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June 26, 2011

The Black Stallion

I was very young when I watched The Black Stallion. It came out in 1979, when I was two, and I don't think that I was that young when I saw it, so perhaps we watched it at home on the VCR.

Anyway, I saw it before I could read, and loved it. At some point we acquired a glossy picture book of the movie, and I loved that as well. I think I only saw it the one time.

And then this weekend I was sitting with Henry browsing through Netflix's instant play offerings, and Henry suggested quietly, "I like a horse movie," and pointed to the little thumbnail of The Black Stallion.


Henry has been crazy about horses for a few months. He has acquired Adelaide's Little People barn and every horse-like toy in the house for his own play. When I drop him off at Brookland Woods, he immediately ditches Adelaide and me to play with their slightly larger toy barn and an entire box of plastic horses.

But I wasn't sure that he was ready to watch The Black Stallion. I remember it being a pretty serious movie, with some scary parts. But he loved it.

I've watched a lot of horse movies over the years, and most of them use horses as a way of telling some non-horse story. Phar Lap explores the idea of sport and sports greatness by telling the story of a completely dominant race horse. Seabuiscuit evokes the hopes and dreams of Depression-era America by way of an underdog racing champion. Flicka is a metaphor for the ties that bind a father and a daughter together.

The Black Stallion, as far as I can tell on two recent viewings, isn't a metaphor for anything. It's a story about a boy who becomes friends with an awesome horse. They save each others' lives several times, he gets to take the horse home, and at the end everyone stands up and cheers for the boy and his horse. The subtext of the The Black Stallion is that the Black Stallion kicks ass.

It's also a simply beautiful movie, with long wordless passages of the boy and the horse hanging out together. There are four named characters, maybe 15 unnamed characters, and perhaps 100 lines of dialogue (with one great monologue at the beginning wherein the boy's father tells the story of Bucephalus and Alexander- the original horse that totally kicked ass).

So if you like movies with boys and horses, or just movies with horses, or perhaps just movies, I highly recommend The Black Stallion.

June 24, 2011

Papa's little Anarchist

I came across this piece of graffiti behind the couch in the living room this morning:


I immediately recognized it as a sign- our house had been invaded by anarchists. The symbol of the circled "A" (In red, no less! Likely made from the blood of a policeman or corporate wage-slaver!) was proudly scrawled on lockers and binders of the roughest kids at Brookings Middle School in the late 80s. These kids smoked, fought dirty (not that I ever fought them. I employed a keen strategy of trying-not-to-be-noticed mixed with a rare being-beaten-up.), and listened to the Sex Pistols. I feared and hated their kind, and dreaded the classes that mixed me with them (In art class, interestingly, the anarchists were at their worst, as it combined the most ineffectual teachers with an atmosphere of self-expression and scissors.)

And now one is in my home!

June 16, 2011

Reader, Reader, Cookie Eater


One of the great ways that we have fun in the Iowa City Summertime is by hanging out at our public library. The library has awesome summer programs, including this morning's offering from the Eulenspiegel Puppet Company. Before the show, we popped into a coffee shop to snag a little pre-show treat!

We're also taking advantage of the library's summer reading program. Some of our favorites of the summer so far have been: The BFG audiobook (read by the late Natasha Richardson) for car rides, Horse by Eyewitness Video (wherein we watch long, romantic shots of said Horse, Henry's new favorite animal), That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown, and The Curse of Chalion (chosen for me by Joel) and Gone With the Wind (chosen for Joel by me).

June 5, 2011

Daddy-Daughter Dance

When Aimee approached me about participating in the Daddy-Daughter Dance for Adelaide's recital, I agreed without hesitation. It would mean time spent learning a dance that could well be beyond my humble abilities. It would mean more money spent on what was shaping to be a pretty expensive extracurricular. It would mean presenting myself as a public spectacle before the citizenry of Iowa City, some of whom know me professionally. It was, in other words, a great opportunity.

Because floating above (or perhaps built solidly upon) these quibbles was the vision of Adelaide dancing with me on a stage. I sometimes get a little nervous about the idea of Adelaide choosing dance as an interest. Aside from the expense (Although trying to come up with an extra-curricular that's cheap is tough. Orienteering? Chess? She's probably too young for math club.) there's the whole putting-your-daughter-in-an-immodest-costume-on-the-stage-for-the-delectation-of-others thing. At the recital there was a group of high school girls that performed an absolutely terrifying dance to Blondie's "One Way Or Another", complete with revealing green and black outfits and praying mantis-like moves. It was a good dance, and in my mind I believe that teenage girls should get a chance to be... predatory, but as a dad I felt like covering my eyes.

There are many wonderful things about dance, of course. It's artistry plus athletics without points (although, of course, there are dance competitions because you can't have an extracurricular activity in America without someone winning!). It goes nicely with theater, which we love. And only very rarely are young women transformed into demonic Black Swans.


So I was able to carve out enough time to take Adelaide to four rehearsals for the Daddy-Daughter Dance, which she loved. In talking with her about the dance, there seemed to be nothing freakish or bizarre about her grown father dancing with her to James Taylor's "How Sweet It Is". I suppose this is because, as paterfamiliases go, I'm pretty silly. She just beamed the whole time, and was delighted to practice it at home, and wanted to show it at public gatherings and literally jumped up and down when we got our t-shirts.


So, yeah, Daddy-Daughter Dance was a no-brainer. I'm hoping next year we'll get to do some disco. Shake your groove thing!