool kids.

Sorry to go off on a rant over so little a thing.

some thoughts on a certain film…

Posted in film on May 16, 2010 by darryl zero

Some Thoughts On Iron Man 2 :

1) I’m curious to see how much of the film got cut, and for what reasons. There are more than a few shots in the trailers that aren’t in the film (the “you complete me” gag, Tony flirting a bit more with Natalie/Natasha), and it feels like there are segments of the film that come a bit too quickly.

2) The “drunk Tony” sequence doesn’t really feel earned, and it’s the only part of the film that doesn’t work for me at all. Not only am I not entirely sure why Stark is throwing his birthday party at his private residence when all other Stark-related functions take place far away, I don’t really get enough of the “party Tony” type character to really buy his sudden descent.

3) The entire James Rhodes character is a bit disappointingly underdeveloped, especially his relationship to Tony Stark. It would have been nice to see, for instance, how Rhodes gets better acquainted with the Iron Man armor (he is a trained pilot and soldier, after all, with a different kind of intelligence and different skill set from Stark). Also–we see trace elements of their relationship in the first film–there was certainly enough screen time to put more in the second.

4) Howard Stark as co-founder of S.H.I.E.L.D. was a pretty cool turn of events, and the whole “leaving behind work for Tony to complete” plot development was pretty fun. However, it feels “tacked-on” and very, very deus ex machina.

5) This puts a capstone on my main criticism of the film: whereas the first film operated largely without a script, relying heavily upon the improvisational and inventive abilities of Robert Downey Jr. and John Favreau, the second clearly feels as if it’s tied to a narrative that has to get from Point A to Point B. I felt one of the better parts of the first film is that it sort of barrels along, channeling its chaotic director’s and anarchic star’s energy into this collection of delightful serendipity into scenes that bristle with fun creativity. While echoes of that energy are definitely present in the sequel, the need to move the story along often gets in the way, and gives us disappointing moments like Tony complaining to Nick Fury about how his dad didn’t talk to him much as a boy. I find it worth mention that I like the overarching story of the film–I just felt some of the scenes lacked the energy the first film had in abundance.

6) I’m normally pretty irritated with CGI action sequences–they can be entertaining, but I usually consider them to be needless distractions from the stories that really interest me. Also, I’m a huge fan of practical effects and sequences built around them–Guillermo Del Toro’s Hellboy sequences in particular. HOWEVER–the climactic combat scene with War Machine and Iron Man pummeling a bunch of battle drones is a work of absolute art. Credit Genndy Tartakovsky (creator of, among other things, Dexter’s Laboratory and, my personal favorite, the brilliant Samurai Jack) for the origins of the sequence, which basically answers the question “when are we going to see Iron Man actually opening up full-throttle?” and then adds fuckin’ War Machine to the mix. It’s some beautiful cinematic violence, and damn if it doesn’t get the testosterone flowing.

7) I’ve always been into Scarlett Johansson, but her Black Widow was pretty damn cool. I’d hoped that her character would have been more developed, but I guess that all depends on whether or not they can get her in The Avengers movie–I hope so, because it would be nice to see her do something other than look unreadable or look like a badass. Granted, regardless of what the character is required to look, it would still involve the audience looking at Scarlett Johansson, which is enough to divert enough blood from my brain for me to ignore my issues with the script.

8) Having seen the film for a second time–that Iron Man/War Machine vs. Hammer Drones action sequence is even more wonderful than it was the first time. I swear, I could watch that shit on repeat for hours.

9) This is both gripe and praise: while I was disappointed that the Justin Hammer character was not a peer of Tony Stark (I was hoping for more of a legitimate threat than simply a rich dude who’s more of a George W. Bush-type bumbler than, say, the Ivan Vanko character), I was pleased that they at least set the character up for a longer, more interesting arc. (“Armor Wars,” anyone?) I love Sam Rockwell, and hope they make the character less comic relief and more legitimate menace in the future–say, by having him arm the Mandarin.

8:14 (25)

Posted in eight fourteen, emo on May 13, 2010 by darryl zero

I had a lot to say before sitting down at this computer, but the presence of the sun dissolves it from my mind. I’m still not a big fan of Sol; he disrupts my internal processes to a point at which I cannot create (tantamount to death), but the smiles on the kids’ faces are reason enough to appreciate him, if at least for today.

I baked a ton of cookies last night, the highlight of which being the triple-chocolate-cinnamon-cayenne masterpiece which, when perfected (needs a bit more cinnamon and to bake for a couple minutes less), will be a behemoth the likes of which have never been seen. In short–fucking yum. It reminds me of a cookie Jen made for me in March of last year, before I completely fell for her and ruined it by acting on it. Hers was better, to be sure, but mine is still pretty good.

I saw a Black grandfather holding his infant grandson and standing on his porch, watching the world go by, and I wanted to take a picture, but I was driving and we don’t really ask those things of people anymore. It made that ever-present ache even worse, if only for that moment, and then one of the kids on my bus farted and soured the moment, and my sinuses. It was good for a laugh, at least.

The one thing I prefer about desktops is the keyboard. Laptop keyboards are so uncomfortable sometimes. I’d forgotten how less labor-intensive these are. Mais oui.

I want to find something sweet to drink, but know I shouldn’t. Horchata just sounds soooooooo good at the moment. Perhaps I’ll seek it out.

This has been another obnoxiously long eight minutes and fourteen seconds.

Time’s up.

8:14 (24)

Posted in emo on May 12, 2010 by darryl zero

I hate those moments when I sit in front of my keyboard with everything to say and no means of ripping the words from by brain and putting them into my fingers. It’s funny; for as much as I don’t really consider myself dependent upon technology for self-expression, I do love and appreciate the expediency of word processing. I still say that’s the best part about computers being as advanced as they are these days. It’s funny; for all my nerdiness about some things, my favorite computer applications have always been word processors. I remember installing ClarisWorks on my family’s old Mac LCII back in the mid-90’s and being gleeful as the child I was. I wrote my first two long-form The Vandal stories on ClarisWorks (don’t ask; if you know me well enough, you’ll know what I’m talking about).

I find myself wanting to find and buy an old typewriter and try to get better at my keyboarding skills. Of course, I could either do that or try and write everything longhand again, but I doubt the latter’s going to happen very often except in judging debate or writing poetry (which I still cannot do on a computer, by the way).

Having decided that I’m terminally sick of these two characters in one of my fictional universes, I realize I need to get their story completed and over with so I can more efficiently work on fresher characters. We’ll see how that works out.

I enjoy typing on my bus. Something about sitting in a quiet place, I think, when all the kids are gone and none of the adults on the site are in my ear about something…

Time’s up.

8:14 (23)

Posted in Uncategorized on May 3, 2010 by darryl zero

I think my old habits have reached a point at which they are, in fact, inescapable character traits. Flaws, even, but that’s not something I can truly objectively assess. I currently find myself so crippled by my own annoyance at life sapping my time and energy to do creative things to, in fact, do anything that could better my existence.

With all that said, it’s been nice to find so much more inspiration lately in things other than my own desire to cease existence. Granted, my muses haven’t been exactly more functional or particularly beneficial to me, but it could be worse–I could be strung out.

Actually, that sounds kind of fun.

I wish I had something more interesting to talk about other than the fact that I feel like I’m walking through molasses. Everything around me seems to be pulling me down–which is a welcome change from myself weighing me down, I suppose, but, as always, I wish they would have told me before adulthood that creativity is its own prison.

Last night, a guy gave me two bucks for two cookies, and I’m not ashamed to say that I took them happily. I’m actually keeping one of them just in case I do end up selling my wares someplace–“first dollar” and whatnot.

It’s funny–I never once thought that my only marketable skill would be my ability to make a decent cookie. I suppose this proves that I am, in fact, completely and utterly becoming my father. Maybe this explains my constant morbidness.

My solitude actually produced two distinct moments in which my libido actually surfaced. I found myself highly amused at my own emotional detachment, but I’m still glad it retreated back into wherever it’s keeping itself these days.

Time’s up.