SCENES FROM A PRINCESS PARTY

EnchantedTiny had her 5th birthday party this weekend, as 12 or 13 of her closest friends joined us for an early AM screening of Disney's kinda-subversive hit princess movie, "Enchanted." Here's what we learned:

- That 5-and-6-year-old aspiring mean girls are tough. They go straight from slap fight to nuclear strike. Here's a typical exchange from the post-party pizza-and-cake session:

"Sally, do you want to trade the Belle Pez dispenser from your goody bag for my Jasmine Pez dispenser?"
"No! I like my Belle. You can keep Jasmine. Ha ha."
" . . . . Trade with me or I won't be your friend anymore."
What the - ?

- The movie itself was nearly ruined by a string of horribly age-inappropriate previews for coming attractions like "P.S. I Love You." There's nothing like looking down the aisle of a theater at your fellow class parents as their children, on your nickel, listen to Hilary Swank discuss the prospect of sex with her ghosty dead husband. But happily the sex talk eased when the actual movie began. In fact, one almost imagines that Disney purposely gave the film a slow, gentle animated opening to ease the kids out of the aggressive sounds and visuals of the trailers.

- And we liked "Enchanted." The music was nine or 10 levels above the typical kid's fare, and there was a showstopping number filmed just a few blocks from FD.com HQ. The story revolves around the misadventures of  animated Princess (or soon-to-be Princess) Giselle and her cartoon fiancé  Prince Edward, who get transported to the real world of Manhattan (albeit a Manhattan where one can see Philip Johnson's Lipstick Building from the window of one's office at the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle). And the plot basically confirmed what we've always suspected: If a sweet and innocent cartoon princess and/or her square-jawed but oblivious prince were ever to land in the city, New Yorkers would just line up to tap that. In other words, pretty much the same story as "Midnight Cowboy," but with a talking chipmunk in the Ratso Rizzo role.

- Our personal highlight? When McDreamy lawyer and princess-lover Patrick Dempsey drops neurotic, nudgy fiancée  Idina Menzel for Giselle, Menzel's character quickly seduces and runs off to cartoon world with similarly jilted Prince Edward, thus giving a happy ending not only to the Disney Princess but to the Jewish-American Princess as well.

- And we leave the last word to Fellow, who checked in with the line of the day when we asked him if he had liked the movie on our way out of the theater:
"Yeah, I liked the movie . . . Um, Daddy?"
"Yes, Fellow?"
"Can we please talk about football for a while now?"

WHEN YOU CAN'T FOOL ANY OF THE PEOPLE ANY OF THE TIME, JUST INSULT THEM, SEE HOW THAT TURNS OUT

The controversy over New York City's new, preposterous-on-its-face school grading system, which assigned Ds and Fs to many of Gotham's top-performing public schools while awarding As to some of the worst, continues unabated as, well, virtually no one buys in to chancellor Joel Klein's rationale for launching a grading system in which year-to-year improvement counts (randomly) for 55% of the grade, but in which only  a one-year sample was used to judge "progress," thereby thumbing the department of ed's collective nose at every basic concept it should have learned in Statistics 101. Diane Ravitch's summary in today's Sun is as good as anyone's for people coming late to the game.

We taped and watched WNET's (Channel 13's) "New York Voices" feature on the grading system, and everyone who cares about this issue MUST watch 13's interview with Klein. The segment  clearly laid out the operative question: How does the department justify a grading system which gives a D to a school that has 98% of its kids reading, or calculating, at a proficient level, as determined by New York's standardized testing, because a year ago its kids were 99% proficient, while at the same time awarding a different school an A because its kids were taken from, say, 18% proficiency to 20% proficiency?

Now, to the extent possible, we tried to watch 13's interview with Klein with an open mind, because, sure, schools that bring their kids from 18% proficiency to 21% proficiency absolutely ought be rewarded, and we were willing to hear the overall justifications for the grading process from Klein himself. But then he said this in answer to the question we paraphrased above, and completely lost us:

"Simple proficiency is not the game . . . " (!!)

[The interview continued: Wouldn't a two-or three-year sample have been better?]

"You have to start somewhere . . . two years, three years would be much more robust . . . I believe that . . . "

[So what message are you sending to generally top-ranked schools whose kids are already 98-100% proficient but getting Ds and Fs from your department anyway?]

"They don't want to be an F next year, they don't want to be a D next year . . . they had information from last year . . . without a grade and . . . . you know what happened? They paid far less attention to it . . . Let's be candid with each other . . . we [must] dramatically improve outcomes . . .  and the way you do that is rigorous accountability and public information and knowledge."

[e.g., publicly embarrassing your top schools and distracting them from the mission they perform so well]

[How do you respond to your critics, then?]

". . . I enjoy the debate and I'm not saying we don't learn things from it. I do."

[except that your top lieutenants run out the side door of the building when faced with public criticism in an open forum.]

BEST. CHANUKAH. PRESENT. EVER.

Ptru13722030_alternate1_regWe've closed the book on Chanukah 2007 but any Gentile friends out there still seeking a gift for your tween or pre-tween girl should run, don't walk to get her the official High School Musical Dance Mat. (K-Mart has it, too, and cheaper!) Tiny was so thrilled with this when she got it on Chaunkah's opening night she told us she loved us at least four times that night.

And the toy, we have to admit, is awesome. It's a dime-store version of "Dance Dance Revolution," but provides a solid cardio workout for the shoeless young or old as you sashay and hop from character to character when their respective lights flash to the beat of four songs from the movie (regrettably, not the four least annoying songs). You're soarin'! You're flyin'! And resistance is futile.

December 17, 2007 | Permalink | Subscribe to RSS

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