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The Dark Knight Rises... then stops.

I finally got the chance to see The Dark Knight Rises (I say that like the movie has been out for more than a week, but I'm usually not one to miss out on going to a blockbuster within, at least, the first 24 hours of it opening). And I'm not gonna lie, thanks to a certain sadistic individual in Colorado, I felt a little on edge throughout the entire movie (which may or may not have taken away from the full affect). It didn't help that a guy came to see the movie by himself, sat down in the row in front of us (my wife and I), kinda looked a little disheveled, and kept messing around with something around his ankle. Plus the lady directly in front of us had to say, "If he [in reference to the guy I was just talking about] gets up and leaves the the building, I'm outta here." Irregardless of the sketchy dude with the itchy ankle, the paranoid geriatric lady, and the edgy feeling of being in a movie theatre after the tragedy in Colorado, the movie is what I'm really supposed to be talking about.

The Dark Knight Rises lived up to my expectations of the final installment of the prolific Christopher Nolan Batman saga. A final installment is always hard to exceed the individual presumption attached to it (inevitable let-down). The other two movies (Batman Begins and The Dark Knight) were so good and built on each other that it's hard to continue to *rise* to a level above them, which is what we are always expecting. We expect that the 3rd movie will be bigger, better, and have more impact than the others, because it has to, it's the END!

Maybe this is where the catch-22 lies. Can we take a movie trilogy and break it up into the individual parts and critique it without the bias/biases from the other parts in the saga? Because if we can, The Dark Knight Rises is an extraordinary movie! The problem is we are constantly comparing it to the other movies (Batman Begins and The Dark Knight) throughout the time we're watching it.

So what I am going to do is take the finer points of The Dark Knight Rises and highlight them outside of the trilogy, so hopefully we see the true brilliance of this film:

  • Social commentary reminiscent of Charles DickonsA Tale of Two Cities where there is a broken class system. The rich are gaining more and more wealth with no regard to social responsibility while they oppress the poor and continue to perpetuate the growing socioeconomic gap (sounds a lot like the Industrial Revolution... Or our society today).
  • Christopher and Jonathan Nolan's uncanny ability to write a script with superheroes and villains that are relatable and human. The characters are developed so much that the world they live in is reality and the choices they make and/or struggle to make is completely believable (irregardless if the foundation comes from a comic book)
  • *Spoiler* Joseph Gordon-Levitt: the true side-kick Batman has always needed. He speaks his mind, he is anchored in integrity, he knows Batman's true identity, he was orphaned, and his real name is Robin. The Nolan bros. were able to work in the iconic "boy wonder" into the story without compromising the truth of the story.
  • Last but not least, Anne Hathaway in a cat woman suit riding the bat-bike... Need I say more?!

Yes each movie helps build on the previous one (we can't ignore that fact), and The Dark Knight Rises should have been the pinnacle of the series. However, it fell short, not because it wasn't a great movie that had amazing parts and parallels, but because it wasn't as good as the previous chapters in the saga.

In the end I ranked the movies in this way:
  1. The Dark Knight
  2. Batman Begins
  3. The Dark Knight Rises

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Spoiler Alert!

I am writing this post, literally, right after finish the complete series of LOST. I won't lie to you, there were times in certain seasons (eh hem, season 3... and 4... and 5!) where I pulled the "This show is stupid, worthless, and a waste of my time" attitude, but I can honestly say that overall this was one of the best, THE BEST, TV series I have ever taken part in.

The whole concept of the people that you spend time with and live out all aspects of your life with; the ones that see you for who you really are. The people that not only need you but you need them, being there when you "move on" into the next life, was just awe-inspiring. All the time travel, numbers,  alternative dimension talk, the Dharma Initiative, electromagnetism, and the island really meant nothing. It served it's purpose for the overall plot of the series and to keep the viewer completely off the trail, but in the end none of it really mattered. When we die, it doesn't matter that we are 3 years in the future in an alternate dimension having just saved an island that travels through time from a giant smoke monster that is only out to destroy the "candidates" that are supposed to take over as it's protector. None of that mattered, what mattered was the truth behind their actions. Why these people did what they did, and the obstacles they had to overcome to do it.  I love the fact that this series was about choice. The reality of the show didn't center around understanding the foundations of literature (i.e. setting and plot), the reality of the show centered around the characters and their motivations which drove them to action, whether it be positive or negative. The true story wasn't revealed until the end where we realize that we can not make it through life without connecting with people on a level that reaches beyond the capacity we thought we had. The goal is to live your life by understanding your purpose in it.

I think I can see why all the die-hard LOST fans (the ones who watched it "religiously" from week to week for every season) would have hated the ending. The finale left the viewer hanging with no clear ending that they could comprehend from what they were thinking mattered to the plot. However, this is the brilliance of the show, it didn't matter! What mattered was the relationships shown in every setting (place, time, etc.) I urge all those who watched LOST to watch it again, but this time as straight through as possible. If you have any questions, feel free to ask... feel free to rant and rave, I can take it, I finally understand.

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The knot is gettin' tied!

To James and Ashely: You two totally messed up my schedule!
I am "off" for this blog post update. I have been frantically trying to plan my best friends' bachelor party, pack, budget, schedule, etc. for my trip to California this week. I am the best man in my best friends' [James] wedding (all the responsibility and none of the glory, but I wouldn't have it any other way). I plan on getting him to the wedding on time, in one piece, looking good, and having fun in the days leading up to the actual event, and giving the best best man toast in the history of wedding toasts! (Yes, I am that arrogant... I'm surprised you didn't know that about me yet!)

That all being said I haven't had as much time as I would've liked to get my next blog post worthy of being uploaded. Apparently when two people get married they don't think about what anyone else wants or needs... selfish!

As a spoiler I will tell you that it has to do with LOST. I just finished watching the series a few weeks ago (I know I'm late for that party bus, but I did it nonetheless), and I had to write about it. So expect a LOST themed post to update in 2 weeks. Thanks for sticking with me through the ups and downs of my blogging diligence.

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Things I've Learned Being a Teacher: Part 2

As a short recap, part 1 of this 2 part series dealt with pianists and "A Wholes". If you need to refresh your memory of my brilliance or if you yet to read my brilliance I suggest you follow the link: BRILLIANCE and then come back and conclude with this brilliance... eh hem... Brilliance!

Moving right along, the last post dealt with the tough subjects of spelling (which by the way I found yet another word I cannot pronounce, familiarity... don't ask why, just send me your pity) and math. This post will deal with the tougher subjects of history and recess.

Year in and year out I have so many students come into my class with a chip on their shoulders about a certain/specific subject. I like to ask my students to be honest, and let me know what subject they dislike the most. After reading, math, and writing, finally they say either science or social studies. Which leads me into my 3rd point.

3. Make sure your students are listening... I mean REALLY listening:
It's to no surprise that when I'm going over the devastatingly interesting and overwhelmingly entertaining (which by the way I do feel that it is) Roman Empire all the kids are either not listening and looking like they actually are or just blatantly not listening. So, after the entire chapter (I believe it was 4 lessons covering somewhere close to 40 some odd pages) on Ancient Roman Civilization I had a review day. Nervous anxious kids that are scared out of their minds about what is going to be on the test in 2 days, trying to remember 40 pages worth of facts, dates, and vocabulary... WHAT COULD GO WRONG?! Surprisingly only one thing.

After going over the geography, economy, and government of Ancient Rome we inevitably had to review the historic wars and military campaigns. After covering the Etruscans, and the battles fought with them, the constant civil wars fought in Rome because of the struggle for power (between the established forms of government, Roman Republic and Emperorship [known better as dictatorship])
Punic, Punic, Punic! Funny how 1 letter can change historical into hysterical.

Quick side note: Dictators were first introduced in Ancient Rome because of the established Republic Government. There were 2 consuls elected to rule over Rome, as a sort of bi-presidency, one would be in charge of the government and the other would be in charge of the military. In states of emergency the consuls would name one complete ruler, or dictator, to alleviate any complication in the decision making process. Each consul had the authority to stop the other from taking an action he did not agree with. One can see why this would be difficult in a state of emergency. Sorry that's the teacher side of me coming out.

We come next to the defining moment in Ancient Roman battle history, The Punic Wars. Or as one over-zealous and trigger happy reviewing student shouted out to the class, "The Pubic Wars!" What?! Wait... What?! As you can imagine, being in a classroom full of 11 and 12 year-olds that just got done watching the "Changing" video not but 6 months earlier (let's just say that 6 months isn't enough time to get some of that imagery fully out of a sponge-like prepubescent mind). You can imagine the sheer terror that shot through my mind when this was belted out louder than an opera singer on opening night (that may be a bit exaggerated). So what did a self-respecting, semi-seasoned professional do in this situation? I ignored it and hoped that everyone else would too. Ridiculously enough, it worked! Either my students are WAY MORE MATURE than I ever thought, or I experienced a miracle like nothing else I have been a part of in my entire life. At that moment, I KNEW unequivocally that there is a God!

4. Balls will be balls:

There had been recent problem at the school where I work, the problem had to do with the playground equipment. For the past few years playground equipment was being over-used and mistreated, so as a way to alleviate the problem the staff got together and came up with a plan. A plan so fool-proof, so monumental, so incredibly genius that nothing could possibly go wrong:

We gave each class their own set of color-coded playground equipment! It was not only going to help give the students "ownership" but also teach them about respect and responsibility... Let's just say we couldn't stop patting ourselves on the back about this idea. Until...

I was causally walking outside to pick up my class from lunch recess (as I normally do... I'm a causally walking kind of guy), but when I get to the doors leading to the playground I see (they're glass by the way or I would have had to preface this story with "I can see through walls") that the playground is littered, like enough to make that Native American in the old commercial cry his single tear, with newly purchased equipment. As I swing open the door, with full intent to tell my class to clean up the orange colored balls, jump ropes, etc., it happened...


Student: "Which balls are the 5th graders?

Teacher: "The blue ones. Boys! Stop playing around and pick up all the blue balls... I can wait."

Student: "Yeah boys, we can't go inside until you pick up your blue balls!"

I doubt even the Pope could have kept a straight face after hearing that verbal exchange. It didn't help that it was being shouted across the playground either. The only thought in my head, besides "BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHHAAAHAHAHAHAHAAHAH *breath* HAHAHAHAHHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAH," was color based balls... probably not as genius as we once thought.

Last bit of advice I can give is when referencing balls on the playground, substitute the word "equipment", it will probably save a lot of concerned parent phone calls.


Things I've learned being a Teacher: Part 1

Sorry for the leave of absence. I am extremely overwhelmed right now, but the only peace I get is when I write and sadly it took me a good 3 months to figure that out. Please accept my apology and let's move on. Good? Good.

Many of you probably don't know, but I never in my life (EVER times infinity plus one) thought I would be a teacher. However, life has a funny way of putting you in situations where you thought you'd never be. I became a teacher out of necessity, and strangely enough have been told that I am pretty good at it. Nevertheless as much as I want this post to be completely arrogant, self-gratifying, self-promoting, and all around self-ish, that's not what I planned on... maybe next time.

What I planned on was going over the 4 most crucial and most commonly overlooked lessons I've learned being a teacher.

1. Spelling words need to be prescreened:
That's what she said!
First, don't give students spelling words that you can't say yourself. I, myself, took the word "peculiar" completely out of my curriculum because for the life of me I JUST CAN'T PRONOUNCE IT! Second, for the love of God, take out the word "pianist" no matter what!  Actually, not for the obvious reason. Yes, we're all adults here and yes "pianist" sounds very close to "penis" but for the most part 6th grade students can get over that after the first 2 times you say the word. Mostly thanks to the few mature students that tell the others to, "grow up." But, this word gave me problems because of the pronunciation. I pronounce "pianist" as "pee-uh-nist", but my class (most of my class) swore that the correct pronunciation was "pee-an-ist". The resulting debate (mind you, that lasted the entire week) was ridiculous! Every time the word came up there was an ensuing 30 minute conversation/debate about who (me or them) was pronouncing it correctly. First word of advice, take "pianist" and cut it off... the list.

2. You need to be careful when teaching fractions:

My first year I had the audacity to think that fraction were easy to teach. I got my reality check REALLY quickly, and had to improvise... Let's just say that improvising math isn't always the easiest thing to make fun on the fly, actually it's really hard to make any learning fun on the fly. I had some left over Halloween candy in my desk (which surprisingly is the best motivator for pretty much any age group, except when laffy taffy are involved, then you have to be careful of accidentally gluing the elderly's dentures together... not that I've every done that... anyways...), and I had a lesson full of fraction problems to go through. Game idea: go through problems in lesson and the student who got the correct answer first got candy. Brilliant! Until we got to a problem that added 3/5 with 2/5, and one of my students said 5/5 (which technically is correct, but you ALWAYS reduce fractions) so I did not give them the candy. I gave the next student candy because the answered correctly by saying, "It's 1." Needless to say I had more confused faces than when the fifth graders watch their "Changes" video in science.  The long-short of it is, I had to explain that when you have the same number on the top of a fraction that you do on the bottom you have 1 whole. However before I was able to get this concept completely verbalized, the same student that got the answer correct shouted, "A WHOLE! When you have the same number on the top and bottom you have an A WHOLE!" Needless to say this was a common thread for the rest of the year during ANY and ALL math lessons that involved fractions. It's always funny looking back on, but when I had to deal with a class full of 11 and 12 year olds calling each other "A WHOLES" with the excuse that it is educational, was really difficult.

Conclusion teaser: In 2 weeks the subjects that will be discussed are balls and the Punic Wars.