Sunday, October 17, 2010

When in Rome (2010)

Kristen Bell, the star of the TV show Veronica Mars (which I love), is the main character in this movie. Unfortunately, it's pretty stupid. If I ignore the story, there are some amusing characters and funny lines, but it's hard to ignore the story. Oh, well. Watched it streaming on Netflix.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

College Without High School: A Teenager's Guide to Skipping High School and Going to College by Blake Boles

We home school our kids. There was a year or so when we sent the three oldest boys to a private school for a few hours a week and this year, Zed is enrolled in a few classes at the high school (choir; driver's ed; seminary, which doesn't count as public school in my opinion; and band, which he is kind of auditing). But they are basically home schooled. I plan to send them to college as home schooled kids, with a few extra classes from the high school under their belts. I've skimmed a couple of books on home schooling teenagers but hadn't found anything particularly inspiring until this book, which is fantastic. I loved it!

Except for a brief introduction intended for parents, Boles addresses teenagers directly and assumes they're interested in making their own decisions and following their dreams. In fact, while the information in the book is helpful to those who are already home schooled, he's openly trying to persuade high school kids to leave school and forge their own college prep paths. It's inspiring stuff, even to a 40-year-old mom whose days of formal education are mostly behind her. (Am I really 40? That just seems crazy.)

Boles attended Berkley and made it halfway through an astrophysics degree before discovering the alternative education stuff that later became his self-designed major. His book suggests lots of ways teenagers can explore their passions while at the same time preparing to go to college. There's practical information about applying to college without high school transcripts (most private colleges don't require a high school diploma and have information specific to home schooled students on their websites) and inspiring stuff about how to have adventures and turn those adventures into application fodder. He uses real-life examples of unschooled students who've done exciting things instead of going to high school and gotten into Ivy-league universities like Princeton.

My kids will definitely be reading this when they're 13 or 14. I'd like them to read it and then create their own plan for their pre-college years. As my kids get older, I'm feeling the pressure to get them ready for college. (So far they all say they want to go to college.) Our home schooling style has been different from almost everyone I've met and read about, so it has been somewhat experimental up until now—will the kids do well on standardized tests? will they be able to write well? will they learn math? will they learn to manage their time effectively? or will they end up in our basement playing video games and unable to hold a job? We're just beginning to get some of those questions answered. For example, Zed did well at Startalk this summer, and we had him take the PSAT just this morning. We'll see how he does. In the meantime, I'll have him finish this book and then I'll make Jacob read it.

Next on my To Be Read list: The Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn. And I'll read it during down time at work (I accompany the high school choirs) to be a little bit subversive. :)

Believing Christ: The Parable of the Bicycle and other Good News by Stephen E. Robinson

This is kind of a famous book in the Mormon community--probably everyone has heard the parable of the bicycle--but I don't read a lot of LDS books, so I hadn't read it until now. Its reputation is well-deserved--it's excellent. Carefully and clearly written, with plenty of scriptural support and some good stories, It's not difficult reading at all, but profound concepts are well-explained. I'm adding it to my Required Reading list (which only exists in my head, but maybe I'll write it down someday).

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Veronica Mars (2004–2007)

I loved, loved, loved this TV show. The best thing about it is the character of Veronica. I think she's 17 in the beginning episodes of the show (maybe even 16), and she's one of the smartest TV characters I've ever seen. She's not just private eye smart (she's the daughter of the local P.I./former sheriff and does her own sleuthing on the side); she's also relationship smart. And when was the last time you saw a TV show character who wasn't a total idiot about relationships? I finally stopped watching Grey's Anatomy because I couldn't stand the retardation of pretty much every character. (oops! I accidentally slept with so-and-so! i must do everything possible to keep what's-her-name from finding out! that is the best thing for our relationship!) There's a reason I don't watch daytime soaps. (And mostly that reason is that the plots proceed at a snail's pace, but also, it's the stupid relationship stuff.)

I'm not saying that Veronica never makes a mistake or does something stupid, but when she does, she takes steps to correct it. She's honest and seems to actually have some principles. I know Buffy is another strong, smart, young female lead, but Veronica is even better: she battles the bad guys (and they're just regular, non-supernatural bad guys, which is nice), she does well in school, she helps out the unpopular kids, she gets along with her dad (of course, her dad is another excellent character). She's not perfect, but she's a great person.

The story is good, too. The first season has one overarching mystery throughout, with one-episode P.I. jobs along the way. The second and third seasons have shorter, multiple-episode mysteries. There's good writing and decent acting. I fully intend to make Jon watch it with me someday.

The disclaimer: As the parent of teenagers and a former naive teenager myself (at least to some degree), I didn't like all the drinking and drugs and mean people and sex in the show, but I know from other, more experienced people that it all really happens, at least for some kids. Just thought I'd warn anyone who's interested: there is plenty of bad stuff.

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole (2010)

There is no way I'm going to remember the title of this. I'm just calling it the Owl movie. Anyway, I wasn't excited to see this, but it was the choice of my three youngest. Turned out to be in 3D, so it was our first 3D movie in a theater! I'm actually kind of impressed with the 3D stuff, although it's a pain to wear the 3D glasses over my regular glasses.

So, it's a nice-looking movie and the story's okay, though there are elements of other famous movies therein, like the mentor's voice telling the main character to "use his gizzard" (I'm not kidding) in pretty much exactly the same way Obi Wan tells Luke to use the force. And at least once, flying owls looked and sounded like those famous battle ships from Star Wars. But for a kid movie that features owls, it was pretty good. Also, the owls looked very much like owls, with several different species represented, in spite of their human expressions. I'm considering having the kids look up different owl species as a follow-up school assignment.

I'd also like to acknowledge that there was a song by Owl City featured. Get it? Ha ha! Owl City! Singing in a movie about owls! Maybe it was irresistible. To the movie's credit, though, there was a pretty cool scene that featured The Host of Seraphim by Dead Can Dance. Okay, so there are lots of movies with Lisa Gerrard's incredible vocals these days, but that doesn't mean I want it to stop. (The video I linked to is kind of hokey--and not by Dead Can Dance--but you don't have to watch; just listen.)

Oh, and the closing credits were quite beautiful.

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Yes, I watched the TV show The Incredible Hulk when I was a kid, and I liked it. I didn't have high hopes for the movie, but I was still kinda disappointed. It was great seeing Lou Ferrigno in a cameo, and there was one scene where Bruce Banner is sitting by a tree while the original, melancholy theme song played, which I enjoyed. But seriously, how are we supposed to empathize with a giant, computer-generated Hulk? No thanks. Lou Ferrigno in his green paint and weird contacts was sympathetic, but a big cartoon is not. Edward Norton is a pretty good actor, though. And it was fun to see the Lie to Me guy, Tim Roth, as the bad guy, although his super muscular torso in one scene was obviously make-up.