Sign of the times: you hear about a bombing of a Times Square recruitment office, and you assume it’s nutjob antiwar folks, not Al Qaeda. I wonder how the number of attacks on recruitment offices, however broadly you want to define “attacks,” stacks up against “attacks” on abortion providers in the last seven years. The standard meme always trots out clinic-bombing to suggest that domestic Christianist lunatics are a mirror-image of Islamist enthusiasms; if attacks on Army offices and attempts to block access exceed the number of similar instances directed against Planned Parenthood and the legal activities taking place within, will the talking points adjust to reflect the new face of intolerance?

This chain of events is really much more interesting if I take them in reverse.

11. Realize I really don’t want to see “Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem”  anyway, and rent “3:10 to Yuma” instead

10. Huh? It isn’t out on DVD yet? This comes as a shock, since it’s been at least a month since it was in the theater

9. Wander around the video store for five minutes looking for the movie; maybe the Requiem part made them think it should be in the Musical section. That would be interesting. Berlioz vs. Wagner! This time it’s Percival.

8. Go to the video store with the actual pre-formed, rationally-arrived at decision to rent “Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem.”

7. See a HD trailer for the second “Aliens vs. Predator.” Doesn’t seem as bad as the first, but a shadow-puppet version voiced by Fran Dreschler and Larry the Cable Guy would be better than the first

6. Have a nagging desire for more “Aliens” stuff. Don’t want to watch the fourth one ever again, though. And the third one does not exist in my mind, because of what it did to the ending of the second one. So let me get this straight – there are six “Aliens” movies, and two-thirds bite the wax tadpole; why do I care? Just because I was infused with full-body heebies thirty years ago when I saw the first one with an old friend from high school who probably welcomed the horrifying diversion because this was the week he was calling everyone up and coming out, which wasn’t a particular surprise. Haven’t thought of him in a very long time. He died of AIDS in the 80s. Smart, funny, sardonic guy. Played the clarinet; went to Med School; was a pediatrician when he passed.

5. Finish watching the end of “Alien,” and note once again the remarkable music; the theme – if you can call it that – gave me the chills when I saw the movie in the theater the first time; I was scared before anything happened. (I’ve never felt that amount of dread in a movie ever since.) the theme is spare, indifferent, devoid of comfort or compassion. The most harrowing portions of the film have no music; they save that for the denouement. After the creature is truly & finally defeated, in comes Hanson’s 2nd symphony pouring peace and relief over everything. I didn’t discover the piece in its glorious entirety until I moved to DC, and played it over and over again to assuage my throbbing misery. Sibelius also came in handy for the same sort of bathetic indulgence.

Which reminds me: Leonard Rosenman, film-music composer, died the other day. He did “Beneath the Planet of the Apes,” one of the most depressing movies of my childhood (it’s not bad enough that they nuked the Earth and stinking monkeys took over, but the surviving humans figure out a way to NUKE IT AGAIN) and “Fantastic Voyage,” which had a strange early-electronic music opening score. The first half-hour of the movie is all business, with scientists in suits and thick black glasses peering intently at knobs and charts, and the miniaturization process is performed without a score. When they enter the body, however, the Miracles of the Bloodstream finally rouse the soundtrack to chime in.

Here’s two pieces of Rosenman’s work. The first is from the Apes  movie, and the second is from a movie about scientists inside the human body. It’s not exactly apparent which is which.


The man certainly had a style. This may remind you why the scores of John Williams came as such a tonic: chords! Full orchestras! Melody! Leitmotifs! Jeez, fellas, where you been?

To be fair, he did some more traditional scores as well, but they still have this stamp. Here’s a snippet from Star Trek IV. Note the same element he uses in the other scores, the three-note rising figure. As an 80s score, it's out of place - didn't seem so at the time, since it had many tonal passages, but this shows you how the old boy slipped in the dissonance whenever the job required. It's the scene where the probe, the giant intergalactic Slim-Jim-with-a-soccer-ball, appears over Earth.

Doesn’t sound like Trek music, does it. Which brings us back to Aliens; the score was by James Horner, Mr. Dependable; it’s one of his best, and contains perhaps the single greatest cue in action movie soundtrack history. If you know the movie, you know exactly what I mean:

4. Start watching “Alien” to remind myself what a good scary sci-fi movie is like. I usually watch it once every other year; same with “Aliens.” Never tire of either, for different reasons; the first is the best scary-creature movie ever, and the second is the best action film ever.

3. Take “Sunshine” out of the DVD player, dismayed.

2. Insert “Sunshine" into DVD player, excited, because it’s a Danny Boyle cool sci-fi film!

1. Consider watching an old movie I love, but realize that one must experience new things to grow.

New Frontiers in Education from California: “Parents who lack teaching credentials cannot educate their children at home.”

This isn’t a new law argued and debated by the legislature, but a ruling from a state appellate court. "'Parents do not have a constitutional right to home school their children,' wrote Justice H. Walter Croskey in a Feb. 28 opinion signed by the two other members of the district court."

Well, there you go. No eminated penumbras here; the Constitution requires that your child be educated by the state. I know the objections to home schooling, and I can already imagine the FARK thread comments about god-bothering patriarchs with nine kids who don’t want their kids contaminated with crazy theories about dinosaurs coming before man, et cetera. I understand completely why some people do it; I've met plenty of sharp well-adjusted home-schooled kids. But I prefer the group-of-peers model.

Had a long conversation with (G)Nat today about whether all life on earth will be destroyed soon by pollution. She’s in an Earth Day play. The premise is basic: massive global storms (just like those in Star Trek IV!) alert the animals that Nature is sending out its final warning, so the animals tell the kids we have to stop doing . . . something, and start being nice to the Earth. (Animals and children being equal in moral purity.) It ends with a hymn to nature that makes the Romantic poets look like strip-mining company CEOs. I wondered whether it made her worry, and she said it didn’t, not really. Then we had a talk about why it’s bad to pollute, and why you shouldn’t litter, and the other sensible things.

You’d be better off staging a play whose theme taught kids not to amass revolving debt to enable transitory consumption, but there’s no Day for that.

If she was worried about this stuff, I’d be steamed. It’s no great accomplishment to fill second graders full of dread and existential catastrophe. I grew up with the big twins – Nuclear War and Ecological Disaster – and it made for a dank layer in my emotional substrate. Barring an ELE from a comet impact or a gamma-ray killshot from a dying star, the earth will be here for her. I know it’s terribly irresponsible of me, but she’s seven, and I want her to play and laugh without heed. She has an untroubled disposition, which helps.

Anyway: I’d rather argue the points at home than control the parameters of the argument and the way it’s expressed, but that’s just me. And I know it’s a leap of logic, but: if you don’t have the constitutional right to home school your kids, I wonder if you have the constitution right to raise them at all. You might be doing it all wrong, you know. I’m guessing you lack credentials at that, too.

Just for fun: I wonder how the media would treat home-schoolers if they yanked out the tots because the schools taught capitalism, and the kids needed a good solid Marxist grounding. Picture a judge saying that you couldn't home school your kid in Communism, because it's the economic equivalent of young-earth Creationism.

Of course, home-schooling Bolsheviks will have less reason to complain soon. "This bill would delete provisions that prohibit a teacher giving instruction in a school from teaching communism with the intent to indoctrinate or to inculcate in the mind of any pupil a preference for communism." Apparently the teacher's right to teach Communism trumps your right to school your kid yourself.

Can't wait for that bill to hit Gov. Schwartzenegger's desk.

It’s been a grand week, and I wish I’d gotten around to everything I wanted to do. I’d better get around to it soon, since I have seven days left on this Dreamweaver try-out (I installed a new one on the laptop) and when it runs out, I’m in trouble.

New Diner! The iTunes version is here, the MP3 is here. See you at, and have a grand weekend.