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Are you there, God? It’s me, Dan Tobin.
The movie was super, and super sixth gradey
We’re big Judy Blume fans, and she has a bookstore in Key West where we often vacation, so I’ve met her a few times. I’ve read a lot of her books, but I probably went directly from Fudge to Are You There God and I was not ready. With no context or guidance, I flubbed the central idea badly and thought she was stressed about the marking period ending and when she would get her report card. Why haven’t I gotten it yet?! Margaret, chillax! I was a million miles from puberty, and this book was talking about things nobody else was. Still the case.
Rereading it now, looking back at 12 instead of ahead toward it, I was smitten. It’s rare to find books for young readers that wrestle with just this blend of fears and noticings, and with such delicacy and friendliness. So many writers go for wry, in part because kids have become more wry. But nice doesn’t go out of style, and the book is just so aggressively pleasant. The wife reread it, then saw the movie with friends. I finally finished it and we watched the movie last week. An enthusiastic thumbs up.
Exceptionally faithful to the book, updated in places, and just so relentlessly nice. I heard Judy Blume was reluctant for years about adapting her work, but she made a great choice here. The casting was perfect, no precocious or invented kids, these felt like sixth graders I’ve known over the years. And it was wise to keep it in 1970. Every year I’ve taught feels faster because that’s how the culture is moving, so going back in time meant slowing down and simplifying. Class these days is way more chaotic, even when it’s going well. That’s just how we do.
I’d say the book is best for fifth graders or early in the year sixth graders, so much is about fear of growing up, and end of year sixth graders are too cool for that. Thank you, micro-plastics! But I love the book, and the movie should be seen by everyone. Although I can see less evolved boys younger than high school getting pretty uncomfortable. I try to avoid thinking about school in July, but this was a nice postcard from an ideal sixth grade.
The Urban Blah
Back in 2009-11 I collaborated with the brilliant Vee to make a webcomic that failed to become syndicated across the globe. I am pro-recycling.
What better way to celebrate summer than with a lyrically nerdy fart joke? And yet that fart joke almost wasn’t. As we were collaborating, Vee sent an email.
So I’m working on it again and I’m wondering, can we have him burping really loudly instead? It’s just that there is visually alot going on here, and I don’t think there’s a way to have him trumpet without putting the actual word inside a bubble, and we’ve never used text bubbles. Also, bubbles would cover so much of the picture, and I think you'll really like the picture.
I saw her point and pitched a fix.
I love it. I do want to at least try the other way, though. The reason being that, crazily, it’s a little more subtle. Here’s what I’m thinking — have him lean to one side and in small white letters underneath his chair, write TOOT! I’m leaning this way because the burp says drunk whereas the fart just says immature.
In retrospect, it probably should have been less of a TOOT! and more of a PPBBLLTT!! But both work. At the time I deemed it “our prettiest Blah to date,” and it’s a looker. Also, Vee has a substack, you should subscribe!
Jam of the Week
In a strange piece of political news, one of the guys from Mr. Show has been arrested for storming the Capitol. I’m heartbroken because he stars in maybe my favorite sketch from that show.
A gifted physical comedian, if also a nut who belongs in jail. But so much fun to watch him fall down!
My Back Pages
I was tempted to use a Jan 26, 2009 blog post titled “Are you there, God? It’s me, Dan Tobin,” but aside from inspiring the title of this week’s manifesto, it did not merit sharing. Instead, enjoy this scrap of paper found while cleaning out old files, immortalized as a photo before its one-way field trip to Garbage Island.
I did not enjoy temping, but I was committed to leaving the television industrial complex when they didn’t succumb to my charms as quickly as I wanted. Using the stationery I cropped out, I determined this was from Dec, 2004, about a month after my wedding. I dazzled my new bride by folding and filing fabric samples, then scored this plum gig maintaining the kitchen at a production company. I bought an engagement ring with my script money, we thought I was going places. By the time i gave her a wedding ring, it was more temping and barista-ing. Glad I eventually figured it out.
But I can draw a line from the temp agency to my now classroom. When we moved back to Boston, I called the temp agency and they placed me… at the temp agency. After a few weeks, I begged them to place me anywhere else. They made me an assistant at a small university, and a few months later I was hired full-time. A year or so more and they promoted me, later paying for 75% of my teaching degree. When it was time for student teaching, they sent me to the building I’m still in, and the right job opened at the right time. From temp agency to teaching in six (not quite) easy years!
And another thing…
My local union is in mediation over our teaching contract, so I want to voice support for the writers and actors currently on strike. I’m actually a former member of the WGA, and when I read about people’s penny residual checks, I giggled. It’s not money I rely on, so I find it hilarious to earn almost a nickel a year from an episode I wrote that’s now on Youtube. I’ve never “cashed” one of the checks, but I have endorsed a few to game winners in advisory. That said, plenty of people do count on these residuals, so let’s shell out!
To wit: My old accountant had a copy of my W2 for $0.01 hanging on his wall (my info blacked out) and he wrote, “You think YOU had a bad year?” That’s right, my finances are high comedy.
A day late and very graphical! Summer is indeed a thing.