Friday, May 30, 2008

Some Movies

I found an incredible $5 dvd at Wal-Mart--or a set of three dvds with ten movies on them. It is some Detective movie 10 pack featuring Sherlock Holmes, Dick Tracy, Bulldog Drummond, and one Mr. Moto, starring the inimitable Peter Lorre.
These are old 40s classics at their best. Cool little mysteries with plenty of intrigue. I loved the Dick Tracy movies. Those were cool. The Sherlock Holmes were good too. I had a bit of trouble with Mr. Moto's Last Warning at first though. This was one of a series, and not the first one in the series. I knew just by the star Peter Lorre that he was Mr. Moto, but there was a double in the beginning that made me wonder what was up. It seems that this is a case of that pre-knowledge exposition. You know that Clark Kent is Superman without them telling you...I guess in the 40s you knew Mr. Moto was with the international police with these box office favorite movies without them telling you. However, since this was my first Mr. Moto, I needed to be told. I caught on pretty quickly and it all fell together into a rather remarkable plot to start a world war.

Good stuff.

Sherlock Holmes: Terror By Night
Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon
Sherlock Holmes: Dressed to Kill
Bulldog Drummond's Revenge
Bulldog Drummond Escapes
Bulldog Drummon in Africa
Dick Tracy versus Cueball
Dick Tracy, Detective
Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome
Mr. Moto's Last Warning

More and more new stuff

For the past few months, I have been a media-devouring machine. Here are just a few of the new things I have ingested.

I have fallen in love with Lois Lowry, the author of The Giver. Gossamer is the story of the fairies that give out good dreams and battle against the nightmares. I read this in only one sitting, one of only three books in my entire lifetime that I can say that about. This was a wonderful story. Lowry's prose took me some getting used to, even through her previous books, but every word is crafted like a poet. Truly phenomenal.

Two more Lemony Snicket books. They're good reading, going down like candy. Still, none of them have been as good as the first one.

What is my fascination with dollar dvds? Why do I bother? Why? I guess it has something to do with the fact that I don't think any dvd, constructed for probably pennies, is worth $14 or more when a dvd first comes out. Those $5 movies at Wal-Mart are getting a better selection. Still, the $1 dvd holds a mystery--why did they make the movie? what happened to it to relegate it to this infernal dollar dvd bin? Can they be any good?

The answer is SOMETIMES. (I love a good dollar kung fu dvd.) Laserhawk, starring Mark Hammil of Luke Skywalker fame no less, is pretty bad. It's an interesting concept but falls woefully short in any kind of filmic quality. Even George Lucas or Steven Spielberg couldn't help this one. And Hammil proves that he simply cannot act.

Horror Express
Three huges names in this horror movie: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and Telly Savalas. Horror Express, as the name implies, takes place on a train, with a monster unearthed from the frozen depths. However, it simply isn't scary. While, yes, this was another dollar dvd, it was okay...worth watching but that was about it.

Street Fighter
Street Fighter, a legend of kung fu. And another dollar dvd. Not much of a plot or even a story (what there is of one is hard to follow). A rollicking good 1970s kung fu movie.
Amy is really into mysteries and she has so far read the first of these three "alphabet" mysteries by Sue Grafton. I read the first one here and enjoyed it. A great twist at the end. One thing that I have with mystery novels is that they are too long for one sitting so I forget all the little clues. Amy, however, can read these in one sitting, so that's not a problem for her.

I found this one at a garage sale. Haunted Lady by Mary Roberts Rinehart. Just a pulp paperback. The mystery is intriguing though. Some nutty old rich lady locks herself into a seemingly impenetrable room but is still getting harrassed and eventually gets killed in the room. How? Neat little thriller. This came in the heyday of novels that came out with a cover price of 35 cents.

I love Star Trek novels. I really do. Back in high school, a neighbo down the street, Darrin Gengler, let me borrow the first ones I ever read. And I have been reading them ever since. I, like him, am a big fan of the original Trek too, but I also love Next Generation. That's why I love the books. Especially these older novels. This one, The Peacekeepers, is the second of the TNG novels. One simple story that puts our characters into a new situation, without even having to memorize all the Star Trek history. To be honest, the basic plot could easily be turned into a Dr. Who novel, or any science fiction universe. That's what I like about it though. A good, quick read, with great rising action and a satisfying climax to the story.
For the last few months, I have been immersed in Millenium. I just finished the second season through Netflix rentals. I love Netflix for this above all--no late fees and I can rent all these tv shows that I always wanted to watch but never did. Millenium is great. Most of the time. Sometimes, the episodes can be quite strange and freaky, like those last couple of the second season that my mind is still trying to puzzle through. The good episodes are as good as any movie could be, and Se7en comes to mind a lot when I watch it. There apparently is one more season to put into my Netflix queue. This is one of those series that was too serious for tv. I love the intrigue of the Millenium group. I probably couldn't watch this as a weekly tv show though--you have more control with a dvd when there is this much intrigue.

Amy and I both absolutely loved Rome. This was a first rate series. It is very disappointing that they only wanted to tell the stories of the Roman civil wars that led to Octavian Caesar being the first emperor. I wish they would continue through the next decades, a la I, Claudius. That would be remarkable with this modern conception. However, I must say that I think the second season seemed rushed. I swear that it seemed to move too fast in the last five or so episodes.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

That closet of junk could be worth big money someday

I like toys. I grew up playing with Star Wars, He-Man, G.I. Joe and lots of others. I distinctly remember purchasing most of them and have some stories.
Too bad I don't still have them all.
We didn't know. We didn't know that we would wish we had them again at the age of 35, or that they would be worth big money.
I subscribe to a few toy email lists (because I buy from Entertainment Earth and Brian's Toys every so often). I came across this one from Premier Collectibles of old Nintendo games.
An original The Legend of Zelda still in the box and shrinkwrapped is auctioning for a starting bid of $500.
If I had known...
But we don't know. That's why they are worth so much now...because we played with them.
Sure I remember that family trip to Wisconsin when I was young. My whole cadre of Star Wars figures was left momentarily on the back bumper of the car. I didn't know that Uncle David would drive away with them, unknowingly scattering them all over the roads of Wisconsin. When he came back, only Princess Leia was left. Somehow, her arm hooked into the bumper. It was my own fault. But those figures helped me pass several hours riding in that car.
I remember the hours I spent beating The Legend of Zelda. I even beat it the second time around--those that played know how the game kind of repeated itself with a new quest but with slight differences. The game would be nowhere near as nostalgic had I never played it and enjoyed it. And nobody would buy two, one to keep and one to open.
This happens a lot lately. I have to remember that I like figures and playing with them. I remember eagerly seeking out the medical droid 2-1B from Empire--who would have thunk that that unopened package now goes for a minimum of $200.
I do buy new figures an leave them carded and unopened on the shelf. These are for me though, that sense of nostalgia I get from them, even the new ones. They aren't worth much now. They may be in time for my kids or grandkids (Zelda came out in 1987 and now, 21 years later, is worth $500, although that does appear to be better than 10% annual return) to cash in on them.
However, I hope that they keep some of them, put them on the shelf, and say it was mine.
Hilariously, while cleaning up Madison's room yesterday, Amy and I were going through the closet and all the toy pieces and naked Barbies. I didn't want to throw anything away. Could some of this stuff be important to her 20+ years from now? If I still had those He-Man figures instead of selling them away at a garage sale...I remember selling Castle Grayskull for $4.
But I also remember waking up that Christmas morning and seeing Castle Grayskull under the tree. Mom and Dad splurged for that big ticket item that year. I loved it and it was part of all my He-Man adventures that still make up a part of me.
That's the real value of these toys and collectibles.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Matt Costanza

One of my buddies of work pinned these up in the teacher's lounge. The joke is that I am very much like George Costanza from Seinfeld.

Here is the original image:

And then here comes the brand new update. The scary thing is that it looks real.


Sometimes this guy is right on and then sometimes he is standing out there in right field all by himself.

I think of myself as a Republican, especially on economic policies. However, there are many times on social issues where I am more towards the middle. While I agree with Hannity on economic issues, I actually want to distance myself from him on social issues.

page 13: "...the Clinton-Gore administration--starting with the president and
vice president themselves--had turned a blind eye to the growing threat posed to
Americans by global terrorist networks."

I do like his analysis on the lack of offense from the Clinton-Gore administration. I have come to the belief that 9/11 was not Bush's fault.

page 125: "They [people on the street] don't even know the most basic elements
of Civics 101. It makes me wonder: How we are supposed to remain 'one nation'
and 'indivisable' if we don't teach the next generation the basics of good
citizenship and respect for the traditions of our country?"

I agree with most of the pretexts of this argument, especially in light of a post I wrote a couple of months ago about my class's lack of knowledge about 1776. I think we should have a Civics 101 class in high school, even to the point of making kids understand the definition of Republican and Democrat, how to gather information to vote informatively, and so forth. I never learned that stuff in school, but on my own. I never even knew of these Democratic Superdelegates until this year, and I consider myself an informed 35-year-old teacher.

page 140: in the tradition of Winston Smith [of 1984] talking
about the Proles being the only hope...
Thomas Paine wrote to Dr. Benjamin Rush, "I wish most anxiously to see my
much loved America--it is the country from whence all reformations must
originally spring--I despair of seeing an abolition of the infernal traffic in
Negroes--we must push that matter further on your side [of] the water--I wish
that a few well insturcted Negroes could be sent among their brethren in
bondage, for until they are able to take their own part nothing will be

It is interesting that he quotes this because while reading 1984 this year, I noticed that some of the kids would easily become the proletariat. They have to save themselves, but they have to know to save themselves. And I have to remember that when I was 17-18 years old, I didn't know either. That's my biggest learning curve for myself is to remember what I was like when I was 18. Invincible. Knew it all. And I fell for Clinton in '92, my first Presidential election when I was 19, probably because he was on the cover of Rolling Stone anbd played the sax on Arsenio.

page 148: from Joe Clark (the subject of the movie Lean On
"I certainly believe in the voucher system...I think that the government
school is antithetical to the premise of democracy, which is competition. If
there is no competition, there can't be any accountability."

page 149: Although regarding one fallacy of the voucher system, then, that government schools would only have the lowest-performing individuals, and then the private schools would also have low-performing students that don't improve their school, and without the possibility of private schools to eject students that don't perform further degrades the government schools.

"Moreover, liberal hypocrisy particularly abounds on the issue of school choice.
Rich and powerful liberals send their own children to private schools to escape
the abomination of urban education, but they refuse to set urban and minority
parents free to choose good, safe, clean schools for their own children."

The debate on the voucher system is tough because people forget what the alternatives are. If everybody has a choice, what will the public schools be like? One of the reasons that private schools work is because if the student becomes a problem, he or she is kicked out and sent where? back to public school. I do not think it is public education that is the problem, but rather that segment of the population that does not want to utilize it. I had a phenomenally great year this past year but if I could have gotten rid of three problem students earlier (who eventually were taken care of, but well into third and fourth quarter), the kids would have done even better. Luckily, I have a very small problem percentage there. It isn't vouchers that is the problem--it is some of the kids that public schools "can't" get rid of. That's why private schools do well. Public schools do great things when those that want to be there get the chance to perform. They really do.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Notes found at school

I keep track of these because, as an English teacher and a linguist at heart, I find it fascinating. The spelling and the syntax are all revealing.(Names have been changed...)

y were u pissed this morning+ did johnny tell u wat happened 2 me

yeah im still pissed @ her

I hope he dont drop i will be mad
Do you think he will.

IDK! I hope Not!

wat if he does

Ill hurt him :(
Not Really

I couldn't go skating...long story...I got an idea...I have to go to Sams on sat. so how about you guys come over...

Kay ill ask her

ok :)

Next hour, but ill prob. wont bring Jimbo though

has Johnny sat wit Sandy anymore?

IDK hey did he tell u wat happed 2 me?

no...wat happened?

I went 2 my gf's house yester day + i found her in bed wid another guy I beat the piss out of him :@

holy shit who is ur gf?

Susie from Peru now She is my X

omg...bitch does she have myspace?

I Dont think so

damn...I wanted 2 bitch her r one of my good freinds and no one cheats on you...f*** her you can find someone better soon.

thanks man I am still p (Notetaken at this point)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Hardly Any School Left

Funny thing today was that I made it the whole year and today I finally missed my exit on the highway. I go north on 39/51 and get off on Exit 35 on Route 17. I was listening to talk radio this morning and missed my exit! I had to backtrack. I thought about making a U-turn on one of those "Authorized Vehicles Only" turns but I just know I would've gotten into trouble if I had. No sweat.

I saw a total of ten students today, five in each of two classes, taking the final today. This attendance policy sure brings them in during the year when they need to be here!

Now all I have left is teacher checkout. Done deal. This afternoon, my lunch buddies and I are watching that movie CHALK before we go home. Kind of an end-of-the-year celebration.

I had a great year here. Absolutely wonderful. My classes were good--I never really fought with that homework problem. I never really fought with the students. Actually, the only students I had a problem with were second-year freshmen retaking English I. They were my only issues.

The seniors were great. I just have to remember what a senior year feels like when I assign stuff for next year. They still need to work but I also need to expect that perfection is not the goal.

Now here's to three months off!! I will be reading and watching movies, probably posting and talking about them here on The Butcher Shop.

Friday, May 16, 2008

3 Workdays

Aahhh...The #1 benefit of being a high school teacher:


We only have three workdays left. Our actual last day was today--I held a coffeehouse for the freshmen. Those that have to take final exams, due to attendance or grades, take the finals on Monday or Tuesday (there's an attendance policy, geared towards gaining more daily attendance, that the student can miss five days and have a grade of C or better and not take the final). Then Wednesday is a final teacher workday.

Aahhh...Now I am planning what to do this summer!

Lots of reading. Lots of movie watching--all those ones I borrowed from my dad! Teaching Madison to read before kindergarten in the fall. Watching horror movies with Morgan. Sitting by the pool watching the kids.

The best part is that I will be making money sitting on my ass.

With gas prices (today I paid $3.89 a gallon) since I use about four gallons a day to get to and from work and not paying daycare for Madison, I plan on socking away about $200 or more a week.

As Alice Cooper said, "School's out for summer!"

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Found note

While cleaning up my classroom this week, I found this note buried in some papers that were never collected, a journal entry for The Odyssey:

I thank mytholgy has somthing to do with the greag god and mitholgy creechers. such as cyclops Zuz.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Math Facts

The end of the 2007-2008 school year is winding down. I am ready for summer, just one of the perks and benefits of being a teacher. I think we will save a ton of money this summer on GAS and daycare for Madison. It will be like earning extra money.

Anyway, yesterday the seniors are working on their Senior Memory Books, their last project for English IV. It's a nice scrapbook-like memoir for them to keep.

There are a total of 17 chapters, ranging over most of their lives. One of the students was writing on the early grades, saying she always had trouble with multiplication. I jokingly asked, "Quick--what's 8 times 7?"

"I don't know," she said.

I stood, mouth agape, waiting for an answer. She repeated, "I don't know. I'd have to do it."

I waited a moment then responded, "You are graduating high school next week and you don't know what 8 times 7 is?"

The girl next to her said, "Sevens are tough."