On the warpath

25 January, 2015
Rat Fink

As if I don’t have enough plates to spin nowadays, I have once again taken on — for good or ill — the serious armor of the higher cause. It’s hung in the closet for a while so I could get through the fall musical and Christmas concerts, enjoy some family time over the holiday, and spend time with a friend before she moved 2600 miles away. But now I’m back at it. Goody for all of us, right? ;-)

Over the next few weeks, it will be (one of) my (several) life mission(s) to expose and hold up to scrutiny the ridiculous, abusive nature of the high-stakes testing element that accompanies the Common Core State Standards. Not sure how and where CCSS came about? This will be an informative 30 minutes. If at all possible, get a coffee and watch; learn. After that, if you’re interested in what havoc private billions can wreak upon a 200-year-old public entity, rent this. (I have it on DVD if you want to borrow it.)

What’s the difference between what I’m doing now and what I’ve done in the past, you ask? We will wait and see. We’ll wait and see. Suffice to say that I’m madder now. As Jake gets closer to third grade, I’m getting more and more concerned. Here is a boy who’s exceptionally bright and inquisitive, and who loves to learn. And what is the #1 complaint from parents where CCSS testing is concerned? “My kid, who used to love school, now hates everything about it.” In fact, I just heard that, in person, from a parent, three days ago.

Fiends, it’s go time. Join me? Ask me how.

FO

Review: Gone Girl

18 January, 2015
Rat Fink

Having never 1) read the book or a review, or 2) seen a single trailer, I went into Gone Girl knowing absolutely nothing. Good thing, too. That is the best way to approach it, because truthfully, the plot twist is revealed so early on in the film, knowing anything beforehand would have been pretty disappointing (assuming, that is, that the author of the novel took a bit more time to expose the dastardly innards). Besides, if you want spoilers, you can find the entire plot anywhere on the web.

So I can’t reveal a lot in my review today, other than to say there is some good acting, and David Fincher knows how to creep a viewer out completely by wringing out of actors their most disturbing and off-center performances (think Fight Club, The Game, Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Seven, Zodiac). Indeed, Rosamund Pike is quite effective in her portrayal of Amy, a writer and wife of a writer, who goes missing from the couple’s Cape Girardeau, Missouri home one fine summer morning.

The film centers around the terrible things we do to each other in relationships, but Fincher takes it to another, more visceral and sickening level. Evil, even. Again, I don’t dare reveal too much, or you will go into the experience with a foreboding you possibly wouldn’t otherwise have felt.

It’s safe to say that the film is dark, violent, and deals with uncomfortable situations. It’s definitely not a “date” movie. Lord, no. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend watching it with your SO at all. I’m glad I viewed it alone. And it’s not that the story line (while a tad contrived and too predictable too soon) is bad, per se, but rather the characters are so messed up, they’re hard to care about — and if you’ve read any of my past reviews, you’ll know that investing in a movie’s people is important to my experience. On that scale, this film flags. But there’s plenty to the unfolding of the story to still keep your interest. In fact, it’s quite the “page turner,” to use a literary term. On that score alone, and for the en pointe desperation of the cast in general, I recommend it. I’d be interested in comments (no spoilers, please) if you do see it.

On the Rat-O-Meter scale of five cheeses, I give Gone Girl:

Restraint

13 January, 2015
Rat Fink

That’s what I’m showing on social media this morning, in the face of the unrelenting onslaught of saliva washing over every post about OSU beating Oregon. I did sneak a couple of minor elbows in, but nothing (hopefully) that would upset my OSU-indoctrinated friends. I don’t want to be snarky.

BUT IF I DID…………………………

<great huge block of rant deleted>

See? Restraint. :-D

I’m back to school after an unplanned three days off for snow and ice. Three days off=two weeks behind. That’s a bummer.

Lesson for today: be kind in the face of that which makes you want to stomp on a bouquet of beautiful daisies. Yay! And those are my RNFs for a Tuesday.

NFL playoffs, commence.

The last 72 hours

10 January, 2015
Rat Fink

What a crazy end to the week. And I even had two snow days in a row. In the midst of Dinner Theatre prep, firming up details for when we sing at the Indians game on Mother’s Day, grades, visitors and other projects, there was some major discussion about the future, some big decisions made, and some major uncertainty left over. Time for some news.

Over the last month or so, the Thriller and I have had several heart-to-hearts about where we want to be in 10 years — or sooner. It’s amazing what ideas spring to life when you let your imagination fly, without any borders on what’s wise or most frugal or in the general best interest of everyone involved.

We’re talking about eventually living in a small spaceOf course, my first reactions were Where will we put the family at holidays? Where will the grandchildren sleep? What about all our STUFF? The answers, while unclear at the moment, will more than likely work themselves out in time. It’s a tuffy for me because I’ve always held dear the prospect of having my children, their spouses and their children at my house for special occasions, that would do the lion’s share (with sis Mavis) of the cooking, and that the whole affair is something we do for the kids to make their lives a bit less crazy for a day or night at the holidays. In other words, it’s difficult to envision my not being the matriarch of my little tribe — and that’s something I am going to need to learn to get over. Both of my sons already have more space in their homes than we do; yet, they and their wives are gracious and uncomplaining about stuffing everyone into our house for Hamsgiving and Christmas every year. I love them for it.

Truthfully, I think it will all be OK. Thousands — probably millions — of older parents travel to their children’s homes for holidays for myriad reasons, and it wouldn’t kill us to do the same someday. I must also consider that in 10 years’ time, our youngest grandchild will be in middle school and the eldest will be a junior or senior, and like it or not, coming to Grammie’s for an overnighter won’t be as exciting as it once was. I get all that. Time to move on, while never letting go of the joy of family. We can do it in a different way is all.

While we talked about living smaller, we focused on doing so with a bit more land. I’ve never been one to want to live in the country (and I still don’t want to), but we’re seriously considering an acre or two outside the city limits so we can team up with a doggy daycare business after I retire from teaching — or before, depending upon where the chips fall. The chips, of course, are real estate related: we want to begin the process of getting our present home ready to sell. To that end, the last several days have been full of ideas, priority lists, financial plans and visits from various people to give us estimates on certain projects, to wit:

  1. Our basement steps will be completely torn out and rebuilt next week.
  2. The plasterer visited and gave us a quote on redoing the ceilings in the parlor, guest room and main bathroom.
  3. We’re getting an estimate this week on replacing the backsplash tile, countertops and drop ceiling in the kitchen.
  4. Glass panels will be replaced in our front door and front porch, and new storm doors will be hung in the back and side entrances to the house — then we start saving for new windows on the main floor.

While the Thriller knows his way around car engines and can do basic repair jobs around the house like hanging doors and replacing drop-ceiling panels, much of this work is either out of his comfort zone or impossible for him to do physically with his bad back, and therefore must be hired out. As you might guess, all of this means that our Odysseys are at a standstill for a while. It’s a reality we embrace with considerable sadness. But hey, we’ll still be able to take long weekends to visit his family in Wisconsin and mine in Mississippi, and plans for a California trek to see Bob & Kay are still in the works. Seriously, we’ve traveled almost the whole country over the last five summers; we have nothing to complain about. If you’re new to RtB, or you just want to revisit the silliness, here are the links to get you started:

2010 – Route 66
2011 – Western US (heh — I’d forgotten that was the kidney stone Odyssey)
2012 – New England
2013 – Pacific Northwest
2014 – NYC

So it’s not like we’ve not gotten to do fun things. This new experience (I’ll call it the Austerity Odyssey :-) ) will show and teach us many things as well. And who knows — we might even have some fun along the way.

Happy weekend! Back to the old grind.

Thoughts for the 1st snow delay DAY

6 January, 2015
Rat Fink

Yeah, I know. “Teachers have it so easy.” Yep.

No worries, though. If Arne Duncan and his buddies Bill Gates, ALEC, Pearson Ed., Eli Broad and a veritable circus of other clowns get their way, people like me won’t need to worry about any more delay or snow days, or any days at all, for that matter, because the arts will be judged superfluous and unnecessary. Because what can’t be counted doesn’t count: creativity, critical thinking, resilience, motivation, persistence, curiosity, endurance, reliability, enthusiasm, empathy, self-awareness, self-discipline, leadership, civic-mindedness, courage, compassion, resourcefulness, sense of beauty, sense of wonder, honesty, integrity (Bracey). You know, little stuff like that.

All bitterness aside, I will admit to feeling a bit guilty that I get to stay home when the roads are bad, and other workers have to schlep it in anyway. Student drivers do make a difference in what happens. I dunno. C’est comme ça. That’s just the way it is.

Still, in my experience, I’ve come to believe that the people who complain the loudest about teachers “having it so easy” on snow days are the same folks who’d run over their mothers to get to an attorney’s office to sue the district if the school bus or their teenage driver got into an accident because of bad roads or heavy fog. Those who say, “We never had this many snow days; heck, we never had any at all,” are often older people like me, who honestly didn’t have a lot of snow days. Why? Because back in the 60s and 70s (and for many, earlier still), society wasn’t so litigious. But for good or ill, somebody gets a jackpot for spilling hot coffee on her legs, and the avalanche begins. Nobody — especially those who operate on taxpayers’ good graces — wants to be sued, so they err on the side of caution. Can’t say as I blame them.

Blame. It’s a big business nowadays, although I’m happy to work the angle for free on certain topics. ;-)

It’s now 6:59 a.m., and I should probably think about the shower, breakfast, and the road. Thank the gods the Thriller is up and getting ready to shovel a path up the driveway for me. Int he nice? I don’t deserve him.