Virtual Bourgeois

Just An Analog Guy Trying to Upgrade For a Digital World

Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

Filmsite Post: Catching Up for Spring 2011 Part 1 (Movies #4, #5, and #6)

Posted by Gerald on May 14, 2011

Like an old dog to an old bone, I return to gnaw at this blog some more.  I’m hoping to make major inroads on this list over the summer so I can make my goal of watching them all this year).

Just for my own ego, I’m going to mention that I’m starting here with the twenty-some movies on this top 100 list I’ve never seen (although I’ve violated that with the first two, “Casablanca” and “Citizen Kane”) and then am going to move on to about ten more that I’ve seen already but, for various reason, retain little impression of or saw so long ago I need to view them afresh (“The Apartment” is a good example of the former and “Taxi Driver” a good example of the latter.)  After that it is going to be a process of re-watching films I’m more or less familiar with.

Oh, and the numbers are just the order I’m watching them in.

So, onwards.  I’ve watched five more from the list since I last posted.  I’m going to be a bit brief with them in the interests of getting caught up.

First, two Billy Wilder films: #4 “Some Like It Hot” and #5 “Sunset Boulevard”

#4 “Some Like it Hot” (1959): I really enjoyed it, but I don’t have much to say about it.  It is funny (although I’ve never really been bowled over by the who mainstream drag-humor thing – I always found Milton Berle funnier in a tux than in a dress).  I think this is a movie where you can see that “Marilyn Monroe thing.”  Her character should be an instantly forgettable Hollywood stereotype blonde bimbo, but there is something more there.  Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis were hysterical.  Wilder is at his best dealing with showbiz.  It is kind of like “Stagecoach” in that it uses but also invents a genre of films we’ve all seen a hundred times since.  Therefore it is simultaneously epochal and a bit familiar.

#5 “Sunset Boulevard” (1950): Where to start?  You have here a movie that manages to be both a loving tribute and a savage parody of Hollywood at the same time.  Gloria Swanson is funny, poignant, pathetic, and towering.  William Holden is playing that tarnished rogue he perfected and that no one has ever done quite as well since.  Erich von Stroheim, Jack Webb, cameos by half of Golden-Age Hollywood – including Cecil B. DeMille, and a dead chimp – all in a brilliant mishmash of film noir, romance, and Hollywood.  I loved it.

#6 “To Kill a Mockingbird”  (1962): Ever since my father’s death, I’ve become incredibly weepy at stories about fathers and children.  When the reverend tells Jem and Scout to stand as their father leaves the courtroom, I just lost it.  Cynics can call this manipulative, I call it moving.  This is a signature role for one of the greatest actors in American film (or anywhere – let’s face it) – Gregory Peck.  It has Robert Duvall’s first film role.  It combines a great courtroom drama with a great study of American racism, adds in an exploration of what it means to be ethical, what heroism is, and what it means to be a father – and the movie does them all well.  This is one of the greatest movies I’ve ever seen. 

It is late, so I’m closing this here.  I’ll try to finish the catch-up post tomorrow with #7 Psycho, #8 The Graduate, #9 Singing in the Rain, and #10 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (another I’ve seen many times, but happened to watch again a couple of weeks ago).


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A Break in the Silence

Posted by Gerald on October 29, 2008

Another long silence.

The reasons have been pretty much the same except that added to them has been our period of “advisement” at work.  Since my esteemed institution is still incapable of reaching into the 1980s and allowing students to sign up for classes on their own, we faculty are still registering.  This is misleadingly referred to as “advisement”.

I do sometimes actually advise students.  For example, this week I advised a student who had wanted to join our college’s Basic Law Enforcement program – which is not a program intended for transfer to a four year college – that he should go back to the people in admissions who put him in the Associate of Arts college-transfer program (and thus made me his advisor) and tell them he was in the wrong place.  I signed a piece of paper to that effect to carry with him.  This was the third new advisee of mine this semester who had no interest in getting a transfer degree.

Most of the time, however, I am spending the time I have with these students just picking courses.  The best of them come knowing exactly what they need and want.  The majority expect me to tell them what courses to take and when they are offered and to fix things to fit their schedules.  They do not take the time to find out what courses they need or to look at the website to see when courses are offered.  They expect me to remember their academic record better than they do and to produce a schedule for them.

“I don’t like morning classes… I need to be home by 2 pm… oh, I just want to be done by then… no, I don’t want to take online classes… no I can’t come back here in the evening… no I don’t know what I need to take this semester…  I can’t remember what I’ve already taken… yes, I have to go full time.”

Then I am confronted by the fact that – for some reason – several of our inestimable department chairs have scheduled almost all of their sections on Mondays and Wednesdays.  That, like every semester, we are offering only three sections of Public Speaking – a course that EVERY college transfer student is required to take.

This is why I am currently enjoying an evening cup of coffee liberally flavored with Bailey’s Irish Cream.

That and the three students who stood up and walked out of my lecture because I ran past the dismissal time – by less than sixty seconds…


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Random Stuff

Posted by Gerald on July 30, 2008

This was one of those days when I had real doubts about the reported high and heat index.  It was supposedly only 87 with a heat index of 90, but it felt worse.  The air was dead.  My grass was cut at about 11:00 am and when I got back from the office at nearly 6 pm the smell of gas fumes was still thick enough to choke on.  It was a day when it felt like my skin was burning each time I went out and the normally frosty AC in my car couldn’t keep pace.  In other words, it was icky.

I’ve been re-experiencing some old favorites even though I don’t have enough time to read all of the new books I have.  I’m not sure if that is just my version of American consumerism or if there is some profound insight about the human condition there.

I’ve gone from an almost instinctive rejection of the movie “Fight Club” when it first came out to thinking it is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen.  Again, here I am finding insight into the human condition.  Or not.

I saw “The Dark Knight” this weekend.  I was again impressed by Nolan’s take on this “franchise”.  He isn’t afraid to leave behind the standard palette of the superhero film.  Ledger’s Joker is more outrageous than Nicholson’s without being anywhere near as self-indulgent or immature.  He is a trickster.  He is Iago.  A friend who was with me felt the film was too long, and I’m struggling with that.  I felt like I’d seen two very good movies with the same basic themes – transformation and moral ambiguity.  The success of this movie gives me some hope that audiences might be ready for a faithful adaptation of “Watchmen.”

My friend Steve at “Semeotikos” has started a multi-part blog post on a mutual obsession of ours – “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  No, this isn’t about my being pervy or nerdy – not that I’m not both at times.  Check it out here.

Posted in Movies, Personal, thoughts | 1 Comment »

Hot and Stormy

Posted by Gerald on July 22, 2008

When I saw that the high for today was supposed to be in the upper 90s, I decided to just stay home and work from here (the blessings of an all-online course load this summer.)  Unfortunately by about 4 pm most of my house is in the upper 80s on days like this, even with the AC running.  There is this little bubble around the AC that is comfortable, but that is it.  Then we had a bunch of early evening thunderstorms that just sort of developed and then faded without really moving at all.

My roof needs work.  I’m not looking forward to spending the money, but I am looking forward to not worrying about whether it is raining or not outside.  In other household news, I finally got the deck fixed.  I was thinking about moving for awhile, but given how things are it just makes sense to me to fix what I have rather than going farther into debt.  We’ll see where things are in a couple years.

Hopefully this summertime funk will start to clear from my brain and I’ll have more interesting things to say later.

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Geeky Triumph

Posted by Gerald on July 12, 2008

I spent the bulk of the day at work in a series of interviews.  I’ve been serving on a hiring committee for the last few weeks.  The interviews went fine, the only problem was that we had three of them in a row.  Each was ninety minutes, so I was at this with the others from 9 am to 1:30.  Luckily, I think we found a good candidate.

My geeky triumph came this evening.  I finally won a game of Civilization IV.  All together this game took 19 hours (the game keep track of that, but doesn’t tell you until you are done.)  I was also somewhat gratified that this was a “cultural” victory.  That means I had built my civilization’s art and literature to a point that was overwhelming others.

This weekend looks to be fun.  I’m planning to go to my favorite used book store to do some trading.  I’m going to visit friends tomorrow, and Sunday I’m hoping to go see “Mongol.”

Then next week I’ve got to pick a contractor to fix my roof.

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Posted by Gerald on July 7, 2008

I got quiet over the weekend because I was out through much of it.

Some of you might remember my posting from a year ago about a Memorial Day cookout and my traumatized dog.  The same friends hosted a July 4 bash this year.  I left the dog home this time, and a good thing too.  Lest me just say that you haven’t witnessed a private fireworks display until you’ve seen one put together by two little boys and their father, who commands an artillery battalion of the National Guard.  Grilled hot dogs, deafening fireworks, and Battlestar Galactica – that is what America is all about!

I went out again on Saturday to see my old college friends who I get together with on a regular basis.  They are currently fostering a small pug-and-other-stuff aptly named “Ming” (because he is merciless).  Neither my current dog nor my last one have been into standard canine pastimes like fetch or tug-of-war.  Not so Ming.  I worked up a real sweat playing both games with this hyper-active mutt.  It was fun.  If I had space or resources for a second dog I’d want to adopt this guy, but no can do.  Luckily he has found a home of appreciative folks with enough income to keep in in imperial splendor.

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Good things this week

Posted by Gerald on June 27, 2008

I drank a cold glass of home-brewed beer with a good friend.

I wrote my new rubric for grading essays and used it to get my student’s assignments back in a timely manner.

I didn’t go into the office before noon even once (I am NOT a morning person).

I turned off the tube when there wasn’t anything on I really wanted to see and read and listened to music (I was raised with a constant TV presence and have been battling that addiction ever since).

I had a dinner with good friends then went to see a surprisingly entertaining movie.

When one of those friends got into what I felt was an unnecessary confrontation over disruptive behavior in the theater, I didn’t have to get into a fight to back him up even though I had decided to do so.

I went to a fun lunch with the members of my department to celebrate some one’s birthday (we haven’t all gotten together in awhile).

Not bad.

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Post Commencement Rant

Posted by Gerald on May 13, 2008

It is 11:30 and I just got back from a post-commencement dinner with a couple of my friends and co-workers.

I’m not going to re-cap the ceremony – commencements are pretty standard and this was no exception -except for one thing that is really bothering me.  I made a last minute suggestion about the program which the organizers agreed to.  After hearing a couple of my colleagues talking about what really mattered to them at their commencement ceremonies, I suggested that after the recessional I should lead the faculty over to where the new grads were picking up their diplomas (like many colleges we do this separately since you can’t be sure who might actually be there – it minimizes confusion).  There was an outdoor reception and my thought was that we would line up on either side of the sidewalk running between the tables where they were picking up their diplomas and where the food was laid out.  This would allow us to congratulate the new grads – applause and hand-shakes directly from their instructors.  Well, I led them.

About ten actually joined me.

Everyone else ran over to get free food and drinks, then dropped their robes in their offices and left.

It will be no surprise to my regular readers to hear that my social science colleagues all came over.  So did my good friend Steve and a couple people from his department, two of the ladies who teach cosmetology, and the dean of our division.  Conspicuous with their absence were several people who like to give long speeches about their dedication to their teaching and their students.

I’m increasingly angry, though not particularly surprised.

I’m not surprised because many of these people started complaining the minute we lined up.  When I announced what we were doing, a Senate colleague of mine who likes to talk about how dedicated she is looked at me incredulously and said “Well whose bright idea was that!?!”  It took all I had not to snap back – “Mine, bitch!”

I know I’ve been heard to complain loudly (and on this blog) about unmotivated and uncaring students, but the majority of those people never finish.  For the rest, this is the only commencement most of these people are ever going to have.  Most of them aren’t the gifted or the well-prepared.  Those who make it through are a minority, and most of them had to put forward a lot more effort for their two-year degree than I did for mine.  I was always good at school.  Most of them aren’t.  If we think what we are doing is worthwhile, then this damn ceremony is the symbolic moment when the rubber meets the road.  We should take it seriously and remember it, like the whole damn thing, is supposed to be about them, not us.  Sure, many of them – maybe most – don’t care, but we are doing this for the ones who do. 

I get that it was a long ceremony, etc…, but if my seven-months pregnant department chair could run (figuratively) over for a much needed bathroom break and then come and join us, the rest could have as well.  It is easy to talk a good game about commitment to students and dedication, and all this crap but it is by showing up for a little thing like this – little to us but obviously touching to many of those students – that gives those words meaning.  If the faculty are going to demonstrate this kind of apathy, why should we expect anything different from our students.  If we are to lead we must do first by example.

Tonight I’m more proud than I can express of the friends and colleagues who joined me on that short line and who tried to make up in enthusiasm for what we lacked in numbers.  I’m ashamed of the rest.  Maybe that isn’t being fair or reasonable, but I really don’t care.

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Blogging and Waiting

Posted by Gerald on May 8, 2008

There has been enough activity in my area that local TV has been showing continuous weather coverage.  Numerous severe thunderstorm warnings and tornado warning along with hail, heavy lightning, etc…

I’ve been in the strange position of having a major series of storms to the west moving north east and a big storm to the east going in the same direction.  Here there has been no rain, no noticeable wind, it has been quiet all night – so far.  Still, the whole region is under a tornado watch until 1:00 am, and this one is serious.  So I’m waiting and watching.

I’ve slept through a lot of this.  I haven’t left work any night this week until 6:30 at the earliest.  I’m mostly through my grading and expect to be done tomorrow sometime.

Best line from an essay so far has been one about “The Scrabble for Africa”.

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I’m Ready!

Posted by Gerald on May 5, 2008

Tomorrow is the NC primary and since I do not have an exam in the morning I’m going to go vote on the way to work.

For people from states that do not regularly schedule their primaries in May, you might not realize how exciting this is.  Someone is actually sort of paying attention to the vote here!  Sure, you almost forget our primary given the press coverage: “Tomorrow is the all important primary in Indiana!  They’re also voting in North Carolina…”  But still.

I actually got a robocall from Hillary yesterday and one from Bill, for Hillary, today.  The blinking light on my answering machine suggests I’ve got another one – maybe Barack?  People who live in cities and are inundated with these won’t get the novelty.  I live in a rural county that, I believe, last voted for a Democratic Presidential candidate when LBJ ran in 1964.  I’m used to robocalls for the local races, but I’ve NEVER gotten one here for a national race.

I spent much of the evening at the website for the NC Center for Voter Education.  I made my picks for President, Governor, and the person who Elizabeth Dole is going to defeat in November (my least favorite Senator – I preferred Helms, he at least had an honest commitment to this state) already.  My task was to figure out who I wanted for the Council of State posts (Labor Commissioner, State Auditor, etc…).

I started out with the NARAL and NCEA (the teacher’s non-union in our “right to work” paradise – affiliated with the much hated NEA) voter guides.  Then the Center for Voter Education website, which has a collection of podcast interviews with most of the candidates for state offices, including the non-partisan judicial posts.  I decided that to just reject those who didn’t interview out of hand.  If you can’t find time for this, you don’t have time for the job.  That got me through everything but our district court race and that sorted out through some judicious searching through on-line articles from our local papers.

So tomorrow morning I’ll head out for the polls armed with my list (written on the back of an Oxfam envelope) and go hit my polling place.  As usual, I’m sure the workers there will be surprised to see an actual breathing registered Democrat come in to vote.

I remember my father taking me in with him to vote sometime back in the 1972 election (he was a Nixon man to the bitter end).  Standing next to him in the old voting machine, he picked me up to let me press the lever for Nixon.  That moment had a sacred quality to my young mind that going to church never had.  I have had a certain sense of religion, but I once had faith in the United States of America.  As I grew up, I was more excited as a teenager about the prospect of voting than I was about driving.  I volunteered for my first political campaign when I was 16.  One of my teachers was running for county commissioner.  I got my first experience with cold calling, knocking on doors, and with angry people who didn’t want Wheel of Fortune interrupted and didn’t want to see me in any case – good experience for when I later worked as a bill collector in college.  He didn’t win, which some might take as proof of the divine.  I kept that excitement through college.  I loved election night.  I was a politics junkie.  That survived my switching ends of the political spectrum, a growing maturity in my understanding of my country, and even Bill Clinton’s decision that the sexualized needs of his ego were more important than his party, his presidency, or even the dignity of his office.

That all ended in 2000.  Bush the Younger was the first candidate I had opposed not just because I disagreed with him (as I had his father) but because I thought he would be bad for the country.  His smarmy self-satisfaction and total lack of engagement just seemed so clear to me.  Still, after Florida and the courts, I told myself that his victory wasn’t so bad.  The republic had weathered Civil War and the Great Depression, how bad could he be?

Eight years later I’ve lost most of my remaining faith in democracy and in this country.  Still, for the first time in years I’m feeling an echo of that old excitement.

Maybe there is a chance.


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