“Greetings, my friend. We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives.” — “Criswell Predicts” Announcer/Narrator, “Plan 9 From Outer Space”

I mentioned yesterday that Andy Warhol’s “Empire” will probably be the lowest-rated movie in the NMPSPE Film Festival.  That remains true, but barely.  For today we venture into the mind of Ed Wood, Jr. and “Plan 9 From Outer Space” (1959).  Why “Plan 9″?  Because the film makes every bit as much sense as “Plan PARCC PBA,” a colossal joke of an online test purporting state-of-the-art features, but actually full of an Ed Wood assortment of glitches, missing parts and bad JAVA.  PARCC PBA truly is the “Plan 9″ of standardized tests, one that we might look back as “so bad, it’s good” at some point in that future where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives.

Nah.  We’re never going to think that.  In fact, PARCC will be gone and almost entirely forgotten a year or two from now, silently dumped into the huge mausoleum of stupid ideas in education (I mentioned it’s a huge mausoleum, right?).  And speaking of mausoleums, we also visit “Plan 9″ as its third biggest star, behind the briefly appearing amid his own death Bela Lugosi and Vampira, Gregory Walcott has just passed away.

We all go in the end;  PARCC just can’t go away fast enough.


So what do you “do” to kids who aren’t taking the Standardized Test? Kids/parents opting-out of PARCC/SBAC leave schools with yet another logistical wrinkle in a very wrinkly test scheduling prune. In Toms River, New Jersey they sit in “study hall” for hours and hours.  In Libertyville, Illinois, a Special Education student not only sat and stared at a blank computer screen, he sat and stared with “extended time,” for two hours and forty minutes, as “extended time” is one of his testing “accommodations.”

Certainly nothing punitive about that.

In honor of schools choosing to have kids stare at blank computer screens and such, we screen a sliver of Andy Warhol’s infamous eight-hour “Empire” (1964).  In what is probably going to be the lowest IMDB-rated film of the Festival, Warhol and “cinematographer” (air quotes very much needed) Jonas Mekas put a camera on a nice-solid tri-pod (okay, it’s not that solid) and basically invented the webcam, about 20-25 years before the first Internet webcam.   I’m sure the entire eight hours can be found somewhere on the web, but here we’re stuck with only a nine-minute “greatest hits” excerpt.




The problem boils down to this:  Some days you feel like Peter Sellers in this scene and some days you get the feeling you’re actually Sterling Hayden.   When things get this crazy and this far afield from what’s supposed to be reality in your job/life, things get blurry.  The PARCC/Standardized Testing War is very much one such instance.  Most of the time, we teachers who don’t like what’s going on in the War feel like Peter Sellers getting a hug from a crazy guy telling us why it’s necessary to blow up the world/destroy our profession because of fluoridation/perceived universal lack of college readiness.

Occasionally, some of us (for instance a guy posting a meandering three-month series of flim clips designed, in an ill-conceived way, to show how crazy things are) get the feeling we’re the one giving the hug to a bunch of education folks who are just shrugging their shoulders and putting up with it.

In other words, this scene is hard to watch these days.

From my all-time, no doubt about it, I could watch it every hour on the hour until Doomsday, favorite film, here’s Hayden and Sellers in Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove or:  How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” (1963/64):

Oh deary, we almost missed our Film Festival Weekend Edition in a weekend of bike rides, theater attendance and an abiding dislike for the Albuquerque Journal.  But here we go with a song that keeps going through my head during every bike ride, especially those commutes to work.

Where will Governor Susana Martinez be in three, four or five years?  Whither Hanna Skandera?  Nobody knows, I guess, but we all know it’s very likely they will end up some place far away (no, not Fort Leavenworth…that isn’t even funny!) fresh from having mendaciously stepped directly upon and over the kids of New Mexico, the teachers who have tried teaching those kids despite all the roadblocks thrown by Skantinez (or Martdera, if you prefer), the rights of both kids and teachers and any semblance of rational thought or sane educational policy.  That’s a lot of steppin’.

I considered the Sex Pistols version, but let’s go with a synced version of “The Monkees” single along with some killer maracas work by Davy Jones in the TV show.  For those not alive in 1966, yes…everything really looked and everybody really danced like this back then.  It’s uncanny how realistically this clip depicts life in 1966.  I should know…I was five years old.

Not only does PARCC go to “Eleven,” as our Film Festival pointed out yesterday, it also features the chance for kids to write “open-ended responses” to deeper questions eliciting and examining their higher level critical thinking skills.  Or so they say.  The always great Curmudgucation blog has a wonderful explanation of “Why Critical Thinking Won’t Be on the Test” in reality, as critical thinking and standardized testing are an impossible pair that will never quite see eye-to-eye.

And for today’s Film Festival selection, we go with another impossible pair and an impossibly beautiful pair of speeches made inside a Houston strip club at the end of Wim Wenders’ (and Sam Shephard as screenwriter) “Paris, Texas” (1984).  I read via Twitter and such that some ne’er do well, rapscallion, scalawag, prankster kids are using the “open-ended responses” of PARCC to write non sequitur essays on how President Bush (or Obama) was behind 9/11 and recitations of the story of how Will Smith’s character became the “Prince of Bel-Air.”

If I were one of those ne’er do well kids, a scalawag seeking to prank PARCC, I’d try to memorize these two speeches and see if the essay boxes were big enough to handle them.  Besides the rapscallion potential, it’s also true they are two of the greatest speeches in movie history.  Maybe the greatest.



Have a great weekend, everybody.


P.S.:  I wonder what kind of score those Craigslist PARCC graders would give these speeches…

The selling points of PARCC are that it’s “tied to Common Core,” features more open-ended answers, and, MOST EXCITING OF ALL, is on this newfangled contraption called “a computer. ” Wow. I don’t understand it all, because it’s truly state-of-the-art thinking at its best.  Mind blowing stuff.  Christopher Guest as Nigel Tufnil in Rob Reiner’s 1984 “Spinal Tap” explains it all to us in language anyone can understand:


So, see…it’s better.  Better enough to have this be only Day 19 and we haven’t even got to the 7th Grade Science SBA “Retro Standardized Test Jersey Day.”   ♫Seems like….old times♫ (oh yeah, “Annie Hall,” better get ready to put that in the Film Festival…maybe Day XXXIII or Day LXIV).



John Huston’s “Treasure of the Sierra Madre” (1948) gets my “Best Picture” in the category of Greed, and thus is perfect in describing what Pearson and PARCC is all about.  I’d love to post a scene featuring John’s father, Walter, in his Academy Award-winning role (especially as I’m looking more and more like him every day), but, instead, let’s teachers grab some good ‘ol cartharsis today and trade punches beating the CCRAP out of Pearson in a Tampico bar.   Bogart’s Fred C. Dobbs would go dark side on us later, but here he’s our definite hero.  Punch him in the kidneys, Tim Holt!  Knock that stupid boater hat off his head clear across Mexico, Bogie!

I feel remarkably better now having watched that.  Who says violence isn’t good for anything?

P.S.:  You’ll notice here that bad guy Pearson is a much better fighter than either Bogart or Holt.  We teachers gotta stick together, otherwise we don’t stand a chance.