A Sunday Afternoon Outing

A few weeks ago we took in a French exchange student named David, who incidentally is a wonderful temporary addition to the family.  While he has gone on a few day trips with the other students and visited New York, he did not get to go to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and as a result we planned a day trip to remedy the situation.  The fortune tellers at Weatherscan predicted a 60% chance of severe thunderstorms, but as they are far from accurate the vast majority of the time I thought we could chance it as this was our last opportunity to take a day-long excursion.  It’s a good thing I’m not a gambling man, but I’ll come back to that in a bit…

We made a late start and navigated our way to Liberty State Park, where we would take the ferry to the appropriate ports of call.  With a minimum of ceremony we arrived and purchased our tickets and wandered around killing time until the next ferry was due to dock, and it was only when we attempted to get in line to board that a ranger told us we needed to go through security before queuing up.  We trooped along back to the building and got into a fairly short line that led to an airport-style security checkpoint.  I noticed the various signage that warned about the various items on the restricted list and thought momentarily of the small Swiss Army knife I have on my key ring, but being the optimist I dismissed my insignificant single-bladed friend to the army of Europe’s most noteworthy neutral country as a trinket barely worth notice.

Arriving at the metal detector and x-ray machine, I put my various items into the plastic bin and proceeded through the arch, setting off the alarm when my Swatch triggered the alert.  Second time through was the charm and I emerged on the other side of the checkpoint unscathed.  I should add that the older gentleman in the adjacent line had his oversized plaid shorts fall to his ankles after he relinquished his belt, which was pretty entertaining for the rest of us.  I should also add that the first security officer commented on my sideburns and tattoos and asked if I was a fan of Danzig before giving me his unflattering opinion of MTV and the state of the music industry.  His parting words to me advised me to look up the two-headed girl on YouTube… It was a surreal moment, but as he was polite and talkative I figured it never hurt to exchange pleasantries with a member of the security staff.  You never know when it will come in handy…

So now I am waiting to collect my watch, wallet, belt, sunglasses, keys, gum, camera and phone from the bin when a second security officer holds up my overburdened key ring and points to the small knife.  I instantly realized that he was not the friendly type I’d encountered moments earlier, and instead was a belligerent fellow with power issues.  He informed me that my knife was deemed a weapon and I had two choices facing me:  I could return my keys to the car and return sans knife, or I could leave the trinket with him.  He then cautioned that if I left it with him, it would be gone forever as they don’t hold these items for returning passengers.  I looked at him nonplussed for a moment as my gears slowly turned and I evalutated my options.

At this point a previous security checkpoint survivor returned to ask about his cell phone, which he believed was not retrieved from one of the bins.  The reaction of the security officer was so venomous and nasty I downgraded my opinion of him further.  I opted to return to the car and leave the offending object safely in the center console, and as the reincarnated Nazi prison guard roughly pushed aside a couple of six-year-old children and ushered me through a door I tried to be philosophical about the whole thing and let him off with a single muttered obscenity directed at his back as the door closed.  The next hour saw me return to the parking lot some two-hundred meters distant, drop off my key ring (I kept only the single key for the car), return to the security line where I stood for 20 minutes trying to attract the attention of an employee so that I did not have to wait in the queue (which had quintupled in size in my absence) and eventually make it past the baleful glare of the security officer who had been instrumental in my tribulations.  We made it onto a departing ferry and were only an hour behind schedule.

In my mind Ellis Island was pretty much the same as it was 15 years ago, though they may have changed much and my memory compensated for my poor recall by making it seem that way.  David opted for a French language audio tour, and Alek for an English one.  We started in the middle of the main floor and slowly wound our way through the various rooms and exhibits.  Ellis Island is a fairly interesting place, and they do a great job of providing you with oodles of historical background in the form of images, quotes and a variety of detritus collected over the years of operation.  While Alek wanted to listen to each section completely and constantly held up his finger in a “Just a second” gesture, David wanted to move quickly from one room to the next.  The result was one of us shadowing one charge while the other followed the second.  We eventually made it to the end of the tour and rendezvoused back at the main area before heading out to catch the Liberty Island Ferry.  Let me add that for the immigrants coming to the US back in the days of Ellis Island’s busiest years conditions elsewhere must have been appalling if the experiences awaiting them here were seen as a momentary dislocation with some short term discomfort.  But back to the story at hand.

Outside the main building we found the line for the Liberty Island Ferry and managed to secure a position maybe 30 meters from the dock where we watched the antics of several children who ignored their parents and ran about like free-range chickens.  At this point I happened to look over to the south of the New York skyline and noticed that the sky was looking a bit dark and stormy.  In truth, the sky was a turbulent mass of battleship-gray clouds slowly advancing in our direction.  Occasional flickers of lightning licked the skies and the winds began to pick up dramatically.  It seemed that the race was on and it would be a close shave whether or not our ferry would arrive in time to protect us from the coming storm.  Each boat that passed bay was greeted with stares of longing as the crowded masses looked hopefully across the growing swells.  It was like some strange apocalyptic film where the final transport was picking up the remains of the human race before the final storms arrived to ravage the Earth’s surface.  Nervous glances and furtive attempts to move forward in the line sparked some mild shoving matches and if it were not for the advancing wall of terror, there would probably have been an outbreak of violence somewhere in the mob.  The ferry rounded the bend and we all surged forward until we eventually made our way onto the lower deck of the tossing vessel.  We’d managed to beat the rain and the lashing wind by moments and had only suffered some wind-tangled hair and a few drops of precipitation on our clothes.  We watched the skies grow darker and the lightning activity increase as we made our way to Liberty Island.

Ellis Island

Ellis Island

 

 

Ellis Island - Departing View

Ellis Island - Departing View

 

By the time we arrived at our destination, the waves were enormous, the rain was splashing down, the lightning was putting on an incredible display and the winds were reaching gale-force intensity.  Throughout the final leg of the trip to see Lady Liberty we could see the mighty statue staring balefully forth through the stormy skies, and it was not a very heartwarming look… She looked menacing and annoyed as we drifted under her gaze, and I had an eerie thought that she would at that moment decide that she’d had enough and turn into an angry Talos-like figure of wrath and retribution.  Instead she just  looked grimly on as the lightning illuminated her pale verdigris complexion.

The docks, upon our arrival, were overburdened with people fleeing the storm.  Masses of churning bodies huddled under the huge covered loading bay, their $10 green rain ponchos clinging like a second skin.  After disembarking and walking past hundreds of fleeing refugees, their eyes shadowed with desperation and fear, we slipped and slid towards the towering behemoth only to find out that you needed to purchase your tickets a week in advance… We stood for a brief moment in the tented concession stand/gift shop as David made a purchase, and then it was off to the docks for the ferry ride back to Liberty State Park.  

We made it to the ferry just as it was preparing to leave, but it was so crowded we were forced to wait for the next one.  It was actually somewhat exhilarating to watch the waves crashing against the walls as we observed the passengers on the departing ferry watching us.  Within a few minutes I understood why they looked at us in a manner that said “You’re having fun now… wait till the ferry leaves and the protection of the boat no longer shields you from nature’s wrath.”  

Sure enough, the ferry pulled away from the dock and the gale-force winds tore through the roofed boarding dock with the ferocity of a dozen Hollywood wind machines.  The spray from the ocean, mingles with the rain pelting down from the heavens swept across the miserable crowd drenching anyone unfortunate to be standing in the front lines.  Those cowering behind their human shields scrunched lower in an effort to maintain a stitch or two of dry clothes for the ferry ride back.  The minutes ticked by as the winds and water continued to harass us while we looked into the distance for the arrival of our ferry.  You tend to lose track of time when you are single mindedly focussed on watching for any signs of rescue.  The boat rounded the bend and eventually we made it aboard, wet and windblown but otherwise in good shape.

Our return trip was fairly uneventful as we navigated our way out of the storm to arrive at Liberty State Park bedraggled and looking like we’d just escaped certain doom.  Anything else I add at this point would be anticlimactic as the walk to the car consisted of a 200 meter jog punctuated by yelps of pain when a small rock from the gravel driveway managed to attempt to stow away in our Crocs or sandals.  The day was an adventure to say the least.  We were not only treated to some amazing history about a pivotal point in our nation’s history, we also stared death in the face and laughed as the thunder crashed and the poison arrows fell from the sky and the pillars of heaven shook.

Did I mention that I’m trying to shorten my posts?

Corporate sponsored stupidity, or a well reasoned slap in the face to education?

I recently had the misfortune of seeing another hack awards ceremony (the first being the Oscars) in the form of the Kid’s Choice Awards.  Nickelodeon hired Jack Black to host the ceremony, with a variety of other stars making appearances throughout the duration of the event and about ten minutes into it I realized something…  These kids don’t get 80% of what Jack Black is saying, just as they understood 70% of what Justin Timberlake said last year.  All of the slime in Hollywood couldn’t have saved the evening which consisted of a few actors and actresses making their speeches and trying to grab a piece of the next generation of consumers.  The night eventually ended anticlimactically with more slime to accompany a halfhearted collection of debatably humorous lines issuing from the primary orifice of  Jack Black.  

The standout moment of absolute stupidity was the appearance of The Naked Brothers Band doing their anthem to celebrate the mindset responsible for the mediocre educational output our nation is famous for:  “I Don’t Want To Go To School”.  Now, remember that I come from a punk background where school was the haven for conformist tools, brainless jocks, cheerleaders and the downtrodden mass of everybody else.  So why am I so offended by this seemingly harmless and cheesy kid-pop?  Where shall I begin?

  1. Most importantly, the song itself is so hack and poorly composed that you can’t even hide behind the fact that these are kids writing this slop.  I’ve heard child composers create beautiful melodies as complex as many written in the age of classical music.  Jeeze, I was never a fan of Hanson, but I gave them credit for being passable songwriters, musicians and singers for their genre.  In the case of the Naked Brothers Band, the musicianship is just so poor as to make the fans seem that much more simple-minded and lacking in any ability to appreciate anything related to auditory aesthetics.
  2. The message delivered is so bad, yet so simple to grasp it can’t help but find traction in our society where smart kids are seldom rewarded and the stupid and mediocre are given the majority of the attention.  As a young lad, hearing the Ramones sing “Rock and Roll High School” and listening to the cornball lyrics was a fun experience.  The same rhymes were there with the school/fool play on words easy enough to pick out.  It was the delivery vehicle that made the difference.  The Ramones (a collection of misanthropic and admittedly screwed up individuals who came from backgrounds steeped in drugs, mental illness, right-wing values and sociopathic tendencies) singing such elementary and trite lyrics as “I don’t care about history…  ’cause that’s not where I wanna be.” may not seem like musical genius to you, but they really didn’t look like school types mainly because they were in their 20’s when they wrote it.  The Nickelodeon supported band, on the other hand, just sounds like a bunch of corporate-backed kids hand-picked by the network to represent the voice of the Nick generation.  I just find it too much like the global media engine duping yet another generation of stupid kids.  The Dead Kennedy’s wrote some great anti-school lyrics, but they were speaking to high school and college students and not a bunch of 10 year olds raised on Krabby Patties and Capri Sun:

“Sixteen, on the honor roll
I wish that I was dead
Parents hate me, I got zits
And bruises ’round my head 

Pressure’s on to get good grades
So I can be like them
Do my homework all the time
I can’t go out just then 

People they ain’t friends at all
They tease and suck me dry
Yell at me when I fuck up
And party while I cry
I look so big on paper
I feel so fucking small
Wanna die and you don’t care
Just stride on down the hall”

FAST FORWARD 45 MINUTES AFTER THE START OF THIS POST >

Upon reflection, I have changed my view somewhat…  My original stance was indignation that Nickelodeon would promote a bunch of talentless little buggers and push their message of stupidity on the gullible masses of sheep many call sons and daughters.

After careful consideration, I have altered my way of thinking…  My own son (8 years old) might not want to go to school and will make sure you know how boring and pointless he thinks it is, but the real message here is that The Naked Brothers Band is pointing out what many forward thinking educational philosophers already believe:  Our educational system is third rate and Nickelodeon knows it apparently.  Nepotism and low scholastic standards tied to anti-education governmental priorities and a “sports-over-smarts” mentality make the “I Don’t Want to Go To School” message that much more biting and poignant.

What the hell was I thinking when I started this topic?  Maybe those minimally talented corporate kids were onto something after all…

The 2008 Academy Awards or “Oh yeah… I wanted to see that.”

The 2008 Academy Awards are on… 

While I see more movies than I do professional sporting events on TV, this past year I think I may have seen three movies (in a theater) and don’t remember what they were.  If one of the Harry Potter movies was out, that was one of them (because I love the books and enjoy the movies well enough even when the director needs to butcher them because of the increasing length of the books).  I suppose that the industry is alive and well, or at least breathing…  maybe on a respirator.

It isn’t that there weren’t some interesting looking movies in 2007, it is just that there were very few that looked interesting enough to galvanize me into action.  Jon Stewart is his usual witty self and fairly entertaining, and I caught myself saying, “Oh yeah…  I wanted to see that.”  I guess I didn’t want to see it that badly.

As far as the way the guests look in their Oscar finery, I can only say that they are an uninspiring lot in general.  With very few exceptions, the women seemed to have done their own hair on the way to the theater.  I won’t comment on the gowns, as it seems that certain designers can drape their adoring stars in crap and some critic will weep at the vision they created for the event.  Some of them (the gowns) are lovely, but most are not.  The men are also a mixed lot with a few tuxedos and more of those suit looking things without the bow ties.  You don’t have to be old-fashioned to despise the look of a black jacket with a black shirt and a black tie at the Oscars.  With black pants and presumably black shoes and a black belt, Johnny Cash would be proud were he not dead.

The songs have so far been forgettable to such a point that they…

Anyway, I just asked my wife if Cate Blanchette was supposed to be a drag queen playing Bob Dylan in “I’m Not There” (an odd choice for a drag queen in my opinion), but apparently she was supposed to be Bob Dylan.  I think they almost nailed the hair, but I only saw it for a moment on the screen and can’t be sure.  She was a much better Elizabeth…

I don’t even know why I am blogging about the Oscars as my interest is minimal at best.  Perhaps I am just writing to express my minimal interest.  Who said you have to blog about something you are passionate about, or even particularly interested in? Admittedly, I know dozens (not most) of the people in the audience from past performances, but don’t know what they have done recently.  The Oscars are like the Grammy Awards in a way in that they are both crap for the most part.  They do not represent the best films in the respective categories (Forrest Gump beating Shawshank Redemption in 1994 made that abundantly clear), but rather represent some of the better films of the previous year.

There is about an hour or so left, and so far Jon Stewart could have talked for an hour and mailed the awards to the recipients and it would have been shorter and more consistently entertaining.  The Oscar winner from last year’s movie “Dreamgirls” read from her cue card as if she were deciphering it as her lips formed the words.  It was yet another nail in the coffin as far as the Oscars representing the best of the best.  If some unlettered  ignoramus says “I may not know art, but I know what I like” and then you clone him (or her) and let them all vote for their favorite movies and actors and makeup artists and then give out Oscars based on the outcome, I don’t think there would be a great difference in the final tallies.

It is a testament to the caliber of last year’s films that I don’t care who wins.  I think that this is the first year that I am basing my few picks on a philosophy I developed the two times I went to the race track and bet on horses with cool names or interesting colors.  I hope George Clooney wins something because I like him as an actor.  I like Morgan Freeman as well, so if he is up for anything, I’d like him to win as well. Otherwise, there are a couple others who have impressed me in the past who I’d pick on past achievements (prior to 2007) and thus defeat the purpose of annual awards.

I must dash as they will soon be showing the actors and actresses who have departed for their respective religious afterlife alternatives and I don’t remember who died this past year.

On a final side note, I was hoping that Tom Cruise was going to run on stage and continue his downward spiral into the realm of the comically bizarre, but I don’t think that he is going to oblige me.