Archive for August 2003

 
 

NYC Teachers, Stupid?

OK, they’re not all stupid. 3000 of them weren’t able to pass a simple competency test, despite being able to take it as many times as they’d like. There’s something that rings hollow about a person who complains that a test is racially baised after she can’t pass it 13 times.
I’ve never spoken a word of Swahili in my life — save “Uhura” — but I bet you I could pass a vocabulary test in that language in 13 attempts, starting cold.

These teachers aren’t being discriminated against. They’re stupid and, it would seem, too lazy to put in a little work to keep their jobs.

From the NY Times article:

Jose Aguasvivas, a former math and Spanish teacher in the bilingual program at Roosevelt High School in the Bronx, said he was typical of teachers who had failed the test because English was not their first language. “I even have a master’s degree in bilingual elementary education,” he said. “But the test is very confusing. If the test is in Spanish, then I pass it no problem.”



He earned a Master’s Degree in bilingual education without being able to pass a test in English? This country is so screwed up…

Meat Loaf: “Couldn’t Have Said It Better”

Couldn't Have Said It Better CD

The CD isn’t due out in America for another few weeks, but it’s been out in Europe for months now. This is a review of the British edition of the CD, which is actually a two-disc set. I don’t know — in fact, I kind of doubt — if the American release will have the second disc. It collects three videos — one from the album, two from the VH1 Storytellers DVD — and an extra audio track of “Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad” from the VH1 Storytellers CD.

The main disc contains eleven tracks, none of which are written by Jim Steinman. It’s pretty easy to figure that out when you look at the track lengths and see how many of them are under five minutes. Heck, there’s even one that’s less than three minutes.

Many of the songs are written by a guy named James Michael, who is a strong songwriter on his own with some Steinman-esque qualities. Meat Loaf can sing more than just Steinman songs, you know. The problem is that he has the kind of powerful operatic voice that most pop songwriters don’t have a clue what to do with. It limits his options. They’ve put together a pretty good collection here, though.

In any case, Steinman and Meat Loaf will be working on BAT OUT OF HELL 3 next year. Knowing the way Steinman works, all you need to do is find all the songs he’s already written for other people that Meat Loaf hasn’t recorded yet, and you’ll probably know half of the set list for that album. (Hopefully, that won’t mean Pandora’s Box’s “20th Century Fox.” Ick.)

The two lead tracks on CHSIB already have videos made for them. “Did I Say That” is most likely to be released first, since the video is more complicated, special effects-driven, and MTV-friendly. (Who am I kidding, though? I’ll be lucky to see it on VH1.) It’s a song I saw the video first before I heard just the audio on. I wouldn’t recommend that. It’s a much better song than video, which is often distracting and meaningless.

“Couldn’t Have Said It Better” is my favorite song on the album, sounding very much like a Steinman song but without being a clone. It’s got the powerful hook, the slow section, the dramatic pause, catchy chorus, and more.

“Why Isn’t That Enough” is a mopey ballad that never gets out of second gear. I skip it a lot when I listen to the CD.

“Love You Out Loud” sounds like something Rick Springfield would have written in the 80s. It’s a power pop song with some Australian instruments to it. I like it. James Michael and Nikki Six wrote it.

One of the much-hyped tracks of the album is “Man of Steel,” which is a duet by Meat Loaf with his daughter Pearl Aday. Written by Nikki Six, it starts off with a Steinman-esque spoken word bit before spinning off into its own thing. It’s not the greatest song on the CD, but it’s probably in the top half. The best of it happens at the end where Meat Loaf and Pearl sing directly to each other.

A little instrumental whistle plays to lead us out of the first act of the CD and onto the second. Thatís right. The CD is broken up into a Side A and Side B in the track listings. The second track 5 is actually track 10. Somewhat annoying, that is.

“Testify” is made to sound like a gospel song, and succeeds on many levels for it. Like so many of the songs on the album, it’s easy to get this one stuck in your head. Not too many lyrics, simple hook, fast beat.

“Tear Me Down” is a mostly forgettable song, but nothing obnoxious. I had to put the disc in the CD tray to remember what the song was. Not a good sign.

“You’re Right, I Was Wrong” is a Diane Warren song. You can tell that without even looking at the credits. It sounds like she wrote it, so if you hate her hits you’ll have this one. I like it a lot. Though it doesn’t vary much, it recognizes that and clocks in under four minutes.

“Because of You” is a catchy song that starts off deceptively slow but rips into a barn burner that is lifted by Meat Loaf’s theatrical rendition of it. He acts as he sings this song. You can hear it in his voice.

“Do It” is a two and a half minute time filler that’s not worth listening to. It sounds like something they created to give sports stadiums new music to play between innings or quarters or something. Just annoying.

The surprise of the album is the cover of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young.” I find that I like a lot more of Dylan’s tunes when he’s not singing them. I can understand the lyrics a lot better that way. This is a power ballad for Meat Loaf and he shines in it.

After that, there are two hidden bonus tracks. The first is “Mercury Blues,” which sounds like a song lifted out of the Brian Setzer Orchestra catalog. I believe it is a cover, but I don’t know from whom.

The second bonus track is “Bat Out Of Hell” from the VH1 Storytellers special. It’s the only Steinman song on the album.

Overall, I think it’s a great CD. It’s my favorite of all his non-Steinman albums. You have to overlook those attempts at being a 80s pop music start from twenty years ago. I get shivers just thinking about how bad those albums are. “Modern Girl” isn’t bad, but even it doesn’t suit Meat Loaf’s operatic voice.

BAT 3 is due out in the next year or two. You’ll have to excuse me tonight, though, because I’m headed off to the Meat Loaf concert at the PNC Bank Arts Center tonight. I’ll try to file a full report on that tomorrow.

Big Brother 4 gets ratings?

I love BB4 and all, but I never suspected it did that well in the ratings. The fact that it’s really cheap to produce is what kept it around, I figured.

As it turns out, it’s not doing so bad. In fact, it was the most watched television show last Saturday night. Makes you wonder why they don’t just move the Friday session to Saturday as a regular thing, doesn’t it? Must be sports issues… Dang pre-season football games!

Here in the NYC area it gets really annoying, because the local CBS affiliate airs Yankee games on Friday nights, so you never know when BB4 will be on. I have to set the TiVo to record for four hours straight in the hopes of catching BB4 somewhere in that post-game time frame.

More on global warming

I’m sorry but, yes, it’s time for more politics: This time, it’s another article debunking the global warming myth.

Feel free to ignore this post and move along to the next DVD release article. I won’t think any less of you for it. I just don’t see enough evidence to prove the concept of global warming is real. Too much shoddy science mixed with politics…

Release of 9/11 transcripts

Yesterday afternoon, the Port Authority released transcripts of phone calls made during the horror of 9/11/2001. Many people were aghast at the idea, saying it was wrong to bring it all back up again. That we don’t need to reopen the wounds. That it should be left in the past.

While I can sympathize for the families who lost loved ones that day (and nobody in this area is further that two degrees of separation away from someone who died), I’m a bit shocked at how quickly people want to forget and “move on.” It’s one thing to cease dwelling on it. There’s no point in being continuously morose about the whole thing. But to forget it?!? To leave it behind? To put the blinders on and pretend like it didn’t happen?

No way.

One of my daily visits on the web these days is BeldarBlog, which I haven’t linked to in my blogroll because it’s mostly political. The gentleman who writes it is a lawyer in Texas, who has some excellent and well-reasoned observations on the legal events of the day. Today, he’s written about these 9/11 transcripts, and I think it’s must-reading.

The fate of American Juniors

American Juniors will not return to TV this fall, according to this article at Zap2It.com. The reason for it is said to be the production company’s. They’re too busy with AI3 and World Idol to deal with it right now.

It might return next summer, though, which I think is really where it belongs. Given the relatively low ratings and family friendliness, I think putting it in the summer when the kids are out of school is the best idea. Besides, parents, do you want to pull 8-13 year old kids out of school for a couple of months in the fall to compete on TV?

The summer is the right time for this series to continue, if it does.

Heather Nauert

There is now such a thing as media fashion, although I’ll be damned if I could tell you the difference between the ‘editor’ and ‘correspondent’ pants.

But that’s not the point of the article. The point is that they talked to Heather Nauert for it, who makes any news worth watching. Of all the cable newsmedia babes, she’s my favorite to watch. But you’d think FOXNews.com would be able to dig up a better picture of one of their own reporters than the grainy screen grab they have up there of her now. Don’t these media types have publicity stills?

Google has one, but it’s a bit old now. I’d recommend this picture instead.

Funny instructions

Click here for some “bizarre technical illustrations.” The link was posted on Slashdot Wednesday afternoon, but will hopefully be clear enough to view by now. Hopefully, the guy who runs the site will get enough submissions for this thing to expand the site greatly. Shouldn’t be too difficult to find more of these silly illustrations.

Who wants to move to Japan now?

It’s time for naked teenage girls taking pictures of themselves in public! It’s the hot new trend.

We’re much more puritanical here in America. Our teenaged females wear low-riding micro-skirts that expose their thongs, with a two-sizes-too-small top that leaves no part of the stomach to the imagination. Then they go on MTV and gyrate to loud music.

Really, what’s the difference?

The Iron Giant

It’s one of the greatest animated movies of the past 10 years. Possibly, you could make the argument, the best. Over in Region 3, the special edition DVD of The Iron Giant was released this week. In America, they seem to want to time it out with its director’s next film, which isn’t due out until November 2004. How incredibly stupid for them.

Click on the link above for a listing of all the special edition material to be found on the R3 release.

Is the news this week so boring?

We’re getting this story again, about another group of people writing letters to Hollywood to ask them to stop smoking in movies. Doesn’t this story pop up every 6 months or so?

As mentioned yesterday in this blog (in a story I think I meant to go out today — whoops), Rock The Vote is bringing itself back from the dead.

Meanwhile, in the New York City area, we have stories about the ourageous prices at concession stands at the U.S. Open tennis tournament. It’s the same story we heard every year — bottles of water are $4, a hamburger is $9, when will the madness end? Is this really the stuff front page headlines are made of, people? Get a grip.

Isn’t there anything new going on?

Rock The Vote’s a joke

(I accidentally posted this behind an earlier story yesterday, where it might have been lost. I’m pushing the timestamp ahead a day to give it new life. –Ye Editor)

Rock the Vote is trying to jumpstart itself, focusing on how great and non-partisan they are as an organization.

Of course, it has chosen for its rebirth to use The Dixie Chicks as its spokespeople and fundraisers. Since we don’t know anything about the Dixie Chicks’ political philosophies or preferences, they’ll make perfect fronts for a nonpartisan organization, won’t they?

Except we do know what they think. We know what Rock The Vote thought when it first launched in 1990 — it’s an effort to draw votes for Democratic presidential candidates. They’re as non-partisan as The 700 Club.

Rock The Vote is the high-minded movement that eventually led us down the round to asking presidential candidates about their preferences in underwear. Puh-leeze.

Just to further prove the point of how non-partisan the group is, their director added this:

“It’s not partisan to say everyone deserves the protection of the law in terms of civil unions and marriage,” Riemer said.

Uh, no. It would only be “not partisan” to refuse to take any sides on any political issues, aside from endorsing the right of those age 18 and older to vote. If you say you’re nonpartisan, that means you don’t take sides. Right now, Rock the Vote is based on a lie.

BTW, if you are 18 or older, please register to vote. I’d prefer it if you only did it after reading up on a couple of issues, but there’s nothing in the Constitution about the electorate needing to be informed. Just of age.

(I’ll warn you all know — if you want to discuss and debate the merits or lack thereof of civil unions and marriage, I’ll delete the messages in a heartbeat. That’s not what this entry is about, and I won’t let it go down that road.)

Junkyard Mega-Wars

Junkyard Wars returns tonight at 9 p.m. on TLC as the retitled JUNKYARD MEGA-WARS. What’s so different this time? There are two team captains that will compete each and every week. They’ll pick their teams from a group of eligible contestants each week. Now we know why the show was scouting for “lone applications” this past year and not teams. It’s mix and match. They also promise new junkyards, new hosts, and new challenges.

All the info on the changes can be found at the TLC website.

Big Brother 4 – Did Jee blow it?

Major Spoilers for 8-26 Episode

Jack, once again, had the brilliant move. Whether or not he recognized the growing Boys Vs. Girls situation brewing in the house, he had the right move. It was a move that would have increased the odds SIGNIFICANTLY of the final three being Jack and what’s left of the Dream Team. The trick is that Jee would have had to use the veto on Jack to put Ali up. Otherwise, the girls still would have had voting power. Using the veto on Erika to put Ali up would have meant Erika and Jun voting for Jack to keep their All Girls alliance.

Now, instead, the odds are good that two of the three votes — Ali and Jun — will backstab Jack tomorrow night to preserve their alliance. At the Head of Household competition, there will be three girls and one guy going for the title. The odds are fairly good that a girl would win and Robert and Jee would end up on the block. If one of them wins the Veto and removes one of them, it doesn’t matter. The girls still have the votes (one plus the tie-breaker HOH) to go the way they want to.

There are two things working against this that might save Jee, in the end. The first is that we’ve all seen how catty women can get towards one another in no time at all on these shows. It’s a question of Girl Power versus The Bitchiness Factor.

The second is the additional twist to the game tomorrow that will see a second player pushed out of the house. At least, that’s what the final narration on tonight’s episode would indicate.

Jee made a potentially fatal series of moves tonight, but they might all be forgiven by this secondary elimination. The final three will most likely be decided tomorrow night. Can’t wait. =)

New releases, 26 August 2003

DVD Journal has the complete release schedule for today. I’ll just be concentrating on the few that I have something snark to say about. =)

Chasing Papi (2003)

Chased him right to the rental shelves. Bombed, despite Jaci Valesquez, who has a great singing voice. Can’t vouch for her acting, though.

Cher: The Farewell Tour (2003)

We only wish she’d say farewell already. She’s like Wynonna Judd. She’s said good-bye so many times that nobody believes her. This good-bye just had a bigger budget.

From Justin to Kelly (2003)

Speaking of being chased to the rental shelves… They’d have to sell millions of copies of this bad boy to make up for the embarrassing display on movie theaters. If only they’d package it at a discount rate with CROSSROADS and GLITTER, I might pick it up for a weekend’s worth of bad movies.

John Denver and the Muppets: Rocky Mountain Holiday

John Denver and The Muppets go together like peanut butter and jelly. Like a horse and carriage. Like Bonnie and Clyde.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (widescreen) (2-disc set) (2002)

If you absolutely can’t wait, here it is. If you buy the pan-and-scan of this movie, though, you’re missing out twice over. The extended (extra half hour) cut of the movie is due out in theaters in October or November. I’ll wait for that, thanks. Plus, it’ll have a DTS soundtrack.

MTV Power Yoga
It’s bad enough that they don’t show videos anymore, but they have an exercise program now, too? Who knew?

The Simpsons: Season Three (4-disc set) (1989)

Prime Simpsons material here, folks. Third and fourth seasons are golden.

Stitch! The Movie

Unnecessary Disney direct-to-video movies continue to be made because they sell. So who’s to blame for this movie? You all are for buying them. Shame on you. ;-)