Thursday, August 30, 2007

Old Time Radio and audiobooks

I have had some time to spend in the car going to and from work. But it has been productive as I have listened to several CDs and other audio.

I started listening to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. Then I interrupted it, for now, with the unabridged audio book for Eragon by Paolini. Good work, so far. Eragon is immensely rich with description and vocabulary. Amazing as it was done by a fifteen-year-old. I also bought a reading of Dante's Divine Comedy, the whole thing, so I am looking forward to that one.

This gives me something meaningful and at least educational on the ride to work. The time doesn't feel wasted. Plus I intersperse here and there with Jack Benny. I would probably never listen to them at home otherwise, and I love Old Time Radio.

I first discovered OTR on the Chicago airwaves when I was in high school. WMAQ (I think), or at least one of the news stations, had an hour long broadcast most evenings. I was hooked. I think I tuned in by accident. I used to tape them off the radio with the cheapo cassette tapes. I had a shoebox full of them. Now my collection has been updated to digital with the OTR communities on the web, like The Cobalt Club. I have whole series now on mp3. It's a pretty good collection. I am happiest for what's thought of as a pretty complete set of the old Superman radio show. I say almost complete because there are many episodes lost to time, and I have most of the episodes thought to exist.

Old Time Radio and audio books listened to the past two weeks so far:

Jack Benny 12-27-42 and two of the three with Orson Welles from 1943

X-Minus-1 "Mars is Heaven" by Ray Bradbury

"Who's on First?" routine by Abbot and Costello

Amos and Andy 5-21-29 and 5-23-29

Lord of the Rings part 4

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Madison started her first ballet lesson last night. She was so excited. And she is such a ham; I asked her to do a ballet pose for the picture and she did this without prompting!

We had to start bribing Madison to sleep in her bed all night long. With toys. We bought some Dollar Store toys and said she can only get them if she spends the night in her bed without coming to our bed. Amy and I only have a full, which is plenty big enough for the two of us, but if you add in this 45-pound bed hog, the room quickly disappears. It's worked two nights in a row so far. Just this morning, as I am putting on my tie about ten after five, she groggily comes up to me, "Daddy, I slept in my bed all night. Can I have the bouncy ball?"

As long as she sleeps in her bed!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

ISU Volleyball

The team won the noon game against the Miami (Ohio) Redhawks, 3-1. Then they apparently stomped Valparaiso that evening in three straight games. I wish we had gone to that one too. Oh, well. There are plenty more games this year. And it is cheap and will never be crowded so Morgan and I will go again.

Seventh Grade

Morgan's first day of school was last Monday. The big seventh grade.

Cancelled...or fired?

Gosh darnit! And I was very much looking forward to this. I had pre-ordered way back in May this Bill Lumbergh figure from the OFFICE SPACE movie.

From the email I received from Entertainment Earth:

"Thank you for ordering from Entertainment Earth. Unfortunately, Office Space Bill Lumbergh Talking Office Buddy Figure (Item DC45007), which you ordered, has been cancelled by the manufacturer. From time to time manufacturers cancel items for a variety of reasons. No additional information was given as to why this item was cancelled, however.No units were ever shipped to Entertainment Earth. We certainly would have filled your order had this item been manufactured."


Saturday, August 25, 2007

Illinois State University Redbird Volleyball

Morgan and I seem to have a nice new tradition: going to see sporting events together. She has fun just being out, like at the other week's football game, and she is also hoping to play volleyball someday.

She'll try out for the junor high team this year. It is going to be very competitive with 1000 kids in the school. She wanted to see good athletes play the game.

We went to the season opener last night for the Illinois State University Redbirds. They played against #7 nationally ranked Florida Gators. The first two games were easily taken by Florida but ISU really sparked in the third game, leading quite often, only to fall 30-27. So that was three in a row, but they worked hard.

We also got to see the last half of Miami (Ohio) lose to Valparaiso. This is the Redbird Classic tournament and a few games are played in the Redbird Arena here.

It is a lot of fun to sit there with Morgan. She is a bit shy on the cheering side, but that's where I come in and spur her on. It was a blast to do the crowd cheer after ISU scores a point: the announcer says, "Point Illinois State!" then the crowd chimes in altogether with "Point Illinois State Woooooo!" We even got on the Jumbotron thing once. After the game Morgan was then able to have a poster signed by the whole ISU team.

Then a lady in the crowd, out of nowhere, gave us tickets for today's noon game! I think the Redbirds can take Miami (Ohio) so it should be a lot of fun. More later...I'll remember my camera too.

The car is finally on the barge!

Just the other day, our car has finally been put onto the barge in Nome! Finally!

They were on their way back from Point Lay and, after many adventures, our car is on the barge.

Now it will sail to Anchorage. The company is working on getting it to Seattle as soon as possible.

The nightmare is almost over. We were originally planning on waiting for the car to arrive in Seattle and driving the car cross country as a family at the tail end of June. It's a good thing we didn't wait!

We hope to see the car back in September. (Then we are going to demand our money back.)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Casey's United Indoor Football All-Star Classic

Morgan and I had a ton of fun last night at the United Indoor Football (UIF) All-Star game at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum here in Bloomington. While the stadium seats 6700 people, according to the paper yesterday only 4000 tickets were sold. So there was a nice turnout but it wasn't too busy.
I didn't know anything about the league other than what I've read in the Pantagraph. This is the second season for the league and this was the first all-star game. The Bloomington Extreme call this their home turf. Apparently some kind of minor league hockey also play here, the Bloomington Prairie Thunder. Morgan just wanted to go to get out of the house. I think she's gone stir crazy this summer. But she had a lot of fun and I think was actually enjoying the game. I kept telling her how hard the game actually is, with grown men bigger than me tackling each other and hitting each other full speed.
They had all sorts of cool games for the fans. At one point, there were people in human hamster balls and sumo outfits. At other times, there were races and pass games. I think, if anything, they highlighted how hard it actually is for the casual person.
These are the tickets that I won through the Pantagraph contest. The street cost was $40 per ticket! I honestly don't know if it was worth $40 a ticket, but it was a lot of fun. I think I would have paid out of my own pocket about $20 a ticket. It was a lot better than an NFL game would be, simply to be that close to the action. We heard every hit.
Above are some cool photos I snapped during the game. I am so glad I caught that one with the fireworks. The action shot shows two of the leaders of the league: Burk is the quarterback for the Extreme and he won Most Valuable Player last night. Askew, as I read in the paper, has scored more touchdowns than anyone, and in comparison he has scored more than Jerry Rice's NFL career. Maybe we will see them in a bigger setting one day.
And the picture of Morgan is at halftime when I brought back a soda and nachos ($7.75!) that really brightened her up. We had so much fun sitting there, talking, explaining the rules, listening to the music that Morgan is getting better at guessing who sings it. She impressed me when she knew "Sweet Home Alabama" after only the opening riff. What a good time.

Friday, August 17, 2007

First Inservice

Lots of stuff got done. Made to feel very welcome. I am so glad for the principal's direction, turning us into a Professional Learning Community. There will be no complainers and we are all going to do what we are supposed to be doing: teaching. We will bounce new ideas off of each other, schoolwide. That's the only way to become a better teacher. I could never have gotten better if it weren't for my buddy-teachers every year.

It's weird--I'm the exotic one. I have stories to tell about Alaska. They are all fascinated. It's a great conversation starter.

Radio listened to today: bunch of music, The Lord of the Rings audio play part two

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Same old dance but a new beat

Went to the school today to check out my first day stuff. They have this day before the "vets" get there for us newbies to get acquainted and ask questions, like is there a code for the photocopier? how do I sign up for the computer lab? what's the procedure for taking attendance and lunch count? and what happens when I kick a kid out of my room? (that last one rarely happens to me anymore--I've learned over the past few years how to control it in my classroom. But if a kid does stand up and say, "Eat shit, Mr. Bitcher," I want to know where to send him or her.

That's nice that the district does this. This is the kind of stuff that otherwise you have to learn on the fly. They don't go over it with the veterans of the district there because it would bore them to death. While most everything is exactly the same as every other school, there are just little differences to understand and hoops to jump through. For instance, in Nome, the lunch count was taken and put into the computer with the online attendance. Here, you still have to put your lunchcount on a piece of paper and hang it up outside the door, even though attendance is still kept online. Little differences to get used to. A different, yet probably exactly the same, online gradebook program to keep.

I have been assigned a "mentor" for this year, another English teacher that's been in the district for several years. She knows I don't really need anything special with my background any more, but it is nice to know that for anything there is someone to go to.

My classroom will be nice. No window though, so that's a bummer, and after I vied for that coveted window at Nome-Beltz! No one has any windows though! I do have some skylight windows above one wall that go into the hallway. I still have to rearrange my desks. It looks like I will have plenty of room to have the seating that I want--I like a big open space in the middle and the desks on the side, rows of three, all facing inwards. I am never further than three students away this way, plus it keep me a lot more mobile in the room. Glad I have that kind of space.

Tomorrow is the first real inservice day. I'm anxious to really get down to the nitty gritty of planning my class out. I'm still working on my syllabus for seniors.

Radio listened to today: The Lord of the Rings audio play part one

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Bulk Mail

Does anybody ever go through their bulk mail folder?

I use Yahoo! mail for my main email. I have three emails there, one for my "professional" mail, one that I use to save all sorts of teacher documents (before Yahoo! had a 1GB mail storage limit--that's gone now), and one main email I use for everything else, including friends and newsletters that I like to read. I only log in to those first two about once a week, if that.

I know, I know, they say that you should have one junk email for that stuff. But then I have to log in twice, root around for what I want. Yahoo!'s spam filter is very good if you click the spam button on anything you don't want. Every once in a while though, it is too good and I have to go through it to read a couple of the newsletters that I like in my inbox. It does fix itself after I click the "not spam" button.

The funny part is that I get at least 200+ spam messages a day. These all go straight to my bulk mail folder and are gone in a couple of clicks. It amazes me what's in there.

Besides the women who apparently want to talk to me and send me pictures out of nowhere, I also daily win some kind of international lottery. Just today, I won the Spanish and British lottery. I didn't even know that I entered them! I'm rich! Now I can afford to fly those women who email me in to the country!

I also receive multiple messages telling me about being a millionaire on eBay. More and more business partnerships come in where I barely have to work and let my computer work for me. I have offers rolling in constantly.

And the propositions to help those nice people from Burkina Faso just add up. All I have to do is give them my bank account numbers and a small fee and I'm guaranteed several percent of the millions they need to transfer. What could be easier?

My favorites are the ones that apparently can offer discount medicines cheaper than going through conventional methods. Anything I could want is available. Just click on the hazy picture in the email and save hundreds of dollars.

Then there are all the free laptops that are available. Simply go through some internet signups and surveys and they will send one your way. I must have 800 laptops on the way.

Then there are the ones that tell me I am approved for l_oan s and mor_t*gages that I didn't even know I applied for. They have such an interesting and new way to spell their subject headings that you have to take a look. It must be a form of creativity, those headings.

Luckily, all of this is present in my bulk mail folder, all in one nice, easy, and easily locateable place in my email. The best part is that it is all gone in one click.

(If you couldn't tell, yes, I was being facetious and sardonic about these bulk emails. I can't believe, I simply can't believe that anybody falls for any of these. Unfortunately, there must be people out there who do otherwise they wouldn't send them. If they bulk-email out one million messages and get back just one-hundredth of one percent, 0.01%, that's still 100 people. Think about it. 100 people out there, somewhere, fall for those emails we scoff at.)

And it was summertime...sweet summertime

Today is the official last day of summer vacation for me. Tomorrow I go to another new teacher orientation, this one at the high school, for half a day. Then the two days of inservice and the kids come on Monday.

I shouldn't complain. I'm not. I've been off since that last Friday in May. That's a good long time. Flew from Alaska, spent some time in Seattle, moved the family to Illinois. Good productive summer.

That's one of the reasons I like being a teacher. It's true--the summers! That's because it is such a nice refresher and makes me start each year with new eyes and new heart and hitting the ground running. If, for instance, school started up again right in June, I think we teachers would get really exhausted. It's true that we get summers off but we make up for it from September to May. It's a great gig, really, almost the opposite of the construction worker who works hard extra hours all summer and then gets the winters off. When I worked in mortgages, there was no let up--July was just another month at work. With teaching, there is a sense of accomplishment each year. Like last year, watching my seniors go down the graduation aisle, knowing that I influenced them, at least a little bit. When Marjorie said she might study English in college because of my class, even if she doesn't study it, her just saying it made me feel worthwhile.

So here's to summer. My batteries are recharged and I am rarin' to go. And come June, when my batteries are low again, I'll get another recharge.

This is the life.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Two movies in two days

I hardly ever go to the movie theaters and then I go see two movies in two days.

First, Friday night, Morgan and I had a little Daddy-Daughter date. We were going to go see Transformers, but son of a gun, it is apparently out of theaters around here. We went to the two different theaters that we knew about, and that were playing it last week, but no dice. I was flabbergasted. How long does a hit movie stay in theaters anymore? Transformers was a hit at the box office since its debut around the fourth of July. It's out by August 10? Not even a month and a half? Is that really how short the shelf life is anymore? I can remember seeing movies at the theater after like two months or more. Granted, we did only go to two theaters and I don't know where, or if there is, the cheap-o movie theater that plays older stuff. I'm sure there's gotta be one around here somewhere. I just thought that a big summer blockbuster, something that a geek like me as a kid might've gone to see three or more times (like the first Batman movie I saw three times in theaters) just might still be in regular theaters.

So the two of us looked at our choices. I almost decided to scrap the whole idea and take her to the bookstore, but she wanted to see a movie with me. It's a lot of fun, just the two of us going together. The choices weren't too hot. I took her in to see a movie that intrigued the inner kid in me: Underdog. I'll admit that I could have waited until DVD but it was our only option.

Underdog was cute. The whole idea was simple and effective. The update to the modern screen was good too. I especially like how it incorporated little tidbits from the tv show into the movie, like the dog's name was Shoeshine and in the cartoon, Underdog was a shoeshine boy. When the crowd yelled, "It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a frog! ...A frog??" I almost forgot about it being in the cartoon.

Couple of minor things: I know Simon Barsinister is a mad megalomaniac scientist, but did the background character exposition really need to come from him telling a new security guard, "I am a genius, the most important scientist in this company!" And then, even after discussing it with Morgan, I still don't know why the father-son were talking about the sewer system and having access to the entire city. That was just left field. And why did Polly and Molly enter the capital building at the end? These three things were a case of too little movie. Previews started at seven and Morgan and I were in the car at 8:30. If they could have taken like five to ten minutes more, they could have filled some holes. I dunno, it just seems that when a movie is less than 90 minutes, you shouldn't be left scratching your head. I could see if it were over two hours and they had to cut something.

All in all, a cute movie, funny (chuckle funny, not laugh out loud funny) that was worth seeing with my daughter.

Then Saturday night Amy and I had a late date. We went to see the 10 pm showing of The Bourne Ultimatum. She had just bought and watched The Bourne Files, the two disc compilation of the previous movies. We had seen them before and loved them. This is what action movies should be. Absolutely excellent. It was non-stop. I don't think there was a slow section anywhere in the movie. We were both riveted.

You simply have to love an action flick where the bad guys are smart. The other operatives were just downright scary. Every action seemed purposeful and there wasn't anything you would say, "Oh, yeah, right." Flawless movie. Simply one of the best action movies ever. As Amy said about action movies, "The bar has been raised." It makes other action movies that you think are good pale in comparison.

There's just one thing about the movie to discuss. The camera. They used handhelds and chased around after the characters on foot. Lots of juggled cameras, quick panning, and will almost give you a headache or make you nauseous. That was what was perfect about it.

This is weird for me. I totally understand why they chose to make the movie like that. It made it more intense, more frenetic, more frantic. As Entertainment Weekly said, you feel like you are chasing Bourne, feel like you are right there in the movie. And you do. It defintely worked. It put me in a frame of reference for this character--if my brain was having trouble keeping up and coping, imagine what his brain must be like to be in charge of the action. However, that camera jostling--I just wish there was some way to do it with a still camera so I could see more. But there isn't. This is a case where I understand why they did it, even agree to it and wouldn't change it, but I just wish there was another way.

Good movie weekend.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Eye of Sauron

I mentioned the lamppost outside our balcony the other day.

The plant really doesn't cover it all. The shades are the only thing that stop it.

I think it is just about in the most annoying place possible.

Crayola is Cool

Last week I bought Madison some of that new Crayola Color-Wonder stuff at the Target store. Unfortunately, I got pissed because she ran out of the color fingerpaint stuff before the Winnie the Pooh coloring book it came with was done. She only completed like three pages before she ran out of stuff. So I wrote a letter and mailed it to the company:

August 4, 2007

Dear Crayola,

Just today, I purchased a Disney Winnie the Pooh Mess Free Color Wonder Fingerpaints kit, UPC #071662121372, at a Target store today. While it is a fantastic product, and the idea and use is excellent, I am quite dismayed by the meager amount of fingerpaints in the kit.

There are six little cups of the mess free fingerpaints. My four-year-old daughter, Madison, used ¾ of the pink on one little picture of Piglet. There was enough for one more picture. I was right there with her, trying to help her pace her use of the product. She did not excessively overuse the product. She used exactly what I would consider a four-year-old little girl to use.

Isn’t that who the product is directed towards? I am quite upset now that my daughter is out of the fingerpaint product but she still has 20 of the 24 pictures left to fingerpaint. She doesn’t understand and now she is crying because I am the mean father and will not run out to the store to buy her more right away. Honestly, I shouldn’t have to run right out and buy more. There should have been enough fingerpaint in the kit to last for the booklet.

I demand a couple of new fingerpaints in order for her to finish this book. Please write me back and let me know how you will rectify my little girl’s broken heart.

Okay, I'll admit it was a bit over-the-top. However, I wanted to tell them how simply disappointed I was. I mean, it cost $6.99!

Just today, FedEx came to the door with a package from Smith-Binney, the company that runs Crayola.

The letter that came with it stated:
Dear Matt:
Thank you for your recent inquiry.
I am sorry to learn of your experience with a Crayola(R) product that was less than perfect. We are grateful for your feedback, as it helps us understand how we can improve our products. Your comments are valued and will be shared with our Quality Assurance team.
We are eager to restore your confidence in our brand. Please accept the enclosed product(s) for your daughter, Madison, to complete fingerpainting the pictures in her book. Also enclosed is a complimentary coupon you may use towards the purchase of any Crayola product. If additional assistance is needed, you may reach us by telephone...blah blah contact info blah.
Colorfully yours,
I thought that this was extremely nice. This clearly rectifies the problem and restores my faith in the company as one that cares. I just hope they put more fingerpaint "goo" in the new products.
The power of the pen. Writing letters and actually mailing them shows seriousness. Let this be a lesson: never take it lying down--write a letter and tell companies what you think. I think, of all the letters I have ever written, 99% have given me something to cheer about.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Principal's Welcome

From the principal's letter welcoming teachers back to school:

The first new staf member is Mr. Matt Butcher. Matt will be working on the English Team. Matt comes to us from Alaska. However he is a native of Illinois. You might enjoy listening to Matt's stories about the Iditarod. He is truly an interesting person.

The perfect description

This is one of the reasons I want to meet comic book scribe Garth Ennis one day. From Hellblazer #49 from 1992, a perfect description of sloshing back a few pints with your mates.

IATE Conference

(I get to go to this in October with the other two Midland English teachers. Sounds neat. Haven't been to a good conference in years. I actually presented at the IATE conference back in 1995 with Dr. Bruce Leland from Western Illinois University, about creating classroom communites through email.)

The Illinois Association of Teachers of English


Celebrating 100 Years

IATE Conference 2007
October 12-13
Peoria, IL

The 2007 Conference will mark the 100th anniversary of the Illinois Association of Teachers of English. Join us at the Hotel Père Marquette for the celebration.

The program will feature
Keynote Speaker, Robert Probst
Illinois Author of the Year, Scott Turow, author of seven bestselling
novels, including Ordinary Heroes (2005)
Entertainment by Slam Poet George David Miller of Before I Read
This Poem, Inc.
Dozens of presentations and demonstrations by classroom
Opportunities for networking with new and experienced teachers
Book exhibit

For registration and hotel information, email or visit us at

I won tickets to the All-Star Game

I won tickets to the United Indoor Football league all-star game in Bloomington for next Saturday!

I didn't even know the league existed until we moved to Normal. Apparently, the Bloomington Extreme had a nice little playoff run that unfortunately came to an end in Lexington.

I entered some trivia contest online. Not bad. That should be a fun Saturday night out for the family then! More info at The Pantagraph, the local newspaper. That's who I won it through.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

New Teacher Orientation

(Ramblings from my notebook yesterday while at new teacher orientation:)

I will start with and try to maintain a positive attitude. I will try to gleam the best of the information that is given to me. (I had to write that because too many times in previous years I have gotten grumpy at being at things like this. I resolve not to be grumpy anymore.)

Went to New Teacher Orientation at the ROE in Washburn, Illinois, today. Had to sit thru bloodborne pathogen training again. Fun!

Got to start the morning here with coffee and a freshly baked scone. Met the Regional Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent. They seemed personable, and I must say, both very on-the-ball. The Super. especially--she was very good. She was thorough yet did not talk to us like babies. Some administrators can talk down to you--I did not get that from her at all.

Today is another reminder that I really have to get prepared for the start of school. Have to do up a new syllabus for both freshmen and seniors. Have to do up my "intro to class" brochure. Have to prepare my new pbwiki site. Have to prepare my first couple weeks of lesson plans.

Two teacher inservice days begin Thursday, August 16, then the first day of school on that Monday.

I am excited to start a brand new year in a brand new place. It's like another adventure in life. With my teaching record now, four districts in three states in six years, I can't say it's dull. However, I do hope that this is the place that I stay. I really like where we're at right now. I raised the scores in Nome by double digits last year, so I am confident in my abilities. Double digits in percentage points. 93% passed the reading part of the Alaska HSGQE and with the Nome population, that's only like 3 students, and that was predicted (unfortunate but predicted). So I know what I'm doing and eager to start anew.

Excellent info by Super. about the strange IL certification system.

Note to self: take practice tests for IL cert tests in September.

Truancy coordinator goes in to talk to kindergartners and fourth graders about importance of going to school. That is an amazing idea, and sounds great. Prevention! They have a system for catching truancies and trying to prevent it. Awesome.

It was great to drive the back country today, on the little county route roads. One was closed for repairs and I had to wind around on an old gravel road. Ain't that America?

Had to also drive up to Lacon to my new school district's office (which I found out had moved to the high school in Varna) to drop off all this preliminary employment paperwork. I had my fingerprints done at the Normal Polic Department yesterday afternoon (and it was free!).

Old Time Radio listened to today:
Jack Benny 10-30-38
Jack Benny 11-13-38
The Bickersons with Don Ameche and Francis Langford "The Honeymoon is Over"
Mysterious Traveler episode from 1957, "Zero Hour" about martians already on earth, planning to invade!

Monday, August 06, 2007


Enh. I don't know what to say about this movie. Finally watched the DVD last night. I never saw it in theater. Enh. That seems to be the best thing to say.

I liked it. I did. I thought it was very well made. Technically, there is nothing wrong with it. It does its job and does it very, very well. Especially if you want to think of it as a screen adaptation of the Frank Miller graphic novel, it does its job very well.

However, as a movie, as I was sitting there watching it with my wife, I was kind of bored. The story wasn't as enthralling on the screen as reading the graphic novel would be. Maybe there's something wrong with me, as I thought the movie was so-so because of this.

To me, it was almost like watching Titanic. You know that the ship is going to sink. You know that the 300 Spartans are going to put up one hell of a fight but perish in the end. It's inevitable, and I think both movies allude and foreshadow to this the entire time. It is almost like you know the ending as you watch the beginning.

So why does a historical epic like Braveheart still work, even though you know everything? Why does Gladiator still work? Those two movies seemed to have more of a complete story. I don't think I am coming across well here.

However, 300 was a technical masterpiece. I completely applaud the efforts of director Zach Snyder and the cast of the movie. The parts were all played very well. It just seems to me to be one of those movies that everything is perfect except for a more engrossing story.

It's hard for me to say that I think the story was lacking. Frank Miller has always captivated me with his graphic storytelling approach, and I thought the movie Sin City was even better. The story of the movie, of 300 brave Spartans fighting Xerxes against impossible odds, and holding, is really, really cool to me. To say it is not engrossing to me kind of goes against the genre of heroic fiction that I really love. I love this idea. And the fact that it is a true story even lends more credence to it. Maybe I lost some of the impact watching on a DVD versus the big screen, but a good move will hold up, matter if I watch it on a 2"x2" screen or a big theater screen with surround sound.

300 was good. I am glad I watched it. I would go see another Zach Snyder movie anytime for the talented filmmaking. He is set to do Alan Moore's Watchmen next.

What am I comparing it to, in my head? Other films? The graphic novel source material? Would I have thought of this movie differently if I didn't know the graphic novel at all? I wonder how audiences that don't know the graphic novel understand the slow-motion sequences that are direct takes from the book? Do they see them as something artistic or does it slow the action down? Would I have liked it better if I had not read the graphic novel first?

Maybe that's it. See, I never read Alan Moore's V for Vendetta graphic novel before seeing the movie. I enjoyed that movie immensely. I picked up the graphic novel at the library the other day and just can't seem to get into it, knowing the movie. And I'm supposed to be a comics reviewer and I can't get into one of the top ten graphic novels of all time, by one of the greatest comic book writers of all time.

Does source material adversely affect the movie version? Are some movies trying to too strictly adhere to the source material? Shouldn't an adaptation be specific for the medium?

Case in point: The Lord of the Rings. The movie has nothing about Saruman and the scouring of the Shire that is in the book. I am personally glad for it. I think the movie The Return of the King ended perfectly for my tastes. I think adding another climax would have detracted from it. In the book it works, but I do not think it would have worked in the movie.

My final vote on 300, as I have to "rate" it for Netflix on their five-star system: I gave it a 3 out of 5 stars. I reserve my 5-stars for the really top movies that I love. I do not give it out willy-nilly. And 4-star rating and classified as "I really liked it," one of those movies to me that you kind of nod your head and say to yourself, "That was really good." The 3-star rating fits here. I really felt, as I watched 300, that I was watching for the technical effects and the acting and not the story of the movie itself. That's just me and my random thoughts here.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

McLean County Fair

Today was fun. I wish I had remembered my bloody camera. We went to the McLean County Fair about noon for all-you-can-ride wristband day.

It was hot and muggy though, 90+ degrees. At one point, we thought poor Madison had heat stroke. She is just not made for hot weather. But she had a ton of fun on a bunch of rides. She got to ride all of those kiddie rides that we parents usually say no to. The boring train rides? They don't seem worth it unless you're riding on the wristband. She went on everything she could. She had a blast with Morgan on the Pumpkin ride, sort of like a tilt-a-whirl. I can't stand those spinny rides. I remember getting sick on the tilt-a-whirl up at Old Chicago (when that was still around) when I was younger and went with my Uncle Dan. I still remember being able to see the Old Chicago dome out our kitchen window when we lived on Walnut Circle in Bolingbrook.

We got to see lots of animals. Horses, cows, goats, even a strangely small white camel that was at the little petting zoo. We ate big-ass pork tenderloin sandwiches, curly fries, onion rings, and, of course, funnel cake.

It was so super hot that we left about 3 pm, when it got noticeably more crowded as well. We came home and went into the pool at the apartment complex here. That really helped cool us off.

So it was a great day. I just wish I had remembered my blasted camera!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Saturday is Fun Day

Amy now only works Mon-Fri so officially Saturday becomes Fun Day in the Butcher household. Just to play and do little things. We went to the stores and played games at home.
We went to Menard's to buy a variegated plant to block the Eye of Sauron off our back porch. We were looking for any plant actually. The street lamp next to our deck isn't blocked by anything, so it shines right into the house. The girls don't need any nightlights, that's for sure. I nicknamed it the Eye of Sauron after trying to sit down and watch TV without the blinds pulled and getting blinded.

Friday, August 03, 2007

The Butchers simpsonized




The Mother-in-law

Yours truly

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Toy Recall

Mattel is recalling one million toys. I hastily went through Madison's stuff because Elmo and Dora the Explorer toys are affected.

After going through the pictures on the website, I thought, "Oh, my God, she has a couple of these."

She has these Dora figures pictured here. She had another figure of Dora's sister, but I don't think it made the move from Nome because I can't find it anywhere and we are not yet too entrenched into the apartment for things to go missing. I was very scared, especially after that product recall a month or two ago of Thomas the Tank toys with lead-based paint. That is what is supposedly wrong with these Dora figures, lead-based paint.

Thankfully, the product recall only affects products bought after May 1, 2007. We bought these for Madison in Nome like two Christmases ago.

A child died in Seattle from those Thomas the Tank toys. How...why do they even make lead-based paint anymore, anywhere in the world? Shouldn't there be a worldwide ban on it, regardless of cost or circumstance, much like radium-dial clocks?

It makes me wonder about where these are produced exactly and if any of the laborers there are becoming sick. I bet there will be no news articles on that aspect. Mattel needs to step up and do more than a recall, as I hope they are already doing. They need to trace the toys to the source and the paint and all the equipment needs to be inspected. I hope nobody else in the world is dying over these.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Murderers Are Among Us is a film made immediately after World War II in East Germany

Unit 5 film discussion

Matt Butcher

The Murderers Are Among Us is a film made immediately after World War II in East Germany. The melancholy of the film is derived from its main characters, a female concentration camp survivor who returns to her old apartment to find it occupied by an ex-military doctor. This military doctor drives the main conflict of the film in that his conscience is slowly eating away at him for his apparent actions during the war.

In this regard, the film acts as a conscience for the people of East Germany, slowly asking themselves about their past and how they are going to live with it. It was a tumultuous period of reconciliation that the Germans were trying to live through. This movie tries to act on those feelings.

Silberman notes that another film of this time, Rotation, “constructs a narration based on identification and emotional catharsis rather than on the cognitive terms of epic distanciation.” The Murderers Are Among Us also tries to wipe the slate clean. It comes out and admits that what happened was wrong, hence the horrible feelings that the doctor is going through. They cannot completely distance themselves from these previous events, these earth-shattering events, unless they work through these feelings.

Quoted on Cobbler's Monster

(I am also quoted on the BECKETT COMICS website for my review of THE COBBLER'S MONSTER. See the Independent Propaganda review below...)


A tale of Gepetto's Frankenstein

Grieving over the death of his only son, Gepetto mixes the new science of DNA
with the age-old magic of the golem to resurrect his son. But in truth, he was
never very close to Victor. And the anger that burns within the heart of the
monster he birthed and created, destroys everything and everyone around him.
Now, Gepetto must hunt his own son.

Featuring a stunning cover by the
author, Jeff Amano (Fade from Grace, The Ballad of Sleeping Beauty), beautiful
interior art by Craig Rousseau (RUULE Vol. 2: Kiss & Tell, Ronin Hood ofthe
47 Samurai) and colors by Giulia Brusco (RUULE Vol. 1: Ganglords of Chinatown,
Ronin Hood of the 47 Samurai), this acclaimed graphic novel tells the story of a
a man and a monster who, through unspeakable horror, find their way to becoming
father and son for the very first time.

"Writer Jeff Amano manages to perfectly recreate a Gothic
adventure with a new twist of adding some of the Pinocchio legend as well. The
interior art by Rousseau and Faucher is absolutely wonderful to gaze at, with
an awesome coloring job by Giulia Brusco."
- Independent

"Craig Rousseau's inside pencils deftly capture every emotional
nuance... Amano's script is tight, moving from one scene of action to another
without losing the reader in the transition."
- The

"Craig Rousseau's art is simply fantastic. . . If you
like horror stories that actually make you think, give Cobbler's Monster a
- The Comics Review

Full color
128 pages, $14.99



Look, Ma! I'm quoted!

Jim Hillin, creator of Wire-Heads, put my review on the back cover of the book, available over at Lulu. He has done work on the Disney movie Dinosaur and Spider-Man 3.