Memorial Weekend Follies

The postings may continue to be a bit infrequent over the next couple of weeks. I am now in the midst of finishing up a lengthy research project for a graduate class I am taking and simultaneously trying to close the school year out with my students, all while moving into a new apartment. Also, by the way, my parents will be making their first visit to New England this weekend, during the move, as luck would have it. Thus the weekend is jam packed already and I will be swamped nearly every minute of it. Although, one of the advantages of my parents coming into town is that it provides a great excuse to dine at swanky Bostonian seafood restaurants, to show off the local cuisine to my fish-loving father.

In future, I may reveal more of my research, which is focused on writing and style. Even though it borders on the extremely obscure, it is fascinating and really transformative stuff. Thus, here’s to everyone having a great holiday weekend

Let’s just continue to hope for a reprieve from the rain that has been washing away most of Massachusetts. We’ve been under so much water lately, I have begun feeling like Noah!

Finally, the Review of Dance 360

In the past I have had a couple of requests for some reviews, particularly mentioning a television show that is so bad it’s almost good, called Dance 360. What I can say with absolute certainty is that American Bandstand it is not. It is not even a poor substitute for Soul Train. For those of you that have never had the misfortune of catching this UHF castoff, Dance 360 is a show that claims to be an urban dance competition show, but usually becomes more about acrobatics than dance and more posing than competition. Yet, it can be mysteriously mesmerizing in the way that only awful television can be.

However, for those of a certain age there is enough breakdance nostalgia to hold your attention long enough to get sucked into the swelling nonsense that the show has to offer. I could have sworn the participants on this show have been watching old footage of Turbo and Shabba-Doo form Breakin’, circa 1984. It is all the more amusing when one of the crowd of dancers on the show is an some guy probably in his 40s on the verge of blowing a disk trying to do a “Headspin.”

With three pseudo-hosts that include Kel, a grade C Chris Tucker wannabee, paired up with a desparately wanting to be Tupac, Fredro, both working the crowd and a mic, and K-Sly, a rather attractive Asian female DJ. If it wasn’t for her the other two goofs would be even harder to take. However, the cameramen seem to always find a way to get her some screen time, despite the fact that K-Sly is stuck behind a digital turntable fronted with an array of shiny street-slick hubcaps. The two goofs mix with the “Party People” looking to find contestants for a dance-off that takes place in the 3-6-0, which is a giant circle on the floor that is essentially a manhole cover decal. You can tell right away that this show is street. If there were any doubt the contestants usually throw out some stupid street name when asked, with the occasional zip or area code, because they gotta represent, you know! Yeah!

After they shuffle about six “dancers” to the fore, we get the rules which generally include one dancer going “head-to-head” with another before they “tag [their] man.” If you haven’t guessed there is a lot of call and response. Aight! Check it out, after some of these dance battles the rest of the studio audience votes on them. What is truly amazing is that show fills a half hour. The wheel that K-Sly seems to be spinning sounds suspiciously like the same synth-pop, with some digital scratching, the whole time. The dancing, if you can call it that, has little to do with rhythm or the music. You see attitude rules in the 3-6-Ohhhh. As I mentioned, the moves become ridiculously repetitive and there is always at least one female that has to work in a serious rump shake before getting off the manhole cover. After all the yelling and yea, yea, yeas are done, the winner is poised to receive, guess what, $360 and some additional prizes, an Xbox and whatever else they could scrounge up from other sponsors. All that for essentially making yourself look like an ass for even being seen on the show.

Nevertheless, it is a lot like watching a car wreck. You’ll find yourself flipping through the channels and suddenly someone doing “The Worm” arrests attention long enough to suck you into the vortex. Before you know it, you are transfixed by the sheer badness of the whole thing that you can’t flip the channel. In fact, Ali and I have had the opportunity of getting sucked into a special kids show that was hysterically horrible. Check your local listings and share a little of the pain.

This one’s for you Dave. You know who you are.

Back in Northern Illinois for Festivities

Photo: NIU Convocation Center

Well, I jetted back to Chicago again this weekend to witness my younger brother’s graduation from Northern Illinois University. Sixty plus miles west of the city lies Husky country. So, my family and I headed for the university yesterday morning for the commencement.

Photo: NIU Convocation Center Interior

Ten years ago, nearly to the day, I too hooked up the gown and donned the cap for the family to sit in what can be described as proud boredom. David’s affair was a considerably bigger affair, held in a multipurpose arena with a full band and substantial crowd of onlookers. Since we got there early, I was able to document the scene as preparations were being made.

Photo: NIU Band

Fortunately, as with many large universities, the ceremonies are provisioned by school. So, David’s school of business filed into the NIU’s Convocation Center, at just around a 1000 strong ready to receive their parchment. In spite of a fair amount of pomp and circumstance, the remarks were kept relatively short. The powers that be spent most of the time on reading names, which considering the number of graduate students, in addition to all the undergrads, proved a real blessing for all those in attendance. I mean it is nice to see that the officials recognize that everyone is sitting there finding various ways to kill time, poised for about a ten second celebration, when their respective family member or friend has their name spoken over the mic and reaches for the university president’s limp handshake with one hand and the empty pleather with the other. I say empty, because for all the observance of formality, no one actually gets a diploma at these things. After the registrar has vetted your transcript and no one is responsible for trying to make sure a thousand named certificates of graduation make it into the right hands, you can get it in the mail, for a nominal fee.

Photo: Dave Getting His Diploma Photo: Dave Close-up

In the end, only the last candidate gets a truly huge ovation, as the crowd recognizes things are finally over and you can meet up with your grad for the real celebration and close-ups. Of course coordinating all of this in a large arena, means a crescendo of cacophonous cell phone calls. Everyone in the place was on the phone nearly the whole time, giving the whole event a kind of post-modern absurdity of truly comic value. Nevertheless, everyone was excited to see their capped one and congratulate them.

So, here’s to you Davey!

Photo: Dave with Mom and Dad

New Digs, New Gig

It has been a busy couple of weeks. From nearly the moment I returned from my brief respite in Chicago, Ali and I were on the hunt for new dwellings. Unbelievably, it took all of three days. With thoughts of heading to Cambridge or Somerville, we started eyeballing the paper and looking for a place that would make traveling easier on Ali. Yet, we ended up finding a place practically in the same neighborhood. The place is an old building above some shops with a less than desirable entry, stairwell, and hall; however, when you walk in the unit, it has great character. With a full kitchen, 12×14 main room, and 10×14 bedroom, it may not seem like a whole lot, but the fifteen foot ceilings give it a great spacious feel. Hopefully we’ll be able to get most of our stuff in there.

On another front, I was able to secure employment for the coming fall. I am headed to the next town over, moving up the academic ladder a bit, to the high flying Belmont High School. It all happened so fast, it is hard to believe. Nevertheless it is very exciting. It completely removes a huge amount of concern to have locked in someplace so early. Quite a relief, actually. It certainly has bittersweet qualities, considering I will sorely miss my current comrades in arms. In many ways, I wish I could have stayed on in Waltham, but there wasn’t any room for me this year. That being said, it is great to be wanted and I am definitely looking forward to the new year. In fact, I was stunned to discover this week that the school came in 156 in the recent Newsweek high school rankings, the third highest ranking for a Massachusetts school. For whatever those things are worth, it does kind of sweeten the deal a little.