Thursday, March 22, 2007

Six Things

So there’s this “List Six Weird Things About Yourself” thing going around, and I was tagged by my sis, so here are just a sampling of the weirdness that is Chris Reid:

1. I hate short-sleeved shirts, but without fail I roll up the sleeves of my long-sleeved shirts. Even in winter when it’s freezing, know that my sleeves are rolled up under my coat.

2. I inadvertently make a weird little “meow” sound that comes up from my throat, not always but often enough, mostly when I’m talking, but sometimes when I’m just listening to someone else. It’s just a barely audible little throat squeak, but it’s definitely there. My sister was the first person to ever point it out.

3. When I sneeze really hard, often-times my breastbone pops (audibly and painfully).

4. I generally wear shoes from morning until night and generally do not go barefoot (thanks to both my Dad stressing the importance of shoes in emergencies and the broken glass scene in the movie Die Hard).

5. I can’t stand to wear a watch when I poop. This is now kinda a moot point since I no longer wear a watch. The rationale behind this irrationality was a fear that my watch would fall in the toilet while I was handling business. My solution? A pocket watch attached to my belt…which ultimately had a much higher chance of actually falling in a toilet than a wrist watch.

6. I dislike straws and think it is juvenile looking when adults drink with one. (This quirk can also be attributed to my dad).

I tag Mr. Williams, the Cap’n, and wifey.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Movie Reviews

Pan’s Labyrinth
Katie and I went and saw this at the Nickelodeon Theater, and I honestly find this movie hard to talk about. It was well-done but such a strange plot, I don’t know where to start: In Spain during WWII, young Ofelia and her pregnant mother move into the home of her new stepfather, a violent general using a mansion as his HQ while battling rebel groups operating in the nearby woods. At the same time, a Faun and his fairies appear to Ofelia and inform her that she is actually the lost princess of the Underworld and has but a few days to prove that she is not too “mortal” to reclaim her throne. Slowly these two situations begin to merge in the escalating violence that surrounds them.

Excellent story, strong acting, a mind-bogglingly creative fantasy world, all tempered with some shockingly brutal violence. You know those scenes when something violent is about to happen and then the scene cuts away and you think “Man, I’m sure glad they didn’t show that…” Well, no such luck here. It is rough stuff. And the monster with the eyes in his hand is one of the most disturbing characters I have ever seen on film. This film definitely deserved all its accolades.

Marie Antoinette
Our neighbor loaned us this one, and I wasn’t really pumped up to see it, but Katie wanted to watch it so we curled up on the couch and gave it a viewing. Ironically, I liked it a lot and Katie didn’t like it much at all. Her complaint was that it didn’t really tell us anything (to which I replied “That’s what encyclopedias are for.”) But I liked that it wasn’t heavy on the fact and was more of an artistic take on the facts (“impressionistic” was Katie’s word). It’s definitely “eye-candy” because the Oscar-winning costumes are very well done. However, all the talk about the use of modern music was really overblown in my opinion, because it wasn’t used throughout the whole film and when it WAS used it was used to good effect. Not a masterpiece, but not bad.

I took the Somali guys to see this on opening night. Looked like a video game, was violent and gory, but I must say I enjoyed the heck out of it. Based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel, which in turn was loosely based on the actual Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC. The real battle was of course not as cut-and-dry as the movies “us vs. them” mentality, nor did Xerxes army consist of so many monsters. Nor was there likely a bombastic rock score at intense moments. However, as a movie goes, these guys did Frank Miller right once again (after Sin City).

As for the dialogue, it worked fine for the simplistic take on the events in question, but it was like listening to a White House press conference: soldiers talking of giving their lives to ensure the freedom of others (though not of the Spartan’s own indentured class- that was left out of the plot), Queen’s telling the council of elders that “Freedom isn’t Free!” Kings proclaiming that the Spartans are ushering in a new era of peace and democracy based on logic that will replace the “world of mysticism” etc. (And this is especially interesting in that Xerxes commanded the invading Persian Army, and Persia is, of course, modern day Iraq. Interesting, no?). OK, all silly political speculations aside, the movie entertained me and that was enough for me.

Casino Royale
This is a late review, so I’ll just say- Great flick. Awesome. Daniel Craig was awesome. See it. Really. See it.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Where the #@&! Has Chris Been?

Hello, Dear Readers. It has been a month since my last post, and I believe that particular post was talking about New Year’s , so I am way, way behind. So here’s the beginnings of some more catching up. What on Earth have I been doing that has been taking up my time? Well, lots of things, actually

Sore throat. Cough. Then a full-on cold. Long days of work (see below). Then travel. Then a stomach virus. Fever. Vomit. Nausea. Dizziness. NO FUN. (But I’m better now, thank you.)

The Somali Initiative
As most of you likely know, for the last year, Katie and I have been working with resettled Somali refugees here in Columbia. Katie works with a pair of adults, and I work with several different kids a few days a week.

Months ago, a guy named Doyle comes strolling into the library with a Somali gentleman (Ahmed) whom I had met the week before. Ahmed and his family had just arrived, and Doyle and his wife Kara were acting as default sponsors for this family. Doyle and Kara both were new professors at the USC College of Education and were interested in trying to “institutionalize” a USC tutoring program for the Somali Bantu by partnering with Lutheran Family Services (LFS), the organization which handles the Somali Bantu Resettlement program. Doyle asked if I would be interested in helping get something like this going, and I said I would.

Well, many meetings and an untold number of emails followed, and this January Doyle recruited 20+ USC students to work with the Somalis that live in this one particular apartment complex. My job was to coordinate and match all the volunteers with families, which was a lot of work, but seems to have been very successful thus far. Lots of folks have had their hands in this, but I realized that I have a particular niche in that I know ALL the Somali families in the apartments (and if I didn’t before, I went to meet them in order to arrange this tutoring). Doyle only knows a few familes, and even Cindy, the educational Coordinator for LFS, has relied on my knowledge of these families (Cindy is new and deals with ALL refugees, not just Somalis, so her plate is WAY full). It’s kinda a strange place to be, as I am not really affiliated with either USC or LFS. I’m like a free-agent.

And here’s where the time-consuming part comes in. I can pick up the phones and call the USC kids, but I really can’t do that with the Somalis. Why? The adults don’t speak English. Out of respect, I of course would ask the parents if they would like their kids to receive tutoring (YES!), but I was always having to translate through the kids AND I had to physically go to the apartments to make any arrangements. PLUS college kids’ schedules are wacky. PLUS I was needed to make introductions and show the USC kids where to go to tutor. And there was a big orientation for the USC kids about the Somalis. And I still try to tutor my OWN Somali kids.

Lots of work, but great fun.

Teen Book Club
The Cooper Branch of the RCPL is trying to get some teen programming going for this summer, and since I am the youngest full-time person on staff, I have been nominated to run a Teen Book Club. We’re just gonna do it for three months to see if we get a response, but if it seems to be a success, we’ll look to make it a year-round activity.

Now, I have never led a book club before, much less a club for teens / young adults, so I have been scrambling to get something together by the deadline for summer publicity materials for the library. I have read a few books lately with this in mind, and have culled through the many recommendations I have received, and I think I have decided to read Ender’s Game (by Orson Scott Card- this is a book that has been highly recommended but I have not yet read), Devil on My Heels (by Jane (?) McDonald, about race relations and the Klan- this is my controversial, risky book. We’ll see how teens and/or their parents respond. It’s a very good book, but drops the N-bomb several times), and a Graphic Novel Extravanganza! AND the Main Library downtown is trying to woo me to lead a Graphic Novel program for boys this summer as well, but I don’t see it happening. My branch can’t spare me the time).

So there you have it. Life has been busy, but good. Hopefully I can get some posting done these days since things might actually be slowing back to normal.