Mousepacks

That was the original title (which I prefer) of the screenplay for the 1979 movie “Over the Edge,” which introduced Matt Dillion to the world. Literally. He was 14 and had never acted before. He was discovered in the hallways of his school. They liked him because he was a kid from a well-off family playing at being a punk. As Matt put it himself when asked what his parents did: My father’s a fucking stockbroker and my mom don’t do shit. He turned out to be just what the wanted for the trouble maker, Richie. That must be why I always seem to think of guys named Richie as tough guys and trouble makers and bullies and such. Except for Richie Valenz and Richie Rich of course.

over-the-edge-posters

Anyhoo… I like to think of this  movie as one of the first, if not the first of the 80s teen angst movies. The tone and feel is very different from the kind of movies that John Hughes would eventually make but “Over the Edge” was much more punk than Hughes’ movies, which I love, and which are rebellious in their own way but the feel of them is definitely mid-80s. The late 70s had a different vibe.

Hadn’t really thought about this movie since I pushed to have it ordered for the library where I work when it was finally released on DVD (2005). But I got an email from my friend Mike from undergrad who watched it recently. It is one of his favorite teen movies, and with good reason. Mike also hipped me to this article, an oral history of the movie that includes commentary from 20 members of the cast an crew, including Matt Dillion.

Also, you can watch it on line at youtube, broken down into a 10 or so of about 7 to 8 minutes.

First time I saw this movie, I was well into my 20s; I caught in IFC, I think. I was hooked immediately and couldn’t believe I’d never heard of it before. It had a limited release and didn’t run long in theaters. It was pulled in some places for fear of riots apparently.

Ironic fact: it was filmed mainly in Greely, Colorado, less than an hour from where the Columbine shootings would happen some 20 years later.

Basis for the story was a news article in the San Francisco Examiner about a packs of kids running wild in Foster City, California, a planned community.  The article dubbed them Mousepacks. Wouldn’t that be a good name for a band. It would spotlight the really hip people who got the very obscure reference.

The next year, 1980, “Foxes,” a similiar kind of movie, featuring a young Jody Foster and directed by Adrian Lyne, was released. It also had Scott Baio and Cherie Currie, the lead singer from The Runaways, Joan Jett’s first band, the story of which is being made into a feature film, staring Kristin Stewart as Joan Jett. Looking fwd to that one.

Anyway. My point is. Thus the 80s teen agnst movies were born.

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Not the signature, the novel by Dan Chaon, which I have been very eager to read.

Well, my hold finally came up on the one copy we have at library last week and I’ve been deeply immersed every since. I even put down DFW’s “Broom of the System” to take up Chaon’s novel. So he should be very grateful, like free autographed-copy grateful.

I blogged about this novel previously, in a post concerning this notion of people walking away from their lives. In part, Chaon’s novel explores this ….issue(?), which was partly why I’ve been so geeked to read it. The other part is that I’ve been a fan of Chaon’s work for some years now, ever since I discovered his first book, a short story collection entitled “Fitting Ends.”

Since in reply to my post, Mr. Chaon  himself confirmed, to  my surprise and delight, that he in fact does think of himself as a GenX writer, that is how I’m thinking about it. Although, truth be told, I probably would have even had he not considered himself a GenX writer. I mean, unless he threatened to beat me up after school or something.

Anyhoo… All the major characters in this story walk away from their lives, for one reason or another, which was intriguing enough for me, but by part two you realize that what this is leading to is a novel about identity theft, which would not have surprised me had a read the blurb on the back by Jonathan Franzen. Duh. But really, who reads blurbs. Okay. I admit it. I do.

In any case, I don’t think I’ve ever read a serious novel about identity theft. It’s a fascinating subject, and lends a kind of thriller quality to this novel, though at heart it a literary human drama.

The narrative drive is pitch perfect. And the level of invention is superb. Though it is a cliche, it is a page turner, because you’re so eager to find out what happens next, and not just in a plot point way, aka who done it, but in a character development way, aka why characters do what the do.

Not to go on too long (because that is so not like me [yeah whatever]), but an example of Chaon’s invention prowess is the part I am currently at. The character Lucy, a misfit orphaned teenager who has run away with her 32 year old Yale-educated high school History teacher, George. To of all places Nebraska and an old hotel and house that George has inherited.

What struck me first about the hotel/house, was that it made me think of the movie “Psycho.” But what ended up being even more interesting was that it was located next to what was once a vast reservoir, which long since been drained by farmers. The reservoir was originally created by flooding a kind of valley that once contained a small town. Now the town is re-exposed but of course as a kind of ghost town, a drowned ghost town of sorts. The idea, the image, is both eerie and miraculous. Love it! And there is still plenty more to read.

Funny. I don’t feel middle-aged.

JenX67 hipped me to another cool GenX article. Is it just me or do these pieces seem to be on the rise. I wouldn’t be a GenXer if I didn’t think that that was not entirely a good thing.

This quote from the article by Howe, particular struck me.

“Xers got noticed with a lot of talk about slackers and dysfunction and basically this image of an under-socialized, somewhat wild generation of hardened kids who took pride in their resilience, their individualism, their cynicism [and being] very much outside the system,” he says. “They didn’t vote, they didn’t take part in community affairs, they dressed dark.”

Because, though I’ve always voted, I’ve never really relished being “involved.”  When I did it was reluctantly. I didn’t want to cover the 1988 Presidential Election between Bush and Dukakias. I had to for my community college newspaper class.  And I didn’t take full advantage of the opportunity. I could have been a stringer for local papers on election night. I could have taken the initiative to write more articles beyond what I was assigned, even just a first person young journalist’s experience deal. But I didn’t. In fact, I pretty much purposely avoided making this work for me. I wanted to be a fiction writer,  not that being a journalist would have prevented that necessarily, in fact it probably would have helped it. But that would have required getting involved in some overt way. Of course, now I regret not pursuing such advantages, most days anyway.  Some days, though, I really don’t give a shit, and actually wished that I’d never gotten as involved as I have at times in politics and community issues, which isn’t all that much. It’s just an exercise in futility if you ask me.

As I commented on JenX67’s blog, often my fav part of these kinds of articles is the snarky back and forth in the comments section. For example:

Tossed Salad,  Monday, Sep 28, 2009

Aww. Feeling a little long in the tooth are we. The most pretentious, narcissistic group ever. The “me” generation. Well welcome to the world of failing eyesight and colostomy bags. Couldn’t happen to a nicer group. Schadenfreude. Oh and Farrah Fawcett was not a Gen X icon

Clearly a pissy Boomer that resents not being the young hip generation anymore. GenX may have turned 40 fuck-o but we’re cooler about it then the boomers ever could be. You all try to hard. You still are. You can claim that 60 is the new 40 or whatever ,but the fact is the Woodstock aniversary was pathetic. And btw, Farrah Fawcett was a GenX icon. She may not have been one herself but she was a major pop culture icon for GenXers, and NOT Boomers.

This GenXer give TS what for:

JETSOLVER,  Monday, Sep 28, 2009

Tossed Salad; There is little funnier than a Boomer telling us that they gave us everything that we have in life, and then asking us to give it all back. The Boomers still can’t accept the laws of evolution, and its starting to get old…

Of course, even GenX  has it’s knuckle heads. Such as this person:

Denis Pakkala,  Monday, Sep 28, 2009

What a ridiculous article, comparing Tony Hawk to a typical GenXer. Must have been written by another old fool, who doesn’t understand why today’s young people don’t have any resect for their elders. GenXer’s are waiting for the Boomers to move over and let us clean up the mess that you’ve made.

Tony Hawke is the epitomey of GenX. How you cannot see that is….baffling.

This person can just bite me, because GenJone is bullshit:

Mary5000,  Monday, Sep 28, 2009

But this article leaves out a whole generation–Generation Jones (born 1954-1965, between the Boomers and GenXers). Further, 1961 is certainly not the usual year used to start GenX…most real experts start GenX in the mid-1960s. The Associated Press’ Annual Trend Report chose The Rise of Generation Jones as its top trend of 2009, and many top media outlets now regularly use the GenJones term.

GenJones is cleary a device created by Boomer to further deflate GenX’s numbers, as if we weren’t small enough as it is.

This commenter I thin captures the essence of the current GenX ethos:

Conrad White,  Monday, Sep 28, 2009

I’m a GenXer and wish some of those fat contented Boomers would get out of my way. Large companies, law firms, banks, accounting firms are all run by Boomers who have enjoyed sr. mgmt positions and hi comp for an extraordinarily long time. Big houses in great neighbourhoods, kids in private schools, vacation properties and 7-figure RRSPs. Sweet. I am weary of following Boomers. What other generation would have seen the need to invent Viagra?

You know, people are always dismissing generational studies and yet emotion run high and opinions are strong in regards to it. So suck on that!

Chuck Moss – hypocrit extraordinaire

After posting about Chuck Moss, the jerk that represents my district, I immediately had poster’s regret. Not because I regret what I wrote. I do not. But because I’d rather focus my attention on other things than politics, like books and movies and my family and watching paint dry. But sometimes I just can’t help myself.

This morning my guilt was assuaged and my ire re-inflamed when I discovered this blog post by Tim Skubick, a journalist who has been covering Michigan politics for a long time.

In it Moss exposes himself as the jackass hypocrite that he is. He expounds upon how we like any family (his words not mine; I do not now nor have ever, nor would I never consider this guy family) we must all tighten our belts. Seems reasonable considering economic circumstances, especially here in Michigan. Except Mr. Moss doesn’t seem to think that this virtue applies to himself. Unlike some of his colleagues in Lansing he wasn’t going to cut his own salary until he was forced to when Skubick called him out on it on the PBS show about Michigan politics Off the Record. To cover his skeezy ass he wrote a lousy $2,000.00 check after the show. BFD. The dude makes like $72,000 for crying out loud. And he was lawyer before that and no doubt was not hurting for money when he got elected.  No wonder some people want to do away with government all together.

And then today, on Michigan radio, in a report covering state politics and the budget negotiations, Moss-mouth self-righteously proclaims that “It is about time that Lansing started living within it’s means.” Except for him and probably a lot of  his ilk up there in the state capital.

Of course, what this really means is that citizens all across this state will suffer because not only will school budgets be cut — AGAIN! — but also prisons and libraries. What does that mean exactly — cutting prisons? Less guards? Releasing prisoners? What? As for libraries, I realize that some people are ambivalent about them while others feel that libraries could disappear and no one would notice. Well, that simply isn’t true. Many, many people would not only notice the absence of the library they would be quite upset if not outraged by the loss. Historically speaking,  during economic downturns library usage goes up, for any number of reasons, the main one being that libraries are a free form of entertainment, which helps when people are watching their money.

The point here is not that cuts aren’t needed. Obviously, they are. But rather it is the hypocrisy of someone like Moss who expects everyone else in the family to tighten their belt while he is unwilling to do the same (until forced to anyway) and in fact will probably even need to let out his belt from the  bloat of self-righteous pride filling his gut.

Today Jack Lessenberry, columnist for the Metro Times and political analyst for Michiganradio has a commentary about what is going on in Lansing right now. A strong  well-articulated argument and simply good information and advice for the likes of Mr. Moss but one doubts very much that he or his political croneies upstate will listen to Jack, never mind  a regular schmo citizen such as myself, or anyone else for that matter.

Every time this happens and I flap about it to my poor, patient wife she says pretty much the same thing. “It’s time to get out!”  Even if I wanted to, I could not disagree.

add to the list of reasons to leave Michigan

Chuck Moss, Michigan State Rep for District 40,  which of course is my district.

I voted for this yahoo in the last election(2008), even though at the time it seemed like a good idea to chuck every Republican out of office. Of course, as we’ve learned allowing one party to have too much power is a recipe for disaster. Anyway, the dude seemed reasonable enough, I mean for a politician and a lawyer. I know, what was I thinking?

Anyhoo… I might have continued to hold such a view if I hadn’t made the  mistake of sending him an email expressing my discontent over the matter of school budget cuts. It wasn’t my idea, but at the request of the PTA.  These cuts will come after funds from the state had already been set. And this isn’t the first time that Lansing has done this to our schools.

Anyway the response I got was typical political malarkey. Check it:

Dear Chris,

Thanks for writing me about the School Aid Fund budget.  This budget is a Bi-partisan, Democratic/Republican effort to balance the budget.  House Speaker Andy Dillon and Majority Leader Mike Bishop joined hands to get a budget done and avoid a shutdown.  I don’t like all the cuts either, especially to education, but with our revenues down 22% and unemployment at 15%, we face hard choices.

Actually, the budget as adopted decreases the per-pupil state aid by $218, but allows local districts the flexibility to absorb the cuts by reducing or eliminating any other funded (categorical) program except a handful like Durant, special education, school lunch.  In other words, the schools can use the “categorical” money for their own educational priorities, something that school groups specifically asked for.

Once again, no one wants to make any cuts to schools, but when our income goes down so drastically, we have to do what every family does and tighten our belts and live within our means.

Chuck Moss

Of course I get the obligatory thanks for writing which is immediately followed by Chuckie touting the Bi-partisian efforts, as if this is some great accomplishment, when it should be the norm. I love the “joined hands” phrase, as if to conjure images of too best buddies frolicking in a meadow. Then of course I get hit with numbers to set me up for the justification for the cuts, which comes with the rhetorical device of  beginning with “Actually….” an attempt to strike a pose that suggest this is really not as bad as it sounds, and in fact you should be thankful it is not worse. But I don’t think anyone would be thankful for $218 per pupil cut, especially after the district was already counting on this money. Because these dipshits up in the state capitol cannot get their act together in time we, the citizens, have to suffer. Furthermore, Mr. Moss sees no problem in cutting things like special education and school lunches, because the unfortunate children with disabilities aren’t really worth education anyway and there’s no need to provide a hot lunch option to our children.  They should suck it up and brown bag it like he did, it’ll build character.

I found it curious that he does not like all the cuts but he does not explicitly express his dislike for the cuts to schools. This made me wonder, since Mr. Moss lives in Birmingham and has two daughters, do his children attend the public schools. Turns out they do not, although they did. They’re grown now and —  wait for it — that’s right living out of state.  Lucky for them, eh. They got their education, from the same school that my daughter now attends. And then what? Bolted the state, which I can hardly blame them for. After all, we plan to do the same, although in mine and my wife’s defense we paid for our state-school educations here in Michigan and have worked and paid taxes in the state for more than a reasonable amount of time. But I digress, as I am prone to do. The point is, Mr. Moss really has no vested interest in the schools. But I can’t help but wonder what cuts are not being made. Not to mention will this budget include reasonable tax increases to balance the cuts.

In another email, I called Mr. Moss out on this point and he seemed to feel that his daughters having once attended B’ham school gave him some kind of credibility on the matter. Talk about political gobbledygook, a term that Mr. Moss took offense to. He’d have preferred that I call his position bullshit! Why are so many Republicans potty mouths? Or trying to pick up other men in potties. Oooh! That was just so wrong.

Another bit of political gobbledygook that I called Mr. Moss out on was his attempt to endear himself and deflect constituent ire but referring to  us all as a family. He denied this was what he was trying to do, claiming that is the gov’s rhetoric. The gov happens to be a Democrat and so often used by Repubs such as Mr Moss as a scapegoat or someone to pass the buck to. Criticism of the Gov are not wholly undeserved. Of course, that doesn’t make them useful or productive. It is just petty sniping and a waste of time, which is why the solution to the budget crisis here in Michigan has become so dire. Anyway, to further counter Mr. Moss backpedaling, I found this video clips of him using that very same phrase.

Also worth nothing in this video is his mumbling dismissal of cuts that would effect children and seniors at approximately 1:39.

And then at approximately 2:49 he takes a partisan dig at Dems, saying that the stimulus money from Obama is like oil money, and suggesting that the state should not be taking it. Because it is more important to cut school budgets than to accept funds from a President that isn’t of your party.

But is this a good reason to leave the state? No, not alone. But considering it along with other factors, it makes the move easier to justify, not that justication is required.

new volumes for my GenX library

I’m always on the lookout for books about GenX and by GenXers. Thank  to JenX67 I’ve got two more to read, review and add my collection.

The first is a novel entitled “It Feels So Good When I Stop,” by Joe Pernice, who is also a musician, and apparently a big deal indie rocker song writer. Perhaps it is a GenX sin of sorts to not be up on my Indie rock, but I admit that I am not and never have been. In any case, based on this review in the LA Times I’m looking forward to reading this novel, and hopefully will find the time in my “busy” slackery schedule (that ass groove aint gonna make it self) to perhaps tap out a few mindless ramblings on it here because I know there are hordes of you out there that absolutely can’t proceed with your existence until you know what I think about whatever it is I happen to be blathering about at any given moment. We’ll see (the phrase I most utter to my daughter these days,  and to which she hs begun to roll her eyes — sarcasm at  almost 9, ugh!)

The second is a collection of poetry entitled, “Acutal Air,” by David Berman, another musician (Silver Jews; again I plead ignorance). Berman and his collection were referenced in the above mentioned/linked review of Pernice’s novel. Apparently the two got their MFA’s together. Anyway, I was pretty geeked to learn of this collection since I’m not really that hip to GenX poetry. I”ve got my own collection of poetry but not specifically GenX. Not saying it doesn’t exist. It no doubt does, in abundance for all I know. I’m just not that adept at sniffing it out.

PPF (Pointless Point of Fact): Both of these guys are 42, precisely my age, which is distressing in a way since my novel is still in progress and I fear will languish their until the end of days.

millennials in the classroom…

…as teachers, not as students.

Just returned from curriculum night for my daughter’s third grade class and her teacher is 25, 26 tops. I wasn’t entirely surprised, because I’d heard she was young, but still… Made me feel more than a little old, which I guess I sort of am.

What really stunned me is the amount of technology that my daughter will be utilizing this year. We’re talking a class Wiki, PowerPoint, flashdrives, email, blogging, something called Moodle that allows students to work online, flip vid cams and digital cams, etc. Blew my mind. By the time my daughter’s done with third grade she’ll be more tech savvy then I am, which isn’t saying much, but still…for her age. At one point I commented on how, when i was in school, I thought it was a big deal that we had Texas Instrument red LED calculators.

HP-35-Calculator

Talk about hi-tech, eh.

Of course, it’s necessary. Kids have to be able to do all this stuff and be able to adapt to new technology as it comes up. And a Millennial generation teacher is perfect to teach that stuff. Just to reinforce how much of a Millennial this teacher is — she said to contact her email, because she never checks her voicemail, hasn’t in years. Voicemail is so Boomer, because they’re so chat chat chatty.

Addy will need to improve her typing skills, though. At some point that hunt peck mode ain’t gonna cut it.

Very pleased, with the teacher and the curriculum. Gonna be a great year, I think.