Friday, October 28, 2011

Fast Five Friday: Scary Movies

My oldest (she's 11) is really pushing to watch some scary movies. She loves reading scary books, and now she wants to check out what the movies have to offer. In another sure sign that western civilization is crumbling, she tells us about all the movies the kids at school have seen, or at least say they've seen.

Meg and I aren't ready to get into the really scary stuff, but we are ready to start easing into some scary movies. Little sister has a sleep over Saturday night, so we're going to watch Signs. Meg and I love M. Night, well, early M. Night anyway, and we think this will quench our daughter's tween thirst for cinematic thrills. For now.

The oldest has also been asking what our favorite scary movies are, and since it's almost Halloween and all, why not. For this week's Fast Five, I present the five scariest movies I've ever seen.

5) The Thing: I watched this with a buddy this summer, and we were surprised by how well it's held up over the years. I know there's a remake out, but I doubt I'll see it.

4) An American Werewolf in London: A couple scenes stick out from this one: the two travelers being attacked on the moor, and of course, the famous scene where the guy turns into the werewolf.

3) The Shining: I remember reading somewhere that Stephen King was disappointed with Kubrick's adaptation, but it scared the hell out of me.

2) Alien: When that alien popped out of John Hurt's chest, I nearly lost my mind.

1) The Exorcist: To this day, the very thought of this movie reduces my chances of getting a good night's sleep.

What are some movies that send chills up your spine?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Young Writers

I've been in the computer lab the last couple days. My students are typing the final drafts of short stories they've written. It's the final project for a unit on the elements of literature: characters, setting, plot, theme. We read a number of stories together, identified the elements, and now the kids have to demonstrate their knowledge by writing their own story that incorporates all of the elements.

Last week we worked on our rough drafts in class. I let the kids listen to music as we worked. This isn't something I normally do, but I thought I'd give it a try. A colleague of mine told me Michael Jackson is usually a big hit, so I brought in Thriller. I have to say, the kids worked very well to MJ.

My school is in the process of becoming an International Baccalaureate school, and one of the goals of the International Baccalaureate program is to foster open-minded students. Let's just say, it is quite the challenge to open the average middle school mind.  In an attempt to open minds through music, I decided to bring in some music from international artists.

Day two I played some Beatles for the kids. I wish I could tell you they were excited about it, but alas, there was much whining. Mr. Riley patiently explained to his students that it was important for them to expand their musical horizons. And when that didn't work, he told them, kindly mind you, to shut up and listen to the Beatles.

I was ready for more whining day three, but I was pleasantly surprised. When I told the kids we'd be listening to Bob Marley, the room exploded with enthusiasm. Score one for the reggae master.

On day four, I went with Ireland's finest, U2. I thought most of the kids would be familiar with U2, but I was wrong. Having established a whine-free environment, the kids managed to muffle their skepticism. I could see it in their eyes, so I tried explaining that just last year I had seen U2 in Phoenix, along with 80,000 other life-long fans, but this didn't seem to impress them. To the kids credit, they gave it a chance. I don't think Bono and the boys won everyone over, but they may have managed to open a few minds.

Friday was the last day to work on the rough drafts. I needed the most conducive environment possible, so I let the kids choose the music. Three of the classes played it safe and chose more Michael Jackson, but a couple classes told me to mix it up. I complimented them on being open-minded and did my best dj imitation.

It was a fun week. There were plenty of kids who squandered their time, but unfortunately, that's par for the course. You can lead a horse to water, as they say. I do think the music helped, and I can see myself using music when we write in the future.

The final product is due Thursday, and I'm looking forward to reading the stories. Let's hope MJ, Bono, Bob Marley, and yes, even the Beatles, helped my students write some decent fiction.   

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fast Five Friday: Movies in the Big Apple

I saw a fun infographic on /Film last week about movie landmarks in NYC. It reminded me of the carriage ride we took with the girls through Central Park a few years ago. Our driver, in a movie-thick Russian accent, pointed out a number of spots in the park that have featured in popular films. I can't really remember the spots or the movies, but I still chuckle remembering that guy's delivery.

New York is of course one of the great movie settings, a city so vibrant, so alluring, it is often a character in its own right. This week's Fast Five features some of my favorite movies set in the Big Apple.

5) A Bronx Tale: This movie was based on a Chazz Palminteri play and directed by Robert De Niro. It tells the story of a father trying to keep his son on the right path after he is befriended by a mafia boss. De Niro clearly learned a lot from working with Scorsese over the years, especially the art of picking great music for film. 

4) Quick Change: Bill Murray starred in and directed this movie about bank robbers at the mercy of New York City. This is one of my favorite Bill Murray movies, right up there with Rushmore

3) Annie Hall: There has to be a Woody Allen movie on any list of great New York movies. This was my first Allen film, and he painted a beautiful picture of New York City for this kid from Green Bay, Wisconsin. 

2) Do the Right Thing: This one sparked a lot of controversy when it was released. Spike Lee challenged audiences with this story of racial tensions erupting on the hottest day of the summer. Wherever you stand on the ending, this movie made you think.     

1) After Hours: In my mind, Scorsese is the ultimate New York filmmaker. This isn't one of Scorsese's most popular movies, but it may be my favorite. The main character's journey through a wild and wacky night in the city captured this Green Bay kid's imagination. 

What are some of your favorite New York movies? 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Just a Thought

I haven't been paying much attention to the news lately, but I did plug in last night for a little while to catch up a bit. I knew about the Occupy Wall Street protests, but I hadn't put much thought into them. If anything, I thought they were just a flash in the pan.

As I flipped between CNN and Fox (I like to keep tabs on what everyone is saying), an interesting thought occurred to me. What if the Wall Street Occupiers and the Tea Partiers worked together?

Sound crazy? Allow me to elaborate.

The common perception, and one that I would have to agree with, is that Wall Street Occupiers are liberal and the Tea Partiers are conservative. Fair enough.


Banks really do seem to be pushing their luck these days, what with Bank of America, and logically, all their banking brethren, about to charge $5 a month to use a debit card. That surely riles up every red-blooded American. Who knows what other rapacious fees banks will devise if people don't cause a ruckus.

We know the Tea Partiers can mobilize. Hit 'em in the wallet enough, and they might just find some common ground with all those good-for-nothing Wall Street Occupiers.

That would be something, wouldn't it?

Discuss (think Mike Myers doing his Linda Richmann voice)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Fast Five Friday: Pay it Forward Blogfest

I came across a fun Blogfest this week, and I though I'd incorporate it into my weekly Fast Five. The Pay it Forward Blogfest is the brainchild of Matthew MacNish and Alex J. Cavanaugh, and here's how it works:

The idea is to introduce everyone to everyone else. We want this to be an easy post that allows you to meet and follow as many other bloggers as you can. In your post, we would like you to please list, describe, and link to three blogs that you enjoy reading, but that you suspect may fly under the radar of a lot of other bloggers. Or they can be famous blogs, as long as they're awesome.

But don't stop there! Certainly visit and follow all the blogs that are featured in people's posts the day of the blogfest, but those don't have to be the only blogs you visit. You can visit everyone who enters in on the fun, and signs up on the linky list. In the interest of time you don't even have to leave a comment. You can just follow, and come back another time. After all, we all know we don't have time to visit every blog we enjoy every single day.

I hope that Matthew and Alex don't mind, but since this is a FFF post, I'm going to give you 5 blogs (and there are plenty more) that I enjoy reading.

1) Munk Davis: Consistently funny and thought-provoking, with great tips on music. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, Munk is simply blogalicious.

2) Suburban Soliloquy: Blogging with a literary flair.

3) Brits in the USA: One of the first blogs I ever followed, and still going strong. An eclectic blog with excellent writing.    

4) Bards and Prophets: There are a lot of blogs that deal with all things writing, but this one stands out for me.

5) SLC Kismet: One of the more unique perspectives I've come across in the blogosphere.

This is a Blog Hop!