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"This is the most exciting day of my life...and I was pulled on stage once to dance at a Bruce Springsteen concert."
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Friday, April 27, 2007

AOGB Classic: When I'm 64

I would love to say that things have eased up time wise, but it seems that I somehow have even less time than before. This week I had report cards to do among other various odds and ends. I hope you accept my humble apology that I have yet to visit all of your blogs. I will get there. In the meantime, if you are still visiting here, I hope you enjoy this AOGB classic, and the wonderful Muzak while you are waiting.

Every once and awhile, mainly when I want a good chuckle, I'll check out the local real estate listings.

It doesn't matter if I'm on the internet or if I'm kickin it old school, paper in hand. The martyr in me can't resist combing through the, "you can look, but you can't touch" section. The popular jock of All That's Fit To Print High School , if you will.

Although I've talked about this before you may not have been around, so here's a refresher. Real Estate in New Jersey in a word, SUCKS. Now I know there are other states that feel NJ's pain. For instance, California and New York come to mind. Developers there will pave paradise and put up a parking lot, or a four bedroom home with two walk-in closets, faster than you can say the phrase "three car garage".

Internet searches, however, are perhaps the most brutal. That's because on the internet, that wonderful super highway of opportunity, you begin to believe anything is possible. So you optimistically browse real estate sites, narrowing and defining your search, hoping to find your diamond in the rough.

So you put in your search parameters and lo an behold, there are five, count 'em, FIVE matching properties! There might be hope for you first time home owner , you can't believe your eyes. It's affordable. It's new. And it could be yours.

Then reality hits and three words rear their ugly, geriatric heads:

It doesn't matter if these words come right out and advertise themselves or if you have to do some clever clicking. The end result is always the same. Where "A" stands for affordable, it also stands for ancient.

There are two main reasons these housing options taunt me like they do. The first reason is because as someone who has strived to find my postage stamp sized place in society, I now have a personal stake in this vendetta venture. The more senior living communities they build, the less room there leaves for me and maybe even you. The other reason is because senior living communities are growing by leaps and bounds. There is a simple reason for this though and the reason is this: The senior community itself is growing like never before.

Now part of me should be happy about this. I'm not against old people. Infact I like quite many of them and I only hope I am that cute and spry when I get to be their age. But let's face facts. My enjoying their stories and wanting to go head to head with them for the last blade of grass in the alleged "Garden State" are two very different things.

At the risk of sounding like a whiny child it JUST ISN'T FAIR! Why do seniors need so much affordable living opportunities anyhow? You want affordable? I'll give you affordable. Stay in the house you lived in the past 30 years. You know, the one where the mortgage is already paid off? Because the fact of the matter is while the starting costs of these senior homes are reasonable, they are still, in some cases, needlessly starting over. And once you add all the amenities and add ons, some in the 55 and over set actually end up breaking even. Now if that's not the kind of situation your grandparents would warn you against, I don't know what is.

And let's revisit the fact that many of the elderly have property to play with in the first place. They already got their piece of the pie. Along with Medicare. And Social Security. And discounted movie tickets. They haven't had it this good since they were under five and could ride the merry go round for free, or whatever it is they did for free back in the day.

All of this is just telling us what the Golden Girls have been saying for years. Getting old ain't nearly half as bad as it used to be. And speaking as a twenty something whose future's so bleak she's gotta stay paid, I ask you this. Knowing all we know about those golden years, why not give back to the people who really need it? That's right. This is why I propose affordable housing for adults UNDER the age of 35.

You read that right. Think about it. Who is having trouble finding longevity in any career nowadays? People under 35. Who has to put their own money away in a 401K just in case the government really does do away with social security someday? People under 35. Who really needs the water polo, aerobics and ice cream socials in order to meet like minded people? Turn up your hearing aid and say it with me, PEOPLE UNDER THIRTY FREAKIN' FIVE!

I find it ironic when older people tell younger people to enjoy and not wittle away their youth because before they know it POOF! it's gone. But if things keep going the way they are now, many young adults would say the twillight years couldn't come quickly enough. After all, people under 35 don't have much time for fun things anymore because they have to work, to save for the first house, the first child, the first college tuition and then, are you ready for this? OLD AGE. Have you had a conversation with my grandmother lately? She has more of a life than I do!

If communities like this existed when people were young there would be no need to make them when people got old. They already would have met the group of friends they would have met some fifty years later, only fifty years sooner. Now they can share memories their entire lives instead of the last ten years of their lives. See? It's a win/win situation.

It's just like Kevin Costner said in Field of Dreams. If you build it, they will come. Actually, come to think of it, Costner will qualify for one of those senior living communities pretty soon, right?

Never mind.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Tell It To Me Tuesday "Tell Me Something Good"

It was bound to happen sooner or later; I'm finally starting to run on fumes with TITMT ideas. I have a few on the back burner for sometime now, but none that I'm overly excited about. If I had more time I'm sure I could come up with a few creative ones, but time is something that is just not on my side at the moment.

So I decided to make this week's TITMT question just that...

What are some questions/ideas you'd like to see for Tell It To Me Tuesday?

Of course if I use your question, I will credit you. Don't be shy on this! I know that I have asked to borrow some really good questions off of many of your blogs. Now all I'm asking for is door to door delivery, is that too much to ask? Remember, the quality of future TITMT's hangs in the balance!

The other thing is that there will not be a Write Back Sunday Weekend because duh, there's nothing to write back to yet!

If you are participating on your blog, the rules are simple:

1. Answer this question ON YOUR BLOG and THEN link back to it via the box below.
2. Leave a comment letting me know you played along.
3. If you are interested in adding the box to your site, please visit Mister Linky.
4. If you have any questions or you're confused just ASK!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Write Back Weekend "Live From AOGB...It's Saturday Night!!"

Throughout my life, like many of you, I have had a love/hate relationship with all things Saturday Night Live. Beginning in 1975 with Lorne Michaels at the helm, this 90 minute LIVE sketch comedy show revolutionized the way we watched live, comedic television. Never before had we seen comedic actors in such a unique and refreshing format. Oh, and did I mention it was live?!

Although I didn't really start watching Saturday Night Live until the 90's, I am old enough to have seen many of the classic clips over the years. I also always felt you could pretty much break up the feel of SNL into five year segments. 1975 is when it all began, ushering in the "Classic Years". Those were the days that featured the first (and some might argue, the best) "Not Ready For Primetime Players". People like Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtain graced the stage back then. It was one of the best ensemble casts ever assembled.

But in 1980 the tides began to turn. Gone were many of the staple performers of the early years. Many of them went on to seek bigger fame and fortune in movies and were successful in their pursuits. During this time the entire show had to be recast with performers that were largely unknown then, and now. I guess you could say these were the days of the "Never Ready For Prime time Players". In large part, the 1980-1981 season, such a dramatic departure from the previous years, was considered a horrible failure. There were exceptions to the rule though. Out of the early eighties we got performers such as Eddie Murphy, Joe Piscopo, Jim Belushi, Billy Crystal, Martin Short and if we are being technical, Gilbert Gottfried, too. Julia Louis-Dreyfuss joined the cast in 1982, but for some reason did not leave all that memorable of an impression. I suppose you can't really take the girl out of Seinfeld after all.

1985 marked the season where all the movie stars joined the cast. Again, I have very little memory of any of these people being on SNL. People like Joan Cusack, Anthony Michael Hall, Robert Downey Jr., Randy Quaid and Damon Wayans were added. From 1985-1990 came the faces that you would eventually associate with SNL for years to come. People like Nora Dunn, Jon (yuck) Lovitz, Dennis Miller, Al Franken (who floated in and out for many years and in many facets), Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman, Kevin Nealon, Victoria Jackson and Mike Myers.

1990 or so was about when I began to watch the show live, as it aired. These years featured much of the same cast from the second half of the eighties, with notable additions being people like Chris Farley, Tim Meadows, Chris Rock, Julia Sweeney, Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider, David Spade, Norm MacDonald, Jay Mohr, Sarah Silverman, Janeane Garofalo and Molly Shannon. These are the years that I have many good memories from. The writing may never have seemed as fresh as the very early days, but I do think these years produced a lot of classic skits, and talent that was worth watching.

1995 was the year I graduated from high school. 1995-2000 featured some talented performers, and some not so talented performers. On the talent side we had new names like Will Ferrell, Darrell Hammond, Cheri Oteri, Nancy Walls, Tracy Morgan, Ana Gasteyer, Jimmy Fallon, Chris Parnell, Rachel Dratch and Maya Rudolph. On the not so talented side we had Chris Kattan, Colin Quinn, Jim Breuer and Horatio Sanz. The second half of the nineties also marked the addition of Tina Fey to the writing (sometimes performing) team.

From 2000 to today the show's cast has managed to evolve yet again. Gone are many of the nineties staple performers. In their place we got Amy Poehler, Seth Meyers, Fred Armisen, Will Forte, Kenan Thompson, Jason Sudeikis, Bill Hader, Andy Samberg and Kristen Wiig.

Since the early nineties I have watched (or recorded) every new episode of SNL. Most of the show is in large part, a letdown. Still, I come back to watch it all again and again. The funny sketches, to me, are like diamonds. They are rare to find, but worth sticking around for.

Below you will find a partial list of some of my favorite, all time SNL sketches through the years. I'm sure I will be bound to forget many. I was able to find a direct link to many of them, but don't be surprised if by the time you hit on some of them, they are already gone. I hope my brief description will be enough to conjure up some of the same memories for you, too.

The Land Shark- This is one of the earliest sketches in my list. What was so great about it was that it showed how little props and fanfare you really needed if something was truly funny. It was utterly ridiculous, but thoroughly enjoyable at the same time. It featured Chevy Chase in a Jaws type spoof as the land shark. He would knock on the doors and whisper, barely audible, "Candygram", "Parcel". Of course the woman who was supposedly cautious would always open the door on the flimsiest of descriptions and be consumed by...The Land Shark.

1. James Brown's Celebrity Hot Tub Party- This is a skit from the early eighties that featured the comedic genius of
Eddie Murphy. The gimmick was all in knowing James Brown and his shtick. As a kid, I always got a kick out of it took James Brown forever to do anything on stage. As a result, this skit always struck a chord with me.

2. Buckwheat Is Dead!- Another Eddie Murphy clip I fell in love with early on. One reoccurring character that Murphy did was the Little Rascals character of Buckwheat. During the news, the live footage of Buckwheat being shot made "breaking news". The hysterical part was how they kept showing the same five second footage, over and over. It was hysterical in its presentation, but also served as an excellent commentary on our times. The news always had the job of sensationalism, even back then.

3. Steve Martin's Christmas Wish- This clip is from the late eighties or the early nineties. It features frequent host, but never full time player, Steve Martin telling us about the top five things he wished for that holiday season. The You Tube clip I'm linking to has the audio looped over serious pictures. If you just listen to the audio though, it's still hysterical. The audio starts off serious and gets ridiculous. "First would be the crap about the kids, definitely."

4. Choppin' Broccoli- Dana Carvey reminds me of the class clown from your high school. In your small universe, he seemed like one of the funniest guys who ever lived. But then you graduated and suddenly you realized there were other people out there who were just as funny, if not funnier. You move on, but the class clown is still stuck in the golden years. Dana Carvey is that man. Still, back then he was THE man in simple, but ingenious skits such as these. We still sing this when getting dinner ready sometimes, too.

5. Celebrity Jeopardy- SNL have done many reoccurring bits over the years. Some of them have even been worth repeating. The Celebrity Jeopardy spoof featuring Will Ferrell as Alex Trebek was definitely one of them. Every time the skit aired it would feature different celebrities playing for charity, each increasingly more frustratingly stupid than the next. It is also one of the strongest memories I have of laughing and not being able to stop. Sometimes when teaching and it's not getting through, I do hear a tinge of of Ferrell's Trebek impersonation creeping through. Here is just one montage featuring reoccurring celeb spoof of Sean Connery. "The category is Therapists. I'll take the rapists for 500, Alex."

6. Battle of the Bands- Over the years, this skit hasn't been talked about all that much. I thought it was definitely one of the more original and clever bits they did on SNL though. The host was Susan Dey. The challenge was obviously, how do we make Susan Dey funny? The result was a Partridge Family/Brady Bunch sing off. The results were hysterical.

7. Jason Priestly Skating- Another clip that I loved was aired back in early 1992. It featured a surprisingly good host in Jason Priestly, the then 90210 heartthrob. The episode aired during the 1992 Winter Olympics and opened with what was supposed to be Jason Priestly playing a figure skater. During his short performance he fell about a zillion times. Each time the announcer would say "Ohh, that's gonna cost him the gold! Ooh, that's gonna cost him the silver! Oh, I'm afraid that's gonna cost him the bronze!" You get the idea. At the time, since I was so in to watching Olympic figure skating, I thought it was great.

8. I Gotta Have More Cowbell!- There were a few hosts over the years that are like honorary cast members because they bring so much to the table. Alec Baldwin. Tom Hanks. Of course, there's also the incomparable Christopher Walken. A spoof on VH1's Behind the Music, this sketch originally aired to honor a guy from Blue Oyster Cult who had died that week. Over the years though that trivia bit has been largely overshadowed by the genius of this spoof. Mainly the success of this sketch is due to the winning combination of Walken and Ferrell. "I got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell!"

9. The Barry Gibb Talk Show- Another great musical sketch, this one features Jimmy Fallon and recent classic host, Justin Timberlake as two of the Gibb brothers of Bee Gees fame. The pairing of Fallon and Timberlake as the Gibb brothers is magic from the start. Together, they "interview" random guests and burst into equally random falsetto flounderings. The result is, in my opinion, one of the best SNL skits of all time.

10. Norm MacDonald as David Letterman- This clip featured the under appreciated talents of Norm MacDonald perfectly cast as David Letterman. I wish that I had a clip of it because the description doesn't do it justice. They so got down how much of a kiss ass band leader, Paul Shaffer comes across most times. The classic, random line uttered repeatedly, as Letterman often tends to do, is "Eh..ya got any gum?"

11. Love-Ah's- Another reoccurring clip that worked was the odd pairing of Will Ferrell and Rachel Dratch as a gross, overly romantic middle aged couple. They specialized in making their guests feel uncomfortable with their numerous romantic references. The only guest just as weird as them of course, was Christopher Walken their sometimes love-ah.

12. Collette Reardon- If Dana Carvey was the male class clown of SNL, Cheri Oteri had to be his female counterpart. She is another case of a comedienne who soared while on SNL, but just could not make it translate to any other format. I'm not quite sure what happened there to be honest. Collette Reardon was one of many, wacky characters Cheri Oteri created. She is the old lady at the pharmacy who always seems to be on more medication than any one human needs.

13. Lazy Sunday- One of the initial strengths of the newer SNL cast was their clever and innovative short films. I was torn about their success, however. On one hand, I loved how they thought outside the box and somehow made SNL seem more current. On the other hand, the show is called Saturday Night LIVE. A lot of the skits that SNL envisioned would probably seem a lot funnier with editing, extra time and more rehearsal. Still, in all fairness, Lazy Sunday gave us false hope. It featured Andy Samberg and the multi-talented, Chris Parnell rapping about "The Chronic WHAT? cles of Narnia!" It came out the gate strong. Unfortunately there were still many weaker digital shorts to follow.

14. Natalie Portman Goes Wild!- Another one of SNL's biggest strengths is when they seemingly take actors out of their comfort zones. This works best when the celebrity is willing to poke fun at themselves in some way. I don't know how the Natalie Portman meltdown came to fruition, but it certainly was one of the best celebrity spoofs, featuring the actual celebrity doing the spoofing, ever.

15. Christopher Walken's Celebrity Psychic Friends Network- Jay Mohr is one of a few cast members on SNL that I never felt was allowed to truly hit his stride. Tim Meadows and Janeane Garofalo are two others that come to mind. At any rate, what is funnier than Christopher Walken on SNL? Christopher Walken spoofs, of course! Here we have one of Mohr's biggest underused talents, impressions. He interviews wacky "celebrities" like Todd Bridges and Crispin Glover on his psychic friends talk show. "Why aren't you calling?!... We could be in your driveway by now! Me and... Crispin... and Todd, waiting for you...Being...your friend."

As I was writing this post I realized there are probably many, many more. I guess this just proves the crappy SNL is worth wading through to get to the good stuff.
Thursday, April 19, 2007

Stop The World, I Want To Get Off

It's no secret that sometimes it's hard to find inspiration for AOGB, especially as of late. There's no real predicting what I'm going to write about or when I'm going to write it. I've always prided myself take my blogging cues from random occurrences, whether it be old men or Old Navy.

But sometimes things happen that are so major it seems wrong not to acknowledge them. Then, when you finally sit down to put your thoughts into words, the words just don't see to come out the way you want them to. Anything that does come out instead feels hollow and redundant, especially considering the fact that everyone is usually talking about the same issues on their blogs, too.

Of course I am talking about the horrific shootings that went down at Virginia Tech this past Monday.

When I first heard about what went down it was early that day. I had a morning prep at school and had gone online, perusing the headlines. I saw the headline about Virginia Tech, but the hyper link indicated one person was dead. At the time I didn't click on the story. In the name of honesty, I guess I had become desensitized to headlines to the tune of, "one person dead". I remember sleep walking through the initial news of 9/11 in a similar fashion, not realizing its initial magnitude. You think I would have learned my lesson. It's sad but it's true, we all seem to hear about some sort of tragedy on a daily basis. If I watched the news faithfully, I'd be downright depressed.

It was a busy day, as most are, so I didn't get to read the headlines after that. Imagine my surprise when my friend asked me at 3 o'clock if I had heard the news. I said I had heard about the person who died. That's when she told me that it was more than 30 people, plural.

When something major and tragic occurs my first instinct is to run in the other direction. We all know that ugliness exists in this world. You may agree with me though that it's somehow comforting not to think about just how much tragedy there really is going out there. But when tragedy hits closer to home, it makes us more aware. I don't know why this is. It's not like an earthquake killing 30 people in China isn't equally as sad. Tragedy should not be measured in terms of proximity. Except we all do it. We relate when it's "one of our own", a term that means different things to different people.

This being said, I'm sure people who live in Virginia felt harder hit by the event. College students in particular would identify more with the feeling of fear many of the students living or attending classes on campus probably had. I know when I saw the picturesque setting on campus I instantly made connections to my own college days, imagining suddenly feeling so safe in a place where I would expect the exact opposite.

My next thoughts then always jump to the why did this happen, quickly followed by the how. On the surface, the why seems like an easy enough answer. Here was a young man who says his motive was society itself, the rich in particular. One need not dig too much deeper though to know that this was the act of a tortured soul, looking for someone or something to blame, and to mirror what I can only assume were years of inner pain.

I don't believe, however, that people are inherently evil. When someone does something so sadistic, something horribly wrong, I believe something was usually done to them in some way, shape or form. It didn't matter if this can be traced to an isolated incident or not. All it takes is the person in question to feel it is real. The feeling alone is all that matters for it to become real in minds of these individuals.

Unfortunately, mass chaos breaks out when people try hard to control the uncontrollable. In this case, the wish is for absolute safety. Should officials at the Virginia Tech campus chosen a more effective means of getting warnings out to out on campus? Most definitely. Would it have changed the events that eventually transpired just a few short hours later? Perhaps. But we'll never know for sure. The bottom line is twisted minds are also often the minds of determined people. Sure, he might have not succeeded that day, but there's always the next day or the one after that.

There are also other factors at play here. To place blame squarely on the shoulders of the campus authorities isn't fair. If we're being honest with ourselves, events like these are usually brewing on the stove for awhile before they boil over. Hindsight is always 20/20. Why for instance, was it so easy for this guy to get a gun? What reason did he have for needing it and did anyone even ask? Why did more people not just dismiss him as a "weird guy" on campus and instead not heed the warnings of professors and students who rightfully sensed something wasn't right with this guy years ago? And what about his family? Is this man a product of a tortured environment or are some people just born into path of isolation and destruction?

Anything we can say about the event, the victims or the shooter are now and will always be speculation. It makes me sick to think of what he did, but it makes me feel even worse to think of the media's response to what he did. While my first instinct is to run and hide, the media's first instinct is to dream up a classic catch phrase and compete against each other for the juiciest lead. Events like this are precisely why I could never be a news reporter.

We are, no doubt, going to learn more about this man for months to come. The bigger question though is if we will learn from the events that transpired. We have already learned that this event was premeditated, as illustrated by the fact that he went to the post office and sent a package to NBC, detailing the events that were about to happen. Now the debate becomes whether or not we should sensationalize his actions. After all, isn't this the problem in a nutshell? The whole thing is brimming over with irony. He hates society and now he has become fodder for the type of situation that he would no date, hate if he were alive.

In some small way I think that is what connects all of us, the weak the strong, the sick and the sane. We all know something is wrong with the world. It's almost as if we are living in one big game. The bigger question is this: Are you going to stand on the sidelines and wait for someone else to play, are you going to making the winning shot or are you going to cheat to get to the top?

We all react to the game of life. It just depends on where you are standing while the game is being played.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Who Wears Short Shorts?

I always love it when a new season is upon us. The weather starts to change (or at least it should) and therefore, so apparently, should your wardrobe. Suddenly last year's capri's are so passe. You need to have this year's set, not that anyone outside the cast of Ugly Betty would know the difference. This is why it's right around this time that marketers everywhere bombard us with the latest trends and styles, read what you know what you SHOULD be wearing.

The only problem is it's all so boring since everything old is new again. This is because in fashion, just as it is with music, most of the good stuff has already been done before. We've seen sweater dresses. We're no strangers to belts. Now you put a belt around a sweater dress and poof! Shoppers have hit pay dirt.

Old Navy is perhaps one of the worst offenders of this. They always pick one trend to shove down our throats each season. In their latest advertisements, their piece du jour seems to be the classic short shorts. Seriously. Do y'all really think we've never seen shorts before?! For literally centuries, people have been putting their pants on, one leg at a time. It doesn't matter if those pants are slim fit, acid wash or cutoff. Pants are pants, plain and simple. All that makes these Old Navy shorts special is that they are indeed, from Old Navy.

The only people who should need new short shorts are the people who are buying them for the first time. But as anyone who is twenty-five or over knows there are very few items that are left to purchase that you've never owned before. Sure, you may occasionally need a new pair of boats to replace the old ones or you may want to grab a fleece hoodie in a different color, but replacing favorite items and discovering completely new ones are different matters entirely. The only possible exception to this is the girl whose getting a makeover because she lost a lot of weight or never tried a certain style before.

Men, of course, don't have these problems. This is further illustrated by the fact that you rarely see enticing advertisements geared towards men to come out and shop for clothes. Shorts are shorts to men. As are sweat pants, jeans, t-shirts, etc. They don't need colorful ads of happy models going clickety clackety down the street in order to get in their cars. Of course that doesn't mean they don't enjoy watching the leggy models as they walk down the street. These commercials, after all, work two fold.

Which brings me back to the fashion in question, short shorts. Every time I think of short shorts I think of two things. First, I think of Nair for short shorts, because I'm a commercial whore who relates everything back to jingles, it seems. The second is that I've never much cared for super short shorts. I always think they look good on other people, but never feel the same way about them on me. The trendiest of trends are often this way. I'm just too short to pull off the short short. I know that sounds insane, but it's true. I think the shortest of short shorts look the best on the tallest of girls. This is because they've got legs. It really doesn't matter if they know how to use them, they are there for the using.

So in short, you can keep your short shorts Old Navy. I've got a new batch of capri's with my name on 'em.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tell It To Me Tuesday "LOL"

I love laughing. I love laughing when I laugh so hard it hurts. I also love a good ongoing joke that never gets old. The odder, the better in my book.

Which brings me to today's TITMT question...Does anyone remember when Saturday Night Live used to be you know, funny?! Well, my question to you today is this:

What are your favorite Saturday Night Live skits of all time? If you can find them online, make sure to link to them either in your post or in the comments here!

If you are participating on your blog, the rules are simple:

1. Answer this question ON YOUR BLOG and THEN link back to it via the box below.
2. Leave a comment letting me know you played along.
3. If you are interested in adding the box to your site, please visit Mister Linky.
4. If you have any questions or you're confused just ASK!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Write Back Weekend "The World Don't Move To The Beat Of Just One Drum"

As most of you have figured out by now, most of my TITMT inspired questions are nostalgia inspired. This, one of course, is no exception.

This week I asked you what your favorite TV Themes were. Some of you, like me, had to dig deep to recall what a good TV theme once was. Nowadays most shows have abandoned the old school TV theme song in favor of something shorter and sweeter. This is no doubt, in an effort to fit in more show and less fluff. The Office, for example, is a short and to the point, no frills theme that brings you right back into the thick of action before too long.

Then there are what I like to refer to as the "cop out" themes. These are theme songs that are really regular songs that shows have adapted as their themes, most likely to hook people in on the song alone. The OC did it with California, One Tree Hill meanwhile uses Gavin DeGraw's I Don't Wanna Be. Ten years ago it probably got it's start with Dawson's Creek's use of Paula Cole's I Don't Wanna Wait. Shows like these are smart and have mass marketing on their side, but it becomes the classic chicken vs. egg scenario. Which was popular first? Woke Up This Morning or The Sopranos? Years from now you really may not recall.

The list I've come up with pays homage to the golden years of the TV theme song. The song was written for the show, even if it went on to be a hit in its own right. It also, almost without exception, told the story of the show, just as the music video used to tell the tale of the song, too.

1. Believe It Or Not (It's Just Me)- Joey Scarbury (Theme To Greatest American Hero) Many of you have felt the same about this theme song and mentioned it here or even went one step further to include it on your own lists. This song brings back so many memories for me and even sometimes makes me feel rather melancholy when I think about it being from so long ago now. Oddly enough, my memories of the show itself are somewhat vague given the fact I was so young at the time. The song, though, has stuck with me all of these years. I couldn't imagine anything evoking more of a reluctant hero vibe than Believe It Or Not.

2. The Love Boat- Jack Jones (The Love Boat) When I was a kid, Saturday nightlife WAS the NBC lineup, culminating in watching The Love Boat. Every week The Love Boat would feature different passengers, people who were usually plucked from other hit shows on at the time. I always loved how there were different storylines going on at the same time, too. Almost always something dramatic happened against the romantic waterview backdrop. The opening sequence not only set the tone, it introduced you to the ship's workers who would be with you on your voyage. It was even funnier when they decided to use it in Airplane Two. The first two lounge act like bars. Love. Exciting and new. Come aboard. We're expecting you.

3. As Long As We've Got Each Other- BJ Thomas and Jennifer Warnes (Growing Pains) I've written not too long ago about my recent Growing Pains obsession here so I won't bore you by rehashing it again. Let's just say I loved the theme song too, complete with its "photo album" look into the present day Seavers. Thank God they got rid of the Victorian piece of crap they pawned off as their first year's theme!

4. Doing It The Best I Can- Just The Ten Of Us was actually a spin off of Growing Pains so it's only fitting it should come after it here. It all centered around lovable Coach Lubbock who moves his big brood across country after getting a different job. As an added bonus, check out The Lubbock Babes, the four sister singing group that started on the short-lived tv show.

5. Brand New Life- Steve Wariner (Who's The Boss?) Who can forget Tony, Angela, Mona and the gang? Who's The Boss? was a classic show that deserved a classic theme song, even if it was the beginning of many years of watching Tony Danza ultimately play himself. I can still recall finding out the news that Danny Pintauro was in fact, gay. Many people were shocked. All I remember thinking was "finally". I think he was one of the first gay people I was aware of. It's amazing the things you remember.

6. Every time I Turn Around- Gary Portnoy (Punky Brewster)When most people think of Gary Portnoy they think of Cheers. Ok, if we're really being honest, most people don't think of Gary Portnoy, at least not on a conscious level. Cheers the program was the bigger hit so it makes sense it had the more popular song. Still, Punky the theme, and the show, had spunk in its own right. You couldn't have been a girl growing up in the eighties and not wanted to be Punky, even if it was just a little bit.

7. Where Everybody Knows Your Name- Gary Portnoy (Cheers) There are very few theme songs, or TV shows for that matter, that have achieved the cult like status that Cheers has. It's one of the few shows that you knew you were watching greatness when you watched it, but still somehow you didn't appreciate how special it was until it was gone. ut don't take my word for it. Just ask Shelly Long.

8. What's Happening Now Theme? There are very few instrumental inclusions on my list. This is because it's harder to get into a theme where you can't sing along. In a few special cases, however, humming along proved to be the next best thing. What's Happening? had its own theme that What's Happening Now? it's eighties counterpart, only jazzed up a bit. I grew up watching both, but it's the latter that always had my heart.

9. Facts of Life-revived version- Gloria Loring (The Facts of Life) Now there were a few different versions of this theme song. Unlike the others, I am pretty particular in using this one (I even had to dig a little bit). This was the theme they adapted after the bake shop, Edna's Edibles burned down. In its place they built Over Our Heads, a novelty shop. Along with the novelty shop came the novelty version of the theme song. It's one of my favorite shows of all time and the later years my favorite part. Plus it's got early George Clooney. What's not to love?

10. Diff'rent Strokes- Alan Thicke and Gloria Loring (Diff'rent Strokes) Long before Alan Thicke was playing it cool, calm and collected as dad Jason Seaver on Growing Pains, he was co-writing theme songs for shows like this one and Facts of Life. It's sad that over the years this show has become synonymous with messed up child stars. I remember when it was just an innocent program about some lovable adopted boys and their father. Incidentally, I always thought the theme was saying, the man is bald!

11. Movin' On Up- Ja'net Du Bois (The Jeffersons)There was a time where I was very in to the gospel themed TV theme song. The Jeffersons theme is just one example of this. It told the story of The Jeffersons rise to the upper echelons of society, despite not being ritzy in any way, shape or form perfectly. The show I only have vague memories of but the theme song will be with me forever.

12. Shine On- Vanessa Bell Armstrong (Amen) I can still remember watching Amen as a little girl. It almost always came on as we were getting ready to leave my grandmother's house as we used to go there a lot on weekends. It was the type of show I never would have thought I would have loved on paper, but I did watch it faithfully for a period of time. The theme song was great. I think American Idol should do a TV theme week. Lakisha or Melinda could blow this one wide open.

13. Thank You For Being A Friend- Cynthia Fee (The Golden Girls) A classic show like The Golden Girls deserved an equally classic theme song. Enter, Thank You For Being A Friend. Years after discovering the show I purchased an album by Andrew "Lonely Boy" Gold. Imagine my surprise when I found out he actually wrote this song, though they didn't use his version in the show. Now that I've burned through my episodes of Growing Pains I think I might take up watching old Golden Girls episodes next.

14. Charles In Charge Theme- Shandi (Charles In Charge) Another song that told the story of the show in under a minute, Charles In Charge was a great show from the eighties that starred Scott Baio as Charles in charge of their days, their nights, their wrongs and their rights. Actually, if we're being technical, he was in charge of a different group of kids and their days and nights first but then the first family was replaced in order to make room for Nicole Eggert. Years later a Christian pop rock band by the name of Relient K would even make a pop version of the song.

15. According To Our New Arrival
- Leon Redbone (Mr. Belvedere) Believe it or not, this is another song that was written by Gary Portnoy though it was performed by Leon Redbone. I didn't know about Portnoy's involvement until this post, however. Mr. Belvedere was a great show about the butler, Lynn Belvedere and his interaction with the Owens family. My favorite part of this theme song was always the way they timed everything so perfectly. All the clips look like they were fit to be in the opening credits. Don't you just love it when that happens?

16. Together (Silver Spoons) Growing up I loved the show Silver Spoons. But something about Punky Brewster and Silver Spoons so many years later, they are good for nostalgia purposes only. The overacting was usually too much to bear. All you need to do is watch one episode where the grandpa came to visit and you'd know what I mean about the boredom factor, too. Rick Schroeder was so popular at the time. Puberty wasn't too kind to Ricker, but luckily he snapped out of it.

17. You Can Count On Me - Greg Evigan (My Two Dads) Before Paul Reiser was "mad about" Helen Hunt there was another leading lady in his life. Her name was Nicole and she may or may not have been his biological daughter. She also may or may not have been Greg Evigan's character's daughter either. It didn't really matter because although it had a wacky premise, the show actually worked. I always thought the character of Nicole was really lucky because she had two great dads. She also got to hang out with a young Giovanni Ribisi. Not a bad deal!

18. Room Enough For Two- Kim Carnes (My Sister Sam) This show wasn't on that long but it's theme song was an instant favorite of mine. The show became news again after the untimely death of its young star, Rebecca Schaeffer who was gunned down outside her apartment by an obsessed fan. I can still remember being on vacation, swimming in the pool, when I heard that news. The show, the star and the theme song have stayed with me to this day.

19. Nothing's Gonna Stop Me Now
- David Pomeranz (Perfect Strangers) This is a rare inclusion on the list if only because I probably like the theme song a lot better than the show itself. I did watch and enjoy the show growing up, but after awhile it all became a bit too campy, even for my taste. The theme song though was uplifting and full of hope, just like a great eighties theme song should be.

20. My So-Called Life theme (My So-Called Life) The only other instrumental theme on the list, My So-Called Life's theme stayed with me because of it's simplicity. I always would get jazzed by hearing the spoken word dialogue "Go now! Go!" before watching a new episode. It was a show that was a pioneer in terms of intelligent programming for the teenage set. Of course now they know better. But things were different back then. TV themes are just one small representation of such a difference.

So there you have it. The incomplete list of theme songs that have touched my heart over the years. I'm sure I'll think up a few hundred before this post goes live but I think limiting it to twenty is smart, for now.
Thursday, April 12, 2007

We've Got A Big, Big Show

I know it seems that I say this every year, but it's hard to believe that before I know it, another school year will have ended. This year marks the first year that I am going to be truly sad to see a group of children (with the exception of one) go.

As anyone who has been reading this blog for awhile knows though, another year isn't over until the fat lady third grade sings. This is because every spring, the third grade puts on a grade level show. It's not something that just the third grade does or has to do during spring. It's just that collectively, with preparing for the NJ ASK, the third grade teachers prefer putting it off until then. In fact, if you ask us, we'd put it off altogether, but that's neither here nor there.

This year marks my third year having to put a grade level show together. I panicked my first year, not knowing what to expect. The theme that was chosen was Disney. Neither I, nor my students, were too thrilled with the theme. They thought it was pretty babyish and I actually agreed. Still we all made the best of the situation. I took the words to The Lion King's I Just Can't Wait To Be King and made it We Just Can't Wait To Be in kings and queens of the school, since they were heading off to fourth grade. You can read more about that year's show here and here.

With my first year show under my belt, you think I would have felt more relief going in to my second year, but I didn't. This was due to a few factors. For one thing, my class last year was more like America's Most Wanted than the most wanted class. Getting them to sit in their seats and not kill each other was accomplishment enough, much less getting them to memorize a routine and perform it, well. Last year's theme was another one that simply did not thrill me. It was Magic School Bus. So I chose the book, Magic School Bus Explores the Senses and put on a twelve minute, sense oriented extravaganza that only the likes of a long winded Meatloaf could be proud of. My class last year didn't do a lot of things well, but when it came to the show, amazingly, they did. You can read all about that show, too.

After having two successfully produced shows in a row the opposite begins to happen. Other teachers begin to expect a certain standard from you, based on your track record. So you can imagine how thrilled I was when the grade decided to use the theme, Leaping Into Literature. Basically anything that relates to literature was game. Any kind of genre. A particular book. A play, etc. In other words, another theme I wasn't so crazy about.

Now here's my take on third grade performances. Third graders are just not loud enough when you want them to be, mainly on stage. They don't know how to project, speak with inflection and many times, get stage fright when trying to. So to assume they were going to be be able to act out anything and be heard, is in my opinion, ridiculous. Then, of course, you have to take into account the audience which by and large in an elementary school setting is comprised of students that are even younger than they are. If you want a true opinion on how your show is going over just ask a kindergartener. Better yet, watch them. Their listlessness well tell you all you need to know.

So my secret ingredient, to any show I "produce" is to include music whenever humanly possible. Not only does it keep the kids in the show interested, it gets the people at the show interested. It also keeps me interested. If I'm bored rehearsing it, chances are people will be bored watching it. But this year proved a big challenge- how could I stay true to the show's theme of literature and still include music? I thought about it for months and months with nothing too exciting coming to mind.

And then it hit me. I was listening to my MP3 player on the way home from school a few weeks ago and on came the song Beat It by Michael Jackson. All of a sudden, I had this crazy vision of splitting my class up into two "groups", the fictions vs. the non-fictions, sort of like they were in the video. They could wear different types of t-shirts or hats and all of them would carry a book in their hand, be it a fiction book or a non-fiction book, depending on which group they were in. They would be singing to each other in the beginning because they each think they are each other's worst enemy, until they realize people should just read, period. Obviously nothing is set in stone at this point though. Are you with me so far?

In order to pull this off though I would have to do two very important things: first I would need to rewrite the lyrics. Second, I would have to find an instrumental version of the song in order for them to sing the new lyrics over. Once I was able to do both of those things, I figured it was a sign I was meant to do this for my show. Music? Check. Random connection to the theme? Done. Just kooky enough to pull it off? That remains to be seen.

So, out of Beat It I give you...

Just Read It! (Sung to the tune of Beat It)


They told us don't you ever come around here.
Don't wanna read your type you better disappear.
But we list a lot of facts and our words are really clear.
Just read it! Just read it!


We tell you stories and and we have a plan.
Characters, setting, plot and a solu-tion.
Your words are so tough, with us you understand.
Just read it!

Everyone: Why are we getting so mad?

Chorus (everyone)

Just read it! Read it!
No way you can beat it, beat it!
Struggle through reading, that you just might.
Not if you read a bit every night.
Just read it! Just read it! Just read it! Just read it!



We let you travel to exotic lands.
Italy, Mexico, France and even to Japan.
Once you hang with us then you'll be a fan. Just read it! Just read it!


Sometimes we make you laugh or make you feel scared.
You will make connections so just be prepared.
Entertain you and excite you, it is all there- just read it!

Everyone: Why are we getting so mad?

Chorus (everyone)

Just read it! Read it!
No way you can beat it, beat it!
Struggle through reading, that you just might.
Not if you read a bit every night.
Just read it! Just read it! Just read it! Just read it! (repeated)

All is subject to change at a moment's notice, but that's the direction things seem to be headed in so far. After spring break comes the hard part, introducing the kids to the plan and practicing it all. We've got a little over a month to pull it off. Think we can do it? Stay tuned!
Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Tell It To Me Tuesday "A Little Theme Music"

My bronchitis seems to be getting a little bit better and I haven't had a fever the past few days. But on top of the bronchitis I also had an ear infection. Lucky for me, my ear wasn't bothering me at all. Now that I am taking meds and everything is moving around in there, it is. Crap is starting to settle in my left ear and every once and awhile I get a pain. Oh joy.

But moving on to today's TITMT. It's a simple question actually. Once upon a time, TV was in love with the theme song. So, what I want to know is...

What are some of your favorite tv theme songs of all time?

If you are participating on your blog, the rules are simple:

1. Answer this question ON YOUR BLOG and THEN link back to it via the box below.
2. Leave a comment letting me know you played along.
3. If you are interested in adding the box to your site, please visit Mister Linky.
4. If you have any questions or you're confused just ASK!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Write Back Weekend "Sad Songs Movies Say So Much"

Happy Easter to everyone who is celebrating! I am still sick with bronchitis and a nasty ear infection, but I'm going to try and get through the WBW, as scheduled.
I hope all five of you appreciate this:)

Although I've compiled a top ten list, it's not going to be nearly as involved as some lists from the past have been. As most of you know, I usually write a pretty lengthy intro before diving right in to my picks. But since I'm sick, I'm going to cut that out today. I think these movies can speak for themselves. At least I hope so. I also am going to warn you that the list may contain spoilers as to why the movies are so sad. So if you haven't seen all of them, be smart and skip to the next one until you can rent them and see them for yourself. In the meantime, grab a hankie and dive right in!

1. Terms of Endearment- When I was a kid, this movie grabbed a hold of me and didn't let go. It's the story of a young couple who marry despite the controlling mom of the bride's protests. Although the couple goes through with the marriage, this doesn't stop the mom from meddling. Of course she sees her tough love as love, period. What's so great about this movie is that it realistically covers the lives of the family and their children over a big span of time. Nowadays it's hard to find a film that has that sort of connect even with a shorter time frame. The fact it gets you so much in the end proves that they did something right.

2. And the Band Played On- Perhaps an unconventional choice, And The Band Played On is a take on the history of the AIDS epidemic. It is based in fact, though I'm sure some have been embellished for the film itself. It brilliantly tells the story of how AIDS broke out and how it could have been self-contained had only the proper people paid attention to the warnings in the beginning. It doesn't always paint higher officials in a positive light, far from it, but it's honesty is both heart-wrenching and necessary in order to depict the mass epidemic we have on our hands today.

3. Mask- No, I'm not referring to the Jim Carrey vehicle co-starring Cameron Diaz. Mask is a movie starring Eric Stolz as Cher's son. Rocky is a great kid with a bright future, only he suffers from a massive facial and skull deformity that distorts his face. This brings upon a slew of medical complications. Rocky remains focused on his dreams, however, and is determined to be treated the same as everyone else. It's a sad yet uplifting reminder that most of our problems pale in comparison to those who truly suffer.

4. Man In the Moon- Again, not the Jim Carrey movie! This was the first movie I ever saw Reese Witherspoon in. From there on I decided I wanted to "be" her because at an age so young, she performed so brilliantly. It's the story of a young girl, played by Reese who is coming of age in 1957. She develops a crush on a boy a few years older than her. As a result she learns about love, and loss, for the first time.

5. Heart and Souls- In my opinion, this is one of the most underrated movies. It's the story of a little boy who has four guardian angels who all died during the same bus crash. Stuck in a purgatory of sorts, they accompany him everywhere he goes. Only early on they realize that they are doing more harm than good by following the little boy around and so they say goodbye. However, they never fully disappear, they just stop speaking to him in an effort for the boy to have a normal life. Only as years pass they realize that they need the little boy (now a grown man, played by Robert Downey Jr.) to help fulfill their destinies and movie on to heaven. I was so moved by this movie when I was younger that I even wrote a poem inspired by this movie. I don't know if I ever posted it here. Remind me and I'll have to do it some time. It's part Heaven Can Wait, part Dead Like Me. And all heart.

6. Requiem for a Dream This movie is sad in a different way than the others on the list. This movie is depressing and upsetting. The imagery is real and the desperation is apparent. It's the story of four very different people from very different walks of life, all paralyzed by drug addiction. The saddest (and yet best portrayal) is given by Ellen Burstyn. Her performance alone, while very disturbing, is worth seeing the movie for.

7. Hotel Rwanda- I didn't see this movie until late one night last summer. To be honest, I didn't know much about it and didn't know if I'd ever really want to see it. I started watching it late and I stayed up even later just to finish it in one sitting. I haven't done that in a long time, so I knew it had to be good. It's the true story of a regular hotel manager, played by Don Cheadle, who becomes an unexpected hero, trying to keep the people of Rwanda safe during massive genocides. It's disturbing and graphic and all the more sickening when you realize it really happened.

8. The Pursuit of Happyness- This is the most recent addition to my list and thus the most vivid because I just saw it not too long ago. It's also based on the true story (but aren't all sad movies, it seems?) of Chris Gardner, played by Will Smith, a down on his luck traveling salesman who is trying to support his young child and long term girlfriend. He has a string of bad luck, but Chris does not give up. Sometimes sad movies come along that make you cheer just as much as they make you cry. This is one of those movies.

9. Irreconcilable Differences- This movie really got me when I was a little kid. I think it's because Drew Barrymore was an only child, not much older than me. I had grand illusions of what I would do if I was the little girl in this movie. It's the story of a dysfunctional family that is torn apart by fame and greed. Caught in the middle is the little girl, played by Drew. I still say it's one of her best performances, ever. Probably because no one knew it, but it was pretty true to her life at the time. If you've ever seen the movie, the scene in the court room where she compares herself to a dog gets me every. single. time.

10. ET- I couldn't possibly come up with a list like this and not include ET. This was the first movie I ever saw in theaters. My parents regretted it immediately after the fact considering I cried myself to sleep all the way home. Little did they know, a two hour outing about a make believe alien would move so many people. In fact, what makes this movie so great is that it wasn't real except it still managed to touch old and young alike in a very real way.

Honorable mentions include (but are definitely not limited to) the following: 50 First Dates, Titanic, Cocoon, Beaches, The Notebook, Lucas, Silkwood, Liar's Moon and The Basketball Diaries.

I also almost forgot, Ice Castles!
Saturday, April 07, 2007

Calling In Sick

Just wanted you all to know that I haven't forgotten about AOGB or any of your blogs, either. In fact, this week is my spring break so I figured it would be the perfect opportunity to catch up a bit. Unfortunately for me, my body had other plans:(

On Monday I went to the doctor's for a persistent cough I couldn't get rid of. I often get a cough like this during the change of season but it rarely goes away on its own or with over the counter meds alone. At the time the doctor told me I had a nasty ear infection as well so she prescribed amoxicillin and told me it was ok to return to work. It didn't matter much anyhow considering I only had two and a half more days until spring break.

But the cough just wasn't getting any better. This is probably because she gave me medicine for the infection, but not really for the cough. Then late Wednesday night I started to feel a bit feverish. I took Advil and went to bed. I woke up Thursday morning still having a low grade fever. I couldn't call out of work though because I had to drop things off and bring things home to work on. Plus it was a friend's at work last day and I didn't want to miss that. So I sucked it up, went in and worked on automatic pilot. Lucky for me, my kids were pretty understanding about it.

Meanwhile I could feel my symptoms worsening as the day progressed. The cough was deeper and I could feel I still had the fever. I also was beginning to get very achy, particularly in my head. My eye sockets and base of my skull hurt the most. By the time I got home on Thursday I had a 101. something fever and the chills. My throat felt raw and swollen and I couldn't eat. So I took a nap and felt a little bit better.; I got up and had some of my grandma'shomemade chicken soup (perfect timing, right?) and even had some ice cream to soothe my throat. I rarely reach for ice cream so my parents knew I was sick. I felt like Cindy Brady in that episode when she got her tonsils out. Actually I felt like her already once before, when I did get my tonsils out.

Friday morning I woke up without the aches which was nice. My temperature was low grade again, but I still decided to call the doctor's again anyhow to be certain before the holiday weekend. Luckily they didn't charge me to come back. It was also lucky, in a way, that by the time I got there, my fever had returned a bit. This way they could see first hand what I was experiencing. This time the doctor seemed more concerned and said the infection in my ear had gotten worse. I don't have any pain in my ear so I guess that's a good thing. She thing said that the cough had gotten worse, too. Now she diagnosed me with having bronchitis. And, as an added bonus, if the fever doesn't go away, she thinks it may actually be pneumonia.

So I did manage to cough out a blog entry for you all, no pun intended. I'm not sure though what my schedule is going to be like the next few days. If I'm feeling up to the computer and not much else chances are I'll be on and visiting all of you soon. But if I don't get to your blogs, your comments or AOGB for a bit, you'll know why.

Happy Easter (belated Passover) to everyone!
Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

One day, not too long ago, we were browsing the movies to rent at our local Blockbuster. The choices that night were rather lackluster, so we ended up going home with a movie called Idiocracy.

Assuming you are like most people, you probably never heard of Idiocracy before. It's a movie that was written by the same guy who gave us Beavis and Butt-head, King of the Hill and the recent cult classic, Office Space. You know it's not a big time movie though since one of it's "stars" is Saturday Night Live's Maya "Bobby B!" Rudolph.

The movie's true star is Luke Wilson, one half of the seemingly unbeatable Wilson brothers movement. If it's not one brother handing off the slapstick baton to the other, it's a tag team effort where they both join in. In fact, this movie also features a bit part by a third Wilson brother, Andrew. I'll bet you never knew Andrew existed before this. That's ok. People spent years not knowing about Stephen or Daniel Baldwin and they turned out just fine, too.


But back to the movie. Idiocracy is the story of an Average Joe, named Joe Bauers. Joe is perfectly average in every way. Like Rockwell once sang, he's just an average man, with an average life. He works from nine to five and hell, he pays the price. Many people might relate to people like Joe if you dig deep enough. You know there might be more you could get out of life but the Joe's of the world have hit the "why bother?" breaking point. Instead they've settled for mediocrity.

Only one day, Joe is plucked from his mundane office job (think Judge is trying to tell us something?) and added as a subject to part of a grand, company related experiment. He is meant to hibernate along with Rita, Rudolph's character for a short period of time. Only during this time, the world falls apart and civilization forgets about them. When Joe and Rita eventually do come out of the experiment it is by accident. It is also 500 years into the future.

In the future, Joe and Rita quickly realize that the dumbing down of society has accelerated quite a bit. Suddenly, people who seemed perfectly average in present day society seem downright brilliant in future America. At first people of the future are afraid of the likes of Joe, but then they learn to embrace his "brilliance". Joe in turn, realizes his true calling is to be the king of the tweedledum and the Tweedledumber's.


When you watch a movie like Idiocracy at first you may be taken aback by it's sheer ridiculousness. Society could never become that dumb, right? But if you take a look around, you might come to the same conclusion as I did. The far off future might not be as far-fetched as it initially seems.

Think about shows like Jerry Springer for instance. That show started at least ten years ago. It made me sick to my stomach when it would come on. I can still see people crowded around the TV in the dorm rooms of my mind. Those were the heyday of the dysfunctional talk show. But Springer was just the tip of the iceberg. Little did we know that segmented dysfunction would evolve into thirty and sixty minute episodic disarray for all the world to see.

Ultimately the likes of Ricki Lake spawned reality TV as we know it. Nowadays we have everyone from Paris Hilton, to Sanjaya to I Love New York. The old Real World used to be able to proudly boast, "This is the true story of when people stop being polite, and start getting real." Whether it's real or not really doesn't matter. The fact that it's still passable as entertainment illustrates the dumbing down of our society in little pieces, Kibbles N' Bits, if you will.

I hate to say it, but sometimes teaching also reminds me of this. I'm not saying I'm always the sharpest tool in the shed, but I have to confess something. I often feel smarter when I see some of what's out there in society and believe me, I see it first hand every day. I'm not saying my students are dumb so please don't paraphrase and jump to that conclusion. All I'm saying is that there is a basic lack of common sense that seems to be permeating mass culture these days. Then there are others that just don't do things out of sheer laziness. From where I'm standing I can't decide which is worse.

I am in the business of turning that around though which I do try my damnedest to do. But sometimes when I see what the present holds and it makes me scared to imagine the future. If you speak to people from older generations they will confirm the same frustrations. We live in a society that caters to laziness with online shopping and drive-thru fast food. In our lifetime this might not have a major impact, but being more efficient doesn't necessarily equate to being more self-sufficient.

On the surface, movies like Idiocracy come across as ridiculous send ups of a world that could never been. But if you take one look at how much has changed in even ten years you may come to the same conclusion as I have.

Stupid is just another word for nothing left to lose.
Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Tell It To Me Tuesday "Don't Cry Out Loud"

Last week Becky over at Searching for Oz asked a good question. With permission I decided to make it a TITMT here. She obliged. Lucky for me, Becky is all about sharing the love!

Her question was...What are the movies that made you cry and why? I added of course, the "and why?" part. It's the teacher in me, I can't help it.

If you are participating on your blog, the rules are simple:

1. Answer this question ON YOUR BLOG and THEN link back to it via the box below.
2. Leave a comment letting me know you played along.
3. If you are interested in adding the box to your site, please visit Mister Linky.
4. If you have any questions or you're confused just ASK!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Write Back Weekend "Rage Against The Machine"

Last week I went on a bit of a tangent TITMT wise. I took the long road, with detailed inspiration, to get to this question, Did you ever fight back against something you thought was wrong? What was it you fought against and why were you fighting? Do you feel your efforts were in vain? Why or why not?

Obviously, with the impending re-cancellation of a hard to find program, I showed my cards somewhat. Many, many times shows have been canceled that I have been in to and nothing that viewers do or say seems to be good enough to get it back. The best you can hope for nowadays is that old programs will surface online or or on a sister network that may or may not be created. It's all about ratings and shares and other things I don't understand. I have contributed to many a petition in the past and will continue to do so I'm sure, for many in the future.

But TV show cancellations, while they do infuriate me, only represent the bigger picture. On the whole, I'm pretty much a "go with the flow" type of person. But when I whole-heartedly disagree with something I do my part to make that known. I wouldn't go as far as to say that I'm a rebel, but I have found ways to make my voice heard over the years.

I think it's a particularly frustrating position to be in when you are working. This is because you are often not your own boss and while you may have the better ideas, you have to answer to a higher power. When I first started working in insurance, it didn't take long for me to "crack the code" of how to make my department more efficient. I was twenty-two and knew what to do. Those in charge were fifty-two and hadn't a clue. Who won in that scenario all depends on how you look at it. They got their way, but I got out. It was the only way at the time for me to keep my sanity.

But as we all know, running from every conglomerate, every brick wall doesn't serve any purpose either. So sometimes you have to learn how to play the game and hope for the best. It may not make a difference today, but you gotta believe that somewhere down the line it will.

When working in the corporate arena I noticed a lot of things that made my blood boil, but now that I'm working in the field of education, those things make me even angrier. This is because we are in the business of shaping future generations. One mistake that was avoidable might just be "one child" but it's one person's life which to me, raises the stakes. Unfortunately, while I'd like to believe that the corporate world is different in their approach then the education world, this is far from being the case most times.

Right now I'm in the midst of something at school that I am fighting against without causing too much waves. I have a child in my class who was retained once, but is eleven years old. To remind everyone, I teach third grade. Perhaps she started school late on top of being left back, I'm really not sure. Anyway, early on I saw that something wasn't right with the way this child was learning. She paid attention, always seemed to try her best, but she just wasn't catching on. I see this a lot in the beginning of the year but for some kids, it tapers off a bit once they get the hang of third grade work. Academically, second to third is a big leap for many of them.

But after teaching for a bit you learn to decipher the ones you aren't quick to the draw and those who will, never "draw". In my school, the next plan of action is to make a case for her and present it to a special team that "watches out for those types of kids". Now here's where we get to the blood boiling part one. Due to the No Child Left Behind Act, once a kid was retained he or she cannot be retained again. It's called social promotion. But when you see a kid has been retained and it still doesn't seem like they are where they should be, what should the next step be?

Logically many of you might say the next step would be to have the child tested for a learning disability. However in my district, a teacher cannot request that a child be tested. No, that sort of request has to come from the parent. Now considering I worked in an urban district where many of the parents are predominantly Spanish speaking, they do not know how to request such services or even if such services are necessary. My district understands this, but this is precisely why the system works so well, for them.

So I went through the motions and fulfilled the tedious process of paperwork to get this child resubmitted into the closer watch program. Yes, for those of you paying attention at home, I did say resubmitted. This is because another teacher had submitted her before. After awhile she was showing success, so they took her out, never thinking that the success she was showing might have indicated something was working for her.

Now when I say kids like these are added to a list to be more closely watched I have to be honest. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, is done for them after this point. We meet with the parent a few times a year and I fill out monthly progress reports on said child, but as far as I can tell, when interventions fail, there are no interventions for those interventions. This child in particular has been receiving one on one services in mathematics for nearly six months now in addition to morning tutoring and classroom work, and she still isn't getting the concepts. If that's not a sign of a child in need, I don't know what is.

The problem is the at the end all be all is the standardized test scores. If a child does well on them, it doesn't matter what they did academically the whole school year. Their future worth rides on one day and one day alone. So somehow, someway last year this child took a standardized test. On the math portion she scored a 99% which would indicate she got everything right. Meanwhile, in my classroom, she has hesitated over questions such as "What's one more than six?"

No one questioned these test results last year.

What we can guess is that the test, which is in large part scored by a computer, malfunctions when someone gets everything wrong and instead prints out a perfect report in error. It makes sense when you consider there is another child who I had in my classroom briefly who is struggling with the same issues who also scored a "perfect" paper. There is no way these children did that well unless there was a mistake, a fluke or a case of a child who copied from the smart kid sitting next to them.

Still making a case against those test results is difficult, if not impossible, to do. I've seen my principal add students to the gifted classes on those types of test scores alone! Never mind teacher recommendation or a year's worth of work that says otherwise.

So last week we had another meeting to discuss this student's progress as per parent request. The Child Study Team would not budge in terms of evaluating her, saying they had "nothing to go on". Meanwhile NO ONE has been in to my room to observe her and I have a folder full of paperwork that anyone could ask to see at any time which would indicate her strengths and weaknesses. In the moment, they said this information was not enough. Only when another team member inquired and asked if I wrote things I tried on the papers I had, would that be sufficient, did they reluctantly agree they could work from that. Of course, this doesn't exactly make me feel confident that they are going to do everything they can for the student in question.

The worst part was that during the meeting the parent, in Spanish, actually came out and requested her child be evaluated. Where I teach, a request being made like that is like the Holy Grail or the Golden Ticket. The fact that mom sees it too and is concerned is proof enough for me. But she could tell, although she couldn't understand the language, that the team still was reluctant to push forward. And for the first time ever at one of those meetings I've attended, the parent cried. It was so heartbreaking to see, all because of a system that is set up that is allowing her child to fall through the cracks.

I continue to rage against the machine for this child and for others who come my way. Many people give up on filling out the paperwork, assuming why should they bother once they see what they are up against. I'm not going to to lie and say I haven't had moments of that frustration, too. But even if she doesn't get the help she needs this year, it will be documented that I tried. So one day when her file gets pulled again by another person who cares to question, all the effort for just "one child" was not made in vain.



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