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My First Week

2/29/08

3 days down, 27 to go.

Don’t be misled by my countdown, my first week wasn’t bad at all, and my outlook on teaching is nothing but positive.

While my first week (or half week) consisted of nothing more than observing my host teacher and getting comfortable with the format of his lessons, all in all I can look forward to the next 6 weeks and know that theres a better than good chance I’m still going to love teaching when its over.

The 3 different classes I’ll be teaching have got to be a collection of some the schools  worst behavioral problems.  One kid I was told just got back from a suspension for taking part in an altercation last week.  My host teacher told me the story went something like this:

The kid was waiting on the lunch line, while the kid in front of him, wearing a hoodie, started “talking shit” about a friend of the the first kid.  Without hesitation, the first kid took the kid wearing the hoodie, and in the exact words of my host teacher “pulled the hood over his head and beat the living shit out of him”.  When a friend came to try and help, he also had his ass kicked.   So if you’re keeping track, one kid pretty badly beat up 2 other kids, resulting in his suspension.

I had a chance to meet this kid today, and I gotta say, after spending a little bit of time with him, he was polite and very nice to both me and my host teacher, so I couldn’t believe the story about him, however I saw the referral slip for him last week so I know the story is true.  Should be interesting.

Anyway, the three classes are filled with kids who don’t pay attention, talk to one another while my host teacher is speaking, curse at one another as well as at my host teacher, wear blue-tooth head sets in the middle of class, listen to their ipods and openly text message their friends, while showing up late and leaving early as they please.

Yea, those are my kids.

Despite all of that, and they will certainly be a handful, these kids are funny.  I can definitely work with funny, because there was never enough fun in the classes I was in, and I know for sure I want to make sure that every class I ever teach is overflowing with humor.  So in that regard, I should be able to get a head start on developing the sort of teacher-student rapport nice and early.

While I had nothing to do when I was observing, there 3 days were hardly uneventful.

On my very first day (Wednesday), I was covering my host teacher’s hallway duty.  This meant that for a little more than an hour, I literally just sit in the middle of an empty hallway with nothing to do.  My host teacher told me to bring in any school work I had to pass the time.  But keep in mind I’m totally isolated, because about 15 minutes into the period, the fire bells started going off.  Not only that, but the doors at the end of the hallway automatically shut, and at that moment somebody came over the loudspeaker saying the following”

“All students and teachers must evacuate the building immediately”.

Shit.

First day, and the school is either burning or one of these kids brought in a weapon.

Additionally, it was no warmer than 15 degrees outside, so after I finally made it to my host teachers classroom to grab my jacket (despite the fact I had no idea what was going on while running through the halls of an unknown building) I had to stand outside for another 15 minutes just waiting to find out there was a malfunction with the bell system.

In hindsight, had there been somebody with a gun, god forbid, they would’t have had everybody running outside, however the unexpected bells and words evacuate immediately were hardly comforting on my very first day.

However, it ended up being nothing more than some issues with their fire alarm, and so all was well and my first day was otherwise a walk in the park.

Second day I had 2 classes to observe, and towards the end of the first class, once again the fire alarms starting sounds, and an announcement to evacuate the building came over the loudspeaker.

Thinking there was no way the same thing would happen two days in a row, I decided not to bring my hat and gloves into the building and now had to stand outside for another 15 minutes, with my shaved head and nothing covering it in temperatures which felt like -4.  NEGATIVE FOUR.

Needless to say there should be no surprise that as I sit here I feel miserable, sniffling and sneezing with a sore throat.  And much like Scott, if you ask me nobody has ever felt as sick as I do right now.

Today was completely uneventful, although when I walked out of my building weather.com said it felt like -12 outside.  And I believe it.  My windshield  was covered with a sheet of ice, leaving me with no ability to see.

This probably should have stopped me from driving to my school, however I made it 3 or 4 blocks before pulling over and realizing I was going to hit something or somebody if I don’t scrape off the ice.

Other than that, today was painless, and I’m pretty sure I’m good to go come Monday morning when I’ll be stepping in front of the classroom for the first time and getting some actual work done.

Next week actually shouldn’t be bad at all, as Monday the kids have a half day so I’m only with each class for 40 minutes as opposed to 80, while Wednesday and Thursday my classes will all be taking the unit exam, meaning thats two less days I have to worry about.

All in all, I feel good (not physically) about how things are going to go this semester, and I look forward to sharing all of the exciting stories which take place over the next 6 weeks, when from 8-11, I’ll be Mr. Fier, which personally is a title I don’t really go for, as I would much rather the students just call me Adam, but I’ve had it drilled into my head that being professional is priority number one.

The one other aspect I want to point out is how massively my sleeping schedule has already shifted, two nights ago I was in bed in asleep before 11, and last night I got into bed at 9:27 and was passed out by 10:15.   And while I don’t mind staying up late, I really do LOVE getting to bed early, so if nothing else I might actually start gaining sleep as opposed to losing it which is what I was afraid would happen.

And now I’m going to go spend the next 2 and a half days back in bed, working towards feeling good come Monday morning, when I get my first real taste of what teaching is all about.

February 29, 2008 Posted by | Student Teaching | Leave a comment

Everyone Turns Into A Doctor When I’m Sick

2/28/08

by Scott Spinelli

For quite some time now, one of my secret wishes was to have a raspy, deep, sexy, sore-throat voice. The sort of voice that sounds like you’ve been smoking Lucky Strikes since you were eight.

Over the past few days, my wish came true. I have a sore throat. Or at least, that’s what I call it. I’m surprised they’ve had enough time to come up with a name for an illness they have no idea how to treat. At this point, I might as well have polio, as the timeline to have myself rid of it would be shorter.

I’ve tried those lozenges, the chloraseptic sprays. None of it works. Recently I purchased lozenges from a brand I’d never heard of before, Sucrets. Here’s a sucret: you can only take one every two hours, they numb your taste buds and, oh by the way, they don’t help at all.

I guess it’s my turn to be sick though. It’s that time of year. If you don’t believe me, stop what you are doing and listen to the sounds of your class for one minute. Sniffles, loogie snorts, coughs. Everyone’s got it.

Still, when whatever bug is popular that month does catch you, you act not only as if are you the first person to ever have a sore throat, but have the worst case to ever be documented.

“Can you believe this, I’m not only coughing, but my voice is sore too!”

I actually caught myself speculating that I might have a rare, uncharted form of bronchitis. What that even meant, at the time I didn’t know. But, I did know my throat was hurting, and thus, it has to be something from another planet. No one has ever suffered like me.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m sick, injured or ill at all, I immediately become a world-renowned physician. Somehow, everyone around you also sheds their normal personality – the hell with being a senior engineering student, junior magazine major. Their real calling has always been medicine.

It happens all over the place, for instance, immediately after an injury.

“No, no, you wouldn’t be able to walk at all if you had torn your ACL. They usually have to cart the players off, so, if only by that logic, you’re fine. Forget the fact that your knee feels like its slipping into the bottom half of your calf. Trust me, I watch the NFL.”

My favorite is the suggestive response. Even as I write this now, I’m embarrassed to admit that not only have I been given this suggestion, but I’ve made it to others as well.

“You know what you should do, go down to the health center.”

Wow, there’s a novel concept. Health center, you say? Don’t tell me there are doctors there too?

In the mean time, I’ve tried all sorts of methods to clear my throat up. Hot water with salt (that one makes very little practical sense, but my mom told me to, so I couldn’t tell let her down). Orange juice (for the vitamin C, though ironically at this school, the dining hall orange juice is disgusting). And tea. Lots and lots of tea.

I don’t particularly like tea, nor do I know how to make it. I get the general gist – hot water, bag of seeds. Still, there has to be some technique to it, because the cups I’ve brewed have been wretched. There’s nothing worse than tea that’s either warm or (gasp!) cold.

As if the lack of enjoyable taste sensation wasn’t enough, now the value of hot liquid has vanished. At this point, I’d like to drink lava. It’s thicker, and, from what I read, it’s incredibly hot.

Without getting on too much of a tangent, I will say, I have a theory with regard to hot drinks. Whether it’s coffee or tea or hot cocoa or that unidentifiable chai nonsense, people love carrying around boiling beverages. It makes them feel important, like adults. Sometimes, I’ll put orange juice in one of those coffee containers to make myself feel older, kind of like Tom Hanks in “Big”.

As painful as it may be, the key to whole “sore throat” routine is the raspy voice. Without it, no one believes you. If you “hurt” your leg, you better pray you have a limp. Otherwise, you’re just another college kid with a Harvard medical degree and a propensity to exaggerate your own illnesses. Join the club.

Scott Spinelli is the humor columnist for The Daily Orange where his columns appear on Thursdays. He can be reached at saspinel@syr.edu. If you’re looking for fun: battle mode on “Mario Kart” with Luigi.

February 28, 2008 Posted by | Spinelli | Leave a comment

The Next American Idol Is…

2/27/08

I don’t often brag about saying I told you so, however I was talking with my stepfather Paul (another big time American Idol fan) and told him that the kid he needs to look out for is this little 17 year old David Archuleta.  This was after he auditioned.

Am I ashamed that

A) I watch American Idol

B) Like it enough that I actually talk about it publicly during my free time

C) I am so into American Idol that I predict who will be going home each week as if I am making NFL picks on a Sunday?

The answer to all of the above would of course be no.

Anyway, after his performance last night, which you really should be able to appreciate if for no other reasons than the kid can “blow” as Randy Jackson would say and the song choice is one of the most famous songs ever recorded.

I said DURING the song that it might have been one of the best performances ever on Idol, and sure enough the judges agreed and I was reading online in some of the papers who said the same thing.

So I will say it now, with 20 contestants left, that David Archuleta will be this years American Idol.

February 27, 2008 Posted by | Television | Leave a comment

And So It Begins…

2/26/08

Today marks the end of an era.

When I wake up tomorrow morning, I take my first steps into the new world that is my career as a teacher.

For the first 2 and half years here at Syracuse, my classroom experiences have been limited to observing, handing out and collecting worksheets and struggling to stay awake.

However tomorrow, I begin my first hands on student teaching, in a 10th grade Global History classroom, and I gotta say, I thought I would be freaking out by this point, or at least dreading the start of the whole process, but thats hardly the case.

First off, I have been taking a class Monday, Wednesday Friday this semester, from 8:25-10:25 – a Social Studies education methods course which has been as dull as it sounds.  Aside from the class itself being a waste of 6 hours every week, the class is taught by a woman you could easily confuse with the worst elementary school teacher you ever had.  She calls us “little devils”, threatens us with “noogies” and considers herself to be “a real stickler”.  Not only is she trapped in the 1970’s, she gets on you for showing up to class at 8:24 yet has no problem holding you 10 minutes later.

One of the best parts of student teaching is that because I will be teaching from 7:55 until 10:45, that class disappears from my schedule until the middle of April.  So chalk one in the win column for (as of tomorrow) Mr. Fier.

The way my 3 hours at Heninger High School will work is as follows:

Syracuse city school schools operate on block scheduling, which I was completely unfamiliar with before I started my observations started freshman year.

There are either A days and B days, or Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 and Day 4, with days 1 and 3 following similar schedules and the same with 2 and 4.

My school has 4 different days, and block scheduling also includes 80 minute block periods as opposed to the more traditional 40 to 45 minute periods I was used to in middle and high school.

So, tomorrow will be a Day 2, and because I am there for only 3 hours, I will be there for Blocks 1 and 2, shadowing the schedule of my host teacher.

Day 2 and day 4, from 7:55 to 9:20, I will be working with a global history class, while the second block, from 9:25 to 10:44, I will be on Hallway duty with my host teacher, meaning I only teach one period every other day.  Not a bad deal.

Days 1 and 3 I will get 2 back to back classes.

For whatever reason, the excitement about finally getting in front of a classroom (plus getting wear really nice clothes 5 days) is completely overwhelming and nerves I have.

It also helps that I have sat down with my host teacher twice already, and the guys is as easy going and laid back as they come, but still knows how and when to crack the whip when he needs to.

I can’t express enough to cool I think it is that starting tomorrow, I’m a part time employee at this place (without pay of course) and that for the next 6 and a half weeks, 5 days a week for 3 hours a day, I will be getting a big taste of what my future has to offer.

I plan on blogging about all my stories (hopefully I’ll have plenty), along with some pictures I am being forced to take for a portfolio the School of Education requires of all of its students, so it gives me an excuse to show you everything from the school to my teacher to the kids to my endless combinations of sports coats, dress shirts, ties and pants, which sadly might be the thing I’m most excited about.

Wish me luck everyone!

February 26, 2008 Posted by | Student Teaching | Leave a comment

Why I Love Celebrities

2/25/08

Comedian Sarah Silverman, girlfriend of late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel had a revealing surprise when appearing on his show…

Heartbroken, Jimmy had only one thing (or person) left to do…(look out for TONS of great cameo’s)

February 25, 2008 Posted by | Television | Leave a comment

My Top 10 Favorite Actors

2/24/08

In the spirit of the 80th Academy Awards, I figured it was an appropriate time to bust out a new top ten list, this time being all about my 10 favorite actors from the movies.

I don’t know what exactly it is about movie stars I’m so into, however seeing these larger than life figures just takes you out of your own life and into a more exciting one that only exists on the big screen.

Watch the Oscars is always fun, for me at least, because its awesome to see all the big names gathered together, along with seeing the years best rewarded with those pretty golden statues.

Putting together a list of only 10 actors in not easy, as I probably could have had a list approaching 50 if I wanted to, however based on the movies I’ve seen (and by seeing the hundreds and hundreds of movies I listed on this blog clearly I’ve seen far too many) I did my best in putting together the ten actors I most enjoy watching, not necessarily the ten greatest actors of all time or anything like that.

And hereeee they are….

10- Harrison Ford

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Is it possible to consider one of the most famous stars in Hollywood underrated? Harrison Ford is often considered underrated because he lacks an Academy award win, and amazingly has only been nominated once (Witness). However, if you are going to tell me that Harrison Ford isn’t among the biggest stars in the business you’re crazy. When you star in not one, but two of the biggest, mega-blockbuster movie trilogies ever (Star Wars and Indiana Jones), you know you’re a big time star. Although he does have a tendency to play the same type of character- that swashbuckling, action hero, as he did as Indy, as Han Solo, as the President of the United States (Air Force Once), as Richard Kimble (The Fugitive) and so and on and so forth. While he may be getting older (65 to be exact), he’s hardly slowing down, as he is reprising the role of Indiana Jones in the 4th installment of the movie series this spring. Here’s to hoping there is plenty more where that comes from.


Worth Seeing Him in: Air Force One, Indiana Jones Trilogy, Star Wars Original Trilogy
Oscar Worthy in: The Fugitive
Deserved the Golden Statue for: Witness (nominated for Oscar)


9- Tom Hanks

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While some may actually be more familiar with his voice than his face (for you Toy Story fans), Tom Hanks is a true Hollywood heavyweight. His younger roles in Bachelor Party and Big set the stage for his career to blossom with starring roles in Forrest Gump which won him a Best Actor Oscar, Saving Private Ryan in which he nominated for one and Castaway which earned him yet another Oscar nomination. Hanks has always been likable and even if some of his lesser leading roles in films such as That Thing you Do and a League of Their Own, he is always entertaining and always among the best in the business.

 

Worth Seeing Him in: A League of Their Own, Catch Me If You Can, That Thing You Do
Oscar Worthy in: Saving Private Ryan (nominated for Oscar)

Deserved the Golden Statue for: Forrest Gump (won Oscar), Philadelphia (won Oscar)

8- Johnny Depp

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Despite being notoriously reclusive as he splits his time between Tinsel town and France, Johnny Depp was joined the ranks of blockbuster movie star following the unprecedented success of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy. Johnny Depp first struck gold with his successful teenage hit 21 Jump Street, and continued his rise to stardom with some of the more interesting roles you’ll come across, including Edward Scissorhands. He was terrific in Finding Neverland (a film I HIGHLY recommend) and put forth a noteworthy effort in an otherwise awful movie as Willy Wonka. However it will be the swashbuckling pirate Jack Sparrow which Depp will be most associated with, as he certainly found the buried treasure as ‘Pirates’ broke box office records. Savvy?

Worth Seeing Him in: Donnie Brasco
Oscar Worthy in: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (nominated for Oscar)

Deserved the Golden Statue for: Finding Neverland (nominated for Oscar)

7- Matt Damon

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Although he probably wasn’t receiving the attention he deserved in comparison to his best friend and fellow actor Ben Affleck, Matt Damon quietly turned himself into one of the finest, most versatile actors in the industry. Displaying not only his acting ability but his screenwriting potential as well, his original screenplay he co-wrote with Affleck Good Will Hunting earned the two the Academy Award for Best Original Screen Play. Damon also earned a Best Acting nomination. He has showed off his ability to play all different sorts of characters with roles ranging from action star (Bourne trilogy) to soldier in Saving Private Ryan to bisexual murderer in The Talented Mr. Ripley. He displayed his comedic side in Dogma (as well Jay and Silent Strike Back) and a dynamite performance as a crooked cop in The Departed. While Ben Affleck may have been the first of the two to get the Hollywood spotlight, Damon has become one of the most dynamic actors on the big screen today.

Worth Seeing Him in: The Bourne Trilogy
Oscar Worthy in: The Departed
Deserved the Golden Statue for: Good Will Hunting (nominated for Best Actor Oscar, won for Best Original Screen play)

6- Adam Sandler

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Ok, so Adam Sandler lacks an Oscar worthy performance on his resume, but nobody goes to an Adam Sandler movie looking for an academy award winning role. You go because he makes you laugh while never seeming to grow up. His movies usually include the same cast of clowns in supporting roles, and when he isn’t wasting your time with mistakes like Little Nicky and Anger Management, if you know what to expect he rarely disappoints. Aside from the fact several people think I look like him (I disagree), Sandler’s movies usually don’t deviate much from the same formula of cheesy, romantic goofball comedy. He has tried to mix things up with films like Punch, Drunk Love and Reign Over Me, however for the best of Sandler look no further than his classic comedies.

Worth Seeing Him in: The Wedding Singer
Showed Some Depth in: Big Daddy
His Must See Films Include: Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore

5- Jack Nicholson

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One of the most established and respected actors in the film industry, Jack Nicholson has become nearly synonymous with Oscar. Jack has been the recipient of a record 12 Academy Award Nominations, including 3 wins for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Terms of Endearment and As Good as it Gets. Jack has a screen presence that can only be compared to by the likes of a Marlon Brando. In addition of memorable performances he has given us some of the most memorable lines in movie history, with perhaps none better known than “You Can’t Handle the Truth!” from A Few Good Men. He’s got the talent, the experience and the hardware to undeniably be considered one of the greatest film actors ever. And don’t forget that grin!

Worth Seeing Him in: The Bucket List, Batman, About Schmidt
Oscar Worthy in: A Few Good Men (nominate for Oscar), The Departed
Deserved the Golden Statue for: As Good as it Gets (won Oscar), Terms of Endearment (won Oscar), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (won Oscar)

4- Robin Williams

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As great on the screen as he is on stage, Robin Williams is as diverse a performer as you are going to find. Starting way back when from his days on Mork and Mindy (before my time but worth checking out), Robin Williams is good a dramatic actor as he is a standup comedian. He’s been a four time Academy Award nominee, bringing home Best Supporting Actor honors for his performance in Good Will Hunting. He was equally as superb in Dead Poets Society, and combined his dramatic and comedic abilities for his role as Patch Adams. Dude looked like a lady in Mrs. Doubtfire and his voice was behind the Genie in Aladdin as well as Bender in Robots. If you have ever seen his Live on Broadway standup act (and if you haven’t you are missing out) you know just how off the wall he can be. Whether he’s making you laugh or making you cry, Robin Williams is as talented as they come.

 

Worth Seeing Him in: Mrs. Doubtfire, Hook
Oscar Worthy in: Dead Poets Society (nominated for Oscar), Patch Adams

Deserved the Golden Statue for: Good Will Hunting (won Oscar)

3- Anthony Hopkins

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If you want to talk about actors who are best remembered for one defining role, Sir Anthony Hopkins falls into this category with his Oscar winning performance in The Silence of the Lambs. Dr. Hannibal Lector is not only one of the most memorable characters in movie history, he remains one of the most unique. Hopkins was downright creepy in Silence, as he played the cannibalistic doctor serving a life sentence in a maximum security asylum. His scenes with Clarice (Jodie Foster) kept you on the edge of your seat, yet it was the complexity of his character, along with his ability to make you feel compassionate for this psychopathic killer was worthy of Best Actor honors. Hopkins of course has been brilliant in a number of other films, however his portrayal of Dr. Hannibal Lector is what most moviegoers will likely always associate him with, along with some fava beans, and a nice chiante.

Worth Seeing Him in: The Mask of Zorro
Oscar Worthy in: Amistad (nominated for Oscar)

Deserved the Golden Statue for: The Silence of the Lambs

2- Denzel Washington

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There are a class of actors who can take a role or even an entire movie, and by simply being in it make it better. The quintessential example of this is Denzel Washington. When Denzel is in a movie, chances are the movie will be worth seeing. I have been saying for a while now that Denzel Washington doesn’t make bad movies. Sure, some of his films were not as good as others (Out of Time, Déjà vu), however for the most part, his movies are very good and his character is even better. Another knock on him is that he always plays the same sort of characters, whether it is the inspirational oppressed guy (Remember the Titans, The Great Debaters, The Hurricane) or the take no prisoners bad ass/cop/bodyguard (American Gangster, Inside Man, Training Day, Man on Fire). Regardless of the movie, you can pencil Denzel Washington in for a great performance, as he has delivered time and time again. The fact that he has won only two Oscars is probably a sham, however it’s only a matter of time before he adds another statue to his mantle.

Worth Seeing Him in: John Q, American Gangster, Man on Fire, He Got Game, Inside Man
Oscar Worthy in: Remember the Titans, The Hurricane (Nominated for Oscar), Malcolm X (nominated for Oscar)

Deserved the Golden Statue for: Glory (won Oscar), Training Day (won Oscar)

 

1- Will Smith

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Ok, so you probably didn’t expect to find the Fresh Prince topping off my list of favorite actors. However not only is Will Smith an above average actor capable of playing a variety of different characters, he is simply put the epitome of what comes to mind when I think about what a movie star should be. Will Smith doesn’t make movies, he makes blockbusters. There are few actors who can carry an entire movie themselves, yet he was able to pull it off with the recent I Am Legend. He’s smooth, he’s funny and whether it’s trying to give a better life to his son (Pursuit of Happiness), saving the world from some extraterrestrial villain (Independence Day, Men in Black, I Robot, I Am Legend) or portraying the greatest of all time (Ali), Will Smith is Hollywood. He’s no stranger to the romantic comedy (Hitch) and despite his nice-guy image, he knows how to be bad (Bad Boys). It should be surprise that the movies Will Smith makes have consistently had monster opening weekends (he was number 1 on a list of most powerful actors on the planet according to Newsweek), along with the fact that he is one of only 3 actors to release 7 consecutive 100 million dollar grossing films. He has certainly come a long way from his rapping days and wrecking havoc in Bel-Air, and today, this prince has become the king of Hollywood.

Worth Seeing Him in: Men in Black, Independence Day, Hitch, Bad Boys
Oscar Worthy in: Ali (nominated for Oscar), Enemy of the State
Deserved the Golden Statue for: The Pursuit of Happiness (nominated for Oscar)

 

The Best of the Rest (My Golden Globes if you will…)

 

Leonardo DiCaprio

Al Pacino

Joe Pesci

Walter Mattheu

Jack Lemon

Robert DeNiro

Chris Tucker

George Clooney

Brad Pitt

Alec Baldwin

Russell Crowe

Kevin Spacey

Will Ferrell

Paul Rudd

February 25, 2008 Posted by | Movies | 4 Comments

Crying Uncle: Having a Niece is Overrated; Little Kids Hide Behind Their Cuteness

2/21/08

by Scott Spinelli

Easily the strangest moment of my life was when I found out I was going to be an uncle. My sister, as it turns out, was going to have a kid.

“Wait a minute, Abbey has sex?”

Gross as it may be, that’s where my first thoughts went. Unless that stork nonsense turns out to be true…But really, the thought of it, to this day, induces a vomit reflex.

But that was almost two years ago. Now, my niece, Julia, is starting to do real human things. You see, my parents were always angry at me for not paying her enough attention. As far as I see it, until she starts doing things the rest of us do such as walk, talk, deal with disappointment, hide secrets from one another or enjoy fine Italian cuisine without spilling it all over yourself, she’s nothing more than a living blob.

Terrible? Maybe, but really, am I supposed to be impressed by something pointing in the general direction of a man, uttering “Pa! Pa!” That’s the true beauty of being that young. Anything you do is akin to reinventing the wheel.

Take, for instance, when you learned how to ride a bike. Before I could actually do it without those helper wheels, I thought I had a better chance of scaling the Himalayas. Could you imagine if your 20-year-old friend couldn’t ride a bike? What was the skill set there anyway? Balance?

I don’t know. I’m just never impressed with little kids. If my sister called me to tell me Julia learned how to write calligraphy, I’d come home to see it. Otherwise, what am I supposed to say?

“Oh my God, she said Pa! So what that she’s pointing at the chair. Pa sits in chairs, sometimes at least, so that’s probably what she was referring to.”

That’s another thing, you can’t make fun of infants, at least those related to you. And, it’s not just because they can’t defend themselves, though I guess it has something to do with it. The real reason comes from one group, the grandparents. My father, specifically, acts like a complete fool. There’s something about having a baby around, almost like a full moon to Michael J. Fox in “Teen Wolf.” Call it the crazy quotient, if you like.

I’ll be in a conversation with him, and he has no qualms about leaving it to get down, hands and knees and grin like an idiot at this infant who can’t even talk. Here I am, a walking, talking adult, and I can’t even hold his attention.

My parents say I’m jealous. Maybe so I do worry though, that I won’t be a good uncle. In the movies, the uncle is always the cool one, the one that takes the niece or nephew to the ball game. The one that buys the niece or nephew the first diseased prostitute. You know, that sort of family stuff.

I look at some of my own uncles. Geez. I’d imagine everyone can relate to this, but I know if there was a prison ran by and for bad uncles, I’d at least have a few jailors and the warden.

Thing is, I don’t even think she knows me. I’m never home, so my two nincompoop brothers are busy stealing prime “Don’t You Remember When” time. Already, her memory of me is fading. I spoke with my sister recently, and she told me Julia calls me “Uncle Cott”. Cute? Maybe to some. I look at it like I’ll be “Uncle Ott” in a few years. Ultimately, phased out.

The other thing I always think about is what she’ll be like when she’s older. Because I’m an infant in my own right, I group her future possibilities into the stereotypical categories I saw on display in high school. Will she be really hot, cheerleader type? How about one of those nerdy girls with no friends who wears make up to convince herself she’s not as big of a loser as she actually is? Or maybe one of those superstar athletes who could beat the snot out of me.

Whatever it is she does become, I can imagine softening my tough-guy stance. I look forward to actually talk to her. Though, I’d imagine I’ll only have a few years to get any good conversation in before I have to take the obligatory, “You’re a Teenage B*tch” break. If she takes after her mother, that’s almost a no-brainer as well. Still, if in the end they come out the same, I’ll be more than happy with that.

Scott Spinelli is a humor columnist for The Daily Orange where his columns appear Thursday. He can be reached at saspinel@syr.edu. He’d like to send out his best wishes to the girls from DanceWorks.

February 21, 2008 Posted by | Spinelli | Leave a comment

Barack On!

2/20/08

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I have been patiently waiting for the right time to bust out my newfound interest in politics, and after winning a 10th consecutive primary/caucus, it appears as though Democratic Presidential hopeful Barack Obama  has given himself a touch of breathing room in the race for the Democratic Nomination.

Because I like to relate everything to sports, the 2008 Presidential Election presents me the perfect opportunity to do so.

The upcoming election, much like any election for that matter, is really no different than a competitive sporting event.

You have two opponents (whether you want to look at the overall Republican-Democrat sides or the Clinton Obama race), along with months of campaigning (sort of like the regular season) which culminates with a playoff birth (earning the nomination of your party) and then the championship game (the election).

There are really only three potential candidates at this point, with those being Senator’s Hillary Clinton from New York, Barack Obama from Illinois and John McCain from Arizona.

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The Democrats and Republicans essentially represent 2 conferences or leagues (East and West, American and National), and in one conference, you have two big name teams (Clinton and Obama), both very popular within their party however both not without flaws and question marks.

The other conference or league, aka the Republican race, has been all but decided as McCain is probably only a handful of primary victories away from earning the nomination.  You could say that McCain is leading challenger Mike Huckabee in the bottom of the ninth, with 2 outs and a 9-0 lead.  Despite Huckabee refusing to bow out and follow in the footsteps of Mitt Romney, who made the right decision in suspending his own campaign and releasing his delegates to McCain.

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And so, the real intrigue right now rests solely in the race for the Democratic nomination, as Obama and Clinton are neck and neck, as Hillary had some early success including winning some big states on Super Tuesday last month, while Obama has followed that up by winning 10 consecutive primaries/caucuses.

I personally am still relatively new to the politics scene, however Presidential elections are essentially like the Super Bowl of politics, and because they happen once every 4 years gives them even more appeal.

If you look back in time, Presidential elections have provided as much drama if not more than your favorite movies, TV shows or sporting events.

I’ll throw a little history knowledge down, considering it’s my major and all, and take a quick look at some of the more dramatic storyline revolving around Presidential elections…

1800 (yes, 1800) Thomas Jefferson win a disputed election as Aaron Burr came within a grasp of becoming the third President of the United States.  Jefferson was unable to win the popular vote, however after the dispute went to the House of Representatives, Jefferson was eventually awarded the victory, and the Presidency.

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1948- “Dewey defeats Truman” was the headline running across the newswire the morning after Harry Truman actually won the election, in what many consider the greatest upset in United States political history.  It was widely accepted by politicians, the press and even Truman’s own party that Thomas E. Dewey would become the 34th President in our country’s history.

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1960- Richard Nixon, years before the Watergate disaster, came within a mere 100,000 votes of defeating a young Senator you may have heard of by the name of John. Fitzgerald Kennedy.  Kennedy of course would enjoy the oval office for less than 3 years before his assassination in November of 1963.  Nixon would go on to win the 1968 and 1972 Presidential elections, although his fate would be determined with some unfortunate tape recordings which came to light.

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2000- where do I begin?  The last 8 years have certainly had their ups and downs…alright well we have had plenty of downs…and we can go back to the most disputed election in the country’s history, as Al Gore would go on to win the popular vote yet fail to earn the Presidential nomination when we lost count of the times Florida ballots were recounted.   After Gore finally conceded the Election to Gore more than a month after the election, George W. Bush would go on to become the 43rd President of this Country, while many of us were left to wonder what would have been.

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I hope you enjoyed the history lesson, although I have a feeling I lost most of you at 1800…

Anyway, my point is when you combine the significance of the Presidential election, along with some of the drama which follows it, it is hard not to get wrapped up in whats going on.

You don’t have to develop a strong interest in politics to appreciate what is at stake, as this country heads into a new generation, with a struggling economy and thousands of troops still questionably deployed overseas.  We have issues with immigration, education, health care and social security, not to mention the more trendy (but no less important) issues regarding the environment.

Like it or not, as I would assume almost everyone who reads this blog is old enough to vote in November, the candidate you vote for (or at least the one you favor) will be responsible for guiding this country into an unknown, unpredictable future.

Ok Adam, now that you’ve ranted on about why its so important to get involved or get interested, where do you stand?

Well, at this point I have had a tough time deciding where to stand, for no other reason than I am still actively researching both the candidates and issues, which is something I encourage you all to do here.

I have always considered myself a Democrat, yet for the longest time had no idea why other than the fact my both of my parents were.

While I know I probably lean more left than I do right, neither Obama or Clinton have provided me with that go-to candidate I feel I can really get behind with confidence or faith.

And so, while we are still just under 9 months away from decision day ’08, we have just under 4 months before Primaries are completed in all 50 states (and territories), and so for you Democrats out there, the time is now to start paying attention to the names Clinton and Obama.

I know they are highly flawed and biased, but for those of you like me, who only want to dip your feet into the politics pool, check out The Daily Show and Colbert Report, just to get familiar with the candidates and where they stand.

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Also, don’t be afraid to take a few minutes out of your day to go to cnn.com and browse around on the politics page (which I linked up earlier in the post), where they do a terrific job of introducing you to the candidates, the issues and the election process.

Right now, despite the sub zero, freezing cold temperatures outside (at least up in Syracuse), the race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama has been heating up, and in my eyes is worthy of the same attention that gets paid to the big game.  And with the race as close as it is, and as exciting as its gotten…

…game on.

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February 20, 2008 Posted by | Election '08 | Leave a comment

Worth Seeing? ‘Definitely’.

2/16/08

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Being single meant that for the first time since I was 16, February 14th this year was just another day on the calendar.

The cherry on top of my anti-Valentine’s Day festival might have been buying myself 2 beautiful new coats last weekend along with an even more beautiful new Movado watch.

However the high point (or low point however you choose to look at it) of celebrating V-Day was last night when I went to see Definitely, Maybe.

I’ll set the scene, and it was as romantic as it gets.

A handsome young man and a very beautiful young lady, sitting in the last row of the theater, sharing soda and some popcorn, enjoying a nice Friday night together while watching a lighthearted comedy about love…

…sitting right next to me and my roommate Mike.

There we were, two 20 year old guys, with only each other, sitting in a room filled with couples left and right.

Now that being said, and realizing how pathetic our lives were, Mike and I certainly weren’t about to let any of that ruin the movie.

And fortunately it didn’t.

REVIEW

With his biggest leading role since Van Wilder, Ryan Reynolds plays the role of Will Hayes, a 30 something advertising agent.

The movie opens with us learning that Will is being served with divorce papers. We soon after meet his 10 year old daughter Maya, played by Little Miss Sunshine star Abigail Breslin. Upon picking her up from school, Will learns that Maya’s class was given a Sex-Ed lecture, which prompts the story of the film later that night when Maya asks her father to tell her the story of how he and her mother met.

Will reluctantly agrees, and only under the circumstances that the real names of the characters in his story are changed does he begin the “love story-mystery” as Maya refers to it.

Without giving away too much, we meet the women, starting with Will’s college sweetheart “Emily” (Elizabeth Banks, Scrubs, The 40 Year Old Virgin), whom Will is forced to leave when he accepts a job in New York (they come from Wisconsin) to be part of the 1992 Bill Clinton campaign.

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“Emily sends Will away with a gift for an old friend of her’s, “Summer” (Rachel Weisz, The Mummy) who Will meets in New York, along with Summer’s boyfriend/college professor Hampton (Kevin Kline, In and Out). Rachel is an aspiring writer, smart and sophisticated but seemingly unavailable until she kisses Will goodbye.

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At Campaign headquarters, Will meets April (Isla Fisher, Wedding Crashers) who is working there only to make a few extra bucks photocopying. April is a free spirit, very intelligent but without any real direction in her life.

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Throughout the film, Will goes back and forth between the three, although as the movie progresses you begin t0 sense with whom his heart lies.

However the film does a nice job of throwing you some slightly unexpected twists in an otherwise typically predictable romantic comedy.

Reynolds gives easily his best performance in his first, real mainstream role. He uses his usual combination of sarcasm and wit to win you over, but he is able to contribute a really good amount of sincerity to his character.

The three women in the film were all very well cast, however the scene stealer is Breslin.

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There was some genuine chemistry between Reynolds and Breslin as the Father/Daughter relation is pulled off beautifully. She is beyond adorable and very enchanting, yet manages to come across as wise behind her years, at one point telling her father that she only wants him to be happy, and knows he isn’t.

The movie seemed to be a bit long towards the end, however it didn’t take away from the story as the ending of the movie wraps up more or less the way you want it to.

There is also a really funny dose of historical humor, as the film takes place over a span on 16 years, beginning in 1992 with Clinton running for President.

Some of the better moments of this include Will being introduced to the cell phone, seeing a very young George W. Bush taking greater pride in his ownership of the Texas Rangers baseball team than his Presidential father, and the Monica Lewinsky scandal in 1997.

Overall, while the movie follows the traditional romantic comedy formula, Mike and I both really enjoyed it…at least until we left the theater once again realizing how pathetic we were.

Regardless, the acting was better than you would expect from a movie of this sort, and the story was both fun and convincing.

If deciding whether or not you want to take the time and spend the money to see this movie, I would ‘definitely’ recommend it.

Final Grade: B

February 16, 2008 Posted by | Movies | Leave a comment

Forget the Fun and Romance: Valentine’s Day a No-Win Situation for Guys

2/14/08

by Scott Spinelli

And so it comes, and hopefully, so it goes. Another Valentine’s Day spent alone. Sound the violins, cue up the world’s smallest tear. Though, if you don’t mind, I think I’d rather keep the extra money in my pocket this year.

I don’t know why it is, but for some reason, women think that they’re entitled to something on Valentine’s Day. Why is that? At what point did having a birthday or simply being the one that gets showered with “just-because” gifts in exchange for sexual favors not become enough?

Let’s be honest about those “just-because” gifts. Not that they all result in immediate bang for buck, but we can all agree they work at least like a point system. 50 points for flowers, 35 for a card, etc. If you get to 100, who knows what you could exchange it for.

Anyway, I never could quite wrap my mind around Valentine’s Day. Maybe it’s because I’m a miserable cynic who was raised by a man that hated Halloween (his reason largely draws on how much fun other people were having). Maybe it’s because I eat candy every day of the year instead of just on holidays.

Thing is, there are two types of women when it comes to February 14. There’s the type that really do want a celebration thrown in their honor and the type that says they want nothing, but really would love anything more than nothing.

The former wants streamers, balloons, dinner, candy, cards, gifts and roses. A breakfast in bed, a singing telegram delivery and two solid “I Love You’s” from that special guy. Not the kind of “I Love You” that’s said to make her happy, but one that you really mean. Or at least have gotten adept enough at faking.

Cards are easily the biggest copout. What says “I Love You” better than generic writing from strangers on a folded piece of thick paper?

The latter girl is the biggest pain.

“No, no. I don’t want anything special. Just your company, and that’ll do it for me.”

Unquestionably, this is the worst of the two answers. At least with the first, there is a clear level of expectation. With this chick, there’s really no way you can win. If you’re a literalist, you don’t care enough about her special day. If you get her too much, you overdid it. Not all of us are acrobats.

The interesting thing, as far as I’m concerned, is how utterly simply V-Day is for men. On my end, there are only a few things I would like to make me happy. Sour Patch Kids, sports on television and maybe something else that can’t be said in these pages. For most men, I’d venture safely, that would largely be the case. Change Sour Patch Kids to Mike and Ike, and that’s the extent of the variation.

When I want to think of fond Valentine’s Days of yore, I go back to elementary school. The days when everyone had someone, and all you could think about all day was getting that Foghorn Leghorn Looney Tunes’ card from the cute, pig-tailed girl in the front of class.

“I say, I say, I say, won’t you be my Valentine, boy?”

Or, maybe a Tweety Bird, “I wuv you” sufficed, but nonetheless, there was nothing better than that.

Outside of class, I always had one Valentine, my mom. God that sounds corny, doesn’t it?

Every year, my dad would give me one of those talks, begging me not to forget my mother.

“Yeah, but aren’t you married to her? That’s why there’s Mother’s Day.”

As I saw it, my mom (actually, all of them for that matter) really hit the triple jackpot. Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and birthday. So what if they have to deal with human birth, incompetent and lazy husbands and being right about everything, all the time.

If you’re curious, I did get one gift for Valentine’s Day this year. Sadly, it was from a male friend of mine, that, as salt on the proverbial wound, happens to have a girlfriend. Funny, yes. A painful reminder, also, yes.

Despite my cynicism, I recognize the aspect of Valentine’s Day that doesn’t have to do with Hallmark. Love for that special someone and, as it stands, significant amounts of gifts for that person, too.

I guess I can afford a few extra Sour Patch bags after all. Nothing says “I Love Me” and gluttony like a self-purchased, 5 lbs. bag of candy from the bookstore.

Scott Spinelli’s columns appear every Thursday in The Daily Orange. He would like to say Happy Valentine’s Day to his mom. He can be reached at saspinel@syr.edu

February 14, 2008 Posted by | Spinelli | Leave a comment