Friday, July 31, 2009

How The Sausage Is Made: Substitute Teaching

The second part of a multi-part series going over the insides and outsides of various jobs I've had...

First, to answer a common question when people find out that I, of all people, am a substitute teacher: You don't need much to do it in Rhode Island. The only requirement to get the permit from the state is $25 and a bachelor's degree in anything.

From there, requirements vary from district to district, but almost none require an education degree. (The one exception, I believe, is Cranston, but they also pay $120 a day, vs. $75 for most of the state.) Most districts want three letters of recommendation, your past work experience, a cover letter and a clean background check. I technically had “teaching experience” anyway because I worked as a college teaching assistant, but I get the feeling that it wasn't a big determining factor.

Once the paperwork all goes through, most schools work via a substitute assignment system, AESOP. Basically, you get assignments in two ways:

1) Logging on to your computer and checking for unfulfilled substitutions. This is the easiest method, except that it normally only works for really long-range stuff. i.e. If it's March, you might see a bunch of dates up for grabs in June, and who knows what you'll have going on then? I was always reluctant to snatch a ton of these in case I found a full-time gig in the meantime.

2) Via an automated telephone message. Typically, they would call between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m., and offer you an assignment, telling you the school (high, middle or elementary), the subject and the time frame (half or full day). This was how I got most of my assignments, since most of the permanent teachers and the school secretaries wouldn't put in the day-off requests until that day of school, meaning you'd get the call later.

The district I was at was big enough that I could work five days a week almost whenever I wanted, which was good, because I needed the money. I would usually work four days a week, and then try to leave one day free (normally Mondays, since there were less subs this day anyway) to do things like mailing out resumes and job applications.

Enough about the boring stuff, the juicy info – Watching kids. The term “substitute teaching” is a fairly loose definition, especially the second part, because you are hardly ever actually teaching. I probably did it between 50 and 100 days, and I taught an actual lesson a single class. Luckily, it was something I was qualified in – English for 7th graders.

The vast majority of classes, you are either having kids do a worksheet or quiz, read or watch a movie (less than you'd think for this option, though). My typical “bribe” thing was letting them talk for the last 10 minutes of class, if they had been good.

Most would talk throughout class anyway, which brings me to the main gripe about substitute teaching – You are a low-paid babysitter. Elementary school kids behave fine (and they're wicked cute), but they're not doing heavy-lifting educationally anyway. Also, being a male teacher normally amazed the kids I was around. This might just be an isolated thing, but there was normally one full-time male teacher per elementary school I subbed at, so I get the feeling that simple difference gave me some extra authority for no good reason.

Of the age groups, middle school is by far the most difficult. The kids are all just starting to hit puberty and becoming hellions, and there is a ton of bravado mixed in with that childlike innocence from elementary schools. As an example, I would get asked by punk 13-year-olds about whether I had a girlfriend or if I had had sex. Lovely, lovely stuff, really gentlemanly, even.

The high school kids at least would be subtle jerks, meaning that I could normally outwit them, since I do have a college degree and all that. Instead of being obsessed with letting the entire class know about their illicit dealings, like the middle school kids, the high school kids would normally just stick to their own groups and sometimes like slip their grand plans for wealth via selling pot. (One kid told me he was going to be a drug kingpin like Tony Montaya, to which I quipped, “You realizes he dies at the end of that movie, right? That's not exactly someone you should be trying to emulate.” He didn't have a good answer for that.)

Eventually, I learned that the best way to deal with A-hole kids was to use the cliche from sitcoms when someone goes to prison – Make a mark early by sending the shittiest kid out of the room, and the rest of the class falls in line. Otherwise, you can let a small group of two to five kids prevent the other 20 from getting anything done. Establishing consequences for actions worked far better for me than trying to reason. Also, contrary to cliche, I never got spitballs thrown at me, or a “Kick Me!” sign attached to my back.

This post sounds rather negative, but I should add that there were plenty of good kids I ran into, at the middle and high school levels, during my five months substitute teaching. One fifth grader even drew me a picture in art class, and while I think this was more because she was bored than an endorsement of me, I'll still hang it up when I do get a permanent place. It's a nice little reminder.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

David Bowie is the F-ing S

After a lot of careful thought – about 20 minutes – I've decided that if I could trade my musical career (none) with any successful artist's, it would be David Bowie. He was unquestionably cool during his musical peak, and he still is cool now, which is why shows like The Venture Brothers can cast him as the leader of the Guild of Calamitous Intent and get away with it.

In fact, David Bowie has so many hits that you probably don't realize how many hits he has. Here are hit singles and songs I've heard on mainstream radio, that you've probably also heard and never realized he did:

“Dancing in the Street.” “Modern Love.” “Blue Jean.” “Let's Dance.” “Under Pressure.” “Heroes.” “Fame.” “Golden Years.” “Knock on Wood.” “Sound and Vision.” “Young Americans.” “All the Young Dudes.” “The Man Who Sold The World.” “Changes.” “Life on Mars?” “Suffragette City.” “Rebel Rebel.” “Space Oddity.” “Starman.” “The Jean Genie.” “Never Get Old.”

That is 20 songs right there, and if some of those are debatable to you, just replace them with your personal favorites that I left out, like “Ziggy Stardust” and “Diamond Dogs.” Quite simply, you will be hard-pressed to name other bands with such a vast, expansive repertoire. Other bands or artists that I at least considered swapping places with:

- The Beatles. Like David Bowie, The Beatles have a slew of hits. However, I'm kind of narrow in my thinking; I want to trade places with just one person. And since I'm somewhat vain and egotistical, I'm not sure if I'd want to split credit like Lennon and McCartney do. Even George Harrison has at least one insanely catchy solo pop ditty.

As a result, the Beatles almost feel like an unintentional superband. McCartney is still cranking out hits by his lonesome and Lennon was a supernova once he left the group.

- Queen, Weezer and the Beastie Boys. Because they're all made up of multiple members, I have to lessen their accomplishments ever so slightly. Queen's Freddy Mercury was the closest competitor to Bowie's crown, except that I like Bowie's overall catalog a bit better. (This also overlooks that Freddy Mercury died of AIDS and liked boys.)

Queen has a lot of F'ed out, overplayed pop rock shmaltz that hasn't held up well to me. I'm specifically referring to “We Will Rock You” and “We Are The Champions,” which are always played 50 million times at any sort of sporting event.

Some of Queen's best work is also, well, downright odd. “Fat Bottom Girls” and “Bicycle Rice” are incredibly catchy tunes, but they're somewhat like Weezer (another band I mentioned in this paragrah) in that the songs won't really appeal to all audiences. They feel a bit too much like nerd rock.

The same applies to the best of Weezer's arsenal, for which the term “nerd rock” was coined, after all. I love all of their songs, from the Pinkerton tracks “El Scorcho” and “Falling For You” to the obvious pop bait like “Pork and Beans,” “Buddy Holly” and “Keep Fishin'”.

- Nirvana, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Sublime and The Doors / Jim Morrison. All of them are great, and all of them are dead, which I'm not really into. Overlooking this aspect, their premature deaths prevent them from possibly joining either the preceding or proceeding groupings...

- Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots. If we were doing this list after initial albums, based on potential, then both these bands would rank highly, much like Ben Grieve would after his stellar debut for the Oakland Athletics in 1998. Unfortunately, Pearl Jam kept making weird, artsy records instead of doing good alternative rock, and Stone Temple Pilots fizzled out as Scott Weiland got hooked on heroin.

- Beck, Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails. Awesome artists, except that they're not that varied or commercial successful. If I want something besides industrial from NIN, I'm shit outta luck.

- KISS and The Eagles. The opposite of Beck and Radiohead, both these bands are hugely commercially successful, but not really that deep or critically acclaimed.

- The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Modest Mouse, The Killers, Queens of the Stone Age, Interpol, Girl Talk and The White Stripes. All these are somewhat new bands that have had some great releases, but do they have staying power? Can they change styles and stay fresh and still stay commercial and critically awesome?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Summer vacation

[Left] The definitive summer vacation movie.

So, unannounced, I decided to take a few weeks off from the blog. This was partly because of my new job, which sucked up a lot more time then I would realize, and also as a way for me to just recharge my own brain and what not. It didn't hurt that a couple people I'm doing tag team blogs with took a while to respond, and that my #1 commenter went on vacation for a week, meaning that there wasn't a ton of outside pressure on me to write entries.

But. I'm back into the swing of things now! A couple of random notes:

1) I won't be including as many links and images on my posts. Sadly, some posts take far longer for me to format with various fun things than they do to type. It doesn't help that the computers I use – a desktop from 2002 and a laptop from 2005 – are really showing their age at this point. Right after I manage to move out, buying a new computer, even if it's using credit, is on my list. Maybe even before I move out.

2) Another way I can tell that this new job is sucking up a lot of my free time is by monitoring my weight. At one point I was at 200 pounds, ugh. That's not really acceptable for me, since I'm 5'9” and don't lift weights for a living, and my high school weight was around 160. For the past week, I've been trying to exercise at least once a day, and that has kept it in check for the time being, and I'm back down to around 190ish. Still, it's something I'm going to have to monitor. I'm not crazy about the idea of turning into Kevin James or George Costanza.

3) I've kind of stayed off Twitter during this hiatus, but I imagine I'll be back on it regularly now that I'm blogging again. To give people a bit of a peek behind the curtain, a surprising amount of my traffic is directly referred from Twitter, which has a different set of friends on it then here.

4) Speaking of hits, I should mention that I have officially made money off of this blog - $0.98. Woohoo! AdSense tells me that it is in my account, but I don't think I'll have them cut a check for me just yet...

Monday, July 13, 2009

iTunes Running Diary - Monday, July 13, 2009

This week's artists, a day late.

- “She Wants To Move” by N.E.R.D. Wondering whatever happened to one-hit wonder Pharrell after he was done “Frontin'”? (Girl, you know he wants you bad.)

Much like Danger Mouse of The Grey Album fame, who is now more known for being half of Gnarls Barkley, Pharrell is actually in N.E.R.D., a kind-of popular band known for this song and “Spaz.” Ironically, both are featured in commercials, but I knew of N.E.R.D. before then because of “Rock Star,” which got some alternative rock radio play. Like Gnarls Barkley, N.E.R.D. is a little hard to categorize; kind of like techno, alternative rap.

And because I brought up Gnarls Barkley, I'd like to take a second to talk about Charles Barkley, the greatest NBA player ever. I'm saying this for two reasons – I have an awesome poster of him that I bought in third grade, and he is by far the most quotable, funniest NBA player ever. Although I've already brought up this story once before in a comparison between Gnarls and Charles, his bar fight in Philadelphia bears repeating:

My favorite Charles Barkley story is about when he got into a bar fight in 1997 and threw a guy through a plate glass window. When the police asked him if he had any regrets, Barkley said, "I regret we weren't on a higher floor."

As Cigar sports reporter Pat Oullette said when he heard that story, "Charles Barkley is the man." Sports editor Matt Pavao said, "I wish Charles Barkley threw me through a plate glass window." Production manager Michelle Kirms said he was her favorite basketball player growing up.

- “Song 2” by Blur. The other night at trivia, the trivia lady asked an approximation of the following question: What British band, despite releasing seven critically-acclaimed albums, is best known as a one-hit wonder for their hit single “Creep”?

Now, the answer is obviously Radiohead, except that up until she named the actual single, it was Blur. And I'm saying this as a guy who actually likes more music by Blur besides “Song 2.” While I'm not crazy about the frenetic energy of “Crazy Beat,” it's still a good listen, as is “Tender (The Sweetest Thing).” And “Coffee and TV” is just an addictive, great song that is pushed over the top by the bittersweet music video.

If you're looking for a British band with one monster hit that conceals their underground credibility, then it's Blur. I think everyone is aware of Radiohead's virtues. Heck, I don't even like Radiohead that much – I find their music to be a bit like ambient techno, there and clearly good, but I'm just not interested – but I can name two hit songs by them. Obviously, “Creep,” but there is also “Karma Police,” which has gotten significant radio play.

- “Chelsea Dagger” by The Fratellis. Back in the day, when I ran the Cigar entertainment section, I assigned this CD to someone to review it. They came back, raving about how great it was, and gave it a great review, but it didn't really stick in my mind to go download some tracks.

Flash forward to about two weeks ago. I got sent a copy of Guitar Hero: Modern Hits to review for the DS, and one of the songs was “Chelsea Dagger.” It is so rhythmic and awesome, and it makes me feel like a sad panda that I took so goddamn long to download it. Along the same lines, it took me forever to get into Girl Talk, and Feed The Animals now has the most plays on my iTunes.

- “Love Me Two Times” by The Doors. I didn't mean for this entry to highlight just music from Guitar Hero and Rock Band, but apparently iTunes had different ideas.

A couple entries ago, when talking about Everclear, I wrote that their lead singer's struggles with drugs and altered thinking on it probably gave the band a sort of obsession he couldn't match once he got clean. The obsession allowed him to create great music and survive long enough to eventually get clean. Without the music, I imagine that he would have succumbed even quicker.

I think the same thing about Jim Morrison and The Doors. I always feel like the music and lifestyle kind of get blamed as causing the drug usage, but given the background of Morrison – there are plenty of good books out there on his life – he would have been into drugs even without the music.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Welcome (back) to the machine

The other day I wrote a post about some of the inside workings of journalism, because I figured I wouldn't ever get another journalism job again. Uh, whoops!

I recently interviewed for, auditioned for (wrote a few pieces) and got a 30-hour per week writing job with The Westerly Sun, a local daily. I'm pretty psyched about it, because the extra money will enable me to move out of my parent's house eventually, and they have seemed pretty cool about me working other jobs (driving range, Blast, Gamezebo) in order to make ends meet, since they're only part-time. As a result, I think I'll still have time to update this blog and what not.

And also, since I got this journalism job once I thought I wouldn't get another one and wrote it... Then I really think there is no chance I'll date Jennifer Love Hewitt. That ship has definitely sailed as well, and there is no way that she'll dump Jamie Kennedy and call me out of the blue.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Watch these shows – Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Blog Equation 107: Lolcats = Win. ALWAYS.

Since the last television recommendation I made, for that of Life on Mars, came right before the show was canceled, I'm almost reluctant to make this entry for fear of more carnage. However, we are in summer now, and I know people are craving something new to watch. So, my recommendations, some of which are old shows you can watch on YouTube...

- Home Movies, O'Grady or Dick and Paula. All three are animated shows by Soup2Nuts, who's art style is pretty distinctive. By “distinctive,” I mean that it looks like crap. However, the same voice actors – Brandon Small (now on Metalocalypse), Melissa Bardin Galsky and the always incredible H. Jon Benjamin – are often shared between them, which really helps the humor come across.

Home Movies is the best of the three, as it relies the most on Benjamin. His super-gruff, super-low voice would never make you think that he's some skinny white dude. He plays Coach McGuirk, who I constantly link to in my away messages, and who dispenses great advice to the little kids on the show, like why you shouldn't swear and how to survive a tornado and how to handle losing. (My only regret is that YouTube doesn't include his stand-up spots, which are the greatest thing ever. I might have to make my YouTube debut with that.)

I've just recently gotten into O'Grady, on the recommendation of Danielle Membrino, a.k.a. the girl who loves South Park and leaves comments all the time. Keeping in mind that I've only seen a couple episodes, it seems like a combination of Home Movies and Eerie, Indiana (or The Twilight Zone, if you're not hip to 1990s TV).

Dick and Paula is the ancestor of all of these shows, and while it's crudely animated even by Soup2Nuts standards, it is cleverer in certain respects. It is a spoof of shows like Regis and Kelly and The Today Show, as it uses historical figures and made-up celebrities to be funny.

- The Soup on E!, new episodes on Friday, re-runs throughout the week. I think a lot of people are already turned on to the spiritual successor of Talk Soup (the good versions, with John Henson, Roger Lodge and Greg Kinnear, not the shitty one with Aisha Tyler). At its best, the show was funny on two levels: first from the absurdity of its clips, and second from the host's reactions and skits.

But the new host, Joel McHale, has the best chops of all of them. The show is consistently funnier than the old incarnation, and at times it has a sort of zaniness that reminds me of early Conan O'Brien and David Letterman. While I think just about anybody can point out the pathetic humor in the VH1 reality shows and Entertainment Tonight-type fare, McHale and his staff also get great bits out of mundane shows. The best examples would be I Love Toy Trains, a show I didn't even know existed but one I now wish I had access to, and hyping up Spaghetti Cat and then using him in non-sequitur bits.

My only complaint would be that McHale is appearing at the Newport Yachting Center this weekend, but tickets are $45 each. Holy hell, Joel! Give me a break, plz? I know you got babies to feed, but seeing as I'm practically unemployed and what not, help a brother out. Still, if I did have some money banked (or if I could have wrangled a press credential from someone), I definitely would have seen him in person.

- MXC on Spike and the Internetz, and Ninja Warrior on G4. If you like ABC's Wipeout, then you should be watching these shows instead, from which Wipeout just ripped their idea off and made it more PG. I realize it is hard to rip off a concept originally popularized by the Three Stooges, but ABC did it so transparently that I was curious how they never got rapped for it. Instead, I've mostly heard raves about how funny the show is, proving that if it happened on cable it never really happened. I imagine ABC's next show will have puppets making prank phone calls.

Anyway, if you went to college at any point between 2002 and 2007, like I did, then you've probably seen MXC while you were drunk, thus you don't remember the name. Whenever various roommates and I would come home from the bar or a party, a flip through the channels would reveal it was on, and we would end up watching weird Japanese people smash their faces in while a humorous, English dub was laid on top of it. The best events would always be when they had to jump across rocks or walk across the huge roller things, because the wipeouts would always be spectacular.

The original show that MXC gets its footage from, Takeshi's Castle, apparently led their TV ratings at one point, and it was supposed to simulate a sort of real-life video game competition, which seems like an absolutely insane concept to me. They have a crummy show like this on the Sci-Fi Channel or USA Network right now, and it stinks because they always do first-person shooters. Hey, if I wanted to see that, I would just watch Rambo, you asshats! You should instead be trying to do a modern version of Takeshi's Castle, with super-bright colors, floating platforms and moving, Roomba-like robots that you have to jump on top of to kill. I want to see World 1-1 of Super Mario Brothers, not Call of Duty 4.

While the humor of MXC is obvious, Ninja Warrior is better to me because it is played so seriously. It is like the Airplane! or Naked Gun of the genre. Almost all the characters take this deathly serious, and the over-dramatic announcing and subtitles just push the show over the top. And when a contestant falls in the water, the (male) announcer lets out such a shriek each time that I can't help but laugh.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Athletic prowess and lack thereof

Caddyshack. Watch it, learn it, love it.

I consider myself fairly run-of-the-mill when it comes to athletic ability. The only sports I might be considered above-average in would be basketball, but this relies a lot on the level of competition I'm facing and the height of the other player. Normally, I can make sure I'm not embarrassed on the courts. My shot is very streaky, but I always put in full effort on the defensive end, even if my natural skill level isn't great. I played freshmen hoops, but got cut during tryouts from a high school team that wasn't especially good.

Because of all the hours I've logged on the hardwood, I also tend to be passable on the volleyball court. The past couple of Sundays, I've been helping some friends fill out their practice roster, and it's always a lot of fun to me. My lack of height – I'm only about 5'9” on a good day – hurts, since I like to play the front, but I'm a decent setter and I can at least strike well enough to be a decent for a “just for fun” co-ed team. My serving is actually pretty good, because my head smack puts a lot of weird spin on the ball.

From there, things drop off steeply. Back in the day, I was a good Little League player, but my work at the plate always stunk. I'm good in the infield, but even in softball now, I hit for almost all singles. (Ironic, since the “singles only” player with an inflated batting average is severely overrated in conventional baseball, yet that's what I am.) Except for a forgettable half-year playing midget / bantam football and another half-hearted attempt at track, that wraps up my “formal” athletic exploits.

The point of this entry isn't to brag about my (limited) accomplishments, but rather as a launching point to complain about the people who come to the driving range. If you're some fat ass, don't complain that you can't hit the ball 200 yards with our clubs and our balls. (teehee.) Yes, they're both old and crappy, but the spare tire around your gut is the bigger reason why you can't drive the ball with authority.

It annoys me because I have to deal with the complaints. Normally, because I don't want to alienate the customers, I shift the onus on to the town. But honestly, I'm more often thinking, “Why don't you hit the gym before you complain about your shot, jack ass?” If my jumper was off in basketball, I don't normally blame the ball or the rim, but this seems to be standard form with golf.

Sure, there are some fat ass golfers – John Daly – who can manage to make it on the tour, just like David Wells and C.C. Sabathia have managed to carve out impressive baseball careers as plus-sized bastards. Most of us need to get into shape though. And if my measly ass can hit it about 150 yards with the crappy plastic clubs, even though I have no significant golfing experience and little natural strength, then the problem isn't the clubs.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

iTunes Running Diary – July 5, 2009

This week's artists.

- "The Trees" by Rush. I originally downloaded this song after hearing it in either Rock Band 2 or one of the Guitar Hero games, but honestly, I could probably listen to just about any Rush song at just about any time. They have this weird, odd sound that is so distinctive that I never really tire of it.

This is often a key factor in my enjoyment of a band. Unique can be very, very good to me, as other favorites are The Presidents of the United States of America, Pink Floyd, Interpol and The Dismemberment Plan (poor sound quality, sorry, but the song is about Boston at least). All of these bands have their own distinctive "feel" even though there is now music similar to each one of them out there.

It is also a factor in why I've turned on some bands, like Everclear and Pearl Jam. If you're responsible for some great songs, then don't change. If you're a generic rock band – not surprisingly, Nickelback springs to mind – then you should experiment and refine your sound. If you're Pearl Jam, and you want to change, then by god make sure your new experimental album is something I would actually like to listen to. (Sorry, I inadvertently channeled Hunter S. Thompson for the previous sentence. I'm reading a book about the founding of Rolling Stone, I blame that.)

- "American Girl" by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Since yesterday was the Fourth of July, it seems appropriate to mention that I have seven songs with all or part of "America" in its title, along with songs by American Hi-Fi and the All-American Rejects. So, it seems to be a pretty popular topic among singers and songwriters.

When I think of great musicians, Tom Petty somehow strays from my thoughts, much like Rush in the previous song. My mind jumps more to bands like The Rolling Stones, yet except for two of their songs ("Get Off Of My Cloud" and "You Can't Always Get What You"), I'm not a huge fan of their work. I just feel obligated to use them as an example.

He doesn't need my help, but I really should be pimping Tom Petty more. The guitar portions of "American Girl" set the tone of the song perfectly, and Petty's rhythmic verses just push the song over the top for me. "Don't Do Me Like That" is also a favorite of mine, as it incorporates the piano / keyboard / organ / whatever is it well. Petty's voice definitely suggests that he smokes a ton of weed, yet he doesn't have any issue hitting the high notes, which is better than pretty much every grunge rocker ever.

- "Gives You Hell" by The All-American Rejects. Speak of the devils. I really enjoy this song, and this band in general. I don't think they're critically or artistically respected at all, but they do make good, catchy music.

I first remember this sort of music coming into vogue with Blink 182, after Green Day, but Blink is kind of tolerated and respected now, just because everyone listened to them in high school and college. After them, there was a slew of bands who, while they didn't release anything super deep to me, I liked listening to: Bowling for Soup, Diffuser, The All-American Rejects, Paramore, Yellowcard, Simple Plan, The Ataris.

- "Everybody Get Dangerous" by Weezer (unofficial video, shockingly good). This is yet another song from the Red album by Weezer, which has had pretty good staying power on my iTunes with "Pork and Beans", "Troublemaker" and "The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived." Good times, good times!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Holidays, obligations and Captain America

I've never been really gungho about holidays, even if it is seemingly something that is simple to celebrate, like my birthday. I don't really have a good explanation for this – The natural urge is to examine my childhood for an answer, except that I did have parties and what not from age six (the first year I can remember) to 21 (the last time I had a major party solely in my honor, which features a keg of Sam Adams). So, there was clearly an emphasis on it.

I think my “who cares?” attitude has developed as I've aged and more distractions and obligations come into play. For example, Fourth of July will forever be dead to me because of the Bristol parade. In 2007, I had to cover it for The Bristol Phoenix, and it was one of the most miserable days of my life. Because the streets and parking get ridiculous, I had to be there at 5 a.m. It was about 90 degrees the entire day, and except for some small breaks for water and what not, I was out there covering it until 2 p.m., I believe. Because I just wanted to get it over with, I then hung around the office and typed up copy for about three hours. I think all told, I did 3,000 to 5,000 words on the friggin' parade.

(On the plus side, I got second place at the Rhode Island Press Association awards for my coverage. On the negative side, nobody even told me I was nominated for it, so I wasn't there to accept it. Instead, I was seeing Iron Man, which was good, but I could have seen that any old night.)

A past parade experience – the St. Patrick's Day parade in Newport – was no better. Even though there was a steady pouring, there was no attempt to delay or postpone it. Things got worse as the day wore on, because the temperature plummeted and I was covered in a nice layer of snow. Ugh. At this point, I was 19 or 20, so some youthful enthusiasm must have carried me through it. I remember going back to The Newport Daily News office and trying to dry my soggy notes, 20 pages worth, on a heater, along with my socks and shoes. To add insult to injury, I had stupidly told my fellow intern that I would work for her the next day, which I learned was the busiest police log day of the year because of all the arrests from the god damn parade. There was literally just a newspaper page worth of arrests in Monday's edition of the paper, and I wrote up about 80 percent of them. Ugh.

Nonetheless, I feel obligated to give a shout-out to the best America-centric superhero: Captain America. I think Marvel has generally done a good job protecting his image by having him take proper stands, such as against the Vietnam War and sacrificing himself for the cause of freedom as opposed to authoritarian rule in “Civil War.”

I am surprised he hasn't had his own movie, but then again, who could play him? I hate when the backgrounds and ethnicities of characters are changed for movies, so that rules out the Rock, who otherwise is a natural choice to me. You want someone who looks big and tough without being so huge that he would be menacing (Vinnie Jones, a.k.a. Bullet Tooth Tony from Snatch). John Cena has the perfect look, but The Marine and 12 Rounds (and his promo work) demonstrate that he doesn't have the acting chops. Referencing Snatch again, Jason Statham would be perfect, except that he is British.

Ideally, I would want a big name actor to get the part, but the choices are kind of limited. Ben Affleck wouldn't be a horrible choice, but he is already cast in the Marvel universe as Daredevil; you can't turn around and then make him be Captain America instead. Likewise, even though they're different universes, I think Matt Damon is too synonymous with Jason Bourne to pull double-duty as Captain America. George Clooney is too old now, Brad Pitt probably isn't interested, Edward Norton is the Hulk / Bruce Banner, and Johnny Depp is too slight (thin) and too faggy. If he wasn't already Wolverine, Hugh Jackman would be perfect.

However, I think casting a newcomer or low-scale actor could be a big mistake. It hasn't worked out well the last couple times it has been tried. Hayden Christensen sucked as Anakin Skywalker; I know people like to make the dialogue excuse, but Mace Windu, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Emperor Palpatine and Yoda didn't come off as whiny bitches like he did. I don't even remember the guy they cast in Superman Returns, but even though that film made about $200 billion, there is no talk of a sequel because the whole thing sort of blew.

I'm sure I'm forgetting somebody decent though, so I'll ask you, my gentle readers (to steal something from the late great Ann Landers): Who would you cast as Captain America?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Identifying music in commercials - July 3, 2009

Sorry for the delay in updating, but the weather messing with my Internet connection, cutting into my driving range time (writing time) and just generally annoying me, I haven't written much lately. Picking at an entry or two, here and there, but not much else, unfortunately. I might have good personal news soon though, if that gets your imagination going at all. I also won this past Thursday's trivia competition at Casey's with my team - Go us!

Anyway, in lieu of a "real" entry today, I thought I'd help everyone identify some music. This one actually stumped me for a while too, but the song is "Doorway" by IO Echo. I kind of like the commercial's version a bit better - the part where she sings and the rest of the song drops out is very nice - but the original is still hauntingly good. It kind of reminds me of the Dresden Dolls a tad, but not really, or The Yeah Yeah Yeahs or The White Stripes.

Have any other music from commercials you want me to hunt down? Feel free to leave a comment. I should have a proper entry up tomorrow, which I'm sure everyone will be staying home to read, it being the Fourth of July and everything. I'll also have the usual iTunes running diary on Sunday.


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