I Really Miss This Girl

A week is too long.
Even if she is spending it in Hawaii.

Nice Work There Kitten

Well, many people may not know that there is yet another cat in my life. Her name is Dinah, she's a Siamese, and likes to play with yarn and Georgie Fruit's tail (which Georgie of course hates, but puts up with). There are many great things about Dinah. For one, she likes to sleep on our pillow at night so it appears like I'm wearing a cat as a hat in the morning. At the same time however, she's also a cat that likes to climb my leg with razor sharp claws or crawl into small spaces and cause trouble.

Today I returned home from the park to discover and extremely unpleasant odor emanating from our room, so unpleasant in fact that I would say it literally smelled like poop. The door was open, as it usually is for Dinah to have easy access to her litter box, but apparently this made no difference to Dinah who looked up at me from her chair and slowly blinked.

I took a quick survey of the room and looked for any noticeable piles of excrement. Seeing none, I quickly picked up Dinah and took a whiff of her hair while wondering if there was actually poo in the room or if Dinah simply smelled like a homeless man.

If there's one thing to know about me it's that I have a large nose, and taking a cue from the Fruit Loops commercials of yore, I decided to follow it. This method, I soon realized, would become a lot worse before it got any better. Following the pungent odor, I soon arrived at our dresser and gave a silent prayer that she didn't mistake my open drawer of clothing for a litter box. Luckily I dodged a bullet, but momentarily wondered if what I was smelling was my dirty pile of socks. No, it was definitely poop. And it was somewhere. The mystery of the missing poop remained to be solved.

Suddenly I noticed the tiny crevice beneath the dresser. It was too dark to see, but I realized that there was a large slip of paper that I could grab with the ends of my fingers. Pulling it out, I discovered a sizable deposit of pure untainted cat poop, so sizable in fact that it almost seemed to rival Dinah herself. Had she simply been hoarding it? Did I need to call A&E and get a documentary crew to film this? So many questions ran through my mind.

In any case, it gave me a reason clean my room with copious amounts of Lysol, and another reason to write about cat poop, which really is the entire reason I created this blog. In conclusion, you just read an entire story about me finding cat poop in my room. You're welcome.


Top Ten Best Films of 2010

Now that we're half way into 2011, it's the perfect time to catch up on the best films of 2010. Granted, I haven't seen all that's out there. I'm pretty sure I missed out on at least half a dozen Tyler Perry movies, but already assuming that those take the cake let's look at the rest.


-Never Let Me Go


Much like Gattaca, Never Let Me Go is very much a sci-fi film in concept, yet it's smart enough to focus upon the human condition. Yes, the concept of clones being harvested for use by society isn't unheard of, but unlike Michael Bay's action flick The Island, this film doesn't feature a copious amount of soda ads and explosions. Never Let Me Go is a tender examination of life in it's fleeting passage. There are no grand escape plans, in fact, there really isn't very much action to speak of. It's about people making the most of the time they have, or regretting the time they have wasted.


-Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
-Enter The Void
-Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky
-Despicable Me


For me this year marks as a breakthrough in movie credits. Whereas I used to not care at all about "reading" during a movie, now it's becoming something to look forward to. Does that mean I'm getting old? Despicable Me did a great job by including a short animated segment throughout the credits using a unique and clever camera technique. Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky used a copious amount of elegant fractal designs rendered in beautiful 3D. Scott Pilgrim earned extra points by starting with 8bit graphics and nearly beat out the competition. Meanwhile, Enter The Void (which was released in France in 2009, but here in the US in 2010) blew my mind apart. If I had an award for "Most Drugged-Out-Insane-Scary-But-Pretty-Freaking-Awesome Film of the Year" (which I could, now that I think about it) this would take the cake. For your enjoyment I have posted it below.


-House of the Devil
-Another movie with the word "Devil" in it
-Another film not titled with the word "Devil" but still involving the Devil
-Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family


All in all, 2010 wasn't an altogether amazing year for horror films, but we did get some great moments. We had the promising opportunity to watch three skiers get stuck on a ski lift in Frozen, an entire town go haywire and nuked in The Crazies, and Ethan Hawk take blood in his coffee with Daybreakers, but the one thriller that really had me on my toes was the minimalist Buried. Somehow within an eight foot coffin, enough action took place to keep me from ever tearing my eyes off the screen. Ryan Reynolds gave a terrific performance to complement an equally clever script, all tied up with an ending that will haunt you for weeks.


-A Town Called Panic
-Toy Story 3
-The Illusionist
-Despicable Me


If there's one thing that 2010 has taught us about animation, it's that cartoons can be dark too. Toy Story 3 closed this magnificent trilogy with the sad fact that everyone grows up, but my pull-string Woody doll is still somewhere out there. Despicable Me shared some laughs by featuring a grumpy villain with adorable yellow minions as the protagonist. The exception to the rule was A Town Called Panic, which despite it's sensory overload sensibilities, was thoroughly charming and hilarious. All in all I was most blown away by Sylvain Chomet's The Illusionist, a melancholy exploration of the relationship between an aging magician and his young female companion. The film is beautifully animated in a way that only hand drawn animation can be. It is focused on subtlety and nuance, and how that carries into the lives we lead. Altogether, the film is magic.


-Date Night
-Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
-Going The Distance
-Death At A Funeral


It was a somewhat rough year for comedy. I think the world can only shuffle the cast of The Thirty Year Old Virgin around so many times before things get a little stale. We had Get Him To The Greek, which I have started three times but for some reason never feel compelled enough to finish, and Hot Tub Time Machine, which I'm told repeatedly is funny but turned off after the first five minutes of non-stop cursing, vomit, and poop jokes (not that vomit and poop jokes can't be funny). Luckily we did have some highlights. The new Americanized version of Death At A Funeral turned out surprisingly well, and in some ways almost runs smoother than the original. Going the Distance was perfectly charming, and of course Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World was a visual feast with special charm. Somehow though the formula for Date Night just worked. What could easily have been forgettable, Date Night is even still, after another viewing, a very funny movie. Observant and charming, the film manages to tie together common marriage dynamics with absurd action sequences. Steve Carrell and Tina Fey are equals in both delivering lines and physical comedy, and as if that wasn't enough, they actually make you care about these characters. This is a film that makes you feel good after you watch it, and after a year of films like Black Swan, The Social Network and 127 Hours, I really needed it. Speaking of which...


-Black Swan
-Never Let Me Go
-Blue Valentine
-The Road


Although the end of Buried almost made me cry in the shower, it carried with it a sense of bitter satisfaction. But good gravy, if there's one film of 2010 to make you want to take a smoke break it's Blue Valentine, a film that chronicles the disintegration of a marriage between two people that once were quite happy. It's a good movie, but good in the way that Revolution Road was good. You'll never want to watch it again. Top this one off with a chaser of Date Night to make yourself feel better.


-The Kings Speech


Finally, I have a reason to have an award category for speech therapy. The King's Speech was one of the unexpected highlights of 2010. Filled with wonderful characters, this is a film that makes you feel good in the best way possible. Here we see people genuinely trying to help each other, and in the process become good friends. A fantastic true story beautifully filmed and terrifically acted.


-Exit Through The Gift Shop
-Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
-Art of the Steal
-All of the 20 or so documentaries having something to do with the education system


This one was kind of a dead giveaway, but Exit Through The Gift Shop was filled with so many characters, so many ideas, and with so much strong feeling that it simply remains unforgettable. This isn't to say that the other documentaries of the past year should be forgotten. With the numerous films documenting the broken educational system of the United States, we're given something new to worry about as opposed to all of the global warming documentaries we've collected over the past two years. Finally, something else we have idea how to solve. For those looking to distract themselves, we also had a documentary about Joan Rivers, which was actually pretty interesting. One highlight for me was Freakonomics, which, based off the book of the same title, played out like an extended episode of This American Life, only based a tad more statistical data. Did you ever hear about the girl named "Temptress?" It's worth looking into. Exit Through The Gift Shop however was just so much to think about. After all, how do you deal with man who wants to make art, but isn't an artist? What is the influence of hype on art, and can hype itself have an artistic merit? Does success cheapen the meaning of art, or the importance of the artist? Maybe the artist who blocks out his face is actually the only one who should have the final say. Blahhhh. I need to take a nap now.


-True Grit
-The Illusionist
-Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
-The Road


Yes, Scott Pilgrim was visually one of the best things to come out of 2010, but as far as adaptations go I can't say it completely worked as a film. Entertaining as it was, it played out like an entire television series over the course of two hours. The Road was a faithful adaptation that stuck very close to its original pages, but somehow lacked a great deal of the emotional intensity that Cormac McCarthy injected into his story. True Grit however wasn't just an adaptation of an older film or story, but an adaptation that encompassed the entire era of justice in the west. Infused with equal measures of quirky comedy, intense drama, and bittersweet relationships, True Grit works. It's unfortunate that I couldn't come across enough western films to set a category aside, but luckily this one was all I needed.


-The Kings Speech
-The Illusionist
-Never Let Me Go
-True Grit


Inception created a world unlike any other and carried with it a story so sprawling and dense that it's a miracle alone that the film is even comprehensible on the first viewing. Featuring strong performances, beautiful visuals, excellent editing, and that loud "BRAAAAAAAGH!" noise, Inception works on every level. And there are a LOT of levels. It's not only the best film of the year, but I'm willing to say it's one of the top films of the decade.


An Ode to 4th Grade Favorite Movies

Today I asked each of my students to write a poetic "Ode" to their favorite movie. Enjoy.

"My favorite is The Terminator.
He is awesome.
He hates blossoms."

For some reason I was surprised to find the word "blossoms" used at all in one of these poems. I asked him what he meant by it and he simply replied saying "Because the Terminator hates flowers." Makes sense...

"My favorite movie is Holes,
because they have to dig like a lot of holes.
I like it because they dig a lot of holes."

Simple, yet, effective.

"Once upon a time,
there was an army.
They fought all of the people,
and never died.
Then they all died.

Although this poem is neither an "ode" nor about any film I can think of, I find some sort of promise in it. I should note that the word "CANCER" was written in bold across the entirety of the page. Very dramatic.

Here's an epic piece that spanned both the front and the back of the construction paper:

"Ode to me, The Ninja.
I have ninja stars.
I can kill you.
I have the assassin star,
and the acid star.
I can kill any ninja of the ninjas.
I'm the master of ninjas.
I'm a cool ninja.
I can sneak up on any ninja on earth.
Be careful.
I can assassinate you.
So keep an eye on me.
'Cause I can sneaky camouflage in anything.
You can't get by me.
I'm the awesome ninja."

I think there's a pretty good Die Antwoord song in there.

This next one was written by one of the girls.

"My favorite movie is Monsters Inc.
Because there are a lot of closets
and I need a lot of closets
for all my clothes."

All in all, I think it was a success.


More Poetry By Students Who Hate To Write Poetry

In an attempt to further captivate my 4th grade students with the wonderful world of poetry I decided to have them write about their favorite foods. I assumed that I would receive numerous entries reflecting their love for the spicy chips known as "Taki's" (an outlawed food that is often bartered among the children in a strange sort of black market for candy), but was instead delighted to find numerous poems dedicated to pizza.


"Pepperoni's are red.
Cheese is Yellow.
Sauce is also red.
Dough is white.
That makes pizza."

"Pizza is my favorite food.
It is so cheesy
and pepperoniee."

"Bread is white,
Meat is brownish,
Mac is yellow."

"My favorite food
is ice cream.
Dessert is my favorite time.
I like to eat ice cream
for my favorite food."

"Favorite strawberries
are so good,
they make you want more.
They are so so juicy.
Whenever you take a bite
Juice comes out."

"My pizza is a feast,
and is also a feast,
so it is a feast."

"Ice cream is my favorite dessert.
You can make it carmelly or chocolatey."

"Pizza is cheesy,
and is delicious,
because it is cheesy."


4th Grade Haiku's

In teaching my class of 16 fourth and fifth grade students poetry, today I introduced them to the world of Haiku's.


"We went to the beach,
The beach is so so so fun,
so so so so beach."
-Elexia, 4th Grade

"I won the fun race,
It was really really fun,
I won a medal."
-Preston, 4th Grade

"I love my dog he
ate my homework. Now I don't
have to do it. Yay!"
-Alex, 4th Grade

"My dog is so good
but sometimes he pees on me
but I still love him."
-John, 4th Grade

"My cat is so fat.
He eats like four pan-cakes. And,
He also eats poo."
-Carlos, 4th Grade


Jogging For My Life

As a city, Portland managed surprisingly well to quarantine the true crazies from the somewhat normal citizens of the world. If you were to stay in the North West part of town you could enjoy a gelato while listening to a well-dressed hipster complain about dog leashes interfering with his daily bike route, but stray just a block too far past Burnside Avenue and you could be shopping in a Goodwill next to a smelly overweight homeless lady who dyed her hair neon yellow using house paint. True story.

The most common stranger I came upon was that of the late twenty-something man whose biggest priority in life was trying to figure out a way to convert his food stamps into cheap alcohol. It just so happened that while Beth and I ventured along a nearby nature trail that we came across a group of these individuals, who, despite it only being three in the afternoon, were already fairly well sauced.

"HEY! You two!" One of them yelled while stumbling. "It's this guys birthday today! Guess how old he is!"

After briefly looking back to make sure they were addressing us, we then shrugged our shoulders.

"He just turned 21!! WOO!"

"Wow. Congratulations." I said, fully aware that all of these men were well into their thirties.

"Can you believe this guy is only 21?!"


"We're gonna draaaaank!"

"Awesome." I said, as I started walking slightly faster.

We continued along the trail and in the meantime tried to forget about the slightly disturbing interaction we had just undergone. We distracted ourselves by saving the stray slugs who wandered aimlessly on the path and risked being trampled by the high traffic of bicyclists, dogs, and joggers. After a while we were so overwhelmed by the fresh air and lush greenery, that we had completely forgotten that the only way back home was directly past the drunken birthday party.

"They're probably gone by now though." I said. "You think?"

They weren't. From around the corner we could already hear the crashing sounds of broken bottles and obnoxious high-fives.

"Okay. I have an idea." I said. "According to Portland etiquette, people don't bother joggers, so if we just start running and look really determined to finish our work-out, we'll be fine."

"But Zack," Beth said, "You never run. Ever."

"Well it looks like there's a first time for everything."

After mentally preparing ourselves, we began running around the corner while breathing heavily and furrowing our brows. I even went so far as to look at my wrist to check our time, even though I don't wear a watch.

Then disaster struck.

After a single yard of jogging my foot got lodged on an exposed tree root and immediately twisted itself. Falling face forward, a cloud of dust exploded out from under the weight of my body hitting the ground.

"HOLY F*%&!" One of the drunkards yelled, while laughing. "Did you guys see that?"

I quickly jumped up and waved. "I'm alright, I'm alright!"

"Yo, we're in no condition to drive you to a hospital bro!" Another chimed in, also laughing.

Wincing in pain, I limped towards Beth who slowly shook her head.

We wandered out of the forest as we heard the sounds of laughing ebb in the distance. Rubbing my swollen ankle back home, I started to wonder if it was just everyone in this town that was a little bit weird, or if, in fact, I was one of the crazies.