28.5.18

Photograph: A Country Store in Ponchatoula, Louisiana (circa 1998)

A country store in Ponchatoula, Louisiana (circa 1998). I was interviewing this lady for a school project. Check out how much money a pack of cigarettes cost: as much as $2.00.
Her tee-shirt reads: "Louisiana Cajun Country"
A rural gas station and store off of Ponchatoula Highway in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana

Photographs: Brothers Play Near Galatas Cemetery Road in Madisonville, Louisiana (c. 1998)

A photograph of me with my pet dog Maggie
I post pictures of my brothers and I playing near Galatas Cemetery Road in Madisonville, Lousiana (circa 1998).

Family Photographs: Brothers in Madisonville, Louisiana 
My brothers and I play near Galatas Cemetery Road in Madisonville, Lousiana (circa 1998). That’s our dog, Maggie, in the left foreground — she was a Springer Spaniel mix that went everywhere we went. I miss her still

I Took These Pictures Using Black and White Film

In these photographs, I am either a Junior or a Senior in high school. I had a camera that I usually carried around with me, and I thought of myself as sophisticated that I used black and white film. It is funny how the way we take photographs has changed so considerably since the advent of digital cameras. I take most of my shots on an iPhone today. However, I still have my Canon SureShot. It is packed away and in storage — but I still own it. 

Bygone Days — Look at Us Now!

Looking at these family photographs, it makes me think of how much time my brothers and I spent together, even though we were vastly different. Brad, my older brother, still looks playful and youthful, although he is probably college-aged in this photograph. Brad has had several odd jobs over the years; he still lives in Madisonville — in a house he bought for himself (not too far from where these photographs were taken). Nicholas, the baby, would later grow up to become a soldier in the United States Army and serve two tours in Iraq. He is now a veteran, is married to a woman named Brooke, and has two kids! I turned out to be gay. Was a monk for a spell. Now I am a school teacher, and I live in work in New York City. I go home to visit about once a year.

6.5.18

Skeeter Explains Kant's Use of the Word "Apodictic" in the Nickelodeon Animated Series Doug



When filmmakers (or in this case - animated television show creators) want to show that a character is super smart, the go-to prop must be a copy of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason! A few weeks ago I posted a video of Lorelei Ambrosia, a villain from the film Superman III, reading Kant's book. In that scene, Lorelei does not read from the book's text, but she does give a glossy summary of transcendental categories that may or may not make sense depending on how you look at it. In the above scene, Doug's friend Skeeter does a pretty good job of explaining Kant's mission to solve the problem of what constitutes a universal foundation for all knowledge!

Here is the transcript* of Doug and Skeeter's conversation on The Critique of Pure Reason:

Doug: [Reading the book's title] Critique of Pure Reason? What's this?


Skeeter: [Tying his shoes] Oh. Just some book. It's pretty cool. 

Doug: [Trying to pronounce the word] The possibility of apodic-, apodic-?

Skeeter: [stressing the pronunciation] Apodicitic!

Doug: Apodictic principles? What's that?

Skeeter: Well. Kant is using the word oddly here because he wants to prove an apriori body of synthetic knowledge is exhibited in the general doctrine of motion .... [soundtrack goes whacky and spoken voice is difficult to discern] .... apriori knowledge can't be reached by empirical processes but apriori [unintelligible] must use strict universality or apodictic certainty ....

[Doug's eyes go into a psychedelic headspin and mathematical equations circle him in vertigo like fashion. We all see a screenshot of Skeeter's bookshelf which also includes Isaac Newton's book The Principia Mathematica. Skeeter's head balloons to suggest that he has a ton of knowledge]. 

[Back to reality] Doug? Doug? Are you OK, man?

Doug: Uh. Yeah. I think I better go.

Skeeter: OK. See ya!

*I had trouble transcribing Skeeter's analysis of Kant but I think I got most of it. The soundtrack becomes muddled between the 35 and 53 seconds mark.
Doug © 1991 Nickelodeon

Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Adult Education, Homeschooler, Not Grade Specific - TeachersPayTeachers.com

1.5.18

"Only You're Different!": Notes on Gender Transformation in the Marvelous Land of Oz


Tip is the cap-wearing boy in L. Frank Baum's Oz 1904 sequel.
Gender transformation in literature is nothing new. Tiresias was said to be both a man and a woman at different stages of his existence. And by the way, he said that being a woman is better. So when I read The Land of Oz in the Fifth Grade, it was nothing out of the ordinary to read about it in L. Frank Baum's fantasy novels. It's a motif in fantasy fiction to be sure - just see this TV tropes wiki page.

The Boy Tip

Tip is a fictional character in L. Frank Baum's second installment of his famous Oz books - The Marvelous Land of Oz (later shortened to The Land of Oz). While the Scarecrow, Dorothy, and the Gnome King often get noticed from readers as amazing Baum creations, Tip gets looked over in the Oz canon because he is actually not a real person (well, in the sense that in the story he is not who he seems to be). And his tenure in the Oz narrative is temporary.

*spoiler alert*

9.4.18

Eating Peanut Butter and Onion Sandwiches and the 1989 American Hollywood Film Little Monsters

In 1989, Richard Greenberg, a Hollywood film director, made a movie for Vestron Pictures called Little Monsters. The movie had a limited run in theaters and did not gross over a million dollars in ticket sales even though the picture cost about seven million dollars to make. I am also certain that the producers and writers of this glitzy Hollywood movie had no intention of including gay subtext - but it is still interesting (to me, at least) to peel back a few layers. So permit me to be a little gay and read this movie as a gay love story. As I point out in the following review, the movie is very heterosexual (as most Hollywood movies are) which perhaps makes it even more interesting to think about with a non-heteronormative reading.
I read Little Monsters as a tween same-sex love story

Fred Savage (Kevin Arnold!)
In the 1990s, the movie gained wider distribution on American cable television which is how I most likely saw it for the first time. The movie stars the boyish actor Fred Savage. He plays Brian, a sixth grader who discovers that there are really monsters under his bed. As a kid, I liked the juxtaposition between a monster world and the real world - and I was transfixed by the way in which the film jumped back and forth between a staid Middle America suburban landscape and the carnivalesque world of the monsters.

About twenty years have elapsed since the movie was released; and I'm interested about what Little Monsters was telegraphing about what it means to be male, to be interested in "adult things," but to also remain a kid. It's obvious now - but movies like Little Monsters were remarkably heterosexual. In the film's preamble, Brian sneaks into the kitchen when everyone is asleep to watch (what looks like the Playboy channel) and makes a peanut butter and onion sandwich to eat in front of the TV. 
Brian sneaks into the kitchen in the middle of the night to eat a peanut butter and onion sandwich.
Brian has a thing for peanut butter and onion sandwiches
I suppose the scene sets up Brian's loneliness as a kid (i.e., eating a snack in the middle of the night all by himself) and to highlight his burgeoning curiosity in women (i.e., ogling a female actress wearing a bra). As writers like Jeffery P. Dennis have pointed out, boys going girl crazy at twelve-years-old is a relatively new feature of Hollywood films. It almost feels necessary in a film today - the boy protagonist has to have some younger (or older) female foil - he has to be interested in girls - or so we are led to believe. Just look at any film targeted to younger audiences, even the most family-oriented films like Goonies (which was made in 1985) and you can see this narrative element play itself out - Sean Astin's character Mikey is mistaken in the dark by his older brother's girlfriend and makes out with her off-screen. It's a gag - and it is meant to make viewers laugh - but it also presents Mikey, who is about the same age as Brian - as primed and ready for girl-craziness.

White Middle-Class America
I'm fixated on race in American movies older than twenty years. If I am not mistaken, the only character of color in Little Monsters is a short cameo by Magbee, a black actor, who plays Brian's school bus driver. Brian's classmates are typically middle class, his school is fairly caucasian, and the film's adult characters seem to inhabit the mostly yuppie world the late 80s and early 90s seemed to project - material wealth and strategic brand placement. For example, don't you want to eat a bag of Doritos after watching this movie?

As an adult, it is unsettling for me to watch a movie like Little Monsters, because when I watched it as a kid I was not looking at the film with a critical view. However, looking at it now, I must have been influenced in the way the film shapes a narrative about masculinity. I think it matters to think critically about movies we watched as children because as adults or nostalgia for the films of our youth can cloud our judgment. I'm amazed by how many of my peers who have children love having their kids watch the same movies we grew up with as kids. It's funny how the passage of time makes a Hollywood sacred. What's so great, for example, about Brian?  I certainly was not the same as Brian. But I knew kids like Brian and privately I wanted to be like the Brians of the world. They were not especially academically minded but the Brians of my youth had a masculine charm that Fred Savage was certainly able to market - which is why he has become a teen star icon. 


1.4.18

Robin the Boy Wonder Celebrates His 78th Year As a Costumed Superhero Sidekick

Robin the Boy Wonder Made His Debut in Action Comics On this Day in 1940
"Later, Gator!"
So, I am a Robin the Boy Wonder fan. Who doesn't like the Boy Wonder? I especially like him in his yellow-cape costume get-up from the 1968 animated television series Batman with Robin the Boy Wonder.

The show aired on CBS and was produced by Filmation Studios. I have no idea which episode from the series this particular GIF originates but maybe one of you knows?

Let me know in the comments section.
Image Source: chuber channel