Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Educational Musing #1

At times, successful teaching is nothing but a series of happy accidents.

Case in point: I’m closing the books on the final grades of the semester, and reviewing one of the last assignments I gave my American Literature classes: Compare Jay Gatsby from the novel The Great Gatsby to the star of Edwin Arlington Robinson’s poem “Richard Cory.”

Almost every essay I’ve read about the two men has made some excellent connections between the two doomed protagonists, and presented keen insights into what made Gatsby tick, as well as what might have caused Cory to go home one calm summer night and “put a bullet through his head.” So, I know this exercise in examining the two characters has proven fruitful. I have the evidence in my hand via their writing.

I’m actually getting that warm “successful teacher” buzz just writing about the experience. Was this masterful classroom planning on my part? Perhaps. Being familiar with your curriculum is vital, yes … but even though I’ve taught “Richard Cory” before, I’ve never made the connection to Gatsby. This time, through a happy accident, the spot in the textbook where “Cory” lies fell open during the same time we were reading Gatsby. Re-reading the poem, I made the connection, and in turn, revised the daily lesson plan to see what the students would have to say.

So, a day in the classroom proved to be magnificent thanks to random chance, and while I’m feeling good about myself in presenting the poem when I did, I’m feeling ten times better about the kids.

They "got it," and that makes all the difference.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Night of the Living Dead

So, I'm at the gym on the exercise cycle and glance up at the bank of television screens mounted above me, and witness on one set the withered faces of Bob "Bob" Newhart (81 years old) exchanging dialogue with David "Illya / Ducky" McCallum (76 years old) in an episode of NCIS. On the adjoining screen was a new commercial with Bob "Showcase Showdown" Barker (87 years old) plugging State Farm Insurance - complete with iconic microphone in hand.

I watched their silent faces, secretly pleased to see a trio of familiar friends, and wondered who else in the room might share my private delight. An array of younger, harder bodies were oblivious.

I reflected on my own rapidly aging and saggy status, and pedaled my exercise bike even harder.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Elvis Has Left The Bindery

I grew up with Elvis by my side, thanks to my mother's devotion to the man from Memphis. She bequeathed to me her love of all things Presley. Even to this day, I can still sit through and equally enjoy sublime material such as the '68 Comeback Special or utter dreck ala 'Clambake,' and find myself transformed to the hideous orange shag carpeting that adorned the floor of our living room on Badgett Avenue.

When asked by my editors at Captone to write a graphic novel biography of the King, I didn't hesitate to accept the assignment.

Click the book cover above to learn more.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

In The Not Too Distant Future

And now it's time for another exciting installment of ANCIENT BLOG THEATRE!

When last we peeked at the embryonic first version of the Pop Culture Debris blog (which vanished into the ether years ago thanks to the demise of hosting site Bloki), I was still sifting previous entries for re-posting.

I think I've found a good 'un dating back to August 21, 2003. My original introductory text is below.

Click the Chick Tract to enjoy!

Frequently hilarious MST3K fan piece, in which Crow, Tom and Mike are forced to view a Jack T. Chick comic. Some laugh out loud funny lines. I still think a MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 comic book is a viable idea (and as I recall, I discussed doing one with collaborator Bill Neville years ago ...). Link comes courtesy of Bill Sherman's Pop Culture Gadabout blog.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Reboot That Works

While the first season of Fox's Human Target had an amazing pilot, later episodes ran the gamut from "damn good cup of coffee" to "eh, is this all you got?" More often than not, they fell under the latter, with the primary reason to watch at all being Jackie Earle Haley's deadpan portrayal as the man of mystery with only one name: Guerrero.

However, the second season reboot - which added two new female cast members, more reliance on pop music in the weekly scores, and a international espionage spy hook - is overall a better show. Mark Valley has settled into the role as the wry Christopher Chance and now wears it with a mix of humor and "tormented hero with a dark past" that is very engaging. Chi McBride's Winston huffs and puffs, but peeks into his quirky private life have helped to humanize the character. Count me in as pleasantly surprised (although the "Guerrero as master torturer jokes" have outworn their welcome).

Of course, for the past two weeks, Fox has been running double episodes on Wednesday nights back to back, which is never a good sign (especially since the show has only a 13 episode order). This usually is a sign of burning off a series, and that has me worried about a third season.

In other words, watch it now ... while you still can.