New Rule: Right To Bitch

I’m seeing positive feedback on my post from Wednesday: that’s good. I was worried about it. Worried that I might be accused of whining.

Is that ridiculous? The piece was intended to show the flaws in the teaching profession, by comparing it (It was also intended as an example of a compare/contrast essay, which my AP students recently wrote) to a profession that most people would rank far below teaching in terms of, say, desirability, or prestige; but I genuinely liked being a custodian, and if I didn’t need the money I make now, I would go back to being a custodian in a heartbeat. I’ve always harbored a secret wish that the custodians at the schools where I’ve worked would quit or retire while I was there, and I could slip into that position permanently. Maybe teach one class, or be available as an emergency substitutes; I want to think that my repertoire of teaching skills would make up for my lack of knowledge about things like plumbing and electrical.

Of course it wouldn’t.

But in criticizing the job I have now, I run a risk, a real risk, of being called a whiner. I know that doesn’t matter much, if other people sling that particular glob of mud at me; but I don’t want to get spattered with that. I was called a whiner a few days ago after I posted a Facebook status Sunday morning that said, “Can’t tell you how much I don’t want to grade essays.” Now, most of my friends — a large proportion of whom are English teachers, unsurprisingly — agreed with me, and sympathized. But one of my friends (A math teacher — so, y’know: evil. And heartless.) called me a whiner and sympathized with my wife for having to put up with my bitching all the time.

He was kidding. Of course he was. I don’t actually complain that much, at least not on Facebook — and he complains all the damn time, frequently to me; and I do complain back. I knew he was kidding. But it still hurt. Genuinely, though not that intensely.

See? There I go again. Complaining about a slight emotional pain, like it’s anything that matters when there are people out there in the world, people no less important than I am, starving while they die of ebola. This is the point where a conservative would call me a special snowflake and ask if I need a safe place to hide from the trigger warnings. (Or if not a conservative, then an asshole.) He might tell me to suck it up, to man up, to be the strong, silent type. To grow a pair and stop being a pussy. At which point one of the several feminists whom I am friends with — most likely my wife — would chew him out; and this asshole (And yes, I am friends with assholes, too, though not very many) might ask what is wrong with feminists, because what do women have to complain about? They have it easier than men! If anyone has a right to bitch, it’s got to be men.

This is why I wanted to write about this: because this seems to have become a trend these days, and a pervasive and pernicious one. We seem to have the idea — and maybe we always have, and I’m only now noticing it for some reason — that people generally shouldn’t complain, shouldn’t bitch, shouldn’t speak up when something bothers them: either because you have to earn a right to complain, usually by being worse off than anyone else who could hear you complain; or because speaking up about being perturbed is seen as weakness: either it’s showing fear, which will make the wolves attack you (Or the sharks, or the Guinea pigs, or what have you), or it’s letting them see you sweat, which just encourages the bastards, because they know they can get to you.

We’re supposed to take  it in silence, preferably with call0us indifference; my students say all the time that mean things or bad things don’t bother them because they just don’t care — “I don’t care what those girls over there say about me, because I don’t care what they think, it doesn’t bother me at all.” And somewhere in there is the idea that you should never tell those mean girls that what they’re saying is hurtful, or else they’ll say it more (Though really, if you aren’t bothered by it, it shouldn’t matter if they keep saying mean things, because those mean things don’t bother you. Right?).

But see, I don’t think that. I think you should tell someone that something they said is hurtful. I think that you are encouraging them with silence: because if you don’t complain, that’s when they believe they can get away with anything. Complainers get left alone, it seems to me; because nobody wants the hassle.

There is more, however. This isn’t just an issue of calling obnoxious people on their nonsense. It’s also about whether one has to earn the right to bitch.

My wife gets caught in this trap. She complains to me about teaching, about the many, many problems she has as a first-year teacher — and not only a first-year teacher, but an art teacher at a STEM school. But whenever she complains to me, when she really gets going, then once she finishes and pauses for breath she — apologizes. Every time. And not because I’ve started complaining about her complaining, not because I’m sitting there rolling my eyes and saying, ‘Oh my GOD, will you PLEASE stop that?!?” No: she apologizes for the same reason that I didn’t like being called a whiner on Facebook: because we know whiners, and we don’t like them. We don’t want to be seen as that kind of querulous, egocentric person. She also, I think, apologizes when she complains because I’ve been a teacher longer, and there are problems that are unique to my job that she doesn’t have to deal with — the essays, mainly. Those damn essays and all their need for grading. So much grading. Of course, she has problems that I don’t have, mainly being a department of one, and having been screwed by her predecessor who didn’t leave anything useful behind — no teaching materials, no lesson plans, none of the good quality art supplies — so she has to create everything she does from scratch, and stay on top of inventory and all, in addition to being overworked like every new teacher is, and undervalued as the one art teacher in a STEM school.

But see, that’s just it: why must she have it harder than me before she feels like she has a right to complain to me? (This is all mitigated, of course, by the fact that I am her husband, and so she has every right to complain to me about anything that is bothering her, no matter how small, no matter how large, forever and always.) Why do I feel like she has more right to complain to me because I think she has it harder?

Why is it that the only person who gets to complain without guilt is the most miserable person on the planet, and all the other 7 billion-plus of us have to say, “Well, this bugs me, but — other people have it worse. At least I’m not a leper in a Turkish prison or something.” And the leper in the Turkish prison is saying, “Well, they knock some of my toes off every time they beat the soles of my feet with the bastinado, but at least I’m not living in a country run by Donald Trump.”

So I’d like to propose a new rule. The new rule is this: everyone has the right to complain, any time, to anybody, depending on what their goal is for that complaint.

If your goal is to vent, to simply let off steam; if your audience needs do nothing more than nod every once in a while and make sympathetic noises somewhere between, “Mmmmhm” and “I hear you, man, totally,” then you have the absolute right to complain. I suppose somebody who isn’t in the mood to listen could ignore you or walk away, but generally speaking, we should listen to each other. Venting is healthy. It is valuable, because talking through your problems can often help you come to a solution. And the listener needs to be nothing more than a slightly more human version of a brick wall.

Okay? You don’t have to earn your complaining time, you don’t have to be the most miserable one in the room. You are a person; you have the right to feel, and to express how you feel; and it is reasonable to ask someone to listen to you, particularly your friend or your family. And I will stop feeling bad about describing my trials and tribulations on this blog; because if you don’t want to read what I write, if you feel I am too whiny, then you don’t have to read it. Feel free to walk away, and no hard feelings.

If your goal in complaining is to call attention to a problem, to let a jerk know that you recognize his jerkishness, then you have the same unlimited right to speak up. If you choose to be silent instead, okay — but I think it valuable for jerks to be called on their jerkery. No, it probably won’t stop them from continuing to jerkify all over the place, especially if all you do is call them out and point out the jerkage, without also punishing them in some way; but it does at least let them know that they have lost, or risk losing, whatever trust and faith and goodwill you harbor for them. Letting a jerk know you don’t trust him may not stop him from being a jerk — but he’ll know that he can’t count on your trust to pull him out of any truly deep hole he digs with his jerkosity.

And the same goes for political complaining: I don’t give a fuck if conservatives didn’t march in protest of Obama’s political stances or actions (Even though they did), if people — say, millions and millions of American women, and women all around the world — want to bring attention to a danger they see, actual or potential, they have every right to stand up and speak out about that danger, about that problem, about that issue. It isn’t weakness if all you’re seeking is to call attention to it. Standing up to say something is rotten in the state of Denmark? That would be strength, thank you very much. That would be determination, and courage.

If your goal is to gain sympathy for your troubles, well — that is different. That requires you to have some awareness and sensitivity about the relationship you have with the person whose sympathy you seek. Which means you probably shouldn’t seek sympathy, overt protestations of sympathy, from random strangers. That might be a genuine imposition. Because sympathy takes work: it puts an emotional strain, even if not a terribly large one, on the sympathizer, which is why it’s generally so nice for the sympathizee. So there, I can see a need for consideration — and someone getting pissed off when asked to sympathize one too many times, or when they themselves are in greater need of sympathy than the person doing the complaining.

If your goal is to gain something even more valuable, and even more onerous for your listener to give you — like money, or help moving into your new house, or a bite of their ice cream sandwich — then you may need to shut up. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be callous nor to contradict myself: but I’m talking about the right to vent, not the right to pout while staring at my Klondike bar. Nobody has the right to do that. Okay, my wife does, but none of the rest — right, and my dog. But that’s it!

Stay the hell away from my ice cream. I need it. Wait’ll I tell you about my day…

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So Much Crap.

Ron Barnett's portrait.

I haven’t had a lot of different jobs in my life: only two, really. Sure, I worked for two months in a library, and another two months in a discount bookstore. I was a residential care provider in a group home for developmentally disabled adults for a while, a job I absolutely loathed; and I took photos for college IDs, a job I am forever grateful for, because that’s how I met my wife.

But none of those mattered; you might as well count the money I made mowing my parents’ lawn, or the change I’ve found on the street over the years. I never cared about what I was doing, never thought of it as a part of my identity. But work is, at least in this society, an indispensable part of a person’s identity: it is the first question one asks after “What’s your name?” and the source, after family, of our greatest pride, and of our greatest distress. Nobody asks, “What are your hobbies?” or “What is your favorite meal?” No, we want to know what people do. Our job is how we make a living: what a telling phrase.

The two jobs I’ve had in my life are polar opposites in many ways: the first was blue collar, the second white collar; the first had irregular hours, the second a schedule set for me down to the minute; the first was done almost entirely alone, the second could not be performed without other people involved – or, well, it could, but it would be pretty pointless. It would be nice, though: I often joke about how much better the job would be if it was just me alone in a room.

My first job was often just me, alone in a room.

But there are also aspects that are nearly identical: in both cases, I have worked for the government. In both cases I have usually worked early in the morning and been done by midafternoon, and I have always worked on weekends. Both jobs have tried my patience. Both jobs have given me good coworkers and bad, clients I liked and those I couldn’t stand, bosses who made my job(s) easier and ones who made it much, much harder. And both jobs have, on occasion, revolved around crap.

From 1995-2000, I was a custodian and maintenance worker. Since then, I have been a high school English teacher. I have often found it hard to know, for sure, which job I would rather have.

Being a custodian was great. The daily work was never too bad: the facility where I worked, the Civic Auditorium in Santa Cruz, was a public building; so every day the bathrooms needed cleaning and the various offices needed to be vacuumed, dusted, and have their trash and recycling emptied. That was my most frequent task for the first half of my standard five-hour shift. The second half was more general maintenance: I would sweep and mop the hallways, vacuum the mats in front of the doors, touch up paint, restock the concession stand, organize supplies and storage, and clean windows. If we had an event, I would set up for it; if we had just finished an event, I would break down equipment and clean up the main hall and the seating area – 1100 fixed theater-style seats. I dumped a lot of garbage cans and I swept a lot of floors.

Image result for santa cruz civic auditorium

I had that custodial job all the way through college. But I finished college in December of 1999, and so in June of the next year – in time for the summer hiring season for new teachers – I quit, and my wife and I moved to San Diego County, where I started applying for full-time teaching positions. And found one, at San Pasqual High School.

I did not like being a teacher right away. The daily work that first year was brutal: I got hired in late July for a school year that started in mid-August; this was not a lot of time to prepare. I had three different classes, none of which I had ever taught before, and so I had to make up, every day, what I was going to teach. I had to write all of my tests, all of my assignments. I had to make up vocab lists, after I made up a system for teaching vocab. I had to lecture, and lead discussions; I had to create group projects; I had to grade. The grading never stopped, never ended. It still hasn’t, 17 years later. In addition, I didn’t have my own room, and so I traveled that year, going from room to room and building to building during every five-minute passing period, pushing a cart full of books and papers and my coffee cup. I worked 60-hour weeks, spending hours every day after school grading papers and creating curriculum, sleeping only a few hours a night because I spent most of my time worrying about whether or not what I was doing was having any positive effect on my students, and pretty sure that it wasn’t.

I never worried about being a custodian. There were certainly days I didn’t want to go to work: we used to have certain events that were particularly long or difficult, such as whenever the Pickle Family Circus came to town, since they would do two shows a day, which meant we had to clean the hall in between the two shows. The summer Wine and Music Festival meant twelve- and sixteen-hour days, mostly outside in the California summer heat hauling equipment and supplies and garbage up and down the street. The hemp show people were a nightmare, as were the Gem and Mineral show vendors. And then there were the raves. They used to have raves at the Civic, once our manager realized he could sell 2000 tickets at $20 apiece, and then trap all 2000 people inside for twelve hours with no food except what they bought from our concession stand. The Civic made huge amounts of money on those things. And then we maintenance staff had to clean the place up. Imagine 2000 sweaty people, dancing for twelve hours, throwing around food and drinks the whole time, and – to judge from what they left behind – taking lots of drugs, taking off their clothes, and having way more sex than seems appropriate in a crowded concert hall. We had to mop the whole building, including the walls, and that was after we had swept out an entire dumpster worth of waste.

I’m not even going to talk about the bathrooms.

After my first year at the Civic, I got – well, sort of a promotion. They realized, first, that I was responsible and reliable; second, that I was particularly good at fine details and spending hours and hours on one tedious task; and third, that as a college student, I was totally willing to be exploited. So they made me a shift supervisor – but, you know, not really. I didn’t get any more pay, or any promotion or anything. They just gave me more responsibility. They had me lead crews for setup or cleanup, and they had me supervise alone for some of the smaller, quieter weekend events. And they gave me The Binder. The Binder was pages and pages of maintenance tasks that only needed to be done three or four times a year, like clean out the furnace room, or sweep the attic catwalks, or polish the brass door handles. I was now responsible for everything in the binder. In addition to everything else I did.

That didn’t happen after my first year teaching. No, it would take six or seven years before I got extra responsibilities – but then they came all at once, just as the actual teaching part was getting easier. I still got exploited, though. I was made the Chair of the English department – only a year before the school cut the stipend that came with the position. I was asked to be the “guru” for our new grading and attendance program, which was fine the first year when they paid me for it – but then after that, everybody just came to me for help, though the school didn’t pay me any more. I ran a Gaming Club, and then an Argument Club, and then a Philosophy Club, and then a Gaming Club again – along with a lunchtime talent show I co-hosted, when I wasn’t singing in the staff band.

But that was okay; I liked the musical tasks, and the clubs, for the most part. Serving as the head of negotiations for the teacher’s union was less pleasant, since we had a contract dispute that almost led to a strike that year. So along with teaching all of my classes, grading and planning and preparing, and all of the conferences and meetings and trainings that come with the job, I also had to have meetings with my union team, and contract negotiations sessions; I had to give updates to the other teachers, and lead union activities like marches and such. I slept even less that year, as any minute not spent thinking about my classes was spent thinking about how every teacher in the district was counting on me to do a good job.

Amusingly enough, that was also the year when I was waiting to see if the state would strip my license to teach, after I got busted for writing mean things about my students and my job on a public blog, which was a violation of the computer use policy as well as – well, let’s call it the honor code. That was a little stressful, too, since I knew I might be looking at the end of my teaching career. But here’s how that all ended up: we got a contract; I was named Teacher of the Year for the district; and then I got suspended for thirty days without pay. That was when I quit and moved to Arizona. Where I had to appear before an ethics committee to explain my suspension. They called me “morally reprehensible.”

It’s funny: I used to steal stuff from the Civic all the time. I mean ALL the time. Toilet paper, paper towels, these thick cleaning cloths that my wife used for cleaning her paintbrushes; Windex, bleach, hand soap, light bulbs; we used to borrow tools, painting supplies, even the carpet cleaner when we needed it. And that’s not even getting into the food I used to take from the concession stand. I can’t tell you how much coffee I got for free over the five years I worked there. And the candy: every time I brought candy to the stand from the storeroom, some of it disappeared into me. So did all the leftover popcorn. If ever I have been morally reprehensible at work, it was while I was a custodian. And yet I never got in trouble for it there.

The best part of working as a custodian was that I got to work alone. I almost never had to speak to people; when I did, it was always very brief and businesslike. Then I would put on my headphones and listen to music while I vacuumed and mopped and dusted. Even when I led shifts, I would assign the tasks, and usually take the worst for myself – which was generally the bathrooms. But I didn’t really mind: turns out bathrooms have great acoustics if you’re the type who likes to sing along with music. My pay eventually caught up with my promotion, and I made decent money, had benefits and a guaranteed twenty hours a week, on a schedule I could pretty much pick and choose. I also got into any concert I wanted, free.

The best part of working as a teacher is the fact that I’m a teacher. I do love literature, even more than singing; I like my students more than my mop and broom – well, mostly. I certainly like them more than the brass polish: that stuff was nasty. I believe in what I do, as much as I’m actually allowed to do what I believe in, which is not all the time. I have much better pay and benefits, and summers off, which I love. And I never have to scrape gum off of the bottom of 1100 fixed theater-style seats.

That was a lot of gum. People who put gum on the bottom of their seats are morally reprehensible.

I still cannot say, though, which job I would rather have.

The nastiest thing I ever had to do at the Civic was clean up the lobby after an elderly man had a bathroom accident, not in the bathroom, during the Symphony. Or maybe it was the several times I had to clean up what the homeless people left in the bushes outside. No – no, it was the bathrooms after the raves. Definitely that. Let me just say this: people stopped using the actual toilets, figuring that anywhere in the room was good enough. The nastiest thing I ever had to do as a teacher was when I had to report a sex crime. I would rather clean the bathrooms than do that again.

The worst I was ever treated at the Civic was when the Brazilian Jiu-jitsu people kept me there for four hours longer than they were supposed to, just because they were hanging out instead of cleaning up, and every time I said something, they Bro’d me out of the room. (Bro, chill out, bro! We’re working on it, bro! We’ll be done real soon, bro. Hey, do you lift?) The worst I ever got treated as a teacher was when seventeen of my Honors students cheated on the same essay because they didn’t read the book. Or maybe when I caught three girls cheating, and they yelled in my ear for ten minutes while I had to walk across the campus (That was when I was traveling, remember?) to find the proof – which did finally shut them up: because even though they kept shouting at me that I was wrong and they were offended that I would ever insult them with that accusation, I wasn’t wrong.

But being right doesn’t stop people from arguing with me, questioning me, telling me how to do my job, which seems to be everyone’s favorite pastime: students, parents, administrators, random people I meet on the street, they all want to give me ideas for how to teach. That might be the worst treatment I get. Or maybe it is every single day when my students, who talk about how much they (generally) like me and like my class, spend most of that same class ignoring me while they are talking, sleeping, doing math homework, or staring at their phones.

No – no, it was that morally reprehensible thing. That was truly the worst thing that has ever happened to me at work. Ever. I would rather clean those bathrooms with my bare hands than deal with all of that again: the meetings with superintendents, the consultations with my lawyer, the threats from the state’s lawyer, the fact that I will always have that black mark on my record, for something that isn’t half as bad as the things that have been said online about me – and sometimes, to my face.

Working at the Civic meant cleaning up a lot of crap. Working as a teacher means taking it.

So I suppose that’s really the answer: I would rather clean bathrooms. I wonder if anyone is hiring.

Trilogy Trials and Trilogy Tribulations

Tales from the Geek's portrait.

Okay. Let’s get real here. I think this calls for going full nerd. (Original was here, by the way. Good page if you’re a Facebooker and a geek.)

 

Let’s start with the most egregious, shall we? Listen closely: THE LORD OF THE RINGS IS THE GREATEST MOVIE OF ALL TIME. Those goddamn columns should be blue all the way to the top. They should be overflowing the top of the boxes. They should be spraying like fountains, cerulean waterspouts just painting everything in sight with blue glory. More like this:

lotr-adjusted

Also, it isn’t really a trilogy, like the books aren’t really a trilogy; it’s one story split into three volumes, and the movie is one story split into three chapters. One movie. Not a trilogy. But it came out in three subsequent years, so I get it being on this list. But it is the best movie ever made, from the greatest fantasy series ever written. Show some respect.

 

Next let’s just dispose of the ones they got right. Godfather: bang on. 100%. You could argue that #1 is a little better than #2, because Marlon Brando — but #2 has DeNiro, so yeah. Star Wars: yup. Pretty much perfect. I think they overestimated Jaws 2 and 3, but sure, they have some moments. Indiana Jones is mostly right, though I like Last Crusade more than Temple of Doom (And they rightfully don’t include Crystal Skull. Which, I admit, I kind of liked. but I liked Gymkata.), but that is subjective and open to debate. Back to the Future, yes; Star Trek, yes — though that should be more than a trilogy. Star Trek IV is a dork classic. Spider-Man and Superman, honestly, I don’t have too much of an opinion on; I liked the movies, but none of them are inspiring to me, so I’ll bow to the greater geeks there.

 

Okay, then. Rocky. Rocky III is as good as II? Are you freaking kidding me? Did you guys get punched in the head by Mr.T? Because, you do realize, the bad guy in III is Mr. T. “I pity the fool” -B.A.-Baracus-Mr.-Freaking-T.

Rocky is an Oscar winning movie and just about the only actually good movie Stallone ever made; II is a nice continuation of I with the redemption of Rocky winning this time. But Rocky III, and every movie after it, is a horror show. Now, if you want to enjoy it on a cheesy level, great; hell, it has Mr. T. in a starring role — it doesn’t get cheesier (Unless it’s this guy.

Look at how freaking oily he is. Ewwwwww.).

But you can’t include Rocky in that cheese-fest. You’re changing the metric partway through, and that doesn’t work.

 

Speaking of cheese, I can respect dropping Beneath the Planet of the Apes and Escape from the Planet of the Apes waaaaay down from the first movie, because neither of the sequels (Nor the two others they don’t list here) had Charlton Heston. He appears briefly in Beneath, but he only agreed to do it if his character got killed, so bada boom bada bing, no more Taylor with his gorgeous overacting and his apparently congenital refusal to wear pants. I mean, come on: the apes wear pants. You got nice legs, sure — but you couldn’t steal a pair of ape pants? But without Heston to do wonderful things like this:

(Though really, the highlight of this is that reaction shot.)

…or this,

…the movies lose something. But honestly: these are cheesy pieces of crap, and we all know it. The makeup is amazing, and the concept is intriguing; but these are cheesy pieces of crap. So it seems to me that if you’re going to put so much love on the first movie, then you should show some love for the later ones, too. After all, they all had Roddy McDowall, right?

 

While we’re on humans being surpassed as the dominant race on the planet, let’s hit Jurassic Park. The problem with this rating isn’t the sequels, which really are giant piles of triceratops dung;

Image result for jurassic park 2 = 

the problem is with the rating of the first movie. The original Jurassic Park movie is a fantastic film, a game-changer, with everything good: good direction, good acting, a great script, absolutely wonderful action and effects. That one should top out the column.

 

It’s the reverse problem with the Blade and Terminator movies. Blade III is not good, nor is Terminator III — but come on, they aren’t THAT bad. Nor is X-Men III. I feel like these guys can swallow a second movie whole, despite obvious flaws (I mean, Terminator II has freaking Edward Furlong in the lead role.

That kid has the most annoying voice in the history of movies. There’s a reason he never hit superstardom again, and it wasn’t drug abuse. And Blade II has Norman Reedus, yes — but he’s not Darryl, he’s — Scud.

Nowhere near as cool. Plus, the Reapers are too horrible to look at, and the BloodPack are  just as silly as the human hunters in Blade III. And I like Ryan Reynolds in III, and also Jessica Biel.), but when the third movie comes out, they’re just like, “Okay, NOW they’ve sold out. This is crap.” But that’s not fair. Sometimes the second movie is far worse; sometimes the third movie is the best of all (If you HAVE to divide LOTR, then ROTK is the best piece.). There’s nothing to say that a movie franchise can only carry one or two but not three movies; you have to take each franchise on its own merits. Or its own crap.

 

And speaking of crap. Let’s talk about the three that are the most off-base, the most skewed, the most ridiculous. First terrible graph: Mad Max. Honestly, I hate the first movie. Road Warrior is by far my favorite. Mad Max reminds me much too much of Death Wish on motorcycles, and if I’m going to watch Death Wish, I want me some damn Charles Bronson. I like Mel Gibson, but he’s no Charles Bronson. And the motorcycles aren’t enough to sell me on the movie. I also hate the homophobic element that is clearly intended to make the bad guys more vile, like I’m supposed to think, “Wow, they’re not just outlaw bikers — they’re HOMOS! I hope Mad Max wastes them all!!” This is something of a theme, of course, this leather-biker-gay-man-villain element, but it bothers me most in the first movie. The first movie’s  bar is lower than the second, but I don’t know that it’s low enough.

But that isn’t the real problem here. The real problem is the third movie. Beyond Thunderdome. That bar should actually be split in half vertically: the first half of the movie, with Bartertown and the fabulous Tina Turner and Master Blaster and Thunderdome

(Two men enter! One man leaves!) —

that can all be pretty high up, maybe on par with the Road Warrior, though Thunderdome does overdo the cheese a bit. But then as soon as that movie follows its title BEYOND Thunderdome, it becomes one of the worst pieces of film I have ever seen. Ever. That colony of idiot children whom Mad Max — MAD MAX — decides he must protect and serve? Oh, please. PUH-LEEEEZE. This is one of the only movies that I will watch the first half and then turn it off. Most of the time, if I hate the ending that much, I just don’t watch the movie; and if I like the beginning that much, I will sit through the end. But this one? Nope. That movie ends for me with Mel Gibson in that big clown head staggering off into the desert. It would have been better for everybody if Max had just died right then. Fin.

Terrible graph #2: Die Hard. The first movie is iconic, no question: it is Alan Rickman, it is Nakatomi Plaza, it is Ode to Joy when the vault spins open, it is Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker. The third movie has Jeremy Irons and Samuel L. Jackson, a good plot line, and some fantastic action sequences. But Die Hard II?! The one in the airport. At Christmas. That thing is absolutely terrible. It is an abomination. It is the shame of the family, the black sheep (And it’s not even as good a movie as Black Sheep, and that’s saying something.), the pariah, the one they send away before they serve Thanksgiving dinner. This is one graph where the middle bar should be white, with maybe just the thinnest line of blue imaginable — just enough to put Die Hard II above, say, Mother, May I Sleep With Danger, or that time they tried to make a movie out of American Idol, with Justin Guarini and Kelly Clarkson. Or Breaking Dawn Part II. But yeah: that graph should look like a blue Oreo. With the whitest of Creme filling.

And last  — but genuinely, seriously not least — The Matrix. Okay. I get it. The second and third movies are not as good as the first: granted. Almost nothing is as good as the first Matrix movie. But I am as sick to death of people ripping the Reloaded and Revolution as I am hearing about how Jar Jar Binks ruins Phantom Menace. (Jar Jar Binks is no more or less annoying than C3PO. We just had lower expectations of him. That’s it. And freaking Anakin Skywalker is a bigger problem than Jar Jar, and not just because of the bad acting: because Lucas made him into Jesus, complete with Immaculate Conception, and it’s the stupidest thing in science fiction. Anyway.) Matrix Reloaded and Revolution have some amazing elements: AMAZING. The Sentinel assault on Zion is one of the best science fiction battle sequences ever. The freeway fight is one of the most beautiful pieces of action cinematography I’ve seen. The Architect is fascinating, as is the Merovingian.  And Agent Smith is one of the best villains of all time. Sure, yes, Keanu Reeves is a dolt, and Carrie-Anne Moss isn’t a whole lot better; her outstanding character turns into a wet rag draped over Neo’s shoulder, and it’s a shame. (Wouldn’t it have been much better if, when Neo saved Trinity’s life by reaching into her chest to get out the bullet, he actually turned her into the One? And she was the one who went to the Machine City, fought Agent Smith in the last fight, and saved the world? Too bad, right? Anyway.) But the arguments about sexism I have heard — which is certainly all too common in science fiction and fantasy — don’t take into account that Morpheus, my other favorite character from the first movie (Along with Smith, of course — you can really just take Reeves out of those movies and I would be just fine), turns into a wet blanket under the feet of Jada Pinkett-Smith, which is also too bad. Plus I really hate his Zion outfit, that sleeveless robe thing he wears at the rave. I hate this speech.

 

And yeah, I hate the rave scene.

But those are good movies. All three of them. They certainly do not deserve bars that low.

 

All right, nerds: I invite comment. Come at me.