30 September 2010

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Recommended Reading for After-school Tutors

The seed for this Top 5 List was actually planted last year, when I started working as a tutor. It took a few weeks of dealing with spoiled children and their parents--who seemed to think a) that tutors should work for free, and b) that tutors can solve every academic problem their children have--for me to start wondering whether today's after-school tutors are that far removed from their Regency and Victorian era predecessors.

So far, the only conclusions I've reached are romantic and literary. The social scientists of the world have yet to weigh in. In the meantime, at least I finally have that Top 5 List I wanted to make.

My Top 5 Governess Novels

1) Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Believe it or not, I almost went with Anne Bronte's Agnes Grey, which has much more "governessing" going on, along with the now-famous revolutionary theme that a governesses are human beings with their own emotions, dreams, joys, and tragedies. Moreover, it boasts a heroine defined almost entirely by her profession: Agnes is, more than Jane, a representative of all nineteenth-century governesses. (See my Reading Diary entry!)

But therein lies the rub--or as Mr. Rochester might say, the hitch: for the point the first Governess Novels were trying to make was that these almost-invisible, under-appreciated young women were something more than just their jobs. And no one makes that point so well as the character of Jane Eyre, who is never just a governess, representative or otherwise. Indeed, throughout her whole story, she is always something more than what everyone else thinks she must feel content to be.

Jane Eyre has turned out to be such a beloved, respected classic that we might have trouble grasping how controversial it must have originally been. But it truly was revolutionary to have a governess--someone of a class meant to be seen and not heard--defy her employer with the words, "Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain and little, that I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong!--I have as much soul as you,--and full as much heart!"

29 September 2010

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A Word, a Question, a Poem and a Deadline Walk into a Blog



letter W metal type ampersand letter Q
number 4
Thanks to Crosses and Cradles
for being our September host!!!


And now you know my dark little secret . . . The real reason I wanted another host and a two-week deadline for submissions was that I was planning to slide in at the very last second.

(Well, not planning, but guessing that I would. And wasn't I right!?!)

Remember that our October host is Salome Ellen. Please e-mail her your words and questions when she puts up the announcement post on the first Wednesday of October. (Dylan, I can forward her what you sent me, if you like. =))

28 September 2010

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Team Taylor Mashing It Up!

My original plan was to post a Taylor Swift/Trisha Yearwood face-off (Love Story vs. She's in Love with the Boy--figure it out for yourselves) . . . but then I remembered that there are better things to do with music. Didn't I learn anything from that utterly successful "Weird Al" Yankovic Song Smackdown??? And I don't just mean parodies . . . I also mean mash-ups.


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Yes, that's right: Taylor's Fearless ("You take my hand and drag me headfirst/ Fearless . . .") and Britney's Sometimes ("Sometimes I run/ Sometimes I hide/ Sometimes I'm scared of you . . .") turned into a single song.

And my inner teenager says it must be good because my mother heard me playing it and said, "I don't know where I went wrong with you. Your father is one of the most respected musicians in the country, and there you are listening to 'Weird Al' and chopping up other people's perfectly good songs."

27 September 2010

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Twelve Things about Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

12. Before you ask, no, I haven't read the book . . . and no, I probably won't. =P

11. And I should say that I didn't see the sex scene, either. The cable movie channel cut out most of it, and I didn't even know that Nick and Norah did anything beyond kiss--until I stumbled upon a lively online discussion about how "sweet" that scene was.

Well, colour me skeptical. For I didn't miss it at all, think that the story stood up without it, and was kind of disappointed to learn what really happens in both the movie and the book.

10. One thing my expurgated version reminded me was that it's really romantic when the person you love likes the same music you do. Then "your song" isn't merely a lucky intersection of your likes, his likes, and some good timing; it's the most meaningful track in your entire shared playlist.
+JMJ+

"M" is for Monday/Mail/Memo
(And "L" and "S" are for linked up late at The Story Siren)

Well, it's Monday, the day when--for alliterative reasons--I like to report that I've received books in the mail. On this particular Monday, I'm also pondering the unexpected, but perfectly welcome turn of events at my city's central post office.

You might remember what happened early last year, when a friend sent me her copies of the first twelve books of J.D. Robb's In Death series. Customs charges the declared value of each book plus the cost of shipping--so despite the fact that my friend sent used books that were given as a gift, I still had to pay for them. And given the US dollar-Philippine peso exchange rate, by the time the post office was done shaking me down, I was broke, angry, and borderline libertarian.

So I wrote an article that got me over 600 hits on my old, dead blog, about fifty sympathetic e-mail messages, and (or so I dare to think) some results. For since that day, I haven't had to pay anything except the "storage" fee. (Which is still a bit of a joke. I'd understand a delivery fee if they brought something to my door, but not a storage fee because they held something until I could come and get it.)

Anyway, it might just be a coincidence (especially since the really unattractive mail lady with the mealy mouth was transferred elsewhere a few months ago), but the imaginative part of my mind likes thinking that maybe my article (and my fierce-ass meltdown!) made someone write a memo.

Anyway, here's my latest haul. As usual, I'm sorry for the poor quality of the photographs . . .

25 September 2010

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Locus Focus: Take Twenty!!!




When I started planning this meme, I mentioned that even if no one else ever joined, I'd be happy to do it all by myself. And that really was almost the case until my Fairy Blog Mother decided I should have some company. So she waved her magic wand and sent the lovely Birdie my way. She seems to enjoy Locus Focus as much as I do, and I'm very grateful to have her as a blog friend! =)

But really, I'm grateful for everyone who drops by my party once in a while, and that is why I am celebrating twenty weeks of Locus Focus with . . . a Giveaway! =D

I've put it all the details of this new giveaway after our last School Setting for September, which I hope you'll also care to read about . . . =P

24 September 2010

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Friday Is for . . . Face Offs!


Enjoy another unusual face-off
--"Cinderella vs. Cinderella"--
and other posts about the fairy tales we love!


My original plan was to pit one of these stories (Guess which one!) against The Emperor's New Clothes . . . but that didn't really work out. And I'm glad of that now because that meant I got to do two stories I loved as a child and then learned to love again when I got to tell them to my little brothers. They have more in common than the elements I include below . . .

23 September 2010

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Reading Diary: Fallen by Lauren Kate


"You're an angel . . . I know it . . . Don't tell me I'm crazy. I have dreams about you, dreams that are too real to forget, dreams that made me love you before you ever said one nice thing to me . . . Dreams where you have wings and you hold me high up in a sky I don't recognise, and yet I know I've been there, just like that, in your arms, a thousand times before . . .

"It explains so much--how graceful you are when you move, and the book your ancestor wrote. Why no one came to visit you on Parents' Day. The way your body seems to float when you swim. And why, when you kiss me, I feel like I've gone to Heaven."

Yes, that's right, folks . . . Daniel's kiss makes Luce feel as if she has died and gone to Heaven; ergo, he is an angel.

Talk about taking a bad pick-up line literally! I hate to say this, but even Bella Swan has better evidence when she confronts Edward about his being a vampire.

Ah, the evidence! That's really the best part of these Neo-Gothic novels in which some mythical being, in hot teenage boy form, falls in love with an ordinary mortal girl. (That's all I'm telling you of the plot, by the way.) For really, neither Luce nor Bella really has a leg to stand on . . . in the real world. In their own worlds, however, everything is set up so that they are always, 100% right. And that is both patently unfair and incredibly annoying.

22 September 2010

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Writing Diary, Entry #22

My strategy for writing serious compositions (which do not necessarily include all my blog posts) is to boil everything down to just one word. I do not begin until I have that word. The right word becomes my whole theme, the hub on which all the spokes of my writing are centred.

I first started doing this in uni, because every English Lit paper required two 2,000-word essay assignments and three shorter essays in every exam--and I was enrolled in as many as four papers each trimester. If I wasn't clear about what I wanted to say from the start, then all my thoughts--no matter how brilliant--would be all over the place. And professors don't like student writing that is all over the place; they demand clarity and evidence of control.

A few weeks ago, when my editor asked me to write about "dark angels as a publishing trend," I knew the subject was so new to me that I'd have to have my One Word again. And so I read the books she recommended, did my own research, and believed I had found it. I was wrong.

20 September 2010

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Beyond the Governess Novel

This post is kind of awkward. It was supposed to come after my "Top 5 Governess Novels" post--and if it had, then the title would make sense. But then my Top 5 hit a snag . . . a novel I was sure deserved a place on the list turned out to be a real disappointment when I actually got around to reading it . . . and now I don't know when I'm going to find a replacement. (Maybe I should just spin the book? I mean, it's not so bad; I just had really high expectations before I started reading it.)

And then there are my computer troubles, which make me think I should schedule this post for tomorrow, just to have some content up, because I don't know the next time I'll be free to publish anything.

So here it goes . . .

Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre has more to it than just the governess trope. Here are some other books that regularly came to mind throughout my long, leisurely, lovely reread . . .


3 Books to Read
in the Light of
Jane Eyre

19 September 2010

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Reading Diary: Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

In my mind I switched back and forth between the painting of the angel's scars and Patch's scars. Both scars had healed to the colour of black licorice, both ran from the shoulder blades to the kidneys, and both curved out as they traveled the length of the back. I told myself there was a good chance it was merely a very creepy coincidence that the paintings on the Archangel [roller coaster] depicted Patch's scars perfectly. I told myself a lot of things could cause scars like Patch's. Gang fight, prison scars, skid marks--just like Vee said. Unfortunately, all the excuses felt like lies. Like the truth was staring me in the face but I wasn't brave enough to look back.

What I love most about my latest writing assignment on "dark angels" is that it is bringing me up to date with some of the hottest books in YA today. Angels might be "the new vampires," but left to my own devices, I'd never really know it until the next big publishing trend gives us "the new angels." So now I can consider myself reasonably informed.

And really, that's all I can consider myself, since the books haven't really been very impressive . . . I mean, reading Hush, Hush was like reliving Stephenie Meyer's Twilight--and that is never good. In fact, the similarities are so close that this novel often felt like a Twilight homage.
+JMJ+

Twelve Things about 3 Men and a Baby

12. The opening sequence is great. Half the story is told by the mural being painted in their vestibule. It's almost hieroglyphic.

11. I also like their old-fashioned telephone. I don't think it means anything I can analyse, but I love it.

10. And if this review seems to have mostly inane observations, that is because I found myself thinking that a movie like this is best reviewed by a man.

Yes, I laughed a lot and felt very warm inside whenever little Mary was in a frame . . . but when you have something forthrightly titled 3 Men and a Baby, then you know the real source of the humour is the way three perfectly capable men deal with having their lives turned upside-down by the baby left on their doorstep. And I think that completely unlikely scenario is one best appreciated by another man. So if one of the gentlemen who reads this blog would kindly explain to me the scene in which Ted Danson's character, the father of the baby, puts a pillow under his jumper and checks out the profile he cuts in the mirror . . . I'd be very obliged. (Anyone?)

18 September 2010

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Locus Focus: Take Nineteen!



For someone whose whole life used to be schools, I've been having an unusually hard time finding additional School Settings to fill up my September. I actually feared I'd have to be "Janian" today, feature Thornfield Hall (for the sake of featuring something), and then have to explain why I didn't just write about Lowood Institution. (Really, if you had to choose between Thornfield and Lowood . . . ? . . . See what I mean?)

But then I picked up another book I thought I'd read for that article I was asked to do. And it happened to have a school in it. A really fantastic school. A school worth writing about . . .

Keep reading and judge my great luck for yourselves. ;-)

17 September 2010

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Totally Random Bit of Randomness

Last year, I got to listen to some samples from the audiobook of one of Karen Marie Moning's Highlander Romances. Like all the books in the series, it is narrated by Phil Gigante, a theatre veteran and award-winning voice actor.

I was just musing that he and I have very different storytelling styles and that I wouldn't have made the hero of that novel sound quite like that, but then again, I don't have a man's ears for men's voices . . . when it came the heroine's turn to talk.

And I couldn't believe my ears! I actually sat up straight and asked aloud: "Is that how we sound to men???"

His heroine sounded flouncy . . . almost fluttery. When I had read the novel to myself, I had made her sound a bit firmer in my head. But I don't know if that was just my interpretation of the character or the fact that I have a woman's ears for women's voices.

(Listen to a sample from Beyond the Highland Mist . . . if you dare. Bwahahahahahahahaha! It's not the best excerpt for the point I'm trying to make, but it has the most dialogue of all the available samples. And since it must be said now: let the record show that I think Gigante read all the excerpts very well.)

* * * * *

14 September 2010

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Swift Shoots . . . Does She Score?

When I heard that our girl Taylor Swift and heretical opportunist professional jerk Chris Kanye West were both scheduled to perform at the MTV Video Music Awards--albeit not together--I knew I'd have to cover it on Shredded Cheddar. (Because, you know, my opinions are so important to the world!) Besides, it's a real-life face-off, and you know I love those.

So let's begin, aye? =)

13 September 2010

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Twelve Things about Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead
(Reviewed for "Peril of the Screen" of the RIP V Challenge and linked up at the RIP V Challenge Review Site)

12. I have such fuzzy memories of the first Joy Ride movie that I watched this as if it were a stand-alone rather than a sequel. And let me tell you, for a straight-to-DVD release banking on the sensational "Unrated" label, it carries its own weight pretty well.

11. If I had to think up a category for this, I'd call it "Road Trip Gothic".

Horror traditionally sticks to static, grounded settings: castles, chateaux, hotels, and other variations of the archetypal "haunted house." Characters might be pursued on their way to a safe haven, but "the road" is generally considered neutral ground. So the idea that all roads, all possible escape routes, are the villain's territory as well, can give even the most sprawling setting an overwhelming air of claustrophobia.

(Then there's the fact that these characters are crammed inside some sort of a vehicle for most of the movie. That works, too.)

12 September 2010

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Reading Diary: The Fallen by Thomas E. Sniegoski

They had descended from the heavens on the ancient city of Urkish, the overpowering desire to eradicate evil spurring them on. It was rumoured that the city was a haven for the unclean, a place where those who offended God could thrive in secret. The Powers were on a holy mission, and all who stood against them fell before their righteousness.

In a hovel made of mud and straw they found him, an old man, a seer, one of his eyes covered by a milky caul. He was surrounded by clay tablets upon which something had been written--a prophecy. It was Camael's former captain, Verchiel, who first read the seer's scrawl. His words foretold of the melding of human and angel, and how that joining would sire an offspring--an offspring more than human, more than angel, who would be the key to reuniting those who had fallen from Heaven with their most holy Father.

This time, my Fully Booked Zine editor is asking me to write about the new trend toward "dark angels" in YA. The Fallen series has been assigned to me for research. The first book is actually a reread for me--and as you probably know by now, I often prefer rereads to new reads.

Now, I actually hated this book the first time I tried it . . . but I admit that that time was right in the middle of my apologetics fundamentalism stage. I'm less brainwashed and much better now, so why not give the novel another chance?

I started it last Friday afternoon and finished it in the early hours of Sunday morning. And my second verdict is . . . I still don't like it. =P

I'll admit it still has partly to do with Sniegoski's take on Catholic symbols. Basically, the whole series is about angels who have messed up getting a second chance to repent and be forgiven--something any angelologist will tell you doesn't fit the Catholic understanding of creation at all. But never mind that now. Heck, never mind it at all. For even I have to admit that in the great "creative commons" of myth, legend and folklore, Angels are fair game.

11 September 2010

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Locus Focus: Take Eighteen!



This week I continue the School Settings theme. =) Speaking very personally now, I find it very soothing--if only in an escapist sort of way--to read about such wonderful learning environments. But I'll admit that has less to do with the settings themselves than with the students one finds in them.

And yes, I know I'm kind of late this week. Those of you who remember when my CPU went on strike and my keyboard went crazy will not be surprised to hear that it was the monitor's fault this week. Sigh!

10 September 2010

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Another Fairy Tale Friday



Read about Puss in Boots
and other linked up fairy tales!

There's something about the direction this blog has taken of late . . . Not only am I thinking of books, movies and music in terms of face-offs these days, I'm also improvising mash-ups on my guitar! It's the cheddar of it all, if you take my meaning. When two things which don't seem to have much in common can be taken together, they suddenly taste fresher. Like, you know, apples and cheese.

Anyway, here are two more fairy tales to look at together, for our usual Friday fun. They're kind of a predictable pairing, so this isn't one of my better efforts, but I'm glad to link up to Irena's meme again.

09 September 2010

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Character Connection 14



Read about Fermin Romero de Torres
and the rest of this week's featured characters!


Right now, you might be thinking, "Finally! A post with some reading-related content!" (Or am I just projecting again?)

For the past few days, I've debated whether to split everything up into different blogs. There would be at least two: the book blog and the (mostly Horror) movie blog. Then it occurred to me that that would be like splitting up my children. You might not think that Horror movie reviews and Reading Diary entries get along, but they do!

So what I really should be thinking of now is a post schedule. Every Saturday is already for Locus Focus. The last Wednesday of every month (at the very least) is for Word & Question; and all the Tuesdays of this month belong to Taylor Swift again. Every other Thursday or so, I do a Character Connection post; on an even more sporadic Friday, I blog about fairy tales.

Then there are my smackdowns. When I'm hosting one of them, it gets its own day of the week until we name a Final Winner. Madeleine L'Engle novels got Monday; Arnold Schwarzenegger movies got Tuesday; "Weird Al" Yankovic songs got Wednesday; something I'm planning right now is going to get Thursday . . .

Yeah, I'll get organised yet. Maybe I'll even learn to put my State of the Blog Addresses in separate posts instead of squeezing them where they make an awkward introduction.

08 September 2010

+JMJ+

Crosses! And Cradles?


WEST ampersand Caslon metal type letter q
lego brick number 4

Yes, it's "Word & Question" time again! =D I know you're all excited, so send those e-mails in! (UPDATE: In case I confused everyone--which, knowing me, is 99.99% likely--here is a clarification. You still have to send your Round 4 words and questions to ME!)

If you're new to this game, please read the rules to see if this is your sort of thing. We'd love to have new players. =)

If you're a veteran, remember that we've added the new rule that all poems have to be in two weeks after next Wednesday. (Yes, I've updated the rules page accordingly.) What that means for us now is that the host's poem will be published on 15 September 2010, and everyone has to leave the link to his own poem on or before 29 September 2010.


For September, our host is
Maister Dauvit Balfour of Crosses and Cradles!!!


Visit his blog next week to read his work, and again any time until the last Wednesday of the month to submit your own. =)

Yes, there's more . . . =P
+JMJ+

Tutor Tales, Volume 21

Move over, Doctor Nemesis! Someone else has managed to live up to her 80s cartoon alias better than you have! I mean, of course, little Angel Delight.

I hadn't realised that I had forgotten my favourite part of teaching--the complex give and take between teacher and student when they like learning things together. I remembered it only this week, when I found myself drawing a map for Angel Delight's mock exam for Hekasi(ku!) and enjoying every minute of it.

Yes, drawing. As in making do without a printer. As in staring at the PC screen, then sketching a few centimetres of coast; staring again and sketching again; staring . . . sketching . . .

07 September 2010

+JMJ+

Remember Those Team Taylor Tuesdays?

My guitar and I have been warming to Taylor again, so I thought I'd bring this feature back--just for September.

And since I've grown really fond of face-offs, let's have one between the two princesses who currently have the sparkly kingdom of Country-esque Girl Pop divided between them.

(Yes, there's also Kellie Pickler . . . but don't spoil my rhetoric, here.)


Picture to Burn vs. Before He Cheats

vs.
Watch Picture to Burn Official Video / Watch Before He Cheats Official Video

I've included the links to the official music videos for two reasons . . .

First of all, if you look really closely, you'll see that our Taylor plays a Catholic girl in her video. =P

Secondly, I have a really cute story about one of them--but I won't say which one because it might unfairly influence the vote . . .

06 September 2010

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Twelve Things about Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam

12. Obviously, I am serious about being a real Horror blogger. =P

11. You can see the appeal of summer camp, right? For a month or two, you get to lose whatever reputation you usually lug around, and to live with people who have no choice but to take you as you present yourself. (Just like blogging--LOL!) If you're lucky, then you can make some friends who won't care that you're not really "cool" where you come from--and if you're worthy of their friendship, you won't care that they aren't really "cool" where they come from, either.

The first Camp Rock tweaks this fantasy somewhat, with the character of Mitchie Torres, who lets everyone think she comes from a rich family, when her mother is the camp's cook and she herself must help out in the kitchen. The truth eventually comes out, of course, leading to a climax in which she belts out the lyrics: "This is real/ This is me/ I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be now/ Let the light SHINE ON ME!!!" (No, I didn't make those up.) And after something like that, any sequel had to be about something other than the promise of a clean slate.

05 September 2010

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Reader Poll: New "Word & Question" Rule


airWalk 01-11-07_1655 -- pink tag letter Q question mark ?

What do you think of having a deadline? And if you're for it, how much of a grace period should players have before the time comes to publish our poems? Two weeks? Three weeks? A whole month? A single weekend? (LOL!)

04 September 2010

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Locus Focus: Take Seventeen!



Welcome to the School Settings Challenge!
Link up your favourite learning environments today!

Yes, I know you're all very excited. But before I kick us off, let me get ahead of myself . . . =P

Next month, in line with my participation in the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril V Reading Challenge, the theme will be . . . Scary Settings! Go Gothic on me on 2 October, and I'll love you forever.

And since my inner Horror blogger is rising to the surface again, I propose an extension of the festivities: Scary Settings: The Movie Edition on 30 October. I'm going to invite all my Horror blogger buddies to this "mixer" and hope you all show up in your own scary costumes, too. =)

(Thanks to Birdie of Birdie's Nest for this excellent idea!)

03 September 2010

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Twelve Things about Night of the Demons
(Reviewed for "Peril on the Screen" of the RIP V Challenge and linked up at the RIP V Challenge Review Site)

12. The DVD cover might be an ugly, vulgar turn-off, but as advertising, it is also spot-on. What you see is what you get: B-movie Horror schlock.

11. This movie is not a Slasher, but it does feature the famous Slasher convention of a mixed cast of characters that get knocked off one by one. The more experienced a Horror viewer you are, the more accurately you will be able to predict the order in which they succumb.

But note that Night of the Demons has a couple of surprises in store. The ending inserts a few twists sure to please even the most discerning Horror fan.

10. Horror villains are often the most conventional baddies in cinema, but Night of the Demons breaks out of the box. Not content with demons, it branches out into zombies. (Yes, seriously.)

Anyone who likes my drinking games can take up this challenge: Drink every time there is a homage to George "Zombie Master" Romero.

02 September 2010

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Tutor Tales, Volume 20

I've been hesitating to write more Tutor Tales because I have a feeling I "jumped the shark" with my last one . . . but life goes on after the professional and amateur highs, and so must the telling of tales.

Besides, I want to tell you about my newest tutee, little Scrap Metal. You might remember him as the little boy "locked" in the big, dark, scary house. =P

01 September 2010

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"Weird Al" Yankovic Song Smackdown: Final Winner!!!
(Revisit Round 1, Round 2, Round 3A, Round 3B and Round 4)


Eat It = 6 votes
The Saga Begins = 5 votes

This was really close! I admit I'm a little surprised at how it turned out: I would have voted for (and bet on) The Saga Begins.

In fact, I was secretly planning to perform the winning song as early as the first week of this smackdown . . . and what I was practicing day and night wasn't Eat It! =P

But as Mrs. Darwin said: There's no school like old school.

(I tried to work that line into the video, but I'm still not very comfortable in front of the camera, so it just wasn't happening . . .)