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Showing posts from September 4, 2011

Expendability -- Writer's Poke #314

I had a chance to watch Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables this weekend, and it may be one of the best movies ever made.

Think that’s a bit of an exaggeration? I thought so too, until I started thinking about how much it reminded me of a true American film classic, 12 Angry Men. Doing a quick Internet search, I find that I’m not the first reviewer to draw this connection, either.

So, other than the fact that both movies feature strong ensemble casts, what is it that makes them so much a like?

Both ultimately reject the idea that people are expendable. In 12 Angry Men, Henry Fonda’s character is the only one of twelve jurors who wants to give a young man accused of murdering his father a fair hearing. Over the course of the movie, Fonda is able to show the other eleven jurors that no one is disposable. Life has a value that must be respected.

In The Expendables, Stallone’s character is a mercenary. He seems like a nice guy on the outside, but he views himself as dead on the inside.…

The Jones Girls -- Writer's Poke #313

Jones Soda has a gimmick. Customers can submit pictures, and if Jones likes them, the company will use them on its bottles.

On facebook this summer, Jones has also been posting pictures from its “road trip” across the country. One picture that stood out to me is what I refer to as “The Jones Girls.”

These five young girls are situated in, on, and next to a British-style Royal phone booth. The girl inside the phone booth looks as if she ended up with the short end of the straw on this assignment. The two girls in front seem innocent enough. But it’s the two girls on top of the phone booth that make the picture feel slightly provocative.

At least that was my initial impression. So since my English students are working with visual responses this semester, I decided to show it to them for their reactions to see if they jived with my own. Most didn’t venture to offer a verbal response in front of their classmates, but it seemed clear that the picture did make a few of them feel uncomforta…

I'm Not William Hung -- Writer's Poke #312

People like to compare themselves to others. That’s no big surprise, but are we more likely to make “upward” or “downward” comparisons? That is, are we more likely to compare ourselves to people that are more successful or less successful than ourselves, that are happier or sadder than ourselves, better or worse off than ourselves?

Perhaps it is not an “either/or” question at all, but if not, then it is worth pondering why we use “upward” comparisons in some cases and “downward” comparisons in others. What, in other words, are the functions for each sort of comparison?

After all these years, I still enjoy watching the first few audition shows of American Idol. I’m not so much interested in who will receive golden tickets as I am in who is willing to humiliate themselves in front of millions of viewers. Even more impressive, for some reason, are the auditioners who don’t recognize just how bad they actually are. They genuinely believe they have talent, and nothing the judges say can c…

Be a Weed -- Writer's Poke #311

It hadn’t rained in days, and the grass was dying. Some of our neighbors started to water their lawns, but the effort was futile.

Meanwhile, the weeds survived.

Weeds always survive. We stopped using the lawn service a couple of years ago, and the first year off the chemicals, the grass managed to look pretty good. The second year, however, the weeds took over.

This year it got so bad that I almost gave in. Instead of going back to the lawn service, though, I decided to spray the weeds myself. I sprayed them in May, and it looked like they died. By the end of July, they were back in full force. And they brought some of their friends.

Weeds always bring reinforcements.

And at that point, I decided that I don’t mind weeds. I would live with them in peace. Who decided that a lawn should be 100% uniform grass anyway?

For my daughter, weeds are treasures. She picks them and finds beauty in them. Each weed is an offering to mommy. Each weed, in her eyes, is a way to make mommy’s face li…