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Thursday
Mar062014

Movie Bucket List

I saw an update from a blogger acquaintance, Jim, on my wall last week. I’ve only met Jim a few times, and he seems like a nice, very smart guy. I happen to be in platonic love with his soul mate Mr. Lady who makes Jim seem even cooler. Anyway. 

I fawn and flatter here in hopes that he won’t take offense to my reposting a seemingly benign status update that gave me what I think is the coolest idea I’ve had, like, ever. 

Well, maybe the coolest idea I've had this week.

 

This Facebook post got over two hundred comments. 

I was surprised to feel a somewhat initial visceral reaction to some people’s admissions. “I’ve never seem ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer,’ ” for example. In case you don’t know, I am a HUGE fan. Like, nerdy comic book buying, own the entire DVD set, would write fan fiction if I had the time or guts kind of fan. 

HOW CAN YOU NEVER HAVE SEEN THAT?!  

Except. I’ve never seen Goonies and that, apparently, is some kind of crime against humanity.

There’s a tendency to think of pop culture as frivolous, but, you know, these shared experiences of music, literature and song transcend space and time and connect us in the most powerful of ways. They are shared moments in the production of globalized, communal history. 

As time goes on, I get less less comfortable with trying new things, so I had this idea that maybe I’ll try new things by doing old things that I haven’t done. Like, a cultural bucket list. Of course, I can’t really wrap my head around how experiencing a cabbage patch doll or buying an Atari at age thirty eight is going to really be the same as having one when I was eight. 

But? MOVIES!!

I like movies. 

Here’s my plan: 

STEP 1 (Completed): Find a crowd sourced list of “the best movies of all time.” I chose IMDB's Top 250.

STEP 2 (Completed): Among the top fifty movies, identify the movies I’ve not seen. Allow me to brag a little and say that the two of the top three movies on the list are my favorite movies. Godfather I & II. There are fifteen movies on the list that I’ve not seen. Notice many of them came out AFTER I had kids or a very long time ago.

 THE LIST

#4 The Dark Knight (2008) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0468569/?ref_=chttp_tt_4

#8 Twelve Angry Men (1957) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0050083/?ref_=chttp_tt_8

#20 Seven Samurai (1957) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0047478/?ref_=chttp_tt_20

#21 City of God (2002) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0317248/?ref_=chttp_tt_21

#24 Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0064116/?ref_=chttp_tt_24

#27 Leon: The Professional (1994) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0110413/?ref_=chttp_tt_27

#34 City Lights (1934), Starring Charlie Chaplin http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0021749/?ref_=chttp_tt_34

#36 Spirited Away (2001) - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0245429/?ref_=chttp_tt_36

#38 The Intouchables (No, not the Untouchables 2011) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1675434/?ref_=chttp_tt_38

#40 Modern Times (1936) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0027977/?ref_=chttp_tt_40

#41 Sunset Boulevard (1950) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0043014/?ref_=chttp_tt_41

#43 Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0057012/?ref_=chttp_tt_42

#44 The Pianist (2002) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0253474/?ref_=chttp_tt_44

#46 The Departed (2006) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0407887/?ref_=chttp_tt_46

#48 The Dark Knight Rises (2012)http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0407887/?ref_=chttp_tt_46

 

STEP 3: Watch the above fifteen movies. Not on the same day. One per week. 

STEP 4: Write a VERY brief post on each movie. I’m a geek in many ways, but I’m not prepared to graduate to the level of movie reviewing geek. I’ll focus on why I didn’t watch the movie when it came out and if I feel like my cultural competency has increased or something smarty pants like that. 

Goals like being healthier and cursing less seem more evolved, but I like the idea of doing this. I’m going to announce which movie I’m watching on the Monday before, so if you want to play along on social media, that’d be cool. I feel like making a hashtag for this is to market-y (which market-y stuff is awesome, but I’m not into that, right now, as previously discussed.)

Monday has passed, but I’m excited to get started. The plan for this weekend is The Dark Knight. And BEFORE you ask me HOW IS THAT YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THIS MOVIE? Remember, I’ll explain why next week.

 I would like to note, for the record, that Goonies? Is not on the list.

Wednesday
Mar052014

Selfie

"I don't normally take selfies, but when I do... I make sure my wife makes an evil supervillain face."


Tuesday
Mar042014

Did Jared Leto Steal Someone's Part?

I first "noticed" Jared Leto in Oliver Stone's "Alexander." Not because he's dreamy - which he is. Hephaistion has always been one of my favorite "characters" in the Alexander story. Leto was wonderfully heartbreaking as Alexander's friend, companion and lover.  Just a great, great actor.

I studied acting for a small portion of my life a very long time, and I know a great actor when I see one. It's more about performance. They expose our own messy, beautiful humanity to us in a way that is both comforting and uncomfortable.

Anyway, enough acting theory. I haven't even seen "Dallas Buyers Club" because I'm very committed to catching up on "Supernatural" and I'm only on season 3 and commitment requires priority, etc. Apparently,Leto plays a transgendered character, and heated discussion has resulted from this casting of a straight (is he? I have no idea) man as a transgedered person. Man. I really, really want this to be a world where straight people can play gay people and the other way around.

Where a Democrat can play a Republican.

A Latino can play a Middle Easterner.

White can play black.

Wait. Scratch that.

We don't live in that world, though. The biggest indication of this fact is that we're still talking about it, and we're still talking about it because the casting of "privileged" individuals in the roles of minority characters continues to resonate poorly with those minorities. It underscores the feeling of not being seen, not being represented and thereby being invisible even when when attempts are made at making us visible in the movies.

When I was fifteen, I auditioned for "The Miracle Worker". I read for the part of Annie Sullivan. If you're unfamiliar with the work, Annie is the young, blind woman who teaches Helen Keller how to read and write.

She was also Irish.

 

I didn't get the part. It wasn't because I wasn't a good actress. Because I was. May still be. The United States' was sparse on Middle Eastern looking women in those first few years after the Civil War, so that was the real obstacle. The beautiful, pale complexioned, auburn haired girl that was cast as Annie ended up playing the part really well, so all's well that ends well. (See what I did there?) 

But, you know what? If we'd done a production that was set in India, I don't know which play that would be -- let's say an adaptation of The Far Pavilions -- most of the actors would've been white because the majority of Indian people would've been busy being doctors and IT Managers and that'd leave some parts uncast. The white folks would've worn tastefully darkened their make up and perhaps donned darker wigs. Their elegantly fashioned costumes would have helped propagate an adequate suspension of disbelief and after all that, and nobody would have even noticed that they weren't Indian.

Except actual Indian people. They would notice because even the best make up in the world cannot make you something that you are not. It will only offer the suggestion of what you're supposed to be representing.

There is an undercurrent of a point being made about how those who inhabit the fringes of visual hierarchies are simply offered as "suggested" members of the broader reality being constructed. A whispering bubbles beneath the darkened eyeliner, the painted face, the boy in a dress, "Acknowledge their presence, but you don't have to think about them as actual real people if you don't want to."

Jared Leto is a fine actor -- an incredible actor. I'm glad he won an Oscar because that guy had me at Hephaistion. My admiration for Mr. Leto aside, though, I maintain his casting is a highly evolved, very subtle version of black face. You can say he's a bankable actor and there are financial considerations. You may be right, but I seldom find a speck of integrity or compassion in arguments that rely on "it's about the money" as the strongest point for their case. It may be about the money, but we should take a firm stand on whether we feel it's right or not.

The money ends up following our convictions at some point. 

Monday
Mar032014

Ice Day in #Memphis

When I grew up, we had "hurricane" days. 

My chidren get snow days. Except it wasn't a real snow day. Not like people in Minnesota are getting. Or D.C. Basically, it rained all night last night and then it sleeted and we're stuck at home. 

We live in a condo in downtown Memphis, so while other children who got snow days went out and built snowmen, we, with no actual yard, looked out the window.

A lot. 

Does that look like a lot of snow to you? That doesn't look like a lot of snow to me because it isn't a lot of snow. All that down there is ice with a delicately placed dressing of snow on top. So, technically, it was an "ice" day. Despite our fascination with ice falling from the sky, there's only so much three humans can stare out of a window.

So we cleaned.

Nuha's job was sweeping. As with everything Nuha does, there was flair involved.

Cleaning and lunch kept us occupied until exactly 12:53 P.M. at which point I may or may not have said, "Find something to do, I'm not your cruise director." My children having never been on a cruise looked at me like I'm crazy.

I have a friend who has a box of stuff devoted exclusively for use on days like this. A rainy day box. That's brilliant.

I have no such box. What I did have today was a science type kit that we bought at the St. Louis City Museum that I haven't let the children play with because it looks really, really messy and ... I don't think I need to elaborate.

And the excavations began.

A few hours ago, I received the notification that school is cancelled tomorrow, too. The children are still up. The husband is out of town. 

We've also run out of crystals.

Sunday
Mar022014

Epic Battle: Soccer Versus Eartha Sigourney Kitt-Weaver.

Yusuf’s best buddy, Joe has all the important things that four year old boys must have in common with Yusuf: cars, blocks, making ‘whoosh’ sounds as they wave their hands in an impromptu reenactment of  an Iron Man movie they’re not allowed to see and random yelling while running.

But this friendship is more than a symphony derived from seemingly chaotic sound and movement. Yusuf is connected to Joe in an indescribable way. They aren’t children who play together. They're friends. Real friends. Once, I noticed that there was a new child in Yusuf’s class and I asked if he had talked to the new girl and tried to make friends. His response was that he was trying to “work on his friendship with Joe right now” and he didn’t have time for new friends. 

Full on bromance, yo. 

As the bromance buds and relationships are worked on, Joe and Yusuf find themselves standing upon the American rite of passage from which few children and their hapless parents have managed to escape: an organized soccer team.  This wasn’t my idea, and, surprisingly not Tariq’s either. 

Yusuf has been obsessed with soccer for over a year now and his favorite team is an English Premier League team called Crystal Palace. Yes, Crystal Palace. There is a very specific kind of cringe that comes over you when your child is screaming “Yay, I love Crystal Palace!!” and all you can think about is that scene in season one of “Breaking Bad” when the meth head hooker approaches Walter’s son in the parking lot of the seedy motel of the same nickname.

First soccer practice was this past Thursday. I couldn’t make it because I hate taking my children to athletic practices more than any other aspect of parenting, er, I had a doctor’s appointment.  Around 6:30, after my appointment, my cell rang.

“Hey, how was soccer practice?”

“Oh, it was great. They had a lot of fun.”

“Yeah? Did they play a game?”

“It was a bunch of four year olds, they just ran around and kicked the ball… but there was a scuffle.”

“A…scuffle? What do you mean a scuffle?” Who says scuffle? 

“Well, I was talking to [some kid’s mom], I looked over and I saw Joe laying on the floor and this kid was sitting on top of him and I realized Yusuf was on top of that kid and he was kicking him.”

Times like this, I have two reactions which operate simultaneously. One is audible in my head and the other is audible in… well, in general. Please tell me I’m not the only one that does this.  

Caps and bold will be used for inner dialogue for your confusion-free pleasure.

SERIOUSLY. SERIOUSLY. I CAN’T EVEN GO TO THE DOCTOR’S OFFICE WITHOUT YOU LETTING OUR CHILD BECOME SOME SORT OF SOCCER FIELD SERIAL KILLER? I HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING AROUND HERE.

“I’m sorry, did you say kicking someone?”

 "He wasn’t kicking exactly…”

HOW DOES ONE NOT KICK “EXACTLY?” IS THERE SOME SORT OF DEMARCATION BETWEEN ACTUAL KICKING AND NOT KICKING AND IF HE WASN’T KICKING THEN WHY DID YOU SAY HE WAS KICKING IN THE SENTENCE BEFORE LAST THEREBY CAUSING ME TO LOSE MY SH*T OVER HERE. 

In here means in my head. Because outwardly, I am not losing my shit. My inner dialogue curses but she doesn’t like it when I type bad words out. By the way, her voice sounds just like Eartha Kitt and I like to imagine she looks like Sigourney Weaver in "Working Girl." Shoulder pads and all. 

“Okay. What was he doing… ‘exactly’?” 

That last “exactly” is a small break in the auditory space reality continuum in which Eartha Sigourney Kitt-Weaver and normal, nice Faiqa converge into one reality. I think there was a Star Trek episode when that happened and as you may imagine -- very bad things happened. 

Luckily, my husband missed the convergence and explained that the boy who was sitting on top of Joe was doing so because he was mad at Joe and our son was not kicking, but using his hands and feet to pry the boy off of his friend. Tariq further explained to the parents of the boy who was not “exactly” kicked that our son was just trying to help his friend and in a way that is characteristically pleasant implied that their kid had started it. They hadn't even noticed that anything happened at all. I write this without an inkling of judgment. I'm pretty much a zombie at any kind of athletic practice that my children have and I have no room to talk.

It seemed to have turned out fine. I think they all agreed that our son is not, in fact, a budding soccer field serial killer. Tariq told me that he told Yusuf that he’s proud that he has a son who sticks up for people he cares about, but it’s not okay to kick or hit people. To which Yusuf, according to Tariq, strongly asserted that he didn’t kick anyone but someone was hurting his friend and he was just trying to get the kid off of Joe.

Full.on.bromance, yo. 

But Eartha Sigourney Kitt-Weaver would not let that go. I mean, on and on, worrying about what the other parents thought and exactly how did Tariq explain the situation to those other parents and for God’s sake since when does our son think it’s okay to use physical force on people to resolve differences and this is totally our fault because we tried to spank him that one time… and, ugh. 

I told you, this woman in my head is relentless. 

About half an hour later, the children came home. Yusuf ran to me and gave me one of his trademark hugs. They’re the kind of hugs that have made me yell, “Love doesn’t hurt!!” because he squeezes with all his might It's not that he's trying to hurt me, but it’s like all of the love in his body is physically trying to escape from his cells and plant themselves in every cell in my body.

He starts telling me all about soccer and how he scored twenty two points (I’m no soccer expert, but, twenty two, really? Were the other children Ents?). He tells me how he and Joe ran so fast with a ‘whoosh’ like this. He kicked the ball so many times. He ran so fast. It was all so awesome.

And. Then.

I said something colossally stupid. 

“So, I heard something surprising about what happened at soccer. Did you get in a fight and kick someone? I didn’t expect that you would be someone who uses force to solve his problems.” 

Auditory space reality continuum convergence. 

I’m surprised I didn’t add an Eartha Kittlike “daahling” at the end of that sentence.

Maybe you’ll tell me that this wasn’t a stupid thing to say. That I shouldn’t be hard on myself. You need to be vigilant. You wanted to know about it. You wanted to talk to him about it. You were just concerned. Know what word is coming up over and over again there? You. All of those sentences are about ME. Not about my child whom they should be about.

More importantly, he did have a concerned parent who handled it. His dad. My absence from the handling of this situation in no way indicates a lack of handling. It only indicates that I had no control over the situation and that I am clearly uncomfortable with this despite the fact that my husband may be the best dad that ever lived.

In a split second, Yusuf’s face fell. Just crestfallen. Anger, shame and maybe… is… that… disappointment on his face? I had used that word “surprising” on purpose. I do it with my students at school, too. I use it because I don’t want to imbue the statement of an action with judgment and alienate myself from potential communication with the child. But I don’t add that small minded, “You should’ve known better part.” At work, I'm careful to lead children to identify their own mistakes so they can be the ones who makes plans about how to fix them.

But at home, my knee jerk go-to is to be a parent. Becaue, duh. That's what I am at home. I'm not that teacher who comes from a place of curiousity, but a parent that can be worried and afraid that people won’t like my son because they’ll think he’s a bad boy who kicks people. 

After I was done talking, my son quietly got up, walked to the door of my room and said with his back turned , “I don’t want to talk to you right now. You’re hurting my feelings.”

He went to the living area and started playing with his sister. And I think I actually heard my heart break. I’ve always imagined that sounds like glass. But it actually sounds like Eartha Kitt and Sigourney Weaver doing head butts until their heads crack open. 

As the boy turned and walked out of the room, I realized his dad had been at practice, he had explained what had happened to the other parents, he had taken care of it and it was over by the time they got home. But I had to go all Investigative Discovery on the boy because Eartha Sigourney Kitt-Weaver needed to put a red stamp of approval on the resolution of the event. I imagine the stamp is red. All caps. “HANDLED APPROPRIATELY. MOTHER APPROVED.”

I ran out of the room and touched my son's shoulder. I got on my knees and I looked him right in the eye and I said something I have never heard my mother say. 

“Hey, I’m sorry.”

“No, you hurt my feelings!” he squeaked out with damp eyes.

“Really, Yusuf, I’m sorry. I know you worked it out with your dad. I know you did your best. I believe you were helping. I’m really sorry I hurt your feelings.”

And I wasn’t sorry for my child’s feelings being hurt, although that sucked. I wasn't sorry for wishing he had handled it with words instead of feet. I was sorry because I should’ve just asked what happened instead of deciding what had happened and offering a premature opinion.

I’m raising this sweet, sensitive boy who worries about “working on his friendship with Joe” and says things like “But love is everywhere in the world” when he hears my Pandora station playing Foreigner's “I Wanna Know What Love Is”… I should’ve known better. I should've asked when he wasn't positively glowing about how much fun he had. And I should've asked because I wanted to know what happened, not because I needed him to know what he should or should not have done. That was a different conversation that could've been had on different day.

And these should haves are a set intentions and promises I plan on keeping.

I said sorry. And he said it was okay. So I guess it was.  

We hugged it out, and he went back to playing My Little Ponies with his sister.

Which is his dirty secret and if you tell anyone I’ll have to kick all of you.

My Hero, 2012