School days, school daze …

30 July 2010

This week has been a transitional one for Chez Anselmeau.  Charlotte, our daughter, started fifth grade on Tuesday.

Most of you are probably thinking, “what, before the end of July?!?”  What can I tell you, that’s just the way Stockton Unified School District rolls.  They call it a “modified traditional” schedule, and the modification is that there’s only eight weeks of summer vacation, but three two-week breaks in the school year — one in October, one around Christmas, and one in March/April.  I think it’s a little silly, but my opinion wasn’t solicited.

And Pittman Elementary, Charlotte’s new charter school, runs on the same sked.  So on Monday, between the departure of our friend John (and his two kids) and the arrival of our friends Jim and Venessa (and their four kids), Charlotte got one last day of freedom.  We did a shopping spree at Target (mostly for school uniforms, but still), had brunch at Denny’s (a cheeseburger and hash browns for me, chocolate chip pancakes for her) and saw Ramona and Beezus (four stars, Ray sez check it out).

And the next day, I unleashed her on a new school year — and started working on adjusting to it.

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All socialized out

28 July 2010

Sorry I’ve been gone for a few days, but things have been sort of crazy here … and not the kind of crazy I’ve been going through for the last year, a different kind.

Me and John, a friend of mine from my college days, hadn’t seen each other face-to-face in a decade.  But we’ve been trying to get together on and off for a couple of years now.  It took a while because he lives in San Diego and I’m up here in Stockton, 400 miles (650 km) away.  Plus we each have two kids.  And then last summer Sean got sick.  So it wasn’t until this last weekend that we were able to hook up — he was on vacation with his kids, traveling all over the West, and made a swing through town for a couple of days.  We had fun, our kids had fun, the conversations were great and all was right with the world.

They headed out Monday morning … and on Monday evening, some college buddies of the Supermodel came through.  They’re both Northern California natives but currently live in Savannah, Georgia (the husband is stationed at Fort Stewart) and were taking their four kids and their motor home to visit friends and family.  Again, we had fun, our kids had fun, the conversations were great and life was good.

So needless to say, it was a wonderful several days … and this morning I could barely peel myself out of bed.

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The race war, at home

24 July 2010

I may or may not be dealing with a delicate parental situation.

Yeah, I need to unpack that statement.  Here’s the deal.  My daughter Charlotte has been making friends around the neighborhood this summer.  Among those friends are a classmate from last school year, Daniel, and the two kids next door, whom we’ll call Vera and Jose (not their real names).  They’ve had a lot of fun running around our yard or going up and down the block on their various wheeled conveyances.

Recently, though, a rift has appeared — between Vera and Jose, and the rest of the group.  Jose has picked up a habit of using foul language, and Vera can be pretty harsh in dealing with other kids.  But that’s not the major issue.  The major issue is their (and their family’s) treatment of Daniel.

Now, Daniel is a nice boy — maybe a little intense and bossy, but that’s a good balance for Charlotte (who can often be the same).  By and large, he’s quiet, polite and doesn’t cause anything resembling trouble.  But you’d never know it from how the next door neighbors treat him.  At one point, he was simply banned from playing in their yard, no reason given.  Later that changed, but then Vera and Jose weren’t allowed to go over to his house (that may still be in effect, I’m not sure).  And last weekend, Vera and Jose were grounded … for allowing Daniel to join them in their swimming pool.  Again, no reason was given.

I have a guess as to what the reason might be … and I really, really hope I’m wrong.  You see, Daniel is black …

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The problems with critics

23 July 2010

For the last few months, I’ve been looking forward to the release of the film Inception, director Christopher Nolan’s latest mindbender.  The first teaser I saw blew me away, not only with its special effects (and I’m not normally impressed much by gaudy F/X) but with its basic premise of planting and extracting thoughts from minds, of playing games with perception and reality.  I like movies that mess with my head a little (Being John Malkovich is still a favorite of mine).  And if said movie features an all-star cast of great actors — Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Marion Cotillard, Michael Caine, Ellen Page, Cillian Murphy, Ellen Page and Ellen Page, to name a few — so much the better.

Oh, and did I mention the movie has Ellen Page in it?  That’s a big point in its favor too.  (I’m fully on the “Ellen Page is cute” bandwagon.  My wife of 11 years is tolerating it wonderfully — probably because she knows that if all else fails, she can bring up her long-standing feelings about Brian Boitano or Joe Montana and leave me in knots.  Of such checks and balances is a great marriage made.)

So I was pretty stoked leading up to the July 16 drop date for Inception … only to have an early review of it set me back on my heels.

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The LeBron Decision: a different view

22 July 2010

Whenever anything really controversial and upsetting happens in the mediasphere, I’m tempted to throw out my opinions on it.  Usually, though, I wait.  Because everybody and their cat is opining on it when it first hits, and usually the mob is generating a lot of heat and precious little light.  (This goes for the professional media as well.  No problem of any substance was ever solved on Crossfire.)  So I prefer to sit back and think about the issue(s) before I offer my two cents in this space.

Which is why I haven’t commented on LeBron James’ “Decision.”  Until now, anyway.

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Pruning the forest to see the trees

19 July 2010

The tree trimmers were here today to work on the almond tree in our backyard.  (I mentioned calling them a week ago in this space.)  Originally we had wanted them to take care of all five trees in the yard, but when they gave us an estimate of $1600, we had to settle for more modest goals.  The almond was full of dead branches, plus one rather large live one that hung dangerously over our neighbor’s property, so that’s the one we decided to deal with.  Maybe we can address the rest next spring, once our tax refund comes in …

Anyway, I didn’t watch them working much for two reasons.  One, I didn’t want to get in the way of people using power equipment, including — especially! — chainsaws.  Two, I was busy cooking up a cauldron of “false gumbo”, scrubbing the screen door on the front of our house, exercising Sean and keeping an eye on Charlotte.  (Nina was out with a friend for a few hours.)  So I was otherwise occupied.

Which just increased the impact when they told me they were done, and I looked at their work …

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Laughs and lessons from the “Satellite of Love”

18 July 2010

Two trends in my life have collided recently.  One is that with all the busyness of taking care of Sean, the rest of the family, the house and grounds, this blog and what-have-you, I have to find some way to relax at the end of the day.  Preferably one that doesn’t cost any extra money.

The other is my on-and-off relationship with popular entertainment, which means that I’ve often missed entire waves of pop culture because I’m simply occupied elsewhere.  (There’s only so many hours in the day, after all.)  For instance, I was largely unconscious of the entire grunge movement in the early ’90s and the Alanis Morrisette thing a few years later.  I’ve never watched a single episode of The West Wing, The Sopranos or Six Feet Under, and only one each of Seinfeld and Frasier.  These were part of the lives of millions of people, but had little or no impact on me.  Sometimes I get caught up after the fact; other times, I’m simply left mystified at the appeal of this or that trend and move on.  (Alanis falls into the latter category for me.  Sorry, ma’am.)

Recently I’ve discovered a one-time pop culture phenomenon that is also serving as a method of relaxation for me.  It’s a little low-budget TV show of recent vintage with the unlikely title of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

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